If you want an angry, verminous lycanthrope at your table, look no further than our most recent offering on Patreon, The artwork is front and back, and will hopefully be a good addition to a paper-mini collection.
A Fishy Encounter
My “Fall One-Shots Campaign” is in full swing. It’s neither fall nor are we doing one-shots. We’re having a blast! Originally, I was going to DM different settings and stuff each week, and that quickly devolved into Gomer the Ranger, Anna Jones the Wizard, Vikrid the Druid, and Bharash the Barbarian on a long, involved quest to defeat a blue dragon who’s conquered Amn and is coming for dear old Candlekeep next. I think the story of how this came to be is
fun, but I’d prefer to zoom in on a fun encounter we had and look at a pretty cool monster from the Veins of the Earth.
During his down-time, Gomer trained with Drow in the underdark, which I thought was cool. Then, when the session was live (we deal with downtime via our Facebook group), and the party was tasked with killing the aforementioned blue dragon, he suggested to the party that, since he trained in the Underdark, it’s not unreasonable that he’d be able to navigate it to skip some of the challenges they knew were on the road ahead.
So they headed toward the nearest entrance to the Underdark and I chucked away two weeks of campaign prep. (You never really waste prep, but it’s always amusing to me when the party finds a way to make me discard 12 hours of work.)
Then I discovered that I didn’t really have any fresh ideas about the underdark. And exploring so far had been very bland, in an empty-seeming world. I wanted to fix that when we came back to the darkest caves Faerun can offer — so I picked up a fantastic PDF called Veins of the Earth and gave it a read.
I was instantly enchanted by it and after an excruciating month-and-a-half-long break from D&D (because we have jobs and apparently those don’t pay us to roll dice, I guess. Hey, speaking of which, you should subscribe to our patreon or go buy one of our comic books!) and finally got to break out some content from it a few nights ago.
My party rolled into an ambush and the dice landed on an Anglerlich.
Without giving away VotE’s content, an Anglerlich is an extradimensional fish with a lure. The lure is a horrible villain. The fish is hungry for heroes. The villain does horrible things to try to draw heroes out or else to inculcate new heroes. The fish emerges when the hero is heroic
enough to eat, and it devours them, experience points first.
The lure is meant to be easy to kill – or at least, meant to be non-lethal. The fish, not so much — though I softened it up a touch out of style preferences, and because the party had just emerged from a deadly encounter.
I have a homebrew answer to the Exploration Pillar being scant (stay tuned), and this naturally involves ways to find interesting locations, fights, traps and other things that are fairly randomized. The party first encountered the Anglerlich as it was spearing myconid sproutlings, eating them, and cartoonishly shouting “Evil!”
VotE says to color the Anglerlich a shade off of the tone of the rest of the campaign, and while I had fun turning it into Snidely Whiplash, I definitely made it too easy to divine the nature of the creature. He was too out of place. Our Druid (hi, Duke) and Wizard (hi, Angela) were both instantly suspicious. And the Wizard had heard about some of the VotE content before, so she knew Anglerliches could potentially exist, even though no one in the group had ever encountered one before, meta or otherwise.
They saved the Myconid sproutlings and pinned the Anglerlich (well, it’s lure, which I decided was its tongue) under a massive boulder. The monster waited around to see if the party would take the bait and then left when they didn’t.
A bit more travel happened and then the Anglerlich was in their way again, this time torturing some Duergar. Our Dwarf ignored that hot mess and on they marched. The Anglerlich was getting angry. (A n g l e r y !)
At the next settlement (a random drow village from one of my tables), our Barbarian passed a DC 20 insight check to realize that the anglerliche was stalking them through village after village, torturing people to try to get the attention of the Good characters in the party. If they wanted any hope of safe places or friendly encounters in the underdark, they would
need not to be seen as harbingers.
The party decided to ambush the Anglerlich.
They backtracked to a fortress they’d found (an abandoned Amnish undertaking) so that they’d have room to fight. This was a smart choice.
They “killed” the Anglerlich’s tongue, and I decided to keep him cartoonish. I had his body glow, as if he were in a video game and needed to be looted. The party had already guessed that the creature was some kind of trick, and Bharash had even used the word “anglerfish” when trying to get across what he suspected it was. (They’re a pretty sharp bunch, and again, I over-sold the encounter.)
The fish itself became furious at the party’s teasing and attacks. It burst from its extra-dimensional hidey hole and real combat began.
Three people were swallowed. Experience was siphoned away. The fish would face from existence, leaving its awful lure out to fight, then re-emerge and try to swallow people who were fighting the lure.
Anna Jones and Gomer’s faithful goat saved the day with 24 damage from burning hands (She had a boon from a shrine of Lolth that would let her next attack do maximum damage) and something like 8D4 piercing damage from its horns. (It’s not actually a goat. It’s some kind of goaticorn. But it’s really just a goat.) The fish’s armor class is very high, and my party’s a bit low level, so I modded the stats so that people other than the wizard had a shot of hurting it – attacking its open mouth dropped the “shield” from its AC, and I had made the Lure be the Anglerliche’s tongue, specifically, so that the soft target could be hittable for most of the encounter.
Can’t have a beastie swallowing away their experience points if there’s no way to kill the damn thing.
I was a bit nervous about running a systems agnostic encounter in a 5e game, but it worked brilliantly. I naturally had to take the creature and stat it so that it worked in a 5e encounter, but the book gave me more than enough tools to do so, and the writing in the book is brilliant and engaging.
And yes, I’m aware that 5e is not built for exp-loss encounters, but we’re already so steeped in homebrew that makes the game feel a bit more old school that the Anglerliche fit in just fine.
I have not seen a leveling progressing for the abomination I am about to describe. I only know that the character at beginning at fifth level.
The monstrosity’s name is Leba Gelosi, may Helm have mercy on its soul. It’s a Tiefling Variant with fangs, pale skin, and the request for a custom Tiefling bloodline. We shall call this bloodline the framing element of this section and end with it.
Its class consists of two levels of monk and three levels of druid. The character will be ignoring many of its druid-related powers, or reskinning them. The player is not asking for any special replacements. The class levels, its creator Zach tells me, are representative of something other than training. Monk levels represent superhuman dexterity. The druid levels allow him to shapeshift into a bat or wolf. He has these levels in Monk / Druid, but really just wants to be level 5 of a custom class that has cherry-picked elements from two others.
His Tiefling bloodline represents this class: Leba was born of vampiric heritage.
Setting aside that there are so many homebrew and official ways to create a vampire, I resisted this character concept fairly hard for a lot of reasons. I’ll address my minor concerns first. By not swapping out spells and abilities for homebrew options, Zach has made a statement about my world that I never agreed to. Shillelagh is, I’m told, critical to the build’s combat functionality, as well as number of other iconic druid abilities and I suddenly have to adjust my world to account for vampires that have druid skills. Vampires exist in my setting, but they can’t heal people or cast Goodberry.
Additionally, while I don’t really mind power gaming, I am annoyed at the subtle attempt to get out of the malus of multi-classing – namely that ABIs / Feats typically come at the fourth class level and not the fourth character level.
Largely, though, the aesthetic bugs me, and it bugs me for the same reason that some DMs ban monks or psionics. We’re playing in Faerun and that’s just not how vampires work in Faerun. Classes are earned, not born into, and my myopia disallows me to see the monkness and these druidness of this character as intrinsic aspects of a unique Blade-esque character.
Also, Zach has openly admitted to wanting to roleplay as Bela Legosi.
Players love their creations as much as anyone else. There’s never a reason to stomp on it, even if they rub the wrong way against your setting. I look absurd in all sorts of real life settings and any setting that attempts even a hint of realism must eventually cope with players pushing at boundaries in the same way that Vermin Supreme and Donald Trump exist in the same universe as Emmanuel Macron and Elon Musk. This makes the primary solution to not to put puppet strings on your player’s creations. If they’re doing something inordinately dangerous, warn them and move on. People exist that other people disapprove of; people exist that rest of the world, that popularity, and that decency itself actively resist.
There need to be some negotiations about rules, but ABIs and Feats are ways to customize a character, not break a world, and there’s no reason to deny a multi-classer these things—once they earn them. Just because you say yes to a concept doesn’t mean you’re saying yes to it having Goku’s power-level. This might mean letting the player take monk powers or druid powers as they want and calling it a vampire. It might mean telling the player to choose monk or druid every level. And if you’re feeling really nice, it might mean giving out boons as the character plays that help actualize the image of playing as Bela Lugosi in clownshoes.
If the player isn’t interested in negotiating, but all choices they made have come official source material, or source material you already approved, suck it up. My objection to this character class was that, from my perspective, it colored the magical secrets of Druids and the training of Monks; it was abomination in the sense that it changed the fabric of my assumptions. But Zach never did this, and neither did Leba. I did it my head as easily as I undid it by saying, “this character is from some faraway land and does not reflect the shared reality of the background,” and solved my problem.
My problem. Not the player’s.
Every DM is going to have this problem, eventually, I think. Banning Tiefling-druid-monkpire is just as game-breaking as banning monks. If Monks or Wizards don’t exist in your world, you’re not playing D&D anymore. You might be close enough that the rules of 5e still apply, but frankly, if you ever find yourself in a situation where you are vetoing primary source material, it’s time to either swallow your pride and let everyone play the game you agreed to DM, or else it’s time to find new rulebooks.
Agree? Disagree? We wanna hear from you. Sound off in the comments, and consider supporting us on Patreon if you like our content and want more.
I’ve updated the tokens available at the $1 support level. They are now ready for online use.
The tokens include:
4 Tieflings (…everyone loves Tieflings I guess), a dwarf, a kobold, a spider, a giant snake, a beholder, a raven, two goblins, a skeleton minotaur and three humans. (Some of the ones available for online use haven’t been color-correcting, but printing them out should still work if you’re not hyper-fussy.)
We plan to add more tokens as time marches forward, so keep your eyes peeled. You can download them over on our Patreon.
First thing’s first — Chapter Three is done, and is available as a PDF over on Patreon, free of charge. Share it with your friends and stuff!
Second thing’s second — we’re taking a small, five-comic break from Ramen Empire to showcase a new D&D-themed comic we’re making, at the end of which we’re hoping to collect a few opinions about. It’ll be a nice break for Zach and me, and it’ll give us a chance to edit chapter four before we start posting it.
It’s been a long, strange trip through chapter three and I’m both proud and confused with what we’ve made so far, which I suspect is the inevitable result of creating content slightly behind a never-ending publication schedule. We’d love your thoughts overall! I find myself liking certain parts better than others, but don’t want to corrupt anyone’s impression of the arc.
Civilization VI has been released, and it calls to me like a siren song, but as a perpetually broke artist / writer duo, Zach and I are resisting its malicious summons through the sheer power of poverty. It’s a dubious blessing, since neither of us have been consumed in the maw of Civ, while on the downside, neither of us have been consumed in the maw of Civ. That said, the Civ V: Vox Populi mod is an incredible gaming experience if 4x history psuedosimulators are your bag. It’s a far more complete and satisfying Civ experience, in my opinion, than Brave New World, and has a professional-tier development team behind it. It addresses most of Civ V’s critical weaknesses — particularly in the AI department — and feels like a professional product, not a mod. I’ve played a LOT of Vox Populi, though, and am itching to find some extra spare change to pick up Civ VI. Alas, shelter and food come first.
We started a new D&D campaign, and I’m trying a different approach to DMing. I’m proud of the campaign packet I wrote, but I intended it to be published at the DM store, and even though I’m only about 1/4th of the way through it, I can already see that the 40+ pages I wrote are completely useless for quick reference. I’d been organizing events and locations together, and all of that write-up is absolutely unusable garbage. Eloquent garbage, though, if I do say so myself. I’ll be re-creating that document after we finish playing through the packet, but I’ve got a good idea of how to make it useful. It’s a mixture of a social campaign and a dungeon crawl, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with folk (and, you know, having a for-money product to sell in the DM Guild.)
In other news, I finished lettering Honeypot, and it’s going to print. I’ll update this with a link once I’ve got one. The Wonderfunders are an interesting group to work with, and this’ll be my first time lettering a real, honest-to-god comic book instead of online strips. It was a good experience. I want to do it again, soon, but I’m also in the camp of “my labor needs to turn into money so I can eat” and I don’t anticipate making a lot off of Honeypot. The sales are divided between the publisher, writer, pencil artist, ink artist, colorist, editor, and (sitting off the end) the letterer, and while I don’t regret the experience in the slightest, community comic creation is very clearly not a get-rich-quick scheme.
I noticed that despite an angry comment or two directed our way for having endorsed Clinton (here and on Facebook), our readership has actually gone up, and I do appreciate whichever of our gentle, honest, good and true readers are responsible for this. I’m absolutely not capable of remaining unpolitical. At the same time, I’ve got thick skin, so if anyone is down to rumble (in a civil fashion) in the comments section, bring it on. ^_^
All right. That’s it for the blog dump. See you guys in a few days!