Online Dungeon Master

December 20, 2015

ZEITGEIST Adventure 1 Review: The Island at the Axis of the World

Filed under: DM Lessons — OnlineDM @ 8:33 AM

Princess Bride reference

Love the “scenes” instead of skill challenges

Love the Final Word on page 3 (including the Obscurati)

Thames Grimsley’s speaking voice described – awesome for the DM.

Flavor text for monster powers… awesome. And updated monster math, too.

ugh skill challenges is great

Sokana is too pretty to die so quickly

February 7, 2012

Online Dungeon Master has moved!

Filed under: Uncategorized — OnlineDM @ 10:08 PM

Hello loyal readers! This will be my last post at this blog, but not because I’m ceasing blogging – I’m moving on up!

The free blog has been very nice for the almost two years I’ve been writing about D&D online, but I decided that I wanted to spring for my own domain name, get rid of ads, have a nicer-looking layout, and generally feel better about myself as a blogger.

So, from this point forward you can find me over at I considered setting up a redirect to the new site, but doing so breaks all of the old links on my blog (until I can get more web-savvy, anyway). In answer to a question from a reader, yes, all of my old content has been migrated over to the new location (though it’s still here, too).

If you’re looking for me, come see me at my new place! It’s awfully pretty over there. And if you’re looking for help with web design work, I recommend Mark Meredith – the Dice Monkey himself – who helped me tremendously with the design and the migration to the new blog.

-Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

February 6, 2012

One-page 4e character sheet – free tool!

Filed under: 4e D&D — Tags: , , — OnlineDM @ 10:07 AM

I’ve mentioned before that I prefer to have my character sheet be as compact as possible; one page if I can get it. This is one of my biggest annoyances with the online Character Builder compared to the old downloadable version; I can’t make a one-page template (with power cards handled separately, of course). I also can’t suppress the printing of power cards that I don’t need.

Thus, I was delighted to discover a new free tool from an EN World poster who goes by the name divide0 that will create a compact character sheet using .dnd4e files exported from the online Character Builder. divide0 put up a post about this program last week, and I first saw it on Friday. Exciting times for me!

I know it doesn't look like much, but trust me

Now, there are some caveats. The main one is that, so far, I’ve only been able to get it to work properly in Firefox version 10. divide0 explains that he built it for Firefox, but I wasn’t able to make it work quite right in version Firefox version 3.6.26 (I’m generally a Chrome user, so I hadn’t updated my Firefox in a while). In 3.6.26, most things look good but the trained skills are blacked out by diamonds, making the numbers unreadable. In Chrome, everything looks good until you get to the print preview, where the tables seem to break down.

If you want to use this program, here are the steps I suggest following.

  1. If you don’t already have it, download and install Firefox version 10 (or later, I imagine).
  2. Within Firefox, go the Firefox menu button in the top left corner, hover over Print, and select Page Setup. Check the box next to “Print Background”. You’ll probably also want to go to the Margins & Header/Footer tab of this box and set your margins to zero and all of the headers and footers to be blank.
  3. Export your character file from the Character Builder. If you’ve never done this before, you can click the Load button from the Builder’s main menu, then click on the character you want to export, then click the Export button. Save the .dnd4e file wherever you like.
  4. Go to divide0’s character sheet app page.
  5. Click the Browse button and choose your .dnd4e file.
  6. Click Upload and watch the magic happen!

What’s so great about this character sheet app, you may ask? A few things.

  • It puts the information that spreads over three pages in the normal Character Builder sheet onto one page (racial features, class features, feats)
  • It gives you the full text of the class features, racial features and feats
  • You can click on any power card to deselect it so that it won’t be printed
  • It handles magic items in a clever way; one power card to summarize all of your magic items and their properties, and then separate power cards for every magic item power (which, again, you can choose to suppress if you don’t want them printed).
  • Cool icons for standard / move / minor / immediate / free / no action powers, plus the usual icons for melee / ranged / close / area powers
  • Icons for damage types that you can read at a glance
  • If you print to PDF, the file size is about a tenth of what you get from the Character Builder
  • Did I mention the awesome one-page layout?

