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!

A Warforged Gathering

There’s definitely a therapeutic aspect to playing in HeroForge alongside the creative exercise of the emergent storytelling. As part of my preparations for the next phase of DDC adventures I’ve been toying with a series of Warforged antagonists, so thought I’d put them up here to give them an airing.

Warforged were introduced to Dungeons & Dragons in the world of Eberron – and are the products of a recently ended continent-wide war. House Cannith looked for ways to bolster armies by reverse engineering old giantish constructs. Somehow during their creation process, the warforged developed souls and a struggle began to be accepted alongside the biological races. One of the treaty conditions at the end of the war was a universal acceptance of the warforged as a people in their own right – something that still sits uneasily in some quarters.

In terms of naming conventions, the warforged often adopt functional or simple descriptive words associated with forging, machinery, or construction – but exceptions are growing as confidence grows in developing their own identities and culture.

So from top left we have Link – a sorcerer channelling lightning; Chain, an assassin; and Hook – a swashbuckling pirate. On the bottom row from the left we have Watcher – an investigator and his dog; Iron Ryan – a bare knuckle pit fighter; and Coal – gentleman rogue about town and his favourite Mimic

I’ve already used Iron Ryan and Coal in the adventures – Iron Ryan started as a foil for Thorin in his pit fighting career and for a while was a romantic entanglement for Kerne. The amount of time the DDC was away on adventures led to the romance fizzling out. While it was amicable enough, I’m sure there’s a rematch due in the future – and then there’s always the reactions of Karkanna to factor in as well to this imposing ex. Coal adventured alongside the DDC as their designated rogue before semi-retiring to raise Odif while the group headed off to Clan Amberhammer. He created a “Youth Club” for local tearaways that may or may not also be the core of a new Thieves Guild if the rumours are to be believed…

A New Challenger Appears?

One of the fun things from playing around in HeroForge and drawing maps while doing some plotting, is that sometimes a character coalesces and you know you want to tell their story. I’m still not entirely sure what the story is for this character, but they’re definitely shady, have more than a hint of the infernal to them, are deliciously non-binary, and with any luck can become a decent foil for characters.

I’m not sure which group or story they’ll appear in – quite possibly in the Librarian adventures – or how I’ll use them – but please welcome Caiaphane, and feel free to grab their portrait and token for your own VTT or illustrative purposes. They are possibly a tiefling or a cambion pretending to be one, and they seem to be brandishing a molotov cocktail alongside their trident dagger. Suggestions for their plans or motivations in an Eberron background are welcome…

HeroForge – Faye Hagsworn

An influential background character who hasn’t had much visibilty so far is Kerne’s younger sister, Faye – who went to study in the Feywild after their family was split up. There’s been a loose connection between the sisters by way of an enchanted journal, which each has a copy of, and that they can read and reply to each other by writing in it.

It was fairly late in the first year – as the group closed in on a group of Hags who had kidnapped an alchemist – that the DDC realised that Faye was apprenticed to the same Hags, and had been learning their crafts. When they defeated the coven, there was no sign of Faye – and it looked like she had fled with some of their research and materials after chaining up the nearby portal to the Feywild with iron. Removing the chains allowed Faye’s warlock patron – the Winter’s Knight – to emerge into the swamp. He too wanted to know where Faye was – but on learning that Kerne didn’t know anything permitted the group to leave.

Later investigations determined that a block on the group’s memories about their first adventure had been put there through the actions of Faye so that they would not remember Faye’s involvement in an ambush that took place by Morgrave University, and for a while there was a chill in relations between the siblings.

During their most recent adventure, the sisters began sharing knowledge again. Faye confirmed that she was on the run from the Winter’s Knight as the research she had taken pertained to making a drug that the Hags had been creating and planning to spread that made people more susceptible to magics cast by the fae. She was keeping that knowledge hidden to frustrate those plans while the DDC acted against Knight. Cooperating, the siblings were able to create a potion to cure lycanthropy, with Faye passing on the Hag recipe and Kerne interpreting the instructions and ingredients to what was available locally.

