Downtime Activities: Mage Guild Ranks

Today is my third (and final) post in the Mage Guild Downtime Activities series, although not my last for downtime activities in general.  These are two tables, one which shows the different ranks and privileges of the Mage’s Guild (and how to advance), and a second table for random outcomes for a mage participating in research when not on adventures.

If you are unfamiliar with renown as a downtime activity, it can be found in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. 

Links to Previous Mage Guild Downtime Activities:

Downtime Activities: Mage Guild Allies

Downtime Activities: Mage Guild Rivals

Rank Advancement Table

Rank Renown + Prereq Privileges (each level includes all privileges of the lower ranks)
Member 1 + 50 gold + Able to cast 1st level spells Access to common areas of the Mage Guild’s tower, including the Members’ Lounge, coffee shop, and common library (all 1st level spells available for copying). Materials to copy 4 spells for free each month.
Senior 3 + 500 gold + Able to cast 3rd spells Access to Senior Members’ Lounge and West wing of the library (up to level 3rd level spells available for copying), wizard gaming hall
Raven 10 + 3,000 gold + vote of confidence Access to the Raven Lounge, the floating gardens, vote for those seeking raven level. Access to East wing of library (10% chance library has any spell between levels 4-5, and 10% chance any book on non-magical subject of Material Plane is available).
Owl 25 + 6,000 gold + vote Access to the Owl Lounge, restaurant, vote for approval of those seeking raven and owl level. Access to upper level of library (10% chance library has any spell between levels 6-7, 10% chance any book on a magical subject of the Material Plane is available)
Eagle 50 + 10,000 gold + vote Acces to Eagle pocket dimension, Eagle’s spa, vote in making rules, vote in advancement of members for all levels. Access to Forbidden wing of library (5% chance every month that any specific Tome is available, 25% chance any book on another plane is available, 1% chance library holds any spell levels 8-9).

Research Table

Importance of Research (player’s choice)→

Outcome (d100) ↓

Minor Moderate (Senior and up) Great (Raven and up)
You fail (1-5) You discovery nothing and make no money You make a mistake with minor repercussions (DM’s choice. Examples: lose 1 renown, make a minor enemey, destroy something replaceable, summon a low-level monster) You madea  BIG mistake with repercussions (DM’s choice. Examples, lose 3 renown, make a great enemy, destroy something priceless, open a portal)
You make a little progress (6-35) A patron or collegeu notices your efforts, and gives you a ‘grant’ of 10 gold. Your efforts are rewarded with a 40 gold grant Your efforts are rewarded with a gold 70 gold grant.
You did great  (36-85) You make great progress, but not enough to publish. You receive a grant of 20 gold to continue to your work. Your efforts are rewared with a 80 gold grant. Your efforts are rewarded with a 140 gold grant.
You make a great contribution (86 – 95) You learn something and get to hold a lecture for fellow mages. 25 gold You learn something and gain advantage an intelligence check (player’s choice).  You may hold a lecture for fellow mages. 100 gold. You learn something interesting, and you gain a +1 to a specific skill or knowledge (example: +1 to history). You may become a lecturer on the subject. 180 gold.
You have found The Answer (96-100) You learn something and your work is added to the library’s  permanent collection. Collect 35 gold. You make a discovery with noteable benefits. You may add it to the library’s permanent collection. 140 gold. Examples of rewards: Gain 1 renown, learn a new spell, make a new friend. You make a major breakthrough in your studies. Other Mages may recognize you forever more (if you tell them). 250 gold Examples of rewards: Gain 3 renown, invent a new spell, permanently memorize a known spell, create an artifact.
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Downtime Activities: Mage Guild Allies

This is the second in my series of Downtime Activities. Today I feature allies for a Mage Guild. Check out suggested Mage Guild rivals here

  • The janitor Jon Greenlake (commoner/m/human/55 years old/unranked). Jon has been the mage guild’s janitor for 10 years, a position given to him by the head mage after Jon lost his left arm and right-hand fingers in an accident that may have been the result of poorly packed shipment of alchemy fire headed to the guild. Jon may take a an interest in a character who is kind to him.

