Trapped in the Birdcage

Trapped in the Birdcage

Two weeks ago Holly Conrad (who plays Strix on Dice Camera Action) launched a new streamed game called Trapped in the Birdcage, set in Sigil, Planescape’s city of doors.

The party offers plenty of variety:

  • Wilhelmena, a compulsive thief, played by Anna Prosser Robinson
  • Saturn, a triangle-playing bard who seems to get in a lot of trouble, played by Jimmy Whetzel
  • Nejma, a wizard who thinks fire solves everything, played by Hadeel Al-Massari
  • Reader, a warforged who’s keeping notes on the others’ crimes, played by Chad Quandt

I’ve made a custom alignment axis which I think sums them up to some extent:

To explain:

  • It seems like Nejma and Wil are both pretty streetwise or capable. Saturn and Reader both aren’t.
  • It seems like Wil and Saturn are both looking to cause trouble. Reader and Nejma are looking to stay out of it – although they aren’t necessarily great at that.

Having watched the first two episodes I have to say it’s well-paced and flows well. I think that’s because Conrad doesn’t allow the story to get bogged down by the vast amounts of Planescape lore from previous editions. Just describing Sigil the first time a party visits takes up a lot of time. And that’s just the start of it. If a dungeon master isn’t careful they might end up spending a whole session explaining the Lady of Pain, planar cant, the fifteen factions, the dabus, the Blood War… and not leave much space for adventuring.

I think these two introductory episodes are a good example of how to introduce setting by starting small and focussed. You can’t get much more small and focussed than the first episode. The beginning of the show has the four adventures arriving and meeting in a closet, which turns out to be in a teahouse. For the whole first episode, the adventurers don’t leave the shop.

In the second episode, they get to see some of the city, causing havoc in the Great Bazaar, visiting a diner and meeting one of Sigil’s most iconic characters at the Great Gymnasium. A few of the factions are also introduced fleetingly.

From what they’ve been told, the player characters seem to be an interesting situation. It seems they are on the other end of a summoning spell: they’ve been summoned and compelled to the do the will of a wereraven who watches over Sigil. With the exception of Reader, they’ve been causing a fair bit of trouble in the city already, which might create complications as they try to fulfil their contract.

Trapped in the Birdcage is on again tonight (Thursday 5-7pm US Pacific time) on the official Dungeons & Dragons Twitch stream, so hopefully you’ve got time to catch up on the first two episodes before then!

Episode 1
Episode 2

By Chris Booth Twitter  Instagram  Website

Rule Your Own Fortress with Matt Coville’s Strongholds & Followers

Rule Your Own Fortress with Matt Coville’s Strongholds & Followers

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

One of the many opportunities and joys a group of adventurers has after amassing a substantial wealth is to acquire their castle or keep. Building a fort and filling it with followers is almost as much work as creating a campaign setting sometimes. Matt Coville’s Strongholds & Followers helps characters find ways to spend their considerable sum of loot and influence an area to raise armies, research spells, and maybe even spy on their enemies. The Kickstarter campaign has become quite the talk of the RPG community, breaking records by raising over a million dollars within one week. Strongholds & Followers is a Dungeons & Dragons supplement under the 5th Edition ruleset featuring a style of play that assumes characters in the roleplaying game have interest building a stronghold, providing ample examples of narrative opportunities for players and their Dungeon Masters.

According to the Kickstarter page, the book will provide new character options along with advice and information as the narrative can potentially expand into the political arena. It’s alluded that there are four types of strongholds, each possessing their benefits. Some class options such as the Paladin’s Divine Smite or the Bard’s Bardic Inspiration receive a temporary boon upon the establishment of a new stronghold. Players can attract followers from soldiers to defend the keep while the party goes on adventures, artisans to craft and research, and even give them emissaries to represent their plot of land. Additionally, players can also recruit unique and powerful allies like demons, celestials, or even a dragon! Imagine a dragon ally guarding your keep against enemies. Colville has a draft for potential followers for a Paladin’s stronghold available on the Kickstarter page.

