After more than a month away from the game, we eased back in, looking into a cold case, their mentor is missing.
The Lamordian House of Lords debated changing penal law so that any found guilty of a felony could have their body offered to science to better our understanding of the natural laws (inspired by the Bas Lag’s books’ ReMade).
Started the session on Warlock Cliff, a cliff-face just outside of Ludendorf where magic doesn’t work. When I started to describe it, Jeff and Storn jumped in, offering further details – fog coming in from the sea and a lighthouse below the cliffs, throwing light through that fog – a bell on a dinghy from somewhere in the waves. Good stuff.
They spoke with their mentors nemesis, Emil Enh, a corrupt constable who was arrested and thrown onto a prison hulk. The old villain was sick, with a bone-rattling chest cough and wanted them to take him into custody so he could help them look for their old mentor, Mathias Vimmer (our Commissioner Gordon).
They got 3 cases – a murder case involving a university student, a casefile from a man named Adam, who was currently serving on a Prison Hulk for Breaking and Entering, Assault and Illegal Possession of a Firearm and a missing person case about a young woman named Elise, who had been arrested in the past for thievery and body-snatching.
There was a fun series of scenes where the crew was trying to gain access to the Inspector General’s safe, the current Inspector General didn’t know it was there. We found ourselves butting heads with D&D a bit (more on this later).
In the end, they got some important files from cases Mathias was keeping, along with a pistol and knife from the war and a picture of his ex-husband.
Viktor tracked down Dr. Lukas Kronecker who teaches (I hesitated, not sure what subject he taught and Storn said, “Pantheons Beyond the Borders.”) Mythography, allowing me to drop some St. Ezra lore.
It turned out, the ex-husband didn’t know anything and was bereft that he didn’t know where Mathias had gone. Viktor told him that they found a picture of them together in Mathias’ safe. When he left, Viktor could hear the Mythographer crying.
Talis took the pistol and knife to a Vistani woman, who could, at this point, only say that Mathias was not anywhere in Lamordia alive and if he was dead, his spirit was not restless. She would work to look beyond the borders but that would take time and resources.
DeKalb, the Tiefling from their last case, was out of work because of things they did. He was hired by the Kranev Investigative Guild and would be an administrative aide and added muscle when needed.
D&D 5e doesn’t seem to be helping us much in our goal of playing an investigative gothic fantasy buddy crime story. We’re discussing other options.
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Our last session ended with the group figuring out that the Gnomish cleric there to guide them was in fact Garl Glittergold. Some genius thought to ask him about the Lady of Pain and Garl spilled.
The God of the Gnomes hemmed and hawed. Was that me role-playing or me stalling for time? I’m honestly not sure. I’ve been daydreaming a bit about the Lady of Pain but I wasn’t sure if I had enough to satisfying this crew.
Garl told them that whatever secrets she had, he bet that she had them buried in the Maze, her inter-dimensional prison/labyrinth where the majority of the Sigil 6 wandered for 15 years. “And what’s more, I think she wants people to know her secret. She wants someone to find out. I think she puts people there who she thinks have a shot at figuring it out.”
Jusko asked if they had seen anything, something that might hint at what is hidden there. I asked him to tell me more about what kind of things he’s looking for and he gave me enough. They realized that an area of the Maze they had avoided had a cyclopean beast of some kind imprisoned. Then Bugwump dropped this amazing line, “Of course whatever is down there is something that can diminish her. Isn’t that obvious? We keep it imprisoned by keeping balance in the planes.”
I asked the player to roll Arcana (knowing Bugwump has ZANY bonuses to that skill), “Wait, does Bugwump know what is down there? It kinda sounds like he does.” He did; it is the last of the living Primordials, thrown down there by the Gods during the First War, held in place by the spinning of the Planes. Now they know.
“There is a half-dead world where the gods are dead and they worship elementals. Magic is cursed and blights the land; it is a shithole. That place might have clues about this Primordial. I’m warning you. This place makes Ravenloft look like a vacation.”
Garl suggested that if they wanted to learn deep lore, they should talk to Callarduran Smoothhands, emissary to the Deep Gnomes. “He knows secrets.”
