Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Tested by the Elements - TLOD S07 E10

As she gasps for breath the catgirl Ai-Nyx is pulled out from under the hulking corpse of the Giant.  

Searching it's huge corpse Wulf finds a two handed sword the giant was using as a table knife and a bag containing some mixed coins.  Our heroes lick their wounds, and press on to the Eagles Eerie.

Are "Enemies" Electric?


By noon they have made good progress trudging through the light snow and howling winds when suddenly the clouds darken and the air becomes still and heavy and.  Lightning tears Argos the sky. And with a flash Tarigoz is hit by a bolt which bounces of his metal breastplate and coalesces into a crackling humanoid figure made of blue jittery light.

Lightning Elemental by Chalmer Relatorre
Laurel is immediately reminded of the bedtime tales her Aeroimm Father used to recite to her about the strange elemental beings which inhabit the clouds.  She recognises this as a lightning elemental of sorts.  A force of nature with no evil intent, just primordial awareness.  She waits to see what it does.

However, Jan the Sell Sword knows nothing of elemental beings and strikes the creature with his magical sword Maraghbur, wounding it.

The elemental flashes across the pass, seemingly attracted to Tarigoz's metal armour, flashes across the pass in an instant.  In a dazzling show of lights, tendrils of electricity arc around the Knight and discharge with raucous barks.  Ssinkar attempts to strike the creature with his wooden staff, Styx strikes with her sword but misses it and Nyx throws a javelin straight through it embedding itself in the cliffside.

Tarigoz bashes the creature with his shield but the creature seems unperturbed.  Wulf strikes at the creature with his newly acquired sword and is rewarded with sparks of crackling blue energy which run up the length of his blade and lick up his arms shocking him.

Laurel grabs the peace stick which hangs from her belt.  A strange foot long smooth black rod which terminates in 3 embedded glass rings which give off a faint glow.  She swings at the creature but misses.

Jan invokes Maraghbur to flame and strikes the creature carving off a chunk of crackling blue energy which dissipates.  The creature retaliates blasting Tarigoz a hundred feet down the pass in a shower of blue flame and sparks. Styx strikes the elemental solidly with her sword and like wulf before her is rewarded with a shocking surge of energy which passes through her body singing her hair.

Undeterred the Barbarian unleashes his primal fury and once again is rewarded with stinging pains throughout his whole body.  Laurel hits the creature with her peace stick and with a bang, the elemental seems to shrink in size.  Laurel's weapon grows strangely warm in her hand.

Once again Jan brings down Marghbur's fiery vengeance down upon the elemental and the creature blast him with energy knocking the sword out of his hands and the mercenary back 60 feet into an unconscious heap.

Styx picks up Maraghbur and the sword assaults her mind with the question "Who the Hell are You?" The Catgirl was not expecting this and is stunned.  The barbarian rages on.  Tarigoz picks himself up and charges headlong at the elemental hitting it squarely with his shield.  Sparks fly off and around him as he pushes the creature back against the cliff.

Laurel snatches Maraghbur from Styx's outstretched hand and hits the creature, her other hand swings around and stabs with the peace stick which once again emits a bang and the elemental is reduced in size.  Styx grabs laurels Peace stick and hits the now child sized elemental with and it dissipates with crackle.  Styx immediately drops the peace stick in the snow as it grows to hot to handle.  A cloud of steam rises up and the snow is quickly reduced to a puddle of water which bubbles vigorously before evaporating.  After a short while it cools and can be picked up again.

Ikkarikka urges them on as the Eagles Eerie is not far.

Giant Bird in Flight by ArtificialGuy on DeviantArt

Entreating with Eagles


A few hours later, as they approach the snow line of the mountain, they are buffetted by winds from above and a giant eagle lands on the ledge above them.  The Eagle speaks to their minds directly asking them

"Who are you and what brings you to Mount Durcas?"


Nyx explains their mission and recants the Arakocara shaman's vision.  The Eagle tells them that the they have seen the dark clouds gathering and it concerns them.  The tower of ice and the frozen lake is known to them.  It is many days travel from here and they agree to take the party there.  However, Ikkarikka must attend the council of Eagles.

More Eagles swoop down from the clouds above and snatch up the heroes in their great talons.  The journey to Mount Ederglow takes a few hours by Eagle and one by one they are deposited on a ledge outside a cave mouth.

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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Get Knotted - TLOD S07 E09

Our Heroes rest the night at Tikka Ti-Jarra whilst the remaining Aarakocara pack their belongings for the journey to the last refuge at Tchichi-Kwaaka. 

As dawn breaks they head off with their new guide Ikkarikka heading for the Eagles Eerie.  They descend the mountain and into the valley and it is not long before they are once again climbing into the mountains and wending their way along the mountain road.

Danger Round Every Bend


As night begins to fall they find a shallow cave in which to shelter from the wind and the snow.  Without firewood they huddle round the flaming sword Maraghbur.  During the second watch Styx's hears gruff voices coming from above them.  Maraghbur's dim flickering affords her keen vision enough light to pierce through the darkness and illuminate the faces of two Giants who have spotted the party from the ledge above.

 
Awesome Artwork by Einar Martinsen


Returning to the group she wakes them all and describes the interlopers.  Maraghbur is extinguished and in the darkness she listens to the pair hatch a plan to ambush the party as they traverse the pass in the morning. 

Forewarned is forearmed as they say, and the heroes hatch a cunning counter plan.  Laurel, Styx and Nyx scale the 100 feet of steep but not sheer cliff which separates their ledge from that of the giants.  They stealthily approach the now slumbering Giants and tie their bootlaces together before retreating up the pass and around the next bend.

Before dawn Tarigoz leads the other half of the party along the pass around the switchback to within earshot of the still sleeping Giants.  With a battlecry he leads the charge and in a simultaneous pincer movement Laurel and the two Phylus attack from the other side.

Caught Flat Footed


The Giants are quick to their feet but one stumbles and falls, its boots tied together by stout laces the thickness of good rope. Ssinkar recites a blessing as the combat ensues.  Despite having the boon of Kriskar vested upon them both Tarigoz and Wulf's blows are found wanting whilst Jan envokes his firry blade and strikes solidly at the standing Giant who retaliates with his big club catching Wulf a mighty blow to the chest. 

Styx pounces on the fallen Giant and her sister swings at it with her nunchuks to no avail.  Laurel catches it with one swipe of her scimitars slicing the creature a deep wound. 

Whilst Tarigoz's attack is parried away Ssinkar commands the standing Giant to Sleep.  Offering no resistance the Giant is struck by both Wulf and Jan who open new deep wounds in the creatures flesh.

Styx is roughly tossed aside as the second Giant lurches to its feet, Nyx stabs at the creature striking it in a vulnerable spot.  Laurel strikes once again and both blades find their targets opening wicked wounds across the Giant's arms.

Tarigoz lands a blow on his foe who stands as still as a rock under he Salamankari Clerics thrall.  Ssinkar reiterates his command and regains control of the Giant.  Jan plunges his fiery blade deep into the creatures belly.

A Crushing Defeat


Laurel once again deals a serious blow to the other Giant.  Tarigoz finally despatches the enthralled enemy and it tumbles off the ledge and down the mountainside.  Wulf critically injures the second Giant and Tarigoz finishes the job.  The Giant teeters and totters before crumpling to the floor on top of Nyx. 


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Monday, 20 March 2017

Death from Above - TLOD S07 E08

As the heroes caught their breath they could see that fighting had broken out on the amphitheatre ledges surrounding them.

Laurel shot at a flying ape on one of the eastern ledges hitting it squarely in its back, Wulf followed suit with his longbow piercing another's bat like wing.  Ssinkar rushed across the plateau towards Jan who had crashing to the ground like a meteor falling from the sky, landing on one of the ledges where a winged ape commander was overseeing the attack.

