How my party defeated Shia Labeouf!

 

 

You’re walking in the woods. There’s no one around, and your phone is dead. Out of the corner of your eye you spot him.

Shia Labeouf.

If you’ve been on the internet for the past few years, chances are you’ve seen this video. Actual Cannibal Shia Labeouf (by Rob Cantor) stands in the pantheon of incredible internet videos. Years ago I saw the original animated version for the first time, and still joke about it to this day. There’s also a good chance it’s true, nobody can be sure.

As far back as 2013 when I first began running games for my D&D group on Roll20, we had the inside joke that one day the party would face off against none other than the flesh-eating king: Actual Cannibal Shia Labeouf. One of us would reference the video, I’d jokingly threaten to pit the party against him, and we’d laugh for a moment before resuming the session.

Little did they know, these threats were not hollow.

In the back of my mind, I kept that idea alive. Waiting for the right time, for the perfect time to strike. My original Pathfinder campaign drew to an untimely close and I could never seem to find the perfect time to throw Shia against them in “Gods of the Void”. But just last week, in “Thicker than Wine”, the perfect opportunity presented itself. After years of plotting I would have my party face off against the ultimate monster… man himself.

 

 

Lurking in the shadows… Hollywood superstar Shia Labeouf!

 

We began our last session with the party leaving Dusant. They’d just learned about people disappearing outside the city and were in a hurry to investigate (thankfully this party has a moral compass). Daniel Thorn, the Royal Huntsman, was summoned by his Lady, Countess Surgail, and was unable to join his comrades (Michael couldn’t attend last session) so Ivellios (Fighter), Eilish (Fighter), and Kaelynn (Rogue) ventured into the woods in search of the missing citizens of Dusant… especially Jeras, the son of Varen, the masterwork blacksmith of the city.

They made their way into the forest to the southeast, following recent tracks that appeared to lead deeper into the woods. They stumbled upon the cabin of Old Bill, who really desperately wanted affection:

 

 

Old Bill held some parallels to Old Gregg. Old Gregg is an inspiration to me.

 
After deciding they didn’t want to be friends with Old Bill (can’t imagine why not–washing each other’s feet is natural to do with strangers), the party ventured onward. But Old Bill shouted a word of warning to our intrepid heroes… “Beware the Vale! Don’t go beyond it–that’s where the people be disappearin’!” A successful insight check led the party to realize that while this old man was bat-shit crazy, his warning appeared… genuine. They cautiously moved onward, as I gritted my teeth in excitement.

With little delay, they reached their destination… a glen filled with an unnatural, thick fog. They stopped to momentarily plan how to proceed. The first attempt ended with the rogue, Kaelynn, falling into a pit trap. They recovered quickly enough, but seemed hesitant to proceed–I knew they needed a nudge.

I described a predatory gaze fixated upon them, a cold chill running up their spines. But they couldn’t see anything in the fog. They retreated briefly, discussing what they just experienced, and how they should make it in. I knew another nudge was in order. They heard the lamenting moans of prisoners ahead, from deep within the fog! They steeled themselves and ventured onward, unwilling to leave the innocent townsfolk to their fates.

Hidden in the fog, the party saw a group of thugs around a campfire near the cages where the prisoners were kept. They listened in, and heard that the thugs were remorseful. They were beginning to doubt that this was worth the money they were being paid. The party then decided to act–making me proud as a GM could ever be.

Ivellios threw out a distraction, drawing some of the guards away and placing the others on alert. Ivellios and Eilish slowly approached as Kaelynn stuck to the shadows. The guards approached, weapons drawn, ready to fight. Ivellios and Eilish talked them down, convincing the guards that they were from the guild “Wealth of the Humble” and had only come seeking the townsfolk. As they explained they did not come to fight, the thugs only appeared agitated, believing this was a ploy to catch them off-guard. Eilish then won them over by appealing to their own doubts. How could they continue serving someone who would have them do this–traffic innocents to satisfy this monster in this glen?

This struck a chord with the thugs. I laid out some exposition… they all stuck together, being the kind of folk who couldn’t live in the restraints of lawful society. They’d always lived the free life of outlaws, until they joined the Black Oath. At first, they were simply taken with the coin–the jobs didn’t matter. Then they began working for this client. This man, who paid them to bring creatures of all sorts for ghastly hunts and amusement in the glen. It was fine at first; they would bring him creatures and be paid well. But then, he wanted… people. The coin was even better, so they convinced themselves it was worth it. But the sickening pleasure the man took in hunting those people, and the sounds of the… eating. The tearing. Chewing. It was too much. No coin was worth that.

