Monday, February 28, 2011

Army of One: Contest Winner!

February's winning entry was written by Matt Roberts, writer for the Nameless PCs webcomic, for the February Contest: Army of One. He can also be found on twitter under @NotanNPC.

He lifted his head off the dirt in a daze. For a moment he didn’t remember where he was or what was happening. It was the pain that brought him back, sharp and specific in his left thigh. That’s where the arrow was. His face throbbed. That’s where the punch hand landed. His breathing was shallow and pained, from a cracked rib. That’s where the boot hand kicked. Two figures stood flanking him as he lay prone. He noticed the one in front of him was an Eladrin

“Come now, Talos. We wouldn’t want to keep the Lord Drigs waiting,” said the Eladrin. Talos rose to his feet spitting blood on the ground. The second figure, a mean looking dwarf saddled up beside him, war axe ready. Ah, Drigs’s goons, Talos thought, the price must have gone up.

“He’s a might anxious on seeing you again,” the Eladrin continued with a slight smirk.

“Kord forgive, we ever keep the great Lord from raping and pillaging.” Talos said.

“Mind your tongue, mongrel!” The dwarf said driving the handle of his axe in to the back of Talos’s knee. Talos allowed himself to drop to his knee. His hand was now in reach of the arrow.

“Mind the arrow.” Talos said quietly.

“Wha-? “ The dwarf’s query was abbreviated by an arrow up his jaw through the top of his head. Dropping his axe into Talos’s hand which was quickly redirected into the chest of Drigs’s other lackey. Talos stood and quickly checked his surroundings as he retrieved his crossbow from the sling around his back. Neither of Drigs’s henchmen had a bow.
He stood as still as his leg, now arrow free, would let him. He knew the archer was young. A veteran bounty hunter would have brought him down by now, rather than look in shock as the rest of his gang was taken down.

“Go ahead and show yourself.” Talos said, “No need you should die as well. But, if I have to come find you, that’s going to piss me off.” A young human girl emerged 20 yards up the path. Her bow was drawn and aiming at Talos.

“There we are now, miss. What horrible circumstance has brought you to run around with the likes of this scum?” Talos motioned to the bodies on the ground. The girl remained silent. Her face showed bravery sheer enough for Talos to see through.

“Come now, you don’t want this.” Talos pointed at the Eladrin. The girl remain silent. “What’s your name?”

“Leona.” The girl said just as Talos raised his crossbow and fired. The bolt severed the string just below the nock on the upper limb. The sudden release of tension sent the riser shooting from her hand to the ground, leaving only the bow and limp string in the other. Her eyes and mouth were wide in shock, which quickly gave way to fear as she watched Talos, slowly, reload his crossbow.

“Run along now, Leona,” Talos said paying more attention to his crossbow than her now. She could not move from fear. After a pause he realized she was still there.

“Go on now. This one’s not for you,” he said as reassuringly as he could, indicating at the crossbow he was now putting back in his sling. “It’s for whatever waits down the road. I‘ll not fault you for getting mixed up with this lot. I was young and stupid, once.” he said as he began rummaging through her cohort’s pockets. Leona slowly took a few steps backwards and after a few yards she turned and sprinted. Talos had already began walking in the opposite direction.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Order of Corellon 4: Echoes, Part One

Gray. Gray. Everything is gray.

The soldier moves forward at a steady pace with the rest of his mounted column. His heavy armor is cold to the touch, inside and out; a fitting companion to the gray world his eyes reveal to him. Gray banners stir listlessly at the ends of their poles, held aloft by equally listless pages. Gray light barely reflects from the gray metal of the armor plate worn by every soldier in the heavily armed group, as if even the light itself is weary and devoid of energy. This is not the light’s domain.

His eyes stare out at the gray landscape, the rocky ground melding with the gray sky in a wall of limitless, colorless stillness. To his right, an infinite well of gray mist marks the edge of the Mournland. He stares into the mist, looking, but not seeing; taking note and reacting, but not comprehending. He has been trained well how to survive the regular patrols along a border that even the mad would dare not cross.

In the mist, shadows begin to form. The column turns as a machine, silent but for the clinking of metal and the clopping of hooves. Weapons are drawn. Shields raised. Glassy eyes stare toward the shadows as they coalesce into solid creatures. The creatures emerge, crossing from the terror of the eternal mist into the lands of the living. Twisted abominations, they barely resemble anything the soldier would recognize even if he could allow the rest of his conscious mind to comprehend the sights in front of him.

His sword swings in wide arcs as his mount circles madly in the swarm. Blood and other, less noble things cling to his blade. His mind is operating on something akin to instinct, something he gained only from long, difficult training. Letting thought interfere with that training would mean death, or worse.

Still, a part of him does see. A part of him does comprehend. That part of him cannot be fully suppressed, no matter how rigorous his meditation. A particularly nasty creature falls to the might of his blade, but then, deep in his mind, recognition resonates like a gong…

Lucatro sat bolt upright in bed, gasping, covered in sweat. The shock of that moment five years ago filled him as if he had just lived it again; his heart hammered loudly in his ribs; his fingers clenched and unclenched, as if expecting to find the hilt of his sword. He looked down at his hands, almost expecting to see blood there.

The half-elf composed himself, running through the prayers that the Reverend Father had taught him for just these occasions. His heart stilled. His breath became deep, and regular. His mind became a placid pool, a place of rest and cool waters. A quick glance in the mirror showed him something that he could not afford to reveal. He kneeled, taking a small, wooden box from beneath his pillow. He opened the box and removed a small, silver pendant, intricately made in the shape of Syberis, the dragon above. He clutched it tightly, marveling at the skill required to etch such perfectly even scales, as he said another prayer. Satisfied with the results, he placed the charm back in the box, and the box back beneath his pillow.

Lucatro scolded himself inwardly. He had been neglecting his meditation. He knew that he had come close to losing his carefully sculpted self-control in the goblin cave. He could only hope that the rest of his party was willing to chalk it up to the stress of his recent resurrection. After all, they had no way of knowing that he had experienced more disturbing things than death. Now the dreams were starting again. Dreams he hadn’t had since shortly after joining the Order of Corellon.

Shaking off his unpleasant thoughts, he dressed himself quickly. It was far too early for a nominally sane Paladin such as himself to be wandering about the grounds, but Lucatro had a hunch that a certain wizard was already hard at work.


Petrick didn’t hear the knock at his door. His eyes flew across the pages of the huge book on the table in front of him. The book, made by giants for giants, had already revealed several useful bits of information.

The Reverend Father had indeed been very interested in the circlet the team brought back from their trip to the Seawall Mountains. He had never seen anything like it, and that meant that, in all likelihood, neither had anybody else.

Petrick feverishly scanned the massive pages, searching for more clues. The easygoing young man wasn’t suffering from the same emotional bruises as his wife, Amelie, from their death and subsequent resurrection on the Mistmarsh expedition (aside from a strange recurring dream where he was being suffocated by a porcupine whom he’d offended somehow), but he did have a driving need to prove to the Reverend Father that he was worth the effort of his resurrection ritual.

A louder knock startled Petrick out of his thoughts. He scratched a few quick notes in his booklet, then went to admit his visitor.

"Lucatro! What are you doing up so early?"