Note that some cards are greyed out - I don't want these to print

The images above show the interface in action, and this PDF is the result of printing the sheet above using CutePDF. Pretty slick. (This is my wife’s dragonborn swordmage from my Madness at Gardmore Abbey campaign, in case you were wondering.)

All that said, I certainly have a wish list of things that would be cool to see in future versions of this tool if divide0 does more with it:

  • Not a complaint, but it’s worth noting that actual ability scores are not displayed, just the modifiers. You should also be aware that this program uses the character summary card for defenses, hit points, initiative modifier, skills, etc. instead of putting those on the main sheet itself.
  • If you get enough class features and feats, I could see this spilling onto multiple pages. Cutting the descriptions of the languages and changing them to just a list could help.
  • It would be very cool if you could re-arrange the order of the power cards.
  • If this could be made to work properly with Chrome too, that would be awesome.

That’s a pretty short wish list. I really think this is a cool tool, and it’s especially nice for me when my players for my online game send me their .dnd4e files. Now I can read them without having to load them into the Character Builder, which requires that I delete other characters due to the 20 character limit.

This is the kind of development that I hope WotC will encourage in the future. The D&D community is full of smart, talented, energetic folks who want to create things to make the game better for everyone. Wizards of the Coast, give divide0 a cookie!

-Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

February 5, 2012

Madness at Gardmore Abbey: Session Four

Filed under: 4e D&D, Adventures, DM Lessons, Online games, Play — Tags: , — OnlineDM @ 7:30 AM

Past sessions: Session OneSession Two, Session Three

This is the recap of my fourth session running the Madness at Gardmore Abbey adventure via MapTool and Skype for my family group. As always, SPOILERS AHEAD.

Sora the dragonborn swordmage (played by my wife), Homer the elf hunter (played by my brother in law) and Stasi the half-elf warpriest of Pelor (played by my sister in law) found themselves in the Temple of Bahamut on Dragon’s Roost, having just finished an extended rest under the protection of Sir Oakley. Upon their waking, Sir Oakley offered the party a mysterious object he had found hidden in a niche on the altar to Bahamut: An ivory plate that the party immediately recognized as a second card from the Deck of Many Things, to go along with the Key card they had found earlier.

This card had an engraving of three women – one young, one middle-aged, and one old (with a pair of scissors). Stasi was able to figure out that this represented the Fates. (Note that I’m running the game online and therefore am not handing out the physical cards; I like that the players get to puzzle out what some of the cards represent based on a description that I provide rather than getting to read the names on the cards.) Stasi agreed to carry this card with the other for the time being.

Having escorted Sir Oakley to the Abbey and having helped him defeat the enemies in the Temple itself, the adventurers agreed to help him find the three missing relics that would be necessary for him to perform the needed cleansing rituals. He didn’t know where these relics were, but he knew that they must be somewhere within the grounds of Gardmore Abbey. Sir Oakley ultimately agreed to accompany the group on their search (with a three-PC party, it’s nice to have a companion character along to help with the scaling of battles).

The group decided to start by searching the catacombs. Stasi the warpriest was itching to blast the heck out of some undead creatures (which have been rare in the Essentials adventures to this point). Coming down the stairs, they heard prayers ahead. Homer the hunter stayed back on the stairs while Stasi and Sora accompanied Sir Oakley down to investigate. They found a bunch of humans in armor praying around an altar of Bahamut.

Thus began Encounter 23: Altar of Glory. I’ll say right here that I totally screwed this up, because this was supposed to be the first encounter where my party was to meet The Others – the rival adventuring party. Oops. I forgot all about that, and I hadn’t prepared The Others in MapTool yet anyway. Major oversight on my part, but I have an idea of how I’ll fix this.

My other oversight is that I once again forgot to have the cards from the Deck do anything in combat, but that’s in part because combat was a little weird in starting. This encounter began with a skill challenge for the party to figure out what was going on with these knights praying in the catacombs. Sir Oakley joined in the prayers at the urging of the PCs. A religion check from the warpriest showed that the lead knight was making up some of the prayers as he went along, and the other knights were following his lead. They also noticed that the knights had their scabbards loosened and kept their hands close to their weapons, as though they were expecting a fight. However, they failed to recall any history of the Abbey that might be helpful in understanding the situation, and they twice failed to notice that the knights weren’t casting shadows.