Failed Soldier Legend Lore’d the Golden Acorns and realized they would grow to become Angelic Treants and their roots would hold off an apocalypse for a while when they landed and sunk their roots into a dying world.
They brokered a deal between the Druids and Garl, despite Garl trying his damnedest to get them to slaughter them all. The druids, as it turned out, are in an recently found order created by a Tree God from the party’s past, when they stopped a god feud but left the dead world’s Tree God alive. That Tree God is vengeful and its druids go into dying worlds and save whatever they can – people, art, magic, ideas, etc.
Garl will get first pick of treasure on any world where the angelic treants grown from his golden acorns are helpful. It is a pretty damned good deal and makes the world more complicated and interesting. LOVE it.
Did Kuru steal an acorn? Yes, he did. Rolled to see if Garl noticed. 2. Nope, he did not notice.
Garl warned them that the Innistrad Vampires offered him a lost knife of his, lost during an ancient war with the kobolds, if he would use his illusions to send the Sigil 6 into a trap. “They want you bad, bad enough to contact and try to bribe a god.”
DM’s Notes: Gaming with these folks is just fun, dammit.
Next Game: Next week we’ll either do another Imbalance or head over to Gloomwrought.
Inspired by the Unscene from Jason Cordova’s amazing Victorian horror RPG, The Between, I start each session with some kind of flavorful scene within Ludendorf (while they are in Ludendorf). This week the constables mobilized their municipal flesh construct, metal bars reinforcing its fists and armor all over its monstrous frame, directing it to knock down the locked and barred door to a drug lab. The lab’s guards let loose a volley of bullets, all absorbed with barely audible grunts, by the construct, who the constables hid behind, before running down the drug-makers with clubs. Elsewhere, parliamentarians discussed broadening the Flesh Rights laws so that felons would be altered by science to show the world their crimes.
When I started that description, the constables had pistols but Storn asked some good questions and Jeff offered suggestions and it led to an interesting discussion on these kinds of alchemical pistols and their reliability and use. We decided the door-kickers wouldn’t have firearms for this kind of gig. The possible law changes in Lamordia were clearly inspired by China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station.
When we last left our stalwart investigators, they were about to meet up near the apartment where Killian and Valentia were having their dalliance. A mysterious blue man in a black suit with black horns atop his head, was also waiting nearby, though he hadn’t noticed them yet.
They were looking at the Tiefling as he sipped tea and waited, trying to figure out his roll in all this. When Storn said, “Wait, he’s a bodyguard.” I created a new rule, where if I hear them say the right guess, we make an appropriate roll and if it over 5, they feel the cosmic tumblers slip into place and know that they are right.
When the couple left the apartment building, dressed as mourning aristocrats, both in black veils, a plan was hatched. Talis would follow and Viktor would stay and dig into the empty apartment.
Talis rolled poorly on this new stealth roll (the context had changed enough to warrant a new roll, even by my Burning Wheel-inspired Let it Ride standards). The high-class Tiefling bodyguard got the jump on him (clearly through sorcery) and put a hand on Talis’ back, making it clear that he’d Arcane Bolt his guts into the street if he moved.
Cut to Viktor, who contacted the superintendent, an old man with a poorly fitted steam-powered leg, who shoveled coal into the basement furnace and fixed things around. He looked at an empty apartment, getting a feel for the layout of the rooms. The owners of the building were barristers with the Holmes & Crick Law Firm, who specialize in property law and Flesh Rights cases, offering those in poverty the ability to sell their bodies to science. I hated them already.
Talis lied big and rolled well, explaining to the Tiefling, whose name is DeKalb, that he represented a client who was looking for a good source of corpses for experimentation. DeKalb offered his card and said he’d run it by his client; Talis suggested he leave word at the Rusty Harpoon, the sailor’s pub under their office.
They ended up with all of the pieces they needed to wrap the case up. Viktor got a used sheepskin prophylactic from a rubbish bin in the apartment (ADDITIONAL CLIENT CHARGE: 1 silk handkerchief). There was a fridge unit with an expensive lock.
