ICRPG Campaign Diary: The Shadowrealm



Hey shields,

my table group’s new campaign just started with yesterday’s session zero and I’ve got a very ambitious plan: After each session, I want to recap the session’s worst scene here in the forum in this thread and brainstorm about why I think it sucked and how to improve on it.

Hopefully that’ll be fun to read and useful at the same time. Plan on playing every or every other week.



We should all do this! … capture great moments at the table or online, small write up on events or session bullet points or both!…

Great idea!

Game On!


Learning from failure is a really effective path to improvement. Especially so the better you become at something. I’m a big fan of freestyle wrestling. David Taylor a world and Olympic champion wrestler from here in the USA has famously said that a loss at this point in his career is a rare opportunity for growth. When you consistently beat everyone else in the world, it becomes harder to know where you need to improve.
This mindset can be applied to most endeavors, and RPGs are no exception. While we’re not competing for titles, our art form can still be honed, and dissecting where things go wrong, seems like a really effective way to learn. I look forward to seeing this thread progress.


interesting idea to improv on stuff you don’t feel good while GMing


Session 1: The Forest Cave

In Session Zero, the PCs were sent into the OKARIAN FOREST to scout the forces of the SHADOWREALM which are reported to be there. After a couple of moments later they were ambushed on a clearing by a couple of zombies. They managed to escape and found a weird tree with solidified blood instead of bark. LAFAYETTE, one of the two PCs, fell into a pit and landed on a rock. He is alone, inside a deep cavern, surrounded by zombies. His friend HECTOR decided to climb down. The old tree falls and barricades the hole, trapping both PCs in. Session End.

Brief recap:
They fought a couple of zombies down there and finally found an exit into a way larged cave without zombies. Meanwhile, HECTOR screwed up some DEX rolls, bashed zombies toe-to-toe and managed to follow LAFAYETTE.

Later, after a fun dive - which turned out to be the player’s most fun scene, I’ll drop some notes on that at the end - they entered an old mine shaft. Here we’ll get into the session’s weakpoint, more later.
They traversed the entire mine (at least the part that isn’t collapsed). During that traverse they discovered a cave room which lead them back into the zombie cave. I had a hard time not to laugh, I’m such a dick :smile: Also because one of them dropped due to mushroom spores flying around which LAFAYETTE inhaled way too much.

During that traverse, the second weakpoint of the session was revealed to me. Turned out (as we discussed the session after its end) my players took the responsibility to them for “not deciding what do to”.
Finally, they ran into the one point of the cave I hadn’t prepared, because I thought it’s the least interesting. They managed to escape through that way and made it without dying to the town of OKARE, reporting to their quest giver. Session End

How they escaped:
The huge zombie-cave had a third passage sloping upwards. This was designed to be the zombies entry point to the cave. I did not anticipate my players to go that way, more at the end.
They bashed through the hordes: HECTOR cast a shield spell which provided him with a NEAR 1 HEART magical shield which the zombies tried to destroy by forcing into it until it collapes. They soon realized that constant DEF-rolls are not fun against the horde, so HECTOR went that way. In total despair (more later :slight_smile: ) LAFAYETTE found their original entry point and transformed himself into a swan, flew up to the hole and bashed it a couple of times until the gap was large enough for him.
HECTOR meanwhile reached to top of the sloping path and started to melt the metal gate with his burning glove. Zombies pushed him away, the shield was going down, HECTOR continued melting and made it.

What didn’t ruin as expected
First my prep notes on the mine shaft room:

My design idea was to let ZERGAS rage about how bad mankind is and that God sent the undead as punishment, just for the fun of variety after two very deadly rooms. Also the crates are supposed to contain useful things like climbing gear or dynamite.
Both PCs talked to ZERGAS, learned that they were trapped here when escaping zombies, and that they don’t know any exit but gave them some info about the mines. After that they headed north, regardless of the creates which I described last :smile: They slowly realized that they had no idea on what to do. Hence LAFEYETTE later decided to try something on his own and not joining HECTOR.

GM’s Reflection:
In recap the interaction with ZERGAS was borderline useless for my players. So my players ran out of ideas on how to escape, which led HECTOR to bruteforce through the horde later and LAFAYETTE fly as a swang (in darkness, without any light, just having the illuminated crack in the ceiling).

What I could do better:

  • I maybe had to hint more at the crates, maybe by letting ZERGAS mention the dynamite while stating, that he is too afraid to use it.
  • The zombie horde didn’t play out as dangerous as intended. Mainly I played them less dangerous because we were like 4 hours in and my players had a hard time finding a solution. I didn’t want to TPK them there in Session 1 :smiley:
  • Maybe I should have described the (large cave’s ceiling) a bit more in detail (like emphazising those stalagmites at the ceiling) to give them creative fuel to bypass the horde with falling stuff or idk … and not sacrificing their idea to use the horde’s entry point as an exit.

Final conclusion:
Here are some goals for me when prepping and running my next session:

  • describe more terrain properties
  • let NPCs foreshadow/hint a bit more.

Hope it was fun and/or useful reading.

Strength, Honor and Beer



Nice. Interesting to read, may have to steal the concept for my son and his friends :grinning:.
Sometimes if players are struggling to think of a solution but their characters may have an idea I allow an int roll (or just flat out tell them if it’s important to move the story along) to see if they think of looking more closely at the wooden crates in your case.


I lke the meta-INT-roll idea too and use it if players do not remember previous sessions’ details, because their characters may remember more (or sometimes I just tell them, depending on circumstances)


Session 2: The Negotiation

Last time, the PCs managed to escape a zombie-infested cave/mine and finally arrived back in the city of OKARE, where they had to report to general SATHARIM in order to fulfill their mission.

Brief recap:
They were expected to come to count WENARIM’s house in the evening, which gave my players to opportunity to spend some time (3 rounds in hours) in town doing their shopping stuff they desired. They picked up some torches and stuff, did some CHA rolls for a better price and finally went to the count’s house.
They were asked to report to SATHARIM and shortly after that, a discussion started after HECTOR (PC) suggested to collapse the cave system and trap the zombies within it. Different oppinions were played out and the heroes nearly managed to convince count WENARIM to be pro-attack. Unfortunately, they did not made it until the timer exceeded, so the scene concluded with an assassination attempt on count WENARIM. After LAFAYETTE (the other PC) found a secret passage from which the assassin’s crossbow was shot, the heroes gave chase to the assassin, who was assisted by a SWARM of bats.
Led downstairs, HECTOR surfed downstairs on his huge shield, screwing up the DEX check and crashed into a wooden door, which cracked open and gave access to a dark, mouldy basement room. The heroes explored that room and found out, that the assassin was still there, shooting at them from the shadow. That scene was concluded by the assassin escaping the room into the exterior.
Finally the heroes burnt down the door, which was hastely locked by the assassin, and confronted him in the foggy backyard, illuminated only by the moon. General SATHARIM arrived in attempt to arrest the assassin, but - after a couple of rounds of combar - he escaped: He pulled his cloak over his body. Both players meta’d the scene and one tried to capture him with his cloak. The assassin transformed - as meta-expected by the players - into a bat, rolled a nat20 on his attempt to break free and flew up to the sky. LAFAYETTE took his shortbow and gave it a shot: mod5. HECTOR pulled the shortbow out of LAFAYETTE’s hands, took a shot: mod7. Of course SATHARIM did the same and missed too.
After that SATHARIM invited the heroes for a chat, rewarding them for their attempt to pursue the assassin. SATHARIM also sent them to a secret mission to grab some explosives from an abandoned mine near the city and make the zombie cave collapse. On the way there, a minor improv scene happened with some wolves, where the heroes were able to test out their new loot (improved because they were a bit faster that session than anticipated and everybody was up for it). The session endet with an wilderness camp in from of the mine entrance. Wolf howling can be heard and glowing eyes can be seen. Session End.

Reflection on the social scene:
Both players had fun during the negotiation scene. They enjoyed seeing general SATHARIM jump up with “I’ll notify my forces” as HECTOR suggested attacking, while RAVENIR calmed him down. The post-assassination scene started as expected: the players were a bit overchallenged with helping the count and finding the assassine, but first they had no real clue on where to search, because the assassine was hidden.

