MATT: (VO) For as long as I can recall, I've quested for a hero of a different kind. I have traveled far and wide, weaving tales with friends so that I can bring joy to any ear willing to listen. Through conclaves and cows, goldfish and gnolls, only one quest has eluded me. Till now. Everything has prepared me for this moment. This serpentine path from the humble beginnings at our mimosa-stained dinner table, now brings me to donning a crappy Halloween store cloak and venturing to the threshold to the Ed Sullivan Theatre. Here, the hero I have searched for now awaits. Ready for his own journey. Our hero: Stephen Colbert. Our enemy: child poverty. Our adventure: the search for the crimson sphere of generosity.
STEPHEN: Are we rolling? Are we rolling now? This is the magic right here.
MATT: Oh, yeah.
STEPHEN: The magic for me-- like the fun for me is reentering into this after all my teen years completely obsessed with it. And then I--I haven't, I haven't rolled the dice since I was a senior in college, maybe?
STEPHEN: Yeah, or maybe the first year out of college.
STEPHEN: 'Cause I lived with a couple of people who played.
MATT: Right, right.
STEPHEN: We played a couple of times. But I'd lost the-- I'd lost a step.
MATT: That's okay!
STEPHEN: You know, because-- All right, I'll stop.
MATT: No worries.
STEPHEN: Is this okay? Is this guy okay here? Is he blocking too much?
MATT: I think it's pretty solid.
STEPHEN: I used to use this for pitches sometimes. When the writers would come with a pitch, I'd go-- [tinny growling noise] I'd go, I love it. But the cave troll-- I love the idea. He's got a problem with it, and it's kind of a partnership.
MATT: It's good to have plausible deniability.
STEPHEN: Yeah, exactly.
MATT: So, yeah, a quick overview. Bard, they're essentially a charismatic spell caster.
STEPHEN: Right. Is it one of those things where you actually have to go through another whole character class first? The way like monk is? Like monk, you had to go through like cleric and then be a monk, or--
MATT: Not anymore. There used to be rules, yeah, where you had to multiclass through.
STEPHEN: Bard you had to do two different before you were the bard, or something like that.
MATT: It used to split strangely. They've definitely, in the newer additions, made it a lot easier to jump into things you wanted to.
STEPHEN: Back in my day, you had to earn it. I'm just saying.
MATT: You're not wrong.
STEPHEN: I'm original AD&D; is all I'm saying.
MATT: Heck yeah, man!
STEPHEN: I was at GenCon when the Dungeon Master's guide was released.
STEPHEN: I have a copy signed by mister Gary Gygax.
MATT: I am so jealous of that by the way.
STEPHEN: All right. It's not mine. It's my friend Haskel Futenberg's. But they got mixed up at some point. So Haskel. I've got the guide signed by Gary. If you want it, just let me know where you are.
MATT: Just make sure he doesn't see this video.
STEPHEN: Okay, good.
MATT: The statistics remain the classic, similar-- zero to 18.
STEPHEN: Did you generate this for me randomly?
MATT: These are actually stats that you could assign to it if you'd like.
STEPHEN: Okay, great.
MATT: So those were placed in. The main things is you got to remember is these numbers create these modifiers. So if ever you want to go ahead and I ask you to make a strength check or a charisma check, you would roll your d20 and then add that number in the circle.
STEPHEN: Dig it, daddio.
MATT: That would be your final number.
STEPHEN: I hear and I obey.
MATT: There you go. You have your skills here, similar thing. If you have to make a skill check, you look at the number for the corresponding skill.
STEPHEN: Well, this is way more detailed than the old days.
MATT: Yeah. It's kind of expanded a bit. So if I'm like-- you're trying to be quiet and I'll say, "Roll a stealth check," you roll that and add your stealth modifier, which is a plus three.
STEPHEN: Gotcha. Gotcha.
MATT: Then you have your armor class, you have your hit points, you have your initiative. Those are all similar to the old set.
STEPHEN: Yep. I got that. When did you start playing?
MATT: I started playing, I was 14. Which would've been '96 for me.
STEPHEN: Okay, yeah.
MATT: So yeah, 23 years for me. But still. Not quite as long as you, but I've been invested heavily since.
STEPHEN: 1977. 1977, I think is when I started.
MATT: That's so cool, man. Hell yeah.
STEPHEN: Matter of fact, all-- there wasn't D&D. You couldn't get D&D when I first started playing because I was playing Metamorphosis Alpha.
MATT: Oh, shit!
STEPHEN: Do you know what that is?
MATT: Yeah, yeah.
STEPHEN: Which is basically Heinlein's universe ship.
STEPHEN: But you know, the crew doesn't know-- I mean, the colonists don't know that the crew are dead and you're in a ship, you're fighting mutants everywhere.
MATT: That's so cool. That's where you started?
STEPHEN: We played Metamorphosis Alpha first. Then we heard about this other thing called D&D, and so we played that. We went to World of Miniatures. That was the place that sold everything. Went to World of Miniatures. Or Randy's Hobby Shop. One of those two. Anyway, that's the only place you could get them. And we started playing D&D.
MATT: That's so cool.
STEPHEN: And all there was was the one pamphlet, the one that's stapled. Oh, those little ones were the extra modules. There was the basic. The basic was about this. And had the dragon on the front, rising up as the treasure-- The--the, what's it called? The group that go together on the--
MATT: Oh, the adventuring party.
STEPHEN: The party. When the party come in. And then after that came the little ones, like Men and Magic, Gods, Demigods and Heroes.
MATT: Oh, yeah.
STEPHEN: And there was a third one, I can't remember it.
MATT: Yeah. That was right before they got sued by the Tolkien estate for using hobbits and ents.
STEPHEN: Oh, that's right.
MATT: Changed it to "halfling."
STEPHEN: Then it became "halflings," exactly.
MATT: And "tree ents."
STEPHEN: But they kept "orc."
MATT: They did.
MATT: Because technically there are other instances of "orc" in literature.
MATT: Just not in that instance.
STEPHEN: Exactly. Orcneas.
MATT: Yep. So yeah, that was an interesting time in D&D.
