Who are the Sigil 6 and what are they up to?

Who are the Sigil 6 and what are they up to?

Real World Origin Story

When the pandemic had just begun my friend got the flu. We had no idea if he had covid or what that might mean. As everything closed down, I called him and asked if he needed me to grab something from the pharmacy or the grocery store and leave it on his front steps. He said, “No, I’ve got that covered. Could you run a game online?”

“Damn right I can.”

That was more than two years ago and we’re still going. We played Trophy Gold for a while and had an amazing time. Then we started with Five Torches Deep and eventually settled into D&D 5e. Character descriptions and links to our AP blog posts are below.

The Sigil 6: Outlands Expedition Team
Made with assets from Thomas Novosel's patreon: https://www.patreon.com/thomasno?fan_landing=true
and Feral Indie Studio's amazing products: https://feral-indie-studios.itch.io/

Made with assets from Thomas Novosel’s patreon: https://www.patreon.com/thomasno?fan_landing=true
and Feral Indie Studio’s amazing products: https://feral-indie-studios.itch.io/

Who are they?

Most of the team met when the Lady of Pain sentenced them into the Maze, a kind of otherworld prison sideways to Sigil. The group was in there for 15 years until the Lady of Pain pulled them out and asked them to serve Sigil as an Outlands Expedition Team, defending imbalances in the Outlands. The team is ambivalent about their mysterious and otherworldly patron.

Logo, Outlands Expedition Team / Deputized by The Lady of Pain / Clerk Ward, Sigil

Jusko Hajek

A human fighter sent to the Maze for banditry and murdering his squire; he was guilty as charged. Nowadays he’s a glorious jumble of honor, bravery and love for his friends.

DM’s Notes: Hajek was the family name of Drew’s character in our old Burning Wheel game; it is a nice tip of the hat. The Hajek family is burning there in the background.

Some of my favorite of Drew’s decisions is when he uses Hajek to highlight the greatness of the other characters.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Bugwump

Bugwump is a crotchety, frog-kin wizard. When the campaign began, it seemed like he had been put into the Maze for petty reasons but then John mentioned that Bugwump had been an Arch-mage with an eye towards deity-hood and conquest who had his powers stripped when he was sent Maze-ward. It was suggested to Bugwump that perhaps he is only a clone of the powerful Arch-Mage he remembers and that thought still haunts him.

DM’s Notes: Whenever we meet a famous wizard or lich I ask John if Bugwump knew this person when he was an Arch-Mage. As mentioned in a previous blog post, this arch-magery is a gift.

John does cool stuff in making Bugwump’s magic very amphibian and unique through his descriptions.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Trundle

A Dwarf Ranger who makes arcane carvings out of wood, eschewing his stone and iron heritage. The Holdfast where he was raised was besieged by Abyssal forces, a detail I haven’t delved into nearly enough. Trundle took up the holy symbol of a Dwarven priest of portals and became a Mist-Walker while in Barovia.

DM’s Notes: Trundle isn’t a power-house in combat but Teo boxes clever with him and he often pulls out the wild card that ends up saving the team.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Kuru

A Halfling Rogue (Arcane Trickster) who took the fall for a heist gone wrong. Sometimes Kuru has lots of heart and other times he ends a problem with a ruthless backstab before it can escalate. The town where he was raised was a kind of ninja-enclave.

While in Barovia Kuru earned the nickname, Kuru Heartbreaker, after destroying Strahd’s crystal heart artifact with a Wand of Lightning Bolts.

Spirit Costume meme with pic of actor who played Bilbo, in costume, double flipping off the camera.

TEXT: Kuru
Wand of Lightning Bolts
A Wild-ass plan that just might work
Ball bearings
Something that EXPLODES

DM’s Notes: In every group there’s that one character who will jump on a dragon’s head to try to get at the dangerous beast’s eyes. Kuru is that character; Anthony is that player.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Helewynn

Helewynn joined the group later, an elf (Eldadrin) Barbarian who serves a moon goddess. She has her own strong ideas about honor. Her rage in combat will become stuff of legend and her comrades benefit from her totemic Wolf powers. While in Ravenloft, Helewynn became a werewolf, an honored caste of soldier among the Moon Goddess’ people. The werewolves, wolves and dire wolves of Barovia refer to her as the Queen of the Moon. Helewynn delivered the fatal strike against Strahd.

DM’s Notes: B is new to D&D and makes great outside-the-box combat decisions that are always interesting and fun. When I ask B a question about Helewynn’s thoughts on a topic, the response is always delightful.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Shepherd

Corpseflea (from Five Torches Deep: Origins) Grave Cleric who has left the body of a dead thief deity and is currently inahbiting the body of a flesh golem made by an angel in Ravenloft (shit got complicated and strange). Failed Soldier Shepherd has taken his desire to usher souls to their destinations when they have died. The Corpseflea has helped refugees from a dead world mourn the death of their home. Failed Soldier Shepherd inhabited the body of a dead God of Thieves from a dying world, giving the Sigil 6 access to the Godroads; now he inhabits a flesh golem made for him by the lost angel of the Morninglord in Ravenloft.

DM’s Notes: All of these characters are delightful surprising thanks to the wonderful player choices but Shepherd is a particularly odd one. Not only because he’s a mote of consciousness who can inhabit corpses but because J players them with complicated soul.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

What has the Sigil 6 been up to?

Book I: Starting in Sigil

In which we get our feet under us in the Outlands…

Revisiting Planescape

The adventures in the Outlands were supposed to ripple out into the rest of the planes of reality.

