Monday, November 27, 2023

COVID Character: Willy Lightbourne

Since the start of the pandemic, I have played more role-playing games than I ever have before. I thought I'd use my space to introduce you to my characters, and give you a little background about the system they're in, what they're like, and what they're doing. 

Willard "Willy" Lightbourne

Aliases: None
Pronouns: He/Him
Character Concept: Political Activist
Character Stats: Union Agitator
Campaign: Harlem Unbound
System: Call of Cthulhu 7e
Campaign Status: Complete!

I will never stop singing the praises of Harlem Unbound, which was written by Chris Spivey. It's a great campaign, and it brings a unique and much-needed perspective to a fictional universe written and developed by a horrible racist. I learned some things about myself, and about the time period in which Call of Cthulhu is set, by playing in this campaign, and that's pretty cool.

Despite playing through a long and fairly involved campaign, Willy has always been something of a cypher to me. I've never quite known what makes him tick, other than a strong sense of social justice (which, honestly, may be enough). I am glad that, despite my lack of understanding of who he was as a person, he was an integral part of the investigative team. He helped the group out of several scrapes with his legal knowledge, his lockpicking ability, and my semi-obsessive note taking

Willy (and all the other investigators) survived through the end of the campaign, which is a rarity for Call of Cthulhu. That said, they did not escape their adventures without harm. A portal to the Dreamlands sheared off Willy's right leg below the knee, leaving him traumatized and in need of a prosthetic. This rarely slowed him down, though, and also proved to be somewhat prophetic as, later on in the game, he time traveled and wound up in the body of an 18th century pirate.

I realized, too late, that I had made a character named Willy for a game that I played with a bunch of British people. Fortunately, everyone was very mature and nobody mentioned it a single time!  

Sunday, November 26, 2023

COVID Character: Oskar das Kotalett

Welcome to a new series!

Since the start of the pandemic, I have played more role-playing games than I ever have before. I thought I'd use my space to introduce you to my characters, and give you a little background about the system they're in, what they're like, and what they're doing. 

Oskar das Kotalett

Aliases: Father Oskar, Father Kotalett
Pronouns: He/Him
Character Concept: Miner turned worshiper of Sigmar
Character Stats: Human Warrior Priest of Sigmar/10th level Oath of Conquest Paladin
Campaign: The Enemy Within
System: Genesys, WFRPG 4e, D&D 5e
Campaign Status: Ongoing 

Oskar features in the longest-running campaign that I've been in since Covid hit. We're playing through the updated re-release of The Enemy Within, Games Workshop's famous five-part saga originally released in the 1980s. It is an excellent campaign, with good pacing (for the most part), interesting characters, and a lot of good story beats.

I was a late addition to the game. The GM found out I had free time and asked me if I wanted to roll up a character and join in on the fun. He also said that the other players would be glad to have me, especially if I played someone who was specced for frontline fighting. I was, of course, happy to oblige.

We have changed systems--and virtual tabletops--several times, for a variety of reasons, but Oskar has remained remarkably consistent. He started out as a laborer/miner that got religion and decided to serve Sigmar. He's not nearly as fire and brimstone as other Sigmarites in the game, and the GM has to sometimes remind me that, yes, Geoff, Oskar would think it was fine and great to murder any goblins he comes across, because that's what Sigmar wants.

Despite that, I have a hard time playing a zealot, and so Oskar is more reserved and relaxed than his brethren. He also wants to mend bridges (or fences) between the Sigmarites and the Ulrician church--a major plot point in the latter half of the campaign. His willingness to do this, and his insistence on wearing his full priestly regalia even in the face of strong anti-Sigmarite sentiment, has earned him some confused and worried glances from people on both sides of the religious debate. Oskar mostly ignores this, devoting his time to rooting out cults, killing skaven, and trying to keep the Empire from falling apart. 

Considering he's only gotten 1 Sin point so far, it seems like he's doing a pretty okay job!

Surprisingly, Oskar's previous history as a miner (which I more or less chose at random), has saved the party's bacon numerous times during the campaign. We keep finding ourselves in skaven warrens, sewer tunnels, caverns, and (currently) an abandoned and possibly haunted mine. Having the GM tell me, "okay, Oskar, because you're a miner, you know..." gives me the warm fuzzies every time I hear it!

He is the current wielder of the holy sword, Barrakul, the Hope of the Mountains, which he and his companions recovered from a templar's sarcophagus in the Chaos-ravaged village of Wittgendorf.




Friday, November 17, 2023

Dungeon ADVENTURE!: Forest of Fear, Part Two

Lokerimon says goodbye to the party, but not before telling them that they can visit in the future to study sorcery and history with them, if they wish. He also informs Talia that he possesses a gate to the Great Maze.

On their way to the Ancients’ house of healing, the party detours to explore the settlement they saw from the ruined Soldarian tower. On the way, they are ambushed by a group of beast men, all of whom bear the features of boars. Things are tense, but Aries calms the beast men with his natural charm and by mentioning that the party is friends with the Mistress of the Pines.

Hello from Clan Calc

The beast men are relieved that the party is friendly. They say that they were worried that the party’s presence marked the end of “the treaty” between themselves, the logging camp, and the vihrea clans. They invite the party to visit their settlement for dinner. This turns out to be the very place the party was trying to get to anyway, so it works out.

At the settlement, the party is told to, “use privy, then eat.” This causes some consternation, especially from Ulfast, but other assume that this is the beast men’s way of saying, “wash up before dinner.” At dinner, they are seated with Yokk, the older, female chieftain, and are told that the settlement is the steading of Clan Calc.

Yokk explains that the treaty was originally created by the Mistress of the Pines to prevent conflict and bloodshed in the woods. This works fine for Clan Calc, as they only want to live in peace. The party asks if Yokk has heard about the strange red smoke that devours people, or if she has been visited by the unpleasant throuple the party met earlier in the day.

