Memory: A Risk Taken

This is inspired by a daily prompt for writing I saw recently that invited people to write about a risky action that turned out well. With my philosophy of “what’s the worst that could happen?” I an spoiled for choice.

I could talk of stolen kisses or jobs applied for; of approvals given or appointments made – but the most life-changing was getting in touch with Lady M after she had moved to Switzerland.

We had been flatmates, and there was no denying a spark at the time. We also had existing partners (and I was also going through a divorce) so it was complicated. She took a job out there and left, and amid my general chaos the relationship I was in also ended.

A while later, we started talking online, and I took up an earlier offer to come visit. Despite the best efforts of airlines, weather, and air traffic control I duly made it out there – and was met by a shocked Lady M who had convinced herself I wasn’t going to be on the plane.

The spark ignited, and has blazed ever since through all the ups and downs of modern life. A risk well worth taking.

Articles Incoming

In the next few weeks my name is going to be a bit more high profile at work. I shall of course greet this with my usual bemusement, but also some degree of pride. The pun isn’t intended for the first of the reasons – I’m featuring in a couple of videos talking about staff networks, and especially the LGBTQ+ Staff Network.

It’s part of a wider week focusing on and advertising the networks, and should be going live in a couple of week’s time. Filming it was a bit of fun – and while it’s mostly aimed for an internal audience, there are plans for an externally facing campaign as well.

The other thing is for a piece of writing I was invited to do around mental health and my experience working through and being supported in recent years. I approached it with my usual flat affect and detailed approach so have been going back and forth with various people to agree on trigger warnings and signposting for readers to support materials.

Someone has even called me brave, which is a bit flattering, maybe. There’s some complex processing I probably need to do there, but I’ll deal with that if I need to.

So, fun and games all round…

NPC Tokens – Assorted Duergar

I may have mentioned once or twice that I use Heroforge to play with design idea for bit players and encountered beings in my tabletop games – and that I also find it a good way to unwind when my brain is going nineteen to the dozen. I can play with settings and pieces like some virtual clay or lego model set and let the worries ease away. That’s why I’ll often do a run of related or similar pieces as I create something I like and then try some variations to see what else I can do.

With the ongoing mix of opposing factions in the Sunday game, I thought I’d create some tokens for more duergar – a set of dwarves who retreated deep underground and became stranger with exposure over the years to oddness down there in the depths. So far the group has only encountered a few in person, but they were allies to the mindflayers that took over the land for a while. They were very much junior partners in the coup, but several got away and have evaded capture as they try to get back to their own territory below the mountains.

So I made some figures that might either be part of some form of raiding party or might become a more detailed antagonist. From left to right we have a sorceror, a scout, and a warlock. The first and last of those wield magic, while the scout is a lightly armoured foot soldier armed with an axe tasked with infiltration and sabotage. The difference between a sorceror and a warlock is that the former has naturally occurring magic due to their bloodline which often traces back to a dragon. A warlock has made a pact with some sort of entity in return for their power. These entities can be forgotten gods, devils, beings from outside time and space, or a creature from the Feywild.

From what I was saying earlier about creating variations on a design to see what changes, you can easily see that the scout and sorceror were made one after the other as the basic pose is the same with just changes in clothing, gear, hairstyle and facial expressions. It just goes to show how effective even minor changes can be to both create a different impression and also create similar looks for affiliated group using a uniform.

As ever, feel free to grab any of these for your own games – as far as I’m concerned I’m using someone else’s tools and efforts to assemble these so I’m pretty sure I’d be breaching terms and conditions to charge for them anyway – and have fun!

Day Off

I’m working this weekend, so I took advantage of a lull in planned meetings and events to claw a day back, have a lie in, and then catch up with Lady T for coffee, chips, and putting the world to rights while sat by the river.

We’ve not caught up too much this year due to several bouts of illness, so a gentle afternoon felt very overdue. As part of our respective rock and roll lifestyles we talked about kids, partners, mental health, fairy tales, and all the gossip about people the other person doesn’t know and is unlikely to ever meet.

Not a bad break to the routine. Tomorrow I’m back to the usual meetings, shenanigans, and quiet plotting of the day job…

Map – Snow-Covered Bridge

This map is the one I used for Sunday’s dragon attack as it was open spaced enough to allow some maneuvering on both sides and some options for cover as well. It’s a simple enough layout with a deep river ravine bisecting it in a roughly diagonal basis and a wide stone bridge to serve as a crossing point. A platform with the embers of a brazier is near one side – and I described it as being in a clear fire break either side of the river. Nonetheless there are still some trees and bushes, along with some scattered rocks. The lighting is meant to be overcast but still daytime.

It’s a simple battlemap, and served its purpose – for a future use I might rotate it ninety degrees – and you’re welcome to grab a copy for your own virtual tabletops. Its another Dungeon Alchemy map but there’s nothing fancy to it – sometimes you just need an open space to focus your players’ minds.

