DDC – Decision Times

We’ve started playing earlier on a Sunday afternoon so that we have more leeway if we get caught up in the action and so that there’s a chance to wind down afterward without needing to dive straight into bed. As a result, I’ve got a chance this evening to write up today’s session – which is just as well as a lot happened to a very split group.

We’d left the group resting overnight following the major revelations of the last session, and they woke to make breakfast and try to decide on what to do first to gather the local scattered survivors to begin the fight to reclaim Amberhammer Hold. Karkanna was willing to gather together the werewolves hiding in an abandoned village a few hours away, so Caeluma offered to accompany her and support her in that effort. Rather than backtrack around various crevasses and rivers, Caeluma used her wings to slowly carry Karkanna across. This was hugely exhausting, but took a long time off their journey.

When they arrived, they found a cluster of hovels near a dilapidated shrine, so Caeluma entered and prayed briefly, re-emerging to find that nearly a score of disheveled and beaten-looking dwarves in tattered clothing had emerged from the ruins and were gathering around. Much to Caeluma’s alarm, Karkanna gestured that they should speak, which took Caeluma very much out of their comfort zone.

In a halting voice, that slowly grew in confidence, Caeluma was able to appeal to their community, their shared fates, the trust in each other and might together in the face of the invaders who had overrun their home. Faced with a beaten and resentful group, Caeluma was able to rouse them and bring hope and a new sense of purpose. And so the werewolves were recruited

Lands around the Amberhammer Hold – Made with Inkarnate.com

Meanwhile, Arwan, Thorin, and Valenia travelled by foot, crossing a ravine across the rusted sword and remains of a truly titanic warforged colossus from years gone by. Local predators in the form of aggressive dinosaurs attacked them, but despite the precarious footings of all concerned, the group was able to fight through with only minor injuries and eventually made it to a fortified village called Flower Town. In happier times this village grew staple crops for the Hold on carefully maintained terraces cut into the mountainsides, but it was now surrounded by barricades and bore signs of recent fighting. Many of the refugees from the Hold had been taken in here, and they now lived in a state of constant night-time siege.

Thorin, also unused to public speaking and unsure of how to win people round, produced the Heirloom Axe and began to speak. The process was rocky at first. Many held Thorin with fond memories, but his long absence and the actions of his sister counted against him in the face of what they had suffered. Valenia tried to demonstrate that those with lycanthropy could be trusted by transforming into her new hybrid form, and back again – but this was not well received. In the end, an impassioned speech by Thorin about reclaiming their lands together, leading them to push back the dark, and seeing a land free again for all of them – a chance to end the Last War once and for all – broke the impasse.

And back at the camp, Kerne continued to research for ways to break the werewolf curse – reaching out to her sister by way of the magic book that they could both write in – and was able to convince Faye to share a recipe stolen from the Hags that trained her that could cure someone bitten by a werewolf. If she could gather the ingredients, or finish finding the rituals required, there may be another way to end the plague without putting everyone infected to the sword.

Map – Forest Arena

This is a quick bonus map I’ve made this afternoon on the Inkarnate website as a flurry of relatively generic battlemaps that I can plonk down as needed. With the DDC campaign being fairly footloose in its direction – or at least in how they get to key components – I’m building up a library of maps in different styles.

This one is meant to be a natural depression in a forest area with two main pathways out. High banks and foliage limit other routes out, but also allow for different elevations in any encounters. In addition, there are fallen tree logs, and a titanic broken sword as a hint of mysteries past or encounters to come depending on mood.

Overhead battlemap depicting a forest clearing surrounded by high banks forming a natural arena with two main routes in as well as two very small alternatives. Three fallen tree trunks lie across the brush in the clearing as well as a gigantic broken sword that is far too large for anyone  barring a giant to be able to use.
Made with Inkarnate.com

If you want to make use of this map, just save the graphic below – or follow the link to https://inkarnate.com/m/971E8l-forest-arena/ if you use Inkarnate and want the original multi-layered file for cloning and editing for your own needs.

Map – Lightning Rail Station

A couple of months ago we had an extended series of session aboard a lightning rail train travelling from Windhaven towards the Breland border – and a number of social and combat encounters took place during that period. Their first break in the journey came at a station where there was a delay to offload and take on new cargo and passengers.

This night time location was revealed just after an intense combat encounter where assassins had boarded the train and tried to kill Thorin – and had nearly killed Valenia in the process – and so the opportunity to get off the train and explore the area for a while felt much needed.