Assets: Keys to every single room, including any sort of ‘forbidden’ areas.  Not only can he offer access to any part of the guild to a friend, he can also retrieve items. In addition, he has overheard a fair share of gossip and ‘secret’ meetings during his cleaning duties.

  • Erwel Fenwick (cult leader, but with any good alliance (change the spells as you see fit)/f/half-elf/70 years old/Owl). Erwel mainly hangs out in the Owl Restaurant scarfing down oysters while flipping through library books. However, she also loves tea and cookies and can be found in the coffee shop in the morning and mid-afternoons. She doesn’t enjoy traveling herself, but loves to hear adventuring stories.

Assets: As an Owl, Erwel can help her friends move up the rungs quickly. She often will ask younger guild members to help with her research by verifying information she reads in her books, or provide her with the ingredients for spells. She is on good terms with Gweneth Fireiron, and can use her influence to soften any animosity Gweneth may hold against a fellow guild member.

Downtime Activities: Mage Guild Rivals

This is the start of a new series of posts I plan to do which focus on downtime activities. First up is suggested rivals for a Mage Guild:

  • The head librarian Gweneth Fireiron (archmage/f/dwarf/300 years old/eagle) has been head librarian for the past 150 years, and part of the Mage’s Guild for the past 250 years, and doesn’t like new mages who think they can rise through the ranks quickly. It took her 75 years to reach eagle status, so she doesn’t see why anyone else has to be in such a rush.
    • Goal: To keep things the way they have always been.
    • Assets: As a voting Eagle and head librarian, Fireiron has great influence on who gets promoted to higher levels and who has access to the library (yes, a member’s rank entitles them to access, but sometimes certain areas might need cleaning or Gweneth might be out to lunch).
    • Actions: Fireiron doesn’t have any kind of master plan, but she will oppose any PC who tries to rise too quickly and will need persuading to vote for them. If the PC annoys her, she may limit their access to the library or get other mages to vote against them.
  • Gavin Frostfields (acolyte/m/human/17 years old/member) joined the Guild a few months ago as its youngest ever member. He’s always been good at everything he’s done, so he doesn’t know what it’s like to fail. He instantly resents anyone who criticizes him or gets in his way. If it weren’t for the fact he’s so good at magic, he would probably be kicked out. He’s determined to make it to Eagle in record time, and resents anyone who ‘shows him up.’
    • Goal: To be the darling of the Guild
    • Assets: Although only a Member, his grandfather, Harold Frostfields, owns a very profitable liquor wholesaler and is sponsoring him. His grandfather has also bought a small Inn in town, The Lonely Pelican, which he lets Gavin ‘run’ (in reality, Harold’s employee runs it). The Inn is very popular and well-run, making Gavin very popular.
    • Actions: If Gavin thinks someone is getting more attention than him, he will try to sabotage them. Perhaps by buying off people who would otherwise help that person or sending bandits to make things difficult for the rival.

Review: Tales from the Yawning Portal

It’s out! Tales from the Yawning Portal, D&D’s newest adventure supplement was released on March 24 in game shops and will be released on April 4th in other locations. As promised, the book consists of seven classic dungeons updated for 5e ranging from Against the Giants released in 1978 to Dead in Thay released in 2014. The dungeons can be run separately or strung together to form one long campaign. I’ve had a chance to thumb through it this weekend.

The supplement starts off with a nice overview and history of the seven dungeons. Here, we also learn where the book gets its title: The Yawning Portal is the name of an inn suggested as the headquarters for the players to rest between adventures and get their next dungeon quest. The inn itself sits on top of, and serves as an entrance to, a massive dungeon which, sadly, is not featured in the book.

The dungeons follow and each chapter has more or less the same structure: an overview of the adventure, suggested plot hooks and settings, and then room-by-room descriptions. Information is not repeated. Usually, I find this format cumbersome for open-world games, but it works well for dungeon crawls.  The maps are highly detailed and nicely drawn. However, many of them are quite small and there are no poster inserts included. Given their level of detail, DMs will want to pre-draw them. As a bonus, each chapter includes a nice blurb on the history of the publication.