Tables for the Outlands

I don’t think of the tables as Random Encounter Tables but as Inspirational Encounter Tables.

Back in Sigil

“How do you say last rite’s over a world?”
“Maybe the same way we’d say good-bye to a dear friend…”

Not Random but Inspirational

Why did I roll these encounters? There weren’t any fights.

Feuding Gods in the Portal City of Xaos

I wrote down Water, Chaos of Limbo, Feuding Deities.

The Godroads

A few years ago I wrote some notes in a notebook about the Godroads.

Sigil with Rule of 3 Rings
Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Book II: Even Death May Die

In which the Sigil 6 travels to Chult because someone broke death.

Even Death May Die
Tomb of Annihilation as played by the Thursday Night Delving Club
made like a movie poster

Chultan Skies

They are flying on pterodactyls…

Bugwump’s Gift to the D.M.

I know that adventurers (particularly, bards) dating monsters is a kind of RPG-twitter cliche. Tonight it made a dangerous and interesting totally unbalanced encounter even more interesting.

Landing in the Lost City of Omu

Jusko was worried about the letter of introduction Vandrilla Shadowmantle gave them to give to the Red Wizards, worried they might get Rosencrantz-&-Guildenstern’d.

Wizards, Derring-do and a Legendary T-Rex

Trundle and Kuru ended up on the Queen of Feather’s head…

Robbing Yuan-ti and Contemplating Magicide.

In which Yuan-ti are robbed and multiple magicide is discussed.

Identity and the Tomb

“Who are we? Are we people who crawl into our allies’ camp and slit their throats while they sleep?”

Hit-and-Run Finale

I forgot lots of stuff in the room that would’ve made he fight harder. It was still fun, still felt epic.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Book III: Killing Strahd

In which the Sigil 6 enter a demi-planar prison to kill a legendary parasite.

Prelude in Sigil

Trundle got into the spirit of things, wearing a Devil mask and doing a public carving celebrating their last adventure…

Questions Before Curse of Strahd

Helewyn – How do you (or your Goddess) feel about lycanthropes who change shape with the full moon?

Session I Welcome to Barovia

In which the team arrives in Ravenloft and the Siege of Ravenwatch begins…

Session II Battle of Ravenwatch

Kuru, being followed by Strahd, throws a fake amulet in another direction so he can get to Jusko and turn invisible. Deception with Dex bonus; Strahd falls for the sleight of hand.

Session III Wolves and Souls

In which the Outlands Expedition Team heads to the village of Barovia and is tested by a pack of wolves.

Session IV Ghosts & Bones

Trundle, when he entered the inn, offered a prayer against fiends (his chosen enemy) in Infernal. Just a nice bit of color that I loved.

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

Session VI Enter the Amber Temple

In which the Amber Temple is entered

Session VII Dark Gifts

Chester suggested they head back to Darkon and take over. “Azalin Rex is gone; the domain is in chaos. A group like you could wreak bloody havoc and own that place.” The Team nixed this idea.

Session VIII New Wolves & Old Friends

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

Session IX The Execution of Kiril Stoyanovich

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

Session X The Crypts Under Castle Ravenloft

In which Jusko leads a team of strangers whose lives have been brutally damaged by Strahd 

Session XI Plans within Plans and the Broken Angel

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

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

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

Session XIII The Ballad of Kuru Heartbreaker

The Heart Tower was my favorite encounter that I ran pretty close to as-written.

Session XIV The Death of Strahd

In which the Sigil Six ends of the Curse of Strahd slaying the legendary vampire through sorcery, steel and cunning.

Spending the Ravenloft Fortune

I did not feel like going through the treasure in Castle Ravenloft and tallying it up…

Session XV Loose Ends and Lost Gods

Rahadin and the remaining vampires left the Domain. None are sure where they went.

Books from Castle Ravenloft’s Library

This tome was compiled by Strahd over the years, keeping track of Gloomwrought, through the reports of his messengers.

Curse of Strahd Awards

To hand out to players once the adventure is finished.

Why is Strahd a good villain?

Know that strahd died screaming in daylight.

Curse of Strahd as played by the Thursday Night Delving Club (Friendship, Laughter, Adventure)
Big moon behind a castle with bats flying...
Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Book IV: All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought

In which the Sigil 6 walk across the Shadowfell towards the City of Midnight.

All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought
In which the Sigil 6 walk through the Shadowfell

Encounters, Faction and a Map

Or as Trundle said, “We’ve done enough work for the Lady of Pain; let’s walk through the Planes a while and take our time getting back to Sigil.”

S1 Knights and Elves

They got to a bridge from the mists, over a bottomless shadow chasm, leading into the Shadowfell. 

S2 The Zombie Mob

In which the Sigil Six cross the Dread Bridge, Helewynn is given a gift by the Shadar Kai and 300 or so zombies block their path through a deserted valley.

S3 “What would the best version of yourselves do?”

I put them in an unwinnable situation and they shook their heads and said, “Fuck that.”

S4 Somewhere Between Lord Soth and the Moon

“Don’t do anything stupid unless I come running down the hill. If I do, bring all of the stupid.”

S5 Recruit Villagers, Scouting Ahead and Evading a Dragon

In which the Sigil Six recruit the villagers, scout ahead and meet a dragon in the skies.

S6 The Three Who Are One

I grabbed a Skull Lord from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes and a Zombie Clot from Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft. They are fun monsters and it was a fun, challenging fight.

