Daydreaming about the Northern Death Pantheon

Daydreaming about the Northern Death Pantheon

Seemed like a cool skull image to start this thing with.
Northern Death Pantheon
Death Gods and Necromantic Witch-Queens in the Frozen North using Godbound
twitch.com/actualplay / Friday / 1/14 / 6:30pm PST 9:30pm EST

Campaign Pitch

Godbound (Free Edition/Deluxe Edition) is a D&Dish game about demi-gods changing a broken world. I’d like us to riff off of the Witch-Queens feuding in a Gothic-Viking icy north blurb from the book’s Ulstang Skerries. I imagine the game beginning with a young Witch-Queen praying to her family’s cold shrines as her rivals close in (maybe literally, maybe armies are en-route…I don’t know). You, her family’s ancient and cold death gods, are who come to her aid.

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Questions

These might be questions we answer during chargen, go on adventures to find the answer or decide that there isn’t just one answer…

What are the islands? 

Dead rival gods, dead monsters slain in the primordial past, the bodies of the victorious dead who founded these lands…

Why did you fall asleep?

Trickery, it was time to give the mortals time to build on their own, it was foretold, too much energy was spent fighting against an ancient and hazy threat

Do new Witch-Queens need your pantheon’s blessing to be legit? Do other islands have their own pantheons? Are those reflections or heretical reflections of you or entirely different pantheons all together?

What is the state of the Ulfstang Skerries right now? Are the thrones feuding? Vacant? Ignored? Stagnant?

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This picture by the amazing concept artist, Winona Neslon is how I picture the young Witch-Queen whose prayers will wake you up as we start play.

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Character Concepts

[Possible Words of Creation – choose 3 to start] These are meant to stir up ideas and not limit them. These are not the only characters on the table and I’m sure you all have better ideas. If you need some ideas, here they are. If these don’t do anything for you, I can’t wait to hear your amazing ideas.

The First Witch-Queen, The All-Mother, Lady Ulstang [Command, Death, Deception, Knowledge, Night, Sorcery, Winter]

Patron Saint of Witch-Queen’s Consorts [Passion, Deception, Fertility, Knowledge, Dance, Desire, Music, Protection]

Kidnapped Saint from Mainland Pantheon, adopted by Northern Death Pantheon (please be careful) [???]

The Wolf-Mother, the Red Matron, the Raiding-Witch, the Sword-Aunty [Bow, Command, Death, Endurance, Fire, Might, Night, Sea, Sword, War]

The Shipwright [Seas, Journeys, Artifice]

The Castellan of All Tombs [Earth, Death, Knowledge, Fire, Protection, Underworld]

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Factions and other odd thoughts

The Coven – a trio of powerful Witch-Queens who have manufactured their own gods in your absence

Mainland – Witch-Queen(s) who have looked to the mainland for power, worshipping their deities and levvies of troops to support their reign(s)

Order of the Drowned Asshole– religious order dedicated to a deity you all drowned in the sea centuries ago because they were being a shit

13 total living Witch-Queen thrones (but more than 13 islands that make up the skerries)

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Tropes to Avoid

Women never get along because B-words be crazy

What else?

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Blank map that we’ll add stuff to…

Map of Ulstang Skerries
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Leveling Up

How about questions like Blades in the Dark and when we get enough XP, the pantheon levels up all together. The XP needed is the number of the next level, if you gain more XP than needed, it disappears.

Did you defeat an enemy with cunning or turn an enemy into an allie with empathy?

Did you explore a new area on the map, add a new detail to the map or venture off the map all together?

Did you add new details about your pantheon’s religion?

If you’d like to watch us figure all this out in play, please join us in chat this Friday at the Actual Play twitch-stream.

Excited to game with Luke, Rae, Sean and Jay.

And if you’d just like to rock out with what character you’d play in this campaign, please comment below.

