Continuing the exploration of the rat tunnels, both Fogo and ISAC realized that the situation they were in was not normal. Fogo waxed on about how rats are normally communal and live in smaller burrows whereas these tunnels represented a more intelligent construction, such as goblins. ISAC add in about how the behavior of the rats have been odd, more like they were all being controlled and not operating like they would normally.
The party had a somewhat long discussion on what might be waiting for them further in. Some sort of super rat? Some other type of creature? It was unknown and the guesses were wild.
There was also some additional investigation on the dead body. It was an odd addition to the land fill above them. With Avery checking more closely about the features of the body, they discovered that the man had been somewhat well built, and calluses on his hands resembling a long life of holding pole like objects, could have been a how, shovel, or even spear. There was not enough evidence to determine which one it might have been. The level of the torture was somewhat severe, and they confirmed that he had died from the torture about five days ago.
The party was also able to determine that the body was not just dropped in the rat tunnels, but dragged here from outside, most likely by the rats or something else.
Continuing forward they finally met some of the Greater Giant Rats, or also known as Rodents of Unusual Size. Unlike their previous brethren, these were of medium size and were as large as a mastiff. These rats were fast, could take a lot of hits, and bit much harder than anything they had met so far.
At the same time as their encounter with the Greater Giant Rats, they met their first Rat Swarm. A nasty business of squirming crawling, and biting rats. Vladimir was quickly covered but with a lot of difficult shots from his party they were able to pick off the offending small rat members of the swarm. Vladimir did have a few new ear piercings though.
As they progressed further into the tunnels, they reached an area where the lichen had been removed and more freshly dug tunnels were discovered. The decrease of the lichen also reduced visibility for the party. They now only could see ten feet around themselves except for those with darkvision. The range that they could hear also increased to about 50 feet from the 20 it had been. This meant that they could hear rats or something else coming sooner, but then again, the rats could hear them much better as well.
They had already caused more than one encounter unexpectedly when Avery’s Dancing Lights went around a corner and illuminated areas that had rats and caused them to attack. Having it happen once was not sufficient, so they made the same mistake again. Eventually the wounds and tiredness caught up to them and they took a short rest. Not being as diligent with the bodies of the Greater Giant Rats, they were left where they had been killed last. Luckily, no other rats wandered by, and they were able to safely rest.
Trying to sneak into what would prove to be their last encounter, Avery made sure to alert the waiting Wererat with his Dancing Lights again. I am sure it was not on purpose, it being the third time after all. The Wererat was armored in “ratty” leather and dual armed with short swords. It leaped forward and was able to quickly take out Vladimir and started moving into the rest of the party quickly. Eventually it too was slain.
The last few rooms were rotting provisions, some gold, and three more dead bodies. Much like the other one that was found, these had been heavily tortured but with one primary difference. All their faces had been carefully carved off. One of the dead bodies had a small tattoo on his chest over his heart.
Among the treasure that were found was a map leading somewhere in the Dessarin Valley, as well as a small golden statue.
Using the long tunnel that led out, they finally were able to determine that they at the lowest point had gone underground over 80 feet. The winding tunnels and frequent changes of elevation confused them such they it was not clear how deep they really had gone until they had a clearer indicator such as the somewhat straight tunnel out.
The party was also able to see more clearly additional drag marks that were from the more newly found bodies have been dragged from the Middens somewhere.
They all then lingered around the cave entrance trying to decide what to do. There was discussion about bringing the dead Wererat body back, who had transformed back into his human form. After a lot of discussion, they decided that since there was not really an organized law enforcement agency in Amphail, they might just make more trouble for themselves by dragging dead bodies into town.
Figuring out that they all stunk of the Middens, rat shit, and exploded rat heads, courtesy of ISAC and his Mind Sliver spells, they decided to head to Hose Pond and wash off the most egregious noxious contents off themselves. Heading back to their room they took turns bathing and getting ready to rest in the soft beds.
There was a lot of heart-to-heart talk about some of their pasts and most of them opened. A short session to split up some cash, and then to bed for everyone.
And that is where the session ended.
Oddly enough everyone survived. This was a great milestone for everyone. Besides only being the third session, the group had managed to start working together and planning their actions better. The players began communication their actions to each other more and better. The rat warren served several purposes for the campaign, first of which was just this. Getting a new group of player to figure out how to work together and what combat looks like for everyone. I might have other reasons, but those are to be filled in sometime later.
When I first designed and had my gaming table built in 2016/2017, there were very few examples that were available anywhere. There was a single high-end vendor, which has since gone under, but little else besides a few DYI projects. I do not know if it was some grand gestalt consciousness that struck everyone, but now there are hundreds of examples, and dozens of vendors selling custom gaming tables.
There are things I would have done differently, and some of which I have already itemized out in previous posts. But one of the main ones that I did not properly consider was sound. Some sort of built-in speaker and sub-woofer system that I could thump the table with emotionally manipulative sounds and shake the souls of my players…. Yes, I mean, provide a more wonderful experience by adding in appropriate sound for the situation. Much like movies or shows in general use different music to help influence the feeling of a scene, there is no reason I could not do the same thing.
How? My table was built. I had already filled almost every available space possible with what I thought was important before. Where would such a sound system go? Well, I went with what I had, which was surface mounting at this time, until I think of something better. I’ll admit I am somewhat jealous of those that considered this much before I did, but at least I am not left behind too much.
We have been using music in my and other campaigns for a long time now, but it was always with some sort of Bluetooth speaker on the side somewhere, it was not very immersive, nor was the sound very good. Admittedly, anything I installed would not be the best surround sound, but I could improve on what we had. What I had was a set of HomePod Mini’s. Four to be exact. I also had one of the first generation HomePods.
Using Airfoil to connect the DM Apple Mac Mini (2018 version) to the speakers via AirPlay would allow the system to send the music to multiple speakers at once. One of the issues with AirPlay/AirPlay2 from a system and not a mobile device was that it cannot send to multiple speakers at once natively. Well, Apple Music can, but nothing else on the system is allowed to use that sub-system, hence the use of a 3rd party software package.
I did a lot of tests to make sure the sound would be delivered as I thought it would, which led to a few changes. Such as creating stereo pairs out of the left and right sides of the speaker layouts.
Next issue was how to attach the speakers. Esty to the rescue and some HomePod Mini printed mounts showed up.
Purchasing a USB-C hub to power the speakers, some judicial hole cutting so that all the cables would be hidden within the table, and BAM. The installation was complete.
So how did it all sound?
Hmm, a little tinny sounding. If I add in the corner full sized HomePod, what does that do?
Wow, that made a huge difference to the sound. It is acting like a sub-woofer to the rest and does not overwhelm them. That is only because I can adjust the sound level of each speaker individually. And yes, it is a little subdued compared to what it sounds like under the table:
Maybe I can just get all the players to sit on the floor?
