Where’s Judd?

If you’d like blog posts sent right to your inbox, please subscribe below:

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.

I’ll update this as more comes up.

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.

Daydreaming about Dragons 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.

The Sixth Ring, a Trophy Podcast

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

World of Dungeons, Twitch.com/ACTUALPLAY


My first time getting back to Marr’d since I playtested the Dictionary of Mu almost 2 decades ago.

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.

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 below:

Curse of Strahd, Session XII, Blood and Philosophy in the Abbey of St. Markovia

Curse of Strahd, Session XII, Blood and Philosophy in the Abbey of St. Markovia

Curse of Strahd

In which Tatyanna and Serge exit via faith and love while the Sigil Six decide on their own bloody exit plans.

Session XII: Blood and Philosophy in the Abbey of St. Markovia
Human/Bat Skeleton Subject Divider

Who are Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier?

  • Last week, while the Sigil Six spoke with the angel known as The Prophet the B-Team watched the holy knight, Lady Baleron, leave Ravenloft with the ghost of her lover, Serge, through a pool at a holy shrine. Strahd knows this and is irate.

  • 3 Vampire Spawn and 3 Witches drew the team out of the abbey. The team defeated them with arcane fire, steel, cunning and holy sunlight. When the last vampire surrendered and admitted that there would be more teams, Jusko beheaded him and everyone ran to find the B-Team (they were eating soup at the Abbey).

    There were some close calls. Trundle probably saved Kuru’s life with his shield and Failed Soldier nearly fell (1HP left…).

  • The Franken-lady the angel has made to betroth Strahd and end this conflict through love, approached Bugwump after seeing him throwing arcane fire during the battle. This led to one of those amazing D&D moments, where a Frog-kin Wizard tried to explain how biological folk are made.

    The Franken-lady (she needs to name herself) is trying to figure out where to go next, what she owes the angel who created her.

  • Kuru talked to the angel while it made a new body for Failed Soldier. The Angel explained that they didn’t think Strahd was so far gone that love couldn’t save him. Kuru wasn’t turned around but he came away with more respect for the Morning Lord than he had.

    Jusko trained the villagers so that they could defend themselves.

  • Next week we begin our final approach upon Castle Ravenloft…

    We are picturing it like the helicopter approach in the beginning of Predator.

    *Long Tally Sally plays*
Human/Bat Skeleton Subject Divider


Prelude in Sigil

Questions Before Curse of Strahd

Session I Welcome to Barovia

Session II Battle of Ravenwatch

Session III Wolves and Souls

Session IV Ghosts & Bones

Session V – I fucked up numbering; there is no Episode V. 

Session VI Enter the Amber Temple

Session VII Dark Gifts

Session VIII New Wolves & Old Friends

Session IX The Execution of Kiril Stoyanovich

Session X The Crypts Under Castle Ravenloft

Session XI Plans Within Plans and the Broken Angel


In the Wake of the Sorcerer-Kings

In the Wake of the Sorcerer-Kings

Sean and I decided to play World of Dungeons (Part 1, Part 2 if you want to watch the process on youtube). We’ll be playing it tonight on the Actual Play twitch channel.

World of Dungeons with Sean and Judd / twitch.com/actualplay / Friday 11/19 / 6:30pm PST/9:30pm EST Design/Houserule as we go / What excites you about fantasy and dungeons? Smash Old School & PBTA together and we pick through the rubblel. Can you find Emmett and Pupper Cat?

In the Wake of the Sorcerer-Kings has been in my head without much detail for a while. I can find notes about the setting from years ago, notebooks from my NYC commuter days. The Sorcerer-Kings strip mined something from the earth and left, leaving their labs, weapons and experiments all over the city. Municipal delvers, who have their own labor union, go into these otherworldly portals and vaults, making them safe for the people who live in the area.

The delves have maps, either from the archives of the Sorcerer-Kings or mapping constructs sent into the delve site. I wanted an in-game excuse to hand Sean the pretty Dyson Logos maps.

We’re taking dungeons and sticking them directly into people’s homes, making a community of supportive workers around the delving trade, and looking into the ruins of an inhuman colonial menace that has picked up and left its mess behind. I can’t wait, haven’t been, this excited to game in a long time.

World of Dungeons leaves lots of room for the people playing it to make their own moves. I’m trying not to get ahead of myself, want to see how the game plays before writing up too many moves. The main things I’ve written down are details about delve sites, thoughts on various Sorcerer-Kings and those who served them, so as he discovers more about them, there is a feeling of alien depth.

Made a few things to show to Sean, something to get the first delve started with some flavor and another so we can make the setting together.