Yokk replies that the only outsiders that she has met recently are a group of people from “Uvers City,” who wanted her permission to study some old ruins north of Lake Tross. Yokk also mentions that these people liked studying, “old things, but not mother, who is oldest thing I know.” She claims that there
were six or so people in the group, but the party realizes that her counting skills are tenuous, at best.

During dinner, some of Yokk’s banner pigs report that a group of people are passing quite close to the settlement on the river. The party is invited up to one of the watchtowers to observe these people. In the waning daylight, the party sees three people trying (and mostly failing) to navigate a rowboat down the Orish River. Ulfast recognizes the trio as Rehappa, Anosto, and Torgain. The rowboat soon passes by the settlement and down the river.

After the feast, the party watches as Clan Calc dance vigorously to a frenetic drumbeat. Talia joins the dancing, has a good time, and somehow comes away unscathed. The night ends with the members of Clan Calc singing a long, low lament about a group of people who must travel the lands, looking for a sense of purpose. Each refrain focuses on the people arriving at another place, only to be told that their purpose isn’t there. The song doesn’t so much end as stop abruptly.

As it is now dark, the party is invited to stay the night, sharing space in a slightly too small hut. Though the party sets watches, just in case, the night passes mostly uneventfully. Talia, who takes the last watch, notes only that she saw what looked like Marion standing over Thavick. It soon turns out that he was just getting up to go outside and use the privy.

30th Quatre, 504 A.S., Summer

The party departs the settlement. They are gifted with a jar filled with leftover soup from the previous night’s feast. They travel to the east, into the hills north of Lake Tross, and soon find an encampment. 

The Archaeologists' Camp

The encampment consists of several tents that ring a weatherworn statue of a woman dressed in a headdress shaped like a cat’s head. One hand, which is outstretched and pointing to the east, holds a pair of intertwining coils that reach upward to the sky. This seems to be a representation of magical power, but its purpose or meaning is unclear.

The camp is neat and tidy, apart from, worryingly, several piles of discarded clothing laying upon the ground. It is also being picked over by a group of virhea from Clan Centipede. Realizing that they are robbing the camp, Tegwin saunters up to demand answers. He finds the vihrea to be both friendly and forthright. Their leader, Kiuga, says that they knew the people camped here, and that they were archaeologists from the University of Silverton.

Kiuga says that her people survive by hunting and gathering, and that she told the archaeologists that the vihrea would happily take anything left behind, rather than let it go to rust and ruin. She says that the vihrea have been watching the camp for a few days and, as the archaeologists have seemingly departed, they have come to help themselves.

Kiuga of Clan Centipede

Phinneas, concerned, does a sweep of the camp and finds at least four piles of clothes that remind him of the scene back at the tree. He also realizes that one of the vihrea has scavenged a journal, which he plans to use as, “good quality lavatory paper.” Phinneas trades his bow for the book, which the vihrea thinks is a very good deal. While the vihrea goes off to practice his target shooting, and while the others continue to question Kiuga about the archaeologists, Phinneas begins to read.

The journal was kept by someone named Finna, a student under a Professor Dinfirth. It describes the archaeology team’s arrival and study of the site. It includes the following:

  • The team’s encounter with a very sick deer, who died. The deer was taken outside the camp and buried with great care, out of fear that it was infected.
  • Professor Dinfirth becomes demanding, obsessive, and paranoid. She does not want the Artificers’ Guild to learn about the site.
  • To find the site, one must simply go in the direction the statue points.
  • The team spends a great deal of time pulling out the door to the entrance of the ruins, where they find blue tablets with unknown writing. They then break into the adjacent chamber, where they encounter many strange machines.
  • There is mention that the Professor returns from the ruins with a curious metal rod with a glass tip.

Kiuga and her vihrea say that they never saw any red smoke and never heard of anyone disappearing and leaving their clothes behind. They do say that they encountered a bear experiencing similar symptoms to the deer described in the journal. They say that they burned the corpse when it died, which is met with some skepticism from Phinneas. Kiuga says that she and her clan stay well away from the ruin, and don’t know what’s inside of it.

The party and the vihrea part ways, and the party travels eastward toward the ruin.

The Ancients' House of Healing (Accessible Rooms Only)

The party finds the ruins much as described. They pass through the first chamber with the blue tablets into the second chamber that contains the machinery. The centerpiece of the room seems to be a console of some sort, which stands before a housing containing four hollow tubes of perfect crystal, each about 2 meters in height.

Behind the console is the bloodied, bloated corpse of a woman, a notebook laying near her hand.

The party looks through the notebook and learn that the dead woman is none other than Professor Dinfirth. Thavick voices his low opinion of the professor, stating that she was foolish for not alerting the Artificers’ Guild about the ruins. When the others raise eyebrows at his seeming callousness, he goes on to say that the Ancients’ artifacts are dangerous and powerful, and that people who handle them without proper training or caution often meet fates not dissimilar to the professor’s.

The players learn the following from the notebook: The Professor believes that this machinery would have allowed the Ancients to heal people, regenerate limbs, or even create fully functioning bodies. This required some sort of “base matter,” which could be collected, she thinks, using a glass-tipped rod which attaches to the console at the front of the machine.

The party experiments with the collection rod and realizes that it will fit perfectly in a slot on the console. This raises several questions, the most pressing of which are how did the rod travel all the way from here to the woods near the logging camp and, could the machinery in this room be used to resurrect the professor?

Thavick, with little urging, decides to touch the crystalline tip of the rod to the professor’s body. This causes reddish smoke to issue forth from the rod, which envelopes the corpse and instigates a strange, super-rapid decay. Before the party’s eyes, the professor’s body rots away and vanishes, leaving only her clothing behind. Thavick notices that the amount of reddish liquid in the rod’s reservoir has increased significantly. In fact, the rod looks almost full.

