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Archive for April, 2012

House Rules

A series of house rules for every edition of Dungeons and Dragons.

Luck
The seventh ability score. Or maybe the eighth if anyone uses comeliness, or any other oddity out there. Luck is determined at character creation (or whenever the new ability score is implemented) by rolling 3d6 and adding them together. No modifiers, this is a straight up or down roll on the bell curve of fate. This number may never be permanently changed, even by a wish spell, but it can easily be temporarily modififed, eg a bless spell increases Luck by 1 while it lasts.

Luck is used to to determine the random chaos of the universe that can be adverse or serendipitous. When the unknown is about to happen, and there s no real way to gauge how it will go, bad or good, up or down, and it is specific to a characters destiny, then it may call for a luck check. “I leap into the darkness!” might be a good time to call for a luck check. Or maybe “I want to swing from the chandelier and land on his shoulders” along with a Dex check or two. The idea is to call for luck when the destiny of the character is involved. It could be something as small as picking out which chicken to buy from the market, or to choose between one door, hallway or another. Only when something hangs in the balance is a luck check needed.

To make a luck check, the character (or alternatively the secretive dm) then rolls a D20 and compares the roll to the characters Luck score. If the die roll equalls the (modified if appropriate) Luck score, or is lower, than the roll is a success. If the die roll is higher than the characters Luck, then they fail, ad something unlucky befalls them.

As always, when making an ability check, a NATURAL 1 is a CRITICAL SUCCESS and inspires some sort of awesomeness in proportion to the roll’s trigger. Naturally a 20 is a CRITICAL FAIL and should bring immediate doom to the character, or humiliation if only a minor infraction.

All these rules are meant to best represent the vagaries of luck and random chance in our mortal lives, and every rule has been carefully calibrated to bring verisimilitude to the continuously evolving game of dungeons and dragons.

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High winds, dark skies, and threatening rain storms swept across the skies all day and evening on this Friday, the third of our new “DnD Every Edition” pre-game, Prelude at Hogwarts. For dinner were huge and thick beef patties grilled to perfection by Shannon, aka Thomas Thugg. Having given up all breads (and potatoes and carbs in general due to the gradual disintegration of my corporeal form) my burgers were between slabs of tomato and a thick paste of crushed avocado, with some fresh onion loops pressed in. They were glorious, and I ate three (as a Lord, I am allowed first dibs on any “remainder” foods after dividing equally.) I then nursed a glass of purple passion on the rocks through the game.

We began with five students waking at the crack of dawn Dec 23, 938, in the dust-and-sheet covered home of Sir Waverly MacGuffin, deceased egyptologist, who went down with the Titanic and his prized possession, the sarcophagus of the Princess Amun-Ray. Gwendolyn Weasley, Thomas Thugg, John Smith, the Aussie, Ivan Pachenko, and a new attendee, the young Miss Cassopiea Black, had to catch the Night Bus for a magical fast drive back to Hogwarts for trimester finals. They arrived just before the first class test besgan, andwere in for a day of grueling spell cast testing.

Each student had to choose which final to attend throughout the day. First hour was a choice between Charms and Potions. Those who passed Charms gained a Cha point and learned the cantrip Tic/Twitch/Flinch. Potions class was a test to concoct a magical Bandage/Poultice. Second hour was a choice of Dark Arts or Transfiguration. Those who passed Dard Arts gained a point in Srength if they succesfully gained the spell Ray of Frost. Those who already knew that spell could attempt to cast and learn something else, but nobody did, instead choosing Transfiguration, which took a constitution check and gained Moment of Strength.

Then it was lunch time, and everyone got to make a luck check to see how well their meal (describd by each and including a lot of fish and chips, and even a secret sip of fire water slipped from Saxton Hamm’s hip flask) gav e them an afternoon boost. Those who succeeded in eating a fulfilling lunch got to add or subtract 1 from their die rolls for the rest of the afternoon . ( I am just highlighting the new abilty score tonight.)

The afternoon commenced with a choice between Divination (wisdom) and Runes (Intelligence.) Divination gave the pair of cantrips Consult Magical Device – astrolabe and sextant. Runes handed out Mage Hand and Wizard Mark with two successes. Finally it was night and everyone took the bonus Astrology final on top of the highest tower, where each person could choose the ability score of their choice to try and raise by desribing how they use it to help score high in the astrology test. Most people did pretty well.

The kids then reported to the headmaster Albert Einstein Jr, to give him the rescued “Zero Mass Spell” and to regretfully inform hm that the body of Merlin was likely at the bottom of the Atlantic in the belly of the wreck of the Titanic. Einstein off-handedly suggested they find a way to retriee it before the next trimester starts. Thugg asks for and receives a bag of gilly weed, enough for two doses for esch of them, tat last four hours apiece. The only catch is that at least one breath of air has to be taken between the ingesting of each dose.

They neeed to get to the wreck. Bruce the Aussie tried to get his father (Rupert Murdoch) to loan him the family ship “Slow Boat to Australia” but had no luck. Thug wanted an airplane that could land and take off from water, but her father the muggle minister of aviation, said they had not developed such boats yet. (In fact in 1938 such flying boats existed, just not in Englands 1938 air force or navy – in my mind.) Finally some one suggested that they sneak into the huge military naval base just on the outskirts of Hogsmeade, and see if there were and available boats to “borrow.” in fact they fond five submarines parked at a docks. Two of them were fast but shallow old subs, and three were deep diving but slower subs that would require the kidnapping of a crewman to help them pilot.

Her Majesty's Undersea Boat Mighty Punic.

They were fairly confident they could figure out the older diesel subs, and so chose the one on the end, the “Mighty Punic” and while Gwendolyn Weasley distracted the two bored british guards in WW1 era uniforms, backed up with Thomas Thugg hiding darkly in the shadows, the rest of the team ran for the sub, and eventually made it, though Alexi fell face first in the mud and Cassie Black lost her high heel and had to go “naked below the knee.” Better than mud caked Pachenko at least.

They made it into or at least onto the sub, and had to reverse away from the dock. Pachenko slid off the hull when it rocked violently and landed painfully, straddling a thick rope that bound the sub to the dock. He severed it with a well placed ray of frost. The boat roacked violently and they sealed the hatch. Each young wizard took a place, Pachenko steered by turning a huge valve wheel. The interior was full of steaming pipes and valves, wheels, and other piping contraptions. John Smith manned the torpedo station, Bruce took over the radar, facing shore where he watched soldiers rushing out to the other diesel sub. Weasly found the navigation table which was a map of the atlantic, and Cassie Black became dive master, she immediately began a dive, while Thugg shut the hatches and took over radio. He couldnt get the radio frequency so he moved to the sonar station next to Bruce.

They began a narrow escape out of the harbor in reverse, narrowly missing the rocks along the starboard side. Then they made way to the north atlantic, and Weasly found old records locating the crash site of the Titanic, and they were soon there, but first had to pass through the area known as Iceberg Alley. It was another narrow escape and when they reached the coordinates, they dove to 100 meters. The titanic was 2000 meters down, so they were deciding what to do when another sub appeared on the edge of radar. They immediately dove.