In that moment, they had a change of heart. Eilish and Ivellios pleaded with them to turn over a new leaf–redeem themselves for what they’ve done. Moments later, the thugs freed all of the captives, and pledged themselves to live better lives. The party recognized old friends from within the captives… but there was no time to celebrate.

“You feel that same piercing, predatory gaze upon you. The hairs on your neck stand up, the tense chill of fear gripping at your heart. You know he is there. Watching.”

Panic struck the crowd, frightened shouts of “He’s here!” “We’re going to die!” “He’ll kill us all!” The party helped the captives flee… through the thick fog, the chill damp grass, they ran. But their pursuer was gaining on them. They knew they couldn’t get everyone out. They knew they had to stand their ground.

Finally. It was time.

You’re in the woods amidst the victims.
Suddenly, out of the corner of your eye, you spot him.
*whispers* Shia Labeouf.

The players roared with fucking laughter.

 

 

Eating all the bodies… Actual Cannibal Shia Labeouf!

 

I continued in with the lyrics from the song.

He’s following you, about 30 feet back.
He gets down on all fours and breaks into a sprint.
He’s gaining on you.
(Shia Labeouf)

He’s almost upon you now.
And you can see there’s blood on his face.
My god! There’s blood everywhere!
ROLL INITIATIVE!

Everybody fought well. They quickly flanked Shia, getting advantage on their attacks. They fiercely pummeled Shia, swiftly depleting his HP. But Shia had other plans. With swift attacks and a Bite, he launched a counter-assault, injuring Ivellios and Eilish, while restoring his own HP with his sick blood-thirst.

It seemed he was getting weakened. Victory was at hand! But what’s this? He disengaged and… my gods?! He’s eating a body?! The sickening chomping, crunching, chewing… the sound echoes through the air! He appears to have regained some vigor!

Needless to say, they didn’t like that.

A few more intense, edge-of-your-seat rounds later, he fell…

His body falls to the floor. Your heave a deep, exhausted sigh of relief.
You have beaten Shia Labeouf

Ivellios knew better. Believing there was something supernatural about Ol’ Mr. Cannibal, he acted to decapitate him.

All according to plan.

Wait! He isn’t dead! Shia Surprise!
There’s a blade in his hand, and death in his eyes!

Shia then got a surprise round where he landed another bite on the now-severely-injured Ivellios. The party went ballistic, launching everything they had left, and they did it.

His head topples to the floor, expressionless.
you fall to your knees and catch your breath.
You’re finally safe from Shia Labeouf.

The session ended with them discovering Shia’s cabin after the fog fades (supernatural indeed), and several people swearing loyalty to the new up-and-coming guild “Wealth of the Humble”!

Things went far better than I ever could have expected. With a bit of twisting I was able to incorporate the now-deceased Shia Labeouf into my world (yes, his presence made sense) and I got to give the party a thrilling session filled with intense fighting. All-in-all, I’d call it a hell of a victory.

Here’s the stat block I used for Shia:
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HP: 90
AC: 15
Speed: 30

Shifty Predator: Shia can use Withdrawal or Hide as a bonus action.

Lurking in the Shadows: Shia has advantage on stealth checks in the dark and in the fog.

Multiattack: Shia can make two attacks, two Short Sword or one grapple and Bite.

Short Sword +6: 5 ft reach. Target takes (1d6+3) slashing damage, OR instead of dealing damage, Shia will Grapple the target. (DC 13 STR save)

Bite +6: 5 ft reach. Target must be Grappled, Incapacitated, or Restrained. Target takes (1d6+3) piercing damage and (2d6) necrotic damage. Restore HP to Shia equal to necrotic damage dealt.

Shia Sprint: Shia gets down on all fours and breaks into a sprint! Moves four times his base movement speed as his move action. Once per day.

Eating all the Bodies: Shia can use an Action to eat a corpse on the ground recording 2d10 HP.

Shia Surprise! When Shia hits 0 HP, he comes back at 45 HP unless decapitated.
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Hope you enjoyed the tale of my party’s great victory! Feel free to shoot me an email with any awesome fights you’ve had in your campaigns!

Until next time, happy gaming!

How to better crunch down enemies!

Hey guys, Nick checking in again! So I’ve talked about two different roles previously–tank and healer. But let’s complete the “Holy Trinity” that Travis explained previously.

