Where’s Judd?

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These are the places you can regularly hear and/or see me talking about gaming or doing the thing and streaming some play. Links are both in the pictures and in the text beneath.

Here’s the link where I store my links.

Daydreaming about Dragons Podcast

The logo for my podcast, Daydreaming about Dragons

In which I have a conversation with you about techniques that are shaking out at the tables where I sit and inspirational media.

The Sixth Ring, a Trophy Podcast

In which Jason and I discuss the Trophy RPG and in doing so end up talking about game culture and techniques that link up to all kinds of tabletop RPG’s.

I’m often gaming on the Actual Play twitchstream channel.

World of Dungeons, Twitch.com/ACTUALPLAY

Municipal Dungeon Delving in the fantasy city of Jaquays (pronounced Jake-Ways) in the wake of the Sorcerer-Kings, who have abandoned this world and have left their toxic labs, wyrd towers and feral pets all over the city-scape. More about the making of this game here.

I’ve been honored to play so much on the Actual Play channel, a place where I’ve made wonderful friends and played wondrous games.

Norther Death Pantheon, cold fairy tale edition

Northern Death Pantheon is our take on Godbound among the Witch-Queens of the Ulstang Skerries. The pitch and the characters are in this blog post.

What am I regularly playing off-stream?

The Sigil 6: Outlands Expedition Team

On Thursday evenings we play D&D. Here are the characters and the links to the related blog posts (houserules, AP posts, etc.).

Roots of Old Kladuhr

On Fridays we’re just starting a Trophy Gold game, more on that here.

After years I’m getting together with old friends, Jeff and Storn, and playing an investigative D&D game set in the Domains of Dread from Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft and countless other supplements from my gaming youth. It is an experiment and it is working for us. Storn graciously illustrates characters in the game and his art is a lovely way to commemorate the game.

I have a Threadless shop, all artists’ proceeds go to amazing causes. My hope is that my nerdery will make the world a better place somehow. Design examples and links to collections below:

Geek Media Studies
Alex’s Questions

Alex’s Questions

Sigil 6
Outlands Expedition Team

Alex has some questions on his blog. Here we go.

The link under the Sigil 6 title image above is a kind of index of posts about this game if you want to know more.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

How many sessions have you been playing, more or less?

I’ve written about 41 sessions. I bet I missed about 3 but let’s just call it 41+ for the sake of argument.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

How long have you been running this campaign?

The earliest blog post is from February 5, 2021, so, a bit more than a year.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Have you had long breaks? If so, how did you pick it up again?

We’ve missed a week or 3 here and there because of holidays or family emergency.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

How many people are at the table when you play?

Me and 6 friends over Zoom.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

How many characters are in the party when you play?

That is a great question. The team, The Sigil 6, definitely adopts folks. A ranger, who was their guide through the jungles of Chult and taught them how to fly pterodactyls is seen as part of the family. The wizard has taken on an apprentice recently. The posse can be anywhere from 6 to 10 or so at times when NPC’s join up. In Barovia they had a whole other team, affectionately called the B-Team.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

How many players have you had in total over that time period, not counting guest appearances?

Just the core 6 and me.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Have you had guest appearances? How did it go? Did you gain regular players that way?

We haven’t done that yet. I think we’d be more likely to do that if it was going on in person.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

What have the character levels been over time?

We started at level 1 and now all of the characters are level 10. The Bingo XP Variant is a nice pacing mechanism (on top of a few other things).

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

What classes did the players pick? Did you add new classes over time?

We’ve got a Fighter, Barbarian, Ranger/Cleric, Cleric, Rogue, and Wizard.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Tell me about some adventures you ran over that time that I might enjoy hearing about?

Here are some unanswered questions about them:

Is Bugwump who he thinks he is or is he a clone of the arch-mage he remembers being?

Will Failed Soldier, the Corpseflea learn about the origins of his people in the Radiant Citadel? Will Helewynn gain a reputation even more famous than Slayer of Strahd?

Will Jusko Hajek reconcile with his family or be forced to destroy them?

Whatever happened to Trundle’s mountain home that was at war with demons?

Will Kuru retire to raise goats or will his impulsiveness get him killed?

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Have the rule changes over that time? Do you maintain a house-rules document?

I definitely propose house-rules and we all agree on them. We should make a house-rules doc; that would help keep track of things.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Has the setting changed over time?¹

I think their understanding of the setting has deepened and that has changed the meaning of certain things – if that makes sense. They are certainly well known now.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

How much in-game distance did the party cover, how big is the area they have visited?

It is a planar-game, very much inspired by my memories of the Planescape boxed set, set in Sigil, so wide areas are covered through gates and such.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Have you used proprietary setting books? Like, could you publish your campaign or would you be in trouble if you did?

It is pretty heavily steeped in D&D intellectual property. It would take some heavy filing of serial numbers to make it publishable

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

¹ Have you added cultures or regions after years of play because you read a good book? Have your players toppled governments, resettled people, or made other large scale changes to the setting – without that being the end of the campaign?

