Serpent Kings one-shot at the science shop

This morning I did another 5k run. It felt tougher than yesterday, since the day was warming up soon after sunrise. The city centre reached 31.6°C, and outer suburbs up to 34°C. It’s supposed to be even hotter tomorrow.

After that I picked up the groceries that I should have picked up yesterday, if not for the system failure at the supermarket.

Then I spent some time in the afternoon preparing for tonight’s Dungeons & Dragons game, which I was running at the science toy shop at the local shopping area. I printed out a series of maps showing successive rooms of the Tomb of the Serpent Kings adventure, so the players could see the shapes and sizes of the rooms and corridors.

Tomb of the Serpent Kings intro

But I wanted to encourage them to make a map, as I would be taking away the rooms after they left them. I thought there would be kids playing the game, but it turned out that two of their regular kid players were on vacation this week, so the only two players we had were a university aged guy and the regular DM, who is a woman about late 20s. Oh well, I figured it would still be fun, so I handed out the character sheets and we started playing. The guy took a thief and the woman a fighter. I had a magic-user and a cleric accompany them as NPCs, and also said there were a few slightly younger hangers-on, who were minding their pony outside the dungeon entrance (who I could call in as backups in case anyone died).

As they progressed through the Tomb they dealt with the traps and initial monsters in clever ways. People came into the shop to browse around and a few people watched us plating the game for a few minutes before moving on. At one point a young girl about 9 years old, accompanied by her father, stopped to watch us play for several minutes. We said the girl could join in, but the father said they were going somewhere soon.

A bit later she and her father came back. She continued watching us play, obviously very interested. The players found a hole in the floor leading to a room below. They dropped a flaming torch in and saw the floor below wasn’t too far down, so decided to tie a rope around a statue in the upper room and lower the end down so they could climb down (and importantly back up later). I said, “As you lower the rope, the torch sets the lower end on fire, and the fire races up and burns the rope.” And the girl blurted out, “I knew that was going to happen!”

At this point we invited her to sit down and join in again, and she did. I gave her a wizard character sheet, and the DM woman gave her some advice on the basics and encouraged her to help them decide what to do. The girl (her name was Alice) ended up playing with us for maybe 20-30 minutes before her parents came back to take her away again. It turned out the father also knew a bit about D&D, and was telling Alice maybe they could get the rulebooks and play together. This was probably the best part of the night, with Alice joining in and contributing to the game.

I shortened the overall adventure so they could reach and deal with the basilisk in one session, so we skipped a lot of the later rooms. We finished up about 9:40pm, after starting at 6. Overall it was really good, and the players were careful and clever enough that nobody died, despite most of the characters being wounded at various points. A great adventure and night!

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Busy week, Saturday

Well, not as busy as during the work-week, but I still did a few things. After breakfast I did a 5k run. First run in 8 days.

After showering and also cleaning the bathroom, I went on a walk with my wife to a kitchen supplies shop to get a new saucepan and a couple of frying pans to replace old ones that didn’t work with our new induction cooker. I took some time going through the store to choose ones, because they have quite a range. We had a small frying pan, 16cm, diameter, the right size for making just a couple of fried eggs which we used a lot – but it was aluminium. So I wanted one that size that would work on our new cooker. They didn’t have one exactly that size, but there was a slightly smaller one at 14cm, so I got that.

When we got home we tested all the new cookware to make sure it worked… and the small frying pan didn’t, despite the labelling saying that it was suitable for induction cookers. It was quite a walk there and back, so I decided to drive over again to exchange the pan for another one. But that was the only small pan they had – the next size up was 20cm. But I got one of those instead, and it worked fine when I got home. I guess the fried eggs will spread out a bit more, but it should be fine.

This afternoon I finally got to finishing off that Darths & Droids strip that I really wanted to do on Thursday. I’ll need to do another one tomorrow to catch up a bit.

And this evening I went up to the science toy shop where they do Dungeons & Dragons events on Saturday nights, to meet up with the organiser and have a chat about the possibility of me hosting a game there some time. It was a youngish woman and she was setting up a table with a battle map when I arrived. I was a little worried that she would want to run strictly 5th Edition rules, which is not really what I want to do, so I mentioned early on that I preferred to run a more rules-light style of game, with more roleplaying and less dice rolling. She said she agreed that 5e was too rules-heavy, and sounded happy for me to run something a lot lighter. I said if I was running a game for new kids, I’d just hand them a character sheet each, say they’re at the entrance of a cave dungeon, and say, “What do you do?” – and she said that sounded great! So that was cool. She said they basically attracted enough people, mostly kids, to run one table, and it would be good if I could take over once every few weeks to give her a week off.

So it all sounds pretty good! I won’t have time to do it next Saturday, but maybe in two weeks.

Tonight I used the new large saucepan to cook pasta on the induction cooker, and made a tomato mushroom sauce in a smaller pot. It took a bit of juggling with the heat settings, but I found the right ones with a little trial and error, and overall it was pretty fun and easy. So yeah, it’s good so far!

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A tale of two nights, two games

Friday was Dungeons & Dragons night! We started a new adventure, beginning with news from a small town to the north near the mountains that mark the edge of civilised lands and the beginning of the wilds. Something had been taking and killing sheep, and the town reeve offered a reward for anyone brave enough to find out what and deal with it.

