That Was Definitely A Week

I’m really drained today after a week that has seen a lot happen, just not necessarily in the order I’d planned. Most of it has been very positive or has brought great outcomes for people on the work side of things. The biggest relief has been that the boy s has been able to access some mental health support through his GP. Now all we’ve got to do is help him get his housing sorted. Meanwhile Lady M has been storming through all barriers and has multiple nominations for awards in diversity, being an excellent manager, and a host of other wonderful things.

There’s even sunshine – and with the door open I can hear families playing out on the estate. It feels an absolute age since I’ve heard that. I’ve even been able to get in touch with my parents and have a catch-up chat. Beyond a quick dive out first thing to get groceries for the weekend I’ve otherwise been curled up on the sofa – though that’s also because its the weekend before payday so budget constraints have reinforced the idea of staying home. I’m just very aware I need the rest.

In gaming news, I got a bit bored the other day and worked up a redesign of Lady M’s character token for the DDC Sunday game, so I’ve spent a bit of time today uploading that to the virtual tabletop (Roll20) so its ready to go tomorrow.

Who knows, maybe this week Kerne won’t be quite so caught up in life and death struggles. My magic eight-ball isn’t so sure…

Nearly The Weekend

I was enjoying my Friday and then realised it was a Thursday. Its an old joke but I have no shame and used it in a conversation today. It’s been another full day. Thankfully it’s mostly been a positive day, but between negotiations and outreach, with a side sprinkling of mental health first aiding and worrying about the boy s it has drained me.

I’ve been sitting quietly, trying to shed the load off my shoulders, and waiting for the top of my head to stop feeling like it has peeled open. Watching a film and paying Destiny hasn’t done more than briefly distract me, so now it’s time to see if sleep can hurry up and catch me unawares while I meditate.

That would be nice. See you on the other side for Friday Part 2

Is It Wednesday Yet?

Today’s work was more reactive than I’d have preferred, but was ultimately successful where it counted. Of far more interest was our ability to synchronise our diaries to have another session of the Librarians’ D&D Game. The search for the people creating shapeshifting creatures disguised as books led the Morgrave University Team for Text Extraction and Retrieval (MUTTER) to the Great Bazaar in Sharn and a large bookseller’s tent tucked in a corner loaded with a variety of nearly new and definitely pre-loved books and scrolls.

Wilhelm distracted the owner, an intimidating lady of striking appearance in long flowing robes and a headscarf, with money and the offer of a drink. He was horrified to be taken up on the offer with a brusque “ten minutes then”. The owner’s brother then was kept busy as the rest of the team browsed the many strange travelogues, religious texts, tomes of poetry, hunter’s guides, and books of erotica and tried to find anything unusual.

Some sneaked round the back and crept through to the storage area, and saw that the bookseller was using a mimic as a coinbox, while Rhogan claimed to have been bitten by a book to see what the reaction was (he got offered a discount on the book he was holding)

Wilhelm’s disastrous attempts at striking up a conversation were initially somewhere between fascinating and confusing so he did at least manage to distract the owner, but in the end she made her excuses and returned to the market. Rhogan was able to distract her briefly so that the rest of the group could scatter, but not before a clumsy foot wrong by Xander accidentally collapsed the tent with staff and Catriona still inside.

The group eventually managed to make their way all together back at the pub where Wilhelm had stayed – and that was where we ended.

There was a lot of laughter, and a lot of distraction both in and out of the game. A good evening…

Lore Drop – Rufen Irreckson

The circumstances of Rufen’s conception and birth are both complicated and not for the faint of heart – involving as they do the wily troll hunter called Irreck, a lonely hag, and the non-linear nature of time in the Feywild. The true story of what took place between Irreck and Gertha Mudberth seems to elude all parties involved – but what is known is that Irreck set out in search of the Daughters of Sora Kell alone, and returned with the three sisters of the Circle of Rot, and a full-grown son.

