It would be rude to do the write-up of Sunday’s game and not put up the battlemap we used. The map shown here is a very much cut down version of the bigger map I’d put together of the whole Hold. That original map was generated using Dungeon Alchemist and exported as a jpeg before my then painting snow in with Photoshop Elements. Then the whole thing was imported into Roll20 and some animated spell effects used to simulate the portal (specifically Black Tentacles overlaid with a gaseous cloud)
The characters were placed anywhere they wanted to be within 20 foot or so of the entrance at the North. The snowy stone was treated as rough terrain with rolls to keep footing every time they moved. The grassed areas were easy to travers as it was only light snow. The entrance hall is where the beholder, mindflayers, and a gazer familiar were staged, and the portal was in the structure on the right of the map. The layout therefore gave lots of options for cover and breaking line of sight with opponents with trees, hedges, and ornamental objects.
This version is a relatively low-resolution image that nevertheless scaled well for the purposes of the VTT – just as well as the photoshopped version was nearly 30Mb in size due to my editing options and I had to drastically resize and compress the file.
Still, here we go – feel free to grab and use. I’ve made up a zip file with the original non-winter cut down map, this winter version, and the associated lighting and sizing text file so that you can import either or both versions to your Roll20 vtt – you’ll need to be running the Dungeon Alchemy API, import the graphic to the mmap layer and then copy and paste the contents of the text file into your Roll20 chat. That will resize the map and add lights for the torches on the map.
And so here it was – the grand season finale. The group had met the enemy and retreated, barely surviving. They had tracked down the refugees who had fled the Hold. They had identified those members of the Clan infected with lycanthropy and secured their cooperation. There was a reconciliation between Thorin and Karkanna, and the revelation of a new family member – and a dragon dropped by to confirm whether the group really was an instrument of the Draconic Prophecies concerning these events.
So that was a lot to process for people as various strands woven through the game all started to come together. The Cult of the Triumphant Dead held the Hold and the portal being built that would mix the magics of Xoriat with that of the Fey Winter’s Knight to bring eternal winter to the heart of Khorvaire. Thorin and Karkanna’s father was still hostage within the Hold, infected with lycanthropy that held his heart condition at bay. The Hags had been working on drugs that would render all who took them vulnerable to the magics of the fey with the plan to distribute them across the lands to be conquered by Winter. The DDC had slain the Hags, while Kerne’s sister fled with the secret to making the drugs to keep them from the Winter’s Knight. It had been Faye who had chained the portal in the Hags’ lair before fleeing – and she was now on the run.
During the week of downtime then between last session and this one, people spent time in preparation. The first snows of winter arrived, and temperatures dropped rapidly as ice crept across the rivers and made travel even more treacherous. Kerne worked with Valenia to identify some of the more obscure ingredients and processes identified in communications with Faye. They produced what they hoped would be an elixir that could cure those affected by the werewolf curse. It resulted in three bottles of…something…that looked like congealed blood in a clear liquid and no volunteers to test it.
Arwan spent the week working with the villagers of Flower Town to make repairs, and to shore people up in faith and reassurance. He listened and talked and spread good news to all – and received a measure of divine favour for his work. The people of the town came to value his presence and were prepared to go to greater lengths to aid in the fight. In a similar vein, Caeluma spent the week with the werewolves – teaching them meditation and practical lessons on managing the rage and the curse and the shifting of forms. He also rebuilt and rededicated a shrine in the abandoned village, bringing the presence of the Sovereign Host back to a shadowed place. The divine powers noted this and granted the promise of aid.
And then there was Thorin. Who spent the time reconnecting with his people, encouraging them, making plans for battle and then frequently forgetting them amid the wild carousing. He had vague recollections of doing something he shouldn’t have while drunk, but as nobody seemed to know what it was either he figured it couldn’t have been that bad – even if there were complaints that someone had fouled the well.