The group was a little depleted (due to some player absences), but set forth and scoped out the town of Brandonstead. They met many of the local residents, including a reclusive “witch” who lived in the woods. After gathering information they determined that the heroic Sir Brandon had slain a dragon nearby 200 years ago, and that somehow perhaps the dragon may have returned, or at least something like it. Sir Brandon’s dragon-slaying sword was buried with him in a barrow near the foot of the mountains, so they set out to retrieve it. They found a group of goblins inside the tomb, and some dismembered goblin bodies…

And there we paused for the night, to pick up next time.

Today I worked on some more comics stuff. After lunch my wife and I went for a walk with Scully, to the homewares complex where I got the quote from for installation of an induction cooktop. We decided to go ahead and buy one and book a date for installation. It’s set for Wednesday 23 August, so we’re into our last fortnight of cooking with gas.

Tonight was the quarter-final match between Australia and France in the FIFA Women’s World Cup. We knew this was going to be the toughest match so far. The game started at 5pm. I asked my wife if I should start cooking dinner during the half time break (when the score was 0-0) or wait until the end of the game. She asked when it would end, and I said before 7pm, so she said wait until it’s over.

I didn’t start cooking until after 8pm. So we had a very late dinner. But it felt good after playing out a 0-0 draw and then going to a long and tense, see-sawing penalty shootout that lasted 10 shots each team. But Australia held out for the win and we now go through to a semi-final against the winner of England v Colombia (currently in progress).

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Tomb of the Serpent Kings, session 3

Not much to report today: grocery shopping, four ethics classes, made pasta for dinner, baked sourdough, played online board games with friends for our weekly games night. But I thought I’d take the opportunity to report on this:

Last Friday we played the third session of the Tomb of the Serpent Lords adventure that I’ve been running, using old school Basic Dungeons & Dragons rules. If you need a recap, the first two sessions are here:


Back in the village, Notgandalf used Detect Magic to determine that the stone eggs, snake carving, and wavy dagger were magical. The group traded away the other valuable items for 390gp, sharing 65gp to each participating adventurer.

Ratter slowly recovered from his encounter with the monster-girl, regaining his lost constitution. But it took several days and he took the opportunity to hone his thievery skills by hanging out with the village thugs. Volrak was still not done with his atonement, so also would miss the next expedition the the tomb.

The group rested for three days. Notgandalf suffered the effect of a curse on his magical ring, taking poison damage on one of the rest days. With Volrak still doing penance in the church, another young cleric stepped up to join the party:

Brother Leonardo – cleric, 4 Strength, 15 Wisdom, 5 Charisma. Mace and sling.

Trying to kill the basilisk

Convinced that the giant lizard chained in the pillared hall was a basilisk, Notgandalf was determined to retrieve the silver disc from the lightning trap room. He avoided the floor plate trigger and tried to remove the silver plate from the wall. It seemed harmless, so he pried it loose with a dagger and took it. The party returned to the eastern end of the lizard chamber via the chasm walkway. There, Notgandalf taunted the beast with a torch and waved the shiny reflective disc in an attempt to get it to see its own reflection. Unfortunately this failed.

They decided to explore down the stairs to the south-east, finding a square room with similar stone tiles to the ones covering the pit trap they’d pushed the jelly-skeleton into. Poking the tiles with a 10-foot pole revealed the pit trap. Avoiding it by walking around the edge, they proceeded to another room, containing a sloped pit full of fire, with some charred bones and streaks of molten gold at the bottom. They skirted this and entered a room to the south, a domed chamber with four doors. The southern door was heavy iron and locked.

Fungus goblin lair

The western door was smashed open. Beyond was a passage and room with more natural, less worked stone walls, and an angry small humanoid trying to push them back with a broom while chittering in an unknown language. The party tried to push their way past, but the creature yelled loudly and two reinforcements arrived, brandishing pointed sticks. Others were ready to fall back, but Brother Leonardo loosed a sling stone, hitting one right between the eyes and dropping it to the filthy floor! The other reinforcement fled back the way it had come. The party forced the creature with the broom to come with them at swordpoint as they pushed deeper into the natural caverns.

They came across a stinking chamber carpeted in muck and filth, with horrible fungoid growths, sickly plants, and other weird things apparently planted in the mulch: fingers, hands, sheep legs, sword hilts, etc. The stench was incredible. The party were reluctant to step into this mess. While hesitating, a group of six of the goblins charged to repel the invaders! Entering combat, the party took a few hits with pointy sticks and pitchforks. Garamond took a hit and retreated to avoid more damage. Notgandalf charged in and poked a goblin with the fang-like nail of his cursed finger, causing the goblin to clutch its throat and die horribly, foaming at the mouth. The group vanquished the six attackers, leaving their hostage gibbering. Leonardo healed Garamond.

Notgandalf cast Detect Magic to scry the room for any magical items. He located buried beneath the filth a silver ring, set with a semi-precious stone patterned like an eye. They found the north passage connected to the second entrance that Garamond had found on the previous expedition.

The south passage took them through an empty room—a filthy sort of bed chamber—and then into a throne room, where more of the goblins were paying respects to an effigy made of mud and sticks, sitting atop a crude chair, crowned by a headpiece made of sticks and bent cutlery. Edging around the room with their hostage, the party exited to the west. A passage led south to a room that stank even worse than the previous mulch room. They avoided this and proceeded through a room carpeted with live beetles and cockroaches. North from here they found the passage blocked by a huge vertical cylinder of stone.

