Saturday, 10 November 2018

Entering Cragmaw Castle - The Lost Mine of Phandelver

An update concerning our ongoing Dungeons and Dragons campaign, using the fantastic Starter Set!

Campaign Update: Our major subplot is that my junior players have purchased an old house in Phandalin and have been busy renovating it as the Forgotten Realm’s first pizza parlour! Droop the Goblin, who they rescued from the Redbrands, has been hired as the waiter and the first hour or so of our most recent session was spent organising the business.
All the adventurers have agreed rates of pay – one is the bouncer/bodyguard, one is the chef and the wizard lights the ovens with his spells, so they can boast their pizzas are magically baked! They had a lot of fun working on the menu, with different pizzas for different prices, interacting with the customers (Linen Graywind for some reason is a regular patron) and sorting out the staff room (which has a dart board, so cue some fun playing darts).
Toblen Stonehill came to inspect their outfit and made some disparaging remarks, but their response was to try and talk him into a more cooperative business arrangement. I’m thinking that a future session may see a less cordial intervention by the remnants of the Redbrands up at the Sleeping Giant Taphouse, which could be interesting.
Finally, the Townmaster decided to pay a visit to talk about their tax liabilities now they are a business. At first the owner (our halfling rogue) thought he was sitting pretty with a pile of gold pieces after some good trading, but the Townmaster has bought him back down to earth, requiring the initial payment of the lease for the premises and then a (seemingly rather hastily created) Beverages and Vittles Tax, set down by the Town Council (namely him). The net effect of these payments was to leave Errich, the owner, with a balance of two silver pieces. That’s business!
All this fun has been generated by the players (average age 11) and totally unexpected. It’s wonderful to see this happening.
Eventually though, and with urgent calls from Sildar to rescue Gundren, they set off for Cragmaw Castle, with Droop acting as their scout to find it for them in the southern part of the Neverwinter Woods. They decided to venture in at dusk, through the postern gate rather than a frontal assault.


They quickly became embroiled in a large melee in the banqueting hall but this was brought to a crisp end by the wizard Leumas’ use of his Burning Hands spell. Grimli, the dwarf cleric, almost walked into the grick but this was dispatched soon enough, only for him to then run into the hall dedicated to the goblin God, Maglubiyet. As he did so, a large goblin, seemingly a priest of the goblin deity of war, angrily turned to him, as did his two servants, caught in a moment of worship of their god. And the session ended on that cliffhanger!

I had a lot of fun making a cardboard Cragmaw Castle for the session and afterwards realised that the height of the walls I had made (roughly to scale) might get in the way during play, but the players weren't concerned. Didn't have time to add in the rubble piles, which is probably just as well.




Saturday, 27 October 2018

Lost Mine of Phandelver - Venomfang attacks Phandalin!

This is an update on an ongoing Dungeons and Dragons campaign. We are playing the fantastic Starter Set, which includes the adventure entitled The Lost Mine of Phandelver. And so the adventure continues..!
In a previous session, one of the adventurers had, somehow, ended up inviting the young Green Dragon Venomfang back to Phandalin, to take up residence on Tresander Manor! The adventurers journeyed back to Phandalin from Thundertree, with Venomfang following them in the sky.
As they approached Phandalin, Sildar Hallwinter, Daran Edermath, Qelline Alderleaf and other brave souls rode out to meet them and fight off Venomfang. At this, Venomfang attacked, tearing down out of the sky to breathe noxious fumes all over the battle field.

Whilst engaged in this desperate struggle, some of the adventurers came under arrow fire. Turning, they realised the dragon cultists had followed them as well from Thundertree and a fierce melee was fought on a low hillock to the north of the village.
Venomfang attacks!

Some of the brave heroes fell due to the poison Venomfang belched onto them, but the rest stood firm. She landed on top of their ranks, flinging some into the air only for them to land, dead, back on the ground. Venomfang grabbed Sildar in her claws, tearing off his one good leg. Mortally wounded, Sildar begged the adventurers to rescue Gundren Rockseeker to prevent the Spell Forge ending up in the clutches of the Black Spider.
Thankfully, our cleric just saved him as he started to slip away. One of the adventurers, the wizard, heard coughing from a nearby barn and, upon investigating, found a group of children who had been playing there, suffering from the dragon's toxic vapours. He did what he could for them whilst the battle continued outside.


Noble Berum, a fighter of renown, bravely clambered onto the dragon's back to gain close quarters with the evil monster. Her fury growing, Venomfang flung herself skyward, taking Berum with her. He fought on but after climbing higher, Venomfang shrugged him off her shoulders and he plummeted to the ground, dying from the impact. Only the cleric's greatest magic could save his friend.
With that, Venomfang left the village and flew northward. The heroes looked around, counting the cost of such a deadly encounter.
As well as this encounter, the major sub-plot in our game, with my junior players, is they have decided to open the Forgotten Realms' first pizza parlour in Phandalin and they have a lot of fun working on this. They bought the land with a disused house on it from the Townmaster using some of the treasure found in previous adventures and have been buying supplies to renovate it. 
They've employed Droop the Goblin as their waiter and the wizard is employed to fire up the ovens with his spells (their advertising gimmick being that their pizzas are magically baked). It's a lot of fun, and one interesting aspect is that, thanks I think to their background in computer strategy games, they ask questions such as "if we pay more to have the restaurant area redecorated to a higher standard, how many more customers do we have?" At some point, Toblen Stonehill is going to wander over to check out the competition. Oh, and while they were away adventuring, Droop tells them he has found a strange tunnel that leads off from the cellar.....