General SATHARIM started to search the walls and LAFAYETTE joined him. LAFAYETTE was able to find a crack in the wall, revealing a closed secret passage. HECTOR searched the book shelf for dusty books and - of course - found the mechanism (and I had no clue where the passage was or how they open it, they came up with ideas on their own, which was great for everybody). The scene concluded with a SWARM of bats attacking them, when LAFAYETTE rolled his first nat20 for tonight: 21 damage total, absolutely going berzerk against those bats.

Visibility and Terrain:
The basement scene played out to be harded for the players than expected: They heavily relied on light sorces (HECTOR’s flaming glove only illuminates CLOSE, while a torch works within NEAR). I set up the terrain as they discovered and took it off the board as they left things behind (or if their torch extinquished).

They explored nearly the entire basement room while being shot by the assassine.

Why the hell can he see something in that dark?!

HECTOR’s player asked. That was to be revealed later. After a game of hide and seek, they saw him or rather his robe while he dashed back into the shadows. That scene was kind of the climax.

The weakspot of the session:
The session’s weakspot was clearily the outdoor scene, when they were finally able to confront the assassine. Darkness, cold, fog… DC 18. The players were shocked and struggled fighting the guy. After a while they were able to wound him so much, that he had to escape. If the heroes decided to kill him, he wouldn’t be out there anymore, but they decided to capture him and gain more information, so they ran a bit easy on him.

They weakspot is in my opinion not that he was able to escape (I never planned how that scene would end). For me, the weakspot was a lock of terrain mechanics: it was basically going in circles around a single bush in the center of the map. There were not interesting mechanics to be used and nothing hinted for the heroes to abuse or take an advantage on.

Final conclusion:
Here are my goal for me when prepping and running my next session:

Plan terrain properties for each scene to inspire the players to make use out of it.

Hope it was fun again to read.



Session 3: The Undead Army

In Session 1, the PCs encountered an assassine in the town of OKARE. The heroes agreed with SATHARIM that the cave of zombies needs to be destroyed in order to decrease the undead army’s strength. So HECTOR and LAFAYETTE left OKARE to pick up some dynamites from an abandoned nearby mine and head for the zombie cave.

Brief recap:
Aided by the NPC companion NARGUT, who joined the heroes in general SATHARIM’s order, they managed to pick up some dynamite, encountered the remaining WOLF PLUNDERERs, a group of former bandits who seem to pursue different goals now. During that course, they saved NARGUT’s life a couple of times. The heroes got attacked by scouts of a skeleton army and escaped into the zombie cave (which they were going for anyway). Inside the cave, they realized that they didn’t manage to collapse the entrance yet, struggled against more undead, which finally led to the death of the NPC companion NARGUT. Finally the heroes found a group of starved peasants. Just as one of them rises from the dead with an appetite for blood, the session ended.

Planning terrain properties: Abandoned Mine
In the last recap, I set me the goal to provide scene properties for each scene to help my players’ creativity and decisiveness.

The scene at the ABANDONED MINE was planned as a dilemma with an implicit timer: They heroes want to pick up dynamite from inside the mine, which appears to be a dead-end, because further tunnels are barred. The narrow entrance to the mine is a trap: wolves attack from the woods and keep pressure on the heroes to do both: hurry in picking up dynamite and repelling the wolves to stay able to leave the mine. The heroes solved that by entering together to make grabbing dynamite a bit faster and using their NPC companion NARGUT as a guard outside. They figured out that NARGUT will not survive long enough, so they left the mine after they found a small portion of the dynamite.

Damn, we have to get out of here before more wolves appear.

Social interaction:
The next scene was planned (and initially) played as a social encounter: After getting away from the mine, the heroes took some rest in the forest and talked with NARGUT about his and their plans - since NARGUT wasn’t really briefed by SATHARIM about the mission details.

They fireplace attracted the former bandits led by RATUNIS, who revealed himself to the heroes, told them to extinguish the fire to avoid “attracting them”. Both players know RATUNIS from a previous campaign, but the heroes don’t. My players did great in avoiding meta stuff and mistrusted RATUNIS while the players knew that he could trust him. I didn’t expect that, so they ended up not joining him and were faced with the scouts of the undead army. After a while fighting them, they realized that the odds are against them and escaped.

Haste, fear, more dilemma:
The undead army forced the heroes into a ravine, which leads to a side-entrance to the zombie cave, which the heroes wanted to find anyway. The cave entrance was guarded by two skeletons, so the heroes decided not to rush it directly.

Unfortunately the undead army was on their heels. The army’s timer clicked down and down, first scouts entered the ravine. HECTOR’s magical shield spell was bashed and destroyed a couple of times, LAFAYETTE used his storm wind spell to repell and/or destroy some of the skeletons… but the army came closer and closer. Meanwhile NARGUT, their NPC companion, was close unto death and saved a couple of times by the heroes. Also LAFAYETTE went down a couple of times too, so everybody at the table (including myself) was literally on the edge of his seat. Finally they made it into the cavern, not knowning for sure that this is the right cave.

Maybe that’s just a small cave and we run into a dead-end and die.
But if we stay here, we’ll die for sure

The dilemma trap has sprung, everybody was all-in.

Players don’t think vertically:
As the heroes finally decided to enter the cave, they reached a narrow ravine in the cave. The heroes were not able to see the ceiling but a small light at the top. Hordes of zombies ahead, an army of skeletons at their back. “What do you do?”

The idea was to let the light above to draw the heroes’ attention. They struggled a while in fighting themselves through the undead horse, decided to use their dynamite here to collapse the entrance (which let the army in). Unfortunately HECTOR decided to pick up the stick of dynamite with his burning(!) glove, didn’t made his DEX roll for being careful and… screwed up, took massive explosion damage but didn’t drop. Meanwhile LAFAYETTE transformed himself into a swan (after screwing it up with a nat1, giving him a bird jaw and feathers permanently (at least it seems to be like that, know know’s what the future may bring)… a swan, yes.
They had no idea where to go, so NARGUT yelled “Climp up to the light, I’ll distract them”. LAFAYETTE flew up, secured the rope and asked for NARGUT to start climbing, because HECTOR may be able to repel the undead with his magical shield. NARGUT climbs up and HECTOR casts his shield: nat1. His shield gets way too large and manifests in a solid glass sphere around him, hindering NARGUT to climb up further. HECTOR wasn’t able to climb up the rope too, because NARGUT was still there, so NARGUT offered to hold himself on the rock face while HECTOR climbs up but left his last(!) torch down there to have both of his hands free. In nearly pure darkness HECTOR climbed up, NARGUT tried to grab the rope for a couple of times and fell down into the undead horde.

Session Conclusion:
After realizing NARGUT’s dead, the heroes - meanwhile at the ravine’s top - decided to follow the weak light, leading them to a torch in another mine. They realized that this is in fact the cave/mine from Session 1. They navigated through the mine tunnels into a large room with dead peasants, calling the session’s end.

GM/Player reflection:
The session was designed to be dangerous, hasteful and deadly, because they encountered a skeleton army while fulfilling their mission. My players agreed in their feedback: they hated and loved the tension all at the same time.
My goal for the next session is to go a bit easier on them without rendering the undead army harmless. My players have already discussed their next steps and sub-goals to give me an outline for next session.

So my goals for prepping and running my next session are:

  • Give them huge agency to finished their lets-blow-up-the-cave-mission.
  • Confront them with a couple of non-combat (or at least non-lethal or not-so-lethal) obstacles to create some rhythm and variation.
  • Keep focus on the terrain properties approach enrich the overall experience.

Hope you enjoyed reading. Until next time :beers:



Very cool idea, glocke. Looking forward to the adventure!


Session 4: The Undead Army (Part 2)

Last time on The Shadowrealm(playing an 80s title music)

In Session 3, the PCs managed to pick up some dynamite, struggled through the forest towards the undead cave, which they planned to destroy in order to lock the zombie hordes in it. After NARGUT’s death, they retreated to the abandoned mine part of the cave.

Brief recap
Our heroes LAFAYETTE - a homeless druid - and HECTOR - a battle priest - managed to enter the cave where a huge zombie horde lingers. In the abandoned mine, they encountered a group of dead bodies: former farmers, slayen by an unknown force. While discussion their next step, one of the farmers raised with a blood thirst, vampire teeth and a massive headache. Without longer hesitation, HECTOR and LAFAYETTE attacked him and brought him to an end by impaling him with LAFAYETTE’s spear.

