Monday, 15 July 2013

Icewind Dale and the sandbox

 Icewind Dale has plenty of inspirational art.
There are many guides to creating a sandbox style game out there. Most of them go into too much detail for me. In setting up the Icewind Dale game I looked to Zak S, in particular these posts as well as Kevin Crawford’s excellent Red Tide and its supplement An Echo Resounding. Kevin gives you the tools you need to set up a sandbox quickly keeping you focussed on the gameable content.

Once again the group gathered at Good Games and I raced to see how much Old School D&D I could cram into just under 3 hours.

The characters were a mix of new and old. They had all arrived in Lonely Wood, the northern most of Icewind Dale’s Ten Towns. All were down on their luck which explained the lack of magic items won from prior games. Sprite Zero the gnome illusionist had retained his giant ferret, Leif the accomplished halfling fighter was back for more as was Power Aide the ‘evil is more fun’ priest. The new addition to the group was Jon the occasional drunk berserker

Adventure leads offered via email before the game were:
  • expedition to an abandoned mages tower (Judges Guild adventure - Pegasus magazine),
  • exploration of an ruined Aurilite temple (Red Tides sample adventure),
  • what’s happening at the Former Gnomish Caves? (Alex Schoeder’s - Fight On issue 7)
  • a trip to see what an band of barbarians occupying Bremen’s Run are up to (something I came up with).

Its a good thing Jon’s player is the motivated sort as he volunteered the group to explore the gnome caves and so I was able to prep for the adventure.

The group hired on three down and outs at The Whistling Gallows (local tavern). Power Aide recruited a suitably evil woodswoman while Leif continued his fine tradition of disposable hirelings by immediately negotiating a pay decrease for his hireling. As the poor wretch had only half his eyes (having lost one) he should receive half the usual pay. The hirelings had character thanks again to this awesome table and I enjoyed playing them even if their lives were destined to be cruelly brief.

They traded Leifs hireling’s chainmail shirt with a trapper for a sled and a team of dogs so they could sleigh through the forest of Lonelywood. This sped up their trip to the sites of adventure.

On the way to the Gnome Burrows of Klinderstone the band bumped into an Ogre with a trapper captive. The ogre was dispatched with little fuss and Jerrod the trapper freed. Some valuable scrimshaw and a magic bag that produced giant rats was duly looted. A wisdom check secured a good camp site for the night and their rest was not disturbed. The following day saw them avoid the sound of some large predator hunting. They snuck past the commotion by carrying their sled silently and urging their hounds to keep silent.
One of the twenty ogres occupying Klinderstone.
Arriving at Klinderstone the group ambushed the sole ogre guard while he took a leak against a wall. He fell before he could raise the alarm. Searching the body Sprite Zero discovered a ring wreathed in enchantment spells.

Exploring to the north the group came across some slumbering ogres and some caged gnomes. The band snuck in and stabbed the heck out of the sleeping ogres. I am playing double max damage against helpless foes. Even so four ogres awoke and put up a token resistance before being slain. During the battle Sprite Zero had summoned up a giant phantasmal weasle which proved most handy. The gnomes Sarsha the dancer and Tarpa the carpenter were freed, Tarpa was given a mace and told to guard the rear. The freed gnomes sketched a map on the floor giving the players the lay of the land. They were told there were about twenty ogres about the place in the service of a priestess of Auril. Captives who were taken to the priestess did not return.

Delving further north the group came across a group of ogres hurling stones at a gnome chained to the wall. Battle was joined and two hirelings fell to the ogres clubs before the foe was defeated. Another gnome was rescued this time a midwife called Oakleaf who even Leif felt reluctant to press gang into service. Sprite Zero had by now become despondent at the general homeliness of the gnomish maidens they had rescued.

In an adjoining chamber the band came across a gnome trapped in a crows cage in the midst of a burnt out pyre. The gnome had become some kind of vengeful half blind revenant and despite his pleas to be released the group would have none of it. Leif placed a blanket over the cage in the hope that the revenant would fall asleep as birds are wont to do. When his ranting only increased in pitch Power Aide tipped his cage upside down to further antagonise the doomed spirit. They left the hapless gnome alone.

The party then headed south to the alchemist lab. The lab was smashed up with nothing salvageable. During the search they stumbled upon a grey ooze which they fled from. They would later return and encourage the ooze to roam the halls of Klinderstone in the hope that it would munch an ogre or two for them.

