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Langredosa

Langredosa

This week the weather broke and it was quite chilly, so we celebrated with chili. It was good. We also continued our new 5th edition campaign with newly minted second level characters. After protecting the town-folk from the raiders, in the cold light of day it was important to find out where they went and where they were going to attack next.

The characters gathered their mounts together – an elephant, a war camel, a warhorse, a mule, and a riding panther. They met some stragglers from the raiding party and slew them and took their stuff, including shiny new leather cult of the dragon uniforms which they put on. They then installed the gold dragonborn as a new general for the raiders and bluffed their way past the rear guard and into the camp. The procesion wound its way through the huge raider camp towards the large leadership pavilion at the back of camp. They strode up to the leaders tent and demanded an audience.

The leader Langredose strode out. It was the blue half-dragon the party had fought the night before drung the raid, and who tricked a blue dragon into thinking he was a big chicken sandwich. Many emotions flashed across the raid leader’s face as he realized his foes were on his front stoop.Combat ensued.

The fight was quick and brutal and the party knocked him and his guard drake out, only to find they were now stuck in the middle of the raider’s camp with no way out. What will happen next? Find out next week, same time same place.

Landseal Dwarf Fortress 2014

Landseal Dwarf Fortress 2014

This is the story of Landseal, a Dwarf Fortress that overcame extreme conditions not only to survive, but to prevail. In year 125, seven dwarves from a clan known as the Pink Froth decided they would bring civilization to the Mountains of Universal Truth, so they set out with a wagon, a cow, a mule, and a small flock of peacocks to build a fortress to stand the test of time. My dwarves just love peacock eggs.

The area they chose was perfectly situated along the forested slopes of a mountain range, with a wide valley at its feet cut by a fast flowing brook. The dwarves, made up of a pair of miners, two masons, two carpenters, and a cook, wasted no time setting up shop. While the miners began an extensive moat system fed by the brook, the wood cutters stockpiled a massive quantity of wood for future construction, and made a few beds too. The masons began chiseling doors, tables, and chairs, while the cook planted farms, turned the buckets of brought milk into cheese, and began turning the brought fruit into wine coolers.

The fortress was humming along nicely that first summer, and when the trade liaison from the Pink Froth arrived, we had a few goods to trade (mostly mechanisms) for a few bushels of mushrooms. We asked for wood, fruit, metal bars, and beer for next year. The trade caravan left, and the dwarves settled in for a long but mild winter.

The canals outside the mountain home had been dug by this time but now began the more difficult task of digging the canals inside the mountain. Tragedy struck when Lorbam fell into the well he was digging. (Don’t start at the bottom and work your way up, Lorbem! Start at the top and work down!) he was a pile of blood and bones in a deep well, and a wall of water was coming his way as the canals began to fill. His leg and arm were both broken and he was unconscious. Luckily a few migrants had recently showed up, and one of them who had no experience or aspirations other than to raise a family was summarily promoted to chief medical dwarf. He was given a room in the half completed hospital wing, and provided with a bed for his first patient.

Meanwhile the other miner continued mining and discovered that the mountain was riddled with gold veins, hallelujah! Unfortunately, there was no industrial metal found, so everything had to be made of gold. This is good in some ways, but weapons and armor cannot be made from gold, so the dwarves were getting wealthy, but had little to defend themselves.

The hospital wing and initiation chambers

The hospital wing and initiation chambers

The chief doctor was doing medical testing on Lorbem the miner, and eventually after much surgery and setting of bones, the dwarf was released to bed rest. His wounds developed an infection, but that didn’t stop him, and he needed a crutch. We built him a gold one, the doctor presented it to him, and Lorbem took the golden crutch and hobbled off to work – digging out gold. The dwarf had been through the ringer, and he was tired and thirsty by the time he mined out his first lump of gold, so I gave him a chair at the head of the dining room, which satisfied Lorbem greatly. Six months later the infection was cleared up, he was totally better with two scars and he became the fortress’s most legendary miner.

So passed the first year, but early on in the second year a message popped up stating that a human giant of UNPRECEDENTED size had arrived and that the dwarves must fear for their lives. Landseal had the bare bones of a military, with a squad of axe and hammer dwarves and a squad of crossbow dwarves, but very few weapons and armor to go around. The dwarves were basically a bunch of scantily clad wrestlers at this point, and I did not see it ending well for them or for the fortress. Luckily, it did not come to that, as the giant chased the first dwarf it found right into a cage trap. I can only imagine how this massive giant must have looked stuffed into a little bamboo cage, but it worked! The fortress was saved!