Thus, the skill challenge was failed, and the knights attacked with a surprise round. It soon became clear that these weren’t actual knights – they were pale reavers disguised in the forms they once held in life. I loved describing the first attack, as one of the minions disappeared into a wall, reappeared next to a PC, and then reached for his sword, which somehow transformed into a long mane of hair as the reaver’s true form was revealed.

The fight was challenging with the surprise round and the good initiative roll from the lead reaver, but our warpriest finally got to Smite Undead on the lead reaver, and the group kept him pinned in a corner for much of the fight while they beat up his friends and later focused on him. Some surges were spent, but none were actually drained by the reavers themselves.

Examining the room showed that the altar to Bahamut could infuse a weapon with the one-time ability to deal fire damage, which Homer the hunter was all over. Sir Oakley helped him with the prayers, and the dragon heads on the altar came to life and bathed Homer’s bow in flames, which then died down, leaving the bow warm to the touch. This came in handy in the next fight.

One sarcophagus in this room had been pried open, and the skeleton within was missing its skull. Corruption emanated from this coffin, and the party was able to figure out that the corruption could only be cleansed if the skull could be returned. No skull was to be found in this room, however.

Onward to the east, then! The stone doors opened smoothly enough, revealing a room with a badly damaged ceiling. Roots from above had grown through the ceiling, creating a tangle that extended most of the way to the floor, stopping six feet above the ground. Stasi’s Sun’s Glow showed a good portion of the room, and the party could hear some shuffling footsteps in a far corner and a very faint sound of movement coming from another corner of the room near the ceiling (up in the roots). After Stasi and Sora moved into the room, the light revealed a mummy coming toward them

Encounter 25: Memorial Chamber was under way. Homer won initiative but delayed, staying back in the Altar of Glory chamber. The mummy moved toward the doorway and cursed Stasi, so that she would take necrotic damage every time she tried to hurt the mummy (a brutal but cool ability). Sora figured out that she could yank on the roots in order to bring the fragile ceiling down on the mummy, which worked like a charm (I decided that DC16 Strength would be for a minor action check and DC12 would be for a standard action). That mummy struggled for the next three rounds to free its legs from the rubble (immobilized, save ends).

Knowing that they had heard other movement in the chamber, the party was cautious about moving farther in. Too bad for them, then, when a swarm of rot scarab beetles stealthily crawled through the roots on the ceiling without attracting attention and then rained down onto Sora’s head. This was a wonderfully disgusting moment, leaving Sora the swordmage inside the swarm. Homer eventually jumped into initiative at the end of the round, after Sir Oakley told him that the mummy would catch fire if hit with fire, using Bahamut’s blessing from the previous chamber to light that mummy up.

At the beginning of round two, I remembered that I wanted to use the Deck of Many Things, and I decided later that I actually kind of prefer having the Deck manifest its power after the first round of battle. It feels artificial for the Deck to know exactly when combat is breaking out and to show up immediately; I like the idea that it responds to the stress of actual combat and then manifests.

In this case, the image of the Key appeared next to Stasi as a big glowing light. A minor action Arcana check revealed that someone standing in the Key square could use a move action to teleport 5 squares; pretty cool stuff!

Round two is also when the Flameskull revealed itself from behind a mosaic-covered wall on the far side of the room and dropped a fireball that enveloped three of the PCs plus the mummy and the scarab swarm. Uh oh! The new threat caused some major concern.

Eventually, Sir Oakley ended up charging into the chamber largely to get away from the swarm’s aura and to go after the Flameskull (and because I wanted to make the combat more dynamic than a chokepoint between two rooms). He was left to his own devices for a while as the PCs finished off the mummy and the swarm. Finally, the PCs came to help, rescuing Sir Oakley from unconsciousness and destroying the Flameskull.

