We managed to get most of the DDC together this afternoon in East Brighton Park to celebrate the birthdays of Mre B and myr s – despite the best efforts of my satnav to take us along every B road between us and there rather than using the motorways.
I chose to treat lightly its choice to direct us through the village of Faygate, or to keep telling us to “stay straight” along the road.
I managed to dissuade Lady M from buying the complete stock of our local Tesco too, as she went into mother hen “feed everybody” mode. I’m not saying that her anxiety was becoming infectious, but I swear I saw people hurrying to buy what we’d left on the shelves like it was toilet paper at the beginning of lockdown.
There was a play park for the cub, a tree to partially shelter from the elements under, and cupcakes and a cupcake cake that ended up being served into cups for distribution. All par for the course really.
We’re home now, tired and glad of having had a quiet time together, enjoying each other’s company without feeling a need to perform or fuss. Nice.
We’ve got two people in the DDC with birthdays next week: myr s and Mre B so we’re trying to organise a joint socially distanced gathering to distribute gifts and just have a catch up. We’ve not managed to snag or kidnap absolutely everyone, but we’ll have most of us. Just not quite enough for me to produce dice and books and tell everyone to roll for initiative.
I’m not sure whether scheduling a game or a gathering is more tricky – its feeling about level odds at the moment.
We’ve been trying to arrange it for a while, but yesterday we managed to surprise Lady M with an unannounced visit by myr s and Lady B, and then consensually kidnapped Lord S to drag him away from his opera practice. In short order we then had most of the DDC in our flat, and never have we been so grateful for having so many sofas.
With advance knowledge of when they were arriving I was able to have the kettle going and suitably obfuscation their arrival so that myr s was able surprise Lady M with a massive bunch of flowers – and nearly launch her out of her skin. Saying Lady M can be startled easily is something of an understatement.
We exchanged various gifts, chattered away, and the afternoon sped into evening with barely a pause. Lady M, myr s, and I were also able to put on our rings for each other too – much delayed by lockdown.
It was just so good to finally get us all back together – some of us for the first time – and those of us who haven’t really been out much during lockdown I think at times found it overwhelming. Here’s to it fast becoming a more normal thing again.
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.
Being separated is hard, but we’re doing our best to keep as chipper as possible. The DDC is helping lift our spirits and support all round, but its still no substitute for when we can get our polycule back together.
In theory, we can after relaxation of restrictions were announced, but given how high infections and deaths are – exceeding what they were when we went into lockdown – there’s a wariness of believing the UK government’s competence and motives. In some ways this makes it even harder, but we’ll get through and it’ll be all the better for it when we do.
In the meantime, I finally had delivery of a set of rings that the core triad of myself, Lady M and mre S wanted to adopt to signify our link. We had some issues with a lost shipment and needing to reorder among the chaos of lockdown, but we finally have three simple matching rings that are staying in their boxes until we can all get together. They’re enamelled steel with the polyam symbol etched and painted on them – simple, discrete, and one more reason to hope for better times to come.
I was talking to a colleague yesterday after an LGBTQ+ staff network Teams meeting about the DDC and our gaming group.
On describing the mix of characters and their quirks I was told that it was a group they’d love to read a novel about. I think thats a wonderful tribute to the invention and warmth of the players and their alter egos. My little writeups here barely scratch the surface of what a joy they are to DM and game with.
I was just going back over my notes from the last couple of sessions and admiring how the group has both started to cohere and to realise that they are still learning the ropes, so to speak.
Delving down into damp lower levels was at least a break from the winter snows that had begun to fall in the morning. The first chamber was marked by a series of statues of ancient deities of sky, earth, and stone and Wall paintings of both Dhakaani (ancient goblin) pastoral scenes and of the passage of their souls to the afterlife of Dolhurr.
There were also four human skeletons in the chamber, each missing their hands in what looked like executions. The heavy doors leading further were sealed with chains and a massive lock. Runes in Abyssal were written on the seal praising the Dragon Below. With little else to go on, a mixture of lock picking and brute force soon saw the way open.
