Episode 24: Review of Princes of the Apocalypse

“RECRAP more like it” — 4E-ver — good start, not so great follow through — average damage for monsters is good — fan cuts of the Hobbit movies and the SW prequels — is only low level play good? — the Shackled City adventure path good at higher levels? — game companies need a user experience editor — destroy your PC’s mini upon death, great idea — need better hooks, no “you are caravan guards” business — stop having rituals interrupted at climactic moment — changes for season 2 — there can be only one listener.

Cast:

  • Daniel (GM)
  • Jim
  • Tim
  • Asa
“RECRAP more like it”
We ended up not liking it.
4E-ver
Because it seemed like a 4E module once you get into the dungeons. The dungeons tend to be physical spaces for fights to happen in.
good start, not so great follow through
Early levels were fun and had some variety. But once the structure of the adventure becomes apparent, interest wanes. 
average damage for monsters is good
I love using it. When you run a lot of fights (as you must here), it really speeds things along.
is only low level play good?
I think so. Higher level play doesn’t seem like real D&D to me, more like a supers game.
game companies need a user experience editor
Absolutely this is true. Someone needs to go through the book, and, at each moment, ask, “Would this be a hassle to do if I were actually running this?” You know all the supplemental material DMs have to make? They shouldn’t have to for big time publications like this. 
need better hooks, no “you are caravan guards” business
Seriously. Stop it. Any start to an adventure is better. Lost Mines of Phandelver starts exactly in this way. Hoard of the Dragon Queen is basically the same as well. 
stop having rituals interrupted at climactic moment
Lazy. 
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Episode 22: Macroaggression

(from the 5e Monster Manual)

The cult strikes back, and then the party re-strikes back. We have Asa and Alex in the same room this time. Lots of quality banter this time. They really are OP for this content, which leads to some amusing moments. Less karaoke this episode.

CAST

  • Daniel (DM)
  • Jim (Dave the bard)
  • Tim (Bart the pally)
  • Moose (Keith the TWBB)
  • Alex (Jep the necromancer)
  • Asa (Phirrip the beastmaster ranger)

ALTERNATE TITLES

  1. I Disbelieve the Helmet-Inn
  2. Bone-tent
  3. Lumbermancer
  4. It Bursts from the Ground and Immediately Dies
  5. Welcome to the Surface
  6. Welcome Topside, Varmint
  7. I Live in a Home of Bones
  8. Like a Thick Gary Oldman
  9. Loincloths & Laurels

Episode 21: Our Favorite Albums

fighting in the fire cult tower

Alex joins us — vengeance on the fire cult — we talk about our favorite albums.

Musical shownotes after the break:
We took a detour @ 1:42:12 to talk about our favorite albums ever, no matter how embarrassing. A lot of them were from when we were in high school; so please do excuse us.

We also mentioned Mallory Ortberg from the Toast, the best humor writer today. 

Episode 20: Slaying Dragon Turtles for XP and Profit

snapping turtle image from Wikimedia Commons

This session was not recorded.

We played at a FLGS with an abnormal player configuration. 
The plan to kill the Hezrou went off well. 
Then some cultists ran to the lower level with our characters in pursuit. They overheard the passwords and recited them to the mezzoloth who guarded the stairs. 
They did not go down the stairs. The mezzoloth was cool with them. He was just doing his job. They hung out. 
Then they decided to kill the dragon turtle in the lake. 
One zombie used as bait. Skeleton archers with water walking shot at the thing when it surfaced but soon were destroyed by its steam breath.
The party retreated and reconsidered. 
Where can we buy poison?
3 days north, city called Yartar. It’s mobbed up.
They go, meet Davkas’s contact Side Job (Job as in Job Psalms Proverbs). They give a +1 dagger and 850gp for two barrels of mixed poison. And 50g for 3 fresh corpses to raise. 
They tripped on mushrooms. The necromancer saw a roiling black ocean of flesh. When he went to walk on it, hands emerges from it to form a bridge. He crossed. Davkas saw himself back in prison, but it was a very very small prison. 
Back in the dungeon, the poison is injected into bladders. The bladders tied to zombies. Remaining poison injected into zombie bodies and sewn up mouths.
The corpses kicked into the lake. 
The dragon turtle consumes them and dies within the minute. 

It was good poison. 

They plunder its hoard and end up with a slim profit and a bunch of XP. 

Episode 19: Dungeon Oysters

a wild ettin has appeared

The audio quality on this episode is really bad.

We did a double-hangouts, and something was wrong
Cast: 
  • Daniel (DM)
  • Tim (Bart the pally)
  • Jim (Dave the bard)
  • Asa, via hangouts (Phirrip the beastmaster ranger + Pookers)
  • Josh, via hangouts (Winston the clizzard [cleric/wizard multiclass])
If you brave the audio quality, you will encounter the following mildly amusing highlights:
  • Two large heaps of dank memes
  • Welcome to Maths & Maths
  • #saveTheSlots
  • #notAllHags
  • WHERE’S THE QUAY?!?
  • “The time is now.”
We cleared out most of the level 2 water dungeon and allied with a sea hag.

Episode 17: Strong Arm, Sharp Sword

Dave & Bart assault the water cult church

Scouting Rivergard Keep — I’m Dave; I’ve got a strong arm and a sharp sword — infiltrating the water cult — potty breaks as leet strat — stealth action game — mercenaries are great; they will work for you for money — how to kill a boss without an attack roll — the way below opens.

After our TPK in the last episode, we rolled in with one new toon, one old toon, and only two players—not for the campaign, just for this session.