The freed gnomes helped the heroes find a safe campsite for the night. In the morning they planned to butcher the priestess of Auril and her remaining ogres before a probable return to Lonely Wood.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Icewind Dale - 20 Questions

A wise blogger once wrote 'Campaign worlds, whether published or just notes scrawled in some DM's binder, contain a lot of material that most players honestly just don't give a crap about.  That's entirely okay.  Answer some of these questions or others like them and you'll have yourself a campaign regular players can relate to.'  I wrote a one page summary for the group but figured I would give Jeff's 20 questions a go.

  1. What is the deal with my cleric's religion? If you're a barbarian you probably worship an animal spirit like the elk, bear or wolf. Either that or you worship Tempos. Most locals worship a mix of the Faerun deities though the god of battle Tempus and the god of trade Waukeen are favoured. The popular evil gods whom sane folk shun are the beast lord Malar, the Frost Maiden Auril and Myrkul the lord of bones.
  2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment? A trading outpost operated by the trading costers has a chance of having what you need. Some towns have a blacksmith. Lonely Wood has an excellent Bowyer.
  3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended? Targos or Bryn Shander would have skilled enough blacksmiths.
  4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land? The tundra tribes have a mighty seer who is said to live on the glacier to the north. The Speaker of Targos' wife is an elf and skilled in sorcery. Wizards are rare these parts. Locals are suspicious of them and the barbarians go out of there way to kill them.
  5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land? Cassius the Speaker and head of the council based in Bryn Shander is a veteran of the barbarian wars. His counterpart the barbarian King Revjak’s skills have dulled with age though he is still formidable. Revjak rules from Caer Konig. The now deceased Barbarian king Heafstaag was said to be a warrior without peer.
  6. Who is the richest person in the land? The merchant families of East Haven are said to hoard their wealth. Cassius as speaker for the central trading town has made himself rich through trade.
  7. Where can we go to get some magical healing? A temple. There are a few temples to Waukeen around and plenty to Tempus. Barbarian tribes have their own shamans to heal their injured.
  8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath? Temples. Powerful healing can be sought at Targos or Bryn Shander but even their priests may not have the power to raise the dead. The tribes in Caer Konig have powerful shamans said to be able to reincarnate the dead.
  9. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells? No guild exists sadly. The Host Tower of the Arcane is said to have representatives in Targos, though this band of mages from Luskan are thought of as very bad news.
  10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC? Bryn Shander has a sage, well he's more of still living detached head, a relic if you will. The head is still very knowledgeable. The barbarians have a Seer.
  11. Where can I hire mercenaries? Taverns. Targos has plenty though most are disreputable.
  12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law? East Haven will give you a hard time, bunch of stuck up snobs.
  13. Which way to the nearest tavern? Small towns have one. Larger towns have several. Your closest local is the Whistling Gallows Inn. Lonely Wood is a one inn town.
  14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous? Dark skinned raiders: Drow and Dueregar. If you put a nest of them to the sword you’ll be famous. Otherwise a white dragon will do the same. Around Lonely Wood bagging a yeti would grant you bragging rights though there is plenty of fearsome beasts in the woods.
  15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight? Their is a growing faction amongst the barbarians called the Sons of Heafstaag that threaten to plunge the region back into war. To the south the Orcs are getting uppity.
  16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes? Targos. There is a large mercenary population left over from the barbarian war. Pit fighting is a popular form of entertainment.
  17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight? The Sons of Heafstaag seek to subvert the barbarian tribes while The Icemaidens of Auril seek to extinguish all fire condemning the dale to freeze. The Host Tower of the Arcane are surely up to no good in Targos.
  18. What is there to eat around here? Your local is the Whistling Gallows inn. Local fishermen can sell you a knucklehead trout. Game is plentiful in Lonely Wood.
  19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for? Marbag the Mad is said to have had a gem of enormous value. Joril's axe is a legendary weapon said to be in the possession of a Frost Giant, it requires great strength to wield. Presious venomous dagger was said to be lost in a war with the orcs to the south. Winters Mantle is said to be a powerful cloak hidden in the high temple of Auril.
  20. Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure? There are several white dragons south in the Spine of the World Mountains as well as residing on the slopes of Kelvin’s Cairn.