Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Boons and Setbacks in 5e

Posted: March 23, 2017 in Inspiration

Many of us have heard the term failing forward, but how can we use it in D&D? We play RPGs that have boons and setbacks, but can those ideas be brought into 5e? If you’re a DM who can think on the fly, you might be able to spice up ability checks and even attack rolls and saving throws in the world’s most popular RPG with a few very simple tweaks.

Defining Our Terms

First I need to define terms. A boon is a little something extra good that happens after you make a d20 roll, usually on top of success. For instance, if you’re picking a lock in a castle, you might learn a specific trick about the lock that gives you advantage on all future checks to pick locks in this wing of the building. Boons are often determined on the fly by the DM. Check out a list of suggested boons below to help guide you.

A setback (or botch or drawback or complication) is a little extra punishment that happens after you roll a d20, usually on top of a failure. In the lock picking example above, not only might you fail to pick the lock, you might also break your thieves’ tools trying to do so. Setbacks are often determined on the fly by the DM. Check out a list of suggested setbacks below to help guide you.

When Do Boons and Setbacks Happen?

Now that we’ve defined our terms, how and when do boons and setbacks happen. Before we get to when, let me ask you a couple questions that will help us answer how.

  1. To what kind of d20 rolls do boons and setbacks apply? Ability checks are by far some of the easiest rolls to come up with boons and botches on the fly. Attack rolls and saving throws can be a bit trickier, because the rules are more rigid with exactly what the outcomes of these rolls should be. As a result, if you decide to use boons and setbacks during combat, you may want to have a strict interpretation about what those mean (like you always have advantage on your next attack or get to move 10 feet for free) or create a random table (like my critical hit effects and critical miss effects) for consequences. For examples of static consequences, see the table below. If you and your group feel comfortable improvising these as well, go for it!
  2. Can boons only be applied when you succeed and can setbacks only be applied when you fail? Failure with a boon (sometimes referred to as failing forward), could mean in our lock picking example that you failed to open the door, but noticed the contact poison smeared on the knob before you touched it. Success with a setback could mean you picked the lock, but broke your thieves’ tools in the process. Adding these can make your gameplay richer, but it also adds more pressure on you as the DM to come up with ideas on the fly, so you don’t have to use them. You’ll also want to think long and hard about having failures with boons and success with setbacks when it comes to saving throws and attacks. If you’re using these techniques, perhaps they only apply to ability checks. If you’re using them with other d20 rolls, then maybe come up with a strict rule or table instead of winging it, unless you’re very comfortable with improv.

So when is it appropriate to use boons and setbacks? A few optional rules are outlined below.

Optional Rule: Five Above/Below

This optional rule allows you to apply boons based on the result of a character’s ability check, attack roll, or saving throw when compared to the DC or AC . Roll the dice, apply appropriate modifiers, and then use the table below to determine the result.

Result Effect
5 or more above DC/AC Success with boon
1-4 above DC/AC Normal success
Equals DC/AC Success with setback*
1 below DC/AC Failure with boon*
2-4 below DC/AC Normal failure
5 or more below DC/AC Failure with setback

*If you are not playing with these effects as options, treat the results as normal successes and failures.

Optional Rule: Know Your the Roll

This optional rule uses the unmodified results of the dice. Any natural roll of 15 or above grants a boon, while any natural roll of 5 or less imposes a setback. You can increase the ranges of these results to increase the frequencies of boons and setbacks to fit the needs of your group and story.

Optional Rule: Advantage Boons and Disadvantage Setbacks

This optional rule states that an ability check, attack roll, or saving throw is made with advantage, the result grants a boon, while anytime one of those rolls is made with disadvantage, the result grants a setback. Note that this rule does not mesh well with the suggested boons and setbacks that grant advantage and disadvantage on the next d20 roll, since it risks creating never-ending advantage and disadvantage.

Optional Rule: Natural 20s and 1s Only

With this optional rule you gain a boon whenever you roll a natural 20 on your ability check, attack roll, or saving throw and a setback whenever you roll a natural 1 on one of those rolls.

Suggested Boons

You have advantage on the next d20 roll you make.

You gain a piece of knowledge or hint about your current quest.

You can immediately take the Help action as a bonus action.

You can spend one die to heal as if had taken a short rest immediately.

Attack: You knock your target prone.

Attack: You disarm your target.

Attack: You deafen your target.

Attack: Your attack does an extra 1d6 damage. Damage type is chosen by the DM.

Save: You can immediately move 10 feet in any direction.

Save: You shout a warning which allows another creature of your choice who can hear you and has to make the same save advantage on their saving throw.

Check out my list of critical hit effects for more ideas.

Suggested Setbacks

You have disadvantage on the next d20.

An item being used in the action is broken.

You take 1d6 damage as a result of the setback. Damage type is determined by the DM.

You lose one hit die, 1st-level spell slot, or other small resource.

Attack: You drop your weapon or implement used to make the attack.

Attack: You fall prone.

Save: You fall prone or are moved 10 feet in a random direction if the effect already knocks you prone.

Check out my list of critical failures for more ideas.

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

I’ve been preparing to run a game of Phoenix: Dawn Command this weekend and I have to say it’s brilliant. This RPG from the mind of Keith Baker is a beautiful merging of story and mechanics that encourages teamwork, roleplaying, and heroics from the players. Here’s a quick description of the game from its website:

In Phoenix: Dawn Command, you don’t gain power by killing others; you gain power by dying. After each death, you add additional cards to your deck representing the lessons you learned from your previous life. However, there’s a catch: you can only return seven times. So each death makes you stronger, but it also brings you closer to the end of your story. In addition, you don’t return right away and you don’t return in the place where you died. This is what drives tension: most missions are time-sensitive, and should you and your friends all fall without completing your task, you will fail… and when you return you’ll have to deal with the consequences of that failure. Because death isn’t the end, the odds will often be stacked against the characters; players are encouraged to take risks and to be prepared to make sacrifices. Death isn’t the end, but you want to make sure you make every life count.

Even if you’re only ever going to play Dungeons & Dragons, Phoenix is worth purchasing for the ideas and new mechanics it will bring into your game. In today’s post I’m going to show how you can steal a few ideas from Phoenix and apply them to D&D. If you like this post, you might like another post about stealing mechanics from other games.

Lore

If you want evocative, original story ideas, this game is full of them. Much of the game’s rulebook is devoted to the setting, Dalea, and goes into great detail about the world’s history, cities, and cultures. One entire section of the book unravels the mysteries of the Dread (an evil phenomena that is overtaking the Dalea). The final pages of the book detail an entire campaign that can be run, complete with amazing encounters, compelling villains, and interesting NPCs. In true Keith Baker fashion the text is sprinkled with plenty of interesting open ends and alternatives that are worthy of entire campaigns.  Many of these ideas you can be stolen straight-up. Most others require the smallest of tweaks to apply to D&D. I could go on, but I don’t want to give too many of the game’s juicy bits away.

