DDC – Pack Tactics

Sunday’s game picked up in the morning after the fight with the werewolves and saw the first of many debates about what to do about those cursed with lycanthropy. The two dwarves captured the previous evening turned down accompanying the group, and instead volunteered to go to a nearby trader and pay to be locked in the cellar for the next few nights. They said that they would do this so that they could not bring harm to anyone. They didn’t want to run the risk of turning in the middle of a fight and making things worse. Reluctantly the group agreed and saw them off in the right direction before carrying on up into the mountains. They knew that as long as they followed the river it would broadly take them in the right direction.

Thorin recalled that there was a guard post at Renald’s Creek, about an hour shy of the Amberhammer Hold. Set among the remains of a gargantuan fallen statue known as the Old Titan, it had previously been the site of a fierce battle between militia and trolls in the Last War, and a presence had been kept there ever since. When they got there however, they found the guards and a group of merchants had been slain recently – the tower breached by powerful claws.

As they investigated, they noticed activity in the water below the bridge and saw the remains of several trolls recombining and growing into one huge monstrosity that in swift motion climbed the bank and strode among them. A fierce battle quickly began as the dire troll flailed its many limbs and nearly killed Kerne and Caeluma. Kerne’s potent magics and Caeluma’s trickery allowed the group to stop the creature long enough to put it down – but they were all battered by the end of it.

The group realised that the promised haven of the Hold was unlikely to be friendly, so they decided to pause to patch their wounds and re-fortify the guard tower. This led to new conversations about the nature of lycanthropy and whether Caeluma would be a threat. In turn this led to the revelation that Valenia had also been infected, and the two nascent werewolves discussed privately what they were going to do. They opted for honesty, and volunteered to be separated for the evening and secured to the best of the group’s ability while the remaining adventurers prepared to defend the tower.

Valenia and Kerne talked at length about the legends of werewolves from their lore – bearing in mind that they were supposed to have been wiped out by the Silver Flame some 200 years ago. Neither knew of a sure-fire way to end the curse but did recall legends that if the original werewolf was slain or cured that the curse would be lifted from all who had been afflicted. They debated that this might mean that Thorin’s sister was the origin of this new plague and what decisions this might lead the group to face.

Caeluma and Thorin also talked at length, with Caeluma extracting promises from him that he would look after everyone and would let Coal know how much they loved him. They also asked Thorin to let Arwan know that Caeluma considered them a better cleric than them. Thorin refused to countenance talk of death and loss, insisting that they would all come through this and put all things right.

Arwan dismissed the praise when told, saying that there was no measure of being “better” in such matters – each had gifts and aptitudes the other did not. Thorin privately shared with Kerne and Arwan that he had already considered that he may have to kill his sister and made his peace with that if it became necessary to save his people. On that somber note, they reinforced the barricades, and waited for the moons to rise.

Eberron Draconic Prophecies

We’ve not played this evening as my stomach has decided that today would be a good day to play up – so instead here’s some unused Draconic Prophecy snippets I made up as ancillary things to make the players go ‘ooooh’ and as some world building.

Some context: in the game world of Eberron there is a complex prophecy that touches on all sorts of things that is researched and debated by the dragons of that world and acts in-game as a mcguffin to explain or prompt whatever portentous things the GM wants to have happen – or in other words a nice motivation for dragons or their followers or opponents to get out and cause mischief as needed in the story. Its deliberately left vague for the GMs pleasure.

I decided to write a few verses that could be dropped into the game, or possibly discovered in some dusty tome as the players research things – but they’ve shown a marked tendency in the Sunday game to be entities of action rather than of research, so I may never get a chance to crowbar them in. There is the faint chance that the players will read this and then try their best not to metagame (and good luck to them if so)

So – here are three that should ring bells for anyone who’s been following the game recently:

The inter-twining god serpents’ lights follow the lightning and make slumbering prophecies hatch golden wings. Even madness’ sting deters not the seekers and the passage of the Heir

The Draconic Prophecies – Scale 532, chapter 4, verses 32-33

This refers to the dance of the coatls that accompanied the lightning rail train that the characters rode on as they left Windhaven on their way back to see Thorin’s unwell father. The slumbering prophecies and wings verse is about the vision where Caeluma rejected their bloodline’s demonic patron and sacrificed themself to protect their family – being rewarded with golden wings by their celestial patron as a change to their tiefling features. The sting refers to the assassins sent by one of the factions involved in the underlying conflict they are stepping into

