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Session 1, Prelude

1st of Mirtul of the year 1492

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.

Otis Samael

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 Samael

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.  

William Samael

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.

Ammakyl Family Crest

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.

Timmer Longschal
Waterdeep Soldiers

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.

3rd of Mirtul of the year 1492

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.

Yondral Horn

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.

Lily Phen

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.

Imar Feldar

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.

4th of Mirtul of the year 1492

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.

Gheldram Tassor
Blaskus Ulraven

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.

5th of Mirtul of the year 1492

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.

Nesbis Wescatt

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 Axedredge, 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.

Thorn Tlassalune

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.

Saul Blockgnasher

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.

Nathan Axedredge

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.

Stag N’ Flag Waitress

Session Notes:

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.

Session 1 – Overland Travel

Campaign Notes:

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.

Princes of the Apocalypse, Kind of

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.

To Play or Not to Play

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.

Time Waits for No One

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.

I am back, hopefully more regularly than before.

Monster Descriptions and Module Monster Behavior

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.

And here is the Monster Card for the Esobok Psychopomp, that is taken directly from the bestiary:

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….

Table Build – Cooling Installation

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.

Table Build – Game Play Post-TV/VTT Details

Today I plan on talking about how the play changed, improved or not, since we now had the TV installed. Just getting the TV installed the first time really had me excited and dreading all the extra work that I would have to go through to actually change most of the game play to an electronic map from the standard mat on the table.

I have already spent a lot time describing the first install, so I will not repeat any of that. In fact even the second install was documented.

To VTT or to Graphics Program

Once the new TV was installed, and while I was excited to get started, I realized that after poking at the different VTT software packages, primarily Roll20, MapTool, and Fantasy Grounds, I knew I wanted to start off more simply. While there is a laundry list of possible packages and several under development, I just did not want to spend the next year going from one to the other and using my players as the test subjects. I also did not want to have to spend 40+ hours watching YouTube videos just to get started.

I know that I will eventually go back and revisit the tool sets available and hope for more of that real automation feel and have something that can handle more of the game master work so I can focus on play and not as much the details of execution.

What I ended up using was Pixelmater. While not as nice as Omnigraffle for basic drawing, it did have the layer tool as a separate window. This means I can have the images on the TV and the layer tool and other tools on the game master screen. This separation was very important to allow me to have control of images on a different screen than what the player would see. I seem to remember that most graphic tools used to have the different tools in separate windows, it seems that in the last ten years they have all been going for a more unified interface removing this capability that I suddenly needed.

I could now, and somewhat crudely, now draw the different fog of war black boxes on different layers allowing me to hide the box revealing the map beneath easily. Of course, that was one hard lesson that I learned early. Make sure you label your layers appropriately and clearly otherwise you will spend time spinning around trying to find out which room you want to reveal. Then there is also the possibility of multiple layers depending on how the players entered the room. Some of the first tests had high complex and detailed black boxes and that was nearly a complete failure.

And then there were the traps and secret rooms. I needed to work on trying to map similar texture to cover those as well. You can see below with a real module map. And yes, some of my black boxes did not all align perfects. The next map turned out much better. Some of you may recognize this map from the Mummy’s Mask Chains of the Silver Encounter.

I also ended up adding in more “Fog of Black Boxes” in areas where there was nothing but blank areas. This was to hide what might have been guessed by the players on what the future spaces and rooms might have foretold.

And this was mostly the limit of my VTT experiment. It was solely to act as a replacement for the old mat that we used to draw on manually. It was crude, it was ugly, but it worked and did not require huge amounts of effort and time to get working. In less than a week, I went from a mat on the table and drawing the spaces to having moved all the maps to the TV. I spent less time overall with drawing little black boxes than I did with drawing on the mats. A good exchange overall. Better yet, it allowed to take some of the map assets and enhance them in different ways.