Curious about what might happen, Thavick decides to plug it into the console...

The Ancients’ machinery rumbles to life. Marion experiences a powerful head rush during this experience. The nearest crystal tube begins to fill with a whitish goo that slowly congeals into a human woman with antler nubs and skin of a distinctly grunish texture and hue. The party looks on in awe as the crystal tube opens. Phinneas approaches the woman and asks if she can understand him. It turns out that she can. 

Professor Dinfirth, I Presume?

The woman introduces herself as Professor Alyc Dinfirth. The party hands her the clothes on the floor, only to discover that they do not quite fit her new body. The professor’s memory of recent events is somewhat patchy, and the party tries to fill her in on what happened to her and her students. She does not take this particularly well and begins screaming and crying. Tegwin tries to reassure her, which doesn’t work. Thavick slaps her across the face, which does. Several party members note that the professor has a brief flash of intense rage, where it looks like she’s going to attack Thavick. She doesn’t, though.

Talia probes the professor’s mind and finds it to be a violent, storm-like maelstrom. Talia has never encountered anything like this before, and doesn’t know what it means.

The party escorts Professor Dinfirth to the archaeology camp. They notice that Dinfirth seems not to know the way and has a lot of trouble walking. Once they return to the camp, they have an early dinner. Dinfirth eats and drinks quite a lot, and compliments Phinneas on his cooking. She says everything is delicious.

After dinner, Dinfirth excuses herself to get some sleep. Before she does, Talia informs the professor that she will be entering her dreams to get more information about her news state. The professor agrees to this. Phinneas stands guard outside the tent. He is concerned to note that the professor goes to sleep on a cot occupied by the clothing that were likely left behind when their owner disappeared.

While all this is happening, Tegwin asks Ulfast if he can take Daegal, her tiger, out hunting. Ulfast agrees and man and tiger depart.

Talia ventures into the professor’s dreams. She encounters a very distorted vision of Dinfirth being congratulated by her colleagues. The dream starts to peel away in one corner, and Talia looks beyond it, only to once again be confronted by the swirling maelstrom. She is forcibly ejected from the professor’s head.

While Professor Dinfirth sleeps, the rest of the party compares notes. They are very concerned about the professor and her new “state,” and what exactly it means. Among other things, they posit that the professor’s new body could be temporary, and that it could fall apart at any time, that the personalities of all the people taken by the rod are fighting for dominance in the professor’s mind, that the professor is part animal (bear, deer) and that this may explain some of her idiosyncrasies.

Anosto, a Human, the Charming and Boisterous One

This discussion is interrupted when Tegwin and Daegal return. They are accompanied by three other people: Anosto, Torgain, and Rehappa. The two men bear Rehappa into the camp on a makeshift stretcher. It turns out Rehappa was bitten by a snake. Anosto, seeing Tegwin through the trees, ran to him to get help, only to almost get shot/mauled by a tiger for his pains.

Aries, who would rather not be a party to this, hides in the woods.  

Tensions in the trio are still high, but Rehappa seems very pleased that she’s found some people who can save her life from the likely deadly venom of the snake. Ulfast tries and fails to draw out the venom using her magic, leaving Tegwin to use the tried and true, “suck on the wound,” method. This seems to work, and Rehappa begins making goo-goo eyes at Tegwin as a result.

The sudden arrival of the trio awakens the professor. Talia tells the professor about the dream that she experienced. Dinfirth is, unsurprisingly, concerned. She suggests that she, the party, and the trio all return in a group to civilization. The trio happily agree, admitting that they are only going to get themselves killed wandering around in the forest.

Dinfirth says that she will contact the University of Silverton about next steps. When Tegwin inquires about a possible reward for the party’s aid, she promises to include a note for the Bursar about compensation. Realizing that the professor is writing letters, Thavick asks if she’s going to write one to the Artificers’ Guild to notify them about the ruin. The professor, chastened by the disastrous results of her expedition, agrees.

Torgain, a Dwernun, the Taciturn and Sullen One

The party—less Marion (who doesn’t want to) and Thavick (who "tweaked his back")—and Anosto and Torgain spend some time hiding the entrance to the ruin behind a screen of fallen trees and rocks. The party note that Torgain and Anosto are much friendlier with one another when Rehappa isn’t around, and suspect that she’s a dryad or some other Wild being that’s controlling them.

Once this heavy lifting is done, the party returns to Weir. Marion makes plans to write a play about his experiences.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Dungeon ADVENTURE!: Forest of Fear, Part One

28th Quatre, 504 A.S., Summer

The party arrives at Pothurst Forest. It is a relatively small forest, tended by foresters and loggers both. The party find it to be well-maintained and quite penetrable. There are signs of logging industry and replanting efforts throughout.

Suddenly, there is a scream of terror, and a grunish woman comes tearing down the forest path toward the party. She runs past and through them, shouting, “run! Run! The smoke is coming for us all!”

A fearful Marion tries to follow the grunish woman, only to be caught and restrained by Aries and Talia. Talia leads the party onward, and eventually smells smoke. Curious, she continues deeper into the wood.

The party stops at the base of a low hill. On the other side, plumes of thick, red smoke twist skyward. Talia and Ulfast suspect that the smoke is of magical origin, and Ulfast fears that it was shaped by sorceries inimical to living creatures.

The party crest the hill as the smoke begins to break up, and find a small logging camp on the other side. Strewn around a clearing are heaps of clothing and shoes that leak tendrils of smoke. Nearby, burned into the bark of the largest tree in the area, is a single word.


Pothurst Forest: Six Hexagonal Miles of Adventure!

As the party surveys the eerie scene, loggers arrive from a nearby camp. They are brought by “The Kid,” who escaped the smoke. Their leader is Jenks, the camp supervisor. The loggers initially suspect foul play from the party, but soon relent. They instead begin to blame someone called the Mistress of the Pines.