I’m sure lots of tidibits from my own reading or conversations with people in my life drip in. I definitely added a War Corvid after reading Black-Tongued Thief and some drug sales in Gloomwrought were clearly influenced by The Wire.

War Corvid

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Gloomwrought: City of Midnight, Session 1, Locate Object

Gloomwrought: City of Midnight, Session 1, Locate Object

Gloomwrought: City of Midnight

Session 1: Locate Object
Gloomwrought: City of Midnight / Session 1 / Locate Object

In which the Sigil 6 track down Strahd’s second-in-command, who got away from them in Barovia; she is now a crimelord in Gloomwrought.

Who are the Sigil 6 – Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier and what have they been up to?

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

I don’t try to make every little thing in every adventure linked to the players’ pasts but when I read that there was a powerful merchant family in Gloomwrought called the Harskel family and a player’s powerful family is named Hajek, it felt like fate. I re-named the Harskel family – Hajek. As they walked around town, Jusko saw a group of Shadar-Kai mercs with his family’s sigil on their cloaks and there was a big job notice on the missives that adorn the walls of the dockside bar – Cracked Keel.

They bought a drug called Sunlight from a Shadar Kai kid and watched as a vampire picked up the weekly silver. They brought some drug called Sunlight and did Locate Object on the silver piece. They tracked the vampire to a brother called the Red Door (also in the book) and the madame of the house did her damned best to get them out of her place once they subtly let her know what and how they were after. Jusko gave the dagger Lord Soth gave to him and said that he was here on his Lord’s behalf.

They made some moves to seem like Kuru was a merchant and the party was his bodyguards and hangers on.

Had an interesting use of Locate Object, looking for a note to the vampire gang they were looking for. I liked it. They found a note from the local Vecna Cult (called the House of the Eye) who wanted a sit-down with the up-and-coming vampire gang.

I needed a name for the gang and Jusko’s player, who played his share of vampire LARP’s in his college days (as many of us did) suggested I just call them the Camarilla – I went with Barovian Sabbat.

Locate Object again on the knife and they followed the vampire to an underground vault under an abandoned shop. Climbed down a dry well and we’ll start there next week.

DM’s Notes: Should I have just used the old book from Strahd’s library about Gloomwrought and given them the info they were looking for tonight? Maybe.

Gloomwrought: City of Midnight
Factions, Powers & Merchants
Observants & Reports from Servants
on a pretty old book

Next Game: Fight! Fight! Fight!

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Tabletop Role-Playing Game Collection
Lich Collection
Quick and Ugly Troika Setting Hack

Quick and Ugly Troika Setting Hack

Maybe you’ve got Troika but the setting as presented in the d66 Background Table isn’t doing it for you (I adore it but to each their own) but you want to see the Initiative Stack in action or think the way characters learn skills is keen (it is). Okay, I’ve got you covered.

Roll your 3 stats: 1d3+3 for Skill, 2d6+12 for Stamina, 1d6+6 for Luck.

Troika has a solid list of baseline possessions if you’d like but don’t worry about that. Let’s talk about populating the setting, which is to say, populating your own d66 Background Table.

Executioner's Sword Subject Divider

Using Pathfinder Iconics

Drop your 36 favorite Pathfinder Iconics into each slot. Read the iconic’s entry in the Pathfinder wiki that you rolled up or don’t read anything just riff off of the class name and the cool Wayne Reynolds art or don’t even read the class name and just riff off of the Wayne Reynolds art.

Executioner's Sword Subject Divider

Using Whatever You Remember From D&D

Name D&D NPC’s from settings or old campaigns or novels and/or name settings and exciting vocations.

Asteroid Stranded Spelljammer Sailor.

Dark Sun Gladiator.

Sword Coast Caravan Guard.


Greyhawk Arch-Mage.

Sigil Crimelord.

Escaped Soul from Acheron.

Cultist from Temple of Elemental Evil.

That One NPC you Remember from Homlett.

Your Favorite NPC from the Keep on the Borderlands.

Strahd’s Vampire Spawn.

Vecna’s Apprentice.

That Lady with the 80’s Hair Throwing Lightning on the Spellfire Cover.

The dinosaur-looking lizard guy from the cover of Curse of the Azure bonds with the cool sword-axe-thing.


P.S. Now you only need 22 more.

Executioner's Sword Subject Divider

Fantasy Word Vomit Way

Name strange fantasy shit with your friends until you get to 36 total. Order of the Sun Holy Knight, Broken Moon Lycanthrope, Witch from the Edge of the First City, Talking Wolf, etc. Bonus points for naming places or saying something about the world through the title.