The Seeker of the Mark risks all in the face of the fiercest winter – risking EverIce for the sake of a lost sibling. The Forgotten Mark but slumbers even as lights throng in display

The Draconic Prophecies – Scale 1042, chapter 2, verses 4-5

Kerne has a long-standing interest in rediscovering the lost Dragonmark of Death. They’ve heard that it was something to do with the creation of her people – the dragonborn – and wants to get to the bottom of it, mostly because they enjoy the academic discovery involved. Kerne’s adventures have brought them into contact with The Winter’s Knight – a being of the Feywild/Thelanis that seems to have become the patron of Kerne’s long-lost sister and have driven that sister to studying with Hags. EverIce is an arctic region in Eberron that may or may not have ties to Thelanis or lost civilisations. The Forgotten Mark is the Dragonmark of Death, which is currently completely suppressed by the elves of Aerenal. Kerne discovered a statue that depicts what she thinks may be the Mark. It is currently on loan to the University of Wynarn in Aundair.

Golden wings and divided bow, Amber hammer, scale, and guardian low. The wolves fall back. The shadows smile, and Xoriat watches and waits. The Triumphant Dead numbers lack, yet gather by the mile. A favour for a favour links gates

The Draconic Prophecies – Scale 538, chapter 5, verses 1-5

This is fairly simple in that it identifies everyone currently active in the DDC. The wolves is a reference to the werewolves they just defeated on their way to the Amberhammer Holdings west of Cragwar. Smiling shadows and Xoriat is a vague description of the forces arrayed against them. The Triumphant Dead is a faction that has been encountered once in the recent past working with the Emerald Claw when Coal was used as a power source to reactivate a Warforged Titan in the slums of Windhaven. As the prophecy says, they are small in number but seem to be travelling and gathering allies perhaps. The favour for a favour would be an outright spoiler at this point – watch this space.

So there you have it – three obscure statements that can be read in all sorts of ways and that will certainly get people thinking in the campaign and referring back. I may make a habit of these to drop between sessions as a stinger. That appeals to me and I think it will keep people busy – what do you think?

Cragwar

The Sunday game saw the DDC completing its trip between Marketplace and the dour fortress city known as Cragwar. It nestles in a cleft in the mountains, dominated by brutal fortifications – most notably the thick North to South running curtain walls that could be seen from miles away.

There was no doubt that they had now crossed the border into Breland. The traces of the Last War were still being patched, and there was a grey dourness quite at odds with the bright streets of Windhaven. Conversations were muted, as were many of the colours in common use in the streets. Still, as the main gateway to Breland, it was also a major trade hub.

Most of the population was a mix of humans and dwarves, with a sprinkling of goliaths and half orcs. Thorin recalled that historic battles had been fought against orc and goliath tribes in the mountains – so their presence even in small numbers bored well for peaceable encounters while they travelled.

Arrangements were made to stable their pack animal and cart for a couple of weeks, and ponies secured for the journey into the mountains. They were warned that the roads to the Amberhammer lands were not as widely travelled and certainly not as well maintained as what they had been using.

Of note as well was the presence outside the gates of a large body of armed soldiers and cavalry under the flag of The Silver Flame. The tension between the City Watch and the church knights seemed ready to boil over, so the DDC kept their head down and made haste to leave.

And so, into the mountains and up into chillier temperatures. The howls of wolves in the distance kept them company through the day and they made good time. As the sun set and the full moons rose they came to a wooden bridge that had been set to replace an older broken span. And that’s when they encountered the werewolves.

Considering werewolves are meant to be all but extinct in Khorvaire, this was a nasty surprise. Baying for blood, the werewolves closed on the group despite Thorin’s attempt to hold the bridge and the spells deployed to try and drive them away.

And that’s the cliffhanger we ended on…

DDC on the road

Sunday’s game saw the group on the road in a freshly-bought cart, using dinosaurs as mounts. After an extended journey in the lap of luxury, the minor aches and problems of living rough called for some creative thinking.

First and foremost among that was provisioning, but that was mostly solved with some creative use of the “Create Food and Water” spell, seasoned magically with the aid of a wonderous pouch that magically generates spices and seasonings.

It did lead to the coining of the phrase “holy tofu” to describe the divinely supplied foodstuffs…

Then the practicalities of setting watches meant some opportunities arose both for pranks and some world building.

