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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s all getting a bit epic and legendary in the Sunday game – with archetypal titles being bestowed and dragons arriving to overshadow the events. Everyone’s having great fun, even if they’re occasionally having to stop to pick their jaws up off the ground.
The Doom of Kelliklik approaches as the Heir decides his fate. A nod and bow and the Redeemed shall not fly alone. The Watcher’s Dream of Dragons shall be met with fire and teeth and claw.
The Draconic Prophecies – Scale 200 verse 1-3
The battle of Flower Town resulted in Thorin stating his claim to the throne and willingness to fight for his people, and Caeluma persuading the dragon Kelliklik to fight and fly alongside him. The Watcher’s Dream of Dragons remains to be revealed, but so far, each mention of a Watcher’s dream has alluded to the Beholder’s nightmares retaining form and flesh upon his awakening
In defiance of Winter’s Madness the sundered clan will fight. Unity and compromise found where death and hatred bloomed. What new dawn comes after the fight? Rebirth.
The Draconic Prophecies – Scale 200 verse2 4-6
The greatest portion of the two halves of Clan Amberhammer have agreed to work together, brought in by the DDC. How will it all end up?
The Heir. The Redeemed. The Scribe. All these roles now revealed. Two more ascend. The Quiet, and The Hunter step up and join their gaze to witness Fate.
The Draconic Prophecies – Scale 201 verses 1-6
Everyone in the DDC is being referred to with Archetypal labels. So far we have Thorin as the Heir. Caeluma is the Redeemed. Kerne is the Scribe. During the final battle for the Hold, Arwan was hailed as the Hunter as he struck down foe after foe in swift succession. Valenia took the title of The Quiet both for her stealth, and for an interpretation of ‘Quiet’ meaning ‘Death’ as she struck the final blow on the beholder.
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 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.
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.
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.
The awful pun in the title was gleefully suggested by the boy s as we worked out what to call the Twitch stream on social media – and I couldn’t help but give the nod to it. I’m blaming that decision on what I thought was a head cold – that has since revealed itself to be another bout of Covid. What joy.
Anyway – we picked up outside a deserted shrine that bore some old markings of Onatar – and so may have originally been a forge. Appropriately enough then, Karkanna had chosen this as her base, and she showed no fear despite the superior numbers arrayed against her. Thorin’s outburst of surprise was matched by Valenia moving swiftly to bring a blade to Karkanna’s throat – a move that was deftly parried, and no more.
Karkanna claimed to be glad they’d arrived and that there was a lot to talk about. She agreed that she had a lot of explaining to do – and invited the group into the ruin to her camp so they could do so in relative comfort. As she led them in, they saw a series of tarpaulin lean-tos under the broken ceiling. There was a campfire with a kettle of water over it, and equipment in various stages of being packed. There were also three cages a short distance away, each with a sleeping naked dwarf in them. Karkanna said, when challenged, that they would stay there until they could control themselves. This was not taken well by the group.
The conversation began with a confrontational and direct tone – and Karkanna met aggressive questioning with assertive answers that reinforced the relationship between her and Thorin. She talked of how they’d gone different paths, and how Thorin had always been better at making friends and allies. They talked about the Last War, and how she’d fought and fought and seen him and his brother get all acclaim and glory. How they called Thorin a hero and shrank from her – and then she had gone on fighting while everyone celebrated the end of the Last War. The creatures climbing up from The Pit took no notice of the politics of the surface and still needed to be fought. Her lonely war took her down into The Pit. She had no one to live for, so she became death to the dolgrims and dolgaunts and aberrations crawling up from Kyber.
And then she was captured.
A group of six mindflayers lay in wait on her last foray into the dark. When challenged on how they’d stopped her, she asked if the group had ever met mindflayers – and pointed out how powerful their mental attacks are. Karkanna was overcome and taken before the Daelkyr and the power of Xoriat reworked her to become a werewolf – the first created since the pogroms of the Silver Flame hunted them all down.