Pre-Delve Checklist
City Details

Making the city details, I couldn’t use the Apocalypse World playbooks as a guidepost (like I did in Moons of Leviathan’s Ithaca Station). This isn’t a game about a lack of resources or trying to rule over chaos. I wanted a city that felt lived in, so I made some details, hoping that they were enough for Sean to grab onto and run with. I think we’re going to be okay.

Sean’s character is a lycanthrope who lost an arm during a past delve. Had to make a lycanthropy move. I knew I wanted a situation where the character might lose control to The Beast and black out but I wanted the player to have control over when that occurred.

Rather than thinking about, How can these 2d6+something emulate what I want out of a game about delving into dangerous places that are causing problems for the community I want to think more about How can we frame this conversation to get what we want out of this game?

The move I love most in Apocalypse World is the Workspace on the old Savvyhead sheet (in the latest iteration of AW, Burned Over 2021, it is called Tinkering and is listed among the Standard Moves that go with a Workspace).

Choose which of the following your workspace includes. Choose 3: a garage, a darkroom,
a controlled growing environment, skilled labor (Carna, uy, Pamming, eg), a junkyard
of raw materials, a truck or van, weird-ass electronica, machining tools, transmitters &
receivers, a proving range, a relic of the golden age past, booby traps.
When you go into your workspace and dedicate yourself to making a thing, or to getting
to the bottom of some shit, decide what and tell the MC. e MC will tell you “sure, no
problem, but…” and then 1 to 4 of the following:
• It’s going to take hours/days/weeks/months of work.
• First you’ll have to get/build/�x/�gure out —— .
• You’re going to need —— to help you with it.
• It’s going to cost you a fuckton of jingle.
• e best you’ll be able to do is a crap version, weak and unreliable.
• It’s going to mean exposing yourself (plus colleagues) to serious danger.
• You’re going to have to add —— to your workplace �rst.
• It’s going to take several/dozens/hundreds of tries.
• You’re going to have to take —— apart to do it.
e MC might connect them all with “and,” or might throw in a merciful “or.”
Once you’ve accomplished the necessaries, you can go ahead and accomplish the thing
itself. e MC will stat it up, or spill, or whatever it calls for.

It gives the conversation structure. I ripped it off here, using it as a way to make magic items in D&D and blend it in to Traveller’s Little Black Box to reframe training here.

World of Dungeons gives us the following:

When you attempt something risky, sum 2d6
and add one of your attribute scores, based on
the action you’re taking. (The GM will tell you
some of the possible consequences before
you roll, so you can decide if it’s worth the risk
or if you want to revise your action.)
A total of 6 or less is a miss; things don’t go
well and the risk turns out badly. A total of
7-9 is a partial success; you do it, but there’s
some cost, compromise, retribution, harm, etc.
A total of 10 or more is a full success; you do
it without complications. And a total of 12 or
more is a critical success; you do it perfectly
to some extra benefit or advantage.
Skills: If you have an applicable skill, you
can’t miss. A roll of 6 or less counts as a
partial success, but with a bigger compromise
or complication than a 7-9 result.
Sometimes the GM will roll the die of fate
to see how the situation is established. Low
numbers are ill-fortune, high numbers are
good fortune (or at least not misery). The die of
fate might be rolled to establish the weather,
indicate a random NPC’s general attitude, or
to determine if a wandering monster appears.
The GM may also roll the die of fate if the PCs
take some action for which sheer chance is
the only factor in the outcome.
These rules are yours to bend to your will!
You may find it natural to expand, redact,
and modify them as you your game goes on.
We advise keeping an open mind and lively
discussion of possibilities at the table.

There isn’t much there but it is given with a wink and a nod and lots of old school D&D inspiration. The text above is the most flavorless text in the whole document. There rest is classes, equipment, names and places. Powered by the Apocalypse games (all role-playing games, really) demand rich context.

That is why I started with the Union Checklist at the start of the blog post and then moved into a list of fantasy city stuff. I wanted that feeling of a fantasy firefighter about to walk into a hot mess, participating in a labor union full of plucky adventurers trying to do right by the community in a city that was left strip-mined by inhuman monsters but life goes on. There’s work to be done.

I can’t imagine where I’m getting inspiration from that.

If you’d like to get email notifications when blog posts like this go up, please subscribe below

Check out this design and more in the Tabletop Role-Playing Games Collection…


Curse of Strahd, Session XI, Plans Within Plans and the Broken Angel

Curse of Strahd, Session XI, Plans Within Plans and the Broken Angel

Curse of Strahd

In which the team starts to plan and make plans within plans and meet the broken angel known as the The Prophet…

Session XI, Plans Within Plans and The Broken Angel
Human/Bat Skeleton Subject Divider

Who are Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier?

  • Jusko returns, new allies from the B&E into Castle Ravenloft join the group. The B-Team has some strength now (but is still the cause for many jokes.

