Short Story: Coal

In his dreams, Coal hears screams and the clink of chains rattling and sliding. Formless flashes of colour resolve into a series of static and disjointed scenes. His mind and body feel trapped in ice, unable to move or affect the parade of images forcing themselves on his mind’s eye. A cold lassitude lies on him, stealing his focus.

He sees the Last War, and the fighting in the streets against the risen dead. He remembers the sorcerous warriors clad in bone. The maniacs who slew the living and commanded their corpses, and the hatred in their eyes. He sees the Titans released. He sees buildings broken, bodies everywhere. He knows them.

Then he sees a face with horns curving from its temples. He hears shouts. He hears metal striking metal and the crackle of flames, and his eyes grow heavy.

Coal wakes. He is in a bed, limbs tangled in blankets and sheets. That alone gives him pause. Waking implies sleep and his kind don’t do that. Yet here he is, in a room he knows but rarely rests in.

Every part of him hurts. The enamels and brass-inlaid surfaces of his limbs are cracked, scorched, and riddled with holes. His joints whirr and crunch as he levers himself upright. His body, forged to fight where flesh would fail, has been greatly abused.

The cottonwool thickness shrouding his thoughts still lingers, deflecting his mind’s streams of awareness. The lenses in his eyes suddenly click and refocus, and with new purpose he pulls the sheet away.

The revealed wreckage of his body leaves him numb. There are rents in the steel plates, and missing panels that reveal damaged conduits, pistons, and cables woven to resemble bundles of muscles. There are scratches and gouges everywhere, and the discoloured blooms of scorching. What has happened?

Coal prods and tests the limits of the damage to his body in the morning half-light. With dispassionate care, he ascertains that he is functional and will heal. The act of assessing his own state allows his mind to start to catch up.

He remembers being restrained by dead things with the faces of friends. He remembers the bite of blades, and tubes being driven into him. He remembers the pale wight directing the corpses, and a man dressed in bones. He remembers the other two figures – warforged like himself – telling the wight what needed to be done.

Above all, he remembers the carcass of the reassembled Titan and what they did to him, and why.

His scream startles a cat-sized dragon snoozing in the rafters and it flees the room as fast as its butterfly wings can carry it.

He hears cries of alarm downstairs. Feet pound on the stairs. He is not alone.

The DDC Game Design Theme

We had a great session today, bringing to a head the mystery of where Coal had disappeared to and what had happened to his former compatriots. Last week had brought the group to a war damaged slum, and the zombified remnants of the gang, and a wight that controlled them.

And then this week, as they thinned the waves of zombies out, the wall next to them came down revealing a roughly rebuilt Warforged Titan – a towering engine of destruction from the Last War – which had Coal patched and embedded in it as a jury-rigged power source.

And they fought among the ruins, fighting their fears for Coal, and were triumphant. The wight escaped, but they were able to rescue their companion. A huge victory, all the better for the emotional investment for everyone.

And it’s those connections I’ve been watching build, and encouraging as we go that rises to the queer experience of this set of adventures. There’s an underlying theme of the consciously built family in place of their various fractured backgrounds.

All the characters are outsiders and have bonded together in mutual support and love, but they are adventurers first and foremost. The characters original backgrounds are now being developed with new connections, and I’m enjoying weaving those into the story and hearing my players reactions.

Hearing my description of Coal being literally forcibly enfolded and assimilated into this relic of the military and wars he had fought so hard to reinvent himself away from, there were gasps around the table. There may also have been joking threats from myr s of what might happen if Coal died.

Music to my ears. Passion and determination fought fear and desperation this evening for stakes that felt important to everyone around the table. The discovered family fought the clutches of the abusive past, and won.

DDC Returns this weekend

Game night returns this weekend now that Lady M is more recovered from her surgery. It will be streamed as usual on Twitch and YouTube from 7.30ish on Sunday. There’s a link in the main menu to the YouTube channel if anyone is curious.

