Dinner on the Lightning Rail

We had a good D&D session last night, returning after a couple of weeks where people were unwell. The mighty adventurers are facing possibly their toughest challenge yet: high society. Travelling long distances takes many forms, but by far the most comfortable available at this moment for them is the Lightning Rail run by House Orien – and so they have joined the train in first class, along with a new member of the group and have some time to kill.

Its been a good excuse to pull back from the action and adventure and spend some time with the players reintroducing themselves and doing some reflective roleplay as they get used to both the new surroundings and people. Sometimes railroading can be a useful tool, and this has been very popular with the players as I’ve checked in after the sessions. Their biggest worry has been to decide on what to choose from the menu. Their biggest dilemma has been wine versus cocktails. Their main concern has been how drunk the dwarf barbarian might be getting…

I’m really enjoying going to town with the world-building in this little travelling location, and the players (and the characters) are enjoying it all too – watching the little wonders of the world pass by while retired generals and robust noblemen drink brandy and smoke cigars in the lounge car, and an undead elf tells a dragonborn sage tales of the fall of the goblin empires in the saloon. A tiefling warlock knits scarves in their cabin while their familiar snoozes with a hoard of table scraps, and hangovers are something that won’t happen until the next session…

Time For A Break

It’s nearly a weekend, I think. To be fair it’s been another slightly hectic week between boy s falling ill and a variety of surveyors and engineers needing access at strange times to various buildings – all while covid continued to rampage through my staff.

So tomorrow/today is Good Friday, which at least as far as myself and Lady M are concerned is a Bank Holiday. If the gym is open, we shall take the cub with us so he can swim and frolic – and we will unwind on a variety of exercise machines and possibly dip into the spa. Rude not to use all the facilities available.

On the games front, I’m still mostly playing Destiny2 with boy s and Lady B a few evenings a week. I have also managed to recover my old GOG account so I have most of the old Bioware D&D games to rediscover on my laptop. I even dipped into playing Alpha Centauri for nostalgia this evening. I do have a soft spot for turn based games.

Oh, and an added bonus: Lady M has twisted my arm into taking some leave next week, so that’s going to do wonders for my blood pressure.

Oops

Time flies sometimes and this week has been a case in point, to the extent that I completely lost track of time this week and forgot my regular counselling session this evening. I have duly made my apologies and acknowledged my status as a doofus.

Most of my tiredness today is self inflicted, but being the consumate geek that I am it has been through games rather than debauchery. Lady B, boy s and I have been regularly playing Destiny 2 together, using Discord to chat while we do, and we decided this week to have a go at the Grasp of Avarice Dungeon. This is a term for a high end adventure with challenging mechanics that isn’t quite as challenging as a 6 man raid event.

We spent about three hours earlier in the week making our way through the earlier stages of the scenario, and found ourselves cursing the developers as much as we were laughing for the traps, fake-outs, and fast-paced challenges that faced us.

We died, a lot, but kept at it, and cursed loudly when network issues meant we had to call it a night. Last night, we agreed to stream another attempt and were delighted to find that we had triggered a save point at the beginning of the boss fight.

A recording of the shenanigans can be watched here: https://www.twitch.tv/jedileah/v/1271300640?sr=a&t=1s

And we won, eventually, but it was the best part of four hours to do so, with some minor odds and ends at the end…

It was a huge effort and the first time any of us had done this type of activity, so small wonder that today has been generally reserved for quietly pootling around.

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…

Game Moments

I’ve been quietly – and sometimes not so quietly – enjoying the sheer indulgence of Assassins Creed Valhalla during this holiday period. In particular I’ve been checking off various myth and history references, along with different slants on plays. There are also some decidedly tongue in cheek pop culture references that have made me sit up, especially as to my eyes they come from a place of cheekiness and joy.

Some sample references have included a version of the story of Grendel and his mother where you refuse to take credit and so the character of Beowulf is created by the writer as a stand-in. There’s also an extended set of interrelated missions about a deposed lord and his three daughters that I’m pretty sure is a King Lear reference. For me though there’s two sets of references that have really stood out.

The first of these is set in the Weald and features a boy alone in the wood next to a big tree, trying to secure some honey for his friend who has been looking after him. Its a quiet little mission that does indeed have a bear (called Winifred) appear, eat the honey, and then amble off into the woods to play. The tree is a pretty good facsimile of the classic illustration of the tree from Winnie the Pooh, and you can carry it.

The second is in Essex, on the edges of Epping Forest, where a band is being harrassed by a priest who objects to their music. The lead singer, both in dialogue and visual appearance, is called Keith – and the whole thing is a very silly easter egg reference to The Prodigy. It is irredeemably daft and I love it for its sheer indulgence.

I’m a sucker for deep lore dives in games, let alone pointers to places and history I’m familiar with. I’ve been smiling with the memory of these moments, and that’s no bad thing.

Map-Making Evening

I was just thinking to myself: I’ve not been playing with Inkarnate much – so after sharing a bottle of wine with Lady M over supper, I’ve been making a random map I’ll probably never use. It’s been fun thinking about how I might throw it into a travelling session however.

Anyway, here’s the small and surprisingly rich riverside village of Brookside:

The original map has been published and available to clone at https://inkarnate.com/m/GXvlOw–brookside/ – enjoy!

