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.

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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 Encounter Table for the Underworld

Inspired by Ancient Egyptian mythology of the Underworld, today’s inspiration is a random encounter table:

Roll Encounter
1 A group of hostile undead mindlessly attacks the PCs.
2 A dirty river filled with hippos or crocodiles who might be hostile.
3 Shadows unpeel themselves from their hiding spots.
4 A pack of roving Hell hounds attack.
5 A group of souls living in rotten structures. They are determined to stay here instead of moving on to the next phase.
6 A lost pet soul wanders across the PCs path looking for its master.
7 A friendly traveler hails the PCs. She’s here on a mission to recover some rare Underworld plants for her research.
8 A group of fading souls meander aimlessly. They will soon vanish if nothing is done.
9 An angel, its wings chained and broken, pleads the PCs for help.
10 A solitary door covered in ancient runes.
11 A temple with a group of strange creatures performing some kind of sacrifice.
12 A small woods in which the trees seem to fade in and out of existence.
13 A broken machine in scattered pieces, its gnome owner sits nearby trying to fit two back together.
14 A crashed boat, its captain dead at the wheel.
15 A Glabrezu offers the PCs a deal.
16 New souls arriving. Most begin to silently make their way across the Underworld. Some don’t seem to realize they are dead and rush about confused.
17 Giant boils rupture out of the ground. Some of them pop, releasing a noxious slime.
18 Gold, honey, and fruits suddenly appear, reflecting sacrifices made on the material plane.
19 The ground becomes soft and gives way into a cavern.
20 A group of manes eating souls.

Squirrel Hog

Today a combination animal for use with Dungeon World


Squirrel Hogs combine the mass and aggression of hogs, the agility and speed of squirrels, and the intelligence of both to create a terrifying beast housed in an adorable body. Not only is it pleasantly plump, but it sports a bushy, corked tail.

A mad wizard designed the Squirrel Hog to serve as a more agile and intelligent attack dog.  However, the animals turned out too strong-willed. They constantly escaped from their cages, and did not respond to conditioning. So, in a fit of frustration from the waste of hundreds of hours, the good doctor released them into the wild. The Squirrel Hogs proceeded to wreak havoc on the land: tearing up fields, stripping orchards bare, and eating up entire storerooms of food.

Today, villages take extreme measures to prevent the roving Squirrel Hog packs from destroying their livelihood. They build high fences, moats and spiked pits around fields. They cover trees in netting laced with metal. They employ round-the-clock patrols and everyone carries a boar spear with them in case of an attack. Travelers to the forests must be especially wary as mother Squirrel Hogs and their offspring live in tree nests and attack anyone who gets too close. Several mother hogs will often make nests in a close group of trees and come to each others’ aid, dropping onto perceived threats in one giant mass of clawing, tusked, biting bodies.

Instinct: To eat

Tags: Organized, Group, Intelligent

10 HP, 1 armor

D6 +2 (Teeth and claws, close)

Special Moves

  • Leap farther than you thought it could
  • Climb something very fast
  • Clever girls

 

 

 

Wisdom Tree City

Wisdom Tree City has always existed, nestled on an island where two mighty rivers pour into the ocean. Every hundred years or so the Goddess Weeps, as the natives say. The two rivers swell, merge into one, and overrun the city. After they retreat, they leave behind a thick sand burying everything except the peak of the great magical library, The Wisdom Tree. The citizens return and rebuild. The library grows taller. Probably no one would bother settling here if it weren’t for its position of a great port, a natural magic aura, the library, and the mines.

The Wisdom Tree stands in the middle of the city, its roof so high it seems to scrape the sky. Underground, floor upon floor descends so deep that no one knows where it ends. Side passageways split off from the main tower and meander through the city’s sand-filled ruins like the roots of a tree. The library’s ancient magic prevents any mud from leaking through and keeps the air circulating at the perfect temperature.

Mine tunnels built by prospectors also twist through the ruins. Every miner hopes to find valuable artifacts from forgotten times, but few do. Most arrive in the city poorly equipped and many perish digging through the ruins. In the upper mine tunnels, petty thieves, transients, and the desperate take up residence in the relatively safety. More sinister criminals live in the mid-tunnels, planning heists and waiting to prey on lost miners. Only the bravest dare venture to the deepest levels where unknown monsters lurk in the dark, and the most valuable artifacts wait.

But by far the most popular attraction for common folk is the Aquatic Arena, a giant stadium built in the middle of the bay where teams compete in impressive water battles. No expense is spared. Warriors clash on top of exotic sea monsters captured from the Far Seas. Gnomes command huge whirling machinery, slicing through the choppy waves  to tear apart their opponents. Wizards using the latest magical discoveries dart across the arena, easily passing from the sky to under the water, painting the battle with the bursts of spells. Continue reading “Wisdom Tree City”

Ghost Origins

A good ghost has a good background, but it can be hard to think up a background on a spot. Here is a list of backgrounds to help.


The Lost Lover: A young woman who ran off away with a sailor, only to be sacrificed by the crew to appease the sea gods when a storm hit.

The Rising star and Fans: A famous singer and his audience who died in a theater fire.

The Time Traveler: A wizard who wanted revenge on his father, but accidentally went back too far and committed the murder before he had been conceived.

The Accidental Tourists: Sightseers who died when their touring carriage accidentally entered a desert pocket dimension with no way out.

The Informer: A barmaid who got caught buying illegal drugs. She became an undercover informer for the City Guard to avoid punishment, but the drug gang found out and had her executed.

The Tortured: Not even after they shoved needles up her toenails or held her over burning coals would she tell them where she had hidden the Book of the Moon.

The Lost: A party goer who got drunk, entered the catacombs on a dare, and never found her way back out.

The Falconer: A woman who trained and piloted giant falcons, but was eaten by her own Red Eye. Continue reading “Ghost Origins”