Our Crew Solution

A problem reared its head shortly after we began playing a pirate themed D&D 5th Edition game: there are a lot of NPCs in play when the crew of one ship boards another ship.

Assessing the Options

I looked at the limited rules about handling mobs in the DMG and disliked them. I then read a lot of advice on the subject, most of which boiled down to “avoid mass combat at all costs”, or “let the NPCs do their thing in the background while the PCs star in the important action.”

The advice didn’t work for me. I like situations where perhaps the PCs are struggling against their opposition while the friendly NPC crew have quickly mopped up the enemy crew and can help the PCs. Or the inverse where the crew is nearing defeat which forces the PCs to divert some or all of their efforts to save them. I could just decide these things as the GM, but that felt cheap as well.

Looking Elsewhere

Unable to find a solution in the core D&D 5e books, I looked at other solutions such as the minion monster rules in D&D 4e, which are workable but still require too much management and rolling at the table. I also looked at 13th Age which has excellent and elegant rules for mooks, and I almost adopted them until I found the entry for the Bar Brawl in the Creature Codex by Kobold Press (which is a fantastic monster resource and highly recommended by us rugrats). This third-party work gave a group of aggressive humanoids the swarm feature, allowing them to use their numbers to threaten the PCs and their crew while elegantly working within the 5e framework.

Creating the Crews

I took this idea and ran with it. The resulting crews and monster swarms worked well in play testing (aka: our campaign). We compiled them together, added some officers and captains to bedevil the PCs, and created some magical and mundane seafaring equipment.

The Seafaring Supplement contains nine crew stat blocks, including two sets of sea creatures. Challenges range from 2 to 10. From crews of undead to experienced marines, these stat blocks keep ship combat from becoming bogged down, while still bringing excitement to the combat. 

You can pick up the Seafaring Supplement on DriveThruRPG.


NAVAL MARINE TROOP

Little clenches the stomach of a pirate faster than the sight of a frigate carrying regiments of naval marines. These hardened soldiers are equally adept at fighting on land or the heaving deck of a ship. Naval marines are more heavily armed and armored than most sailors, and take a great deal of care ensuring their weapons and armor don’t succumb to the brine and spray. 

Potions Class with Madam Margareth

For our latest field trip the students of the college set out to find the magical ingredients needed for a potion. We used an adventure called Madam Margareth’s Magic Potion, and simply changed the setting from the Village of Glavost to the school.

Here’s the premise:

A young boy has fallen ill after eating a poisonous mushroom and the only cure lies in an ice cave at the top of a mountain! Can a group of heroes make it to the top of the mountain, face down a fearsome yeti, find the cure, and maybe learn a bit about chemistry on the way? This science based short also includes a fun experiment for everyone to enjoy.

Note: this contains spoilers!

Set the Scene

In play, the kids started out in the village of Belcassel where they had figured out that a griffon had been stealing the local farmers’ livestock. Further investigation indicated the former mayor’s daughter was using a book she found in the library to magically combine beasts into other monstrosities. Worse, she had taken the book and set out for parts unknown. Who knew what she could get up to with such a potent magical tome?

On their way back to the college, the kids and their teacher ran into Professor Kirby, another teacher from the school. She was being led by some confused and frightened children. Learning that another student had collapsed in the forest, the kids joined them. Using the directions from the scared kids and their own nature skills they found Cedric, the injured boy who had collapsed after eating a wild mushroom. 

Navigate the Woods

Professors Rattles and Kirby didn’t have all the ingredients to make an antidote for Cedric, but they knew frost stones could be gathered at a nearby mountain. The kids set out to get the frost stones and were waylaid by hungry wolves. After taking care of the beasts, they had a bit of trouble climbing the mountain, but managed with a bit of teamwork (both in and out of game).