The giant cage was quickly installed in the dining room, and glass-blocks built up around it to insure that the giant wasn’t going anywhere, even if the bamboo failed. About this time, the elves showed up without much interesting to trade except for some fruits and vegetables an a gorgeous red cardinal in a cherry-wood cage, so I installed that across from the giant, and now the dwarves have a menagerie in their dining hall. Incidentally, the giant is not considered a prisoner, but instead a “caged guest” who seems to have no complaints about his situation. That was how year two progressed.

The grand dining hall with the caged giant of unparallelled size

The grand dining hall with the caged giant of unparallelled size

About this time, the legendary miner Lorbem hit a vein of tetrahidrite. Hallelujah, copper and silver! It may not be the best quality, but at least armor and weapons can be made from copper, and weapons from silver – hello silver war hammers. So began the long process of mining and smelting the ore in preparation for building up the military. About this time, we also discovered a large deposit of obsidian, and so our craft-dwarves started pumping out obsidian short swords –crude but deadly awesome weapons.

It was late when suddenly, at the worst possible moment, the goblins invaded. It was a siege! I saved, exited, and went to bed.

All that day I spent my spare time wondering how I would overcome the goblin siege. It is a simple thing, really, to escape if everything has been set up properly, and some fortress aficionados will claim that defense against siege is the easiest disaster to avert. Simply by having the correct defenses in place – such as locked doors, cage traps, and draw bridges, one can effectively funnel the goblins to their doom. Landseal had all these defenses, but such is the nature of warfare that it never takes place under optimal circumstances. Three times I reloaded that save file, and three times the fortress was devastated within days of the siege.

(Note – Dwarf Fortress is not meant to be exited without saving. In other words, there is no easy way to revert to previous saves, other than with third party add-ons. Also, it goes against the spirit of the game to replay mistakes in hopes for a better outcome. However, there are exceptions to every rule, and in this particular case, I wanted to find a way overcome a seemingly impossible siege, and so I used the rarely used command “die” to cause the game to exit without saving. I do not do this lightly, or often.)

The first time, I went for the brute force approach. Hunkering down was not possible due to a single door being ajar. Earlier I had noticed that one of my exterior doors was not the blue color that I favored, and I opted to send a dwarf to replace the ugly red door with a proper dacite door. The dwarf completed the work, but left the red door on the ground blocking the new blue door from shutting completely, thereby allowing an entrance for the goblins. I set up a dump and put in an order for the dumping of the red door. Meanwhile I drafted every able bodied dwarf into the military and sent them to the area where the door was.

Battle at Landseal Bridge

Battle at Landseal Bridge

The door never got fixed, and the goblins made it over the moat before the bridge could be raised, so I sent the mass of seventy naked dwarven wrestlers out to attack. It was a bloodbath. The fight took place on the bridge and over a dozen dwarves charged straight into the river like lemmings to drown. When the battle with the 9 invaders was over, only 22 dwarves remained alive.

Exit without saving.

The second time, I had the same door ajar problem, so I set the dwarves to guard it, but did not send them out in mass until the goblins had cleared the bridge. This time the fight looked like it was won with over 50 dwarves surviving, however the last goblin was some kind of hammer lord who slew or injured so many dwarves, that by the time it was over, I was once again down to twenty dwarves when all was said and done. The hammer lord ended up being a dwarf named Ngokang Dreadfuldesserts, who wore a crown of goblin bone, an must have been some type of chief of the goblins. Dwarves were flung all over the yard by this maniac ,devastation ensued.

Exit without saving.

This was looking bad. I walked away. I thought about it. I had dinner.

The third time, I took no chances and raised the drawbridge as soon as I could, while leaving the military inactive so they would have time to do other things – like remove doors ajar! I had hesitated to do this before because there were dwarves outside the moat when the invasion took place and I didn’t want to cut off any dwarves seeking shelter. In the end it worked out, because after the draw bridge closed, the cut off dwarf realized he could climb the slope and jump down into the yard. He did, and escaped, but three goblins followed him into the yard.

Dwarves were going out one by one to confront the three goblins in the yard, and dying. This could not go on. I sent out the army, and they killed the goblins, and I still had 50 dwarves left! It was going to work!