Two other loggers seem to have escaped the smoke: Scamper, the grun woman that passed the party on the road, and Slipsaw, a dwernun man who lost two fingers on his left hand in a logging accident. Slipsaw is also, apparently, the reason why the logging camp is a dry one, as he was very drunk when the accident occurred.

Phinneas sees that someone has blundered into the forest to the east, and that the trees there have been burned. Tegwin asks the loggers if there is anything in that direction, but does not receive a straight answer. Jenks takes half the loggers back to the camp to look for Scamper and Slipsaw, and leaves the rest of the loggers—with The Kid, in charge—to explore the forest.

After Jenks leaves, the loggers admit that they have a still to the east. They take the party there. On the way, they spot a bloody handprint missing two fingers. They also find a curious metal rod, which is hollow and partially full of a strange liquid. A square cut crystal tips one end.

Thavick analyzes the rod and determines it is part of the Ancients’ technology. Talia also studies it and notes powerful Natramantic sorcery surrounding it.

At the still, Tegwin helps himself to some moonshine. Ulfast and Daegal find Slipsaw in a nearby hut, semi-conscious and oozing blood from his pores. She and Thavick tend to him, and Ulfast determines that Slipsaw has been affected by Chaos sorcery.

The party returns Slipsaw to the camp and discover that Scamper has returned unharmed. They turn Slipsaw over to Cookie, the loggers’ cook and surgeon. They are invited to stay for dinner and rest at the camp overnight. During their stay, they are warned not to leave the road if they go north of the Orish River. They are also warned to stay well away from the old pine forest in the west, which is the home of the Mistress of the Pines. Jenks mentions giving the same advice to some, “academics,” who he is pretty sure did not listen to him.

The Mistress is a Spirit of the Wild of immense power, who first appeared to the loggers and threatened them with fiery death if they clear cut too much of the forest. They have a healthy respect for her rules, and do whatever they can to remain on her good side.

29th Quatre, 504 A.S., Summer


After breakfast, Phinneas manages to convince the party to go looking for the Mistress of the Pines. Marion balks at this, but is eventually persuaded to go along with it. They wander the forest for a while, sticking close to banks of the Orish, so as not to get lost.

They encounter a trio of people: Rehappa (a sylvani woman), Anosto (a human man), and Jorgain (a dwernun man). The trio seem to be lost and seem to have a very tense relationship. This is made worse by Rehappa clumsily flirting with Aries. Aries takes Rehappa aside to make sure that she is not the men’s prisoner, while Marion takes Jorgain aside and asks if he is planning to waylay and rob the other two. Jorgain is confused and admits they are all “friends,” while Aries realizes that Rehappa is the troublesome one, and is manipulating both men to her benefit.

The trio are students of history, apparently, and are searching the forest for ancient ruins. Rehappa mentions an old Soldarian tower somewhere to the north, but admits the boys didn’t want to explore it because it looked too unstable.

Shortly thereafter, the party and the trio part ways.

Phinneas leads the group to the tower, which is leaning, but still structurally sound. From the parapet, he and Marion spy an encampment on the other side of the Orish, a tall, white tower some distance to the north, and a ruined structure to the southwest. 

"Geeeeooooff...are those skulls in the trees?" "Yep!"

Phinneas cajoles the party to visit the ruins. They find a large, burned out and collapsed building surrounded by overgrown vegetation. Numerous dead trees around the ruin have had skulls placed among the branches. Phinneas spies a cluster of very large mushrooms, but realizes that they are probably not good to eat. Marion pokes his head into the ruin and discovers that it might once have been a temple of some kind. He also spots the skeleton of a gigantic humanoid.

The bones begin to move, assembling themselves into animated armored skeletons. The party gives battle. During the fight, Ulfast uses her necromancy to speak to the skeletal warriors, who demand that she speak “the countersign.” She unfortunately does not know the countersign and cannot give it. Instead, she tells one of the skeletons that she cannot speak the countersign while there are intruders about, and convinces it to let her into the ruins.

One of the skeletal warriors

At this moment, the large skeleton animates. It is twice the size of a man, with skeletal wings and numerous horns. Marion becomes enraged seeing it animate, for reasons he cannot explain. Thavick ducks into the temple and fires a reservoir arrow filled with adhesive, injuring the giant skeleton and gluing it to the floor.

Ulfast tries to trick the countersign out of the giant skeleton to little effect. However, Marion, out of nowhere, realizes that the countersign is, “nine by nine.” He tells Ulfast, who says it to the giant skeleton. It and all the other remaining skeletons deanimate and crash to the ground, lifeless.

The much, much larger skeleton

The party searches the ruins and discovers they are in a former chapterhouse of the Cult of the Nine Abyssal Lords. Tegwin mentions that the Church of the Pantheon of Light destroyed the cult’s presence in the region about 50 years ago.

The party finds an obviously evil book hidden inside the altar. It is written in Soldarian and seems to contain the rites, precepts, and rituals of the cult. Ulfast takes it, along with the giant skeleton’s skull and fingerbones.

Talia realizes that the skeletons were animated by an old ritual magic spell bound into the area. She suggests smashing the skeletons so that they cannot rise again if anyone else finds this place. The party does so.

The Mistress of the Pines

The party sets off to the pine forest to speak to the Mistress. It is not long before she makes a dramatic entrance in a flash of lighting and thunder, surrounding the party with a cloud of angry wasps. Aries and Talia kneel (with everyone but Thavick following suit). They explain their recent adventure in the ruins, and of the curious scene at the tree. The Mistress is deeply concerned by this, and says she must make preparations, in case the Cult of the Nine is trying to return to the area.

As for the word, “RUNNARUCH,” the Mistress says she does not know its meaning, but that Lokerimon the sage, who lives in a tower in the north, might. She tells the party they can rest at her home, should they need it, and then vanishes.