Overhead map of a snow-covered landscape with a bridge over a river as described in the text above.

DDC – On The Hunt

We were a bit late starting as it was one of those days where people’s work/life balance needed attending to but the group took stock of the revelations of the previous day and tried to work out what to do next. Kerne went to hit the library to do some research on trolls and their usual habitats and tactics, while Caeluma sent their familiar to attempt to get through to Flower Town. The assertation by Deadeye Alice that the trolls had “eaten Flower Town” needed to be verified – especially as the House Sivis outpost was based there, and any plans to get calls out for help would be stymied if that was the case.

Looking back at Valenia’s previous patrols, they decided to investigate signs of activity at the old mill near the north-west pass. Valenia had seen signs of smoke but not looked any nearer – now was as good a time as any to remedy that. Valenia, Thorin, and Arwan duly set out across the plain and made good headway. Arwan felt that there was something flying overhead at a great height, but couldn’t make out what it was – but the mystery was soon solved. At an old bridge in the middle of some woods, Arwan’s keen hearing made out the beat of leathery wings coming closer – and a wave of fear spread over the group as the green dragon Fellestri finally caught up with them.

Thorin was able to resist the dragonfear and challenged Fellestri’s presence in his lands – but the dragon replied that he had a score to settle with “you breakers of promises” and as he flew over them he breathed a gout of poison across them all. Thorin was able to wound the dragon with a thrown axe, but Arwan was too shaken by the creature’s frightful presence to be able to shoot straight. They summoned a spiritual weapon to fight at range instead, which had some limited success. Despite the fear, Valenia was able to land some shots, and that enraged Fellestri.

A low swoop across the battle field saw Arwan and Valenia knocked to the ground from the beat of Fellestri’s massive wings, and a tail slap knocked Valenia tumbling even further. She was able to avoid grasping claws as the dragon then took back to the skies and more shots and magic provided a more determined resistance than Fellestri had been expected. Surprised at how much more powerful they were compared to the last time they had met, Fellestri paused in the sky, and said this had become far more interesting – before flying off in an easterly direction.

Significantly wounded, but still upright, the DDC bound their w ounds and decided to at least press on and check the mill before returning. They met no further trouble and within another couple of hours had found what they were looking for. The mill had been converted into a forge, and several large figures could be seen moving inside. Valenia was able to sneak close enough to identify three trolls, plus a fourth that seemed to be oozing from its skin. One of the trolls in the forge was rubbing arrow heads on that one’s skin, coating them as if with some form of venom. A fifth, more human-sized, figure was working the forge but Valenia didn’t want to risk being seen and so she retreated.

They decided that they needed reinforcements, and so with a small degree of caution they made their way back to the Hold, through the small shanty town starting to spring up below it, and back to their companions to share what they had found.

Kerne meanwhile, had been able to placate and talk Karkanna round following their recent brushes with death. The group is still divided as to whether Fellestri or Karkanna was the scariest encounter of the session…

Keeping Positive

At last, it’s the weekend. For some reason my sense of what day it is has been a bit out of whack the last few days, so it was nice to consider a lie in this morning. Grocery shopping and a trip into town with Lady M were a good alternative.

I took the opportunity to try the car’s fully electric mode today for the drive as well. I’ve mostly been driving in various configurations of hybrid modes, but this seemed as good an opportunity as any to try some new ones. I’m happy to report a smooth ride.

And then my mood crashed this afternoon for no greatly discernible reason – because of course it would. So I’m back to actively reminding myself of perspectives and keeping as level as possible. Yay.

Here’s to some sleep.

NPCs – The Eladrin

I got a bit sidetracked making the Winter Eladrin assassin for last week’s game and enjoyed reading about how these elves physically and supernaturally change as their emotions ebb and flow – changing them into one of four distinct types each time they rest. These overwhelming emotions correspond to seasons:

Spring eladrin are flighty and happy, positive and lighthearted. The Summer eladrin is brave and powerful, bringing confidence and righteousness. The Autumn eladrin are kindly and full of good will, while the Winter eladrin are mournful and morose.

So I may have had some fun in Heroforge to make some tokens up for future adventures as the faerie realms and the nature of stories weaves into the regular game. They seem to be a useful piece of the storytelling puzzle that change their appearance and nature as much as you might expect of creatures of such an inconstant realm…

Map – The Bone Plain Meeting Place

This eerie and frigid plain of bones hosted the first meeting of the DDC and the Annis Hag known as Deadeye Alice, and was described as a neutral ground in the Feywild where deals could be offered. It was also within the boundaries of the territories of the Winter’s Knight, and offered a glimpse of the future he sought for their homeland.

Overhead map view as described in the text below this image

There are two portals entering this space: the first marked by a swirling mist in a built up pile of bones in the north east corner, the second by an open grave beside the enormous cauldron eternally steaming in the south. Sullen red balefires illuminate the night, while a freezing river full of iceblocks divides the two sides. Several piles of skulls are stacked at irregular intervals, while blue crystals jut out here and there from the ground.