With everyone haven gathered back at the Stag N’ Flag, the group rested for a bit, got some drinks and some of those delicious biscuits that the Stag N’ Flag is known for. The pot of melted garlic butter was the perfect topper for them. While enjoying the different sights, Fogo and Angelica overheard a conversation going on at a table near them.
The table had five men all in some sort of uniform with an emblem of cross pickaxes. They were sitting with a heavily cloaked person whose features were hidden with a hood and gloves. Their gender could not be determined, but they were fairly slender.
The table of people had situated themselves carefully in the room such that there were several pillars and obstacles blocking them from the direct sight of Nathan and his bodyguard.
This group were all leaning in on the table somewhat whispering to each other, but some of their conversation could be overheard by those two.
“At least we got him delayed for five days”
“Is everything going to be ready?”
“Should be, five days will be plenty of time”
A jingling bag was surreptitious slid across the table to one of the guards. He pocketed it quickly. A few more words were exchanged, and the cloaked person quickly moved out of the tavern. The guards split what was in the bag, drank a little more and chat a bit more.
“Finally, that asshole is going to get killed”
Then they too departed. As the action ended, Fwoosh waved down a waitress with which he wanted to play the dagger game with one of them. It was a quick game with Fwoosh’s errant dagger, while not hitting anyone, went nowhere near the target, whereas the waitress was able to accurate place three of her knives around the gold piece. Fwoosh had lost spectacularly, be he did not seem to mind.
From hearing the whispered words from the guards, Fogo brought Vladimir over to Nathan for a chat. The actual conversation was more around what had happened to his wagon, rather than anything heard. It seemed that Fogo was trying to figure out who was the bad guy in this situation. Nathan did not seem to be very impressed with the questioning, but he did respond “Incompetence and Conspiracy” was at fault for his burnt wagon. Fogo did reveal that they were traveling north with Otis. Nathan seemed to be somewhat familiar with Otis. With a little more conversation, the party found out that Nathan’s wagon was supposed to guarded yet was able to catch fire in the wagon yard without much other damage.
“Money can buy many things; loyalty is but one of those things.”
With that, Fogo and Vladimir went back to their table. They relayed the conversation and what happened with Nathan to the rest of the party. Fogo repeated what he had heard at the neighboring table as well. Vladimir advocated for informing Nathan of the overheard conversation, hoping for gold or contacts for the future. With agreement with the rest of the party, Fogo and Vladimir went back over Nathan’s table. With some additional conversation it was also revealed that all the carpenters in town had been engaged in large projects which was causing a five-day delay for Nathan to get his wagons repaired. Fogo was quick to share the information about the guards and the overheard conversation.
Giving it some thought, Nathan made a proposal. For 250gp he requested that the party guard his cart and keep him safe and he would talk to Otis about being allowed to go along. He would leave tomorrow morning with the Otis and the party. He requested that the group keep this to themselves to not warn the treacherous guards and let it be a surprise in the morning.
Fogo pushed for what the cargo was, and Nathan continued to avoid giving any specific answers. Checking with the rest of the party, they were quick to take the job seeing gold in their pocket for an easy job. In conversation, more information was requested of the wayward guards, hopefully for some clues or being able to gather more information. After this, Nathan was quick to rush off and contact Otis for tomorrow’s trip.
After strategizing with the rest of the group, they decided to depart into different directions. Avery went to room to take a bath, Fogo and Angelica decided to visit Mother Gothal’s to see if they can find the guards, with the remainder staying at the Stag N’ Flag.
On his way to the Stone Stallion, Avery decided to stop into a very odd building. A large poorly constructed building with 13 tall towers named Hagala’s Manyturrets. It proved to be one of the several Inn’s in town. An older chunky female elf was waiting at the counter greeting Avery as he entered. Sharing some chit-chat in Elven they talked about the odd architecture of the building and that Avery was in town working for Otis.
It was revealed that Otis was something of a player seeking companionship in different places since his wife had passed away. Hagala chatted about many topics including some interesting things to see in town as well about many of the people of the town.
Some of the things mentioned were that:
The stone statue of the horse has a gold replica inside of it.
That the Inn the Stone Stallion is haunted and has a portal in the basement.
There was a wizard battle at the Laughing Bandit Inn which caused it to be in ruins a decade ago. There is supposed to be treasure there.
That there is some wandering merchant that is the cause of everything that is happening, the unnatural weather, and everything else that is happening.
At that last statement, Avery’s head almost exploded and only due to already having tin foiled lined the inside of his hat, his head was saved. With that, Avery made his way to the Stone Stallion for his bath.
Fogo and Angelica walked over to Mother Gothal’s while Fogo casting some magic to disguise himself as an average looking human farmer. Entering the festhouse, it seemed that it was a bit early for people to be in the building, in fact besides an old drunk man dancing around to unheard music in the middle of the dance floor and a few women at the side of the room, there was not anyone else there. After waiting about an hour while nursing a mead and nothing to show for it, or at least not seeing the Axedredge guards, Fogo and Angelica went back to the Stag N’ Flag.
The rest stayed at the tavern drinking and waiting to see if the guards would show back up or waiting for the rest of the party to return. Fwoosh was frantically looking into this disguise kit to see if there was anything he could change into. Realizing there was little available considering he was a kenku, short, and young, and there were not many things he could disguise himself into. After the hour, every rejoined each other at the Stag N’ Flag. With some group discussion and planning, they all broke up into a few groups again to try and gather more information. Fogo headed to the team’s room, while Fwoosh, ISAC, and Sky headed to Shrunedalar’s Secrets, and the rest start their way to Ammakyl’s Flowers and Foods.
Being suspicious of the room and not believing that everything could fit into the space, Fogo used Detect Magic on the room to find that all the walls, floors and ceilings had some sort of protection magic upon them. In looking into the corridor, he was able to see that all building surfaces were protected including the doors. Only the furnishings were not protected.
After wandering down the Long Road to Shrunedalar’s Secrets and entering, that group realized this was more of a woman’s refuge. The perfume could easily be smelled from outside the door. These three were stared at hard but still greeted happily. It did not take much for Ulthresth to convince Sky to get the full treatment and while was ISAC staring around in confusion and Fwoosh looked at the latest fashions from Waterdeep. Within an hour, Sky had been washed, cleaned, scrubbed, and even makeup with glowing red nail polish on his hands and toes, with a nice bright red strawberry tasting lipstick applied to his lips. Sky had turned into quite the pretty boy.
After Sky’s spa treatment, they headed further down the street to Blodhlar’s Wares. They were quickly accosted by an older man with but a single leg. His looks and voice were salty in every way. It started off rough, but the group was able to quickly connect through the purchase of an old hammer from a wrecked ship. When asked why he still was not a sailor, he explained about his past on a military ship. He lost his leg against some pirates.
He passed on several tidbits of information:
Lord Ilzimmer tends to ride through town hot and heavy whipping his horse and anyone in the way.