The Three Who Are One
3 skulls melded together

S7 On the Salt Road

Kuru started a conversation with the Shadar Kai riders about their strategies in fighting a dragon.

“We run.”

S8 Bounty Hunters

Three things happened that turned the tide of the battle…

Moments in Actual Play

In which we look at a few moments and decisions in the game, considering the techniques at hand.

S9 The Old Githyanki Gate

Are the players interested in this job? Does it sound fun? Are the characters interested in this job? We talked it over and folks were interested.

S10 The Drow Job Prep

In which Kuru finds trouble in a Drow kitchen and the Sigil 6 prepares for the job.

S11 The Execution of the Drow Job

In which blood is spilled at a spirited Doors of Fate gaming table and Kuru disappears with an Aboleth.

S12 Back in Sigil

In which the Sigil 6 get Kuru back, make a Wish and get back to Sigil.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

0 Sigil 6 Questions

At this point, I really hope we take it to 20th level. I’d love to be able to get that Gamer Merit Badge. More than 30 years playing these games and I’ve never taken a D&D game from 1st to 20th. I think we’ve go the momentum to do it and hope the scheduling holds up and we get there together.

1 Acorn Problem in Bytopia

The players didn’t come out with their realization that Divast was in fact, Garl Glittergold in illusory disguise until the last minutes of the game. When Helewynn offered him half a muffin, he called it, “an offering,” a slip that Jusko noticed. Failed Soldier had a piece of Gnome-tech from Dosk, allowing him to see the spirits of the dead. During one of Divast’s many (many) temper tantrums, he seemed to be talking to a spirit of the dead and throwing them away. Why would he be doing that?

S2: A Balanced Deal with a Heaping Side of Lore

They brokered a deal between the Druids and Garl, despite the god of the Gnomes trying his damnedest to get them to slaughter them all.

S3: The Vampire, the Lich and the Raven Queen

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

Imbalances in the Outlands with Rule of 3 circles, Key and Sword and Sigil 6 symbol
Sigil 6 Subject Divider

S1 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.

S2 Killing Rahadin

In which the Sigil 6 kill Rahadin and most of her vampire gang that has terrorized the streets of Gloomwrought since Strahd’s curse was lifted.

S3 The Second Wave

In which the Sigil 6 loot the vault of the late vampire gang, kill the last surviving vampire, stuff 2 vampire spawn accountants in a bag of holding and face Innistradi Vampire Assassins.

S4 LOOK UPON ABORAZ AND DESPAIR!

In which the Sigil 6 survive their first encounter with Aboraz, the Living Tomb, the Skull that Walks.

https://githyankidiaspora.com/2022/08/18/planescape-tweener-planning-session/

They are going back to Chult, apparently Jusko has an apartment there. Then we’re off to the Radiant Citadel.

S1 Return to Chult

One thing was certain, they needed to go back and grab the lich’s soul jars their gnome friend, Dosk, picked up in looking over her scans of the tomb.

S2 “I don’t know; Scry casual.”

Some players were missing tonight, so we had a low-key scry and chat. It was a lovely downshift.

S3 The Heart of Ubtao Hospital

“He seeks to unite the tribes and peoples across Chult as best he can. Dacaad has placed tablets in all of Ubtao’s deserted holy places, with a litany about what he needs to do to apologize to the people of Chult for abandoning them.”

S4 Slaying the Queen of Feathers

In which the Sigil 6 slay the Queen of Feathers in front of Dacaad and return to Omu, a lost city in the midst of being rebuilt.

S5 Keep on Truckin’ a.k.a. Enter Acererak

In which the Sigil 6 enter the Tomb of Annihilation again but this time they encounter the tomb’s architect.

S6 Beheading Acererak

In which the Sigil 6 used a Wish to avoid Death and then beheaded Acererak.

1 Plans and Deals

In which the Sigil 6 decide to venture into the Shadowfell once more, this time in order to destroy Acererak forever.

2 The Knife, the Jar and the Eye

In which the Sigil 6 find Acererak’s Soul Jar, hidden near the Eye of Vecna – also Lord Soth gains power and a gaggle of necromancers gain the resources they need to make wealth management plans so they can start thinking about saving for their retirement.

3 Just South of the Cairn Hills

In which the Sigil 6 get to the Free city of Greyhawk and purchase a flying carpet to head to the swamps south of the Cairn Hills.

4 Dragonslayers & Lich-destroyers

In which the Sigil 6 slay a Black Dragon and dissolve Acererak’s Soul Jar in the dragon’s acidic drool.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

What else?

What is an Outlands Expedition Team?

What is the Bingo XP Variant that the Thursday Night Delving Club uses?

Sigil 6 Questions – Why D&D 5e and more…

Judd's Shop
Science Fiction and Fantasy Designs
100% of artist's proceeds go to amazing organizations
https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/

Curse of Strahd, Episode VII, Dark Gifts

Curse of Strahd, Episode VII, Dark Gifts

Curse of Strahd / Session VII / Dark Gifts

In which Dark Gifts are bestowed and a bloody decision is made about the nature of this mission and which priorities will be elevated above the others.

Human/Bat Skeleton Subject Divider

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

  • The Amber Golem was decimated by the group. None missed and the golem never got a shot off. It was brutal and confidence-building.

  • Vilnius, a wizard the golem was chasing, was grateful but after a solid roll Kuru and Jusko realized the wizard was evil and would betray them. Kuru back-stabbed the evil wizard with a fiery knife. Vilnius died in fire and blood.

