NPCs: A Coven of Trolls?

I’m not sure if these will turn up in either of the games I’m running at the moment, but I like the design and it wouldn’t be too difficult to fit them into the ongoing story on either front. I was playing around in HeroForge and was looking at trolls when the idea came to see if I could make them look like the sort of hags that the DDC had already encountered – there’s a subplot involving Kerne’s sister and rules for custom lineages that give ideas for those sworn to or in the company of hags to begin to take on their qualities and appearances – notably horns as a sign of power.

And so with some tweaking of faces and bodies and scratching of heads I came up with these lovely individuals – and I’m still undecided as to whether they are hags (in the D&D monster sense) or trolls who achieved hagdom and formed their own coven.

So welcome to Granny Riptooth, Nanny Gutrun, and Missy Lambrot – who may well be gathering together the scattered trolls defeated by Thorin’s clan during the Last War to contest the area again. I haven’t decided if they are aligned with the Winter’s Knight as an ongoing threat, but it would fit the themes of the story and the pattern of past encounters. I’m really pleased with how these models have worked out – there are more detailed schemes out there, but this works for virtual counters and inspiration for the games.

Well, I think we’ve all learned a valuable lesson about what you’ll find if you go down to the woods today…

A Very Long Friday Night

We normally stream a game of Destiny for a couple of hours on Friday nights. It’s usually only a couple of hours and largely consists of us goofing around.

Every now and then, we have a crack at some of the harder content and this Friday we did a run at a Legendary mission. By and large these throw more opponents with tougher armour and health, as well as some other factors to make things more difficult. The in-game rewards are higher, sometimes it progresses the story, and then there’s some fairly niche bragging rights in limited circles.

The biggest pain last night was the two main boss battles, in which we had only one revive each. This led to a lot of swearing and repeat attempts at these choke points – but we won.

At gone 3am

Needless to say, I’ve been a bit tired today, but we did go out to a coffee place and browse some books. So an attempt was made at being part of civilised society too.

Needless to say, I’m having an early night ahead of tomorrow’s D&D game

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.

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…

Forging More Heroes

Heroforge continues to be a great way to unwind at the end of a busy day – its creative in the sense of experimentation in a sandbox and that limitation helps me in many ways. Rather than the intensity of creating something whole cloth, it feels more like something I can pick up and toy with briefly before getting on with something else.

As I’ve also mentioned, it helps me come up with concepts for encounters and opponents in my games. If these then give any ideas to you then feel free to pinch the tokens for your own games.

So today’s new faces are Djellayna of the merfolk, and Loopi Butterbash, a harengon fairy warrior. Both are fierce protectors of their people and territories and could be encountered by groups who have ventured off the usual trade routes. They could be antagonists, bearers of warnings and messages, or unexpected allies or guides.

There’s also some wonderful options from the expressions on their faces: Djellayna looks haughty and dismissive, as if not quite sure what they’re looking at. Loopi looks cocky, and I could imagine him peppering a combat with taunts and insults. If I use them in any scenarios I’ll update the blog

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…

D&D Shaping Life?

I learn all sorts of things from the random conversations we have in the polycule. One thing that puts a smile on my face is hearing how stories, events, or characters from the D&D games end up having an impact in other people’s lives. One example is Odif – the kobold child adopted by the DDC after drunken shenanigans (and that was a whole series of subplots and adventures unexplored at the time – but who knows how things will loop back?)

I had a couple of crocheted wool dolls made up of Odif – one for Lady M and one for boy s – as presents and Lady M has been known to show her Odif on video calls. This particularly happens if one of her colleagues has a young child appear onscreen. Well, now those children have started asking after Odif and how he’s doing – and as this is usually relayed by their parents to Lady M during work calls, a wider group of people now know about and have encountered Odif.

So this year, Odif received Christmas well wishes from people at Lady M’s workplace.

Jumping to another example: Mx J has been playing Thorin in the DDC as a well-meaning, laid back and generally affable barbarian “himbo” over the last couple of years. The main story thread we just completed saw him step up into a leadership role for his people and reunite them to take back their lands and foil a plot to plunge a sizeable chunk of the surrounding countryside into a never-ending winter. Mx J has also been streaming and cosplaying for a number of years as Miss Time Bunny. They have been widely called Bunny for quite some time – especially in their local area.

In one of the places that Mx J frequents there are also people who watch the streams and are friendly with both Bunny and Lady B – and, you guessed it, they started getting Christmas well wishes under the name Thorin this year.

I find it rather heartwarming – that these characters and their world are living in people’s thoughts and memories, inspiring laughter and smiles and new stories to come. I have the kernels now of the next act in the adventures of the DDC so I can’t wait to see what really lands with people and inspires them – and how else our small entertainments may take on lives outside the confines of the Twitch Stream.

Oh – one last thing that came up in conversation – I don’t see them as its not my Twitch channel, but Lady B gets all manner of notifications and keeps an eye on things while we game – and I was delighted to hear that every now and then familiar names from the past appear as viewers, checking in on how we’re all doing and the latest silly shenanigans of the DDC. I hope they’ve had a good Christmas too – and hope to see them again soon.

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…