When the Flameskull was defeated, the skull’s fires went out, leaving behind a normal skull. The PCs immediately thought – aha, perhaps this is the missing skull from the earlier sarcophagus. Indeed it was, and Stasi the warpriest returned it to its rightful place and used some healing magic to cleanse the corruption – in the process gaining Bahamut’s blessing and the one-time ability to breathe fire.

The Memorial Chamber was revealed to have a secret door to the north (the Perception check beat a 19, but not a 23), which led to a small room with three long-dead knights of Bahamut beneath a mural depicting the Platinum Dragon as a dracolich. Sir Oakley was able to explain that this was a private practice of some worshippers of Bahamut, and that it represented adherents steeling themselves to face death rather than worshipping undeath. Some searching of this secret chapel revealed two other doors leading to other chambers, three topazes that had been taken from the temple, and the fact that these knights evidently closed themselves in this room and starved to death rather than leaving. Interesting stuff. Having Oakley along at this point has been helpful.

From here, the party decided to go through the door on the west part of the north wall of the Memorial Chamber, which revealed a short hallway, beyond which was a room with a fountain – and a couple of skeletons.

Encounter 24: Font of Divine Health began with two skeletal tomb guardians arising and attacking. I once again had Sir Oakley get himself in the middle of things in order to create some movement. A blazing skeleton popped out from a niche to light Stasi on fire.

In round two, the Fates revealed themselves. The new card from the Deck manifested adjacent to Stasi, who boldly stepped into the light and understood that if she were hit by an attack while in the Fates’ square, she could force a re-roll of that attack with a -2 penalty. This power appealed greatly to Homer, the great chicken of the party, who camped in that square for several rounds.

Meanwhile, the tomb guardians were slicing and dicing all over the place, making effectively four attacks per round (a fun mechanic). Some skeletal minons revealed themselves, providing a flank for the guardians. All the while, the blazing skeleton kept burning things from a distance.

The fight ended with Stasi using a daily power, then finishing the final foe in a blaze of holy might. At this point, the mosaic of the head of Bahamut inlaid in the floor glowed brightly, and the whole party regained some free hit points. It was soon discovered that drinking from the fountain in this room would also regain some free hit points, plus grant some necrotic resistance. Good times; I love these alternate, short-term rewards.

Here we stopped for the night, with Homer and Stasi suggesting an extended rest in the secret chamber and Sir Oakley adamant that they must press on and find the holy relics. I hope they do press on; they’re not in severe shape just yet (Oakley is the lowest on surges by far). If they decide to rest in the secret chapel, so be it. It’s possible that their entrance has guaranteed that it will not remain secret indefinitely…

-Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

January 31, 2012

Quick Hits: January 2012

Filed under: 4e D&D, Adventures, Advice/Tools, dndnext, Editions, Podcasts — Tags: , , — OnlineDM @ 7:30 AM

After taking a brief, inadvertent break from blogging recently, I thought I’d jump back in with some quick-hit thoughts on D&D Next, my own D&D campaigns, some non-RPG games I’ve played, the Order of the Stick Kickstarter, and the upcoming Genghis Con.

D&D Next

I’m liking most of what I’m hearing out of DDXP. Simplicity if you want it, complexity if you want it, and a real effort to reach out to players of all editions. The Dice Monkey Radio bonus episode featured yours truly discussing the game with some other folks in the D&D community. I can’t wait to get my 1e books! Yay for potential unity!

My D&D Campaigns

I’ve had some real life stuff interfering with my gaming for the past couple of months, and my Friday night MapTool game is currently on hiatus. Fortunately, it looks like the real life stuff has cleared up, and I should be able to resume that game soon. Yay!

My Madness at Gardmore Abbey and ZEITGEIST campaigns have been similarly delayed, though less explicitly so. I’m hopinh to run a session of Gardmore this weekend. I was thrilled to discover that Tracy Hurley, Sarah Darkmagic herself, included a link to my write-ups of my Gardmore Abbey sessions in her article over on the Wizards of the Coast D&D page. Woo hoo!  Thanks again, Tracy!

I’m also working on a new adventure in response to a reader question. I received a request for some basic “DM 101” tips. I provided a few in an email (this came during the real-life-interfering time, so I didn’t write much), but I definitely want to make this into a blog post. And I think an important DM 101 thing to provide is a good intro adventure. I did a lot of brainstorming on planes last week and am hoping to build the adventure itself and run it in the next couple of weeks.

