Short Story: Coal

In his dreams, Coal hears screams and the clink of chains rattling and sliding. Formless flashes of colour resolve into a series of static and disjointed scenes. His mind and body feel trapped in ice, unable to move or affect the parade of images forcing themselves on his mind’s eye. A cold lassitude lies on him, stealing his focus.

He sees the Last War, and the fighting in the streets against the risen dead. He remembers the sorcerous warriors clad in bone. The maniacs who slew the living and commanded their corpses, and the hatred in their eyes. He sees the Titans released. He sees buildings broken, bodies everywhere. He knows them.

Then he sees a face with horns curving from its temples. He hears shouts. He hears metal striking metal and the crackle of flames, and his eyes grow heavy.

Coal wakes. He is in a bed, limbs tangled in blankets and sheets. That alone gives him pause. Waking implies sleep and his kind don’t do that. Yet here he is, in a room he knows but rarely rests in.

Every part of him hurts. The enamels and brass-inlaid surfaces of his limbs are cracked, scorched, and riddled with holes. His joints whirr and crunch as he levers himself upright. His body, forged to fight where flesh would fail, has been greatly abused.

The cottonwool thickness shrouding his thoughts still lingers, deflecting his mind’s streams of awareness. The lenses in his eyes suddenly click and refocus, and with new purpose he pulls the sheet away.

The revealed wreckage of his body leaves him numb. There are rents in the steel plates, and missing panels that reveal damaged conduits, pistons, and cables woven to resemble bundles of muscles. There are scratches and gouges everywhere, and the discoloured blooms of scorching. What has happened?

Coal prods and tests the limits of the damage to his body in the morning half-light. With dispassionate care, he ascertains that he is functional and will heal. The act of assessing his own state allows his mind to start to catch up.

He remembers being restrained by dead things with the faces of friends. He remembers the bite of blades, and tubes being driven into him. He remembers the pale wight directing the corpses, and a man dressed in bones. He remembers the other two figures – warforged like himself – telling the wight what needed to be done.

Above all, he remembers the carcass of the reassembled Titan and what they did to him, and why.

His scream startles a cat-sized dragon snoozing in the rafters and it flees the room as fast as its butterfly wings can carry it.

He hears cries of alarm downstairs. Feet pound on the stairs. He is not alone.

The DDC Game Design Theme

We had a great session today, bringing to a head the mystery of where Coal had disappeared to and what had happened to his former compatriots. Last week had brought the group to a war damaged slum, and the zombified remnants of the gang, and a wight that controlled them.

And then this week, as they thinned the waves of zombies out, the wall next to them came down revealing a roughly rebuilt Warforged Titan – a towering engine of destruction from the Last War – which had Coal patched and embedded in it as a jury-rigged power source.

And they fought among the ruins, fighting their fears for Coal, and were triumphant. The wight escaped, but they were able to rescue their companion. A huge victory, all the better for the emotional investment for everyone.

And it’s those connections I’ve been watching build, and encouraging as we go that rises to the queer experience of this set of adventures. There’s an underlying theme of the consciously built family in place of their various fractured backgrounds.

All the characters are outsiders and have bonded together in mutual support and love, but they are adventurers first and foremost. The characters original backgrounds are now being developed with new connections, and I’m enjoying weaving those into the story and hearing my players reactions.

Hearing my description of Coal being literally forcibly enfolded and assimilated into this relic of the military and wars he had fought so hard to reinvent himself away from, there were gasps around the table. There may also have been joking threats from myr s of what might happen if Coal died.

Music to my ears. Passion and determination fought fear and desperation this evening for stakes that felt important to everyone around the table. The discovered family fought the clutches of the abusive past, and won.

DDC Returns this weekend

Game night returns this weekend now that Lady M is more recovered from her surgery. It will be streamed as usual on Twitch and YouTube from 7.30ish on Sunday. There’s a link in the main menu to the YouTube channel if anyone is curious.

Last time, the session ended with a pitched battle in a slum rookery, with zombies swarming the group. A slender unidentified undead warrior had been glimpsed before being scared away by Kerne’s illusions. As he retreated he was heard calling to someone to “rouse the titan!” And shortly afterwards the sound of something heavy could be heard pounding on a nearby wall.

So that’s where we’ll pick up on Sunday.

Sound Levels and Tech Revolts

Well, that certainly happened… we had a lot of fun in the game, but our sound levels were plagued by gremlins at various points so the stream sounds were apparently very vague in places.

Ah well, we’re neither professional or charging so while it’s an annoyance it isn’t the end of the world.

As for what happened? Well there were investigations, hints of ancient atrocities, and waves of zombies pouring out of a crumbling rookery. All that, and Coal is still missing…

The video stream should be available through the YouTube channel link in the menu at the top of the page if you want to sample the chaos.

DDC Merch?

It started as a joke, but to paraphrase Dr Frankenstein… it’s alive! Or Live on Amazon anyway: the first bit of merchandise related to the DDC Dungeons and Dragons group is available to buy from Amazon in the UK right now:

Grave Robbing: The DDC film poster Raglan Baseball Tee

Grave Robbing: The DDC film poster Tshirt

So, that’s a thing that’s happened… More designs are in development, and it looks like I’ll have to stick a bunch of links together in due course.

Didn’t see this coming…

Tug of War

Last night’s session was great fun and a needed quiet moment between adventures. Lady M wasn’t feeling well, so having a session based around down time activities and a local festival meant she could duck out as needed.

Research on their attackers suggested they’d been sent by rivals from Morgrave University: treasure hunters called Mrs Friendly and Mr Nice.