Decorative image of Rufen - green skinned, red and brown leather armour and boots. A huge axe in one hand, a spear slung on his back.

Rufen is a mighty barbarian warrior, and is largely ruled by his angry passions – but he is also a skilled smith, and is less awed or hurt by the fires needed to ply that trade than his father and uncles. He was therefore happy to support Urash’s dreams of armed trolls and took over the old mill on the north east border of the Amberhammer lands. He converted it into his forge, and began producing spears and armour plates as well as arrow heads for the rare few trolls who learned to hunt like his father.

Something of his fey ancestry wars with his trollish blood. He doesn’t heal as fast as his father, but he is able to change his appearance to something more acceptable to civilised eyes and can speak to the animals of the woods.

While not as physically imposing as his troll relatives, his barbarian rage and following of the Path of the Totem does make him able to shrug off damage from fire and magic as easily as he does physical wounds. He channels his anger into ferocious feats of combat that tends to leave all opponents dead or fleeing before him.

Decorative new image of Rufen, with a bigger axe, horns jutting from the side of his skull, and hair now swept back rather than in a mohican

With that experience, he willingly launched himself into the thick of combat with the DDC and tasted defeat for the first time at the hands of Valenia. He was left among the wreckage of his forge, stripped of his favourite weapons and armour, and bound for his father to find.

Enraged and shamed, Rufen has vowed to get revenge and retrieve his stolen treasures and has dropped the minor illusions that gave him a gentle appearance.

He is now forging a new axe, channelling his hate and the fell magics of his aunts into a weapon that he intends to bring to the necks of the adventurers as swiftly as he can. He cannot, however, use his old forge. His father has summoned him back from the place that he had claimed, and now he has had to make use of what he can assemble in the icy swamps he now inhabits. The Circle of Rot see his smithing talents as too valuable to leave out in the wild and have drawn him closer.

And there, perhaps, lies the beginning of the downfall of the Circle, for Rufen unknowingly carries a token of Deadeye Alice. It was planted within his clothing by Kerne while he was unconscious and the wily Annis Hag now knows where he is. By extension, she can now make some very good guesses at where his family is and Thorin Amberhammer bears the token she originally created for his father, Benten Amberhammer.

Stories turn and retell themselves over and over in the Feywild. The story of betrayals and the deaths of trolls at the hands of dwarves may be about to begin again. The one wrinkle? The Draconic Prophecies have marked one of the DDC and fate may not be as solidly cast as Alice believes it to be. Time will tell.

Map – Winter Forge

Today’s map is the battleground so recently fought over by the DDC and the trolls – a forge by the side of a frozen lake, surrounded by trees. I wanted to create the sense of a place that was in use for some time, if not always by the same people. In this instance this is done through an unmade bed, furniture, a wash stand, equipment outside, a snowman near the stumps of felled trees, little things like that.

When I made the map I wasn’t quite sure how the encounter was going to run – in fact, thinking about it I don’t recall really having any encounter details in mind. I was focused instead on just creating a scene and playing with some new settings in an update. Once it was done I just needed to expand the edges out a bit in case my players wanted to run around the building or something.

Overhead map view for a virtual table top - an L shaped building by the side of a frozen lake, surrounded by trees. A short pier juts out into the lake. A path leads from the building to the bottom of the map, passing a number of felled trees.

So here it is. The trolls were mostly inside, apart from an ice troll hidden inside the snowman. The adventurers arrived from the south (the bottom of the map) and concealed themselves in the trees while they planned what to do. It could have gone any direction from here, but in the end it devolved into a mass brawl outside the door and involved fireballs and chaos bolts, keen archery and very hungry trolls. This meant that most of the detail inside the forge wasn’t seen during the encounter itself until they broke in to ransack it later.

As usual I’ve put together a zipfile ( ) with the graphic above and the text file with lighting and boundary details for Roll20 should you want to use it.