Non-RPG games

I got a copy of Innovation for Christmas and have played it several times. Cool little game, and it travels well! I was in Florida and Pennsylvania last week, and a friend in Florida and family members in Pennsylvania all enjoyed it. 

When I was in my FLGS recently, I saw a copy of Kittens in a Blender. In real life I’m a cat lover, even fostering kittens for the local animal shelter. Still, I couldn’t resist – in part because the game makers apparently donate part of the proceeds to a no-kill shelter.

I finally tried the game with my wife Monday night, and it’s about what I expected – rather goofy! I think it would play much better with more than two players, of course. I find that there’s an interesting tension in the game when your “best” move is to go ahead and hit the Blend button in order to save your kittens who have gotten away, but when you have a kitten or two who will face death in the machine. The illustrations are adorable, and they make it hard to consign the fluffies to die. And that’s a good thing!

Genghis Con

The local convention is a couple of weeks away, and I’m excited! I’ll be running my Staff of Suha trilogy, and I have players signed up for all three slots. I was disappointed to learn that the Hero System game based on Dr. Horrible that I was registered for was canceled, but I’m still looking forward to trying some Dresden Files and Ashes of Athas.

Order of the Stick books

I’m guessing most people who read my blog probably know about Order of the Stick, Rich Burlew’s awesome web comic about a stick figure band of D&D adventurers. I own all of the books except War and XPs, and was therefore very excited when Rich announced a Kickstarter project to get that book back in print.

He needed to raise almost $60,000 in order to get the book in print. He blew through that in about a day. As of this writing the Kickstarter has been up for a little over a week, and he’s raised nearly $300 grand and counting. This pretty much means that all of the OotS books will be in print. Yay!

My only frustration: The comic is so popular that all of the special rewards (such as those involving signed copies of the books) are snatched up before I have a chance to sign up for them! Oh well; good for Rich!

If you love OotS, I recommend supporting this Kickstarter.

Looking ahead

Now that real life seems to have gotten out of the way, I’m looking forward to more gaming goodness. My new web site should be going live soon, and I’m excited about the improved look and feel. Fun things are afoot!

-Michael the Online Dungeon Master

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

January 18, 2012

WotC to reprint 1st Edition AD&D books – woo hoo!

Filed under: Editions, News — Tags: — OnlineDM @ 10:22 PM

Check out the solicitation to retailers:

This is excellent! I’m pretty much just a 4th Edition player, and I plan to pre-order a set of these as soon as they’re available from my FLGS. I’d love to have my own copy of the original Dungeon Master’s Guide in particular, but also the Player’s Handbook and Monster Manual. And it benefits the Gary Gygax Memorial Fund. Too cool!

I’m very encouraged by this. Maybe WotC will have some success in uniting the D&D community after all. Way to go WotC! April 17 can’t come soon enough.

January 10, 2012

New edition of D&D – OnlineDM’s first take

Filed under: 4e D&D, dndnext, News, Reviews & Culture — Tags: , , , — OnlineDM @ 7:30 AM

So, the big news announcement on January 9 was indeed about the next iteration of Dungeons and Dragons. Lots of folks have been chiming in with their thoughts; here are mine.


Wizards of the Coast has said that they want the game to be modular, offering groups the chance to have more complex or less complex games as they see fit. It’s a lovely notion, and if they can pull it off, I think it will help to make the game appealing to a wide audience.

I expect to see options for omitting things like opportunity attacks. I expect to see a wizard option that’s Vancian and a wizard option that has at-wills. I expect to see separate books for whatever the next iteration equivalent of tiers will be (heroic, paragon, epic), with big changes between them.

Open Playtest

The other big news in the announcement was that WotC would be engaging in an open playtest of the rules. A friends and family playtest is ongoing (and no, so far your OnlineDM does not rank highly enough in the D&D community to have been invited; pity). The first public viewing of the current version of the new rules will be at the D&D Experience convention in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in a couple of weeks (under non-disclosure agreements from the players involved). A wider public playtest is supposed to start sometime this spring.