STEPHEN: All right. Sorry, I'm getting us sidetracked here.
MATT: It's all good. I'm not complaining. So as a bard, your main thing is that you're an entertainer. You're charismatic--
STEPHEN: The one character class I never played in the old days, by the way.
MATT: Well, thank the internet for that one.
STEPHEN: Okay, great.
MATT: Thanks guys.
STEPHEN: Wait, the 'net voted me a bard?
MATT: Yep. They voted you a bard.
STEPHEN: Thank you.
MATT: They also voted you have a companion for this adventure.
MATT: There could been a various number of companions. They chose for you to have a bee.
STEPHEN: A bee?
MATT: You have a bee.
STEPHEN: Is it my familiar?
MATT: These are your stats for your bee. It has one hit point, but a higher armor class and it can sting things for some damage.
STEPHEN: Wow. And is this like-- remember the old familiars?
MATT: Oh yeah.
STEPHEN: Is it like a familiar?
MATT: It kind of acts as a familiar--
STEPHEN: Can we communicate with it?
MATT: You can talk with it, yeah. And they can talk back. You can understand Bee.
STEPHEN: Okay, great.
MATT: And it is your friend. You can name it if you have a name for your bee, if you'd like to decide.
MATT: Eric the bee, not the half a bee, but the bee himself. I like that. All right. And do you have a name and race of choice for your character?
STEPHEN: I look-- this illustration here, you'll get a shot of it later I assume. The illustration here-- I look at least half elvish.
MATT: You could be half-elf. Do you want to be a half elf?
STEPHEN: I'll be a half-elf bard.
MATT: So you can put down your character name and your race right there.
STEPHEN: Okay. Oh, my name. My name. Character race. Half-elf. Character name. Um--
MATT: Choose wisely.
STEPHEN: Yes, I know. Umm... Capo.
MATT: Capo it is. Proper bard name. I love it. All right, so Capo the half-elf bard. So as a bard, you have a few things. You have your longsword with you if you have to roll an attack roll. You just roll and add four. If it hits, then you roll your damage. The d8 plus two. Same with the crossbow, if you need to shoot from a little further away. You have some abilities here called bardic inspiration.
STEPHEN: Once on your turn you can inspire an ally like Eric.
MATT: Yep, you can--
STEPHEN: Granting them a 1d6 to add to a roll. You can use this four times. Cutting words. When an enemy rolls an attack, you can use a bardic inspiration to insult them, resulting in 1d6 and subtracting it from their roll. Wow.
MATT: So if an enemy's going to attack you, you can use one of your bardic inspirations to instead insult them, and possibly screw up their attack.
STEPHEN: Wow, wow, wow. Also called "throwing shade."
MATT: Very much so, yeah.
STEPHEN: Okay. Mm-hmm. It's a darkness spell. All right.
MATT: So each time you want to use that, you can mark off one of these little things there for you to keep track of it.
STEPHEN: Oh, I dig it. And what do we have over here?
MATT: You have your bard spells. You don't have to dig too deep into them if you want to. Vicious Mockery, you can use that spell as many times as you want. Both of these are cantrips. You can use them in an infinite number of times. They're nice. They're not super powerful, but you got them in the back. So you can hurt somebody by mocking them.
STEPHEN: Okay, okay.
MATT: You have the spell Disguise Self so you can transform what you look like for a short time.
STEPHEN: Sure, sure.
MATT: To look like any other character that somewhat near your physical state.
MATT: Cure Wounds. Heal yourself or your bee friend if he's in dire straits.
STEPHEN: Got it.
MATT: Thunderwave. You create a huge blast of thunder that goes out for a 15 foot cone. So you can hit multiple enemies in front of you if you want to do some damage.
STEPHEN: Does it do damage, or just stun?
MATT: It does damage and it pushes them away from you, which is kind of nice. And you got Tasha's Hideous Laughter, which you can cast on somebody and if they don't resist it, they uncontrollably laugh to the point where they can't attack or move, and you can just whale on them if you want.
MATT: So these are your cantrips. These are your first level spells. You have four of them you can cast per day and you can choose any of these four. So you can cast Cure Wounds four times if you want, or one each. Whenever you cast one of these spells, you mark off one of your first levels.
STEPHEN: Got it.
MATT: And then here's your second level, Invisibility. You can turn yourself invisible for up to an hour, but you become un-invisible if you attack something or cast a spell.
STEPHEN: Same. Same old, same old.
MATT: Yep. And then Suggestion, you just get to make a single one sentence suggestion to a creature that doesn't put it in serious harm. And if it fails, it takes--it can be like, "Hey, you--go up to the top of that mountain." "Okay." And the orc just takes off for awhile.
STEPHEN: Gotcha. "These aren't the droids you're looking for."
MATT: Yeah, very much so.
STEPHEN: Got it. Got it. Got it. All right.
MATT: So that's what you have. You can feel free to ask any questions.
STEPHEN: There were no props, but there were no cards. The last time I played, it was just you talking and us listening and then the charts. That was it.
STEPHEN: And then I've got the dice, yeah.
MATT: And you know what? Back then, not a lot of people played.
STEPHEN: Are you saying that's why? People like the props?
MATT: I'm saying it's definitely helped for people to be onboarded to a game.
STEPHEN: Sure. Yeah.
MATT: It was hard to describe.
STEPHEN: All right, let's do this thing.
MATT: All righty.
MATT: We begin in the hot summer months of the Menagerie Coast of Wildemount, the temperate kind of jungle, coastal home of the beautiful city of Feolinn. It's a wine city known for its affordable timeshares and tourist boards. But also the nearby forest, the Plumgroves, where it gains most of its wonderful fruit for its wines. But you, Capo, you've been collecting errant bits of lore of the history of the Plumgroves. And there was once a dark history that cast a shadow over this beautiful forest. Where once there was a dark mage who went mad, named Zathkira, who was trying to corrupt an ancient artifact known as the Crimson Sphere of Generosity. In his attempts to convert this artifact, he began to draw various tourists down into a subterranean layer beneath this forest, never to be seen again, or to become his terrible corrupted minions. However, he was defeated by a great hero named Shiona, who was wielding the Exalting Blade of Favor. However, upon defeating this mage, this laboratory vanished and was never found again, nor was the hero or the sword that she wielded. Now, this is just interesting information for anyone to have. And you being such a book-learned bard, you've been noticing strange disappearances recently, very similar to this very tumultuous time in Feolinn's history. No one else listening to you, you grow frustrated. You gather your belongings, gathering your weapons, and gather your companion friend Eric, your bee, to go ahead and see if you can find out the root of this terrible, rash series of disappearances. So, gathering your things as you leave your home heading towards the Plumgroves, you glance up and there, out of the corner of your eye-- (buzzing) Eric lands on your shoulder, and you head your way into the forest. So is there anything you'd like to prepare or anything you'd like to do upon your journey into the forest?