You will note that while there are game mechanics, it serves as a narrative tool to add depth to expand the experience of the campaign for both players and DMs. Much of the inspiration for Strongholds & Followers stemmed from variations of the rules when Colville played D&D back in the 80s, wherein the mechanics and rules adapted to the changing editions of the game.  

The current stretch goals for the campaigns have been met, expanding the list of potential special allies to include the neutral-inclined, psionic gem dragons, new magic items, and an adventure written by the wordsmith himself.

Matt Coville is best known for his YouTube series on dungeon mastering, and he also writes the Critical Role comics. Coville is regarded highly with the D&D community, granting him the status of a “celebrity” DM. The YouTube series provides a wealth of information while with a vast amount of entertainment with Coville “nerding out” on occasion and comes highly recommended. Part of the Kickstarter campaign involves funding for Colville to lease a studio space to stream their next D&D game.

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

PC: Leoris Bog’ Leon

Name: Leoris Bog’ Leon
Player: Spartans282
Details: Wood-Elf Male 200 yr old Druid
Appearance/Equipment:
Leoris is a 6’0″ Wood elf with light tan skin. His hair is a Dark Pitch black. His eyes are a shinning Silver with a gleam. A Phoenix Feather in his left Ear attached to his hair.He has DarkBlack Leather armor with Black feathers on the shoulder pads. His dark green cloak drapes around his neck covering down to his knees almost like a poncho. he carries a wooden shield and a Scimitar with a hilt of Green Vines wrapped around to a Dark Oak wooden sharp blade.
Background: 
Leoris is actually created from a Tavern PC after learning of that PC’s Secret.
Magic Items
2 Trinkets: He carries a piece of a Crystal around his neck that shines in the moon light. Also has a Bright Red Shelled Egg
Companion:
Ferret named Bleh.

Curse of Strahd: GM Prep (Spoilers – Ep. 7)

The Curse of Strahd streams live on Twitch Wednesdays, 4-7pm EST.

Here are the notes from Will’s DM prep session that chat helped build!

EPISODE SEVEN: HARVEST OF INNOCENCE

Handout – In the caves they find notes of their experiments pertaining to Miles from within the Flesh Golem.

Journal4

Journal5

The Ritual: Harvest of Innocence

They need to travel back to Barovia but they have no way of doing so. An Arcana check reveals that the notes which they find in the cave are a ritual which can teleport them back to the realm of Barovia.

Several of the ingredients lie around the cave, and those ticked off the list are in a cupboard nearby.

The Holy Water was previously acquired in Episode 6 from Dapper the Butler, Enryn carries it. Tears of a Widower are also in one of Enryn’s vials taken from the Dream Hags called “Mother’s Milk”. There’s a Vampire Spawn in the corner of the room, they can remove his tooth to get it.

The Tiefling eye can only be acquired through Diligence.

Alternative: the Tielfling girl trapped in the cage – already only has one eye from previous ritual castings. They can free her or take the other eye. If they kill her, she will haunt them!

Upon completing the ritual they are taken to Barovia to follow Baby Lysanga.

 

Barovia:
Flees to the Church in Barovia where Donavich the Priest is.

On the hilltop they see the Church where black clouds gather ominously. She begins to brew up a new plague to send out into the village of Barovia.

Scene of Baby Lysanga striking the Pact with Strahd – vision sent by Madame Eva. Baby Lysanga is teleported to the village of Barovia via the tree.

Attempts to slow the Party down with the corpses of the children in the fields.

They are still stuck in Lysanga however, and must find their way out back to Barovia. The big crucifix tree can take them back to Barovia.

This town has been infected by her plague and people are starting to fall ill. They can ask around for word of Baby Lysanga but no one knows where she is at this point. Donavich tells them that there have been many people falling ill in the village and a sickness has started to fester here. There are people in the Church whom he is caring for but they are getting worse.
Plague Spread
Plague spread through the water system, and if they follow the trace it leads back to the Church.

What happens to the Plague Victims?
Fatigue, bones weakened, skin lesions, bloated stomachs ← something comes out

Adults begin to behave like children. Playing children’s games, holding dolls, acting petulantly, haunting giggle. They hear childlike voices in their heads. They rely on Father Donavich as a father figure. They begin to take on the appearance of children the worse it gets.

