Hello Winter

So, the clocks went back last night (or this morning, depending on your sleep patterns). As a result, anyone listing their activities in terms of GMT is now accurate for the next six months. So there’s that. I definitely needed that extra hour as our Pirates D&D game went on a bit later than planned – with a Halloween Beetlejuice-inspired caper.

Spooky is as spooky does

Oh, how we laughed. Well, more like screamed imprecations at the players who summoned him before finishing the containment bindings, but it did make for a fun and chaotic battle through a dollhouse.

The players learned that there was a reason I’d been grabbing and scrimshawing so many bones (healing potions reskinned as bones to break to activate). They also learned that my cleric’s version of turning undead was to shake bones and tell the zombies to f*** off back to their graves in fluent Draconic. And that said zombies tended to then explode when he did so. So that was colourful.

All of which was a good contrast to the week or so of prepping and undertaking interviewing of prospective saturday staff for the library I’ve just had. A night of mayhem was a good antidote.

Oh, and I did have time during the day to go see myr s for a few hours as well, which was also much needed by us both.

Fairhaven Moments

Sunday’s game was quiet, but some important foundation-laying happened, and a lot of laughter. There are some interesting mechanics in 5th Edition to support the GM in arbitrating Downtime activities, and with the adventurers finding their feet it was a good excuse to play along and add some colour

Caeluma spent a lot of time knitting a chunky “Jumper of Friendliness” for the warforged urchin the group adopted. He in turn has been hanging around with a bemused air to see what happens next. A beanie hat is apparently the next project.

Valenia and Thorin spent the week carousing and, between sessions in the pub, teaching Thorin to read. They’re not sure how, but after one particularly black-out night they seem to have earned the nickname of “benchslayers”. Nobody will tell them why.

Kerne stuck to studying the texts retrieved from their last adventure, as well as doing some ancillary research suggested by their contents.

All well, so far, and then the group decided that a good use of their haul would be to rent out a house together, rather than continue living in an Inn. After some searching, they settled on a tall house about half an hour from the university in one of the nicer suburbs.

I got them to suggest some street names on a grid map that I’d made earlier, and will this week be fleshing out some of the local landmarks for them to explore. There is one house on the map that is absolutely not a brothel. A house of negotiable affection providing reasonably priced love, perhaps, but not a brothel. Honest.

Sunday’s Game

It was a quiet session, mostly spent trying to identify and get good prices for the items the adventures had brought back with them.

They’re still a little hazy about what happened, and I laid some potential plot hooks out that can be picked up on as we go.

Caeluma is trying to put at ease the newly adopted warforged Coal, and to get used to having a baby dragon around; especially one that has a habit of turning invisible, scaring the inn’s cat, and then quietly sniggering from the rafters…

Next week, they intend to go shopping, and possibly purchase some private lodgings.

And More Gaming

A whole weekend of dungeons and dragons? No wonder I’m a bit tired today. After some small shuffling around and soft rebooting to accommodate schedules and health, the Sunday group that I GM spent the evening learning why there were less pigeons around their local pub than usual, and running an errand on behalf of a fellow faculty member. A gargoyle had taken up residence on the balcony of an alchemist.

With the owner out of town, the group were asked to take a bunch of herbs and spices to put in the furnace in the owner’s laboratory to drive the gargoyle away.

Arriving at the address provided, they found Freshers Week in full flow – likened to being almost as quiet as Newcastle City Centre on a Saturday night – and got distracted as a pickpocket stole the key to the house.

Now, I had intended the thief to be a one-shot, literally throwaway npc, but having captured the warforged rogue, Caeluma healed him and adopted him. Knitting was perpetrated.

The butler of the house had been badly injured by the gargoyle, so was unable to draw the bolts inside the front door, so the group instead used a cellar entrance and the keys and their university identification papers to bypass the security construct guarding it. Evidence found along the way suggested that the owner of the house was involved in some kind of dodgy payments, and the theory was formed that the gargoyle may not be the aggressor here.

Convinced that the gargoyle was there because of something the missing alchemist had done, Caeluma then attempted to talk it out of remaining, pouring their heart into an impassioned speech.

Unfortunately the real gargoyle was perched on the roof above them, and it knocked the statue that Caeluma had been addressing flying as it swooped on the group. After a brief struggle, despite attempts to subdue it, they were forced to kill the gargoyle. It shattered into thousands of pieces, hissing something about Dhassk.

Within the kiln, they found a small leathery egg, which hatched as Caeluma lifted it free. A small butterfly-winged dragon broke out of the shell, and instantly imprinted on Caeluma. There may have been tears.

Where this goes next week, I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough.

Gaming Night

After various reschedules for health and work we managed to get our pirate-themed D&D session going this evening. This is the one I play in as opposed to the one I GM.