“Storn, could you give me an Austrian Surname?”
Storn, not knowing what it is for, “Loos…”
“Loos Locks. I like it.”
They assumed that grave robbing was going on, as Killian and Valentia were taking frequent trips to the expensive and fortress-like series of crypts, the Hausdervorfarhen.
There was an interesting discussion about how to tell Viktor’s cousin, the client, Baroness Maja von Aubrecker. Talis floated some ideas about blackmailing Killian but Viktor wasn’t into it. The conversation went in and out of game, veteran gamers checking in, making sure their character’s foibles didn’t step on our friend’s toes. Good stuff.
When they were done, walking up the stairs to the office above the pub, I asked Jeff how Viktor felt after having had a dream in which they had in fact blackmailed Killian and came away from the deed with a bag of gold, having beaten DeKalb half to death. It was good to get a grip on the character, find their borders and hear Jeff describe them.
In the end, Maja wanted to confront Killian in the apartment where the Dalliance was occurring. They used the empty apartment as a staging ground, renting it for a few months on Maja’s dime, circumventing DeKalb, who was waiting outside.
I find stories about jilted lovers and jealousy tedious but stories about cunning business women using baroque betrothal law that we’re all making up is cool. In the end, Killian was told that he’d be signing a variant of their 5-year-betrothal-contract, one that would leave Maja and her family very wealthy and controlling interests in the Neufurchtenburg factories. The bodies of Maja’s parents were taken out of the fridge and sent back to the crypts. Killian’s family key to the crypts, the Bone Key, was put in Maja’s care. Maja’s parents, it turned out, had pioneered a form of pneumatic seal that they had put on their own tombs, so their bodies were well preserved.
Why did these Lamordian nobles want to be preserved so well? Maybe we’ll learn that another time.
Had good world-building discussions, inspired by the lock and the fridge. Electro-chymical energy batteries and such. Felt very much like we were doing some quality cooperative world-building in figuring out the details of this strange streampunk nightmare.
Case #0003L2 was closed, information handed to client with some post-case extracurricular services offered to tidy up loose ends to client’s satisfaction.
Case #0001L2 (Missing Persons) and Case #0002L2 (Burglary) are still open cases that will be worked on in the coming days.
No new lore was dug up about the Dark Realms, though a Tiefling bodyguard who had been an agent of the Asmodeen Personal Security Firm will likely be out of a job and Talis showed him enough empathy and kindness that he might’ve turned a future enemy into a future ally. Maybe DeKalb will stop by the offices above the Rusty Harpoon in his dapper black suit and look for some work.
We took a week off and then I couldn’t game last week, so it was just lovely to see everyone’s faces tonight. Laughing on Thursday night with these friends is something I definitely look forward to in my week.
We decided to do some good ole fashioned planar balancing, look the good ole days. The Sigil 6 was tasked with dealing with a situation in Bytopia (try to say Bytopia for hours to your friends without laughing; I dare you. Damned silly name) in which a druidic cult of some kind is stealing acorns from Garl Glittergold’s personal grove of angelic trees in the Golden Hills. They had a gate right to Tradergate the portal town that leads to Bytopia, Gnomish Heaven.
When they asked their old Gnome friend, Dosk, about Garl Glittergold, I read Luke’s tweet as if she was remembering some bit of Gnomish scripture.
Thank goodness for the Fantasy Name Generator, helping me come up with Gnomish names all night. Divast Snanjot, a Gnomish cleric leading a trusty goat-mount welcomed them at the entrance to Tradertown. 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?
Failed Soldier has this cool habit, where he asks NPC’s what happens when they die. Divast said, “When I die, Garl Glittergold will come and ask me if I know the secret to the illusion of life and if I do not know, he will laugh and throw me into the Prime Material Planes, where I will haunt those lands forevermore. If I know, he will welcome me into the Golden Hills,” because I’ve been rewatching Conan the Barbarian scenes on youtube.
Mental note: Kuru adored the goat steeds and there was talk of Kuru retiring as a shepherd of war-goat-steeds.