Lokerimon, sorcerer and sage

The party travels to Lokerimon’s metal tower in the north. They find it surrounded by a hedge labyrinth. The labyrinth confounds them, at first, until they realize that the maze on Talia’s sigil of Yin’Isstil matches the labyrinth exactly. Following it, they exit the maze, reach the tower, and speak to Lokerimon.

Lokerimon invites them inside and provides refreshments. He learns of Talia’s faith and says he knows of her order. He promises to trade knowledge for knowledge. The party tells him of their encounter at the ruined chapterhouse, which disturbs him. They then tell him about the incident at the tree and the word “RUNNARUCH.”

Lokerimon, intrigued, disappears to check his archives. Leaving the party to their own devices. They are hailed by a strange, caged creature that looks like a puffball with thick legs and too many eyes. They later learn that it is a patinko, a creature from another world.

The sage returns and says that he has a possible explanation for the party, but it is based on several leaps of logic. He tells them that:

  • The Ancients had a house of healing in the hills north of the lake.
  • The Ancients had discovered the four elemental forces that make up living beings.
    • In humans, these forces are referred to with the following symbols: ACGT
    • In grun and vihrea, these forces are referred to with the following symbols: HNRU
  • The magics at the tree were a mix of necromancy, pyromancy, and natramancy
  • He posits that someone has rediscovered the Ancients’ knowledge, and is using it for some purpose.

The party begins to speculate wildly on this. Ulfast thinks that they should find the Ancients’ house of healing and investigate it for more clues. Lokerimon shows them the rough location of the house of healing via a vision on a scrying table.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Dungeon ADVENTURE!: The Artificer Affair

Session One: 19th Quatre, 504 A.S., Early Summer

The party enjoy a meal of mediocre food and complicated drinks at Ye Apis and Appel. After dinner, Thavick reveals why he has called everyone together.

An artificer of the guild: Master Gavril Voss, has abandoned his post, and has also stolen a book of rare and proscribed schematics. Shortly thereafter, an Artificers’ Guild caravan bringing supplies to the front was robbed near the hamlet of Comber. The caravan guards were drugged. Thavick’s old mentor suspects that the two issues are related, and has asked Thavick to search Comber for evidence. He promises compensation of expenses, which delights Marion.

The party decides to buy passage on a barge to Comber, which is located 30 miles away on the Henshire Canal.

At the docks, they meet Scoli Heartworm, an entrepreneur who scavenges equipment from battlefields, fixes them up, and sells them at a discount. Phinneas finds a pretty good longbow amidst the goods and convinces Ulfast to buy it for him. Several of the other party members stock up on arrows. Talia uses her cognimancy to influence Scoli, obtaining a slight discount.

Scoli Heartworm, Dealer in "Gently Used" Arms and Armor

The party finds that it costs seven silver, two bits each to take a barge to Comber. Phinneas and Ulfast try to pay for their ride by loading cargo on board the barge. This results in cargo nearly going overboard and potentially sustaining breakage. The captain of the barge offers to transport the duo for free, rather than risk any additional profit loss.


Upon arriving in Comber, the party travels to the Sad Horse Tavern, booking two rooms for 3 silver each. They stake out the common room and listen for rumors, learning the following:

  • Someone has been chopping down trees on someone else’s property in the woods north of the hamlet.
  • A guild blacksmith has arrived in town and is making at least one farmer miserable by charging high rates for her services.
  • A vagrant, presumably a refugee from the war, is sleeping in a ruined stable north of town.
  • A very drunk lady at the bar claims that she has seen a knight wandering around in the woods.

Thavick and Tegwin speak to the farmer with the missing trees, and convince him to hire Tegwin to watch over the trees later that night. The farmer readily accepts, and escorts Tegwin and Thavick into the woods. They find a fairly substantial logging area, where the trees have been crudely hewn down with an axe. Thavick leaves Tegwin there and goes back to the Sad Horse.

Aries offers to speak to the vagrant to see if he needs anything or to convince him to clear out of town. He gets directions to the stable and leads the group there. 

The stable itself is a tumbledown ruin surrounded by an 8’ high crumbling stone wall. It is also a stone’s throw from the logging area. Tegwin, who overhears the party arguing about what to do next, investigates and ultimately joins them.

The Ruined Stables

The Ruined Stables

When a knock at the gate yields no response, Tegwin boosts Marion over the wall. Marion notes that the battered gate has been reinforced with fresh wood on the inside, before lifting the bar and admitting the others. They find the stable dark and seemingly empty, its sole door locked.

Talia hears some clanking noises around the back of the stable and goes to investigate. The rest of the party follows. They spot a tall figure in armor walking their way. Phinneas hails the figure. In response, the armored figure crushes Phinneas in a bear hug and lifts him off the ground. In retaliation, Marion beans the warrior in the head with one of his many finely crafted throwing rocks.

In order to free Phinneas, Thavick kneels down behind the armored warrior while first Tegwin and then Aries hurl themselves at the warrior to knick them off balance. Tegwin bounces off the warrior and tumbles to the ground, but Aries succeeds! The warrior winds up flat on their back, Aries sitting on their chest.

Talia attempts to use her cognimancy to put the warrior to sleep, but is unable to sense the warrior’s mind. The reason for this becomes all too clear when Ulfast cuts the strap on the warrior’s helmet and pulls it off, revealing a clockwork “head” hidden underneath.

Before the party can act on this new revelation, the warrior decks Aries in the jaw, injuring him badly and knocking him sprawling to the dirt. As the party regroups, the clockwork warrior slowly rises… 

The Armored Warrior

Session Two

Tegwin and Phinneas wrestle the warrior to the ground, while Ulfast orders Daegal, her tiger, to sit on its chest. Ulfast and Thavick work together, pooling their artificing skill to deactivate the warrior. Tegwin manages to pry up the warrior’s breastplate, allowing for easier access. Between all these measures, and a few well-placed rocks thrown by Marion, the warrior shuts down.