The former is known as a warlock whose patron is one of the Archfae, with a reputation as a master of disguise. The latter is a goblin warrior obsessed with the culture of his Dhaakani forebears. The pair had apparently been in search of the goblin temple that the DDC had explored, and now hold a grudge.

The festival itself kept everyone amused. Caeluma knitted items for local children; Valenia tried out the archery butts. Coal was enticed into dancing, and after initial stumbles became the toast of the event. (Caeluma was moved to tears). Thorin got into an arm wrestling competition and won. There was food, drink, and afternoon teas – and then we had what turned into the highlight of the session: the pub tug of war.

The DDC was equally split between the two teams, and a series of contested strength check successes were required to win. It was close-fought, with Valenia and Thorin on one team, Coal and Caeluma on the other. In the end, with much cheering and relief, Thorin and Valenia’s team won.

It was utterly exhausting, but great fun for everyone.

Winged It

I had so many tech issues yesterday when I wanted to prep for the game. Both laptops decided it was time for multiple updates and reboots so preparation time was technically reduced to about forty five minutes. This was an issue because one of the players for the Goblin game was unavailable and so we were going to flip back the main story. Which I needed to write.

Fortunately I already had a good idea for some creative chaos, and a pre-prepared encounter saved in DNDBeyond, so I added a few elements to existing maps and away we went.

As usual we had the Twitch stream hosted by Lady B, and pushed it through to YouTube as well, and we launched with my giving a brief recap of where we’d left the DDC.

Which is how the weary adventurers, fresh off the train found themselves running to the assistance of a mugging victim, only to be counter ambushed by thugs claiming to be sent by “Mrs Friendly” and “Mr Nice”. As the group had no idea who they were this led to confusion and bloodshed in equal amounts, and the watch arrived to pick up the pieces.

So far so relatively normal, but in getting home they had some new mysteries. A new bench had been placed in their front garden. Thorin’s towels had disappeared when he took a shower. Other items were also found to be missing or jumbled up, and suspicion briefly fell on Shriken the faerie dragon as the mischief maker.

Which was when Shriken led Caeluma to an upstairs room where a new item of furniture had appeared – and quickly revealed itself to be a mimic when disturbed. A very chaotic and messy battle then broke out, including the revelation that some minor objects recently found while tidying up were also juvenile mimics.

And of course the heroes won, but they were very confused… Go have a listen for more details.

Return of the One-Shot

For those who haven’t seen the streamed games, here’s the story so far:

The rural township of Gobblett lies in the shadows of the mountainous borders of Droaam – a nation of monsters that in this small corner consists largely of goblins.

The characters in this standalone adventure are all from the township, having ventured out into the world in search of riches. They have returned for the midwinter feast and a hefty portion of the first session was spent establishing their links with the villagers and some of the notable inhabitants.

Then a lone shepherd appeared on the main green, pursued by elves wearing the insignia of the fanatics known as the Silver Flame. The adventurers leapt to defend the village and drove off the elves. The badly injured shepherd warned of a force of the fanatics approaching with the goal of stealing away the village’s children to raise them within the church’s workhouses.

The players had roughly 36 hours to prepare for the invaders.

That was last week. This week’s session saw the raising of lengths of crude palisades and ambush points prepared. The artillerist assembled an eldritch cannon with a view of the main green, while the village families retreated to the Chief’s rambling mansion and barricaded the doors and windows.

Blue-green skinned goblin with green dreadlocks clutching a rifle. She wears white clothing and steampunk styled accessories

The totally unsporting mercenaries that comprised the main assault arrived by flying boat – two skiffs each containing five warriors accompanied by a berserker, and the mercenary captain in addition in one of the boats. A direct hit by spells forced one of the boats to crash just inside the palisade while the other stayed aloft so that the troops could fire from above.

While the battle raged largely across the green and nearby alleys, there was a sudden screech from above, and a large green winged lizard flew across the rooftops. A figure on the dragon’s back cut cords on sacking, releasing dozens of small packages across the township before the dragon flew off.

The adventurers focused on defeating the mercenaries, and as the session ended noticed that the brightly wrapped presents had been moving slowly toward the mansion and surrounding buildings. Some had already made their ways down chimneys and through windows, and now there were sounds of disturbance.

And to top it all off, the dragon could be heard screaming in the distance…

So, no pressure for next week.

And We’re Back

Merry Christmas everyone, much food and drink has been consumed and a state of pleasant befuddlement has been enjoyed. All this despite the last minute lockdown.

We spaced out presents through the day, and enjoyed spoiling each other rotten in the unexpected quiet.

And then this evening we ran an online version of what I’d been planning as a tabletop one shot – or at least the beginning of one – in what I’ve started calling the one point five shot session.

It is a goblin themed one shot, set in a goblin village. We have:

  • Truxi the Bard played by Lady M
  • Angre the Wizard played by myr s
  • Dranverk the Barbarian played by the cub
  • Morrus the Monk played by Lady W
  • Meekface the Artificer played by Lady B

All the characters are goblins, and this has given license for a certain degree of silly voices in the stream and for some reason 80s and 90s-themed football references to the retired hero, now brewer, called Cann Tonna and his missing rival Red Knapp who disappeared while raiding the New Castle to the North.

If it weren’t for the lockdown we would get out more.

Oh, and a goblin scout was chased into the village and shot down by elves wearing the insignia of the Silver Flame before the goblin heroes could drive them off. In two days a force of these fanatics will raid the village. They will attempt to steal away the goblin children at the height of the Winter Festival.