20 meters. 3oo meters, 400 meters, the boa begans a deep creaking sound. 500 meters, the sound continues, 600 meters, a few popping of rivets. 800 meters, silence. 900 meters, silence, 1000 meters, the max rated depth of the sub, the creaking begins again, 1200 meter ,and the rivets are popping like popcorn, and they even out. The sub passes above them and slows down.

Thomas Thugg tried to tune into any sounds emitting from the unknown visitor, but was having no luck, until Gwen Weasley cast ghost sound into the sonar set. Suddenly Thug heard the whisper “Casper loves Wendy”

Just then on the edge of radar Bruce picks up a “sunken cruise ship type shape” on the edge of radar. We end it here, back in two weeks.

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Tonight’s adventure began with the introduction of a new character – Shannon chose to cross genders and play an 11 year old boy named Thomas Thugg. Being a month late for the start of the new fall 1936 Hogwarts school-year, the child was forced to wait at the entrance to Diagon Alley for the Purple Bus. Soon the crazy double decker careened around the corner and skidded to a halt in front of the magical alleyway.

Out stepped a middle-aged bear of a man squeezed into a professional Quiddith uniform twenty years out of date. In was Saxton “Babe Ruth of Quidditch” Hamm, the Hogwarts caretaker and chief errand runner. He led the lad through the secret entrance into the Wizard Mall, and there Thomas Thug was found to favor a nine inch long Hemlock wand with phoenix feather core. He then received a small pocket owl from the familiar store, picked up his books,robes, and striped sweater, and made the long bus ride back to Hogwarts.

Thomas Thugg was introduced to the main teachers when he arrived: Sir Arthur Conan Pendragon Doyle of Gryffindor, Muffintop of Hufflepuff, the mysterious Lady Maria Sharia Santiago of Ravenclaw, and finally Dr. Von Rippenspine, the Prussian Defense of Dark Arts professor and head of Slytherin. They made way for Headmaster Albert Einstein Jr. National English Treasure, and honorary Rorayl family Jewel. He was the greatest wizard to walk the earth, and was made emergency Headmaster at the young age of 30 when the previous headmaster died over the summer of 1936. The Ministry of Magic Divination Department has detected a major world war in the near future, but have not been able to pinpoint the main point of agression. So far it is a toss up between Germany, Soviet Russia, and the Easter Island.

After a few pointed questions, Thugg is unceremoniously dumped into Slytherin, and his shool year begins. The next day is Defense of the Dark Arts. Thugg shares the classroom with John Smith, Gwendolyn Weasley, Ivan Ivanonv, along with the Deepmittens clan, all seven. The doctor announces today is the day to learn what he calls the cold cruciatus curse, also known as Ray of Frost. The Deepmittens are lined up against one wall opposite the other four, and they roll initiative and the battle is on. Nurse Ratchett has been given special clearance to apperate injured children into the medical ward.

Ivan Petrov fires the first shot and scores a critical hit against Lokat, turning him to ice. The nurse quickly transports the dwarf to the infirmary. The lady dwarf Tohat (distinguishable from the others only by the pink dress she wears under her robes ad her high pitched Ms Piggy voice) is next to go, and in tears she proclaims their secret love affair is over, and she commences to slam the Czech turning his wand-arm to ice. He manages to use his wand in his off-hand for the rest of the fight, though with lesssened affect.

The battle raged back and forth with dwarves taking the worst of it though many lost a limb to the icy blasts. At one point the Czaech accidentally called his own name while casting ray of frost and managed to switch places with Tohat. When it was over, practically the entire class needed a trip with Nurse Ratchett to the infirmary, and the dwarves vowed that they would avenge this ignoble defeat by such inferior brats as the player characters.

The next day is the first day of flying lessons, taught by a stern Mrs. Weasley, mother of Gwendolyn. No First years student is allowed their own broomstick, and so they are issued the QUidditch cast off brooms, except for Thoms Thug whose father is head oa British Avionics, and sends his daughter the latest in broom technology, a Numbus 36. Few o the children are able to master the flying, but an one child breaks a limb while being flung from their broom.

Christmas break was fast approaching, and Albert Einstein reminded them of their errand to to retrieve the “Zero Mass Spell” and Merlin’s body from his burial mound beneath Robin Hood Hill in Nottignham. The Childrem begin by flying, but Thomas Thugg and Alexi Pachenko are such terrible flyers that they decide to take a local muggle train. Wearing pointe hats, robes, and carrying brooms, they manage to stand out on the train platform, but Gwendolyn Weasley talks them onto a cabin after Thomas uses prestidigitation to create 50 pounds. Their fee is 5 pounds apiece for the four of them.

They soon arrive at Nottingham station and make their way to Robin Hood Hill. They are surprised to find it is a museum and speak for a few minutes to the curator, who wears a purple robe with silver and gold stars and moons sewn onto it. The children realize he is no true wizard, but only a muggle pretender without giving themselves away. They convince the muggle they are volunteers for the day, and ask where the Merlin section is. Only to glad to be rid of them, the curator tells them it is the deepest cellar, and goes back to doing nothing.

Down a metal creaking stairway they go, into a wax museum recreation of Merlins Laboratory. A very bad likeness of Merlin done up in wax and wearing clothes like the muggle upstairs is the main feature. There is nothing of interest, but Thugg discovers a door cleverly concealed behind a wood panel. Alexi Pachenko steps up and with a howl at the moon and a burst of strength, he tears the panel away revealing an ancient oaken door, banded in bronze, with steel spikes driven into the stone and sealing it closed.

Using prestidigitation and ray of frost, they get the door open and find Merlins actual final resting place, complete with a wall full of cubby-holes which was his scroll and spell collection, filled with crumbling scrolls. In the center ofthe room was a stone plinth and it was empty except for a calling card that read “Merlins coffin purchased my Sir WIlliam MacGuffin, Esquire, Egyptologist of Lodon England, 1912.

Ok, to wrap things up, they seek out the Museum of Egyptology of Englad, after another muggle train ride, where they meeet a Mr. Stearn, who informs them that Sir MacGuffin was a famed Egyptian archeologist of the turn of the century who found the famed Crypt of the Princess Amun-Ray. However she was cursed, ad all who interacted with her sarcophagus were fated to die by horible means. (Final Destination style.) Stearns said that after years of Egypt work, MacGuffn suddenly started digging in the Nottingham area and suddenly called hi one night to book passage on the first boat leaving for America. It was the titanic.

Due to the curse, MacGuffin had fallen on hard times, and besies his ancestral home, he was destitute, and could not afford butlers, maids, nore even food. The children find their way to his home,break in trhough a window, and make their way to MacGuffins study. On his desk they find a ticket stub for a one way passage to America on the Titanic, along with a bill of lading for baggage that includes two suit cases and an egyptian coffin.

They find his work room, and discover a large stone agyptian sarcophagus with the lid removed. Set on chairs are two mummified suicide handmaids, who the children know would have killed themselvs, so they could guard their princess’s mummified remains. The huge stone box was empty, though a close inspection revealed chips of wood, some o it covered with gold flake or blue-green gems, around the base of the sarcophagus. WHen they come near, the two female mummies arise and call out “Amun Ray!” then attack by trying to strangle their victim wth powerful grip.