GM Advice

In addition to the lore within this game, there’s a lot of great advice about running Phoenix that can be applied to ANY roleplaying game. The book discusses encouraging players to take risks and roleplay, what to do when you don’t have a full table, how to create interesting encounters, and more. The lore plus the advice make this thing worth the price of admission and we aren’t done yet.

Environmental Elements

In Phoenix every combat encounter has a list of interesting environmental elements that can be used in an attack’s description. For instance a battle in a tavern might have a chandelier, fireplacekeg of ale, mounted moose head, and a shelf of bottles. In Phoenix, a card-based game, when a character uses one of these elements in the description of an attack, they get to draw an extra card. The element is then crossed off the list, not because it cannot be used in another description, but because it cannot be used to gain the bonus card benefit again.

It’s easy to bring the same idea to D&D. You can write a list of elements right onto a battle mat, paper, or index card. If you’re a lazy DM, ask each player to come up with one and write them down. When each is first used in an attack’s description, allow the character to gain advantage on the attack roll. If advantage seems too powerful, give another benefit, like an extra d4 damage if they hit.

Attendant Spirits

We’ve all been there. One hour into a four-hour session a T-Rex bites the head off the druid and now Katy has nothing to do for the rest of session. Phoenix, a game that somewhat encourages players to die, has a solution for this. When a PC bites the dust, their soul can bond to another hero as an attendant spirit until they are reborn. This attendant spirit can communicate telepathically with the host and speak to others through the host’s voice when the host allows it. In addition, the spirit can spend unused resources to aid the host.

To bring this idea over to D&D, we can think about the dead PC’s unspent resources. Maybe the spirit can spend unused hit dice to instantly heal the host, gift unused spell slots (of 5th level and below) so the host can cast more spells, or give away some other resource. Once the resource runs out, the spirit passes into the afterlife or waits to be raised from the dead.

Death As Advancement

Of course the big idea behind Phoenix is its most brilliant. When a hero dies, they level up, but their seventh death is permanent and final. This creates a great tension in the game because players want their characters to die, but not too quickly!

You could easily create a mechanic in D&D that eliminates the usual come back from the dead spells (revivify, raise dead, reincarnation, resurrection, and true resurrection) and experience points, and has characters return at dawn after their death, now one level stronger. If you decide to play this way, I recommend setting a cap to the number of times a PC can return before they are dead for good. 7 works well for Phoenix, but you could pick 3, 5, 10, 20, or whatever you thinks works best for your game. (For more hacks and advice in dealing with death, checkout these posts: Death and Returning Modules, and When Death Isn’t (Always) The End.)

Sparks

The PCs in Phoenix have a limited amount of Sparks that can be used to add +1 per Spark burned to any Skill or Attack Spread. Once a Phoenix uses all of their sparks, they die. Sparks do regenerate, but rather slowly.

With some caution you could add a similar mechanic to D&D. If you’re using death as a tool for advancement, I’d say simply give your characters 5 Sparks per level and allow them to be burned to add bonuses to ability checks and attack and damage rolls. Characters regain 1 Spark x character level at the end of each long rest. If you run out of sparks, you die.

If you’re not using death as advancement, this becomes far more tricky to balance. I’d say each character gets 1 Spark x 1/2 character level (rounded down) per day that can be used to gain advantage on any ability check, attack roll, or saving throw.

Or Just Give Phoenix A Try…

If you’re loving all these ideas why not give Phoenix: Dawn Command a chance? All I did was steal what was already there!

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

Once again I’m continuing my quest to add killer undead to the options already available in the fifth edition Monster Manual for my world of Enora. So far we’ve seen husks, skeletal dragons, vampiric dragonsvampiric vines, and elemental undead. Now I’d like to turn my attention to updating (and adding my own twists to) some old favorites: the nightcrawler, nighthaunt, nightwalker, and night wing. Thanks to EN World forum user pukunui for the idea!

Nightshades

When shadows and evil are infused with the strong will of a powerful being, they take massive forms. Appearing as giants, purple worms, and winged-beasts, this animated shadow stuff abhor life and light and desire a world covered in a shadow of death.

Massive Murderers. All nightshades are enormous combinations of solid shadow and corruption. When a strong-willed, evil beings refuse to pass into the afterlife, their souls infuse the with the same material that creates the Plane of Shadow. The souls wrestle with the shadow stuff, taking as much of it on as possible in order to anchor themselves in worlds of the living. At the same time, the shadow sucks any tiny sense of morality from the soul, creating a new being of considerable size, horrific shape, and murderous intent.

Undead Generals. Nightshades are cunning beings, who stalk the Plane of Shadow, looking for wayward victims to kill and turn into other undead through dark rituals. These undead are bound to the nightshade for as long as it exists. They follow its every command. Many nightshades search for ways to lead their armies into the Material Plane, so they might swell their ranks and experience death on a grand scale.

Work Better Together. Nightshades have great respect for others of their kind. They often form alliances to increase their slaughtering capabilities and grow the sizes of their armies.

Undead Nature. Nightshades don’t require air, food, drink, or sleep.

Nightcrawler

Nightcrawlers resemble purple worms made of pure darkness. Despite their appearance, they are extremely intelligent spellcasters who have devastating strength, burrowing capabilities, and the ability to swallow ogres whole.

Nighthaunt

Nighthaunts resemble large gargoyles and are pure malevolence. As expert tacticians, these nightshades are the best at leading armies of undead or placing guards and strategic defenses around a fortress.

Nightwalker

Nightwalkers are twenty-foot-tall humanoids silent as death. They are among the multiverse’s best stalkers and their dead eyes can cause panic in the most daring prey.

Nightwing

Nightwings appear as enormous bats made of darkness, but have the same level of cunning and guile as all other nightshades. Silent as death and nearly invisible against a black sky, these beings dive onto prey before victims even know they’re being attacked.

Want the Stats?

Grab the PDF below or on the Free Game Resources section of this site any time.

Nightshades

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

Once again I’m continuing my quest to add killer undead to the options already available in the fifth edition Monster Manual for my world of Enora. So far we’ve seen husks, skeletal dragons, vampiric dragons, and vampiric vines. Now I’d like to turn my attention to updating (and adding my own twists to) two old favorites: blazing skeletons (or blazing bones) and the chillborn zombie.

skull-570975

Elemental Undead

Just because many wizards focus on one school of magic does not mean they can’t add a dash of another to their speciality to create a true nightmare. When a pinch of conjuration is added to the power of necromancy, skeletons bathed in fire and corpses armored in ice walk the land, eager for only murder.