The dwarves suggested the stone cylinder might rotate around a vertical axis and pulled it clockwise, revealing an opening in the stone large enough for a person to stand in. Nogge volunteered to step in while the others rotated the cylinder around a full rotation anti-clockwise, so Nogge could report back. Nogge returned, having been stabbed and wounded by a spear trap on the western side, saying that the way around on the eastern side was safe, and led to a passage that continued north. Leonardo tried to heal Nogge, but beseeching his god for an extra spell failed!

One at a time the party used the cylinder door to proceed into the north passage. They noticed a stone idol carved into an alcove as the cylinder rotated to the east.


The passage led up stairs to connect to the area Garamond had explored west of the basilisk chamber. Notgandalf used the opportunity to try to deal with the monster again, hiding around a corner, taunting it with a torch, and holding the silver disc to try to reflect its gaze. The monster noisily approached with hisses and the slithering clank of chain… and then silence fell.

Notgandalf: “Did it work?”
Brigette: “So… who wants to look?”

Brigette used the silver disc to look around the corner and see if the basilisk was still alive.

Brigette: Actually, it’s okay whether or not the mirror reflects the gaze attack. If it does reflect the attack, then it’s probably turned itself to stone so you’re safe. On the other hand, if the mirror doesn’t reflect the attack, and it’s alive, its reflection shouldn’t turn you to stone.

It turned out the basilisk had indeed been turned to stone. They noted the head harness and blinders, and a thick leather collar, as well as the heavy chains leading up to the ceiling, invisible in the darkness above, with the odd chittering of bats. Having a good look around the chamber for any treasure, they noted nothing but broken pieces of “statues”, as well as extremely realistic stone bats, huge spiders, and a few of the fungus goblins.

Exploring the passage west revealed two doors, one intricately carved with multiple snakes, and a gap matching the shape and size of the stone snake found in the monster-girl room. Brigette replaced the snake and the party watched as the stone snakes animated and slithered into the door frame, revealing a portal to a magnificent throne room, lined with red stone, dusty tapestries, and eight palm-sized mirrors mounted on wooden frames, surrounding a heavy stone, wood, and gold throne. Notgandalf sat on the throne and was overcome with feelings of powerlust and ambition. Refusing to get off the throne, Brigette, Drashi, and Leonardo lifted the rear and tipped him out. They determined the throne would take three people to carry, and decided to come back to retrieve it before leaving the tomb for the day.

The northern door opened to reveal a chamber lit with eerie purple light, the stone ceiling and walls carved to look like the inside of a snake’s ribcage. A thousand various smells assaulted their noses: herbs, spices, acids, yeasts, flowers, etc. Standing before them was Xiximanter, a shrivelled, desiccated human torso and head with snake fangs, atop a skeletal snake tail. His sunken eye sockets glowed with red pinpricks of light. He greeted the party, asking which was to be his new apprentice.

Notgandalf: “Seems like a reasonable gentleman.”

The party conversed with Xiximanter, determining that he was seeking a new apprentice, as well as ingredients such as elf ears (looking at Garamond) and dwarf beards (looking at Drashi and Brigette) for his potions. The party asked if Xiximanter had any potion that could reverse magical ageing of 9 years, and he replied that he did not, but he did have something else that might be of use. Xiximanter ushered them into the adjoining room, full of equipment and storage jars full of weird ingredients. Another door led to what Xiximanter said was his laboratory. Xiximanter often referred to “the priests above”, making the party suspect he had no idea that all of the serpent people in the complex were long dead. They even suspected that Xiximanter might not know himself that he was undead. They debated telling him, but decided better of it.

Notgandalf asked if Xiximanter could remove his cursed ring. Xiximanter exclaimed, “Where did you get that?!” and cast a spell and removed the ring, returning Notgandalf’s finger to normal. Xiximanter kept the ring…

Nogge: “You have fewer snake parts than when you came in.”

Eventually the party decided that getting away without angering Xiximanter was the best course of action, and they made excuses, saying they would return later. Their persuasiveness convinced Xiximanter to let them leave. They immediately jammed the door shut with iron spikes, grabbed the throne, and fled the dungeon back to Neensford.

Loose ends

The party returned a few days alter after healing and resting, to check a final location: the locked iron door south of the domed chamber. Not having found any key, they used tools brought with them to laboriously pry the door open, revealing a room full of treasure! Piles of coins, rolled silk tapestries, a small chest full of jewels, and two fine swords – one sword detected as magical. They also quickly checked the walkway in the cavern, finding it blocked to the north and south. They grabbed all the treasure and raced back to town.

At Neensford, Notgandalf decided to try on the magical ring with the eye-gem. When he put it on his left hand, his left eyeball fell out! But he could still see through it! It also turned hard as stone. Putting the eyeball back into the socket, it reattached and he could remove the ring.

Significant character moments

  • Brigette – Arguing it was safe to look at the basilisk in the mirror and then trying it.
  • Brother Leonardo – Deciding to lead the attack against the fungus goblins and killing one outright with his first sling stone.
  • Drashi – Getting offended at Xiximanter wanting to use his beard in a potion.
  • Garamond – Getting hit, retreating from combat to use bow.
  • Nogge – Going first through the rotating cylinder door and getting stabbed by the spear trap.
  • Notgandalf – Stoning the basilisk with its reflection. Getting cursed ring removed by Xiximanter.