"I couldn't sleep. I thought I'd see if there was anything I could do to help with your research."

"Well, not really. I think I've learned all I can here; I'm just finishing up a report for the Reverend Father. If I'm right, this is a truly remarkable find."

"Oh? What have you turned up?"

"At first, not much. I kept hitting one dead end after another. I wrote a few of my old professors at Morgrave University." Petrick gestured to a massive pile of papers filling a table on the far wall.

Lucatro raised an eyebrow, "a few?"

"Well. Relatively speaking. Anyway, one of them noted in passing that he once saw similar designs on an old Giant book, though only the leather cover of that one had survived, so he couldn't tell me what it might have said. That got me thinking: we're assuming that the circlet belonged to someone roughly human-sized. What if the owner was not an adult? A Giant child would need clothing of about the size as an adult human."

"That does put a new spin on things."

"Right. I started gathering every piece of information I could about the Age of Giants. I've even got a few actual Giant books here on loan from a few different universities. There's not much information, but several of them mention a lost tribe of, for lack of a better term, Frost Giants."

"Frost Giants?"

"I don't know much more than that. There are just several allusions to a tribe of Giants that had taken to living in extremely frigid climates. The markings on that circlet seem to be specific to that tribe. I haven't found any information about how they ended up in the Seawall Mountains, nor what would lead them to migrate that far. An old business journal from a tribe of giants that used to trade with these Frost Giants simply notes that they didn't show up to the summer markets one year. That's it."

Lucatro rubbed his chin, "so we're looking at the circlet of either a crown prince or a child king or chieftan of some sort from a long-lost tribe of Frost Giants that nobody in our time knows anything about, and few of their contemporaries had any dealings with."

"Pretty much." Petrick gave a winsome half-smile, "But I bet we can find a whole lot more."


"The FROSTFELL?" Amelie was on her feet in an instant. "Petrick, nobody comes back from the Frostfell!"

"The Wayfinder Expedition seemed to do alright for itself."

"And how many others simply disappeared?"

Lucatro, raised a calming hand, "Please, Amelie, sit down. We don't want to disturb the entire Order."

Amelie, Petrick, Ghejhann and Lucatro argued together in the crowded central dining hall of the Order of Corellon. Amelie glanced around at the curious looks beginning to fall on her and sat down, slowly. Her voice remained tight, however. "What could possibly be so important to risk going to the Frostfell?"

Petrick grabbed her hand, "I know it's dangerous, but we found the first real evidence of a lost tribe of giants that apparently lived in the Frostfell and only traded with the Giant tribes in Xen'drik out of necessity. Even if more of the old Giant civilization had survived, I'm not sure they knew much about them even then. We don't need any more reason than that. Finding the lost fragments of civilizations - any civilization - is our mission. And something as old as the Giant civilization... who knows what kind of lost rituals or art may be there?"

Amelie dropped her chin and stared and her bowl of stew. "I know. But.. "

"But what?"

"I'm just not sure it's worth it any more."

A silence settled over the group. It lasted several moments until Ghejhann ventured to speak. "The history of this world is a history of loss. We fight daily against the dying of the light. The few candles left flicker in the winds of a war that has not truly ended, though we like to pretend it has. If there is to be any world worth living in at all, for you and for your children, then we must seek out whatever we can that may help restore some of what we've lost."

The normally taciturn Dragonborn held Amelie's gaze for a long moment, adding, "Nothing worth having can be acquired easily, or without risk. You are no coward. Do not act like one."

Amelie's nostrils flared slightly as his words hit home. "I guess I lost sight of the stakes. Death has a way of changing people you know." She gave a weak smile, "Thank you."

A nod was her only answer.

"In that case," Lucatro announced, "it's safe to tell you that I've already presented Petrick's report to the Reverend Father. We leave for the Frostfell in the morning."


Early the next day, all four adventurers were packed and ready to go. They had breakfast together in the dining hall before heading to the bottom floor, as directed, to receive final instruction.

"How do you think we'll get there?" Petrick asked.

Lucatro admitted, "I'm not entirely sure. I suspect we'll be sent as far as possible on the lightning rail, then on a House Lyrandar galleon to the Frostfell. I suppose we might be sent by airship, but my guess is that would be a little too conspicuous."

As the group reached the end of the hallway, a plump, grandmotherly woman in a modest dress was there to greet them. Her face was like a smiling moon, her eyes as bright stars.

"Mother Franseen!" Petrick exclaimed, stopping suddenly and almost causing Ghejhann to crash into him. The group said, almost in unison, "Corellon guide you, Mother."

"And you, dears," she answered, chuckling.

Lucatro offered an apology, "the Reverend Father didn't tell me we'd be meeting you here. He just told us to report here for our final instructions."

"Oh, I suppose he wouldn't. Dear Willyam so enjoys playing the part of the mysteeerious old priest. But don't you believe it for a second. He couldn't keep a real secret more than a day even if I threatened to stop cooking for him if he didn't." Her voice was warm and welcoming, washing over the group with a strong sense of peace. Mother Franseen unlocked the door leading to the part of the building normally reserved for the highest levels of the Order's heirarchy.  She motioned for the party to pass through before following them and locking it tight from the inside.

She led them down a long, colorful hallway, lined with wooden doors leading to offices and apartments.  The hallway opened onto courtyards and verandas at regular intervals. "He has such a difficult job, my Willyam, and we both take it very seriously. We're both quite a bit older than we look, you know. Oh, don't give me that look Petrick! Trust me, I look quite good for my age."

"What look? I'm just listening very closely!"

With another easy chuckle, Mother Franseen continued, "Oh, but your thoughts are written all over your face, dear. You're still so young that way. When Willyam and I were first married, he was very much like you, in fact. Back then, the Last War was just a war, and we all knew it would be over soon. We all thought of ourselves as Galifarians first, and Brelish second. Those of us in the heartlands could go about our lives as though nothing in the world was wrong, and we could pretend that all the horrible bloodshed on the borders was just a royal argument that would be resolved once everyone came to his senses. Some of us even believed that.

"But as the decades passed, the war pressed in, ever farther from the borders."  Rounding a bend in the corridor, the party passed through another locked door.  It merely opened onto another hallway, this one dimly lit.  Even here, where few would ever see, the cieling was decorated with masterpiece paintings.  Mother Franseen's voice grew somber as her tale grew closer to the present, "We faced shortages. The glass tower in Sharn was sabotaged by enemy agents. We watched House Canith turn from creating wonders, to creating weapons. We lost friends, and children, and grandchildren to the fighting. And we watched much that was good, and beautiful, and right pass from the world, destroyed by this terrible conflict. The world you were born into was already much diminished from the one Willyam and I started our lives together in. And then at the last, when we lost Cyre to the Mourning..." The old woman shook her head, eyes closed in remembered pain, "you're too young to truly know the brightness of the light that was extinguished that day."

The entire group was silent, in shared rememberance of Cyre. They reached another door, and Mother Franseen paused, her voice now quiet, tinged with deep sadness. The laugh lines around her eyes stood out in stark contrast to her tone. "I know that now, we call this peace. But we know it's not peace. It is only a respite. As soon as one of the Five recovers, war will break out again. Sooner, if the goblins have their way. We looked on in horror in the early days of the war, when Karrnath raised their undead legions from the bodies of the fallen. But this so-called peace is just as horrific. The nations as you know them are nothing more than the dismembered corpse of Galifar, moving about as if they have life and purpose, when in truth, it would be much better to let Galifar's remains die, and for the old kingdom to rest in peace. Then we can forge something new, and true, on the ashes, and keep the darkness at bay."