Created by Master Mages. Only the most powerful mortals can tap into the power of the elemental planes when they make the dead walk again. These horrid creations are infused with elemental essence to make them stronger and faster while providing magical abilities that other undead of their ilk lack. A creator must be certain they can control an elemental undead before they create it, since the monster desires the mage’s death as much as any other living creature.

Furious Dead. Blazing bones and chillborn zombies have the elementals’ fury and the undead’s hatred of all things living, making them extremely difficult to control. They take a primal, raw pleasure in killing and are never satisfied.

Blazing Bones

Blazing bones are skeletons wreathed in ever-burning flame. They smell constantly of cooked marrow and screech like vultures when they attack. A connection to the Plane of Fire allows them to hurl flame and detonate their bodies at the moment of death.

Chillborn Zombie

Chillborn zombies have ice crystals embedded in their rotting flesh. The immediate area around them is deathly cold and their frigid touch penetrates to the heart. Their elemental connection allows them to breathe cold and, like the blazing bones, they also explode in a burst of energy when they perish.

Want the Stats?

Grab the PDF below or on the Free Game Resources section of this site any time.

Elemental Undead

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

How great is The Adventure Zone? If you haven’t heard this hilarious fifth edition actual play podcast, stop whatever you’re doing and give it a shot right now. While the normal cast on the show is the crem dela crem of actual play awesomeness, during the holidays they went on hiatus and allowed the crew from The Flop House podcast (another great one) to take over the story for an episode. This special game was DMed by the great Stuart Wellington who has inspired me to write about an important topic: keeping the game moving.

Wellington’s players, The Hogsbottom Three, attended a dinner party undercover to complete a sensitive mission. I won’t go into more detail as to not spoil the story. What I will say is that this mission, like many heists in RPGs, had a lot of discussion among players as to what they should do next. It’s the kind of conversation that keeps players talking in circles about whether they should hide in apple barrels or sacks of potatoes. While this conversation can be fun to an extent, it also considerably slows down the game while tens of minutes are wasted talking about whether the kitchen or the drawing room should be searched for clues. A lengthy discussion about which duchess seems a more worthy target of a detect thoughts spell can cut into the chunk of time you need for an awesome boss fight (or other set piece) at the end of the adventure. Wellington knows this, and that’s why he kept the game the moving.

Whenever the adventurers started to overthink or argue in circles about what to do next, a new NPC would walk over an engage them in conversation or the butler would ring the bell and ask everyone to proceed into the dining room for dinner. Startling announcements were made. Surprising events happened! Wellington pulled out all the stops to push the adventure forward and so can you. It’s easier than it seems. You don’t need to plan for every conversation the characters are going to have to make this happen. Just follow my Wellington-inspired tips below.

List Out Events Chronologically

Wellington kept his game going by simply moving the action of a dinner party forward as it might normally occur without the adventurers there. You can do the same for any sort of structured event (such as a ball, thieves’ guild meeting, or night spent in a spooky cabin) by simply jotting down a quick list of events in the order you think they’d happen. This will take less than five minutes. Here’s an example.

The characters are attending a fancy dinner party honoring a newly named baroness because they have gotten wind she might be assassinated by a rival faction. Her assassination could spark a war, so it’s up to the heroes to stop them. Here’s what your list might look like.

  1. Cocktail hour on the castle balcony.
  2. Many important NPCs arrive.
  3. The PCs are recognized by Lady Duafaine, who slips them a note saying not to trust the baroness’ husband.
  4. The baroness arrives with husband on her arm and gives a welcome toast.
  5. Dinner is served in the great hall.
  6. PCs are seated at a table with Lord Marquet, who likes to gossip and knows all about the noble holdings in the area.
  7. The baroness’ husband gets up to give a toast in honor of his wife.
  8. After the meal, the band begins playing and the PCs are asked by guests to dance including the baroness and her husband,
  9. During the dance the baroness reveals in some way she is unhappy in her marriage.
  10. Lady Duafaine asks the band to stop playing and reveals she is the lich Necronstalla in disguise and some of the wait staff are her zombie henchmen! They attack immediately.

The example above shows how the party might flow if the characters chose to do nothing. Odds are most groups will take action, and you may not have every scene in your timeline play out. That’s totally fine. In fact that’s the hope. The list exists so the next time you find the characters talking in circles about what to do next, you can say, “And that’s when Lady Duafaine wanders over…” A new conversation or a change of scene reminds them of the ticking clock and provides them with some new information that allows them to take action. Whenever you feel the characters are dragging their feet, simply move to the next item on your list.

If the characters figure out Lady Duafaine is Necronstalla and attack before dinner is served, that’s ok. This list is to here help you move things along not be a full outline for the adventure. They might also take her advice and arrest the barroness’ husband (which is exactly the distraction the lich wants) which would also shake up the timeline.

A chronological list like this also helps you out when the players go somewhere you didn’t expect. Maybe one of them wants to investigate the kitchen because they’re worried the baroness might be poisoned. Depending on when they sneak into the kitchen, you might describe the wait staff moving mechanically as they lift trays and prepare to bring them to the hall. They don’t speak with one another and go about their tasks like focused robots. Your list told you that because dinner hasn’t been served yet, this is what the zombies would be setting up. Similarly, if a character goes into the kitchen during dinner to see what desserts are offered, they might be surprised to find none are being made… a tip that something indeed is wrong!

Make A List Of Random Events

Of course not all adventures are so structured. The most classic of heists, the bank variety, could follow the bank’s schedule if the characters are using stealth and deception to obtain their goals, or it could take on a less structured vibe if the characters are doing more of an old-fashioned stick up. In cases like these, where there isn’t a set schedule, you’ll just need a list of random events ready to go. You might event put them into a table like the one below. Whenever the characters are talking in circles, roll on the table or pick and event to shake things up.

d10 Event
1 The PCs are alerted their getaway vehicle is compromised.
2 The PCs get word their heist is trending on social media or in the news.
3 The bank enters lockdown mode. All the doors shut and lock making it nigh impossible to leave.
4 A security guard who is late for duty arrives on the scene.
5 An alarm the PCs didn’t know or plan for about begins to sound.
6 A hostage offers considerable wealth or information for their release.
7 A hostage recognizes a PC.
8 3d4 heroic hostages take it on themselves to assault the PCs.
9 A pregnant hostage goes into labor.
10 A voice calls from outside, “This is the police! We have you surrounded.”

Events like these should really keep the pressure on your PCs to keep moving. The longer they dillydally, the more the problems will start to pile up. This method isn’t just for ban heists. Zombie outbreaks, battlefield operations, and all kinds of other missions benefit from having a table like this.