STEPHEN: What supplies do I have going to the forest?
MATT: On your equipment right there, you have those supplies.
STEPHEN: Backpack, studded leather, armor, thieves' tools, torch x3, bedroll, flint and steel, waterskin, 50 feet of rope, and grappling hook. I'm good.
MATT: You're good?
STEPHEN: I'm good.
MATT: All right.
STEPHEN: All right.
MATT: So, as you make your way into the forest, Eric comes up to your ear and starts talking to you about stuff in the day. [buzz-like talking] You, understanding Bee, can hear exactly what he's saying. So you have a nice conversation.
STEPHEN: Can Eric scout for me?
MATT: He can, yeah.
STEPHEN: Can he go out ahead of me?
MATT: If you'd like to, yeah. Bees can be great scouts. They fit in well in forests.
STEPHEN: All right. Hard to hit, and they have compound eyes, so they can see a lot.
MATT: Oh, quite a bit actually.
STEPHEN: Okay. So, we're on the edge of the forest, I assume?
STEPHEN: Okay. The Plumgroves.
MATT: The Plumgroves.
STEPHEN: Are the fruit on the tree? Is it--is it the season for plums?
MATT: Actually it's off season at the time. There are a few there, but they're ripe and probably not ready for the picking.
STEPHEN: Okay. All right, all right. They're a bit ripe, so they're overripe. They're prunes?
STEPHEN: It's a Prunegrove. Okay. I send Eric in first.
STEPHEN: I send him in. Can I direct him? Go in 50 yards, and come back.
MATT: Sure. Go ahead and roll a d20 to see how Eric's capabilities--
MATT: Five. Eric returns saying-- [buzzing]
STEPHEN: Everything's good? All right. I follow him on the path that he just took.
MATT: Okay. So you guys begin making your way deeper, deeper into the Plumgroves, the shaded canopy of the forest itself keeping a good portion of the sunlight from reaching you directly. It is beautiful. It's cooler. The temperature drops as you progress forward. The smell of fermenting fruit gets strong on your nose. Eventually you find a small clearing. Starting to feel a little hungry. Have a little snack. Eric feels confident, nothing's a problem in the area. [conversational buzzing]
MATT: Go ahead and roll a perception check for me.
MATT: A 12. And your perception score is plus--?
STEPHEN: Perception is plus zero.
MATT: Plus zero, so a standard 12. Okay. So as you're stopping for a moment and enjoying your sandwich, and Eric is getting a bit of pollen off to the side, you hear out of the left corner of your peripheral-- [growling]
STEPHEN: I draw my sword.
MATT: You draw your sword and glance over just in time to see a mass of black fur just leap out of the woods in your direction. You need to roll initiative for me, friend.
STEPHEN: It's still 20?
MATT: Still a d20, yeah.
MATT: 13, okay.
STEPHEN: Plus--do I have any--
MATT: Initiative modifier's right there.
STEPHEN: Plus two, okay, so, 15.
MATT: You go first. You actually beat this creature. You glance around to see a large black-furred panther. But you see-- in the split second it leaps towards you, its jaws open, its teeth slavering down-- part of its face is scraped off and you see bone. It doesn't appear to be entirely alive. But you have the draw. What are you doing?
STEPHEN: Uh, uh, hack and chop.
MATT: Okay! Go ahead and roll an attack with your longsword.
STEPHEN: Again, 20?
MATT: d20, yeah.
STEPHEN: It's been a while.
MATT: It's all good.
MATT: Oh no!
MATT: Add your--
STEPHEN: Two plus four.
MATT: It catches you off guard and you try and swing wide, but find your body battered to the side. You tumble and drag to the ground right as it pounces on top of you. The panther creature is now-- [growling] right over you. However Eric gets a turn on your turn as well. So what would you like Eric to do?
STEPHEN: Sting him in the eye.
MATT: Go for it. So go ahead roll an attack for Eric.
MATT: [laughing] Plus six!
STEPHEN: This is going to be a brief adventure, friends. I'd really love to help Red Nose Day more than this, but it looks like we're going to be knocked out pretty soon.
MATT: Yeah, we'll see. So, Eric attempts to swing down and try and jam into the eye. However, he does sting the eye, but the eye doesn't seem to be really alive anymore. It's dangling out of the socket and seems to be clouded over. It doesn't have an effect on the creature. So now it's the creature's turn. Pinned on your chest, it's going to attempt to try and bite down towards you. That is going to be a 13 to hit. What's your armor class?
STEPHEN: My armor class is 14.
MATT: 14. Putting up your blade, you just manage to keep it off and throw it to the side. It tumbles off, catches itself, whips around again. It's your turn. What are you doing?
STEPHEN: Let's Thunderwave this bad boy.
MATT: Okay, all right! It goes and runs towards you to leap once more as you pull up your hands and cast Thunderwave. This giant wave of force energy blasts out in front of you. So you deal-- it says there 2d8 thunder damage.
STEPHEN: 2d8 thunder damage.
MATT: It does not make its saving throw.
STEPHEN: 10. Six and four.
MATT: 10 points of thunder damage. You watch as it leaps in the air, its jaws open, its claws extended towards you-- as it blasts outward, y`ou actually shake the flesh off of its bones. It scatters into a large spray of dark ichor and bone. And this little skull of this panther, scrape to the ground and roll at the base of your foot, destroyed.
STEPHEN: I haven't heard the word "ichor" in almost 30 years.