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Forgot that I pitched this to Sean a few months ago (should be forwarded to the Godbound part of the video below):

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Here’s the first session, chargen and all:

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Art

Skull image at the top is from the British Library Flickr

Image from Sword Subject Divider from the Cleveland Museum of Art

Title Image is from the NYPL Digital Collection

Font on the title and map is Nightmare Gothic

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Daydreaming about the upcoming Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft

A new book is coming out from Wizards of the Coast, a ton of friends have work in it that I can’t wait to read and it is a fun exercise to think: What would I do with it at the table?

I haven’t seen the book but…here’s an idea : use Godbound (Free or Deluxe) to drop demi-gods on it. Turn Ravenloft into a gothic-high-fantasy sandbox.

The Demi-Plane of Dread has been creating misery and fear throughout the planes for too long. It is time to end it. The Powers get serious and drop some heavy hitters into the Mists.

NOTE: I was going to make each character and post a pdf but that feels off. Below is a short take on what those characters could be, the Words of Creation that I’d use to power them and here’s a form-fillable pdf so you can do the rest.

The Arch-Angel of Hope

Words: Sky, Command, Health

Sphere with eight wings and a thousand eyes or belly-buttonless human with wings of fire? You tell me.

Swap out one Word for Sword if you want to go that route…


The Saint of Swords

Words: Sword, Alacrity, Death

I imagined Kaz, the vampire who cut off Vecna’s hand, but if that doesn’t fit, swap out Death for what fits your take on the Saint of Swords.


The Raven Queen

Words: Death, Winter & Birds (from Lexicon of the Throne)

I love the Raven Queen; she’s my favorite part of the D&D pantheon.


The Patron Saint of Paladins

Words: Sword, Sun, Command

Patron Saint of Fallen Paladins? Swap out Command or Sun for Passion or War or Deception.


Too on the nose? You want this to get a bit strange?

Yeah, I hear that.

The Githyanki Lich Queen

Words: Sword, Death, Sorcery

Maybe Command instead of Swords?


Grumsh

Words: Might, Passion, War

Grumsh SMASH!


Asmodea, Princess of Hell

Words: Sorcery, Deception, Underworld

Wanna to play a devil?


The Created God

Words: Artifice, Knowledge, Health

What if golems put together their own god from pieces of dead gods?

Maybe swap out Artifice for Engineering from Lexicon of the Throne if the game is going to have a more science fantasy vibe. Vengeance if getting back at the Creator is important…


I am assuming that the book will have rules for becoming a Dark Lord. We’d hack those to fit this. Maybe a way to call upon the mist for power but when you do you edge closer to becoming that which you hunt? Maybe a new word, The Mist, that one can take at any time in order to gain their own Domain?

And of course Godbound’s stripped down and solid faction rules so that Ravenloft becomes a big, messy, gothic sandbox.

Let me know what you’d like to play, what you think or if there are deities you’d want to play who aren’t listed above.

Sector Ypsis Rho

Ypsis Rho is a sector recently rocked by a nuclear war having decimated Hrefna, in the Hypsila System, the planet best situated to study and harness the cyclopean energy contained in the sector’s only black hole, XW 397186. The sector’s planets are blessed with breathable air; the planetologists who helped settle these planets are revered as science-saints.

Planetary Guide

Hrefna

On its best days, Hrefna was a frozen rock given atmosphere breathable to humans by a rare mix of invasive fungi, slugs and genetically modified bees bred to spread fungal spores. Shredded by a civil war, Hrefna is suffering from the fallout of a nuclear missile barrage after diplomatic solutions fell apart. Hrefni refugees have emigrated to planets and orbital settlements all over the sector, running from the radiation and soldiers who were selling their services in the Hrefna Civil War.


Valgerg

Valgerg, the Archipelago Planet, is a tropical paradise with remnants of Olde Earth technology so advanced none know their original purpose. What were once universities and science enclaves have become cults of science-priests and artifact prophets known collectively as the Holy Orders of Olde Earth (see Sociological Faction Guide below).

Valgerg was barely settled world, commonly thought of as such because the salvage freelancers looking for pretech made it a violent place. The Holy Orders are trying to change that, regulating how pre-tech is sought out and making it illegal to smuggle pre-tech artifacts off-planet without expensive export visas.


