AvocaD&D and Tabletop Gaming Thread: The Convergence Manifesto, Part 2

Welcome back to the weekly D&D and Tabletop Gaming thread!  Here’s a place where we can talk about Dungeons & Dragons or any other tabletop games that you nerds might be into.  Tell us about the games you’re playing, speculate about future expansions, recruit your fellow Avocados into new groups, whatever you want.

This week, I’m writing about another of the new subclasses from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, the Swarmkeeper Ranger. These Rangers have formed a bond with a swarm of tiny nature spirits, which take the form of insects, birds, pixies, or even twig blights. The swarm helps the Ranger both offensively and defensively.

At Level 3, you first gain access to your Gathered Swarm. Until you die, the swarm is always with you, sharing your space, either crawling on your body or flying around you. Once per turn, immediately after you hit a creature with an attack you can cause the swarm to have one of three different effects. You can have it deal an extra 1d6 piercing damage to your target. You can have the swarm move the target up to 15 feet in any direction, as long as the target failes a STR saving throw. Or, you can have the swarm carry you 5 feet in any direction.

Also at 3rd Level, you get access to Swarmkeeper Magic, giving you some additional spells known as you increase in levels. Those spells include Faerie Fire at level 3, Web at 5th, Gaseous Form at 9th, Arcane Eye at 13th, and Insect Plague at 17th level.

When you reach 7th Level, you can condense your swarm into a Writhing Tide that lifts you up. As a bonus action, you gain a flying speed of 10 feet for 1 minute. You can also hover during this time, meaning you don’t need to move to maintain your flight. You can use this ability a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus each day.

At Level 11, your swarm grows stronger, becoming a Mighty Swarm. Each of it’s uses gets an upgrade. If you use it to add damage to your attack, the damage increases to 1d8. If you choose to push your target away from you, the target also falls prone if it fails its STR save. And, if you use the swarm to move yourself away from the enemy, the swarm also grants you half cover, increasing your AC by 2 points until the start of your next turn.

Finally, at Level 15, you can use your swarm to help you avoid danger with the Swarming Dispersal ability. When you take damage, you can use your reaction to disappear into your swarm, giving you resistance to the triggering damage (ie, you take half damage). As part of the same reaction, you also teleport up to 30 feet away. You can use this feature a number of times equal to you proficiency bonus, restoring expended uses on a long rest.

Josephus took over as DM for a new adventure in Eberron. The newest recruits for the Clifftop Adventurer’s Guild in Sharn include:

  • Sly, a Wildhunt Shifter Druid from the mysterious and exotic continent of Xen’drik (CleverGuy)
  • Cherri Bomb, a pink Tiefling Rogue (Waffle)
  • Uda Haserrea, a Summer Eladrin Paladin hailing from the Fairy Court of Thelanis (Wasp)
  • Petie, an Earth Genasi Ranger (Spiny)
  • Scylla, a Half-Elf Genie Patron Warlock, who a found a curious patron in a back alley market near Morgrave University (Hayes)

The game recap this week comes from Scylla, writing to her djinni patron, Zati the Curious—thanks to TheHayesCode for writing this up!

Dropping in to Droaam

Hi, Zati! So first off, let me say am I still loving the ever-loving crap out of these powers you gave me. Blasting lighting from my fingertips?  Oh yeah!  Anyway, uh, I think last time I told you about that little trip to the Cogs we took, and you liked it so much you agreed to turn up the amps a little. And it’s a really good thing you did, because this guild is keeping me hopping!  And by hopping, I mean, “off an airship.”  Uh, but let me start at the beginning.

So, the second manifest zone we were sent to investigate was connected to Irian, plane of positive energy and all-around good vibes.  All we had to do was drop an amulet at the center of the zone, let it soak up the positivity for a day, and then bring it back.  Simple, right?  Well, not so simple, because as it turns out the zone was just across the Droaamish border.