MATT: Welcome back.
STEPHEN: Okay, okay, okay. Is there anything-- I search the remains.
MATT: Okay. Roll a d20 and make a perception check for me.
STEPHEN: Plus perception-- I've got no pluses. 19.
MATT: 19, that's great. So looking through the corpse, you can see that it's been dead for a while. But seeing as how it was manifest in this kind of actual living-seeming form, there was some dark magic that seems to be animating it from this nearby space. With that check as well, you also looked at, in the struggle, your Thunderwave struck a nearby small rocky hillside cliff and knocked a series of thick vines off the surface. And you can see now, revealed, a small entryway, a cavern, that dives deeper into the subterranean regions beneath the Plumgroves.
STEPHEN: Is there a door or just an opening?
MATT: It's an opening, but it looks like it was carved to be almost like a door.
STEPHEN: All right, can I-- do we still have listening? Is that still something we do?
MATT: That's your perception, if you'd like to.
STEPHEN: I'd like to go listen at the door.
MATT: Okay. You put your ear up to it and listen carefully. Nothing comes. But there was a bit of a faint breeze, like this kind of distant echoing whine from deeper within.
STEPHEN: Okay, Eric, let's go. Let's go in. [buzzing] Okay? Sword out.
MATT: Sword out, all righty. As you open the door, looking inside this chamber, you can see this long, heavy, rocky, winding path that leads lower and lower into the earth. You--
STEPHEN: Is it carved as steps or is it just a--?
MATT: Right now it's natural. It's just a natural, slight grade that heads further and further down inside. There's a faint whiff of rot along with stagnant hard water that catches your nose. You continue on for about five or so minutes carefully keeping an eye out, sword at the ready, Eric stinger forward.
STEPHEN: It's not easy to fly that way.
MATT: It is not. But he's a very trained bee.
STEPHEN: He's using his abs.
MATT: The chilled breeze hits you just as you find this pathway open up into another chamber about 70 feet across. You can see a series of stalagmites hanging from the ceiling slick with interior moisture.
STEPHEN: Tites, mites. Sorry.
MATT: Damn, I always mess that up.
STEPHEN: This is what it was like to play D&D with me when I was 13.
MATT: There you go.
STEPHEN: C'mon man, those are stalagmites.
MATT: Damn right. Where the stalagmites would be--
MATT: You see instead a large dark pit, lightless before you.
STEPHEN: So I'm on the edge of the pit?
MATT: You're on the edge of the cliff, and you can see two stone imps that are wedged into the sides of the wall. A single rope bridge goes across this chasm where two pitons hold it on the opposite end.
STEPHEN: Do not f***ing get on that bridge. That's what I've learned. Do I have any other--what other-- Let's see, what do I got here? I got nothing. I got nothing. I got nothing. Eric, go fly to see how-- Can I see how long this bridge is or does it go off into the dark?
MATT: You can see the bridge goes for about 60 or so feet. Because you are a half-elf, you do have the ability to see through-- infravision, as you would recall. STEPHEN: Oh, nice.
STEPHEN: I forgot about that. I send Eric out to go see what's on the other side of that bridge.
MATT: Okay. [buzzing] Eric heads off into the darkness and scouts out the opposite side. It seems that across the bridge there is another opening that leads to a slowly spiraling rock tunnel heading lower and lower, but you have to cross the chamber to get to it.
STEPHEN: Hmm. Crazy question.
STEPHEN: Eric, as a bee, doesn't have any particular-- he can't carry a length of rope, can he?
MATT: You can certainly try.
STEPHEN: I would like to see if Eric could take one length of my rope and bring it to the other side of the bridge.
MATT: Okay. Eric returns. You go ahead and hold the rope. Eric grabs it. [buzz] [thump]
STEPHEN: Can't do it.
MATT: Can't do it. He's a bee.
STEPHEN: All right. How far is it from me to the other side?
MATT: 60 feet.
STEPHEN: 60 feet. I only got a 50 foot rope. That's not smart. Okay, so here's what I'll do.
STEPHEN: I assume there are posts on this side of the bridge.
MATT: There are, yes.
STEPHEN: Okay. I tie the rope to these posts.
STEPHEN: Tie another length of the rope around my waist. Or make a harness, you know?
MATT: Yeah, yeah.
STEPHEN: Loop it around, I know how to harness myself. I'm a damn half-elf. And then I-- I start crossing the bridge.
STEPHEN: Wait, wait. I go back to where I started. Back to where I started. Tell me about these imps again.
MATT: You see these two stone imps. They look roughly hewn. Not a lot of fine craftsmanship went into them. Which as a bard, you are discerning about art craft. You're a little disappointed that it looks so rough. But they're both embedded slightly in the wall and just appear to be stationary.
STEPHEN: And can I get to them, or does the edge of the pit go straight up underneath where the imps are?
MATT: It goes underneath where the imps are.
STEPHEN: So I can't walk--
MATT: They're not within range to you, unfortunately. Not within, like--physically. Your crossbow could probably reach them.
STEPHEN: Are there any rocks around or anything like that?
MATT: Yeah, there's a few rocks you can find around you on the floor. Yeah.
STEPHEN: I whip a rock at one of the stone imps.
MATT: Okay, roll a d20 for me, add your dexterity modifier.
STEPHEN: It didn't quite do the thing.
MATT: Go ahead and roll again.
STEPHEN: Okay. 14 plus plus dexterity? +2. 16.
MATT: Great, 16. You chuck the rock. It hits the imp. It crooks to one side. It's now partially dangling off from its perch where it was sitting.
STEPHEN: Do it again.
MATT: Roll again.
MATT: Plus two, it's 18. Whack! You slam it with a rock and-- it tumbles out of its little nook and you hear it vanish into the darkness below before-- [splash] into water.
MATT: Now there's one imp.
STEPHEN: There's one imp. All right. So I'll tie the rope to one of the posts. And I'll start to make my crossing.
MATT: Okay. You tie it to the post and make your way across the rope bridge. Creaks from side to side. Carefully, you make it about halfway there and you see this very faint pinkish-purple glow on the right side. You glance over and see the eyes of the imp are flaring up towards your direction.