At the peak of the disease, the victims are killed and give birth to unholy children with no eye sockets and deformed bodies with gaping mouths. These demon babies are hungry and alien-style rip out of their hosts, eating their way out. They become bloated when they eat. Relatively easy to defeat when born, but after a day they become much more formed and dangerous, intelligent.

Plague word bank:
Supprucating, pulsing, festering, gangrenous, writhing maggot ridden, seeping, oozing, fetid, blood laced sweat, rancid, gloppy ooze, pungent, undulating, effervesce

Baby Lysanga’s Location
Baby Lysanga is in the attic of the Church, creating her plague from the rafters.

She herself is greatly wounded and weakened, relying upon the Demon babies to defend her while she stirs her cauldron.

Plague Affects PCs
The Players are not immune to the plague, and begin to show symptoms. They have already been infected during the Encounter.

Diligence and Enryn in particular is weak to this, being adults.

They start to have childish impulses, behave like children and start to become bloated themselves the longer this continues.

The Water System
Upon inspecting the central well in Barovia, going down shows that the supply is fetid and stinking and there is channel which can be traversed which leads back to the church.

In this tunnel they are visited by the creepy girl again (Abigail, before she was a Flesh golem) and Insanity checks ensue! Also the dead boy Johnny and sister Sarah from Ep. 6 arrives to haunt them.

THE LYSANGA PLAGUE INSANITY TABLE:

1d20
1-2 Starts to hum creepy child lullaby
3 – 4 Fear of the Dark
5 -6 Fear that your parent is going to abandon you
7- 8 Tries to engage Party member with a child’s game
9 – 10 Strong impulse to move around at child’s height.
11 – 12 Intense craving for sweets.
13 – 14 Loss of impulse control.
15 – 16 Crying uncontrollably/tantrum
17 – 18 Intense giggling/random laughter
19 – 20 Imaginary friend appears, tells them to do bad things.

 

Watch the full Episodes here!

 

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Curse of Strahd: GM Prep (Spoilers – Ep. 6)

The Curse of Strahd streams live on Twitch Wednesdays, 4-7pm EST.

Here are the notes from Will’s DM prep session that chat helped build!

EPISODE SIX: THE FIELDS OF LYSANGA
There was a plague created by Baby Lysanga which infected this town, Lysanga. After they failed to help her with her own deformed child, Abigail, she sought revenge. The townsfolk were wary of the Witch and refused to help her. She then struck a deal with Strahd Von Zarovich in return for her loyalty. It affected the adults, causing them to fall sick and become unable to work. They were forced to send out their children into the fields of Lysanga and work in their stead in order to feed the town. Slowly the children became ill themselves and tied to the fields, unable to leave. As they died working, Baby Lysanga captured their souls/energy in order to grow her own children. Her children are the Scarecrows which feed on the souls of the children in their graves.

The Scarecrows are erected atop the shallow graves, and the corn roots go down below to leech off of the soul energy. Their bodies are made of straw but instead of heads they have crucified ravens instead. Below the surface of the Earth lies Baby Lysanga’s trueborn child – the one which the townsfolk of Lysanga refused to help before. She has stitched together different body parts of children to recreate a twisted version of her own.

Abigail is now a flesh golem, formed of different body parts of the children of the townsfolk and kept alive with a mixture of leaching the soul energy via the Scarecrows, and blood.

HOOK:
The Party are travelling, when they find themselves lost in green fog and mist. When they finally exit, they find themselves on the outskirts of a deserted town. All the houses are empty and abandoned, but there are skeletons here, but only of adult corpses. The town itself smells of death, there’s a wooden log used as a playpark by the children, and a defensive wall fallen down from decay. Giant tree in the centre of town, dead, with thousands of ravens perched upon it. Pungent smell of iron from the blood. Body of adult pinned to the tree with a wooden child’s toy driven into the heart, with a sign reading “Turn Back” upon it.

In one of the Houses they find a Journal of one of the workers from Lysanga. It explains the growing illness and plague which came after they stopped helping the local Witch “Baby Lysanga” with her own deformed child.