All in all, between their preparations, the presence of a dragon nearby, and word getting out among the refugees, more people gathered to their banners – giving a fighting force of some 40 dwarves and 18 werewolves and a dragon to aid the DDC. There had been sightings of something draconic flying near the Hold, but nobody could quite identify it. The additional refugees did confirm however that a small force of duergar had taken the mines and were fortifying it – and that dolgaunts and dolgrims were occupying key watch towers on the approaches to the Hold.
A plan was quickly improvised. Caeluma and Killiklik would take a handful of werewolves to tackle the mine entrance – either to clear it or collapse it, while the main body of the army moved against the Hold from the North. Caeluma and Killiklik would then flank from the West as they rejoined the army.
The assault on the mine was swift and brutal, with Killiklik’s fiery breath clearing defenders and defences from the entrance, while Caeluma led the pack inside. There they found a reeling duergar force and inspired the captive miners to break chains and rebel. Between those two assaults the duergar were driven off – and a divine wave of healing spread through everyone remaining. The miners vowed to close off the duergar breakthroughs and secure the galleries so that no more reinforcements could come up from below. This left Caeluma and his companions free to rejoin the main fight.
Meanwhile, the army had overrun the northern watchtower with minimal losses and was advancing on the Hold. As they approached, a chaotic horde of dolgrims, dolgaunts and duergar spilled out to meet them, and battle was joined. The people of Flower Town and the werewolves joined forces, reunited as the people of Clan Amberhammer and were led by Karkanna on the field, while the DDC pressed forward to the gardens and main entrance.
The mindflayers and the beholder had been joined by another of the beholder’s nightmares – fuelled by dreams of conflict with Killiklik it had spawned an Eyedrake – a horrid amalgamation of dragon and beholder that on its own would tax many groups. Worse, the quiescent portal in the gardens had widened and opened, held open by dark tentacles from the other side that blindly groped and writhed in the air, and shrouded by dense snow and fog as the cold of the EverIce of the Winter Knight’s realm blasted through. Here then was what had brought on the sudden commencement of snows and ice across the mountains. Unchallenged, this winter would never end.
Killiklik and the eyedrake launched straight at each other and their epic fight scorched the air through the heavy snow squalls filling the air. Fiery breath, and razor claws and teeth were met with antimagic pulses and streams of magical energies in retaliation. Thorin and Arwan closed on the nearest mindflayer and nearly managed to drop it in the first moments of the fight before its hideous mental powers washed out across the battlefield.
The party nearly fell in that moment, if not for Arwan’s divine favour to offer aid in making saves in those frantic seconds. The second mindflayer also tried to scourge their minds, while the mindflayer arcanist with them cast lighting through the pair as punishment for approaching.. Then the beholder emerged from the doors of the Hold and began to bombard the party with magics. Caeluma, Valenia, and Kerne fought back and tried not to get pinned down as rays from the beholder’s eyes scythed across the garden.
Slowly, the beholder’s allies were cut down. Killiklik managed to destroy the eyedrake with his breath weapon, but was turned to stone by the beholder – his body falling from the sky and through the open portal. Arwan’s battle prowess surprised everyone as he decimated the remaining mindflayers – receiving the accolade of The Hunter from Killiklik before he died. As a last ditch effort, the arcanist mind flayer plane shifted Thorin to a hellish location to be rid of him.
With Caeluma and Arwan paralysed, Kerne caught in the beholder’s antimagic gaze and Valenia slowed and almost turned to stone, things looked grim. And that’s where the final divine favour was granted, and Caeluma’s patron – the Solar Gerleon returned Thorin to the mortal realm and blinded the beholder’s antimagic eye. The group rallied, slew the arcanist and then piled in on the aberration before them. In the height of the winter’s storm, it was Valenia who landed the final blow with an arrow from concealment. The title of The Quiet was finally claimed.
And with that, the battle on the field below became a rout as the dwarves won the day. The portal curled in on itself and sealed up, and Gerleon was no longer there. With the portal closed, the sun began to break through. They had won the battle. Now they had to win the peace.
Our DDC session lasted an epic six hours this afternoon and evening and has left everyone drained. Jubilant, but exhausted as they beat the bad guys. Next week will serve as an epilogue of sorts to this arc.