Having slaughtered their initial Aarakocaran targets some of the winged apes swooped down to attack the heroes.  Styx was soon engaged and struck at one with her short sword.  With enemies closing in on her Laurel tossed aside her bow and drew her scimitars cutting down her nearest foe with a whirl of her wickedly sharp blades.  Undeterred by losing  his beloved sword, Wulf flicked his dagger out of its sheath flipping it between his hands as he chose his moment to strike, plunging the dagger into the winged ape's chest.  Tcho'eh was set upon by another flying ape which clawed viciously at his scarred skin.  Wulf's opponent was joined by another and both cut deep into the barbarian as they tried to overpower him.


Jan picked himself up only to find himself beset upon by a flying ape commander.  The quick witted mercenary cried "Parr" and shot skywards from the melee like a cork from a bottle. 


Across the field of battle Nyx whirled her three segment nunchuck staff at another winged ape striking it squarely in the shoulder.


With Jan gone, the winged ape commander leapt from the ledge and into melee with Ssinkar clawing at the Salamankari like a vicious beast.


Laurel engaged with a fresh enemy making a solid strike.  With a holy word Ssinkar channeled a prayer of Hold Person on the commander freezing him to the spot.  The creature attacking Tco'eh struck the birdman's beak and recoiled in pain at the shock of his hand hitting the hard keratin.  Wulf's foes continued their assault on the Euborean raining a bevy of battering blows on top of him.  Luck was not on Laurel's side as a strike from her enemy temporarily blinded her.  Fortunately Tarigoz was close at hand and he leapt into the fray slaying the creature with a mighty blow worthy of a bard's tale.


Above the Clouds


The sword Maragbhur pulled Jan screaming skywards, piercing the black cloud layer and emerging into clear bright sunlight.  As he arced gracefully over in a backflip he could clearly see the minarets, turrets and battlements of a small castle floating atop the castle.  Winged apes scuttled around the ramparts and flights of creatures assembled for yet more waves of attack. Just as quickly as he had emerged from the clouds he reentered their dark embrace to return to the fight below.









Armed with one of Styx's short swords and the shield he scavenged from the Northern gatehouse tower at Fanjr, Tcho'eh pressed his attack and with more luck than skill lunged at his opponent lodging the point of his blade in the creatures eye socket.  The top of the creatures head exploded in a mess of blood and brains as the Aarakocaran claimed his first kill.


The Temple of Tikka Ti-Jarra is Lost


A huge explosion rocked the mountain top as a great bolt of lightning cracked from the heavens crushing the top of the temple like a spoon on an egg.  Great chunks of what passed for Aarakocaran masonry rained down on the combatants below.




Blinded but unbroken, Laurel calmly waited for Tarigoz to lead her to the next enemy to be slain.


Blood filled Wulf's eyes as the rage swelled inside him.  Armed only with the small dagger he u
sed to peel fruit he attacked the nearest winged ape who grabbed his wrist turning the blade against Wulf himself and the barbarian felt the blade slowly pierce his flesh.


The tide of battle was turning against the heroes as a winged ape flew in to protect its leader striking Ssinkar on the head and knocking him unconscious.  Nyx's enemy struck her with a battering blow of its clawed fist.  Wulf's rage was fading as one of two apes attacking him struck him across the face whipping his head from right to left, blood and sweat streamed from the barbarian as he fell to the floor vanquished.


A winged ape fresh from killing a family of bird people swooped down upon Tcho'eh and floored him with a single blow.  Tarigoz turned towards the beast and ferociously swung at it with a strike worthy of a hero cutting the abomination in two.


Through clouded eyes Laurel stumbled over to the downed figure of Wulf in a desperate attempt to stop the creatures from attacking her fallen comrade, blindly flailing with her scimitars.


Meanwhile the Flight Leaders eyes could only blink as Jan's flaming sword struck his frozen body.  The sell sword landed clumsily on the ledge a moment later.


Tarigoz ran to Styx's side to defend the plucky cat-girl as she boldly fended of an apes advances.  She chipped away at its grubby grasping clawed hands.  Laurel's sight cleared and she carved a chunk out of the ape who had felled her friend Wulf. 


On the ledge, the effects of Ssinkars prayer waned and the Flight Leader's body sagged as control of his muscles returned.  Jan struck him again in a blaze of fire and sparks.  His attack left an opening for his enemy's subordinate to rain down a flurry of blows which battered the brave sell sword.


Laurel despatched her winged ape opponent and stood over the crumpled barbarian like a mother lion protecting wounded cub.  The embattled Jan struck once more with his scorching sword and once again was rewarded with a howl of pain and anger from the flight leader.


A Horn Blast shook the heavens sounding the retreat for the flying apes and with a flap of their bat like wings they attempted to disengage.


As it leapt into the sky, Tarigoz cut down the creature he and Styx were engaged with.  It's companion, who had been attacking her sister Nyx, managed to get one foot into the air, the other would never leave the ground as Styx severed it from the ape's leg with a swipe of her short sword.  The creature screamed in pain as it clawed its way skywards , the ragged stump spraying a sticky blood trail on all below.  The Flight Leader and its subordinate dove off the edge of the ledge and swooped into the air heading back to the safety of the ominous clouds above as they lazily drifted away from the destruction that they had wrought.


Aftermath and Interrogation


Despite being near to death himself, Jan administered Ssinkar's healing draft to the Salamankari cleric, who swiftly returned to consciousness.  He began to scour the amphitheatre, that had so abruptly been turned into a battlefield, for dying and injured to treat.  Sadly only six male and four female Aarakocara had survived the Cloud Giant's wrath and so he stabilised Tcho'eh's wounds and then said a healing prayer over him.  Life returned to the birdman with a sputter.  Likewise Nyx who was also close to death received a healing prayer from Ssinkar.  Laurel used her healing potion to revive Wulf.


The group helped the Aarakocara in their solemn task of collecting their dead together before turning their attentions to the sole surviving assailant who cowered under shadow of one of the ledges.  The heroes attempted to communicate with the beast who could only retort with guttural animal howls grunts and whoops.  Nyx thought that the creature might be trying to communicate with them but could only converse in his own tongue.  Fortunately Ssinkar remembered that one of the scrolls he recently had acquired contained a prayer which would allow the creature to speak and understand them.  As he read out the prayer the words on the page glowed and faded, crawling up his hand like a snake.  The beast recoiled from the holy power and tried to escape.  Nyx wrestled the creature to the ground and in the scuffle Ssinkar accidentally touched Nyx.








Suddenly the young Phylus could understand the creature and that it was demanding that the group kill it. 

"a Ba'atun without wings was as no Ba'atun at all!" cried the creature.

Nyx questioned the creature and it blurted out that they would all suffer the wrath of his mistress the great magic user Yesork Pahyeh.  No haven was safe and her cloud castle would return and her Cloud Giant plaything would wreak a vengeance upon all before she turned her attention to the ground dwellers.  All would face a fate worse than death.


When the interrogation was over the Ba'atun pleaded once more for death and Jan obliged, clutching the creature around the waist he commanded the sword to lift them into the sky where he promptly dropped the wingless Ba'atun over the edge of the mountain promontory.


After a few hours the Shaman Kirraka emerged from the temple and told the group that he had consumed the seeds which allowed him access to the spirit world and he had had a vision.


The chosen would need to travel to the eerie of the giant eagles who would help them find an ice tower piercing a frozen lake and inside lay a silver sky fish which was critical to the defeat of the cloud giant.  He excused Tcho'eh from this quest and instructed his most trusted underling shaman, Ikarrika, to guide them to the eagle's eerie.