I’m very happy to see that WotC is making this move. I opined a couple of weeks ago about the importance of the company focusing on good community relations as they move forward; so far, so good. Actively soliciting feedback from everyone who offers it is a good idea. Obviously, they won’t be able to take everyone’s feedback, since some of it will conflict. But at least giving everyone a chance to be heard is a powerful step in the right direction.


This new iteration is explicitly intended to appeal to players of D&D from its entire history. WotC is trying to unify the D&D community with their new game. A lot of folks have moved to Pathfinder or OSR games, and WotC is trying to interest them in this new iteration.

It’s a tall order. I was shocked to see the level of vitriol on a bunch of OSR blogs on the day of the announcement. I understand that these folks don’t like WotC, but wow. It seems like this company is reaching out to them, and they’re just not interested at all in many cases. There are definitely folks in the OSR who are open to the idea of this new rule set, but I was shocked to see how many flat-out are not at all interested. So, not an easy task for WotC.

What I’d like to see

I’d like WotC to use a game license that lets third party publishers get their content into whatever electronic tools they develop. I find it annoying, for instance, that my players can’t add the ZEITGEIST themes to their characters in the Character Builder.

I’d like to see continued strong support for online tools like the Character Builder.

I’d like to be able to get PDFs of adventures at the very least, and preferably PDFs of everything for the game. I run games using my computer, and I’ve actually gotten to the point where I scan my hard copies of adventures like Madness at Gardmore Abbey so that I can use them more easily as PDFs.

I pray that we don’t go back to Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards. And if such a class option exists, I pray that it’s an optional rule that isn’t present for organized play events.

I want magic items to be rarer and more interesting. Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium is the right paradigm. “Expected treasure by level” is not.

I’d love for WotC to make more use of the digest format for books, as they did with Essentials.

I certainly hope the new version keeps the 4e style of monster stat blocks, with everything right there rather than making the DM look up spells and so on. I like being able to run combat easily. Heck, monster creation in general in 4e is fantastic; stick with that!

I want great community outreach. As I said, I think they’re already doing a good job on this one. Keep it up!

What I expect to see

I expect a license that’s more restrictive that the OGL but less restrictive than the GSL. I also expect WotC to do more work with third party publishers to keep them in the loop farther in advance on this issue. Community outreach!

I expect to see Vancian spellcasting in certain classes and probably even Quadratic Wizards in those classes. Sigh. I hope they’re optional rather than the default.

I expect to see the traditional hardcover format books rather than digests. Not a big deal to me, but I’m guessing this will be important for bringing back players who’ve left. They probably don’t want digests (but it’s worth asking to find out).

I expect the PDF issue to be worked out, somehow. They’ve got to get past the “no electronic books” issue if they’re going to have wide appeal these days.

I expect some option for stripped-down rules that won’t require electronic tools in order to build a character, and more advanced rules that basically will.

I expect options for gridless combat to have actual support.

I expect more focus on exploration and adventure and less focus on combat in the core books. Combat will still be well-covered, but the meat of the text will try harder to evoke a sense of wonder.

I expect lots and lots of changes throughout the process. I expect things to come up in the rules that people HATE, and for those things to subsequently go away or become marginalized. I look forward to this.

What about my own games?

I realize that it’s possible that the new version of D&D will be something that appeals to me less than 4e does, in which case I’d probably keep playing 4e. But I expect that WotC will do a good job with this new game, and that I’ll migrate over in the end.

I can say that as soon as I get the chance to playtest the new rules, I will do so. Hey WotC, you want someone to see how the new rules work in an online game, right? Drop me a line at!

-Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

January 9, 2012

Madness at Gardmore Abbey: Session Three

Filed under: 4e D&D, Adventures — Tags: , — OnlineDM @ 7:30 AM

Past sessions: Session OneSession Two


The group left Winterhaven, escorting Sir Oakley to Gardmore Abbey on his quest to purify the main temple on top of the mountain. He explained that he knew of the existence of a secret stair to take the party up the back side of the mountain and straight to Dragon’s Roost (the  mountaintop). After an hour or two of searching, they uncovered the stair and made their way up the long climb.