  • Vilnius’ Quasi familiar, Chester, led them to Vilnius’ teacher’s corpose and suggested they look into the statue more carefully for secrets. They did and found a wizard within and the hilt of the Sun Sword they were seeking.

    Bugwump bound Chester as his familiar. Chester suggested they head back to Darkon and take over. “Azalin Rex is gone; the domain is in chaos. A group like you could wreak bloody havoc and own that place.” The Team nixed this idea.

  • The wizard’s name was Nef and told them that he was the last of the Amber Wizards who made this temple. He led them into the vaults so Helewynn could bind the spirit of a Great Wolf, a daughter of the Moon and take her Dark Gift.

  • Nef offered to send the teams out of Ravenloft through the Mists if Jusko would follow them to his family’s holdings, where they were cruelly ruling a young world. Jusko declined.

  • While Helewynn bound the wolf spirit, Trundle bound himself to a Raven Spirit, the Mist Walker. He can now walk the mists as the Vistani do.

  • Nef asked Failed Soldier if he would like to leave his murderous sin in Ravenloft and take it off his soul’s ledger. Failed Soldier elected to hold on to that sin.

  • The team has decided to kill Strahd. First they plan on finding the Mad Mage who wanders the forest and the Prophet in the north, who is said to have fallen from the Heavens. There was talk of Helewynn binding the werewolf packs to her will.

Human/Bat Skeleton Subject Divider

If you’d like to get emailed when this blog is updated with posts like this, please subscribe below:

https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/designs/knife-fights-in-space
Curse of Strahd, Session VI, Enter the Amber Temple

Curse of Strahd, Session VI, Enter the Amber Temple

Curse of Strahd / Session VI / Enter the Amber Temple

In which the Amber Temple is entered, two members of the lost team are saved from Flameskulls and a bedraggled wizard is found running from an Amber Golem…

Human/Bat Skeleton subject divider

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

  • The vaulted chamber of the temple had a statue of a wizard whose face was shrouded in darkness and (inspired by DragnaCarta’s Curse of Strahd Reloaded) it asked those who entered to leave a secret or something holy at the feet of the statue. That prompted cool shit from the players.

    Jusko whispered, “I belong here,” while pressing his family signet ring into some wax on the statue. EEK.

    Failed Soldier wrote a sealed note about the sailor he killed in a previous adventure in a shrine to a storm goddess.

    Kuru tried to get by leaving a cheap coin and pretending it was holy to him but the statue was on to his bullshit.

    Trundle left one of his carvings of the world they saw born in a previous adventure.

    Helewynn left her holy symbol since the moon here seemed to be godless.

    Bugwump left a mask of himself from back when he was an arch-mage that he wore during a 1000 Faces Festival in Sigil.

  • They found the two lost members of the other team surrounded by 3 Flameskulls…

    One of the Flameskulls unleashed its fireball, doing some healthy damage but all in all, the 3 were dispatched without too much trouble. The other team missed in a terrible first round of to-hit rolls, prompting Jusko to fuck with them later…

  • Trundle engaged Crum, a Dwarven cleric of Portals, who wears a key holy symbol. I rolled to see how informed he was on getting in and out of Ravenloft and rolled a 20. He knows shit.

  • Bugwump’s Arcana checks are off the chain since he has a magic staff from Tomb of Annihilation. They know all about Sergei’s Sunsword, the other team believes the sword is here somewhere.

  • There was some talk about just heading back to Ravenwatch and getting to the portal. I reminded folks that Kuru had cut up the portal with his magic-cutting knife and it wasn’t a sure thing that it was working.

  • Helewynn hasn’t seen moonlight since being bitten by the werewolf. When she does, we’ll make some rolls and see what happens.

    Chekov’s werewolf bite…

  • Failed Soldier gave Lem the Nine Gods Orchid he picked for her from the previous adventure. I said that it felt like a lifetime ago that she asked him for that but thing is, it actually does kinda feel like a lifetime ago. It was cool that we got to see that completed.

    What does Nine Gods Orchid do? I’m thinking some kind of cool tea that inspires prophetic dreams.

  • After a short rest, the team heard someone screaming for help and found a wizard with a quazit familiar running from an Amber Golem. Kuru and Trundle stealthed over and engaged; we’ll start there with everyone else rolling initiative next week.

    “Thank Vecna you folks showed up to save me,” the burned, half-starved wizard said.

Human/Bat Skeleton subject divider

https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/designs/talk-sh-t-roll-crits-d20-edition
Curse of Strahd, Session IV, Ghosts and Bones

Curse of Strahd, Session IV, Ghosts and Bones

Curse of Strahd, Session IV, Ghosts & Bones

In which the dead are spoken to, a father is left to decide his son’s fate and hunted comrades are tracked across Mount Ghackis.

Human/Bat Skeleton Subject Marker

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

  • Kuru talked up the three Vistani ladies who owned the Blood of the Vine Tavern.

    “Judd, what is the name of the tavern?”

    “Blood of the Vine…”

    “Of course it is…”

    They learned that the previous team had been driven from town for assaulting an old lady who is a witch – the bad kind, that the Vistani saved Strahd when he was mortal and some serve him as penance for helping create such a devil.

  • Trundle, when he entered the inn, offered a prayer against fiends (his chosen enemy) in Infernal. Just a nice bit of color that I loved.

    Also, we learned that Jusko’s family, the Hajeks, rule a city in the west, Vallicki.

    These details didn’t mean anything today but I adore them and sometimes they end up being THE thing that changes the campaign. Ya never know.