Mother Franseen unlocked the last door and led the party through into a huge, dark room. A few small lamps provided some feeble light, but none of them penetrated far into the surrounding darkness. "I do apologize, my dears. This old woman is just feeling her age today. I only wanted to remind you how important it is that we gather to ourselves every bit of light and beauty that we can. We lean on Corellon, and trust that he will allow humankind a new spring. But you... the four of you are four of the brightest lights we have. Remember that.

"Ahh, here we are at last."

The party stopped in front of a large circle of black stones placed in a perfect circle. The air around the circle was charged, expectant.

Lucatro spoke first, "is that a ..."

"Yes, dear," Mother Franseen answered him, "a teleportation circle."

"I never imagined...."

"Oh, we don't exactly advertise it. I know of a circle in the heart of the Frostfell. The coasts are dangerous for sure, but the heart of the continent is home mainly to animals. Not to say they aren't dangerous at all, but they'll find you much stranger than you find them. Willyam decided that the circle was the best way to send you, mainly because it means that someone, somewhen decided that part of the world was of paramount importance to have built a circle there. It seemed the best place to start your search.

"Now, step into the circle, loves."

Still mostly stunned, Lucatro, Petrick, Amelie, and Ghejhann stepped carefully into the circle. The dim light of the room didn't allow them to take in many details, but it seemed that Mother Franseen's eyes were as bright as ever. As the old woman began the Linked Portal ritual, she was transformed. Power rippled from her in waves; her eyes went from bright stars to blazing suns. She moved her hands with power and precision, speaking in words that none of the others could understand. Her gentle voice, which had alternately soothed and expressed a sadness to great for words alone, instead boomed with strength and the aura of command. The adventurers huddled close as fire began to glow in the spaces between the stones. As the Reverend Mother worked, the flames grew higher, though they gave off no heat. Lightning began to flow from her hands to the stones. With a loud, final crack, the party was gone. The flames winked out in an instant, and the silence returned with an almost audible thump.

Alone in the darkness, an exhausted old woman collapsed to the ground.

Monday, February 21, 2011

February Contest: We Have A Winner!

The February contest, Army of One, came to a close with six really great entries! I would like to thank everyone that submitted an entry, all were great to read and will be posted here over the next few Mondays. Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! The winner is…

Matt Roberts!

Here is a short excerpt from his entry, stay tuned until Monday when it will be posted here in full:

“Mind your tongue, mongrel!” The dwarf said driving the handle of his axe in to the back of Talos’s knee. Talos allowed himself to drop to his knee. His hand was now in reach of the arrow.

“Mind the arrow.” Talos said quietly.

You can find Matt on Twitter at @NotanNPC and as a writer for the webcomic Nameless PCs.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Character Concepts: Homebrew Changling

I sat in on an amazing campaign setting creation session run by Quinn Murphy from 4E At Will (he can also be found on twitter as @gamefiend). This was all done as preperation for an online D&D game he is going to be running for me, Michael Hasko (web/twitter), Jeremy Morgan (web/twitter), and Ryven Cedrylle (web/twitter). Quinn's rules and guidelines we used to create the campaign setting were spectacular, but I'll leave them for him to divulge when the time is right. So, here is a little back story on the character I created, but first a little bit of back story of the setting to help understand it.

Recent Setting Details
During the 3rd era, the Yuan-Ti began a charge against the 3 superpowers. As it turned out, they had genetically designed sleeper agents, called Changelings, poised to strike from the inside these great nations. As the battle waged, Beltzhoover became a military state and was able to fend off most of the Yuan-Ti's initial attack, leaving them an opening to plow into their neighbors of Laeda. Laeda was overrun and fell into chaos with the Beltzhooverian troops and Yuan-Ti armies trampling the countryside.

Character Backstory
Dax. It is a Changling name. Most people know him as Donald as he's been, hiding among the people of Laeda for the past 12 years. Dox escaped the Yuan-Ti breeding camps and was found just outside the town by a widow woman. She thought he was a feral child at first and the only thing he remembers of his past is his name and fear of snakes. That was until he grew. The Yuan-Ti were growing the Changlings at an alarming rate and the small boy became a young man in just under 2 years. He's not even sure how the widow woman kept his growing a secret from the rest of the town, but as far as they know, he is just like the rest of them. Now, with the Yuan-Ti invasion and the Beltzhoover army marching across the countryside, Dox has decided he cannot sit idly by any longer. Especially so since his "mother", the widow woman, was taken in the last raid. Dox not only hopes to rescue his mother, but wants to set things right. The Yuan-Ti and Beltzhooverians need to be stopped.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday's Monster Mash #8 - January Contest Entry

Monday’s Monster Mash is a weekly series where monsters are selected from the three Monster Manuals and put together as an encounter group. A situation is discussed where these monsters would have been together and how their powers or status effects work together against the players.

This particular Monday's Monster Mash, and the next few, will be a little different than normal. Today's was written by Christopher Brind for the January Contest: Monster Mash Mania. He can also be found on twitter under @brindy.

The Story
“Master want this! Master want that!”, mumbled the nameless kobold in under-breath mockery as he trudged with a certain urgency down the gloomy, slime ridden passage toward the burrow exit. “I hates the out-doors!”, he exclaimed angrily.

The kobold breached the burrow exit, a crack in the base of the cliff face as tall as a man but too thin for any but the smallest of creatures, and the sunlight accosted his eyes forcing him to raise a forearm to protect his vision. From a distance it would look like he was sniffing the bottom of the old leather bag in his hand, but there was no one else around on this clear, but crispy afternoon.

Light leather rags dangled from the weak looking frame of the little dragon-kin. With no footwear or other clothing to speak of, apart from a piece of string around his waist with a small dagger tucked into a surprisingly expensive looking leather sheaf swinging from the makeshift belt, the kobold couldn’t have looked much poorer. He actually took comfort in this, at least he wouldn’t get robbed by goblins!

Almost immediately, being outdoors started to cause panic and fear to rise within him. The kobold put his other hand on the bone handle of the stowed blade for comfort and immediately began to calm down. His quest was simple enough, but being outdoors meant there was a distinct possibility of running in to wolves, goblins, orcs, or worse... some of of those gangly man-folk. With a shake of his head the runt finally focused on the task at hand; the collection of a few simple herbs and some leaves from various shrubs. Thankfully most of the ingredients could be found at the base of cliff, but he would have to venture a short way in to the forest for one of the components. With a high pitch grumbling noise signalling his disgust at such an out-doorsy errand he set off to the east hoping to keep the sun out of his eyes as much as possible.

Activity around the cliff faces was restricted to the kobold and the odd bit of wildlife with the only noises from the forest there were were the sounds of a few wild animals; mostly birds and the odd chattering of a few territorial squirrels. As the kobold searched for and picked the herbs his little mind began to wander... “If Master is Master, then what am I?”, he pondered to himself. “I am... I am... me no know what I am... or who I am. Me no even have a name! Even Garbid have name, but not me.”