At the top, they found four buildings still standing. The main temple was the grandest of these, and only partially ruined. The stair came up directly behind a squat, columned building. To the south was a long, ruined structure, and to the north was the relatively intact gate house that guarded the road down to the orc village.

Since they were right next to the squat building, they peeked inside and saw webs all over the ceiling. Recalling their earlier, unpleasant run-in with deathjump spiders, they moved elsewhere.

Our intrepid explorers decided to poke around the long, ruined building to the south next. Peering inside, they saw some broken bunks, a well, and a rubble-covered stairway. This building had evidently been a barracks. After debating for a few minutes whether they should go inside (the well was strangely tempting for our elf hunter, who had enjoyed drinking from the Font of Ioun earlier), I had them roll a stealth check… which they failed.

Suddenly, a big-ass bug popped out of the ground in the middle of their group, spraying rocks and debris all over them. It was a bulette! And so battle ensued.

This was Encounter 19: The Barracks. With a party of five, it would include the bulette and two carrion crawlers. I scaled it down for my three-PC party by removing a carrion crawler. Having Sir Oakley in the party made it a pretty easy encounter.

Running the bulette was fun; I was happy to let him get opportunity attacked if need be in order to dig back into the ground and burst out later, creating zones of difficult terrain all over the place. I had the carrion crawler make stealth checks for the first two rounds to get close to the doorway where the fight was taking place, and the warpriest who chased the bulette into the main barracks had to make a quick decision whether to fight on or retreat when she saw the tentacled monstrosity clinging to the wall inside the door. She fought on, and the day was soon won.

Our elf hunter was disappointed to discover that the well only had water 30 feet down, with no bucket to fetch it. Mature character that he is, he decided to poop down the well in frustration. Okay then. He also searched the ruins and found a skeleton with a small amount of gold and two potion vials. These turned out to be an Elixir of Flying and an Elixir of Accuracy (I’m so loving Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium).

The group asked Sir Oakley about the stairs, which he explained led down to the ancient vaults far beneath Dragon’s Roost, in which there were chambers devoted to all of the gods worshiped at Gardmore Abbey. He said that, while he would one day love to cleanse the entirety of the abbey from evil influence, including the vaults, his main goal for now was to cleanse the temple.

Thus, the party headed for the grand building. Inside, they saw altars devoted to Kord, Pelor, Erathis, Ioun and Moradin, in addition to the grand altar to Bahamut himself. Bahamut’s human knight avatar was also represented in statue form in the middle of the temple.

The temple was not entirely uninhabited, however, as the group soon learned. A disgusting half-woman, half-vulture creature swooped down and invited the group to come and pray for Bahamut, but she wasn’t making a lot of sense. Her sister in the rafters was babbling incoherently. Our dragonborn swordmage recognized the creatures as harpies. Sir Oakley didn’t like this one bit, saying that harpies are not known for their worship of Bahamut, and this harpy’s preaching was nonsensical and sacrilegious. He drew his sword, as did the rest of the party, and the harpies began the fight. They were soon joined by a pair of angels of valor; creatures that normally would defend a temple, but that seemed intent on destroying the intruders, even though Sir Oakley was clearly a paladin of Bahamut. Thus began Encounter 21.

The lead harpy soon enthralled most of the party with her bizarre hymn to Bahamut, pulling them closer to her so that the angels could zap them with lightning. [Side note: I LOVE the descriptions of the harpies from a role-playing perspective on page 7 of book 4. Giving these monsters not only names but also personalities and descriptions of their songs was fantastic!]

Once our hunter had escaped the enthralling song, he decided to pull out the Elixir of Flying and take to the air. As he got close to the altar of Kord, his deity, he felt a pull in that direction and discovered that fighting while near the altar of his god made him more powerful. He took great pleasure in shooting the angels out of the air and sending them crashing to the floor.

Our swordmage, who is firmly unaligned and worships no deity, asked if she could do an on-the-spot conversion to worship Ioun, whose altar was the easiest for her to get to. I absolutely allowed this – and oh, there will be consequences!