  • The team witnessed the March of the Dead, in which the ghosts of adventurers who have fought Strahd and died rise and march to re-live their deaths as they walk to Castle Ravenloft.

  • They dug up the body of one of their former comrades from another team, Dylan was a warlock. Strahd ripped out his heart with his bare hands. When they asked Dylan how he suggested they proceed he said, “Don’t. This mission is folly. Pay the Vistani whatever they ask and make your way to Gloomwrought. From there you should be able to make your way home eventually through the Shadowfell…”

    They learned that the previous team had headed west to find something called the Amber Temple on the western slopes of Mt. Ghakis.

  • They found Father Donavich holding his son, Boru, in the undercroft while sobbing. The boy, inspired by strangers recently in town. After some discussions about morality and such, they decided to chalk this up as a local conflict and leave it be. They vampire-bitten young man had gone berserk right about when Bugwump cast Leomund’s Tiny Hut (scrying doesn’t penetrate the hut).

    As they left, the priest to the Morninglord was sitting atop the undercroft door, sobbing quietly.

    Ah, Ravenloft…

  • They tracked the previous team as they went off the road and headed west. They team left glyphs to let any other Outlands Expedition Teams know that they were headed to the western slope of the mountain and that they were being hunted by something following them.

    One of the awesome players at our table suggested that these glyphs teams leave for one another are an off-shoot of thieves’ cant; so rogues can often tease out more details or leave more nuanced messages.

  • The pack of werewolves hunting the team (7 in total, Trundle the Dwarven Ranger could tell) suddenly headed westward, up the mountain. It didn’t make much sense. They found a barrow adorned with goat and deer skulls where one of the werewolves was interred, having been killed by silver arrows and a pit trap and some more silver arrows. Helewyn wisely dug out the silver arrows.

  • Next week we begin with the pack trying to flank a lone archer on an old goat path known as the Blood Moon Path.

  • This game being a mission, where they want to get their comrades out and get back home to Sigil has changed the tenor of the game. Destroying Strahd is a tertiary goal. The team is very willing to leave situations be and not get embroiled in what they see as endless local nonsense. They are invested but they have their eye on the prize – getting their friends out. Very interesting…

Human/Bat Skeleton Subject Marker

Today’s shirt reads: “I survived the Satanic Panic and all I got was this t-shrit, creative lifelong friends and a love of fantasy, history and literature.”

https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/designs/i-survived-the-satanic-panic

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

The Between: The St. James’s Street Ghost

The Between: The St. James’s Street Ghost

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/360858/The-Between

“But if one is to engage with the primordial forces of darkness, one must expect a bit of social awkwardness.”

Penny Dreadful, S1E2, Séance

The Thursday night posse six players, only two could make it. So, I invited a dear friend who I knew was game-hungry (after checking in with the two other players) and read over The Between by Jason Cardova. There are only so many nights for gaming during the Halloween season and the slight chill in the air means tonight is one of them. Felt wrong to cancel; let’s play.

Pumpkin headed ghost things riding black cats on a Hallowe’en card from NYPL’s Digital Collection: https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/5b060c20-5234-0132-c398-58d385a7bbd0

I don’t like one-shots. I can do them but just don’t really enjoy them. At cons, even after a great con session, I’m always left feeling, “That was fun but the next session would’ve been even better.” The Between‘s mechanics agree with me. The game’s structure has different phases (Dawn, Day, Dusk and Night). We get through Day and into Dusk in two hours (including chargen). The first session guidelines are very clear. After two hours the mechanics were just starting to get warmed up and we had details generated through play that were good fun.

Bar-armed skeleton

Clues

Below are the clues gathered by the intrepid supernatural hunters of the Hargrave House:

Harold’s ledger contains entries for strange household expenses he can’t explain, like “thought-casting” and “dream whisperer” and “pig gifts.”

A porcelain vase filled with fresh, warm blood.

The sound of someone falling down stairs; there’s no one there when you investigate.

A stack of love letters from another time.

Those are right off of the pre-made Threat, The St. James’s Street Ghost out of the book, suggested as the Threat to start with. But it isn’t a monster of the week, where each threat will be tidied up. During the next Day phase I’d probably introduce a new threat. I like the idea of them piling up a bit – not EVERY Day phase but enough that things get a little hectic and busy.

Bar-armed skeleton

Residents of the Hargrave House

Our characters were (with pics of Queen Victoria’s blood-spattered head as bullet-points):

Eoin Clay, the American, the Duchess’ resident American, don’t you know.

Winfree Humes, the Duchess’ servant

Duchess Josephine Thornwood, Duchess of Abercald

Bar-armed skeleton

Mechanics

During the Dusk phase, we set a scene in a room in Hargrave House, the characters’ headquarters, and flesh it out a bit. The question for the Trophy Room asked the table what the hunters of the supernatural who had previously lived in the house had left. We’ve got a box full of vampire teeth, a fire-scorched unicorn’s horn and a jar filled with vinegar with an organ floating in it labelled, Siren’s Voice-Box. The Questions put in place to ask players for these kinds of scenes (painting the scene, Jason calls it) are well wrought, written by someone who has used this technique for years.

I need to talk more about Unscenes but barely got to touch this new toy, only kind of hinted at their existence as we finished the Dusk phase and ended the first session. They come to life in the Night phase. More on Unscenes later.

When I read that the GM didn’t have an idea of what the mystery actually was and would find out through dice rolls along with the rest of the table, I was skeptical. Shit works. The way the Answer a Question move is fed from clues found in the Information Move is really slick.