The grass area at the bottom of the map is where I overlaid schematics of the train carriages the characters were in. This was done so that I could reuse this as a standardised design in the future with other carriage configurations. The platform is lit with torches, and the main areas of interest are: the main ticket hall which leads through to the street beyond (and the houses on it), and the well-lit inn/coffee house and the rest rooms next to it. There’s also a store room behind them.

On the left hand of the map is a store room accessed from the ticket hall, and the ticket office top left. There are also desks and furniture in the hallway. The office could alternatively be a House Sivis message post.

I had this set up as being flexible enough to run either combat or social encounters – in the end it turned out to be mostly social and roleplay with stall holders, people passing through, staff from the rail service, and a rather intense Silver Flame Inquisitor who wanted to ask Thorin some questions.

As ever, the zip file attached to this post includes the map and the associated text file of map dimensions and dynamic lighting information and coordinates.

For those who haven’t used Dungeon Alchemy maps, you can install an API in Roll20 and after loading the map graphic onto the map layer, you can copy and paste the text file contents into the chat input. It will then resize the map to fit and support Dynamic Lighting if you are using it.

RailStation.zip

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 7

Here we go with this week’s set of cryptic musings for players and watchers alike to consider. Enjoy!

Now pauses the fight when wings beat. Prophecy’s test must soon be heard. Kelliklik’s Doom may be defeat, or proof of destiny’s loose skein.

The Draconic Prophecies – Scale 401, verses 5-7

Well that doesn’t sound at all ominous does it? We finally met Kelliklik and his Dragon Blessed servant Sigrund when they sought out the DDC at Flower Town. The group had just secured the alliance of the town to help retake the Hold and had settled for the night when the dragon announced himself with a great burst of flame over the marketplace. A challenge was issued to Thorin and the group and a close-fought fight with the young dragon was ended by proclamation by Sigrund and the casting of a powerful Mass Cure.

The group had proved themselves equal to the task ahead, and Kelliklik would now go to face his Doom. A twist however came in Caeluma persuading the dragon to instead join them in the assault. Kelliklik asked Thorin if he had made his Choice and nodded in response to the answer before agreeing. Whether this is a twist in fate’s loom that changes the Doom, or indeed defines the Doom remains to be revealed.

Choices run the fate of Khorvaire, good and bad the coin’s edge only. What counts in the moment is fair, but argent questers are stony.

The Draconic Prophecies – Scale 101, verses 1-2

Given where we ended up last week, there are certainly some decisions to be made and a whole host of people starting to notice. The group has made up its mind to fight and are now aware of the stakes they are fighting for. The threat posed by inquisitors of the Silver Flame, for now, remains distant.

Dragon’s breath or the Silver Flame? Both believe their truths and thunder. Their wings and capes spread wide, the game may wither chance life asunder.

The Draconic Prophecies – Scale 307, verses 6-9

There’s nothing particularly weird and wonderful here – let’s see how things turn out in the battle of dogmas, beliefs, prophecies, and pronouncements.

DDC – Roll Karkanna Checks

The awful pun in the title was gleefully suggested by the boy s as we worked out what to call the Twitch stream on social media – and I couldn’t help but give the nod to it. I’m blaming that decision on what I thought was a head cold – that has since revealed itself to be another bout of Covid. What joy.

Anyway – we picked up outside a deserted shrine that bore some old markings of Onatar – and so may have originally been a forge. Appropriately enough then, Karkanna had chosen this as her base, and she showed no fear despite the superior numbers arrayed against her. Thorin’s outburst of surprise was matched by Valenia moving swiftly to bring a blade to Karkanna’s throat – a move that was deftly parried, and no more.

Karkanna claimed to be glad they’d arrived and that there was a lot to talk about. She agreed that she had a lot of explaining to do – and invited the group into the ruin to her camp so they could do so in relative comfort. As she led them in, they saw a series of tarpaulin lean-tos under the broken ceiling. There was a campfire with a kettle of water over it, and equipment in various stages of being packed. There were also three cages a short distance away, each with a sleeping naked dwarf in them. Karkanna said, when challenged, that they would stay there until they could control themselves. This was not taken well by the group.