Gwendolyn Weasly and John Smith each get struck, while Thugg and Alexi fire rays of frost from behind. Whenever a young wizard is struck by a mummy, they hear a voice in their heads proclaiming them cursed by Princess Amun-Ray to meet an untimely and painful end (FIinal Destination style, ya thats an evil dm curse, forget mummy rot.)

Gwyndolyan and Smith went dow, but tangled the mummy’s feet in a coil of rope and allowed the other two to blast the suicide mummy maids into chunks with ray of frost. John Smith was nearly smothered by the mummfified bosom when it fell on his semi-conscious form. The two champions, Alexi and Thugg helped their friends recover but claimed the egyptian amulets as their prize, and put them on.

A further searh revealed sketches of the princess Amun Ray’s coffin, which calculated the remaining space inthe coffin besdides the princess, ad they also found a secret sale of the corpse of Merlin (a national treasure) to an American for $100,000 dollars. The answwer to their quest apparently lay 1000 miles to the east, in the frigid waters of the atlantic ocea.

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Gray clouds hung low all over the city this Friday the 13th, and a chill was in the air. After days of unseasonable heat, the rain was a welcome relief. The roads were slick with salt, sand and oil. Take that scene and now add belching smokestacks, motor cars, trains, trolleys and horse drawn carriages, with the ever-present looming fear of war. It was England 1938, and a crowd of eleven year olds waited at train station gate 9-3/4 on this cold dawn. The night before, Neville Chamberlain gave a capitulatory speech entitled “Peace in our Time.”

The first thing we did was to take out a blank sheet of paper and write the following, in order: Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Then we rolled 3d6, added the result, and wrote the number next to the correspnonding ability, six times, until we had our scores. Then put parentheses next to this number and after it write a 5. After the five, they could write in any ability modifier the number in parentheses might give. For example, having a strength of 12-13 gave +1, 14-15 gave +2, 16-17 gave +3, and 8 gave +4, same with all the other ability scores. Put a “+” symbol between the 5 and any modifiers receivde and add them together for the final starting ability scores. This gave everyone a range of 5-7 in their ability scores, with an occasional 8 and almost no 9’s. Which sounds great for a group of 11 year olds. (The characters not the players, heh.)

Throughout their school career they will attend classes that allow them to raise their ability scores to the numbers they want, thus they will end up with a semi-perfectly arranged final set of ability scores. I told them beforehand this was sort of like “0 level” pre-game, meant to build up role playing and team building, and that eventually we would all be transported back to normal d&d where they could play the races and classes they wanted (with the personality from the Hogwarts WW2 pre-game characters) from any edition, or of their own devising.

Waiting at the train station is how the game began. Suddenly a tall dark figure apparated before them, in black robes and with a a tall pointed black hat, to match his black beard and arched black eyebrows. He scanned them all critically over his beaked nose. “I am Professor Von Rippenspine, and I hope that none of you sorry lot find youselves in House Slytherin, hmpph. Very well, in line, march like soldiers, we have supplies to get before the train arrives. We are on a war footing, even you young witches and wizards.”

The group of forty students marched through the streets of England to Diagon Alley, where they were treated like new draftee’s in an assembly line. Each received a wand from a a stack of plain gray boxes, then they had to grab small covered cages for their familiars (most got rats or toads). Finally they were sized for robes, got their books, for which all of them, even the richest, ended up owing a “Tab” to the school purser, of which Von Rippenspine made detailed records.

They then took the train to Hogwarts. Along the ride, the (soon-to-be-) party shared a cabin with seven dwarves – er – seven swarthy siblings. Each of them ore freshly shaved stubbly on their fat cheeks, even the sister, Tohat, who wore a pink dress under her robes. Lokat Deepmittens did most of the speaking for his six brothers, with a heavy scottish brogue. He liked to say stuff like “Dont’cha just love the feelin’ o a fresh breeze on a clean shaven cheek?”

All the candy was made of leaves, and no one really wanted any. I don’t know where that came from.

Eventually the students arrived at Hogwarts and were greeted at the train station by a large Panda. He insisted they call him Mr. Panda, being the groundskeeper, and helped them to load boats and cross the lake. The new students arrived at the boathouse and made their way up into the main castle Hogawrts. They waited outside the great hall as the four tables filled with upper classmen: Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, Gryffindor.

Soon the sorting hat was brought out, and a new figure came along to take charge of the new students. He was the retired Quidditch version of Babe Ruth, named Saxton Hamm, the Castle Caretaker. He led them into the main hall, where each of the students was inducted into the House as determined by the sorting hat. Having gleaned the internet for dozens of Sorting Hat Quizzes and questionnaires, I had a pretty strong suit of questions to use, and each of the players had their character sorted into a House. Judging my accuracy, I can only say that none of the players opted to switch houses, though they were given an in-game reason for allowing such a circumstance.

Next up, Dave’s character Bruce Rupert Murdoch the Australian was sentenced almost directly after two failed questions into Hufflepuff. Favorite color being brown was all it took, Dave, sorry. All seven dwarves – er- long torsoed, short limbed youngsters were also sent into Hufflepuff.

Lori’s girl Gwendolyn Weasley shocked the magical world when she ended up in Ravenclaw, the first among Weasleys never to attend Gryffindor.

Khar’s girl chose Slytherin after a difficult initial assessment, when she picked snaking river or lush forest.

Beth’s japanese girl was sent quickly into Ravenclaw. Her father was the ambassador to Japan, and married to a Japanese lady.

Jack’s character Ivan Pachenko was from recently annex Czechoslovakia, and his father was a teacher at the school, allowing him admittance. He was sent to Gryffindor.

Finally John Smith the englishman, was sent to Ravenclaw in short order.

With the sorting done, the feast began, and as the children ate, they were introduced to the head of each school. They already new the Austrian Von Rippenspine of Slytherin. Next to him at the head of the table sat Sir Arthur Conan Pendragon Doyle of the Pendragon Doyles, not to be confused with the Pendragon-Doyles, a lesser branch of the Pendragons. Next to him sat Mrs. Muffintop, head of Hufflepuff, and finally at the end of the table sat the mysterious Lady Maria Sharia Santiago, concealed by perpetually wafting veils and scarves of insubstantial material.

Finally the headmaster emerges froma curtain parting in the back wall. It is the famous wizard Albert Einstein Jr. illegitimate son of the great physicist, conceived while on holiday in jolly London, and treated as a national asset since the day he was born. He was recently made headmaster after the unfortunate demise of its predecessor over summer break. The young thirty-year-old wizard walked into the chamber with dozens of scrolls swirling around him. Every few seconds he would zap one idly with hos wand to keep it afloat, and was constanly scribbling on the scrolls as they passed through his hands like a juggler.

Sir Pendragon Doyle explained how the great Wizard Einstein was attempting to create the fabled “Something From Nothing” spell, and with it, they would win the upcoming war. Einstein was mumbling spell words and accidentally created a piano just above his head. It was safely stopped before crashing down on top of the distracted wizard. A student was dispatched to send it back to the house down the road from which it must have come.