    The Drow caution Lady Belora not to repeat her story (of being Tatyanna reborn) unless she is in a space blocking Strahd’s scrying eye. I explain that the Drow are used to operating under fear of scrying in their political House feuds.

    Jusko dreams of Strahd, who asks to enter his ancestral home in the dreamlands. They spar and look forward to the time when they will meet in battle. “I am still intrigued but soon I will become irate and you will not like it.”

  • On the way to Krezk to meet the Prophet, within Bugwump’s Leonine’s Tiny Hut, they group plots and plans. They even have a FAKE plan that they discuss in the open, about the Lady of Pain sending an army from a portal within the Amber Temple and that they are in constant contact with Sigil from within the Tiny Hut.

  • They are putting together Strahd’s weaknesses and learned of his Crystal Heart but not where he keeps it. Trundle is working on his amber box, in which he hopes to trap Strahd’s mist form. They know they want folks to run, if needed, with the teleportation stones they stole but the rest of the plan remains mirky.

  • Trundle listens to Damius tell him old Vistani tales. A few names come up in the old tales of the Vistani escaping from shadowy places: Osybus, Shami-Amourae and Tenebrous. The group considers what they have to offer the Shadow Lords who made Ravenloft in a bargain of some kind.

  • Bugwump contacts The Forgotten One, the evil archmage who inhabits the staff he got in the Tomb of Annihilation. The Forgotten One says that his power will work against Strahd but it is now easier for the staff to take over Bugwump; his Charisma save of 20 to not be possessed by the Forgotten One will now be at a Disadvantage should he use the staff’s charges.

    The Forgotten One suggests that Bugwump is merely a Clone of the original Arch-Mage, a way to avoid the Lady of Pain’s sentence into the Maze. Bugwump is a bit rattled… (I’ve been waiting to drop that theory for MONTHS).

  • They arrive in, hear the Burgomaster Krezkov’s sad tale, having just lost his child to a disease; Jusko awkwardly drops gold into the man’s hand. Then they go into the Abbey, where they can hear someone playing violin.

    Inside is The Prophet (the Abbot in the book, if you are a Curse of Strahd fan following along at home) who is trying to teach a Flesh Golem how to dance. It doesn’t take long for the group to hear the angel’s plan to reform Strahd through love; it is a bad plan. The angel believes the Flesh Golem is a perfect human. The Frankengal is awkward and frightened.

    Kuru sees the angel’s terrifying true form (Biblical sphere with a thousand eyes and countless wings) with the Gem of True seeing. The mongrel-person violinist skulks away.

    The Prophet agrees to make Failed Soldier a new, perfect body…

  • They had left the B-Team (a Ranger and his Huntress wife, a Cleric of Portals, a young Vistani lad, a werewolf, a Drow assassin, a Drow fighter, and their Chultan Ranger guide – and the Dire Wolves who follow Helewynn about) out in the village where they got up to shenanigans. As I thought about the map of the town and what they could get up to, I knew what was going to happen and I laughed to myself.

    As they were talking to the Prophet, the clouds grew darker and a storm closed in. Lightning struck nearby and thunder seemed to hold Strahd’s own voice; the Drow Assassin charged in, “You won’t believe what just happened…”

Human/Bat Skeleton Subject Divider

If you would like to get an email notification when blog posts like this go up, please subscribe below:


Prelude in Sigil

Questions Before Curse of Strahd

Session I Welcome to Barovia

Session II Battle of Ravenwatch

Session III Wolves and Souls

Session IV Ghosts & Bones

Session V – I fucked up numbering; there is no Episode V. 

Session VI Enter the Amber Temple

Session VII Dark Gifts

Session VIII New Wolves & Old Friends

Session IX The Execution of Kiril Stoyanovich

Session X The Crypts Under Castle Ravenloft

The End

Pitching Games

Sean and I got together on the Actual Play Twitch Channel (part 1 and part 2 embedded below) and it seemed like a good time to blog about this gaming tradition – agreeing on a game.

True Sword Science Fantasy Subject Divider

For some groups this process is easy but once you get a table full of opiniated game designers it can get difficult. And here’s the thing, if you paly these games long enough, you’ll likely become an opiniated game designer – like staring into the abyss too long and the abyss staring back.

If the game has a situation baked in, no need to make one. For Band of Blades, I don’t get creative, I just say, “Want to play Band of Blades? It is a fantasy military RPG inspired by Black Company.”

If the game doesn’t have a pitch, I’ll bake something in. I’m not going to just say, “Want to play a D&D game in the Forgotten Realms.” I’d rather say, “How about a game about searching for the Ring of Winter up and down the Sword Coast?” or “How about a game about hunting down Zhentarim spies in the Dalelands?”

