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Adventure Log

May 7, 2000

I got my first inkling of 3e around Christmas of 1998, when Dave Gross (the editor of Dragon magazine) sent me an e-mail asking if I'd like to participate in a super-secret playtest project. I got NDAs in the mail shortly thereafter, had my wife and another friend sign and return them, and waited... until September 1999, when I finally received a draft of the Player's Handbook.

I pulled together a new gaming group, got them all under NDA as well, and started playing. (Their names are proudly listed in the back of the Player's Handbook as it went to press: Geoffrey Gowan, Thor Sparks, Steven Johnson, and John Wunder.) Our first adventure was my 3e conversion of "The Door to Darkness," which I was writing at the time for Dungeon Adventures (it's due out in issue 81, coming in late June). An early impression of mine: As I worked on writing this Second Edition adventure, I kept referring to the Third Edition Player's Handbook. It was a little bit like having a compendium of Sage Advice on my desk—it would tell me how the rules were supposed to work, even if they didn't necessarily work that way in Second Edition.

We were playing in Aquela, of course, and everyone made up a 3e Aquela character. (I'll post a 3e version of Aquela in August, trust me.) Steven and Geoff played a pair of unlikely siblings: Steven was a rogue and Geoff a mendicant priest, with very different ideas of what was important in life! Best quote of the adventure: "Can rogues use shields? Sure, that's what fighters are for." Thor played a hulking fighter (not a barbarian) from Qheleq-Qarag. John made up a goblin fighter with a strong dose of roguish talent, but he only played with us for one session. Our next adventure was my conversion of "The Sunken Shadow," which appeared in Dungeon Adventures #66, back in January 1998. (I'll post my conversion notes for that come August, too.)

We finished that adventure just in time for me to move to Seattle and start working at Wizards.

June 27

After a week off, we started up again tonight (minus a player)... in what I was calling a playtest of Aquela under the new D&D rules. I started Daneen, Dave, and Tim on a simple adventure that led them into Blackwing Swamp on Reis island...

Well, let me back up. Daneen and Dave made their characters at lunchtime today. Daneen started working on a human wizard, then Dave came and sat down and declared he was going to make a psionic dwarf. That was the right answer, because Dave is heavily playtesting the new psionics rules in his other weekly game: he's running a Dark Sun campaign. Given how important psionics are for the dwarves of Aquela, I was anxious to see how it would work out in my game, so I was glad Dave was thinking along the same lines. Delkir was born soon thereafter: a psionic dwarf with a Constitution of 20.

J'vet is Daneen's character: an Ataqim'n human wizard who's a mighty good shot with a crossbow and has Weapon Focus (rays). She has a quarterstaff, but why would she use it?

And Tim showed up tonight with the half-orc barbarian he made up while Darvin was dead two weeks ago, converted into a goblin barbarian for Aquela. I'm still not positive I want goblin barbarians on Aquela, given that I've said the entire race was enslaved for centuries... but it might be interesting to play with the idea of urban barbarians, which Tim mentioned tonight. (Every player who plays a goblin on Aquela helps me define the race a little more...)

I made an elven druid to accompany the party—Therin Soros (with a nod to David Silbey's Therus Seren from an earlier campaign)—since Ed is on vacation. Unfortunately, poor Therin is not the brightest candle in the candelabra (Int 8), so he speaks only one language: elven. Fortunately, J'vet also speaks elven, so there is some communication going on in the party... (Note that, in the core rules, Therin would be fine: everyone speaks common as well as their racial language. I was mean to elves on Aquela, emphasizing their barbarism, and denying them a second free language. I may have to reconsider that decision—though everyone said tonight they can live with Therin's handicap for a level or so, until he can learn Q'lati and start joining in the conversations.)

So the four of them began the adventure sitting on a porch in front of the Magic Mangrove, the poorly named hostel in T'nar on Reis island, enjoying the cool evening air. They're getting acquainted when four lizardfolk emerge from the jungle, throwing javelins. Tim's goblin (whose name I can't remember!) pegged one with his own javelin before the lizardfolk attacked (he won initiative), but didn't drop it. The lizardfolk all missed (in fact, they never hit...). J'vet cast a sleep spell and knocked two of them down. Delkir overturned a table and gave himself some cover while brandishing his crossbow. (He's saving his coppers for a pistol...) Therin missed with his sling (in fact, he never hit... I need new dice, or something!). Tim's goblin charged down to meet them, throwing another javelin before they closed to melee range. Once he was in melee range, it was pretty much all about him and his greatsword. The lizardfolk made some impressive hissing noises, but every time he swung his greatclub the only sound was it rattling against the barbarian's bone armor. He finally went down, cut cleanly in twain.

The lizardfolk out of the way, the characters met Torqin, the leader of the (two) city guards in the hamlet of T'nar. Torqin thanked them for their work, explained that this was the fifth strange lizardfolk raid in about a month, and invited them to meet with the High Magician in the morning. Morning came, the High Magician offered them 2000 gp to enter the swamp and stop the raids, Delkir talked him up to 2500 (with 500 in advance for supplies), and they set off, with Therin as a guide.

Paddling their canoes through the swamp, they were attacked by a crocodile. (I actually rolled a giant praying mantis. I took a careful look at the monster before starting the battle, however, and realized that its Challenge Rating of 2 was perhaps too low for a monster that would take Tim's barbarian down with one swipe of its claws on an average damage roll. I'll see tomorrow if we can bump that up...) Delkir's skill with boats kept the crocodile from capsizing their canoe (we used a pretty elegant opposed check: the croc's Strength vs. Delkir's piloting skill), Tim's goblin's oar clattered harmlessly on its back, then Dave got a crossbow bolt in the thing's eye (a crit for 12 of its 22 hit points). J'vet hit it with a ray of enfeeblement that would have hindered any further capsizing attempts had the barbarian not whacked it for 10 more points on his turn. The croc (with an initiative roll of 5, just barely last after the surprise round) submerged, and it was time to wrap up for the night. (Slow start.)