To the side at a little table next to them sat Mr. Panda and Saxton “Babe Ruth of Quidditch” Hamm. Other teachers to be named later sat along other benches as well as a few hundred students. I, the humble DM, was woefully unprepared for the start of this campaign, and my improvisational skills were shall we say, slightly diminished than usual, leading to a bunch of lameness and emptiness that will be filled in in the Fridays to come. In short, I only have so much mental energy and it must be used sparingly or it goes empty, like a car running out of gas. So what follows becomes increasingly absurd.

After the feast, as the new students were leaving the hall, the characters of this campaign along with the seven Deepmitten siblings, were pulled aside by the headmasters and told they have a special task. The Headmaster Albert Einstein Jr. needed special assistants to follow him around wherever he went, and the party would form one group. The Deepmittens would form the second group, and each would take turns helping keep pianos off the headmaster while not in class. Once Einstein perfected th ecreation of pianos from nothing, he would move onto to other items. So far all the pianos were from nearby homes and once, a church organ.

Thus they were sent to bed, and the next day was charms class. The teacher was Madam something, and tried to teach the students the 0 level cantrip Ghost Sound. Some of the students got it. A few weeks later, the Head master assigned the students some extra homework. he needed a spell called the “Zero Mass” spell, and sent them to the library to find it.

They discovered, while perusing the History section (and a few of them gained the history skill) that the “Zero Mass Spell” was known to only one wizard – Merlin the great, and that the wizard said he would take the spell with him to the grave. Beth’s character thought he might have it with him in his coffin, and she discovered that Merlin was buried under Robin Hood Hill in the Sherwood Forest. Reporting all this to Professor Einstein, he said they must retrieve it over Christmas break, and that Merlin might have cast a “Never Spoil”spell on his brain, so to retrieve the scroll as well as the brain. All righty then.

That night was astronomy skill, which was a bonus ability score check. The players could choose any one ability score and make a check by rolling under it. If they succeeded, they got to raise that score by one.

The big news the next day was that in Germany an event known as Crystallnacht had taken place the night before – where the homes, businesses, and lives of jewish people were broken into and damaged or destroyed. That evening they were in the courtyard when the heard Von Rippenspine defending Germany. Suddenly everyone pet was becoming agitated, and each of them had to make a skill Check (and roll above a 15 on a die roll). Those that succeeded gained the animal handling skill. Jacks character failed so miserably his rat got loose and began running between the Slytherin’s Headmaster’s legs. Ivan went to retrieve him and amazingly wove between the teachers legs without disturbing him and caught his errant rat.

Meanwhile young Australian Bruce Rupert Murdoch could stand no more of Von Rippenspine’s bile spewing, and challenged him, but rolling an intimidate and failing miserably only caught the teachers ire, who docked Hufflepuff 10 points,b ut thankfully shut up.

There was one more Charms class, where a few people were able to learn the 0 level cantrip Dancing Lights which a few people were able to learn. I make the players point with a pretend wand while shouting off faux latin phrases, as well as make an arcane check, so casting a spell successfully can be a bit difficult at times.

I think we ended there, except that the seven dwarves asked for some tutoring, and they agreed to meet in the east training rooms the following midnight.

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The objective: to combine every edition of the game into one single super edition, where the rules, characters, spells, monsters, and everything else from every edition are combined at the table to create the perfect seamless dnd experience. I mean, we have the books, so why not use them? The players can choose whatever character class and race they want from any edition, or maybe even create their own. I trust them, and we will work together, dm and player, to fit them into the rules framework of the game play. There can be character sheets from multiple editions around the table.

Rather than creating arguments by introducing so many seemingly contradictory rulebooks into the game, breaking down the walls between the editions should bring a return to agreed consensus rather than dissent. Rules questions will be discussed at the table with an eye towards realism, i.e. what would realistically happen in such a situation, and then the dm (that’s me of course!) will decide how to proceed, with the caveat that the rule won’t be finalized until the following week, giving us time for further deliberation. The final rule will be recorded for posterity. (That’s here!)

The interesting thing about this method is that I have been actively fighting it since DM’ing third edition, and it has gotten even worse into fourth edition. Basically my brain is a boiling brew of all the rules of all the editions. (+0 charge, +1 charge, +2 charge, etc.) I am going to embrace the madness, and my brain will act as a spaghetti strainer to sift through the rules during play, and the best mechanics should naturally rise to the top. Acding Mentos will cause the top of my skull to explode showering the players with pure essence of Every Edition.

In order for this to work, it is necessary to start with the basics. The first session of the “Every Edition” campaign may merely involve the most basic concepts: ability scores, hit points. Each session will add further complexity: class, race, armour (class), weaponry, spells, skills, monsters and magic.

The new campaign Adwarf Littler and the Iron Wall will mesh perfectly with this style, as the players will start out as 11 year old children entering Hogwarts Wizard Schhol during WW2, then they advance to 0 level races, then aquire classes as each year as a student passes. They play will switch between ther “real world” (you know – the one where Hogwarts exists) and the fantasy D&D world where the players are the same children yet different races and classes based on their wishes and their House.

The most basic rules, the action economy during an encounter, will focus on each character (and monster) having a main action, and an optional minor action. An attack, a move, using a skill, casting a spell, are main actions. Opening a door, quaffing potions and sheathing weapons are minor actions. A few exceptions to this rule are the charge (move + attack at end) and the double move (run!) A character gets one action point per day, which can grant them an extra main action either during their turn, or at any other point in the encounter.

This encounter economy is an amalgam of all the main editions. Gone are the combination of any move action with any standard action, leading to characters doing wildly different things in a single turn, and also slowing the speed of combat. I try to run short to medium length combats, devoting more time to description and dice rolling, rather than studying tactical maneuvers. That is not to say strategy and tactics ar enot important – they are more so than ever. Overcoming an enemy by maximum appliation is well and alive – it is the minutiae such as counting squares that I mean to minimize in favor of cinematic awesomeness.

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The blade of Sharia was struck from a plate of obsidian, chipped to a razor’s edge, and magicked to be impervious to harm. The blade knew the hand of its owner, would come when called, and would turn in the hands of a stranger. It even had a self-developed semi-sentience incomprehensible to those who lacked the sense: to cut.

In the eons since its forging, the knowledge to create or destroy such items was found, lost, regained, and finally fled forever. Unbreakable, able to cleave any substance, and poisoned by time immemorial, its smallest cut slew the living. If annals of its deeds survived, they would tell the story of a million year old sword wielded by murderers, thieves, kings, and despots. In its time, the sword helped save the world, and helped cast it down, before its square-edged hilt found its way into Princess Sharia’s hand.

During its long and tortured history, the earth grew ever more exhausted by the depredations of its dwellers. As the sun darkened with age and exploitation, the earth cried out, but yet another round of savage warfare amongst the callous denizens drove the post-apocalyptic world to its last gasp of life. The air itself became a weapon in this final war until it too was burned up in unbounded wrath, stripping the earth of its protective embrace. The blade was lost during this time. It sank under the sands that drowned the doomed city of Nazerak when its last wielder, the mad Despot Zagnazerak fell at last into ruin and death.