The Dawn Questions are clearly Blades in the Dark XP tech but choosing 2 of the 5 XP prompts from a list is a classy touch.

Masks are kind of like Resistance Rolls, only instead of rolling the player narrates something about their past or evolves and changes and it nudges the results up a tier. From a miss to a 7-9, from 7-9 to 10-11 and 10-11 to a 12+. You can nudge the dice but doing so either unveils a piece of the character’s history or activates something from their past and brings it into the game as a concrete Threat.

I’m smitten and not because Jason is a friend and co-conspirator. Believe me when I tell you that I’ve played friends’ games before and not written about them. It is $15. Go grab a copy and walk the streets of Victorian London with your friends this Halloween. Let me know how it goes.

Bar-armed skeleton

Epilogue

As the game ended, Mr. Humes handing the Beale baby off to the Duchess’ maid, the Duchess was reading up on London ghosts and Eoin Clay was standing under a neighbor’s eaves in the rain, smoking a cigar, watching the haunted house they were investigating, waiting for something to happen.

Night was about to fall; something was about to occur.

Looking forward to finding out what and how this trio will deal with it, what we’ll learn about them in the process.

Bar-armed skeleton

https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/designs/october-hugs
Curse of Strahd, Session II, Battle of Ravenwatch

Curse of Strahd, Session II, Battle of Ravenwatch

Curse of Strahd / Session II / Battle of Ravenatch with bats fluttering in the light of a huge moon

In which Ravenwatch falls…

human/bat skeleton

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

  • Kuru, being followed by Strahd, throws a fake amulet in another direction so he can get to Jusko and turn invisible. Deception with Dex bonus; Strahd falls for the sleight of hand.

  • Battle on the stairway continues with Failed Soldier, Corpseflea Grave Cleric, Helewynn, Moon Elf Barbarian and Bugwump, Frog-kin Wizard. Interesting judgment call when the cleric cast Daylight. Does it count as sunlight against vampires? Third level cleric spell, I said it does (to great effect). It doesn’t say so in the spell description but…seems clear to me.

    Thoughts?

  • Failed Soldier opened a portal door near a shrine to Ulmed to what usually leads to a Godroad but it was only a closet with old scrolls with desperate unanswered prayers. No Godroads in Ravenloft, it seems.

    There was a prayer from a young lady who has dreams about being chased and killed by Strahd…

  • Jusko tried to intimidate Strahd but they tied. Would it have damaged Strahd’s mystique if he had pulled back his forces after an intimidation check? Maybe.

    It was a cool-ass speech.

  • Trundle tried to save the Cardinal Inquisitor’s life after his chest was ripped open by Strahd but they died for good when Strahd threw a fireball at Kuru, the Halfling Rogue, Jusko, Human Fighter and Trundle, Dwarven Ranger. He damaged them badly, some folks were in single digits at that point.

    Jusko talked shit to him about throwing a spell.

  • Then Jusko and Trundle joined the battle on the stairwell, leaving Kuru alone and invisible in the room with the portal to Sigil. Strahd polymorphed into Jusko and begged the City Agent to take away the telekinetic block on their side of the portal. The block came down and Kuru attempted to destroy the portal with his knife that can cut spells. He did 18 of 20 points of damage but didn’t quite bring it down. Next round, Strahd would walk through the portal into Sigil.

  • Helewynn traded blows with a Moon Elf sworn to Strahd. Helewynn expressed disdain for one of her own kind serving a monster; the Moon Elf sister answered, “You should learn more about the Lady of Pain before judging me for serving Strahd.”

    For those following at home, Rahadin is now a Moon Elf maiden.

    In the end, Rahadin misty-stepped away as Strahd departed.

  • Jusko tackled Strahd and Trundle cut him with a flame-brand short sword, leaving a scar. Strahd turned to mist and withdrew as Bugwup took position in front of the portal, rocking a, “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”

    Strahd could’ve made it through the portal but he would’ve been damaged during daylight (it was day in Sigil) in a strange new place. He had seen a Githyanki mage and a Drider on the other side. Nah, he’ll withdraw and come at it another way.

  • They grabbed what they could from the monastery and headed out into the forest.

    Stuff: magic sword from Cardinal Inquisitor, map of Barovia, Book of Strahd, Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, Books on Monster Hunting, Books on Demi-Planar Theory, cloaks, foodstuffs, etc.

    One of the dead vampires was a member of the former Outlands Expedition Team

  • No levels this session via the Bingo Board XP:

human/bat skeleton

This design and more in the Tabletop Role-Playing Game Collection…

https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/designs/talk-sh-t-roll-crits-d20-edition
Curse of Strahd, Session I: Welcome to Barovia

Curse of Strahd, Session I: Welcome to Barovia

Curse of Strahd I Welcome to Barovia

In which the team arrives in Ravenloft and the Siege of Ravenwatch begins…

Skeleton with bat-skeleton wings, section divider

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

  • The Outlands Expedition Team goes through a portal in an abandoned side-street of Sigil into Ravenwatch, a monastery in Ravenloft, the Demi-Plane of Dread, being used as a chapterhouse by the Ulmist Inquisitors. The Outlands Expedition Team’s mission is to retrieve any living members of the last team to attempt this mission and stop Strahd from breaking free of Ravenloft.

  • The Godroads have been their ace in the hole and their research to find out if the Godroads reach into the Demi-Plane of Dread was inconclusive. They found a vague mention of it in Jusko’s great-great aunt’s diary: “No prayers seem to reach this fell place.”

