Map – Winter Amberhammer Gardens

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.

Amberhammerv4.zip

Unused Scenario – The Frustrated Sculptors

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?

Map – Winter Stone Giant Workshop

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.

HeroForge – DDC NPCs

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.

DDC – Draconic Prophecies 8

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

The Dracinic Prophecies – Scale 901, verses 2-3

HeroForge – Rescued Dwarves

The DDC have been making friends recently as they look to build a militia to help reclaim Thorin’s home. They have been successful in reaching out to both the major groups in the area – the werewolves that have been brought into line by Karkanna, and the refugees who had taken shelter and fortified Flower Town. As part of my fleshing out the leading personalities in those two groups therefore, I’ve gone back to HeroForge to put some faces to the names.

Here then are Charis Amberley of Flower Town – a retired ranger who fought alongside Thorin during the Last War and helped organise the militias that they put together – and Ennis Amberhammer, a forge master of the Clan who specialises in making armour (and who is Thorin’s cousin)

Charis had organised the refugees and created defences so that they could defend against night-time raids by the daelkyr forces or their duergar allies – and it was he who first recognised Thorin when he appeared at the outer barricades. He brought the townsfolk round to listen and has proposed the beginnings of some strategies – but bringing him round to accepting the help of their cursed cousins was a hard sell.

Ennis is still battling to subdue the beast that the curse has unleashed, but he has enough control of himself to have begun organising the defences of the shrine within which Karkanna has made her lair. He is not a strategist, but he knows how to build solid bulwarks and will follow the Amberhammer heirs wherever they lead.

These tokens and portraits are available to freely download and use in your own online tabletops – the HeroForge website has some amazing options for making your own, and the subscription model is well worth looking at if you are running your own game just for the token making alone.

More NPCs and oddities to come

Map – Forest Arena

This is a quick bonus map I’ve made this afternoon on the Inkarnate website as a flurry of relatively generic battlemaps that I can plonk down as needed. With the DDC campaign being fairly footloose in its direction – or at least in how they get to key components – I’m building up a library of maps in different styles.

This one is meant to be a natural depression in a forest area with two main pathways out. High banks and foliage limit other routes out, but also allow for different elevations in any encounters. In addition, there are fallen tree logs, and a titanic broken sword as a hint of mysteries past or encounters to come depending on mood.

Overhead battlemap depicting a forest clearing surrounded by high banks forming a natural arena with two main routes in as well as two very small alternatives. Three fallen tree trunks lie across the brush in the clearing as well as a gigantic broken sword that is far too large for anyone  barring a giant to be able to use.
Made with Inkarnate.com

If you want to make use of this map, just save the graphic below – or follow the link to https://inkarnate.com/m/971E8l-forest-arena/ if you use Inkarnate and want the original multi-layered file for cloning and editing for your own needs.

Map – Lightning Rail Station

A couple of months ago we had an extended series of session aboard a lightning rail train travelling from Windhaven towards the Breland border – and a number of social and combat encounters took place during that period. Their first break in the journey came at a station where there was a delay to offload and take on new cargo and passengers.

This night time location was revealed just after an intense combat encounter where assassins had boarded the train and tried to kill Thorin – and had nearly killed Valenia in the process – and so the opportunity to get off the train and explore the area for a while felt much needed.

The grass area at the bottom of the map is where I overlaid schematics of the train carriages the characters were in. This was done so that I could reuse this as a standardised design in the future with other carriage configurations. The platform is lit with torches, and the main areas of interest are: the main ticket hall which leads through to the street beyond (and the houses on it), and the well-lit inn/coffee house and the rest rooms next to it. There’s also a store room behind them.

On the left hand of the map is a store room accessed from the ticket hall, and the ticket office top left. There are also desks and furniture in the hallway. The office could alternatively be a House Sivis message post.

I had this set up as being flexible enough to run either combat or social encounters – in the end it turned out to be mostly social and roleplay with stall holders, people passing through, staff from the rail service, and a rather intense Silver Flame Inquisitor who wanted to ask Thorin some questions.

As ever, the zip file attached to this post includes the map and the associated text file of map dimensions and dynamic lighting information and coordinates.

For those who haven’t used Dungeon Alchemy maps, you can install an API in Roll20 and after loading the map graphic onto the map layer, you can copy and paste the text file contents into the chat input. It will then resize the map to fit and support Dynamic Lighting if you are using it.

RailStation.zip

HeroForge – Mr Friendly and Mrs Nice

These two mercenaries were an early thorn in the side of the DDC. They were on retainer to Morgrave University in opposition to the DDC who were retained by Wynarn University – and the plan was originally to have them as a recurring nemesis for the group as they investigated or delved into various mysteries or forgotten sites. That went sideways when the group wanted to go a totally different direction in terms of story and tone – and beyond a bit of a wind up, a social encounter, and an appearance in a flashback the two have gone on the back burner. I may bring them out as a call-back in the Librarian group as they are more associated with Morgrave University in that game.

Mr Friendly and Mrs Nice are neither of these, nor are they married. He is a goblin who hails from a proud line of dhaakani warriors and who tries his best to liberate or preserve the relics of his people. She is a changeling sorceress who is in it for the money. He has a reputation of striking suddenly from ambush, often as exhausted rivals emerge from the temples and tombs they’ve just been raiding. She is known as a consummate spy and infiltrator and mostly only by reputation as nobody is entirely sure that they’ve actually met her or even seen her true appearance

The names of course arose out of a joke while chatting on our Discord server during lockdown. I was teasing the group with upcoming threats – mostly to see what kind of reactions I got to sound out what might work and there was an immediate chime with these two names. The soft and gentle names were seen straight through, and a whole host of suggestions were made about who these mysterious people could be.

As it was, the story went other directions – but they made enough of an impact that while people were trying to assemble all the breadcrumbs in last week’s lore dump, they did wonder just how involved these two might be in the whole mystery. I hadn’t thought to bring them back in – but perhaps, just perhaps, there’s a role for them yet…

DDC – Karkanna Back Story

We had a lot of lore drop in Sunday’s game – not least of which was a whole load of filling in the blanks for the group as to what’s been going on, and some of the stakes of their current conflict. That’s a story for tomorrow, but here’s the back story to Karkanna – Thorin’s elder sister.

Karkanna Amberhammer fought in the Underdark during the Last War. A trained and experienced Gloomstalker. she fought to protect the Clan against creatures from the Pit, and against spies and saboteurs from all sides. Overcome by the fire of the hunt, she became a feared legend of the night – striking down all intruders from the shadows and fading into the dark. Trails of blood and terror marked her passage as constant lonely war made her cruel. While her brothers protected Clan and neighbours on the surface, she fought and bled and killed in the dark and slowly became a monster herself.

In time, she stopped coming back to the Hold, seeing the fear she evoked as she strode back into the light, stinking of blood and wearing grisly trophies. And so she left, because killing was all she had. In her lonely war she entered Khyber and was overtaken by the creatures of the Daelkyr who remade her as one of their own. Reformed as a werewolf, she has returned