I’ll write up the session itself tomorrow once I’ve had a chance to sleep. My body is still in reset mode ahead of next week’s challenges so most of the weekend has been spent curled up on the sofa or in bed. I’m reminded that in part this is down to vitamin D deficiency.
To be honest, I am starting to feel a bit more comfortable. I’m still very drained, but the spinning headaches and bone aches have faded, and I don’t feel like I’ve fallen down the stairs so much – so progress.
Also, the new car is nice. Be even better when the chassis registration goes through so I can charge it..!
I’ve had a very quiet day today, recovering from a week of hard conversations and difficult decisions at work. It has also, in that same breath, been productive and I’ve cleared a lot of things off the deck that have felt like they’ve been hanging over me since and while I’ve been ill. I’ve actually ended the week with a reasonably clear ‘to do’ list and a clear idea for now of things to prioritise when I go back next week.
Of course, no plan survives contact with Monday, but I’m enjoying a brief respite from having knots in my stomach – or maybe that’s just the relief from getting through another bout of IBS in the middle of it all.
I have made some more maps and preparations for the game tomorrow, as well as sketched out some ideas for the Wednesday game. I’ve even been in touch with the people I used to play the pirate-themed D&D game with. The DM for that group says he’s thinking of doing a Spelljammer-based reboot. I can’t wait – good old Hesklik was fun. I’ll have to see what inspirations strike in the New Year.
Just a quick update then ahead of tomorrow’s shenanigans. I may have fallen down the rabbit hole of playing some Assassins Creed Odyssey…
I published a map yesterday, based around the idea of a wintery landscape claimed by a couple of stone giants who were perhaps not the best at crafting and sculpting and so had gone looking for quiet in the wilderness to try and find inspiration. There have been some very nice comments from people, both here and on Reddit – I posted the map in r/Inkarnate – which have put a smile on my face. I’m easily pleased.
Anyway, I’ve been toying with the concept a while as a potential encounter, and while I could crowbar it into the current story arc of the DDC, it feels a bit crowded already. So, instead, to match the map from yesterday, here are the HeroForge portraits and tokens and some ideas of how the encounter could be run.
Meet Modjard the Quiet and Midjeed the Lesser, brothers from a reclusive tribe of Stone Giants who live in the Blackcap Mountains. Their people love working stone and crystals to create masterpieces that are rarely seen by the surface world, let alone the wider world. As lesser talents among their folk, Modjard and Midjeed were therefore overlooked and generally not given much attention and so they decided to risk working on the surface to see if that brought better inspirations.
Sadly, the brothers have got a long way to go – they have a certain rough talent, but they will need to work hard to hone it, and they are not patient. Their attempts to create new statues or installations tend to end up flawed, or even fall apart – and the brothers are prone to violent fits of rage in their frustrations.
When encountered then, the adventurers are most likely to be drawn to them by their cries of anger and the sounds of things breaking. Their latest statue has just collapsed all over their supplies and the brothers are blaming each other for the disaster. Modjard blames Midjeed for making the ankles too thin. Midjeed blames Modjard for being sloppy and leaving their supplies flung in a corner behind the workshop area rather than stacking them in the cave as told earlier.
When they spot the adventurers, this can then go several ways. Things could well start getting thrown, first at each other and then at these intruders. Alternatively, depending on how they’re approached, they might start asking the group’s opinion on who is to blame, and shenanigans then proceed from there. The brothers are ordinary Stone Giants – they live a simple life but other than their blind spot of blaming each other for their own shortcomings, they are otherwise quite perceptive. Who knows, they may even hold local lore that the intruders need?
I’ve been sat this evening after a last-minute change of plans and started playing around in Inkarnate again. Here’s what I came up with – a winter landscape set in the mountains, with a cave, broken stones and statues, and plenty of space to run an encounter. It might even turn up in a future DDC session.
The concept is that a pair of Stone Giant sculptors have picked this isolated place to try and gain inspiration from the wilderness. The amount of broken stone, furniture, equipment, and items suggests either many frustrations or an over-estimation of their skills.