  • Speaking of Jusko, his family abandoned his ancestral home. Turns out someone (psst, it is Jusko who did it) wrote the family name on a young world and the family has left to live there, as it is their birthright. I’ve been sitting on that detail for months; it was nice to finally have a good reason to share it.

  • Another bit of lore they dug up, talking to Jusko’s dead great-grandfather, is that Strahd had a wizard counselor who became a lich and left Barovia to rule a domain of his own in the Demi-Plane of Dread. If anyone might know a way out of Ravenloft, it’d be Azalin Rex…

  • The portal is locked on the Sigil-side by a Githyanki psionicist who blocks it with a telekinetic wall. As they enter into Ravenwatch’s cellar, Strahd’s attack begins. Swarms of bats and rats cover the floor and ceiling.

  • Bugwump thunderwaves the swarms back, clearing the path for Failed Soldier and Hellewyn to take the fight to the stairs, where heavily armored vampire spawn are attacking with zombies on chains like hounds. They feel Strahd’s fell presence move by them at great speed but do not see him.

  • In a moment of the battle in which Bugwump thunderwaves the vampire spawn and their zombies, Hellewyn sees a moon-elf, of similar lineage to her own, fighting on Strahd’s side at the top of the steps.

  • Jusko stayed in the room with the portal, seeing himself as the link between the split party. As Strahd passes, he welcomes his cousin, Jusko Hajek, to Barovia. Jusko, vorpal sword in hand, beckons Strahd to come closer. Strahd recognizes the ancient blade and declines. “We will talk under more hospitable circumstances. Welcome to Barovia.” Jusko feels Strahd move away.

  • Kuru and Trundle use oil and fire to clear the swarms, trying to get to a secret armory. The inquisitor is killed by Strahd, who plunges his hands into his chest cavity and opens him up like a can of beans. Kuru’s failed Perception check tells him that the Inquisitor is dead; there is no saving him.

  • I forgot to look at the map I keyed weeks ago and the notes I made for that map. *sigh*

    Still, it was a fun start. We ended in the midst of the battle and will begin there next week.

Return of the Skeleton with bat-skeleton wings, section divider

If you want to read more about the Ulmist Inquisitors, I wrote up 13 fell pages in a pdf.

Post-Tomb of Annihilation/Pre-Curse of Strahd

Post-Tomb of Annihilation/Pre-Curse of Strahd

Omu: the Lost City in their past, Curse of Strahd in their future.
Sigil: The City of Doors

Back from thwarting Acererak (but not facing him directly), the Outlands Expeditions Team returns to Sigil in the midst of the 1000 Faces Festival. Music and dancing in the streets at all hours…

Silver Sword/Lich Queen line separator

I did a few things with the Facebook group to get some details and flesh some things out. I made a poll with a bunch of masks for characters to wear during the festival. Some chose from the choices, others made up their own.

And I asked questions to get into the spirit of heading to the Demi-Plane of Dread.

Jusko – Your family’s ancestral lands neighbored ancient Barovia. What was the Hajek family’s relationship to the cursed von Zarovich clan?

Helewyn – How do you (or your Goddess) feel about lycanthropes who change shape with the full moon?

Kuru – What do you remember of the nomadic Vistani people who would stay for a season near the shire you where you were raised and trade with your family?

Trundle – What was Trundle’s first brush with the darker parts of the forest, where sun never penetrates the canopy and fell beasts hunt the weak?

Bugwump – What had you uncovered about the Demi-Plane of Dread when you were an Arch-Mage?

Failed Soldier – What does your religion’s parables say about the First Vampire, Strahd, a great warrior whose fell deeds drew the attention of fell powers?

Not everyone answers but the answers I get I use. It led to a good discussion about the Vistani and not wanting to punch down in our depiction of them. Those who didn’t answer in type I’ll ask “face to face” over Zoom at the next game; I forgot to do so tonight.

Basic, ask questions and use the answers stuff but having a digital home for the game makes asking the questions easy.

  • Trundle got into the spirit of things, wearing a Devil mask and doing a public carving celebrating their last adventure, carving a triptych of hobbits upon dinosaurs out of a piece of wood the size of an elephant.

  • Anthony described Kuru wearing a kind of rosary beads that Vistani would recognize. I told him that in Barovia the gods are Mother Night and the Morning Lord. Perhaps the beads are Mother Night’s stars. He met an old woman and had his fortune read. I dropped some game details as per the module.

  • Kuru specifically asked about allies, which is part of the fortune telling in the book. I offered a few – a Mad Mage near Mount Bartok, an undead knight in his old order’s keep and the people they would meet upon arriving, could be allies, if any survived. “Your arrival will be covered in blood. I doubt any will survive.”

  • Bugwump took what the woman said very seriously, having known about the Demi-Plane of Dread from his Arch-Mage days. He sought out an arcane historian and learned that Strahd was the First Vampire and is a capable wizard in his own right. He also learned that Strahd seeks out Tatyanna because she is a capable Planar Arcanist who could help him escape his prison.

  • Kuru visited the tenement building the Vistani were staying with in Sigil and learned that *DUN DUN DUN* /dramatic music Mother Eva had been dead for a week! He had been visited by her spirit. It was a nice way to wrap up a low-key game.

I’m looking forward to getting into Ravenloft just as Autumn approaches. Our next game isn’t for 2 weeks, a friend at the table pointed out that we’d be heading to Ravenloft as Halloween approaches, which is fun.

