The Annis Hag known as Deadeye Alice is a solitary being, at least as far as others of her kind go. She does not live alone however. Over the many years of her existence she has formed a family of her own choosing – and the first part of that was taming the so-called Chainmates.
Hurrek and Dhellis are ogres, native to the Blackcap mountains, who were captured by slavers and forced to fight. At first they were confined to arenas but as their prowess and experience grew they became trusted enough to act on behalf of the owners of the arena. Bound together by their chains, they fought as a unit to make the most of their strengths despite their shackles. Then, one day, they saw an opportunity to break their chains and slay their captors. They did so and then struck off on their own to make their own way through the world.
Hurrek and Dhellis reworked the chains of their slavery into savage weapons to sweep opponents away, while the bonds of their time together led them to a deep and passionate relationship. In time they entered lands claimed by Deadeye Alice – and she aided them – seeing fellow outcasts. The two ogres crushed her enemies, and she provided for them – and then took them as husbands. Devoted to her as much as to each other, the ogres sired five sons with her and taught those sons how to fight.
The ogres are never too far from their wife – they are wily and surprisingly stealthy for such large beings – but at the same time they also know not to question her or get in the way of her schemes. Deadeye Alice is absolutely in charge, even if that control is sometimes masked in honeyed words. There is a brutal directness and honesty between the three of them and their sons that can be mistaken for a lack of awareness by outsiders, but do not be fooled. This may not be a traditional hag’s coven, but their knowledge and understanding of each other means that they are a greater threat together than apart.
A foolish bard once opined that the Chainmates had swapped slavery in the arena for a different kind of ownership. His remains were found on several spikes a week later.
I’m having a bit of a restless day, so I’m glad I got my application sorted yesterday, which means that it isn’t hanging over me. It’s been a day of bits of housework and groceries – and catching up on tv. As ever, my usual distraction under these circumstances is playing around in HeroForge and coming up with ideas as to how I could use these oddballs.
So I’ve saved each of these under whatever random name comes to mind and we therefore get – from left to right: Melly Verne, Rufen, and Polmet. Each has emerged with a different focus and hopefully that’s immediately obvious just from the initial portraits.
Melly Verne is a sorceror and small time hustler, with a ball of flame somehow concealed in the plain sight of her bare arms. A plain bandit’s mask is a grand idea, but the flamboyance of her dyed hair and tattoos, not to mention striking appearance mean that she’s hard to lose in a crowd. Then again, if a ball of flame goes flying through the air, most people will be fixed on that so perhaps there’s a method to the madness.
Rufen is a barbarian descended from either an orc or a troll – its hard to tell really quite what an eclectic mix of species he is. A mercenary by trade, their axe and javelin give a range of options in combat – and despite his handsome appearance there’s a ruthless energy held in check.
Polmet is a a kobold artificer and tinkerer, more interested in taking things apart and recombining the elements to make something new than in adventuring. Between their hammer and bottles of oils they can make sure things either stay put or get shifted.
Feel free to copy and use these tokens in your own games – and as ever if you do, I’d love to hear what they get up to.
So here’s a new batch of NPCs/antagonists that a group might encounter – inspired by the uniform approach for guards and zombies recently, I spent an evening making a bunch of goblins with a similar look who could be raiders or part of a larger force.
I’ve made up here a sniper, a spellcaster, a spearcarrier, a skirmisher, and a general sneaker – all with a unified colour scheme and set of armour. It’s been fun to play around with the facial expressions and poses and I think that’s a big part of the draw.
There’s something about this set of facial features that makes me smile – its similar to some recurring sketch designs that I doodle on and off. In the meantime the unified designs of groups like this are also sparking scenario ideas, so that’s an added bonus given the number of times I wing encounters in my games.
As ever, feel free to download and use anything here – have fun!
I had a bit of a quick play round in Heroforge to make some guards that were zombies for a scenario knocking around in my head – I’ve saved the models but did quickly make some virtual tokens that I could scatter around a map to scare some players. I mostly just played around with head positions and changed a couple of minor details, but wanted to keep enough of the same basic equipment and colours to suggest a uniform.
Not bad for a quick ten minutes clicking away on the laptop – I’m thinking of scenarios ranging from adventurers happening across an overrun checkpoint, an invasion by necromancy-using forces, an unearthly portal to a dark dimension, or a buried eldritch machine that has been reactivated and that is draining the life force from the area and needs to be quickly found and destroyed.
Feel free to grab copies for yourself, and as ever if you use them, let me know – I’m always on the lookout for scenario ideas.
