Hello Winter

So, the clocks went back last night (or this morning, depending on your sleep patterns). As a result, anyone listing their activities in terms of GMT is now accurate for the next six months. So there’s that. I definitely needed that extra hour as our Pirates D&D game went on a bit later than planned – with a Halloween Beetlejuice-inspired caper.

Spooky is as spooky does

Oh, how we laughed. Well, more like screamed imprecations at the players who summoned him before finishing the containment bindings, but it did make for a fun and chaotic battle through a dollhouse.

The players learned that there was a reason I’d been grabbing and scrimshawing so many bones (healing potions reskinned as bones to break to activate). They also learned that my cleric’s version of turning undead was to shake bones and tell the zombies to f*** off back to their graves in fluent Draconic. And that said zombies tended to then explode when he did so. So that was colourful.

All of which was a good contrast to the week or so of prepping and undertaking interviewing of prospective saturday staff for the library I’ve just had. A night of mayhem was a good antidote.

Oh, and I did have time during the day to go see myr s for a few hours as well, which was also much needed by us both.

Housebuilding and Tabletop Shenanigans

The D&D session on Sunday was a quiet one with two main goals – to allow the group to finish outfitting the house their adventures have now bought outright, and to ensure that everyone had transferred their character sheets to http://www.dndbeyond.com and installed the Beyond20 extension in their browsers.

Why? Well the character sheets and their management is more user friendly than Roll20 in our opinion. They’re especially more useful for newer players in terms of managing items, actions, and spells. I’d found them so much more intuitive while playing with my other group that I suggested a sidestep.

The browser extension makes for a seamless transfer of rolls to the virtual tabletop in Roll20 during the game, and has some nice configuration options that allow some tweaking along the way. I’ve had to shell out a bit of money to rebuy some source books and upgrade my monthly subscription, but in support of a regular group I really don’t mind that.

All the tests seem to be working, so now I’m fleshing out some encounters using the tools available on the site, and we’ll see where the group wanders next.

Fairhaven Moments

Sunday’s game was quiet, but some important foundation-laying happened, and a lot of laughter. There are some interesting mechanics in 5th Edition to support the GM in arbitrating Downtime activities, and with the adventurers finding their feet it was a good excuse to play along and add some colour

Caeluma spent a lot of time knitting a chunky “Jumper of Friendliness” for the warforged urchin the group adopted. He in turn has been hanging around with a bemused air to see what happens next. A beanie hat is apparently the next project.

Valenia and Thorin spent the week carousing and, between sessions in the pub, teaching Thorin to read. They’re not sure how, but after one particularly black-out night they seem to have earned the nickname of “benchslayers”. Nobody will tell them why.

Kerne stuck to studying the texts retrieved from their last adventure, as well as doing some ancillary research suggested by their contents.

All well, so far, and then the group decided that a good use of their haul would be to rent out a house together, rather than continue living in an Inn. After some searching, they settled on a tall house about half an hour from the university in one of the nicer suburbs.

I got them to suggest some street names on a grid map that I’d made earlier, and will this week be fleshing out some of the local landmarks for them to explore. There is one house on the map that is absolutely not a brothel. A house of negotiable affection providing reasonably priced love, perhaps, but not a brothel. Honest.

Sunday’s Game

It was a quiet session, mostly spent trying to identify and get good prices for the items the adventures had brought back with them.

They’re still a little hazy about what happened, and I laid some potential plot hooks out that can be picked up on as we go.

Caeluma is trying to put at ease the newly adopted warforged Coal, and to get used to having a baby dragon around; especially one that has a habit of turning invisible, scaring the inn’s cat, and then quietly sniggering from the rafters…

Next week, they intend to go shopping, and possibly purchase some private lodgings.

Frantic Scribbling

…That’s what I should be doing to revamp and rewrite and prepare for my next D&D session. Instead I’m letting the wheels spin in my head, and mulling over scenario hooks. In some ways there’s a soft reboot going on, and a change of emphasis, and thats in no small part to listening to my players. Many of them haven’t played much, if any, D&D before.

As we’ve weaved through both traditional and non traditional story elements they’ve definitely started to have a clearer image of what they enjoy. Its not all been plain sailing, but I’m intrigued by some of the ideas floating around the table now.

So we’re back i think to some more episodic material where role-playing leads the direction, but at the same time I’m dropping elements in to see who bites at what. They’ve decided dungeon delving isn’t their thing right now, but the current mix is hinting at academic skullduggery, organised and disorganised crime, and defending the downtrodden.

Oh, and a faerie dragon. What’s the worst that could happen?

And More Gaming

A whole weekend of dungeons and dragons? No wonder I’m a bit tired today. After some small shuffling around and soft rebooting to accommodate schedules and health, the Sunday group that I GM spent the evening learning why there were less pigeons around their local pub than usual, and running an errand on behalf of a fellow faculty member. A gargoyle had taken up residence on the balcony of an alchemist.