Eventually, the swordmage’s ongoing lightning damage felled the final angel, and the group could rest for a moment in the temple. They discovered they harpies’ chamber, where the gaps between the bricks had been stuffed with gold coins. They also discovered a mace hidden under a harpy-dung-covered pile of fabric and furs, which had clearly belonged to an original defender of the temple. This was revealed to be a Mace of Disruption (yay Mordenkainen again!), which I thought was a perfect fit for the temple and a useful weapon for our half-elf warpriest.

Sir Oakley then attempted his ritual to purify the temple, while the PCs assisted (since they now each worshiped a deity represented here). Sadly, the ritual failed because three religious relics were missing from the main altar. Sir Oakley asked the party to find the relics and bring them back to him in the temple, confident that they must be somewhere in the area of Gardmore Abbey.

The group asked Sir Oakley if he would stand guard while they took an extended rest in the temple, and he agreed to do so.

Thus ended session three. I have not yet revealed the treasure hidden in the altar to Bahamut, but I think it will come up soon. I also have yet to remember the Key card from the Deck of Many Things that the party carries, but the players haven’t remembered it yet, either. I’m looking forward to session four next weekend!

Later sessions: Session four

January 2, 2012

How do you find Online Dungeon Master?

Filed under: 4e D&D — Tags: — OnlineDM @ 7:43 AM

As we move into a new year, I thought about the fact that my blog is pretty well established now and has a good stream of traffic (typically about 200-250 hits on days I don’t post and 400+ on days I do post). I know that a lot of that traffic comes from people searching for various things online and deciding to click on my posts.

So I was curious: What did people search for in 2011 that led them to Online Dungeon Master?

As you can see from the table above, my review and maps for Reavers of Harkenwold led a lot of people here in 2011. They also searched for Online Dungeon Master, but I’m guessing that they were probably looking for something other than my blog with that search.

I was surprised to see a bunch of searches for dungeon tiles leading people here. I actually don’t use dungeon tiles in my own games, but I’ve had to recreate a number of maps in MapTool that originally were made using dungeon tiles.

It made me happy to see that 162 people searched for OnlineDM. That means they were actually looking for me! It might be just one person who checks out my blog every other day but doesn’t want to create a bookmark I guess, but I prefer to think that there are actually people out there who’ve heard of me somehow and decided to seek me out. Pretty cool.

Cairn of the Winter King was not as popular as Reavers of Harkenwold, but since I reviewed it and shared maps, it got some traffic.

Heroes of the Feywild was a popular release in 2011, and I did write an extensive threepart review.

I wasn’t surprised to see people searching for MapTool macros and coming here, but I was surprised that so many people came for so many different things first. Still, I’m glad to be a resource for MapTool programmers.

And since I’ve been running the War of the Burning Sky campaign saga and occasionally posting about it, I’ve gotten some traffic from searches. Makes sense.

So, there you have it – this is what led people to my blog in 2011. If this is your first time, welcome!

-Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

December 30, 2011

Opening for a gamer: Friday night MapTool game

Filed under: 4e D&D, Adventures, Online games — Tags: , — OnlineDM @ 5:38 PM

Spread the word all: You could be the lucky person chosen to join an actual OnlineDM-run campaign in MapTool! Calooh! Callay!

All right, so maybe this isn’t the most exciting news ever, but I do have an opening in my long-running Friday night game. It’s a D&D Fourth Edition game in EN World’s War of the Burning Sky campaign saga. The characters are 17th-18th level, so we’re at upper paragon, in spitting distance of epic tier.

The game runs on Friday nights, starting at 6:00 PM US Mountain Time (8:00 PM Eastern, etc.). We usually game for about four hours, and the game runs most weeks (typically three weeks a month or so).

Obviously, if you’re very new to D&D 4th Edition, this probably isn’t a great fit since the party is at high level. But if you or someone you know is interested in joining the game, drop me a line at Start the new year in a new campaign!

FYI, the party is pretty well-balanced, so almost any class of character would be welcome. We have a dwarf fighter, a tiefling warlock, a genasi wizard (damage focused), a pixie bard and a human hybrid wizard/swordmage (more wizardy with a control focus).

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