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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What has the Sigil 6 been up to?
Book I: Starting in Sigil
In which we get our feet under us in the Outlands…
The adventures in the Outlands were supposed to ripple out into the rest of the planes of reality.
I don’t think of the tables as Random Encounter Tables but as Inspirational Encounter Tables.
“How do you say last rite’s over a world?”
“Maybe the same way we’d say good-bye to a dear friend…”
Why did I roll these encounters? There weren’t any fights.
I wrote down Water, Chaos of Limbo, Feuding Deities.
A few years ago I wrote some notes in a notebook about the Godroads.
Book II: Even Death May Die
In which the Sigil 6 travels to Chult because someone broke death.
They are flying on pterodactyls…
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.
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.
Trundle and Kuru ended up on the Queen of Feather’s head…
In which Yuan-ti are robbed and multiple magicide is discussed.
“Who are we? Are we people who crawl into our allies’ camp and slit their throats while they sleep?”
I forgot lots of stuff in the room that would’ve made he fight harder. It was still fun, still felt epic.
Book III: Killing Strahd
In which the Sigil 6 enter a demi-planar prison to kill a legendary parasite.
Trundle got into the spirit of things, wearing a Devil mask and doing a public carving celebrating their last adventure…
Helewyn – How do you (or your Goddess) feel about lycanthropes who change shape with the full moon?
In which the team arrives in Ravenloft and the Siege of Ravenwatch begins…
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.
In which the Outlands Expedition Team heads to the village of Barovia and is tested by a pack of wolves.
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.
In which the Amber Temple is entered…
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.
In which we see Werewolf politics, exit plans, scouting the Mist and Chultan pterodactyls in Barovia…
In which a werewolf is beheaded, a sword is lit and a plan is tossed aside.
In which Jusko leads a team of strangers whose lives have been brutally damaged by Strahd …
In which the team starts to plan and make plans within plans and meet the broken angel known as the The Prophet…
We are picturing it like the helicopter approach in the beginning of Predator.
The Heart Tower was my favorite encounter that I ran pretty close to as-written.
In which the Sigil Six ends of the Curse of Strahd slaying the legendary vampire through sorcery, steel and cunning.
I did not feel like going through the treasure in Castle Ravenloft and tallying it up…
Rahadin and the remaining vampires left the Domain. None are sure where they went.
This tome was compiled by Strahd over the years, keeping track of Gloomwrought, through the reports of his messengers.
To hand out to players once the adventure is finished.
Know that strahd died screaming in daylight.
Book IV: All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought
In which the Sigil 6 walk across the Shadowfell towards the City of Midnight.
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.”
They got to a bridge from the mists, over a bottomless shadow chasm, leading into the Shadowfell.
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.
I put them in an unwinnable situation and they shook their heads and said, “Fuck that.”
“Don’t do anything stupid unless I come running down the hill. If I do, bring all of the stupid.”
In which the Sigil Six recruit the villagers, scout ahead and meet a dragon in the skies.
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.
Kuru started a conversation with the Shadar Kai riders about their strategies in fighting a dragon.
Three things happened that turned the tide of the battle…
In which we look at a few moments and decisions in the game, considering the techniques at hand.
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.
In which Kuru finds trouble in a Drow kitchen and the Sigil 6 prepares for the 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.
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.
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?
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.
It was an odd night and I might’ve not managed the spotlight as well as I might’ve.
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.
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.
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.
In which the Sigil 6 survive their first encounter with Aboraz, the Living Tomb, the Skull that Walks.
They are going back to Chult, apparently Jusko has an apartment there. Then we’re off to the Radiant Citadel.
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.
Some players were missing tonight, so we had a low-key scry and chat. It was a lovely downshift.
“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.”
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.
In which the Sigil 6 enter the Tomb of Annihilation again but this time they encounter the tomb’s architect.
In which the Sigil 6 used a Wish to avoid Death and then beheaded Acererak.
In which the Sigil 6 decide to venture into the Shadowfell once more, this time in order to destroy Acererak forever.
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.
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.
In which the Sigil 6 slay a Black Dragon and dissolve Acererak’s Soul Jar in the dragon’s acidic drool.