Busy Month Incoming

Tomorrow sees the start of LGBT History Month – which will be a busy month for me in my Staff Network capacity. We have events and blogs planned, including a social event and an evening at the History Centre. There’s also Valentine’s Day, a birthday, and a plan to finally see my parents for the first time since lockdown.

Oh, and of course there’s the day-to-day engagement required to keep libraries open. We have family events as ever, stock rotations, and collaborative work with charities and local groups. I have amazing and hard working staff working to make it all happen. Even when I have occasion to quietly mutter under my breath, its within a context of people trying their best.

I think the best challenge is going to be to keep a balance between all the things going on. I’ve not even touched on the D&D games yet. The Librarians adventure will get going properly – hopefully as scheduling settles – and the DDC will return soon.

By soon – I mean this week. I am busy writing adventure seeds and ideas for where it all goes next. I have a very rough direction for it, but picking up the threads from where we ended up will take some work. We ended the last chapter with some very definitive closures for Thorin’s story and have entered into some more epic territory.

We’ve already had prophecy and dragons in the mix – and the levels of power that the characters are at in Eberron are the sort of levels where many adventurers have already retired for easier lives. The DDC are now truly exceptional individuals, and their swashbuckling adventures will be reflecting that if all goes to plan.

So, here’s hoping my brain keeps up with all this plate spinning. Who knows, I might event get some stories and sketching done too…

One Shot Part Two

The chaos continued this weekend, as the reverse heist D&D caper hit the point where the plan met reality – and the silliness was wonderful. A fairy sorceror, a harengon monk, a human rogue, a halfling wizard, and a tiefling bard made their plans to deliver presents as snows fell on the neighbourhood. Nobody made the Christmas connection, or if they did they didn’t mention it – but that was fine.

All focus was on delivering presents to Valenia’s parents for the first part of the session. They were staying at a guest house, and so a distraction was needed. Between sandwiches from the pub and Cupcake’s non-stop babbling, all eyes were distracted while Fearne, Ignis, and Guiness crept upstairs, evaded a tabaxi reading in a window seat, and broke into the correct room to deliver presents.

One successful drop-off later, the group made their excuses and headed out into the gathering gloom of the evening. They hadn’t managed to get the key from Coal, so some old-fashioned breaking and entering was called for. First, however, Cupcake made friends with the mimic disguised as a bench in the front garden. Bribery and a distressing amount of rabbit droppings left a cheerful mimic promising to not raise the alarm while they wandered around the garden.

By hook and proverbial crook they made their way up to a first floor balcony, and found a way in to Thorin’s bedroom. The only sound came from a chest in the corner which was gently snoring, so everyone was very careful to tiptoe to deliver the first present and then out into the hallway.

The whole session followed a similar pattern of bypassing sleeping mimics, a sleeping wolf, and dealing with a prank-trap of a wasps nest over a door. The group met Tanglefinger too – the boggle who shares the house with the DDC – and as they framed their intrusion as part of a prank, they were able to persuade him to help and again, not raise the alarm.

Having reached the top floor and dropped off the final present on Kerne’s bed, they then escaped by way of ropes down from the top balcony – well, apart from Fearne, who fell most of the way and broke his leg. They all then hobbled back to the Clubhouse for payment and healing – and a bonus present delivery to Odif of a set of mini automatons modelled after the DDC.

All in all, a gentle and funny romp was had – with lots of laughter and silliness – what a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Next week, hopefully, the DDC return…

Map – Guest House

I put this together for my games as a generic guest house map – largely because of the reverse heist that we’re doing for the one-shot adventure. Its a town-based guest house with three floors. Five rooms are for guests, while the sixth is a master bedroom for the owner. There is a latrine on the first floor. and a bathroom on the top floor. The whole map is geared for a 39×22 grid which leaves a small border around the whole thing – and the floors go from left to right as they ascend.

There are two doors on the ground floor – one from the garden at the top, and one from the alleyway on the left hand side – and various odds and sods plonked into the map by Dungeon Alchemy. I’ve included a zipfile below with the map jpeg export, original dungeon alchemy file, and the generated text file that defines walls, doors, windows, and light sources for Roll20.