STEPHEN: Okay. Yeah. All right.
MATT: But only one imp.
STEPHEN: Only one imp. Okay. I go faster and I tell Eric to keep an eye on that damn imp.
MATT: Okay. Are you still attached by the rope on your waist?
STEPHEN: Yeah, I'm going to go all the way, as far as I can, attached by the rope.
MATT: Okay. You get about 40 feet because you've used some of your 10 feet of your 50 foot length to tie yourself to the post.
STEPHEN: I'll accept your judgment.
MATT: You stop at that point. Right as this large burst of arcane energy blasts out of the side of the imp in your direction. [inhales] You take-- Three points of arcane damage as it hits you in the right shoulder, almost throwing you off the bridge. Also, I would like you to roll a percentile dice for me right there if you don't mind.
STEPHEN: Uh, which one is which?
MATT: So that's 55.
STEPHEN: 55, okay, great.
MATT: Okay, so the blast of arcane energy off your shoulder emits this burst of fire that nearly-- but does not catch the rope bridge. You see its eyes now glowing a second time, preparing for a second blast. What are you doing?
STEPHEN: Cut the rope and run.
MATT: Okay, so you cut the rope and go running past. Eric's scooting up behind you, (buzzing) as fast as he can. Right as you get to the edge of the rope bridge, it fires another blast in your direction, but with a natural four it fails, you just duck and tumble out of the way, (impacts) it hits the side of the dirt, causing rocks to fly up and spray off of the nearby side, but you are across the bridge, and Eric (buzzing) catches up to you, safe and sound on the opposite side.
STEPHEN: All right. So I've taken three hits points of damage.
STEPHEN: What's going on with the glowing eyes of the imp at this point?
MATT: They have faded.
STEPHEN: Okay. Is there anything in the present form of D&D I can use to heal myself?
MATT: You have Cure Wounds as a spell you can do.
STEPHEN: [reading] equal to 1d8-- I'll wait.
MATT: You'll wait.
STEPHEN: I'll wait.
STEPHEN: 'Cause chances are, on average I'd cure myself more than I've hurt.
MATT: That's actually a very good point. All right, so, now crossing and heading down into the next dark rocky cavern--
STEPHEN: I cannot begin to tell you where this is taking me, these feelings right now.
MATT: (Matt laughing) Hopefully positive.
STEPHEN: Very positive, very positive, yeah, but also extremely insecure.
MATT: Don't be, you're doing great.
STEPHEN: No, no, no, because I'm going back to my teenage years right now.
MATT: Oh. (laughing)
STEPHEN: I can feel chest hairs growing as we speak.
MATT: Well here you go, you're reclaiming it for your modern self.
STEPHEN: Exactly, exactly, yeah. All right. So. Old skills coming out.
MATT: Yeah, you're doing good. So, the next hall you turn into, it would probably be about 60 or so feet, a slow spiral downward opens up into a small crystalline chamber. You can see reflective glass and onyx pillars that rise up in various places. The textures in the cavern are jagged, warped, with light refracting against them ever so slightly from faint torches and sconces that are burrowed into the side walls.
STEPHEN: Of course.
MATT: You gotta have torches in there.
STEPHEN: Nowhere in the universe is there as much onyx and obsidian as there is in a D&D module.
MATT: Damn right.
STEPHEN: Best possible stone, why wouldn't you want onyx?
MATT: So, along the sunken earthen floors, you can see scattered bits of bone in small piles just tossed around, as well as what looks to be--
STEPHEN: Human bones?
MATT: It could be, you'd have to go check in person. You also notice occasionally put around there, small red spheres about that big that are dull and cracked in places, kind of amongst the bones. On the opposite side of this chamber, about 30 feet from you, you can see what looks to be some sort of a sarcophagus or a stone tomb that has gold gilding and scrolling around the outside of it and what looks to be a single blade placed through the top.
STEPHEN: And the floor itself?
MATT: The floor itself is mostly clear of earth, you just see like bits of scattered bone and these little dull red spheres.
STEPHEN: And when you say crystalline chamber, you mean the walls--
MATT: The walls are crystalline.
STEPHEN: Okay. Examine the bones.
MATT: Okay, go ahead and make a medicine check for me, just roll a d20 and then add your wisdom modifier.
STEPHEN: Six plus-- negative one, five. (Matt laughing)
MATT: Them's some bones. That's some bones right there on that floor. Something died. And those were in them.
STEPHEN: Okay, I have no idea what kind of animal or creature this is.
MATT: You don't.
STEPHEN: Okay, I look at one of the dull red spheres.
MATT: Okay. As you approach and get within a foot of it, you watch as it rolls for a second in your direction, stops.
STEPHEN: I take a step backwards.
MATT: You watch a little line appear across the front of it and it rolls a little faster in your direction. It's now rolling really quickly towards you on the ground.
STEPHEN: Okay. I run to the tomb.
MATT: Okay, so you just go into a full sprint past.
STEPHEN: Full sprint, full sprint.
MATT: As you're running towards the tomb you watch as about six or seven of these spheres begin to roll out of the piles of bones towards you. You watch the line where the crack was open up and you see small rows of serrated teeth, (snarling). It starts leaping and rolling towards you. In your research of the Crimson Sphere of Generosity, these must be discarded attempts that failed at recreating its magic that are now small mites rushing towards you. Seven of these are gonna leap at you as you try and rush past. The first one, that's gonna be--
STEPHEN: (whispers) Seven.
MATT: That's gonna be a 14, I believe that hits.
STEPHEN: Okay, but they can't do a lot of damage.
MATT: That one does one point of damage. You kick it off the side of your boot. The second one, that would be an 11. This one was not even an issue, it just misses you, whiffing past. Another set, a pair of them, go leaping towards your face. Three, and okay-- one of them you manage to bat out of the way, the other one does latch onto the side of your face, and with that one you take another one point of damage.
STEPHEN: Okay. MATT: The last three are now rolling towards you, coming from the front of the tomb. With a nine, which misses your armor class, a four, which misses your armor class, and a 15, which hits. So you manage to just dodge out of the way of two of them, and the final one leaps right towards you and latches onto your chin for four points of piercing damage.