There’s a good open space that includes places for smaller and squishier characters to take cover – some changes in height from cliff faces and elevations – and nooks and crannies to navigate around. The whole is scaled for a square 40×40 while not having a grid installed on it so it can be re-sized to taste. The resolution is 2048×2048. Feel free to copy and use.
There’s a definite buzz to creating visual representations of the various NPCs (non-player characters) that make an impact on the group in our game. This is even more important given how roleplay-heavy the last few sessions have been, and I’m pleased that these two miscreants have had some time to shine recently. As with last week’s notables, there’s one each from the village of Flower Town and the werewolf lair of Enna’s Seam.
So without further ado meet Banto Forkbeard – de facto leader of the werewolves reclaimed by Karkanna. If he isn’t their leader, he’s at least the most equal of the leaders they don’t have. An ex-guard sergeant at the Hold, his tattered uniform is worn as a point of pride. He is now primed to receive the signal to lead the wolves to rally at the Hold for the final push and engage the duergar forces
Next to him is Kellentan di Sivis – a gnome representative of the Dragonmarked House of Scribes. His message station in Flower Town used to be mostly geared towards news of merchant caravans and prices in nearby cities, but this ambitious gnome sees an opportunity in supporting the returning Heir in his fight to reclaim the Hold. He now helps with communication and logistics in return for favours for his House to come.
The tokens can be used on virtual tabletops – and as with any of these images, please feel free to grab copies for your own games – I’m starting to share the characters on HeroForge, so I’ll do a master list of the entries covered so far in due course.
It’s all getting a bit epic and legendary in the Sunday game – with archetypal titles being bestowed and dragons arriving to overshadow the events. Everyone’s having great fun, even if they’re occasionally having to stop to pick their jaws up off the ground.
The Doom of Kelliklik approaches as the Heir decides his fate. A nod and bow and the Redeemed shall not fly alone. The Watcher’s Dream of Dragons shall be met with fire and teeth and claw.
The Draconic Prophecies – Scale 200 verse 1-3
The battle of Flower Town resulted in Thorin stating his claim to the throne and willingness to fight for his people, and Caeluma persuading the dragon Kelliklik to fight and fly alongside him. The Watcher’s Dream of Dragons remains to be revealed, but so far, each mention of a Watcher’s dream has alluded to the Beholder’s nightmares retaining form and flesh upon his awakening
In defiance of Winter’s Madness the sundered clan will fight. Unity and compromise found where death and hatred bloomed. What new dawn comes after the fight? Rebirth.
The Draconic Prophecies – Scale 200 verse2 4-6
The greatest portion of the two halves of Clan Amberhammer have agreed to work together, brought in by the DDC. How will it all end up?
The Heir. The Redeemed. The Scribe. All these roles now revealed. Two more ascend. The Quiet, and The Hunter step up and join their gaze to witness Fate.
The Draconic Prophecies – Scale 201 verses 1-6
Everyone in the DDC is being referred to with Archetypal labels. So far we have Thorin as the Heir. Caeluma is the Redeemed. Kerne is the Scribe. During the final battle for the Hold, Arwan was hailed as the Hunter as he struck down foe after foe in swift succession. Valenia took the title of The Quiet both for her stealth, and for an interpretation of ‘Quiet’ meaning ‘Death’ as she struck the final blow on the beholder.
I was exhausted yesterday so completely forgot to do the writeup after our session – but what a game it was! We picked up from last week with the group split across three locations as they negotiated and bargained with various groups of survivors to band together under Thorin’s banner to retake the Hold.
At Flower Town, conversations began about the practicalities of how to gather people together at the right time and in the right place. There was a rapid realisation that the DDC hadn’t considered how to keep in touch – but fortunately a representative of House Sivis was among the refugees and through the power of their Dragonmark they were able to get a Sending to Caeluma.