If you want to get fancy, give everyone index cards so folks can also write up Advanced Skills and Possessions for each of the 36 entries. If not, whoever rolls the entry up, they make it up on their own.

d66 tables in 2 columns

After each player has rolled up a concept (or, let’s be real, picked their favorite)…

Stat them up, 10 points in total Advanced Skills (what Troika calls skills because Skills is already a stat) and whatever equipment makes sense. Spells are also Advanced Skills. Name the spells you’ve got and come up with a 2 sentence description of the spells you have.

Make your own d66 table or print out the table above.

Executioner's Sword Subject Divider

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5 – Sweet, Trophy Gold: Roots of Old Kalduhr

5 – Sweet, Trophy Gold: Roots of Old Kalduhr

We missed a few weeks but it felt good to get back and see what is going on with these treasure-hunting weirdos.

SPOILERS for A Heart Hums in the Darkness ahead!

A sweet detour into A Heart Hums in the Darkness

As if constructs weren’t odd and creepy enough, the treasure-hunters are being escorted into the mining town of Wellslode by constructs created by bees to understand (and possibly infiltrate?) humans.

Ancient and worn gold coin with Trophy Gold written above it.

As we started, I was feeling low energy. On those days, when we’ve missed a few sessions and I’m feeling groggy, I’m happy to have a game with structure. In Trophy Gold’s case, it is the incursion structure, giving me moments – bullet-points I can use right away rather than boxed text that I’m loathe to read. I am not a GM who lives in terror of not knowing what to say next but still, it is nice to have a life-preserver to grab onto when I’m getting back into the swing of a game.

Ancient and worn gold coin

I gave them some time to wander around the set a bit – a park set into a gorge near a waterfall feeding a water wheel. This group picks up consequences quickly and after a few Hunt rolls they had a grip on this place once the Mole-thing dug through the stone behind the waterfall and destroyed the water wheel. Introduced lamplight fungus, the snuff miners use to see better in the dark.

They helped young Orfuss get the bees-think-your-dead pheromone smell off him, coaching him from afar, not touching him. Orfuss, for whatever reason, was kind of a comic relief goofball, mentioning a bard’s story he had heard where a hero smeared himself with mud to avoid an otherworldly hunter’s strange vision. “Get to the carriage!” Too goofy? Maybe.

Ancient and worn gold coin

Kel said that the strange parroting that the bee-construct guards do reminded him of how his fey lords back in the Grove used to toy with kidnapped humans (good fuel that I’ll use later).

After I mentioned the buzzing a few times, Baso grabbed some honey off a corpse’s face, rolled it into a more solid ball and put it in his ears, hoping to block out any buzzing magic to come. He offered earplugs to his comrades but they weren’t sold on it. He found a lyre and had to climb up a goat path out of the gorge and take a long way down to avoid some bees. He held up a walking stick he found with a scrimshaw drawing of a skeleton parade on it, commanding the dead to rise and do his bidding.

Me to Jim, “We agree that this isn’t going to work, right?”

We agreed.

Pela gathered leaves and sticks and used his Enliven to give it life. The effigy, Baso’s high pitched singing and Kel’s quick movement got him away from the oncoming Mole-thing, that began eating corpses instead.

With Aksil cursing their strangeness, they went into the aqueduct from the hole the Mole-thing had carved.

Ancient and worn gold coin

Kel climbed up a building and got the lay of the land. There was good in and out of game banter about using or not-using their Hunt tokens to get by this Set but everyone knows the Queen looms in some future Set ahead of them and they don’t want to go into that low on tokens. Smart.

Taking stock, we realized that we had quite a crew gathered – the 3 player characters, Aksil, Orfuss, and the 2 bee-constructs – mirroring player words and gestures in the creepiest ways I could muster. There was some talk about Pela’s still-animated effigy; could he take away its animate magic? We decided it would take a Risk Roll to do so but for now, the 2-3 foot tall stick and mud-thing still waddles around.

How many creepy constructs can one group of treasure-hunters have in their posse?

Ancient and worn gold coin

As the game ended, Kel and Pela went to see what was going on in the warehouse with a mix of buzzing and sobbing coming from it. “Kel, it is the sobbing of someone who is captured and is losing hope of every getting away. You know this sound well…”

Baso struck out on his own, approaching the alchemist’s door. I wanted to hint at the crossbow bolt pressure plate trap and so I mentioned bloodstains on the doorstep. As Baso approached, he took a crossbow to the ribs as he knocked on the door, calling the alchemist’s name. Jim made it very clear that he was more than willing to pay the price of separating from the group.

We’ll start the next game with Kel and Pela trying to figure out how to save the humans being made to chew vegetable matter for the bees, guarded by a bee-shaped construct the size of a pony. Meanwhile, Baso will meet the Alchemist while contending with the new Condition – gutshot.

Bestiary with Trophy Gold and Trophy Dark symbols embossed on the worn leather of an ancient looking tome.


We need to name the Mole-thing and the pony-sized bee constructs.

Spears Subject Divider Image 
From: https://www.clevelandart.org/art/1922.26.a

Takeaways: Nice to be back at it. Looking forward to finishing this adventure next week.

