8 Reasons Mind Flayers Still Rule the Multiverse

You’ve heard it said that the mind flayers (a.k.a. illithids) once ruled the multiverse, until they were overthrown and decimated by their gith slaves. But what if I told you that they’re still in control, manipulating everything from behind the scenes?

1. Mind flayers (as presented in the Monster Manual) are too weak to have ever had a multiplanar empire.

Sure, they can use their psionics to cast dominate monster, but they can only do that once per day, and may not succeed. Even an elder brain can only cast it once per day.

2. That said, they might make smart use of guerrilla tactics.

A lone mind flayer who sneaks up on a victim to try and mind control them could planeshift away before being seen if they fail. The victim would just get a creepy feeling that something’s been probing their brain. Not empire-building material though.

3. It takes an illithid a day to make a thrall. 

Volo’s Guide to Monsters says that if they have the opportunity to spend 24 hours gently mindblasting another creature, they can eventually turn that creature into a thrall. But that’s still not exactly efficient. It’s no way to rule the planes.

4. These are fake mind flayers.

I suggest that the mind flayers I’m describing are just decoys, a distraction from more powerful mind flayers who are controlling things from behind the scenes. Making the world thing that your species is weak and close to extinction would be a perfect way of hiding.

5. The illithid empire never ended.

Volo’s Guide questions how the gith could have possibly overthrown their illithid masters, pointing out that no ruins of the illithid empire can be found in the Astral Plane they ruled from. Volo’s suggestion is that they may have transported their empire into the future. Maybe the illithid empire is just moments away?

6. You just don’t remember them when they’re out of sight.

Alternatively, maybe the real mind flayers have an ability similar to the Silence from Doctor Who, meaning that anyone who sees them is unable to remember them? Maybe they’re constantly present, but never remembered?

7. Perhaps the gith never actually liberated themselves?

Maybe the mind flayers noticed that their slaves were looking for opportunities to rebel and created false memories of a revolution? Maybe they sowed conflict among the gith so they would fight amongst themselves, not realising they are still enslaved? (Volo’s Guide says that when an elder brain infiltrates someone’s mind, it can alter their perception.) My theory is that the warring gith races are actually the same, but the mind flayers give the githyanki a higher dose of testosterone.

8. There are also clues that the mind flayers still control the duergar.

Volo’s Guide talks about the mind flayers giving their slaves metal implants (eg. flensing claws). In Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes we see that some of the duergar have new body mods. Maybe these are the result of continuing mind flayer experiments? We also see that the psionic abilities that the mindflayers gave them are continuing to develop…

A couple of months ago I ran Rrakkma!, an adventure that pits a party of gith against mind flayers, trying to stop them from enslaving the gith race again. My party of four gith ended up dying in the final stage of the adventure, and the mind flayers ended up enslaving the gith once again. This got me thinking about how it would be cool run an adventure where the rulers of the multiverse once again, and the gith have to stage another revolution. But then I thought, maybe the mind flayers would try to make the gith think they were free, while secretly pulling the puppet strings? If you wanted, you could run a campaign where everything seems normal, but players gradually figure out that the world is being secretly controlled by the mind flayers.

Channel your inner Han Solo with Evil Hat’s Scum and Villainy

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

Long since the days when renowned smuggler and scoundrel, Han Solo graced the silver screens in the first Star Wars movies, would pop culture be dazzled by the soon-to-be-iconic trope of the space cowboy. The trope would carry on into many films, television series, and books include such notables as Firefly, Dark Matter, the Expanse, Guardians of the Galaxy, and anime series like Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star. The “space western” genre grew from the space opera scene and told stories of anti-heroes or heroes with attitude in a cruel, unforgiving universe. With Evil Hat Production’s open-game license of Blades in the Dark into the Forged in the Dark branding, we are presented with a unique space adventure known simply as Scum and Villainy. The title pays homage to a particular line from Star Wars: A New Hope from the late Alec Guinness’ Obi-Wan Kenobi, “Mos Eisley spaceport. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”

Fans of Blades in the Dark will find familiar mechanics.

  • Progress clocks make a return with new additions like “race against the clock” and faction clocks for those pesky rivals.  
  • The game structure remains the same but includes new mechanics for upkeep to maintain your ship. The ship takes center stage compared to the lair from Blades.
  • Dice rolls and resolution remain unchanged but with twelve new actions for all the space heist high jinks.

The new things in Scum and Villainy include:

  • Seven new playbooks (or classes) that resemble typical sci-fi tropes such as the mechanic, the muscle, the scoundrel, and pilots. Essentially, all the critical roles from Joss Whedon’s Firefly if you wanted to be specific.

    The crew of the Serenity, Firefly
  • Armor to reduce to nearly lethal consequences.
  • The Way is the mystical energy that acts like magical ley-lines across the galaxy. What’s a space opera without some supernatural force that no one can explain? Did I mention there are cults for it too?

    When mysticism meets the weird, Outlaw Star
  • What’s a crew without their main attraction, the ship? Unlike the crew’s lair in Blades, in Scum and Villainy, the ship is a character too and requires upkeep to stay functional for your band of scoundrels to make their heists.
  • Rules for science and the strange mystic forces that bind the universe together. Everything from advanced tech, to elusive precursor races, and even the mystical Way.
  • Androids and drones. Sadly, you cannot be an Urbot character, but maybe in a future installment?

    Who wants to this upcoming Star Wars movie?
  • Speaking of advanced technology, crafting has a more significant role as a downtime activity. In many sci-fi series, you will always find someone tinkering away on a new device or modifying an existing one.
  • Is there honor among thieves? In Scum and Villainy, there are some added suggestions for crafting your trust mechanics along with tips for those massive spaceship battles. 

    Space battles!

Pre-orders for hardcover copies of Scum and Villainy are already underway with an expected shipping date in early August around the time of GenCon. Due to Evil Hat Production’s PDF purchase policy (something several indie publishers have started the practice), anyone who pre-orders the rulebook gets immediate access to the digital PDF so you can start playing right away. I adore this practice, and if you’re interested in Blades in the Dark, you can read the Forged in the Dark SRD and start your adventures with your motley crew of scoundrels and heathens trying to make a name for yourselves.

Scum and Villainy Preorder Link: https://www.evilhat.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=79&products_id=336

Forged in the Dark SRD Link: https://bladesinthedark.com/

Gnine Gnomes your Game Gneeds

Gnome is one of my favourite Dungeons & Dragons races. I’ve played a gnome druid in a couple of one-shots, and I played as a gnome warlock in a Planescape mini-campaign.

Actually, I think everyone likes gnomes because the group I dungeon master for has had three gnome player characters as well as a number of svirfneblin (deep gnome) non-player companions.

 

I’ve made a list of Gnine Gnomes your Game Gneeds, so now everyone gets a gnome. You could use these as concepts for player characters or DMPCs non-player characters.

1. The gnome who always talks to animals.

This gnome prefers the company of small forest creatures over other humanoids. If you choose the forest gnome subrace, you automatically gain the ability to talk to small animals, so it wouldn’t matter what class you choose. However, I reckon it would make the most sense for this character to be a druid, ranger or barbarian.

2. The gnome who is always making contraptions.

This gnome is always working on a new invention during downtime. Rock gnomes can make a few simple mechanical devices. If your group is okay with it, I would suggest choosing a spellcasting class and re-flavouring each spell as a contraption. Invisible servant becomes an automaton, mage hand becomes go-go-gadget-hand, et cetera.

3. The gnome with the golden gun.

Because why the hell gnot? Actually, check if your group is okay with this one too, because, let’s face it, guns could really break the mood of some games. You could use the gunsmith subclass from the artificer playtest material or you could use Matt Mercer’s gunslinger class. I let one of my players go with the gunsmith, but maybe I shouldn’t have. If you do manage to convince everyone this is okay, I’d highly recommend saying that the gun is encrusted in gems and shoots slugs.

4. The thief who is just a little bit magical.

Choose the forest gnome for their ability to cast minor illusion. Another other option is to go svirf and choose the svirf magic feat. With either of these options, you can work your way up to a level 20 rogue (a.k.a. super sneaky boi) who is also just a little bit magical.

5. The gnome with a silly gname.

Gnomes often have ridiculously long, funny-sounding names. When you’re making your character, ask everyone in your life to put a few words into a hat. Pull a few out in a random order and stick them together to make your gnomish gname. Everyone is going to love Spongespindle Wafflebadger.

6. The gnome who likes to do jokes and pranks.

I think either a rogue with the arcane trickster subclass or an illusionist wizard would lend itself to gnomish mischief.

7. The gnome sculptor.

This gnome is a bard from the college of whispers, who sculpts small, grotesque effigies of others in order to mess with their minds, playing on every insecurity.

8. The gnome who the rest of the party doesn’t know about.

This character is probably a svirfneblin rogue using the svirfneblin magic feat. This gnome might be secretly following the party in order to protect them and keep them out of trouble. Or they might be stalking them, looking for the perfect moment for an ambush.

9. The gnome who makes traps.

If the rest of your group is okay with it, you could choose a spellcasting class and reflavour some spells (eg. acid splash, poison spray, web) to represent traps.

 

Why you should be excited for Warhammer Fantasy RPG 4th edition

by Ex_Libris85   Twitch   Twitter 

 

Cubicle 7’s release of the next installment of the popular Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Game is imminent and we over here at Encounter Roleplay couldn’t be more excited. Warhammer’s grim and dark fantasy world of survival and corruption holds a special place in our hearts.

Here is why we are excited:

 

They are keeping a lot of the things that make the game great

The D100 percentile system returns as well as the recognizable Warhammer stat block. This is a very well rounded and well-thought-out block that served the previous editions well for decades.

Careers are also making a comeback as they are one of the most unique things about Warhammer RPG. They help immerse the player in the world and allow for more nuanced character choices.

She is lucky her GM lets her pick instead of roll

 

They are making smart changes to the stat block

Something new is the addition of a “dexterity” stat. This is to stand out from “agility” which is general acrobatics and ability to move and dodge quickly, while dexterity is more about meticulous and delicate work with the hands, like lock picking or jewelry crafting.

This is an agility check and not dexterity

 

Combat is more interactive

Combat in previous editions of Warhammer was brutal and very tactical, but suffered from several problems, the biggest of which was both players and enemies missing round after round.

To alleviate this Cubicle 7 has created the “advantage” system, which lets the combatant gain bonuses to their rolls, and by making a single attack action opposing rolls between both combatants. In a round of combat attacker and defender both roll against weapon skill and measure success. If attacker wins he does damage and gains advantage, if defender wins no damage is done and he gains advantage.

Artist’s depiction of 2nd edition combat encounter

 

 

GMs have more freedom on resolving player actions and rolls

The designers have created 3 separate ways to help keep the pace of the game up while allowing for complexity of action.

  • Simple pass/fail

Sometimes the best way to resolve an action with a possibility of failure is to just roll and see if you make it or not.

That’s a fail

  • Degrees of failure/success

Things such as climbing a rope on a tower, if you fail do you fall? Or rather how far do you fall? If you succeed do you simply make it to the top or do you make it up so quick you can gain a surprise attack on the wizard at the top?

When you make a low roll on a D100

  • GM Fiat

Need to make a 4 ft jump? Do you have both legs? Okay you pass, no need to get dice involved here.

mom get the camera

 

 

 

I think Cubicle 7 have nailed the sweet spot of keeping the spirit of the popular older editions while making important updates to the ruleset that make things a bit smoother to play.

I am incredibly excited for my character to be burned at the stake for religious heresy and thank you to Cubicle 7 for bringing the game I love into the modern age.

9 Reasons Why Githyanki and Githzerai are identical

It’s an unending war between two cosmic races… who are exactly the same. You may tell me that the githyanki are chaotic evil raiders from the Astral Plane, totally different from the lawful neutral githzerai monks of Limbo, but just how different are they?