Now, I’ve always wanted to see Droaam, because, I mean, come on?  A whole country of monsters?  A melting pots of some of the most extreme cultures on Eberron?  Yes, please! There’s just the little problem that if I tried to go there on my own, they’d have my sweet little khoravar behind for lunch. Probably literally.

So, no problem – the client’s having us shipped in by air. And that means – yes!  My first long-distance ride on an airship!  Hey, don’t laugh, those tickets aren’t cheap on an academic salary, and it wasn’t like my folks could afford it growing up. Leaning against that railing, feeling the wind and the open sky, seeing all of Breland spread out before me… it was pretty amazing! My one regret was that it was getting dark by the time we passed over the Graywall Mountains, so I didn’t end up getting the same view of Droaam itself. I know, I know, cover of darkness, but I really wanted to see it! Maybe next time.

I guess I found out why they tested us with that jump back when I was joining the guild, because now it was time to do it for real – a nighttime drop onto the western slope of the mountains, just over the border. With an iffy feather fall token, no less!  Just as we jumped, the moon went behind a cloud, and everything went pitch dark.  Okay. Okay, no problem, I told myself. You know your darkvision goes out sixty feet, so just look straight down, and as soon as you see the ground, use your token. Easy-peasy.

So it ended up being pretty nerve-wracking, but we all made it down all right. Er, all except for Petie, who I guess used hers a little too early and ended up plummeting the rest of the way after it wore off. Lucky for Petie, Uda was fast enough to catch her. Lucky for the rest of us, too, ‘cause I wouldn’t want her landing on me!

As we picked our way down the mountain, Uda tripped and knocked some boulders loose, which started a mini-avalanche, and a rock whanged me on the side of the head. Not great. We took that as our cue to rest, although I didn’t trance out ‘cause I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to do that when you might have a concussion.

The sun rose while we were resting and I got my first good look at Droaam!  I know, I know, lines on a map are arbitrary, but somehow just seeing the plains and forests and realizing “this is monster country!” made my heart beat a little faster. I think I even spotted the Great Crag in the distance, but maybe that was just wishful thinking.

There was nothing wishful about the huge tracks we came across, though. Probably ogres. And as much as I thought it’d be interesting to meet a Droaamite on their native soil, I’m not, you know, COMPLETELY nuts, no matter what my colleagues say.  So we hung back a little.

And that was when it started to rain, and this rain – it was like a big old foot made out of water just plummeting out of the sky and stomping us.  Look, I’m a Lowstairs girl. Most of the rain hit bridges or struts or something and got channeled into gutters before it came down to us.  I’m just not used to this kind of thing, and we couldn’t find any shelter at all, and I got soaked through.

I considered popping into the lamp, just to get dry, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking I’d feel pretty stupid if I did it now and then later I had to hide from the entire Droaamish army or something. So I just stayed out and huddled in the sog and it was awful. By the time the rain ended I was shivering like a leaf. I really could have used a little of that positive energy about then! I was so miserable and exhausted afterwards that when we had to climb down one last cliff, I didn’t have the strength, and Uda carried me down instead. (It would have been nice to be able to turn into a spider, like Sly!)

Luckily, after that our map led us right to a hillside which we pretty quickly figured out was illusory terrain, and from then on, we didn’t have to worry about rain or patrols – just several days’ hike under the mountains. On the second day, we found bright, beautiful crystals embedded in the walls which looked like stars, and Cherri pried one loose.

Finally, we emerged into a small valley.  I knew right away this was the manifest zone – it was lush and beautiful, and even though it was night, everything was suffused with light. The air was fresh and delicious after that stale cave, and my legs even felt a little less sore. To top it all off, there was beautiful singing drifting on the breeze. I saw Sly and Cherri break from the group and run ahead, entranced.

It’s no wonder, because it turns out those mellifluous pipes belonged to a choir of harpies!  I’ve seen a few harpies in Sharn, but the ones in town generally clam up with that mind-control stuff so as not to rile up their neighbors. So this was another new experience. Fortunately, the harpies were only trying to charm us in self-defense.  Their black-winged leader (I learned later her name was Mieno) explained they were dissenters from the current Droaamish government and just wanted to hide out in the valley and keep to themselves. No problem, I told her – we just needed to charge up the amulet for scientific purposes and we’d be out of her hair, and there was no need to mention the harpies in our report.  She was kind enough to show us to a fountain at the heart of the manifest zone, and we placed the amulet there.

