Librarians – In The Market

We picked up the D&D game I run with colleagues and their ongoing attempts to find out why books in the library keep turning into strange creatures that try to eat their readers. So far they’ve narrowed down the stall that each of the books was bought from, attempted to distract Korvala, the rather intimidating woman who owns it, and accidentally collapsed the market tent while sneaking around.

This week they decided to go back to check out one of the books that had stood out – a rare volume that Caitriona the elven priestess had been trying to track down since it had itself been stolen from her homeland. A combination of bluffs, quick talking, and downright blind luck found her walking away with it for a reduced price – and the group was just debating what to do next when Roghan the sorcerer spotted Korvala coming out of a nearby garden.

Portrait of Korvala - a darker skinned woman wearing a plain blue headcovering

He attempted to surreptitiously cast a hex on her to blunt her charisma, but she noticed him and stared him down across the marketplace before turning abruptly and heading off down an alley. Moderately surprised that she hadn’t called the guard, the group stealthily (mostly) managed to track her back to the more run down neighbourhood she lived in. They watched her enter a ramshackle house and decided to follow her. They found the door unlocked, and quietly opened the door to reveal a homely room with rough chairs, a thick blanket on the floor, and two other doors leading further in to the building. There was no one immediately in sight.

And that’s where we’ll pick up next week (hopefully)

DDC – Now What?

It was only a short session by our usual standards yesterday – mostly down to tiredness and health – but it was an important breather for the group. Having had such a fraught fight previously, they needed to recuperate, and on contacting Auntie (Deadeye Alice) she told them it would take her a couple of days to narrow down where Rufen – or at least the token – had been taken. This was because she could tell he was on the move and wanted to get a definite fix on where he ended up.

With that in mind, the DDC had a quiet day. They divided out the various magic items and weapons thay had taken from Rufen, and tried to use the sending stone they’d taken from one of the trolls to see who was at the other end. A furious and almost gutteral voice yelled back that they were going to kill them and then the stone snapped in half. Despite attempts to fix it, the magic of the stone was gone.

Later, an inhabitant of New Town – a sorcerer who had accompanied one of the stranded merchant trains – came up and asked to use the library and was a bit star struck by Kerne. After some attempts at modesty by Kerne, Katya was allowed access and the two began comparing notes on aspects of their shared specialities. Kerne heard how Katya’s previous tutor had held her back, and so offered to help with their studies. The ended up spending a good portion of the afternoon in the gardens practicing their magics.

Meanwhile, Bennet the Bard who works both in the Hold and in the newly established town below it approached Arwan and Valenia and advised them that a number of the townspeople weren’t content to just sit and wait to be rescued and were determined to start checking for cave systems or unblocked passes to try and find a way out. He’d decided to approach the pair to see if they would be willing to be called on if people got hurt or found anything too dangerous like angry bears. The pair agreed to be on call and to make themselves available as needed.

The next morning saw pillars of smoke on the north of the plains from the direction of the various farms. A quick expedition by the DDC to the nearest one found all the building destroyed and on fire, the wells poisoned and blocked with the bodies of animals, and the crop lands salted and polluted. There were heavy troll footprints and the signs of heavy objects being dragged. Fearing that this might be a decoy to pull them away from the Hold, they doubled back and called for the townsfolk to be called inside the Hold for their own protection. A small number of guards were sent as scouts to the other farmland locations.

Not long after, while Kerne and Karkanna were discussing wedding plans, Caeluma noticed sparks of energy at the dormant portal stone and went to investigate. Small shakes and shudders sent the snow sliding away from the construction, and the sparks began to converge to form a small bubble of liquid-looking energy. Caeluma sent someone to go get the others. As the rest of the DDC began to converge, a portal began to haltingly form. It wasn’t stable, and a lone figure could be faintly made out in the shifting view that was forming. On a hunch, Kerne stood forward and poured raw magical potential from her latent pool of sorcery into the vortex to act as a stable anchor.

With a silent flash of force, the portal expelled the figure within and vanished. It left a battered, frozen, wounded Faye Hagsworn standing on the platform, leaning heavily on a rune-carved staff to which was lashed the petrified claw of a dragon.

Image of Faye Hagsworn - a dragon-like red scaled dragonborn with thorns around her horns. She wears yellow clothing with yellow details that resemble leaves, and a cloak. She holds a spear in one hand, and a fox stands at her feet as a companion

And that’s where we left the session. I have so much lined up in terms of lore and possible events based on what the DDC do next. We’ll see, if nothing else, why Faye has sought out her sister now. The last they’d heard, she was on the run from the Winter’s Knight…

NPCs – Riklun’s Raiders

I made these models a while back and thought I’d bring them up as another example of a group of mercenaries for a game encounter. I’ve nothing particularly made up for them, but I like the designs and thought I’d share them

These mercenaries are led by Riklun Steelfist – a duergar psionicist who lost his right arm in a skirmish and had it replaced with a darksteel prosthetic. With his original warband destroyed in the encounter, he sought out and slew the leader of a small orc mercenary group, offering new direction and more profitable work. He rounded out the group by recruiting two ogres and an ogrillon as extra muscle and worked up a number of simple but effective ambush routines with simple labels.

