The Godroads

A few years ago I wrote some notes in a notebook about the Godroads. They were pathways from shrines to temples to cathedrals taken by the gods. Whispered prayers could be heard on the wind. In the D&D houserules-turned-game I had notes on how players could become deities and the Godroads would be available to them. I think of this project as:

Project Ampersand / House-ruled and Homebrewed, because I got emblem templates today and got excited about using them.

In our last session, the players were tasked with stopping a feud between a trio of gods, the last survivors from a dying world. Their characters were caught in a battle between a toad-wizard-god and a bandit-god. They killed one another; the players helped them along.

Jesse is playing a corpseflea, a nifty and delightfully strange heritage from Five Torches Deep’s Origins sourcebook. We skipped a week and so I totally forget that last game, Jesse told me that he was going to transfer into the body of the dead bandit-god.

Holy shit. As they left the Portal Town of Xaos, Jesse’s character noticed a portal that had not been there, behind the traveler’s shrines on the way into town. And so the players discovered the Godroads.

Baska’s elf’-barbarian navigated the roads through faith to her moon goddess.

When it became clear that the Mists of Ravenloft were infiltrating the Faery party the players were looking after in an attempt to snatch the sun and world being born (the party was celebrating the birth) the players talked to the party’s host. With the Fey Queen’s permission, they took the stone and the sword that represented the sun and world being born and headed into the Godroads, Demi-Plane of Dread hot on their heels. That is where the game ended.

I thought about what might live in this place, what the ecology of a place so alien might look like. I don’t need to create a whole eco-system but I wanted the encounter tables to hint at such a thing.

I like having this written up a week before the game. Having these to daydream on allows me to use them as more of a menu. I can roll when I want a surprise and choose when I have an idea. There is an eco-system inferred here. I think there were griffons once upon a time but they were domesticated and so now the manticore are running a bit rampant. Angels probably get together with paladins and sphinx and go Manticore hunting from time to time to clear the roads up.

Are unicorns and manticores and sphinx bog-standard D&D monsters? Yes, absolutely but I’m hoping but jamming them together into a series of secret roadways used by gods will give them new context. If I want to spice them up I can add a little planar conditioning and roll on the table below to see which plane(s) have had an effect on this particular herd or pride.

I need to re-write these tables. The icons with 3 d6’s confuses folks who think they have to roll 3d6, instead of rolling 2d6, one white and one black.

The group was sent to the Labyrinth for 15 years by the Lady of Pain. Teo asked a really interesting question, asking the players if they thought it was a fair sentence based on their crimes. During that fascinating conversation I found out that the Frog-kin wizard, Bugwump, was far more powerful a wizard before being sentenced.

When I rolled an Arch-mage encounter, I asked John about Bugwump’s rivals and Cret, lizard-person/saurian arch-mage was born. I role-played him as cloying fake and the players hated him right away. Kuru, the hobbit thief, cut past his wards with his magic knife and stole some books from Cret’s camp. His black robes have twinkling stars on them and every so often a shooting star launches across his arcane raiment.

Now we have a new rival, Arch-mage Cret, Saurian Wizard, and his apprentices.

They never saw the manticore but did see an angel fly overhead, delivering a message from some deity. I’m thrilled the Godroads made it out from the notebook to the table. I hope we get to learn more about them.

The Raven Queen vs. the Ghoul King

I took the Inspirational Tables idea I’ve been using in our Thursday D&D games and applied it to a DM’s Guild Supplement filled with tables.

It went on sale this morning for $4. Please check it out.

Link

The Raven Queen vs. The Ghoul King cover In which inspirational tables are offered to support DM’s in depicting a grave war between the Ghoul King’s pale-handed ghouls & the ebon-winged paladins of the Raven Queen.

Thursday Night Delving Club t-shirt

At the start of the pandemic, a little more than a year ago, my friend, Anthony was feeling sick. It turned out to just be a cold but we didn’t know that. We were scared. I asked him if I could grab some groceries for him and leave them on his porch or get something from the pharmacy. He didn’t need any of that.

“Could you run a game?”

“Fuck yeah, I can.”

We’ve been gaming strong for more than a year now and this t-shirt celebrates that.

100% or the proceeds generated by this shirt go to Stop AAPI Hate (and Threadless throws in a few more bucks). We love the idea of our geekery and friendship somehow, in some way, making the world a better place. After the brutal hate crime last week our Asian siblings, friends and colleagues in the hobby, have had a brutal week after a particularly brutal year. It is nice to use our creativity to support them in some small way.

