Busy Week

I started the new job this last week. With all of the training, access requests, and new names and acronyms, it kept my brain busy enough that I stayed off of the computer most evenings rather than working on the book edits. Trying to push past a certain threshold for computer usage means sloppy or slow work for me, so I listen to my brain fatigue. 

I did complete one more chapter on Friday, and that only leaves two or three more before the book goes off to beta readers again. I plan on reaching out to copy editors at that same time to coordinate the schedule on that. I think I have a fair idea of how long the final revisions would take me. 

Saturday was a fun day with my D&D group playing Mad Mage. I was not pulling my punches, someone even took the bane of an elder rune – that is 20 six-sided dice worth of damage – to the face, and no one even dropped unconscious. This obviously means I need to up my game or they will start to think the dungeon is no challenge at all! 

With the one cursed sword picked up in the last game, they were a little more careful of additional magic item finds this time…well, some of them were more cautious. I’m pretty sure the rogue swore off caution for the day. He now has a ticking clock in his chest due to a beating heart in a box that is bound to something still in the dungeon. I hope they discover what that something is in time. Mwahaha!

That is for another week. Right now I’m getting ready to watch the Sounders play this evening. I hope they can have another amazing showing as they did on Thursday when half the starting lineup was about half my age. Kids these days are so impressive!

Go Sounders!

Back to the Table Top RPG

Happy Father’s Day all! Today’s post is all about my Dungeons & Dragons game earlier this week. It was great to get back together with friends this week to play D&D again. We have not been together as a group since the lockdowns ramped up early last summer. There were reunion hugs all around.

We did not jump straight back into the Mad Mage campaign. Instead, we treated this session as a reboot to become reacquainted with the PCs and the campaign so far. Some of my players are newer to the game than others, so the time set aside to read PC abilities and ask questions was helpful.

We also talked about PC motivations. Treating Mad Mage like a straight dungeon crawl creates a rather boring game, so I’m looking to put some of the story’s drive onto my players by knowing and playing to PC motivations. To help that along, we talked about how to apply their motivations in the game setting.

The bulk of the session was filled with mock encounters to get players back in the rhythm of actually playing their characters. I had the players provide some scenarios I could prepare ahead of time and randomized them.

They first encountered a carrion crawler nest with a gleaming gold helm upon the skull of a skeleton within. The rogue snuck forward in preparation for the tiefling casting darkness over the enormous worms, but she needed to move forward to do so. She crept a short distance into the room, then promptly turned around and shouted back at the rest of the party.

“Is this far enough?” Anakis asked them loudly.

This stealth check did not succeed, and the combat was on. While this distraction took place, Ashe the rogue sprinted forward, grabbed the helm, and rushed back to safety with it in hand.

The final battle of the evening was against some ankheg. Ashe and his player were feeling a little snarky at this point, and it did not end up working as well for him this time.

“I taste the dirt.” He says sarcastically.

“Roll me a con saving throw.”

“I roll a…”

“Poisoned.”

“13. You didn’t even wait for the number.”

*Evil grin. *

He also tried to move away from one of the ankheg, and I rolled a critical on the opportunity attack. That allowed me to do a fair amount of damage and disrupt his plans. He has a slippery character, so it was fun for me to catch him for once.

We get back to the campaign on our monthly cycle in July, so it will be fun to see how they continue to tackle the first level. I’m sure I will have more stories of cleverness and mishaps!

D&D 5e: Search for the Thieves’ Hideout – Part 2

After their night of stories and drinking with the satyrs, The Lethal Ladies decided to continue on rather than going back to town to silver their weapons. While they knew they would face a wererat, they thought they could handle it well as everything else encountered so far.

Aryn laughed and wondered if the hangovers contributed to no one arguing with Artemis in the morning about proceeding more cautiously that day. It slowed them, but they were able to avoid angering more of the local wildlife. As evening drew forward, the party came across a small hut in a clearing speckled with drying racks. A trail of smoke rose from the chimney.