I was a bit nervous about my tech being up to it given hiccups last time but I managed to balance the various loads across a couple of laptops and my phone and all was well.

To recap: my lizardfolk cleric of the grave had searched out civilization after his tribe was killed by undead creatures. Haunted by the sights he’d seen and the spirits that surround him, he adopted a motley crew of adventurers during an ambush in a bar. He sees them as like hatchlings that need protecting due to their lack of scales and teeth, but also as potential warriors to stem the rise of undead on the islands.

His method of ensuring that the dead do not rise again is typically lizardfolk in its pragmatism: the dead do not rise from the cooking pot. A reputation for butchering the corpses for the fallen has already begun to spread, although not necessarily in understanding of why. At the same time his soups, stews, and calamari dishes are admired for their exquisite tastes. Just be wary of the cold cuts platter.

The group were sent by one of the leaders of the port community to investigate the disappearance of one of the tribal leaders. It was an investigation that found signs of struggle leading to a bolthole and tunnels beneath the town guarded by clockwork soldiers. The group avoided these and closed in on a group of thugs led by a Knight who had trapped the mouse-folk leader. This was where the session began.

As is ever the case, combat takes a lot longer to process through than other activities in the game, but the group was successful in joining the mechanical guards present in saving the council member. Richly rewarded, they were also treated to food and drink, and advised that they would be called on to track down the remaining “Pieces of Eight” to match the one already in their possession from a previous adventure.

The Pieces were the remains of a seal that had contained a dark evil making the dead rise and darkness spread across the islands. The reason that the group had been unable to get any work was partly down to the superstitious nature of the pirates around them and partly because the Council had forbade anyone to give them work while they could be assessed for the job before them.

A day of relaxation by the docks while they waited for the Council to meet was cut short by an ambush by compatriots of the thugs they had defeated earlier. Heslik spent most of the battle either healing his companions or trading crossbow shots with an inept thug whose bolts bounced off Heslik’s tough scales. Heslik felt obliged to show him how to shoot properly in his return fire. There may have been some sarcastic comments across the battlefield: “No fleshling! Not like that! Like this! There! See? Try again, you can do it!”

The battle was won, treasure was looted, a warning left on the bodies. Time for the group to rest up.

Cutest Session Ever

The DDC continued their adventures on Sunday night, continuing with a cautious approach verging on paranoia. Every monastic cell in the abandoned temple was empty, but the kitchen/refectory brought a new surprise: the zombified remains of ancient goblins going through the motions of preparing meals, serving them and clearing them away – unheeding of the fact that there was nobody there, and all the supplies and foodstuffs had long spoiled or rotted away.

With many groups you’d be forgiven for expecting urgent battlecries, but instead the group watched for the moment as Caeluma hugged one and helped it set the table. They recorded what runes and artifacts they could see, and then carefully retreated, closing the door behind them.

And then, because they’re not stupid, they barricaded the door and wrote Dead Inside, Don’t Open – or was it Dead Don’t Inside Open?

Then they took a short rest before trying one of the bigger doors that looked like a grand entrance – that instead led to a corridor and the looming shapes of mansized and roughly man-shaped mushrooms lurching towards them with hands outstretched. With lightning reflexes the group downed one of the figures before sprayed spores stunned the ferocious dwarf fighter and one of the creatures pummelled him lightly in retaliation.

And then another set of spores sprayed out and got a voice speaking in their heads, wondering who they were and what had the myconids ever done to them? Some hasty de-escalation later, including some druidcrafted repairs and healing, and hostilities were called off. The myconids had been trapped in the temple space below while investigating what they called a wound in the world on behalf of the Gatekeeper Druidic faction. A group of humans wearing the symbology of The Mockery had invaded the buried temple on their own quest for The Egg, and been driven off by the mushroom men.

Despite the plethora of fungal and mycelial puns and jokes, an alliance was agreed to deal with what they called The Wound, with one of the myconids leading the group back to a room they had previously barricaded due to the red light shining from under it. The rest of the myconids stayed to contain “the wandering flame” – whatever that is…

There was a lot of laughter and soppiness this session – along with calls for Caeluma to put the zombie goblin back down and to knit the mushroom men some scarves. A fun evening.

Oh? Sunshine? Again?

I thought we’d had all the good weather we were going to have now that people have been out and about more. I am pleasantly surprised therefore to have clear blue skies and sunshine all around as I go to pick up my prescription renewals.

Last night’s DDC game was fun for me, if no one else, in that it allowed me no small amount of GM sadism. The group is still investigating the buried remains of an old goblin temple, and had discovered several very old sets of remains from what looked like a pitched battle.