The noise attracted the reanimated skeletons of the goblin guards, but this time the group was able to despatch them quickly with only one minor hiccup. This came when the Dragonborn Kerne chose to breath poison on the skeletons, only to find that they were immune.
The weapons of the guards were made of byeshk metal, a rare ore that made weapons capable of driving off creatures from Xoriat and so these were quickly distributed among the group, just in case. A quiver of magical arrows was also found, and the shafts of bone and obsidian were divided up among the archers in the group.
This just left a strange lever that didn’t seem to have any noticeable effect despite resistance when pulled and some doors that opened up into a wide hallway with more skeletons near the far end against one of the walls.
In their eagerness to investigate, two of the group set off a swinging spiked bar that swept across the hall before resetting. Being hit by it didn’t kill them, but did make them realise what had broken the bodies they found themselves scattered among.
There then followed a period of searching for the trigger and how to circumvent setting the trap off again that led to a series of assisted acrobatic and athletic maneuvers to cross the hallway to relative safety, where the group huddled up against the opposite door to catch their breath and mend their wounds.
Things learned: poisoning undead rarely works, the effects of levers aren’t always obvious, and always check for traps in entry corridors.
Who knows what discoveries they’ll make this week?
Life continues to ebb and flow in its complexities, but the DDC continues to be a creative and entertaining source of comfort, support, and humour in all the oddness around us.
Our latest set of things has been creating quizzes and games to play through shared screens in Discord. Whoever is running the quiz sets up a PowerPoint document with questions and answers revealed in turn, while everyone works together to find the answers. Mre B created the template based on their running similar things with their friends, and myr s has taken up the baton to create rounds tailored to our various strengths and foibles.
Roughly once a week we gather of an evening to play. We start with general levity, and yet despite there not being any competition between players, there’s soon a very serious air as people try to identify TV theme tunes from sight reading music, interpret kinks by their formal clinical names, identify pop culture characters from pets dressed up as those characters, and puns based on shows where one character has been changed – and that was just for starters.
Lateral thinking, chat, and everyone trying to resist googling any answers – a fun combination that is proving as much a draw as the weekly Dungeons and Dragons session.
Oh, and then we used Roll20 to make a Trivial Pursuit board and grabbed four different sets to make a monstrous random hodgepodge of topics from Star Wars, Stranger Things, Harry Potter, and a general family edition. That got very silly, very fast. We’ll have to do that again…
Lady B has been secretly assembling a range of gifts to distribute among the DDC – literally, as she has a 3D printer. Today a care package arrived.
Both Lady M and I received a prison for misbehaving dice, a pedestal for favoured dice, and a nameplate. The vox also contained a dice-rolling tray, an Eberron DM shield, a card game, and a glass bottle with four red dice in it, representing a potion of healing. Our geekery levels just jumped significantly.
We really are very lucky, and its been a lovely bonus as we head into the weekend.
Well its a glorious sunny morning and we’ve all the windows open to let a gentle breeze through the flat. The sound of birdsong is mingling with the chattering of children being walked around the estate and the dull roar of the M3, and an enormous bluebottle flying round the living room trying to find the open windows in front of it.
Okay, the windows being open may be partially to dispel some of the lingering smells of the after effects of the rather chilli-heavy mince dish Lady M cooked last night but thats purely coincidental.
We had another Cards Against Humanity game last night, this time factoring in Doctor Who and Harry Potter among the standard decks, and because there was no one on an absolute roll the scores were pretty even – making for a game that at one point I’m sure we began to think might never end. (We were playing first to twenty with seven of us in the game.)
So having a quiet day of officially not working is good timing as far as I’m concerned. I may do some more prep work for the D&D at some point today, but otherwise sitting and reading, and continuing to chat and be nonsensical with the DDC and anyone else who happens virtually along is the entirety of my plan.