Unfortunately, a self-destruct mechanism engages shortly after the construct’s deactivation, flooding its interior with acid. Thavick is able to save a single gearbox, and nothing else.

Victorious, the party searches around the outside of the stables. Aries inspects a seemingly ruined outhouse, which shows signs of recent use—as well as being recently reinforced on the inside. The party also discovers a small blacksmith’s forge, recently cleaned, and a well that has been recently cleaned.

Talia makes a circuit of the stables, peering in through windows freshly secured with iron bars. Aries clambers up on the roof, finds a gap in the thatching, and drops inside. He lands on a large conical pile of dirt, and finds himself in near complete darkness.

The rest of the party returns to the stable’s only door, which they discover isn’t locked. Phinneas opens the door, triggering a trap that brings a machete slashing down on his wrist. His armor absorbs most of the blow, thankfully, but the party suspects that there are likely more traps in the area.

Inside the Stables

A portion of the front of the stables has been turned into a living area, complete with a cowhide rug, fireplace, and filthy chair. Fresh firewood, barrels of preserves, and trashy novels are also present.

Thavick steps on the cowskin rug, triggering a large beartrap beneath it. Fortunately, the rug cushions much of the impact, but it takes some doing getting the trap and rug off of his leg.

Marion investigates a stall which has been converted into a bedchamber, narrowly avoiding the wire stretched across the floor. He cuts the rope of the bed, thus trapping the trapmaker. He also finds some useful compounds hidden inside a jar of rotting scrolls.

Talia investigates another stall that features a freestanding wardrobe and a table containing a small chest and a candelabra. She uses her polearm to pull open one of the wardrobe doors. This triggers a hidden mechanism that causes the wardrobe to come crashing down, narrowly missing her. After some study, the party finds and triggers the mechanism that returns the wardrobe to a standing position. Inside, they find several sets of well-made clothes, as well as a box containing artificer’s robes, a chain of office for the artificer’s guild, and some jewelry.

Aries decides to open the box on the table, triggering another trap that sprays the whole area with nettlesting dust. The box contains rocks and nothing else.

Down Below

Phinneas finds two more stalls. One has a door that is securely locked, seemingly from the other side. The other door is closed but not locked. Phinneas opens this and finds only a bale of rotting hay and a horse skeleton.

Tegwin decides to introduce the locked door of the final stall to his shoulder. He finds it securely locked from the other side, but he also notices a cable running from the top of the door frame to a nearby moose head on the wall. At Marion’s urging, he twists the left antler, which causes the door to unlock and open. This reveals an empty stall whose floor is covered with straw.

Talia sweeps the floor with her polearm and locates a trapdoor beneath the straw. Phinneas opens it, revealing a ladder leading down into darkness.

Everyone but Ulfast and her tiger descend into a large, roughly rectangular chamber deep within the earth. 

Fresh timber has been used to support the ceiling of this room. To the south is an artificer’s workshop, as well as a humanoid form laying beneath a sheet on a nearby table.

The party begins to explore. Thavick lifts the sheet and reveals a partially constructed construct, similar to the one encountered above, beneath it. Phinneas explores a small cave off the main room and bumps into another active construct. The construct socks him in the mouth with a gauntleted fist.

Beneath the Stables

Session Three

The party fights the construct. Ulfast and her tiger descend into the basement to offer support. Ulfast happens to notice a small box on one wall. She opens it, revealing a panel of numerous switches. She experiments with the panel, and discovers that flipping them detonates explosive charges in the ceiling, raining down debris. She narrowly misses Talia and Aries with the first two, but figures out the system well enough to finish off the construct with a third.

With the construct defeated, the party explores the rest of the basement. They find empty crates bearing the Artificers’ Guild logo, a garage-type door that is closed and locked, and a smaller door secured with a padlock. Ulfast manages to pick this lock. Opening the door reveals a small chamber containing a single large chest.

Marion throws one of his rocks, smacking it off chest’s lock plate. Convinced this has disarmed any trap, Marion boldly enters the room and throws open the chest. The chest contains a single folio, bound in unadorned black leather.

Unfortunately, Marion has not actually disarmed the chest’s trap, which activates and floods the chest with acid. Marion adroitly plucks the book out of the acid, burning his hand in the process.

Gavril Voss

Aries tends to Marion’s injured hand. Just as he ties off the final bandage, the garage door rattles up into the ceiling with a loud bang. A third construct—this one wearing a pair of strange leg braces—enters the room, followed by an elderly man who is dressed in dirty clothing and who wields a very strange, weapon-like contraption.

The man demands to know what the party is doing in his house. Talia replies that they are here on behalf of the Artificers’ Guild, and intimates that they are looking for him and the stolen book of schematics. The man, who is clearly Gavril Voss, asks if he could perhaps pay them to look the other way.

Gavril Voss, in His Artificer Finery

After some conversation, the party decides to take Voss’ offer. They will return what remains of the book to the guild. In return, Gavril offers to teach them artificing, pay them such money he has on hand right now, and hire them for some unspecified work later. He also provides the party with his master’s chain, as proof of his “demise”. Marion also warns him to seek another place to do his work, as the locals don’t like him very much.

Back to Weir

The party parts ways with Gavril Voss, rests at their rooms in the Sad Horse in Comber, and makes plans to return to Weir.

Marion, remembering that he cut the cords on Voss’ rope bed, giggles to himself at how he has cleverly hoisted the trapmaker by his own petard!

Realizing that paying for a return trip on a barge will cut into their dwindling funds, the party decides to walk home instead.

On the way, they meet Talan Lief, a friendly sylvani paladin of Cervyda. Talan tells them about a beautiful subterranean grotto that Cervyda sent him to tend. He has lunch with the party and then departs.

Sometime later that evening, the party returns to Weir. 

Talan Lief, a Paladin of Cervyda

Friday, July 21, 2023

A New Campaign Begins!