For their part, Caeluma and Karkanna had arranged that when given a signal, the werewolves would assemble near the Hold. Caeluma got to know the spokesman of the wolves so that they could use a Sending to likewise signal to them when it was time. Hearing from the rest of the group, Caeluma decided to make their way to Flower Town, while Karkanna returned to the shrine.
Kerne continued their research into a cure for lycanthropy following the sharing of a hag’s recipe by Faye. Taken as written there was a high cost to assemble the ingredients per dose, but Kerne reasoned that if they could interpret some of the more obscure terms, they may be able to reduce the costs by sourcing things that might be known under more familiar names. When Karkanna returned alone, Kerne feared the worst and challenged her. A tense and sassy exchange left a silence between them as Karkanna turned to feeding her child, and the werewolves present enforced a distance between them.
Caeluma was able to swiftly fly to Flower Town and surprised everyone by dropping out of the sky into Thorin’s lap while everyone was sat round celebrating. Under the cover of flirting, they updated Thorin on the plans, but as light was fading the group decided to accept the refugee’s offer of roofs for the night. The group was put up by several families in homes around the main square.
Kerne and Karkanna resumed talking as Kerne wanted to ease the tension but also share the discovery they had made. The high cost was pitted against the saving of lives – but when Kerne asserted that if need be it could be only given to those who wanted the cure, Karkanna made an empassioned speech about the corrosive and corrupting nature of the lycanthrope curse. She did not want the curse. She definitely didn’t want her child to bear it. Kerne asked if the Clan could afford it, and Karkanna said that even if she wanted to give Kerne all the money right now, she couldn’t as she didn’t have the key to the Vault – that was in Thorin’s hands. Karkanna said that Thorin was the rightful heir now. He had the skills and aptitudes. He had the support and willingness to sacrifice himself. Karkanna was, now and always, the monster in the dark and would protect and avenge from the shadows. The evening night drew in with a rapprochment and gentle acknowledgement of the fight and struggle to come, and as the temperature fell, Kerne and Karkanna retired to Karkanna’s tent.
The rest of the DDC were rudely awoken in the night by a gout of flame and the screamed challenge of the red dragon Killiklik. Accompanied by the Dragon Blessed called Sigrund, a challenge to the Heir and his companions was issued to test their worthiness against the Draconic Prophecies surrounding this event. A tense and bloody fight ensued as the group leaped to defend the village and each other before Sigrund ended the challenge and cast a mass cure upon all the combatants. An agitated group rounded on them and their decision to appear in the middle of the night, only to be met with the assertion that fate and destiny wait for no one, and despite the suddenness, they had proved equal to the challenge and therefore capable of facing what was ahead. Rings were offered to the group as signs of their place in the Prophecies and of the favour of the dragons of the Argonnessan – but Caeluma challenged Sigrund and Killiklik further – to join in the fight.
There then followed a series of cryptic questions that tested the DDC’s awareness of the situation, and the stakes involved should they fail. Caeluma spoke passionately about saving lives across the continent from the Winter’s Knight and the eternal ice he planned to release in the heartlands of Khorvaire. Killiklik then turned to Thorin and asked if he had made his Choice. Thorin said he had – that he would fight for his land and his people.
Killiklik then nodded to Sigrund, who bowed in return, and the Killiklik repeated a line he had said earlier – that he knew his Doom and would face his death – and then affirmed to the group that he and Sigrund would fight alongside them.
More cryptic musings from the minds of the dragons of Eberron – and hints of themes and events on the horizon. As ever, as we get to things these could be about I’ll update this entry with what happened in game.
The Axe of the Stone breakers shall smite the plans of Winter – though who can tell where long steps lead? Sweet victory and sorrow, though none can tell the balance while hags plot and plans bubble.
The Draconic Prophecies – Scale 142, verses 7-8
A reference to this arc’s end game, and the stakes and decisions to be weighed.
If the moons’ dark passing sees not the path to EverIce, then Xoriat’s grip fails and Khyber’s coils shift in humiliation
The Draconic Prophecies – Scale 105, verse 10
Words scribbled may gain response, but who are the writers and who the readers? Joy unbridled or fear regained may all hinge on a single lie