Jay’s kickstarter continues. If superheroes (specifically 80’s/90’s X-men) are your thing, check it out.

Ready for Next Week: I’ll look over Roots of Old Kalduhr again and maybe, just maybe spring my strangest monster ever on the group as a kind of mini-incursion.

I might want to read up on conditions too; I often forget that rule exists.


Tabletop Role-Playing Game Collection
Geek Media Studies

Blog of Judd Karlman from Daydreaming about Dragons

This session was played via Zoom on 6/10/22

Imbalance in the Outlands, Session 3, The Vampire, the Lich and the Raven Queen

Imbalance in the Outlands, Session 3, The Vampire, the Lich and the Raven Queen

Imbalances in the Outlands/ Session 3: The Vampire, the Lich and the Raven Queen
Imbalances in the Outlands/ Session 3: The Vampire, the Lich and the Raven Queen

In which the Sigil 6 speak to a vampire, a lich and the Raven Queen to get an idea of the threats that are before them.

Who are the Sigil 6 – Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier and what have they been up to?

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

It was an odd night and I might’ve not managed the spotlight as well as I might’ve. Lots of talking.

New Bingo board is up,

Hegna the Red was born and raised in Innistrad, a born vampire who now is a hunter who serves the Hive District’s Outlands Expedition Team. She gave some Innistrad background, dropped lots of lore I grabbed from online from places like this and this. The Moonsilver Key, Sigarda, Heronblade Elite, Olivia Voldaren and her upcoming wedding, uniting powerful vampire clans.

They learned that a unique bounty hunter might be looking for them – a Demi-lich whose skull resides in an Iron Golem because their lair was destroyed. Aboraz, the Striding Skull – a bounty hunter, trying to get together enough coin to build another lair so they can return to their dream-travels through the Far Realms.

Failed Soldier went to see Mavetta, the little girl who was Chosen by the Raven Queen. He was told that he could learn more of the Corpsefleas in the Deep Ethereal, in the Radiant Citadel. The Raven Queen was eager for Floldier to become her priest. It was creepy, as a little girl becoming possessed by a goddess of death, ravens and winter should be.

Role-played my first Dabus and while it was charming at first, I won’t push my luck with the Civil Servants of Sigil who speak only in iconography. The Dabus led Kuru, who wanted to know if anyone in Sigil could offer further insight into their enemies through some kind of a spy network. He spoke to Rhoqul, a lich in an oubliette in the Maze, that was held open for Kuru by the Lady of Pain, who spoke to the lich from a balcony. He offered some ideas as to who Orcus’ lieutenants might be, carving their names into his broken staff, and suggested Demogorgon and Grazz’t as possible allies against Orcus (or any Devil). Told Kuru that Kiaransalee had killed Orcus in the past (he came back).

“Tell the Lady of Pain that I helped you and that I know something is down here, something powerful. I am more dangerous stuck here than I am in the Prime Material! Tell her!”

When told of this, Bugwump realized that this old lich knows of the Primordial trapped in the Lady of Pain’s Maze. Kuru gave the Lady of Pain a fresh muffin.

Kuru’s player asked if there was a magic item that could cast Daylight. I had rules for this; they’re pretty good. I read those rules.

The following is in red: If not, the DM will let you know who the merchants say might have such an item or a map to a tomb where such an item could be found. 	

When you spend money from the Ravenloft Fortune, tell the DM what you want to buy and in what marketplace you are trying to purchase this item. The DM will set a DC if it is possible to find such a thing in the marketplace. If not, the DM will let you know who the merchants say might have such an item or a map to a tomb where such an item could be found. If the item is common, the DM might just ask you to check off a gold coin or two (maybe three if it is really opulent) without a roll.
	When you roll, mark a gold piece off of the fortune below. You may add +1 for every gold piece you mark off of the fortune.
	If you succeed, you purchase the item without a problem.
	If you fail the roll, you either draw attention from a dangerous faction, purchase an item or service that has a complicated history attached to it or the merchant demands an exchange of services, wanting the skills that adventurers are known to possess.
	1 Gold Coin = 1 month room & board in most cities for 6 adventurers.

“In the Barrow of the Sun Paladins, they have gems in their shields that were said to throw daylight onto Vampires in olden days…”

DM’s Notes: Just an odd tweener of a night. That is okay.

Next Game: Let’s get to Gloomwrought.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Tabletop Role-Playing Game Collection
Lich Collection

Making a Well of Worlds

A player whose character is becoming a priest of portals asked how they could build a Well of Worlds.

I have guidelines for that (I finally remembered). Guidelines are also posted at the bottom of the post.

Well from the bottom

Photo by Valentin Lacoste on Unsplash

One needs a stone from each of the Portal Towns and arrange them in a circle. The well will need an element from 4 Elemental Planes. If it isn’t Earth, Air, Fire, Water as the 4, word is the Well will turn strange but others say it will be strange no matter what.