All of the items in this story go to wonderful charities.

LINK TO SHIRT

So, you’ve hit 0 Hit Points with special Guest-Star, Asmodeus

Noticed the max HP on the Stonetop character sheets is 16 hit points, found that amusing and it started a conversation with a friend about death mechanics in RPG’s. He shared a few of his favorites along with his thoughts and then I had a template so I decided to stat up an arch-fiend.

What is keeping this character alive? Raw will? Love of comrades? Something more fell and dark? If you can’t think of anything that would keep them going, then they are dead. We will toast their bravery later.
 Tell your friends at the table what is keeping this character going and check off one skull below. Each skull can be checked once in the existence of a character.
 A greater power has sent you back for a purpose.

 You have been dealt a grevous wound and will perish without a healer’s touch in 1d6 days. Make a Con check every time you try to do anything.

 Death is coming for you. Roll a 1d6 at the start and end of every session. Rolling a 1 means an avatar of Death comes seeking your soul. +1d6 if you did any of the following this session: 
 + Entered the Temple of a Death Deity
 + Gained a Level
 + Killed (don’t count the kills)

 This is your last stand. When this battle ends, so does your life. The Referee will roll 1d20 for every hit die your character possesses; that is how many rounds you have left. The roll can be secret or out in the open; your choice. 
 While you yet live, you can either take Advantage for a roll that round or inspire another to take Advantage that around.









Shit, now I need to stat out a Death Avatar, don’t I?

And then I got on a roll, so I decided to stat up Asmoedeus for 5 Torches Deep and then I needed to stat up Pit Fiends…so…

I like the process of statting up monsters for 5 Torches Deep; it is about cutting out the things that aren’t key to the concept.

Feuding Gods in the Portal City of Xaos

I grabbed my tables and rolled some dice.

Water

Huh, Limbo.

Feuding Gods…now we’re talking.

I wrote down Water, Chaos of Limbo, Feuding Deities. I wrote down Lake Monastery and crossed it out. Then I thought about it a while and got excited about Xaos, the Portal City between the Outlands and Limbo. In the process of thinking about that, I forgot about the water aspect of this roll, which is just fine.

In the end, the players had to head to Xaos, a Portal City on the edge of the Outlands to end a God-Feud that was ripping the town apart.

  • Feuding Gods
  • Elemental Chaos
  • Githzerai Monks
  • Chaos Worshippers on Pilgrimage to look upon Limbo

Alright, let’s put these pieces together.

Taking a cue from Trophy Gold Incursions I’m going to break the Portal Town into sets. This is helpful to me because structure is helpful, especially with an idea as big as Gods Feuding in a Portal Town between the Outlands and the Elemental Plane of Chaos.

Front Gate, Portal Platform, Bell-Tower, Shrine-Town

Front Gate is built under a cyclopean statue of the ancient hero-saint Gith, cross-legged, meditating upon a sword, a broken chain and the elements.

  • Crow’s Cages
  • Githzerai Guards

Portal Platform has Githzerai with long polearms to keep out any chaos monsters that might spill forth from the gate. They are milling about but always with one eye on the portal, ready to spring into action.

  • Chaos Pilgrims
  • Githzerai Monks

The Bell-Tower is where the Abbot of the monastery lives and studies. The bell is only rung when something comes through the gate.

  • The Abbot’s Library – lots of planar theory about law and chaos, meditations on hierarchy, why the fist is more potent to the sword, martial arts manuals
  • The Bell of Chains – yes, it is made of melted chains from their days as Illithid Thralls.

Shrine-town is a ramshackle town where the chaos pilgrims stay.

  • The Eight-Pointed Star is the lone inn with shrines to Arioch and other Chaos Saints.
  • Squats – none really own land here, folks stay in the shacks here for as long as they need to and move on when they are ready.

One of my favorite parts of Trophy Gold adventure’s format is moments. Little things for the players to see, little things for the GM to say when there is a lull.

Front Gate Moments

Crow caged prisoner asks for water (Githyanki, Illithid and one other. to be determined at the moment or randomly..)