STEPHEN: Man! 15, if I've got that math right, I'm down to 15 here.
MATT: You do. You rip it off the chin and throw it. It shatters against the crystal floor, but however, you stop at the base of the tomb, look around you, and all the rest of them have come to rest, apparently no longer aware of your presence.
STEPHEN: Okay. I observe, I look at the tomb, any carvings, any messages?
MATT: You don't see any language on it, you do see beautiful scrolling around the sides of it, and on the top of it, you see what looks to be a sculptured relief of a female warrior in beautiful armor, the sword itself seemingly almost plunged through the chest, but she's holding it in a peaceful expression. As you approach--
STEPHEN: She's holding the sword--
MATT: Holding the sword like this, yeah. As you begin to look over it, you hear this faint, strange, ethereal voice, kind of come sourcelessly around you. "Walk this path towards your own destruction." You see a ghostly apparition appear of a female knight. Her golden armor and beautiful dark skin now manifest in a pale blue ethereal glow. You recognize this to be, most likely, Shiona, the warrior that previously defeated this mage. "Beware, for this tomb will claim you as it has claimed many. As it has claimed me, the fool, the victorious. He has risen in unlife, and I am bound to my grave, my shame." And the ghost just looks towards you. (buzzing) Eric's a little scared.
STEPHEN: What's the scrollwork around-- I look at the scrollwork around the edge.
MATT: Okay, make an intelligence check for me, roll a d20, add your intelligence modifier.
STEPHEN: 11 plus intelligence of 12, so 13. 12.
MATT: 12, okay. Looking around it, you gather that this is a ward of protection. This isn't a language, because these are like simple arcane runes that are meant as a means of either containing or protecting a holy space.
STEPHEN: Is the sword a sword, or is it also carved of stone?
MATT: It is a sword, it is a beautiful sword of gold and silver inlay, the hilt is intricate.
STEPHEN: All kinds of reasons why this could turn bad, but let's pull that sword out.
MATT: Okay. As you reach for the sword, the spirit suddenly flares angrily. "This blade has brought down the terror of Zathkira once, but I will not see it in the hands of one unworthy. You tell me, what do you fight for? What is so precious that you would throw your life away in these pits of despair?"
STEPHEN: I fight to alleviate children's poverty.
MATT: "Then your heart is pure and driven. The Exalting Blade of Favor is yours, Capo. Young bard, take it, and finish what I could not." And you watch the specter slowly dissipate into the air, the blade now there for the taking.
STEPHEN: I remove the blade.
MATT: It comes out with a shiny flash of divine energy. It hums for a second. You feel its magical essence connect through your wrist and your arm, and for a moment, there's a surge of energy and purpose through your body. You hear the blade almost speaking to you, directly to your mind. It says: "Hey hey, my man! You're pretty bold, bro. You got what it takes, and I cannot wait for the world to see. Let's do this! Woo!"
STEPHEN: I love a talking sword.
MATT: There is your Exalted Blade. Exalting Blade of Faith.
STEPHEN: The Exalting Blade, so it exalts me.
STEPHEN: Wow. The Blade of Favor, you gain fire and lightning resistance.
STEPHEN: Okay. That's a hint of things to come.
MATT: It may or may not be.
STEPHEN: No, it is 100 percent.
MATT: Of course it is, yeah. You only have 30 minutes for this, so.
STEPHEN: That's fantastic. (Matt laughing) Okay, attack, plus six to hit,1d10 plus five radiant damage?
STEPHEN: So we'll find out that is when I use it, but I assume there's some sort of blast force.
MATT: Could be.
STEPHEN: Could--we'll see, all right. (laughing) How many times do I get to use any of these spells, just once?
MATT: You've used Thunderwave once, so you can mark off that.
STEPHEN: So I can use each of them four times?
MATT: Each of these here, a total of four through all of them.
STEPHEN: Right, because Thunderwave would've been good for those little red balls.
MATT: That would've been good for it, but you have three more of these you can cast and two of these you can cast. Your choice.
STEPHEN: Okie smokey. Okay, so is there an exit to this tomb that we're in?
MATT: Just beyond this tomb you can see what looks to be another doorway. It is of a dark marbled wood with what looks like silver and gold veins kind of almost grown through it.
STEPHEN: Okay. Let's go over to the doorway.
MATT: Okay, you go to the door. (clicks) It's locked.
STEPHEN: Listen at the door.
MATT: Okay, make a Perception check for me.
STEPHEN: Two. (Matt laughs) I am stone deaf.
MATT: You're like, all right. Seems safe. (both laughing)
STEPHEN: The very first time I ever heard anybody talk about D&D, I think it was Roy Slachiver and Haskell Fudenberg and Keith Sargi having an argument over whether or not they should've been able to hear the giant rats that were in the room they listened to the night before. I'm like what do you mean, listened to? Because listening was a part of Metamorphosis Alpha. I was like, what do you mean listening? How did you listen? (murmuring) Like that. And I'm like, I want in! So listening, I always listen, it's a big thing for me.
MATT: Heck yeah, no man, it's important, when you roll well.
STEPHEN: "If the rats were big enough, we would've heard them scratching around."
STEPHEN: Okay, so, I can't open the door and I can't hear a damn thing.
MATT: Well the door is locked, at least.
STEPHEN: Oh, it's locked. I don't have any-- Bards don't have any lockpicking skills or anything like that--
MATT: Do you have thieves' tools?
STEPHEN: Oh, torch... thieves' tools! Bards have thief powers?
MATT: Anybody can have thieves' tools, just rogues are really really good at that.
STEPHEN: Okay, so let's try to pick the lock.
MATT: Okay, roll a d20, add your Dexterity modifier.
STEPHEN: 14 plus Dexterity of 15, 16.
MATT: 16, it takes you a little bit of time, but you eventually find this older, somewhat rusted lock not that difficult to pick. (creaks) It opens before you, this cold, howling wind scraping across the stonework of the interior of this chamber. (inhales) Just kinda moans out in your direction. An ominous portent to what lays within. But the blade comes to you and goes, "Don't worry man, you got this. Trust me, you got this."