The conversation began with a confrontational and direct tone – and Karkanna met aggressive questioning with assertive answers that reinforced the relationship between her and Thorin. She talked of how they’d gone different paths, and how Thorin had always been better at making friends and allies. They talked about the Last War, and how she’d fought and fought and seen him and his brother get all acclaim and glory. How they called Thorin a hero and shrank from her – and then she had gone on fighting while everyone celebrated the end of the Last War. The creatures climbing up from The Pit took no notice of the politics of the surface and still needed to be fought. Her lonely war took her down into The Pit. She had no one to live for, so she became death to the dolgrims and dolgaunts and aberrations crawling up from Kyber.

And then she was captured.

A group of six mindflayers lay in wait on her last foray into the dark. When challenged on how they’d stopped her, she asked if the group had ever met mindflayers – and pointed out how powerful their mental attacks are. Karkanna was overcome and taken before the Daelkyr and the power of Xoriat reworked her to become a werewolf – the first created since the pogroms of the Silver Flame hunted them all down.

The questions kept coming, and Karkanna kept answering, unburdening herself. The mind flayers had an alliance with duergar who dug up to meet the miners of Clan Amberhammer as they descended. She returned to the Hold with disguised duergar allies to find her father dying and was compelled to bite him and inflict lycanthropy on him. The curse would keep him alive and keep him as leverage over the Clan. That was the signal for the Cult of the Triumphant Dead to rise and overrun the mines and the Hold.

She was compelled to bite many of the Clan and convert them. They were expelled into the countryside to spread chaos and confusion and spread the curse across the mountains. Granite from The Pit was brought up and used to construct the plinth and portal site seen in the formal gardens outside. It was at this point that Karkanna asked Thorin if he still had their father’s axe – that it was safe. The relief on her face when he produced it was palpable.

Karkanna revealed she’d sent it to him to keep it away from the mind flayers as they needed it to complete a ritual. The heirloom axe was linked to the Amberhammer Clan and by extension the rule of the land. The cult intended to conduct a ritual to destroy the axe while it was linked to the Clan – ie while attuned to the Clan leader – thereby destroying the symbol of rule and supplanting the Clan as the lords of the land.

Karkanna had overheard talk of a further alliance – of a plan to bring Winter across the Mountains. The Powers of Xoriat would reach out to Winter’s EverIce and bring chaos and madness and death and claim the mountains forever. Karkanna broke the mental domination and sent the axe away – once Thorin attuned to the axe, it removed the threat to their father as his death wouldn’t achieve the ritual’s aims. If she had taken the axe and assumed control, it would have achieved nothing. She then fled and started trying to rein in her wayward Pack. She slew any that could not control the curse.

She then took Thorin to one side to reveal the other reason she had acted to defend the Clan after so long. In a crib under a nearby tarpaulin was a six-month-old baby dwarf – her son. She brought him out and introduced Loris Amberhammer to his uncle, and the rest of the DDC.

This broke the ice conclusively, and a good period of time was spent updating Karkanna on Thorin’s adventures – and adopted wider family in the form of Odif and Coal – which was also news to Arwan who hadn’t met either of them. A good few stories and anecdotes passed back and forth before the evening began to draw in. Caeluma negotiated the release of the dwarves from their cages – Broadhand Tam: a guard, and Ennis and Thantyr Amberhammer, smiths and artificers of the Clan – and a reluctant and wary trio started preparing spaces for the group to strike their own camp.

Plans then began to be drawn up on what to do next. Karkanna claimed that Thorin should be able to rally those of the Clan and surrounding area who had fled – to form a new militia as he had in days gone by. Karkanna said she would be able to gather at least some of the werewolves to fight on their behalf. Talk turned to whether the Silver Flame army near Cragwar could be of help, but Karkanna pushed back – the Silver Flame zealots would wipe out the Amberhammers as tainted by the curse. She would not risk her son for that.

Arwan set up a ritual to Commune with their gods – asking if their situation and that of the Clan was known to the Sovereign Host, whether there was any aid the gods could send, and whether they had a chance of winning. The answers were positive, negative, and positive again. When relaying these answers, Karkanna noted drily that of course the gods knew, that the DDC were the help sent, and that there was always a chance.

Kerne was taken by the references to Winter and reached out through her journal to contact her lost sister – Faye – last seen fleeing the Winter’s Knight. For once, the stilted written conversations gave useful information. The EverIce was the name given to the far frozen north, rumoured to bury a lost culture. The Winter’s Knight was working with the Cult of the Triumphant Dead to bring that icy cover to the mountains and across the lands in a never-ending winter. Secondly, the artificial dreamlily that the DDC had destroyed had had a hidden effect, to make anyone exposed to it vulnerable to fey magics. Kaye had fled to keep the secret of the drug and the processes and spells required from the forces of Winter.