With the owner out of town, the group were asked to take a bunch of herbs and spices to put in the furnace in the owner’s laboratory to drive the gargoyle away.

Arriving at the address provided, they found Freshers Week in full flow – likened to being almost as quiet as Newcastle City Centre on a Saturday night – and got distracted as a pickpocket stole the key to the house.

Now, I had intended the thief to be a one-shot, literally throwaway npc, but having captured the warforged rogue, Caeluma healed him and adopted him. Knitting was perpetrated.

The butler of the house had been badly injured by the gargoyle, so was unable to draw the bolts inside the front door, so the group instead used a cellar entrance and the keys and their university identification papers to bypass the security construct guarding it. Evidence found along the way suggested that the owner of the house was involved in some kind of dodgy payments, and the theory was formed that the gargoyle may not be the aggressor here.

Convinced that the gargoyle was there because of something the missing alchemist had done, Caeluma then attempted to talk it out of remaining, pouring their heart into an impassioned speech.

Unfortunately the real gargoyle was perched on the roof above them, and it knocked the statue that Caeluma had been addressing flying as it swooped on the group. After a brief struggle, despite attempts to subdue it, they were forced to kill the gargoyle. It shattered into thousands of pieces, hissing something about Dhassk.

Within the kiln, they found a small leathery egg, which hatched as Caeluma lifted it free. A small butterfly-winged dragon broke out of the shell, and instantly imprinted on Caeluma. There may have been tears.

Where this goes next week, I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough.

Gaming Night

After various reschedules for health and work we managed to get our pirate-themed D&D session going this evening. This is the one I play in as opposed to the one I GM.

I was a bit nervous about my tech being up to it given hiccups last time but I managed to balance the various loads across a couple of laptops and my phone and all was well.

To recap: my lizardfolk cleric of the grave had searched out civilization after his tribe was killed by undead creatures. Haunted by the sights he’d seen and the spirits that surround him, he adopted a motley crew of adventurers during an ambush in a bar. He sees them as like hatchlings that need protecting due to their lack of scales and teeth, but also as potential warriors to stem the rise of undead on the islands.

His method of ensuring that the dead do not rise again is typically lizardfolk in its pragmatism: the dead do not rise from the cooking pot. A reputation for butchering the corpses for the fallen has already begun to spread, although not necessarily in understanding of why. At the same time his soups, stews, and calamari dishes are admired for their exquisite tastes. Just be wary of the cold cuts platter.

The group were sent by one of the leaders of the port community to investigate the disappearance of one of the tribal leaders. It was an investigation that found signs of struggle leading to a bolthole and tunnels beneath the town guarded by clockwork soldiers. The group avoided these and closed in on a group of thugs led by a Knight who had trapped the mouse-folk leader. This was where the session began.

As is ever the case, combat takes a lot longer to process through than other activities in the game, but the group was successful in joining the mechanical guards present in saving the council member. Richly rewarded, they were also treated to food and drink, and advised that they would be called on to track down the remaining “Pieces of Eight” to match the one already in their possession from a previous adventure.

The Pieces were the remains of a seal that had contained a dark evil making the dead rise and darkness spread across the islands. The reason that the group had been unable to get any work was partly down to the superstitious nature of the pirates around them and partly because the Council had forbade anyone to give them work while they could be assessed for the job before them.

A day of relaxation by the docks while they waited for the Council to meet was cut short by an ambush by compatriots of the thugs they had defeated earlier. Heslik spent most of the battle either healing his companions or trading crossbow shots with an inept thug whose bolts bounced off Heslik’s tough scales. Heslik felt obliged to show him how to shoot properly in his return fire. There may have been some sarcastic comments across the battlefield: “No fleshling! Not like that! Like this! There! See? Try again, you can do it!”

The battle was won, treasure was looted, a warning left on the bodies. Time for the group to rest up.

Gaming Occurred

So yesterday I was able to escape the curse of the eternal DM and take part in a game of dungeons and dragons as a player for the first time in years. After some initial tech fiddling to run Teams privately on one of my laptops and my phone, and to link Roll20 and DnD Beyond on the other via a chromium browser it all went very smoothly in a five hour session from about 6.30

As a setting, it took place in a slightly tongue-in-cheek Pirates of the Caribbean style environment as I joined a group consisting of many people I’d never met before.

I’d been invited by the Ladies H, and had met our DM once at MCM London last year, but everyone else was an unknown; so my anxious disaster-brain fretted in the hours leading up to getting started. If you’ve ever played with a new group, you’ll know the feeling, and therefore also the relief of a friendly inclusion.

My usual name blindness means I’ve already forgotten most people’s real names, let alone their characters, but I did at least remember to take a few notes:

And I still forgot who everyone is

We shall resume the game sometime around the middle of next month.

This has been a positive thing, and I’ll thank my brain to remember it.

Cutest Session Ever

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.

Rings and Things

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.