As an example, still in the Mummy’s Mask module, the city of Wati:

Being able to annotate spots on the map quickly and easily and having each one be a separate layer allowed me to show encounters, locations and such as they figured out more of the story. Having this map fill almost the entire screen was pretty awesome.

New TV Configuration

So, did game play change very much with the final TV installation? Not really. The last installation was more of a more permanent installation than any real change to the flow of play or game mastering. The gear moved around a little, cooling was fixed, but beyond that everything else fundamentally remained the same.

Improved or Not?

I think that everyone agrees, especially the players that game play feels much better. The maps are much more accurate since I can use the ones straight from the module. Does it flow any faster? No. But it has added a color flavor that was missing previously and has made playing much more enjoyable. While preparing the maps is a bunch of work, it now allows me to more easily re-use maps in different and interesting ways, especially when something can be used many times such as the city map. I can add in elements over time slowly revealing the information to the players.

It was so worth the time and money to put all of this together and I have really enjoyed it a lot. Now I just need time to get one of the real VTT programs running. So far I have not been impressed with any of them working well, and they are overly cumbersome in places that just does not make sense. Maybe next time.

Table Build – Game Play Pre-TV/VTT Details

This is the second in a series to talk more about the tables, its parts and how we are using it.

Gaming Pre-TV

When I began using the table in the beginning, I really had huge hopes and inspiration on how I would use it. Reality on the other hand bites hard on the ass when you actually try these things during game play.

In the beginning I had all the delusions of grandeur where I would be able to have all the Dwarven Forge pieces out, mood lighting, and be able to deliver an amazing gaming experience. The alcove was the perfect place to have all these pieces. I could set up an encounter and cover it up so my cats would not considering it a new play area for themselves. It really did work very well, and did add a new dimension of playing. But was it worth it? Not really. In fact, besides that one encounter, it became very burdensome quickly.

While the Dwarven Forge parts look great, they take time to set up. I played with setting up most of an adventure area and covered it with cardboard to give that fog of war experience. But it just was not possible to have enough space, nor enough time to update changes to the adventure area. Taking a break frequently to reset just was not very practical. And while I really like the stuff, it complete failed to fit into our game very well.

If your game is at all dynamic, your scenes need to change frequently and something that can take away from the game to keep resetting the map just distracts and detracts from the game. This issue was only exacerbated because I had two games to run and could not leave a build up for either one more than a few days. If only we have VTT to replace this for us.

Which means putting the leafs back in and using a giant Chessex mat to cover the table instead. This worked very well. Combing this with a large number of the smaller mats it not only could accommodate each game very well, but allowed for some carry over of material between the two different games that were being run.

Table Use and Sitting or Not

When building the table I wanted the possibility of having the players and game master to have the option of sitting or standing. As I and others age, standing while playing can make it easier on the old bones and just provide a different view point of the action that is happening. And I know that during game play when I was much younger, jumping up in excitement during an encounter has happened more than once, possibly even sending pizza or some beverage flying. By giving everyone a platform to have that option was important, but once play started, what did everyone actually do?

On average we have five to six players at each game. The table itself was made to hold at least eight, and if friendly, there is easily room for two at the end of the table giving us eight player spots plus the game master. While the table has never been that crowded it does have a large capacity. There is only a single player overlap between the two games, which means I have nine players plus myself at different times playing on this table. The other game master is just another player in the Monday game and only the Monday game switches game masters.

This has proved to be an interesting difference between the two games related to who sits and who stands. On the Monday game (five players, four male and one female), everyone stands except whomever sits at the end of the table. On the Friday game (six players, four females and two males), no one stands. This has remained the same before and after the TV was installed on top of and later inside the table. Age wise, the average age of the Friday game is greater, but in experience, the Monday game has the most experienced players.

Why the person who sits at the end of the table always sits is interesting. Since they have the longest view of the table and can reach little on the table, they are most likely to request someone else to move the miniatures or ask for tactical verification of the situation. Maybe they just feel they are too far away from the action?