However, the twenty or so dwarves who died caused a huge amount of grief. Dead goblin and dwarf bodies littered the yard in front of the fortress. There were not enough caskets, and so bodies began to decompose. One dwarf became so distraught that he wandered aimlessly, breaking whatever crafted objects he came across.

About this time a fantastic set of events transpired. A peasant rose from the ranks of the unwashed masses to claim hereditary rule over the fortress, and to declare herself the countess of the county of Landseal. It was amazing, and filled the fortress with unbridled joy, and the dwarves all pitched in to give her as much help as possible to make her ascension the miracle it should be. The expedition leader got a fey look in his eye and snuck off to the forge to create the first artifact – a golden scepter, for the countess!

As the countess and her procession made their way through the fortress, they crossed the inner drawbridge to inspect the yard, scene of the epic battle. The angry dwarf who loved to break things reached the bridge at the same time. He was fresh from the gore of the battlefield and somehow managed to destroy the drawbridge, sending the newly minted contessa and her retinue into the moat to drown. O the horror. The fortress could not go on.

Exit without saving.

It was late, go to bed or try again? The fortress was about to be retired, but I thought I might try one last time, with a few tweaks. I loaded up the game, the goblins appeared, and a miracle happened. Just as I was taking every step I could: dumping the red door, locking the outer doors, raising the drawbridge, mustering the army… one little dwarf named Athel, who was not even in the military, wandered out into the yard wielding an obsidian short sword. What was he doing? All the other dwarves were running for the safety of the fortress, but he was leaving?

Even before the command to raise the bridges could be enacted, Athel crossed the outer bridge and confronted the goblins alone with his obsidian blade. One goblin fell, then another, and another! I was calculating in my head how many lives each goblin death would save when I realized all the goblins were dead and Athel fought the evil dwarf Sinisterdesserts. A naked, novice wrestler with an obsidian blade vs warhammer wielding evil dwarf hammerlord goblin-king.

A hero is born.

A hero is born.

A goblin-bone crown sailed through the air to land on the banks of the moat. Athel had saved the fortress single handedly without a single casualty! I instantly promoted him to Captain of the Guard and gave him his own squad to command.

The fortress survived!

Save and exit.

Stay tuned for part two, in which I learn that dwarven babies float.

Temple of St Cuthbert in Greenest

Temple of St Cuthbert in Greenest

Week 2 of our new 5th edition campaign took place this weekend, and it was just as fun and exciting as the first week. We left off with the crew securing the town Mill. They needed to protect the winter food supply from the riaders until a relief force can arrive. They hold on for an hour and manage to take a short rest.

During the fight to retake the mill, the tiefling pirate was killed by a single lightning strike. Whne the relief force shows uo, the mother of the children theheroes saved is among the militia, and Lianin sees the body of the child-saving pirate, she immediately offers her family’s prized possession – a raise dead scroll.

Aside- I actually called it a reincarnate scroll and thought about making the player roll on the old 1st edition reincarnation table. The player retains all his class skills, but takes on the racial traits of the new species.

Druid Reincarnation Table (1st edition PHB)

Druid Reincarnation Table (1st edition PHB)

(Note, on rolls above 86%, it switches to the Wizard reincarnation table, which is all humanoids.)

In the end I let her keep her species and went with normal resurrection, but it was a fun idea, one I have meant to use time and time again, but never quite managed to slip in. Some day! We are getting ahead of ourselves however. There is a story to tell. Because Khar’s character was dead, I let her run Lianin until her character was revived. Lianin had all the exact same stats as Khar’s fighter,just without any racial or class abilities. (simplified!) It worked out.

So the characters needed to save the tiefling. To do so, they needed to get the body to the priest of St Cuthbert,who was being besieged with a group of innocent townfolk in the temple to St Cuthbert across town. Also, there was a tunnel under the temple that led into the dungeons of the keep, but a monk staying at the temple has the key to the secret one-way door under the temple. If they can greak the siege, raise the tiefling, find the key, and escape with the civilians throuh the tunnel to the keep, it will be a total success. That is what they set out to do.

The temple to St Cuthbert (pictured above) was a stout old fieldstone structure, with a heavy iron-barred doors in fron and back, and a peaked slate tile roof. A cordon of kobolds and their pet drakes had encircled the temple and were cavorting and dancing around it, while splinter groups tried to break in. The back of the temple was shrouded in smoke from an on-going attempt to burn through the rear entrance, while a group of cultists used an improvised battering ram(made from an over-sized pencil sharpenerer) on the front doors.