There was a nice moment where they were setting up camp and I mentioned that this was not only a beautiful sunset over the Golden Hills but was also the first sunset they had seen in a long time. Trundle beckoning everyone to sit still for a moment and enjoy this moment was cool. Also cool, Divast giving respect to the Sigil 6 and to its most famous member, Helewynn, Slayer of Strahd.
They tracked the druids to a battle-site, where they turned from a herd of local elk into a mammoth, bears and snakes. They killed Gaerdal Ironhand XXIII, son of Gaerdal Ironhand, Gnomish deity and general of the Gnomish armies.
Failed Soldier’s Speak with Dead allowed them to talk to young Gaerdal XXIII, who asked if any knew what the secret of life’s illusion. Bugwump off-handedly said, “The illusion of life is that we can end suffering.”
Holy shit, is that true? I asked Bugwump’s player to roll and he rolled well. Religion or Arcana? Could’ve been either one, we decided. The roll suggested to me that this answer was damned good but not the complete answer…perhaps, it is good enough?
Bugwump and their Gnome escort did not get along. When Kuru asked what they were expected to do, the Cleric known as Divast Snanjot but was truly Garl Glittergold in illusory disguise, got snotty. “Well, isn’t that what the Sigil 6 are famous for? Won’t you bring us balance? Won’t you offer some of your famous outside-the-box thinking?” Bugwump lost his shit at him; it was cool to see Bugwump lose his temper but I checked in. Yeah, Garl Glittergold is an asshole and I played him as such but I don’t want the game to be an exhausting piece of an already exhausting world. I checked in and made sure everyone know they could tap out and ask me to scale this shit back.
We ended with Jusko attempting to disbelieve Garl Glittergold’s illusion and failing to do so but Bugwump did it and the illusion faded. I half-regret asking for a roll to disbelieve. As soon as you get to that point and pick up on those little clues, maybe you should just disbelieve. Something to think on.
What experience has your character had interacting with gnomes?
What rumors have you heard of the Blood War, in which Devils and Demons make war upon one another throughout the planes?
Gnomes are a particular delicacy on the Outer Planes. It is gnome, etc., known.
Gnomes also have an irritating propensity to resist conquest, as Bugwump discovered in his past life.
In fact, when Bugwump was first in the Labyrinth, he tried to ally with a gnome assassin in partial penance for his terrible treatment of the species. Sadly, the gnome remembered Bugwump all too well and tried to kill him for several months. Reluctantly, Bugwump eventually retailated and, with great regret, slew the gnome and then, with great relish, ate him.
Bugwump knows the Blood Wars well, having tried to exploit them at one point in his grand plan to conquer the multiverse. Sadly, it just turned both factions against him.
“Dziencujya, barkeep. Will have turnip stew and carrots. Feeling Gnomish today after feast last night.” Jusko thinks Gnomes and Halflings are the same, it’s just Gnomes have gone vegetarian. As soon as a Gnome eats bacon – poof – hairy feet. Magic is weird.
“Blood war? Seems big name for thing that always is. Devils and demons exist to maim torture and violence-make, da? Don’t know why need big fancy name. Like waterfall called The Wettening. Bah!”
Before Kuru joined the Sigil Six, even before he was in the labyrinth, Kuru stole the name ring of a demon lord on a job from a devil. He was paid by having his name removed from the Ledger of Acknowledgement.
Gnomes have been largely extinct for as long as we can remember. There was a great war amongst the dwarves and the gnomes over territory long long ago and the dwarves won. Why the dwarves continue to bear grudges against a people they vanquished long ago is a mystery. It is rumored that certain races thought gnomes a great delicacy and helped the rate of their extinction.
The Blood wars are just the machinations and playthings of great gods for their amusement. Kuru has heard rumors that the devils and demons are actually one and the same and are constantly being reborn to fight these endless pointless wars.
Rumor has it that the devils have created a sword that can kill the demon lord and are just waiting to strike. Dimensional raids have been increasing and it said that the devils have been searching for a long lost gate. The God roads are filling with raiding parties and refugees.
Rumor has it that a large, unidentified army is forcing the demons out of their homes. The demons are waging a desperate war to conquer the devils and try to settle there to escape.
