Unexpected Child In The Bagging Area

I knew it was going to be a strange day that would wander off-script when I got a call from boy s saying that the cub’s bus had broken down and could I give him a lift in exchange for a cuppa.

Because I am, contrary to scattered myth, a reasonable fellow, I duly did battle with local traffic to relay the cub. We noted his stomach was a bit uncomfortable, but as he was a good colour and otherwise moving with an approximation of purpose, he was deposited just down the road from the school. This was, of course, to spare him the embarrassment of being seen with a parental figure by his schoolmates.

I then popped the car on charge at the supermarket and walked home to start a morning of meetings. Just as I was due to retrieve the car about lunchtime, I, of course, then got a call from the school to come and retrieve the cub.

He was much more subdued and pale, so after checking his temperature I lined him up with warm cereal and a hot chocolate in front of YouTube, made him a hot water bottle, and started my next meeting next door. By the end of that, he was fast asleep and remained so until just after 9 when I went to get some fresh milk.

He seemed somewhat perturbed by the notion that Lady M and I were winding down for bed, and that he couldn’t start playing on the xbox. We settled him with more warm cereal and water and said he could watch his phone for a bit if he was back in bed.

So far, so good. We’ll see what he’s like in the morning

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.

Low Dip Moment

I think it’s probably just a response to the healing my body is still doing, combined with a couple of days stomping around, but I’ve been absolutely drained today. I didn’t get out of bed until nearly twelve and then have mostly been making maps for dungeons and dragons, and watching videos while struggling to focus.

Reading it back, that sounds a pretty good day, but I’m still feeling lousy and have elements of “Well that was a wasted day” because my brain can’t turn down an opportunity to strap on thick boots and start kicking.

Never mind, I’m taking this all in to counselling shortly to pick it over. Think I just need the validation of some hugs – hugs solve many woes.

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

And Back To Work

We had a good catchup on Monday with the Charleesi and boyfriend – who have both been working over the Christmas period like us. It was an excuse to get presents to them and spend some time – and to give our newly donated slow cooker a first go. Fair to say that the melt-in-your-mouth meat alone was a treat, especially when mixed with spices and coconut milk for a slow-cooked beef curry experience. It was a good start to the week.

Then it’s been back to the grind – and a strange combination of a slow start that also brought some tough managerial decisions. As is always the way with these things, compromise and conversation in person rather than the sole medium of emails got results and kept storms in teacups where they belonged. It also brought some improvements for some of the people being supported so I’ll take the wins.

I dropped by an unofficial munch (if there’s such a thing) over in Farnborough last night following all that to catch up with people and met some interesting new faces, including a couple of fellow D&D people so a lot of geekiness and sharing of silliness from our respective tables happened. Got some good ideas, and think I introduced one person to at least three new authors they hadn’t encountered before. End of the evening I gave Lady T a lift home and then promptly got stuck after that driving behind someone who barely drove over twenty miles an hour for most of the distance between Staines and home. So, that was fun. At least the new car is a pleasure to drive so as the route didn’t really give me any great overtaking opportunities I settled into my heated seats and pootled along behind until they turned off and cleared the way.

My added bonus today is that, by and large, I haven’t had much discomfort from my ribs. There’s still some tenderness near the sternum, but I’ve been able to take deep breaths, cough, even laugh, and not had stabbing pains for my trouble. I think my body has gone into healing overdrive today though as I’m absolutely shattered and drowsy as I reach the end of the afternoon. I logged off from work, and made the mistake of closing my eyes for a few moments and promptly lost a few hours – so I’m going to take the hint and just be kind to myself for the evening

Welcome 2023

Well, so long 2022. Let’s see what comes along next. My own little corner of the world is doing well on the work front, though there’s a lot of sickness in the polycule that we can hopefully all support each through.

Lady M and I had a quiet evening last night with a double-bill on Netflix of Knives Out and Glass Onion and a bottle of wine. Neither of us were in the mood for shenanigans so it was good to just switch off. I’ve also quietly carried on making tokens and portraits in Heroforge as that’s a great distraction.

Last night’s cuppa and book

Today has also been gentle. Some of us are unwell, some of us are hung over – and I am just very tired. I suspect that’s related to my ribs still healing. They’re definitely improving: I was able to actually sleep lying down in my bed for the first time in a couple of weeks. Lifting and shifting too energetically is still painful, but there’s less of it which is encouraging – as long as I dont slouch or lean too often.

I did at least get the group together on discord and roll20 to get characters set up for the one-shot. I still haven’t come up with a title for it – I’ll announce it here when I do.

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.

The boy s

We’ve had a lovely quiet Christmas break mostly piled round the flat with boy s and the cub – a gentle gathering of most of the polycule. I’ve been quietly carrying on with doing largely D&D-related posts in the meantime and pushing out concepts that may end up being in one or more games in the months to come.

The boy started catching up on posts yesterday and wanted to have one all about him – a “gushing” post as he put it. I, of course, then put up a new Map post yesterday because I wouldn’t want him to think that these things are just produced on demand whenever the brat asks for one.

However, he has been fighting colds, bugs, and plagues brought home from school by the cub more or less non-stop since September. He is also starting to show signs of brightness and recovery from a serious depression dip that has nigh-on crippled his capacity to engage with the outside world.

Even if that were all that he had achieved, he’d be worthy of praise and support – and yet on top of that he has continued to raise an amazing son who has a fierce intellect and curiosity and who very much sets the terms of his engagement with the world around him.

The cub has had his whole world turned upside down over the last couple of years and yet has formed both a strong network of new friends, and leapt forward in academic achievements despite not believing he had the capacity to do so.

And he fiercely and unconditionally loves his father

How can I not love and appreciate someone who has managed all that? The boy s doesn’t see how amazing he is, despite having a wide band of people around him who care and enjoy his presence. He is passionate about his interests, and cares deeply about causes and people alike. Even in the depths of depression, his humour is pointed and evokes belly laughs – the the things he gets upset about come from his own sense of wanting to do better for others.

As he reads this, I know there will be a little giggle as I tell him he’s a dreadful brat. He will protest that he is, in fact, a wonderful brat and if I’m there he’ll try and flutter his eyelids at me and paste a gormless grimacing smile on his face – and if that isn’t just the most lovable thing I challenge you to pick out something printable instead.

I’ll just leave here, that he is a good boy.