The kobold winced at the thought of a dumb pet that couldn’t even speak having a name and decided right there that he’d ask the Master for a name when he returned. If the Master was in a good mood, that is.

The sound of a twig breaking behind him startled the kobold gatherer to attention. Instinctively he swung around to see what had made the noise, poised ready to make a break for it, but simply saw a humble fox look over it’s shoulder at him with what appeared to be an amused look on it’s face before it scurried off in to the dense forest. The kobold released the breath he realised he’d been holding and went back to picking herbs, a little more attention on the surroundings instead of daydreams now.

After a couple of hours the small leather herb bag he’d carried with him was nearly full and the autumn sun was now starting to head for the horizon. With a few hours of daylight left all that was left was to gather the witch-hazel from the trees on the edge of a glade just half a mile or so in from the most dense part of the forest edge, directly north of where he was standing. Real trepidation started to over-whelm the small scaly being now, but he soon began to think of the Master and what he’d do to him if he wasn’t to fetch the witch-hazel; being eaten by a wolf, or killed by some wood-elf didn’t seem half as bad and so he set off, pushing his way through low branches, and dense bracken.

The forest began to thin out. Through the trees ahead of him he could see the edge of the glade and, much to his distress, thick white smoke tumbling up towards the sky at a slight angle where the gentle breeze was carrying it away. This was not good for morale, but before he let panic overtake him he pushed the Master’s face to the forefront of this mind focusing on potential punishment to drive him forward towards the clearing as stealthily as he could. Keeping as low as he could he pushed his face through some ferns and looked to see what fiendish beings had decided to make camp.

In front of him were two open-fronted sleeping tents, a couple of backpacks but most interestingly, the smoke was rolling around the remains of a wild-creature being smoke-roasted on a spit. Just as he saw the succulent treat the kobold’s stomach rumbled, reminding him it had been several hours since his last meal. He waited patiently for several minutes to see if the owners of the gear would re-appear, but when nothing stirred he decided they must have left the camp for some reason only to come back later. They were probably off hunting, he thought.

The witch-hazel the kobold needed was on a tree not far away, so he carefully skirted the glade and picked enough of the flowering witch-hazel to complete his task.

“Must get back to Master”, he muttered to himself quietly exactly as his stomach rumbled one more. He looked back in to the centre of the glade, still no sign of the campers. “I’m fast, I’m quick. No one will know.”, he whispered to the forest.

In a feat of daring quite rare for this little creature the kobold sprinted the hundred feet over to the camp fire and knocked the spit with the juicy meat from over the fire and smoke on to the floor. He tenderly extracted the spit from the meat and began to make off with it, tucked under one arm like a barrel of ale. It wasn’t too heavy, but it slowed him down as he ran back to the edge of the clearing in the general direction of the burrow.

As he broke the edge of the clearing he looked back one last time... still no one around. A smile began to edge up the side of his scaly, pointy face, small jagged teeth flashing a cheeky grin, then without any more hesitation off he went again in the direction of the burrow now pushing through the dense undergrowth.

About half way back he found a tall thick tree, the base of which had grown and expanded enough that some of the thick tangled roots were growing above the ground and made a ideal one-kobold sized makeshift hideout. He vaulted over what reminded him of a leg and settled in hidden away from the rest of the forest. He dropping the bag of herbs and other ingredients to one side then devoured the succulent meat, hot animal fat dripping down his face. It was the best meal he’d had for weeks and, finishing the meal, he immediately started to feel drowsy.

“Quick nap, yes, then home to Master”, he nodded to himself and closed his eyes falling in to a deep slumber.

An owl screeched above the head of the sleeping kobold. In the distance the call was echoed by another owl passing the message on to the other wise birds of pray hunting that night. The kobold, tucked up in his makeshift den, opened his eyes with a start. “Oh, noes!”, he whispered at himself angrily. It was the dark of night, hours must have passed. Above the canopy of the forest the full moon shone brightly surrounded by a misty halo, a billion twinkling stars appearing and disappearing as the silhouettes of leaves fluttering in the wind swayed on the stalwart branches of ancient trees.

In waking the kobold flexed his hands, sleep fooling him in to thinking his bag of herbs was tight in his grip, then he realised it wasn’t. He jumped up, little heart beating three times as fast as normal, a began to scurrying around the sleeping pit looking for the bag. He breathed a heavy sigh of relief as he spotted the bag laying just next to where he’d fallen asleep a few hours before.

Still panic stricken, the kobold snatched the bag and set off as fast as his little legs could carry him, fighting through the thicket, brush flying and low branches catching him in the face. Panting heavily the thought of the Master’s impending punishment drove him forward, all caution thrown to the wind.

With a crash the nameless little kobold exploded from the forest, tripping over some rocks just beyond the trees sending him flying forwards. Out of pure instinct and luck he threw his hands forward and dropped in to a roll, somehow managing to keep tight hold of the bag of ingredients. He came out of the roll on to his feet without pausing to fathom how he’d managed it and continued straight for the burrow entrance knowing the Master would be severely annoyed by how long he’d been.

The terrain between the forest edge and the cliff face was relatively light work compared to the substantial overgrowth of the forest; the kobold was able to make it to the burrow entrance in record time. Through the gap and back along the slimy corridor. The Master’s den was someway inside, a bit of a trek in it’s own right. He rounded a corner and stop momentarily to take a breath, bent double and with one hand leaning on a knee, the kobold panted heavily.

The Master’s face popped in to his mind again. “Argh!”, he let out a quiet yelp. Manic now, the kobold set off again as fast as he could, sliding around corners, running in to the walls of junctions and bouncing off down the passages he knew so well.

Suddenly the air changed. A subtly different smell, something he’d never noticed before ticket his nostrils, but there was no time stop. Deep in the burrow now, he was getting closer to the den, but knew he’d have to cross the lava flow over the old rickety bridge and didn’t like that bit at all. In all honesty, this small fry creature didn’t like much of anything!

Another corner, faster now, little legs still going, and another corner, and across the junction, nearly to the cavern with the bridge, round another corner and … SPLODGE!

The kobold piled in to something horrible and began gargling foul tasting jelly has he tried to breath. Within seconds he found himself floating, first six inches above the floor, then a foot, then two foot, surrounded by a world of translucent molasses, not that the kobold knew what molasses was.

“Gargghhgghgle!”, was the noise that came from the kobold’s mouth, but inside a gelatinous cube, no one can hear you squirm! The world around the kobold became blurred with a sickening green tint as the gelatinous cube slimed slowly onwards down the corridor, digesting a new unsuspecting morsel.

The kobold forced his arm down and through the thick, pungent jelly, managing to get his hand around the blade of the knife. He drew the knife up as fast as he could, trying futilely to slash and cut his way free, but unable to swing his arm with any degree of power. Small, sparlking, stones of frozen jelly appeared where the knife slashed but it’s cold blade had no noticeable affect on the cube.

The kobold was running out of air now as he desperately struggled within the gelatin mass. He’d never done it before, but he summoned up his acid breath and vomited it out only managing to make a puddle of acid right in front of his own face. With this, the kobold expired, exhausted and suffocated, while the cube continued it’s mindless journey along the the dark corridors.