Sunday, 11 February 2018

Dungeons & Dragons - The Lost Mine of Phandelver, Part 2

These are notes from playing the Dungeons & Dragons scenario in the Starter Set, "The Lost Mine of Phandelver". Spoilers are contained herein, you have been warned! 

And so, onto game session #2 with my junior players. It went well and an interesting turn of events. The session started with the heroes having just entered Cragmaw Hideout and killed the wolves in the kennels, which was a difficult battle. Then they crept up into the entrance to Klarg's chamber and had a bit of fun spying on him, making some good Stealth rolls to avoid alerting him. Eventually Klarg's wolf sniffed them out, they entered combat and ended up killing Klarg rather sooner than expected. The goblins with Klarg ran back into the pool room (as it were) and ganged up with the goblins there, and this combat caused the adventurers some serious difficulty, incapacitating two of them.
One of the player characters ran off (playing a bit of a coward in character), was knocked out and captured by the goblins and taken to Yeemik. The other adventurers withdrew for the night and once rested, returned to rescue the character that had been captured. They did so by storming into Yeemik's chamber, shouting and hollering at the goblins to back off, doing a lot of cool roleplaying and successful intimidation rolls. Yeemik, realising by this point that Klarg was dead, saw no reason not to allow the characters to safely leave with their comrade (and Sildar), especially as the characters agreed to pay a ransom to him in the process. Yeemik was happy to become the leader of Cragmaw Hideout and did not want any more goblins slain pointlessly.

Fun session! Looking forward to the next session and the return to Phandalin and seeing how the players choose which adventure threads to pick up on. I'm thinking of focussing on their foray into Cragmaw Hideout as both being a relief to the townspeople, but also a cause for concern when they fear possible retribution from Cragmaw Castle. Either way, this point of controversy will lead the townspeople to interact with the player characters more - I don't want to just leave it to them to think of visiting different parts of town to move the adventure forward. Phandalin is a living village and its inhabitants clearly have their own agendas.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Dungeons and Dragons - the Lost Mine of Phandelver, Part 1

After over thirty years of GMing all sorts of roleplaying games, for the first time ever I am a Dungeon Master! I bought the Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set, for the 5th edition of D&D, and am really impressed by this initial adventure. I am DMing and my 10 year old daughter and four of her friends are the players. We have had our first adventure session and they loved it!  The following notes contain spoilers about the adventures, so don't read if you intend to play.
After the initial ambush, they surprised me by not really showing any interest in following the trial to Cragmaw Hideout, instead heading straight to Phandalin. They came up with a surprisingly realistic plan to deal with the goblins at Cragmaw Hideout. They would use the reward for delivering the wagon and supplies to hire mercenaries and the mercenaries would storm the goblin hide out for them! This rather well conceived stratagem threatened to derail my plan for the adventure.
Instead though, once they reached Phandalin they seemed to forget about this and after an initial encounter with some Redbrands, three of them went up to Tresander Manor and made a nuisance of themselves. They took the Redbrand's behaviour rather personally. The Redbrand ruffians out the front of the Manor rebuffed them though and the other player decided to head back to the trail and seek the goblin hideout. Eventually the others followed. After being fairly successful at defeating goblins, the three wolves in one of the first chambers came close to eating the adventurers alive! This battle proved to be very intense and exciting for the players.
Gaming fun - got to have snacks!

Looking forward to the next session. Children seem to be a lot more random in their approach than adult players - perhaps they don't have quite the same idea of what is expected of them. But they were surprisingly impressive role players. One of them stood up at one point and acted out his character's haggling with a merchant at a camp outside Phandalin. Great fun and they are very keen to play more.
After years of playing all manner of other RPGs, returning to D&D has made me realise how attractive the setting is. The richness combines with an easy, accessible style which is intriguing and colourful. The game rules make for a great gaming experience - this is a game built for the fun of playing.

Friday, 12 January 2018

The End of Time - reviewed on the Gallifrey Stands Podcast

I was very excited to record two further podcasts for the very popular Gallifrey Stands Podcast series by my good friend Doctor Squee recently.

In my guise as Adam Snow-Manning, accompanied by charming Mich-Elf Sewell, Doctor Squee arranged for a viewing for the Tenth Doctor's swansong, "The End of Time".  This is an important two parter in the history of New Doctor Who for several reasons, not least of which was the marking of the end of the Russell T. Davies era of new Who.

As always, it was a lot of fun watching the show and recording the podcast, interspersed with some quiz based jocularity. Doctor Squee is always a great host and its no surprise that his show has become so popular.

The podcast for Part 1 is here: https://gallifreystandspodcast.podbean.com/e/gallifrey-stands-ep191-christmas-2017-the-end-of-time-part-1/

And Part 2 is here: https://gallifreystandspodcast.podbean.com/e/gallifrey-stands-ep192-new-years-special-the-end-of-time-part-2/

Thank you Doctor Squee for inviting me on the show!




Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Griffin of Teradom, a scenario for Broomstix - the Harry Potter Roleplaying Game

The Griffin of Teradom

A scenario for the Broomstix roleplaying game, set in the world of Harry Potter

by Adam D.A. Manning

An Introduction

This scenario is written for the Broomstix roleplaying game, a (very) rules light game written with younger players in mind, set in the world of Harry Potter, based on the fantasy novels by JK Rowling.