No real scientific analysis, just interesting facts between the groups.

Game Master Computer

Since there was now a nice large space for the game master, I wanted to be able to have a computer there where I could look up rules or questions, and have a place to start driving the game electronically and not have to rely on paper as much. It was a bold undertaking, but small steps.

Having the LG 5k Monitor attached to a nice monitor arm by Ergotron which was mounted to the side of the table was just the start. Using some rear mounting brackets, I had attached a new Apple Macintosh Mini. This allowed me to have all the gear and cables in a nice tight spot and with a bunch of Velcro strapping it was bundled together quite well. While this might seem a certain amount of overkill, I wanted to make sure that I would not have to replace any of the hardware for a long time and would be able to drive anything I wanted related to VTT in the future.

I really love the Ergotron monitor arms. You will find them in most industrial and hospital areas. They are tough, solid, and will outlast anything you want to do with them. I have used them for more than a couple of decades and continue to purchase them anytime I meed something to hold up a monitor.

The new Mac Mini was going to be a requirement since whenever I installed the TV, I knew that it would be a 4k TV and the last two generations of Mac Mini’s were lacking quite a bit. Yes, I could have built a hackintosh, or used a Windows based PC, but I just wanted it all to work out of the box without having to fiddle with it much and I knew that anything I tested on my desktop workstation (also a Macintosh) would seamlessly work on the game master station, which was important. And all the game masters that would be running games at my house also have Macintosh’s. Meaning, getting the real thing would be worth it for less hassle in the future.

Everything was mounted on the side of the table, pushed over, and plenty of room left for the GM screens and what paperwork was left over.

Active Play

With everything set up, play was easy and besides a few people with T-Rex arms, everything reachable. This was definitely a huge improvement over any previous gaming set up that I and most of the others have ever had. The mat on the table for a natural die rolling area. Life was good and game play drove on. Having a nice open space everyone was able to easily chat and play.

Table Build – Power Installation Details

Recently there has been a lot of interest in some of the details about the Gaming Table that we are using. More specifically, interest in what parts were used as well as how we are managing the games with our set up. With this article I will talk more about the cabling and power into the table.

Understanding that with the modern world, there would be the need to not only power the large selection of devices that each player would bring, but I would also need to be able to power up portions of the table itself for future VTT play. If you look at the basement construction project you will be able to see that we were able to start from scratch and plan for power and other possible connections to the table space.

To future proof the space and to make sure that I could upgrade cabling and power in the future, a pair of conduit pipes were laid out between the server room and where I hoped the table legs would go. One pipe went to the server electrical sub-panel and the other to the server room structured wiring terminated. Here you can see where the conduits terminated in the floor:

And here they terminate in the server room:

As you can see there is a 20A line to the table area and four Cat6 cables. One of the Cat6 cables was later redirected to go between the LED lights and the transformer leaving me with three Ethernet cables. I was not sure if I would actually use the Ethernet connectivity, but added it in just in case. It was easily to put in while the floor was missing, and cost very little compared to everything else. Also given that I had the conduit pipes, I could always string other cables to include more power in the future if I really needed to.

In actual use, I have not yet used any of the Ethernet cables. My thought around it was POE or direct connection to the future computer and TV. Instead I have a fairly powerful wireless signal covering the entire basement that has so far proved to be sufficient for not only the table, but for all the players. Maybe once we start utilizing VTT much more heavily I might revisit how we are handling the network connectivity.

Ignore the labeling of my structure wiring. The cable guy clearly failed in his ability to properly install cable in a contiguous manner and put together areas that should all actually be together. It is on my list of something to rewire in the future to make it cleaner and make more logical sense. I will admit that my OCD occasionally flairs up when I go in there and see it.