What is known is that Faye is Dragonborn, and a warlock sworn to the Winter’s Knight or some other high ranking Fey. She may or may not have taken on Hag-like characteristics as part of her training with the Broken Eye Coven – and quite what her plans and allegiances are remain somewhat nebulous.

As ever, feel free to appropriate character design and concept for your own uses

New Sourcebook? Oh Go On

The world of Eberron, in which our D&D games are set is the brainchild of Keith Baker, and he’s been involved through the various reboots in different editions of the game but has had limited opportunity to expand published materials.

By way of various shenanigans a route to publish through the DMs Guild was arranged, and a companion book to Rising From The Ashes has been produced in the form of Exploring Eberron.

New Sourcebook, Much Reading

After merely hours of dipping in, I can recommend this to anyone running games in Eberron as it adds depth to the materials presented in the core 5th Edition book. Needless to say, this has arrived just in time as I plot the next section of the game. It has already spawned ideas for future stories with the group.

More importantly, it has clarified things I’ve not quite got my head around before now.

So at least I have something new to peruse while propped up chasing sleep. I’m counting it as a reward to myself for how much the group is enjoying the game.

Map – Closer View of Amberhammer Environs

I’ve been catching up on shows this evening through the fog of painkillers and decided to spend a bit of time fleshing things out around the DDC adventures – so I’ve just drawn this up on Inkarnate. Its only a first draft to get used to a different style of map so I’m not sure yet if it will get used in this format or see major revisions.

parchment-style map of land bracketed by mountains and hills with extensive forested areas. A river and lakes descend along the left hand side. Various unnamed icons are dotted around suggesting ruins, farms, a mill, and a main settlement within a shield shape

I wanted to suggest features I threw in off the top of my head while describing the area during sessions – with hilly approaches from the south east and north east, and a mountainous pass to the north west. I also made mention of a forest that the DDC fled through after their first encounter with the denizens that had taken over the Hold, so that had to make an appearance. I’ve dotted a few farms – two grain and one gourds to the north, and marked good fishing to the west along with a mill.

During the attempts to draw together allies I mentioned an abandoned settlement near a depleted mine so reasoned there would likely be several of those in the area – marked with ruins and mine signs dotted around. There’s also a nice big open plains area to the north of the Hold where the main pitched battle took place, but that can also develop into a location for a trading hub now that House Sivis has opened the teleport circle. I’m still mulling over how much of a time elapse there will be in-game before the next game chapter – if only so the poor adventurers can have a rest and catch a bit of a break to enjoy the fruits of their labours.

Campaign Break

We’re not doing any more D&D until the New Year – busy time and seeing folks and all that – and hand on heart this week I’m glad because everything hurts from yesterday (especially my rib). It does however give me more time to come up with both a story and resources for the one-shot planned as light relief as well as work out the next chapter for the DDC.

Part of that preparation has been spending more time in HeroForge to come up with concepts as well as fleshing out sample characters in dndbeyond. I generally find the process suggests characters whose stories need telling. As the D&D sessions are an ongoing story-telling venue, well who am I to ignore potential new characters or plot points.

Four of these characters started in D&D Beyond, and the fifth – on the right in the picture above – has sprung entirely from playing around in the HeroForge toybox.

From left to right we have Fane: a warforged priest that the group has already encountered and defeated once; Hook: a warforged scout; Arnaud Gloomstalk: a bugbear ranger; Perrip: a tabaxi rogue; and Rekkem: a dragonborn monk. I’ve roles in mind for the warforged already, connected to the wider plot, while as for the rest, I haven’t decided whether they’ll be allies, foils, or adversaries in the stories to come. I look forward to finding out.

Unused Scenario – Summoning School

This scenario was an encounter keyed to the Amberhammer Hold and would have been something wandered into had the group taken a stealthier approach. Unfortunately things didn’t go that way and it didn’t feel right to bring this in as events escalated. So the scenario is presented here to spark ideas for you.

So, in the original draft of my notes, the cult of the Triumphant Dead is in many ways a fledgling group and looking to garner power. To that end they have been making alliances and summonings and gathering favours from a whole slew of occult and obscure sources. These have ranged from books stolen from libraries, deals with Daelkyr, favours from and for the Fae, and nefarious connections to the Lords of Dust.