You can download a copy of the 16 page rule book and a character sheet for use in play here: http://www.memento-mori.com/broomstix/ - this is the website of the game's author, Jared A. Sorensen.

This scenario is written for two first year students (player characters) but that doesn’t mean the scenario has to be limited to just that number. The following notes are a guide to what might happen in the scenario. Obviously in actual play, the students might take actions that change the order of events around. The Gamemaster will have to adapt and improvise, which adds to the fun!

Broomstix is a rules light, free format game which is quick to learn and easy to play, especially with younger players. The open format and loose rules mean that both students and Gamemaster have more to do in coming up with the detail of what exactly takes place, but generally this can be a lot of fun with hilarious results.

Headmistress’ Welcome to the new School Year


This is the Gamemaster’s introduction (in quotes) to the scenario, to read aloud to the players.

“It is September 2018 and a new school year is starting at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  You are all first year students, aged 11 or 12, and excited about commencing your studies of the magical arts.”

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Have the students introduce themselves to each other, giving their names and any background or other information they feel appropriate.

“It is now some twenty years or so since the famous Harry Potter attended Hogwarts. A new Headmistress by the name of Doctor Runela Thrimbleton has just taken charge, replacing Professor McGonagall, who retired as Headmistress last year after sixty years working at the school.  But Hogwarts is still much the same and as always, Hagrid is still there.  The Sorting Hat will sort you into your Houses.  The school is abuzz with excitement as the new students start their studies and the older ones have a reunion as they return after the summer break.”

If they haven’t already, the students can decide which House to belong too (or the Headmaster can decide for them, using the Sorting Hat to allocate them randomly).

Extra note: Students making a successful Knowledge (History of Magic) roll will know that Dr Thrimbleton is versed in Arithmancy, the ancient study of the magical properties of numbers, like many successful administrators in the magical world.  Dr Thrimbleton has a little bit of a Russian accent when she talks, though no one is quite sure why.

“Dr Thrimbleton calls the school to an assembly on the first day of term. “Welcome, boys and girls, to the new school year here at Hogwarts School Witchcraft and Wizardry. I am Doctor Runela Thrimbleton, your new Headmistress. I hope this year you all work hard in your lessons and learn more about the ancient magical arts.  There will be some changes this year. As you will see, I have bought the Goblet of Fire from the cabinet in my study and placed it here, right next to the Head of School’s Chair, so that we will see it every time we have an assembly.” She points to it and some of the students gasp with amazement at this striking innovation. How do the players respond?

Doctor Runela Thrimbleton

Also, from now on, under new rules sent to us by the Ministry of Magic, first year students will now be taking up lessons in Transfiguration Magic.  This was previously just for second year students and older, but the Ministry of Magic has decreed that all students are to learn this advanced magic right from the start.  First years, our new Master of Transfiguration Magic, Mr Marakitus Spollot, will teach you. Your first lesson will be Mr Spollot this afternoon, directly after luncheon.  A round of applause to welcome our new teacher please boys and girls.

Mr Spollot is a short, bald man, wearing comfortable clothing and a bowtie. He has a droopy, light brown moustache that he nervously tweaks every now and then. He smiles rather a lot though and looks pleasant overall.

Dr Thrimbleton finishes up by saying, “And on another note, again the Ministry of Magic requires that our school is to be inspected and monitored this year, to ensure that there is no repetition of any of the chaos of previous years when certain, now rather famous, students attended.  I wish to introduce Procurator General Gilbert Oates to you. He is from the Ministry of Magic. Remember, Mr Oates and his colleagues are only here to help us and I expect you to obey them just as you would one of your teachers.” She smiles, rather forcefully, at the end of this and gestures to a tall, very lean man in long black robes, with a black cloak and a thin, almost skull like face, with close cropped silver hair on top.  Mr Oates smiles thinly at the children.

And now, you are dismissed so you may make yourselves at home in your dormitories!” She claps her hands, the teachers file out, and the children follow.

A Warning to Students!

Any players should stop reading at this point – everything after this is only for Gamemasters!

Gamemaster’s Notes – what’s really happening


The Ministry of Magic did, in the years after Harry Potter and his friends attended, send inspectors along to Hogwarts on several occasions to check up on things, but that was a long time ago now and this latest inspection is not by them.

Instead, Lord Voldemort is seeking to regain his power and this fake inspection is the first part of that plan. He is as yet in a weakened state following his rebirth, brought about by sorcery, and needs raw magical power to grow stronger. He plans to steal a number of magical items from Hogwarts that he can use to regain his power after coming back from the dead.  He believes Hogwarts is an easy target for such a plan, with rich pickings in the items to be found there.  With a new company of Death Eaters, he has devised a plan to cause as much chaos as possible at Hogwarts to make these thefts easier to accomplish.

With his Death Eaters, he has faked appropriate correspondence from the Ministry of Magic and sent it to Hogwart’s new headmistress. Dr Thrimbleton was surprised at this request, apparently from the Ministry, but is keen to comply to ensure success in her new position. She genuinely seeks to be as helpful to the Ministry’s Procurator General, Mr Gilbert Oates, as she can. 

Procurator General Gilbert Oates is in fact a Death Eater, one of Lord Voldemort's followers, who specialises in concealment and the magic of appearances.  With an enchantment, he has transformed his normal appearance, that of a ragged man with scars over his face, to that of the more pleasant, albeit still scary, Mr Oates. 

Further fake orders from the Ministry of Magic require the school to teach Transfiguration Magic, normally an advanced form only taught to second year students and above, as soon as the students start. Lord Voldemort knows this will cause chaos in the school as such young, inexperienced students experiment with such forceful mystical energies.