Suddenly a lot of puzzle pieces were falling into place for the group as the wider picture and stakes became clear. Karkanna identified two possible places where refugees may have gathered – and the group resolved to sleep on it and come to terms with the enormity of the task before them

DDC – Karkanna Back Story

We had a lot of lore drop in Sunday’s game – not least of which was a whole load of filling in the blanks for the group as to what’s been going on, and some of the stakes of their current conflict. That’s a story for tomorrow, but here’s the back story to Karkanna – Thorin’s elder sister.

Karkanna Amberhammer fought in the Underdark during the Last War. A trained and experienced Gloomstalker. she fought to protect the Clan against creatures from the Pit, and against spies and saboteurs from all sides. Overcome by the fire of the hunt, she became a feared legend of the night – striking down all intruders from the shadows and fading into the dark. Trails of blood and terror marked her passage as constant lonely war made her cruel. While her brothers protected Clan and neighbours on the surface, she fought and bled and killed in the dark and slowly became a monster herself.

In time, she stopped coming back to the Hold, seeing the fear she evoked as she strode back into the light, stinking of blood and wearing grisly trophies. And so she left, because killing was all she had. In her lonely war she entered Khyber and was overtaken by the creatures of the Daelkyr who remade her as one of their own. Reformed as a werewolf, she has returned

Librarians at Play

After several weeks off while people had holidays and various bouts of not feeling well, we managed to get everyone together this week for the second session of Dungeons and Dragons I’m running with some colleagues from work, as well as Lady M and the boy s. We’d left them in the middle of a fight with two apprentices and their animated champions: a small shrub, and a broom. Chaos and hilarity ensued as the broom flew around the room smacking people as it passed, and people variously tried to grab and wrestle it into submission.

Lila, a thief with an extensive knife collection, was able to intercept one of the pair of miscreants and pin him to the wall. She told him to get his shrubbery under control, but at more or less the same time the cleric Wilhelm cast cause light wounds on it and it shrivelled away to dust.

The artificer, Xander, was knocked unconscious by the broom, but was stabilised by Pan before Caitriona (the other cleric) arrived and got them back on their feet. The distraction was enough for the second apprentice to flee to the other side of the chamber and say something into a rune-carved stone that he produced from his pocket. Moments later, a shadowy portal appeared in the air and a gaunt hand pulled him through. The portal promptly disappeared.

As a distraction, Xander imbued the broom with a fart-generating property – and blamed it on their concussion. Between them, in the meantime, Pan and Caitriona were able to smash the broom into several now-noisy segments.

The captured minion confessed that he and his companion had been practicing the animation spells to gain the favour of “The Maester” who had promised them power and work if they could manage it. He was offered a job in the kitchens of Wilhelm’s husband’s mansion and allowed to leave – and was last seen running as fast as he could. A few moments’ collective thought identified the portal as having been the manifestation of a dimension door spell – which meant that the Maester would have to have been at most 500 feet away. With no obvious additional ways out however, the group decided to gather up the abandoned book that they had been sent to retrieve and return it to the Morgrave University Library. They then gathered back at the inn on the campus before going their separate ways.

Wilhelm informed everyone that his husband had extended an invitation to them all to attend a black-tie event with rare book dealers who may be able to provide more information on missing books – or indeed this mysterious Maester.

We’ll be regrouping in two weeks’ time, and I’ve told the players there will be downtime activities to resolve and to think of what they might like to do with that time.

HeroForge Illustrations

HeroForge have been going for a good few years now, offering a service where people can create and customise tabletop figures for their various roleplay games. You can then order the printed figure to use at home. The rise in popularity of virtual tabletops over lockdown has since led them to make improvements to export portraits and other illustrations. There’s a subscription model that unlocks extra features and save slots to build up a gallery – the site can be found at www.heroforge.com

The boy has been an enthusiastic cheerleader for the website for some time as he creates new characters, and this baton has been taken up as we’ve developed the DDC campaign. Lady B used the portrait features to create graphics for the stream – and indeed for one of the “Well That Just Happened” designs available on the store – https://amzn.eu/d/eJDoAZM – if you’re interested

So, I eventually caved and had a look this week – and decided to start with making an illustration for Karkanna Amberhammer ahead of the session coming up this weekend. For those not following, Karkanna is Thorin’s elder sister, who disappeared towards the end of the Last War and reappeared by way of a message sent to him in Windhaven. The message said to return as their father wasn’t well – and included their father’s heirloom axe. Everything in the game for the last few months has been the group making their way back to the Hold on the Brelish border.