STEPHEN: Does the blade give off any light or anything?
MATT: Would you like to will it to?
STEPHEN: I will the blade to give off light.
MATT: (whooshes) It emanates, the equivalent of bright torchlight in the area.
STEPHEN: And I hold it in front of me as I go into the room, to illuminate my path.
MATT: Okay. As you step within the chamber, you can see what looks to be stairs that curl downward briefly into the Exandrian earth, the stench of decay itself intense as it lingers with almost like an old incense that had burned long ago and barely hangs in the air. You kind of follow the steps downward around the side before it opens up into a large domed interior. From what you can see in here, it's a laboratory or a sanctum of some kind. You can see the smooth, dark stone floor, there are perimeter tables that carry all manner of intricate glass-tubed alchemical setups and supplies with little brass mechanisms that spark blue and white in places. On the furthest left-hand corner you can see a table where corpses are piled onto it.
STEPHEN: Fresh corpses?
MATT: Fresh-ish, from what you can see at this distance, and a figure hunched over it, long black and red robes, you can see them kind of billowing past the shoulders, the skin itself sickly and pale, parts of it seemingly almost torn. Long bony fingers pulling apart one of these corpses as you can see the hooded figure kind of peering through. "Where do these creatures hide their generosity? It's stored somewhere within their gallbladder, maybe? Bah." The creature turns and reveals its ghastly decomposing head. A thin, pale face, torn skin, sickly yellow eyes, the pupils clouded over and invisible amongst the rest of this disgusting look. You can see a bulbous red shiny orb affixed to the front of its face. "You, foolish guest. (chuckles) Help me unlock this strange relic's power. Where do you dumb mewling mortals hide your generosity, anyway, eh? I need to figure out how to get this blasted thing to work!" STEPHEN: So I'm guessing this is Zathkira, that's my guess.
MATT: You have done enough research, and can sense from the people that speak of his terrible, annoying voice, this is probably him, though in a different form of unlife.
STEPHEN: Okay, all right. And that is the Crimson Orb of Generosity.
MATT: On his face, yes.
STEPHEN: On his face, okay. I--I--hmm. So he's asked me where we mortals hide our generosity. I say, I will tell you, but first I need the orb. Give me the orb and I will tell you. MATT: (mumbling) Make a Persuasion check. (chuckles)
MATT: Roll a d20 and add your Persuasion skill.
STEPHEN: Yeah, okay. Oh, not very well, five. And Persuasion, plus six, so 11.
MATT: He seems a bit wary of the request and goes, "Well, just a second, what is it that you would do with such a sphere? Ah, you must understand, I've worked very hard to attain it, and well, you're within moments of having your life stripped of your body, so what do you hope to unlock from me granting it to you?"
STEPHEN: I will unlock all of its powers. What do you need from the orb?
MATT: "You have to understand. I spent a lot of time with it. Talking to it, trying to make it breakfast, whatever things generous people do, I don't know how it works. So I just hope maybe you, who carry such a small strange creature," and Eric kind of gets a little defensive, (buzzing) up on your shoulder, "Maybe you would have more of an idea of what generosity might spark or inspire its effects." As he pulls it off his nose, but he's not convinced to give it over.
STEPHEN: Okay, so he takes it off his nose. Is he armed?
MATT: He has arms, but there are no weapons visible.
STEPHEN: Okay. (fingers drumming) I continue to talk with him, and I'll tell you what I'm gonna say in a moment, but first, how do I communicate with Eric? Can I communicate telepathically, can I communicate-- do I have to use words?
MATT: You can do a side whisper.
STEPHEN: I say, search the room, see what else is in here. Okay, so he goes around the room when I say: Well, to know how to open the power of the orb, I need to touch it first, so I can feel where the source of its power is.
MATT: Make a Deception check.
STEPHEN: 15 plus six. 21 baby.
MATT: 21. (laughing)
MATT: He goes, "Ah yes, feelings, feelings, I keep hearing about these feelings. Well then, feel this and tell me before I swipe your existence away."
STEPHEN: So, I have the orb, is Eric back yet?
MATT: Eric is currently like (buzzes) doing a little scan around the back side.
STEPHEN: Okay, so I search the orb. Is there anything I can see on the orb? What can I see when I look at it?
MATT: As you look into it for a moment, you concentrate and focus, and within the orb, your consciousness seems to pierce its shiny exterior, and for a moment you can see thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people pouring their faith and their joy and their generosity towards this one central relic, to give it the power to help others who need it. It should not be in the clutches of such a creature.
STEPHEN: Now I know that where humans keep their generosity is in their heart. But how do I activate the orb, that's what I don't know. Do I--? I put it on my nose.
MATT: You put it on your nose. (whooshes) It locks its way onto the front of your face. You feel as if the surge that the sword gave you once is now doubled over as the generosity pouring from these people now pours into you. Your chest suddenly expands three inches, more manly than you've ever been, your hair blows back in a beautiful metal video type visage, you hear music emit from out of nowhere, and your sword goes, "Yeah, that's right, I told you he's great, bring it, old dead guy!" (laughing)
STEPHEN: So the sword is picking a fight before I have.
MATT: It's hyping you up, man.
STEPHEN: Okay, all right. (Matt laughing) I do what the sword says and we attack Zathkira.
MATT: Go ahead and roll initiative for me.
MATT: Okay. So.
STEPHEN: Three plus, do I have initiative-- oh, plus two, five, jeez.
MATT: All right, Zathkira, seeing this, goes, "Ah, I should've known!" And pulls back, and you watch the hands crackle with divine and arcane energy on both sides, slams them together as a bolt of lightning fires from his hands in your direction. You have resistance, you take half damage. I need you to go ahead and just roll a d20 and add your Dexterity modifier to see if you can try and dodge out of the way.
STEPHEN: Four plus two, six.
MATT: That's a no, so you take--(laughs) 23, 29 points of lightning damage, reduced to half because of your resistance, so you only take 14 points of lightning damage.
STEPHEN: I have one hit point left. (laughing) One hit point left. So on my--
MATT: It's your turn for you and Eric.
STEPHEN: My round-- is Eric back, by the way?