Add something from the Far Realms for spice (and distance). The Well will need a guardian bound to it so that nothing comes from the other side of it when planes are in alignment and boundaries are thin. Once you have that, you’ll have your Well of Worlds…

So you want to make a magic item?
When you want to improve upon an item, enchant a mundane item or repair an item, tell your friends at the table what you want it to do. Is there something else that does it already? Let’s keep an eye on that for inspiration.
Is making this going to change the world forever? Let’s keep on eye on that and discuss it as a group because that’s cool but let’s make sure we’re not changing the world in a way that won’t make it fun to play or making a character useless.
Someone will take up the role as the DM for this process. They’ll say, “sure, no problem but…” and suggest 1 to 4 of the following.
• It is going to take time.
• First you are going to have to X
• You are going to need X to make this happen.
• It is going to cost a dragon’s hoard of gold.
• It is going to mean exposing yourself to dangerous arcane forces that could change the character forever.
• The best you’ll be able to do will be less than optimal, it’ll have limited charges or slow or weak or unreliable.
• You are going to need a wizard’s sanctum with X.
• It is going to take many attempts to get it just right.
• You are going to have to do an arcane ritual with X to get it done.
X should be attainable through a dangerous adventure or series of adventures.

by Judd Karlman
Inspired by Apocalypse World by D. Vincent Baker, Meguey Baker

Tabletop Role-Playing Game Collection
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“Someplace cool,” with Troika! Numinous Edition

A Necromancer, a Nunslinger and a Temple Knight of Telak the Swordbringer walk into a dungeon…

"Someplace cool," with Troika! Numinous Edition

Throne of Wind, ancient artifact of the Sky Monarchs, floating through a fractal universe.

We had made characters and agreed to play the following Friday. I knew how I wanted to prepare but didn’t get to it until the Friday afternoon before the game. I had read the rules but couldn’t quite picture the initiative system but was game to try. I grabbed a Dyson Logos map from this book (always worth every penny, even if it wasn’t just a way to say thanks for the tremendous library of free maps and it isn’t just that). I numbered areas, coming up with about 12, so I could still come up with something random with 6 siders if I needed to.

I like how in this game everything is random.

Charlotte, providing my AHA! moment with Troika
Old Sword Subject Divider
From: https://www.clevelandart.org/art/1942.552

Jotted down a 2-12 list, 2 is always a Wizard and 12 is always a Dragon. I rolled a bunch of times, putting results into rooms and the place made sense – an ecology was developing. It was nothing complicated but enough to understand what was in each area and how it was all interacting. I had a haunted dungeon with a Mirror Demon in its depths. There were constructs guarding certain rooms and giant beetles who had been summoned by recent adventurers and then abandoned. There were questions I didn’t have answers to and that was fine.

It was a mess. I liked it but I still wasn’t sure how to describe anything. What did the floor feel like? What were the doorways like?

Random tables are world-building.

Old Sword Subject Divider
From: https://www.clevelandart.org/art/1942.552

I made a mad-libs with the following:

This place was made by the BLANK when they were at war with the BLANK.

It was re-purposed by the BLANK, when they were on the run from the BLANK.

When we got together to game, I asked everyone to roll on the d66 chargen table that we used to make characters, continuing to use it for world-building. Since the game was set up to celebrate Ken helping me get the mailbox up, he rolled twice.

This place was made by the Wizard Hunters when they were at war with the Sorcerers of the Academy of Doors.

It was re-purposed by the Lonesome Monarch, when they were on the run from the Zoanthropists.

Now I can see this place clearly. Love it. Mad libs and the d66 chargen table it is from here on in. I am going to make random tables with solid world-building and cool choices. If a boring result occurs, the table was made poorly. If something doesn’t make sense, we haven’t applied science-fantasy Troikan! logic to it hard enough or waited until the answer becomes clear.

In future uses of the d66 table as a mad libs dungeon/world building tool, I’ll use the character concept’s equipment for treasure ideas.

Old Sword Subject Divider
From: https://www.clevelandart.org/art/1942.552

Troika! is fun. I might replace a few of the choices on the d66 chart rolled for chargen. A few feel off to me. I house-ruled the damage roll away, using the higher of the 2d6 to-hit dice as the damage result. The initiative system is really fun. We used some Campaign Coins and a dice bag. Next time I’ll throw the bag around and ask everyone to take a pick to decide who goes next.

My favorite cover by Better Legends

The way characters learn skills is fun and fast. I love learning systems in games. When the players met a Wizard-Robot (a robot made to look like a wizard) the Wizard Hunters had used for training, it taught the necromancer how to fire the laser pistol the ghost nun had given her in return for a successful therapy session and it taught the petulant teen with six swords on his back to use those swords a bit better. The way to make a ruling on that to make it happen was clear with the rules scaffolding given.

