Six Faces of Death D&D Adventure
August 19th, 2018

Six Faces of Death D&D Adventure

I’ve been doing a lot of roleplaying lately, and I wanted to announce the release of something I’m very excited about… my latest full-length “official” D&D adventure with original illustrated maps, available in Dragon+ issue 21, Six Faces of Death!!

My first D&D adventure for Wizards was The Barber of Silverymoon in Dragon+ issue 12 back in 2017. Inbetween working on a variety of other projects (which I’ll post about soon!) I finished “Six Faces of Death” this Summer. “Six Faces of Death” is a horror-ish (or, as the Wizards blurb calls it, dark fantasy) D&D adventure for adventurers of 11th to 13th level, featuring monsters from “Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes,” just as “Barber of Silverymoon” featured critters from “Volo’s Guide to Monsters.” The creatures in “Mordenkainen,” however, are much nastier, which inspired a much more gruesome (and bigger) adventure.

If you play D&D or similar games and like my artwork, please check it out! My own taste for this adventure is to run it deadly with minimal help or effective communication from the various NPCs, but if you want a less harsh game you can play up the NPCs’ goofy personalities and have the talking monsters initiate conversation with the PCs rather than simply slaughtering them as soon as they go in the water/turn their backs on them/show weakness/etc. Players: be cautious when your ship approaches the mysterious waters of Changing Island! Dungeon Masters: if you like weird fiendish imagery, interparty paranoia and describing gross objects, this is the adventure for you.

Here’s my “Six Faces of Death” playlist, which hits most of the mood beats I picture for the game, with a slight bias towards clubby pop music:

1. Toward the Island: XTC, “Runaways”
2. On the Island: Tom Waits, “What’s He Building in There?”
3. Into the Island: Goblin, “Fright”, Alien Contamination score
4. Bunch/Avnas Theme: Danny Elfman, Beetlejuice Theme
5. Malika Tahoun Theme: Genesis, “Here Comes the Supernatural Anesthetist,” The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
6. Vargo Theme: N.E.R.D., “Lapdance”
7. Rising Action: The Weeknd/Daft Punk, “I Feel it Coming”
8. The Archquadrones: Pink Floyd, “Run Like Hell”
9. The Archquadrones, Part II: Huey Lewis and the News, “It’s Hip to Be Square”
10. Climax (The Heart): Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Heritage for the Future, “D’bo’s Theme”
11. Dénouement: Rocky Horror Picture Show, “Superheroes”

Many thanks to my editors, Bart Carroll and Scott Fitzgerald Gray, who polished and improved the final product, and to my <3 Jumana Al Hashal for color assist. If you play the adventure, comment or Tweet to me and let me know how it goes!

Dragons of Babylon, Part 3

Belteshazzar, archmage of the Tower of the Sea

So what did we do that wasn’t in the “Rise of Tiamat” module? We filled the time with a mixture of old modules (reskinned for the pseudo-Babylonian world, as always) and whatever I wanted to throw into a D&D game, all as part of the quest to stop Tiamat, of course. Always I tried to give choices to the players, sometimes leading to argument over what course to take, and in one or two cases leading to the characters splitting and going their separate ways. (I overdid this — splitting up the party once in awhile is fun, but when I gave one player a 4-game solo adventure with the other players in the role of his NPC buddies, people started to get tired. Thankfully the heroes eventually regrouped, and got over the part-IC, part-OOC reasons which had led to the party splitting.)

Dilmun, the location of the Green Mask of Tiamat

Here’s some of the memorable things that happened in the game:

A trip to Hell and back, to rescue a friend. Elliott Chin had run a “trip to the underworld” sequence in his own 2000-2004 D&D game and I thought it was so rad and mythological I had to do something similar. Hell, in this Babylonian world, wasn’t alignment-based: it was a bureaucratic sort of place where both the good and the evil go, tended by demons, forever repeating their most vivid memories in a gray subterranean shadow of their former world.

Yeghiazar, governor of Hell, challenges the PCs to the Ur-Game
Konstantin Pogorelov, aka Sethep, inked and colored my pencil sketch

A military battle, Babylonians vs. Hittites, with military combat rules I cobbled together for the occasion (again based on rules from Scott Bennie’s eternally awesome D&D supplement Testament). To stop the White King’s invading Hittite armies, the PCs joined the troops of the Babylonian Empire and sallied forth to defend their homeland. It was fun, though I erred by having too many troops on the field, too fast… the PCs only got one session to ‘test out’ the military rules with their own small detachments before getting dragged into a huge (too huge) battle between about a zillion NPC armies, both enemy and friendly. (Having friendly NPCs assist the players is always tricky: on the one hand, you want the players to enjoy having NPC friends and not just assume that everyone in the campaign world is an enemy and/or useless, but on the other hand, there’s nothing more wanky than the DM rolling dice against themselves while the PCs watch. I didn’t always avoid the wankiness.) Still, the battle of Carchemish gave the PCs a chance to lead troops and to have some cool moments.

The White King’s forces approach the Babylonians

A dragon who spoke only in poetry. I had just read Dick Davis’ translation of the Persian national epic, the Shahnameh, and I loved the poetry so much I wanted to do something similar. Though I would love to be able to REAL-TIME improvise a rhyming NPC (and I tried to do this in many Dreamland RPG playtest sessions…), I wimped out and prepared its lines in advance. One of the musically talented players, when in the role of Zhosh the tiefling bard, stepped up even farther and wrote songs AT THE TABLE!!

The dreaded Zagros Mountains
I didn’t always draw stuff. From an email to players.

A trip to the edge of the world (which was of course flat). Here where the world’s oceans flowed to their end, the heroes went to the Gardens of Evening, with a stop at the terrifying and reality-bending Palace of Time (a reskinned version of Lamentations of the Flame Princess’s Monolith Beyond Space and Time, which I’ve drawn a poster for).

Vasculus sees the Ocean of Heaven (by Konstantin Pogorelov)

A trip to the Tower of Babel (heavily inspired by Ted Chiang’s short story). Alas, in the end only one PC, Vasculus the lizardman, really managed to climb the tower, but the other players joined him as one-shot lizardfolk, slaves imprisoned in the workers’ quarters far up in the miles-high tower.

Ammi-Saduqa, archmage of the Tower of Stars (the Tower of Babel)

A second trip to Hell culminating in a game of soccer against demons. I’ll probably post the rules for this eventually. It was the World Cup and it just seemed appropriate! Unfortunately for the forces of darkness, the adventurers defeated them in physical sports just like they had previously defeated them in boardgames.

Christmas (well, “Christmas”) presents for the PCs! Art, idea and bottle by Jumana Al Hashal

Then there were also the trips to the Elemental Plane of Plant (thank god we had plant and ‘jungle’ miniatures!!), the brief foray to the Meat Plane which grew out of one player’s offhand joke, Sethep the wizard’s business ventures, Kali’s visits to her parents, Vasculus’ trip to his homeland Nagqu City, the underwater adventure in the Tower of the Sea, and so many trips to the market (so many we made a DM’s Guild Fantasy Shopping supplement about it). And of course, a trip to the Moon.

In the next post I’ll talk about D&D challenges and problems and things I learned running the game. (And show more art by the other players!!)

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