Monk meditates on four elements rotating around his head, changing the nature of each; she will talk about nature of the planes if folks want to chat about philosophy

Portal Platform Moments

Guards tell anyone coming too close to be careful but don’t hold anyone back CHAOS REIGNS

Chaos Pilgrims look upon the Chaos of Limbo, weeping on their knees

Fallen Paladin looking upon chaos; he came here to throw his broken sword into Limbo itself

The Bell-Tower Moments

The Abbot meditating upon the nature of lava.

The room, silent and inviting, only a sleeping crystal bat and Limbo’s portal lighting your way.

Shrine-town Moments

Chaos pilgrims debating hierarchies and their place in Law and Chaos…

But what do they DO?

They track down gods.

During the first session I had 3 player characters, so I based the gods roughly and loosely on them.

The Bandit God, The Hanged Man, the Road Agent

  • Escape, Ambush, Criminal Recruitment

The Sorcerer God, the Wizard-Toad, The Blesser of Towers

  • Spells, Lore, Towers

The Elder Ring, Dryad Crone, The Holy Willow

  • Roots, Seeds, Secrets

The first game was travel and getting used to the area. The second game I started with a bang. The Bandit God mugged one of the players at knifepoint while the kids of the town were watching a puppet show about Gith liberating her people from the cruel Illithid.

I decided the gods were weak and had trouble healing. They’d have 4d10 hit points and powers that went with their spheres of influences.

The Toad-Wizard-God tossed an acidic mist spell into the plaza, trying to kill the Bandit God and a brutal battle followed. I liked it. I haven’t run a good D&D combat in a long while and this one was fun.

At the end of the game, the players were gathered around Trundle as he tried to destroy the stone that had done the first murder in the gods’ dead world. It was a brutal death artifact. The Elder Ring approached. I rolled an encounter table and rolled a 10 – considers offers/leaves. She was not willing to jump them; they were right in front of the portal to Limbo. She asked them to give the stone to her. They refused.

She nodded and walked away.

On the Bingo XP table, I covered, Players make an enemy and told them I did so. There’s an angry tree goddess from a dead world pissed at them.

Cool.

Next game the players are heading to a party in Faery. Dark Powers are afoot. I won’t tell you what I rolled but I’ll post the notes just like this once I’m done.

Should be fun.

Daydreaming about the upcoming Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft

A new book is coming out from Wizards of the Coast, a ton of friends have work in it that I can’t wait to read and it is a fun exercise to think: What would I do with it at the table?

I haven’t seen the book but…here’s an idea : use Godbound (Free or Deluxe) to drop demi-gods on it. Turn Ravenloft into a gothic-high-fantasy sandbox.

The Demi-Plane of Dread has been creating misery and fear throughout the planes for too long. It is time to end it. The Powers get serious and drop some heavy hitters into the Mists.

NOTE: I was going to make each character and post a pdf but that feels off. Below is a short take on what those characters could be, the Words of Creation that I’d use to power them and here’s a form-fillable pdf so you can do the rest.

The Arch-Angel of Hope

Words: Sky, Command, Health

Sphere with eight wings and a thousand eyes or belly-buttonless human with wings of fire? You tell me.

Swap out one Word for Sword if you want to go that route…


The Saint of Swords

Words: Sword, Alacrity, Death

I imagined Kaz, the vampire who cut off Vecna’s hand, but if that doesn’t fit, swap out Death for what fits your take on the Saint of Swords.


The Raven Queen

Words: Death, Winter & Birds (from Lexicon of the Throne)

I love the Raven Queen; she’s my favorite part of the D&D pantheon.


The Patron Saint of Paladins

Words: Sword, Sun, Command

Patron Saint of Fallen Paladins? Swap out Command or Sun for Passion or War or Deception.


Too on the nose? You want this to get a bit strange?

Yeah, I hear that.

The Githyanki Lich Queen

Words: Sword, Death, Sorcery

Maybe Command instead of Swords?


Grumsh

Words: Might, Passion, War

Grumsh SMASH!


Asmodea, Princess of Hell

Words: Sorcery, Deception, Underworld

Wanna to play a devil?


The Created God

Words: Artifice, Knowledge, Health

What if golems put together their own god from pieces of dead gods?

Maybe swap out Artifice for Engineering from Lexicon of the Throne if the game is going to have a more science fantasy vibe. Vengeance if getting back at the Creator is important…


I am assuming that the book will have rules for becoming a Dark Lord. We’d hack those to fit this. Maybe a way to call upon the mist for power but when you do you edge closer to becoming that which you hunt? Maybe a new word, The Mist, that one can take at any time in order to gain their own Domain?