In the trail of the cube lay an old leather bag that once contained the collected herbs of nameless kobold.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

D&D on NBC??

Do you watch the show Community on NBC? I don't, but when I heard they had an episode about Dungeons & Dragons, I couldn't miss it! It seems I wasn't alone in this, and Scott Bennie, a member of one of the Yahoo Groups I frequent, had some interesting thoughts about the episode as well. His comments, after the episode (embedded video from

The neatest thing about the episode is that its premise is a conscious repudiation of the 80s D&D scare. This is a Dungeons and Dragons game designed to *prevent* a suicide, as opposed to the "Radecki/Pulling D&D causes suicide" tripe of the 80s.

The group, instead of "trying to snap Neil" back to reality, which is the usual trope of a mainstream handling of an "escape is for the weak, RPG is evil" episode, is actively trying to use his fantasy to bolster his self-esteem, even when many of them don't particularly get it. Jeff may think the game is silly, but he understands the importance of the sword to Neil, though Neil's agenda dovetails with his own when it comes to Pierce. The one person who tries to make Neil "see reality" is Pierce, who ironically is far better than adapting to the milieu than the others, despite saying the game is "gay" and "stupid', showing contempt for the trappings of the genre (his obscene acts with Neil's sword, his eventual pathetic descent to using the "rape button", at the end, when confronted with the banality of his evil).

Neil's triumph isn't his repudiation of fantasy (as in most anti-RPG media depictions), nor is it his victory in a fantasy that's solely escapist (as one might expect in a blindly pro-RPG piece), but, when presented with a fantasy antagonist that's using the game as a passive-aggressive attack on him in the real world, he manages to recognize its pathetic qualities and, via an act of pity and grace, use it to achieve a victory in both worlds. The show's not damning escape nor lionizing it, but recognizing it as having value as long as the individual is capable of dealing with the real world.

It also plays into what I've said for years is the true capacity for evil in our hobby, not content -- these players are not going to become more violent or drawn into the occult from playing this game -- but in the capacity of being a tool that someone can use to be a creep and do people serious psychological harm, to act as a vessel to give reign to our darker (as the show would call it, most dickish) impulses. The group coming together, however, is a demonstration of what I think is RPG's greatest strength: It's potential to draw people into a communal experience that cements friendship, and reinforcing values of compassion that go beyond what's at the game table.

What are your thoughts?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday's Monster Mash #7 - January Contest Entry

Monday’s Monster Mash is a weekly series where monsters are selected from the three Monster Manuals and put together as an encounter group. A situation is discussed where these monsters would have been together and how their powers or status effects work together against the players.

This particular Monday's Monster Mash, and the next few, will be a little different than normal. Today's was written by Scott Boehmer for the January Contest: Monster Mash Mania. He can also be found on twitter under @glimmthegnome.

The Story
The remote villages scattered throughout the southern Oakwood have faced a harsh winter. Not only have the days been unusually cold, but a tribe of yetis from the Gray Spires have begun to launch raids into the lowland forests. The marauding yetis have attacked several villages, stealing food stores and dragging off townsfolk. Unbeknownst to the villagers, a beholder gauth has subjugated the yeti tribes and is using them to gather sacrifices and valuables to fuel dark and alien rituals deep within a glacial ice cave.
The guath (MM2, 24) stays out of reach during combat while using its eye rays to slow any intruders and blast them with flames. The yetis (MM3, 210-211) meanwhile form a frontline and savage any victims of the gauth’s immobilizing central eye. The ice caves where the yeti tribe dwells is filled with slick patches and pits concealed by thin ice making it quite hazardous to anyone foolish enough to confront them in their own home. Thanks to the yetis icewalk and the guath’s ability to hover, the difficult terrain doesn’t hinder them in any serious way.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Order of Corellon 3: Dawnfire, Part Two

The party stepped carefully through the abandoned mine, following paths that had been worn smooth by generation upon generation of feet travelling into the depths.  The magelight cast harsh shadows on the walls of the caverns, oddly distorted by the uneven rock.  In the distance, a slow dripping echoed through the silence.

The path forked several times, but each time, their agent’s map provided direction, guiding them deeper into the mountain.  The floor grew rougher and more uneven as they headed inward, reaching the parts of the mine that had been newest when it was still in use.  Rather than rock-hewn tunnels, they began to see natural caverns in every direction, and stalactites and stalagmites began to be regular features.

“This section of the mine looks almost unused,” Lucatro seemed concerned for the first time, “I assumed the mine was abandoned because the gems ran out, but these walls are untouched.  Petrick, bring your light down closer to the walls.”

Petrick willed the magelight down to eye level.  The walls glittered with specks of color.  Lucatro narrowed his eyes in thought, “there are still gems in these rocks.  Alright, let’s slow our pace.  Keep your eyes open for any movement.  Petrick, throw that light as high as you can.  We’ll get wider illumination.  Just let me know if your eyes don’t adjust to the dimmer light; I never could get a good feel for what humans considered too dim.”

The adventurers continued on in silence, peering into the dimly lit shadows, listening for any sign of life.

Ghejhann spoke in a low rumble that passed for a whisper, “this place is too empty.  Surely we would have run afoul of something by now.  If not goblins, then at least rats, spiders, or something else that makes its home in the dark places.”

“You’ve got a point,” Lucatro conceded, consulting his map once more, “but we’re almost at the end of the path.  There’s a room off to the right, just around this bend.  I don’t know what’s wrong with this place, but we won’t have to stay much longer.”

As they rounded the last long curve in the natural corridor, there was no doubt that this was the right place.  A huge cavern opened up before them; a two-foot drop led to an unnaturally smooth and level floor.  A massive stone table, with stalagmites for legs, dominated the center of the room.  The walls were lined with piles of weaponry, armor, and other equipment that looked as if it had been neatly stored at one point, but which lay haphazardly in piles now.  Flails, spiked chains, strange helmets, oddly-shaped shields, breastplates with scrollwork and sharp points, and other assorted odds and ends flashed in the magelight.  A massive, tattered banner hung on the far wall, it’s colors long faded and its sign now unreadable.

"These are Dhakaani weapons," Ghejhann confirmed, "but damaged beyond repair by the cold dampness here.  They're surely brittle now."

“Well, this certainly looks like a court-in-exile.  It could have been the Shaking Emperor, or it could have been some other Dhakaani noble.  There's no way to tell now.”  Lucatro commanded the others, “Fan out; the amulet should be easy to spot.  Who knows where that poor goblin tossed it when it burned him, though.”

The party spread out and began searching through the piles of ruined weapons and rusted armor.  The metal had aged and worn oddly, with parts still gleaming as if new, and parts tarnished and rusted.  Petrick made note to study the Dhakaani when he got back to his library.  Perhaps there was originally some preserving enchantment on the stash which had been disturbed or had begun to wear off.

Petrick was poking along the edge of the far wall, beneath the tattered banner.  He noticed a deeper patch of shadow behind some shields.  It looked almost like a small alcove in the base of the wall; it would have been completely covered had the shields been arranged neatly.  His magelight didn’t penetrate very far, as he had let the light drift up to the ceiling to illuminate as much of the cavern as he could.  The wizard crawled closer, wary, and gently pushed the wall of shields over to get a better look into the alcove.  The shields fell, one after another, and tumbling out from behind them was a black-clad corpse, its eyes staring blankly up into the depths of the cavern ceiling.  It hadn’t been there long; the blood still glistened wetly from the ruins of its throat.