That’s right baby! Today we’re talking about damage dealers! These are your rogues, rangers, barbarians, warlocks… classes that, by default, are made to dish out heavy damage. By all means, each has secondary utility as well; however, if you build a damage dealing class right you can dish out big pimpin’ damage! And who doesn’t love rolling a ton of dice?!

I remember when I first got into it, I wanted to make some sweet high damage characters. I tried rolling everything from Fighters, to Rangers, to Sorcerers… and most of them ended up sucking. It felt pretty lackluster watching the sweet two-handed build Fighter I spent hours making do an extremely good job of cleaving the ground. Or the Ranger hailing a storm of arrows against skeletons, who laughed in reply (it sucked).

As for the Sorcerer….

We don’t talk about her.

She will be missed.

But man, sometimes you roll a character thinking it’s good, but the performance is a zero. So how do we get this:

 

 

 

 

… and not this:

 

 

 

 

Let’s go over some information to help you go Super with your damage! Just Saiyan. (I’ll see myself out for that one)

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1.) Rock Your Build: I’ve mentioned it in all 3, and I simply can’t reiterate it enough! builds are available everywhere. Want to learn about Ranger? There’s some great information here, for example. There’s a ton of valuable information available online, or you can thoroughly study your core content like the Player’s Handbook. You’ve heard me say it before–you know.

But I want to take it a step in a different direction today. I also want to encourage you to play to your build and class strengths. It’s totally fine to build glass cannons–or, rather, characters who can dish out massive damage but are also killed easily. It’s incredibly effective to have a super tanky tank, a great support, and a group of damage dealers who can focus the enemy down quickly. But if you want to throw in extras to help you survive in case things go wrong, or if you style of play doesn’t jive with what’s posted online? Further yet, what if you’re playing without a tank or healer in your group? (It happens!)

Well, that’s fine! I know a lot of people who use “Lucky” to get those extra rolls for when things go wrong. Or “Tough” to get some extra HP, should the enemy decide to focus on something other than the armored dude in front. It’s totally fine to look up a build and make it your own! Just remember what you’ve got and use it to your advantage! I encourage everybody to research their builds to make sure you don’t end up with something totally off-the-wall that doesn’t work, but at the same time if you know how to make it work then do you. Information is available but at the end of the day it’s all about having fun, right?

2. Know Your Enemy: This, right here, is what’s gonna separate the kids and the adults at dealing damage. Experience is by far the biggest factor here. As you play more, you learn more about what enemies are affected by types of damage. If you’re playing a mid-to-high level campaign, it’s perfectly reasonable for your seasoned adventurer to know a thing or two. Knowing that a skeleton isn’t resistant to blunt, that trolls regenerate unless they take fire damage, or that iron golems shouldn’t be fucked with are important things to dealing damage and being effective.

Plan for the occasion! Ask the needed questions when it’s time to roleplay. Is your quarry a troll? have your character take the time to ask around or research it. Learn its weakness and bring the right supplies! Delving into an undead tomb? Why not bring a mace (or cudgel) along with your usual sword/daggers? Being prepared for a number of situations–and taking the time to truly learn what you’re up against will prepare you for almost anything! Except a tarrasque. You’re probably screwed, then.

Having some versatility in your weapons and supplies might make the difference between a party member dying, and your group victorious pillaging the emptied dungeon for that sweet, sweet loot. So ask the questions, do your homework, get those supplies. Plan ahead.

3. Communicate: I know, nobody likes to be “that guy” who meta games (rather, considers the game, rather than what their character is thinking). But sometimes in the midst of combat, I tell players it’s better to meta game a little and realize you’re fighting a god damn dragon (so don’t line up for breath attacks) than to risk everybody dying because your character wouldn’t know that.

And it’s okay for you–or your character–to communicate what you know! Need the tank to move out of the way to drop a Fireball? Notice an enemy that nobody is focusing down, but appears to be a bigger threat? Maybe an enemy is starting to focus you and things are looking dire. Or perhaps everybody is spreading out when you do need to focus something down. Communicate your thoughts! Not everybody notices every little detail on the battlefield, and your attention to detail could be the difference between victory or defeat.

As I also mentioned above in #2, if you happen to know something about a monster, provide a suggestion rather than let everybody flounder and inevitably die because they don’t know how to exploit the weakness (unless you’re playing neutral/chaotic evil, then do you).

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These are just a few tips to get you going down the Path of Greatness, to help you achieve a better experience as a damage dealing class! Taking the time to build for good damage, and to utilize the right kind of damage along with communication are all important to effectively kicking enemy ass.