Another rumor is that a wedding is to take place between devils and demons to cement an alliance. The purpose is to unite them to attack Sigil where they will control the nexus of planes and replace the Lady of Pain as the true power. (DM’s Note: This one mentioned a few ideas I’ve had but in a totally different context, just a touch sideways from my own ideas. Fascinating!)
Gnomes? I lived in a gnome some time ago. Lots of head space, despite the smaller body. The other gnomes were polite, but I could tell they were more uncomfortable than most with my living situation. They have a certain respect for their comrades bodies that I was completely ignorant of until the elder lady got the courage to broach the subject. I shall avoid occupying a Gnome body in the future if at all possible.
The Gnome, Dosk, on the other hand showed me that there is considerable tolerance for my kind. She knew what I was from the start, seeing my essence through her clever lenses. Even knowing my nature she jumped right to helping with that unique Gnomish curiosity and vigor.
I have only the vaguest memories of my first homes, yet some remain clear. One of them that still creeps into my thoughts is when I took my current name. In a world torn apart by claw, hoof, and fire, my essence drifting from corpse to corpse, unable to enter the husks left behind by fallen fiends, I was nearly lost, dissipated to the void. Pushing with the last of my will over the edge of a cliff, I fell into the deepest and widest of pits, filled to overflowing with the last fallen soldiers of this dying world. Those who swore allegiance to one side of the Blood Wars or the other in grim hope of saving their homes, only to be slain to the final man, woman, and child by the fiends to feed their infernal energy. I took a body with only a moment to spare.
Next Game: We’ll begin as they will ambush the druids at the portal from Bytopia to Tradertown with the Gnomish god’s illusion supporting their efforts.
Ludendorf is a port city built around 3 hills upon which are built the university, the baron’s vacated castle – now used by city bureaucrats and constables and the cemetery, a fortress to keep out grave-robbers with a police force all its own.
PRELUDE: A whaling ship bringing in a strange haul, some kind of gargantuan humanoid with something almost squid-like for a head. “Seemed to just be waking up when our harpoons found it,” one sailor said. “Strange aeons, indeed,” another agrees, “Not sure if we are going to get much oil out of this chtonic beast.” Newspaper headlines in the Ludendorf Gazette note that the civil strife in Neufurchtenburg is escalating. The Anarchist Slayer has claimed another victim in Ludendorf.
We described the office being a bit of a mess with diagrams on the walls from the other 2 unsolved cases – one concerning a theft of university property and another concerning their missing mentor. Storn suggested a bamboo screen to put over this evidence when visitors are in office.
Case #0003L2 Baroness Maja von Aubrecker believes her husband, Killian Furchten, is carrying on an indiscretion. The client is hiring the Arkev Investigative Guild to find out the nature of this dalliance as the 5 year anniversary of the betrothal nears, the time when, according to Lamordian betrothal law, the couple’s holdings become fully entwined.
The tension between Baroness Mara and her cousin, Inspector Viktor, was palpable but there was also some trust that family business would be dealt with in a discreet manner.
The case’s contract was filed by Chapterhouse Ludendorf’s chamberlain, Arek Avakian.
The guild’s Ludendorf Chapterhouse is located above a sailor’s bar on the docks, owned by sailor’s wife, Rosaly, with squid-tentacle tattoos of her husband’s rare prosperous voyages. One such voyage is crossed out.
Lamordian Nobles have taken to slumming it in Ludendorf – the latest style is to done Dementlieu-style masks and stagger from one working class pub to another. This is called a Dementlieuax Pub Crawl.
The Baroness’ manservant, interviewed by Inspector Talis, taken aside under false pretenses. Niklas, said servant, suggested they look deeper into betrothal laws and rites.
Killian has been frequenting university science presentations. The moneyed classes often look to these presentations to find investment opportunities. Viktor’s social status was used to gain entry, as suggested by his sister, a university student.
The investigators made their way to the university, looking at presentations. A list of past presentations was easy enough to find. Storn asked if he noticed anything strange about the list. Good question.