If the students make a Magic Skill aptitude roll of 11 or more, they will gain the impression that first year students learning Transfiguration Magic does seem odd and goes against decades of practice at Hogwarts.

This project has worked its way upward as well, into the Ministry of Magic itself. Using cunning spells, Mr Oates has arranged to have official sanction from the lower level officers at the Ministry for this inspection of Hogwarts. The Ministry has other things to attend to and has failed to notice the bogus source of these orders. 

Extra roleplaying: During the scene in the hall, some of the older students in the years above will glare at the new students, trying to intimidate them. One of them in particular is a tall, well-built boy of around 15 with a basin style haircut, his hair jet black. (This is Biffle Amadycus, who they will meet later). How do they respond to this?

In general, these notes set out a plot to drive events for the scenario. Please encourage the players to engage in extra roleplaying between themselves and perhaps other students at the school. How do they interact? Are they all friends? Is there any rivalry between the player characters andor other students?

A Letter from the Ministry

When the students sign in at their dormitories, there is a letter in a plain brown envelope waiting for one of them on their bed.  It has a wax seal on it and if the student inspecting it rolls 11 or more on a Knowledge roll, they will realise it is the seal of the Ministry of Magic.  The recipient’s name is on the front of the envelope in beautiful, flowing handwriting.

Opening it, there is a letter inside, which also has the Ministry’s seal on it. The letter says,

2nd September, 2018

From: The Ministry of Magic, The Department of Magical Law Enforcement

My dearest <character name >,

I am sorry about missing all your birthdays and Christmases.

To make up for it, I have left a present for you at Zonko’s Joke Shop, under the counter. It has a label on it. Ask Zonko for it.

Love,
Thaddeus Hallibon
Deputy General Procurator Extraordinaire
The British Ministry of Magic.”

A Knowledge roll over 6 by the recipient will reveal that Thaddeus Hallibon is a distant uncle of theirs. Thaddeus has never, ever been in contact in this way before and it seems extremely odd that he would do so now.

GM Note: Thaddeus is an uncle of the student involved and a low level official at the Ministry of Magic. He is deeply suspicious of events that are transpiring but is unable to get a clear message out.

Zonko’s Joke Shop

They have time before luncheon to go to Zonko’s, although it will mean evading the prefects wandering the school’s halls.  A particular one of these is Biffle Amadycus, a tall, well built boy of 15 with a basin style haircut. They will either have to try and sneak past him or try and bluff their way into explaining why they are outside their dormitories, using Intrigue skills.  Biffle will want to get them to stand up straight and explain themselves and if not satisfied will call one of the teachers to ensure discipline is observed.

Biffle Amadycus:
Knowledge +2, Athletics +3, Intrigue +1, Magic +3
Specialises in spells concerning truthfulness. From House Ravenclaw.

Once (or if) they have snuck out of school, they can make their way to Zonko’s Joke Shop.  This is quite a walk from Hogwarts.  At Zonko’s Joke Shop, they then encounter Zonko, who will not be convinced that the present is for them.  More Intrigue skills will be needed to convince Zonko of this.  He will then try and find it amongst all the parcels stored under his counter.


Zonko's Joke Shop

If Biffle is not placated properly, he will raise the alarm about the students’ disappearance and Mr Oates, the Procurator General, will be most interested to follow them. He may well confront them in Zonko’s and demand to know why they are.  This is likely to happen while Zonko is looking for the present.

If the students do not comply, he will go out and then return a few minutes later in his magical form, that of a malevolent cloud of black smoke.  This smoke will magically appear in the shop and attack, trying to freeze the students so he can take the present before they do.  If it grabs the present, the smoke and present magically teleport away and the snake is never recovered.  Athletic (Running) rolls will be needed to get to the present before the Death Eater does. 

Procurator General Mr Gilbert Oates

Knowledge +4, Athletics +2, Intrigue +3, Magic +5
Transfiguration magic.  Has a wand that looks like a small club.  Wears long black robes and has a thin, almost skull like face, with close cropped silver hair.  His magic includes the ability to induce cold in his target, freezing them in place.

He has been charged by Voldemort to cause chaos at Hogwarts. He can transform at will into a cloud of black smoke that can manipulate objects, carry things or cast freezing spells on opponents. This freezing magic doesn’t kill them, but roots them to the spot, unable to move.  It is also very painful. He is cautious about changing into his smoke form, as he does not want anyone to see it happen to avoid them realising he is a very powerful magician and not an official from the Ministry of Magic. That is why he stepped away from the shop for a few minutes to change. If they are quick, the students could get the present while he is away.

If the students manage to get the present, it takes the form of a small tin, with the word “PEANUTS” on a label on it, with pictures of peanuts all over it. It has a lid and on the lid, another label says “OPEN ME”. If they cast detection spells, there does not seem to be anything remotely magical about the tin.

If they open the lid, suddenly a one-foot long toy snake, made with a spring inside, springs out of the tin and jumps at the opener (Athletics (Jump) roll to jump out of the way).  It is just a toy though and nothing untoward happens if the “snake” hits them.  Inspecting the snake shows there is a label around its neck, which says “Nagini Returns – But Who Else?   TH”.