Above, a group of flying kobolds were breaking the narrow stained glass windows but are unable to get past the metal bars, and they move to the roof, where they begin tearing through the tiles. The heroes have only a few minutes before the temple falls.They head around back stealthily but at the last second the bard kicks a tin can, and one of the babies the npc mother is holding begins to cry (smoke in the eyes.)

Another aside – Our group is legendary for their callous disregard for the livelihood of those they encounter along the way, and there have been more than one encounter which has not ended well for any babies or children involved. It has become a joke thet if there is a baby in the scene, it will most likely end up shish-kebab’d. barbecued or worse. Even last week, there was an ‘incident’ but this time, with the totally absurd idea that a spear maiden would have her babes at her breast while fending off an invasion made us all realize that maybe it is not so much that the players are terrible people that destroy all babies, but that I AM THE TERRIBLE ONE for always putting these babies where they don’t belong, and just daring the players to do something about it. Yes it is true, I am the evil one. And for the rest of the night babies popped up literally EVERYWHERE. I will not document these instances, but let the kind reader insert the imagery himself.

So the party is discovered, but they gain surprise on a group of kobolds led by a produce-flame casting dragon cultist. The bard literally runs into the cultist, and he takes aim and places a hand-crossbow bolt at point-blank range through his left eye. He heard a satisfying thunk as the bolt passed through the cultist’s brain and lodged in the back of his skull, leaving only the colorful feathers where his eye once was. The cultist’s other eye slowly loses focus and he falls in a heap. Reaching a higher level of bloody-mindedness than I thought was possible, I began describing each enemy killed during the surprise round as luridly as I could.

The wizard with a gizzard cast ray of frost, and turned a kobold into a block of crystal ice. One peck of the beak and it shattered into a million pieces which slowly dissolved into a pink paste. The monk did a flury of blows which brok a kobolds neck. He then popped the kodolds head off, and holding the body like a bag-pipe, began fire-hosing everyone down with the spewing blood. The thief requested a clean kill, so she got a pass and took out her foe without a fuss. However it didn’t las long, when she went to unlock the door with her “human hands” as she called them, I reminded her she was a gnome, and so I retroactively described how, as the bard was putting a crossbow bolt into the human cultist’s eye. the little gnome bard was calmly sawing off his hands for “use later.”

No one excaped my bloody-mindedness. In fact when they made it into the temple at last I lost control and screamed that all the innocents were slaughtered, it was a blood-bath. That was not what happened. I called a five minute break, and we continued on with the gore level turned back down to 11. I did not know I had it in me, and was even starting to scare myself, except that it was so damn funny. Moving on.

The monk they had come to find was missing, gone out to save town folk, but he never made it back after his last trip out. The ragonborn monk was sad that his companion was missing, but fond the key to the secret tunnel in the monk’s chambers.

It was going to take 15 turns to do the ritual to save the tiefling (I should have made it 5) so the party split up. One group went to the cellars to lead the people to safety, while the other group defended the hole in the ceiling through which 1d6 kobolds were entering per round. I only rolled ones and twos, so that part was pretty easy. The three skeletons of the founding fathers of the temple, however were not so easily dispatched, especially since I house-ruled on the spot that skeletons have resistance to slashing and piercing damage, as is right and true.

It was getting late, so they made it to the keep and we could have ended it there, but ONE MORE ENCOUNTER and we could finish the scene, and they could gain a level, so they agreed. How bad could it be, fifty dragons? No just one. As they emerged from the tunnel, they saw that the exhausted Governess was wounded but still holding off the raiders with her handfull of gendarmes. she thanked the heroes for all their help, but said she had one last task for them. The dragon who she thought had left, came back and was circling for another attack. Kill him or drive him off! Um, ok.

They thought I had tricked them and this was a suicide mission, but they climbed dutifully to the roof of the tower and prepared to attack as big blue swooped down. The rogue pluckishly tried to talk the dragon out of attacking, bu he was having none of it. They all got a ranged attack as the blue dragon charged, then the monk and fighter got melee attacks as he crashed to the rooftop. Both hit, doing major damage and really angering the dragon, who took over 25 hp damage that round. It unleashed a mighty buffeting of wings, which everyone but the fighter and warlock saved against, who were blown off the rooftop to shatter into bloody heaps on the flagstones below. As they landed, the sun crept over the horizon, the dragon used the powerful buffeting wings to launch into the air and fly away, the raiders withdrew with their booty, the town was saved, and they gained a level.