Bandits are getting very aggressive further up north. They might be spying on travelers
One of the Ammakyl’s wagon trains is missing from the trip to Red Larch. Might be worth some coin.
The last group of Angelica, Avery, and Vladimir, walk down and when they started to pass by Imbryl’s Cloaks, the chatter of old women could be heard into the street.. It was clear that this was the women’s gossip circle. They were quickly accosted by the group and when the old women found out they had come with Otis, all the old ladies ran off in search of Otis and his loving care.
During the conversation, Imbryl kept scratching her legs and when asked about it mentioned that the rats at the Middens have gotten much worse in the last several years.
Some of the rumors that she imparted were:
The Ammakyl family is hoarding food to drive up the prices. The weather is nothing new and they just want to make more money.
That strange one-handed dwarf that is the baker. Yes, her stuff is okay, not as good as mine, but how does she back with only one hand? She must be a necromancer and has undead creatures in the basement of her store that do the work for her.
We are so surprised that the old Manyturrets building has not fallen. That old woman there never takes care of his building. I swear a piece of the roof almost fell on me as I walked past it last time.
The villagers say that Thorn has treasure buried under the Stone Stallion, accompanied by the bodies of several thieves who thought they could relieve him of it. He doesn’t make enough running the inn, they claim, to keep its doors open.
Old Pelost is quite the catch. I keep hoping he’ll ask me out. I need to go visit Shrunedalar’s to get more makeup and perfume.
You be careful at Mother Gothal’s. All those girls are diseased. You catch the crotch rot is you are not careful.
All those cute boys at Eagleshields like playing with each other more than the horses.
Moving on down the street, they stopped at the Ammakyl Food and Flower stand. They were able to learn that the unnatural weather further north has been impacting the farms here. If the weather continued to be so unusual, it will cause Waterdeep to have a shortage of food. Tina also mentioned about one of their wagons having gotten lost or stolen while it was heading north. She offered the group a reward if they can find it and rescue the members of the merchant group.
Everyone working at the store was also scratching at their legs as if they were itching severely. The group showed some concern and learned that the rats in the Middens were at fault.
About that time, all the members of the party managed to meet outside the statue of the horse, including Fogo, who had finished his rest. Most of the discussion was around whether to pursue the Amphail rat problem. Several members expressed some concern, and it was brought up since this was a bit unnatural, it might be related to the issues further up north.
Approaching the Middens, the smell could be felt on everyone’s skin and it was horrible enough to drive Avery and Fogo to their knees vomiting. Everyone else was able to hold their lunches in. The group could see many small trails that were clearly from a small creature, such as large rats. It did not take long for them to find the entrance to some sort of dug in area, an entry way to something. Looking it over, it was larger than they expected. At least five feet wide and tall while being well hidden behind garbage and debris. The assumption was that this was most likely the rat’s nest.
After some arguing, the group headed into the cave entrance. It turns out that this was something more than just a rat cave, it was something of a large rat warren. Slowly moving into the passageways, it was evident that nothing here was very normal. There was some sort of lichen on the walls that allowed dim visibility. The caves were hot, humid, and stinking of the trash from the Middens. Due to some sort of deadening between the lichen and dampness of the area, sound would not travel more than about 20 to 25 feet. This would make it difficult to communicate if the group got separated or were too far apart.
Avery headed in first, shortly followed by the rest. With everyone moving inside, it did not take long to encounter their first set of rats. Five young Giant rats sat in a cave area who were starving, somewhat wounded, and not happy with the intruders. Fogo attempted to talk to them and let them know that the group was not the enemies of the rats. It was for naught. The rats were not in a normal state and moved to attack. While they were being taken care of, a second group came in from another passageway and attacked as well. All of them were killed in not much time. At some point as the battle completed, Sky suddenly ran further into the caves without letting anyone know. Moving to a distance much further than sound would travel, all alone.
As he almost reached the end of the cave area, he was suddenly attacked by five adult Giant Rats. It did not look good. In fact, Sky was attacked and taken down very quickly. It was at this point that the party realized that they were missing a member. Rushing further in to find Sky, they came across a set of Giant Rats chewing on something on the ground. After closing in, they were able to take out the rats and save Sky. It was a close thing. Continuing to go through the caves, they kept encountering small groups of Giant Rats in different cave alcoves. The deeper they went into the caves, the larger and healthier the rats were. This continued until they got to a set that were making a meal of half a horse.
After killing those, they found a naked dead body of a person that had been tortured, and chewed upon. Features could not be determined, but it was a male and with a quick medicine check, they could determine that he had perished about five days ago from the torture.
And this is where the session ended.
The group found out a little more information about what happening up north. They got two new jobs, at least one of which they would be able to fulfill pretty quickly. A relatively quick jaunt into the rat warrens?
Twenty years ago I had a pretty damn good memory. I could remember almost anything I heard, saw, or read to about a 90% accuracy. Yeah, I was pretty amazing. Today though, it seems that my memory has the capacity of a goldfish. Combine that with my inability to take notes very well, I have troubles. When I play, I am into what is happening, trying to capture every nuance of the DM and the other players. Capturing this would be nice to refer to later as the campaign develops. As a DM, I am performing, dancing, telling a story, and making up very bad accents. It is difficult to take any notes while you are the conductor of the orchestra.
For any campaign that plans on being long running, there is usually some over-arching story line that eventually leads to some form of completion. Well, at least most modules attempt to do so. There will be clues, points of information, and names of NPC’s that might later become important to remember. As the DM, you might have given out something important, or not. Knowing absolutely that you delivered what you thought you did can become important if it has any applicability later in the story. of course, a good DM should be giving multiple opportunities to give important clues but not enough to reveal the story too early.
I truly admire those that are able to remain in the moment, participate, and capture all of that on some form of media. Actually, it is pretty amazing. I cannot do it. I cannot even pretend to do it. There are those that claim they will remember, but that is very limited in the long run. yes, they might remember what was said tomorrow, but next month? In six months? Nope, and a whole lot of nope.
So, what is to be done? The simple answer is to record the session. Whether it is audio or video and audio, it does not matter too much. As long as there is a perfect record that can be gone back to either immediately to make those notes, or in the future when you thing of something that is nagging you. As a DM, recording the session is a must these days. I find it important to be able to go through and make sure I write down what I actually said because while there are “scripted” text sets, I rarely read it exactly, and depending on the situation, that information might have been delivered completely differently than what was “scripted”.
There was the case with a recent session, I was absolutely convinced that I had start a specific sequence of events, not very far into it, but started it. The reality was that I had not, in fact I had held off so it could happen at the beginning of the next session. If I had gone with my memory, or gut feeling, I would have left out a very important piece of the story. I knew for sure what happened, because I had it all recorded. I could hear very clearly what I did and did not say.