But just then, something really terrible happened. Apparently we weren’t quite as sneaky as we’d thought, because we were followed into the valley by a Droaamish patrol, and now the innocent harpies were under attack!  I felt awful, but there was nothing to do now but mitigate the damage as best we could.  We spotted a place where a couple of gnolls were breaking through the defenses and rushed to stop them.

First, Sly snared the intruders with a thicket of entangling vegetation bursting from the road and twining around their legs.  Uda charged forth, screaming threats, and getting their attention on her. Better her than me!  I took advantage of their distraction to hex one and hit him with an eldritch blast, and Cherri finished him off with a crossbow bolt.

The other gnolls managed to stumble out of the vines and hit Uda in the shoulder with a spear, and even worse, a couple of goblins popped out of the undergrowth and joined the fray.  I launched another eldritch blast at one, and-

He exploded.  Just plain exploded. Did I mention how grateful I am for the way you amped up my powers?  Because I really, really am.

A bigger, bossier-looking goblin stepped out from behind a rock and wasn’t especially happy to see bits of one of his underlings still raining down from the sky.  Sly hit him with a knife of ice (cool move!) and I tried to blast him – only for him to grab his other underling and use him as a living shield!

That underling exploded, too. The boss was left holding a pair of arms. 

Once again, so, so grateful. I love, love, love my happy little lightning fingers!

Petie mopped up the last gnoll, and between all of us, the goblin boss didn’t last long either. No time to rest, though, because Mieno reported a larger group coming in from the eastern tunnels!  I had just enough time to toss some water in my face on the run and coat myself in the Armor of Agathys – and no sooner had I done so than a rain of arrows hit us, chipping off a bit of the icy coating. Close call!

Mieno tasked us with bringing the tunnel down to keep the invaders out, and that’s what we did, attacking a couple of critical stone pillars to collapse the ceiling as the gnolls swept forward. Uda nearly brought one down with a single slash, and Sly, looking even more bestial, slashed one with claws oozing with some kind of toxic goop that dropped it in a steaming heap.

We eventually managed to collapse the tunnel just as another contingent of gnolls was arriving. I made it out with nothing more than a couple more cracks in my icy shell from falling rocks, but Uda was looking pretty bad after holding the front lines for us for so long. We were all exhausted and running low on resources – but a breath of that delicious air, soaked in positive energy, picked us up enough to keep going as a pair of burly half-ogres rushed us.

By the time we finished them off, we were all ready to collapse, I think, positive energy or no positive energy. The harpies were routing the rest of the troop, so we took the opportunity to check on the amulet. And it’s a good thing we did, because some goblins had slipped through the front lines and were looting anything they could find from the harpies – including our scientific instrument!  Even worse, some of them had cornered a few harpy children. That was really the worst – I don’t know what I’d do if one of those kids had gotten hurt because of me.

Uda, who was in no shape to keep fighting, simply held up the head of the goblin boss – I guess she’d picked it up earlier – and took a bit bite out of it.  And that was all it took – the goblins dropped their ill-gotten goods and ran. Phew!

With safety restored, as we rested and waited for the amulet to finish charging, the harpies treated us to a feast. The stew was tasty, but…interesting. I’m pretty sure I know what gnoll tastes like now. I put on a little prestidigitation show for the kids. Mieno even gave Uda a magical periapt that’ll held keep her from getting so trashed in battle, which she obviously needs. We were guided to another tunnel which lead under the mountains into Breland, and safety. A job well done!  Of course, I left everything about the harpies out of what I told the client – so I’m glad I have you to confide in, Zati, because otherwise I’d probably explode! Someone else was looking for us while we were gone… so I should have another adventure to tell you about soon.