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D&D night, Brew day

Friday night was Dungeons & Dragons at my place. I ran the final session of the adventure Tomb of the Serpent Kings. We had a new player, one of my neighbours, who has been a long-time D&D player and I invited to join us. One of our regulars had to miss out, so we had 6 players again, the same as last time.

It was another good night, with plenty of amusing incidents and action and treasure. They defeated a basilisk by successfully reflecting its petrifying gaze back onto itself. They negotiated their way out of a dangerous encounter with an undead serpent-man wizard, through the fact that he was a bit absent-minded and didn’t realise that the serpent kingdom had collapsed on top of him hundreds of years ago.

Prior to that, Friday was grocery shopping, cleaning the house ready for guests, and teaching 4 ethics classes online.

Today, Saturday, was mostly spent making comics, and then writing up the adventure notes from last night. This evening my wife and I went out for dinner, getting French galettes and crepes. The weather has turned cold and drizzly and we needed real winter gear* for the first time this year.

* In Sydney terms: long pants and a light jumper/sweater.

Back home after dinner we played a two-player game of Brew, one of the board games I bought last week. The rules are not too long and the game play was fairly quick. It was of course just a learning game. (So the fact my wife beat me 67 points to 62 is irrelevant…)

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Tomb of the Serpent Kings, session 2

Last night we played the second session of the adventure Tomb of the Serpent Kings, using old style Basic Dungeons & Dragons rules, with a few tweaks (most notably, spellcasters need to succeed at a die roll to cast spells). Session 1 I posted about here.

Back in the village

The party had returned to their home village, Neensford, a few miles from the site of the snake-man tomb. The community mourned the deceased Beldrum, but many of the village youngsters were excited by the tales of adventure told by the party, and bedazzled by the golden trinkets they showed off.

The village priest, Father Jeames, was unimpressed with Volrak’s participation in the affair, in particular his unsuccessful beseeching of their god for aid. Father Jeames ordered Volrak to labour cleaning the church for the next week. Father Jeames also examined Notgandalf’s ring and declared it an accursed item, beyond his own ability to remove, and suggested a higher ranked priest from a larger town might be able to assist in removing it from Notgandalf’s finger.

The rest of the party rested to recover from their wounds, and consulted their own mentors. The blacksmith, a gruff dwarf named Gamling Blackhelm, told Drashi and Nogge that they would need to prove themselves further and come up with some more gold to cover his lost productivity if he was to spend time drilling them in combat to improve their skills. Lydastra, the village witch, informed Notgandalf that he needed more gold to buy spell ingredients for his own training.

Notgandalf used the time to cast Detect Magic on the items they had found, confirming no magical properties except for his own cursed ring. They exchanged the valuable items for gold coins, getting 60gp, split up as 15gp each for Drashi, Nogge, Notgandalf, and Volrak. Notgandalf also examined the scrolls they had found in the room with the desk. He could not read the language, but from his knowledge of the tongue of lizard-men he thought he could make out a few scattered words: “evil”, “name: Baltoplat”, and “question”.

After three days of rest, the party felt refreshed and keen to return to the tomb in search of more treasure. Three other youths from the village decided to join them in exploring: Brigette (a dwarf), Garamond Wrenwobbler (an elf), and Ratter Black (a thief).

Back to the tomb

The group returned to the dungeon and inspected the areas they had seen on the previous visit to check if anything had been moved, but they found it how they’d left it. They descended to the octagonal room with the dark, liquorice-smelling pool in the middle. Taking care again not to approach the pool, they examined the unopened door to the east, which was stone with elaborate carvings of snakes raining down from the sky.

Deciding to ignore this, they went to the room of ranked snake-man statues to the south-west, where Nogge tossed rocks at the clay statues from a distance, smashing them one by one until all were destroyed. Only now entering the room they discovered the statue in the south-west corner had been standing on a wooden trapdoor. Lifting it, they discovered a stale, dusty tunnel 10 feet below, leading south. A short corridor led to a door, which they opened, revealing a large chamber with huge columns supporting a high ceiling where bats could be heard chittering. Ratter’s sensitive ears detected deep, slow breathing in the darkness, and then a slow clink and dragging sound, of chain on stone.

The group slowly edged their way along the north-east wall, avoiding the centre of the chamber. As they headed along a diagonal wall to an opening to the east, there was a sudden motion and noise from the darkness behind them: slapping leathery feet, heavily dragging chain, and a rumbling hiss. Drashi turned to look and met the transfixing gaze of a giant reptilian head emerging from the gloom into their torchlight! Recovering his wits after a second, he turned and ran, setting off panic among the party! They fled to the east, separating as they turned in different directions.

Brigette, Garamond, and Nogge turned left into a small room to the north. Drashi and Notgandalf turned right into a larger chamber on the south. Ratter ran straight east, through a corridor, his footsteps setting off a trap that released multiple swinging blades from the ceiling. Ratter’s dextrous skils saved him as he dodged the blades, stopping in a small room beyond the trapped corridor. He turned to look back, discovering he was alone, separated from the party by a corridor now full of wicked swinging blades. As Ratter took stock of the situation, the entire trap mechanism suddenly collapsed, crashing down from the ceiling in a tangle of splintered wood, blades, and metal springs.