There’s an aspect of fantasy world storytelling that appeals that focuses on characters caught between two worlds or cultures – the idea of the halfbreed who may or may not be accepted by either of their species or cultures. Sometimes this leads them to dark places, sometimes to brighter places. They can be an allegory or not, depending on the whim of the author or the player (who may have picked their character traits for some trait that fitted their concept)
So with that in mind, here are two new NPCs I’ve modelled in HeroForge and toyed around with in DNDBeyond: Rufen Hagspawn and Arianna Hytheknot.
Rufen is a custom lineage involving trolls and hags as the concept – very much inspired by the current DDC adventures. He is a barbarian with distinctive broken ram’s horns sprouting from his brow, who appears brutish but is unexpectedly charismatic. He may not be schooled in the ways of civilisation, but he has an uncommon amount of common sense (or wisdom). Even so, that wisdom is largely concerned with where and when to swing the great axe he carries. He is largely shunned wherever he goes, but he has managed to bargain for a trinket that once per day allows him to disguise himself as a human or similarly sized individual. This allows him to access shops and taverns without automatically being chased out of town as a monstrous abomination.
Arianna is a tiefling druid who lives by the docks of a town, preserving the wildlife and plantlife at the interface between civilisation and the natural world. The rats and vermin act as her eye and ears as she sells charms to sailors and potions to housewives. On occasion she’ll be asked to patch up someone caught by footpads, or on the run from the watch – and she turns any coin from that towards making her corner of the world a little calmer and safer for the youngsters. The horns on her head may make for an arresting sight but she finds it a good way to test people by not mentioning it, and pretending to be completely unaware of them when questioned.
Both are good examples of border characters that live on the edges of society and who may well be living in shades of moral greyness. How they react to player characters may well depend on how they in turn are treated on first contact or in how the actions of the characters are reported to others.
Rufen is more of a lone wolf individual who might eke out a living as a hunter, or who might be a mercenary encountered with a bunch of bandits who use his hardiness and regenerative powers to break defences. Arianna is much more of a socialised individual who works within or on the fringes of a society – the docks which inspire her second name. A hythe is an an old english word for a dock, usually on a river – so a hytheknot may be what secures a rope from a boat as it rests in its mooring – or maybe there’s a more sinister aspect related to punishment for pirates.
As ever, feel free to download these PNG format graphics and use them for your own VTTs – and if you do, drop me a note and let me know what they get up to – or how else you’ve used them.
I’ve been playing round with designing tokens for more generic non player characters – in particular this week I’ve been toying with themed and uniformed groups that the DDC and others are likely to encounter. To cut a long story short, here’s some tokens for two sets of guards for your virtual table. Rather than do a portrait and token, I’ve instead done two different styled tokens in PNG format – one a circled portrait, the other a top-down view of the figure that preserves transparencies.
This first one is a half-elven city guard in chainmail and armed with a buckler shield and hammer. His yellow half-cloak is as much a badge of office as a protection from the elements while on patrol. I’m not sure which faction these guards will be connected to, but I can repaint the model with different schemes. These are not bad people – they’re just doing their job.
This second token is for the newly-reformed guards of Amberhammer Hold. They’re dressed for the cold winter heights as well as the dark below in colours that reflect the yellows of the amber fields and the glint of gold in the mines. They wield war hammers as they keep the peace, and bear battle axes for times of war.
I’ve enjoyed starting to make these – there will be more
I haven’t entirely decided the how and where of most of these, but my ongoing experiments with Heroforge have presented some interesting options that seem to have stories to tell – or at least be the conduit for stories to tell with my assorted players. I’m trying to come up with characters that can stand out vividly – or be comic relief – and so today’s small batch ranges from a Dragonborn paladin, a Halfling bartender, and a Reborn elven hunter.
In order then we have Serenidas, a Dragonborn holy warrior descended from Copper Dragons who serves the principle of justice. Yes, the pun is entirely intentional even if not entirely original. Clad in reds and yellows, he has a magical flaming sword and an enchanted shield as he brings light to dark places.
Next we have Harlan Ghallison – a Mark of Hospitality Halfling who will be taking over the inn in Flower Town and widening the scope of the entertainments and treats available to customers and people passing by. I’m envisioning the sort of wry bartender running a Wild West saloon who may or may not have his fingers in some less that legal pies.
Lastly we have Hunter Dorull – who is an elf ranger who died before completing his mission and refused to stay put – at least, that’s his story. His body may be powered by pure willpower, but what is his mission, and why is he drawn to the DDC?