What few survivors remained after this burning war trod a world inhospitable to life. They turned inward, and dug deep into the bowels of the earth, where fires burned eternal, and here they held onto a pathetic simulacrum of their former lives, rooting out a meager existence. Bent by the weight of destruction above, bowed by the cloistering caverns of their new life, and forever peering into the dangerous darkness that bound them, the survivors struggled for many long generations before feeling the diminished caress of the faded sun on their faces. When they emerged at last into the light of day, the world was an unrecognizable, inhospitable red desert, with barely enough air to fill the lungs, and a dark red sun blazing above. It was infinitely better than the tunnels they left.

A flame haired fey princess was born into that cursed world, in the ruins of a city itself cursed by transgressions of civilizations long-since turned to dust, her own fore-bearers chief among them. Her own royal family, most cursed of all, was doomed to spend eternity squabbling still over the deserted city against the descendants of their revolutionary foes.

Two folk, more alike than different, fought forever for control of a dusty ruin called home. What drove them but the sandy blood soaked streets, infused with countless generations of noble sacrifice? In these dark end-times, with a world wracked beyond all normalcy, where the laws of creation and the rules of existence were twisted beyond recognition, mystery was solace, ignorance strength, knowledge could mean death. Cursed by magic, blind to a better path, the descendents of Nazerak fought each other with the same passion as their ancestors without even knowing why.

Sharia the flame haired princess tore down the wide avenue, her sandals kicking up plumes of dust and sand behind her. Her eyes rolled and a smile was plastered on her cheeks as she dove over a fallen column and rounded a stone hovel, sparing one worried glance at the black yawning windows and the doorway spilling forth yet more red sand. She found herself in a sand-choked courtyard lined with ancient crumbling buildings. The sun above abolished all shade from the square. Behind her, the incessant thumping tread of the war dromedaries kept her running, searching for escape. In one hand she held her bent bone bow and her single remaining arrow, her quiver lost during the flight. Behind her three furious knights rode her down. The fourth lay in a pool of blood far away down the avenue, an arrow lodged in his eye. He was the young princess’ first kill.

It was madness to explore so near the enemy, and Sharia silently cursed her over-active curiosity for getting her into trouble. Her youthful vibrancy gave her strength, both real and imaginary, but it was a barrier to wisdom – and she was impetuous. A warrior of Nazerak needed to be bold, even a warrior princess, and she set out that morning to prove herself. There was no higher honor than to slay an enemy of her people, and when the squadron of enemy cavalry appeared, her instincts took over (whether by curse or by evolution, it mattered little) and she let fly before fully calculating the ramifications.

Now she found herself chased, hemmed in, and with no easy escape from the crowding ruins. Beyond the close-packed staring husks of the courtyard, the Ziggurat of the Tyrant rose with stepped sides high up into the afternoon sky to a broad flat top, marking the city center. Scanning ahead, Sharia saw no escape except to hide in the gloom of a ruined building. She chose the closest yawning entrance. Her legs pumped furiously to send her into the shadows, but before she passed into the shade, she heard the stamping dromedaries enter the alleyway behind. War harness jangled as her enemies leapt from their tall-backed steeds and drew their heavy blades.

The coolness of the interior enveloped her as she passed under a tilting lintel and skidded to a halt in a sand-choked chamber. She turned to face the doorway and raised her bow, fighting to rein in her heaving chest as she took aim at one of the three cavalrymen. Slowly she backed further into the gloom while watching the troopers indecision. Her fingers itched to loose her last arrow, but with exhaustion came the realization of her dire predicament: she was cornered by three enemies, with one arrow left. The bone knife strapped to her thigh would keep her from selling her life too cheaply, but any price was too cheap for her. She was Sharia, a warrior princess!

Inching backwards, concentrating on her foes, her heel slipped in the sand behind her. She lost her balance, lost her grip, and the arrow shattered against the stone ceiling with a loud crack. She fell backwards, and her last view of the sunlit surface world was of three enraged warriors stalking towards her.

There was no more frightening place in cursed Nazerak than the dark and shadowy places. A nightmare world existed beyond the reach of the old sun’s faded rays, and fearsome creatures inhabited that domain, intent on destroying the sun-loving denizens of Nazerak. By day, Sharia’s people were compelled to make war amongst themselves, but at night, they fought terrors greater and more profound. Coming from the darkness, they feared deep in their bones a return to that benighted place.

She landed – hard – on her back at the bottom of a stone stair. Dropping the now useless bow, she rolled onto her stomach and lifted herself on hands and knees. It was dark, and she paused for her eyes to adjust, catching her breath as she reached back to massage her bruised back-side. Slowly a five pointed red star revealed itself in the sand. It was her hand. Sharia began to see its heat signature as her eyes adjusted to the darkness. Soon she could make out shapes, detected cool breezes wafting past her from the darkness beyond the stairwell.

Behind and above Sharia was a fog of reflected light, dimming as three shadows rose up to block out the light. Before her a dark corridor stretched onwards. She stumbled up onto her feet and stalked forward. She heard the shouts of her adversaries. “You cannot escape! We are coming for you, foolish girl!”

Sharia ground her teeth, and halted her long strides to turn back and reply, “Come and get me then!” before setting off once more down the long dark hall. Sharia was without fear, but her hand holding the knife was trembling and all her senses screamed for her to get out of there. The same evolutionary mechanisms that allowed her to see heat traces in the darkness instilled a fear of dark subterranean places impossible for her to quell, but she would master it. Swallowing her fear with a gulp, she strode on. Her hands stopped shaking.

The featureless corridor, hewn from sandstone and gritty to the touch, sloped ever downwards while curving in a spiral that sent her deeper underground with every step. Tendrils of sand fell from hairline cracks, making the floor treacherous, but her long legs sped her journey downwards without difficulty. Behind her, the cavalrymen lit a lamp to help guide them through the darkness, but Sharia relied on her senses and stayed well ahead of the light they cast, fumbling through the dark descent. It was a test of courage, and if she could best them, she might live.

At the start of her descent she could hear the clinks and mutterings of her following foes. The sound became muffled then silenced as her heedless gait drove her onwards. A few times during her descent she passed open archways with similar corridors beyond, but they were generally choked with sand or had such awful stenches emanating from them that Sharia passed by without consideration. In places the corridor itself threatened to end in a cave-in of sand, but she always managed to push through and onward.

Eventually the spiraling sandstone tunnel unwound into a long straight corridor. The air was extremely dry and stung her nostrils with every breath. She had caught her breath back, but now thirst became her worst enemy. Her lips were cracking in the dry air, and like her muscles, her clothes were stiff from recent exertion. The silence was overwhelming, seemed to buffet her ears with expectation, but for what, she knew not.

The hallway widened and her footsteps made a peculiar ringing sound with every step. Brushing away some loose sand with her foot, she saw that the floor was carved of natural rock salt to resemble tiles. Soon the corridor opened up into a large circular chamber with a high-domed ceiling of sandstone. A dozen equally spaced doorways led into the room, but the most striking feature was the enormous statue of an armed warrior taking up the center of the room.

He wore armour of ancient design, with a plumed helm that nearly brushed the ceiling. He held a sword outstretched, though the blade lay shattered in the sand. The other hand was held palm out with three fingers extended – the sign for peace amongst Sharia’s people. The horizontal planes of the Hero of Peace were caked with centuries of drifting sand.