As ever, for Roll20 you import the jpg to the background layer and then, while the dungeon alchemy api script is running, paste the text file contents into chat. That will resize the map and graphic and line up all the walls and features. Let me know what adventures you have with it…

Source file – guesthouse.zip

NPCs: A Coven of Trolls?

I’m not sure if these will turn up in either of the games I’m running at the moment, but I like the design and it wouldn’t be too difficult to fit them into the ongoing story on either front. I was playing around in HeroForge and was looking at trolls when the idea came to see if I could make them look like the sort of hags that the DDC had already encountered – there’s a subplot involving Kerne’s sister and rules for custom lineages that give ideas for those sworn to or in the company of hags to begin to take on their qualities and appearances – notably horns as a sign of power.

And so with some tweaking of faces and bodies and scratching of heads I came up with these lovely individuals – and I’m still undecided as to whether they are hags (in the D&D monster sense) or trolls who achieved hagdom and formed their own coven.

So welcome to Granny Riptooth, Nanny Gutrun, and Missy Lambrot – who may well be gathering together the scattered trolls defeated by Thorin’s clan during the Last War to contest the area again. I haven’t decided if they are aligned with the Winter’s Knight as an ongoing threat, but it would fit the themes of the story and the pattern of past encounters. I’m really pleased with how these models have worked out – there are more detailed schemes out there, but this works for virtual counters and inspiration for the games.

Well, I think we’ve all learned a valuable lesson about what you’ll find if you go down to the woods today…

Hiccups and Stumbles

Life’s ups and downs are, for me, best met with laughter and a polite reminder to myself that very little on the personal scale actually matters in the grand scheme of things – so storms in teacups can generally remain there.

That’s not to say that the little upsets can’t seem enormous and debilitating, but then reality has a way of presenting more pressing issues – like exploding toilets – to keep me on my toes.

In this case, a sewerage problem near one of my libraries has caused sufficient upset that I’m currently sitting and waiting for both Thames Water and our internal properties contractor to arrive and argue over whose fault everything is while a pungently delicate smell likened to a cabbage soufflĂ© settles all around.

At least my ribs feel like they’re all healed up so it doesn’t hurt to hiccup or cough, or indeed laugh any more

Little Trouble in the Big City

We returned to the Sunday Dungeons and Dragons game this week, with a one-shot set back in the DDC’s home town. As a tonal respite from all the epic adventures, I asked everyone to come up with younger characters at the beginning of their careers who frequented Coal’s Club House – and was not disappointed with the range and diversity of very silly people who appeared.

Coal, as long-time readers and watchers may know, started as a random rogue warforged who was forcibly adopted by the group after catching him picking their pockets. He always kept as low a profile as possible, but stepped up to defend his friends and, eventually, loved ones in their adventures. He eventually quit as an active member of the group to look after Odif, the kobold adopted by Caeluma and Thorin. He set up his clubhouse to provide social support and education for youngsters in the area and as revealed in today’s session also uses it as the headquarters of a small thieves’ guild.

Each of the characters are regulars at the club house – just starting out in their adventuring careers – a halfling wizard, a human thief, a harengon monk, a tiefling bard, and a fairy pyromaniac. They each have a minor magic item and a strange trinket to their names and were gathered by Coal for a “reverse heist”.

A local festival is due soon, celebrating parents, and so Coal wants to make sure that Valenia’s parents mysteriously receive gifts. If something appeared for Odif then that would be a bonus. The group is therefore hired to find and deliver these presents in such a way that the recipients don’t know where they came from. In addition, Coal gave them a series of objects to leave on the pillows of each of the DDC members. The group are to leave as little evidence of their presence in breaking in to the DDC’s home to leave the items. Damage costs will be deducted from the money on offer for the job. Anyone hurt will be treated and the cost deducted from their money. If the Watch get called, all payment is waived.

So today’s session was dominated by the group finding things to give as gifts and failing to steal the key to the DDC’s house off Coal. There was a lot of laughter, the playing of bagpipes, threats of arson, and the realisation that these youngsters were being treated very gently by local merchants. Slowly, a plan began to emerge as to how to conduct the reverse heist:

So – what’s the worst that could happen? There’s a plan to distract Valenia’s parents who are at a nearby hostel and sneak their presents to them. So far so good. The real challenge will be the DDC’s four-storey house which, rumour has it, is home to a number of mimics. I opened up a virtual piece of paper for the adventurers, and this was their group effort.