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Sunday, 19 March 2017

Clarke's Third Law... Librarians Style


Clarke's Third Law is a popular trope amongst GMs particularly for those running Sci-Fi games and stems from this famous quote:

Arthur C Clarke
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
You've seen examples of this in the movies include:
  • Star Trek Into Darkens - When Kirk orders the Enterprise to move in order to save Spock, he breaks the prime directive by revealing the ship to the volcano worshipping Nibirans, who immediately begin worshipping the ship.
  • Star Wars - On seeing C3-P0 the primitive Ewoks believe him to be a physical manifestation of their long prophesied deity "The Golden One" and do his bidding.
  • Apocalypse Now - The primitive tribesmen are easily swayed by the imposing god-like Colonel Kurtz, and become followers of his own personal army/religion.
However, in the The Librarians episode "And the Rule of Three",  writers Paul Guyot and John Rogers  flipped the trope around, making a magic spell indistinguishable from a mobile phone app.

The central premise of the episode was that each time you played a wishing game on your phone you actually cast a wish fulfillment spell and were rewarded by things happening in the real world.  This instant gratification becomes addictive, just like Candy Crush or Angry Birds. 

A Conceptual U-Turn


This conceptual U-Turn opens up all sorts magical and supernatural possibilities for modern day games like Cthulhu Now, Shadowrun and The Laundry RPG which take place in our current technology obsessed world.  Even though we use these devices every day, very few of us really know how they operate, ie: at the machine code level, for all I know 4G might just be the fourth gate to Hell.  Is it a coincidence that the Steve Jobs chose "Apple" as the name for his company?



We put a lot of trust in our tech, we don't really want to know how it works, just that it does.  We are okay with that, our devices enrich our lives and make things easier (mostly). 

Our global IT Networks are central nervous system connecting us all together through our devices, much like the Ley Lines of myth, through nexus sites like Stone Henge.  Why wouldn't modern mages piggyback this global telecoms network in some way, harvesting energy from the unsuspecting masses, or feeding energy into it or even just piggybacking on the signal.

Arthur C Clarke - The Father of Global Telecomunications

Arthur C Clarke died on this day in 2008 at the ripe old age of 90.  Coincidentaly, Arthur C Clarke is most famous for inventing the concept of the geostationary orbit used by telecomunications satellites and underpins the whole shebang.  Is it a coincidence...

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Fight and Flight - TLOD S07 E07

Our heroes escape the mountain fortress that is Fanjr Way-Station leaving the ramshackle occupying force to fruitlessly search for them.

Hurrying along the pass, as they turn a corner, Ssinkhar spies the silhouette of a lone figure standing in the road.  As he Points and gesticulates to his friends the figure darts behind a large boulder.  The cat girls Nyx and Styx immediately spring into action and bound into the shadows of the mountainside and stalk their new prey.

The Madman on the Mountain


As they pounce upon the boulder they briefly see a wild eyed human male dressed in shabby furs  crouching behind it.  Startled by the sudden appearance of the two Phylus the man suddenly shrieks and disappears with a pop.

The rest of the party are immediately aware that someone is behind them, turning they briefly see the same shabby man clutching at an amulet with both hands.  With a pop he disappears, reappearing some 100 ft further along the pass.  Tarigoz boldy walks forward to engage the man in conversation but when he gets close to the fellow he once again vanishes to only reappear a second later in between the Knight and the rest of the party.  The two cat girls get ready to pounce and the man blinks out of existence reappearing next to Ssinkar.  With alacrity the Cleric strikes the man on the head with his staff and stuns him.

When he comes to, he gives a madness filled rambling speech about white winged demons  descending from black clouds.  He struggles to his feet and as prances too and fro on the narrow pass, mimicking the demons in flight, swooping down on their targets with claws .

"All dead, they're all dead now" he cries before launching himself over the edge of the cliff.

The heroes continue along the pass until they find a shallow cave, little more than a depression in which they can see out the approaching night.

Pairs of Watches are set and on the third, Laurel notices that they are being watched by a pair of eyes.  Eventually the form of a mountain lion looms out of the night unaware that Laurel's natural night vision, the half elf knocks an arrow and shoots the cat in the side.  It whelps and runs off.

 
A Mountain Lion


In the morning, the snow which had fallen through the night had banked in drifts along the pass.  The hungry heroes trudged on.  Nyx caught a whiff of blood on the air and it was not long before they saw a solitary familiar arrow poking out of the snow.  Scraping the snow away they discovered the corpse of the mountain lion Laurel had shot the night before.  They butchered the animal and continued further down the pass until they found enough vegetation in order to build a small fire to cook the meat.

Stomach's filled as best they could they set off down pass into the valley until they came to a fork in the road.  A rudimentary sign points East towards the town of Melmond.  They briefly contemplatea visit to the outpost town to gather supplies but Jan reminds them of the urgency of their mission.
The path to the left took them further into the mountains until they came to a steep sided gully between two towering cliff faces.

Deadly Whirlwinds


As they traversed the gully suddenly the wind picked up unnaturally and in front of them a spinning whirlwind appeared from nowhere and rushed towards them.  Tcoh'eh, who was guiding the party from the front, leaps to the left pressing himself flat against the rocks.  All but Jan followed suit and the sell sword was picked up by the tornado and flung violently up the gully to land in a crumbled heap of broken bones.

Just as they recovered another even larger whirlwind came barrelling down the gully and Tcoh'eh flung himself to the right side of the gully and grabbed onto the cliff.   The heroes followed suit but Styx and Wulf were tossed by the hurricane force winds and bashed against the unforgiving walls of the gully.  As Ssinkar healed Jan and Wulf, Nyx administered her potion of healing to Styx.

From the maelstrom descended at least a dozen or more Aarakocara, two of whom swooped down to pick up a protesting Tcoh'eh whilst the others hovered brandishing long ropes and sharp spears.

A few seconds later they began their attack swooping low over the rag tag band of adventurers.  A shrill shriek pierced the winds and one by one the heroes were lassoed and carried off into the clouds.

The Temple of Tikka Ti-Jarra


The heroes were deposited in what looked like a natural amphitheatre.  A bowl like cluster of rocky outcroppings which served as terraces for the many Aarakocara who looked on with an equal mix of apprehension and hope.

They were then led into a large egg shaped lattice structure from which lights sparkled and danced and presented to the Shaman of the nest, Kirrikaraka.  The Shaman told them that his species were being systematically hunted down and their nests destroyed by a cloud giant with the assistance of some white winged creatures.  He explained that they were poor by land dweller standards but they offered what little they had, presenting some jewels and a few potions.

At that moment the bell suspended in the roof of the nest begins to ring and Aarakocara warriors shrieked

"The cloud giant approaches"

Rushing outside they immediately spotted that the skies were dominated by boiling black clouds.  Suddenly several groups of winged creatures began to descend towards the amphitheatre and attack the Aarakocara who perched on the ledges.  As the group neared the centre of the amphitheatre they were suddenly surrounded by one of these flights of winged creatures which resembled white baboons with great wings.

 
Flying Ape miniature from Footsore Miniatures

Great White Flying Apes 


Laurel lets fly an arrow, grazing one of the white whinged apes.  Sinkar casts a hold person prayer on another.  Tarigoz strikes one with his sword dealing serious damage at the same time Laurel switched to her scimitars dealing two light wounds to a second.

Jan, who had singled out one of the leaders, used his flaming sword to good effect.  With a mighty swing Wulf eviscerated his opponent and it crashed to the floor in a pool of blood and entrails.

Laurel struck twice again at her enemy killing it.  Plucky Nyx, managed a lucky strike on what was clearly some sort of commander knocking him prone.  Jan continued to hack away with his flaming sword and was soon joined by Wulf.  Ssinkar swung his staff at a third flying ape, knocking him unconscious.  Wulf's foe retaliated and drew the barbarian's blood.

Tarigoz finished off his protagonist whilst Laurel chose another target and struck twice more.  Jan continued to press hiss attack, his flaming sword biting down on fur and feathers.  Ssinkar's prayer wore off and he returned to finish off the creature.

To prevent the unconscious creature from escaping Tarigoz chopped off its wings.  Laurel struck her foe twice again killing it.  as Wulf attacked his foe parried and with a crash of metal, Wulf's blade shattered.  Ssinkar pressed his attack onto the lead creature.  Sensing that the fight was lost the creatures fled.  Jan struck his fleeing enemy in the back killing it.  Nyx managed to graze the fleeing commander with her nunchucks as it peeled away.