Manthyi

The storm planet has cyclopean obelisks along the equator and on the poles that seem to channel the storms that make the planet challenging to get on and off of. The Holy Orders of Olde Earth are trying to form a foothold on this planet as the storms have caused electromagnetic pulses, wreaking havoc on Manthyi’s technology and economy.


Leaquidor

This planet is a kind of retreat, settled by a heretical sect of the Holy Orders who are seeking out a mass ascension, leaving this world by the hundreds of thousands to pursue an existence as beings of pure energy.

The asteroid field that surrounds the approach to Leaquidor are riddled with ancient mines from a war whose name and sides are no longer known. It is said the Leaquidor Ascension Heretics (see Sociological Factions below) activated the defenses so that they could achieve ascension without interruption or distraction from the rest of the sector’s petty concerns.


Tejanes

Just coming out of a decade long plague, Tejanes is in a state of despair looking at the state of the sector. The Tejanesiones Senate is engaged in intense debate about what they should be doing to solve the sector’s problems while corporations are profiting from the sector’s overall unrest, running refugee ships that sign the desperate passengers into unscrupulous indenture contracts and barely legal pre-tech salvage agreements.


Asirida

A planet known for its aggressive cybernetic culture, recent laws have made it illegal to land on the planet and recruit its enhanced soldiers to fight but that has barely slowed the flow of mercenaries to conflicts all over the sector.

Rocket ships that are crude by modern standards launch daily so that awaiting orbital recruitment platforms can sign Astridanni cyborgs into the eagerly awaiting mercenary companies.


Halld

After the nuclear war on Hrefna, Halld cloaked itself from easy detection, making finding the planet difficult if not impossible. The planet’s atmosphere has rendered the population immortal and rather than share this amazing bounty with the rest of the sector, the Halldoni people have elected to hide their resources and leave the rest of the Sector to fend for itself.

Halldoni Navy ships, named for Olde Earth deities, patrol the Ias System and send anyone looking for the planet back the way they have come with any information that could make future navigation easier erased from their databases.


Suranir Priddhi

Having lost their navy in a conflict against Halld, Suranir Priddhi is now struggling to retain its status as an elite diplomatic corp and banking cartell in the sector.


Sociological Faction Guide

The Holy Orders of Olde Earth

This is a council made of dozens of organizations that take their inspirations from what we can remember of Olde Earth. They have turned toward protecting the artifacts not only on Valgerg but all over the Sector, spreading not only spiritualism and community but science and learning wherever they can.

  • Unlocks the Pre-tech Minefield of Leaquidor
  • Finds an ancient terran battlecruiser sent to put the sector back in control of Olde Earth oligarchs

The Tejanesiones Senate

The Senators of Tejanes are engaged in a debate about what action this planet should take. With its small but capable modern navy and solid science infrastructure it is in a unique position to change the fate of the sector. Refugees have been welcome here, though senators are being bought by the TCEA and drawing the debate out in bad faith.

Tejanes Navy spaceships are named after what is remember on earth, from natural resources (The Grand Canyon, Mount Killimanjaro or The Amazon Forest) for humanitarian ships to human-made marvels (The Great Wall, Stonehenge or the Pyramids of Giza) for ships made for war. Senators who declare a naval maneuver will often be deployed with the ship as a counselor to see the work their legislation achieves first-hand.

  • Navy is sent en masse to Hrefna to evacuate those suffering under nuclear blight
  • TCEA is declared a war criminal.

Tejanes Corporate Entities Alliances

With shareholders from all over the sector, the Corporate Entities are a brutal alliance looking to take control of as much of the sector as they can via war profiteering and crisis investing. From investing in weapons and munitions to refugee transportation and indenture, no profit is too low for the T.C.E.A.

  • T.C.E.A. gains a controlling share in the Airidanni Mercenary Compact and uses that leverage to take control of Tejanes via military corporate coup.
  • T.C.E.A. captures science that can harness energy of XW 397186, putting the sector under its thumb.