Honestly, one my favorite kinds of game pitches is, “Hey, I’m running X game on Y time. If you can make it, please do. If not – that is totally cool; we’ll let you know when we’re playing a different game or at a different time. My other favorite kind of game is a group of friends in a house together on a rainy day, just making up characters based on a loose idea and going. In these pandemic days, friends all together on a rainy dayfeels like even more like a fantasy.

One last pitch thought – be loose with it. The initial pitch might change from what you thought it would be through the process of creating characters. As long as everyone remains excited and their characters are still relevant that is great.

What did we decide on?

If you’d like to get email notifications when new blog posts go up, please subscribe below:

Curse of Strahd, Session X, The Crypts Under Castle Ravenloft

Curse of Strahd, Session X, The Crypts Under Castle Ravenloft

Curse of Strahd

In which Jusko leads a team of strangers whose lives have been brutally damaged by Strahd into the crypts under Ravenloft in order to rescue Aldjo’s wife.

Session X, The Crypts Under Castle Ravenloft

Who is Jusko?

Bat/Human Skeleton Subject Divider
  • 2 players were missing, which is rare for this group, so we had Jusko run into a group of level 3 strangers. Gotta say, D&D Beyond made it easy to make up characters to hand out.

    Lady Baleron, self-made Paladin, is Tatyanna Re-born, vaguely remembering her many lives in this prison.

    Istebin, Monk, last of the Ulmist Inquisitors, who has died trying to kill Strahd countless times and can barely remember his homeland.

    Gadaar, Druid, branded and tongueless for betraying his evil Druidic Order, realizing that this world is not right and needs fixing.

  • Had a bit of a warm-up fight with some thugs from the castle. Jusko and Aldjo were there to find Aldjo’s wife but the thugs in Castle Ravenloft livery were putting up a notice that she had been arrested for sedition. I was going to make this first fight against Vampire Spawn but I didn’t want it to run that long and didn’t want to kill the entire party by accident. I was second-guessing myself a bunch tonight.

    The player characters decimated them and got to be cool and feel out these new characters. I stand by the decision.

  • I used to hand NPC roles to players whose characters weren’t involved in the scene when I played Ars Magica in college. I forgot what a delight it could be. The way the players unveiled their secrets and their presentation was amazing and they made very different choices than I did. It was a nice change of pace.

  • Jusko asked the group to a nearby hill to get out of the village and discuss their options. Lady Baleron remembered a secret entrance into the crypts, leading to Strahd’s parents’ tomb. In they went…

  • Tense dungeon-crawling and marking traps with chalk. They made their way through a secret tunnel, Jusko saved Aldjo from falling into a chute trap. They made their way into a room with an arcane teleportation device. Lady Baleron rolled so well on her Wisdom check that I said she had helped install this device. They knew how it worked and stole all of the stones.

    From the Observation Deck, down into the torture chamber and through the hall. Finally…the dungeon…

  • They could hear Strahd talking to Aldjo’s wife, Barushka. “Do you think they will come and try to save you?”

    “No, they are an Outlands Expedition Team; they’re professionals. They are gathering allies to come here and put you down.”

    “I hope so. Saving you would be so boring and predictable. I am flattered to have Sigil’s attention. We’ll see…”

    Some chatter with Emil about werewolf stuff and he turned to mist. They couldn’t see any other way for him to leave the room. I asked them what they were going to do in case he left down the hallway they were standing in.

  • Lady Baleron used Divine Sense to make sure they were clear. Usually, this would be no big deal, just a small detail but it ended up changing the adventure entirely.

    I was considering having Barushka betray the group. I knew that she and Aldjo had bonded over both having children who were lost somewhere in the Demi-Plane of Dread’s Domains. Perhaps Strahd offered to find her lost child. But if she had decided to do that, wouldn’t the Paladin notice the evil? I didn’t mention that Barushka was evil.

    Or is Barushka not evil until she actually DOES it?

    I decided that it wasn’t cool to penalize Lady Baleron for playing smart and looking around for undead and evil. Barushak considered it but at the last instant, she decided not to do it.

    Maybe it is more interesting that she was tempted and didn’t do it. We’ll see.

    Despite the lack of a final twist, it was a fun, tense night.

  • Having freed the imprisoned werewolf, Emil, they made their way out of the crypts. Lady Baleron, Aldjo and Barushka used the teleportation device to get to the Amber Temple and would meet up with the rest of the team later.

    Brother Estabin used Shadow Arts and they got out quietly.

  • Running big dungeons is not, nor has it ever been, my strong suit. I need to break the rest of Castle Ravenloft into bite-sized pieces so I can DM navigating it better. Still. it was a fun, tense night with lots of great rolls and players spending everything they had to keep from failing a roll that could get them found.