Jan does not look at all like Jet-Li with his flying flaming sword


In his mind the sword Maragbhur said " after him son, Paar, Paar" the sell sword echoed the word and with a whoosh the sword pulled him off the ground into the air.  Unaccustomed to flight Jan gripped the sword for his life and a brief dogfight ensued.

The commander of the flying apes prevailed, striking Jan to the ground.    

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Maragbhur's Pity - TLOD S07 E06

It was clear to Ssinkar that their small band could never defeat the large and organised force which now occupied Fanyjr Way Station.  They were going to have to use subterfuge and stealth to continue their journey to Tikka Ti-Jarra.  They would also need to retrieve their guide Tcho'eh from the safety of the wagon and proceed on foot.

Jan and Laurel volunteered to sneak through the great wooden gates and fetch the Aarakocara. 

In the ground floor room of the southern gatehouse tower, Ssinkar's prayer of silence finally wore off just as Jan , Laurel and Tco'eh returned.  Jan bumped into the door with his shoulder as he entered and the door swung back on its hinges with a thump.

The Jig is Up


"What's going on down there" boomed the Ogre on the floor above.

Ssinkar tried his best to make some bugbear noises but animal mimicry was not his forte.  Suddenly one of the Gnolls in the watchtower exclaimed

"Boss! Boss!There's a wagon on the pass."

Realising that they were in danger of being discovered, the heroes quietly bundled down into the cellar bellow.  Not a moment too soon, as they could hear the heavy steps of a Gnoll descending the sstone spiral staircase.  A few seconds later the Gnoll caught a glimpse of the carnage that the party had wrought under cover of Ssinkar's zone of silence.

"Boss! Boss! They're all dead Boss!  The Troll, The Bugbears, All of them, dead!"

The Ogre squeezed his imposing frame down the narrow staircase and immediately shouted

"Alarm!, Alarm!, Ring the bell, we are under attack"

The Perilous Passage


Knowing that it would not be long before the enemy searched the cellar, the heroes hurried through the only exit available and down the tunnel which led North.  A wise decision as not long after they heard the sounds of gnolls crashing about in the cellar.

As they moved down the tunnel they noticed that it was clean and dry, the sturdy wooden posts and beams which held up the room were bleached an ashen grey and as they progressed further they discovered a pair of Gnoll skeletons lying face down on the floor their bones picked clean of flesh and bleached white.

After a couple of hundred feet they stopped at a side passage which opened in the left wall.  Styx cautiously approaches and looks and listens.  She can see nothing but hears a soft slurping noise.  Tarigoz waved his torch down the tunnel and seeing nothing declared it clear and proceeded to investigate.  Boldly striding forward into the side passage he was suddenly engulfed by a Gelatinous Cube whose transparent flesh had been invisible in the dim light from his torch, which was promptly extinguished.  He silently gasped for air as his body was lifted off the ground, floating inside the cube's jelly like flesh whilst his flesh began to slowly dissolve in the creatures acidic digestive juices.

 
Time to bust out my DIY Gelatinous Cube Miniature
  

In the darkness Jan blindly slashed at the gelatinous wall in front of him, his blade slicing like a cold knife through butter, flicking globs of acidic flesh onto Nyx as he followed through. 

With the benefit of her night vision Styx rummaged around in her pack to find the slim box containing the three potions which she had found in the secret space in the fireplace of the Southern Gatehouse.  Carefully uncorking the vial of poison she thrust her hand deep into the cube's interior and shook out the deadly strawberry flavoured liquid.  In an instant, the creature reacted violently, enlarging in quivering and pulsating waves.  It's flesh blistered and bubbled until after a few moments it exploded like an overripe melon showering the party in sticky acidic goo.  Tarigoz writhed on the floor his skin and hair flaking off his body in crusty clumps.  Styx's hand and lower arm were now similarly bald.

Undeterred by their brush with the Gelationous Cube,  they continued to explore fiddling a 30ft sq room beyond filled contaiing a meagre horde of Gnoll bones, some 60Gp worth of mixed coins, an acid scorched bone scroll tube and a bastard sword in a scabbard.  Jan took the sword to replace his now damaged family heirloom.  Drawing it, he discovered the fine blade was inscribed with two words, one on each side, "Zharr" & "Parr".  Ssinkar uncorked the bone scroll tube to find a scroll containing prayers of Restoration, Tongues,  Cure Serious Wounds and Neutralize Poison. 

Returning to the main corridor they continue until it ends in a door much like the one at the southern end of the tunnel.  Styx cautiously opened the door to find another cellar with a ladder on the left wall which went up to a trap door in the ceiling. 

The Northern Gatehouse


Opening the trap door revealed a room constructed in an identical fashion to that of the Southern Gatehouse.  This room had clearly been ransacked by the Way-Station's  new occupants and Nyx could hear and smell a pack of Gnolls in the room above.  Above their commotion could be heard the distant pealing of a bell.

A Female Gnoll found on Pinterest (If you are the artist please send me a credit link.)


On the first floor of the gatehouse tower, the leader issued his orders to his troops and the Gnolls filed out through the door onto the battlements of the Northern Gatehouse to investigate the alarm. 

Nyx bravely climbed the stone spiral staircase in the Northeast corner of the room onto the second floor and watched the Gnolls assembling on the battlements.  Climbing back down to relay the information to her comrades and then returning to take up a closer position.  By this time Wulf, had become tired of all this skulking about and urged his comrades to take up arms and fight.  He hurriedly followed Nyx up the stairs.

Tarigoz's training kicked in and he slowly opened the door which led into the large passageway through the fortified wall.  His caution rewarded, as he spied four of the Gnolls rushing southward across the plateau towards the sound of the alarm bell.  The odds were steadily becoming more favourable, leaving only 7 Gnolls atop the wall. 

Tcoh'eh answers the barbarians call and pleads to be given a weapon.  Styx obliges, handing him one of her own short swords.  The Aarakocra lifts down one of the round shields from the wall and calmly awaits orders.  With his assistance they now outnumber the Gnolls.

Favouring a pincer movement Tarigoz, Jan and Laurel crept out of the ground floor room, through the large archway heading for the stairs which lead up to the battlements, and hugging the southern wall as they went.  Unfortunately stealth does not come naturally to a Knight of the 5th Legion and Tarigoz's armour scraped along the wall alerting the Gnolls to their presence.  With the element of surprise gone the trio bolted for the stairs and Tarigoz and Jan engaged immediately with two Gnolls. 

As Jan drew his new found sword, he heard a voice in his head which said "Zharr, Zharr".  Repeating the word in mid swing towards his enemy, he was stunned when red flames burst forth, flickering and licking along its length.  The Gnoll he faced was equally stunned as pain shot across its face as the sword struck home.

At exactly the same moment, Nyx darted out onto the battlements and with a hefty swing clubbed a Gnoll from behind wit her nunchucks.  Wulf joined the fray, charging through the door and engaging in combat beside her, his two handed sword chopping deeply into another Gnoll's shoulder.  Running up the stairs Styx can only throw a dagger through the open doorway at the same Gnoll fighting her sister.  Unfortunately her rushed attack saw the blade glance off stonework and skitter to the floor. 

With her passage up the stairs blocked by the engaged warriors, Laurel scaled the cliff with expert prowess and leapt into the fray, her twin scimitars striking sparks as they glanced off the Gnoll leader's breastplate.

Ssinkar moved onto the ramparts and swiftly envoked a blessing on all his comrades.

Emboldened, Styx quaffed the potion of heroism and let onto the wall bounding along the crenelations as if they were rocks in a stream to land gracefully behind a Gnoll surprising it with a sword in the back.

By the stairs Jan brought his flaming sword down once again on the Gnoll but with a flash of sparks his strike was repelled by the Gnoll's armour.  The Gnoll retaliated immediately dealing him a stunning blow and Jan fell to the ground unconscious.  Tarigoz and his target trade blows but not damage.

Wulf continues to harry the Gnoll and they both trade blows, each drawing the other's blood. 

Laurel's scimitars strike the Gnoll Leader causing a serious wound but the Gnoll fight's on.  Ssinkar moves into an offensive position beside Wulf and brings down the wrath of his goddess upon the Gnoll's head.  The heavy bronze idol which tops his staff crushing the beasts skull like an egg spraying blood and brains everywhere.  Nearby Nyx flashes her Nunchucks at her opponent finishing him off.  Styx strikes with her short sword at her enemy whittling away at him.

Wulf spies the leader in a battle with the Gnoll Leader and charges in with a horrific hack to the Gnoll's back just as a swipe from the beast takes Laurel by surprise and her scimitar flashes through the air o land on the stone floor of the battlements, her right hand still gripping the hilt.

A lucky strike from Nyx's opponent lands square on her nose temporarily blinding her with pain.

The now one-handed desert rider blocks out the pain from her severed hand and retaliates with her off handed scimitar further scarring the Gnoll leader, she was not done with him yet.

Overreaching towards a new target Ssinkar dislocates his knee as he attacks and his weak strike falls short.  Nyx continues to flail at her opponent bruising and battering the now bloodied creature.

Laurel's strike is turned away by the Gnoll, but Wulf's strike finds an opening which ends the creatures life with a deathly howl.  Two of the Gnolls leap over the southern wall and flee down the stairs.

Ssinkar once again brings his goddess down on the head of the Gnoll facing Styx cracking open its skull and it collapses to the floor dead.  Nyx finishes off her Gnoll and the Barbarian strikes a vicious blow at the last remaining Gnoll ending the battle in a geyser of blood.

Ssinkar retrieves Laurel's hand and as he holds it against Laurel's shaking stump reads out the healing prayer from the scroll.  One by one the words peel of the page and curl around the ranger's wrist reattaching bone and knitting sinew together.  In moments Laurel's hand is reattached leaving a small circlet of words tattooed onto her wrist as a gentle reminder of the incident  

Tarigoz rummages around in Jan's pockets to find the healing potion which revivifies Jan.  The sell sword awakes fully restored and as he picks up the now extinguished sword, he hears a haughty voice in his head

"I don't know if I should laugh or cry…                  …Maragbhur pities you!"
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Sunday, 26 February 2017

Curiosity Kills the Cat - TLOD S07 E05

Styx rushed into the ground floor of the tower, dodging the opportunistic flail of a Bugbear sword, as she moved into it's blind spot and stabbed it from behind. Her sister Nyx kept it busy from the front with her flailing 3 segment Nunchuck.

From the safety of a shield wall of his friends Tarigoz and Laurel, Ssinkar commanded the Troll to "Sleep".

The Troll, filled with awe and rapture complied, his eyes drooping and the fight leaving his bones. Tarigoz stabbed it in the gut with his longsword dealing a vicious blow. Laurel followed suit, her scimitars flashing in the light as they slashed at the awestruck Troll like a pair of scissors cutting cloth.

Across the room, the lead Bugbear, slashed Wulf across his muscled torso parting skin and bone.  The Euborean's blood sprayed wildly across the room as the battered Barbarian, beset on all sides, tried to hack at a second Bugbear.



As the Troll shrugged off the rapture, Ssinkar reaffirmed his Holy Command and the Troll's eyes drifted once again to the floor. Tarigoz over-extended himself and his swordthrust was turned away by the Troll's thick hide.

The third Bugbear stabbed at Nyx and she fell to the ground in a crumpled pile of fur.  The lead bugbear, sensing that the Barbarian was beaten, playfully nicked at Wulf with his Scimitar. Embattled and battered, Wulf called upon his primeval instincts and the rage welled up inside him.  With a mighty downward swing of his two handed sword he cleaved the second Bugbear in two from stem to stern.

Meanwhile Jan the Sell Sword dodged and parried every blow sent his way but his own swordplay was similarly unsuccessful.

Threats from ABove

From the room above came a bellowing Ogreish roar

"Will you lot stop fighting each other, If I have to come down there and talk to you again, I'll kill you all myself!"

Fighting tears from her eyes, Styx stabbed aimlessly at the Bugbear which had killed her sister.

Ssinkar knelt at the lifeless corpse of the young Phylus and rifled through her belongings until he found the potion of healing which Asdos had given each of them and forced it down Nyx's throat.  The cat girl coughed and spluttered back to life as the magical concoction coursed through her body.

Tarigoz slashed hopelessly at the now conscious and reinvigorated Troll which responded by punching him in the head with his huge fist. The blow knocked the Knight of Wulfschlossen for six leaving stars in his eyes and a fist shaped dent in his steel helmet.  Laurel chose her moment wisely and stabbed the troll under the left arm with one of her scimitars.

Fuelled by adrenaline and anger, Wulf hacked viciously at the lead Bugbear with Norse fury and the will to continue the fight left the Bugbear alongside copious amounts of blood.

Concious of the noise that the battle was causing, Ssinkar invoked a zone of silence around himself encapsulating all in the room save for the softly sobbing Styx who was just happy that her sister was alive.

In the hallowed silence of the Ssinkar's prayer, Tarigoz reacquired his focus and rained down a flurry of serious blows on the Troll who seemed to be shrugging off his earlier wounds.

Meanwhile, the lead Bugbear felled Wulf with a desperate riposte as he wildly searched the room for an escape route.

Outside the zone of silence all that could be heard was the creaking of her leather armour as Styx silently backstabbed the Bugbear in front of her and with a noiseless terrifying roar it collapsed on top of Jan.

"That's better, now keep it down"

bellowed the Ogre followed from the room above.

The remaining Bugbear fed towards the spiral staircase in the North East corner of the tower dodging opportunistic attacks from Nyx's Nunchucks and Jan's nine-ringed sword.

Ssinkar had silently moved around to engage the Troll and brought the full force of his staff, tipped with the heavy bronze tip carrying the likeness of his goddess, down upon the Troll's head. An expertly aimed swing of Tarigoz's sword parted the troll's head from its body and sent it sailing overhead and into a pile of detritus in the South East corner of the room.
 
A Dead Troll Base from Micro Art Studios

Laurel dropped her scimitars and an arrow flew across the room from her hastily drawn short bow bouncing off the stonework of the stairs. Jan swiftly extricated himself from under the corpse of the Bugbear and ran their fleeing leader through as he tried to climb the stairs. The fight was over.

Under the cover of Ssinkar's zone of silence spell the party regrouped. Wulf's unconscious form was searched for his potion and he was quickly returned to health. Kicking the Troll's head aside, Nyx discovered a trap door in the floor. Tarigoz discovered a shield far finer than his own hanging in a display on the wall. Laurel investigated the fireplace, discovering a loose stone behind which was secreted a long wooden box with a finely fashioned lock.


Into the Cellar


Opening the trapdoor revealed a set of wooden rungs set into the wall acting as a rudimentary ladder. The cat sisters descended into the darkness and discovered what was clearly a cellar stocked with some weapons. A single door was set into the North East corner of the room.

Tarigoz climbed down and lit a torch, immediately moving over to the door and opened it. The torchlight illuminated a short 40ft section of the tunnel which was clearly manmade with sturdy props and beams to prevent it collapsing. His knowledge of siegeworks came to mind and he was reminded that fortified complexes, like the way-station, often had secret passages designed-in to them to allow defensive forces to retreat or reinforce from other buildings. However, Nyx's heightened sense of smell picked up the fetid odour of something long dead and decaying drifting down the corridor.