If they are cornered by Mr Oates in the shop, they can use Athletics (Dodge) rolls to try and get away from him, although he will try and block the door, the only exit to be seen. Zonko has a trap door behind the counter, and can open this to allow them to escape. This leads to a long tunnel that goes all the way to come up in an outer corridor at Hogwarts. Intrigue (Sneak and Spy) rolls will be needed to emerge from the trap door in Hogwarts without alerting Biffle or any of the other prefects or staff.

This incident may make them late for luncheon, which could lead to punishment including a possible detention. Successful Athletics (Running) rolls will be needed to avoid this fate!

The First Lesson


After luncheon, it is their first lesson of the school year. This is the new course on Transfiguration Magic with Mr Marakitus Spollot.  He seems surprised and a little unsure himself of teaching such powerful magic to such young students, but makes the best of it.  In the first part of the lesson, by way of introduction he makes everyone laugh by turning into a clown, a tiny dragon and then a cuddly dinosaur, to show his amazing powers.  He is a good teacher and makes the lessons enjoyable.

Mr Marakitus Spollot

 During the lesson though, Dr Thrimbleton knocks loudly on the door. When she enters, she quiets the class and says she has an announcement:

Children, the Ministry of Magic have told me they require us to have more field trips, so that you have a more rounded education, as they see it, of the wider world.  As a result, tomorrow morning your class is going on a trip by steamship to Pilcantor Island, one of the smaller Channel Islands, to study an extinct volcano there called Mount Teradom. This is the first field trip Hogwarts has organised in over 25 years. As many of you will know, and the rest will learn tomorrow, Mount Teradom has a special place in magical history. So, be ready bright and early to get the train to the seaport. The leader of the trip is Professor Flevien Shrik. Thank you Mr Spollot, please resume your excellent lesson.”

She turns and goes.  Anyone paying close attention to her thinks she seems very stressed.

Gamemaster’s Secret lore: Indeed, she is stressed. This was a direct order from Procurator General Gilbert Oates, to have some of the school away when they wish to replace some of the staff with doppelganger (look alikes) Death Eaters.  A successful Knowledge roll reveals that Professor Shrik is a well-liked teacher who is very nice, perhaps too nice as her classes to be out of control, who specialises in herbology.  A successful Knowledge (Herbology) roll reveals that Pilcantor Island is a source of some special magical herbs used in healing magic.  A successful Knowledge (History of Magic) roll reveals that Mount Teradom was, thousands of years ago, home to a mythical Griffin that had almost god like powers and at that time, the volcano was very active.  Dr Thrimbleton would never normally agree on a field trip, especially so soon after starting as the new headmistress, but she feels she has little choice.

A Field Trip on a Steamship

The next day dawns bright but breezy as they make their way by train to Portsmouth. At Portsmouth, at a magically hidden part of the harbour, they board the steamship HMS Merlin. The ship, originally constructed in 1922, is hidden from muggle eyes by an enormously powerful enchantment cast by Dr Thrimbleton herself. The ship, roughly thirty-five metres long, has a coal-powered steam engine that has been magically enhanced for more speed. It has a chimney (out of which thick black smoke belches) and two life boats.

HMS Merlin

While Professor Shrik is not able to keep the children under strict control on the steamship, the crossing is at first uneventful.  There are around thirty other students present aside from the player characters.  There are also ten crewmen, none of whom have magical abilities.

A few hours later, the vessel’s captain, a veteran of many journeys named Captain Viglus Allthron, spots the tower of Mount Teradom across the horizon and hollers this out to all the passengers, pleased that they are making good progress.

If one of the students makes a successful Intrigue (Sneak and Spy) roll, they will see four intertwining ribbons of smoke heading across the sea from England towards them, like black comets with a trail after them. That student has around ten seconds to warn the others before the ship is attacked. Anybody who has seen the attackers or was warned about can add +2 bonus onto an Athletics (General Athletics) roll when the attackers hit the steamship forcefully, rocking it from side to side.

Anyone not getting 11 or more on this Athletics (General Athletics) roll is thrown onto the deck of the steamship, leaving them out of action for ten seconds or so. If they Bludge or Flop the roll, they are thrown against the side of the ship, stunning them and leaving them unable to act for a minute afterwards.

Professor Shrik is terrified and herds the screaming children into the bridge and then down some stairs below decks, in the hope this will keep them safe. This does not have to include the player characters, although they will directly be disobeying Professor Shrik if they do not go below.

The ribbons of black smoke are in reality four Death Eaters, unleashed by Lord Voldemort to try and sink the steamship or push it onto the cliffs of Pilcantor Island and wreck it.  To begin with, the Death Eaters throw down blasts of magical energy (more black smoke), which push and shove the steamship from side to side, sending some of the crew into the water.

Death Eaters:
Knowledge +2, Athletics +5, Intrigue +3, Magic +4
Specialises in smoke magic, in which form they can fly around causing trouble.

Around a minute or so after the attack starts, they start landing on the deck of the ship, one by one. Each column of black smoke sharply descends to the deck and materialises into a human form, that of the Death Eater. Their leader is Beraskatil Fivenails, a thin, tall striking looking woman with wild dark hair, streaked in green. They fire more of their magical energy at the crew and anyone else standing on the deck.

The magical energy is based on cobaltine sorcery, which focuses on freezing and chilling the target. If the spell is successful, the target is frozen in place, chilled to the core. This is intensely painful, and prevents the target from moving and also causes them harm. 

The students may have magic with which to fight back or to mitigate the effects of the spell. This will essentially be a magical combat.  If anyone is frozen in this way when the ship starts sinking or is wrecked, they could be in serious peril.