After that, our heroes made their way into the cave’s main chamber and escaped it without destroying any part of the cave. At that point both were convinced, that destroying the cave would lead to their deaths, since a skeleton army, led by another vampire, was around. That vampire (which have played a reoccurring role in that game, so let’s call him FOLGUR to make it easier, but the heroes never found that out) was attracted by the heroes’ attempt to kill a large batch of zombies - whilst those remaining zombies were led out of the cave by the undead. The heroes avoided the confrontation with FOLGUR and struggled out of the cave, through an opening in the ceiling. HECTOR rolled a nat1 while climbing and got a rope-will-tear-in-d4-rounds-timer - but luckily made it out.

During the heroes further escape, LAFAYETTE’s former horse (which was abandoned in session 3) was found: surrounded by undead. In attempt to rescue it, LAFAYETTE dropped and nearly died. HECTOR was able to stabilize his friend but in the meantime the horse was killed by a zombie horde.

Suddenly FOLGUR the vampire entered the scene with a clear command to his undead army: “Kill them!”. Right at the spot a will-o-whisp appeared. Torn between ignoring it (because it may be another threat) and following it (because it may be some kind of help), HECTOR and LAFAYETTE decided to follow the will-o-whisp’s white glow into the darkness of the TENEBI WOODS. They managed to cross several obstacles by jumping across a creek and climbing a crag, so they shake off FOLGUR and the undead army for a while.

Our heroes entered an ancient ruin in the middle of the forest. No timer there, just a set of ancient walls, stairs and pillars, overgrown. In the course of the scene, HECTOR found a set of holes in the stairs. He decided to put one of his fingers in and triggered a dart trap right in his face.
After a while, they discovered that a bear was roaming the ruins: walking on his rear legs. It turned out the bear wasn’t hostile but some kind of guard, who was able to speak single, simple words. Meanwhile a timer foreshadowed the arrival of vampire FOLGUR and his undead forces.

A combat flared up in which the bear aided the heroes. A couple of skeleton warriors and some zombie hordes assisted FOLGUR and made their way up to the ruins. Most of them got killed by the heroes. The evening was late and we rolled a session-end-die: 2. In the final moment of the session, LAFAYETTE pushed the vampire far back with a wind spell. His body was pushed up a tree and his heart got impaled by a tree branch. The bear transformed into human shape, yelled “Follow me, quickly.” and all three: HECTOR; LAFAYETTE and their new, mysterious friend ran across the forest into the swamp of GARLAS AGEA.

Huge agency on the cave mission
On of my prep goals was to make the cave more of a sandbox than a railroad. So I had layed out the cave for me with a couple of key notes (like that zombies are led outside to merge with the skeleton army). The agency in dealing with the cave was completely on the players’ side. Unfortunately they did not pursue their initial plan, saved their asses and accepted the zombies’ departure (which was made obvious over a couple of rounds). They cannot come back to finish their task later, since the horde is gone now. Who knows that those undead are going to do now! #consequences

Non combat encounters
My plan to create some rhythm and variation was totally screwed up :smiley: The first vampire scene was designed to be a RP one: He woke up with “I’m so thirsty” - “Oh my head… where am I? What happened?”… but my players decided to kill attack him first. HECTOR tried to use his Mind Control spell on the guy, but things didn’t turn out like he expected: Instead of controlling his mind, HECTOR’s and the vampire’s mind were moved into a dimension of pure black, where both were safe to talk to each other. The vampire didn’t detect the spell and demanded answer from HECTOR about what’s going on, where he is right now and what he (HECTOR) wants from him. My players were totally swamped with the opportunity to talk to that guy (they knew nothing, not even his name). Instead they waited until the spell’s effect faded and killed him in a brutal way. To keep him a bit longer alive (and offer another change for talking to him), I RP’d him way cleverer than my previous human NPCs: he used the darkness around him, tried to unarm the heroes etc.
Suddenly one of my players said: “I think the GM doesn’t want us to kill him, he’s invincible”.
That hurt.
But they managed to kill him anyway. So, on to the next “talky scene”.
In the ruins, they didn’t even try to interact much with the bear - mostly observed his actions and barely reacted on him. So the undead had to come to spice things up… at least that’s rhythm too :smiley:

Prepped Terrain Properties
I think my players are a bit overwhelmed by their options and limit themselves at the same time. The abandoned mine was described with lots of wooden support logs holding the thing in place. But I’m fine: they don’t have to follow my clues.
Most of the followup scenes were only prepped roughly because of the full agency described earlier. So the last scene had some prepped terrain features: elevation, reamed traps, ruined walls/pillars. Even after
HECTOR: “Hey, I bet the bad guy is knocking those pillars on us. Is that possible”
ME: “The look unstable and haggard”
They didn’t use them on their own (I hadn’t planned for that, was ready to give a hero coin for attempting that idea but nothing happened).

Session Conclusion:
I look back at the session with a mixed feeling.
On one hand, they had huge agency and a couple of fights (both are important for them as they stated earlier, especially combat is a main part for my players), so I’m fine with it. On the other hand I was not able to implement my goals on the table: using non-combat encounters and helping them to take advantage from the terrain. I don’t blame anybody - just to make that clear. Overall it feels a bit unsatisfying - but may I’m judging myself way to much here. I enjoyed GMing the session and everybody agreed to play next saturday to continue the journey. So nothing’s bad at all :slight_smile:

So my prep/GMing goals for session are:

  • not to give up on non-combat stuff
  • include combat opportunities at the same time (but keep the difficulty a bit lower to give them more of a heroic feeling - they mostly suffer in combat :smiley: )
  • give NPCs a bit more detail
  • stay in huge-agency-mode (because they just entered the swamp and I wasn’t able to introduce another hook to them, hence I cannot predict their course of actions).

Hope you enjoyed reading. Until next time :beers:



Session 5: The Swamp of Garlas Agea (Part 1)

Last time on The Shadowrealm … (playing more 80s music)

In Session 4, the heroes HECTOR and LAFAYETTE escaped from the undead cave and fought against the skeleton army, aided by hordes of zombies and their vampire commander. With the help of an unknown druid they managed to overcome the vampire and escaped into the swamp of GARLAS AGEA.

Brief recap
After a hasteful escape across the swamp, they reached the druid’s hut and were aided by him. He goes by the name GORGET BEARSKIN and some chat was going on about who everybody is and what’s the business. GORGET introduced the heroes to the story about the seers’ chalices which are used by the SHADOWREALM’s commanders to communicate. During a day or two of rest, the heroes agreed to find the FROG FOLK and ask for help in order to steel one of those chalices.
The heroes went north, discovered an old tower ruins, fought a tree monster and had some conversion with the new inhabitants of the tower: the bandit gang called WOLFPLUNDERERS, led by the magician STREFELD. Things went pretty weird and when the heroes left the tower, HECTOR has got a alleged daughter and was on quest to help those bandits … one hand washes the other style.
The decided to go east and finally found the FROG FOLK without larger issues. After some chat with their shaman 'SLORM and rest, they returned to the tower and had some trouble with a roaming will’o’wisp. As they finally returned to the tower, the night’s session ended.

Planning the game
This time, I planned a way more open game with three fractions (GORGET, Frog Folk led by S’LORM, Bandits led by STREFELD) and a set of locations of interest (such as the druid’s hut, the tower or the frog’s camp). Each list of bullets was extremly short with a few descriptions and key ideas. That helped me to make the adventure less waterslide’y and give it a bit more depth. There was no idea about order of scenes, a final scene or even what may end up as a scene: the flow was 100% improvised based on those notes (which stands in contrast to my previous adventures). The tension was there, stakes were not so high but everybody was in.
Also we played a lot more in the Theater of the Mind using index cards for visited parts of the swamp.