Bat/Human Skeleton Subject Divider

If you’d like to receive email notification when new posts are made, please subscribe below:


Prelude in Sigil

Questions Before Curse of Strahd

Episode I Welcome to Barovia

Episode II Battle of Ravenwatch

Episode III Wolves and Souls

Episode IV Ghosts & Bones

Episode V – I fucked up numbering; there is no Episode V. 

Episode VI Enter the Amber Temple

Episode VII Dark Gifts

Episode VIII New Wolves & Old Friends

Episode IX The Execution of Kiril Stoyanovich

Bat/Human Skeleton Subject Divider
A quick and embedded Starless Elf

A quick and embedded Starless Elf

You know that feeling when you’ve been sitting on an Underdeeps for years and a friend calls and says they’re hungry for gaming so you grab World of Dungeons and…

Dagger Subject Divider

Starless elves, deep underground, demonic spider-queen, glittering cities, stalactite and stalagmite towers, daggers, feuding Houses, under-panthers…you get the idea.


NOTE: Why did I start with hair as a way to show social status? I have no idea. NONE.

Bald, as befits a thrall whose House was cast into the pits when you were young

What have you done recently to gain the Matron’s attention?

What do you remember of your dead House?

Equipment: All you have are you clothes and one secret belonging that you have somehow hid since you were a child, something from your doomed House.

  • Statue of a shoulder-spider or under-panther that will turn into a pet for a time
  • A dagger made of volcanic glass with a white-gold hilt
  • A signet ring with your family’s sigil
  • A cloak that allows you to walk from one mirror to another as if they are all connected.

NOTE: Wait, is the mirror cloak just WAY cooler than anything else by a longshot?

Affiliations: When you choose a city, choose which Affiliation still owes your dead House a favor, another that despises you as appropriate and a third that has a family spy hidden within it who still holds your family in esteem.

Dagger Subject Divider

Braided rows or short in the front, long in the back, as befits one of the Matron’s trained knives

The Matron has entrusted you with a dangerous errand. What scares you about it?

Who within your House hopes that you fail?

Equipment: You have the finest weapons and spider-silk armor made in the Underdeeps. Describe what you carry with you and what you have in your spartan quarters.

You have something you stole from someone you assassinated, something you never reported to your superiors. What is it?

Affiliation: When you choose a city, choose which Affiliation helped train you, another that you fear and a third that despises you for what you have done in the name of your Matron.

Dagger Subject Divider

Veiled with one long braid, as befits a Matron of a minor house to show her bond with the Demonweb Pits

What have you done to prepare for the Mournstar Fête?

What failure within your House do you need to address before it grows like a fungus?

Equipment: You have all of the bodyguards, counselors and body doubles appropriate for a House Minor Matron – also the finest courtly fashion for your social engagements and an heirloom left to you from your Mother. Is it a bound demon, an indentured Githyanki Psion or a captured vampire assassin?

Note: The GM might make a cool checklist to decide details, strengths and weaknesses of your House. If so, cool If not you’ll figure it out in play (possible follow-up post in the spirit of Ithaca Station).

Affiliation: When you choose a city, choose which Affiliation where a trusted sibling holds power, another where a rival holds power and a third whose relationship with your House balances on the edge of a knife.

Dagger Subject Divider

Unbound, as befits a traveler, delver and guide

Will you look for work as a caravan leader for a scrappy House Minor, find some civic adventurer’s guild to delve with or take a job as one of the rangers in a House Major’s entourage?

What secret did you leave in the tunnels during your last journey?

Equipment: A steed that is either a Spider or a Dinosaur. Choose one – name and describe it.

A well worn crossbow, a pair of named axes (name them!) and a dagger for your boot.

Affiliation: When you choose a city, choose which Affiliation knows of your fine work and respects it, which one is the vocation of an estranged but still loved sibling and a third who want revenge for your actions.

Dagger Subject Divider
Under Ground Cities / Spider Goddess Shrines, gnomish illusionsists, feuding nigh-immortal matrons / Starless elves, cave bears, & mushroom beasts


What city do you come from? Choose one and we will begin the game there after you choose your affiliations:

Kitji-Naal: Two cities divided by an underground river and ruled by twin matriarchs who rarely meet, but communicate via magical mirrors. The city is the largest and most populated city in the underdark; its politics are a convoluted mess of ancient feuds, assassin’s knives and inter-House warfare.

Exports: Poisons, Assassins-for-hire, spider-silk, books


  • Congress of Knives and Poison
  • Demonweb Nuns
  • Spider-Shepherd’s Guild
Dagger Subject Divider

Eämbar: A newly founded city that is a port, connected to the ocean by a series of complicated crystal locks that link Eämbar to the ocean’s crushing depths. All manner of undersea sentients can been seen on the city streets, sometimes in specially made tanks of water pushed by servants.

