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

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!

Map – Volcanic Lair

I spent most of yesterday quietly rumbling through a low patch with making maps, watching old Time Team videos, and playing on the XBox in between conversations with people. It was an unashamed day of taking care of myself, and my partners very wisely let me get on with it and made sure I ate properly and didn’t mumble into my beard too much. I ended the day with the beginnings of a migraine (light flashes and loops of a song fragment) but the near total shut down was very much needed.

And so to the map: I was looking at potential lair ideas and followed on from the bridge maps I’ve been experimenting on. There’s always an epic feel to raised areas over a lava field so went with something that could possibly once have been natural and that now shows signs of having been coopted and adapted.

To the right of the map is a fiery magical portal at the top of carved steps coming down onto the broken circle of level ground. Obsidian walls reach down to the cooling lava surface that still puffs with flames and shimmers of heat below. There’s a lit brazier in the middle on top of an obsidian column in the centre of the “donut” and to the north of that, an eldritch obelisk next to a broken altar. There are bundles of books on that and a broken ramshackle bookcase nearby and some scattered timepieces. To the very west lies a tomb slab. Could the old tomb be what this chamber was built for, or was this space found and then repurposed? Perhaps clues are inscribed on the triple-sided obelisk?

This chamber could therefore be the last resting place of a buried being whose grave goods contain something the adventurers seek. It could be where a missing field researcher is found, overcome by heat or monsters that must be overcome. Maybe it is the lair of some dark spirit risen from death and seeking some elder knowledge or to overthrow the lands below the volcano, or far above this hidden space.

The map is based on a 30×40 landscape grid but doesn’t have one superimposed so you can import it to a VTT of choice and grid scale that suits you – I’ve assumed five foot per grid square as a standard measurement when planning this. If you use it, have fun! Let me know if you remember and tell me what story you told with it.

Map – Arch Above The Ruins

I’ve been doing some more map making to wind down in the evenings – this time using Inkarnate as I get used to the layering options and thinking about the constructive layers involved in areas with multiple levels. In this case the concept was a battle location on a walkway high above some ruins below in some vaulted space underground. Depending on which way any of the various groups wander this may turn up in a session at some point as something I can just drop people into.

The map is for a 40×30 grid square on a landscape orientation for a virtual tabletop – with the main battle areas being the more brightly lit landings and walkway connecting them. The ziggurat and other buildings below could be any depth below depending on how you might want to run the encounter – anywhere from tens to hundreds of feet drop. Even now, looking at it, I’m considering how I might add a blur to the lower level so its implying a different height for the purposes of suggesting eye focus.

I’ve added a couple of lighting shades and textures to the lower level to try and suggest depths apart from the braziers on top of the ziggurat – and then added some lanterns on the walkway to make it stand out a little and draw the eye.

The types of encounters that could be run here range from being cornered by guardians, being attacked by flying predators, stand-offs threatening an object being dropped over the ziggurat’s flames, traps defending the entrance to the complex while implying what is to come later – go wild – and if you let me know some of the uses you put it to, that’ll be lovely.

Enjoy! The map is yours, freely.

HeroForge: Rakkan and Rekkam

There’s been new content added to HeroForge in the form of mounts and companion animals so I’ve had a bit of a play and then added in one of the new faces from last week. I’m not sure how or even if I’ll use this so I’m throwing the concept out there for anyone to grab and use.

Introducing Rakkan and Rekkam – a dragonborn monk and his raptor mount and companion. Rekkam favours the use of a bo staff and tends to have a veneer of amiability over the hardened discipline that his meditation and training have developed. Rekkam hails from a snowy mountaintop monastery near to where he was born – and unsurprisingly his lineage descends from one of the ancient white dragons that lair in the highest reaches. A follower of the Way of the Ascendant Dragon, Rekkam embraces his heritage and devotes himself to working in his local communities as a mediator and defender.

Rakkan is a trained raptor raised as part of a cadre of beasts by the monastery. While capable of fighting and hunting alongside his partner, Rakkan is mostly used for longer journeys where Rekkam acts as a courier. There is a deep affection between the two and more than one bandit has needed a change of underwear when Rakkan has crept up on them and growled in their ear.