At GORGET’s hut
Both heroes were low on health and had closely escaped the undead hordes. Somehow they were aligned with the idea of talking to the druid GORGET, so they got some useful information about killing vampires (in fact the vampire guy was probably not really dead yet), the ZURANI (an ancient culture once lifed in that part of the world) and about the seers’s chalices. They liked the idea of stealing a chalice from the SHADOWREALM in order to sabotage and spy. But of course HECTOR thieved the druid’s dagger from inside his hut when he was out for harvesting herbs. Things are never either black or white with that guys :smiley:

The tower ruins
As they decided to go north, they discovered the first threat of the session: endless swarms of midges. During the course of the night, those tiny bastards caused lots of DEX rolls and took precious HPs from both, HECTOR and LAFAYETTE. This constant threat, together with the bad quality of rest set the tone for the entire swamp: annoying and wearing. As they found a tower ruin, they didn’t made their WIS checks (nor did they pay any attention to the surroundings either) and didn’t see the tree monster coming. A huge, walking tree attacked them out of thin air. Fortunately HECTOR’s shield spell took most of the damage and LAFAYETTE was able to CRIT against that tree, hence routing it.

After the battle was done, HECTOR decided to run to the tower asap, LAFAYETTE took a bit more care and was able to spot “a guy with a bow” ontop of the tower. HECTOR and his huge shield bumped into the tower’s wooden door with a loud noise, unfortunately not breaking the door open. More mosquitos plagued the heroes and finally, a voice could be heard from inside the tower.

HECTOR’s alleged daughter
After some “negotiation” (mostly intimidation), they bandits let them in. On their question, who they are and what they want from them, HECTOR replied with his usual inappropriate excuses. After some more chatting, whilst the heroes didn’t reveal any of their plans, the bandits asked “Is that slimy work S’LORM sending you?” and the heroes were clever enough to get some information about S’LORM being the shaman of the FROG FOLK in the east, who had lived in that tower earlier. HECTOR tried to hedge the frog folk topic with a weird but absolutely genius reply: He pulled out a flier about a missing girl (by the name of JASERICA, we rolled for that name, because HECTOR’s player had no idea about that name, because the entire story was improvised offhand). HECTOR claimed that girl to be his daughter, and himself to be on the search for her. They had some more negotiation about the bandit’s participation, because HECTOR was weirding some rich-looking jewellery. Finally the heroes agreed to prepay the bandits partially; the remaining part - in case the bandits find the “daughter” - will be paid by the heroes help at the bandits’ former cave (the undead forced them to leave their cave, so they captured that tower and expelled S’LORM and his tribe.
After that negotiation they had some trade with the bandit for provisions (bandages and torches) in order to clear their cave. The heroes left east but turned west, circulating the tower and heading for the FROG FOLK’s camp.

Shaman S’LORM
Earlier in the session, LAFAYETTE had found out that the frog folk may be able to enhance his knowledge about poisons (he’s able to poison a single weapon for some extra damage, and is looking for more options, which basically was planned as a milestone reward). Once they found S’LORM, they did both: (1) asked for help to steal one of the seers’ chalices and (2) enhancement on LAFEYETTE’s poison knowledge. S’LORM replied with a requirement: They want their tower back from the bandits. As a sign of good will, S’LORM prepared one of LAFAYETTE’s daggers with a sample of the poison he will teach him. Armed with that, the heroes left the frog camp, heading to the tower.

At that point, the heroes felt strong and unbeatable. When a strange light came closer, they encountered a will-o-wisp (just as they did before, which led them to the swamp in the first place). HECTOR was curious enough to touch it: ZAP! He got lightning shocked in response and both heroes started to fight the creature. Each time one of them was casting a spell on it, it immediately reacted with another lightning shock. After a couple of rounds, HECTOR and LAFAYETTE were busy patching up their wounds: The will-o-wisp didn’t do anything, it just floated around. Soon after that, the heroes continued fighting and were badly beaten up.

I recapped that there was a moment (for 2 rounds), when the creature did not attack the heroes. This hint led HECTOR and LAFAYETTE to stop their attack and observe the behavior for a while. Unsure if that was luck or not, they hastefully continued their journey to the tower and stood at far distance to it. Their initial plan was attacking those bandits, but maybe they are not so sure now.

GM/Player reflection
After asking them, my players told me that they had no idea I switched to another planning method. Sure everything felt a bit less hasteful, but they welcomed it. Altogether we had lots of fun - e.g. with the story about HECTOR’s alleged daughter. We’re looking forward to continue the session - unfortunately we’ll have a 2-week-break.

One thing that was clear to my (but probably not so clear to my players) was an “issue” with the transition between all locations: I hadn’t planned a thing for that :smiley: To make those transitions a bit tasteful I improvised a couple of things that were roughly planned: The tree monster and the will-o-wisp where kind of roaming monsters for that adventure. But to continue the adventure, I’ll need a bit more than plain combat encounters.

So my goals for preparing and running the next session are:

  • Create a short but powerful random table to generate some transition obstacles when the heroes walk across the swamp.
  • Stay flexible with the adventure (“no content is left behind” without railroading them).
  • Hit them hard, because the first half of the adventure was mostly a pony farm (but fun^^)
  • Plan 1-2 UDT scenes (improvising them isn’t that easy for me - everything looks quite generic, see above).

Hope you enjoyed reading. Until next time :beers:



Session 6: The Swamp of Garlas Agea (Part 2)

Last time on The Shadowrealm … (80s TV intro playing)

In Session 5, the heroes HECTOR and LAFAYETTE entered the swamp of GARLAS AGEA and discovered some things going on with the inhabitants: The frog people want their tower back from the bandits and the bandits want their “undead infested cave” to be cleaned up before they leave the tower. Our heroes promised the frog people and their shaman S’LORM to get rid of the bandits. Our session starts as they finally arrive at the tower.
We played pretty much ToTM over 99% of the session (except for the early bandit fight), so there aren’t much photos this time. We mostly sat on index cards and had fun with it.

Brief recap
What a mess! Hilarious player decisions, a derailed adventure and a 3-4 hrs winging - mostly in party split. That’s the short version. HECTOR lost his magic gauntlet, got captured and LAFAYETTE tried (and still tries) to find and rescue HECTOR.

How the heck did he lose his gauntlet?!
Our heroes took some time before entering the tower healing up. Meanwhile one of the bandit scouts encountered them and started a conversion why they are coming from the west (they accepted the bandit’s mission to clear their cave in the east earlier but turned to the west during last session). HECTOR was not in the mood of discussion and attempted to burst his flaming gauntlet recklessly into that guy’s throat, who then yelled “ALARM”.
He rolled a nat1 and triggered the guy’s counter attack: nat20. He drew his sword and damaged various of HECTOR’s gauntlet’s runes, rendering the magical enhancement useless. The really bad thing: That gauntlet grants HECTOR literally all of his abilities. There is a way to repair/re-enchant the gauntlet, but that’s a task for complete safety, nothing to be done while hiding behind a tree.

How did they get separated?
LAFAYETTE stabbed the guy with a poisoned dagger which killed him a round later. As more bandits arrive, LAFAYETTE uses his first shapeshift mastery and transforms into a bear, right on front of their eyes. Some of the bandits lost their minds and screwed up their bowshots. Unfortunately the heroes where quickly outnumbered by the bandits (while being aware of the number of bandits at the tower, because they visited them/it earlier). HECTOR went down and LAFAYETTE (still in bear form, unable to retransform because of too low HP; the bear has more HP then LAFAYETTE does) aimed to somehow stabilize HECTOR with sheer strength. Since the group only contains of 2 heroes, I ruled that to be possible and he did: HECTOR was saved from dying in the last moment. Also he made his CON roll to pop up with few HP. Right at that spot, the bandits had clearly the upper hand and their boss started a conversion, asking about the state of fulfillment of their mission (clearing the cave). HECTOR tried to lie about that but unfortunately was not very convincing. LAFAYETTE meanwhile - RPing the bear in pure rage - continued attacking the bandits - missing his attack. The bandits continued shoting their bows at the bear and HECTOR got captured and bound his arms in his back. LAFAYETTE - clearly without any idea - escaped into the swampy woods.

HECTOR’s capture
After LAFAYETTE had escaped, the bandits covered HECTORs’ eyes and dragged him over to their cave. In that state, he was more reactive/RPing then really acting in initiative. He was screwed. Turned out the bandits pulled him to the cave to sell him to the guys who block the bandit’s cave. They agreed and went off with HECTOR in the next night. HECTOR discovered that those guys where two of the vampires they encountered earlier: One who lost is left eye due to LAFAYETTE and the other one got cut off his right arm off by HECTOR way earlier. Meanwhile they recognized who they’ve got in their hands and kidnapped him to the forest outside the swamp.