Any builds you prefer to use? Do you maximize your damage, or build for versatility?

Until next time, happy gaming!

Travis goes to SacAnime

Friends,

Today I shall tell you a tale of another of my childhood heroes. He doesn’t fly around in a giant robot, but he does have a wicked ass scar on his face:

 

 

 

 

That’s right, his name is Squall Leonhart and he is the hero from a video game. Those of you who know who he is can start mocking me now, everyone else better listen up cause this is awesome:

You see, the thing about Squall is he doesn’t give a fuck. Just like Heero (you know, the guy from last time who pilots the giant robot), he is focused on his goals and doesn’t care about how he is seen or what he is ‘supposed’ to do. Squall came to me during high school, a time when there is a lot of social pressure to conform and people judge you the harshest for the stupidest stuff.

In the world I lived in, there existed the dreaded dance. It was something you were supposed to go to, something you were supposed to be excited for, and something you were supposed to dance at. Bullshit! Young Travis thought. But for some reason none of my friends agreed with me. Nobody except for Squall:

 

 

 

 

Here is a dude, who totally kicks ass at dancing, but pretends to suck at dancing so he doesn’t have to do it, because dances are stupid. Of course a pretty girl got him to dance anyway, but the point is I admire characters who do their own thing, even if it makes people mad or goes against tradition. So I decided to cosplay as Squall at SacAnime last year.

Now, most of the time when people cosplay as Squall they dress how he looks in the rest of the game, with that leather jacket and like 27 belts. I wanted to stand out by wearing the dress uniform he had on in that dance scene. There are a couple of other short scenes in the game where he is wearing those same clothes, but that dance is really the only time you see him rocking something formal. There are so many costumes and characters at conventions like these that I wasn’t expecting many people to know who I was dressed as, but about a dozen people recognized my costume from that dance scene, and that made me really happy.

 

 

Travis’s dog is the best dog

My friends,

A couple of years ago I picked up my best friend from Sequoia Humane Society. There are an awesome no-kill animal shelter, and both my TKD school and my… uh, regular school have donated a ton of stuff to them and the animals.

 

 

 

 

When we first got him he was a little scared and nervous, but he was an adorable baby. These next two pics were from the first week we got him, the first one is the cover on my phone.

 

 

 

 

Also, the shelters best guess was that he was a dachshund (wiener dog) / lab mix. We got a doggie DNA test kit as a gift from my parents, and it turns out his shortness and ‘lab face’ come from being part beagle.

 

 

 

 

He is a very emotional dog. He doesn’t like being alone so we got a doggie daycare membership for him, he plays with other dogs during the day while we are at work. He likes to cuddle too, whenever I am working on the computer or playing games he likes to sit in the chair with me. He also likes to sleep on me:

 

 

 

 

We taught him how to shake, and he figured out how to do it on both sides.

 

 

 

 

A few weeks ago he got a pretty bad ear infection. We were using some ear cleaner and giving him some medicine the vet gave us, but there was one night where his ear was bothering him so much he couldn’t sleep. He woke us up at about 2am digging in his ear and yelping because it hurt him. We knew he had to get him a cone to keep him out of his ear, but almost no stores were open in the middle of the night. I ended up MacGyvering one for him out of a water jug and some duct tape I bought in the middle of the night.

 

 

 

 

He slept through the rest of the night fine and we got him a legit cone the next day. Today he is healthy and happy, and continues to be the best dog in the universe. He hopes you enjoyed this story about him, and he also hopes that you have a dog treat for him.

 

 

 

 

Travis doesn’t always talk about his dog, but when he does it’s because he is taking a break from his D&D and hobby gaming newsletter! Click here to sign up and keep tabs on Blu

Nick’s Druid is the Best Druid

Happy weekend, all! Pity it’s back to the grind tomorrow.

Nick here, to talk about the sweet character I rolled for a friend’s campaign. You might recall that I have a player named Damon in Thicker than Wine. He is currently running a game of his own on Roll20, and invited me to join!

I inquired about the party composition (Ranger, Monk, Fighter) and made some decisions about what would help best compliment the party. After a bit of consideration, I opted to play a Druid. I’d never played one before, and figured it’d be a great time to learn about the class. I mean, it’s all about meditation, talking to trees, and turning into bears and shit, right?

Truth be told, I just wanted to run around as a bear for as long as possible.