Everyone knows that the students’ broomsticks (all the starter model, Shooting Stars) have been locked away in the smaller coal bin on deck (the larger one is below deck).  Students making a successful Intrigue (Sneak and Spy) roll can unlock the coal bin door and get in and release the broomsticks. Successful Athletics (Fly) rolls will be needed to get up in the air. Further successful rolls can lead to being able to get away from the battleground of the steamship.

Pilcantor Island

The most likely place to fly is Pilcantor Island itself. One side (the nearest to the steamship) has high cliffs, whilst the other has a long, pleasant beach.  At the back of the beach grows Pilcantor Powderpuff, a large fungus that can be harvested for its magical healing properties. This will be revealed by successful Magical Skills (Herbology) rolls. This could help those who have been injured by the Death Eater’s cold magic.

It is likely that one or two of the Death Eaters will pursue any students trying to get away on broomsticks. If the students are able to get to Pilcantor Island, a magical barrier around the island prevents the Death Eaters getting any closer than around twenty metres from the shore of the island. They will fly uselessly around it, hitting the barrier occasionally, unable to get any closer.

Pilcantor Island is around one and a half kilometres across and in the centre is the volcano, Mount Teradom, which is about 100 metres high, with the opening at the top of the volcano’s cone roughly 100 metres across.  As they approach the volcano, each of the students hears a deep, resounding voice echoing in their minds, saying “Join me in the heart of the volcano. I have foreseen your arrival and must speak to you”.  They don’t know how, but the voice seems to emanate from the volcano’s centre, even though they cannot hear it as a sound, but only in their minds.

After this, the ground starts shaking. A successful Knowledge roll suggests the volcano is about to erupt!  As the Death Eaters thrash themselves against the island’s magical barrier, the shaking only gets worse.  In reality, the Death Eater’s magic is disrupting the island and unleashing the volcano’s previously dormant energy.

One possibility concerning the steamship is that, unless it can be prevented, the Death Eaters circling it or walking on its deck will break the ship in two and sink it. Alternatively, they could push it against the cliffs of Pilcantor Island, wrecking it. If the students have been able to unlock the broomsticks, the other students, lead by Professor Shrik, were able to fly away on them before the ship was destroyed. 

The Volcanoe and the Griffin

Join me”, the voice intones again, commanding and urgent but friendly and pleasant. The volcano erupts even more, with lava shooting up from the volcano’s mouth.  Flying rolls are needed to avoid the lava flying into the air.  When they are high above the volcano, if they look down, they can see that a cylinder of space right in the centre of the volcano, running up as high as the lava, is completely clear of the eruption and seems perfectly safe. There is an intensely bright light at the centre of this cylinder, on the floor of the volcano below.

If they use some form of magical sight to look at this light (or binoculars if they have them) they can make out the form of a large, golden griffin, glowing brightly. It is around the same size as a van or large car.  It is looking up at them, as they look down at it. As they watch, it spread its wings and then uses these to beckon up to them to come down to it.

Teradom

Flying down to it will require more successful Athletic (Flying) rolls to avoid the lava shooting up from the volcano’s rim, to get into the central safe cylinder.  If they fail, their broomsticks will be burnt up by the lava, leaving them to seemingly plummet to the ground helplessly! If so, the griffin casts golden magical energy, which encircles them and lands them gently on the ground next to it.

Once landed, either under their own power or with the griffin’s help, the griffin speaks to them again telepathically.  It is a magnificent sight, a being from ancient days. “I am Teradom, after which this volcano is named. I have lived here peacefully for thousands of years. Yet now I see a terrible evil returning to the world, one I thought had been vanquished.  I speak of The One Who Returns and see his plans in all of this.  You are only here because he has willed it.  He seeks to gain power by theft from Hogwarts. You must return to Hogwarts and speak out.” 

Teradom cannot be more specific than that, as he is relying on visions that have disturbed his slumbers. If questioned further (with some successful Intrigue rolls by the students), he might say, “The One Who Returns is weak following his journey back to the world of the living, but he seeks aid to regain his power. By throwing Hogwarts into chaos, he can more easily steal what he wishes.

He might, if asked why he cannot call him by his name of Voldemort, also say “I cannot say his name. As an entirely magical being, if I were to say his name out loud, who knows what effect this might have – it might give him more power for instance.” He cannot go himself to Hogwarts and cannot leave the island as he is imprisoned by the same magical barrier that keeps the Death Eaters out.

If a student is successful on a Knowledge (History of Magic) roll, they will recall that Voldemort disappeared after a magical duel with Harry Potter nearly twenty years ago. Everybody believed he had died.

If they ask how they should return (especially if they don’t have their broomsticks anymore), he can summon help.  “My friends, the alicorns, will fly you home.” With that, in glorious rays of lights, as many alicorns (winged unicorns) land nearby in the cylinder of safety as there are students present.

An Alicorn flight back and the Wyrms of Nagini

If the students make bumbling successful Athletics (Fly) rolls or higher, they are able to ride the alicorns up into the air, up the cylinder of safety and over the erupting volcano and fly back towards England and Hogwarts. The better their success, the more graceful they are at getting on and flying away.

By and large the alicorns do the flying and all the students need to do is hold on.  They are resplendent, pearly white creatures, their horns shining with light, which occasionally glints in the different colours of the rainbow.  They are large horses, with wide, feathered wings. Those with Knowledge (Care of Magical Creatures – Alicorns) will be able to get on much better with their steeds. 

an Alicorn

As they fly across the waves of the English Channel, those making Intrigue (Sneak & Spy) rolls will spot four large reptilian flying creatures approach.  If they fail these rolls, they will be surprised when they are attacked.