The real question is, how long until I write up my own d66 tables and start making my own Troika! hack. I can feel its pull.

Old Sword Subject Divider
From: https://www.clevelandart.org/art/1942.552

How’d the game go in the mirror-demon haunted Wizard Hunter enclave turned Lonesome Monarch hideaway? When Charlotte said, “I didn’t think I would be learning how to fire a laser pistol given to me by a ghost nun,” I considered it a win. Those are the kinds of sentences this kind of science-fantasy generates so beautifully, piercing the gloom like the Nunslinger’s pistol’s blue laser bolts.

The petulant teen with 6 swords on his back sat on the magic artifact that the Sky Monarchs had used to travel the worlds and see the sunsets and starscapes of a thousand thousand skies – the Throne of Winds.

The wind asked, “Where do you want go, Sky Monarch?”

The runaway Temple Knight of Telak the Swordbringer replied, “Someplace cool.”

The next game is taking place in the Temple of Ten Thousand Swords.


Blog of Judd Karlman from Daydreaming about Dragons

Imbalances in the Outlands, Session 2, A Balanced Deal with a Heaping Side of Lore

Imbalance in the Outlands / Session 1: The Golden Hills

In which the Sigil 6 broker a deal between Garl Glittergold and the Elder Ring Druids while also digging up some intense lore concerning their patron, The Lady of Pain.

Who are the Sigil 6 – Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier and what have they been up to?

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

    Our last session ended with the group figuring out that the Gnomish cleric there to guide them was in fact Garl Glittergold. Some genius thought to ask him about the Lady of Pain and Garl spilled.

    The God of the Gnomes hemmed and hawed. Was that me role-playing or me stalling for time? I’m honestly not sure. I’ve been daydreaming a bit about the Lady of Pain but I wasn’t sure if I had enough to satisfying this crew.

    Garl told them that whatever secrets she had, he bet that she had them buried in the Maze, her inter-dimensional prison/labyrinth where the majority of the Sigil 6 wandered for 15 years. “And what’s more, I think she wants people to know her secret. She wants someone to find out. I think she puts people there who she thinks have a shot at figuring it out.”

    Jusko asked if they had seen anything, something that might hint at what is hidden there. I asked him to tell me more about what kind of things he’s looking for and he gave me enough. They realized that an area of the Maze they had avoided had a cyclopean beast of some kind imprisoned. Then Bugwump dropped this amazing line, “Of course whatever is down there is something that can diminish her. Isn’t that obvious? We keep it imprisoned by keeping balance in the planes.”

    I asked the player to roll Arcana (knowing Bugwump has ZANY bonuses to that skill), “Wait, does Bugwump know what is down there? It kinda sounds like he does.” He did; it is the last of the living Primordials, thrown down there by the Gods during the First War, held in place by the spinning of the Planes. Now they know.

    “There is a half-dead world where the gods are dead and they worship elementals. Magic is cursed and blights the land; it is a shithole. That place might have clues about this Primordial. I’m warning you. This place makes Ravenloft look like a vacation.”

    Garl suggested that if they wanted to learn deep lore, they should talk to Callarduran Smoothhands, emissary to the Deep Gnomes. “He knows secrets.”

    Failed Soldier Legend Lore’d the Golden Acorns and realized they would grow to become Angelic Treants and their roots would hold off an apocalypse for a while when they landed and sunk their roots into a dying world.

    They brokered a deal between the Druids and Garl, despite Garl trying his damnedest to get them to slaughter them all. The druids, as it turned out, are in an recently found order created by a Tree God from the party’s past, when they stopped a god feud but left the dead world’s Tree God alive. That Tree God is vengeful and its druids go into dying worlds and save whatever they can – people, art, magic, ideas, etc.

    Garl will get first pick of treasure on any world where the angelic treants grown from his golden acorns are helpful. It is a pretty damned good deal and makes the world more complicated and interesting. LOVE it.

    Did Kuru steal an acorn? Yes, he did. Rolled to see if Garl noticed. 2. Nope, he did not notice.

    Garl warned them that the Innistrad Vampires offered him a lost knife of his, lost during an ancient war with the kobolds, if he would use his illusions to send the Sigil 6 into a trap. “They want you bad, bad enough to contact and try to bribe a god.”

    DM’s Notes: Gaming with these folks is just fun, dammit.

    Next Game: Next week we’ll either do another Imbalance or head over to Gloomwrought.

    Sigil 6 Subject Divider

    Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated, Session 2 – Awaken Thrilling Horror

    Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated, Session 2 – Awaken Thrilling Horror

    Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated

Dungeons & Dragons

Weird Science,


& Gothic fantasy!

Ripped from the 
pages of
Van Richten’s Guide to

With Art by Storn A. Cook

Who is the Horned Man following Killian and what is the Asmodeen Personal Security Firm? 

learn the nature of Killian and Lady's Relationship!

Ludendorf. Bastion of Weird Science. Frigid. Cruel and getting more cruel. 