MATT: Eric is now in the back like (buzzing) and pointing towards what looks to be a torch hanging above a large bed covered in rags and linens.
STEPHEN: I Cure Wounds.
STEPHEN: I cure myself, yes.
MATT: Go for it.
STEPHEN: 1d8, right?
MATT: You can cast it at a second level if you wanted to to roll 2d8.
STEPHEN: Let's do this thing.
MATT: All right, roll 2d8.
STEPHEN: Oh, six and seven, not too shabby.
MATT: So 13 plus your Charisma modifier, four, so you heal 17 hit points.
STEPHEN: So I'm back up to 18.
MATT: You are.
STEPHEN: So that was my round.
MATT: That's your round, Eric gets to go if you want Eric to do something.
STEPHEN: Eric attacks him.
MATT: All right, Eric (buzzes) flies in towards this undead mage, go ahead and roll an attack.
MATT: Ooh, plus three? That hits, go ahead and roll damage.
MATT: 1d4 plus one.
STEPHEN: 1d4 plus one, wow. Mm-hmm, this isn't one of those things where if he stings somebody he dies, like some insects, is it?
MATT: It depends on if he's allergic.
MATT: All right, so three points of damage.
STEPHEN: I meant, did Eric die, because sometimes the stinger tears off.
MATT: Oh, no no, he's not a honeybee. (laughing)
MATT: So as Eric (whooshes, groans) reaches back and like is now completely dumbfounded by this bee attacking him, like, "This strange creature!" It's now his turn.
MATT: He's gonna go ahead and cast Inflict Wounds on Eric. That's a 21 to hit.
STEPHEN: He has one hit point.
MATT: Yeah. As he reaches back-- I rolled double tens. 21 points of necrotic damage, you watch as Eric is pulling out of the creature's neck, angry faced, looking towards you, tiny bee thumbs up, like, "You did a good job!"
MATT: He's just splatted across the side of his neck. Pulls the hand off, and you see a flattened, destroyed Eric, kinda (buzzing) to the ground. It's your turn. (growling) (laughing)
STEPHEN: I run to the door that Eric pointed out for me.
MATT: You got it. You go charging past. It takes you the entire movement to get over there. You still have an action, what would you like to do?
STEPHEN: Oh really?
MATT: Yeah. So you're on the opposite side where you see this bed and this cluster of rags, and there's a small doorway.
STEPHEN: A bed and a cluster of rags.
STEPHEN: And a small doorway. Invisibility.
MATT: All right, you cast Invisibility on yourself. (whooshes) You're now, as far as you know, unseen. Now as the undead mage spins around-- "Now where's his master? Come on!" (whooshes) Fires a bolt of lightning off in the far corner, near where you were on the front part of the chamber.
MATT: He is not aware of your presence. It's your turn.
STEPHEN: I search the bed and the rags. Does that end my invisibility, if I search?
MATT: No, searching you can do.
STEPHEN: Okay, I'll search.
MATT: All right, go ahead and roll a d20 and add your, yeah, perception.
STEPHEN: 16 plus perception.
MATT: Plus zero.
STEPHEN: What do I got here? Nothing.
MATT: Yeah, all right, so as you're rummaging through the rags underneath, you find what looks to be a tiny-- looks like a glass tube that contains some sort of faint blue energy. It throbs with a heartbeat, kinda (thumping). Hidden beneath the pillow.
STEPHEN: Was there-- for me to put the nose on, was there a crease or anything in the orb, no?
MATT: In the orb, no. It just (whooshes) affixed itself to you. This has like-- it's really cold to the touch and kind of pulses with this dull energy. As it lifts up, you see the undead mage turn towards you. "Oh, don't touch that!"
STEPHEN: I shatter it.
MATT: Okay, roll an attack with your sword against it to see if you can. It is a very, very hardy material. Go for it.
STEPHEN: That one just got paged by surprise right there. We're about to win, 15.
MATT: 15 plus--?
STEPHEN: Plus what, strength?
MATT: No, with your sword.
STEPHEN: Where's my sword, oh, oh, plus six, come on. 21.
MATT: Go ahead and roll damage with the radiant blade.
STEPHEN: It's 1d...
MATT: 1d10, right there.
STEPHEN: 1d10. Plus five. Nine.
MATT: Nine points of radiant damage. As you pull the blade back, you throw this small vial into the sky and you hear from the blade, "I told you you can do it!" You slam it, (whooshes) it shatters in the air. Having discovered this mage's phylactery, you watch as the glass spatters into a thousand pieces, the blue pulsing energy within dissipating as the mage goes, "No!" And the body just falls limp, lifeless, clattering to the ground, the bones hitting the stone. So, as you hold--
STEPHEN: That's how you do it.
MATT: Having the red magical orb in your possession, glancing upon it, the blade at your side, you think to yourself, the sacrifice that Eric had made, maybe that will enable this good artifact to bring joy and generosity to many more across the Menagerie Coast.
STEPHEN: For Eric.
MATT: For Eric.
STEPHEN: For Eric.
MATT: Thank you very much.
STEPHEN: Thank you. I am so back in. (laughing) It only took one adventure, I am so back in. I hope we can do this again sometime.
MATT: I hope so too. Thank you so much, buddy.
STEPHEN: Happy Red Nose Day, everybody.
MATT: Happy Red Nose Day.
STEPHEN: Thank you Eric. That was so fun.
MATT: That was so much fun. Absolute pleasure, seriously.
STEPHEN: Honestly, I'm not joking, like I really, I know we had to keep moving, but I just wanted to, like, absorb what it felt like again, because I mean, really, from like age 13 to age 20, I spent countless hours doing this.
MATT: Oh yeah, man.
MATT: This is what got me into theater and got me into acting. My D&D was my gateway--
STEPHEN: Me too.
MATT: And now it's become an unexpected career that has just blown up, so.
STEPHEN: Thank you so much, man. That was a ton of fun.
MATT: Absolute pleasure.
STEPHEN: For Eric and his sacrifice in fighting Zaktira?
STEPHEN: Zethkira. Please donate to Red Nose Day, and release your own Orb of Generosity.
(Matt chuckling) (people laughing)