Defeat the Yeti

At the mountaintop, they discovered a cave! The boys went into the cave and discovered the frost stones they needed. Gemstone the barbarian stayed outside and was alone when the resident yeti came home. Gemstone defeated the yeti in an arm wrestle and gave it some food in exchange for the frost stones.

the so called frost stones from the yeti cave

Save the Student

The kids then descended the mountain and set off to save foolish Cedric.

We knew everyone would want to be hands-on, so we made enough to assemble three magic potions. For ease of cleanup we also put everything on a cookie tray. Kelly has invested in various fun shape dice cube trays over the years, so she made the frost stones in the shape of stars. (The directions for how to recreate your own experiment can be found in the pages of the adventure.)

potion ingredient ready to go

They loved dropping the frost stones into the potion. After our conversations about diffusion, the rugrats predicated the potion would be blue. This is a fair guess since the liquid is clear and the stones are blue. The resulting purple seemed like magic. 

the magic potion

If you haven’t checked out any of Playground Adventures After School Adventures, we highly recommend them. They are short, easy to run for kids, and have an educational element called out in them.

 

Transmogrification or An Eggs-periment

Public schools are still closed, and parents are doing what they can to keep their kids engaged and learning. Some teachers are sending out activities, others are still putting lessons together.

Cover of Science in A Bag by Sandra Markle

We’ve been incorporating some of the ideas we are being sent, but with the age range in our house doing three sets of learning activities can be tough. We’re working through fun activities and trying to bring the learning in: fractions with breadmaking; the concept of diffusion with coloured ice cubes melting in water; hand-eye coordination (and a useful life skill) with sewing dice bags; and playing lots of RPGs because fun!

We’ve taken our potions classes up a notch by combining our lessons on diffusion with some of our other potions lessons.

Removing the Shell From an Egg

I have this book from when I was a kid. It is called Science in a Bag and it’s by Sandra Markle. It’s full of science experiments you can do in a bag. One of them, and my favorite of the bunch, is removing an egg shell.

You fill a bag with vinegar and then add an egg. The acidic nature of the vinegar slowly dissolves the calcium carbonate on the egg.  The kids loved looking at the bubbles that formed on the outside of the shell. We watched it for a few days, and then I washed the egg off in the sink.

The membrane around the egg stays intact, and if you hold it up to the light you can see the yolk. The Rugrats loved touching the shell-less egg. (If you do this, be gentle! Several years ago Rugrat #1 actually popped one.)

An egg without its shell

Shrinking an Egg

So part two of this is new to us. We learned in an earlier experiment about diffusion. Removing an egg shell allowed us to understand membranes.

This part of the experiment allows us to understand diffusion and membranes together.

We took our clean egg (without its shell) and put it into a clean plastic bag. Then we filled the egg with clear corn syrup. The liquid in the egg can pass through the egg’s membrane, but the syrup can’t. In time it shrinks the egg!

Me: Isn’t that weird?

Rugrat#1: Not really. It’s science.

an egg without its shell, and missing some of the liquid inside

Disclaimer: If the shell-less egg weirds you out, this will not be easy for you.

The yolk becomes more visible and the membrane gets loose, like a half empty sack.

It’s like a bag! – Rugrat#3

Growing an Egg

Once we let the egg shrink down, we cleaned it off in water. The Rugrats got to poke at it and touch it.

Then we placed what remained of the egg back into a plastic bag of water and let it sit overnight. Since water can pass through the membrane the size of the egg started to grow.

Rugrat#3 pondered if the shell would grow back. Her brothers explained that wasn’t possible, and we discussed the dissolving of the shell again.

an egg without its shell, reinflated

The egg quickly plumped back up. The liquid inside was strange and we could see things floating in it. After a good feel of it, we disposed of the egg and washed our hands thoroughly.

 

inkwell and feather pen

March 2020 Reviews

In case you missed some of our products the first go around, or you’ve been sitting on the fence about them, we’ll compile the monthly reviews of our products into one blog post each month. The full reviews can be found with the products (linked to in the product name), and in some cases, on the reviewer’s own blog (linked to the reviewers name). Continue reading March 2020 Reviews