They find Journal Entries (see below)

journal1

journal2

journal3

THE FIELDS:
They come to the Fields of Lysanga where Miles (child) hears another child’s voice crying out. Walking through the fields, they see the Scarecrows with the crucified raven’s bodies stitched on as a head. At the foot of one, lies a bloody, rotten teddy bear. They get the distinct feeling that they are being watched. Looking back at a scarecrow shows them that they turn to watch them move.

At the foot of each Scarecrow is a shallow grave, revealing slightly rotting bodies of the children. Arcana/Nature/Medicine checks reveal that there is some form of connection between the roots of the Scarecrows and the children, likely some some of parasitic bond.

Every time a Scarecrow is killed, they hear the agonized scream of a child.

The voice coming from below pleads to Miles to come and save her. She sounds young and in distress, and can show him to a cave entrance.

 

THE CAVES:
Encounter with Abigail the Flesh Golem and Baby Lysanga.

The cave entrance is strewn with children’s toys and discarded straw dolls. There appears to be only one way down and the tunnel itself is only 5 ft. high, meaning taller characters have to stoop and are at Disadvantage for Attack and Dex. based rolls. The dolls appear to turn to look at them as they walk past deeper into the cavern. Worms writhe underneath their feet and crawl through the walls.

Abigail:
Dual Personalities. One is her child-like form, the other is possessed by the Devil Strahd.

Watch the full Episodes here!

 

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Tattered Fates (Dark Heresy)

Tattered Fates streams live on Twitch Tuesday, 1-4pm EST.

Acolyte Cell Thanatos #325 work for Inquisitor Karkallus, an elusive figure who wields the power to destroy planets. Sent to Quaddis, they begin to uncover the dark secrets of the pleasure planet. Only the Haarlock Legacy and the Tattered Fates can save the Escalon sector.

Adventurers

Novia Taura (Rachael) – Highborn Desperado, lvl 1
Karak’Thule (Wynbjorn) – Feral World Warrior, lvl 1
Volkhardt Decker (Skaggeth) – Voidworld Psyker, lvl 1

Session 1
Agent Grimm sends the Acolytes to the pleasure planet of Quaddis to investigate rumours of a Heretical Cult amongst the nobility. Upon arrival, Novia attempts to lie about their reason for landing in the city of Xicarph, but is unable to present any evidence for this! The Adeptus Arbites go to impound their vessel, at which point Karak’thule brings out his Chainsword and lays waste to them. Eventually they are overwhelmed and the Acolytes are taken to the Headquarters of the Adeptus Arbites. Karak’thule manages to convince the Captain that they are working for the Inquisition, and they are able to avoid a prison sentence. Exploring the city of Xicarph they see that a Masquerade Festival is taking place, and steal some disguises to blend into the crowds. They overhear a man with a Heron Mask boasting about the “Beast Houses” and the great debaucheries taking place there. At the end of the episode, he begins to lead them through the crowds towards the Beast House.

Session 2
The Heron Masked Man drugs the Acolytes as they enter his tent. They awake to find themselves in the Beast House, trapped in Red Cages as Spindle Maws, thin beasts with razor sharp teeth, attack them. They manage to make a line of defence, and are helped by the sudden appearance of a data slate. It begins to turn Volkhardt insane, but they escape into the tunnels of the underbelly of Xicarph. In a medical room they find a dying Inquisitor, Xanthus, who has been similarly captured by the Heron Masked Man. He charges them with uprooting the heresy within the city, and gives them his badge of office.

Watch the full Episodes here!

 

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The Curse of Strahd

The Curse of Strahd streams live on Twitch Wednesdays, 4-7pm EST.

“Under raging storm clouds, the vampire Count Strahd von Zarovich stands silhouetted against the ancient walls of Castle Ravenloft. The wind’s howling increases as he turns his gaze down toward the village of Barovia. […] The master of Castle Ravenloft is having guests for dinner – and you are invited!” (Wizards of the Coast)

Adventurers

Enron Cold (Mathematic) – Human, Ranger, lvl 5
Miles (Garreth) – Halfling, Bard, lvl 5
Diligence (Leigh) – Tiefling, Warlock, lvl 5

 

Summary
The Curse of Strahd is a Wizards of the Coast campaign module for Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition. You can find more campaign details and information on how to get your own copy here! Encounter Roleplay has not received any sponsoring to play this module – we just love it!

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A Tinker’s Tail

A Tinker’s Tail streams live on Twitch Thursdays, 1-4pm EST.

Saltvault is a lush green mining town nestled in the middle of several hills, some of which have been used as mines. It is renowned for its white quartz – also known as ‘Salt’ – and relies on it for its main export. Despite its flowery and beautiful exterior, it has high criminal activity. In one of the disused mines is the biggest black market in Faerun – yet everyone seems to be completely unaware of it…

Adventurers

Douglas Templeton (Will) – Human, Fighter, lvl 4
Rennart Page (Askren) – Human, Rogue, lvl 4
Daelon Oakbrewer (TrainsyTV) – Dwarf, Monk, lvl 4

Session 1
It’s market day in Saltvault, and all the townsfolk bring out their homemade goods to sell. Douglas, Rennert and Daelon are greeted by the inhabitants, all glossy-eyed and smiling. “Have a sweet day!” they all insist. The three meet in the knowledge that something is not quite right here and they’re the only ones not having a sweet day.

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The Luskan Almanac

The Luskan Almanac streams live on Twitch Wednesdays, 12-4pm EST.

Two Time-Travelling hobbits, Keef and Perl, find themselves fighting an Ancient Race known as the Gatherers who can strike at any point in time. In order to save the city of Luskan and all of the Sword Coast, they need to piece together the pages of the Luskan Almanac!

Adventurers

Keef (IamKeeferz) – Halfling, Rogue, lvl 1
Perl (Paul) – Halfling, Sorcerer, lvl 1

Session 1
Keef and Perl are hired by an alchemist named Ellion Blackwater to find some rare herbs growing in the sewers to help cure their mother of an ailment. Investigating the stinking sewers they witness an unholy ritual of tens of thousands of rats entering a portal created by seven-feet tall creatures (the Gatherers). Ellion explains that he is part of an ancient organisation known as the Arcane Brotherhood who fight the Gatherers and tracking their movements with a Tome known as the Luskan Almanac.Pages have gone missing however, and they must travel to the Whale Bone island to find them. They charter passage on a ship and find a Hermit who supposedly has their lost pages.

Session 2
Perl and Keef meet the Hermit, who reveals himself to be another member of the Arcane Brotherhood. He has hidden the pages of the Luskan Almanac in the past to protect them, and will send them back to go and recover them. They are sent through the Astral Plane to Icewind Dale. In the frozen wastes they are captured by Drow, but manage to strike a deal with Talnitra Navar, the Drow Mistress to spy on the Dwarves. “Escaping” with another Dwarf, Thaldrus, they set out to meet the Dwarves who have the pages of the Almanac.

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The Pirates of ColdHarbour

The Pirates of ColdHarbour streams live on Twitch Tuesdays, 4-7pm EST.

YARRGHHH! ColdHarbour be under attack by privateer scumbags from the Southern Land! Them idiot knaves will rue the day they sprung on our here beloved pirate port, for the Five Pirate Lords have all returned to defend their sacred home! With them come all manner of strange and courageous crewman from distant lands, all with their own outlandish stories to tell…

Adventurers

Nancy Locke (Beth) – Human, Rogue, lvl 7
Argo Flotsam (Finbar) – Fiefling, Warlock, lvl 7
Ripley (Will) – Human(?), Ranger, lvl 7
Xarik Tiblum (Mitch) – Gnome, Alchemist, lvl 7

Session 1
With a small privateer fleet bearing down on the Coldharbour, the surviving pirate lords gather to decide their fate. As an argument breaks out over the best course of action, a prisoner from the enemy fleet is brought in. He claims that he used to be a scribe for Prince Albion, the elf that is sending ships to seize the Coldharbour. He tells them that the prince’s power is somehow linked to the Gry’Shen rift, a sea-trench in the middle of the open ocean surrounded by superstition and fear. They agree to send a single ship to Gry’Shen, captained by young upncomer Nancy Locke and a motley crew of anyone they can spare…

Session 2
As the crew begin to board the strange dragon ship and head out on their epic voyage, a new player is introduced. Xarick, a gnome alchemist with a lack of moral compass has been sent to assist the crew. Tensions are high on deck as strange magic effects everyone on board in someone and a near instantaneous mutiny is launched by someone from Nancy’s past. Vowing to resolve this at a later date, the ship slips away as a naval battle breaks out between the Pirates and the besieging privateers. Suddenly and without warning the two sides unleash the two krakens and a battle begins between the two beasts…with our players caught smack dab in the middle.

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West Marches (Viewer Games)

Viewer West Marches games stream live on Twitch Thursdays, 4-7pm EST.

Our viewer West Marches Campaigns run every Thursday night! We’ve run five seasons so far, and the sixth is about to start! Keep up to date on the continuous campaign world below!

Current Season: Season Eight

 

Past Seasons

Season One: The Siege of Murkglow

The eclectic goblin city of Murkglow found itself caught between a rock and a hard place: warring armies closing in from the north-east and the south-west, and hardly a goblin in site with brains or brawn enough to rally the city. The Siege of Murkglow charts the rise of unlikely heroes who fight alongside the courageous Captain Garret Undertree to fend off the coming storm!

Watch the full season here!

Season Two: The Beasts of Umber

The Beasts of Umber followed the rise of Blackwood Private Military Solutions and its charismatic leader, Garret Undertree. Umber is a giant turtle the size of a city upon which an entire civilization is built! The city itself is centred around an enormous entertainment district that pits thousands of slaves in mortal combat against monstrous and deadly creatures every day! Deep within the bowels of Umber, however, an ancient evil was awoken. The Dark One, as he is known, secretly follows Garret Undertree on his journey from Murkglow to Umber. This Dark One, it is sure, has great plans for Umber…

Watch the full season here!

Season Three: The Woes of Knaerwood

With Umber destroyed, the Dark One defeated, and Garret Undertree and his corporation Blackwood Private Military Solutions in tatters, Season 3 of the West Marshes turns our gaze toward Knaerwood, where Bjorn the Bear runs the ‘Knaerwood Knaves” – a free group of adventurers attempting to right wrongs in the world. Meanwhile, war rages with the Northern Kingdoms and Calita, while something sinister makes its home in the free colony of Knaerwood.

Watch the full season here!

 

Season Four: The Realms of Calita

Calita is an Elven city torn apart by a war with the Northern Realms. The King of the Northern Realms, Logan VII, is dying and the only thing which can save him is the Heart of Calita, an important religious symbol to all Elves. The Adventurers are forced into this conflict, and must eventually take a side.

Watch the full season here!

 

Season Five: The Carnage at Cainfield

The barren wastes of Cainfield are brimming with the souls of the dead. Locked in their millennia-long hatred, the spirits  have yet to lay down their arms. In Cainfield, the skies are always black with ash, and the ruins of ancient strongholds still line the horizon. A magnet for research, Cainfield draws many who seek the mysteries of life after death. One adventurer, a halfling named Winky Slipfoot, stumbles his way into this madness and makes camp with a nearby group of anthropologists.

 

Season Six: The Laws of Limbo

A recent tear has opened a path through the Multiverse, allowing access to the chaotic realm of Limbo. Floating chunks of rock, ice, fire, and other slabs of existence meander through the infinite wastes, and gravity shifts with every step. Despite warring Gith and ravenous Slaad, Eoin the half-elf bard and his eccentric lizardfolk sidekick, Razyth Ten-Tongues, sail their ways through this wasteland in search of primal shards, a crystal native only to Limbo, which have the power to shape the world itself.

Watch the full season here!

 

Season Seven: The Tales of Turnpike

The very existence of the West Marches world is at stake as a powerful magical device, the Turnpike, becomes the priority target for every major faction. With the power to manipulate the forces of magic and existence itself, the Turnpike can level entire cities with the pull of a switch. The nations of Murkglow, Knaerwood, Cainfield, and many others will stop at nothing to wrestle control over the most powerful weapon of mass destruction to enter the Material Plane.

Watch the full season here!

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