I have heard that some DM’s would prefer the players to not have a perfect record of any sort. They are relying on a failure of note taking and a future aha moment to jump into the character’s emotional train. If the campaign is a very information heavy one, the burden on the players is very high. If they can accomplish that, they are far better people than I am, and it would be impressive. I would start to fail at some point in that game because of my inability to note take well.
I prefer to err that the players are human, the DM sub-human, and that everyone has a chance to get the information that they should for the game. If they guess the plot too early, was that a failure of their note taking? Probably not. Did the DM give them too many clues too early and out the BBEG? Maybe. I have also DM’ed where even when a clue-bat is applied to the players every 30 minutes, they still tended to miss the facts sitting in front of their face. Or destroy an important NPC just as they were going to deliver information? Yeah, that’s happened too. No amount of recording would save that group if information was important to the campaign.
This really comes down to my personal ability and need to capture information and have it available whether I am a player or a DM. So, I now record every session that I DM, and if the game is online? Those all get recorded too. There is no perfect memory or perfect notes, only the recording is the perfect set of notes.
How We Have it Set Up and Equipment
Our set up is not the most sophisticated, nor is it very integrated. Since we first started recording audio only and the later video addition is a completely separate feed that has to be merged with the audio at some other stage.
The setup itself is fairly simple. I have a recorder (ZOOM H6 Portable Studio) with XLR inputs going to a cheap aluminum tube that was mutilated to fit the cable which leads to the microphone (MXL V67I FET Condenser) hanging over the table. The recorder is powered by battery (Jackery Portable Charger). The handmade boom hangs via large magnet on the steel beam crossing the ceiling. When I am ready to start, it is a manual process.
The video setup is even more simplistic. I have a Brio 4k Webcam attached to another location on the steel beam with a magnetic camera mount. It is then connected to a long USB cable to a Mac Mini (2018 version) running OBS which controls the camera and the recording. I did leave the sound recording from the camera I can use that to help sync up the better audio being captured by the MXL microphone. Because the entire basement has steel frame I can use magnets to act as guides for the cable so it would not dangle as it could have been.
Integrating (aka Merging the files)
I cannot take any credit for this part of the work since Adobe Premier Pro is an awesome piece of software. I added the two files in and told it to merge them on the audio and remove the AV audio. Ten minutes later it was all done, and it was completed perfectly. I used the same software to create a transcript, put in subtitles, and boom, it was finished. I know nothing of audio or video editing, but this pretty much did everything for us. A few edits to the transcripts, and it looked almost professional.
The audio file was 1.6gb, the video file 15.3gb, and the merged file at 4k was 120gb or 50gb at 1080p. I’ll probably be the only one to ever look at the 4k video, but I’ll share the 1080p with the players. It was pretty cool to see all of us and hear the action in play afterwards. It does give me a better appreciation for how much I suck at accents and where I need to improve as a DM. These will most likely never end up anywhere except in mine and the player private repositories, and that is just fine. The recordings are only for them and I.
The session started on the road a day outside of Waterdeep. Our seven heroes, Angelica the dragonborn, Avery Rockwell a gnome, Fogo the Firbolg, Fwoosh a kenku under disguise as “Pick”, ISAC hiding his warforged looks and nature, Sky Zephyr an air Genasi, and Vladimir Miller a human set out under the auspices of being under contract from Otis Samael.
Some of the group had been contacted by different factions, all of which gave pretty much the same request. Investigate the odd things happening around Red Larch, find out what is causing the unnatural weather in the Dessarin Hills and make it go away.
Angelica being a starting initiate of the Order of the Gauntlet, was also requested to meet up with the Knights of Samular in the Sumber Hills at Summit Hall. The Order would like to improve relations with the Knights. Avery on the other hand had a very loose association with the Harpers and was sent forth with only basic instructions, while Vladimir was a staunch mercenary for the Lord’s Alliance was given much more strict directions. “Pick” while escaping his captivity had managed to contact the Zhentarim. He was given a small ring with their symbol and told that hiding up north was the best for him, and while there he should investigate the oddities happening, someone would contact him there.
Those with factions and those without, were all hired at the Mercenary Hall by Otis without much negotiation. The pay was very good, and most if not, all had some reason to head that direction.
The trip started with Otis in the lead wagon and his two sons George and William in the second wagon. The wagons were not overly large but were clearly heavily laden with large barrels. Everything in the wagons were set in very solidly and none of the barrels had any movement in the wagons and were obviously filled to the brim with something and made no noise when Avery listened to them closely.
George appeared to be about 20 years old and gave off a serious but somber mood and attitude. He did not speak much unless asked a question, but just did his job quietly. Whereas his younger brother William at 15 years old continued to play around as much as possible. He would frequently jump off the second wagon and run around the characters while swinging is wooden sword around claiming he was practicing. William started pestering the group about who was a swordsman, but there were none in the party disappointing William, not that he remained unhappy long.
About halfway to the camping area, a very loud sound started off in the distance from the group coming from the road. Dust could be seen coming closer with the sound. Something was coming fast down the road. The wagons took to the side as two very large box wagons came by with the Ammakyl family crest on the sides. Avery was able to identify the family and that these were most likely produce wagons going to Waterdeep.
Further down the road the group ran across a patrol of 20 Waterdeep Soldiers and Timmer Longschal, the sergeant who was leading them. Timmer was a grim older man that did not seem to have much time to chat, nor the inclination to waste any time with the guards of a merchant group.
At the first campsite the party started chatting with each other and began sharing a little about themselves. Avery seemed the most interested in everyone’s past and profession. In fact, Avery had a nagging suspicion that there was something wrong with Otis and his cargo. All of this without any facts or details, just his hind lizard brain making things up. The rest of the group were more non-committal about Otis and his cargo.
A lot of the discussion occurred with William due to his openness and willing to talk about anything, and George about what things were like up north, and why did Otis need so many guards. Finding out that this was the largest contingent of guards hired so far, made the group a bit more worried. Banditry was an all-time high, especially north of Amphail. The guards were needed to help protect the cargo of Dwarven Ale that Otis was bringing north.
The guards were always hired for a one-way trip to the north, and occasionally some might come back with Otis. Usually there were only two or three guards, but the last trip saw some casualties and Otis decided to increase the number a fair amount to ensure that he and his cargo would be able to arrive safely.
With everyone getting along, George cooked the food at the campsite. The food left a lot to be desired since the taste was at best bland and at worse seemed like George was using sand as an ingredient. While it was not poisonous, it needed a lot of assistance. Fogo jumped in and gathered a bunch of herbs and field onions to help make it taste a bit better than it would normally. No one was happy with the end results except maybe Otis who ate whatever George gave him without changing his expression.
It was very evident that George took care of most things related to the camp and settling down the horses for the evening. William was more interested in swinging his wooden sword around carelessly claiming he was practicing being a swordman.
“Pick” continued to hide in his disguise of a plague doctor’s mask and goggles to hide his Kenku nature. This only interfered with his ability to eat and later he had to sneak around after everyone else was asleep to grab that food.