Don’t Split The Party

We descended on boy s at the new flat today to eat, socialise and play D&D along with Mx W and Lady B who were staying the weekend there too. We were enticed there by the offer of a roast dinner, as if we needed any real excuse to go catch up.

Roast gammon, potatoes, parsnips, broccoli, cauliflower, pigs in blankets and Yorkshire puddings all featured – and with boy s finally having induction pots and pans he was able to whip up a grand feast while we nattered in the other room and I toyed with Syrinscape software to cue up a soundboard for the game.

I’ve subscribed to the site so have access to all the sound packs, and still feel like I’m only just scratching the surface of it. I happily recommend it for DMs looking for some extra atmosphere for sessions.

And what a session – heavy on the roleplay as the group attended the university’s winter fair and interacted with various oddballs and situations before finding that a sage was present who could help with their missing memories from their first adventure – if they could find him as he seemed to have disappeared from inside a locked room in the library’s guest house.

Well, one thing led to another, and now they’re trapped inside a mansion in an extradimensional pocket searching for clues for a keyword to unlock the doors and get home. So far they’ve fought a swarm of animated books, been surprised by a cat, and greeted by homonculi housekeepers. They also split up, and are scattered throughout the mansion. Normally this wouldn’t be a too much of a challenge but they were at a social event and so don’t have most of their adventuring equipment or weapons.

As a result, they’re a little jumpy. I’ve not even started playing spooky music. That said four pickled hands just scrambled out of a jar to attack the dwarf at the end of the session so here’s to the next time we all get together…

Clanning Together

The last few nights I’ve been playing Destiny with boy s and Lady B. We’re each one different platforms due to the wonders of cross play. I’m on an XBox, Lady B on a PC, and boy s on a PlayStation. We’re using Discord for voice comms and it’s turning into a nice semi regular end of an evening bit of fun.

We’re using a Clan I set up back in the first Destiny game to help organise our Roster, and it’s another good example of how tech can be tangled in new combinations to bring us all together – albeit this time united in the desire to shoot aliens in the face and dance in the middle of battlefields.

Admittedly it’s now one in the morning but as I had my Moderna booster shot this morning my arm is currently very stiff and sore so I can’t settle anyway. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. I spent a fair chunk of this afternoon dozing on the sofa.

So, that’s why I’m blogging a little later today as I try to switch my brain off and curl up with Lady M. Here’s to a quiet day off and a body that continues to more or less behave for a bit

Polycule Assembled

It feels like it’s been a very long day – in no small part because I was sick again and with guts back in turmoil. Fortunately its been long enough that I was able to sort out the stool sample – and that’s an experience that little can prepare you for – and so was able to restart the medication to help settle it all back down.

Then we had everyone descend on the flat for our first tabletop game in ten weeks or so and that was a joy that filled the rest of the day with laughter and gossip. Everyone had downtime so we used that to catch up on what the adventurers had been up to.

Caeluma had been running their knitwear stall in the market and had been making a steady profit as winter nights rolled in and temperatures dropped.

Thorin had returned to his pitfighting career and been successful, but not without accusations of cheating that we worked into him adopting a heel persona for the ring.

Valenia commissioned an improvement for her bow and gathered some of the rarer ingredients in between babysitting Odif.

Coal disappeared for a few weeks and came back somewhat richer after a heist targeting a corrupt merchant.

Kerne buried themself in decoding the tomes retrieved from the coven of hags that detailed Kemsler’s travails and revealed that her sister Faye had been training under the hags before double crossing them at the behest of her Archfey patron: The Winter’s Knight.

And baby Odif? Well he’s growing fast and is no longer a toddler, being nearer in maturity to a human ten year old and showing a fascination in building traps and devices. Egged on by Tanglefinger the Boggle, there was hijinks and chaos for all.

Then we started the story, which led them to the Winter’s Fair at the University and the start of a number of small encounters – from Caeluma successfully arguing the interpretation of a mummers play with a professor of theology to Valenia duelling an Undying swordsman from the Elven Court of Aerenal and receiving a silvered scrimshaw knife as a gift.

We’ll see where we pick up in our next session. Hopefully we won’t have as long a break.

Oh, and it was of course Halloween so we threw sweets from the balcony for the organised kids walk on the estate – and hardly brained anyone in the process.

Plotting and Scheming

I had a new Kickstarter reward arrive today while I was out, and I’ve just spent an entertaining hour or so flicking through it and scribbling notes that may come to confuse my players – or delight them, always hard to tell.

The concept of this is that in Dungeons and Dragons a wizard may choose to release their familiar with an empowering spell. This book provides options then to play or place these creatures alongside regular characters or act as foils.

I’m considering running a short series of games to test these rules out as a break from the main story, simply because its such a fun concept.

So far the critters and the rules seem balanced and compatible with mainstream 5th Edition D&D, and there’s a nice feel to the book and pages that’s a tactile reward. The layouts and charts aren’t confusing, and there’s some lovely dry humour running through the whole thing in both the favour text and illustrations.

It definitely feels like something that started as a joke, and then inspired some inventiveness and it has made me smile after an intense couple of days.