Great night of adventuring. Great adventure so far.

More minions of the Dark Priest

More minions of the Dark Priest

Just saying, not by popular demand, but by dm fiat, skeletons resist slashing and piercing damage. (Half damage, rounded down.)

And no, force damage does not count as bludgeoning, good try.

Saving the mill in Greenest

Saving the mill in Greenest

As we were wrapping up tour first time playing official 5th edition this Friday, a player mentioned this was one of the best nights we have had in our six year span of Friday night gaming. It was raucous, hilarious, fast paced, and it was indeed one of the best sessions ever.

Credit goes out to all the players first and foremost, because without their interest, engagement, and participation, none of it would be possible. The new, fifth edition of dungeons and dragons also played a part in the night’s success. The rules do a great job of evoking an atmosphere, laying out a simple mechanical resolution, and then getting out of the way. The designers have created a game that is better than the sum of its parts. The adventure itself, written by two of the most storied game designers in the industry, Steve Winter and Wolfgang Baur, provided the foundation for a great night of adventure.

Last week was character generation, and we ended that session with a brief description of the campaign set-up. The characters were staying in a small town on the edge of the desert called Greenest. I let them know that it was their town. They knew the people, had homes (they shared an old bunk house donated to the soldier John Smith by the Governess, for him to use while assembling a team to go after the cult of the dragon.) Each of the characters had a reason for being in the town, and many of the reasons dealt with a fear/hatred of dragons and/or the cult of the dragon. Guess what was about to show up…

As the party rounds the holy rock outcropping supplying Greenest with a natural-spring fed babbling brook, they see a sight of horror. A band of raiders has encircled the quaint hamlet with its waist-high walls of tumbled stones. Fierce horseman wielding flashing blades and torches ring the city as other bands enter on foot, terrorizing, capturing, and killing the innocent civilians as they make their ways through the outer edge of the tiny town. The stout stone keep in the center of town is a beacon of hope for the poor simple folk, and the party can see that the guardsmen are holding open the keep doors to allow people in for safety.

They also see a huge blue dragon perched atop the keep, idly munching on a cow. An archer appears from a window and takes aim at the dragon. A flash of blue lightning and the archer and window frame are gone, but the dragon launches itself into the air, to lazily circle over Greenest, 300 feet up, to let the raiders do their work.

The warlock is a psychic soldier in service of the crusades, and has recently been dispatched to Greenest; the bard has a girlfriend at the tavern; the gnome trickster owes the people of Greenest for adopting her, and calls the town home; the dragonborn monk is a hermit dedicated to looking after the holy shrine/freshwater spring outside town, and each of them knew that in the event of a raid, the keep was the safest place to be. Also present were the elven ranger, tracker of dragons and far from the forest, and the tiefling pirate, far from the sea and proficient in a water mount, or hippopotamus I suppose. They hid their mounts at the outcropping, and made their way into town, by way of the tavern.

They had to make a group stealth check to make it past the ring of horsemen, and as they approached they realized that while the horsemen burned and pillaged, bands of kobolds armed with daggers and sacks were entering each home and looting them, then handing the sacks to flying kobolds who were delivering the loot into wagons outside town. Suddenly a family of five comes rushing from behind a farmhouse, chased by kobolds and the heroes take action.

Of course during the course of the battle, the children were almost used as some sort of bait or trap, but that is a tradition with this group of murder hoboes. The best part of this battle was when the elven ranger decided to sneak behind a building to get the drop on the cultist. As she hid there, one of the raiders, who did not see her, ran around the same building to get to the children. he was a very bad man. So he ran right past the elf, and when I asked her if she would like to take an opportunity attack against him, as he ran obliviously past, she declined. She did no want to upset her chances of taking out the cultist, which she soon did. However, that was not in the best interest of the children, and thankfully one of the other characters came forward to slay the creeper before he got to the kids.