If I’d had a list, I could’ve just unveiled it and left it to him but I didn’t and didn’t feel like creating one on the spot was a good use of our time or my effort. Roll Investigation. It was a solid roll. Yes, you notice that Valentia Doss is the only woman’s name on the list; she presented on Ambulatory Balance in Constructs. The university has some patriarchal bullshit at hand.
Talis and Viktor attended a presentation about the science of where skills and attributes are stored in the body. A pair of corpse-arms, acquired legally through a flesh contract, was inspired to play a haunting violin tune through electric stimulation. Does this show the fiddle-skills of the arm’s former owner or the skill to inspire such a tune through electric manipulation?
NOTE: This led to a productive discussion about the type of weird science tech that is common, getting us on the same page.
Talis followed Killian leaving a presentation with a promising post-doctoral student, Valentia Doss, who has won the esteemed honor of serving as Viktra Mordenheim’s lab assistent last semester. A Tiefling with dark blue skin and black horns under a custom stove-pipe hat was also following the couple to an apartment in an expensive part of the city. Talis paid a young lad, Peter from Oil Street, to notify his partner of his whereabouts and his wife that he’d be home late. His wife was not notified. The horned man has not noticed Talis yet.
That is where we begin next week – a cold Ludendorf street as the sun sets. A well-married noble in an apartment with a bright science academic and a devil-folk in a dark suit standing outside this apartment, staking it out as our investigators meet up down the block to discuss their next moves.
The Dread lore gathered in this session concerns a distant Domain called Dementlieu, where masquerades are the fashion.
Did you intend every expedition to end up at a gate town? How did you envision “keeping balance” as the core mandate?
I didn’t intend every expedition to end up in a gate town. I figured it would be all over the Outlands and beyond. I envisioned that keeping balance would be largely determined by the players making decisions through their characters and that would be problematic, which is fun. They are serving a mysterious entity called the Lady of Pain. They probably know that, while they aren’t the baddies, this is a strange way to make a living.
I also wanted to be able to turn things I was using that use D&D I.P. into DM’s Guild products when I wanted to. I thought I’d have a support PDF for the adventures I’ve played but it didn’t work out that way.
How much time did you spend in Sigil? Was it just the denouement when factions argued over their actions?
We haven’t spent much time in Sigil – a few tweener adventures, especially as we’ve jumped into a few larger adventures through the big hardcovers (Tomb of Annihilation and Curse of Strahd). I’m probably the only one but I never liked the philosophical factions in Sigil. There is a philosophical vibe but I never mentioned the Sigil factions and the players never brought them up.
Despite that, when the characters got back to Sigil after months of in-game and out-of-game time away, it still kinda felt like home in a strange way.
If you had to do it again, what system would you choose?
Great question. 5e is the okay-est system. My indie RPG friends who play it often sigh and say things like, “Yeah, 5e, its fine,” so often it feels like the game’s official tagline. Tell me what other system I can run with 6 enthusiastic players who show up to EVERY session every Thursday night. Librarians (public and academic), unemployed folk looking for a mid-life career change, government employee/single parents, a pharmaceutical engineer who has several bee hives for his own honey and they make time every Thursday to play this silly/amazing game. We could’ve maybe done Old School Essentials but then I wonder if I would’ve had an easy time using the mainstream adventures…maybe I would’ve pivoted to OSE adventures instead. OSE is the only other system I can think of. The Bingo XP makes it a viable game for me.
6 gamers over Zoom…I reckon I’m sticking to 5e. I also like that recently a few friends have gotten 5e gigs, so it is nice to be able to play in Ravenloft and it will be nice to see the Sigil 6 deal with the worlds in the Radiant Citadel. On one hand, I would rather support indie RPG’s than make Hasbro’s shareholders more rich. On the other hand, I don’t owe anyone shit and will play whatever my friends and I decide to play.
tl;dr I think I’d stick with 5e.
Planescape is something I’ve tried to come back to A LOT. But it’s hard because few people I play with care for it like I do. I think this OET concept could be a way to drip out the lore. All they need to know is Sigil, and we start there, spreading out to the outlands (tame) to some place like Limbo (way less tame) even to a quasi-elemental plane or something.