Ignoring the statue, Sharia made a quick circuit of the chamber, sticking her nose down every corridor in hopes of detecting the scent of fresh desert air. Like earlier, none of the passages were promising: either choked with sand, dead of any breeze, scent or sign of life, or else they contained vile stenches that turned Sharia’s stomach and made her skin crawl. Returning to the corridor she arrived in, she could hear the far off ringing of footsteps approaching. She brushed away her footprints in the sand covered floor, then she walked with exaggerated steps toward the foulest smelling passage. Near the doorway, she pulled her knife and cut a buckle from her sandal. She tossed it into the doorway where it would be noticed, then ran to crouch behind the statue.

Sharia did not have long to wait. Soon enough the ringing tread of her adversaries assaulted her ears, and a few seconds later the three warriors burst into the room with wild staring eyes. Sharia held her breath and pressed up against the leg of the statue. The leader motioned one warrior to go left while the other circled around the right, checking doorways as they went. He then raised the small oil lamp he carried, and strode towards the statue, looking up at its massive frame and trying to decipher its enigmatic expression. Just then a warrior shouted and held up the sandal clasp.

“Go Get her!” he who must have been the captain shouted, and motioned to the hallway. The two warriors looked at each other and cautiously entered the corridor to disappear down its length. Sharia could not see the captain from where she crouched, but she heard his footsteps as he came nearer. She knew he would be able to detect her soon enough, and gripping her bone knife she prepared to pounce.

Sharia heard the captain mumble something under his breath as he came closer. Then his blade whisked out and struck the statue, first a tap on the chest then a scratch on the leg. She saw its edge dig a groove in the rock salt, and knew her chance had come. She leapt.

Sharia caught the outstretched arm of the statue, and used the momentum to swing her legs up and plant her feet solidly on the warrior’s chest. He flew backwards with a grunt and landed on his back in the sand, his sword dangling by the thong around his wrist. Sharia let the thrust carry her forward and landed on her feet straddling the surprised soldier. She couldn’t help but smile at her success, then her lips curled in cruelty as she prepared to plunge her knife down into her enemy. Her almond eyes blazed in anticipation of the kill.

The captain was not so easily defeated. He glowered up at her. “You shade-loving wench!” he shouted, as he found his heavy blade and swung it up and across his body, forcing Sharia to leap back. Instead of slamming into the sand on his other side, the captain used his formidable strength to change the trajectory of the blade, and heaved it around to scythe across his body in hopes of catching Sharia across the knees. She was forced to take another step back, and the captain regained his feet in a fast and fluid manner, despite – or due to – his carapace plate armor. Armed and armored, he was a formidable foe, and Sharia lost her advantage as quickly as she found it.

Three sweeping slashes in quick succession, right, left, right again, forced her back, until she felt the statue behind her. The fourth swing would have disemboweled the princess, but she swerved, and he struck the statue again, gouging deep into the earlier scuff. The Hero of Peace gave her a second chance and Sharia lunged forward and upward with all her strength, knife first. She aimed her slender shard of bone for his pale bobbing throat, but he pulled back and the blade bit into the curled edge of his of his breastplate and it snapped.

The captain chortled with glee. Savoring the moment, he used his free hand to slap Sharia across the face, while trying to pry his sword free. “This place is cursed, and so shall you…” he began, but was interrupted by a growl from the princess.

She was no longer smiling, with a thin river of blood trickling down her swollen lip to drip from her chin. Her lips curled into the snarl of a wild animal and she launched herself at him, fang and claw. Her wide eyes rolled and she fought like one possessed, arms flailing, teeth champing. The captain suffered for it, and red slashes appeared on each cheek, but Sharia could not bring his armored bulk down and he finally let go his stuck sword to aim a blow at her face that sent her sprawling backwards, eyes blurring and nose exploding in bloody pain. With a sickening crunch, the back of Sharia’s head struck the hard stone belt buckle of the Hero of Peace.

She heard ringing in her ears and did not know whether it came from the returning knights or her traumatic head injury. Slowly she sank to her knees, her strength fleeing in defeat, strive as she did to hold on to it. The knight advanced, madness gleaming in his eyes, hands like talons. Then he stopped.

They heard another sound, a grinding all around them, echoing up through the floor. Sharia’s blurred vision returned to acute focus and she met the captain’s eyes and in each they saw mirrored the terror the other felt. For a moment the blind desire to kill one other was replaced by a deeper, more insistent instinct, one they shared. Fear of the underworld. For the first time in her short life, Sharia felt no desire to kill this stranger, these brethren, and she and he silently, suddenly saw a different way, an end to the senseless ceaseless slaughter. Then he was gone.

Sharia rocked forward and stumbled to her feet, and found an open pit where he once stood. Far below, the captain lay in a contorted jumble. She looked back to see the belt buckle, smeared with her blood, and noticed a small jewel, a ruby perhaps, depressed in its center. The ringing grew louder and she looked up to see the two remaining knights come stumbling down the hallway, clutching at each other like children, arms and armor momentarily forgotten. When they saw the princess they found their swords and their courage, and their eyes hardened into flashing diamonds in the flickering lamplight. Here was a foe they were worthy to face.

With a shake of her head and a sigh, Sharia’s gaze dropped back to the floor, and she noticed the handholds. Without thought the girl threw herself down the ladder. At the bottom a similar red gem created another grinding of gears and the trapdoor closed, thankfully before the two knights made it across the room. Yet Sharia knew it was only a matter of time before they discovered the ruby belt buckle of the Hero of Peace.

***

“Two down,” her sick mind informed her sardonically as she stepped over the corpse of the captain. She bent to pick up the little ceramic lamp and filled it with oil from the captain’s flask. When the lamp flickered to life, she found she was in a room shaped much like the one above, except this one was carved and polished rock salt. Shining like crystal, the chamber was a faceted dome with the stone ladder descending like a column down the center. Four carved archways, spaced equally, led from the room. There was a tinkling sound coming from each, and Sharia gasped to see small streams of water running down the center of each hallway to splash through grates at the threshold of each as they entered the chamber where she stood. She had lost her sense of direction, and so turned to the nearest.

Hundreds of ancient runes representing the phases of the moons, Lune and Satellite, adorned the arches, but Sharia took little notice and instead knelt to scoop up a handful of cool, crystal water, only to spit out the brine a second later.

“If only!” she muttered to herself, shaking her little fist in fury at the water. For once her composure threatened to break, and Sharia stamped her foot in anger, splashing water everywhere. It was cool on her hot pink flesh, and she sighed in pleasure in spite of herself with every splashing step.

Then she looked down to see her loose sandal and her scowl returned. The sandal flopped with every sodden step down the corridor and threatened to come off. “Just what I need,” she muttered, wishing she had grabbed the captain’s boots. Thoughts of returning to get them were quickly replaced by worry that the two remaining soldiers would find the trigger that opens the trap door. She held the lamp aloft and examined the walls of the corridor as she walked. The walls and ceiling were engraved with more symbols and frescoes. The majority of the carvings depicted crude scenes of battle and strife on the streets of Nazerak, and they were cut very deep and savagely into the rock salt. Looking closer, Sharia noticed the rough ravings obliterated earlier, shallower wall engravings that depicted a different city than the one Sharia knew, a beautiful place with tall buildings and smiling crowds.

