Unused Scenario – The Frustrated Sculptors

I published a map yesterday, based around the idea of a wintery landscape claimed by a couple of stone giants who were perhaps not the best at crafting and sculpting and so had gone looking for quiet in the wilderness to try and find inspiration. There have been some very nice comments from people, both here and on Reddit – I posted the map in r/Inkarnate – which have put a smile on my face. I’m easily pleased.

Anyway, I’ve been toying with the concept a while as a potential encounter, and while I could crowbar it into the current story arc of the DDC, it feels a bit crowded already. So, instead, to match the map from yesterday, here are the HeroForge portraits and tokens and some ideas of how the encounter could be run.

Meet Modjard the Quiet and Midjeed the Lesser, brothers from a reclusive tribe of Stone Giants who live in the Blackcap Mountains. Their people love working stone and crystals to create masterpieces that are rarely seen by the surface world, let alone the wider world. As lesser talents among their folk, Modjard and Midjeed were therefore overlooked and generally not given much attention and so they decided to risk working on the surface to see if that brought better inspirations.

Sadly, the brothers have got a long way to go – they have a certain rough talent, but they will need to work hard to hone it, and they are not patient. Their attempts to create new statues or installations tend to end up flawed, or even fall apart – and the brothers are prone to violent fits of rage in their frustrations.

When encountered then, the adventurers are most likely to be drawn to them by their cries of anger and the sounds of things breaking. Their latest statue has just collapsed all over their supplies and the brothers are blaming each other for the disaster. Modjard blames Midjeed for making the ankles too thin. Midjeed blames Modjard for being sloppy and leaving their supplies flung in a corner behind the workshop area rather than stacking them in the cave as told earlier.

When they spot the adventurers, this can then go several ways. Things could well start getting thrown, first at each other and then at these intruders. Alternatively, depending on how they’re approached, they might start asking the group’s opinion on who is to blame, and shenanigans then proceed from there. The brothers are ordinary Stone Giants – they live a simple life but other than their blind spot of blaming each other for their own shortcomings, they are otherwise quite perceptive. Who knows, they may even hold local lore that the intruders need?

DDC – Draconic Prophecies 8

More cryptic musings from the minds of the dragons of Eberron – and hints of themes and events on the horizon. As ever, as we get to things these could be about I’ll update this entry with what happened in game.

The Axe of the Stone breakers shall smite the plans of Winter – though who can tell where long steps lead? Sweet victory and sorrow, though none can tell the balance while hags plot and plans bubble.

The Draconic Prophecies – Scale 142, verses 7-8

A reference to this arc’s end game, and the stakes and decisions to be weighed.

If the moons’ dark passing sees not the path to EverIce, then Xoriat’s grip fails and Khyber’s coils shift in humiliation

The Draconic Prophecies – Scale 105, verse 10

Words scribbled may gain response, but who are the writers and who the readers? Joy unbridled or fear regained may all hinge on a single lie

The Dracinic Prophecies – Scale 901, verses 2-3

HeroForge – Mr Friendly and Mrs Nice

These two mercenaries were an early thorn in the side of the DDC. They were on retainer to Morgrave University in opposition to the DDC who were retained by Wynarn University – and the plan was originally to have them as a recurring nemesis for the group as they investigated or delved into various mysteries or forgotten sites. That went sideways when the group wanted to go a totally different direction in terms of story and tone – and beyond a bit of a wind up, a social encounter, and an appearance in a flashback the two have gone on the back burner. I may bring them out as a call-back in the Librarian group as they are more associated with Morgrave University in that game.

Mr Friendly and Mrs Nice are neither of these, nor are they married. He is a goblin who hails from a proud line of dhaakani warriors and who tries his best to liberate or preserve the relics of his people. She is a changeling sorceress who is in it for the money. He has a reputation of striking suddenly from ambush, often as exhausted rivals emerge from the temples and tombs they’ve just been raiding. She is known as a consummate spy and infiltrator and mostly only by reputation as nobody is entirely sure that they’ve actually met her or even seen her true appearance

The names of course arose out of a joke while chatting on our Discord server during lockdown. I was teasing the group with upcoming threats – mostly to see what kind of reactions I got to sound out what might work and there was an immediate chime with these two names. The soft and gentle names were seen straight through, and a whole host of suggestions were made about who these mysterious people could be.