1. The githyanki and the githzerai are both descended from the slaves of mind flayers. (They parted ways soon after they freed themselves.)
2. Both the githyanki and the githzerai are focussed on hunting down the remaining mind flayers.
3. Mind flayers are about the only thing they hate more than each other.
4. Both races have psionic abilities that they received from their former masters.
5. Each of the gith races is ruled by an ancient, powerful figure – an ancestral hero from the war against the mind flayers.
6. In both cases, the leader is so ancient that it’s not entirely clear whether they are alive or dead.
7. In both cases, the leader’s immense age means that they’re dependent on their followers.
8. Both races expect the return of a long-departed hero – a kind of gith Jesus.
9. Both believe in a promise of paradise in the afterlife.

If you are using the gith races in your adventure, you should do everything you can to show how ridiculously similar they are to each other, but how much they hate each other all the same.

One of the ways that the two races are differentiated in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes is in the way their leaders are portrayed. Both are depicted straddling the boundary between life and death. It’s suggested that Vlaakith, tyrant of the githyanki, is actually consuming the souls of those who’ve ‘ascended’ to paradise. Menyar-Ag, leader of the githzerai, is portrayed as an ancient master whose psionic strength keeps him vital as his decrepit body withers away. He’s dependent on his disciples to care for his physical body. I would suggest finding ways to give the impression that Menyar-Ag is no different to his githyanki counterpart, and that he may also be consuming the souls of his followers. (It doesn’t have to be solid evidence, just enough to make your players suspicious.)

This would also muddy up the alignment of the githzerai, suggesting that their leader, if not the race in general, is actually evil. You could also suggest that their lawful nature is just a facade. Maybe their practice of stabilising Limbo is a metaphor for the stabilisation of their own chaotic nature? Every now and then, you could have a githzerai’s calm exterior crack, revealing the chaos that lies within.

Think of these two races as sects of the same religion, who have a violent disagreement about how many celestials can dance on the head of a pin. It’s a darkly comical way of saying that we may be just the same as the people who go to war against.

If you want to learn more about the gith, pick up a copy of Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes.

The Mountain Witch is a Samurai RPG of Trust & Betrayal

What I love most about Kickstarter is finding new RPG projects being designed brought into the world, but what I also about Kickstarter is that it serves as an excellent platform for other tabletop RPGs to get the chance to be crowdfunded for reprints or even new editions. This presents opportunities for indie RPG authors and game designers to reintroduce their games during this tabletop renaissance. With so many indie RPGs out there, finding them all or knowing all of them is quite a feat. So when I stumbled upon Timonth Kleinert’s Kickstarter for the second edition of Mountain Witch, I was intrigued by the medieval Japanese setting, the mention of the horror and noir genre, and this daring assault against a powerful mountain witch.

Mountain Witch is a self-contained roleplaying adventure where players assume the roles of ronin, or masterless samurai, that accept a deal to assault the dreaded O-Yanma, the Mountain Witch of Mount Fuji. The game utilizes primarily a six-sided (d6) die to resolve conflicts across gameplay. Typically, players declare their intent through a freeform narrative, where contested rolls are done with a single d6, the winner gains control of the story, while the losing die is used to subtract from the value of the winning die to determine degrees of freedom to measure the overall success for the winning character. I genuinely enjoy this mechanic as a way to bridge the concept of contested rolls, which keeps the game dynamic but also present a method to determine degrees of freedom to reward and incentivize the storytelling. Unlike typical RPGs where characters test their skills and gain progression through gameplay, the Mountain Witch assumes competent characters and instead implies that under normal circumstances the characters to be able to perform any reasonable action within their ability. Conflict in this game is more of a conflict of interest between characters. The degrees of success grants players the metaphor of two samurais in a duel to the death with one strike for one kill.

In a game where character death is very probable over the course of gameplay, Kleinert skillfully incorporates a meta-game mechanic referred to as Trust wherein even dead player characters (PCs) can accrue this currency to continue influencing the narrative. Trust as a currency grants a player influence over another character’s conflict rolls. Additionally, it is given by a character to be on them in a future conflict, which is a very dangerous double-edged sword that invites betrayal. At specific points in the story, players rate how much their character trusts other members of this company. At character creation, players designate one of six grim fates for their character that act as open-ended descriptions that reveal a samurai’s past while providing ulterior motives. Both the Fates and Trust mechanic create a tense atmosphere where the samurai characters must trust one another to survive but cannot trust all of them for they all have ulterior motives.