In the end the family was saved, and they continued on toward the keep. At the tavern they surprised a group of raiders, led by a cultist, who were about the raid the tavern and a bloody fight ensued. When it was over the party stood victorious and the tavern wench rushed out to thank them. I set her miniature down next to the dragonborn by mistake, instead of next to the bard whom she was dating. Instead of correcting it, I had her hug and kiss the dragonborn, so relieved was she to be saved. I asked the player if he wold like to use this opportunity to steal the bards girl away, an of course he accepted the challenge. I asked for a charisma roll and (ow!) he rolled a natural 1. He got a slap across the face because clearly the wench was not excited about a slithering 18 inch forked tongue. the bard did not even need to roll to retain his girl, as she ran back into his arms.

(That bit of randomness was my favorite moment of the night and I am retroactively bestowing an inspiration point on both the bard and the monk or the hilarious hijinx. It is for this type of “emergent gameplay” that I consider the height of gaming, and why we do what we do.)

During the rescue the inn-folk, the bard cast Tasha’s Hideous Laughter on one of the raiders, whom they subsequently captured. The group made their way to the doors to the keep. There they found the governess, her silver-haired pony-tail flying, as she commanded the guards at the doors. They held back any encroaching raiders, while a second group of guardsmen forayed into town. The governess was pleased to see the adventurers, and asked them to rest, for she had a need for them when they were ready. Without even resting they agreed to head back into town and secure the mill for up to an hour, until a relief force arrives.

They made it to the mill, and decided to use deception. The bard wore the costume of the captured cultist, and with the soldier and the eldritch pirate, led the dragonborn around like he was a captured prisoner named Chewbacca. They met a cultist instructing two raiders to set the mill alight but strangely they notice the fires being set look unable to actually do much damage. The bard convinces the cultist they are sent to put the prisoner in a cage here at the mill. The cultist doesnt know about any cages so they send him inside to look for one, while the ranger and rogue sneak around to the back door.

Just then they hear a roar and the cultist comes running out of the door with an enormous dragonman chasing him. “What’s the mening of this?!” he bellows before catching sight of the gold dragonborn. To anyone other than dragonbon and half-dragons, there is o difference between the two races, but to the dragon men, the difference is everything. The blue half-dragon’s eyes narrow to slits as he looks the gold dragonborn up and down.

He then challenges him to a duel, which the monk accepts. The ranger an rogue discover the mill is full of kobolds. They prepare to sneak attack when given the signal. The two dragon people fight and the monk is felled in one round. Suddenly all hell breaks loose and the fight begins. The half dragon is incredibly powerful and he turns his breath weapon on the eldritch pirate, who is dealt 27 hp damage in one savage lightning strike.

Though most of the kodolds are dead, the warlock is down to 1 hp and decides to run. He is in a magical duel with a cultist who continues to fire blast after blast of sacred flame, but the warlock evades, going so far that he goes off the edge of the map to reappear on the other side. It was weird.

The party was desperate so they hatched a desperate plan. Call down the blue dragon circling overhead. Working together the ranger, whose favored enemy is the dragon, gives an excellent rendition of a dragon mating call, a series of low pitched chuffing. It was very effective, and the dragon swerved in his flight. Next the warlock and arcane trickster worked their illusions together to create the sight and smell of the dragon’s favorite food over the half dragon. It turns out the dragon favors turducken. The ploy was wildly successful, and not at all because the dm said why the hell not, and the dragon swooped down and with his claws he plucked the half dragon of the battlefield. The enemy was routed and the party was victorious.

I’m sure I left stuff out, but those are the highlights I remember from one of our greatest nights of gaming.

Hoard of the Dragon Queen

Hoard of the Dragon Queen

This week’s session was all about rolling up new characters. We never even got any playing done, other than a brief description of the starting location and setup at the very end of the night. Instead six of us, with two player’s handbooks, took our time to create a party of potential heroes. We also had bowls of vibrant “artisan salad” and plates of succulent “hot-n-naked pasta” for dinner. ‘Twas a good night of gaming and bodes well for the upcoming campaign.

Background Setting

The setting for this campaign is the same setting we have used for the last 5 or 6 campaigns, the world of D Erte, created when we started gaming in 2008. The world has been wracked by war, invasion, and apocalypse but now it has entered a period of relative calm. For the past few decades peace has settled over the civilized lands, and has led to a period of expansion. The great eastern wastes known as the Beastlands are now experiencing a crusade as armies of the western kingdoms attempt to expand their territory by driving out the savage monsters who dwell in that dry, barren rocky land.