The Raiders have a small but growing reputation for tracking down bandit groups and for retrieving goods stolen from merchant trains. These jobs are often undertaken away from civilised eyes and are brutal and sudden strikes bolstered by Riklun’s stealth and psionic powers.

The two ogres – Farrd and Barrgh – defer to the ogrillon half-ogre Lamech when it comes to plans, and so those three are sometimes split off from the main force to act as reserves or a nasty surprise to close a trap. Riklun sometimes joins his orc mercenaries as obvious guards for merchants and has the ogres take a parallel path, ready to rush in when summoned in the event of an attack

So there you go – a ready made mercenary band that can be allies or enemies as your game needs – feel free to grab the tokens and have some fun!

Map – Border Fort

There’s always going to be a need for generic border fort type maps found out in the wilderness in tabletop games. It could be an official stop-over, or somewhere holding loot or an item that needs retrieving. It could be the headquarters of someone the adventurers need to meet, or indeed to steal from, or kill. It could also be a place overrun by bandits, or abandoned and then haunted.

So while playing with some of the newer (to me) features around painting in objects and turning off object collision to merge items (like rocks), I came up with a small single-storey fort next to a mineshaft. Some of the rocks nearby contain seams of some sort of metal, and the surrounding swamp-land is frozen over in the depths of winter. I set the time of day as being late afternoon, with the sun starting to get low, and tweaked the light levels so the snow and ice weren’t quite so dazzling as some of the earlier versions.

Overhead map for a virtual tabletop of a fortress in a snowy landscape as described in the paragraph below.

The building itself has an entrance courtyard that is open to the air and has both a barracks and an armoury either side of a wide entrance hall. That hallway leads to both a treasury and a dungeon, with a kitchen and a rookery for communication with the outside world nearby. I wanted the feel to be of somewhere that could hold items such as local taxes for collection, as well as hold prisoners taken locally until they can be picked up and removed to a proper prison.

I’ve made a zip file as usual (border fort.zip) containing the jpeg above and the text file containing grid and lighting instructions for Roll20 and I hope you find it useful. This map has also been published in the Dungeon Alchemy Steam Workshop under the name DaOrribleDM. Have fun!

It’s The Weekend – Have a Spare NPC

It seemed like it wasn’t going to make it, but here we are with a screeching halt to the headaches, sinus pains, and tension headaches as various targets and goals were hit, and we had a massive rainfall that seems to have cleared some of the excess pollen for now. I’ve just had a nice relaxing session of shooting things in Destiny with boy s and Lady B and now to wind down before bed I’ve just had this wonderful mischief maker crawl out from behind the sofa and demand money with genteel menaces

Full body portrait of a green-skinned, large eared woman with purple hair in a  victorian up-do, dark aviator sunglasses, and layers of red and orange skirts and a long sleeved top over a dark blue blouse. Her feet are bare on a wooden floor, In her right hand she casually holds a human femor, and has small fangs set in a gold neckalce. Her gloved left hand is open. Her smile reveals sharp teeth

Welcome to Mrs Hibbert, a fey goblin who wears dark sunglasses against the day’s brightness, and probably has a couple of ogres or hobgoblins standing just round the corner to loom when she clicks her fingers. She’s a lady of local standing from a well-known family, and she’ll brook no nonsense or any mess on her freshly-cleaned carpets. Now just leave your pocket change in the ashtray there on the way out the door, and we’ll be seeing you soon.

So, I guess I made up a small business-goblin who rules her family with an iron fist inside her velvet gloves, and who is definitely, positively a legitimate member of the business community – or her money back. I sense a wonderful new contact for one of my adventures that I’ll be keeping in my back pocket.

More NPCs – Just Because

Surprise, surprise, I’ve been playing in Heroforge to wind down from a busy day. I’ve no plans for these, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve said that and then ended up folding them into one of the games. In this instance I’ve made a tiefling investigator, and a tortle hermit, and had some fun trying out some new options.

Merriam Fellbane has a devilish influence somewhere in her bloodline, as evidenced by the cloven hooves, tail, and horns – not to mention the pointed ears and odd-looking eyes. Despite her family’s background, they are lawful members of their local community and well-regarded. Merriam has followed in her father’s hoofsteps and trained to be an investigator working with the local guards on cases that are more complicated than usual, or that need a quiet follow-up. A talented sorcerer with a few rogue skills tucked in her wrist guards, Merriam could well be a quiet thorn in unruly groups’ sides – or an ally if the path to bringing a villain to justice is obscure.

