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…
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.
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…
We didn’t stream, but we did play this evening, and ran video through Discord so we could see most of our faces as video and mental states allowed. It was a gentle enough session – rounding things up from the last one as they searched the huts belonging to the Blinded Eye hags.
I dropped some plot hooks in there about Kerne’s sister, introduced them to the Winter Knight who serves Queen Mab and got them swiftly home for well deserved humour, welcome, and a thorough telling off by Tanglefinger.
So, that’s the stage set for what I’m calling Year Two of the DEC’S adventures.
We are three hours from the return of the DDC – and I’ve just spent an afternoon crafting fun things for them to encounter if all goes well, or things go sideways. I’ve also just sent them a voice recording of Tanglefinger wondering where they are on our group chat. What’s the worst that could happen?
Meanwhile I’ve also been making some new design to go on tshirts – while they rework how they handle accepting new items and advertise them in different markets Amazon have throttled the number of new designs I can submit – but the link at the top of the page should show you the ever expanding collection of designs and items – go have a look, maybe you’ll see something you like the look of.
Oh, the message Tanglefinger sent? “They’re still not home, they’re still not home, where are they? They were only going down the pub! Hmm, well they’d better bring me some beer back is all I have to say.”
Come join us this evening on www.twitch.tv/jedileah at about 7.30pm to find out what happens next – at about the same time that I do.
Valenia dreams of the hunt. She dreams of tracking her prey with Raine at her side, and her pack close by. It is a simple dream. It is a comfort dream, and it is a dream she shares with Raine. Their dreams are one, with visions overlapping and complementing as they close in on their quarry. They sidestep traps and treacherous terrain. They leap across rivers and weave through trees until they see their target. They are with someone, someone who is bent with teeth at their prey’s throat and who locks eyes with them as they approach.
Odif dreams in shades of grey and flashes of colour. The kindly dragon, the furry man, the wolf woman, the horned cuddles are all there. He is happy.
Caeluma sees their infernal father reaching for them and the holy symbol on their chest. His presence fills their lungs with brimstone, and leaches the strength from their limbs. In a cage at his belt Caeluma sees their mother. Beside it is an empty one with their name on it. As the demonic claw reaches for them, a bright hand intercepts, pushing the infernal one away. Gerlon the Morrowheart, Caeluma’s celestial patron, moves between them and forces the demonic presence back. The Morrowheart’s feathered wings spread to match Caeluma’s father’s leathern ones and the stench of brimstone is replaced with clean summer breezes and the promise of rest. Caeluma wakes, Shriken nestled against them in the shade of a tree, and a single enormous golden feather as long as his forearm resting on their chest.
Kerne dreams of sisters – the Unburned Child and the Feytouched Warlock – and of her own flight from angry and scared villagers. She sees her younger sister learn to fade from sight and move unchallenged, aiding those in need. Her older sister walks in living landscapes and eternal dusk where time flows strangely in all directions. In a hut covered by snow, Kerne sees her brewing potions under the watchful eyes of hunched and dark eyed women. Kerne looks down at her own scaled hands and sees coiling serpentine energies running through her flesh, remaking her from moment to moment. A butterfly lands on her claw, and is still there when she opens her eyes.
Shriken dreams of flying. He dreams of catching up eating butterflies that have prettier wings than his. He dreams of breathing his breath of happiness in everyone’s faces while they sleep to bring them pleasant dreams. He dreams of sleeping curled round his master’s shoulders on a cold night beneath the trees. Shriken thinks he’s dreaming – but he’s never really been able to tell the difference.
The game returned last night and – what do you mean there was a missing week? Can’t be! Well, time does flow strangely in the Feywild, so maybe it spilled over into our world a little.
Anyway, a Midsummer’s Night’s set of dreams got underway – also known as the DM having an opportunity to throw foreshadowing, prophecy, insight, and just plain teasing into the mix. It provoked thought and controversy, but also some chuckles – and then they went on their way along the path and found themselves back in Eberron in the swamps.
The obligatory battle came courtesy of more clockwork horrors made by the artificer they’ve been pursuing – in this case spiders and a troll – and these were relatively swiftly dispatched, but not without some serious injuries along the way.
I’ll do some additional posts detailing some of the dreams, as I rather like some of the writing.
I’ve enjoyed starting to stretch my range in the Sunday games with the voices I use as the DM – my whole style has become more descriptive over the years anyway; but there’s something about the performative aspect of our game as we stream it that seems to be inspiring me to playfulness.
One of the recurring voices that I now have to keep remembering is that of Tanglefinger the Boggle. I love the reaction I get from people when he appears in a scene. While thinking about how I make his distinctive sound, I realised that there are some physical motions I do to make him come to life.
First, I hunch my shoulders and lower my head a bit. I wrinkle my nose up, and draw my upper lip back to reveal my canines, and just let his snide, shifty, nasal snark roll out but not before taking a swift breath so he sounds slightly breathless.
If there’s a character he’s based on, it would be Kreacher the house elf but with less condescension and more playful sass and misdirection. I vary his pitch between stronger presentation when responding to people, and then semi subvocalised asides as he adds things sort of under his breath to see if he can sneak amendments to instructions.
Tanglefinger’s a chaotic creature of fairy stock born from the loneliness of a child, and embodies mischief. He’s a great excuse to be utterly outrageous.
The game last night went really well, keeping a pace and direction that many, I suspect, would see as traditional adventuring. We completed the fight that we’d had to leave halfway through last week against spider and spider-themed opponents and then as they pressed on, the DDC found their way barred by a manticore and a wyvern.
Under other circumstances this might have felt like a random set of monsters, but a bit of flavour (branded sigils relating to the current BBEG) led to a feeling among the players that these were deliberate attempts to block their path
Just As Planned
The last few weeks has generally been a series of medium difficulty encounters in quick succession to both use up limited resources and spells, and to reinforce that the adventurers are now pretty experienced and competent.
It seemed only right, with the timing of the session, to therefore allow them to rest in a quiet bower in the Feywild before closing in on The Coven of the Blinded Eye. They’ve just been warned that approaching the hags will take them through the territory of a wicked dragon, so there’s that to look forward to.