Sharia found the engravings unsettling, and she concentrated on the path ahead until finally she saw another open doorway. A crystal salt portal once closed off the chamber within, but now lay shattered against the wall. She entered another chamber carved entirely of crystal salt, this one much smaller than the last. Benches and niches were carved into the walls, and in the center of the room was a long low slab of the same polished crystal.

Though the room flickered in the light of her lamp, Sharia could see a dull pink glow emanating from within the salt crystal table, exposing a deep crack within. The unnatural coldness of the table appeared to darken the room around it, and droplets of water condensated to drip from its sides and pool around its base, eventually trickling off down the hallway Sharia just traversed. Yet it was the figure lying stretched out on the table that captured her attention.

He was long and lithe like her, naked but for a thin sheet. With his long tapering ears and wide set eyes, she recognized him as one of the people of Nazerak, the first born. By his features and by the rough scar where one of his eyes should be, she recognized him as her first kill. By his pallid flesh, colorless hair and eyes, and his threatening expression, she knew him to be a shade, one of the terrors of the dark, and an enemy of her people: their curse. They called themselves her people’s dark cousins, and claimed that it was their duty to escort the living to the underworld, by killing them. A sinister grin crossed this one’s face as it regarded Princes Sharia with evil arched eyebrows.

“Hello cousin,” he smiled, rising on his elbows to regard her. “Who could ask for a better welcome than to be greeted by my slayer!” he laughed with glee, and rose to a sitting position on the table. His eyes cast about for something, and Sharia saw them alight on a bundle tucked into one of the niches along the wall.

“I slew you while you lived, I will happily slay your shadow,” Sharia swore, glancing about the room to see exits in the walls to the left and right of her, besides the one she entered through.

“Now, now, why such anger?” the shade spoke reasonably. He spread his hands open on his lap. “I just want to talk.”

“Your kind has nothing to say to me.” She eyed him suspiciously, deciding on her course of action.

“But we are alike, you and I. This is where you were meant to be, down here with me.” He leaned forward and began stretching atrophied muscles. “Let me help you.” His malignant smile showed he was bating her into a rash act, or stalling for time. Sharia did not care what his motives were, she wanted to get out of this place.

Before the shade could react, Sharia raced towards the nearest exit, grabbing the bundle as she ran past. The shade was slow to pursue, and Sharia ran out into a hall much like the others except the floor was dry. As she ran, she looked back but did not see her pursuer, so she slowed down to examine the bundle. It was a silk cloak, and wrapped within were a suit of leather clothing, all spikes and buckles, a ceramic jug of sickly sweet wine, which Sharia stopped to quaff without hesitation, and a pair of steel daggers, a real treasure. She tied the bundle of clothes over her shoulder. They would make an excellent trophy if she survived the day. She dropped the empty jug and kept the daggers.

Metal was all but gone from the world, and what remained had to be constantly cared for to prevent rapid corrosion. Many shades wielded these steel daggers, and it was a mystery where they got them. Even seeing a shade rise from the man she killed only increased the mystery of their origin.

Common wisdom said a shade rose for every one of her folk killed in cursed Nazerak (and uncommon wisdom whispered that no new babe was born to her folk until a shade was killed.) These dark cousins, confined to shadow by the poisonous touch of the red sun’s rays, were demented creatures and evil mirrors of their once living twins. Legends of their cunning and brutality made them the most feared of Nazerak’s inhabitants. Myths told of a time before recorded history, when the world was uninhabitable, and her progenitors had to fight and hide deep in the bowels of the earth beneath their city while the shades hunted them for cruel sport.

Sharia had no inclination for such contemplation and continued down the hallway, alert for any sign of pursuit. Knowing that the shade would be following, she tried to stay ahead of him without exhausting herself. Already she ached from running and fighting, but the wine gave her strength, and hopefully robbed the shade of the same. The thought of the wine made her grin, or maybe it was the wine itself. Her sandal continued to give her trouble, and she stopped to remove them and tie them to her bundle. Sharia spent the rest of her time in that dungeon barefooted.

Before long she heard the sound of a shattering bottle echo down the hallway. “You drank my wine! I will teach you manners!”

“Leave me be!” she hurled over her shoulder, and limped onward, but the shade kept pace, staying far enough back to follow without being seen.

Eventually he spoke again. “Let me have my clothes, I have no sun down here to warm my cold flesh!”

A few seconds later, she heard a reply – in front of her. “Cousin, is it you?”

She heard sounds of approach from ahead and froze. It was the captain, and his voice had a cold, calculating edge it lacked when she fought him before, while he lived. She had just decided it would be best to turn and confront the enemy she knew (and whose weapons she held) when she spied rubble strewn across the hallway ahead. Chunks of rock salt littered the floor in front of a collapsed section of wall, beyond which was emptiness.

Sharia the flame haired warrior princess stepped into the vast open area just as a third grinding echo reverberated through the rock salt dome. The fools above had found her bloody clue and opened the trap door to their doom, she realized. Two more lives, though they counted her an enemy, rested now on her narrow shoulders.

Once beyond the rock salt corridor, the sound quickly diminished into funereal silence. Casting her oil lamp high revealed a vast chamber of unknown dimensions beyond her little circle of light. The floor was of mosaic tile, so ancient and dust covered as to be completely indecipherable. Occasional columns of the same mosaic rose up into the darkness overhead.

She put out the lamp and continued blindly through the dead space, her previous foes left behind and forgotten for the moment as she continued on with a building sense of dread growing inside her breast. She walked towards her doom leisurely, and had time to catch her breath, to rest her aching thighs. For awhile, an insubstantial light danced around the edges of her vision, a green glow that settled and began to grow as she moved towards it. A set of wide stone stairs crossed her path and she found herself atop a raised platform. At each corner a green globe faintly glowed above a slender staff, but the center of the dais was enclosed by rows of close-set columns holding up a stone slab roof. It reminded Sharia of a shrine.

Curious, Sharia slipped between the columns to inspect the central nave. She found another rock crystal table, with a corpse laid atop. Once richly dressed and draped, time had reduced it to little more than a pile of dust so that it was only by recognizing the silhouette of a body that Sharia knew it what it was: two thin sticks for legs with knobby lumps where the knees once were; skeletal fingers clasped upon its breast; and a grinning skull rising from the dust of ages, eye sockets full of sand.

At its feet lay two swords crossed, heavy scimitars with wide cruel blades. Each was hewn from a plate of obsidian and knapped to a razors edge. Both were covered with a thick layer of dust, and whatever hilts, pommels, and sheathes once adorning them were gone with time, leaving the blades alone intact.

At the head of the sarcophagus sat rows of tall ceramic urns, broken and crumbled. The arrangement gave the impression of vast age. Only the strongest elements – obsidian, crystal, and petrified skin and bone remained of a rich entombment.

“I wonder who he is – er, was.” Sharia asked herself, as she moved towards the swords, hand outstretched.