The rest of the trip was uneventful until the group reached the town of Rassalantar. A small town of about 650 in town and another 200 in the surrounding farms. A heavily fortified camp was situated just behind the Sleeping Dragon where 60 Waterdeep soldiers and their commanders ran patrols both North and South of Rassalantar searching for bandits and protecting the Long Road.
The Sleeping Dragon Inn is a fine establishment run by Yondral Horn, a middle-aged dwarf. It has an extensive menu, great food, much better than anything George has ever cooked, and an excellent selection of different drinks.
Arriving around lunchtime, everyone had to stay at the only Inn in town the Sleeping Dragon. Given the earliness of the arrival, several members decided to wander around a bit before dinner time.
Fogo, ISAC, and Avery all visited the sole store in town the ‘Tween Keep and Stump. A small establishment run by Lily Phen, and thin old lady with sharp eyes. Picking up a few small supplies but nothing very excited given that this was more of a farm store than a normal general store. She seemed a bit suspicious of the group, especially Avery since he kept pestering her with questions. She gave them a bunch of local gossip, but no information of importance.
The rest of the group sat around the open room in the Sleeping Dragon. There always seemed to be a set of Waterdeep soldiers in the room. Their normal schedule seemed to coincide with watch duty, then an amount of time in the tavern, and then back to the barracks.
The party was able to overhear all the grumbling about the bandits and the fact that the bandits seem to be able to avoid the patrols completely. The guards were speculating that there was a bandit outpost close by, perhaps in the Stump Bog that was just south of town. Squads had investigated the edge of the bog, but the overly poisonous nature of the bog and the dangerous creatures there prevented them from going in very deep.
The same group that visited Lily’s store decided that the Church of Torm would be another good location to scope things out. At the church was Imar Feldar who was the garrison priest as well as managing anything religious needed for the village. A gregarious and engaging young man, Imar was quick to relay any of the local gossip as well as mentioning the issue with the bandits and most likely bandit spies nearby. He also mentioned the unnatural and horrific weather that has been hitting the north. It in fact was also impact the farms of Amphail to a certain degree.
Once everyone was back at the Sleeping Dragon, everyone had a wonderful meal. In fact, the meal was one of the best any of them had ever had. The group all finally went to bed breaking up into two rooms. Vladimir, Avery, and “Pick” were in one, while Angelica, ISAC, Fogo, and Sky were all in the remaining room.
At about two in the morning, ISAC decided to go outside and stare at the stars from the back of the Sleeping Dragon. After a few hours, the constant flow of guards between the fortified barracks and the Inn diverted to where ISAC was standing. Given the paranoid nature of the guards and concerns about bandit spies, ISAC was instructed to go back into the Inn and rest there.
Within another hour, Sky also decided to go outside and wander around more. He was seeking a way on the roof to give his natural state a more comfortable place to rest. The guards were much quicker to approach him and guide him back to the Inn. At this point the guards had decided to station a group in the Inn to stop the outflux of people leaving the Inn at night to prevent any misunderstandings.
“Pick”, not having eaten all day, had taken off his disguise and hidden it in his room that he was sharing with Avery and Vladimir. Upon coming down the stairs and expressing his hunger the soldiers gave him some rations as well as a ration of questioning. The basic issue was that Fwoosh without his disguise was not one of the recognized people that had arrived in Rassalantar.
At this point the situation quickly went bad for Fwoosh. When questioned about how he had arrived at the village, he claimed that he had stowed away in a cart. With the concern about the bandit spies and an unknown person, the soldiers told Fwoosh that he needed to come with them to talk to the captain.
Uttering an ear breaking shrill screech of a child being tortured and murdered, Fwoosh expressed his worry about the situation. This awakened the rest of the Inn, especially the party. The soldiers were quick to draw weapons and summoning additional guards. Tossing a set of manacles to Fwoosh, they ordered him to lock up and come with them.
Just in time, the rest of the party arrived. While being ordered to remain in place, Sky ran forward to place himself between Fwoosh and the action. His assumption that a child was being threatened, a feather small child. While moving quickly and putting himself into a defensive mode to dodge anything incoming the scene then exploded.
Another half dozen soldiers joined the six already there and all of them had their weapons out at the two. More manacles were thrown to the floor for Sky and a lot of harsh vulgar words were uttered by the soldier in charge ordering compliance to put on those manacles or else. Additional orders were given to those that were gawking to return to their rooms while the soldiers began dragging the two to their captain in the garrison.
Fogo reacted quickly and ran to bring Otis to assist what was going on, while Avery and Vladimir realized that “Pick” was missing. Spending time to search their room they found the disguise the Fwoosh had been using. They finally put together the idea that the person captured was their “Pick”. Taking the disguise down to the soldiers, Avery was brought to the garrison as well.
Fwoosh and Sky were brought to garrison’s main room where Captain Gheldram Tassor and his sergeant Blaskus Ulraven were waiting with an additional dozen or so troops. It seems that the trouble was only giving the captain a larger headache than he had. When he started asking clarifying questions, Fwoosh continued his story about being a stowaway.
While summoning the merchants to see if a stowaway would have been possible, Otis and Fogo arrived. To Fogo, this strange little bird person was clearly not one of theirs, and to Otis, well he did not say much. The rest of the merchants arrived and gave additional information on their cargo. At that time, Avery and the accompanying soldier arrived with the disguise. This seemed to be a breaking point for several of those there as they were finally able to connect the dots between “Pick” and Fwoosh.
With a lot of forehead slapping and groans, the captain levied a 100gp fine on Otis since this was one of his guards and sent everyone on their way. While everyone was departing, the captain told the party that they were prohibited from ever returning or there would be severe consequences. Otis made sure the party knew that this was coming out of their pay once they arrived at Red Larch.
Starting early the next day, barely into dawn, the entire group left along the Long Road toward Amphail. No one seemed to be in the mood for any conversation and they reached their campsite without an issue. Otis just quietly sat by his tent and waited for George’s cooked dinner.
Dinner was as wonderful as normal, not, in fact it tasted worse than the previous time. Maybe having had that wonderful meal at the Sleeping Dragon skewed everyone’s taste. While dinner was quietly being eaten Fogo was observing Otis. His concern about how angry Otis might be led to some confusion on his part as all he could determine was that Otis was simply indifferent to everything happening around him. He ate without an expression as always, almost mechanically.
The party started querying William a lot more on what should be expected on the trip, especially what would be in Amphail. He described all the unnatural weather north of Amphail including tremors and tornados. He did say that they might consider avoiding Gouland Sester’s since a lot of nobles seem to hang out there. He also gave them a warning about the local lord.
Sometime during the night while Fwoosh and Fogo were on watch, they heard two horses with lots of jingly sounds ride by very rapidly on the Long Road going south to the North. They were not able to identify the source or even who it might be.