As ever, these tokens and portraits are free for the stealing for your VTT of choice – and I’d love to hear of any use you put them to!
Heroforge continues to be a great way to unwind at the end of a busy day – its creative in the sense of experimentation in a sandbox and that limitation helps me in many ways. Rather than the intensity of creating something whole cloth, it feels more like something I can pick up and toy with briefly before getting on with something else.
As I’ve also mentioned, it helps me come up with concepts for encounters and opponents in my games. If these then give any ideas to you then feel free to pinch the tokens for your own games.
So today’s new faces are Djellayna of the merfolk, and Loopi Butterbash, a harengon fairy warrior. Both are fierce protectors of their people and territories and could be encountered by groups who have ventured off the usual trade routes. They could be antagonists, bearers of warnings and messages, or unexpected allies or guides.
There’s also some wonderful options from the expressions on their faces: Djellayna looks haughty and dismissive, as if not quite sure what they’re looking at. Loopi looks cocky, and I could imagine him peppering a combat with taunts and insults. If I use them in any scenarios I’ll update the blog
There’s been new content added to HeroForge in the form of mounts and companion animals so I’ve had a bit of a play and then added in one of the new faces from last week. I’m not sure how or even if I’ll use this so I’m throwing the concept out there for anyone to grab and use.
Introducing Rakkan and Rekkam – a dragonborn monk and his raptor mount and companion. Rekkam favours the use of a bo staff and tends to have a veneer of amiability over the hardened discipline that his meditation and training have developed. Rekkam hails from a snowy mountaintop monastery near to where he was born – and unsurprisingly his lineage descends from one of the ancient white dragons that lair in the highest reaches. A follower of the Way of the Ascendant Dragon, Rekkam embraces his heritage and devotes himself to working in his local communities as a mediator and defender.
Rakkan is a trained raptor raised as part of a cadre of beasts by the monastery. While capable of fighting and hunting alongside his partner, Rakkan is mostly used for longer journeys where Rekkam acts as a courier. There is a deep affection between the two and more than one bandit has needed a change of underwear when Rakkan has crept up on them and growled in their ear.
As to how to use these characters? Well I’ve left lots of space for you to flesh them out. In my mind’s eye, Rekkam moves with purpose but sits or stands very still when others are talking or if he is observing them. He’s probably about 5th or 6th level – competent enough to deal with most common challenges and be a noted defender of the local community. He is most likely to be encountered as a courier – perhaps as a target for the party to intercept, or encountered while defending himself against bandits. Perhaps he is encountered as a scout, or a mystic contemplating the view in a mountain pass. Perhaps he rides to the aid of a group if they are being overrun.
As a couple, Rekkam is serious but kind – while Rakkan is curious and willful. You could probably get some humour from describing their interactions which may feel more like partners in misadventure rather than rider and mount…
We completed year two of the DDC campaign this afternoon with an emotional rollercoaster that tied all sorts of loose ends together. I’ll write it up properly tomorrow. In the meantime, here are some faces that will loom into view in the next chapter. One of them is a recurring character called Inquisitor Rojas who is a paladin of the Silver Flame, while the other two are duergar heroes who escaped the final battle for Amberhammer Hold.
The DDC first met Inquisitor Rojas while enjoying a break in their train journey – he approached Thorin in the station bar and asked a series of questions about Thorin and about his sister. He played his cards close to his chest but pledged the assistance of the Silver Flame should they be needed. As the Silver Flame were the main drivers of a pogrom that destroyed all known lycanthropes and doppelgangers before the Last War, the presence of a body of armed men on the borders of Amberhammer lands, led by Inquisitor Rojas led to a great number of discussions about how to prevent them from descending on the dwarvish lands to eliminate the werewolves. The fear was that zealotry would lead to mass civilian casualties.
With the defeat of the mindflayers however, the Inquisitor made one more appearance – arriving alone outside the Hold to have a conversation with Thorin. He congratulated the new Lord on pushing back the powers of evil and defending his people – and was told by Thorin that the werewolf problem was now under control. He offered to bring his people in to assist with any last rounding up that needed doing but was rebuffed. He seemed convinced by Thorin’s arguments – at least enough not to push the new lord on his own doorstep – but he did pause when Caeluma growled at him as he left. After a moment, he continued on his way, and led his force back to the larger body of men still camped outside Cragwar.
The two remaining characters are duergar who fled the battle and remain within Amberhammer lands. Umbas Fell is a psionicist, while Marko Patchbeard is a paladin with an oath of vengeance. Time will tell how they impact the stories to come.