Last time, the session ended with a pitched battle in a slum rookery, with zombies swarming the group. A slender unidentified undead warrior had been glimpsed before being scared away by Kerne’s illusions. As he retreated he was heard calling to someone to “rouse the titan!” And shortly afterwards the sound of something heavy could be heard pounding on a nearby wall.

So that’s where we’ll pick up on Sunday.

Maps

I said I’d get started, and so I did. In the Games and Gaming section, reachable from the menu at the top of the page, there are now links to maps suitable for use in virtual tabletops. Most are pretty bare to allow for variety in setting further props and furniture tokens, and are accompanied by notes for intended or past use.

The links to various past and present games are also there for delving into for ideas and narratives.

Cave Map

I’m going to get on with making a page just for maps, using old and new material, probably starting this evening.

In the meantime, here’s a very quick cave map with a stream pubbing through it from a spring at the back. A group of smuggler’s (or other antagonists of choice) have made use of a cluster of side caves and installed a portcullis style gate to deter intruders.

Further back in the cave there is a branch where a fissure opened up and a number of cave fishers (or other suitable pest-level monsters) have settled in, eating vermin and fish that emerge from the depths in the water. By and large the two sets of inhabitants ignore each other barring opportunistic encounters.

Lady M made an unflattering comparison to a set of mutated ovaries and associated organs, but she’s flying on painkillers post-surgery so I’m going to nod and smile…

A New Outlet

I was recently given a journal filled with squared grids. It has sat on my shelf for a few months, but I’ve started today to sketch out some sample maps that I could use for gaming, as well as make available for people to download

I might make a section under the games page for maps in general to make them easier to find. A significant part of traffic to this site revisits the maps from past adventures, so I think this proves an interest in things like this.

So, this is intended to be a mortuary temple site, set underground, with ossuaries, a channel house, preparation chambers, and living quarters kept away from visitors.

How benign or sinister this site may be is up to GMs – there is a room key on the map. The scale is intended to be five foot to a square, so the scale and feel is more something carved from the living rock than a massive temple.

Enjoy!

Sound Levels and Tech Revolts

Well, that certainly happened… we had a lot of fun in the game, but our sound levels were plagued by gremlins at various points so the stream sounds were apparently very vague in places.

Ah well, we’re neither professional or charging so while it’s an annoyance it isn’t the end of the world.

As for what happened? Well there were investigations, hints of ancient atrocities, and waves of zombies pouring out of a crumbling rookery. All that, and Coal is still missing…

The video stream should be available through the YouTube channel link in the menu at the top of the page if you want to sample the chaos.

DDC Merch?

It started as a joke, but to paraphrase Dr Frankenstein… it’s alive! Or Live on Amazon anyway: the first bit of merchandise related to the DDC Dungeons and Dragons group is available to buy from Amazon in the UK right now:

Grave Robbing: The DDC film poster Raglan Baseball Tee

Grave Robbing: The DDC film poster Tshirt

So, that’s a thing that’s happened… More designs are in development, and it looks like I’ll have to stick a bunch of links together in due course.

Didn’t see this coming…

Games and Pictures

The last few days been a bit of a swirling mess brain wise, but it’s been productive too. Sunday’s D&D game was great fun and we’ve recorded the silliness on YouTube

I was asked earlier in the day on social media to sum up what was in store for them, and I’d said ‘missing persons’ so I think we delivered on that.

One of the things we’ve started talking about has been some degree of merchandise. I’ll do that through Amazon as I finalise the designs as I’ve got extra design slots now available. We’ve been bouncing ideas around, and I’ll be mocking some designs up over the next few weeks.

If nothing else it gives me an excuse to do some silly things and have people wear them.

Other than that, I’m mostly preoccupied with the upcoming restructure at work, and with an operation that Lady M will be having soon – oh, and the joys of living under pandemic lockdown conditions as a key worker – but at least I’m earning…