DDC – Fall of the Forge

We picked up this week where we left off with the battle at the Troll Forge. Arwan was unconscious and ground into the soil by a frost troll while a venom troll and an armoured troll raider fought the rest of the group. Worse for the party, the trolls had been joined by Rufen, son of Irreck the Watcher. Rufen was a barbarian with features of both a troll and a hag, and he was closing on Kerne.

Things got very busy, very quickly. Thorin traded blows with the raider nearest the forge – almost enjoying himself. Kerne cast a banishment on the venom troll while Valenia managed to drop the other raider with fiery arrows on top of spell damage inflicted. Caeluma meanwhile swooped across the battlefield to heal Arwan. Within moments, and in quick succession, Arwan, Caeluma, and Kerne were down, and Rufen had moved to close on Valenia.

Thorin started a whole chain of passing potions to stabilise the fallen and get them moving again, but the fierce cold from the ice troll and splashing damage from the venom troll nearly overwhelmed the group. Thorin and Kerne managed to hurt the ice troll severely and briefly take down the venom troll. The balance of the battle tipped back and forth very closely, and then Valenia was able to knock Rufen out and properly assess the situation.

The remaining trolls were battered, there was still a chance to win this. The whole mission hinged on being able to plant Alice’s token on Rufen so he could be tracked back to the Circle’s lair – and maybe, just maybe, the DDC would pull through. Thorin was able to finally drop the ice troll, but its horrible vitality meant it would be back up on its feet within moments.

Thorin threw the token to Kerne, who ran to the fallen Rufen and hid the hag-forged coin in his clothing. Valenia in the meantime was able to take down the troll raider nearby, channelling primal energies to augment her fighting prowess. The venom troll meanwhile lost its nerve and tried to flee, only to be knocked out by Caeluma’s spells.

In the sudden calm, there was a scramble to set fire to the fallen trolls and while the raider and ice troll were put to their final rest, the venom troll was able to regain consciousness and flee. The DDC knew they probably didn’t have much time, but they still took the time to strip Rufen of his armour and weapons and salvage coin and sundries from the forge before making their own escape. Rufen was left bound and bruised in his bed.

Their journey back to the Hold was uneventful, if slightly extended by taking a more circuitous route to throw off pursuit. Their return home was greeted with enthusiasm and concern in even amounts, and they eased into the evening in equal amounts of exhaustion and relief at having survived.

Valenia fell asleep in the bar, while Caeluma and Arwan settled in to drink and blow off steam. Thorin gathered food and drink and then retired to his rooms, and Kerne retired to spend time with Karkanna and Loris while researching the nature of the magical items taken from Rufen.

And that quiet moment is where we drew to a close.

Map – Border Fort

There’s always going to be a need for generic border fort type maps found out in the wilderness in tabletop games. It could be an official stop-over, or somewhere holding loot or an item that needs retrieving. It could be the headquarters of someone the adventurers need to meet, or indeed to steal from, or kill. It could also be a place overrun by bandits, or abandoned and then haunted.

So while playing with some of the newer (to me) features around painting in objects and turning off object collision to merge items (like rocks), I came up with a small single-storey fort next to a mineshaft. Some of the rocks nearby contain seams of some sort of metal, and the surrounding swamp-land is frozen over in the depths of winter. I set the time of day as being late afternoon, with the sun starting to get low, and tweaked the light levels so the snow and ice weren’t quite so dazzling as some of the earlier versions.

Overhead map for a virtual tabletop of a fortress in a snowy landscape as described in the paragraph below.

The building itself has an entrance courtyard that is open to the air and has both a barracks and an armoury either side of a wide entrance hall. That hallway leads to both a treasury and a dungeon, with a kitchen and a rookery for communication with the outside world nearby. I wanted the feel to be of somewhere that could hold items such as local taxes for collection, as well as hold prisoners taken locally until they can be picked up and removed to a proper prison.

I’ve made a zip file as usual (border containing the jpeg above and the text file containing grid and lighting instructions for Roll20 and I hope you find it useful. This map has also been published in the Dungeon Alchemy Steam Workshop under the name DaOrribleDM. Have fun!