Scholars had supposed the Beastlands extend forever, much as the Great Western Forest is expected to extend beyond time and distance into the realm of Faerie.However the trail-blazing warriors, scouts, and scholars instead found that the high plateaus gave way to a vast desert, and across that desert was an exotic civilization with valuable trade goods. In the twenty years of crusading and sporadic trading, the tiny village of Greenest has sprung up along the main route between the western kigndoms and the eastern New World. though the village is little more than a poor and dusty water-stop along a vast trade route, it sees much wealth pass along its one main street. The town lies along the border between the rocky wasteland and the lonely desert, and it boasts a shallow fresh stream, springing from a nearby rock formation to end in a deep, fetid pool a few miles away.

Having also purchased the first adventure for the new edition, Hoard of the Dragon Queen, I wanted to integrate some (or most) of its elements into our game. However I prefer to use my own setting over published settings such as Forgotten Realms,and I am also unable to remain constrained to a published adventure. Knowing this about myself, I have attempted to create a hybrid campagin adventure using key elements of Hoard, but set in my own setting amidst a backdrop of another over-arching storyline. Ok enough about that, let’s get to the characters.

High Rollers

We rolled 4d6 and dropped the lowest, adding the three highest together six times in any order. One could discard the fll set and re-roll the six sets as often as one liked. This led to most people taking their first or second set. I wanted to be very lenient because even though I detest extremely high ability scores for starting characters, I have found it to be more important that the players are comfortable with their characters, and this usually means higher scores. So I made sure and said “if you are unhappy with your scores, re-roll!”

Personally I like to see at least one score below average, to give the character some character upon which to build, and a flaw, so to speak. The new edition has personality charts (attuned to backgrounds, which is a good idea) which may help in this respect,but still, one low score makes up for a lot of 18s and 19s.

Dragonborn monk

Moving around the table, our first up is James who rolled up a Gold Dragonborn monk. I have to admit I was a little surprised by this choice, because I assumed James was more a traditionalist. I like being surprised though, and I was doubly surprised to realize how perfectly that would mesh with one of the optional backgrounds in the Hoard of the Dragonborn: a reincarnated gold dragon of Bahamut sentenced to live as a puny demi-human and looking for a way back into the good graces of the gold dragon deity. What could be more perfect? He chose hermit as his background, and the holy shrine is the natural water spring that supplies Greenest with its fresh water.

Gnomish Arcane Trickster

Next up is my wife Lori, who was tempted by the avenger paladin (And who played an avenger in a long-running 4e campaign) but ultimately chose to become a forest gnome rogue, planning on specializing in arcane trickster. She likes being sneaky and small, but also doing major damage. Most of all she likes rolling 2d20 and taking the best. Her background was that a wandering wizard saved her after her family was slain by a dragon, and left her off with the good people of Greenest to raise her. He left her a purple silk handkerchief emblazoned with a B in gold thread.

Tiefling Eldritch Knight

Khar chose to become a tiefling fighter, an Elrtich knight. She is also a pirate according to her background, and something important has brought her inland, as far away from the sea as possible. I can’t remember what it was that brought her to Greenest. Originally it was a lost love, but we decided to re-roll, and she was right about that, but I cannot remember what her new bonds were. Hopefully she wrote it down.

Human Bard of Valor

Will chose human, and took a feat that made hm a crossbow specialist. He wields a hand crossbow and rapier, and his background is that he is a singer. Compare to spell singer series by Alan Dean Foster. (Great series, no seriously.) Will has a childhood friend who was captured by the Dragon Cult, for whom he is searching.

Human Warlock

Last up we have Joel who broke with wizard-or-ranger tradition to create a human warlock with a pact of the Great Olde Ones but stuck with tradition by naming his character John Smith. His background is a psychic soldier in a scout regiment, and he was sent to Greenest by an officer of the crusades to search for information about the Dragon Cult.

Half-elf Druid

FInally I the dm rolled up a character for an absent player – a half elf druid. She is named Sheela Labouf and wields a scimitar and wooden shield, or a sling for ranged attacks. She has animal friendship and cure wounds memorized, and her cantrips are druidcraft and produce flame, which she can hurl up to thirty feet as a little fireball attack. Her background is a folk hero, and she has protected people from dragon attacks in the past. She also has nightmares of Tiamat the queen of Dragons. She will start with a previously befriended animal companion, but I have yet to locate the appropriate stat blocks. The character is unique in that she has a high dexterity, but a low constitution. Her flaw is that she secretly loves the corruption of city life.