The flying creatures are Wyrms – similar to legless dragons with large bat like wings, each roughly ten metres long.  These particular Wyrms all breath fire. The alicorns, who have been impressively passive so far, are frightened by the Wyrms and rear up.  More Flying and Knowledge rolls are needed to keep them under control and direct the alicorns’ flight.

Wyrm of Nagini: 
Athletics +4, Knowledge 0, Intrigue +2, Magic +2
Fire breath – adds +2 when used to attack.

If the Wyrms are able to close in, they roar blasts of magical fire at the alicorns, trying to unseat their riders. The Wyrms have been sent by Lord Voldemort, who has detected the alicorns; such creatures are so magical and rare that they have alerted him to their approach.  The Wyrms are the hatchlings of Nagini, Lord Voldemort’s former pet magical snake. If any of the students have the Parselmouth ability, they can converse with the Wyrms, who tell them that they are the children of Nagini, on orders from the One Who Returns.

The easiest way to deal with the situation is simply to fly as quickly as possible, perhaps having to face a few barrages of wyrm fire in doing so.  The alicorns are potentially faster than the wyrms as long as the student riding them can use their fly or Care of Magical Creature ability successfully.

The alicorns do have a magical way to fight back – their horns are enchanted with a spell that turns the target into a translucent and insubstantial “ghost” form for a period of around an hour or so. Casting this spell at the students will require successful Knowledge (Care of Magical Creature) rolls.  If a wyrm is transformed in this way, they are no longer a threat and can be outraced with more ease.

If they are able to outfight or outrace the wyrms, the alicorns land them on the edge of the Forbidden Forest, near Hogwarts and then depart swiftly, leaving only time for thank yous and goodbyes.

In the Forbidden Forest

It is night by the time they land in the Forbidden Forest and the alicorns will shine brightly in the moonlight as they fly silently away.  The forest is quiet, but those making an Intrigue roll can hear heavy footsteps coming their way.

The footsteps are those of Hagrid, who will bump into them quite by accident on his way back from the Forbidden Forest to Hogwarts.  Hagrid will recognise them and admonish them for not being in the school building. He seems unusually stressed and if they talk to him, will reveal that Dr Thrimbleton has taken a leave of absence after becoming seriously unwell during the day while they have been away.

Hagrid will want to know what they are doing in the Forbidden Forest. If they explain anything about their adventures, he will be deeply sceptical. They will need to make successful Intrigue rolls to try and convince him (with a –2 modifier due to his scepticism).  If he still doesn’t believe him, he will become increasingly belligerent towards the students.

He will mention that a pack of dire wolves have been seen in the Forbidden Forests recently and two of them tried to attack him earlier that evening, which is most unusual.  As they walk and talk, bats will fly above in the moonlight.  If they continue to talk to him (roleplay the conversation), he may also mention that in Dr Thrimbleton’s absence, he is now the acting Headmaster.  Successful Knowledge rolls will reveal hoof prints on the forest floor as they walk along; a Brilliant Success will reveal that they are centaur hoof prints.

Hagrid will insist that the students return to school as soon as possible, guiding them there, and that they go to bed immediately so as to be ready for the next day’s lessons.

Detention and a Discovery or two!

If the students didn’t follow Professor Shrik down into the lower deck of the steamship, Hagrid will be greatly perturbed by their behaviour and they are summoned to the head teacher’s study (which was Dr Thrimbleton’s).  Hagrid is there, along with Procurator General Gilbert Oates and Professor Shrik and they discuss the students’ disobedience, with Mr Oates requiring the severest punishment possible in the circumstances. It is quite clear that Mr Oates is in charge, especially as Hagrid is only a stand in headmaster. The students are punished with detention for a week (or more if they are really naughty). More severe punishment might include longer detention, mopping the school hall’s floor, cleaning up the stables and so forth.

After this interview, Biffle Amadycus, school prefect, will taunt them in the school corridor, ridiculing them and chasing them, along with a friend of his and fellow prefect named Dorian Harbuttle. Athletic (Running) rolls to get away and Knowledge rolls to use knowledge of the school’s layout to find hiding places.

If they hide in a storeroom to get away from the prefects, they may overhear two of the Procurators in the room next-door discussing events if they make successful Intrigue (Sneak and Spy) rolls. “No one has detected us so far, no one. Not even Hagrid suspects that we are not from the Ministry”, they might hear. “I find maintaining these concealment enchantments to be very tiring” the other could say. 

GameMaster’s secret lore: The Procurators rest in here and momentarily let their disguise slip.  Indeed, the use of spying magic (remote viewing and so forth) could allow the students to see this happen. They will see them remove their cloaks and in so doing, the enchantment ends and they will be revealed as Death Eaters, with totally different and much more frightening faces underneath the enchantments.

If they look around in the storeroom, they will soon note that there are several magic items stored here, including wands, broomsticks, and equipment for creating potions and charms.  There is also a number of old scrolls, books and parchments listing histories of various important magical persons of ancient times or events that happened long ago.  One point of interest is that an area has been set aside for an imposingly tall, ornate wooden cabinet.  A label next to it says “Vanishing Cabinet”. 

