A bit topsy-turvy, this – I have some miniatures news to update you with, but I have just got hold of a decent camera, so I’ll have some pretty pictures for you within the next day or so.

Anyway, on with the roleplaying.  This weekend, we started a new campaign, Forgotten Realms powered by D20 3.5.

There were a number of ‘grand’ campaigns published for 3.5 D&D – Shattered City, Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, the Witchfire Trilogy, Drow War, etc, and I have been itching to run at least one of these for some time.  Of course, our regular gaming slot had been taken by up by Star Wars and the Dawn of Defiance campaign, so I hit upon the idea of playing less often but for longer – enter the plan for running games for eight hours on a Sunday, once a month.

I was going to run the Drow War campaign, but some of the players had played at least the first part last year. I was going to run Shattered City, but wanted something ‘less Greyhawk’, if you know what I mean.

Humming and harring about this, I recalled a campaign I ran a few years ago.  Taking the characters up to around 18th level, it was set in the Bloodstone Lands (Damara and Vaasa) of the Realms and, dubbed the ‘Snow Vitch’ campaign, it created some pretty memorable adventures.  Long after the Wytch-King fell and Sir Gareth Dragonsbane was crowned king of Damara, an evil snow witch had come to power in Vaasa and, using mighty magicks, was threatening to bring a permanent winter to all the Realms (but it would never be Christmas, oh no. . .).

Last year, I picked up all four of the original Bloodstone adventures (H1-4).  It crossed my mind that I could wind time back somewhat, and have a right rollicking campaign. . .

So, the plan became; set the campaign in Impiltur (part of the Unapproachable East, just South of Damara), and have a nice easy start to get the players used to their characters.  Taking them up to 4th level-ish I would run The Sunless Citadel and The Forge of Fury.  Then I would get one of the ‘grand’ campaigns out of my system, Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil.

So far, so good.  Now, the Elemental Evil campaign takes characters up to about 14th level, give or take, and the first Bloodstone adventure, H1, starts at 1st edition 15th level.  Perfect!

However, my GM planning truly knows no bounds.  The original H1 used the old Battlesystem.  After some helpful gamers on EN World’s forums reminded me of the Miniatures Handbook, I was all set to run the huge battle at the end of that scenario with a full miniatures set up – over 1,000 painted miniatures played out on a 6′ x 4′ table! It would certainly be a game the players would not forget!

There were some issues  – the first was finding a set of miniatures rules that were easy and compatible with D20 (no way was I going back to Battlesystem!). The Miniatures Handbook took care of this.

Then there were the miniatures themselves.  Battlesystem recommended using a 10:1 ratio for models vs. actual people on the battlefield, which I have always hated in wargaming.  One to one is the only way to go, and if you need more people on the field, drop down a scale!  28mm scale was clearly not going to be the right one here, as most units in that battle have over 100 models a piece (yes, I did start seriously considering 28mm, God’s Own Scale, but I wanted a serious horde look for the battle, and I didn’t want to cut the number of combatants).  15mm was briefly considered, but a unit of over 100 models is still quite unweildy at this size.  In the end, it looks like 10mm is the way to go.

I placed an order with a couple of 10mm companies to see what their models looked like in Real Life – I’ll post my thoughts and a few piccies here when I get them. 10mm models usually come in strips of 5 models a piece, which are supposed to go two to a base (so a base has 10 man-sized models).  This requires some fudging of the rules in the Miniatures Handbook, but in practice it should not be an issue, given the rate at which normal creatures die on a 15th level battlefield. A spare coloured dice to mark any extra casualties before an entire base is removed should suffice nicely.

That just left the battlefield itself, shown here.

Now, being a lazy gamer, I was not about to make an entire board from scratch just to play this battle (I am quietly ignoring the fact that I am painting two complete armies for just one game, and an RPG at that. . .), but nor did I want to pay huge amounts of money to get someone else to do it.  Fortunately, I know the chaps at Total System Scenic, and they happen to be a local company who can make up boards and other terrain pieces to your own specifications.  They are very low cost as well, so that takes care of the lake, river, roads and maybe even the hill. 10mm buildings of a fantasy/medieval theme will be relatively easy to pick up, and I reckon I have at least a year before we get round to playing out this battle!

Anyway, that is the grand plan for the campaign. After H4 is done and dusted, maybe the campaign ends, maybe we carry on into Epic levels and have the players run their own kingdom. We’ll see.

This Sunday, we kicked off with The Sunless Citadel – I have probably run this adventure more than any other, for any game system. It really does have all you need to kick off a campaign if you are looking for that ‘quiet village guy’ start.

Eight hours play saw the players create characters;

  • Sandrine playing Fo-Fo Lay, a Wood Elf Ranger
  • Kat playing Elethiel, a Human Paladin (gotta love having a Paladin in the party, if you are the GM)
  • Andy playing Zail, a Wood Elf Sorcerer
  • Nick playing Brosius, a Human Cleric of Helm (and son of the local town’s baker)
  • Angus playing Gelph, a Human Rogue

And then go on to pretty much complete the first level of the dungeon.  I reckon in the next session, they will pretty much sweep the second level before lunch (especially as they all levelled up and Kat now has 31 hit points on her Paladin – can you say Monster Bait?), and get a good start on the Forge of Fury.

They played pretty well, it has to be said.  There were glimmers of plans being made and actually followed, though we did have a constant repetition of Angus checking doors for traps.  That was fine, showed caution.  However, every now and then, Kat would insist on opening a door without consulting the rogue first, and every time she did that, a trap blew up in her face.

On the first level they made friends with Meepo and the rest of the Kobolds, recapturing the dragon for them in return for a key that let them into a secret part of the dungeon.  They promptly fled from the tomb of the dragonpriest, though Andy was pleading for the rest of them to show some nerve and at least open the sarcophagus.  However, one look at the size of it, and the massive dragon carvings on the side, and they all decided they would be better off fighting goblins.

They have found the body of the Ranger that went missing before them, as well as the signet ring of one of the Merchant family’s adventurers (I’ll assume you are at least familiar with this scenario). That said, both Nick and Andy were bitten by Dire Rats and contracted a hideous disease that has savaged their Constitutions (and Andy, playing a Sorcerer, was not exactly covered in hit points to begin with). They have now decided that the magic fruit that cues all ailments reported to lie somewhere in the dungeon must be found within 24 hours before they start really suffering from the disease. This means they are planning to hit the second level of the dungeon at full speed, with very little healing left and no chance of resting up for 24 hours to get hit points and spells back.

Should be interesting.

Anyway, that is for next month. Tomorrow we continue with Star Wars as the players try to make nice with a Hutt, and I’ll grab some photos this week of my latest ‘creations’ – a Dark Angels Dreadnought, an old Ork Dreadnought, and my bug’s first Carnifex.