As it was, the story went other directions – but they made enough of an impact that while people were trying to assemble all the breadcrumbs in last week’s lore dump, they did wonder just how involved these two might be in the whole mystery. I hadn’t thought to bring them back in – but perhaps, just perhaps, there’s a role for them yet…

DDC – Draconic Prophecies 2

Running a little late in the week, but just squeezing in before the next session, here’s the latest batch of cryptic prophecies for the game, giving story and lore clues in no particular order.

Winter’s howl stuns the Autumn’s son; and witch’s cackle rings aloud. Doorways open, the Fay have come, timed to see a dragon’s head bowed.

The Draconic Prophecies – Scale 1072, chapter 4, verses 1-2

The transformed kith and prisoners kin are captive each in their own way. A reluctant leader jumps in, and chooses joy or new dismay.

The Draconic Prophecies – Scale 371, chapter 3, verses 3-4

This is a fairly simple one, referring to the members of Clan Amberhammer who have been transformed into werewolves by Karkanna Amberhammer and to those members of the Clan who are as yet merely prisoners. Thorin Amberhammer is very reluctantly stepping up to confront the horrors being revealed, and fears that he may have to end the lives of some of his relatives to spare many more.

From where did war forged souls emerge? House Cannith claims to never know. Yet the Lord of Blades sings his dirge, claiming new lights from Dolhurr’s snow.

The Draconic Prophecies – Scale 973, chapter 5, verses 7-9

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?

Write-ups and Sign-ins

So, back to work today following my unexpected derailment with a kidney stone yesterday. That was my body telling me to be sensible in hot weather (like the whole of Saturday at Pride and then a glass or two of wine on Sunday). Cue a day of painkillers, a hot water bottle, and the consumption of my own bodyweight in water to flush everything through.

I had (mostly) meetings spread through the day, but also got asked to put my Staff Network hat on to write up the corporate Pride report for the network. It seems to now be an annual tradition to get me to write such things, and as I was halfway through doing something specifically for the library intranet anyway it was only a quick skip and a hop to turn it into something more extensive and stick some photos in there.

That made for a positive end to the day at work, and since then I’ve caught up on TV and started to set up for a second D&D group to run monthly, with some colleagues from work. That’s a nice little side project. With any luck we’ll also be back into the adventures of the DDC this weekend as well.

Busy, busy.

Plotting

We didn’t have a Sunday game due to a combination of people being unwell, exhausted, or attending the Geek Retreat anniversary – and my own brain fog didn’t help. I’ve made it a priority this week to give myself some time to let my head reassemble itself a bit.

Still, it is also giving me some more time to plot more aspects of the story – or at least the various jigsaw pieces that can be encountered along the way. I have now sort of got an idea of how the story arc is likely to end – or rather an idea of the important choices and dilemmas along the way. How that will all end up being strung together will largely depend on which way the players jump but that is one of the joys of this style of game.

For the next section at least there’s some road travelling and some thematic pieces of world setting and building I want to do. The homeland that Thorin’s backstory is set in saw fierce border wars during the Last War, with territory changing hands many times between the three neighbouring nations. Thorin’s Folk Hero background was born in these lands, and the scars and remnants of battlefields will be looming large. There will be visible remnants of his heroism, and reminders of his failures – and I think as a journey it will prompt a lot of roleplay between the players as we put some meat on the bones that have so far been only lightly addressed.

Thorin left these lands in search of a new start, and reinvented himself almost by accident – now its time to see where he came from.

Alternatively, expect a lot of dick jokes, because that’s positively Shakespearean too.

Unused Scenarios – The Ship That Slays Together

I’ve tried twice to throw this encounter in to the adventures of the last few years, but its never quite managed to either quite fit the action, or has been overtaken by events. The first try was during the goblin one-shot last Christmas where this aeronautic pirate crew were going to be the main villain of the action. We ran out of time on that one, so I kept the encounter loaded up in D&D Beyond as a spare. The second go was during the DDC’s trip on their own flying ship while in pursuit of a mad alchemist who had gone missing, presumed kidnapped. I ended up attacking them with barbarian halflings riding pterosaurs instead, because it fit the flavour of what they were up to at the time and hitting them with a second ship after that felt a bit crowded.

So – the scenario sits in my back pocket and now that the group’s levels have gone up I’ll need to retweak aspects of it. You may find the following entertaining though.

In essence there is a bunch of pirate/slavers with a flying ship. It’s pilot is a swashbuckler from House Lyrandar who works with a wizard, several toughs, a group of warforged, and a big net full of semi-tame mimics. Their method of attack is to fly over isolated settlements and dump out the mimics disguised as gifts which then capture and restrain prisoners so that the crew can descend and carry away their victims. The warforged work as a team to man a large ballista on the ship, only stepping away if needing to defend the deck – so typically all that victims and survivors see is a large shadow overhead, presents dropping from the sky, and then elves descending to steal people away.

This was unashamedly designed as a Christmas encounter. The other switch that wouldn’t necessarily come to light is that the crew is one big polyamorous polycule based on our player group – so the names were similar and the existing relationships and interconnections could be dropped into conversation or hinted at depending on the type of encounter being run. The option was to make this an extended running battle, or a group to be tracked on behalf of devastated communities. In writing this I’ve just thought of another way that this could be used, building on the origins of one lone kobold called Odif.

Anyway, hope this inspires you, let me know what chaos you unleash!

Unused Scenario: Shambling Death

One of the ways that I keep ahead of the players in my games is to design skeleton encounters that can then be slotted in more or less any order depending on where they go or how they choose to deal with a set of situations. For any given arc there will occasionally be bits I end up not using – and in this case due to the utter chaos of the assassination attempt on Thorin in the last few weeks I decided not to use the following scenario that was aimed more at a murder-mystery feel. Its a bit more Agatha Christie meets Dr Who with a side of murderhobo. It felt like it would be a bit too jarring on top of what they had already encountered.

So the unused scenario in this case would have had a series of mysterious deaths through the train – locked room mysteries where the victims all mysteriously died of a wasting disease overnight despite no previous signs of illness. Two of the passengers would begin to look suspicious – a distinguished elven general and his Undying wife – as it was worked out that they had all recently been seen talking with each of the victims.

In the end it would be revealed that one of the luxury suites was retained by a guest who has not been seen – a Deathlock Mastermind transporting three Mummies in a portable hole and using dimension door to access locked rooms. The Mummies under the creature’s control acted as muscle, rotting the victims while they were paralysed with fear and the Deathlock ransacked the room for an artifact wanted by its patron in the Emerald Claw. In the end the common thread of the murdered people would be that they had all adventured together years ago and it was rumoured they split in an argument over something they found.

With only one Mummy seen at a time, having three in the hole would allow for some misdirections and strategic scares with attention on the shambling horrors rather than the fallen warlock flitting around in the shadows.

Ah well – I’m sure its something I can properly develop for another time, but feel free to use and tweak the concept for yourselves.

A Little More Human

I’m ending up the weekend feeling a bit more rested and functional than I have in a while – I’ve even managed to have a bowel movement four days after the operation so I guess I can start acknowledging that I’m full of crap again 😉 I was starting to worry that my body was so traumatised by the whole experience that I would need to retrain myself.

The quiet worry of it all did end up giving me a headache this morning, I think it was made a bit worse by having agreed to run a one shot game this afternoon using the UnFamiliar kickstarter rules for 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons.

I had only a vague idea of a plot, but had at least knocked up some characters guided by some prompts I’d put into the group chat yesterday.

I ended up pretty much winging it. The background has all four characters being ex-Familiars to a small number of spellcasters who had developed a spell between them to emancipate them.

Lady M played a flying squirrel who used to spy in aristocratic circles. Lady W played a Staffordshire cross that had ended up being a carer for their master in their dying days, the cub joined in with a boisterous frilled dinosaur that knew kung fu, and boy s played a fussy ex lab rat who had picked up alchemy and a few spells along the way.

Their tale involved rescuing a library researcher who had “fallen” into the delivery system and was now trapped in the stacks, locked in a cage as an unauthorised item. Shenanigans ensued.

So, an odd return to the tabletop, but the cub has expressed an interest in playing more, so who knows what will happen next…