As to how to use these characters? Well I’ve left lots of space for you to flesh them out. In my mind’s eye, Rekkam moves with purpose but sits or stands very still when others are talking or if he is observing them. He’s probably about 5th or 6th level – competent enough to deal with most common challenges and be a noted defender of the local community. He is most likely to be encountered as a courier – perhaps as a target for the party to intercept, or encountered while defending himself against bandits. Perhaps he is encountered as a scout, or a mystic contemplating the view in a mountain pass. Perhaps he rides to the aid of a group if they are being overrun.

As a couple, Rekkam is serious but kind – while Rakkan is curious and willful. You could probably get some humour from describing their interactions which may feel more like partners in misadventure rather than rider and mount…

Map: Sewer Test

I’m experimenting with some of the new features being rolled out in Roll20 – namely interactive doors and windows, and how to use dynamic lighting settings to restrict movement. The latter is nothing new but I’ve not really been using it. In large part that’s because it’s been fiddly and has had big impacts on people using older kit, but I’m still playing around with it.

The other excuse for this map was to experiment with exporting maps assembled from resources inside Roll20 so that I could then stitch them together with other assets to meld elements together

Today’s map falls into that category, having been assembled from a series of floor tiles before I grouped them together and took a screenshot that I then imported into Paint and cropped to save as a jpeg.

Its a simple enough layout, suitable for an encounter. In this instance I inserted a couple of unlockable grates, put in some light sources, and populated it with two iron defenders for an encounter that a group of third level characters would find easy on their way to some further destination while also allowing some world building from the abandoned desks, crates, and fallen rubble in the sewer space.

Well, it appears to be working, and it only took a little bit of swearing under my breath and some casting around to find where the laptop had defaulted to saving the image so I could import it here. Enjoy!

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.

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

DDC – Eve of War

And so here it was – the grand season finale. The group had met the enemy and retreated, barely surviving. They had tracked down the refugees who had fled the Hold. They had identified those members of the Clan infected with lycanthropy and secured their cooperation. There was a reconciliation between Thorin and Karkanna, and the revelation of a new family member – and a dragon dropped by to confirm whether the group really was an instrument of the Draconic Prophecies concerning these events.

So that was a lot to process for people as various strands woven through the game all started to come together. The Cult of the Triumphant Dead held the Hold and the portal being built that would mix the magics of Xoriat with that of the Fey Winter’s Knight to bring eternal winter to the heart of Khorvaire. Thorin and Karkanna’s father was still hostage within the Hold, infected with lycanthropy that held his heart condition at bay. The Hags had been working on drugs that would render all who took them vulnerable to the magics of the fey with the plan to distribute them across the lands to be conquered by Winter. The DDC had slain the Hags, while Kerne’s sister fled with the secret to making the drugs to keep them from the Winter’s Knight. It had been Faye who had chained the portal in the Hags’ lair before fleeing – and she was now on the run.

During the week of downtime then between last session and this one, people spent time in preparation. The first snows of winter arrived, and temperatures dropped rapidly as ice crept across the rivers and made travel even more treacherous. Kerne worked with Valenia to identify some of the more obscure ingredients and processes identified in communications with Faye. They produced what they hoped would be an elixir that could cure those affected by the werewolf curse. It resulted in three bottles of…something…that looked like congealed blood in a clear liquid and no volunteers to test it.

Arwan spent the week working with the villagers of Flower Town to make repairs, and to shore people up in faith and reassurance. He listened and talked and spread good news to all – and received a measure of divine favour for his work. The people of the town came to value his presence and were prepared to go to greater lengths to aid in the fight. In a similar vein, Caeluma spent the week with the werewolves – teaching them meditation and practical lessons on managing the rage and the curse and the shifting of forms. He also rebuilt and rededicated a shrine in the abandoned village, bringing the presence of the Sovereign Host back to a shadowed place. The divine powers noted this and granted the promise of aid.

And then there was Thorin. Who spent the time reconnecting with his people, encouraging them, making plans for battle and then frequently forgetting them amid the wild carousing. He had vague recollections of doing something he shouldn’t have while drunk, but as nobody seemed to know what it was either he figured it couldn’t have been that bad – even if there were complaints that someone had fouled the well.