The questions kept coming, and Karkanna kept answering, unburdening herself. The mind flayers had an alliance with duergar who dug up to meet the miners of Clan Amberhammer as they descended. She returned to the Hold with disguised duergar allies to find her father dying and was compelled to bite him and inflict lycanthropy on him. The curse would keep him alive and keep him as leverage over the Clan. That was the signal for the Cult of the Triumphant Dead to rise and overrun the mines and the Hold.
She was compelled to bite many of the Clan and convert them. They were expelled into the countryside to spread chaos and confusion and spread the curse across the mountains. Granite from The Pit was brought up and used to construct the plinth and portal site seen in the formal gardens outside. It was at this point that Karkanna asked Thorin if he still had their father’s axe – that it was safe. The relief on her face when he produced it was palpable.
Karkanna revealed she’d sent it to him to keep it away from the mind flayers as they needed it to complete a ritual. The heirloom axe was linked to the Amberhammer Clan and by extension the rule of the land. The cult intended to conduct a ritual to destroy the axe while it was linked to the Clan – ie while attuned to the Clan leader – thereby destroying the symbol of rule and supplanting the Clan as the lords of the land.
Karkanna had overheard talk of a further alliance – of a plan to bring Winter across the Mountains. The Powers of Xoriat would reach out to Winter’s EverIce and bring chaos and madness and death and claim the mountains forever. Karkanna broke the mental domination and sent the axe away – once Thorin attuned to the axe, it removed the threat to their father as his death wouldn’t achieve the ritual’s aims. If she had taken the axe and assumed control, it would have achieved nothing. She then fled and started trying to rein in her wayward Pack. She slew any that could not control the curse.
She then took Thorin to one side to reveal the other reason she had acted to defend the Clan after so long. In a crib under a nearby tarpaulin was a six-month-old baby dwarf – her son. She brought him out and introduced Loris Amberhammer to his uncle, and the rest of the DDC.
This broke the ice conclusively, and a good period of time was spent updating Karkanna on Thorin’s adventures – and adopted wider family in the form of Odif and Coal – which was also news to Arwan who hadn’t met either of them. A good few stories and anecdotes passed back and forth before the evening began to draw in. Caeluma negotiated the release of the dwarves from their cages – Broadhand Tam: a guard, and Ennis and Thantyr Amberhammer, smiths and artificers of the Clan – and a reluctant and wary trio started preparing spaces for the group to strike their own camp.
Plans then began to be drawn up on what to do next. Karkanna claimed that Thorin should be able to rally those of the Clan and surrounding area who had fled – to form a new militia as he had in days gone by. Karkanna said she would be able to gather at least some of the werewolves to fight on their behalf. Talk turned to whether the Silver Flame army near Cragwar could be of help, but Karkanna pushed back – the Silver Flame zealots would wipe out the Amberhammers as tainted by the curse. She would not risk her son for that.
Arwan set up a ritual to Commune with their gods – asking if their situation and that of the Clan was known to the Sovereign Host, whether there was any aid the gods could send, and whether they had a chance of winning. The answers were positive, negative, and positive again. When relaying these answers, Karkanna noted drily that of course the gods knew, that the DDC were the help sent, and that there was always a chance.
Kerne was taken by the references to Winter and reached out through her journal to contact her lost sister – Faye – last seen fleeing the Winter’s Knight. For once, the stilted written conversations gave useful information. The EverIce was the name given to the far frozen north, rumoured to bury a lost culture. The Winter’s Knight was working with the Cult of the Triumphant Dead to bring that icy cover to the mountains and across the lands in a never-ending winter. Secondly, the artificial dreamlily that the DDC had destroyed had had a hidden effect, to make anyone exposed to it vulnerable to fey magics. Kaye had fled to keep the secret of the drug and the processes and spells required from the forces of Winter.
Suddenly a lot of puzzle pieces were falling into place for the group as the wider picture and stakes became clear. Karkanna identified two possible places where refugees may have gathered – and the group resolved to sleep on it and come to terms with the enormity of the task before them
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