LAFAYETTE’s struggle
LAFAYETTE decided to escape to the frog people but collapse before leaving. The frog people patched up his wounds but where not really able to help him find HECTOR. LAFAYETTE seeked out the help of the druid GORGET WOLFSKIN, which the heroes encountered at the end of next-to-last session. Together they arrived back at the tower and found that the bandits are gone - except for one of them. “Name is DEMHOLD. DEMHOLD is on guard”, a stupid as fuck gorilla of a bandit. They baited him to the top of the tower and somehow managed to push him over the battlements and let him fall to death in order to “make it look like an accident”. LAFAYETTE decided to visit the frogs once more to finish their quest (clearing the tower for the frogs) and received knowledge about a ways more dangerous poison to brew and apply to his weapons.

HECTOR’s kidnapping
HECTOR had a few attempts to break free from the two vampires and screwed up so badly, that he went unconscious. When re-awaking, he found himself laying bound to chains on a stone altar in some stone room - with the one-eyed vampire FLOGUT alone (without the other vampire). HECTOR tried to convince him that he is able to “bring back is lost eye” and nearly convinced him. When FLOGUT started releasing HECTOR, he attacked the vampire. Session end die rolled: 2 rounds to end the night. HECTOR bound FLOGUT to the chains and attempted to break the door’s padlock. FLOGUT broke tree and failed to choke HECTOR with the chains he pulled out of the stone altar.

But what did LAFAYETTE did?
GORGET and LAFAYETTE agreed that HECTOR may be able to care for himself and pursued GORGET’s initial plan: heading over to the ruins of the village of RHONAR to steal the vampire’s SEERS’ STONE. Together with the frogs they went west towards RHONAR.
Later that road, they got into a goblin’s road trap. Meanwhile the session end die happened here simultaneously.
Most of the goblins were repelled when LAFAYETTE and GORGET both transformed into bears. Unfortunately NPC GORGET rolled a nat1 on his transformation and lost his mind when transforming. As the session end die clicked to zero, GORGET ran off into the woods and left LAFAYETTE and the frightened frogs alone.

GM/Player reflection
My players enjoyed it, especially HECTOR who lost most of his power early that session. It’s clear to everybody, that HECTOR maybe got captured to the ruins of RHONAR where LAFAYETTE is heading too.

For me, the session was pure haste while winging the nex thing to happen, because every context between frogs and bandits were rendered useless :smiley: But it was fun for me too. But just to verbalize my haste: I forgot to lower the target, so the entire evening was on target 15 - making it even more brutal.

So my goals for prepping and running the next session are:

  • Lower the fucking target :smiley: That one was brutal and we need some rhythm.
  • Give the players an easier time reuniting without making it too easy. I want to get rid of the party split and so my players to. But they have to pay for that with some intense roleplay.
  • Scene-wise I plan on prepping the ruins and dungeon of/beneath RHONAR in a location-based fashion without rails. There will probably be a couple of NPCs to interact with in order to get some help or do side tasks that bring LAFAYETTE and HECTOR closer together.

I’ll probably post my upcoming session’s prep notes as we finish the chapter in RHONAR.

Hope you enjoyed reading. Until next time :beers:



Session 7: The Ruins of Rhonar (Part 1)

Last time on The Shadowrealm

In Session 6, HECTOR and LAFAYETTE got separated from each other. While HECTOR got kidnapped to the ruins of RHONAR, his friend LAFAYETTE decided to go for the ruins of RHONAR (not knowing that HECTOR will be there), because he is willed to find one of the SEERS’ STONES used by the Shadowrealm. Let’s get started!

Brief recap
Both heroes entered the scenario from different positions: HECTOR was caught in the cave dungeon beneath RHONAR, whilst LAFAYETTE is at the forest surrounding the ruins of the former village of RHONAR. HECTOR managed to overcome FLOGUT, one of the vampires who kidnapped him and rescued two other prisoners. LAFAYETTE found the old chapel and descended underground, luckily stumbled across HECTOR. Reunited, both fought a demon hound and escaped to the surface in order to recover and plan their further actions.

Adventure design
The entire adventure is designed as a closed matrix with two levels: surface and caverns. Both discover the surrounding step by step. The ruins is themed in cold ashes, burned down houses and a few remaining buildings, while zombies lurk around each other corner. There are a couple of points of interest that give either loot or lore; in addition, each point is an entrance to the underground cave labyrinth.
Down there lies a maze of a few rooms, many locked doors, combined by endless, repetitive cave corridors. The first couple of attempts to cross the maze will be dice driven (leading to a random location). After a while they heroes grasp the layout and can try to navigate by purpose. The rooms down there contain loot and lore, the locked doors lead to the surface.
(If you’re interested, I’ll post my prep notes as soon as the adventure is done. Just let me know.)

LAFAYETTE’s journey
Despite the fact that both heroes acted in parallel (and we switched around each other each other action, including switching the music from calm overworld to intense battle and back’n forth), let’s look at LAFAYETTE first.
He started at the edge of the village and headed to the chapel first, being cautious. He opened the large wooden doors and barricaded himself inside. Soon he realized that there is a stone altar with burning candels… and a huge pentagram, drawn with blood onto the floor). He decided to open one of the interior doors and found stairs down, to the chapel’s basement where he found a locked door. At this moment, a unnatural sound of wolf howling can be heard. In a haste, LAFAYETTE transformed into a bear (2nd attempt). As he finished, he did a massive roar in bear-form and attracted the wolf. Unfortunately it turned out to be made of pure flames, demonic in deed. In the struggle of combat, LAFAYETTE took deep scars but managed to break open the wooden door, allowing him to delve into the cave system. He decided to run away from the creature and suddenly… found HECTOR!

HECTOR’s journey
HECTOR had started inside combat with FLOGUT, his vampire kidnapper. Unfortunately he is out of most of his spells, due to his gauntlet still being too damaged. So he cast is only remaining spell: casting a no-protest zone around FLOGUT in order to lock him in place. That gave HECTOR just enough time to grab the candlestick and thrust it into FLOGUT. Partially wounded, he knocked out HECTOR quickly and dragged him to the other prisoners. HECTOR meanwhile able to recover from being unconscious (we allow CON rolls if somebody dropped to exactly 0 HP), he managed to fake unconsciousness with a proper CHA roll. FLOGUT dropped HECTOR and focused on torturing the other prisoners with burning fire-forks. Just at the right moment, HECTOR quickly grabbed one of those forks and thrusted it into FLOGUT’s (single) eye (remember: he already lost his second eye earlier to the heroes). Of course HECTOR rolled a nat20 and dealt massive 18(!) damage in one blow. HECTOR rescued to two other prisoners: One of them having no tongue anymore. HECTOR decided to inspect one of the two corridors further but was distracted by FLOGUT rising back to life without eyes, trying to suck out one of the prisoners. HECTOR, as a true hero of course, attempted to stop FLOGUT with his fork… but rolled a nat1. FLOGUT pulled the poor guy into HECTOR’s attack, which led to the prisoner’s death. FLOGUT decided to escape into the maze and shaked of HECTOR. After heading across the caves for a while, HECTOR found a locked door … and suddenly… somebody was right behind him: LAFAYETTE in bear-form!

Ascend to the Ruins
Unfortunately, LAFAYETTE was still pursued by the demon hound. But HECTOR, really growing here, critically wounded that creature with another single stroke of his still smoldering fork: nat20 leading to another 18 damage. As the heavily wounded hound retreated, LAFAYETTE and HECTOR decided to crack through the wooden door ahead: with a nat20! Boy, that scene was intense. Behind the door was an old, dusty storage room with a bit of loot. Suddenly: more noises. The poor, tongue-less prisoner stood there with a fire-fork in his hand, trying to talk to HECTOR: “EOUEOUOEE”. After a while of looting (including a couple of pickaxes, which turned out to be fragile a while later), they went up the stairs, and opened the hatch as … as another (or possibly the same but regenerated) demon hound reappeared. Meanwhile inside the store’s main room, another desperate fight against the demon hound started.