And of course Godbound’s stripped down and solid faction rules so that Ravenloft becomes a big, messy, gothic sandbox.

Let me know what you’d like to play, what you think or if there are deities you’d want to play who aren’t listed above.

Not Random but Inspirational

The players are an Outland Exhibition Team (O.E.T.) operating out of Sigil. O.E.T.’s are city-funded adventuring parties that head out into the Outlands and restore balance to situations that arise there. When they return they sit down with the community where they live and discuss the philosophical and moral implications of their choices.

“I just want to point out that outsiders entering a community to restore some idea of balance is colonial nonsense that is harmful to the world.”

“Do you attend every O.E.T. community discussion to say this?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Fair enough. So noted…”

I rolled up the adventure and mapped out an outline using the Trophy Gold incursion structure (more on that in a future blog post). The players were heading to Xaos, Portal City between the Outlands and the Ever-changing Chaos of Limbo to stop a god-feud happening there. Gods from a dead Prime Material World were feuding and causing problems.

I decided that there was a rival group of assassins known as the God-killers on their way to Xaos to kill the feuding gods. I wasn’t sure of much else about them. Would they get there first or show up later to heighten the tension? Not sure.

I rolled on the Encounter Table for their first day of travel.

Lost Souls…Dead Adventurers. I think my encounter just told me that the God-killers are dead.

INTERESTING. I did not see that coming.

The gods heard about them and panicked. They set aside their differences for a bit, made sure they were killed and then went back to their in-fighting. If the players find out that they set aside their differences once, they can figure out how to get them to do it again.

It also was a nice way of giving an info dump because assassins who call themselves the God-killers definitely did their homework.

One of the God-killers was a Tiefling and asked Kuru the Halfling Thief to burn some incense at the shrine to Asmodeus back in Sigil. Love it.

For the next day, I rolled a 12.

DRAGON. Whoa.

On the third d6 I got a 6. The dragon is taking treasure. Cool. But from who? I rolled again. I could’ve chosen but I was curious to see what the table would say.

Merchants. Makes sense. More simple than a dragon mugging an angel but sometimes simple is good.

I described the players arriving to a one-inn town with a merchant caravan leaving as a thunderstorm began. The players noticed right away and asked the inn-keeper why they were leaving into a storm. She told them that the caravan had a delivery that was time sensitive (what was that about? I’m still not sure and I’m not sure I ever will be) and so they left despite her warnings. She said that the storm wasn’t natural and they were leaving into doomful circumstances.

The next morning as the players were leaving, lightning-scorched survivors from the caravan were in the common room, talking about how they survived a dragon attack the night before. The blue dragon had attacked the caravan and pillaged its treasures before flying away.

I decided the rest of the journey went by without a hitch. I roll every day or two of travel.

Why did I roll these encounters? There weren’t any fights.

That is okay. Friendly and neutral encounters are fine. We’re into our third session. It fleshes out the world. I get to learn about what the characters are like.

The players could’ve gone after the caravan and talked them into staying. They could’ve decided to hunt the blue dragon. For now it is just color.

Sometimes I roll. Sometimes I choose. Sometimes they players sprint headlong into a brewing situation that has nothing to do with the oncoming adventure. Sometimes they hang back and smoke a pipe in the rain, under the eaves of the inn. Sometimes the players’ actions make something on (or off) the table obvious, so the encounter for that day is taken care of. Sometimes they get the jump on the encounter and other times they encounter will get the jump on them. It all depends on the circumstances and what the fiction demands.

I’m not calling them random encounter tables anymore. They’re Inspirational Encounter Tables.

Many Places, Always Good

Blink Dog(s) rampant – Many Places, Always Good

House Thomas, bitter rivals of House Trampier, are known for trickery in the ancient forests they call their home. Known for their stubborn loyalty and cunning on the battlefield, this noble house of homads has taken the Blink Dog as their heraldry and are known to welcome them in their homes as cherished four-legged members of their clan and house.

Thanks to Jim for the house words.

For Our Enemies – Fear and Confusion

House Trampier, that has the Displacer Beast upon its banner, is a house of rogues, thieves and assassins. Known for their mercantile contracts with a Drow matron of the Underdark, from which their heraldry was inspired.

It looks nice with a black background too.

(Thank you, Jim and Janaki for suggestions and critique)