Have A List Of NPCs Handy

No matter what you do, it helps to keep a list of NPCs that might engage the characters to move the story along handy. Don’t spend too much time on this. A sentence or two should be enough for you to improv a quick scene with the characters to keep their butts moving. Use this list in conjunction with your event list to really make your story work. In the bank example above a list like this might give you an idea of which hostage leads the charge against the PCs. Or the list could even make you think of some new events on the spot. Why wouldn’t intrepid reporter Maria Carrana try to engage the PCs for an interview as they rob her bank?

Here are some sample entries for an NPC list:

  • Maria Carrana – Bold reporter for The Daily Drift who will stop at nothing for a good story.
  • Gruff McGriffles – An old dwarf who loves talking about his days as a captain in the orc war.
  • Admiral Gutpunch – A spacemarine android who takes everything literally.

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

Last week I unveiled my plan to make Enora my first fully published world. In that same announcement, I showed off a new player character race, the dwiefling. This week, I have a new cleric domain to share – Darkness.

Avos is the god of darkness worshipped by the dwarves and tieflings of Redwind, but you can use this domain for clerics who worship any deity associated with darkness, night, or secrets. I know that the first gods that spring to mind are evil: Lolth, Shar, The Shadow, Tharizdun, and Vecna immediately come to mind. That’s not the only way to play this though. There’s plenty of non-evil deities associated with darkness (just look at this real-world list). Different arguments can be made for Elistraee, Mask, Moradin, Selûne, Celestian, Wee Jas, The Traveler, and The Blood of Vol. Avos falls into this camp. His faithful seek comfort and safety in darkness and trust in the unknown.

So it is without further adieu that I present the Darkness domain. Please provide feedback as I consider these new items to be in playtest mode!

Darkness Domain

The Darkness domain focuses on what is hidden, both physically and within one’s soul. Followers of darkness gods depend on these deities to keep secrets concealed and loved ones safe in the darkness. These are powers many pray to just before they go to sleep so that they might wake again. Subterranean cultures in particular hold this domain in high regard, since they live in darkness. The gods of this domain are often depicted as hooded or concealed figures that sometimes lack form. Some of the gods are referred to as gods of night, dark magic, or secrets.

Darkness Domain Spells
Cleric Level Spells
1st sanctuary, sleep
3rd darkness, darkvision
5th fear, nondetection
7th black tentacles, phantasmal killer
9th dream, mislead
Bonus Proficiency

When you choose this domain at 1st level, you gain proficiency with heavy armor.

Favor in Darkness

Also starting at 1st level, you gain blindsight to a range of 15 feet.

Channel Divinity: Clinging Darkness

Starting at 2nd level, you hurl a shadow at one creature you can see within 30 feet of you as an action. That creature must succeed on a Constitution saving throw or become fully bound in the shadow for 1 minute. While bound in the shadow the creature is blinded and restrained. It can repeat the saving throw each time it takes damage, or on its turn as an action, ending the blinded and restrained conditions on a success.

Superior Favor in Darkness

Starting at 6th level, your blindsight increases to a range of 30 feet.

Divine Strike

At 8th level, you gain the ability to infuse your weapon strikes with divine energy. Once on each of your turns when you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can cause the attack to deal an extra 1d8 cold or necrotic damage (your choice) to the target. When you reach 14th level, the extra damage increases to 2d8.

Darkness Savant

At 17th level, your blindsight increases to a range of 60 feet. In addition, targets of your clinging darkness take 4d6 cold damage and 4d6 necrotic damage when they first become bound in the shadow by failing a Constitution saving throw. This damage does not allow them to repeat their saving throws.

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

Let’s talk about an Archduke of the Nine Hells! Both of my Exploration Age games that started during the launch of fifth edition are wrapping up. One campaign has a single session remaining! The entire story culminates in a battle with Bel, the former Archduke of Avernus, the first layer of the Nine Hells. (Note, if you’re unfamiliar with Bel, he’s mentioned briefly in the Nine Hells section of the Dungeon Master’s Guide on page 65 and in the old third edition source book Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells).

In my campaign the player characters formed an alliance of necessity with Bel. They had common enemies. Bel gave the characters the power to take out some very formidable aberrations in exchange for helping to reinstall him as the Archduke of Avernus. It turns out the characters were being used by the crafty devil to take out his rivals. Now all they are all that stands in the way of Bel turning their home plane into a brand new hellscape.

Since I needed to stat out this legendary fiend for my party to take on, I thought I’d share the mechanics with all of you! Take a look. You can grab Bel’s stats in the free PDF linked below and in the Free Game Resources page of this site. (Note: My version of Bel is extra powerful. He’s the campaign’s ultimate villain and he’s gained a lot of power thanks to the adventurers. I estimate his normal Challenge Rating would be somewhere in the low to mid 20s. Reducing his hit points, damage output, and AC and then replacing his Limited Magic Immunity with Magic Resistance is an easy way to make that adjustment.)

Bel: Not Your Average Pit Fiend

Image from the Forgotten Realms Wiki.

Image from the Forgotten Realms Wiki.

Bel

Bel is no ordinary pit fiend. The ground shakes and all but the strongest archdevils are cowed when the legendary general walks by.

Asmodeus Above All. Bel is the former and present general and adviser of Zariel, the current ruler of Avernus by decree of Asmodeus. During Zariel’s first reign, Bel served his mistress loyally, until she plotted to overthrow Asmodeus. Bel betrayed Zariel in order to please his greater master Asmodeus. As a reward for his loyalty, Bel became the Archduke of Avernus when Zariel was overthrown. Overtime Zariel proved her loyalty to Asmodeus once again and Bel fell from the dark god’s favor. Zariel once again ruled Avernus and Bel was demoted. This was the will of Asmodeus, and though the decision was a slap in the face to Bel, he respects the hierarchy of the Nine Hells above all. It is an insult to serve Zariel, who delights in keeping Bel as an advisor, but he will not go against the word of Asmodeus.

Coveter of Power. Though Bel will not directly oppose or betray Asmodeus, he still desires his old station as Archduke of Avernus. To this end Bel seeks creatures who operate outside of the hierarchy of the Nine Hells. Bel’s plots are layered and complex. The strange bedfellows he makes are often unwitting adventurers who don’t realize the true consequences of their actions until it is too late. Bel seeks Zariel overthrown again, this time permanently, or a way to coerce Asmodeus.

Dangerous Deceiver. Bel is an engaging liar. He forges perfectly worded contracts that have deceived ancient gold wyrms into handing over their souls. The devil can look into the soul of any person and tell them exactly what they want to hear in order to get his desired reaction.

Brilliant General. For centuries Bel has been leading armies of devils in Avernus, the first line of defense against the Nine Hell’s incoming threats, namely demons from the Abyss. He has been fighting the Blood War for as long as he can remember and the fact that he has survived and thrived in this environment is a testament to his strategic mind and the loyalty of his troops.