Leaquidor Ascension Heresy

Spiritual philsopher scientists who have claimed an isolated planet that is surrounded by ancient pre-tech mines left from a forgotten war. When something happens in the sector that cannot be easily explained, conspiracy theorists are quick to blame it on Leaquidor Heretics. Few Leaquidorans leave their planet. Much of the time, these conspiracy theories are false.

  • The heretics ascend, leaving this physical world for a dimension of pure energy and mathematics.
  • The heretics declare a holy war on those seeking to interfere on their ascension.

Airidanni Mercenary Compact

Together the mercenary companies of the A.M.C. are a formidable force, each coming to the aid of even the smallest company signed into their mutual defense compact. None of the colorfully named companies (The Red Wolves, the Screaming Kaiju, the Psychic Tigers, the Terran Ancients and many more) have gained an upper-hand over the others, making the A.M.C. a conglomerate of diverse mercenary companies. From the bodyguards to cyborg infantry to the most complicated company of dropships mechanized tank battalions they are united. Even as they fight and kill each other to fulfill their contracts, they will set aside rivalries to defend the other.

  • AMC ends the Hrefna Civil War by refusing to allow its soldiers to serve in the irradiated landscape.
  • AMC takes contract to break the Halldoni Blockade.

Halldoni Immortals

Isolationists who refuse to share the vast resources of their idyllic planet. The navy that guards the planet in what they call the Halldoni Blockade has no mercy towards trespassers. Those who try to find their way to Halld are referred to as “weeds in the garden” and are attacked without mercy.

  • Halldoni Terrorists strike against major powers seeking to sneak past their blockade.
  • Halld shares medicine with faction to show their good will.

Suranir Priddhi Mercantile Sibhood

The Suranir Priddhi Mercantile Sibhood are bankers and diplomats whose banking exchange can trace its lineage back to Olde Earth but now struggles against its own dramatic decline. Once a Priddhi Agent could quell a war or depose a dictator within days of landing on a planet but now their era is coming to a close.

  • The Suranir Priddhi Mercantile Sibhood finds reasonable rates and terms with Hrefna to offer them a sizeable loan to rebuild and de-radiate its planet.
  • The Sibhood puts in an order to rebuild its navy to regain its status in the Sector.

What next?

If we’re doing traditional Stars Without Number the players can start as a small mercenary company in the A.M.C. or a proud group of Suranir Priddhi agents, maybe even a group of sci-fi Jesuits in the Grid System’s volatile asteroid/mine field trying to unlock its secrets.

If we’re rocking out with Star Gods, let’s have these immortals zip into the system in a capital ship worthy of their pantheon and they can look at the map and ask their AI questions until they decide which planet they want to jump onto first.


Art and Inspiration

Image by Reimund Bertrams from Pixabay

Sectors Without Number is a cool toy.


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Finishing Touches on Circe Theta


The sector is about ready to roll. I’d fiddle with things as characters were made, fine-tune it to fit the Star Gods at hand a bit. Right now it is fine for a SWN game but I want a few more big things for a Star Gods game.

Godbound has a few cool tables. Let’s roll a few and see what inspirations shake loose.


Ruins

We’ve got some ruined orbital stations and the dead ships around Usaus.

I get the following

  • Vault or Treasury of some Mighty Relic
  • Temporal Lock
  • Useful Ally who could be useful or reactivated

Interesting, Temporal Lock means the ruin is only accessible at a certain time (unless there is a Star God with the Time sphere). I’m thinking an old Hegemonic starship that went too close to the black hole and occasionally appears as it tries to break free of the event horizon’s brutal grip (Does that even make sense? I don’t know. Sounds cool).

There is a Star God-level entity aboard who was lost and they had an amazing weapon, a legendary blade made by the smiths of Gordie Pria…maybe they even got caught in the black hole’s pull trying to grab the blade after it was forged there.


That was fun. Let’s go again.

  • Fortress or Military installation
  • Toxic Atmosphere
  • Valuable Map to treasure or lost ruin (rolled Useful Ally again and chose this one instead)

I’m thinking a capital ship Usaus, where bio-weapons blew up and left the ship a dangerous toxic mess. This ship was called in during the hegemon’s last days but before that it had guarded a research station that was dedicated to turning the Black Hole into a stargate.


