Sunday, October 14, 2018

Adventures of a Dungeon Master: Welcome to Seavale



Thanks for joining us on the next step of our adventure!

As always, recapping the party composition so that reading is easier:
-Suti: khenra zeal domain cleric
-Alzilu (Zil): khenra eldritch knight fighter
-Smith: half-elf land circle (mountain) druid
-Dot: changeling redemption oath paladin
-Brattlu: deep gnome scout rogue
-Sequoia: tabaxi sun soul monk

The journey to Seavale is uneventful, though the weather gets progressivle worse. As they arrive at the outskirts of the town in the late afternoon, the sky is nearly black from the coming storm, and a heavy mist lays over the town. Even for a seaside town, Seavale smells heavily of salt. Seabirds break the thick silence with their shrill cries, and the sounds of the waves breaking fills the air. The party enters the town slowly, but they see nothing of note, just signs of a village by the sea... small boats, clothes on lines, nets hung up for mending, etc. 

Lone Sequoia catches a smell not unfamiliar to those who live near beaches: the smell of decay. With little else to do, they secure their mounts and move on foot into the village, heading towards the beach. They find nothing of real note as they move further along the beach towards the town, eventually coming across the docks as they loom out of the shore. As they step onto the docks, the find the first signs that something bad has happened: the corpse of one of the previous groups sent to investigate, seemingly ritualistically killed and mutilated, and then gnawed upon. The body has an odd smell and appears to have not been touched by scavengers. 

Weapons drawn, the party moves further along the docks, encountering the bodies of villagers who appear to have been slain in battle, a battle that seemed to have moved from the end of the docks and towards the center of the village. Their slow search turns up very little beyond bodies until they enter a building along the docks, in which they find a locked door with a dead man slumped before it. Brattlu is unable to pick the lock, so Alzilu takes it upon himself to charge through the door. As the wooden door frame splinters, there is a cry, and Alzilu finds himself struck in the groin with a fishing pole. A young girl, clearly scared and dirty and not in great shape, is in the room. Smith, Sequoia, and Dot enter the room with her, while Alzilu steps back into the main room and Brattlu moves outside to keep an eye out. As the little girl desperately asks about her father, Dot informs her that they have only found corpses in the village. The distraught young woman (I say girl, but I described her as being about 15 or 16) begins to break down, asking about her father. When she describes him for the group, they recognize the description as matching the body they had found outside the room she was locked in. Rather than comfort her, Dot tells her that her father is dead, while Sequoia and Smith attempt to be a little more tactful. Alzilu, overhearing this, drags the dead body of the girl's father out of the room and throws it off the edge of the docks. Problem solved, right? The girl manages to at least tell the group a little of what happened: in the night, monsters came from the sea and began attacking the villagers. Many of the men took fishing spears, harpoons, and whatever else was on hand to stop them. Her father had locked her in the room and promised to come back for her. The sounds of fighting had continued, and she had barricaded the door. From where she was, through a small window, she had caught glimpses of slumped shapes dragging what appeared to be villagers, away, so perhaps there were still some survivors. 

In the meantime, Brattlue has been stealthy exploring more of the docks. Near the edge, where the beach comes close to the docks on the far side from where they approached, he hears a sound which he initially takes for the sound of bubbling water, but soon recognizes as having the sort of cadence that matches speech. With it, he hears uncomfortable wet tearing sounds. Moving quickly back to the group, he warns them that that they may have company. Alzilu tells the girl to hide and gives her a knife, and the party moves to investigate.

On the beach, they find a trio of creatures in the darkness, hunched over the body of one of the villagers, tearing chunks from the body and communicating in this strange, bubbling language. They strike without warning, gaining a surprise round on the creatures. The three monsters turn, their bodies soft and round, with large, bulging eyes set into a piscine face with a wide mouth full of short, sharp teeth. The kuotoa are slaughtered rather quickly, but not before one manages to let out a loud, piercing shriek sound. They carry nothing of note, except that they bear tattoos on their flesh which are a triangle with 3 intersecting lines in the shape of a 6-pointed star. Smith checks the old book and they find a page which has been partially removed and damaged which seems to show a similar emblem, but with swords one again in place of the simplistic lines. Without the ability to read the text, they can't decipher a deeper meaning.

At this point, Smith decides to take the young girl back to the last village they had passed for her own safety (the player had to leave early) and takes her away. The party continues to search the village for clues. On the beach, they discover some sort of disturbance in the sound that seems to have been from a large number of beings moving over the sand. Some of those disturbances seem to lead directly to the water, while others point towards small boats having been hastily launches from the shore.

Further investigation reveals a home on  the edges of the town, near the beach, in which they find a message and map drawn in blood. The message is simply a repetition of the circular symbol with the 3 parallel lines, and the map leads to an unknown location further down the beach. Sequoia discovers the map because of proficiency with cartographer's tools, so don't forget your tool skills folks!

Then a large building looms from the beach, ad the party finds large double doors chained shut with a simple lock. Brattlu decides to redeem himself and picks the lock, pulling the doors open.

Inside, a group of kuo-toa again are hunched over a body, tearing into it with their teeth. As the door opens they prepare themselves and gain a surprise round over the adventurers. One of the enemies is a spellcaster. The combat is not exactly long.

But what's that? Suti awakens in a corner of the room, bound with a seaweed rope. He hears the sounds of combat, and a sound that he thinks to be his brother's voice. Struggling free from his bonds, he enters the fray in a weakened state, but the party manage to slay the fish folk. From the body of the spellcaster, Alzilu recovers a medallion with the image of three crossed swords within a triangle. At this point, another player had to leave, and so Brattlu excuses himself to check on the horses and return to the previous village to have them send word back to the council.

Suti explains to the rest of the party that he and the first group had arrived late in the evening to find the village in the same state as they had; with dead bodies, but not enough to account for the whole village being empty. They had seen a dark figure moving through the streets and had followed it to the center of town where it had disappeared. As they looked around, they were attacked but what seemed to be endless waves of the clumsy fish people, gurgling in their odd language. They had tried to defend themselves at first, and then they had tried to flee. The fish men had used nets and seemed to be less focused on killing at this point. Suti soon found himself bound and knocked nearly senseless. As they dragged him through the village slowly, he heard snippets of conversation between three voices, two of which were speaking common. They mentioned something about a ritual, and suggested that they had no more need of extra bodies, so the prisoners could stay where they were. He never saw their faces, and was soon knocked unconscious again as he struggled to escape. He had awakened still in the village as the party was fighting to kill the kuo-toa which had just slain and begun to eat one of his compatriots, saving him from the same fate.

The party decides to head back to the village to meet up with the others and to plan their next steps. They fear that they will have to enter the sea in order to find the survivors, and that their journey may lead them to the infamous (And derelict) Telz mansion.

More to come!



Sunday, September 16, 2018

Adventures of a Dungeon Master: The Set up


So welcome to our second installment of Adventures of a DM! We've established the party composition, so lets talk about the hijinks that occurred in session 1! 

First, a recap of our heroic party:
-Alzilu (Zil): khenra eldritch knight fighter
-Suti: khenra zeal domain cleric
-Brattlu: deep gnome scout rogue
-Lone Sequoia: tabaxi sun soul monk
-Smith: half-elf circle of land (mountain) druid
-Dot: changeling oath of redemption paladin

Let me set the scene: Each character is from a different town or village within a sprawling rural confederacy of villages in a defined geographic area which contains coastal villages. This confederacy was developed to protect the villages from beasts and bandits, especially the predations of a bandit chieftain some years back who did some serious damage to many of the more isolated locales. Our timeline takes place a few hundred years after a major war had destroyed a lot of the area, and the scars and rebuilding are pretty evident in some places. The party were all level 3 and known in their villages for their skills, and known at least in name in most of the confederacy for the things they had done on behalf of their own towns. 

