We hit what basically amounted to the first big story point and some resolution of that this session. The players after spending so much time at school get into a nice fight in this session.
Two weeks ago, I ran my first session in the Tower of the God’s campaign. We got back to it again this past Thursday where our main character, Barrai, Thrain, and Bokken have completed the trial of the tower. For more information on that part of the story, you can find it in the original post, Friday Night D&D – Tower of the Gods (Part 1). Last night, they needed to do some shopping and figure out where they wanted to go.. to school, for their new skills.
Quick reminder of our characters:
Thrain the Hill Dwarf who became a Hexblade Warlock
Bokken the War Forged who was granted the ability to become a great Fighter (Samurai)
Barrai the Tiefling who now gets to use their musical and story telling skills as a Bard (sub-class to be determined)
At this point in time, they are all level 1.
Upon leaving the tower they were given what basically was an exit interview to gather what their powers they had been granted. A runner took all of their skills around to the various schools, but the characters (players) were given a free choice of what school they wanted to pick as a group.
There were eight different schools:
School of Spying and Espionage
School of War and Combat
School of Charm and Seduction
School of Wisdom
School of Business and Money
School of Order and Government
School of Nature and Raw Emotion
School of Dark Arts and Assassination
They went with the last one, though they did debate for a little while around some other the other ones, The School of War and Combat made sense and they were also interested in Nature and Raw Emotion. At that booth they spoke to Tormin, a recruiter and one of the teachers at the School of Dark Arts and Assassination and had to explain why they wanted to go and what skills they had that would be useful for the Strawhog – Ye Old School of Darkness and Magic. Tormin told them that they’d be in a barracks, bunk house, type set-up with another person who had gone through the trial of the Tower at the same time as them, a Gnome named Dorin.
Then I gave them two weeks of time to do whatever they wanted, Barrai practiced the harpsichord, Bokken picked up work at a warehouse and made a bunch of money moving boxes non-stop for that time. Thrain went to brush on his fighting and sparring at a local combat focused gym.
Showing up at the school, Strawgoh, they met Dorin. He was a pompous little gnome who clearly had a chip on his shoulder and was trying to be important. Barrai made friends with him by bribing him with a gold piece, but Bokken really didn’t acknowledge him, and Thrain constantly referred to him as a halfling, as a goof, though the best part was when the player, not the character, forgot that it wasn’t a halfling. They dropped their stuff off in the barracks and then joined the other nine students for their introduction to the school.
Head Mistress Assandial told them about the school, about how hard it was going to be, about how they still might die, even in the school and if anyone wanted to leave now they could. But everyone stuck it out. She then told them what became the focus of the rest of the session, there were two spies in their midst, two of the people had been recruited prior to the test of the Tower and already had some training. Those two would get extra credit if they could stay hidden for the year. But if someone correctly figured out who they were, they could get those extra credit points. But wrong guesses, there was a consequence for that.
Bokken immediately began investigating and looked for the people who stood out the most, the richest, the prettiest, whatever caught his eye. He spotted a halfling who looked rich and spoke to Narius. While Narius was a bit of a pompous jerk, Bokken didn’t get the feeling that Narius was likely a spy at that time and decided to offer to work for him if he had a job. Which, Narius said he would consider it once they graduate and he started his own assassin’s guild.
They talked to a bunch of other of their classmates, Domon a Tiefling Warlock who wasn’t that smart. Thrain interjected himself into a conversation between Cordin a Dragonborn Wizard and Sadran the Aasimar Wizard who Bokken had noticed earlier. Sadran was nice enough, but Cordin treated Thrain fairly rudely. They talked to Addruss a Human Fighter who had gone through the Trial of the Tower with Castilla a Wood Elf Rogue.
Barrai used his ability to cast the message spell to get information from Domon that he’d gone through the tower trial with the Aasimar, Sadran, and an Elf whom the players haven’t talked to yet.
At one point, Dorin, appointing himself, or trying to appoint himself, leader of the barracks decided to confront the party and see if they’d just tell them that they were spies. However, the party turned it on him pointing out that he was the only to survive the group of four, which seemed fairly suspicious to them.
Finally, the party talked to Edzial, a Dwarf whom they don’t know what class she has yet. However, she says that she went through the trial with Domon, Sadran, and the elf that they didn’t talk to. And the characters call her out on that. She gives a reason that they is investigating to see how much they know, but the players note that she, like Dorin, is the only one who didn’t have party survive the trial of the tower.
The players, since they decided that they could trust Castilla, spoke with her about their suspicions as to who might be the spies, but they really didn’t have all that much proof and they didn’t want a wrong accusation on their record. Barrai, since he is also a Tiefling and Domon had made a big deal out of that earlier, leveraged that friendship to convince Domon, not the brightest character, that he should go and accuse Dorin for them.
And that’s where I ended the session with Domon off to do that.
The DM Notes portion, if you don’t want to see behind the screen don’t read further.
There were only a handful of rolls in this session, once they started talking to people, they rolled for several insight checks but that was about it. I’ve run sessions like this before with little rolling but it wasn’t planned.
So about the planning itself, I had all 8 schools determined and I had the cast of characters, teachers and students whom they’d meet at whatever school they went to. Would they have always been paired with Dorin, no, Barrai asked early who they were going to be paired with, and I had him roll a D10 to determine which out of 11 students they’d be paired with, yes the math doesn’t work.