Local Map of the Amberhammer Lands

All in all, between their preparations, the presence of a dragon nearby, and word getting out among the refugees, more people gathered to their banners – giving a fighting force of some 40 dwarves and 18 werewolves and a dragon to aid the DDC. There had been sightings of something draconic flying near the Hold, but nobody could quite identify it. The additional refugees did confirm however that a small force of duergar had taken the mines and were fortifying it – and that dolgaunts and dolgrims were occupying key watch towers on the approaches to the Hold.

A plan was quickly improvised. Caeluma and Killiklik would take a handful of werewolves to tackle the mine entrance – either to clear it or collapse it, while the main body of the army moved against the Hold from the North. Caeluma and Killiklik would then flank from the West as they rejoined the army.

The assault on the mine was swift and brutal, with Killiklik’s fiery breath clearing defenders and defences from the entrance, while Caeluma led the pack inside. There they found a reeling duergar force and inspired the captive miners to break chains and rebel. Between those two assaults the duergar were driven off – and a divine wave of healing spread through everyone remaining. The miners vowed to close off the duergar breakthroughs and secure the galleries so that no more reinforcements could come up from below. This left Caeluma and his companions free to rejoin the main fight.

Meanwhile, the army had overrun the northern watchtower with minimal losses and was advancing on the Hold. As they approached, a chaotic horde of dolgrims, dolgaunts and duergar spilled out to meet them, and battle was joined. The people of Flower Town and the werewolves joined forces, reunited as the people of Clan Amberhammer and were led by Karkanna on the field, while the DDC pressed forward to the gardens and main entrance.

The mindflayers and the beholder had been joined by another of the beholder’s nightmares – fuelled by dreams of conflict with Killiklik it had spawned an Eyedrake – a horrid amalgamation of dragon and beholder that on its own would tax many groups. Worse, the quiescent portal in the gardens had widened and opened, held open by dark tentacles from the other side that blindly groped and writhed in the air, and shrouded by dense snow and fog as the cold of the EverIce of the Winter Knight’s realm blasted through. Here then was what had brought on the sudden commencement of snows and ice across the mountains. Unchallenged, this winter would never end.

Killiklik and the eyedrake launched straight at each other and their epic fight scorched the air through the heavy snow squalls filling the air. Fiery breath, and razor claws and teeth were met with antimagic pulses and streams of magical energies in retaliation. Thorin and Arwan closed on the nearest mindflayer and nearly managed to drop it in the first moments of the fight before its hideous mental powers washed out across the battlefield.

The party nearly fell in that moment, if not for Arwan’s divine favour to offer aid in making saves in those frantic seconds. The second mindflayer also tried to scourge their minds, while the mindflayer arcanist with them cast lighting through the pair as punishment for approaching.. Then the beholder emerged from the doors of the Hold and began to bombard the party with magics. Caeluma, Valenia, and Kerne fought back and tried not to get pinned down as rays from the beholder’s eyes scythed across the garden.

Slowly, the beholder’s allies were cut down. Killiklik managed to destroy the eyedrake with his breath weapon, but was turned to stone by the beholder – his body falling from the sky and through the open portal. Arwan’s battle prowess surprised everyone as he decimated the remaining mindflayers – receiving the accolade of The Hunter from Killiklik before he died. As a last ditch effort, the arcanist mind flayer plane shifted Thorin to a hellish location to be rid of him.

With Caeluma and Arwan paralysed, Kerne caught in the beholder’s antimagic gaze and Valenia slowed and almost turned to stone, things looked grim. And that’s where the final divine favour was granted, and Caeluma’s patron – the Solar Gerleon returned Thorin to the mortal realm and blinded the beholder’s antimagic eye. The group rallied, slew the arcanist and then piled in on the aberration before them. In the height of the winter’s storm, it was Valenia who landed the final blow with an arrow from concealment. The title of The Quiet was finally claimed.

And with that, the battle on the field below became a rout as the dwarves won the day. The portal curled in on itself and sealed up, and Gerleon was no longer there. With the portal closed, the sun began to break through. They had won the battle. Now they had to win the peace.