The Sunless Citadel is the first dungeon and advances characters from first to third level. It’s billed as a great introduction to D&D for new players and DMs alike. The adventure has players exploring a subterranean fortress looking for a mysterious and magical fruit. There is a lot of variety and fun encounters, but like all the dungeons in this book, it is very much a kick-down-the-door and take the loot, with the overall plot being very loose.

The Forge of Fury brings characters third to fifth level. Sticking again to classic tropes, this adventure explores a multi-level ancient Dwarven dungeon reminiscent of Tolkien’s work. Don’t ask too many questions about why the monsters on each level don’t interact.

The Hidden Shrine of Tomoachan is designed for 5th level characters. Although originally published in 1980, its setting is still unique for D&D and has players exploring a ruined temple influenced by Aztec/Mayan/Toltec mythology and society. Each room is packed with information and some descriptions go on for multiple pages.

White Plume Mountain is one of the most famous D&D adventures and has been modified here for 8th level players. Players make their way through a volcano dungeon to find three magical weapons. Filled with lots of challenges that basically amount to “roll above X number or take massive damage” and nonsensical monsters (you might even find the pitiful vampire that inspired the creation of the sinister Strahd), this adventure is more about nostalgia and kicking-in doors than anything else.

Dead in Thay is the newest dungeon in the book and takes players from 9th to 11th level. Players explore the Doomvault, a massive menagerie and laboratory run by evil wizards. The map for this one is gigantic and all squeezed onto one page. There are some bigger views of each sector, but you will probably still need a magnifying glass to see the detail.

Against the Giants is actually three mini-adventures which advance players from 11th to 14th level. There is kind of a three little pigs influence as any undefeated giants from one section will run to the next and DMs will have to do more legwork to change the dungeons to fit the players’ actions.

Tomb of Horrors caps the supplement. No suggested level is given except that parties should be large and well-prepared. The dangers here aren’t so much high-level monsters as tricky puzzles that will force players to use their own brains more than their characters’. Although this is one of the oldest adventures in D&D, this style of play will not suit everyone as there is little room for role-playing or even combat.

After all the dungeons, the book has two extensive appendixes of magic items and monsters. Thankfully, unlike other D&D adventure supplements, these are mainly stat blocks instead of descriptions, so DMs won’t find they’ve missed a crucial piece of lore when they flip to the appendix.

Conclusion

Overall, this is a fun supplement, especially if you are looking to replay, or play for the first time, classic dungeon crawls in 5e without having to do the conversion yourself. As is common with D&D adventure publications, there is a ton of information packed into prose-style paragraphs that can be hard to navigate as a DM. Information is not repeated and if you want to really absorb everything, you will need to read it closely. However, since each dungeon is self-contained, DMs can run these adventures with minimum prep. Tales of the Yawning Portal works well as either a supplement for a larger campaign, as mini-campaigns, or to run for a more casual group where players cannot make every session. Just don’t expect anything revolutionary.

 

Random Vistanis

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been busy preparing for a Curse of Strahd campaign so I haven’t been posting here as much. Then I realized I should be sharing the resources I made! So here are some random Vistanis. They are grouped into family units/wagons. The point of these NPCs is to allow diversity without getting bogged down in details. Vistani tend to be Chaotic Neutral.


The Dalcas. Wagon is painted purple with green flowers.

  • Stanimir: 50 year old man with beard and light blue eyes. Father of Damia and Ratka. He works with Madam Eva to bring adventurers into Barovia, hoping they will somehow lift the Curse.
  • Damia: 18 year old woman with feathers braided in her hair. She does not know if she believes her father that one day adventurers will break the Curse. She is fond of birds and can sing to them. She and her brother don’t get along.
  • Ratka: 18 year old man and Damia’s twin. He has a pierced nose and dark, curly hair. He and his sister got along well until she told him she doesn’t believe the Curse can be lifted. He believes this to be blasphemy.
  • Rosa: 50 year old wife to Stanimir. Good cook. Daughter of Pyotr Sala. Recently, she’s been riding in her father’s wagon as he is very old and needs more help.