Above ground Laurel had pressed the other cat girl to try her thievery on the locked wooden box, which she excitedly agreed to. Pulling out her picks she stabbed and twisted at the keyhole and with a ping a poisoned needle jabbed out of the box pricking Styx's paw. She immediately fell to the floor with a swoon. Ssinkar who had been studying a pair of vellum scrolls rolled his eyes skyward to his Goddess and read out the words from one of the paragraphs. The ink on the page glowed briefly and then the text disappeared as did the look of pain and anguish on Styx's face. Using up Styx's potion of healing, the Phylus came to with one less life but having learned a valuable life lesson.

Despite her curiosity having cost one of her nine lives, she was unbowed and with the trap neutralised she picked the lock revealling the box's contents.  Her prize?

Three small vials of liquid, a potion of poison, a potion of heroism and a mysterious white fluid which could not be identified.

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Saturday, 18 February 2017

Fanjyr Way-Station - TLOD S07E04

The funeral pyre did it's best to consume the bodies of the unfortunate traders and the fallen Aarakocra, but eventually succumbed to the snow which had begun to fall heavily overnight.  The heroes took turns to stand 3 hour watches and slept through the long cold night.

In the morning they patched up their horses and themselves as best they could, hitched up the functioning wagon and headed on up the pass.  Just after noon Laurel spotted a rider approaching through the snow accompanied by a dog.  Cautiously Sir Tarigoz engaged the figure in polite conversation as is the custom when travellers meet together on a single track road.
"Lode Burwell is my name, and I am headed to Lurneslye with a consignment of furs for Frederick's General Store.  This is my companion and friend Bob"
he said pointing at the large dog which loped alongside him.  

Lode Burwell - Fur Trader
Lode told the heroes that a day ago he had passed through the gates of Fanjyr Way-Station, a fortified respite for weary travellers, further back along this mountain pass.  The place was abandoned and it looked like it had been attacked.  No stranger to war, as he was a travelling mercenary in his younger days, he reckoned that a sizeable force had laid waste to the shrine, inn and stables.  The gatehouses were undamaged and abandoned by the small militia garrisoned there.  The southern gates had been left wide open.

Tarigoz warned the trader that they had encountered an ambushed trader caravan earlier in their journey from Lurneslye from where they had acquired the wagon.  Lode explained that he knew the owner of the wagon and his family as they had left the town of Melmond some two days before him.  Had Tarigoz not been a Knight of the 5th Legion Lode said he would have immediately taken him for a bandit and a murderer and they would be having this conversation at sworpoint.  He added that should the party make it to Melmond they should return the wagon to the remaining members of the Feinholtz family.  As the trader and heroes parted company the Lode muttered that
"There is something foul and disturbing in the dark clouds which have descended on these mountains this winter."

They spent the remainder of the daylight slogging through ever deepening snow until they stopped at at a passing place cut into the mountainside and spent a frigid night huddled together for warmth in the back of the wagon.

In the morning they pressed on against the wind and driving snow.  After two hours they caught their first glimpse of Fanjyr Way-Station through the low coud which hugged the mountainside.  Another two hours later as they wound their way along the pass, the imposing structure of the Southern Gatehouse hove into view.

The Southern Gatehouse of Fanjyr Way-Sattion
The acrid smell of burnt timber hung in the air and it was obvious to all from the firmly barred gate that this way-station was now very much occupied.  The question was by who or what?

Leaving the horses and wagon containing Tcho'he the Aarakocra on the pass behind them, the heroes split into two groups.

Nyx, Styx, Laurel and Jan chose to scale the jagged rocks of the mountain side and cross over the wall.  Tarigoz, Ssinkar and Wulf chose to make their way to the great wooden doors.

With rogueish nimbleness Styx darted swiftly up the cliff face and crept up to the battlements.  Her heightened sense of smell immediately picked out the distinct odour of four different species of creatures in the vicinity; the musky aroma of Bugbear, the wet dog smell of Gnoll, the reek of Ogre and the stench of Troll.  Using her Thieves Cant, she signalled her sister Nyx a message to warn the other group.  Nix quickly relayed this as best she could to the Cantless Jan by waving her hands wildly.  The young mercenary got the gist of the message ran over to relay it to Tarigoz who was already half way to the gatehouse doors.

Accompanied by her sister and Laurel, the trio stealthily made their way across the wall and down the flight of stairs leading into a great courtyard.  Twisted spires of black smoke still rose from the ruins of three buildings that they could see in the courtyard. 

Jan the Sell Sword shinned up the mountain slope and like a ghost silently crossed over the wall.  Just as he was about to descend the stairs he noticed the door to the middle floor of the tower open and a Gnoll casually walked out and over to the ramparts directly above the gate.  He stopped and fiddling with his leather armour then began to urinate over the edge.

Ssinkar narrowly avoided the stream of fresh nicturate from above and he hunkered against the huge wooden doors. Tarigoz and Wulf followed suit.  They three heard the Gnoll finish his ablutions with a sigh and return to the tower closing the door noisily.

With their catlike poise and grace the two rogues stealthily padded into the tunnel and despite their lithe frames, proceeded to lift the 10 foot long heavy wooden bar which secured the 15 foot tall wooden doors from the inside.  Nyx searched through her trinket bag and found a squat shiny small metal jar containing some lavender scented greasy cream, which she had purloined some time ago from some nameless merchant's mistress, and greased the doors hinges.  Ssinkar gingerly pushed the door open just enugh for each of them to slip through and joined the fousome in the tunnel.

Inside the tunnel was a pair of double doors which led to the ground floor of the tower, one of which was slightly ajar.  Through this could be heard the unmistakeable grunts of a Troll and the suffling of at least 3 Bugbears.  

Hill TrollBugbear

Despite his years of training in skirmish tactics, Sir Tarigoz could see only one way to deal with this.
Bursting through the doors he caught the four creatures by surprise and immediately engaged with the huge troll swinging wildly and missing.  The Barbarian Wulf Brundson followed suit and hurled himself into the battle against the strongest looking Bugbear.  Laurel darted through and a furious flurry of her scimitars sliced at the Troll drawing blood.  Jan also engaged hacking at the second Bugbear with his sword.

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Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Where have all the Cat People Gone?

The new group of characters going through the mill that is my campaign world The Lands of Dual contain two female Phylus, aka "Nyx and Styx the chicks from Xix."

I would love to find some miniatures to help the other players to visualise this loveable pair of rogues  but it seems like cat people are out of vogue.

Inspirational Images


Wilykit & Wilykat
from Thundercats
AniPuma and UniPuma
from Dominion Tank Police
All Purpose Cultural
Cat Girl Nuku Nuku
Aisha ClanClan the Ctarl-Ctarl
 from Outlaw-Star


The Miniature Possibilities

D&D/Pathfinder Minis


Dungeons & Dragons Miniature:
Archfiends 11-60 Catfolk

Darksword Miniatures Critter Kingdoms

More anthropomorpic than I would prefer and better suited to a game like Mouseguard.
Ella Cat Rogue Black Cat Avenging Thief

Reaper Miniatures

Cheetah Girl Cleo, Weretigress
Kyoko Silvers Cat Girl Tawny Firehair, Cat Girl

Alkemy (Alchemist) Miniatures

Beautiful sculpts and purrfect for the Al-Quadim inspired setting of Sankahar in my campaign world The Lands of Dual.

Dahlia ibn Malikh Iëcha bint Sorhna

Crocodile Games - War Gods of Aegyptus (Basti)


I have to mention the Crocodile Games Basti miniatures, unfortunately the vast majority of the femle characters are a bit too NSFW for my tastes, but this pair of Basti skirmishers would work... just

Basti Skirmisher WGE-013d Basti Skirmisher WGE-013e

Eureka Miniatures - Update

Thanks to reader Andrew who discovered these anatomically correct six breasted Bastet Cat Women Warriors from Eureka Miniatures Chaos Egyptian Range.  Eureka are based in far flung Australia but fortunately these can also be ordered from Fighting15s in the UK.


Call to Action

If anyone out there knows of any fantasy catgirl miniature makers please leave details in the comments below.  I don't want to have to unleash Edna, the Crazy Cat Lady on my players!!

Monday, 13 February 2017

DGT Cube - A Solution for Slow Play?

I'm intrigued by this device from Digital Game Technology.  It's a chess clock for boardgames.



I'm thinking it would be useful to speed up play in board games which have a lot of decision making like Blood Bowl Team Manager or as a replacement for the egg timer in RoboRally

If anyone out there has any real world experience please let me know how it's working for you.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Into the Mountains - TLOD S07 E03

In Asdos' hovel, the party huddled around the tiny stove for warmth and pondered the plight of Tcho'eh and his species.  Those who were not stone hearted had already made up their minds, the creature was clearly not a deamon.  After he offered to pay them even Jan was swayed.

Asdos' Hovel in the Wood


The journey into the mountains to the Aarakocra nest of Tikka-Ti-Jarra would be arduous this time of year and so Ssikar and Sir Tarigoz agreed to return to Lurneslye to get provisions.

This Town is Coming Like a Ghost Town


They found the small village deserted and boarded up.  The villagers having taken Bernhardt the Chosen's orders to heart and returned to their farms to protect themselves and their families from the ravaging deamon who could strike at any time.

Their first stop was at the Ostlery, run by Olli Schmidt and his rotund and imposing wife, Grunhilde.  The timid man capitualated when Tarigoz ordered him to open up in the name of the King and they soon collected his charger, Rupert, and requisitioned 2 extra horses, a mule and tack.  As he signed the paperwork, Tarigoz knew that the canny ostler would inflate the animals worth, but time was against them.  The rampaging cloud giant could arrive at Tikka-Ti-Jarra any day now. 

Nyx and Styx also chose to return to the village in order to collect their meagre belongings hidden beneath the village stage.  In amongst their nest of straw and the two great fur coats which they brought with them were a motley collection of shiny jewgaws that they had liberated from the folk of Lurnesyle over the past few months. Given the disturbing scenes they witnessed at this morning's public examination, they surmised that this place had become a decidedly riskier place to live and it was only a matter of time before the cleric Bernhardt mistook them for deamons. 

At the General Store Tarigoz and Ssinkar found a kindred spirit.  The owner, Friedrich, had no love for Bernhardt and his temple and had enjoyed seeing the zealous cleric knocked down a peg or two.  However, he knew that with the Knight of Wulfschlossen gone Bernhardt would be emboldened in his control of the village folk.  He unquestioningly accepted Sir Tarigoz's orders and provided thick fur-lined cloaks and enough provisions for the team and animals for 14 days.

Once reunited at Asdos hovel, the party mounted up set off along the mountain pass.  Asdos' parting gift to each of the brave adventurers is a healing draft.

Dire Wolves and an Ambushed Caravan


Some 4 hours and 10 miles of travelling later, they found themselves traversing a winding and climbing pass road with steep snow spotted cliffs on both sides.  Up ahead lay the gruesome sight of an ambushed traders caravan.  The twisted and broken bodies of the traders had become an opportunistic meal for a snarling pack of 11 dire wolves who nervously encircled the grisly scene.

Dire Wolves Attack

An uneasy stand off ensued, finally broken by Tarigoz's mount Rupert, a trained war horse used to fighting men not wolves, panicking and throwing the Knight to the ground.  The mule follows suit and Ssinkar tries in vain to restrain it and with a whinny it bolts back down the pass towards Lurneslye carrying the bulk of their provisions in its saddlebags.

As the wolves seize their moment to strike, Laurel deftly turns her horse with her desert riding skills and unleashes a salvo of arrows from her bow.  Nyx and Styx unleash a flurry of furry fury attacking  in unison by throwing their daggers into the same wolf.

The wolves attack both horse and hero alike and a fluid combat develops in which 7 of the wolves are slain and the rest flee licking their wounds.  The skirmish comes at no small cost to the heroes either as Jan, Nyx and Tarigoz are left bruised and Wulf Brunson bloodied.

Examining the unfortunate corpses they discover 3 incongruous Aarakocra bodies literally dropped amidst the corpses.  The heroes determine that the attack occurred about 2 days ago and yet the aarakocra bodies show signs of dying at least a week before that.

In the wreckage of the caravan, they find more bodies, provisions and furs and a small chest containing 50gps worth of mixed coinage.

Tcho'eh explains that although the bodies are those of his species they are from a different nest.  Their wounds were made by tooth and claw like those of the traders.  He also asks that the heroes help him to build a pyre and join him in prayers to the uncaring Sky Gods so they may once again hear the plight of his people and respond to their suffering.
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Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Teaching D&D to Ten Year Olds

Out of the blue a work colleague (and former D&D player) told me that they had bought the 5e Basic Set for their 10 year old daughter and asked me for advice on how to run their first game.  The problem is twofold being as much about teaching dad to be the DM and daughter how to play.



Breaking it Down

All RPGs have the same basic elements:

  • Character Generation -  Where players get to "roll up" their characterss and use their imagination and creative writing skills to put some background flesh on their barebones stats.
  • Mechanics - The rules of the game which are there not to constrain creativity or storytelling but to add a little consistency to the experience.  In this way a fireball or a sword strike do a consistent amount of damage every time.
  • Storytelling - The art of story writing, dungeon mastery and how to be a player.  This is not really contained in any rulebook and is a skill which you develop over time and exposure to roleplaying.

Character Generation

I remember my own experiences as a young roleplayer some 35 years ago when I unwrapped my christmas gift of a 2nd Edition Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guide.  Hundreds of hours were spend pouring through the pages and generating character after character who would never see a moment of play.  However, I know now that this was probably the wrong way of going about things.

Looking at the Lost Mine of Phandelver there are no pre-generated characters designed specifically for the adventure but there are some starter characters in the box set which is a good place to start. 
There are also a couple of great web resources if this is too limited a selection.
  • 1,000 Basic Pregens - has a huge array of different characters presented as short form stat blocks.  These take a bit of deciphering for the beginner but there is a key on page one to help you.

  • Digital Dungeonmaster Pregens - 1060 different pregens by class and level but strangely not by race so you have to go hunting round to find the right combination of race and class.
Once your players have played a few sessions they will understand how the game works and will be able to use something like the ORCPUB D&D 5e Character Builder to generate their own.

Mechanics

Every D&D game involves a mix of combat (melee / missile) magic and skill or attribute checks.

Melee and Missile combat boils down to finding the AC (Armour class of the target) and the player trying to beat it on a d20.  There are lots of modifiers (numbers which are added to the dice roll or subtracted from the AC) which as you grow as a DM and player you will learn to remember.  Once a successful hit is determined then the appropriate weapon damage is rolled and applied to the target.

Spells in D&D when any type of magic is cast, it always works unless the spell says that a target gets a Save.  This usually negates or reduces the spells damage and can be cumbersome and tedious to implement, so for first games I would always leave this sort of thing out.  Mages are low powered at low level and the important thing is that the ten year old magic user gets to do a bit of damage now and then so make sure that they have magic missile in their arsenal of spells.

Skill and Attribute Checks are used whenever a PC tries to do something which is not combat or magic related.  Searching for things, disabling or setting traps, scaling a cliff, these are all skill and attribute checks.  The D&D skills and attributes give bonuses to doing specific tasks, but they all require a roll (once again using the d20) to beat a target number.  For example climbing needs a dexterity check, so any DEX modifiers need to be added to the dice roll, but if a character has climb skill they will get additional modifiers.  The target number which needs to be beaten represents the difficulty of the task and starts at 15, a particularly easy task would be 10 and a difficult task 20.  

Storytelling

Visualisation is one of the toughest challenges when trying to get a group of people sitting round the table to all imagine the same thing.  A key tool is the Battle Map which represents a top down view of a location and has been a standard for decades.  This can be as simple as a sheet of paper on which you draw what the characters can see and interact with.

Key Text / Player Descriptions are contained in most pre-written modules and highlight a piece of text to be read out to the players when they enter a new location describing what they first see.  Supplementary text will describe to the DM only what the room may contain (for example monsters, hidden doors, treasure etc).

Feed the Players Excitement by putting them on the spot, adding tension when they are being cautious, make it theatrical, do voices, encourage them to do voices, make grandiose gestures and gory descriptions of monster death.  I always like to make my players to stand on the precipice throughout my games, they should never feel cosy and comfortable.

Let Players Explore - The joy of roleplaying is about being able to explore.  In some cases it might be a dungeon, in others it might be your options, but whenever you play, you are always exploring your character.  There is no right or wrong thing to do, if a player chooses a path which will bring about conflict or adversity, warn them, but let them do it anyway.  When the situation turns bad they will have to deal with the consequences.

Don't Be Scared to Fudge it, the rules are there to be ignore and modified as you see fit.  If a rule might prevent something heroic or cinematic happening just ignore it.  If a monster's die roll might inadvertently kill a PC then change it.  Need a new rule to get you out of a situation then make it up but always try to consistently apply the new rule when the situation reappears.

Keep it Simple, Stupid is a good mantra and the The KISS Principle should always be in the forefront of your mind when DMing for a young group.  They will want to be at the heart of the action quickly and they won't be too concerned with deep complex storylines.  Define the Good and the Bad monsters early on as clearly black and white and they be able to quickly react to any challenges they face.

Start Small by choosing a simple combat encounter for your first session.  Ambush your heroes in the woods with a small band of kobolds or goblins.  If the PCs kill half of them, the monsters will run away.  This immediately presents the players a plethora of choices, do they run after them? Do they run to town alert the authorities?  Do they loot the bodies? Do they track the fleeing monsters back to their hideout?  All have possibilities for the next installment.

Guage your Success as a DM


If all goes well your players should look like this:

Stranger Things - D&D Success!!

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Exit Stage Left - TLOD S07 E02

The 500 strong mob bayed for blood, and Jan the Sell Sword complied by slashing the magically restrained Murdoch cleanly across the face.  The spell wore off and clasping at his ragged throat in an attempt to stem the flow of blood, Murdoch slumped face down in the dirt gurgling "Mercy Sir, Mercy!"


An Aarakocra
On the stage, Bernhardt the Chosen of The Temple, screamed at his two acolytes "For the Gods sake help him you idiots".  Sir Tarigoz closed in on the nearest cleric, Grunb, and at sword point told him to stop.  Grunb responded swiftly, casting a sound blast spell right in Tarigoz's face.  The Knight of the 5th Legion was not phased by this but the sheer intensity of the spell made him step backwards, lose his footing on the edge of the stage and tumble off.  The other acolyte Penryk hurried across to the stairs at the right hand side of the stage to get to Murdoch. 

Having released the winged Deamon from the cross, Nyx, Styx, Laurel and the creature hid behind the stage contemplating their next move.  Escape.

Watching the trial by combat from the edge of the circle, Wulf Brundson, seethed with fury at this clerical interference in a lawful trial by combat.  The Euborean Barbarian could not let this religious interloper change the outcome of the battle with a healing spell and so proceeded to block Penryk's progress down the stairs.  The mob shoved him into the circle and screamed "another challenger".   As Grunb leered over the edge of the stage laughing at the fallen Knight, Sir Tarigoz jumped to his feet and plunged his bastard sword into the clerics belly.  Grunb tumbled off the stage impaling himself up to the hilt on Tarigoz's outstretched sword.  It took all of the Knight's strength not to crumble under the weight of the cleric and he briefly held him aloft before unceremoniously dumping him to the dirt.  The crowd recoiled in shock and horror at the sight of one of the God's chosen being righteously put down by the Kingsman.  This day would go down in village history and the God's would surely wreak a vengeance upon the Kingsman for such a bold act.

The spell holding Ssinkar wore off and he immediately moved towards the fallen Murdoch.  The Salamankari was a cleric not a fighter and he had no intention of letting the poor man die at his hand.  Grasping at this throat with his scaly hands, he stopped the flow of blood with a healing spell.  Murdoch immediately cried out in pain as the opportunist Jan the Sell Sword stabbed him in the arm.  Murdoch scrabbled through the dirt towards the foot of the stage.


Hoping that they could find bandages and supplies in one of the empty village buildings, the Phylus sisters Nyx and Styx and Laurel, carried the winged daemon to the nearest one.  Once inside the Absent Badger tavern, they found that it was was empty save for one odd looking old man face down in his own puddle of mead.

Trying not to disturb the fellow, the sisters hauled the daemon onto one of the tables at the back of the bar and tended to his wounds.  The old man immediately awoke from his slumber and asked "Has he finished torturing that poor Aarakocra yet?"  The near sighted old man introduced himself as Asdos and with a wave of his hands and a mumbling of words cast a spell.  Laurel went to the bar to fetch a bottle of strong spirits to staunch the Aarakocra's many small cuts and bruises.  When looking at the rest of the party she noticed that they had disappeared, she could still hear them but could not hear them.  Moving over to the table she passed through some form of illusory barrier which hid that end of the room from view.


Tarigoz mounted the stage and as he passed the now empty cross he confronted Bernhardt telling him that he had lost a fair fight and he should stop this travesty.  Bernhardt, unaware of the deamon's escape, addressed the crowd and flamboyantly pointing at the empty cross screamed "The kingsman is in league with the demon"


The crowd, enthralled by the red faced cleric noticed the empty cross and retorted in unison

"The Deamon has fucked off!"

Bernhardt's face dropped as the realisation that he had lost dawned on him.  He screamed at the crowd "Halt the combat! Halt the combat! Return to your homes and defend your babies! The Deamon is loose!.
As the mob disbursed in all directions, Bernhard gathered his injured men and taunted the Knight of Wulfschlossen defiantly cursing

"This isn't the last you've heard of this Kingsman.  I will be writing a report of your treasonous conduct to your superiors."
They clambered into a cart and drove off in the direction of the Temple.
Some of the villagers decided to quench their thirst in the tavern before they went home to their farms.  Inside The Absent Badger, the mage Asdos declared that it was "Time to go" and opened the window behind him and ushered everyone out.  They headed across the fields to the hovel in the woods he called home.
Jan, Ssinkar, Wulf and Sir Tarigoz found themselves alone in the village square, they decided to band together to search for the Deamon and get to the bottom of what it was and why it was here.  Wulf's tracking skills soon revealed that a party of three had dragged the creature in the direction of the village tavern.  On entering the bar the locals immediately stopped their raucous conversations and glared at the strangers.  Ssinkar plonked 10 gold on the bar and declared "A drink for all".  The barkeep bit into one of the coins and exclaimed "The red devil's money is good".  This immediately broke the awkward impasse with shouts of "he has  scales on the outside but a kind heart on the inside".  As the illusory wall spell wore off, Jan noticed the suddenly gaping window with blood and feathers coating the window ledge. 

The posse of PCs swiftly downed their drinks and began following the tracks from the window, which had now become 5, across the fields towards the woods which Tarigoz knew was the home of the mage Asdos.  He contemplated that Fate was a strange mistress and was hard at work weaving together a strange band of folk to do her mysterious bidding.

In the mage's hovel, the assembled group crowded around his small stove, the Aarakocra told them that he was a messenger sent to find help.  His people were being systematically wiped out by an angry vicious Cloud Giant.  He was moving his cloud castle around the mountains destroying the AaraKocran nests and slaughtering their chicks.  The shaman of his tribe had consulted the Sky Gods who had flatly  refused to aid them, but for one renegade who said that he would send his daughter, Laurel.  The Sky Gods promptly moved their crystal castle higher into the sky than any Aarakocra could fly.

Sensing that the group were not entirely convinced that preventing the genocide of his people was a worthy and heroic enough deed he declared "I have money!!"

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