The Bretonnia Tales, my Warhammer Fantasy campaign, ended recently. I wasn't sure what the group wanted to play next, or even if they wanted to continue playing, so I chatted with them about it and asked them their opinions.

I was surprised and delighted that they wanted to play Dungeon ADVENTURE! , a game made by yours truly! 

I also noticed that we were having a bit of campaign fatigue after playing Shadows of Yog-Sothoth and the Bretonnia Tales. The second campaign contributed to that feeling a lot more than the first, because it was very railroady and very focused. This design made sense, because Tales centered on the players going to a destination and stumbling upon encounters along the way. Unfortunately, because of that, the players didn't get a chance to explore much in the way of their own interests, or develop relationships with any NPCs apart from the ones they traveled with.

So, in an attempt to shake things up, I decided that my Dungeon ADVENTURE! campaign would not have an overarching story. I gave my players a mostly blank map, had them made characters, and had them role-play for a bit. Based on this initial interaction, I learned something about who they were and what they wanted, and made an adventure centered on something that interested them the most.

Those of you who are old hands at this sort of thing already know that this is based on the Westmarch style of campaign. The players get to do whatever they want, adventures tend to be short (time permitting), and the only overarching narrative consists of the players facing the consequences of their own actions.

About Dungeon ADVENTURE!

This game is my fantasy heartbreaker and my answer to D&D and Pathfinder. I've been developing it on and off for about 25 years. I think it mostly works! I have taken a lot of pains to keep the rules as simple and as straightforward as possible. Those of you interested in the technical specs can have some, in the form of a bulleted list:

  • It is level-based. Players go up in level after completing a set number of adventures. Players do not have to "win" the adventure to level, nor do they have to kill things or find treasure. That's a longer way of saying it's got Milestones.
  • It is d20-based. You add your stat + skill + modifiers and roll equal to or less than that on a d20. 
  • Your skills are not explicitly tied to your stats (though some pairings of stat + skill just make sense). 
  • There are no spell lists. Casters create spells on the fly based on their spell schools and skill ranks.

The setting for the game is something that I like to call "cozy fantasy." The reason for this is that I based large parts of the setting on tabletop RPGs and LARPs I have played over the years, including elements that I particularly enjoy, or that give me fond memories. It also helps that I have liberally salted the setting with my friend's LARP characters.

It is set many years after a Cataclysm (because there's always a Cataclysm), and after the rise and fall of a Roman-like empire (because there's always a Roman-like empire). The game takes place in the relatively young Kingdom of Severni, which is your basic kitchen sink, right-justified, European fantasy world in which there is both high magic and powerful ancient technology (finish your drink).

The "official" setting, written about in the game books, is Silverton County. Since I know a lot about this place, and since I wanted my players to have as free a rein as possible, I decided to move them slightly eastward to Hookberm County. All I know about Hookberm County is that it is to the east of Silverton County and to the west of the Frontier, across which monsters sometimes raid. The armies of Severni have fought a protracted border war for many years, ostensibly to protect the citizenry from harm. 

Unfortunately, the constant fighting, the movement of soldiers, and the expense of continuing the war effort has caused a decline in the county's stability, prosperity, and quality of life. Just the sort of thing to breed a new crop of adventurers!

The New Party

Listed below, in no particular order, are the current crop of characters looking to make their mark in Hookberm County.


A Human Wanderer (think ranger/druid). She possesses a sword, a bow, and some rather...atypical...magical powers. She is accompanied by a large, white tiger.

"Severnay" Marion

A Grun (think goblin) Warrior, playwright, actor, and former circus owner.
He wears glasses without lenses to look more intellectual.


A Sylvan (think elves, but with anime hair and antlers) Adept (think F/M-U).
Quiet, aloof, and a skilled Cognimancer. She follows Yin'Isstil,
the Lord of the Great Maze, a god shunned by Severni's state religion.


A Sylvani Commoner. A charming himbo with a big personality and
considerable skill in the healing arts. Very friendly. Very pretty.

Thavick Ghorson

A Dwernun (think dwarf, but human-sized, with lots of clan tattoos) Artificer.
He has recently been tasked by his Guild mentor and contact to deal with
certain incidents in Hookberm.

Tegwin Yale

A Human Warrior, and former bodyguard. He had been hired to protect
the daughter of a nobleman, but was summarily fired when
he was found in a, closet canoodling with a maid.

Phinneas Botch

A Human Warrior and butcher. He decided to take up
adventuring in his later years. He was recently on an expedition to
a haunted, mist-shrouded ruin somewhere in the northeast.

Tune in Next Time...

To find our players well-met in the town of Weir, where they have drinks and appetizers at Ye Appel and Apis (literally fantasy Applebee's) before going of in pursuit of a rogue artificer.


Thursday, June 15, 2023

Bretonnia Tales: Coda

The game is over, but the characters and the stories live on. Included below are some of my (non-canonical) thoughts on where the company go, and what they do, now that their grand pilgrimage has come to a conclusion.


As one final “gift,” the Stranger provided the members of the company a glimpse of the future. The Stranger smiled as he did this, and warned the company that the future, like the best laid plans, are easily changed.

The company’s return journey to Brionne is pleasant and without incident. The company is glad for the peace and quiet. Upon arrival in Brionne, Henri the innkeeper treats them all to a final, lavish meal at the Surcoat Inn. Henri first toasts his nephew, who has managed to keep the Surcoat running in his absence, and then the company. He knows that they must all go back to their own lives now, but he hopes that they will keep in touch.

Garnier, Pierre, and Maurice travel together, heading south to the mountains to pick up some mercenary work. Garnier tells the tales of his (and the company’s, but mostly his) exploits on his pilgrimage, winning coin, fame, and acclaim wherever he goes. His stories become increasingly embellished, but the trio are able to back up his more improbable claims with their skills, which only improves their reputations.