In the floor are the two boxes where the cables terminate. The table itself has the equivalent of a power cord that stretches down into the floor panel and plugs into one of the outlets there. I originally had a pair of very nice cast iron floor plates to go on top, but since the table pedestal completely covered up the panels, there was not a reason to keep those on. Within the table itself the power cable starts one side and connects up all the corner outlets in a series much like you would normally do in a room. We just did it in a table instead. This simplified the wiring and since all the wiring could be installed a head of time, it was easy to ensure that we could conform to code and have real electricians install and certify the install.

You can see some of this cabling here:

That white box in that first picture in the corner of the tables is the controller for the LED lights that sit inside the alcove of the table. The lights sat under the cleat that goes around the inside of the table with a RGB controller installed on one of the corners. This would allow me or any of the game masters to control the color of the lights easily for effect in any game. When we retrofitted the table for VTT and dropped the TV inside, that cleat was removed with the LED lighting including that controller in the corner.

The cleats were for holding up the table leafs that covered the alcove and gave the table a flush and flat surface. Now I have a bunch of solid cherry leafs with no home and just sit in the mechanical room in the basement.

Installed in each corner on the long side of the table was an outlet with with USB A and C 5v/4.8A charging ports. Again, planning on the different types of devices I put in both types of charging ports knowing that not all of our players were as much an Apple fan boy that I pretend to not be. All of the hardware I ordered was in black of course.

The plates that cover all the outlets are the same throughout the basement and those were purchased at House of Antique Hardware. With all of that I could not easily have the players power up all their toys, whether it was laptops, tablets, or their phones as they pretended to not hear the ring every time there was a home emergency that only occurred on game night.


With that we have properly powered the table and provided for some limited future-proofing. My hopes were that I would be a sufficient planner and designer to have all the parts in place and not need to upgrade much in the future. Power has been plentiful and we have easily been charging nearly a dozen phones and tablets at the same time with a pair of laptops. Occasionally there is a little jostling when someone’s power plug is large enough to overlap on to the USB plug. Something for me to think about the in future to consider how to improve that.

Hints and Story Lines

As a Game Master there is nothing more frustrating than to have your immaculate, detailed, and clueful plan be blown out of the water because your players are either dumber than a rock, just ignore what you believe is in front of their face, or go in a direction that is the contrary of what you so clearly laid out for them. Yes, they are clearly mocking your brilliance and purposely destroying your plans, those rat bastards.

What do you do as a Game Master when your master plan fails in some way? How can you get the players back on track and into the adventure that was planned for them? This does make the introduction of the idea of Sandboxes and Railroad adventure types. I know some Game Masters will run the Sandbox style only and seen most of them struggle and fail upon occasion when the players really go in a direction that was in the great unknown space of the campaign.

Basically a Sandbox campaign allows for anything to occur and the players to attempt almost anything, to include abandoning an adventure in the middle.

Knuff the Barbarian – “Oh, the orcs are going to invade that village where the Saintess of Norwell lives. Without her, this entire region will plunge into darkness! Should we go save them?”

Gripf the Mage – “Nah, looks like a grind, let’s go somewhere else”

Game Master – “CROOOOOOM!”

Whereas a Railroad campaign only gives the players some narrow choices on what their options are and what directions they are going. They are expected to follow the planned adventure. This is normally the case with the commercial modules that can be purchased. While there are many choices for the players to make in the module, the overall adventure is set and they will be marched in that direction. If they really do not want that, then why are they playing that module?

Nakht Shepses – “You must earn the right to enter the Necropolis and save the city of Wati from the scourge of undead that plague us! You need to fight my Vanth Psychopomp, that is much tougher than you, to meet my expectations!”

Setit Alablaze the Sorcerer – “Meh, why would need to do that”

Nakht Shepses – “Because I will not approve of you until this combat is completed”

Wayngro the Barbarian – “Why are we listening to this pencil dick? We can just go and do the adventure without this bullshit”

Sebti the Crocodile – “I need your team to partake of this contest to help with the harmony of the temple. It would be better to have everyone work together on this.”