With a cry of surprise, Petrick scampered backward.  “Guys, you better see this.”

The others rushed over, but stopped short when they saw the body.  Ghejhann inhaled deeply, “Human.  Fresh.  Probably less than two hours old.”

Lucatro  furrowed his brow, “whoever ambushed this poor soul isn’t here now; we certainly would have been next.”

“Or he went back for help.” Petrick added weakly.

Amelie stared at the corpse, focusing on something on the dead man’s left hand.  A narrow band of gold circled the base of his pinky finger.  She made her way carefully over the pile of shields and gingerly turned the fellow’s hand over.

With a curse, Amelie dropped the hand and dashed back to the group.  “How well do you know our mysterious source?” she asked, each word dropping as lead.

“I don’t know him at all,” Lucatro admitted reluctantly, “but the Reverend Father assured me the source had been feeding us information for many years, well before the end of the Last War.”

“Well, you may want to send someone to check on our source’s health.  That man is a member of the King’s Shadows.  The symbol on his ring marks him as a member of the Night Blades, an elite cell of the Shadows that is often called on to police our ... their ... own.  I have no doubt he was waiting here for me.”

“But... but... the Shadows?” Petrick stammered, “I thought we only had to worry about the King’s Shields.  If they’re sending the King’s Shadows after you now…”

“I know.  It means that … he … doesn’t need me alive any more.  Things have obviously changed back home, but … Oh,  by the Five Nations, Leukis… "  Amelie whipped around and met Lucatro's eyes, "I have to get back to the Order.  I need to know what’s happening in Wroat, in the King’s court.”

“Agreed,” Lucatro did not hesitate, “but your would-be assassin is dead, you can’t change anything that’s happening in Wroat right now, and I will not fail the Reverend Father a second time.  We find the amulet first.”  His uncharacteristic scowl transformed him; this coldly pragmatic version of the Paladin was not something the party had seen before.

“Don’t you get it?” Amelie was nearly shouting.  “This whole mission was a setup!  There is no amulet!”

“The whole mission?  Nonsense.”  Lucatro scoffed, “obviously, an agent with the King’s Shadows caught wind of our mission and sent someone to lay in wait for us here, and …”

“So who killed him?  What did they want?  Where did they go?”

“The intrigues of the human courts are numerous, and often opaque.” Ghejhann, as usual, remained unruffled by the argument around him, “If we waited until we knew the motivations of everyone here, then we would never move again.”

Petrick furrowed his brow, “It can’t be a setup, Amelie.  I trust that the Reverend Father’s gnomish friend has not been compromised; he would know.  And the goblin showed off his melted hand, remember?  How could he be lying?”

“I never claimed the King’s Shadows were nice people.  Iron burns hot enough to melt flesh, too.”

“Ohhh. That’s… wrong.”

“Yes.  But it would explain how a scatterbrained goblin was able to feed a very detailed, very accurate map to our agent in Zolanberg.  The Shadows had to be sure we’d make it.”

Petrick still wasn’t satisfied.  “But how could the Shadows know the Order would send us, specifically?  It’s not like we’re the only team of adventurers on the payroll.”

“No, but it was a good gamble; the ‘amulet’ was easy to reach, and we needed a win after our last mission.  If a different team shows up, the assassin just stays hidden and they try again later.”

“Stop.”  Lucatro tilted his head.  “Voices, coming this way.  Petrick, extinguish that light.  Defensive positions.”


“Diss where human fiend attack you, Bagguck?”

“Yess, we close now.  He wass hide in a hole, in room full of treasure.  I kill him easy, bite his neck.  Lots of treasure! Chief will be happy with us!”

A group of eight goblins followed Bagguck and his bugbear friend Colin.  A Hexer had offered to lead the group, just in case the human fiend had friends.  This part of the caves was not safe.  But Bagguck had seen a treasure, a treasure too big to carry, and no goblin could resist bringing riches like those home to his clan.  They would all be rewarded!

“Right ova here!”

The party froze as a group of goblins rounded into view.  Seven goblins accompanied by a huge bugbear, and an odd-looking goblin that, by his bearing, could only be a hexer.

Petrick summoned another magelight and set it high, lighting the cavern once more.  The sudden light brought the goblins to a halt, cringing.  For a long moment, each group just looked at the other in the darkness; the goblins shocked into a rare moment of stillness.

With a prayer, Lucatro began moving his hands in a wide circle.  A line of glowing runes followed behind his palm, encircling the party and offering a measure of protection.  Amelie had moved quickly to the side, using the piles of weapons and armor for cover as she drew her Duelist’s Shuriken.  Ghejhann readied his crossbow, knowing the hexer would not charge to the front of the line.

Ghejann fired at the goblin hexer, but the hexer grabbed one of the poor goblin minions next to him and thrust him in the path of Ghejhann's bolt.  The goblin screamed his last and was cast aside.  The rest of the horde, partly out of anger and partly out of fear of their leader, charged the adventurers, who had taken refuge behind the huge stone table. 

Petrick knew he had to deal with his opposite number among the goblins.  The wizard's hands began to glow as he held them out in front of his body.  He began to form symbols with his fingers, tracing complex patterns in the air.  He blocked the charging goblin horde from his consciousness with a will; a final flourish of his hands marked the hexer as his target, and a cloud of magical daggers begin to swirl around the goblin, stabbing in and out relentlessly from all directions.

The hexer, through his pain, cast a cloud that covered the party, obscuring their vision and concealing the hexer.  Amelie, though, was safely outside the range of the cloud; she took aim and tossed her shuriken expertly.  The hexer screamed as the weapon hit home, but he shook off the pain, and the cloud remained.

The large bugbear reached the party first, rushing into the vexing cloud while swinging his massive Morningstar.  He delivered a skullthumping hit to Petrick, knocking him to the floor, unconscious.  Lucatro whispered another prayer, and a translucent golden shield materialized between Petrick and the attacking horde as he swung mightily with his sword.  The bugbear had jumped on top of the stone table in an attempt to land among the party and wreak havoc.  Lucatro's powerful chop connected with the bugbear’s legs, sending the brute to his knees.  One of the little goblins scampered over the table to the bugbear in concern.  “Odd,” Ghejhann thought to himself as he traded his crossbow for his battleaxe.  That cloud may make it hard to see, but it wouldn’t stop his axe.

Though Petrick was unconscious, Amelie didn’t worry too much.  Ghejhann’s axe was cutting a bloody swathe through the goblin horde, and Lucatro was shielding Petrick as much as he was attacking the enemy.  She tumbled across the cavern, changing directions and drawing closer to the hexer.  The goblin was free of the painful dagger cloud with Petrick unconscious.  Amelie could tell he was readying for another strike on her friends.  She drew her short sword as she flanked the hexer, concealing herself behind the massive piles of ancient relics at the edges of the cavern.

With a calculated strike, she exploded at the hexer, slicing him viciously and throwing him slightly off balance.  He attempted to bring his rod around to crush her skull, but Amelie anticipated the attack, and with an adroit riposte, sliced her sword across the path of the goblin's attack, neatly severing his hand; both it and the rod falling to the floor.