The matriarch is the youngest to ever hold the title and the most renowned sword in the underdeeps.

Exports: Fish, undersea crafts, spider-silk crystal


  • Diplomatic League
  • Sea Cult
  • Matriarch’s Council
Dagger Subject Divider

Endë-Osto: The deepest city of the Starless Elves and is considered by many to be the capital, is ruled by the eldest matriarch whose throne is said to float weightless in the center of the earth. Her queensguard is made of the most cunning of the Starless Elf sword-maidens, who ride dinosaur steeds bred for battle. The city is in a hollow-earth with a bruise-purple sun, said to have been created at the height of the Illithid Empire.

Exports: vegetables, dinosaur steeds and ranger-guides


  • Queensguard
  • Psionic Temple
  • Rangers’ Sibhood
Dagger Subject Divider

If you would like to be notified when ideas like this are published on Githyanki Diaspora subscribe below:


Pistols in Blades in the Dark


Templeton and Slane are the high-end pistols marketed towards Brightstone home owners who want to, as the duo say when they are selling their wares door to door, “keep scoundrels out of their parlor.” Each pistol is made to order for their owner. Misters Templeton and Slane spend one week a month taking orders, often giving sale salons. After a week of taking orders, they spend the next three months or more making the pistols for those who have purchased their wares.

As Mr. Slane is fond of saying, “You won’t find a Templeton and Slane pistol in any Crow’s Foot canals.” Surely rumors that these gunsmiths pay off Bluecoats to keep their work out of the press are slanderous attempts to tarnish their reputations by their jealous rivals.

Bloody Subject Divider

Ace Karderra was a scoundrel who died in Ironhook. His daughters took up his vocation and make the pistols and rifles scoundrels with extra coin depend on for their trade. As the eldest sister, Grace Karderra says of their best selling Quadshot, “This is for the scoundrel who brings a pistol to a knife fight.”

Bloody Subject Divider

The Imperial Standard Issue Pistol, stamped with I.I. for Imperial Issue is often called the “Emperor’s Disappointment” from its initial design goal of empowering officers to shoot deserters in battle. No official Imperial statistics are available but it is commonly thought that pistol bullets have killed more Imperial grunts trying to retreat than Imperial enemies.

Since the Unity War ended, pieces of these pistols are all over Doskvol. It is rare to find one entirely made of its original Imperial Issue parts and there are back-alley gunsmiths who can turn any pieces into some kind of weapon – from a club or blackjack to an actual pistol. Inspector Ametha said, “If all Imperial Issue pistols were to be suddenly taken out of the canal, the water levels would go down so far the canal barges might need wheels.”

Bloody Subject Divider

To get blog posts like this emailed to you as soon as they are published, please subscribe below:

I have ambivalent feelings about having guns in my fantasy gaming. In a vain effort to balance the above post out, here are links to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and Stop Handgun Violence.

This doesn’t feel like enough. If not, I’ll do more.

Curse of Strahd, Session IX, The Execution of Kiril Stoyanovich

Curse of Strahd, Session IX, The Execution of Kiril Stoyanovich

Curse of Strahd (with bats)

In which a werewolf is beheaded, a sword is lit and a plan is tossed aside.

Session IV / The Execution of Kiril Stoyanovich

Who are Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier?

Human/Bat Skeleton Subject Divider
  • I have seen it in a thousand reddit posts on DM’s Academy. “The bridge spanning the chasm is broken but one of the players has wings. What do I do so the flying player can’t be cool for a moment?”

    Toss aside your plan and let the player with wings be cool.

  • The werewolves and their wolves were sprinting after the distant camp where a pair of Drow, a pterodactyl and Damius, a young Vistani Mist-Walker guide awaited.

  • Bugwump and Jusko jumped on their Chultan guide’s pterodactyl to get there first. Helewynn ordered her Dire Wolf pack to allow her friends to ride them (Persuasion 18) to the camp.

    Lots of talking and chatter during the trip. The table was in a chipper mood tonight; it was nice.

  • Helewynn’s player, B, is new to D&D; this is their first game. B always comes up with amazing plans and thinks outside the box in combat. Helewynn rarely ever just hits someone without a cool description or a strategic move that changes the course of the battle. It is amazing.

    B had discussed trying to get Bugwump to use fire magic to melt down Helewynn’s silver chainmail to coat their werewolf’s claws in silver. There was no time but it is an awesome idea. Never stop thinking outside the box, B.

  • Jusko asks to be dropped right in the hedge-gap, where the pack will have enter the camp. Bugwump casts Haste upon him, “As no wizard has ever done before; I cast Haste on the fighter.”