Everyone got a trinket or two, and most people chose the preselected equipment packs, though I suggested they roll for wealth and buy stuff out of the equipment section. Everyone also got a free mount due to their character having been established in Greenest prior to play.

The characters have been helping escort caravans into and out of town, making a few gold coins while going about their business. The governess of Greenest has given John Smith an old bunkhouse to use to gather a team and investigate rumors of a dragon cult. One day they are late getting home from escorting a large caravan and they smell smoke before they see the town below being raided. Enemy on horseback circle the village with torches throwing them onto thatch roofs. But truly chilling is the large blue dragon sitting atop the town’s only stone structure, the governess’ keep, munching on a cow and watching the destruction.

Summing up

Character creation was fun and offers lots of customization options to go with the great selection of iconic classes. It took us about two hours, but we had a shortage of books and an excess of hilarity to slow us down. Everyone seems happy with their character and are ready to start on a long journey. We have quite an eclectic party, and with all the dragonborn, tieflings, and warlocks, it is very reminiscent of a 4th edition party. However the party also seems uniquely suited to adventuring in the Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Good times ahead.

df2012

So a new version of Dwarf Fortress has released, after a two year wait since the last update. We are now on version 0.40.05. Yes that is a zero at the front. 9-12 years in and we are almost halfway through the aplha phase of development! This game takes stamina.

Fleshy Arches was a short-lived Frotress that looked like it would go places, but was quickly doomed over the ourse of a few months due mostly to stupidity. I shall not spend too much time on this prefix of a fortress, but its downfall is worth noting.

It started out between grasslands and mountains, with a brook meandering through. There was not a tree to be found on the entire map, and I made do with three wagon-wood beds for the first year of existence. There were upwards of 80 dwarfs hot-bunking it by the end. I finally got some wood when I reached the caverns below, but the giant mushrooms gave out paltry amounts of usable lumber.

The other strange thing about this site were the forest gnomes. the site was lousy with them, and at first I didn’t even notice, until they started stealing booze. Then an angry dwarf got mad at a gnome and smeared his carcass across the drawbridge, and whenever another dwarf saw the carnage they became horrified. This was new, the horror of the dwarves. The forest gnomes were more like gremlins, and I found them to be the root cause of many of the ills of Fleshy Arches. They were very easy to kill however, and horrific gnome corpses began turning up all over the place, horrifying any dwarves who stumbled upon them. It is as if the dwarves couldn’t believe that one of their kind would treat a fellow bearded fairy in such a manner, yet each of them had their own personal tale of tearing a gnome to shreds over some stolen trinket or prank.

While digging out fortifications in the mountain above the entrance, two legendary miners fell to their deaths. That was almost impossible to overcome, and due totally to my stupidity. It is too risky to trench over open spaces! Why do I continue to do it?! Never again. I thought it would be okay since there was a moat below to soften the fall, but they drowned. We need dwarf life guards.

And then the trade caravans never came. The gnomes were stealing more and more booze, even though I had none, and I discovered the remains of a human trading party, with all their goods scattered about. I thought at least I had hit the jackpot with some free loot, but none of it mattered when what I really needed was booze and food, of which those damned gnomes had taken everything.

Although Fleshy Arches never received a full trade caravan, the dwarf liason brought a tale of woe for two years, of a civilization called “The Elven Cobra of Gazes” who were on a rampage of invasion. The Snake Elves might be the reason we were receiving so many migrants, as the entire world was being overrun.

But back to our own trading woes, how the forest gnomes managed to slaughter a human trading caravan I will never know — when my dwarf cook could kill one simply by rolling him up into the dough and flattening him out (horrifying every dwarf in the kitchen) — but it was the first and last caravan to ever arrive at Fleshy Arches, which meant it was cut off and there was only one way to go. I dug deeper, hoping to find magma, because I had no fuel for forges. I thought I found riches beyond wildest belief, and broke open a tube. It led straight down. All the way down.

The fortress was destroyed to the last dwarf within days. It was sad watching a handful of dwarf children (who do not count against population) running back and forth looking for a way out, while the last dwarf standing, the mayor, tried to get to them. His last words:

Kikrost Akrullimar, mayor: Can it all end so quickly? This does not scare me.

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