It’s The Weekend – Have a Spare NPC

It seemed like it wasn’t going to make it, but here we are with a screeching halt to the headaches, sinus pains, and tension headaches as various targets and goals were hit, and we had a massive rainfall that seems to have cleared some of the excess pollen for now. I’ve just had a nice relaxing session of shooting things in Destiny with boy s and Lady B and now to wind down before bed I’ve just had this wonderful mischief maker crawl out from behind the sofa and demand money with genteel menaces

Full body portrait of a green-skinned, large eared woman with purple hair in a  victorian up-do, dark aviator sunglasses, and layers of red and orange skirts and a long sleeved top over a dark blue blouse. Her feet are bare on a wooden floor, In her right hand she casually holds a human femor, and has small fangs set in a gold neckalce. Her gloved left hand is open. Her smile reveals sharp teeth

Welcome to Mrs Hibbert, a fey goblin who wears dark sunglasses against the day’s brightness, and probably has a couple of ogres or hobgoblins standing just round the corner to loom when she clicks her fingers. She’s a lady of local standing from a well-known family, and she’ll brook no nonsense or any mess on her freshly-cleaned carpets. Now just leave your pocket change in the ashtray there on the way out the door, and we’ll be seeing you soon.

So, I guess I made up a small business-goblin who rules her family with an iron fist inside her velvet gloves, and who is definitely, positively a legitimate member of the business community – or her money back. I sense a wonderful new contact for one of my adventures that I’ll be keeping in my back pocket.

Migraine Recovery

I was well and truly knocked sideways yesterday by a migraine, which was a bit of an annoyance. I managed half a day of work, but the painkillers couldn’t get to grips with it, so I made my excuses and went home – and that was basically that until the early hours of this morning. I’m still not feeling fantastic – I’m in what Lady M calls “the migraine shadow” – but I have at least been able to get back to work, if only from my sofa, and have had some productive meetings and outcomes.

My number one soothing tool today has been some lavender-scented putty that I’ve been working with my hands on and off all day. I was introduced to it a while back, and really started to appreciate it when clay was handed round at an EDI conference to help break the ice and keep people mindful. I’ve since given putty variants to a number of people as a gift and then remembered recently to buy some for myself.

It’s simple enough stuff, but the feel of it and the focus pull that comes with working it while I talk or think has been very helpful in keeping on track today. Its also pretty cheap so I’ve added it to the small but growing number of small touch-distractions I keep with me. It goes alongside the worry stone and the tactile strips on the back of my phone as grounding items while I think.

So, that’s where my head’s been at the last 30 hours or so

More NPCs – Just Because

Surprise, surprise, I’ve been playing in Heroforge to wind down from a busy day. I’ve no plans for these, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve said that and then ended up folding them into one of the games. In this instance I’ve made a tiefling investigator, and a tortle hermit, and had some fun trying out some new options.

Merriam Fellbane has a devilish influence somewhere in her bloodline, as evidenced by the cloven hooves, tail, and horns – not to mention the pointed ears and odd-looking eyes. Despite her family’s background, they are lawful members of their local community and well-regarded. Merriam has followed in her father’s hoofsteps and trained to be an investigator working with the local guards on cases that are more complicated than usual, or that need a quiet follow-up. A talented sorcerer with a few rogue skills tucked in her wrist guards, Merriam could well be a quiet thorn in unruly groups’ sides – or an ally if the path to bringing a villain to justice is obscure.

Fisher Rawk lives by the coast in a tidal cave, where he lives off the land. A druid by calling, he lives a quiet life preserving the wildlife and plantlife native to his area. Sometimes he has to warn off settlers from overusing an area. Sometimes he protects settlers from raiders from across or below the waves. His demeanour is wry and calm, and while not dismissive of civilisation his calling keeps him serving nature where he is rather than running after trouble for its own sake.