Morning came, and the wagons hit the road. It did not take long to reach Amphail. Arrival happened before noon again. The smell of horse dung was the most abrupt greeting the party had experienced so fart, except maybe being manacled. The first stop was at Wescott’s Saddlers, a large storage facility for merchants to leave their wagons and horses, and to even get repairs if needed. A small dragonborn with reddish scales named Nesbis Westcott ran the place. Otis left the group somewhat quickly while George took case of settling the wagons and horses.
Looking around, Fogo, Sky, and Vladimir noticed an unusual wagon in the corner of the building. It looked like a heavy-duty smaller box wagon, but the box was not at all normal. It was a box made of steel with extensive burn marks on all the sides of the box. In fact, when looking closer and seeing that a lot of the wood of the wagon has a bit burnt, it seems that the entire wagon was made of metal.
Looking to Nesbis for some answers, she relayed what happened as far as she knew. The wagon belonged to Nathan Axedrudge, someone claiming to be a merchant. She did not know that the wagon had been made of metal but a day ago it had somehow caught fire and burned all the wood off the box part. Nathan had tried to contract with the local carpenters, but they had recently gotten a huge order which would occupy them for at least five-day.
What she finds interesting, is that the wagon always seemed to have guards with it, and they were missing when the fire occurred. She said that Nathan’s gigantic half-orc bodyguard was so pissed she thought he was going to rip the guards in half. She told the party that Nathan and his bodyguard were sulking in the Stag n’ Flag.
Nesbis was surprised by the whole thing since she had never seen an entire wagon made of metal before. She now understands why they needed four horses to pull it. The only other point she mentioned was the increase of large rats at the Middens and how irritating they were.
Discussing with George on what was in town and what they might do, he suggested that the check-in at the Stone Stallion soon, get food at the Stag-Horned Flagon, also known as the Stag N’ Flag, and avoid Mother Gothal’s. he explained that it was an establishment for drink, dancing, and companionship. A lot of nobles were known to have rendezvous at Gouland Sester’s, and nobles are known to cause trouble for commoners.
Once he finished settling the wagons and horses, George dragged William away to their accommodations at the Stone Stallion. At this point the party split up into three groups. Vladimir to the Stone Stallion to check-in, Fwoosh, Fogo to a sundries store, and Avery, Isac, and Angelica to the Stag N’ Flag for some food and drink.
It turned out that the Stone Stallion was a huge Inn. It was four stories with what appeared to be several rooms per floor. After ringing the bell on the desk several times and waiting a fair amount of time, the proprietor Thorn Tlassalune. With a small amount of chit-chat and Vladimir having identified himself as one of Otis’s guards, Thorn gave Vladimir a single key for a room and told him that he and the rest were all put on the troublesome fourth floor.
Going up the narrow staircases to get to the floor, Vladimir was able to get a glimpse of each of the floors. As he passed each one, he could see that the décor became rougher the higher he went. All of it was opulent, but more worn the higher he went. Once on the fourth floor, he could see that there were 20 rooms on this floor. The walls, floors and even the doors contained scars, burn marks, and what appeared to be dried blood in a few locations.
Vladimir could hear screaming from one room, what seemed to be an ongoing sword fight in another, and just odd sounds in general. Even with all the heavy damage, none of the walls, nor doors had holes, or were scarred through their material. Whatever everything was made from, it was tougher than a regular inn. Opening the door to their room, it was much larger than expected. With three double beds and a private area for a bath, it was surprising, nice. Tapestries covered the walls, and plush rugs the floors.
Given some time before meeting the others, Vladimir settled in for a nice hot bath. Wash away his worries and the events from the last couple of days.
Fwoosh, Fogo, and Angelica asked for directions to a sundry store from Nesbis. She directed them to Sammy’s Sundries. There Saul Blockgnasher a gnome was manning the store. Fwoosh was desperately trying to find a replacement for his mask that had been left in Rassalantar. No matter what was offered, nothing seemed to work. Saul did suggest going to Shrunedalar’s Secrets and get some makeup to minimize Fwoosh’s beak.
The last group of Sky, ISAC, and Avery all headed to the Stag N’ Flag to see what is happening in town. Upon entry they were seated at a table in the middle. There were what was clearly several groups of nobles in the room, and in the corner was a young man with a very large half-orc standing behind him. These two were most likely Nathan and his half-orc guard.
Getting some food and drink from the unusually dressed waitress, the group settled down. They could see a waitress going over to one of the tables containing some nobles. The nobles seem to be negotiating something with the waitress. They finally hand her a platinum piece. She places on one of the heavily pock-marked columns in the room. Stepping back 20 feet, and she quickly tossed the daggers on her waist trapping in the platinum piece tightly. All the patrons give a soft applause, and she claimed the coin.
The occurrences in Rassalantar proved to be a surprise to everyone, including the DM that rolled harshly with the flow. We will have to see if the characters try to come back another day, or just avoid the village moving forward. A lot of the time was spent with the players and the characters learning more about each other, and the sudden arresting event made a lot of things clear about each other on how each person and character responded.
I wanted to limit the races that were available for a variety of reasons and wanted a way of documenting any variation from the rules as written, any home brew as an example, as well as add clarification anywhere I thought was needed, so I created a Players Books and Table rules for everyone and update it as needed.
I recently started a new campaign. It is all in person with a very large number of players. The age of the players ranged from pretty young, old fogies like me. We all had a round table to figure out what the group would like to see in a campaign, and what their specific interests were. It was fair unanimous to start off with some sort of module with some home brew thrown in. Since this was our first time all playing together, we needed some time to get to know each other to figure how each person ticks.
I dug around and looked at the different “canned” modules. From anything from Wizards of the Coast developed, to third party, to old D&D, anything was on the table. No module is perfect, no matter the vendor. Anything that i was going to run would need to be updated, modified, and corrected in different ways. I have always been a fan of the old Temple of Elemental Evil. There is a revised version of the old module being sold by Goodman Games. It is a massive two volume set. They have several others, and a lot of the material, while interesting, has not aged well. There was also a fully rewritten and revised version now called Princes of the Apocalypse.
I chose that one to start with. After spending more than a week digging into comments as well as reading the book several times, it was evident that there were issues that needed to be worked out. It needed to be massaged, it needed some tender care, and a good beating all at the same time. The new version, my version, is called Cataclysm of the Primordial Orders. Pretentious is it not?
Well, this will be the story of the game we played. I’ll post the player side of things and assuming we finish it, I’ll eventually publish the DM’s side as well. A lot of new material has been carefully curated and imported from just about any source I could grab copies of. The framework of the module is the same, but there are a lot of little updates, story changes, and additional quests that just do not exist in the original. I am looking forward to my new party exploring and adventuring in this new world.
There will be a far amount of borrowed content including notes from other DM’s, artwork (I was very haphazard in my initial grabs of art), maps, and anything else that looked good. Some were taken nearly verbatim, while others took a lot of changes to make usable.