Beyond an open archway was a large room with benches along the walls and an enormous carpet that smelled awful. Rather than just take this in as a bit of scene dressing, there then followed real fear as they tried to investigate for traps, or some nefarious purpose to the carpet. At one point they thought the carpet might leap into life and try to eat them.

It was only when someone tried to flip the carpet, and the corner tore off wetly in their hand, that they accepted that their GM had been telling the truth the whole time – that it was just a carpet and there were no traps.

Okay, I may have used the “are you sure?” and “which corner are you reaching for?” approach, but I think I have done my job well in instilling caution in my players. I’m sure the next carpet will be just as innocent.

Would I lie to you?

A Cracking Session

We got back into the swing of things last night in D&D – with a mix of derring-do and investigation, but also tears and laughter in moments of heartfelt roleplay where these new adventurers began to come to terms with the harshness of the life that they had chosen.

Chief among the causes of their introspection was that the stories and songs they had been raised on didn’t talk often about what it felt like to have to make life and death decisions over their friends. The fighting had been sudden and unexpected and nearly seen two of their number cut down in the first moments of their career. Briar, as a child of retired adventurers in particular, was shocked at the realisation that these feelings must have been felt by their parents.

Your Friendly DM

There was also concern about who or what the undead had been before becoming what they were. What lives had they lived? Had they had friends and family? What had led them to die and then be so darkly reborn?

Others in the group took to singing and drinking and dancing to cope – celebrating their lives and raising the spirits of all around them. For some there was study, or the quiet discipline of knitting quietly and watching everyone else.

The former introspection was roleplayed beautifully and brought tears to people’s eyes, the latter celebration turned into a celebration that had everyone in stitches with laughter. An overnight recovery for the adventurers and players – but with the knowledge that a dark mystery remained to be explored with the discovery of an overgrown staircase leading deeper into the hill.

Day 372 of Isolation

What is days? What is space? Oh wait – hang on, I can go outside – ah, nope. Okay, so instead, while in between sorting a few odds and ends out with emails and remote access to some things, I’ve been experimenting a bit with some of the map pack options in Roll20 to make some maps for “just in case” – because if I’ve learned anything over the years, its that players are distracted by the slightest thing faster than you can yell “Squirrel!”

With a roleplay-heavy group like the current DDC, this may not necessarily be a bad thing. I plopped them down in a generic inn map while assembling things and it turned into at least two sessions of them making breakfast for each other, singing, and trying to teach a tiefling to catch apples with their tail. All the derailments so far have been purely character-chat – aside from the sudden desire to go find a training ground to practice combat.

Fortunately there are a great number of free map graphics made up. They’re searchable through the assets menu, but these all take time and I couldn’t find anything generic enough.

In the end I used a semi-random map for that particular moment. It did prompt me though to have a look at the various map pack options available to purchase through the Roll20 marketplace – rather than so many of the pre-made pretty options.

I ended up with three that look fairly flexible in that they are modular graphics with connectors – I can use the layers to blend the rough edges and the intended size and proportions so far have been quite user-friendly. I

‘ve been practicing with the Stone Building set to make some sort of generic mansion layout. Its not for a particular planned encounter, but is the sort of thing I plan to archive and keep to hand the next time they try something felonious or otherwise random.

Longtime gamers won’t even blink at the option of felonious in the above paragraph – and as this group has designated the rogue as their financier, I feel entirely justified in making up places that may suffer security lapses in the weeks to come.

Now my only concern is going to be what effect having lots of small graphics for the map will be like as opposed to having a single graphic that I’ve made elsewhere and imported. I’m using .png format graphics, so they should be reasonably swift but I’ll report when I start using them in anger. The other difference is that the group is currently five players plus myself, as opposed to the eight or so that the previous Wartorn Campaign had – I’m hoping this imposes a much lower hit on bandwidth and loading times.

The Gamers Return

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Maybe, when I retire, I’ll buy a pub and dedicate it to good food, good cask ale, and games. Pretty much every roleplay game has pubs or bars as a staple recurring part of their scenery, and I’d like to reflect that – though dressing bouncers as Orc barbarians may be pushing it a bit.

I’m minded of this because we restarted the ongoing D&D game this evening, and the group (who already own a pub in the game) have just picked up a group of mercenaries that I suspect may become an ongoing feature if they don’t get slaughtered first.

Case in point: this evening was mostly inspired by an off-the-cuff remark by one of my players about how Sir Richard Attenborough’s character in Jurassic Park was probably really a necromancer summoning and reanimating the dinosaurs from their blood in the amber. With that in mind they encountered large reanimated fossil dinosaurs and the majority of the game revolved around beating these hardy specimens into submission.

They really should know better than to go putting ideas into my head…