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Today’s update may look short, but it’s actually 16 pages of free PDF long. As you may know, for the last two weeks I’ve been expanding Storm King’s Thunder by adding a new giant lord to the adventure. Not just any giant lord either. A desert giant lord from Kobold Press’ Tome of Beasts!

In the PDF below you can grab new content for chapters 1-4, plus a whole new chapter, “Pyramid of Desert Giants,” that uses many a denizen from Kobold Press’ latest masterpiece.

LINK TO THE PDF: The Desert Giant’s Plan

I love to play using Roll20, so I’m making the maps available for you below. If you want to grab this expanded content for Storm King’s Thunder and the maps at another time, they’ll live forever on the Free Game Resources section of this site.

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If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

Last week I showed off part of my plan to add desert giants from Tome of Beasts into the latest (and in my opinion greatest) fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons adventure, Storm King’s Thunder. I introduced you to the giant lord Emir Ayla Zeif and told you all about her plan to murder other giants and gather their skulls for a ritual that could free a Jotun giant from its pyramid prison. Desert giants were added to chapters 1 – 4 of Storm King’s Thunder.

This week I’m going to begin adding my own chapter to the book. This chapter would fall somewhere between chapters 5 and 9. Let’s call it Chapter 8.5: Pyramid of Desert Giants. This chapter shows off Zeif’s lair, Dorsnarg Pyramid.

First up, some maps I made using Pyromancer’s Dungeon Painter.

Base of Dorsnarg Pyramid

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Top of Dorsnarg Pyramid

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Next week we’ll talk about what exactly happens inside this pyramid, but for now, let’s cover the introductory materials of the chapter.

Chapter 8.5: Pyramid of Desert Giants

In this chapter the characters have an opportunity stop Emir Ayla Zeif before she releases Erlin the Great, an enraged Jotun giant, from his prison. If the characters obtain Zeif’s conch of teleportation, they can use it to teleport to Maelstrom, King Hekaton’s undersea citadel (see chapter 10, “Hold of the Storm Giants”). Obtaining the conch is their main goal here but the characters may take action to free or leave Erlin imprisoned. If characters may choose to let the Jotun out, he is ready for vengeance, but clever adventurers can direct this rage and use it to their benefit.

Desert and Jotun Giants

Before running this part of the adventure, review the information on desert and Jotun giants in the Tome of Beasts. It will help you roleplay the giants in this chapter.

The Obsessed Emir

Ayla Zeif has become obsessed with opening Erlin the Great’s prison ever since she deciphered a hidden meaning in the runes all desert giant inscribe onto their skins. Those inscriptions led her to Dorsnarg Pyramid where the Jotun is imprisoned and also contained instructions for a ritual that would unseal Erlin’s cell. Once the Jotun is free, Ayla hopes to use Erlin’s knowledge and strength to rise to the top of the ordning. She knows he once fought against the gods. During that war Erlin and his kind may have succeeded had not the rest of giants aided the cause of the gods and imprisoned the Jotun in places like Dorsnarg Pyramid. The emir believes freeing such a powerful being would make even the All-Father himself quake with fear and force the gods to crown her queen of all giants.

Since the hunt for giant skulls to power the unsealing ritual began, Ayla has focused on nothing else. Her husband and second-in-command, Calamed, runs the day-to-day operations of the pyramid. He keeps the rest of the desert giants fed, sheltered, and hunting for skulls. Ayla’s neglect has spurred Calamed into an affair with another giant, Mira Burma. What started as a fling has become true love. Calamed wishes to return to the desert giants old way of life as nomads, but he cannot openly challenge his wife or leave her without facing death.

When the characters arrive at Dorsnarg Pyramid, Ayla has all fifty skulls she needs to perform the unsealing ritual.

Farragut the Scribe of the Desert

Desert giants under Ayla’s command captured Farragut, a copper dragon known as the Scribe of the Desert. The dragon’s hobby is collecting pieces of lore with a particular interest in giant culture and history. She has Farragut studying the skin of long dead elder desert giants to decipher the unsealing ritual. Farragut works quickly and unhappily at his task, hoping Ayla’s promise of freedom isn’t a lie. In truth she plans to give the dragon to Erlin as a gift in which case the dragon’s fate would be short and bloody since the Jotun hates dragons.

Erlin the Great

Erlin the Great has been sealed in his prison for thousands of years. The magic of Dorsnarg Pyramid sustains the giant. He has no need for food, water, or air. Years of imprisonment have left the giant boiling with rage. Hatred keeps Erlin focused and sharp. Every minute of every day he curses the giants and gods who put him in the pyramid, sure that one day he will have his vengeance.

Dorsnarg Pyramid

Dosnarg Pyramid was buried by the sands long ago and only recently uncovered by desert giant excavators. The huge pyramid has a large ground level and smaller top level that holds Erlin’s actual prison connected by a hidden staircase. The pyramid’s main entrance is hidden. A false entrance contains traps and a mummified desert giant guardian. Once inside the actual pyramid the characters will have to contend with desert giants, their scorpion pets, and a host of traps and guardians left active within that don’t bother the giants. See the “Dorsnarg Pyramid: General Features” sidebar for more information on the pyramid.

Dorsnarg Pyramid: General Features

The following features are common throughout the pyramid.

Ceilings. Unless otherwise noted, interior chambers have 30-foot-high ceilings, with 20-foot-high passages and doorways connecting them.

Doors. Each of Dorsnarg Pyramid’s doors is 20 feet high and made of stone. Unless otherwise noted, the door is unlocked. Door handles are 10 feet above the floor. A Huge giant has no trouble opening a door. A smaller creature can attempt to open a door, provided that creature or some other helpful creature can reach the door’s handle and unlatch it. While the handle is unlatched, a creature must use an action to push or pull on the heavy door, opening it with a successful DC 16 Strength (Athletics) check. On a failed check, the door doesn’t open.

Illumination. All areas of the pyramid are brightly lit by magical stig runes that glow yellow on the walls. If one of these runes is carved out of the wall it no longer sheds light.

Oversized Furnishings and Objects. Most of the furnishings and other items in Dorsnarg Pyramid are sized for desert giants. Exceptions are noted in the text. Tables, benches, and other room fixtures are typically twice as high, long, and wide as their human-sized equivalents and roughly eight times the weight. Small and Medium creatures can scuttle under and clamber over giant-sized furniture, treating the spaces the furniture occupies as difficult terrain.

Reaching Dorsnarg Pyramid

The characters can travel to Dorsnarg Pyramid on foot or horseback. If the characters have an airship (see the “Airship of a Cult” section in chapter 4), they can land it pretty much anywhere outside the pyramid. The desert giant keeping watch outside the main door (see “Approaching the Pyramid”) spots the airship if it approaches within 1 mile of the stronghold and runs inside, putting the entire pyramid on alert (see “Denizens”). If the characters use the airship’s weaponry to attack Dorsnarg Pyramid, the defenders are smart enough to remain inside its impenetrable walls.