I have been playing a large variety of role-playing games for the last 30+ years. I’ll admit that most of my experience with the variety of games come mostly from more than 20 years ago, and much less so now. I had never been too wedded to any single system, but always came back to D&D in some form or another. I just really enjoyed playing RPG’s, especially in person.
With a lot of time between gaming because of the pandemic, I had a lot more time to look into what I might play next. I knew there were certain aspects of gaming that I would not go back to. I truly enjoyed the electronic version of character sheets. Yes, paper is still fun, but if you are the DM, it is nice to have access to electronic character sheets to confirm contents, help shepherd players, and just to make sure that the millions of rules that are in place can actually be followed. It was an interesting learning experience the first time I used electronic sheets. It turned out that some rules I thought I knew were not quite correct, and when digging in a fury, because I knew I must be right, it turns out that I was also right zero times.
Secondarily was to use the gaming table that had so painstakingly been constructed and updated. This means looking at electronic maps and VTT’s. Delving into that topic is still something that is more rabbit hole than as fully functional as I would like. We use the built-in TV and post maps to it, but full use of VTT’s still alludes me to some extent. But being able to quickly change a map to whatever encounter I might have during a session and possibly several times, and being able to do that nearly instantly? Makes everything flow much more easily.
Which leads to the real question, what RPG will we play. I enjoyed Pathfinder v1, but it now had one major problem. The support for the electronic character sheet was being discontinued. Pathfinder v2, besides being a fairly horrible game system, only had a truly horrific web site to manage character sheets. I swear I would stab the person that spec’ed that one out. I have seen better web sites when we were still using NCSA HTTPd to drive “web” sites. Finally, there was the aim of most VTT’s to publish D&D first, and anything else third. With the recent issues with Wizards of the Coast that might change, but not when I was looking.
What does all of this mean? It was time to move to D&D 5e. With some resistance, because did I really want to memorize the eight version of some D&D rules at my age? Hell yes. So, most of the future posts here will be ignoring most other systems and focus on what I am playing, which is D&D 5e.
Well…. Hmm.. yes, it has been a while since my last posting… any posting. I can understand the difficulty of time that came down upon us all. Just about three years ago I had gotten excited about building this and commenting on a variety of different things game related. Real world events and life itself got into the way. Job changes, pandemic, a litany of excuses I have ready, but will stop there.
During a somewhat recent game with my senior team, an interesting misbehavior occurred. Not of the players, but from the monsters they encountered. The players were expecting one behavior of the creatures and were presented with something outside of that expectation, and it seemed to have upset one of the players because of that incongruity.
I was running two games a week until earlier this year, when everyone needed to properly stay home and shack up like a hermit and treat everyone the diseased beasts that they are. The senior team has been going through the Mummy’s Mask modules. They have already completed the first module and are working their way through the second one. It has been enjoyable, although there have been a few oddities in places. I plan on going through the first module here in the blog some time later talking about the specifics of that module.
One of the things that I have enjoyed a lot out of the Mummy’s Mask modules is the introduction of non-standard creatures. Creatures that not only is my senior team is not familiar with, but neither am I. This means that the game is much more refreshing and new experiences come up regularly for myself and the players. This also means that all of us got to learn about these creatures together and the players could be surprised regularly with something they most likely had never encountered before in any game.
Now, the specific encounter where we had some information mis-matching occur was the one called “EVENT 3: Dogs of Death (CR5)“. I’ll quote it near exactly:
Creatures: The Voices of the Spire, a militant arm of the Pharasmin priesthood, have reacted to the undead incursion with extreme force. Against High Priestess Sebti’s orders, the Voices’ commander in Wati, Nakht Shepses, is considering summoning esobok psychopomps—near-mindless hunters who feed on negative energy—to counter the undead horde. On Shepses’ orders, one of his subordinates has used a summon lesser psychopomp spell to summon two esoboks to test the strategy.
As the PCs approach a street intersection, a trio of zombies threatens a lone woman. Before the PCs can intervene, a soul-shaking howl fills the air and a pair of hideous creatures—horrible masked amalgams of bear and crocodile—burst from an alley. These esobok psychopomps tear into the zombies, felling them but injuring the human woman in the process. The esoboks begin feeding on the decayed flesh of the slain undead while the human, reduced to –1 hit points, lies dying in the street. She loses an additional hit point each round, and dies when she reaches –10 hit points. The esoboks growl and snap at anyone nearby, but if anyone approaches within 20 feet, they scream and attack, offering a preview of the effect this solution could have on Wati, as the city’s residents find themselves caught between the two armies of monsters.
Development: If not slain before then, the summoned esoboks fade away 2d4 rounds after the PCs arrive on the scene. PCs who succeed at a DC 10 Knowledge (arcana) check realize that this means they were likely summoned creatures. A successful DC 13 Knowledge (planes) check identifies the creatures as esobok psychopomps. If the PCs inform the priests of the Grand Mausoleum of the esoboks’ presence, High Priestess Sebti responds with fury, leading to a later confrontation Nakht Shepses (see Event 4). Alerting the town guard or Shepses himself results in the heroes being told to keep the information to themselves to avoid frightening the citizens and putting undue stress on the church in this time of crisis.
Story Award: If the PCs slay either of the two esoboks, award them full XP for doing so as normal. Defeating these two psychopomps and returning them to their home plane reduces the Panic Level by 1.
The part where the player read and assumed a friendly behavior was this “their joy at the taste of undead flesh generally prevents them from attacking living targets, despite their lust for battle.” which in theory would be contrary to the module behavior description of “The esoboks growl and snap at anyone nearby, but if anyone approaches within 20 feet, they scream and attack“.
So, this specific player assuming everything was good, ran up close and did a channel ray to heal the poor innocent victim, and then subsequently moved closer to help save her. The healing he did was not sufficient to revive her, but she was no longer bleeding to death. Of course once entering withing the specified 20′ the creatures reacted as the module dictated and ran over to attack him. This action by them was quite upsetting to that player. He had made a successful roll to get the maximum amount of information on the Esobok Psychopomps and felt betrayed by the knowledge he found. In fact, he threw down the monster card and exclaimed that they were useless and all full of lies since this creature did not follow what he read.
There is a lot of room for interpretation in all the different descriptions. Admittedly you might assume a specific behavior, but since these are summoned creatures, they will have certain rules of engagement imparted upon them as a part of their summoning. The player took the Monster Card information as completely accurate and exact. But as in any role-playing game, there is always some wiggle room for things to happen outside of your expectation. One of the reason this is role-playing and not a game of Checkers is that variability that can happen at any time.
Remember that this is the senior team. Yeah, it was a poor reaction and should have just marched on and dealt with it. The Monster Cards are given out for the players to make notes on. This was a great point to make some notes about the more specific behavior that they experienced.