Late night travellers included one of the steam-driven constructs hauling a merchant caravan owned by goblins, and a cheery wave saw them pass by the camp with no problems. That said, the first evening they were still within settled farmlands rather than the wilds. Travelling further took them past an old battlefield, and into true wilderness.

That’s when the gnoll raiders sprang their trap, and we ended on that cliffhanger.

The Sunday Game

We had a good transitional session on Sunday with the DDC. There were no battles, but we had a lot of opportunities for people to roleplay gently and develop their characters while they sorted out provisions and transport for the next portion of their journey to Thorin’s homelands. The lightning rail had deposited them at the town of Marketplace, not far from the border to Breland, and the beginning of the road to Cragwar to the South.

Farewells were made to travelling companions – passionately so in Valenia’s case – and tables outside a pub by one of the main market squares became an impromptu staging point for the group. Caeluma had their first chance to really stretch their new wings, and so took to the skies before finding a group of aarakocra merchants to seek their advice on the care and maintenance of wings and feathers. They learned the importance of dustbaths, and were sold some high grade dust for a luxury experience.

Meanwhile, Valenia and Arwan went in search of transport – observing various drovers and cart sellers before settling on one selling a range of draft and riding dinosaurs. The sights and sounds brought back fond memories of the Talenta Plains for Arwan, and it tipped the balance towards buying something called a Wideback with heavy plating on its back and a balled tip to its tail to pull the cart, and some clawfoot mounts for Arwan and Thorin so they could act as outriders.

Thorin, after a few drinks, went wandering looking for books – and after a little effort found that the mysterious lurid novels named after him had made their way here too. He signed a copy for the bookseller, who was a fan, and promised to come back and sign the new ones due for delivery soon.

Caeluma, perhaps unsurprisingly, found a new pet. In this case it was a mechanical mastiff known as an Iron Defender – a twin in design to the one they had fallen head over heels with when first meeting the Dean of the Faculty of Goblin History. He dug deep into his pockets, and secured it for himself, much to the bemusement of the rest of the group.

Kerne sat at the table all the while, with a mug of minted tea, and looked after everyone’s coats while they studied and reviewed their adventures.

Valenia also found a postcard to send home to her parents:

No Game Tonight

We’ve got a general approach with the D&D game that if someone is unwell or hasn’t the reserves to play that we pause. While we stream and do charity events, it is after all just a fun thing to do rather than a job.

On a purely selfish level, the creative writer in me is a bit relieved this week as I’d been struggling with story beats and potential set pieces for the next section. I’ve at least been able to use this extra time to do some poking around in various wiki sites like https://eberron.fandom.com/wiki/World_of_Eberron and the various books I’ve accumulated.

I almost have a plan. It could always go sideways if (more likely when) the adventurers go off on a tangent, but I believe they’re invested enough in the story to be curious about where their current path takes them. At the moment that path is taking them to Thorin’s home and a mounting tangle of mysteries.

The summons home came from Thorin’s long-lost sister. His father’s axe was delivered in the mail. A paladin-Inquisitor of The Silver Flame tracked him down and started asking veiled questions about his sister, and now there has been an assassination attempt.

Like the group, I can’t wait to find out what happens next – this really is part of the joy of collaborative play.

Corridor Battle

The Sunday game was a pulse pounding battle in the narrow confines of a moving lightning rail train carriage. Assassins had landed on the roof in the night and attempted to separate the cars before focusing on Thorin. We’d left the previous week as a cliffhanger with Thorin and Valenia desperately fighting for their lives as the rest of the group roused from sleep.

This week saw Thorin fighting one on one with a skilled warrior, trading blows furiously while most of the rest of the group were held at bay by a warlock with an unearthly appearance – with tentacles and spikes instead of hair and slightly scaly skin. A detonated bead of force meanwhile had isolated Thorin from Valenia, who was in turn fighting a desperate battle with an orc assassin who was relentlessly beating her defences down.

The turning of the tide came with Kerne being able to concentrate and perform metamagic to extend the lightning of a witches bolt spell to both the warlock and the warrior fighting Thorin, just as the group’s newest member came crashing through a window. They’d climbed onto the roof, avoided the giant bats that the assassins had used as mounts, and made a supremely successful use of acrobatics to swing down between the attackers. As the group managed to finish off the opponents at that end of the carriage though, they could see Valenia fall beneath the blade of her opponent, joined by an assassin who had previously been kicked off the train.