As we approach Ravenloft, this shirt seems relevant. Check out this design and more at this link.

https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/designs/goth-af
Tomb of Annihilation – Hit and Run Finale

Tomb of Annihilation – Hit and Run Finale

Tomb of Annihilation cover by me.

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

  • The team shamed the Red Wizards into dealing with every other puzzle room. They dealt with a room with anti-gravity and a whirling death fan. Two of the Red Wizards died and when the anti-gravity ended it rained death down on their friends. Kuru the Halfling Rogue subtly mage-handed the magic items on the dead wizards; it was a good haul.

  • Having smart NPCs handle 2 of the puzzle rooms was a fun way to speed it up. I made some rolls on their behalf to see how they did. My disdain of some parts of this adventure were made known to my friends.

  • Then they jumped into the room with the Godling and the Soulmonger, the engine that Acererak was using to make his own death god. The Soulmonger was held up by Adamantine struts. Cut down one strut and the engine falls into the lava below. I secretly hoped that Jusko’s vorpal sword would cut down a strut.

  • They dog-piled the Godling. I forgot lots of stuff in the room that would’ve made he fight harder. It was still fun, still felt epic.

  • Before they entered the final room, Trundle the Dwarf Ranger did the math on the nearest Godroad; it was a hundred yards from the opening of the dungeon back the way they came.

  • While everyone else was killing the Demi-Lich’s Godling, Trundle was poking around the balconies and found a portal to an altar. And there was a doorway to a Godroad. They had an exit plan. Nice work.

  • At one point Bugwump the Frog-kin Wizard made a HUGE Arcana check on the Godling and realized that Acererak would arrive within a few rounds of them killing it due to a spell on it. I rolled a d4 when the Godling died. 3 rounds.

  • Jusko the Human Fighter, Helewyn the Elf Barbarian and Failed Soldier the Corpse-flea Grave Cleric were doing their best on the struts but not having much luck. Then Jusko talked to his word and beseeched it to do its old head-lopping job (what Drew said was way cooler). Nat 20. Boo-ya.

  • They ran out the fading door to the Godroads just as Acererak arrived, screaming in frustration. – mission accomplished.

  • They earned a boatload of levels on the Bingo Board. 7 levels to be divvied up among the party.

  • We’ll do some fun downtime during Sigil’s carnivale/Mardi Gras-style mask party holiday. I’m going to make up funky carousing rules based on what mask they choose to wear.

  • Then we’re off to the Demi-Plane of Dread, where a neighboring Outlands Expedition Team went on a mission and went missing.

Outlands Expedition Team, Deputized by the Lady of Pain, Clerk Ward, Sigil

In honor of those vorpal blade 20’s that come right when you need them, you deserve a Talk Sh!t; Roll Crits t-shirt.

https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/designs/talk-sh-t-roll-crits-d20-edition

Tomb of Annihilation: Identity and the Tomb

  • After stealing the last of the puzzle-cubes from the Yuan-ti, the players had to decide if they were going to kill the Red Wizards in their sleep while their spells were depleted.

  • The discussion took about 40 minutes and was really interesting. Jusko said something interesting: “Who are we? Are we people who crawl into our allies’ camp and slit their throats while they sleep?”

  • Drew (who players Jusko) did something cool and prompted everyone to step out of character and also discuss this purely on the terms of what would be fun. That is a veteran-gamer move right there.

  • I added that they could make this decision based on what their characters would do, based on the strategic advantages of having 4 Red Wizards and their 20 guards on their side and the general fun of who will betray who first.

    In the end, they decided not to attack the wizards and continue this frenemyship.

  • Jusko gave Mykal, the leader of the Zhentarim thugs employed by the Red Wizards a small fortune in gold to switch sides when the time was right in exchange for not only the gold but safe passage out of Omu.

    Mykal, leader of the Red Wizards’ thugs, let them know that no one can figure out how the team got in and out of the Yuan-ti nest. The Red Wizards think Bugwump might be Arch-Mage Bugwump and is hiding his power levels from them. Jusko made an Insight Check to see if she would keep to her word. “Probably…”

  • The group marched up the main boulevard towards the tomb entrance on the northern cliff-face. Kuru and Trundle (Rogue and Ranger) scouted it out and saw the Queen of Feathers dragging some kind of beast westward. Kuru used an illusion of a wounded pterodactyl to send the Legendary T-Rex northward to flush out any enemies who might be in their path.

    Trundle marked the hidden kobold cave entrances in case the wizards need to target them in the future.

  • The Queen of Feathers was driven away by kobolds. A kobold in a wooden Acererak mask spoke to her in draconic; having tried killing kobolds in the past and finding them too difficult an effort for the scant meat, she headed westward.

    Queen of Feathers eating the Thursday Delving Club logo

    The kobold in the mask told the approaching adventurers that they should be honored to die in the Great Acererak’s tomb, where their bones will surely turn to dust as the ages spin by. Bugwump destroyed the kobold with a spell.

  • They made their way through the True Door and into the Tomb. I cut the dungeon WAY back, using only one final level. They solved the Trial of the Triangle by accident, surrounding the blocked lever they had to switch to open one of the five locks on the door and forming a triangle.

  • I hate puzzles but enjoy seeing this posse interact with it all. one level will be more than enough. They know that Acererak’s godling and soulmonger engine fueling its birth is on the other side.

  • No levels this week but they are close to getting bingo on a few different axes.

Check out this design, made for the group who played the above game but good for anyone who wants to celebrate any fantasy role-playing games being played on Thursday nights, and more in the TTRPG collection…

https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/collections/tabletop-role-playing-games