Also, for preparing for something like this, don’t come up with a new batch of teachers and students for each school, my four teachers (two of them met so far), and nine students were going to have the same names no matter what. Now, the fact that Dorin is a Gnome Rogue and Castilla is a Wood Elf Rogue, those things could have changed.
I was also potentially prepared for combat in this scenario. Only because they went to the school of Dark Arts and Assassination did they end up being a test and students. It was going to be a school who was going to send in some spies that the players would have had to have fought and figured out what they were after instead. But it worked well this way for the school.
Strawgoh is Hogwarts backwards and because of that Bokken now has a commanding officer, mentor named Rettop Yrrah as well, Harry Potter backwards.
This session went really well and I had a lot of fun with it, even though it wasn’t dice chucking combat or an epic set piece of massive story, it was a bunch of different smaller social interactions, some funny, some normal that the players had. Even with the funny ones probably being the most entertaining, the players have already gravitated and made Castilla someone who is going to be important later because they trust her, you never know who they will pick.
Feel free to steal ideas from this for your own game and let me know, what would you have picked for a school in the players shoes? Do you think they are right and Dorin is a spy (I should say, spies were set before they got Dorin as a bunk mate)?
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One of the main Dungeons and Dragons spell casting classes is the Warlock, and Warlock is a popular class. It allows you to play an edgy sort of character, because you’ve made a deal with a demon, elder god, or high fey for some reason, …
We’re on to the next topic about magic, and where as the first one was more focused on story and why you might be a spell caster and the different casting classes, this one is going to focus on casting spells.
Spells have a lot of different components to them, and if it wasn’t hard enough to already have extra things to track, now you need to figure out which spells you want to take with you into combat.
With spells for most casters, you have a few different things to keep track of. The first is the number of spell slots that you have. If you are a Wizard, and this will be my standard example throughout the post, and you are at 3rd level, you will know 3 cantrips, and a number of spells in your spell book, generally to start that is going to be level plus intelligence modifier So let’s say your intelligence is 3 and your level is 3, you’d have at least 6 spells known. Then you have spells that you have prepared for the day. Again, intelligence plus your level, so you’d be able to prepare at least 6 spells for the day. Finally, you have your spell slots, that’s how many non-cantrip spells you can cast each day, which is 4 first level and 2 second level spells.
Now, as a Wizard, that doesn’t mean that you can cast each of the six spells you prepared once, and you need two second level spells ready to cast. You can cast the same spell all six times as long as it’s a first level spell. Spells can be cast at a higher level, so you can cast first level spells at second level, and you generally get some sort of bonus. So maybe you only use a few spells all the time, but you can prepare more so that you have the utility if you want.
Finally, cantrips are different. Those can be used as many times as you wanted throughout the day. But these spells tend to be weaker spells. It might do less damage or be an easier save, but more likely, if it has a save, it simply won’t do any damage if the person saves against it. These spells, though, sometimes do scale with level, because the spell slots, even at 20th level are still somewhat limited.
But that’s just about preparing your spells for the day for a Wizard. It’s similar for a lot of the other spell casting classes, with Warlock being the biggest exception, I’ll write about the Warlock specifically later. The other question with spells is what does the information mean on the spell itself?
Spells are going to have a handful of basic components. I’m going to be using the spell Thunderwave (found here on DnD Beyond). The first thing we see is the level. Thunderwave is a first level spell. That information isn’t extremely important, you’ll have that noted down on your spell list based off of where you put it. There are a few other things that can be useful, but not always. The school is useful if you are that type of Wizard because it makes it easier for you to learn. The same can sometimes be said for the damage type. Especially at low levels most monsters won’t resist much damage.
The next part is extremely important though, and that’s the casting time. For combat, casting time needs to be like Thunderwave and be an action. There are others that are bonus actions which can be used in combat, but you’re probably not going to be want to cast a spell that takes 1 minute to 1 hour to cast. You’ll be stabbed well before that. Then onto the duration of the spell. In the case of Thunderwave it’s instantaneous, so it’s a one off attack. There will be other spells that last a longer period of time. And the area of the spell, some of them will have a range to them, such as fireball does a sphere of damage at up to a distance away from you. Finally in the spell header information, we have the components for the spell. It might be an actual material or it might mean that you need to do a gesture and say something when you cast the spell. Most spells are going to have a verbal piece to them, but not all of them will.
Then we come to the main body of the spell. This tells you the affect of the spell and what sort of save people need to make against the spell. A lot of that information can be gotten from the header of the spell, but this makes it clearer and spells it out in order of how things will happen. It also tells you how much damage is being dealt and if it’s an attack spell, because not all spells get a save, some you need to make an attack roll for them. And beyond the damage, for a spell like Thunderwave, it tells you more flavor of what is happening, so it makes a loud noise that can be heard for a distance. Finally at the bottom, it tells you what it does if you cast it at a higher level. In the case of Thunderwave, for each higher level, you get an extra die eight of damage (1D8).
Now, this is a pretty dry read, I realize that. I’m really going through and breaking down a spell in detail. Most all spells are going to work like this and most casters are going to work like this. The Warlock is an exception, and some of the other classes, as compared to a Wizard, might not know more spells or have more that their disposal to pick from. I’ll actually give some advice for picking spells in a later article. Let me know what you think of spell casting, is it easy enough to understand, did I help make things clearer?
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