The characters might instead approach on a flying mount. They can obtain griffon mounts in Fireshear or hippogriff mounts in Hawk’s Nest. Neither settlement is close to Dorsnarg Pyramid, requiring the characters and their mounts to rest between flights. Characters mounted on hippogriffs can travel 54 miles per day (three 3-hour flights with 1-hour rests in between). Those mounted on griffons can travel 72 miles in the same amount of time. The desert giant keeping watch outside the main door (see “Approaching the Pyramid”) spot flying mounts that approach within a quarter mile of the stronghold and runs inside, putting the entire den on alert (see “Denizens”).

Approaching the Pyramid

Adventurers can approach Dorsnarg Pyramid from any direction. Those who come near the pyramid without taking efforts to conceal themselves are spotted by the desert giant in waiting in the sand (area 1), who quietly slips inside the hidden main door and alerts the guards in the complex. Characters stand a better chance of infiltrating the pyramid if they approach cautiously, taking advantage of the terrain and using darkness, fog, camouflage, or magic to conceal their movement. Regardless of how the characters approach the den, have them make a group Dexterity (Stealth) check contested by the desert giant’s Wisdom (Perception) check. The giant should make the check with disadvantage as it is buried in the sand.  If the characters take precautions, give them advantage on their checks. If they take none, impose disadvantage on their checks.

The characters may not notice the main door to the pyramid (see area 1). If they cannot detect the door, but remain hidden and watch the pyramid, eventually the guard from area 14C comes out and relieves the guard here. This allows the characters to witness the main entrance being used.

Denizens

The Dorsnarg Pyramid Roster table summarizes the locations of the pyramid’s inhabitants and indicates how those creatures react when intruders are detected. As soon as trespassers are spotted or combat erupts, the entire lower level of the pyramid goes on alert. As a consequence, adventurers might find themselves fighting several encounters’ worth of creatures at once. If Ayla Zeif dies, her husband takes over and leads the giants into the desert to be nomads once again. If Ayla and Calamed both die, the morale of Dorsnarg Pyramid’s other desert giants breaks, and they flee into the desert with their giant scorpion pets. The other guardians of the pyramid remain.

Dorsnarg Pyramid Roster
Area Creature(s) Book Notes
1 1 female desert giant Tome of Beasts The giant is hidden in the sand.
2 2 male desert giants Tome of Beasts The desert giants stay here to defend the skulls.
3 4 giant scorpions Monster Manual The giant scorpions stay here to guard the supplies.
6 1 female desert giant Tome of Beasts Investigates any sounds of combat in areas 1-9.
7 1 male desert giant Tome of Beasts Stays in this room if trouble breaks out and continues eating.
8 1 corpse mound Tome of Beasts The corpse mound omes out of the pit and attacks when non-giants enter the room.
9 Calamed Zeif Tome of Beasts If Calamed hears combat in areas 6-9, he investigates and offers to parlay with the characters.
10 6 dust thirsters Tome of Beasts The dust thirsters rise and attack from the coffins when non-giants enter the room.
11 1 oozasis Tome of Beasts The oozasis attacks any creature that gets near one of the bowls and remains hidden until then.
12 1 female desert giant Tome of Beasts If combat breaks out in areas 10-14 the giant goes to investigate.
13 1 adult copper dragon Monster Manual The dragon is chained to the floor and has only 20 hit points remaining.
14A 1 female desert giant Tome of Beasts If combat breaks out in areas 10-14 the giant goes to investigate.
14B 1 male desert giant Tome of Beasts If combat breaks out in areas 10-14 the giant goes to investigate.
14C 1 female desert giant Tome of Beasts If combat breaks out in areas 10-14 the giant goes to investigate.
16 1 desert giant mummy Appendix B The mummy rises to attack when the trap in area 17 is triggered.
17 Ayla Zeif, 1 fire elemental Tome of Beasts, Monster Manual Ayla remains in this area and summons the elemental if attacked.
18 Erlin the Great Tome of Beasts The Jotun is imprisoned here.

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Let’s add a new giant lord to Storm King’s Thunder!

Recently two of my favorite books came out for fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons. The first is Storm King’s Thunder. I love this new adventure for its scope, modularity, characters, lack of ticking clock, tie-ins to other published adventures, and original story. Then there’s the Tome of Beasts. This little number from Kobold Press is the unofficial sequel to the Monster Manual. It holds over 400 new creatures and fills in the monstrous gaps of its predecessor.

After I read Storm King’s Thunder, I immediately grabbed my copy of Tome of Beasts and flipped to G, looking to see what baddies I could add to the adventure. It was then that the nomadic, history-loving desert giant caught my eye. Why not add a desert giant lord to the events of Storm King’s Thunder? After all, the adventure (written by Chris Perkins) recommends I do just that.

The Plan

My plan is simple. I’m adding a desert giant lord to Storm King’s Thunder. I’ll be showing off the work right here on this blog so you can add your own giants to your play through and/or take what I’m writing for your own purposes. This is the first in a series of blog posts that outlines who this giant lord is, her plan to climb the ranks of the new ordning, and ways to work that plot into Storm King’s Thunder. The posts after will focus on the giant’s lair. At the end of the series we should have a fully form supplement you can download and add to your game in the form of a free PDF.

It’s Free!?!

Yep. Good news for you! I know you’re thinking, “James, why are you giving us more stuff for free? Don’t you value your work?” I sure do, but I’m making a product that’s actually impossible for me to sell. Since this PDF will tie directly into Storm King’s Thunder and therefore the Forgotten Realms, the only place I could sell it is on the Dungeon Masters Guild. Since the PDF also uses the third-party produced Tome of Beasts and the DMs Guild has weird rules about who owns your stuff once you post it on there, I’m also not able post on the DMs Guild. This add-on is something I want to make for my game anyway so I figured I’d share it for free! If you want to pay me back, buy something from me on the DMs Guild or stay tuned for a Patreon announcement!*

Meet the Giant!

Just who is this mysterious desert giant lord and what’s she up to? Below is information you can add to different chapters of Storm King’s Thunder.

Introduction

Add the following information to “The Giant Lords” section of the introduction.

Emir Ayla Zeif

Zeif, an emir of the nomadic desert giants, thinks the only true power is knowledge. She plans to secure her place in the ordning by freeing and speaking with a Jotun giant that her ancestors imprisoned long ago. By deciphering the knowledge desert giant elders inscribed onto their skin, she found the Jotun’s prison,Dorsnarg Pyramid, in Anauroch. The same information provided a ritual to unseal the Jotun’s cell, but it requires multiple cloud, fire, frost, hill, and stone giant skulls. Zeif wants to open the cell and speak with the Jotun, learn its ancient knowledge, and then form an alliance with the powerful being so none challenge her reign over all giant kind. To that end, she has sent the desert giant warriors of her tribe into the North so they can claim the heads of their kin to be used in the unsealing ritual.

Chapter 1

Add the following encounter to the “Unfriendly Skies” section of the “Tower of Zephyros” section of chapter 1.

Day 10: All I Want is Your Head

This encounter occurs of the tenth day of the party’s journey and occurs only if they are traveling to Goldenfields. A desert giant who is a member of Emir Ayla Zeif’s tribe spies the tower and assumes there is at least one cloud giant head inside that can be given to his leader.

Any character standing guard outside Zephyros’s tower or watching the sky from the tower’s aerie spots danger approaching if his or her passive Wisdom (Perception) score is 12 or higher.

Speeding up from beneath the tower is a huge, dark-skinned giant on the back of an enormous bird of prey. The giant’s skin is inscribed with runes and it carries a large falchion on its hip.

Alitook (a male N desert giant) rides on the back of a roc up to the tower. He lands, dismounts, and enters the tower’s first level, calling out a request in Giant to see the master or mistress of the tower. If any characters are around, Alitook instead approaches them and makes his request to them in polite Common.

Development

When Zephyros hears Alitook or if the characters tell the cloud giant about the approaching desert giant, Zephyros reacts with fear. Without explanation, he asks the characters to tell the desert giant something that will make him leave.

Alitook gladly speaks with the characters, asking them if there are any giants in the tower. The desert giant lies and says he is on a mission from Emir Ayla Zeif who wants to unite the giants in this time of trouble. A DC 12 Wisdom (Insight) check reveals Alitook isn’t here on a diplomatic quest. A DC 14 Charisma (Deception) check convinces Alitook that there are no cloud giants within the tower and he hops on his roc and leaves. If a character fails the check or mentions the presence of Zephyros, Alitook demands to see the cloud giant. If this request is refused, Alitook begins climbing the walls and if he sees Zephyros, he attacks.

If combat breaks out, Alitook tries to climb his way up the tower to get to Zephyros, attacking any creatures in his way. He has no rocks, so he can only make attacks with his falchion. His roc does no join the fray, but takes flight and begins circling the tower, waiting for Alitook to whistle for it. Zephyros casts mass suggestion to convince Alitook to leave and then greater invisibility so the desert giant cannot find him.

If reduced to 75 hit points, Alitook whistles for his roc and tries to flee. If Zephyros is killed, Alitook uses his next action to behead the cloud giant and then tries to flee on his roc with Zephyros’ head.

When Alitook is no longer a threat, Zephyros informs the characters of rumors he’s heard from other giants. Desert giants are coming out of Anauroch in droves murdering any cloud, fire, frost, hill, and stone giants they can find. They all say they work for Emir Ayla Zeif and all are looking to collect the heads of their victims. This is highly unusual for the nomadic and normally isolationist desert giants.

If Alitook is captured, a DC 14 Charisma (Intimidation) check gets him to reveal that Emir Ayla Zeif has read the inscriptions on the skin of elder desert giants and ordered the warriors of her tribe to seek the heads of other giants in order to recover lost knowledge. He does not know the specific purpose of the heads and under no circumstances reveals the location of Dorsnarg Pyramid.

The roc flees if Alitook is captured.

Treasure

Alitook has a sack containing 3d6 × 100 cp, 2d6 × 100 sp, 1d6 × 100 gp, and one mundane item, determined by rolling on the Items in a Giant’s Bag table in the introduction.

Chapter 2

During the battle at Bryn Shander, Goldenfields, or Triboar, odds are at least one of the giants involved will flee the scene if defeat is imminent or its goal is accomplished. When a giant flees and is out of the weapon ranges of most characters, but still within sight, two desert giants (named Naymar and Allyaia) come out of nowhere and overwhelm the giant. By the end of their second turn Naymar and Allyaia have knocked the other giant prone. By the end of their third, Naymar has decapitated the giant and handed the head to Allyaia. The giants then run off into the wilderness together.

If the desert giants are captured, a DC 14 Charisma (Intimidation) check gets them to reveal that Emir Ayla Zeif has read the inscriptions on the skin of elder desert giants and ordered the warriors of her tribe to seek the heads of cloud, fire, frost, hill, and stone giants in order to recover lost knowledge. They do not know the specific purpose of the heads and under no circumstances reveal the location of Dorsnarg Pyramid.

Treasure

Each desert giant has a sack containing 3d6 × 100 cp, 2d6 × 100 sp, 1d6 × 100 gp, and one mundane item, determined by rolling on the Items in a Giant’s Bag table in the introduction.

Chapter 3

Random Wilderness Encounters

Add the following text to any encounter involving giants in the “Random Wilderness Encounters” section of chapter 3.

At the start of the third round of combat, roll a d10. If the result is a 1, a desert giant appears and begins attacking any other giants. If the desert giant survives combat, it beheads any cloud, fire, frost, hill, or stone giants and ties the heads to its belt. The desert giant does not attack the characters unless they attack it first.

A DC 14 Charisma (Intimidation) or (Persuasion) check convinces the desert giant to reveal that Emir Ayla Zeif has read the inscriptions on the skin of elder desert giants and ordered the warriors of her tribe to seek the heads of cloud, fire, frost, hill, and stone giants in order to recover lost knowledge. It does not know the specific purpose of the heads and under no circumstances reveals the location of Dorsnarg Pyramid.

Treasure

The desert giant has a sack containing 3d6 × 100 cp, 2d6 × 100 sp, 1d6 × 100 gp, and one mundane item, determined by rolling on the Items in a Giant’s Bag table in the introduction.

Locations of the North

Make the following additions to the “Locations of the North” section of Chapter 3.

Travel

Any time the characters travel from one place to another, roll a d20. On a result of 1, they encounter a headless giant body along the way. Roll a d6 to determine the type of giant body they encounter: 1 for cloud, 2 for fire, 3 for frost, 4 for stone, and 5-6 for hill.

Ascore

Add the following suggested encounter to the “Ascore” section.

While the characters are in Ascore, they notice two desert giants (females named Yalaya and Rabira) pass by the ancient ruin. Each has the head of a frost giant tied to her belt. If approached by the characters, a DC 14 Charisma (Intimidation) or (Persuasion) check convinces them to reveal that Emir Ayla Zeif has read the inscriptions on the skin of elder desert giants and ordered the warriors of her tribe to seek the heads of cloud, fire, frost, hill, and stone giants in order to recover lost knowledge. If the characters know where to find any such giants nearby, the desert giants offer to reward them with 100 gp from their sacks (see “Treasure”). They do not know the specific purpose of the heads and under no circumstances reveal the location of Dorsnarg Pyramid.