The Funars. Wagon is painted in dark pink and yellow stripes.

  • Bela: 26 year old woman. She is fat and loves jewelry. She even specializes in trading jewelry for the trope – usually setting up a small table when they are in lands outside Barovia. She and Lee got married at age 16 and have been in love ever since. They quickly (some say too quickly) had a baby.
  • Lee: 28 year old man. He is very skinny, hates exercise, and doesn’t even like wine. He is very kind, though, and attentive to his children. Sometimes other Vistanti secretly refer to this couple as “The Prats,” but neither Bela nor Lee know this.
  • Baby Karol: 6 month old boy, constantly drooling.
  • Tara: 10 year old girl. She doesn’t show much interest in jewelry making and instead plays the flute. She’s unusually good and often warms up crowds with her sweet music.

Continue reading “Random Vistanis”

Lunar Calendar

I was recently looking for a Lunar Calendar for use in a Curse of Strahd campaign I’m going to run soon, but couldn’t find any that suited the needs of a fantasy campaign. Most real lunar calendars either do not truly follow the phases of the moon or are difficult to use as the a lunar cycle is not consistent. I have tried to solve those problems with the following calendar. There are 12 months with 28 days each. There are no need for weeks since the moon’s half, full and new phases serve as natural holidays and the gibbous and crescent phases serve as workdays. As I was making this for Barovia where the first the month is the Full Moon, unlike most real lunar calendars which have months starting on the New Moon, the First Quarter would occur last and vice-versa. So, I’ve renamed the First and Last Quarter the Right and Left Halves. The suggested season and month names are also meant for Barovia, but feel free to change them.

Corresponding Real Month

Fantasy Lunar Moon

Season

April

Pink Moon

Spring

May

Flower Moon

Spring

June

Dragon Moon

Summer

July

Bat Moon

Summer

August

Wine Moon

Summer

September

Harvest Moon

Autumn

October

Hunter’s Moon

Autumn

November

Ghost Moon

Winter

December

Cold Moon

Winter

January

Wolf Moon

Winter

February

Snow Moon

Winter

March

Raven Moon

Winter/Spring

Day of Month

Moon Phase

% Illuminated

1

Full

100%

2

Waning Gibbous

93%

3

Waning Gibbous

86%

4

Waning Gibbous

79%

5

Waning Gibbous

72%

6

Waning Gibbous

65%

7

Waning Gibbous

58%

8

Left Half

50%

9

Waning Crescent

43%

10

Waning Crescent

36%

11

Waning Crescent

29%

12

Waning Crescent

22%

13

Waning Crescent

15%

14

Waning Crescent

1 – 7%

15

New

0%

16

Waxing Crescent

7%

17

Waxing Crescent

14%

18

Waxing Crescent

21%

19

Waxing Crescent

28%

20

Waxing Crescent

35%

21

Waxing Crescent

42%

22

Right Half

50%

23

Waxing Gibbous

57%

24

Waxing Gibbous

64%

25

Waxing Gibbous

71%

26

Waxing Gibbous

78%

27

Waxing Gibbous

85%

28

Waxing Gibbous

92%

Charting the Underworld

Today’s inspiration is a campaign idea. Enjoy!

After death, the souls of the departed must find their way across the Underworld to reach the Heavenly Realms. Monstrous beasts, cruel demons, and unnatural hazards riddle the Underworld and claim many of these souls, snuffing them out of existence forever.

For generations, people have had to endure that their beloved may have never reached the promised lands, but perished in the jaws of a dire crocodile or been burned by a demon. Most spent their lives sacrificing to the gods, hoping they will guide them to safety.

When a goat herder accidentally found an entrance to the Underworld in the remote Green Mountains, King Ovin knew he could change all that. He hired teams of adventurers to chart the Underworld and publish the findings in a guidebook all could use to reach safety. Unfortunately, the dangers of the Underworld do not limit themselves to the dead, and three teams have already fail to return, save for a lone adventurer, too traumatized to be of much use. The King has had to search ever wider and up the reward to find any adventurers brave enough, or stupid enough, to face the Underworld.