A successful Knowledge (History of Magic) will reveal that a Vanishing Cabinet is for magically transporting yourself from one place to another. They come in pairs – you walk in one and walk out of the other (which might be a distance away from the first).  Yet there is only one cabinet here – where is the other? A successful Intrigue roll reveals that there is a lot of dust on the storeroom’s floor but next to the Vanishing Cabinet, there is a patch of the floor that is clear of dust – in the exact outline of a second Vanishing Cabinet. Clearly there was another one here until very recently.

On their way to their next lesson, which is their second Transfiguration Magic session, they will pass the main hall. Students making a successful Intrigue roll as they pass will spot that the Goblet of Fire is missing! They will recall Dr Thrimbleton moved it into the main hall on her first day – now it is gone.  Further investigation will reveal that it appears to have been dragged away and they may work out that it was dragged to the room next to the storeroom in which they heard the Procurators murmuring.

When they arrive for their next lesson, Mr Spollot is very different from the character they met in the first lesson.  Whereas before he was funny and nice, now he is severe and serious. There is no more humour in his lesson, which disappoints the students but also seems suspicious. If any students are able to secretly cast detection magic, they may be able to determine that something seems very odd about Mr Spollot today. A Brilliant Success roll will reveal that magically, his face seems to flex and warp, as if trying to revert to a different image.

At one point in the lesson, he will go into his study through a side door in the classroom. Any student making a Brilliant Success Intrigue (Sneak & Spy) roll and looks in through the door while it is open for a second or two will see an ornate and tall wooden wardrobe or cabinet inside his office.  A successful Knowledge (History of Magic) roll will reveal that the “wardrobe” is in fact a Vanishing Cabinet – an item of great magical power. There is no reason it should be in Mr Spollot’s office. A Brilliant Success on this roll will reveal that they are usually in pairs – where is the other cabinet? If they have searched the storeroom, they may have an idea.

Vanishing Cabinet

GameMaster’s secret lore: Nice Mr Spollot has been replaced by a Death Eater. Mr Spollot has been kidnapped and is being kept in a basement dungeon deep underground at Hogwarts, along with Dr Thrimbleton. The Death Eater that has taken over from Mr Spollot has managed to steal one of the Vanishing Cabinets from its temporary storage place in the storeroom and intends to put it on a train to send to Lord Voldemort. Lord Voldemort will then be able to use it to travel from his secret base into the storeroom at Hogwarts at ease so he can steal further items.

If they present these findings to Hagrid (who has not yet been replaced by a Death Eater), he continues to be very sceptical unless they work very hard in convincing him (Brilliant Success at Intrigue rolls along with some great roleplaying). Potentially, if all goes well, this could lead to Hagrid confronting the Death Eater and investigating the plot undermining Hogwart more vigorously.

Don’t quit at Quidditch

Following the attack on the steamship and the other irregular goings on at the school, Hagrid decides that the best way to cheer everyone up is to have a Quidditch match! This is an intra-school competition between houses. Mr Oates, the fake Procurator General, seizes upon this idea as the Quidditch match being the precursor to a new Triwizard Tournament, the first in nearly twenty years.

Hagrid announces the intra-school Quidditch match that morning at Assembly, with Mr Oates next to him, looking on coldly. The school is excited about the idea but then apprehensive and slightly bewildered when he explains further that it will set the scene for a Triwizard Tournament. The winning players picked for the Quidditch match will then represent Hogwarts at the Triwizard Tournament and will be selected at random using the Sorting Hat (as the Goblet of Fire is missing, presumed lost).  How do the player characters respond or interact during these announcements? It is a good opportunity for some roleplaying.

Inevitably, the player characters are selected for the Quidditch match! Decide (or randomly chose or ask the player characters) which position they wish to play, whether it is chasers, seekers, keepers or beaters.  Quidditch matches can be lots of fun and the rules give ideas on how to roleplay them.

Other ideas include a Bludge roll as a Chaser meaning that player scores an own goal.  Remember the Bludgers – they can be a nasty surprise and keep Beaters busy.  The contest to get the Golden Snitch can turn into a dynamic and dramatic race between Seekers.  

Also, the prefects Biffle Amadycus and Dorian Harbuttle will end up on the opposing side and will want to make life as difficult as possible for the player characters.  One of the opposing team will also be a Death Eater in disguise, with the possibility that one of the students spots him or her shimmering with evil magical energy. If the player characters are victorious and score some good points, this could go some way for restoring their good name at Hogwarts after the punishments earlier.

An Epilogue – in Doctor Thrimbleton’s Office


This is a final scene that could lead the way to further adventures.  A dramatic announcement is made that Dr Thrimbleton has returned to school after her short sojourn away unwell.

As soon as she arrives, she orders that the player characters attend at her study for an interview about the recent happenings at school while she has been away. They are summoned by Mr Oates and two other Procurators.  They go in, all eyes are turned on them and the door slams shut behind them. And that’s it for this session!


This adventure can be the starting point for a campaign playing out Lord Voldemort’s quest to steal magical items from Hogwarts.  There’s lots of scope for further fun and excitement!


Friday, 22 December 2017

The Unsaved Planet - a new Doctor Who audio adventure!

I was delighted to be part of the cast for The Unsaved Planet - a brand new Doctor Who audio adventure from the well known Gallifrey Stands Podcast.

To have a listen : https://gallifreystandspodcast.podbean.com/e/gallifrey-stands-presents-doctor-who-the-unsaved-planet/

This production includes introductions from none other than Matt Lucas and Katy Manning and includes Kevin Smith and Yee Jee Tso in the cast!  The aim of the audio production is to raise money for Stonewall, the charity working hard for the rights of the LGBTQ community.