I can’t wait to see what happens next week…

A Very Long Friday Night

We normally stream a game of Destiny for a couple of hours on Friday nights. It’s usually only a couple of hours and largely consists of us goofing around.

Every now and then, we have a crack at some of the harder content and this Friday we did a run at a Legendary mission. By and large these throw more opponents with tougher armour and health, as well as some other factors to make things more difficult. The in-game rewards are higher, sometimes it progresses the story, and then there’s some fairly niche bragging rights in limited circles.

The biggest pain last night was the two main boss battles, in which we had only one revive each. This led to a lot of swearing and repeat attempts at these choke points – but we won.

At gone 3am

Needless to say, I’ve been a bit tired today, but we did go out to a coffee place and browse some books. So an attempt was made at being part of civilised society too.

Needless to say, I’m having an early night ahead of tomorrow’s D&D game

Morning After the Munch

I managed a great and rare thing last night – which was to drag the boy s off his couch and with me to a local munch – a social gathering for people in the kink/poly community (there’s a fair overlap) not that far from us. He’s been saying he wanted to go for some time, as he hasn’t been to any in four years. Between moving, covid, and ill health he’s not felt up to it – while I’ve been making connections with the locals over the last year or so so I could introduce him properly. Its as much an element of peer support and presence for a community who are not particularly visible as anything else – and he was very very nervous.

Part of that was that he would also be meeting Lady T in person for the first time – they’ve chatting along with everyone else in our group chat, but just like introducing new cats to an existing household you hope that in person people get on.

Well, we got there and headed to the freezing beer garden that normally hosts this particular event and as you might expect he sat and shivered while people chatted a while and then the ice broke with the mishearing of a comment turning into a running gag that turned the air several shades of blue. We did then all retreat into the warmth of the bar as it was relatively empty. And I have to say that I was proud of him coming out of his shell and talking to people with more and more confidence. He came close to being overwhelmed by the auditory input for a while, but Lady T had some stress putty that distracted him – and so an autistic alliance was formed, and rollup cigarettes shared, and an evening passed well. All in all, the boy did well. Here’s to getting him out the house some more.

A Long Day

Every now and then, a day comes along that throws all previously presumed plans out the window. Today was one of those, and I focused on trying to tackle various building issues directly affecting the public.

It always feels more frustrating in these cases if there is no quick solution. Simple solutions sometimes take longer, especially if you’re intending to not create even more issues in the solving. Even though the day has ended up with moving things in the right direction, I know that my name will be cursed in the short run.

I accept that as an occupational hazard of being a manager. I’ve made decisions and given advice today that was not what some people wanted to hear, but that’s partly what I’m paid for. It doesn’t make it any nicer for me on a personal level, though, as I prefer to have people being happy as they work for me.

Still, it will mean a better situation and service for our customers when everything is resolved – that won’t require backtracking and bureaucracy to unravel so we can then get back on track.

I do love my job, dearly, even on the draining days like today.

New NPCs

I haven’t entirely decided the how and where of most of these, but my ongoing experiments with Heroforge have presented some interesting options that seem to have stories to tell – or at least be the conduit for stories to tell with my assorted players. I’m trying to come up with characters that can stand out vividly – or be comic relief – and so today’s small batch ranges from a Dragonborn paladin, a Halfling bartender, and a Reborn elven hunter.

In order then we have Serenidas, a Dragonborn holy warrior descended from Copper Dragons who serves the principle of justice. Yes, the pun is entirely intentional even if not entirely original. Clad in reds and yellows, he has a magical flaming sword and an enchanted shield as he brings light to dark places.

Next we have Harlan Ghallison – a Mark of Hospitality Halfling who will be taking over the inn in Flower Town and widening the scope of the entertainments and treats available to customers and people passing by. I’m envisioning the sort of wry bartender running a Wild West saloon who may or may not have his fingers in some less that legal pies.

Lastly we have Hunter Dorull – who is an elf ranger who died before completing his mission and refused to stay put – at least, that’s his story. His body may be powered by pure willpower, but what is his mission, and why is he drawn to the DDC?

As ever, these tokens and portraits are free for the stealing for your VTT of choice – and I’d love to hear of any use you put them to!