If the characters try to follow the Yalaya and Rabira, they quickly get noticed by the clever giants on their home terrain. The giants creep over a dune out of sight and then bury themselves in the sand, rising up to take the characters by surprise, fighting to the death. They do not pursue any characters who flee. They simply do not want to be followed to Dorsnarg Pyramid at any cost.

Treasure. Each desert giant has a sack containing 3d6 × 100 cp, 2d6 × 100 sp, 1d6 × 100 gp, and one mundane item, determined by rolling on the Items in a Giant’s Bag table in the introduction.

Luskan

Add the following suggested encounter to the “Luskan” section.

A member of the Arcane Brotherhood, Vadul Sasson (male CN mage), recovered the body of a desert giant warrior outside of Luskan a tenday ago. He found the body a curiosity so far from the desert and ordered it taken into the tower so he could study the inscriptions on its skin.

A short time after the characters arrive in Luskan, three desert giants (two males named Amed and Fabreiz and a female named Marya), walk into Luskan’s harbor out toward the Hosttower of the Arcane and demand the body be returned. The dead desert giant, a male named Rahead, was looking for frost giants in the area so he could bring their heads to Emir Ayla Zeif when he took on too many foes at once and became overwhelmed. Desert giants reclaim the bodies of their dead, since the inscriptions on their bodies hold valuable information. The trio has tracked the body of Rahead here.

Reeling from the attack of the frost giants, Luskan’s mages of the Arcane Brotherhood have depleted of many of their spells and resources. The desert giants begin hurling stones at the Hosttower of the Arcane, demanding the return of their dead. If the characters do nothing, eventually Vadul exits the tower, pleading with giants to be patient while his servants prepare the body for transport. On their next turn, the giants are brought the body. Amed and Fabreiz carry it away while Marya crushes Vadul to death with a rock before joining her companions.

If the characters do intervene, they can convince the giants to calm down with a successful DC 16 Charisma (Persuasion) check made as an action. The giants calmly state their case and leave once Vadul hands over the body.

If the characters fail the check or intervene by attacking, Amed and Fabreiz attack them while Marya continues to hurl rocks at the Hosttower of the Arcane. Every round on initiative count 0, two mages from the Arcane Brotherhood cast spells of 2nd level or lower that hinder the giants or aid the characters from the mage’s spell list. They are out of higher level spell slots.

When one of the giants falls, the other two grab its body and flee.

If captured or calmed, a DC 16 Charisma (Intimidation) or (Persuasion) check convinces the giants to reveal their purpose in Luskan. If pumped for more information, they reveal Emir Ayla Zeif has read the inscriptions on the skin of elder desert giants and ordered the warriors of her tribe to seek the heads of cloud, fire, frost, hill, and stone giants in order to recover lost knowledge. If the characters know where to find any such giants nearby, the desert giants offer to reward them with 100 gp from their sacks (see “Treasure”). They do not know the specific purpose of the heads and under no circumstances reveal the location of Dorsnarg Pyramid.

Treasure. Each desert giant has a sack containing 3d6 × 100 cp, 2d6 × 100 sp, 1d6 × 100 gp, and one mundane item, determined by rolling on the Items in a Giant’s Bag table in the introduction.

Morgur’s Mound

Add the following text to the “Ancient Relic” section.

In addition to the gold-plated tooth, the character unearths a yellow silk scarf embroidered with the stig (light) rune. The scarf is nonmagical, 10 feet long, and 2 feet wide.

One Stone

Add the following text to the “Ancient Relic” section.

In addition to the boulder, the character finds the gilded tail of a giant scorpion. The tail is nonmagical, but it can be used as a weapon and has the same statistics as a pike.

Waterdeep

Add the following text to the “Suggested Encounter” section.

Three desert giants (two females named Kayga and Isa and a male named Dariq) have been tracking the castle of the cloud giants from the ground. Count Nimbolo invites the characters to a private spot just outside of Waterdeep to tell them about Sansuri, since his wife is friends with the villainous cloud giant.

When Nimbolo is alone with the characters, the desert giants strike, with the intention of taking the cloud giant’s head back to Zeif. Nimbolo joins the fight alongside the characters. The desert giants fight until one of them falls, then the other two grab their fallen ally’s body and flee.

If captured, a DC 14 Charisma (Intimidation) check convinces the giants to reveal Emir Ayla Zeif has read the inscriptions on the skin of elder desert giants and ordered the warriors of her tribe to seek the heads of cloud, fire, frost, hill, and stone giants in order to recover lost knowledge. They do not know the specific purpose of the heads and under no circumstances reveal the location of Dorsnarg Pyramid.

Treasure. Each desert giant has a sack containing 3d6 × 100 cp, 2d6 × 100 sp, 1d6 × 100 gp, and one mundane item, determined by rolling on the Items in a Giant’s Bag table in the introduction.

Chapter 4

Eye of the All-Father, Area 1
  • Add a pillar carved with the scene of a living desert giant inscribing runes onto its flesh and looking upon the body of a deceased desert giant.
Eye of the All-Father, Area 6
  • Add a statue of the desert giant god, Grumbar, to this room that carries a bronze falchion (weighing 700 pounds).
  • Add a stig (light) rune to the archway that corresponds to the falchion.
  • The stig rune’s trap corresponds to desert giants. When triggered, two sunburst spells go off at the same time, and the entire room is each spell’s area of effect.
Eye of the All-Father, Area 11
  • Add a statue of a desert giant
Words of the Oracle

Add the following question and answer.

What is Zeif’s plan? “To release an ancient power and gain its knowledge and protection.”

Quest for the Giant Relics

The silk scarf relic in Morgur’s Mound and scorpion tail in One Stone correspond to Zeif.

The Chosen Foe

Add the following text.

Emir Zeif

“Travel south past mountains, valley, and trees. At the edge of the wood, turn east until the sand runs through your toes and the sun scorches your head. Past the dwarf ruin turn south again until you find Dorsnarg Pyramid. It is prison to one and queen-maker to another. The conch you seek is in the latter’s possession.”

The mountains refer to the Spine of the World. The valley refers to the Valley of the Khedrun. The wood refers to Lurkwood. The dwarf run is Ascore. When the characters are ready to head there, continue with “Pyramid of the Desert Giants” in this document

Appendix C

Add the following text to the “New Giant Options” section.

Desert Giants

Some adult desert giants are trained to make whirlwind attacks with their enormous falchions, spinning their blades in powerful arcs that attack all nearby enemies. This ability is represented by the following action option:

Whirlwind Attack (Recharge 6). The giant makes a falchion attack against every creature it can see within 10 feet.

That’s it for now!

Part II – “Pyramid of the Desert Giants” coming next week!

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