 

 

 

 

… Boy, was in for a lesson. I did a lot of research about elves (first time playing a full-bloodied one!) and druids. I’m no expert by all means–but I did try to incorporate a bit of lore from the Elven backstory, from his experience as a Druid, and worked in some additional information from the setting of the campaign.

And so Varis Eleneth, the Druid, was born. I did a complete six-page backstory for Varis, detailing every last portion of his character. I chose the “Spy” background, so I worked in a part of his life spent as a spy. He was supposed to be an experienced adventurer, as this campaign starts at level 5, so I worked in a lot of adventure. I decided very early on that I wanted Varis to be a family man, so I made sure to incorporate that into his character story as well!

But who is Varis? At a basic level, I took some inspiration from some of my favorite characters: Kenshin Himura from Rurouni Kenshin and Maes Hughes from Fullmetal Alchemist. What better source material than your favorite characters?

Varis is an easy-going spirit, a peaceful man hailing from the Elven village of Sol’kehn who enjoys his time in nature (and wine… ohhhhh wine). He can be a bit of a joker at times, as he likes to make people laugh. He enjoys discussions, and is often seen communing with nature and spirits, but this friendly soul will talk to any of the common folk.

Of course, as he has become a father within the last 30-odd years Varis mostly just brags about his family: his strong-as-hell wife Redell and his daughter Tanye.

 

 

My daughter is already so amazing! Why, she has already bested many of the young Rangers in our home! She’s going to be just like her mother… beautiful, powerful, and resilient!

Now that’s not to say Varis is just some nice guy who likes everybody. Another big part of his personality is that he has the uncanny ability to go from carefree “dad joke” guy to serious badass at a moment’s notice. Also, being alive for 250+ years gives somebody a fair amount of experiences to draw from.

As an adventurer, he fought many evil forces that seek to harm innocents and destroy nature. One such enemy–a powerful sorcerer named Kaine–attempted a reverse invocation to absorb the powers of the god Myrkul. While they won that day, Varis knew Kaine would return one day to exact his revenge.

Varis also holds a disdain for the courts and nobility. He fought in the Great War, and became jaded by all of the death and suffering that he saw. He was commanded by the Council of Faer to use his Wild Shape and magical abilities to sneak into enemy camps and gather intel. He quickly became an asset due to his rare Druidic talents, but when Redell was injured one fateful day he ended up deserting his country, returning to his home of Sol’keihn within the Al’Teau Woods where he and Redell were raised.

This a very basic outline of the backstory I wrote for Varis. Each bit of this story tried to capture one aspect of the build I used. Varis has a variety of Wild Shapes (bear, giant toad, horse, mouse, cat, dire wolf) to use in a lot of occasion. I considered what kind of spells would best benefit the party as well.

I chose to be a Circle of the Moon Druid to augment my Wild Shape ability so that I could turn into stronger monsters than I’d regularly be able to. This allowed me to do a really versatile build: I could deal a fair amount of damage, tank, and still use my available magic to buff, heal, and support the party! I researched other builds (like Circle of the Land) that are really awesome for controlling the battlefield, and provide more support. But after a ton of consideration, I thought it would be more fun to support and wreck sh*t as a freaking bear.

Wild Shape provides a lot of utility with me being highly tanky due to the temporary HP. For example, I can shapeshift into a Dire Wolf to get 37 HP. So long as I don’t drop into negatives, this is literally bonus HP I get. I can take 36 damage, shift back as an Action, then use a Bonus Action to shift back and get another 37 HP. And I get Wild Shape uses back after a short rest, so this makes Varis a very effective tank for the group. You also maintain Concentration during a Wild Shape, so I can place a strong buff on an ally and Wild Shape to go in and wreck some bad guys.

Goodberry was a serious sleeper-hit of a spell for me. I’d never given it much consideration until I thought about more practical uses. 10 berries can effectively give 10 HP per cast for 24 hours. At a safe place before departure, you can expend all spell slots to give a bunch of berries, do a long rest to replenish your spells, and still have 16 hours to use available healing. This saved a lot of money on potions in the short-and-long term, and can also sustain the party for that day!

I packed his Repertoire with other spells like Poison Spray for standard damage, Guidance for support, Cure Wounds to heal, Detect Magic for utility, Conjure Animals for utility, Protection from Energy to support, and Druidcraft for some fun flavor.

All in all it was a lot of fun building Varis, and I’m excited for the first campaign to see him in action. It was also a great learning experience, as I now know far more about druids than I ever did before. What’s your favorite class to roll?

Until next time, happy gaming!