Pierre becomes well known throughout Carcassonne as a great healer. The talisman he received from the Lady allows him to brew a curative nostrum that can cure nearly any wound. His skills are much in demand for the next year or so, as mercenaries and shepherds of Bretonnia fight the orkish hordes in the southern mountains.

Maurice, too, wins himself fame as an eagle-eyed archer and slayer of many orks. There are whispers that he is responsible for breaking an orkish siege on a mountain fortress by poisoning the orks’ water supply, but one can give little heed to such idle gossip.

The trio run across Garnier and Maurice’s old companion, Maurice the Toothless. They find that he has finally bought himself a nice set of dentures.

Sabina and Frieda go off together, continuing to travel the land, fighting the odd group of bandits, and having adventures. At some point in the future, Frieda invites Sabina to come with her to the Empire. They marry, but do not settle down even slightly. The taverns near their home in Altdorf become significantly rowdier. 

Late at night, Frieda uses her diary entries from the pilgrimage as a reference to write a book. Five hundred years later, it is still widely read throughout the Empire, though largely by those who pursue classical literature degrees.

Renee goes off on her own, using her newfound skills to collect increasingly dangerous and rewarding bounties. She surprises and terrifies everyone when she drags a Chaos fish demon from the River Brienne to a shrine of Mannann fifteen miles away. Alive. And in her net. She is rewarded handsomely, but it is not enough. She still needs money to travel to Araby and buy one of those golden horses.

Sir Jean-Marc and Sir Henri continue to travel the land, righting wrongs, fighting the good fight, and honoring the Lady. With them go their squires, Jim and Jules. With sufficient time and instruction--and without Garnier to constantly bother him, Jules becomes slightly less of a dink. This is not enough to elevate him to knighthood, alas, but it is an improvement.

Several years later, Sir Henri knights the now Sir James in a ceremony at the Shrine of Saint Maxense in Poissy. Sir James takes Jules to be his squire. Jules accepts, which draws applause and tears from his mother.

Antonella and Andre continue their beautiful friendship and continue to improve the landship. They soon outfit it with cannons, as well as some custom modifications that allows it to travel the water as well as on the land. Andre spends some time sailing at speed down the Brienne, swamping small boats and splashing anyone fool enough to be standing on the shore.

Andre’s collection of fanciful hats grows. One day, he purchases an antique hat that once belonged to the explorer Pysarrew. Stitched into the lining, Andre finds yet another treasure map, though this one seems genuine and seems to lead to some place called “Ye Cittey of Gold.” Andre hires a crew and sets sail across the ocean, looking for this mythical city of riches and magic.

Arnaulf the cook periodically contacts the company and the other pilgrims by mail. He mostly asks for drinking money.

The Surcoat Inn becomes one of the most famous inns in Brionne, thanks to Henri the innkeeper and his seemingly endless tales from his pilgrimage. He has set up a shadow box at his bar that holds numerous keepsakes from his pilgrimage, including a monogrammed comb, a notion bought from the Tilean merchant, Lucovido Giallo, numerous pilgrimage badges, and a slightly rusty tinderbox with "GR” engraved on it.

Henri also wins great acclaim for his cooking. It was already excellent before, but now it has gained the reptation of being able to heal various minor ailments. Henri chalks it up to having been permitted to touch the Shroud of King Gilles, and profusely thanks his friend, Sir Henri, for making it possible.

And What of Magnus?

What, Indeed?

Magnus travels Bretonnia for a while with his mercenaries. His reputation as a fearsome warrior precedes him, and he soon gathers many sellswords to his banner. He and his company acquit themselves very well in the recent orkish uprisings in the south, giving no quarter or mercy to the greenskins they encounter.

Maurice, Garnier, and Pierre encounter Magnus during this campaign. They find Magnus much changed. He is harder, colder, more prone to outbursts of sudden violence. Some of his mercenaries confide to the trio that they fear that Magnus is mad. They tell tales of him leaping from his horse to fight squads of orks by himself, armed only with a dagger.

Yes. That Dagger.

When the orks are at last driven back to their mountain strongholds, Magnus returns to Maisy and, somehow, successfully woos the Lady Josephine. The two marry later that year.

Magnus’ mercenary company become permanent residents of Castle Maisy, significantly adding to its fighting strength. Over time, several of the sellswords depart Maisy. Most claim that they have itching feet, or that they are looking for battles to win. Others claim that they have grown too afraid of the increasingly dark moods of their lord and lady…

The Coda to the Coda

In the canonical Warhammer Fantasy universe, the End Times are fast approaching. What happens in this timeline is that Chaos attacks the entire world at the same time. Then they win. Then they destroy the world.

Before it is destroyed, Sigmar rescues as many people as he can and moves them to the Realms of Magic, where he creates a new world and rules over it as one of the biggest and most powerful gods. He also takes the opportunity to create a new setting and a new product line.

This ending is too grimdark for me and, since my version of Bretonnia is decidedly not canon, I’ve decided to make some changes.

In keeping with the original canon, there is a climactic battle against the forces of Chaos, and King Gilles returns to Bretonnia in its darkest hour. He is incarnated as the Green Knight and fights evil on behalf of the Lady.

In the Geoffian canon, the company successfully protects the Shroud, which is Gilles’ link to the physical world that allows him to manifest. When he does, he takes down the tarnished copper panoply from the inner sanctum of the Temple of Myrmidia, gears up, and rides forth. He wields Loren, the Verdant Blade, which has been further empowered by Sir Jean-Marc’s battles against Chaos Undivided.

This, plus other small things, prevents (or at least postpones) the End Times. There’s still Chaos, and the world is still kind of messy and ugly, but it’s still there. A blow to Games Workshop’s bottom line? Perhaps, but eeeeh?

After all, the Chaos god of Chaos can foil any plans. Even those of a multinational gaming company.