It’s a bleak place but allows two parties to arrive and leave through different means. Perhaps in your stories a great battle is held there, or something leaps out of the frozen waters to ambush explorers. Either way, have fun if you want to use it

DDC – Home Truths

This week in the Sunday game, the DDC warily carried on down the mirrored feywild path and into a blasted oak that transported them to a nightmarish plain of bones, freezing winds, and an icy river. On the other side of that river stood three large figures beside an open grave and a large cauldron. Two of the figures were grizzled ogres with large chains wrapped around their chest and shoulders. The third figure was a misshapen and hideous figure in long robes. Corpse-pale eyes gleamed in the shadow of her hood – here at last was Deadeye Alice, the Auntie in the Fields.

Hooded and horned skull-masked figure

A nervous quiet met her greeting as she sought out Thorin to welcome him specifically. She also queried how Kerne had been able to hear her voice in the token – making a crude joke about how she must have a bit of Amberhammer in her before wondering if Kerne had actually met one of her sisters in the past. She asked whether she could remember a prank going wrong, a misunderstanding that saw her chased from the home – perhaps something catching fire that shouldn’t have? Kerne kept quiet and didn’t rise to the bait.

Alice declared that this was a meeting place for the fey that was in a corner of the Winter Knight’s realm – and that it represented that being’s ambition and dream for the future. This plain of frozen bones was what he tempted the trolls of the the Circle of Rot with. He had made it their dream to consume the lands of the dwarves – to tear up and destroy all signs of the Spring so that Summer couldn’t bloom and therefore his Winter would settle in for all time. This was the shared goal that united the trolls under his banner, the power to eat the world.

She filled out some of the gaps in the DDC’s knowledge of the Troll Brothers to match what little they had learned of the Sisters of the Circle of Rot. She described Urash as the might and martial fury of the trolls, leading the war and drawing all eyes. Dhumish Crackleg, the younger brother, was broken and warped with unnatural vitality and endurance and drew together the venomous and rotten, the unnatural and uncanny to undermine and gnaw at the foundations of the land. Irreck, the youngest and cleverest, was a lone hunter who perhaps didn’t quite agree with the scope of his brothers’ plans. Nonetheless it was he who found and brought the Circle back to the Blackcaps and who came up with the plans to lure predators from the highlands. It was also Irreck who ordered the assassination of Lord Bentane.

A wary alliance was proposed, with Alice stating that she hated the trolls and saw them as a threat both to her family and to the dwarves she saw as her children to be guided and watched over. The DDC reluctantly accepted this line of reasoning for now – and so Alice created a new token from one of her iron teeth, pressing and folding and working it into a rough coin. If the DDC could get that into the possession of one of the brothers, she would be able to tell the group where the trolls laired. In the meantime, the toy iron sword would let the allies share information and plan.

Before they left, Alice revealed that with the passes sealed, the trolls had already “eaten” Flower Town and the watch towers on the east and southern approaches were under siege.

The DDC made their way back through the portal as Alice and her husbands stepped into the open tomb and another portal in it. When they got back to Amberhammer lands, they found the half-ogre Kher still there as promised. In his belt were the two missing daggers, which he said he took off a bouncing harengon who’d tried to slip past him. These were duly returned to Caeluma.

Kher slipped away into the woods, and the group prepared to head home. Before they could leave however, Caeluma heard the sound of someone crying nearby. The group went to investigate, near a cabin by some fields, and encountered a lone pale elf with tears streaming down his face. He said he was looking for someone and couldn’t find them – that his master had given him a message to deliver and he didn’t want to fail him. His vague description of someone with a sister who looked a bit like a hag put everyone in mind of Kerne – her sister had been studying with hags after all.

When Kerne identified herself, more tears flowed and the figure blurred and appeared beside her – attempting to drive a long blade into her side. The Winter Eladrin declared that the Winter’s Knight sent his greetings, but it was time for her to die now. The group shook off the melancholy charm that he radiated, and a soul-chilling howl came from a wolf with the distorted face of a man as it emerged from the undergrowth.

Sorrowful pale blue figure with long hair and hand held out

Being hardened adventurers, they shrugged off the magical fear from the yeth hound, and a hit and run battle erupted around the cabin and the fields as the eladrin alternated creating mists and fogs, teleporting, and firing his bow with deadly effect to focus on Kerne. Valenia’s skills as an archer turned the fight into a more even playing field as the group ducked in and out of cover.

Kerne was laid low, but preserved by a previously cast death ward that had been put on them by Arwan – and Arwan kept near enough to Kerne to try and keep healing them as the eladrin kept shooting. Kerne fell again, pierced by the eladrin’s arrows.

Battered and burned, and bleeding profusely, still with a sorrowful expression, he closed on Kerne to deliver a coup de grace but was stopped by one final enchanted arrow from Valenia. The assassin fell beside Kerne, and turned into snow inside the clothing and equipment that remained.

And that’s where we left the session…