The current Kickstarter campaign has already met their $10,000 USD funding goal which will produce a published instruction book of the game with full-color illustrations, and the ability to provide game cards that contain the dark fates and zodiac signs to be used during character creation. Additional stretch goals, which at the time of this article have been achieved, include other writers to contribute a few chapters and instructional videos on GMing the game. Some of the sections include commentary and alternate settings and rule variants. After purchasing a digital PDF of the game for myself, I look forward to the updated version and have my physical copy to add to my RPG collection.  

Kickstarter link: http://kck.st/2LocRrI

 

Elements – The Guild of Windmill

"Is it worth it? Should we allow these wizards such free reign in our lands simply because we are lazy? And what happens to the wind? Do they destroy it?"

Founded by the great wizard Alphonze, the Guild of Windmill holds the secret to harnessing the power of wind to preform tasks that would take your average unskilled laborer many hours to do themselves. It is for this that any village for whom the Guild decide to bestow their strange, magical towers upon find themselves incredibly grateful and pay significant funds to the magicians for their great services.

While the villagers are allowed to work the windmills, much of their inner workings remain a great mystery, requiring the services of the great Guild to keep maintained. Entering the inner chambers of the towers requires a person capable of great magics to protect themselves from the errant energies that turn Nature’s great wind into milling energy. Also, any non-guild member entering said chambers is liable to incarceration, and sometimes death if it is believed that person has been “contaminated” by the magics inside. The knights are known as the Staring Steel by most local populations for their vigils of staring at windmills day and night.

This leads to some questions: if the windmills are so dangerous, why should they be allowed in their towns? Alphonse himself has assured the populace that as long as the common folk do not enter the forbidding chambers that they shall be fine, that the lumber cut from only the most magical forests protects them from the energies inside. But it does not protect them from curiosity. And for that reason, knights are deployed from the guild to patrol their towers, to watch over them and ensure their safety. And also to make sure the locals pay their dues, rent, and maitanence fees.

These windmills require three things before they are built in any town. The first is ample wind, which is converted into milling energy through the windmill’s tower. The second is permission from the local governer, lord, or shaman. The third is is a significant donation to the Guild. Once that has been completed you too can have your own windmill!

 

Important members of the Guild of Windmill

Guss T’blohard – Current leader of the Guild, said to be able to talk for hours without ever taking in a breath. Most would rather pay the man rather than converse with him due to his generally unpleasant nature. Alphonze finds this to be a boon to the buisness, although the great wizard has not been seen in his company for many years.

Bre Z’fan – Captain of the Staring Steel and Dues. Shrewd both in money and manpower, Captain Z’fan knows how to keep the Guild running on the least amount of resources possible. Her knights are often under appreciated and ill equipped, often leading to malnourishment and dillusions. They are then promptly fired and filled in with fresh recruits looking to make an easy silver.

Donald Quote – A local knight in a small village, Sir Quote is certain that something about the windmill is trying to communicate with him. He watches it dilligently, hoping that the purpose of the whisperings will be revealed. He hopes that this happens before he is driven insane and tears into the mill himself to discover the mystery. His trusty horse Gunther is his only other friend.

Enjoy Elements? Let Ethan know on Twitter (@superrobotbear)! He’d love to hear from you and what sort of stories you have. Or if you are interested in his other works, including a dnd5e module or a podcast about RPG shows, you can find it all over on linktr.ee/superrobotbear.