Fisher Rawk lives by the coast in a tidal cave, where he lives off the land. A druid by calling, he lives a quiet life preserving the wildlife and plantlife native to his area. Sometimes he has to warn off settlers from overusing an area. Sometimes he protects settlers from raiders from across or below the waves. His demeanour is wry and calm, and while not dismissive of civilisation his calling keeps him serving nature where he is rather than running after trouble for its own sake.

DDC – Punishment

We returned after a week off to find the DDC preparing to move against a hidden forge used by the trolls. Set on the shore of a frozen lake about ten miles from the Hold, someone was making weapons and armour in what once been a mill.

Moving carefully, the DDC was able to intercept a group of armed troll raiders from the Fists of Urash and then on to the forge itself. There were signs of activity within, and a large crudely-built snow-troll on the edge of the woods.

On investigation, this proved to be a snow-covered ice troll napping in the morning sunlight and it roared a challenge that alerted the forge dwellers of intruders. A bloated poison-dripping venom troll was the first to emerge.

Arrows were launched, axes swung, and a wall of wind sent debris exploding into air before the venom troll closed on Caeluma, Kerne, and Arwan. The ice troll chased after Valenia while Thorin raced to block the forge door.

The ice troll radiated a freezing aura, while damage to the venom troll sent gouts of venom across anyone near them. A fireball cast by Kerne did little to slow them down, and more bellows of rage could be heard approaching.

Kerne narrowly escaped death in the opening moments of the fight. Protected by a death ward cast earlier by Arwan, they were able to immolate another troll raider approaching down the lake side. Meanwhile the forgemaster appeared in a berserk rage – a troll-blooded Barbarian with hag ancestry. This was Rufen, son of Irreck the Watcher, and he sprinted at the first person he saw – Kerne.

Arwan was able to bring mass healing to the group to offset the mauling they were receiving, but caught between the ice troll and the venom troll, he was himself badly wounded and fell to the ground in a pool of his own blood.

And that’s the cliffhanger we ended the session on and where we’ll pick back up next week!

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 ( abandonedriverhut.zip ) 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!

Map – Winter Graveyard

This is another new map that probably won’t see any immediate use in the game as it isn’t really the direction that the DDC or the Librarians are going, but it was fun to do. I went back to an old file I did when I first got Dungeon Alchemy, and reworked it. It wasn’t just a chance to bring in new textures and items, but also to enlarge the original small battlemap based on how I use them these days.

The original layout was a plain flat area of land with a large tomb and a nearby graveyard, separated by a river with a bridge over it. In this new version I’ve kept the basic layout but made a better bridge, edited the river, and manually reworked the landscape to give it more height and variety. The graveyard has been reworked to add some bigger monuments and features, while the large tomb has been turned into a mausoleum that someone has set up home in, complete with writing desk, tables and workshop items. A bed and some lighting complete the feel of an expansive place of study.

Overhead map shot of a snowbound graveyard and mausoleum in the middle of dense forest. A river divides the two with a stone bridge linking them. It is a nighttime scene with blooms of illumination from a number of small light sources and the overall glow of the moonlight

I also made use of the better tools now available to paint trees and rocks, and to layer the scene in snow as it is a winter scene. It also has the effect of making the light sources (various torches, braziers, and candles) stand out more. I envisage the map as either being one of investigation of mysterious sights, or the tracking of someone to a hideout so there’s all sorts of environmental storytelling built in.

I’ve created a zip file ( graveyard.zip ) with the map jpg and the text file with Roll20 lighting and wall information so you can import it to your Roll20 tabletop if you like – let me know if you use it and how it goes!

One of Those Days

It’s a measure of how full and overlapping of events today has been at work that the first message I read when I switched my phone on was someone letting me know that one of my staff had had a bereavement. I puzzled over it on the way in to work and it wasn’t until I spoke to the person mentioned that I remembered we’d talked about and sorted it last week. Overlapping and intertwining meetings then dominated the rest of the day, often at short notice

Oh, and boy s was given notice to leave his rented flat as its been bought and the new owner presumably wants to do it up and rent it out for more money. He knew it was on the cards, but still a nasty shock to have to sign for delivery of the notice this morning.

All in all, most people today that I’ve spoken to have had frustrations or unexpected obstacles materialise. Tomorrow, as they say, is yet to arrive.

My eyes are still aching and a bit light sensitive, so not much else to update today beyond saying that I’ve been enjoying the new Guardian Games event in Destiny – there are some rough edges but there’s some elements that are unapologetically tweaked for fun and spectacle in the special activities and its been a good way to wind down online with boy s and Lady B.