The forcefield generated by the bead of force evaporated at that point, clearing a path for this newest assassin to press the attack on Thorin, while the first attempted and nearly succeeded in finishing off Valenia. It was only through a supreme feat of endurance that Valenia was able to retain consciousness and gulp down a healing potion they had bought before they left home. She barely evaded the attempt to finish her and was able to make a desperate shot with her bow as she lay on the floor to slay her opponent.

Thorin, utterly enraged at this point, was able to slay this new assassin with a fearsome display of prowess and as everyone stood, bloodied and exhausted we ended the session there.

Next week? Well who knows – at the very least some investigations in the aftermath…

Dinner on the Lightning Rail

We had a good D&D session last night, returning after a couple of weeks where people were unwell. The mighty adventurers are facing possibly their toughest challenge yet: high society. Travelling long distances takes many forms, but by far the most comfortable available at this moment for them is the Lightning Rail run by House Orien – and so they have joined the train in first class, along with a new member of the group and have some time to kill.

Its been a good excuse to pull back from the action and adventure and spend some time with the players reintroducing themselves and doing some reflective roleplay as they get used to both the new surroundings and people. Sometimes railroading can be a useful tool, and this has been very popular with the players as I’ve checked in after the sessions. Their biggest worry has been to decide on what to choose from the menu. Their biggest dilemma has been wine versus cocktails. Their main concern has been how drunk the dwarf barbarian might be getting…

I’m really enjoying going to town with the world-building in this little travelling location, and the players (and the characters) are enjoying it all too – watching the little wonders of the world pass by while retired generals and robust noblemen drink brandy and smoke cigars in the lounge car, and an undead elf tells a dragonborn sage tales of the fall of the goblin empires in the saloon. A tiefling warlock knits scarves in their cabin while their familiar snoozes with a hoard of table scraps, and hangovers are something that won’t happen until the next session…

Polycule Assembled

It feels like it’s been a very long day – in no small part because I was sick again and with guts back in turmoil. Fortunately its been long enough that I was able to sort out the stool sample – and that’s an experience that little can prepare you for – and so was able to restart the medication to help settle it all back down.

Then we had everyone descend on the flat for our first tabletop game in ten weeks or so and that was a joy that filled the rest of the day with laughter and gossip. Everyone had downtime so we used that to catch up on what the adventurers had been up to.

Caeluma had been running their knitwear stall in the market and had been making a steady profit as winter nights rolled in and temperatures dropped.

Thorin had returned to his pitfighting career and been successful, but not without accusations of cheating that we worked into him adopting a heel persona for the ring.

Valenia commissioned an improvement for her bow and gathered some of the rarer ingredients in between babysitting Odif.

Coal disappeared for a few weeks and came back somewhat richer after a heist targeting a corrupt merchant.

Kerne buried themself in decoding the tomes retrieved from the coven of hags that detailed Kemsler’s travails and revealed that her sister Faye had been training under the hags before double crossing them at the behest of her Archfey patron: The Winter’s Knight.

And baby Odif? Well he’s growing fast and is no longer a toddler, being nearer in maturity to a human ten year old and showing a fascination in building traps and devices. Egged on by Tanglefinger the Boggle, there was hijinks and chaos for all.

Then we started the story, which led them to the Winter’s Fair at the University and the start of a number of small encounters – from Caeluma successfully arguing the interpretation of a mummers play with a professor of theology to Valenia duelling an Undying swordsman from the Elven Court of Aerenal and receiving a silvered scrimshaw knife as a gift.

We’ll see where we pick up in our next session. Hopefully we won’t have as long a break.

Oh, and it was of course Halloween so we threw sweets from the balcony for the organised kids walk on the estate – and hardly brained anyone in the process.

Missing The Game

One of the casualties of our moving all in together, for now at least, has been our regular Sunday game of D&D. That’s why there haven’t been any updates on that front.

We’ve thought of various ways of accommodating the new arrangements: from being in different rooms and hoping the flat’s bandwidth can keep up; to adopting a tabletop, camera, and mini microphone combination with discord and twitch Heath Robinson invention.

I think what we’re probably going to revert to is a once a month or so meeting in person, at least for now. I’m missing playing and DMing intensely but its further down the priority list than the logistics of blending our households right now.

It does give me time to do some writing for the next phase of the game though, and make some maps and encounters online for reference. There will be a small time leap to give the characters some downtime – which allows them to make some plans, and me to throw in plot devices.

If reading that doesn’t make them clamour to get started sooner so that I have less time to plot, I don’t know what will…