The Adventures of Dave & Bart begins.

Davkas (“Dave”), Bard 6 (Jim)
Bart, Paladin 4 / Fighter 2 (Tim)

This was a very different style of play than what we’ve done before. It was mostly stealth, infiltration, and in-character roleplaying in order to blend in and bluff, mostly on the part of Jim, via his old debuff/heal bard Davkas.

After scouting Rivergard Keep, which is the first tier water cult complex, the party went room to room, blasting mobs like the seasoned pros they are.

If you want to leave a social situation, say because you’re actually trying to infiltrate and dispatch the people you’re with, excusing yourself and saying that you have to take a dump is really a dope strat, as you will see no less than three times in this episode.

In the process, they convinced some of the mercs that the cult had hired to join up with them, which has proven so far and will prove in later episodes to be an excellent tactic and reliable laugh. 
By the end of the episode, the level is clear. Next time, we descend with a fuller party to tackle the water cult proper.

Episode 16: 80d6 Fire Damage, Save for Half

fateful annotations

Approaching the not ominously burning wicker man hippie druid festival — drug shenanigans — making the assault — 80d6 fire damage, save for half — the future.
A brutal, brutal episode.

The future direction of the show was in doubt after this one, but, fortunately, we decided to soldier on with Princes of the Apocalpyse, despite our reservations about it.

Also: if you have a wizard, get fireball at level 3.

Duh.

You can rain 16d6 of destruction on you enemies over two rounds. Who can say no to that?

As a direct result of this episode, Tim’s next character took the mage slayer feat.

That’s what I like to see.

Episode 15: Kill 40 Orcs

mid melee
Killing 40 orcs — survivors — Emerald Enclave funereal customs — the notches mean ten.

This one is almost entirely combat, very wargamey combat. 40+ orcs disposed against our PCs on a farmstead. You will hear me count a lot.

This is the conclusion of the sidetrek “Iceshield Orcs” from Chapter 6 of Princes of the Apocalypse, in which the party heads to the northeast of the overland map to protect farmsteads from a band of orcs.

initial setup

I talk about this some in the episode, but I’ll discuss more at length here. The text essentially instructs you to make this part of the module meaningless. The orcs are supposed to toss some javelins, melee for a round, then retreat. You’re supposed to make sure the PCs feel threatened without actually threatening them.

Then dawn arrives, and the elves show up, and the day is epically saved!!!11~~~1

HISTORICALLY ACCURATE ELVEN WARHORNS

When we set up the defenders, we might not have given the full complement listed in the book, mostly because:

  1. I didn’t want to deal with it
  2. It would pollute the XP distribution

And so we treated the allies as terrain-with-morale.

Maybe I’m being too hard on it. If I handed over some NPCs to the players to control (as the module suggests), it would be more of an even fight, such that the orcs might not want to push their advantage . . .

BUT (emphasis mine):

You want to create tension and make it seem like the outcome teeters on the brink of disaster [but this is supposed to be an illusion]. Near the end of the battle [determined by what?], the elves show up as described in the “Relief Arrives” section. 

The orcs repeat this pattern several times, perhaps breaching a spot here or there before the defenders push them back. [How do we know the defenders will push them back?] Then they start trying different tactics.

“Relief Arrives”

At dawn, the orcs make a final push. It should seem like they might overwhelm the defenders [but I am supposed to make sure this doesn’t happen? how?] in several spots, and get inside the compound. Suddenly, the melodious tone of an elven war horn sounds, and a company of twenty-five elven soldiers . . . arrives to help.

(page 166)

The way this page talks, this section of the game is effectively a cutscene, maybe a QTE you can’t fail, in which case, what’s the point?

I can understand this if you’re just narrating the events, which is fine I suppose(?) if there’s not some illusion of player agency here. It’d be just like narrating an overland journey or presenting the sense of place of a new city, but that’s not what’s going on here.

IN ANY CASE…

We ran it as a straight up fight, everything on the table. I (with my admittedly limited) tactical ability played the orcs as hard as I could; and, even though moving so many units through the motions was a bit tedious, it was educational to see more clearly the roots of the hobby—and why you’d want things to die in a single hit most of the time.

Episode 14: Flagnasathar the Multisyllabic

New thing this time!

The Abridged Version

We’ve added an abridged version of the episode, which eliminates all the combat dice-rolling wargamey bits. The full and abridged versions will live in the same feed and should otherwise be identical. There’s a chirp tone to indicate that a combat has been skipped over. Starting with Episode 16, we should verbally indicate as well.

Onto the Notes

marching order

Druid-barding — the Mearls-Meld — hirelings Jimmy & Timmy, Pip & Pop, Genevieve & Alistair — discussion of side treks — fight 40 orcs y/n — we change the hexmap scale — our next season — fire cultists — Forgotten Realms names need work — tracking orc captives — surprise — orcish syllabic naming conventions.

“Hand-holding twin albinos.”

“They polish continually.”

We changed the hexmap scale from 10 miles to 1 mile. The whole module makes way more sense that way. Highly recommended.

 Next season of the podcast, Jim might DM Out of the Abyss, the new new WotC module.

From now on, when I roll random encounter checks, I’m going to roll to see what table I roll the encounters from: the low level table or the high level table.

Here’s how I’m going to do it:

  • roll a d20
  • if the roll is OVER the level of the highest level PC in the party, use the Early Travels (low level) table
  • else, use the Later Travels (high level) table
This means you have a linearly increasing chance of having high level encounters as the party increases in level.
Shadow fails save vs Ironfang‘s flaw

mop-up

it’s over before the first round is