In that combat, LAFAYETTE went down as the hound added yet another scar to LAFAYETTE’s body. The tongue-less guy, who initially had hidden himself in combat, now turned to the heroes and attacked the hound - but got killed by the hound. With combined efforts, HECTOR and LAFAYETTE were able to kill that creature and received some weird glowing crystal. Especially LAFAYETTE was able to sense that some power lies inside that crystal. So they decided to take it with them - and of course: loot as much in the building as possible. They found that a couple of zombies are lying on the floor, covered in ashes. Both inside and outside the house. So they decided to leave it and burn it down, in order to distract the zombies to allow for a safe retreat.

ARTGAR the survivor
HECTOR and LAFAYETTE took cover in a formed blacksmith’s house and met ARTGAR, a former farmer and escaped prisoner. He was looking for his friends and fellow prisoners (who both got killed meanwhile). During some rest, HECTOR failed repairing his gauntlet and LAFAYETTE wasn’t able to identify the crystal’s meaning. Next morning they decided to go for the chapel and get down to the caves again. They are still looking for the SEER’S STONE which is supposed to be down there. In addition, HECTOR lacks parts of his equipment because of him being captured earlier. Unfortunately the chapel’s door is blocked :rofl:
So they decided to search for another entrance and found a cellar entrance with a huge pddlock. “No prob”, HECTOR yelled, took his pickaxe and tried to break open the lock: nat1, the pickaxe breaks into pieces. On his DEX he rolls a nat1 again, so he was unable to avoid the bouncing stick and took some damage. LAFAYETTE pushed him aside, grabbing another pickaxe… “Let me…”: nat1, broke that one too. Fortunately LAFAYETTE dodged the bouncing stick.

And here we ended the session for that night :slight_smile:

GM reflection
It’s really fun to prep and run a closed matrix. I’ve got a couple of bullets per location and made the rest up based on what the players were looking for. That went pretty well for the session. This also led to more ToTM - which seems to be a thing for me testing out at the moment. Luckily my players dig it too and agreed to go the “two-routes-way”: Index Cards and ToTM on the “overview map” and terrain board for combats (if not party splitted, else we stick to ToTM).

Since there’s nothing more to prep, I’ve got some GMing goals for the session ahead:

  • Reward them with loot (I already got a list of custom loot and a couple of random tables ready, which were already used that session and everybody liked it). My players are doing a good job in handling the overall deadly and dangerous theme without going down the min-max- or munchkin-road. And I really want to reward they characters for that.
  • Make the cave system really nasty. Everything is already set up: maze, demon hounds and there is more waiting down there, including hidden stuff.
  • But I have to go a bit easier on the enemies’ power level - that’s even too hard for me to watch!

I hope you enjoyed reading. Feel free to hook me up on discord etc. if you’ve got questions.



Session 8: The Ruins of Rhonar (Part 2)

Last time on The Shadowrealm

In Session 7, HECTOR and LAFAYETTE managed to reunite. HECTOR has lost all of his loot due to him being captures. LAFAYETTE delved into the caves beneath the ruins of village Rhonar. Both met and managed to escape to the surface, where they met ARTGAR, a survivor of whatever happened to the village.

Reaching the Cave Labyrinth
Together they delved back to the caves to find HECTOR’s missing equipment. They entered the chapel from a side entrance and were ambushed by a flaming hell found on their way downstairs.

Luckily HECTOR was able to delay the hound with a CHA roll, using his high-priest-ish aura (was totally made up, but fit his background). Pushed down the stairs by approaching zombies from the village’s ruins, they entered the labyrinth.

Chased by Bats
Down there, they were quickly attacked by a swarm of bats, still pursued by the hound. They ended up in a corridor with enemies on both ends.

The heroes managed to repel the hound due to heavy wounds. They decided to chase after him. HECTOR threw his last dagger (he received from LAFAYETTE) and rolled a nat20. During the rest of the combat against the bats, the heroes were surrounded by them. In attempt to break free, everybody rolled DEX. The bats focused on HECTOR while LAFAYETTE and ARTGAR were able to break through. HECTOR went down and got separated in the dense swarm. ARTGAR went down quickly too with a nat1 on his dying timer. HECTOR managed to get up again with another nat20 but went down again next round. LAFAYETTE used one of his last potions on ARTGAR to save him - a true heroic action! When HECTOR got up again, the heroes decided to run.

Death of ARTGAR
Next, the heroes reached a chasm; in the haste of gameplay I totally forgot to take a photo of that scene :smiley:
With the bats being there in 3 rounds, they discussed what to do. LAFAYETTE’s idea to jump the chasm with a rope, in order to allow the others to follow, was performed by ARTGAR… nat1. The poor guy fell down the chasm and smashed onto a couple of sharp, jagged rocks. Meanwhile the timer had reached 1 and the heroes decided to go for it and jump. Both made it and continued their escape.
In climax of that chase, they reached the chamber where HECTOR original fought against the vampire FLOGUT.

LAFAYETTE used his wind spell in a last attempt to withstand the swarm of bats. With a clear success he split and pushed the bats through multiple doors. After that, the heroes found HECTOR’s shield and a small casket with unknown content. HECTOR decided to smash it open and found an amulet with a broken, spiral pendant.

FREGRIM’s Chamber
As the heroes recognized the bats to reform, they decided to continue their search for HECTOR’s equipment. So they entered the last room for tonight. The bats came from one direction, noises of two guys coming closer from the opposite direction. The heroes decided to block the bats’ door with barrels and hide. LAFAYETTE went behind one of the pillars, HECTOR positioned him behind the opposite door. Then they waited for the inevitable.

Two hooded figures entered the scene: One dwarf and one human without eyes (but a red glowing instead, who HECTOR previously encountered as FLOGUT). When the dwarf yelled at HECTOR “who the hell are you?!”, HECTOR attacked and also LAFAYETTE came out of here hideout. One round later the bats broke through the door. HECTOR and the dwarf (named FREGRIM which the heroes found out later) fought toe to toe, with HECTOR’s shield in between. Meanwhile FLOGUT (the guy with red glowing instead of eyes) grabbed LAFAYETTE by the throat and choked him… with a nat20, absolutely downing him. Luckily he popped up with a nat20. Soon HECTOR and LAFAYETTE in alternation, when the heroes surrendered.

Joining the SHADOWREALM… or don’t they?
Facing their end, the heroes tried to talk themselves out of the situation and convinced the two vampires that they may be of some value due to their surviving competences. FLOGUT agreed and offered them to go to the SHADOWREALM’s capital: The former harbor town of ARANUN, where their leader TJIARR is located. TJIARR needs some help to acquire some artifacts which may be the right cup of tea for a small group of mercenaries. As a credit of trust, HECTOR conviced FREGRIM to marry his daughter to him. But HECTOR has no daughter and already made her up in a previous adventure. But the vampires buy into the idea and returned the remaining equipment back to HECTOR. But his magical gauntlet is still broken. Session end.

Session Design
The previous session was more like a closed matrix with plenty of options. This freedom was too much for my players, so I decided to go with a more linear continuation - also because they made their plans pretty clear: find HECTOR’s goddamn equipment. Hence, I created a 5-Room-“Dungeon” based upon the previous session’s location design. Of course that design was partially derailed by the players :smiley:

Original 5-Room-Dungeon:

  1. Guard: The hell hound was clearly guarding the entrance to the cave system. As a first challenge, it also was good to create the pacing needed for the session.
  2. Challenge: The chase through the cave was designed as challenge (to find a way someone, while being completely open).
  3. Setback: Confrontation with the vampires.
  4. Climax: The originally planned climax was a chase after the vampires, who where supposed to escape when the PCs got the upper hand. The room has two doors, so each vampire can escape into a different direction.
  5. Revelation: As soon as one of the vampires was caught, his evil speech about his master’s plan may give some details about the world.

lol. Of course things turned out differently. Here’s the post-session design of the 5-Room-Dungeon… it still fits the scheme!

  1. Guard: Still the hound
  2. Challenge: The chase quickly transformed into a living nightmare when the heroes got trapped between the hell hounds and the bats.
  3. Setback: The death of ARTGAR clearly marks this position in the story.
  4. Climax: Fighting the vampires was kind of the climax here
  5. Revelation: Here the players revealed creativity :smiley:

What’s next?
My players clearly stated they want to go with FLOGUT but will try to escape at some point, not willed to go to ARANUN. My goal on the opposite side is to confront them with a series of hard challenges and consequences/dilemmas along their journey. Sure there will be combat but also RP-dilemma - at least I hope so :smiley: Basically, the upcoming session is another 5-Room-Dungeon. Some scenes need to be designed in such a way, that they may occur during travel to ARANUN but can also be used during their chase. In addition, the heroes need a reason why to stick to FLOGUT and finish the journey. Maybe this will be accomplished by showing that the SHADOWREALM also has good sideeffects…

Stay tuned!