“These could be the thieves.” Artemis cautioned.

“But if they are not, we should warn whomever lives here about the thieves.” Kuori argued.

Aryn nodded agreement. “You two stay back here ready to act, while I go knock on the door with Kuori.”

Valgrim shrugged. Artemis rolled her eyes at their brash behavior for the hundredth time this trip, but made ready with her bow.

A bushy and burly man answered the door. Bags under his eyes shouting to the world a clear lack of sleep in recent days. He introduced himself as DeBoushie, the local trapper, and invited them into his home after taking their measure in turn. DeBoushie told them he already knew about the thieves, and woke every night at even the slightest sound trying to protect the furs and skins he intended to sell in town next season.

He gladly accepted their offer to help keep watch through the night in exchange for a meal, and everyone slept better behind a closed door with a warm fire keeping the room comfortable. In the morning, DeBoushie asked them if they were certain about going after the thieves. When the party, even Artemis, were adamant about continuing and carrying out their mission, DeBoushie went into his back room and shortly returned holding two daggers toward them.

“These are silver daggers. You will need them against what you will face. I suspect they are camped at the old temple ruin about a half day away. If you can end the threat they pose, you have my thanks.”

The party accepted the weapons with gratitude, and said their farewells to make for the temple.

Approaching a Bandit Camp

The Lethal Ladies approached the temple ruins cautiously, and found a group of men laughing and arguing. It seemed word of the town hiring the guild had not reached the thieves yet, and maybe all the peril along the way was worth the speed.

Valgrim proposed waiting until they drank enough or at least fell asleep before attacking. While the other three agreed with him, they also wondered if there was a safe way to scout more details about the camp while they waited. The open area around the camp made that risky in daylight, so they were scratching their heads until Aryn remembered she could turn into a snake and scout around in that form much more easily.

The leader was easy to identify. They might not be able to tell why he talked to his shoulder all the time, but they knew who the wererat likely was and could plan accordingly. As night fell, and only one man remained on watch, they made their way to the cliff face, against which the camp was set, and crept forward. Artemis stopped first and took aim at the watchman, ready to fire the moment anyone was noticed. Aryn stopped next, a little closer, ready to entangle those sleeping in the lean-to should an alarm be raised.

Valgrim and Kuori clanked forward, staring intently at the man on watch and ready to charge the moment he noticed anything. Another clank of their armor and his head cocked to the side. One more and his eyes widened at the sight of a giant woman and short, hairy man creeping toward him. They charged, and an arrow thunked into the man’s side, making him cry out, before he took cover behind one of the barricades. Vines and other plants shot out of the ground around the lean-to, and the waking men thrashed about as they struggled to escape.

They were quickly dispatching the lackeys, but the boss rat kept disappearing into the underbrush only to pop up in another spot and throw more daggers at them. Kuori threw her silver dagger at him, missing, only to have the thief pick it up and pocket it with a wave of thanks in her direction before disappearing again and popping up next to Aryn.

She dodged time and again, but strikes would still land and she slowed even as her friends eliminated the last of the lackeys. Finally, they came to her aid and struck at the wererat, but little seemed to affect him. He shrugged off hit after hit and kept attacking. Aryn was too slow one to many times and went down. The thief slipped away and stabbed at Artemis. Kuori and Valgrim caught up to him, but not in time to keep Artemis from falling to his blows as well.

Another hack, another slash. They dodged and took stabs and bites until finally…finally…the rat was eliminated. The two of them rushed to their friends, who were barely clinging to life, and did not even notice the invisible creature take wing away from the scene. Its departure released the seal on the hidden cave door, and the silver dragon trapped within. He would resume his care of this land, he told them, but the party needed to leave his lair immediately.