SOURCES OF THE UNKNOWN: MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP

SOURCES OF THE UNKNOWN

MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP
You might be thinking to yourself “I thought this was supposed to be about upcoming releases” and you’d be right; Chaosium is releasing the famous and exciting campaign ‘Masks of Nyarlathotep” for Call of Cthulhu 7e. You might be familiar with older releases (Encounter Role Play did an entire playthrough of it) but it doesn’t yet exist for 7e. The updated release is more than just updated mechanics but also expands on the already fantastic story to increase the horror and adventure (and yes, South America is now a part of the story).
If you’ve wanted to GM Masks up until this point (the updated scenario releases July 1st in its PDF version, later in 2018 in hardcover), you’d have to do all of the conversions yourself (which is, admittedly, pretty easy to do) and you’d be stuck with either the handouts that were given (in my opinion, not as good as they could have been) or hunt down usable fan-made handouts (which exist if you look hard enough); not to mention add any additional story yourself. Player creation could be time-consuming but a good Keeper would’ve made it worth the effort.
Masks is one of the most popular titles for Call of Cthulhu but I feel a little awkward giving any kind of review since I haven’t played the updated version at all, my experience rests with older versions. That being said, I’ll tell you what I do know as has been released.

(from the Chaosium website 6/20/18)
The PDF package will cost USD$59.99 and contains the following electronic items:
Masks Book – Omnibus PDF of both volumes (666 pages)
Keeper Screen PDF
NPC Portraits PDF
Keeper Reference Booklet PDF
Handouts (including Maps & Pre-gen PCs)
Book Cover images x 2
Pre-gen Character Sheets x 10
The two-volume full colour hardback slipcase version will be available later in 2018, retailing for USD$129.99*.

129.99 is quite a lot but you get a lot for your money; and 59.99 is reasonable for an adventure of this magnitude (and it might just be me, but I tend to prefer PDFs), plus purchase of the PDF gives you an instant coupon at Chaosium.com for the hard-cover book (the coupon for the Hardcover, valued at $59.99, will drop the HC to just $70). Just look at the list of included downloads and you can see the value. Now, I don’t agree with everything (Pre-Generated characters seem like a waste to me) but I still feel that this would be appropriate. If you love Call of Cthulhu, and want to play this game updated for 7e, I highly recommend. The PDF will be available at chaosium.com and drivethrurpg.com

For more information on the release of Masks of Nyarlathotep, visit www.chaosium.com; to contact me, you can find me on twitter @mbertolini

Elements – The Sky-Twin Lakes

"You ever swim in the twin-lakes? Something about them makes your bones tingle and your soul lighten. And I swear that my skin sparkled for a week."

Nestled in between the misty peaks of the Ralheigup lie two lakes, each forming a perfect circle of equal measure. Long ago it was believed that these two lakes were formed by the falling of two Sky Children known as Ahstar and Buhstar, whose heavenly bodies formed great craters. Over time the deep holes filled with the melting of snow and the waters remain warm even in the middle of the harshest Winters. The lakes are nearly a mile deep at their deepest point, and most local divers spend their lives in pursuit of the depths. The waters are potable and mineral rich, and many travelers find the taste not unlike “the color trapezoid” as famously quoted from the Great Wizard Alphonze.

A small town has formed at the edge of these lakes known as Stjarna’lendir. It mostly survives on the local deer and rabbit populations, a few carefully tended star-berry groves (which are similar to blackberries but with a hint of carbonation) and the unusually large and sparkling fish who live in the warm lakes known as Bubblefish. Many of the residents dive into the craters, whose walls offer nuggets of strange metals that naturally grow in fractal-like patterns until picked. When forged this metal is as strong as steel and offers protection from the local fey spirits. They trade these weapons with towns further down the mountain for essentials and curios from the lowlands.

 

Star’s Landing has several issues that afflict them.

The local wolf population has become increasing violent and possess light based magics, making them very dangerous to travelers who carry essential supplies.

Fey spirits are agitated by the existence of the strange lakes and are constantly making ineffectual plans to destroy them.

Some of the fishermen have begun to claim that the Bubblefish can talk and are conflicted with the thought of eating them, essentially removing a large source of the town’s food.

 

Notable Figures

Andrea Ulfursdottir. Leads the local hunters and naturalists and is always considered in major town events. De facto leader of the community. Enjoys drinking, swinging axes, and intense conversations about the romantic rumors of the lowland royalty.