Fun, let’s try an aristocratic court for one of our Alldish Noble Houses.

  • Court Mood: Decadent, obsessed with exotic pleasures
  • Major Actor: Honored General
    • Minor Actor: Foreign artist
  • Conflicts: Dispute over Heir
    • Consequences of Destruction: A much worse set of replacements are waiting

Love it. I’m thinking the foreign artist is a director who makes amazing movies about Olde Earth, painting ancient battles as current events. We’ve got an heir of an honored general and the general’s staff would be even worse if they took power.

I’ve got vague ideas about the General retiring after a century of war, becoming a saint-like demi-god. For some reason I’m picturing the general as George Washington – powdered wigs, Revolutionary War sabers and laser muskets.


I’d make up a Time Angel from the Black Hole as some kind of Parasite God.

Techno-undead in the ships floating above Usaus.

I want something keeping Kordie Pra’s quarantine, something that can take on several gods. Maybe a Nanite Cloud in low orbit that becomes a monster designed to destroy whatever attempts to get through. I’ll let that marinate.


If I was feeling it, I’d make up the factions using the SWN rules, though I might go with the looser Godbound faction rules, roll some dice, see how the factions are doing as the Star Gods step into the Sector.

Factions of Circe Theta

Aeonine Pilgrims

These are warrior nomads who traverse the sector, either on merchant ships of their own make or as cosmonauts aboard other ships. They make frequent pilgrimages to the planets and research satellites surrounding the sector’s black hole, Mb 05561, though they refer to it as the Vantablack Mirror or the Holy Mirror.

Temporal Anomalies that surround Mb05561 are seen as holy visions and scientists who study the physics of the black hole are seen as science-prophets and granted tremendous respect.


Robot Union of Cymodec

Cymodecci synthetic engineering made self-aware robots more than two centuries ago and the robot union is dedicated to safeguarding their personhood and freedom.


Debran Ancients

These ancient posthuman entities were never meant to last forever and are nearing the end of their meticulously engineered existence. Existing somewhere between the physical realm and realms of pure energy, these posthumans guard ancient technology. The use of this technology was lost in the Scream.


Red Sand Settlers

(Alldish Warlord Noble House)

Said to be descendants of the first humans to leave Earth and settle on another planet, this noble house is known for having a brutal navy and unparalleled space marines.


Olde Earth Siblings

(Alldish Warlord Noble House)

A noble house led by warlords who claim to be descended from the boldest warriors-poets and philosophers of Earth’s history. The genetic science is hazy myth and propaganda carefully engineered to bolster their claims.


Alldish Soldiers Minor

(Alldish Warlord Noble House)

Veterans of this decades long war who either saw the ugly side of Red Sand Settlers and Old Earth Siblings or wanted to forge their own path because they realized there was only so high they could rise have formed their own houses. They are a shifting mess of alliances and betrayals.


Alright, next step is to use Temple Courts and Ruin tables from Godbound to build a few cool things and think about some big cosmic monsters might be feeding around the black hole and some giant robots that Alldish Warlords might be using in their neverending war.

Star Gods’ Sandbox

Thinking a bit more about Circe Theta.


Let’s think about the planets a bit, not all of them, just a few that jump out.

Alld

Tags: Eugenic Cults, Mercenaries

Alld is being warred over by local warlords who keep mercenary armies in their thrall. The warlords are powerful, as powerful as a mortal human can be, some even moreso. They believe this power comes from breeding and bloodlines but it is from ancient nanites that they don’t understand.

Alld is gripped in a cold war with flare-ups from time to time. Hot war is reserved for Papadoudo.


Usaus

Tags: Forbidden Tech, Local Hegemon

Once this was the seat of the sector’s ruling government but instability from the Black Hole decimated their technology. With their computers and navy decimated, the planet is a once-proud shadow of its glory. Without the Usausian Navy to regulate, Alldish Warlords have run rampant throughout the sector. Remnants of their navy still orbit the planet, filled with the dead sailors floating within.