I also really love the concept of coming home and basically defending your actions. Feels like a mission debrief in a police procedural, except I’m envisioning green demons in togas next to gnomes, each arguing different points. In my head I want to tie THIS part to xp and advancement somehow.
I’ve always been fascinated by Planescape but thought that the game promised in the boxed set is never the one I hear people talking about. I almost never hear folks talking about the Portal-Towns around the rim of the Outlands or the Outlands themselves or the way the characters’ actions rippled out through the planes. The Outlands Expedition Team is my attempt to get to that game with a strange premise.
What you are imaging, concerning the mission debrief is exactly how it goes. It has become a really fun way to celebrate other players and think about the adventures. The characters are coming up on 10th level and it feels appropriate that they are becoming adventuring rock stars now. They killed Strahd and thwarted Acererak.
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. That’d be a fun landmark to hit and I think the premise has room to evolve and mutate to get us there. I can’t wait to find out what the game looks like at that level. I am excited for every session.
You tried to kill Strahd and you failed. Now he has broken his prison and is free. Chase him across the Shadowfell, where the adventure might lead us into Gloomwrought, Sigil into the Hells or the Far Realms. We will venture beyond the Curse of Strahd and together we will find out if you can prevent the curse from becoming a plague.
Expect a player-driven fast paced chase through the planes.
How Will Character Creation Happen?
Characters will be 10th level, made before the game and we will link the party together during our Session Zero in which we will outline what happened during our fictional run through Curse of Strahd.
Pre-gens will be available.
What Will the Players Need?
Web-cam and mic are necessary. A good understanding of D&D rules and mythology is preferred. Players can roll dice online or use their own dice at home.
A burning desire to destroy Strahd is needed.
What Will I Bring?
I will bring a map of the Shadowfell, factions for Gloomwrought and Sigil and a vision of Strahd as a driven villain with his own nefarious goals.
I see threads on DM’s Academy asking what players will need to get started or what kind of character backgrounds should they have prepared when they come to the table. My preferred answer: as little as possible – just enough to have some context and inspiration as play begins.
If the players in your TTRPG (tabletop role-playing game) want to write something up for their characters or do some online homework before the game to flesh things out, here’s my 2-step suggestion:
Find a cool pic of your character.
Write a haiku about said character.
If they only have time for one of those endeavors, skip the haiku and grab a picture.
Is the Eyes of the Hawk God an item or a power or a blessing or the character’s name? Maybe the player has an idea and tells the DM. Maybe the player has copious notes about the barbarian lands where their prince comes from and a family tree. That is fine. Let’s talk about it.
What does being born on the Hunter’s Moon mean to the Warlock? Is Arcane Wolf going to be a homebrewed sub-class or background or just a bit of cool character fluff? Is Chaos and Justice a flowery way of saying Chaotic Good or something different?
Is the thief’s handsome devil mean their are a Tiefling or is it just a turn of phrase, inspired by what their beloved Aunt Sheila used to call them? What did they steal? Hand the DM a locked chest with something dangerous people want is a pretty cool background gift.
Are these brilliant examples of the fine art of Haiku?
No, they are not. That is fine. I’m not trying to make great art. I’m making fun character concepts that will inspire further conversations.
The way I like to play, character histories give just enough context to get the players to the table and the rest we’ll figure out in play. I like Haiku because the limits on words is built right in. There will be blank spaces and cool turns of phrase that will inspire questions and conversation as play begins (Session 0 is play).
If a player’s Character History Haiku raises questions and they aren’t sure about the answers, that is great. Find out together in play. The important thing is that they inspire pre-game conversations about the world and the people in it.
NOTE: If gaming is a kind of writing exercise for you and your friends and that is how you have fun – YAY! I’m happy for you. Truly, I am. I’m not saying that you are gaming wrong or that your fun is bad-wrong-fun.
In my experience, long character histories are a sign of frustration but I have totally used gaming as a writing tool and don’t want to yuck anyone’s yum.
If you want to make your own, drop me an email and I’ll gladly send you the Affinity Designer template.
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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.
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