Wayngro – “Fine, but you better give me that damn bastard sword from the auction”

Sebti – “Oh, I saw some halflings run off with it.”

Wayngro – “CROOOOM!”

<Battle goes on>

Lord Elgin Youngblood the Investigator – “Sigh, this is just dragging on. he can keep his distance and we suck at anything ranged.”

Wayngro – “Fuck this, I’m gonna just run off now”

Game Master – Sigh, maybe I should have just rushed the combat and moved it along… sigh

Yes, maybe that was a bit too scripted and railroaded. In retrospect that could have been handled better.

I have seen groups take the clues laid before them and then taken it in a direction completely unanticipated. Something completely unplanned for. But that did not end the adventure. They just have a different one. When you have time to plan for it that is.

I usually prefer running a hybrid campaign style. The players can go anywhere and start anything. But as the adventure progresses their options will start to narrow as the rails slowly show up under them. They will usually need to finish what they start. They can leave lingering side quests uncompleted, but there is an over-arching story there that they need to attempt to drive to the end. Otherwise as a Game Master you are infinitely attempting to create content on the fly which will end up not being fun for the Game Master either.

I had one group that reached the big boss encounter. It was their old comrade. A character that had died a horrible death much earlier in the game. The remaining party members stripped the body of any goodies and left the naked body in the “dungeon”. Well, of course I was not going to leave such good material behind…

In a much later adventure, the party gets to the boss room and the villain, their old friend, winds up for the standard monologue to explain what has happened and what will be the future should look like for them. You know, the standard Bond Villain dialoge when Bond gets captured or faces off with the boss. As a part of that he would reveal that he is actually just a pawn in a bigger game, clues and hints all over the place! It was time to do a data unload on the characters and be able to explain why things were the way they were. Just as they enter the room for the encounter to start, one of the players goes “Meh”, promptly powers up and starts attacking. Sigh.

Where was my turn to give that wondrous speech that had been painstakingly worked on for this encounter? How would they be able to get the clues and hints they needs to progress farther in the adventure. One player basically jumped in and ruined the situation. Yes, I could have forced the conversation, I could have just put everything on hold and said my piece. I do control the Deus Ex Machina. But, I allowed it to move forward as is.

Because I was ready for them to screw it up. I have seen them do it several times before. Their tactical ineptitude had cost them a character death more than once. I cannot forever fudge the dice just to be nice. Run into a room without backup and get surrounded by creatures that are tougher than any individual character will get you killed, and it did.

I had planned several “diaries” from the same villain in different places around the location they were exploring. It was my backup. I had lots of extra clues that were ready to be dropped in different areas in case they missed one or two. Or more likely did not understand the clues that I gave them. Some of that might be me being too obtuse, but never underestimate the potential for a player to just misconstrue what you meant no matter how clear you think you said it.

There was a case with another party of players that encountered a especially difficult creature. As you might remember I use “Monster Cards” as a way of helping the players know what their character should know. This one player that had the appropriate knowledge just was not able to read the basics of the card. I even verbally gave him hints on what he might want to tell his team so that they can respond better for the encounter. But he remained convinced he was delivering what was required. Everyone else at the table got the hints I was giving, but he remained stubborn believing his rendition of the data was more accurate than the one the Game Master was giving him… yes, this was our inexperienced player group, which is why I was willing to give those hints.

In the end, you cannot plan for everything, but you can plan for different fail points. Your players will screw up the clues whether it is your created content or a module. You will need to plan on being able to deliver the same information in multiple ways just in case. For my more inexperienced players, I always give a summary of what happened at the previous session at the new session. Sometimes I will force them to talk with each other on what had been discovered and if they figured anything out, correct or not. This forces them to consider what they have been doing as well as the possible clues that they might have understood or even misunderstood. This then also helps me understand what made sense or not with that set of players.

For the more experienced team, I allow them to fall off the understanding train more easily and bring back the clue-bat when needed, but keep that much more minimal than the other team of players.

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