The Summoning School is found within a warehouse area, carefully cleared and engraved with sigils and a circle. Seven cultists and a cult fanatic are being led and instructed as the group arrives on the scenet. Ofalgrim Grazztblood has agreed to instruct the Cult of the Triumphant Dead in how to raise Banderhobbs. These ogre-sized creatures of shadow and corrupt flesh with a toadlike appearance can then be sent to assassinate, kidnap, or steal on the cult’s behalf. As the encounter begins, the small cult group has just succeeded in their first ritual.

The cultists are spaced around a complex glyph laid out in charcoal and salt while the cambion directs them and leads the chant. Connected to the first glyph is a larger one, within which the Banderhobb has just formed from a desecrated pile of corpses. Spooked by the group’s arrival, Ofalgrim will tell the cultists to stand their ground and use their new power. He and the Cult Fanatic (Tesselthwaite Cobb) support with spells unless the group is a serious threat – in which case Ofalgrim will either fly or plane shift away and attempt to flee.

The cutlists have 21sp, 6ep, 4gp, potion of healing x2. Ofalgrim has 240sp, 90gp, potion of invulnerability, a potion of healing, spear is of dwarven make from a clan destroyed by Thorin’s folk for worshipping devils. It can only be destroyed on their original forge, heated by infernal flames. Its head is cast to resemble twisting corkscrewed flames, and flame motifs run up and down the shaft. It feels cold to the touch.

DDC – The Dust Settles

Well, we have reached the end of this chapter of the adventures of the DDC. Our session yesterday was emotional as we rounded up loose ends – I may have made a few people cry along the way. This is all the more impressive given I had no hard and fast notes and was very much playing a number of elements by ear.

We started with a brief time jump of a week or so and work beginning on clearing up the signs of battle and the dwarves of Clan Amberhammer being able to reclaim their home. Kerne devoted themself to researching in the library and reassembling the collections ransacked by the duergar and the warped cultists of the Triumphant Dead. Arwan dedicated himself to healing and supporting those injured in the battle. Valenia focused on scouting the surrounding lands as winter settled in, and hunting to help feed the refugees. Caeluma prayed for aid and guidance on how to retrieve Killiklik, and also helped support the families and communities gathering together.

As for Thorin? Well he was brought to his father who was found sick and confined in a prison cell and together they talked about his achievements, and the consequences for his father of having the curse lifted. Lord Bentane stated his aim to abdicate in his favour while he still had some time left – and to help advise in the transition if wanted – and the two dwarves argued out the fine detail into the night.

Kerne was able to refine the instructions gleaned from her sister with the notes and tomes in the library to create better curative potions. In addition she was able to identify arcane magics and divine prayers that could help magically cure lycanthropy by lifting the curse. A trial run with Valenia in front of people at the Hold proved that it worked. As a next step then, they decided to ask all those afflicted that they could find if they wanted the curse lifted – and with a unanimous response began to arrange the ceremony to be led by Arwan.

Quite by coincidence, the representative of House Sivis then made the offer to transform the portal construct into a magical transport circle that could bring better trade and contacts with the outside world – with free use for Thorin and his household, and a percentage of profits on trade to be paid to the treasury. An agreement was reached, and word sent out for craftsmen and artificers to come and begin work.

It was at this point that Inquisitor Rojas appeared at the front gates – representing the Silver Flame. His small force of men camped on an old battlefield near Flower Town, while he made his way alone to remake his acquaintance with Thorin. It was a huge difference since their last meeting in a Lightning Rail station bar. Now he was dressed in his plate armour and equipped with silvered magical weaponry, and Thorin was freshly crowned as Lord Thorin Amberhammer and on the doorstep of his own Hold.

It took the form of an outwardly genial conversation – with congratulations on clearing out the invaders and aberrations – but with the offer of assistance from his forces in rounding up and clearing out any remaining cultists and, most importantly, the werewolves roaming the mountains. Thorin firmly but kindly deflected these offers and informed the inquisitor that they had everything in hand. He did agree to let Rojas take his people to Flower Town to resupply for their journey back to Cragwar – knowing that none of the werewolves were based there. Rojas turned to go, pausing for a moment when he heard Caeluma growling, before carrying on to rejoin his troops.