  • The pack Alpha, Kiril Stoyanovich, the one Helewynn’s Wolf Spirit told her she would likely die if she attempted to defeat in battle for pack supremacy, reached Jusko first. Jusko tapped his helm visor down with the pommel of his vorpal sword and got his shield ready.

    First roll.


    And so ended Kiril Stoyanovich, Barovian Pack’s Alpha, who believed Mother Night had blessed and ordained Strahd with all of the Night’s Power.

  • I rolled a Wisdom Save for the rest of the pack. What did I roll?

    You can guess. Hell, you already know.

    Rolled a 1. Wolf thinking, “Well, shit.”

    The remaining werewolves ran; Jusko kicked their late alpha’s head at them and slashed at one in a burst of arcane speed.

  • The borders are closed. They can’t mist-walk their way out. They consider getting to a border and seeing if Kuru’s magic-cutting knife can cut through. Damius, the other Mist-Walker, asks if the knife is a mighty artifact; it is not.

    Now what?

  • Helewynn talked to the Sunsword, who appeared as Strahd’s brother, Sergei von Zarovich. The sword suggested luring Strahd outside the castle with his beloved or the Book of Strahd, either one would inspire a wrathful pursuit.

    “If you plan to run into the Mists, leave me here for a warrior who will confront the Devil Strahd, so I can do what I was made to do…” The sword also said that Jusko’s vorpal blade had killed more people than 100 Strahd’s…

  • The group debates inside Bugwump’s Leomund’s Tiny Hut. Rahadin approaches with an invitation from Strahd. Jusko tries to get her to lash out but she does not.

    Strahd’s letter, in which I misspelled bounadries

    Lots of jokes about Strahd’s proofreader being out of town or dead or the Olde Barovian spelling of boundary. I joined in. It was funny as hell.

    They are not taking Strahd up on his invitation.

  • The other Outlands Expedition Team has been dubbed, The B Team. Their Ranger, Aldjo, married a woman he met in the village of Barovia. The debate was whether or not to go get her or head northwest and find the Prophet (the re-named Abbot if you are following at home). Adjo insisted that they go northwest and Jusko realized the ranger thought she was already dead.

    The game ended with Jusko and Aldjo jumping on a Jusko’s pterodactyl, lovingly named, Stupid Dragon, and heading for Barovia while Kuru followed along yelling, “BUT YOU’LL NEED STEALTH AND I’M THE STEALTHY ONE!”

    Hence the title of our next game…

  • Next Session: Into the Devil’s Lair

    Strahd’s face in the dark side of a waning moon with a pterodactyl rider’s shadow in the bright part of the moon

    Two players will be out of town so three players will be playing NPC’s as Jusko heads into the shadow of the Castle Ravenloft…

  • “But Judd,” you say, “this is a horror game and everyone was laughing…isn’t that a problem?”

    No, not at all. We don’t play characters with punny names and goof around all night but laughter is part of the game. I would even argue that laughter is a natural result of tension and this game has been dark for weeks. Not saying that we’ve never laughed in past weeks but this session felt like a release valve. If you want to hear more about pterodactyls in Ravenloft, I talk about it on my podcast, Daydreaming about Dragons.

Human/Bat Skeleton Subject Divider



Prelude in Sigil

Questions Before Curse of Strahd

Episode I Welcome to Barovia

Episode II Battle of Ravenwatch

Episode III Wolves and Souls

Episode IV Ghosts & Bones

Episode V – I fucked up numbering; there is no Episode V. 

Episode VI Enter the Amber Temple

Episode VII Dark Gifts

Episode VIII New Wolves & Old Friends

The End

Curse of Strahd, Session VIII, New Wolves & Old Friends

Curse of Strahd / Session VIII / New Wolves & Old Friends

In which we see Werewolf politics, exit plans, scouting the Mist and Chultan pterodactyls in Barovia…

Bat/Human Skeleton Subject Divider

Who are Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier?

  • The team debated going after Strahd or just leaving now that Trundle can Mistwalk. They decided to grab their friend’s wife in the village of Barovia and get out of Ravenloft.

  • Trundle and Bugwump step into the mists. Trundle realizes that he can trap the mist (and possibly vampire mist) in an amber container if the make of it is fine enough. The ranger realizes that moving through the Mist is moving through something that is quite alive. Bugwump knows the Mist is sentient and malevolent.

    “This method of travel should not be taken lightly.”

  • Meanwhile, Helewynn turns into werewolf form and howls a challenge to Barovia’s werewolf pack. A Dire Wolf approaches and says that it will pass on the message but it will take a while.