What the group have been able to put together from hints and encounters is that Karkanna appeared back at the Hold, accompanied by strangers, and was welcomed quietly home. The next evening, as the moon rose, Karkanna transformed into a werewolf, and the strangers revealed as duergar and dolgaunts. Strange creatures appeared and overran the Hold, scattering many of the Clan to the hills.

The Silver Flame made contact with Thorin while they travelled, to see what contact he’d had, but decided that he hadn’t been corrupted and let him go on his way. Their first attempt at entering the Hold then led to them fleeing in disarray after fighting dolgrims and dolgaunts before encountering mind flayers and a beholder. During that time, they overheard conversations suggesting that Karkanna had fled or gone rogue – and so when they had a clue as to her location, they decided to find her. The session ended with their arriving at a ruined shrine and finding her waiting for them at the door.

Where this goes next? Who knows – I can’t wait to find out.

The second portrait I created was that of Coal – partner to Caeluma – who ran with the group for a good while before settling back in Windhaven to look after Odif and set up a youth centre with his profits from their adventuring. We had a whole arc of his coming to terms with his past as a war machine and the losses endured, so the dangers facing the group as they protected their young charge made total sense for the character to back out of active rotation.

When I posted this in the group chat the other night, I was immediately asked if he had become some form of criminal mastermind, which wasn’t really what I was going for – but there’s definitely elements of his rogue background along with the steampunk background to suggest a more elevated status than they’d enjoyed before. I had the concept of a gentleman thief in mind while assembling the options. The mimic of course is one of the many that share the DDC’s home, so it made sense to allude to it. In response to the question, someone else said “He’d say he didn’t know what you were talking about, boss”

The tokens are also very customisable – for curiosity’s sake because I mentioned them earlier, here’s what I generated based off these portraits:

I’ve had fun with these – so I’ll likely look to generate a rogues gallery this way of significant characters in the games I run as a creative outlet.

DDC – Draconic Prophecies 6

And here we go with the latest batch of cryptic meanderings hinting at things to come and themes being explored in the D&D extravaganza. It’s all getting a bit epic in scope, and the players are more invested than ever in the outcomes. So, without further ado…

In Argent’s glare all doubt dispelled, chase hunters armed with cruel blade. Their ancient foes reborn as jest must answer calls by both Heirs made

The Draconic Prophecies – Scale 700, verses 1-2

This refers to the agents of the Silver Flame, who have amassed a force near the border by Cragwar, only a day or two’s march away. The ancient foes reference is talking about the werewolves unwillingly created by Karkanna at the behest of the mind flayers.

The Silver Flame are renowned for having destroyed all were-creatures in a pogrom several hundred years ago. Now, Thorin and Karkanna are weighing up how to call on their divided Clan to regain their lands and drive off the forces of madness without inviting mass destruction at the hand of the religious zealots of the Silver Flame.

When fates’ skein tangles in noble birth, siblings’ anger is written loud. Two tribes from one, or both combined. Which pathways old must be re-trod

The Draconic Prophecies – Scale 417, verses 5-7

This is referencing both Thorin and Karkanna Amberhammer, the heirs split by the events of the Last War and more recently the invasion of their ancestral home by the Cult of the Triumphant Dead, a splinter cult of the Dragon Below. The siblings finally met last week in the ruins of a shrine to Onnatar (the god of smiths) and heated words were exchanged rather than blows.

Eventually a plan to retake their Hold began to take form – but it depends on gathering together the scattered refugees from the Hold under Thorin and allying them with the werewolf kindred spawned by Karkanna when she was forced to betray everyone. The niceties of this plan remain to be determined

The Testing now must be begun: scarlet questions posed from above. In answers sanguine, truth be spun, and legends rise to speak for love

The Draconic Prophecies – Scale 202, verses 8-9

This came to fruition in the arrival of Kelliklik at Flower Town. The young red dragon is bound to a Doom under the Prophecies to ensure certain things happen, and he challenged the group while flying above them. Blood was shed on both side as they stated their beliefs and argued with both words and battle. The group is beginning to take on the status of legends, and in all things in this fight they are motivated by love of family, friends, and life.