I actually had many other issues with this encountered than a simple behavior issue. The spell to summon an Esobok Psychopomp requires a 9th Cleric. The spell will last a maximum of nine rounds. The range of the summoning is only 45′. This means that the cleric that did the summoning would have to be fairly close. The Esobok Psychopomp can move a maximum of 80’/round, assuming they are not able to run or have some other sort of movement. This means that since they can be around for up to eight rounds from the encounter notes, they could have moved 80′ putting the summoner only 125′ away. This is a street encounter of a town that mostly has wide and straight streets. The summoner without much movement would be able to see the encounter and intercede if needed.
The module on the other hand implies these are being pumped out at a certain rate and just let loose. But with the short duration of the spell, it would be very useless except around the immediate area near the summoner. Worse than that is why would a 9th level Cleric use a 5th level spell to take care of a few CR 1/2 Zombies? What a waste of a spell when that cleric could just as easily just walk over and pummel them and most likely be armored heavily enough for them to never be able to hit him.
This level issue is further exacerbated by the fact that it is implied there are several of this level cleric and their boss at a minimum is 11th level to be able to summon the next more powerful Vanth Psychopomp. Why are they relying on a bunch of 5th level player characters to save the whole city? With just the cleric militant force of an 11th and several 9th level clerics they would be able to stomp the whole undead invasion without an issue.
Yes, yes, because…. Magic, plot armor, story line…. bah. At least add in something to have to make more sense instead of me making up new story lines to cover for these plot line issues.
I had a player that objected to the exactness of the Monster Cards verses what happened. Meh. Told him to move on. You know… because Magic, plot armor, and story line….
There have been a lot of questions about the details of how the cooling actually worked and how I am ensuring that the TV does not overheat in its now sealed environment. So, this page will be to go over the details of that part of the build as well as what specific hardware was used to drive all of it.
The basic concept that was used was to create a permanent cooling solution to anticipate the actual head load and then to make sure that there was a sufficient airflow to move heat out of the sealed box. I knew what the ambient temperature would be in a box without any assistance from fans or other forced air solutions from my previous experience with the initial install of the TV in a box on top of the table. But I also knew that when the TV was dropped into the table itself we would be sealing it in much more than the first experiment.
Flat screen TV’s are not usually cooled using fans but instead rely on the heat to rise through the components. The TV will have vents on the bottom as well as vents somewhere along the top of the components, usually in the middle of the back of the TV. By having the TV on its back, that natural flow of hot air would not be what the manufacturers were expecting and I would have a problem of the temperature increasing by having that heat trapped. In the first Box installation there were vents on three sides of the box that allowed a slow leakage of that hot air and would reach an equilibrium with the ambient room temperature. The new installation would not allow this since the TV would now be mounted inside the table with solid walls on all sides.
So, a new design was needed. The diagram below shows this concept.
This shows the expected air flow as well as where I would have fans installed to ensure that I could force air if needed. The black boxes in the diagram are where fans would be installed. The idea was to use the first set of fans to pull the cool air in and into the TV. The fans within the table would then pull the now heated air out. The primary air intake is nothing more than a simple vent, but it was a third place that I could install fans if for any reason there was not sufficient air flow to cool the TV.
Yes, the vent is below a drawer and I had some concern that it would interfere with the pull of air, but the four 80mm fans were able to pull enough air such that it was easy to feel that flow where the vent was. In fact, that air flow was slightly uncomfortable because it made for cold legs if you were wearing shorts or something else that left your legs exposed.
The two dual 80mm fans as well as the two triple 120mm fans are both from AC Infinity. For a controller I ended up with the AC Infinity Controller 8 to give me the most amount of temperature probes and the most options for installation. I spent a fair amount of time looking for a good solution that was less DYI and more professional looking and for ease of implementation. I bought them weeks in advance of the install so I could see how well they worked, how much noise they made, and how the controller worked. I wanted all the parts perfectly functional before trusting the installation.
One thing I discovered, and was not really surprised about was that the 80mm fan units, even at their lowest speed, were very audible. Whereas the 120mm fans were nearly completely silent. I thought about replacing the fans with better ones but was not willing to go that far yet. Perhaps once the fans were installed they would not be as noisy as expected. The 120mm fans were just great and performed well and better than expected. If the 80mm fans continued to be too noisy post-install, it would be pretty simple to replace them later.
Here are the during and post-install pictures. Showing the starting of with the intake air vent through to the 80mm fans and out to the 120mm fans.
To control the fans and make sure they would be able to operate automatically with a single temperature probe, I first tried putting all the 80mm fans on one set of power cables and the 120mm fans on another chain from the controller. From the manual it seemed to imply that the controller should be able to power that number of fans through two ports but the reality was that it was not able to, and I had to use all four fan power ports on the controller. This also then meant I had to use all four of the temperature probes to control each set of fans. There was not an option to tie one probe to multiple power ports. Each fan had a probe terminate near where the fans were installed. While none of them were in a perfect location for tracking the temperature, it was fine for this install. To make sure I had an independent source of temperature tracking, I also installed a TempStick. This allowed me to have WiFi tracking of the temperature since the AC Infinity controller was very much lacking any remote tracking and management.
The TempStick is an interesting device. I would have preferred something that I could have plugged in for power. The TempStick works great and is easily portable. But if you want five minute temperature data points, the two AAA batteries will run out of juice pretty quickly, and probably not last more than a few months. This means I would have to reach in and grab it to replace the batteries somewhat frequently. I ended up just setting them for the default 30 minute temperature check which will allow the batteries to last somewhere between six and 12 months. That time is based off all the others that I have installed around the house and outside. Being able to pull the data in remotely as well as configuring it definitely made the TempStick the winner for me.
All the fans are powered through chained USB cables connected to the controller. One immediate problem that occurred was that almost none of the cables were actually long enough to reach where the controller was installed. There was not an option to purchase longer cables, so a simple USB extender cable was used. I used one for each of the chains to make sure that all the cable lengths were the same just in case the impedance caused some sort of issue with the different of lengths of the cable for power. These extenders were tested pre-installation as well to make sure that worked too.
I played with different temperature settings and controls to see what worked best. The 80mm fans continued to be audibly noisy even after the installation. The 120mm fans were still nearly silent. With any amount of conversation of the players, the 120mm fans noise was easily covered. Another interesting benefit was that the 120mm fans were actually sufficient to carry almost all the cooling by themselves without needing the extra air flow from the 80mm fans. This allowed me to set different temperature set points on the two sets of fans such that unless things got much warmer inside the box, the 80mm fans would not need to fire off. This kept the noise down, and did not chill the person sitting at the air intake vent location.
Overall I am very happy with the installation and the hardware I used. I really would have liked to have seen that the controller had WiFi access to track the temperature and even manage it. The 80mm fans were a little of a disappointment, but the 120mm fans were much better, so a break even there. There were many options to configure the controller that allowed me to create an environment that make noise and airflow controlled and would not detract from game play. The whole point of all of this was to improve game play and continue down the path of Virtual Table Top gaming.