Sevrrir Olvirsson. While most of the village agrees that there is not magic in the waters of the Sky-twin lakes, none can deny that Sevrrir has tapped into some divine source offered by them. Capable of performing miracles and seeing the future, Sevrrir can often be found meditating in the cliffs overlooking the lakes, or occasionally sitting in their depths, much to the surprise of the divers.

Brynja Jóhannsson. No one knows where young Brynja obtains the wheat for her breads. They are afraid to ask. But her breads are always warm and delicious and considered a boon to the town. Her bakery is one of the most successful businesses in town and often sought out by travelers. Something prevents her bread from leaving Star’s Landing, which instantly molds and rots less than a mile down the road.

 

Enjoy Elements? Let Ethan know on Twitter (@superrobotbear)! He’d love to hear from you and what sort of stories you have. Or if you are interested in his other works, including a dnd5e module or a podcast about RPG shows, you can find it all over on linktr.ee/superrobotbear.

Adventure Hook: The Bull Ring

Designed for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons by Mark-Alexander Cross.

Gorgons are one of my favorite monsters in Dungeons & Dragons, monstrous iron bulls that can charge and petrify you. They are a great early game boss in my opinion that will get your players thinking especially if they are newcomers, so let us grab those horns and charge into the ring!

Number of Players: 3-6  Level: 3-5 (depending on party number)

Note: This hook will require the Monster Manual for Gorgon stats.

Read this aloud to your players:

“You awaken after several hours unconscious but you have no memory of passing out in the first place. Your surroundings are pitch black but you are all within a circle of light that makes you all visible until you are blinded by a tremendous burst of light.

Upon recovery you find yourself in a sandpit circular arena with seating stands made of marble and wood that stretch all around and ascend by 80 feet. The seats are only a quarter full which marks out a lavish theatre box adorned with silk curtains coloured red and royal purple, and five grand thrones upon marble flooring that oversee a balcony carved out of mahogany coated in a glistening amber.

Seated on each throne are humanoid figures; one adult male and female, an elderly female figure and two children no older than teenage (passive perceptions of 15 can deduce around 12 years old). They all wear toga like wrappings tucked into a finely made set of trousers/pants with their faces covered with muriel masks similar to a Roman Bust.

The figurehead (your choice, to me if was the adult woman) stands to proclaim to the arena, addressing them as if it was at full capacity, for the games to begin with the words ‘entertain us’. Out of a rising gate 50 feet away from you a Gorgon burst into the arena and five 30 feet tall coloured pillars rise out of the earth.”

Time to fight, time to survive

The arena is a 100 feet circumference with your players at the very central point and the five pillars scattered all over at your discretion. Modify the Gorgon to have resistance to all bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage to begin with (including magical weapons) and immunities to all spell effects up to 6th level.

The five coloured pillars are the key to this fight as they can aid and setback your players with the following effects:

Red: Your party gains resistance to bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage but the Gorgon gains advantage on all attacks.

Yellow: Spell immunity for the Gorgon is permanently lost and each party member may use a hit dice if needed.

Blue: Another Gorgon but with a lowered AC of 12, max hit points at 60 and no special resistances enters the battlefield and acts on the same roll as its twin.

Pink: Gorgon resistance to all bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage is lost permanently and each party member may use a hit dice if needed.

Black: The master reset as all party members get the benefits of a long rest instantly but so does the Gorgon’s with the main enemy getting his special resistances back too.

A player must be within five feet to use a pillar and it requires a full action to touch and activate it. All pillars can be turned on and off bar the black pillars which loses its colour and dies out after use.

The Aftermath

If your players win the fight then hopefully there is enough teases here to continue the adventure if you wish; who kidnapped the party? What is it with the strangers in the box and the half full crowd? How come the Gorgon is very powered and for what reason?

My take was a rich and powerful half-elven family who owns a great deal of land and becomes delusional as roman style rulers. The family meddles with monsters and captures numerous adventurers to fight in their “grand arena” for entertainment and testing for their invasion plans to take more land from the true rulers.

As ever the story is yours.