She felt more than heard a thrumming coming up through her legs as she approached, and if it weren’t covered in a thick coating of dust, silt, and sand, she would have seen the crystalline block glowing from within as its nascent energies built up after uncounted eons of inactivity. Sharia couldn’t know this, but as soon as the girl stepped through the broken wall into this ancient tomb, arcane energies of antiquity began building within the sepulchre.

The prehistoric engines that drove the subterranean world beneath Nazerak woke Sharia’s deepest, instinctive fears, like the trapdoor before, and now the subtle energy of the tomb. She paused with her fingertips just brushing one of the blades, and looked closer at the heap of ruin stretched out on the slab. Were her eyes playing tricks, or was the dust around the corpse moving? As she watched, thin tendrils of dirt, silt, and sand began slithering up onto the desiccated corpse, filling gaps, adding girth to fleshless limbs.

Sharia watched in horror, and took a step backwards. Magic was at work here, and she had no love of magic. Sharia put her trust in things she knew: herself, her strength, her intuition. Her senses were screaming at her to leave this benighted place, but they had been telling her that non-stop since her first painful foray down those sandy steps. Now like then, she was trapped with no escape.

Suddenly a voice boomed, filling the cavernous chamber. Sharia was shaken by the sound, reverberating through the underground expanse to slam into her from above, below, and all sides. She staggered back another step and watched with disbelief as the corpse rose up off the slab, dropping bits of matter even as the tendrils of silt began twining up the floating body while it tilted to an upright posture.

“Whoso dareth disturb the slumber of the immortal Zagnazerak?” The words were a dialect so ancient Sharia could barely make out their meaning, but she knew the name. Zagnazerak the Cursed. Zagnazerak the Traitor, the Mad, the Destroyer. The last lord of a dying world, long, long dead.

Where the body lay on the table was outlined a broken crust of matter, and the white glow emanating from the crystal bathed the corpse floating above it in light. Bones were knitting back together. Clumping sand formed musculature as she watched. Swirling dust began to solidify into a golden skirt about the waist of the emaciated corpse.

Its eyes flashed to life like a pair of blazing fiery beacons, and it trained them on the warrior princess. “No mortal shalt behold my visage and suffer to live. Abase thyself, slave!” the voice commanded.

“I am no slave!” Sharia shouted, and raised her stolen daggers to charge. For the third time that day, Sharia prepared to sell her life dearly. To herself she mused, “This day cannot get any worse.”

“If thou dost live, bow to thy overlord,” the corpse intoned. “Mine awakening hast come. And so the world must be rid of all mortal life. Art thou, worm, the last of thy kind?”

“Not even close!” she retorted, and hurled a steel dagger at the specter. It slammed into Zagnazerak’s chest to the hilt. Sharia readied the other. The red globes shifted downward to momentarily cast their radiance on the knife, then the ghost of Zagnazerak raised his hands and his pair of swords flew into them, one black as night, the other pulsating with the same red light as the eyes of the dead king.

“I am undying and thou art dead already!” the dead king said, flinging a blade at her, faster and with more power than Sharia thought possible. She had just time enough to raise her dagger, but the glowing sword sliced through her steel like it was paper and through two columns behind her as it whizzed past. She heard it clatter to the floor far out in the darkness behind. She also heard the groan of the shifting weight of tons of rock overhead, as the slab roof settled on two less supports than before.

The corpse of Zagnazerak raised his empty hand high and called forth “Simak!” Then he cast the other blade.

The black blade flew towards her, and Sharia had the speed, agility, and presence of mind to bend backwards while striking upwards with the pommel of her sundered knife. She struck the blade on its flat as it flew towards her, and altered its course just enough. Rather than taking off a third of her skull, the flat of the blade – instead of its edge – struck her forehead. Sharia and the blade crumpled to the floor together.

Bleary-eyed, Sharia tried to focus as the first blade came careening back from where it lay out in the darkness beyond, shattering another column in its path to Zagnazerak’s open hand. Skeletal fingers closed about the hilt, and the glow of the blade intensified, sword and eyes pulsating in rhythm. Sharia reached for the blade that lay atop her. She found the rudimentary hilt of obsidian, which bit into her fingers when they closed about it, drawing blood as she gripped the sword with all her strength. Though she couldn’t focus her eyes or her thoughts, she somehow managed to drag herself to her feet.

Zagnazerak pointed at her and shouted “Skarn! To me!” the hilt began sliding through her fingers and with sudden fury she screamed “No!” The blade listened. It settled into her hand. “Skarn,” she whispered through battered lips.

Sharia squared her shoulders and took the heavy blade in both hands. Her eyes slowly raised to face the fiery orbs of her foremost foe, and she glared at him balefully. “Your time has come,” she spoke slowly and took a step forward.

“Ingrate!” the ghoul bellowed. “Thou wilt pay for thy folly!” and he hurled his glowing obsidian blade at the warrior princess. Filled with righteous wrath, Sharia side-stepped and batted the sword away mightily. An explosion of light and sound blasted forth when the two swords struck one another, and Simak went twirling through the air while Skarn held firm. This was not the first time the two blades sparred, nor would it be the last.

The red scimitar struck another column on its flight, and this time a groan erupted from above, followed by an avalanche of sand. The whole platform tilted as massive weight shifted.

Sharia the warrior princess had a single minded drive to destroy the evil before her. Ignoring the distressing signs around her, she leapt up onto the crystal table. Even as the re-animated corpse of Zagnazerak flung out an arm and shouted “Simak!” the blade of Sharia was slashing the space between them to separate his arm from his body.

It fell to the table twitching, foetid dust spilling from severed arteries.

Sharia wasted no more time on the outraged corpse, but leapt from the table and chopped through two more columns on her way out. The red glowing twin of the blade of Sharia, Simak, flashed past her on its flight to Zagnazerak. Both sword and master were buried under the collapsing stone roof when the few remaining columns crumbled to dust.

Sharia ran back the way she had come. She knew not whether she had defeated her supposedly immortal opponent, and did not care. She was ready to feel the crimson rays of the sun on her skin, and nothing now could stop her from returning to her home, to the desert ruins of Nazerak, to the world above.

She was surprised to find her two dark cousins had abandoned their hunt, and flew past the break in the wall towards the exit. Her bare feet splashed through the trickling water as she returned down the hall towards the exit. No longer the hunted, Sharia raised her blade in anticipation. She heard sounds of conflict ahead and dashed into the rock salt vault to see the pair of shades attacking their erstwhile allies. They each had a steel dagger and were passing a pot of wine between them as they backed the over-matched and terrified warriors into a corner.

With a screech Sharia descended upon the shades, and they had no chance. Her fury was matched only by the impossibly sharp edge of her blade, and soon two more corpses littered the sandy floor of the chamber. She looked up to see the terrified expressions of the two warriors, and noticed again how young they were. She smiled, not without warmth, through broken, bloody lips, blackened eyes, and with a purple bruise on her sun-pinkened alabaster forehead that would fade over time but never fully vanish. She called it her first kiss.

“It is your lucky day.” She spoke with calm certitude. They eyed her warily, bleeding from dozens of shallow cuts.

“Know that Sharia, warrior princess of Nazerak has spared your life this day.” So saying, she turned her back on them and left the underworld for the sun above.

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