A couple of days later, the werewolves were gathered at the old shrine, along with the DDC, and Arwan composed a ceremony to augment the curative effects of the potion to cancel out the curse along the bloodline from Karkanna. Each of the DDC contributed with their wishes for why they wanted it to work, and a pulse of golden light spread out from the huge bonfire illuminating the night. In its wake, the spiritual fragments of the bestial curse could be seen evaporating from the bodies of all who were affected – bringing peace at last.

A couple of months went by, bringing the story to the end of the year. Caeluma dedicated their efforts to creating a space for the Sovereign Host to be celebrated – a new shrine in the grounds of the Hold for all to use. Arwan continued to heal and help people, and used the goodwill generated by all his work to get agreement and support for beginning to build a school and shelter for the peoples of the Hold and Flower Town along with better management of the roads and paths between them. Work on the mines continued, to repair and remove the signs of occupation by the duergar and find new deposits of amber for which the area was known.

Kerne continued to research and delve into the arcane knowledge in the library on her own projects, and at the same time developed a slow-burning relationship with Karkanna that had begun before the final battle. Through persistence and acceptance, Karkanna in time began to believe that she was perhaps not so much the monster that she had thought she had become, and that there might be a future for her back at the Hold. In time, she was persuaded to move in with Kerne. During that first evening together, a new mark appeared on Kerne over their heart – but they have not as yet shared with anyone what that is.

Valenia continued to hunt and learn these new lands, and began to train a new generation of hunters and scouts from the local settlements. And Thorin took advantage of the remaining time with his father – who needed a cane to walk and gentle support as he waned, but was still a lively mind and engaging conversationalist. Together they began to heal the wounds left by war and time, and laughter returned to the Hold.

On the evening of the last day of the year, the wrights and scribes of House Sivis invited everyone to an official opening ceremony for the new circle. Thorin gave an awkward speech and cut the ribbon beneath a canopy of bunting and lamps and with tables groaning with food and drink. Then the portal opened for the first time – and the first people through were Coal and Odif. Odif ran to Thorin’s arms, while Coal found himself swept up in Caeluma’s arms for the first actual declaration of love ever made by Caeluma.

The second people through the portal were Valenia’s parents, loaded with gifts and pulling a small cart with beer from Valenia’s home town. The celebrations lasted quite some time – and that was where we ended the chapter.

Next week – a oneshot adventure – I’d better get writing it…

Heroforge – Faces To Watch For

We completed year two of the DDC campaign this afternoon with an emotional rollercoaster that tied all sorts of loose ends together. I’ll write it up properly tomorrow. In the meantime, here are some faces that will loom into view in the next chapter. One of them is a recurring character called Inquisitor Rojas who is a paladin of the Silver Flame, while the other two are duergar heroes who escaped the final battle for Amberhammer Hold.

The DDC first met Inquisitor Rojas while enjoying a break in their train journey – he approached Thorin in the station bar and asked a series of questions about Thorin and about his sister. He played his cards close to his chest but pledged the assistance of the Silver Flame should they be needed. As the Silver Flame were the main drivers of a pogrom that destroyed all known lycanthropes and doppelgangers before the Last War, the presence of a body of armed men on the borders of Amberhammer lands, led by Inquisitor Rojas led to a great number of discussions about how to prevent them from descending on the dwarvish lands to eliminate the werewolves. The fear was that zealotry would lead to mass civilian casualties.

With the defeat of the mindflayers however, the Inquisitor made one more appearance – arriving alone outside the Hold to have a conversation with Thorin. He congratulated the new Lord on pushing back the powers of evil and defending his people – and was told by Thorin that the werewolf problem was now under control. He offered to bring his people in to assist with any last rounding up that needed doing but was rebuffed. He seemed convinced by Thorin’s arguments – at least enough not to push the new lord on his own doorstep – but he did pause when Caeluma growled at him as he left. After a moment, he continued on his way, and led his force back to the larger body of men still camped outside Cragwar.

The two remaining characters are duergar who fled the battle and remain within Amberhammer lands. Umbas Fell is a psionicist, while Marko Patchbeard is a paladin with an oath of vengeance. Time will tell how they impact the stories to come.