    Long story short – Helewynn takes over the Dire Wolf pack (while Jusko and Kuru watch in awe) and sends two wolves northward to tell the pack that an Emissary of Mother Night (another name for her Moon Goddess) has come.

  • Kiril Stoyanovitch and his wolf pack meet them in the Standing Stone in the Berez Ruins. Helewynn cannot convince them that Strahd is not the annointed of Mother Night.

    “If not, why is he the strongest when the moon rises? Why can none stand against him and live? Why do even the Druids agree that Strahd is the Land and the Land is Strahd?”

    They part ways, Kiril hopes to meet her again some day…

  • During Kuru’s watch, he sees a pterodactyl, like the ones they flew in Chult. It was their guide from Chult, Tefnek. Turns out, their Sigil City Agent, the drider, Quarace Arkenrae, sent a team to get them out of Ravenloft. She plane-shifted a team of Drow, a Vistani and Tefnek with several pterodactyls to Gloomwrought and from there the Vistani Mist-Walked them through the Shadowfell to Barovia.

  • As Tefnek explains that Kuru had cut the chords of their portal and it was inoperable, their Vistani guide could walk them out. As she says that, Trundle feels the borders of the domain slam shut as Strahd hears their escape plan. Up until that point, he didn’t know that Trundle was a Mist-Walker (and he still doesn’t).

  • They heard Kiril’s werewolf pack howl in the distance. Helewynn knows it is the howl of a pack on a hunt sent as an order from Strahd himself. Next session we’ll start with a mad dash to save the team sent to save the team that was sent in to save the team.

    Waxing moon, howling wolf outline. Pterodactyl visible in the moon.
  • Am I the type of nerd who writes a 1500 word story about an NPC who is working in the background to support the PC’s?

    Yes, I am.

    Am I the type of nerd who would make a book cover with canva?

    Yes, I am.

Bat/Human Skeleton Subject Divider

If you want to get emailed notification when posts like this are published on this blog, please subscribe below:

These designs and more in the Science Fiction Collection:

Bat/Human Skeleton Subject Divider


Prelude in Sigil

Questions Before Curse of Strahd

Episode I Welcome to Barovia

Episode II Battle of Ravenwatch

Episode III Wolves and Souls

Episode IV Ghosts & Bones

Episode V – I fucked up numbering; there is no Episode V. 😛

Episode VI Enter the Amber Temple

Episode VII Dark Gifts

Human/Bat Skeleton THE END
Sincerely, Tatyanna

Sincerely, Tatyanna

Adventurers, Monster Hunters, Zealots, Tomb Robbers, Treasure-Seekers and Heroic Fools,

Welcome to Ravenloft. I have lived many lives here and remember most of them.

Most know me because the monster known as Count Strahd von Zarovich desires me. Many might know that when Strahd built Castle Ravenloft he called forth many wizards and architects to build a castle his mother would be proud to inhabit. Few know that I was among those learned folk. I was an up-and-coming wizard who had written on demi-planar mechanics. The act of using magic to create liminal spaces such as in Leomund’s Tiny Hut, Bags of Holding and Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Mansion was my passion and specialty.

Three books and more than a dozen well cited scrolls on demi-planar mechanics all went out the window after I fell to my death running from Strahd on my wedding day after he butchered beautiful Sergei. Sergei was to be my groom; we were going to leave Barovia after the honeymoon and live in Sigil, so I could continue my studies in an urban academic community. He was hoping to join an Outlands Expedition Team.

I have lost count of how many times my soul has been churned out into another life in the mists of Ravenloft. I realize that some powerful entities from the Shadowfell have created a demi-plane to imprison monsters. I know that much.

You might think that a monster like Strahd being locked up is a good thing and makes the planes a safer place. Once I might have agreed with you. The problem is that the prison has become a hungry sentient creature. The prison craves power and the only way prisons gain power is by having more prisoners. A beast with this kind of hunger doesn’t just imprison monsters; it creates monsters so that it can have more kept here against their will under its fell mists.

The Demi-Plane of Dread does not care about justice. Many of us survivors are imprisoned here too. You might say that we are here to cause the monster pain but I never asked to spend lifetimes torturing a murderous parasite.

If you should kill Strahd, I hope I am next to you in battle. If not, seek me out in whatever incarnation Ravenloft’s Mists have seen fit to put me in (probably buxom with good hair). It would be my pleasure to shovel the hole at the crossroads in which we bury his head. But know that when we kill the Devil-Strahd, as the Vistani call him, our work is not over. The only way to truly do good is to abolish this prison, disperse the mists so that its powers are sent out among the planes and this cycle of suffering can end.

Sincerely, Tatyanna in cool gothic font

If you want to get emailed notification when posts like this are published on this blog, please subscribe below:

These designs and more in the Science Fiction Collection: