Happy Pi Day!

In celebration of Pi Day 3/14 and its irrational constant 3.141592…etc. I have taken the scientist Archimedes, who is generally considered to be the greatest mathematician of antiquity, and gave a remarkably accurate approximation of Pi, and translated him into a D&D Next character. He comes complete with skills, and a new Background called Tinkerer.

Human (+2 to one ability score and +1 to all others)

Str-13 Dex-11 Con-9 Cha-14 Int-17 Wis-15

Background: Tinkerer

Skills- Knowledge (sciences), Disable Device, Profession

Trait- Inventor- Tinkerers have a penchant for crafting small devices, tools, traps, and clever objects that you sell or keep as you please. As an inventor, the townsfolk often seek you out to view or inquire about your wares, trading information, food, parts, or coin in exchange for goods.

In addition, you have a small clockwork or mechanical messenger. Typically these are built like an owl or sparrow to fly, or even small rodents to travel into small places avoiding detection or destruction. They are built to travel to places that they have been before, carrying messages or picking them up to return them to their creator.

A clockwork owl.

You gain the benefits of Tinker Talk. You are able to use your Int modifier plus profession skill bonus when bluffing. This check is made versus the opponents wisdom score. The amount by which you succeed or fail determines how strongly the target believes what you say, or is able to discern the truth behind your fabrication.

Equipment- crafting tools, large compartmentalized backpack, ledger and sketch book, collapsible telescope.

The man himself.

Isle of the Storm Giants: New Village Village

The first stop along the way to Mt. Evensil and the floating isle will most likely be New Village (aka The Village of New Village or New Village Village). It is possible that the adventures might perceive and want to check out that crashed airship nearby but without the permission of the village ‘elders’ they may meet some resistance from villages who are worshiping at or around their ‘Sacred Ship’


General Information

A small village built at the bottom of a cliff leading up to the Sentinal Peaks. Strangely enough this isolated village is filled with half-orc and goblins who are not only peaceful but have apparently achieved enlightenment.

Population: ~50

Inhabitants: From most to least prevalent Half-orc, Half-goblin, Orc, and really short goblins.

Government: Ruled by Six of the eldest villagers, who rule on principle.

Trade: Virtually none. The are simple hunters and gatherers, relying heavily on simple grains, nuts, roots, and seeds. They do keep a small but functional bit of livestock including a few cattle, chickens, and sheep, one of which is named Shadowfax ‘Lord of all Sheep’.

Culture: All who live here have been trained carefully and diligently by an expert Githerzai Monk. Many revere this monk as ‘father’ and may very well actually carry that relation. The villagers do not like to talk about the ‘father’ and will avoid the topic at great lengths. For the characters it is something of a mystery why the orcs and goblins here act like monks in a Githerzai way and can be discovered if they explore the cave (known as Father’s Cave), or if the perform a task which deems them worthy of such personal information.

Their monk training has led them to a tranquil life of balance and markedly civilized behavior. They view any outsider who is not trained in monk-like ways or peace and strength of mind to be savages. Savages are animals, and animals may not enter the village proper confining them to the barn with the livestock, unless proven to be civilized.

Coming to New Village Village

Entering the village can be somewhat tricky, and it is up to the DM to decide how far to push the PCs. The town is simple, and the people here are civil, nice, but stubborn. They are extremely reluctant to allow ‘savages’ into their village, especially fighters, warlords, and other heavily militarized classes. Rangers (one with nature), Druids(one with the animals), and Wizards(one with knowledge/history) with a show of knowledge and enlightenment can be permitted on a case by case basis. A Monk, especially a Githerzai monk, is permitted instant access and can help vouch for his companions. However, until truly proven to be ‘enlightened’ to their monastic expectations they must stay and sleep with the livestock.

At the village gate visitors will be met by two muscled and robed sentries and a short goblin dressed in white robes covered in smears of ink. The goblin has a ledger book, ink pot, and quill at hand and takes note of the comings and goings of the village (especially when outsiders are involved). The inky goblin, known as Groint, is not quite rude but is definitely firm about not admitting savages, but would be willing to set up an audience with the elders to grant access to the village. Again, non enlightened characters are confined to the livestock field and barn, while Githerzai monks and other high minded folk may walk about freely and are given a hut to spend the evenings.

Groint performs his day to day functions adequately, however he is reluctant to admit these fellows because he is possessed by an Indwelling devil..

Inside New Village Village.. Father’s Cave.. Tomb of the Orc Slayer and more!……Next time!

The Infernal Swarm Hazard and Heads of the Serpent Trap

The Infernal Swarm     Level 7 Obstacle (XP 600)

When you enter the room, you are greeted with the sounds of snapping jaws and a continuous grinding of scales. A long pit dividing the room swarms with dozens of glowing hot drakes. Also, within the pit are three obsidian obelisks covered in runes. Each has matching drake heads carved into its top.

The Setup

The pit is 40 ft. x 35 ft. and stretches the width of the room, barring passage. Above the pit are three rows of six ‘U’-shaped pipes that are embedded in the smooth stone ceiling. On the side of room through which the characters enter are three wooden chests, closed but not locked. The walls and ceiling of this room have been magically polished smooth, inhibiting physical climbing.

Chest 1: Contains twelve 3-ft.-long iron rods hooked on one end.

Chest 2: Contains three small jars of oil-based lubricant.

Chest 3: Contains five pairs of extra-thick leather gloves that can be tightened around the forearm by three belt straps.

The Mechanism

The ceiling pipes are scalding hot and cause 1d10 + 5 damage unless touched by metal. To cross, the players must strap the long iron rods to the leather gloves and used them to hook the ‘U’-shaped pipes in the ceiling. Three of the pipes are trapped: R1L2, R2L3, and R3L5. The row 1 and 3 pipes are unhinged on one end and attempts to use them drop a character into the swarm below; make a +5 vs. Reflex attack. If the character is missed, he or she can move to an adjacent pipe before it moves. Failure causes the character to slide to the end of the rod where his or her hook catches, dangling the character’s feet within reach of the drakes and causing 2d8 + 5 damage before he or she can move to safety. The trap in row 2 pulls down slightly when it is hooked and causes the obelisk to spew fire; +7 vs. AC, with 1d8 + 5 fire damage on hit.

The lubricating oil is a trick and induces an automatic failure on the unhinged pipes in rows 1 and 3 if rubbed on the iron hooks.

The Answer

Cross the pit using the provided materials, excluding the oil, while avoiding as many traps as possible. Moving from pipe to pipe is difficult terrain. Falling into the swarm inflicts 3d10 + 10 fire damage per round and is difficult terrain.

Note: If a drake is attacked, it is destroyed and is replaced by another drake, magically conjured by the obelisk.

Heads of the Serpent     Level 7 Trap (XP 300)

You enter a small room with strange brass piping covering the walls and ceiling. Worked into the system are four large serpent heads. There is a door ornately molded to depict hundreds of coiling snakes and drakes. At the center of the door is a large keyhole. The piping from around the room culminates with six valves, three on either side of the door.

Perception DC 14—The door is locked and does not appear to be trapped.

Perception DC 23—A success reveals that the doors are an activating mechanism of some kind. Failure reveals only that they appear to be connected to the piping in the room and are not trapped.

Perception DC 28—The lock appears to have a separate function beyond barring the door.

Thievery DC 15 (keyhole)—The lock is successfully opened, thus releasing the flow within the pipes and activating the serpent heads.

Trigger—If the lock is opened, then a barrage of magical snake-shaped cinders bursts from the four brass serpent mouths. Each head makes an attack every round until the lock is closed or the trap disabled.

Immediate Reaction; close blast 2

Target: All creatures in blast

Attack: +10 vs. Reflex

Hit: 1d6 + 3 fire damage.

Effect: When the cinder snakes hit any object, they disintegrate.


Another Thievery check (DC 15) can be made to close the lock and stop the attacks, or the brass serpent heads can be disabled with a DC 25 Athletics or Arcana check. The door easily unlocks by opening all six valves.

Puzzles and Pitfalls: The Dragons Maw Puzzle

The following are a set of articles that I wrote up for the Kobold Quarterly Blog and are now putting up here for your personal enjoyment. Fire, is the theme for these puzzles/traps and they are meant to be used either in a the same dungeon together or separately, depending on your level of need for player torture.

Puzzles, traps, and hazards are a common occurrence in deadly dungeons. You might find that it can be quite time-consuming and challenging to come up with these events on the fly. In this series, you’ll find three fire-themed dungeon dangers ripe for plunder.

The Dragon’s Maw    Elite Puzzle Level 8 (XP 800)

A wave of heat washes over you when you enter a long and unusually bright room. A pit of lava as wide as the room blocks your passage. At the pit’s edge stands a four-foot-high stone pedestal with nine dull-gray glyphs upon it. A life-sized carving of a dragon’s head with a gaping mouth bigger than a man juts out from the wall. The rest of its body turns into a tiled mosaic running the length of the wall.

The Dragons Maw

The Setup

Room dimensions are 110 ft. x 30 ft., and the lava takes up a 70-ft. x 30-ft. section of the room. The hewn stone wall without the mural requires a successful DC 25 check to climb. The opposite wall with the mosaic is a DC 27 check, but it also has cracks oozing lava that require a separate Athletics or Acrobatics check to deftly navigate (DC 22).

A closer look at the dragon’s head reveals a pair of boot-shaped impressions upon the tongue, facing out of the fang-laden mouth. Directly above the boot prints are a pair of fist-sized holes in the roof of the dragon’s mouth.

The pedestal is of expert craftsmanship, carved and polished to look like a kneeling paladin displaying a large book. Inlaid upon the pages are nine dull-gray glyphs that emanate a weak magical aura.

History or Religion DC 17: This paladin was consumed by flame in his golden armor while defying the legendary red dragon, Reshkyrn.

The Mechanism

To activate the glyphs, a character must be standing in the mouth of the dragon and reach up into each of the holes and grasp the handles within. This act simultaneously binds the character magically by his or her hands and feet, and causes the glyphs to become functional, glowing brightly.

The glyphs are letters from an old dialect of Draconic that can be read easily by a character who speaks Draconic, uses the Comprehend Language ritual, or succeeds on a History check of DC 18. There are nine letters in a 3 x 3 grid.

Row one: S-L-O;                   Row two: P-E-D;                  Row Three: R-K-A

When a glyph is pressed, it glows red, and a corresponding set of stone platforms rise out of the lava to form stepping stones detailed within the diagram. Only four glyphs can be lit at any given time. The platforms are barely big enough to hold one Large humanoid; platforms 2 squares apart require a DC 30 Athletics check to jump (+5 per additional square apart). Characters can safely move between platforms that are only 1 square apart. Falling in the lava inflicts 2d10 + 8 damage per round spent in the lava.

When the first four glyphs are pressed, the dragon mouth jerks closed partially and a fire builds in the back of its throat. After these first four, a glyph must be pressed again to be deactivated before a new one can be pressed. Every two newly initiated glyphs causes the mouth to close further and fire to grow.

Glyphs Pressed Four + Two + Two + Two Final
Effect No damage 1d10 + 2 damage; heat begins to build in the dragon’s throat 2d10 + 5 fire damage 2d10 + 10 fire damage 3d10 + 5 damage with ongoing 10 damage, no save*

*The dragon’s mouth stays clamped shut, inflicting 10 damage per round until released.

The Answer

There is only one combination of four letters that provides a safe and passable path across the lava pit. If at any time the four letters S-E-A-R are all pressed, the paladin’s head lowers and the glyphs become locked from changing, indicating success. On the far side of the lava pit, the tile mosaic of the dragon’s tail protrudes from the wall, forming a movable lever. This releases the character from the dragon’s mouth and returns the mouth to its original starting position. To reset the puzzle and platforms, the paladin’s head or dragon’s tail can be physically moved back into place.

Overcoming this puzzle could involve your players trying to randomly guess the correct combination of letters or thinking through plausible solutions. During this time, they may seek more information or clues. The GM can decide how much to reveal and when about the mechanism:

Perception DC 15—Based on the fact that only four glyphs can be pushed, it is likely that the solution is a four-letter word.

History DC 18—Reshkyrn was a ferocious red dragon who was known for dwelling near active volcanoes, roasting would-be dragon slayers. He was overwhelmingly narcissistic.

History DC 22—The paladin portrayed here, Elrik, was avenged by his two siblings, Sym and Alana.

NOTE: The letters, backstory, answer, and hints of this puzzle can be changed to suit the needs of a campaign by swapping the letters out and modifying the story.

The next article for this series I will post tomorrow: The Infernal Swarm Hazzard

Every RPG should start like this:


This is pretty much how I felt when I read the DMG for the first time. I didn’t realize so much as the then, but it became quickly apparent that players that evolve into DMs have essentially become game designers. They fiddle, they change, they make up, delete, add to the rules and play of the game.

Designers who write books, should remember this feeling when they publish games. These are the things that happen at the table or behind the screen that sometimes are forgotten when sitting behind the desk.

Improv as a DM

One of the hardest parts of DMing to master is the art of improvisation. It requires skills and training which unless you are specifically an impov actor or comic, you are unlikely to have. Personally, I have had a little experience in acting, and love improv, and have learned over the years to translate this into useful ideas while sitting behind the Dungeon Masters screen.

The first most import rule of Improv is ‘Yes, and..”

As a DM you may have read in the DMG or online that you should say yes to your players, this is a shoot off of the old improv saying ‘yes, and..’. To move the scene along, to make things flow and keep it fresh. First, you agree. “yes, there is a secret compartment at the bottom of that coffin” and then second, you elaborate.. “and it is filled with an asymmentrical pulsating red ruby which begins to grow hotter and hotter as you hold it until finally it…”

You see isn’t that more interesting than “no, there are no hidden compartments” or “there’s nothing inside but dust”

Your players are a valuable source of inspiration, they may be joking or saying things randomly or searching all the wrong places but that is perfect fodder for you to throw in something which A) they didn’t expect, and B) you didn’t expect either!

The second tip or trick that I like to use.. is called the The Improv Pool.

The Improv Pool, is something which I use during games and even conversations to keep things fresh and rolling. The Improv pool is a consortium of things, characters, ideas, scenarios, phrases and actions, which is just floating around in my head. Essentially, you read books, watch movies, listen to music, play video games and you take the most interesting people, places, and things you can find, and remember them. Then when you need something at a game, you reach into the improv pool and pull out the first thing you remember. The beauty of it is.. it won’t be perfect.. you will never remember it exactly as it was.. and thats the best part because instead you fill in all the gaps.. and when your players ask questions.. you flesh it out right there on the spot and now you have something which is unique to you.. and your game. Try adding a bunch of things to your improv pool and seeing how it works out for you.

Lastly, if you want to improve your improv skills, watch the pros, do as they do, and be comfortable doing it. The best source for hilarity and great improv is a tv show called ‘Whose line is it anyway’. These guys are improv genius’s, it is quite inspiring really plenty of good material to remember for weird or odd scenarios to add to your improv pool.

And as always, practice. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will be, the easier it will become, and the better you will get. How do you practice? Tell a story and make it up as you go, ask for names and characters from whoever you are telling it to. Run a DnD game with zero preparation, just set the scene and roll with it from there. Play improv games with your friends to hone your skills. These things will all flex that seldom used muscle and in no time you will be thinking on your feet as fast as Ryan Stiles and as inspiring as Chris Perkins.

Good Luck and Enjoy!

For more DM advice check out the DM Experience articles by Chris Perkins at http://wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4dmxp/20120823