As quick as they could, they grabbed the items stolen from the town and left the dragon in peace. DeBoushie sheltered them once more when they returned his knives, thanking him profusely and taking the time for Artemis and Aryn to heal. Finally, they could return to the town victorious, return their stolen valuables, and let them know their protector was free once more to care for these lands.

Afterword

Thank you to my friends for allowing me to share our misadventure. I hope you enjoyed reading about it, and I will bring you more adventures of The Lethal Ladies as we play again.

I have some cover art to share, so next week I will be back with another post on writing / publication.

D&D 5e: Search for the Thieves’ Hideout – Part 1

This weekend we jumped on Discord to play a virtual session of Dungeons & Dragons. Welcome to our “episode of the month” style game world.

Your primary cast of characters in “The Lethal Ladies” from the Guild of Montesso are:

  • Artemis – a ranger who loves the world and is curious about everything in it, but is just as afraid of pretty much everything and errs heavily on the side of caution. She would probably call it “being the voice of reason.”
  • Kuori – a fighter with a bit of a savior complex. She is taller than everyone around her, but does not mind leaning over to get in your face about something.
  • Aryn – a druid with all the curiosity of Artemis and none of the caution. Unless there are blaring signs of danger – and maybe not even then – or friends to stop her, she will walk right into any situation.

To round out their group, they invite one or two temp workers along on missions to help out. This mission they picked up the indecisive Valgrim. A barbarian-fighter wielding two handaxes and a whole load of bravado.

Paths and Satyr Parties

The Lethal Ladies were sent by the guild to help a town normally relatively free of crime suddenly beset by thieves stealing valuables in the night. The town council directs them to some fresh tracks, but the tracks fade into the forest cover only a short way beyond the town’s perimeter. Artemis and Valgrim discern between three and ten thieves, and with them are the tracks of what they believe to be a giant rat.

Artemis argues for returning to town each night as they narrow down the path taken by the thieves, but Kuori, Valgrim, and Aryn will hear nothing of wasting valuable time on something like “safety” in an area only “slightly” overrun with monsters. There are much more dangerous areas and regions in the world. A group well armed and alert can certainly protect themselves for a few days of searching in these woods and camping out at night.

After being surprised awake by a swarm of stirges the first night, followed by Kuori nearly strangled to death and carried off to be eaten by a vine monster on day two of the search, the party finds a group of three satyrs partying in a forest clearing making merry with ale and a roasting boar. Despite Artemis’s reminder satyrs are notoriously mischievous, they decide to introduce themselves and ask to join them for the night as well as warning the fun creatures about the thieves. Artemis tagging along and shaking her head in dismay.

They are welcomed over to the fire, and the satyrs tell them to take care because a wererat runs the group of thieves in question, and such creatures are not to be trifled with. With their warning given, the groups drink and trade stories late into the night. The Lethal Ladies tell them of taking down the vine monsters and frightening off a pack of vicious boar. Kuori is not the best story-teller, but the satyrs paste smiles on their faces through even her rendition and carry on with the fun. As the night wears on, they take out their pipes and play a haunting melody, pushing the party into sleep…all but one.

“Huh.” One says, looking at Aryn. “You can hold your ale.”

“I drink like the fish-person I am. I guess I have first watch then.” She responds, glancing at her friends asleep all around the camp.

The satyr scratches his horn. “This is embarrassing. We did not expect any of you to still be awake. See…We are completely out of food after this boar, and we were going to take all of yours and leave you here. We respect someone who can stand up against our ale and song though. What if we give you these two health potions in exchange for ten rations?”

Aryn can do all the math in this situation and gladly makes the exchange, letting them leave in peace. Rather than blissfully sleeping until noon as the spell would have otherwise made them, she wakes Valgrim for his watch and with each following, they are on the trail of the thieves again early the next morning, despite a few headaches. They briefly consider turning back to have the town smith silver their weapons, but it does not seem worth it without knowing for certain their weapons would be ineffective. They have a few spells and one magic weapon. What could go wrong?

Find out next week as we conclude our adventure.