Session 9: The Journey to Aranun

Last time on The Shadowrealm

In Session 8, HECTOR and LAFAYETTE surrendered to the vampire FLOGUT and agreed in joining him on the way to ARANUN to work for TJIARR from now on. Both players made clear they neither want to go there nor do they want to work for him.

Session Prep
Basically, I planned on (gently) forcing the heroes to go to the city of ARANUN. They should be free to decide within logic boundaries which are:

  • FLOGUT is not an idiot. His goal is to make sure they reach ARANUN.
  • Several events along the road may give the heroes a reason to visit ARANUN.

So I ended up with the following 5-Scene design for the session:

Scene 1: Journey to the South

  • FLOGUT and heroes in company of HELL HOUNDS
  • HELL HOUND :heart::heart: +4 stats, +2 effort, flaming aura, bite
  • find corpse: ARANUN-soldier, died of “blood curse”
  • holds SARECH-amulet (+1 CHA, dying D6)

Scene 2: Farmhouse in ARANIAN plains

  • Farmer BERGOT offers place to sleep
  • neither goblins nor bandits since TJIARR took over
  • BERGOT’s 4yo son WALGO falls into well
  • down there: speaking skull (cursed ARANUN-soldier, curses and insults, cannot be lost anymore)

Scene 3: Minotaur Raid

  • cry for help of hunter PARVAS
  • MINOTAUR :heart::heart::heart::heart: +6 stats, +2 effort, two actions, cleave AoE
  • grabbing vines
  • guards crypt with “ring of eternity” (HEART stone)

Scene 4: Arrival in ARANUN

  • mage BEDORE and former COUNT IREB are in the pillory
  • know hideout of high-mage CAGIL (sewers)
  • TJIARR wants to know about CAGIL’s hideout

Scene 5: Artefact-Quest

  • heroes earned TJIARR’s trust
  • TJIARR needs artifact of BLACK BROTHERHOOD
  • located in swamp of GARLAS AGEA

How things turned out
The heroes climbed on FLOGUT’s cart and started their journey, guarded by three HELL HOUNDS. Both had fought a single hound earlier and were neither in the mood nor had they the rest to fight 3 of them at once. The last night was bad and only recovered 1+CON HP (without a roll). So the heroes started worn out. As they found the corpse, LAFAYETTE yelled “Is that [… rolled for a random name …]”. When HECTOR turned the corpse to see the face, LAFAYETTE had a gasp of relief. We have no idea who that guy is, LAFAYETTE was asking for :smiley: HECTOR looted the corpse and FLOGUT laughed about how deep the priest HECTOR has turned into the dark side of being an adventurer. “Maybe you really are the right one to work for TJIARR.”
Things got in motion when the heroes reached BERGOT’s farm. Several plans of escape were discussed at the table. From escaping mid night, over killing everybody in sleep up til burning everything down. The heroes decided not to do. Of course suddenly the farmer’s son fell into the well. The heroes thought about escaping with the cart, but had the HELL HOUNDS always at their side. So they decided to rescue the boy. They found the skull and have the suspicion that it will come handy one day… muuuahahaha!

HECTOR didn’t made it ouf of the well at first and managed to pull FLOGUT inside in an “accident”. Meanwhile LAFAYETTE tried to use his recent milestone ability to let vines and roots grab for one of the hounds. The hound got mad and LAFAYETTE escaped onto a tree. Somehow they managed to get away with their passive aggressiveness and finally came to rest in their beds. At least that’s what they thought.
A couple of peasants invited them to some a heavy drinking card game. After went with several things in, HECTOR managed to outdrink the others and won several crap items but also a healing potion. Heavily affected by the drinking session, both slept until sunrise.
The next day, the heroes continued their journey with a new side quest: hand over a letter to an inn keeper in ARANUN… somehow that letter was given to the heroes by one of the peasants - never intended, never planned :smiley:
So the heroes continued to ARANUN, with some form of semi-intrinsic motivation. On the way, PARVAS cried for help but the heroes didn’t answer. FLOGUT stated that the voice sounds familiar to him and commanded the heroes to help, joining himself. The heroes joined the scene with FLOGUT and the three HELL HOUNDS, finally discovering the huge MINOTAUR!

The MINOTAUR made clear he has two actions and can attack adjacent targets. Oddly neither of the heroes decided to move across the map. After some intense, close-to-death-rounds, HECTOR managed to kill the MINOTAUR with some dynamite… GUN EFFORT in a typical fantasy setting, oh yeah!
They killed the MINOTAUR with LAFAYETTE’s hero coin by adding a D12. That D12 and the AoE-effect also killed TWO of the 3 HELL HOUNDS.

Holy smokes!

The session ended shortly after that due to late game time. The heroes discovered the heart stone loot and we fast forwarded to ARANUN. The leftover stuff about CAGIL and exposition about TJIARR’s artefact will probably be enough for another session.

GM Conclusion

  • The initial scene seemed a bit “boring” and lacked some “trigger” moment.
  • The scene design worked out well. The farm house or minotaur could even have taken place during the heroes escape from FLOGUT.
  • I was a bit too heavy on the farmhouse scene, adding the drinking game to it, which probably shifted the game a bit, so we had no option to play out the stuff in town (but that’s not a problem).
  • I’m pretty happy with the balance between my bullets and the actual gameplay.

Basically, the game can be summed up as a 5-scene-design:

  • Trigger: Cart ride and the corpse
  • Challenge: Arrival at the farm, boy in the well
  • Setback: Drinking game
  • Climax: Minotaur fight
  • Revelation: Heroes reach Aranun (despite their goal not to)

The next session will be delayed a bit due to christmas. Stay tuned for the next session.

/EDIT: Unfortunately we’ll pause the campaign due to COVID. We’ll play an online campaign in a different setting because playing The Shadowrealm has a specific vibe at the table, which we don’t want to spoil with online play.



I really love seeing various versatile methods of representation and immersion—index cards, Ultimate Dungeon Terrain, dungeon stackers—in action together. You use them all very seamlessly and seemingly effortlessly as your campaign story evolves. Well done.

It’s great that here in 2022 so many cool ideas about how to use simple, effective DIY tools to transform the tabletop experience have proliferated thanks to innovative creators and thoughtful internet communities like this one.


Session 10: The Sewers

Last time on The Shadowrealm …

In Session 9, HECTOR and LAFAYETTE made their way with FLOGUT through some forest and discovered, that the people around the city of ARANUN live a good life, despite the fact that the entire region is occupied by the SHADOWREALM. After finding a chatty skull and a stop at BERGOT’s farm, they overcame a raging minotaur and continued their way to ARANUN.

Session Prep

For session 10, we’ve got two more players introducing the dwarf ISRI and the ratfolk TORAK to the party. By prep-goals were:

  1. Make them encounter each other.
  2. Give them a reason to work together.
  3. Let them discover things in or around the city.
  4. Allow them to choose their next quest together.

So I prepared a strong start:

  • They start at the city’s market place, where gallows are being constructed.
  • People are around watching the build.
  • A herald is announcing the soon execution of scavangers.
  • A group of pick pockets raid the heroes and lure them into the sewers.

Down in the sewers, there are a couple of scenes scattered around, connected with dozens of corridors. Each scene something to discover and what provided by a couple of bullets.

Based on the scenes the heroes visited, here are the bullets for those:

Impaled Zombies

  • corpses on spikes in front of a shut portcullis
  • beyond the portcullis [… this is cut because they never went there …]

Glyph Room

  • zombies are trapped in magical glyph
  • wooden door behind the glyph
  • goblin shaman V’NIK in room behind the door
  • ran away from undead in the forest earlier
  • trapped himself here while fleeing
  • glyph prevents undead from entering his hideout

And I’ve got two (actually three, but they never encountered the vampire guard) “monster stat blocks”:

Zombie :heart: +2 to checks, attacks with basic effort
Fecal Ooze Monster :heart::heart: +4 to checks, absorbs (CON or drop dying)
(actually, I had "lose 1 LOOT per round being absorbed but I didn’t consider this while GMing, haven’t seen it in my notes during table play ^^)

How Things Went: Scene 1 - The pick pockets

All started with the heroes rolling WIS: 3 failed but HECTOR rolled a nat20. He recognized a guy detaching his shield and quickly grabbed that sucker. The other three were pick pocketed (torches, bag of herbs and a glowing crystal were taken away). They quickly have chase after the running thieves and overwhelmed most of then in an alleyway. They got back their stuff and found out, that the thieves are hiding in the sewers.