Talis & Viktor’s third case, The Bone Key, with the Kranev Investigative Guild Concludes.

“I'm sorry, cousin. I saw your way of life as you getting away with something,”
- Baroness Maja von aubreker.

    Inspired by the Unscene from Jason Cordova’s amazing Victorian horror RPG, The Between, I start each session with some kind of flavorful scene within Ludendorf (while they are in Ludendorf). This week the constables mobilized their municipal flesh construct, metal bars reinforcing its fists and armor all over its monstrous frame, directing it to knock down the locked and barred door to a drug lab. The lab’s guards let loose a volley of bullets, all absorbed with barely audible grunts, by the construct, who the constables hid behind, before running down the drug-makers with clubs. Elsewhere, parliamentarians discussed broadening the Flesh Rights laws so that felons would be altered by science to show the world their crimes.

    When I started that description, the constables had pistols but Storn asked some good questions and Jeff offered suggestions and it led to an interesting discussion on these kinds of alchemical pistols and their reliability and use. We decided the door-kickers wouldn’t have firearms for this kind of gig. The possible law changes in Lamordia were clearly inspired by China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station.

    “One which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature and awaken thrilling horror - one to make the reader dread to look around, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart. If I did not accomplish these things, my ghost story would be unworthy of its name.”
― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

    When we last left our stalwart investigators, they were about to meet up near the apartment where Killian and Valentia were having their dalliance. A mysterious blue man in a black suit with black horns atop his head, was also waiting nearby, though he hadn’t noticed them yet.

    They were looking at the Tiefling as he sipped tea and waited, trying to figure out his roll in all this. When Storn said, “Wait, he’s a bodyguard.” I created a new rule, where if I hear them say the right guess, we make an appropriate roll and if it over 5, they feel the cosmic tumblers slip into place and know that they are right.

    When the couple left the apartment building, dressed as mourning aristocrats, both in black veils, a plan was hatched. Talis would follow and Viktor would stay and dig into the empty apartment.

    Talis rolled poorly on this new stealth roll (the context had changed enough to warrant a new roll, even by my Burning Wheel-inspired Let it Ride standards). The high-class Tiefling bodyguard got the jump on him (clearly through sorcery) and put a hand on Talis’ back, making it clear that he’d Arcane Bolt his guts into the street if he moved.

    Cut to Viktor, who contacted the superintendent, an old man with a poorly fitted steam-powered leg, who shoveled coal into the basement furnace and fixed things around. He looked at an empty apartment, getting a feel for the layout of the rooms. The owners of the building were barristers with the Holmes & Crick Law Firm, who specialize in property law and Flesh Rights cases, offering those in poverty the ability to sell their bodies to science. I hated them already.

    Talis lied big and rolled well, explaining to the Tiefling, whose name is DeKalb, that he represented a client who was looking for a good source of corpses for experimentation. DeKalb offered his card and said he’d run it by his client; Talis suggested he leave word at the Rusty Harpoon, the sailor’s pub under their office.

    They ended up with all of the pieces they needed to wrap the case up. Viktor got a used sheepskin prophylactic from a rubbish bin in the apartment (ADDITIONAL CLIENT CHARGE: 1 silk handkerchief). There was a fridge unit with an expensive lock.

    “Storn, could you give me an Austrian Surname?”

    Storn, not knowing what it is for, “Loos…”

    “Loos Locks. I like it.”

    They assumed that grave robbing was going on, as Killian and Valentia were taking frequent trips to the expensive and fortress-like series of crypts, the Hausdervorfarhen.

    There was an interesting discussion about how to tell Viktor’s cousin, the client, Baroness Maja von Aubrecker. Talis floated some ideas about blackmailing Killian but Viktor wasn’t into it. The conversation went in and out of game, veteran gamers checking in, making sure their character’s foibles didn’t step on our friend’s toes. Good stuff.

    When they were done, walking up the stairs to the office above the pub, I asked Jeff how Viktor felt after having had a dream in which they had in fact blackmailed Killian and came away from the deed with a bag of gold, having beaten DeKalb half to death. It was good to get a grip on the character, find their borders and hear Jeff describe them.

    In the end, Maja wanted to confront Killian in the apartment where the Dalliance was occurring. They used the empty apartment as a staging ground, renting it for a few months on Maja’s dime, circumventing DeKalb, who was waiting outside.

    I find stories about jilted lovers and jealousy tedious but stories about cunning business women using baroque betrothal law that we’re all making up is cool. In the end, Killian was told that he’d be signing a variant of their 5-year-betrothal-contract, one that would leave Maja and her family very wealthy and controlling interests in the Neufurchtenburg factories. The bodies of Maja’s parents were taken out of the fridge and sent back to the crypts. Killian’s family key to the crypts, the Bone Key, was put in Maja’s care. Maja’s parents, it turned out, had pioneered a form of pneumatic seal that they had put on their own tombs, so their bodies were well preserved.