Brigette, Garamond, and Nogge found themselves in a rest area filled with shredded and bloodstained silk pillows. Among them they found three large stone eggs, a bit bigger than fist sized, which they took. Drashi and Notgandalf were in a vestibule area with rotting wall hangings and floor tiles in intricate geometric patterns, but with no other interesting contents. To the south-east stairs led downwards, but they ignored this route and joined the others in picking their way carefully across the ruined blade trap to join Ratter. Ratter had spotted two snake-men standing guard by a door to the south, and was very wary, but the snake-men stood unmoving. When the others arrived, they determined they were incredibly lifelike stone statues, much more detailed than any of the clay statues encountered earlier. Drashi mentioned to the others that the giant reptile head he’d seen had some sort of bronze headgear that blinkers its vision straight ahead.

First they checked an open room to the north, which looked like a shrine with a cobra-headed god statue in the middle, with a faint odour of vinegar. The base had two large holes in it, wide and deep enough to insert an arm the the elbow. Notgandalf tried a 10-foot pole and wiggled it around, discovering that the statue was loose and could rotate on the floor. Nogge grabbed a piece of wood from the ruined trap and inserted it in the other hole so they could push and rotate the statue. Unfortunately they hadn’t remembered the acidic smell of the poison gas on the first level, and were exposed when gas leaked out of the statue. Nogge shook it off, but Notgandalf was left wheezing and choking in a weakened state. Drashi took over, helping Nogge to turn the statue, holding their breaths. As it fully rotated, a trapdoor clicked open and hundreds of gold coins fell out of the statue! There was a mad scramble to grab coins as each person tried to pocket as many as they could. Some coins rolled out and under the collapsed trap, and some rolled down a stairway leading north-east, clinking as they bounced down the stone steps.

After scooping up all the coins they could find, the group opened the south door between the snake-man statues, to find a barricade of furniture piled up against the far side. They took time to dismantle the barricade, and heard a female voice call out asking for help. She said she was Briory, a herbalist who had been captured by goblins a few days ago and locked in this room, which she’d barricaded to keep them out. Getting through the barricade, they found her chained to the floor with an ankle shackle. Ratter tried to undo the lock but couldn’t defeat it. Drashi smashed it open with a hammer and iron spike. Briory declared, “My hero!” and gave Ratter a big kiss… which sucked part of his life force out, causing damage, dropping his Constitution by 6, and ageing him 9 years, from 14 to 23 years old!

Drashi: “She made a man out of you.”

Inspecting the room after Briory fled, Notgandalf noted the scuffed remains of a magical containment circle drawn on the floor, which had been partly erased by their efforts to remove the barricade.

Seeking a way out of the tomb without needing to go back past the giant chained reptile, the group descended the stairs leading north-east. A T-junction led to a room to the east, where a dry fountain dominated the room, with low benches around the walls and decaying tapestries. Examining the fountain, they found some flecks of gold and scratch marks in the stone in a small alcove area. They deduced perhaps something gold was removed from here. They scraped up the gold to take with them.

The corridor south from the T-junction led to a small room, blocked by an animated skeleton covered in some sort of orange slime. Garamond tried his Magic Missile spell, but it fizzled. Notgandalf threw a dagger, which hit the skeleton. Nogge charged it and smashed it with a sword, flinging it back into the room behind it, where it crashed through the floor into a 10-foot deep pit. Wanting to see if they could kill the skeleton, they dropped a flaming tapestry onto it, but the slime merely extinguished the flames, leaving the skeleton futilely trying to scramble out of the pit.

The group walked carefully around the pit trap and proceeded east. They found a short corridor leading to a door to the south but ignored it and continued east. The passage opened into a huge natural cavern, where a bat-guano-covered walkway extended north and south beside a huge chasm. The chasm was too wide to see across, too deep to see the bottom, and the ceiling too far above to see. A cold breeze made whistling noises and the path was a bit slippery from the guano. With their torches sputtering and time to light new ones, they dropped an old torch into the chasm, watching it fall a very long way before winking out.

They walked north, finding the other side of the door in the dry fountain room. It was a stone door barred by a block of stone resting on iron pegs, similar to the hammer trap on the first level, but here there was no ceiling for the hammer. While dithering about what to do next, two giant centipede things came crawling out of the dark from the north! Brigette lined one up with her shield and smashed it off the path into the chasm! Notgandalf tried to Magic Missile the other one, but his spell fizzled again! Fortunately Ratter and Garamond shot the vermin with arrows, killing it.

Prompted by this interruption, the party ignored the door, heading further north. They found an opening in the side of the wall leading west to a large octagonal room, decorated with shields on the walls, and with stone benches along the walls, like some sort of arena. In the middle was a 9-foot tall snake-man statue armed with a huge sword, which moved to attack! The group quickly scrambled with Ratter’s rope to lay it across the opening. As the statue approached and stepped across the slack rope they pulled it taught, causing the statue to trip. It toppled and fell into the chasm, dragging the rope after it as the adventurers let go. The statue plummeted into darkness and a few seconds later was heard a faint crash far below.

Checking the shields in the arena room, they seemed to be decorated differently, as if from different tribes. Most were rotting and useless, but there were five bronze shields decorated with silver and gold wire, which people grabbed. It was difficult to carry more than one, so Notgandalf even ended up with one strapped across his back.

Notgandalf: “But a shield will interfere with my spellcasting.”
Nogge: “Well, you might as well use a shield.”

Stairs led up from the western side of the arena. Ratter proceeded first, inspecting and prodding the stairs with a pole. Near the top he noticed a loose step with scrape marks on the adajcent walls. He marked around it with chalk and advised the others to avoid stepping on it. They pushed open the heavy stone door to find themselves back in the octagonal room with the black pool.

Now with a safe way out of the tomb, the party decided to explore further by sending Garamond to scout with his elven infravision around the giant reptile hall, while the others generated a distraction to keep the monster occupied. They decided to circle back to the vestibule near the collapsed blade trap to provide the distraction, while Garamond waited in the dusty secret tunnel leading to the north secret door into the reptile chamber.

Brigette: “We’ll make so much noise that Garamond can hear us through the door.”
Me: “You’re in a dangerous tomb full of who-knows-what, and you want to deliberately make an enormous amount of noise?”
Brigette: “… Maybe we’ll just shine our torches at it…”

They executed the plan and distracted the monster, allowing Garamond to sneak into the chamber and circle around the western wall. He found a western passage leading to two doors to the west, and stairs leading down to the south. Circling further around the reptile chamber he found a secret door in the southern wall opposite the northern door, and proceeded into a filthy corridor running east-west. The eastern side descended, while the western side led up to daylight, where Garamond emerged under the roots of a large tree, up the hillside from the other entrance. He marked the tree so they could find it from the outside, then returned to meet up with the rest of the party.

Now with plenty of new options to explore, the group decided to call it a day and head back to the village to rest and plan their next expedition.

What else have I been doing

Not too much, actually. Friday I picked up the groceries, went for a run, cleaned the house in prep for the D&D guests coming over, and taught 4 ethics classes, before running the game in the evening. This time I didn’t cook pizza like last time, but rather ordered some delivered.

Today I did a 5k run in the morning, and then spent time typing up this adventure log of the night’s game. I also repotted a new chilli plant that I bought a few days ago to replace the old one, which seems to have died. And did some touch-up paintwork on the walls and ductwork that the air conditioner installation guys did during the week. And for dinner tonight we went out to a Turkish restaurant up the street – the first time we’ve been out for dinner in a few weeks, since we’ve had so many things on recently.

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New content today:

Tomb of the Serpent Kings

On Friday I hosted Dungeons & Dragons at my place, and five of my friends came over to play the game I ran.

I started running D&D with the Basic Set rules by Tom Moldvay in 1982. Since then I’ve evolved through AD&D, 3rd Edition, and 5th Edition, but I was getting frustrated with 5E’s play style and decided to go back to simple dungeon delving and real risk of death. I grabbed the adventure Tomb of the Serpent Kings to introduce my current players to the style. We used Moldvay Basic/Expert rules plus a few small house tweaks, most notably DCC magic for the rest of us, so spellcasters needed to make spell rolls to successfully cast.

Character creation: The players rolled 3d6 for each stat in order, adjusting stats as per the B/X rules. We ended up with 2 dwarves (Beldrum and Drashi), a fighter (Nogge), a cleric (Volrak), and a magic-user (Notgandalf). Nobody rolled a high Dexterity, so they just decided to go with no thief, which was cool. The outstanding roll was Notgandalf who rolled 17 for Intelligence, and had enough Wisdom to lower it 2 points and go to 18 Intelligence.

One of the party had stumbled across a mysterious opening in a hillside a few miles from the village, and gone back to tell his friends about it. They decided this was their chance to find some treasure and become rich! Beldrum, Drashi, Nogge, Volrak, and Notgandalf returned, with some younger hangers-on tagging along out of curiosity.

The party started warily. They asked for a couple of volunteers to serve as torchbearers and proceeded to explore the passage. They checked out the first four small rooms opening off the sides of the corridor, finding wooden coffins in dusty smelling rooms decorated with murals of entwined or leaping snakes. They avoided these and continued along the corridor until they came across a stone door barred with a heavy looking slab of stone resting on iron pegs. They decided this looked even scarier and went back to cautiously prod open a coffin lid with a 10-foot pole. Inside was a snake-man “body”. They tapped it with the pole, discovering it was a clay statue, then tapped it harder to see if they could smash it. And so they were clever enough to avoid a puff of choking gas released from the hollow inside the statue and recover a small gold amulet from inside. The statue also held the skeleton of a snake. They repeated this in the remaining rooms, taking extra care to also hold their breaths. The last statue was wearing a silver ring. The group decided Notgandalf should try wearing it… It magically grew his fingernail into a sharp forked point like snake fangs! Now he has a snake-fang ring stuck on his right index finger!

Now they examined the door with the stone bar across it. Beldrum tried lifting it, but declared it too heavy to move. They considered having multiple people lift it, but after noticing some gaps in the ceiling they decided to inspect and prod it, where they discovered a large metal object embedded in the ceiling, with a groove running towards the door. They deduced this might be a giant hammer hinged to smash into the door. They decided to tie rope around each end of the stone bar and together pull it off the iron pegs from a distance. This triggered the trap safely, and smashed the stone door open. The hammer slowly retracted back into the ceiling. The party carefully entered the next room…

This was a large room with 3 more wooden coffins. They discussed a plan to drag the coffins to the hammer trap and trigger it again to smash them to smithereens – but decided this was too difficult and proceeded to push the lids open with a 10-foot pole, releasing snake-man skeletons! They did it one by one and defeated each skeleton in combat. Edged weapons seemed less effective, so Volrak was most effective with his club. But the real star was Notgandalf, who threw daggers at the skeletons from a distance, and hit every single time. The daggers passed through the ribs and rattled around inside the ribcages before dropping to the floor – they did little damage, but it was helpful enough that they managed to win, and he got the killing blow for two of them! Drashi had taken the brunt of the damage and Volrak cast Cure Light Wounds to heal him.

Exploring super carefully now, the party proceeded to the chamber to the south, discovering the eroding remains of a hideously deformed snake-god statue. Water dripped from the ceiling and drained through a water-carved hole behind the statue to a passage below.

The party squeezed down, leaving a rope tied there so they could climb back out. A dank, slimy passage opened into a wider corridor guarded by six tall snake-man warrior statues. They stopped and poked one to make sure it was inert. They went back and grabbed a large chunk of stone from the shattered door and Beldrum tossed it at a statue, smashing an arm off (while they were holding their breaths in case of more poison gas). Approaching the statues closely for the first time, they noticed the one they’d knocked an arm off was slightly rotated, so they tried turning it more, revealing a secret door to short passage and room beyond. This room contained rotting furniture, a regal silver snake-man amulet, and a couple of usable pole-arms, which they gave to the torchbearers. They checked if any of the other statues rotated, but they didn’t, and then they proceeded further.

The corridor opened into a large octagonal chamber with a liquorice-smelling, oily black pool in the middle of the room, life-sized snake-man statues in the corners, and doors or openings in each of the eight walls. The party avoided the pool in the middle and walked close to the walls around the room. They looked in the open corridor to the south-west room first, finding 6 ranks of 3 clay snake-man warrior statues. They smashed one to be sure it was a clay statue before deciding to nope their way out and try another room. They opened the unlocked wooden door to the south-east room next and found some scrolls written in a strange language, but had no way to read them. Then they tried the stone door to the southern room, which was only partly excavated and empty except for some rusty digging tools.

Opening the door to the north-west they saw the glint of something shiny reflecting their torchlight back from the end of the corridor, and smelt the tang of a thunderstorm. They decided that it might be some sort of lightning trap, and proceeded to examine the floor very carefully, where they found a pressure plate. They tried tossing the rusty tools from the south room onto it, but it wasn’t heavy enough to trigger the trap, so they tried tossing the stone arm of the large statue that they’d knocked off. This triggered a lightning bolt in the corridor, but the explorers were all safely cowering behind the door and nobody got zapped. They examined the room and lifted off the lid of a stone coffin, to find it empty. They also found the silver disc that had reflected their torchlight, but they were so scared of it that they didn’t dare touch it.

They opened the door to the north room and found the passage blocked by fallen rubble from the ceiling. They heard the sound of shuffling and thumping and scraping from behind the collapsed passageway. They noped their way out of there immediately and shut the door again.

The north-east room contained a stone coffin and a distinctive smell of tar. They repeated their lifting of the stone coffin lid, releasing a horrible black slimy thing that turned out to be the partially tar-mummified remains of a snake-man! This was a tough fight and they knew it. Notgandalf attempted his Magic Missile, but failed his spell roll miserably and it fizzled! The whole adventure he’d been hitting things by throwing daggers, and now he gets to cast his one spell and fails! The others went into a fighting retreat and continued trying to hit the tar-mummy. They instructed a torch-bearer to throw a torch at the tar-mummy, but he missed and the torch clattered uselessly to the floor. They were getting good hits with edged weapons, but the tar-mummy smashed Beldrum and he collapsed! The others managed to finish the mummy off, surviving by the skin of their teeth. Volrak beseeched his god for an additional spell, made his roll… and his god was not happy, so denied the spell, and Beldrum passed bravely into the afterlife. They decided to burn the body of the tar-mummy, and so found a pair of gold rings, but they were too scared to try them on.

Battered, bruised, and dragging Beldrum’s body back, they retreated to the surface and home to their village to rest, recover, and return another day.

One of the players drew a map of their adventure so far, and scanned them today for me:

Tomb of the Serpent Kings: level 1

Tomb of the Serpent Kings: level 2

it was a great night! Also, I made pizza for everyone for dinner. I’d made the dough earlier in the afternoon, and put it in the fridge. Then when people started arriving and rolling up their characters I rolled it out and topped it and baked fresh pizza for everyone. I made a pepperoni pizza, a satay chicken pizza with cashews, and one of my pumpkin, walnut, and feta pizzas. They turned out great and everyone liked them. So all up it was a great games night with my mates. I’ll try to schedule a follow-up session of the game in a few weeks so they can continue exploring the tomb.

Today, Saturday, was very hot, and I stayed in mostly, except for doing a 2.5k run first thing in the morning. I wrote up the above log of the game for our private wiki, so we have a record of it. And the other main thing I did was write a new lesson plan for the advanced ethics class, on the topic of debt.

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New content today:

Thunder and rain

Today was all about the weather. We had intermittent heavy rainfall all day, with some very loud rolls of thunder at times. Some suburbs of Sydney received over 100 mm of rain in one hour this afternoon, and there was flash flooding in many places. It wasn’t so bad where I am, but it was definitely torrential for a while in the mid afternoon.

I did manage to take Scully for a couple of walks during lulls in the rain, when the sun even came out, just to make it steamy and humid.

Besides my ethics classes, I worked a bit on preparing for tomorrow’s Dungeons & Dragons game. I made an invitation graphic using the picture from the front of the Basic Set rulebook that we’ll be using.


I also planned out the pizza menu for the dinner I’ll be cooking while the guys roll up their characters. Looking forward to it!

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Kickstarter loot!

1. When Elon Musk took over Twitter and things started going bananas I initiated migration over to Mastodon ( I posted a few times to Twitter to let followers know, and then signed off, but I didn’t delete my account. I kept the Twitteriffic client open on my desktop and checked it every few days to keep up with any news from people I followed.

I checked it today, and discovered that my feed hadn’t updated in three days. I mentioned this to a friend, and he said that Twitter’s third party API had been turned off, so a lot of clients no longer worked any more. Checking the news myself, I found an announcement from the developers that indeed Twitteriffic could no longer access Twitter’s API, so they were discontinuing the app. So… today I shut it down and deleted Twitteriffic. I also decided I may as well delete Twitter from my phone (I rarely ever used it there – I much prefer desktop). So I’m now completely Twitter-free. Although my account still exists – I just can’t be bothered to delete it. And who knows, perhaps it might come in handy for something at some point.

2. Australia Day is on Thursday this week. I wrote about the ongoing and slowly growing controversy surrounding Australia’s national holiday last year and the year before.

Today there was an article on the ABC News site saying that a growing number of people are seeking to completely ignore the public holiday by going to work, rather than taking the day off. It discusses the complications that arise when people want to work on a public holiday, and mentions that increasing numbers of companies are in fact allowing staff to ignore the public holiday and work if they want. However this is not a standard thing that is allowed for in the holiday legislation, so companies are still allowed to say that the company is taking the day off and employees cannot work on the day, even of they want to.

It seems like quite a weird situation. It’s like imagining an American deciding they don’t agree with the principle of Independence Day and seeking to ignore it by going to work on 4 July. As I said in the past two years, this sort of weirdness is going to continue and escalate until we change the date of our national holiday.

3. I completed the week’s topic on medicine with my main ethics classes. Part of it is discussing the incredibly high cost of insulin in the USA, compared to almost every other country on Earth. Today I had one girl in a class say that if she gets diabetes, she’s going to move to Australia!

4. I received a package in the mail today! It was rewards for a Kickstarter that I backed in 2021, for a fantasy roleplaying adventure from Goodman Games, Crypt of the Devil Lich. Here’s all the loot I got: the hardback adventure book in a hard slipcase, bonus extra level, booklets of pregenerated characters, player handouts, and designer notes, plus a couple of posters and a sheet of stickers.

Crypt of the Devil Lich

I chose to get it in rules compatible with D&D 5th edition – the other option was for Dungeon Crawl Classics, which I also own already, but have not actually used to run any games before. Of course I made the choice before the present kerfuffle with D&D and the Open Gaming Licence that everyone is talking about. I might have chosen to get the DCC version today, although really that’s mostly because after running D&D 5th edition several times I’ve actually grown to not like it as much as I did at first.

I find the 5th edition combat system too tactical. I prefer a fast and loose, more abstract style to combat, rather than having players counting map grid squares and calculating ranges down the foot. Thus my decision to use the old 1981-vintage D&D Basic Set rules for the game I’m planning to run with my friends soon. That’s scheduled for Friday 10 February.

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Start of the week, end of the week

It’s Monday, which is traditionally the start of the working week. However for me I treat it as the end of the week, because it’s the last day of teaching the current ethics topic on Outschool. I start the new topic on Wednesday (and on Tuesday I have no classes). So it was the end of the Wealth and Poverty topic. Honestly, it’s one I’m happy to see the end of, because it was a tough topic to navigate without making the questions too leading for the kids. By today I’d managed to mentally rearrange things to get the best out of it and make it flow better than my initial ordering, and I’d come up with some extra talking points and questions on the fly that I incorporated in later lessons.

I managed to sleep decently well last night. I did wake up a couple of times – I always do, I’m a light sleeper – but I managed to drift off again before the noise of the past two nights got into my head. It was there again, but I successfully defeated it. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do that again tonight. This evening I tried knocking on the neighbour’s door that I estimate to be the most likely source of the noise, but they didn’t answer. I’ll try again tomorrow during the day.

So I slept in this morning, not getting up until after 8 o’clock. That meant I didn’t have time for breakfast and making/kneading a sourdough loaf and going for my run before my first class at 10am. So I delayed the run until later in the day. My wife wanted to go to the gym during her lunch break (from working from home), so I took Scully out on a big walk and grabbed some lunch on the way.

It was pretty hot in the middle of the day, so I delayed my run until later. I eventually got to it about 6pm, when it had cooled down to 26°C, which is still really a bit warm for running.

During the afternoon I worked on assembling new Irregular Webcomic! strips for this week. I also made a D&D monster for the January challenge in my Outschool D&D group. I post a monthly design challenge for the kids in the group, and at the end of each month we share our designs. For January I suggested designing a hybrid creature monster, along the lines of the classic owlbear – melding together two unexpected animals. So here’s mine:

Sharkle stat block

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