Screaming, the hexer ran, spurting a gleaming trail of blood for the surviving goblins to follow.  As the vexing cloud dissipated, Amelie saw Petrick getting to his feet.  Five dead goblins littered the cavern floor; the bugbear ran from the cavern, limping, with one small goblin trailing along behind him.

“Now we know what happened to the assassin.” Amelie cleaned and sheathed her sword as she moved to check on Petrick.  “You going to be OK?”

“Yeah, he just hit my head.  No real damage.”

The rogue smiled and put a steadying arm around her husband.  “Let’s get going.”

“What about the amulet?” Lucatro was incredulous.

With a heavy sigh, Amelie helped Petrick sit down at the massive stone table.  “Fine.  We’ll find it first.”

The party tore every inch of the cavern apart.  No shield, no flail, no breastplate, no spear was left untouched.  When all was said and done, the most interesting thing to be found in the cavern was a small circlet, the kind a crown prince might wear.

“Looks like you were right Amelie,” Lucatro admitted, “the whole mission was a setup.  But I’ve never seen designs like this before.”  He ran his fingers along the outside of the circlet.  “The Reverend Father may at least find it interesting.”

"Well, at least we're coming back in one piece this time." Amelie conceded.  As she looked around at the rest of the group, she felt a leaden knot of guilt form in her stomach.  She had come so close to betraying them all; she had considered becoming a traitor to the Order in order to clear her name as a traitor to the Crown.  It was the Shadow way: the Crown above all.  The rogue made a promise to herself.  She would never again consider betrayal, that as long as someone was loyal to her, she would be loyal to him.

As the party shuffled out of the cavern and back into the mine to begin the long journey home,  a pair of glowing eyes looked down on them from the shadows high in the cavern’s ceiling. The Revered Father wasn’t the only one who would be getting a report today.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Feats of Fun - Week 16 (Bard)

Adam( ), the originator of the FridayFeat idea, has posted the first few weeks of FridayFeats over on which included all those who participated and not just my ideas.

You can find me at & Jeremy at

[caption id="attachment_1146" align="alignnone" width="310" caption="Sarcastic Lead"]Sarcastic Lead[/caption]

Sarcastic Lead
Prerequisites:Cutting Words
Your words encourage the target to attack the specific ally or yourself that you designate for the target's next attack.

[caption id="attachment_1146" align="alignnone" width="365" caption="Backhand Swing"]Backhand Swing[/caption]

Backhand Swing
Prerequisites:Guiding Strike
Until the beginning of your next turn as an immediate reaction triggered when an ally misses with an attack targeting the diminished defense of the guiding strike target you may grant a basic attack against the guiding strike target to the PC who missed.

[caption id="attachment_1146" align="alignnone" width="295" caption="Stumble Shot"]Stumble Shot[/caption]

Stumble Shot
Prerequisites:Jinx Shot
You may designate an adjacent square as the square where the target falls prone within, plus they must use a standard action to stand-up from this prone state.

[caption id="attachment_1146" align="alignnone" width="350" caption="Extended Challenge"]Extended Challenge[/caption]

Extended Challenge
Prerequisites: Misdirected Mark
The PC who has the mark on the target granted by this power can extend the distance of any abilities triggered from the mark by the distance between the ally and the target when the mark was granted.

[caption id="attachment_1146" align="alignnone" width="349" caption="Mighty Wind"]Mighty Wind[/caption]

Mighty Wind
Prerequisites:Staggering Note
You may forgo the Charisma modifier damage and push four squares instead of two.

[caption id="attachment_1146" align="alignnone" width="378" caption="Enraged"]Enraged[/caption]

Prerequisites: Vicious Mockery
The target may only make melee basic attacks until the beginning of your next turn.

[caption id="attachment_1146" align="alignnone" width="384" caption="War Dance"]War Dance[/caption]

War Dance
Prerequisites:War Song Strike
Any ally who targets the same target may shift 1 square closer to the target as a free action.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Order of Corellon 2: Dawnfire, Part One

[caption id="attachment_1363" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="The lightning rail train departs."][/caption]

Amelie leaned her head back against the luxurious seat of the lightning rail car, pretending that she might fall asleep.  It had been a few weeks since her death and resurrection after the ill-fated Mistmarsh expedition.  The healers at the Order of Corellon had done a marvelous job on her injuries, but, like all members of the Order, they viewed their jobs as an art.  And what better way to practice that art than to fix anything and everything that was out of place?

She didn’t mind losing the nasty scar that had run across her left collar bone and shoulder.  The pulling of the scar tissue as she moved her arm was a persistent reminder of the unpleasantness surrounding the end of her time with the King’s Own.   It would be good to have full motion in that arm again without the accompanying pain that had been her companion since the … incident.

The rogue let her right hand absently trace the smooth skin of her left forearm.  Amelie had mixed feelings about losing the faint parallel tracings that had run from her left elbow.  They had been with her almost as long as she could remember.  She was barely seven years old.  She had been playing “warrior and dragon” with her older brother Leukis, and, naturally, she was the dragon.  Leukis would chase her all over their large home in a fashionable neighborhood near Morgrave University in Wroat.  Amelie always managed to stay a step ahead of Leukis’s deft stabs with the wagon-wheel spoke that doubled as his sword; she would tumble, dive, spin, and otherwise keep her bigger, slower brother off balance. 

One afternoon, their scampering had led to the magnificent balcony on the second floor.  Amelie had planned to fool Leukis into committing to a lunge, then dart out of the way and through the second door on the far side that led to her mother’s private library.  When she dashed out onto the balcony, however, she found her way blocked.  A small team of the house servants had moved a huge wardrobe to the balcony to paint the family seal onto the polished oak.  The wardrobe and the surrounding artists were blocking the library entrance.  Caught up in the moment, Amelie made the mistake of allowing herself to believe that the old blankets tied to her arms as her “wings” would really let her fly.  Before Leukis could capture her, she leapt from the railing, stretching her arms wide – and fell directly into a supply wagon carrying writing materials to the university.  She had landed directly onto a box of sharp quill pens with her elbow, and took home some deep, nasty scratches as a souvenir.  Her father told her she was blessed that was all she suffered, though the way he grumbled as he paid the driver for the ruined supplies, you would have thought parting with a few gold pieces was just as painful for her father as the fall had been for her.

The marks she carried from that fall were a talisman; by fingering them, she could slip into childhood memories almost instantly.  Now that she couldn’t possibly go home again, those memories were more important than ever.  She worried that when the monks removed her scars during the resurrection and healing ceremony, they also removed the key that let her remember what seemed like another life – or, since her resurrection, was it another life in truth?  Amelie had learned to live as a fugitive, accepting the Order's sanctuary and only leaving to go on missions far from Wroat, the smaller the town, the better.  Due to the rather public nature of her escape, she at least didn't have to worry about the rest of the King's Own - or any other cell of the King's Shadows - coming after her.  She only had to avoid the King's Shields to stay free.  Amelie took comfort in the fact that Leukis, himself a distinguished member of the King’s Shields, was secretly working to expose the threat that had landed her in hot water when she accidentally discovered what was going on in the King’s inner circle.  She had faith that he’d complete what she started; then, she could go home again, and her questions of life and death and resurrection and memory wouldn’t matter any more, so long as her father lived to see that she was no traitor after all.

A whistle pierced Amelie’s wandering thoughts.  The conductor’s booming voice called out, “Sterngate Station!  Sterngate Station!  Now arriving at Sterngate Station!”

Amelie nudged Petrick awake with her elbow, “wake up!  We’re in Sterngate already.”

“Oh,” Petrick mumbled, rubbing his eyes, “I feel like I just fell asleep a minute ago.  First Class is the only way to go!”

The couple made their way to the front of the car and onto the station platform, where Ghejhann and Lucatro were already waiting for them.  “I trust you had a pleasant trip,” Lucatro beamed, “but I can’t wait until you hear what we’re going after next!”

“I’m surprised the Reverend Father sent us anywhere after that little setback in the swamp.” Amelie stretched, working out the kinks from the long lightning rail ride, “are you sure we’re not tracking down some saint’s third cousin’s best friend’s recipe for chicken soup?”

“Not at all,” Lucatro’s excitement was contagious as he led the party down the platform and through the mostly empty station, “the Reverend Father wasn’t all that upset with me.  He said the important thing is that we made it back.  But… he still sent someone else back into the Mistmarsh to get that musical score from whatever cave it’s holed up in.  My guess is that this is just a lucky break: something very valuable just happened to be relatively easy to get.  Something to get our confidence back, I should say.”

“You still haven’t told us what it is!” Petrick interjected.

“Ah,” the half-elf turned to face the rest of the party, easily keeping up as walked backward, his hands illustrating his words in wide motions, “that is an interesting story.  A gnome agent the Order works with in Zolanberg has been collecting information about the old Dhakaani empire for years, specifically any information related to the Shaking Emperor’s ancient scepter.”

“Surely, that can’t be the object we seek!” Ghejhann’s surprise showed as a small puff of smoke.

“Well, no.” Lucatro waved the matter aside with a shake of his hands, “but Lhesh Haruuc has been sending his goblins into the Seawall Mountains searching for the Shaking Emperor’s hiding place – and his scepter – for quite some time.  Rumor has it that some of his minions found a minor stash of weapons in a network of ancient tunnels.  They took a few swords and called it a day, but one of them talked about all the strange things laying about, specifically, spiked chains, flails, and …”

“Dhakaani weapons!” Ghejhann’s eyes lit up.

“Exactly! But the real prize is a curious piece of jewelry one of the little creatures seemed captivated with.  It was a flaming red jewel, its facets swirling with inner flame; it was set in burnished gold, shaped like the rays of the rising sun…”

“The Dawnfire Amulet…” Petrick whispered.

“Got it in one!” Lucatro was nearly hopping with excitement, “The goblin had tried to grab the ‘jewel’ but found that it burned with unspeakable heat.  He showed his hand to our agent’s source; the flesh of his fingers had been melted together.”

“That seals it.” Petrick couldn’t believe what he was hearing, “The Dawnfire Amulet can only be handled by those who have pledged themselves to good.  It seeks out true darkness, darkness of the soul, and seeks to burn it away…” Petrick’s words trailed off as he fell deep in thought.

“And we will bring it back to the Reverend Father!  Think what this will do to rid our Order of spies, once and for all!”

Lucatro continued to expound on the powers of the Dawnfire Amulet, but Amelie could no longer hear him.  All she could think about was arranging a meeting between the Amulet and a certain member of the King’s inner circle.  Was clearing her name worth betraying her Order?  Should she continue to wait and trust that Leukis could handle the traitor from the inside?  She doubted sleep would find her tonight.

[caption id="attachment_1372" align="alignright" width="385" caption="Ancient Mining Road"][/caption]

The next morning, the party set out from Sterngate early and made their way south.  The Seawall Mountains were full of old mines and mining roads, some of them older than the human race itself.  The concentration of mines was much heavier toward Zolanberg, but there were still plenty of mines near Sterngate, though few of them were active today.

Lucatro lead the party swiftly and steadily, following the map sketched by the Order’s mysterious gnomish agent.  The agent’s efficacy was proven quickly, as every turn and twist was exactly as drawn.  “How he got this level of detail out of a goblin, I’ll never know,” Lucatro mused.  The gnomes had their methods.

The mining tunnel in question was deep in the mountains.  It was several days’ travel along the twisting roads, and in several places, the old mining road was little more than a narrow ledge, barely enough to step carefully across, pressing backs firmly to the side of the mountain behind and trying desperately not to look down.  Ghejhann thanked his ancestors that Dragonborn did not inherit dragon tails along with their dragon fire.  He had a hard enough time finding places to put his large boots on the narrow ledges as it was.

The Revered Father’s everlasting provisions proved their worth once again, allowing the party to travel lightly and swiftly.  The journey turned out to be uneventful, with only local birds and wildlife to keep the party company.

After three days of travel, the party finally stopped in front of the entrance to a particular mining tunnel.

“Looks just like all the others,” Petrick opined, “how do you know this is the one?”

Lucatro folded the map and put it back into his pack.  “This map has been fantastic so far.   I have every reason to believe that this is the ancient mine the goblins were searching when they found the Dawnfire Amulet.  Let’s go.  Petrick, some light, if you please.”

Petrick lifted his hand high to the air, cupped as if around a piece of fruit, and rotated his hand as if screwing something in.  A ball of magelight, barely visible in the sunshine, formed in his palm.  He willed the light to follow Lucatro, slightly above and behind him.

The party filed into the old mine and let their eyes adjust to the dimmer magelight.

“It still looks like every other mine I’ve ever seen,” Petrick said as he took in the surroundings.

Amelie raised an eyebrow at him, “You’ve never been in a mine before.”

“Doesn’t mean I haven’t seen one.  I do read a lot, including books with pictures.”

His wife sighed and shook her head at her husband’s odd manner of reasoning.  Her amusement was interrupted by an unwelcome thought, and a knot formed in the pit of her stomach.  Would betraying the Order mean betraying Petrick, too?  Would he side with them over her?  He knew the truth about the incident that had her falsely branded a traitor.  Was that enough for him to understand?

Amelie shook herself and tossed aside her thoughts.  None of it mattered if they didn't find the amulet in the first place.

Stay tuned for part two!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

February Contest: Army of One

I wanted to start 2011 off with some contests and hopefully we can continue to run various contests every few weeks here on the Wastex Games website. I now present the February Contest...

Army of One

To enter this contest, choose your favorite Dungeons & Dragons character class, roll up a character (any level you wish), and write up a short story about how this character overcame some impossible odds on the battlefield. There is no minimum or maximum word count required. This contest is open to anywhere Fedex or will ship.

Submit your entry below and tweet the following on Twitter:
I just entered the Army of One contest at @WastexGames! #dnd #rpg

The winner will get their choice of one of the two following items:

Dungeon Tiles Master Set - The Wilderness
The Wilderness


Dungeon Tiles Master Set - The City
The City

Use the form below to submit your entry, submissions will be accepted until Friday, February 11th at 11:59 PM EST. If you have any questions or comments, ask away here in the comments! Good luck!

Submissions for this contest are now closed.