Forbidden Tech, though! Maybe it wasn’t the unstable Black Hole. Maybe there is an AI behind this and that is what caused the tech level breakdown, taking eyes off of this planet.


Kordie Pria

Tags: Local Tech, Quarantined World

I love that it is quarantined and has a local specialty. The local specialty is definitely a weapon, somehow forged in the nearby Black Hole. Ancient Defense Satellites destroy ships that try to land. They sealed themselves off when Usaus fell.

I imagine Alldish Warlords trying to get to Kordie Pria’s surface, with myths of whichever Warlord gains a Kordie Pria-made blade will be the Sector Hegemon with the power to spread to other sectors and become an emperor.


Debra

Tags: Dying Race, Pretech Cultists

Ancient post-humans guarding technology they no longer understand. Debrans know they have lost their legacy and hope to gain it back or hand it off to someone worthy before they go extinct.


Papadoudo

Tags: Cyclical Doom, Battleground

This is where the Alldish Warlords fight their most brutal battles, leaving the planet a wreckage as dropships and battle-mechs rain down on the surface. Centuries of experimental weapons have triggered a doom that has come before that will leave the planet without life. None of the warlords want to evacuate, not wanting to give their rivals any ground.


Factions are coming together.

I need a few Alldish Warlords noble houses linked to broken understandings of Olde Earth, like shitty whyte supremacists appropriation of Norse icons. The ancient, sad Debran Tech-Priests who are falling into extinction. Usuali rangers who have the sector’s governmental history in their hands but not the tech to govern.

And still, the aliens who are watching, studying these humans.

I’d flesh out the factions just a touch more. Sectors Without Number has really fun tools for making and recording factions. I’d write down a few before play and then get to it.

Next week I might grab a few tables from Godbound and see if I can jar loose some ideas, fleshing out courts and ruins for our Star Gods to explore.

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Stars Without Number + Godbound =

Stars Without Number + Godbound =

During chargen we figure out what Star Gods actually are and how we’re setting the Space Magic dial. Spells from ancient satellites? Bene Gesserit weirding way or Jedi mystic mind control? Click. Set.

Was a holy order seeded here, missionaria protectiva style, ready to support the Star Gods when they arrived, as prophesied?

Do they arrive in a space ark capital ship or a comet or do they appear through humanity’s dreams or collective unconscious or are they born with this seed of divinity hidden in them by their ancestors? Maybe the Scream also killed all of the Star Gods or drove them into a deep slumber. We’ll suss that out together as we make up our sci-fi pantheon.

Next I’d go to Sectors Without Number and make up as small a sector as I can. Right now that is 5×5. Cool, that is a nice mini-campaign. I’d sit down with the notes and daydream with a pen in my hand.

The Star Gods are there to get this sector in order. I’m not sure what that means. Maybe it means taking over. Maybe it means establishing temples. Maybe it means linking the governments to Olde Earth. Depends on the Star Gods. Maybe it means blessing a few visionaries and then leaving. Players decide when to move on.

Once they have this sector in hand or in a state that the players are happy with or they are just ready to move on, they begin constructing a stargate to the next sector and we do it again.


Thinking about Circe Theta

Fun stuff here in Circe Theta.

Lots of alien research bases studying humans. Alien Star Gods? But of course.

Black Holes are always fun. Astra is a doomed world right next to the Black Hole and the Black Hole’s other neighbor is home to a dying race. There’s a cyclical doom tag on Papadoudo. Lots of doom all around this singularity. Something to think about.

I’d want to zoom in and out, with both details about the world along with larger than life science fiction space opera threats for the Star Gods to deal with. Alien star gods watching from a distance, a Black Hole spewing doom along with the fun tags will offer more than enough inspirations for factions.


Image by ipicgr from Pixabay

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The Sigil 6: Outlands Expedition Team

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Here’s where I’m keeping my ideas for the science-fantasy RPG, Troika!, and blog posts about our Friday night game. Link above (and in the tabs at the top of the page).


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


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