    Why did these Lamordian nobles want to be preserved so well? Maybe we’ll learn that another time.

    Had good world-building discussions, inspired by the lock and the fridge. Electro-chymical energy batteries and such. Felt very much like we were doing some quality cooperative world-building in figuring out the details of this strange streampunk nightmare.

    Case #0003L2 was closed, information handed to client with some post-case extracurricular services offered to tidy up loose ends to client’s satisfaction.

    Case #0001L2 (Missing Persons) and Case #0002L2 (Burglary) are still open cases that will be worked on in the coming days.

    No new lore was dug up about the Dark Realms, though a Tiefling bodyguard who had been an agent of the Asmodeen Personal Security Firm will likely be out of a job and Talis showed him enough empathy and kindness that he might’ve turned a future enemy into a future ally. Maybe DeKalb will stop by the offices above the Rusty Harpoon in his dapper black suit and look for some work.

    The End, with human/bat skeleton, wings fanned out.

    Kranev Investigative Guild: a group patron for one’s Ravenloft campaign

    Kranev Investigative Guild: a group patron for one’s Ravenloft campaign

    The Kranev Investigative Guild, started by Madame Celia Kranev, has offices of some type in almost every domain in the Dark Realms and Domains of Dread that have grown like a fungus around Castle Ravenloft.

    Kranev Investigative Guild
Chapterhouse Ludendorf

    Guild Type

    1. Thriving – half a dozen investigators leading teams on dozens of cases at a time in a bustling office building.
    2. Decrepite – one so-called investigator and maybe one administrator in a closet office or office/apartment, one mistake away from bankruptcy.
    3. Plucky – an up and coming investigative team or even two teams starting to take on cases
    4. Embedded – an old and venerable guildhouse that is closely linked to local governmental powers in ways that can be problematic to the casework.
    5. Abandoned – a dusty closet, sealed and condemned after a rough case that destroyed this guildhouse; if you are lucky a ghost remains to tell the tale and the archive remains intact.
    6. Faded – once it was an institution but because of retirements, losses on the job or other problems this guildhouse is a shadow of what it once was.

    Guild Contact

    1. Undercover Agent – gathering info for a case among dangerous people who don’t want their secrets in daylight, this contact will meet you in secret and will always be looking over their shoulder.
    2. Retired Investigator – someone who has seen it all and is happy to share old tales from their time solving crimes in the mists.
    3. Ghost – a dead investigator or a murder case that got solved, now they are spending time helping the guild before moving on.
    4. Brain in a Jar – they might be a science experiment gone wrong but they are also a guild contact you can throw in a bag and take with you on the case with the possibility of other psionic perks.
    5. Investigator-in-training – young, naive and full of energy, they are here to welcome you to the guild and learn about the trenches while they teach you how to navigate the office.
    6. Ezran Priest – a learned temple scholar who is here to see to your professional and spiritual needs.
    Human/Bat Hybrid Skeleton Subject Divider


    Guildhouses – every domain has a guildhouse – it might be a haunted closet above a tavern or might be a bustling office building in the ritziest plaza but it will be a place you can seek shelter for a time and round up resources.

    Friends of the Guild– the Guild has helped many people over the decades and Madame Kranev’s reputation is well known. Roll with advantage when using a Charisma check in seeking aid.

    Mists – Madame Kranev was born into a reputable Vistani clan and can often get her agents into any domain but getting out is often more tricky, especially if the case attracts the attention or ire of a Darklord.

    Old Casefiles – the Guild has gathered decades of eclectic information on all levels of society, if you are able to access the old casefiles in a branch, roll that first Research check with advantage.

    Extradition – if you are, Ezra forbid, taken by local law enforcement, it is only a matter of time before Madame Kranev wheels and deals to get you out. Surviving in the local domain’s prison system is your responsibility while those deals go down. If you should die, she will see that your remains are interred as per your intake paperwork.

    Human/Bat Hybrid Skeleton Subject Divider
    Kranev Investigative Guild
Casework Satchel

3 Pencils
Stenographer's Notebook
Compact Spyglass
Alchemical Medkit
3 Pocket Watches
Sapper's Lantern
Vial Silver-infused Holy Water
3 pieces of Chalk
Pound of Salt
5x5 Folded Butcher Paper
Van Richten's Guide to the Dark Realms, dog-eared copy
Letter to Constabulary with Barrister on Retainer's Address

What does your character add to the satchel?
    Kranev Investigative Guild Case Notes Case # Investigators: Uncovering Truth is our chosen vocation. We hold Justice closer to our hearts than Laws. Understand and own the full consequences of the final report that you will hand to the client. If found, return these pages to the nearest Kranev Chapterhouse. Any information herein is the property of the Kranev Investigative Guild. Madame Celia Kranev Investigator General and Proprietor

    If you want to read about the Kranev Investigative Guild in play: