Map – Abandoned River Hut

This is another map that I went back to review following the most recent update to Dungeon Alchemy. It’s a simple location that I could use for any number of random encounters or set pieces and the original map is still set up as a fairly generic location. This one is set in a snowy landscape with an icebound river flowing through it.

Overhead view of a map showing a snowy landscape. An abandoned hut is on the left, and large boulders are on the right. A river full of broken ice flows roughly top to bottom of the image. A small wooden bridge crosses the river around the middle of the image.

The hut is a ruin, and along with the tall piles of rock and trees its a location with lots of cover and opportunities for ambush and for different elevations. You can tell its an early map as I’ve not tweaked it to have much in the way of environmental storytelling – but in some ways that makes it generic enough to be used however you want.

I’ve created a zipped file ( ) with the graphic above and the text file generated on export for lighting information. The file is formatted for Roll20, but the graphic itself could be imported into any virtual tabletop of your preference. Have fun!

NPCs – Kobolds Everywhere

I’m not sure what it is about kobolds – those little dragon-dog-people with big toothy smiles who are small and clever and always popping up everywhere doing unexpected things when not carrying off livestock or trying to be noticed by real dragons. In Dungeons and Dragons they’re some of the weakest creatures individually in the game, and yet I’ve had tribes of these little critters give experienced players a really hard time. The secret is that they love to tinker and set traps. In 5th edition particularly they’ve been allowed to grow from something of a joke to a more rounded set of beings that work well together and have an egalitarian approach to overcoming life’s difficulties that is hard to resist.

As player characters, or significant non-player characters, kobolds have a similar charm to me as goblins – there’s perhaps not as much baggage to kobolds though. Kobolds don’t have the weight of Tolkien as a legacy and perhaps that’s why the tales of mine spirits have evolved into terrier-like mischief makers. The DDC has adopted a kobold baby – Odif – and there’s a new kobold in town by the name of Ufot Yloh, but I’ve also been tinkering around in Heroforge to make some new faces that may turn up in a game some time.

I’ve not given them any names other than Kobold Sorcerer and Kobold Artificer as yet. Sorcerers are natural casters of magic empowered by a draconic bloodline, so it made sense that a kobold would occasionally start being able to fling fireballs given their similar lineages and appearances. The Artificer is a natural extension of the kobold love of traps and inventions – so the appearance of a blunderbuss-style weapon in the hands of one seemed to fit their general feel.

I’m not sure how I’ll use them – maybe a one-shot delving into Odif’s lost family at some point. That has a certain appeal as it would be a very different feel from the adventures of the DDC. Maybe an adventure where all the players are Odif’s tribe and they’re hunting down the people who stole him away. That has a nice ring to it…

As ever, feel free to copy and use these tokens in your own games – and I’d love to hear stories of their adventures…

Memories – Dungeons and Dragons

I remember the first time I played Dungeons and Dragons – it was the early eighties and my Dad had a copy of the Basic box set. I must have had sight of it to read before hand and read it through but we didn’t play until one afternoon when my uncle and aunt, and some friends of my parents were round (I think) – and we played through the introductory adventure in the rulebook. It was a simple thing by today’s standards – lights seen in a deserted tower, brave adventurers investigating, bandits (or possibly goblins) lying in wait.

I played as a first level wizard and was killed by a giant spider – which was a bit disappointing as the whole concept of a character that could improve from game to game had me hooked. Barring playing another game where my Dad put on a game for me and some friends for my birthday that was it until I sold my brothers on the idea of playing. It all kind of bubbled along from there.

Going away to boarding school was the time that roleplay games really got their teeth into me – there was a Wargames club that embraced this new phenomenon and suddenly I had a steady roster of fellow misfits to play along with. Dragons were slain, mistakes were made, and a slew of new legends populated our conversations. I may have struggled sometimes to get the hang of economic theory and physics equations, but probablity calculations and mental arithmetic became second nature – and I could recite whole blocks of statistics and rules interpretations.

In retrospect I got a bit fixated on the game systems and the minutiae of the rules and features and how to interpret and present them in a narrative. I also found friends and a camaraderie that insulated me from the wider pressures of not being particularly bothered about sporting activity in a school environment that positively idolised it.

We met to play most days – a few hours here and there as time allowed in the afternoons between rugby, cricket, or cross-country running. The problems of scheduling times to meet didn’t exist because we were at a boarding school – there wasn’t anywhere else to go and this was a form of rebelilon that didn’t require hiding in bushes to avoid teachers, or persuading people to buy things we weren’t old enough to get for ourselves.

As a very closeted baby queer, it also opened my eyes to the concepts of choosing our own selves and values. In the game I could be flamboyant or hidden, a rogue or a paragon – and doing so wasn’t reliant on family or circumstances beyond what we could make for ourselves. It was aspirational and non-judgmental – and most importantly was played by people who banded together against a rigid push to behave in some arbitrary “normal” way that absolutely held no draw for any of us. We were a band of outlaws in our own eyes. We were polite and generally well-mannered rebels who each had our own peculiarities and just wanted to be left alone to get on with things.

There was no stigma to exploring new personas, gender expression, or sexuality – in some ways that felt like just window dressing to the experience of exploring these fantasy worlds and beating the villains. There may be a degree of rose-tinted spectacles over these memories but it is what has stuck and what has informed my journey onward and my expectations of the tables I play at and the people I play with.

An expectation of openness and acceptance for all at the table became part of my expectation of the people in my life – and perhaps there’s a measure of the valiant knight protecting the land that has come forward in how I try my best to champion and support the people around me at work and in my home life.

Today I went to see the new Dungeons and Dragons film – Honour Among Thieves – and was overjoyed at the energy and acceptance, the humour and the heart, the detail and the warmth that permeated the whole thing. Its been a hot minute since I’ve seen a film, got home, and wanted to go straight back out to watch it again. The found family of imperfect losers scheming and trying their hardest to do the right thing through increasingly over-complicated and morally dubious schemes just chimes with the gaming and life experiences of the boy I was, and the very odd man that I’ve grown to be. That’s no small thing for me.

NPC Tokens – Assorted Duergar

I may have mentioned once or twice that I use Heroforge to play with design idea for bit players and encountered beings in my tabletop games – and that I also find it a good way to unwind when my brain is going nineteen to the dozen. I can play with settings and pieces like some virtual clay or lego model set and let the worries ease away. That’s why I’ll often do a run of related or similar pieces as I create something I like and then try some variations to see what else I can do.

With the ongoing mix of opposing factions in the Sunday game, I thought I’d create some tokens for more duergar – a set of dwarves who retreated deep underground and became stranger with exposure over the years to oddness down there in the depths. So far the group has only encountered a few in person, but they were allies to the mindflayers that took over the land for a while. They were very much junior partners in the coup, but several got away and have evaded capture as they try to get back to their own territory below the mountains.

So I made some figures that might either be part of some form of raiding party or might become a more detailed antagonist. From left to right we have a sorceror, a scout, and a warlock. The first and last of those wield magic, while the scout is a lightly armoured foot soldier armed with an axe tasked with infiltration and sabotage. The difference between a sorceror and a warlock is that the former has naturally occurring magic due to their bloodline which often traces back to a dragon. A warlock has made a pact with some sort of entity in return for their power. These entities can be forgotten gods, devils, beings from outside time and space, or a creature from the Feywild.

From what I was saying earlier about creating variations on a design to see what changes, you can easily see that the scout and sorceror were made one after the other as the basic pose is the same with just changes in clothing, gear, hairstyle and facial expressions. It just goes to show how effective even minor changes can be to both create a different impression and also create similar looks for affiliated group using a uniform.

As ever, feel free to grab any of these for your own games – as far as I’m concerned I’m using someone else’s tools and efforts to assemble these so I’m pretty sure I’d be breaching terms and conditions to charge for them anyway – and have fun!

DDC – On The Hunt

We were a bit late starting as it was one of those days where people’s work/life balance needed attending to but the group took stock of the revelations of the previous day and tried to work out what to do next. Kerne went to hit the library to do some research on trolls and their usual habitats and tactics, while Caeluma sent their familiar to attempt to get through to Flower Town. The assertation by Deadeye Alice that the trolls had “eaten Flower Town” needed to be verified – especially as the House Sivis outpost was based there, and any plans to get calls out for help would be stymied if that was the case.

Looking back at Valenia’s previous patrols, they decided to investigate signs of activity at the old mill near the north-west pass. Valenia had seen signs of smoke but not looked any nearer – now was as good a time as any to remedy that. Valenia, Thorin, and Arwan duly set out across the plain and made good headway. Arwan felt that there was something flying overhead at a great height, but couldn’t make out what it was – but the mystery was soon solved. At an old bridge in the middle of some woods, Arwan’s keen hearing made out the beat of leathery wings coming closer – and a wave of fear spread over the group as the green dragon Fellestri finally caught up with them.

Thorin was able to resist the dragonfear and challenged Fellestri’s presence in his lands – but the dragon replied that he had a score to settle with “you breakers of promises” and as he flew over them he breathed a gout of poison across them all. Thorin was able to wound the dragon with a thrown axe, but Arwan was too shaken by the creature’s frightful presence to be able to shoot straight. They summoned a spiritual weapon to fight at range instead, which had some limited success. Despite the fear, Valenia was able to land some shots, and that enraged Fellestri.

A low swoop across the battle field saw Arwan and Valenia knocked to the ground from the beat of Fellestri’s massive wings, and a tail slap knocked Valenia tumbling even further. She was able to avoid grasping claws as the dragon then took back to the skies and more shots and magic provided a more determined resistance than Fellestri had been expected. Surprised at how much more powerful they were compared to the last time they had met, Fellestri paused in the sky, and said this had become far more interesting – before flying off in an easterly direction.

Significantly wounded, but still upright, the DDC bound their w ounds and decided to at least press on and check the mill before returning. They met no further trouble and within another couple of hours had found what they were looking for. The mill had been converted into a forge, and several large figures could be seen moving inside. Valenia was able to sneak close enough to identify three trolls, plus a fourth that seemed to be oozing from its skin. One of the trolls in the forge was rubbing arrow heads on that one’s skin, coating them as if with some form of venom. A fifth, more human-sized, figure was working the forge but Valenia didn’t want to risk being seen and so she retreated.

They decided that they needed reinforcements, and so with a small degree of caution they made their way back to the Hold, through the small shanty town starting to spring up below it, and back to their companions to share what they had found.

Kerne meanwhile, had been able to placate and talk Karkanna round following their recent brushes with death. The group is still divided as to whether Fellestri or Karkanna was the scariest encounter of the session…

NPCs – The Eladrin

I got a bit sidetracked making the Winter Eladrin assassin for last week’s game and enjoyed reading about how these elves physically and supernaturally change as their emotions ebb and flow – changing them into one of four distinct types each time they rest. These overwhelming emotions correspond to seasons:

Spring eladrin are flighty and happy, positive and lighthearted. The Summer eladrin is brave and powerful, bringing confidence and righteousness. The Autumn eladrin are kindly and full of good will, while the Winter eladrin are mournful and morose.

So I may have had some fun in Heroforge to make some tokens up for future adventures as the faerie realms and the nature of stories weaves into the regular game. They seem to be a useful piece of the storytelling puzzle that change their appearance and nature as much as you might expect of creatures of such an inconstant realm…

Map – The Bone Plain Meeting Place

This eerie and frigid plain of bones hosted the first meeting of the DDC and the Annis Hag known as Deadeye Alice, and was described as a neutral ground in the Feywild where deals could be offered. It was also within the boundaries of the territories of the Winter’s Knight, and offered a glimpse of the future he sought for their homeland.

Overhead map view as described in the text below this image

There are two portals entering this space: the first marked by a swirling mist in a built up pile of bones in the north east corner, the second by an open grave beside the enormous cauldron eternally steaming in the south. Sullen red balefires illuminate the night, while a freezing river full of iceblocks divides the two sides. Several piles of skulls are stacked at irregular intervals, while blue crystals jut out here and there from the ground.

It’s a bleak place but allows two parties to arrive and leave through different means. Perhaps in your stories a great battle is held there, or something leaps out of the frozen waters to ambush explorers. Either way, have fun if you want to use it

Winter Eladrin Assassin

Part of the challenge experienced yesterday was an encounter with a sorrowful figure who was crying and looking for someone. When the group confirmed that the person being sought was one of their number, the fey creature shimmered and appeared behind that person, and attempted to kill them.

Pale and slender elf of indeterminate gender, with pale blue skin and white hair. They stand against a snowy background. Their armour, clothing and bow and sword are all in shades of pale and icy colours. Blue tear tracks can be seen on their cheeks as they reach out a hand as if in greeting or supplication

A long battle then commenced with this graceful and sorrowful elf darting about and shooting arrows while avoiding or enduring return fire from the group. The winter eladrin had been sent by the Winter’s Knight to slay the sister of someone opposed to him, and they very nearly succeeded. It proved to be an unexpectedly difficult fight, and I described their opponent as athletic and acrobatic – with a constant grace and almost effortless ease to their movements that was a direct contrast with the movements of recent opponents. As a CR10 creature, Winter Eladrin are formidable against most opponents – I made a point of foreshadowing that a whole cadre of Winter Eladrin follow the Winter’s Knight and do his bidding.

Map – Snowy Farm

I used this map during this week’s session as the stage for an assassination attempt on one of the characters, but its a suitably generic location for any one of a number of scenarios in a farm or village context. It is basically two fields and a cabin with a roadway running past them and an assortment of bushes, trees, and large stones along side it. The whole scene is smothered in snow, and with the sun overhead it has a certain charm to go alongside the drama of any encounters that might take place here.

Overhead map of a snowbound farm as described in the accompanying text

In this instance I had the group encounter a mysterious figure who sat on one of the stones by the road, roughly in the middle of the map – in this case a winter eladrin consumed with sorrow whose presence lulled the group into concerned care. Then on identifying his target he fey stepped behind the group and tried to kill them. The fight quickly became a hit and run encounter with the eladrin using superior movement and occasional limited teleportation to keep his distance and pepper his target with arrows. It was a close run thing as the group kept healing the target and trying to keep up as new attacks came from different directions.

The combination of large open spaces and objects that blocked line of sight meant that the focus of the encounter kept shifting, and kept people on their toes. It was huge fun.

I made this map in Dungeon Alchemist and exported it into Roll20 with lighting set for daylight so I didn’t have to set a lot of light sources. The usual zip file is here as snowy and as ever if you use it, have fun! I’d love to hear what stories you use it for.

NPCs – The Bunny Muggers

Last week we joked that the DDC got mugged by the Easter Bunny as they took a shortcut through the Feywild. Their attackers weren’t hardened assassins, and driving them off was reasonably easy – but not without Caeluma being relieved of a pair of magical daggers while knocked unconscious by a well-aimed rock.

Rather than being a homogenous mass of what most would see as traditional pixie-style fairies, these opportunistic bandits were drawn from a variety of sources and while individually relatively weak in comparison to the group they still caused problems.

The bulk of their force was comprised of darklings – small in stature and rumoured to be a people cursed by a powerful spirit in retaliation for unnamed crimes.

Dark in appearance and nature, they shun the light, but given that they explode in a blinding flash when slain I think there’s a story to be told of light suppressed and swathed as part of the curse – that these are a dark shell for a brighter spirit. These creatures attacked en masse from behind the group but were intimidated into running away without much trouble.

Their armed assault was backed up by a much more troublesome and murderous creature in the form of a redcap. With its trademark hood/cap dipped in fresh blood and heavy iron boots strapped to its feet, the redcap carried a sickle almost as big as it was.

In conversation later, we likened the appearance of this fey creature to that of a soccer hooligan and at least for a brief period it held its own in a fight with Thorin before he finished it off. When slain it melted away in to a spread of red mushrooms.

Magical support came from a hobgoblin devastator – a martially trained magician. In 5th edition D&D creatures like goblins and hobgoblins have been reclassified as fey creatures so it was a good excuse to bring some firepower to the table to level the playing field.

A fireball erupting in the middle of the group was the first warning the DDC got that they weren’t just facing a physical assault. Unfortunately for this particular hobgoblin that meant he then got targeted by the ranger and quickly taken down despite an attempt to run away deeper into the woods.

Further ranged support came from a diminuative fey called a Korred – closely aligned with the earth and stone as an elemental creature, the korred drew strength from being on the ground and used that to empower a series of rocks thrown with distressing accuracy.

Korreds are normally shy and retiring sorts, so this one – known as Konred – is a bit of an outlier as a bandit. His ability to smell out metals and gemstones as well as identify hidden cavities in the earth made him a valued member of the bandit group. He escaped with a cry of having a boulder and 15 pebbles to support by diving into and melding with the ground and refusing to come back out.

Their leader, a harengon rogue, was modelled on stats for an antagonist from a published adventure and had a hit and run set of tactics. He also had very sticky fingers and was able to steal from Caeluma during the fight. He too escaped the fight, and was last seen diving through the portal back to the Amberhammer Lands, so will no doubt be encountered again in the future.

I’ve published the various Heroforge-generated tokens here, feel free to use for your own tables if you want – and if you have any fun encounters you use them in, I’d like to hear how that worked out for all concerned.

Thinking of things like this, I’ve been assuming that people have access to their own resources or to tools like dndbeyond and so can use those to pull together statblocks – but if people would like some simple statblocks for groups and encounters, let me know and I’ll think about how to format them.