No hesitation, they went straight down there!

Scene 2 - The Spiked Corpses
When they entered sewers, they quickly ignited torches and went down the next-best corridor, leading them to a room with crates and spiked corpses. Of course they looted the crates and found a large ladder (wtf we all thought, but this thing turned out to be useful later!)
When they got closer to the corpses, they awoke as zombies, but where no match for our heroes. Unfortunately, a slurping sound came near: A fecal ooze monster, quickly absorbing TORAK.

It took quite some effort to overcome this creature, but they remained victorious! Instead of inspecting the portcullis (represented as door on the board btw), they went down another corridor, deeper into the sewers. After a series of zigzagging decisions on crossways, the entered the third scene for tonight: the glyph room!

Scene 3 - The Glyph Room
Here they discovered an even larger amount of zombies, being held in place my a magical glyph. As the got closer, the zombies tried to break free within a couple of rounds. Of course another fecal ooze entered the scene. HECTOR repelled it with a no-protest zone spell and forced it to detour. LAFAYETTE, meanwhile trapped by the glyph itself, transformed into a swan (once again) and flew away.

He decided to attack the ooze, blundered his attack and got absorbed. At this point, ISRI managed to hack down the most of the door and TORAK finished it. HECTOR tried to leap the glyph and fell into it while being pursued by the ooze. As as last idea, he casted his shield spell and repelled the ooze, which was caught in place (drawn by the glyph, repelled by the shield it was trapped). After ISRI enchanted LAFAYETTE’s poisoned spear, he inflicted Magic (enchanted) + Basic Effort (poison) to the ooze (idk whether poison is a thing against that kind of monster but we went with it), giving the ooze the final blow: SPLASH!

In the aftermath, they discovered the goblin shaman V’NIK and another shut portcullis. ISRI was able to lever the his ladder through the metal bars to trigger the pressure plate and open the portcullis. Unfortunately the ladder was chipped into pieces by the portcullis being pulled into the ceiling. When reaching the forest, the heroes discovered a camp of ARANUN’s former guard. They agreed in helping them by finding the former count IREB, who got caught and may be somewhere in ARANUN as a hostage.

Post-Game Thoughts:

  • Everything worked out fine so far.
  • I need more versatile triggers for tension (to avoid pulling out the same monsters over and over)
  • I need to (reintroduce/) “use” the chatting skull a bit more (totally forgot about that).
  • No content is left behind :>

Next game is scheduled for July 30th, so stay tuned for more!



Diggin’ all your environment pieces! :+1:t3:


Session 11: Count Ireb

Last time on The Shadowrealm …

In Sesison 10, HECTOR and LAFAYETTE met ISRI and TORAK at the city of ARANUN. They encountered pickpockets, delver the sewers and ran across some rebels near ARANUN. In the meantime, ISRI dropped out from the campaign due to university studies, so we’re left with HECTOR, LAFAYETTE and TORAK from now on.

Session Prep

At the end of session 10, they agreed in finding the former count ireb and help him out of jail. Because none of us had any idea how to do this, I went with a very loose approach: I prepared a strong start and a couple of locations within the city of ARANUN to visit, engage with NPCs and maybe find the prisoners.

Basically, each location was just a set of three bullets and a headline, like.


  • spider webs (impede movement)
  • corpse of pickpocket
  • giant spider


"The Traveler’s Shelter"

  • inn keeper Nolus, tired
  • drunken sailer Gernard
  • peasant Ratred, who lost is home

(I’ve got like 8 of those)

Also, I built a table for “sudden events”, which I planned on using when they idle for a while or when they traverse between locations in town.

Since the town is occupied by undead, lead by a couple of vampyies, I created a chunk-based vampire bad guy.

Vampire :heart::heart: +4 to checks

  • mace (attack OR beat target to destroy 1 loot)
  • cape :heart: allows transforming into a bat
  • vampire :heart: heal self

Let’s see how things turned out!

Scene 1: Foggy Forest Clearing

They quickly encountered a vampire who popped out of the fog, telling them “Don’t believe their lies”, referring to the rebels (who asked them to free Ireb). Especially HECTOR got suspicious very quickly. He conspired to lure the vampire into a trap and kill him, but didn’t want to fight him in the middle of the dense fog.

Shortly after that, they re-entered the sewers in attempt to get into town again.
(That’s been the strong start. I anticipated combat here, no problem:smiley: )

Scene 2: The Sewers
When they’ve crossed the sewers the first time, LAFAYETTE made some efforts to mark their way. This allowed them to make quick progress on their way back, until they encountered a huge set of spider webs. They recognized somebody being trapped in the middle of the web, so LAFAYETTE took initiative and made his way across the web with some clever use of tools.
Meanwhile a huge spider appeared in their back, but was no match for TORAK’s and HECTOR’s combined efforts. TORAK enchanted HECTOR’s huge shield and he bashed the spider to death with it. Awesome!

(Wolf miniature in lack of an actual spider, ToTM is huge ^^)

Scene 3: The Market Place
When the heroes exit the sewers, they quickly returned to the marketplace (where they were pickpocketed earlier). This time, it’s night and only a couple of lights were on. And: a craftsman was still working on the gallows. TORAK and LAFAYETTE went straight to the tavern to get information about possible allies, while HECTOR distracted the craftsman and enchanted him to go home. He used the opportunity of being unattended to set the gallows on fire.
Meanwhile in the tavern, TORAK and LAFAYETTE made some efforts to help inn keeper Nolus to close the pub and throw out the last guys there. TORAK showed some love and helped out the remaining two guests with a place to sleep upstairs, else those poor souls would have had to sleep outside. True hero coin!
The burning gallows attracted too little attention, and the entire thing burnt down during the heroes had some rest upstairs.

Scene 4: Showdown!
After a good breakfast, the vampire Flogut (who brought HECTOR and LAFAYETTE to ARANUN earlier, in order to let them work for TJIARR) entered and insisted that both follow him to speak to TJIARR himself. They rejected. At the same time, the vampire Zergas (from the first scene) returned. HECTOR had convinced him earlier to give him a massage in order to cure is back and head pain. In a huge attempt, HECTOR broke unaware ZERGAS’ neck and a combat arose!

They were quickly confronted not only with a strong vampire, but also with two demon hounds assisting him. Being close to death multiple times, they managed to kill Flogut - he was no match! The demon hounds turned out way more dangerous. HECTOR tried to blast them away with one of his remaining stacks of dynamite and accidentially destroyed parts of the build.

Session End Timer: The tavern will collapse in 4 rounds.

They managed to finally overcome the demon hounds but weren’t able to rescue the other guests, who where still sleeping upstairs.

As they reached the marketplace outside, the building finally collapsed. But what’s that? Sounds like something is marching… getting closer quickly. End of this night’s game.

Conclusion and GM thoughts

  • The prep worked well. Huge amounts of content are still left. And that’s fine: They are still on their way to help Ireb. Also they have another task still to be done: Stealing a SEER’S STONE from one of the leading vampires.
  • The event table was barely necessary, but good to have: This table led the demon hounds to enter the scene and ramped up the night’s climax. A second roll on the table made some street thieves enter, who stole from dying HECTOR (those dog, they took his chainmail AND a spellscroll) and ran away quickly. They’ll probably become targeted by the group at one time.
  • The chunk-based vampire wasn’t able to play out that way, but that’s fine. They’ve had their victory in defeating that guy - finally!
  • I’ve got them in the right spot: They have goals (freeing Ireb, steeling the seer’s stone) and are trapped in a location (obviously guards coming). A good spot to shove them into a linear series of rooms, torture them a bit with consequences but giving them hope too.

We’ll see how things will turn out. Due to holiday season, the next game is scheduled for August 27th.