Our party is called together at what is generally considered the capitol of the confederacy; a minor city closer to major trade routes, where a sort of council which represents the confederacy meets to discuss big picture things. It is before this council which our party (Minus Suti... more on that!) finds themselves, in a locked door meeting. The council told them that one of the coastal villages, the village of Seavale, had not sent out their usual routine wagons of trade goods in some time. Those sent to see if there was an issue never sent word back. A group sent to investigate those disappearances, which included Suti, also disappeared. This group, being well known for their problem solving (especially if it could be solved with violence) were brought here because it looks like some bad shit is going down. The council had eve gone so far as to try and consult a local hermit who was known for his oracular abilities. The hermit had been found in a hysterical state, capable only of screaming about the "hands of the sea." The party is on board with all of this, but wants to meet with the old man and learn more about what may be up.

The old man and his helper are brought in, but he is just muttery and seems almost senile in his responses. However, when Brattlu pushes the issue, the old oracle goes into a sort of fit, trying to speak to them while salt water pours from his mouth and eyes in a fashion his normal anatomy would be incapable of doing. During this fit, the council freaks out and nopes the heck out of the room. Thinking ahead, the party gives the old man a writing utensil and paper, on which he proceeds to draw a symbol: a circle with 3 parallel vertical line within.

Dot takes the old man to a healer, while Smith and Sequoia take the paper and go to the small local monastery. Alzilu goes to a nice tavern and has a bite to eat, while Brattlu decides to go stock up on supplies and try to do some merchanting, because if he's not selling, he's not living. At the monastery, Smith gets lucky and a venerable old monk in their small library leads him to a book whose cover has a similar emblem, albeit in more detail: the parallel lines are in reality three swords. Opening this book, they discover that the words and images within are basically complete gibberish. When asked of the origin, the old monk tells them that the book was part of a collection of works brought to them by a man who claimed that they were recovered from the ruins of the island mansion of the Telz family. They learn that the family was a wealthy family whose power predated the war hundreds of years ago, back when Seavale had been a thriving port. During the war, a minor magical catastrophy on unknown origin had collapsed a major portion of the city into the sea. The Telz mansion had survived on a broken island of the shore of the old city. The current village of Seavale were the descendants of the survivors doing their best to rebuild and recover from the destruction of a whole city. They take the book with them. 

Meanwhile, Dot has caught up with the council members after making sure the old man wouldn't die. They give him some supplies and even provide the party with a small wagon for their journey. The party reconvenes in the morning and begin their journey to Seavale!


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Adventures of a Dungeon Master: Meet your DM & Party



So we're going to try something a little new here, because honestly I am so terribly inconsistent with my blogging that I need to be sort of pushing something out. So I've decided to start blogging about my current Dungeons & Dragons (DnD) game experience as a DM.

First though, a little bit about me and my gaming history!

I have been playing DnD in some form since I was basically a toddler. My older brothers played, and as a kid, I wanted to be included. The 1e AD&D books were instrumental in me learning to read, and my first character I can recall was a human fighter named Drip who made it to level 12 and abused the combination of a girdle of storm giant strength and the 1e broken pummeling tables. We quickly transitioned into 2e and some family members and friends joined our group, so that our DnD group fluctuated between 3-10 people. Campaigns were mostly improvised festivals of fun and jokes. Memorable moments include a thief who would sleep poison the paladins and lock them in an iron trunk to do thief things, a wizard self-detonating a Staff of the Magi to cover the party's retreat, a dragonslayer (using the council of Wyrms book in 2e) with his half dragon companion, and a drow fight-cleric who once managed to critically hit a great wyrm red dragon with 2 weapon attacks that were called shots to the eyes. I've played and owned the original box set, and every edition except 4e so far. I've also dabbled in other TTRPGs... Vampire: The Masquerade (And Demon, Werewolf, and Mummy from White Wolf), Aces & Eights, 7th Sea, Outbreak, various Star Wars games, and others. I've been on both sides of the DM screen (and still call it DM even though I think the accepted term now is game master (GM).

Recently some friends and I have been playing 5e DnD, and we dabbled with some campaigns until our DM had life happen and lost his time to plan games. He asked if I'd be willing to DM some stuff so that the game could continue... how could I say no?

So using a homebrew world I've been working on for years, and a 5e ruleset which i was not entirely familiar with, we recruited some players and got everyone all set. Before the first session I spent hours making my own maps to use (We use Roll20 because we are playing across multiple states and time zones!) as well as pre-made maps which fit my vision. I wrote a story outline, plotted major story encounters, and even sat down and developed my own random encounter tables which were a mix of easy, normal, hard, and deadly encounters. My players were given access to most things for character creation, minus flying races because flight really does break the game. We rolled states instead of using a point buy, and I used a rolling scheme that tended to give higher stats, and all characters started at level 3.

So let me introduce you to our characters!

-Alzilu Qanafadh: A khenra (anubis-headed warrior race from the amonkhet planeshift book) fighter eldritch knight with the initiate background (also from amonkhet). CN and sort of all about his martial training and looking out for his brother.
-Suti Qanafudh: Also a khenra, and Alzilu's twin brother (they get racial bonuses for being twins). A cleric of Zeal (also amonkhet... lots of fire and thunder spells). Another melee character. Both brothers wander to train for a cultural challenge that will end in their death and reward in the afterlife.
-Brattlu Jadeback: A deep gnome rogue scout with the merchant background, who was once an underdark smuggler, but was ambushed to run him out of business, surviving only with the help of his trusty mule, Molly. He now is a sort of wandering merchant with a gruff demeanor and capitalist mentality with a soft spot for orphans and children of all sorts.
-Dot: a changeling paladin of redemption folk hero. He hides his changeling nature from his compatriots, and has seen so much violence and evil in his life that he seeks to avoid violence (especially lethal violence) when at all possible, and seeks to help ease the ills of the world through healing and other good deeds.
-Lone Sequoia: a tabaxi sun soul monk who is a member of the smith's guild. Torn between her natural impulsive curiosity and her discipline from a life as a monk, is looking to see the world beyond the monastery.
-Smith: A half elf circle of land druid outsider, he just seems to really be in to the adventuring thing. 

My next post will set up the adventure background and the first session!



Saturday, July 28, 2018

Winter




My lips are cracked and bleeding
My knuckles bruised and broken
This winter wind rips through me
My tears will spill for words unspoken

This frozen landscape reflecting a hollow self
This cold empty feeling inside

That is holding me down
Drowning in the drifting snow
There is a certain perfection in the coldness of winter
The quiet cold
Such a metaphor for death,
That it borders on the cliche

Still I look for the sun
Something to carry me on
Or make me blind
All of my chances have blown away like autumn leaves
While winter is coming
I'm wishing for spring
Blind to the death of seasons
I die here cold and alone

My eyes red from crying
My hands numb and shaking
My whole body trembles from mistakes I've been making
There's a certain beauty in winter
Distracting from the ugliness within
This peaceful white solitude
Giving way to isolatin
The ice gracing the landscape can match the coldness of your eyes

My breath clouding the air
The cold digging to my bones
An animal desperate for the warmth around my beating heart
I'm as empty as the winter winds
And perhaps twice as bitter
All my hopes are torn apart
I would have died for all of this


Friday, June 29, 2018

Wanderer, Reprised



It was cold, I think
A kind of formless, emptiness
Simply absent of heat
With blurred colors and soft edges
A dreamscape of spiraling greyscale
Tinged with blue and purple
Footsteps crunched on the hard gravel
Of a dark road
Stretching forward into formless darkness
Even the stars flared coldly in the clear sky
With no warmth or light of hope
Two figures stood as one
A statue beside a ghost, resting gently together
Hands clasped like a hope chest
Watching their breath curl into the air in a pale cloud
Forming a swirling dance that faded gently away
Shoulders hunched against the slow, seeping loss of heat

I found myself standing at a crossroads
Where ghosts danced
Not exactly a metaphor, for the drifting road
On a planar spread; flat and unwinding
I paused amidst the stones and dirt
Hands thrust into my pockets among the loose change
And small secrets
Watching the spirits writhe
In ecstasy, or pain, or some unknown feeling
I had been wandering this road
For longer than I know
Perhaps even forever
My weary legs carried me through blurred time
Accompanied by cold winds
And the sorrowful keening of my own lonely thoughts
Drowning out the whispering crickets or howling of wolves

Flicking pennies into the darkness
Like casting dreams into darker fires
I stood at the crossroads
Contemplating the near-familiar faces
Of the celebrant wraiths
One pale sprite paused to face me
A mirror of old memories etched upon a marble cloud
"Wanderer," he whispered
"I see you are lost again
On a long road
To a place you do not know
The desert did not break you
But why do you walk alone?"
I watched my breath curl, pondering
And sighed a reply
"I do not wander alone,"
My lips twisted to a sad smile
"I walk with your brothers and sisters
And memories that sustain me"

The ghosts parted as I chose my path
And I continued to walk, until the sun rose
As dawn broke in faint reds over the grey landscape
I felt the crunch of sand still in my shoe
Rough, and somehow still warm
A reminder of roads traveled before
Memories existing, then
Perhaps not entirely fondly
Any sign of my passing swept away by blowing winds
That kissed my skin with frozen fire
As I pulled my jacket tighter around my shoulders
Sunless grey skies gave way to pure, cold nights
Where a man may have learned
To miss the dessert sun
Pausing beside a small pond
I saw dragonflies dancing above the smooth surface
Broken by what looked to me
To be the bleached remains of broken bones
I knelt to sate my curiosity

Amongst the drifting cattails, a skull peered back
Upon which sat an immense frog, croaking with delight
"Wanderer," it began, shifting upon the bleached throne
"You have not come to drink, as they have
but is that because you fear
that they have found the answer you seek?
They struggled to find warmth
But all fell asleep in the snow"
I smiled, I think
"I have wandered deserts
Full of the failures of others
I have drunk from the springs
And clean waters of another dying world"
The frog croaked merrily
"Yet still you wander
As if you truly believe
The journey could reveal the answers you seek"



Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Down the Barrel of a Gun



There are times
When we must act
and times to err on the side of dignity
But there is never a time
When turning your back on what is good
Will ever put you in the right
So we choose
As you must
Whether we wish to be right
Do the right thing
Or be comfortable

The bloody fist of the oppressed
And the bloody knives of the oppressors
Both leave stains
But I would rather see a fight for life
And dignity
And hope
Than watch a thousand people marching towards their graves
Singing empty, patriotic songs
Deaf ears falling on empty words

We cannot force them to value life
Or sit by idly while we are told
That their voices of hate
Or greed
Are as deserving of being heard
As calls for equality
Chasing bloodstained halls
And streets
While they deflect blame to fit their ideologies
We learn to fight
With whatever means we need
Until the voices are loud enough
To be heard above the cacophony of hate
Otherwise we are simply screaming our indignation
Down the barrel of a gun


Friday, April 27, 2018

Narrow Sorrows



Weary scars and hard-earned wrinkles
Furrows of a life lived, living still
Deep canals for the blood, sweat
And sweet tears
While demons wrestle behind hollow eyes
For the honor of being the first to beat down
Upon brows hung hollow and dark 
From sleepless nights
We can dance among the maze of stone memorials
Shouldering burdens of grand grief
With the stoic look of stone gargoyles
Worn and watchful, perched atop walls
Weathering the storms and slings and arrows

It is not the crushing weight of mountains
But the tiny kisses of a thousand loving monsters
A curtain of small despairs and gentle regrets
Worrying at the base of your skull 
Like a dog with an old bone
Splintering the tough exterior 
Which has withstand the broken gods of old hopes
Feasting upon the sweet marrow of looking forward
Life running in rivulets
Through the canyons and valleys
Dug from young flesh by old wounds

How do we navigate such narrow sorrows?
With no roadmap to the sunlit meadows of the mind
Where we had once longed to dance
Or rest in the shade of towering promise
Branches spread above us to ward off the harsh lights
How do we separate yesterday from tomorrow
Without the dam breaking
Or forgetting the sweet ache of the black memories we carried?