Tag: Dungeons & Dragons (page 1 of 2)

500 Words on the Adventurer’s League

Of late, (almost) every Friday night, I take a long trip from my flat to West Seattle so I can join in the occasionally madcap shenanigans known as the Adventurer’s League.

For the uninitiated, the Adventurer’s League is the ‘official’ organization for players and DMs of Dungeons & Dragons, sanctioned by Wizards of the Coast. Participants log their adventures, XP gains, and magical items to maintain a relative power level. There are three tiers of play, based on player character levels. New players start with characters at level 1 and work their way up the tiers, trying a smattering of different adventures every week as they progress.

To what end, you might ask? The advantage of the Adventurer’s League is that you can take an official, logged character to any League venue and game, and fit right in. No need to explain any odd stats or homebrewed items to your new DM. You can review a logsheet at any time, make sure things are on the level, and start rolling dice from there. It could be a friend’s house, a coffee shop, or a huge gaming convention. It doesn’t matter. Got that +1 breastplate and your holy avenger logged and approved by another DM? You’re in.

Speaking of DMs, being a Dungeon Master for the Adventurer’s League has perks all its own. When you run an adventure, you don’t just get the satisfaction of helping your players have a good time, even if you kill their characters. You also get rewards to apply to characters of your own. Dungeon Masters can be hard to come by — the DM experience is ultimately rewarding in and of itself, but it can be incredibly intimidating. There are incentives given just to get someone behind a screen at the table. After all, you can’t have a Dungeons & Dragons adventure without someone to populate the dungeon and bring those dragons to life.

Most of all, however, beyond the experience points and whatever else players and DMs gain, the Adventurer’s League is a wonderful way to meet new people. Tabletop gaming, more often than not, is a collective experience, and everyone has something to bring to the table. Meeting like minds who contribute to a wonderful night of adventure and magic helps create a feeling of community. It helps people feel like they’re not alone. It draws people out, and encourages them not only to engage their imaginations, but share it with others. That, in and of itself, is a beautiful thing to me.

This happens with most D&D groups, of course. But when gathering at home, most of the players know one another, or get to know one another fairly quickly as they meet regularly. In the League, this happens with strangers. Every week. And everyone benefits from it, and walks away having had a good time.

I know this isn’t always the case, but so far, my personal experiences have been overwhelmingly positive. In spite of my worries, I plan to keep making the trip every week.

Gothmatum: A Thin Dark Veil

A journal entry for Gothmatum Baenre.

I am aware that, as long as my life can be and as much as I may discover, there are some things I may never understand.

For example: necromancers tend to fancy themselves “masters of death”, then give themselves over to curses such as lichdom and vampirism.

They lie to themselves.

These are states of undeath. They are born of a fear of death, not mastery. Those who seek such states retreat to remote, dark places. Crypts and foreboding castles are the order of the day for these so-called “masters of death.”

Cowards and fools, to a one.

Life and death are separated by a thin, dark veil. Those who live can see death. When she comes, the living can run from her, try fight against her, or reach out to touch her. She has no master. She simply is. She lingers on her side of the veil, patient and eternal. She cannot be wielded like a sword or staff, but she can be understood.

That is my goal. Not to master death, but to understand her.

The nature of the veil is of greatest mystery to the living. Those who cross it are never the same, should they return. Souls are carried to other realms, other planes, or simply are lost forever. How does the transition work? Is there a mechanism somewhere in the cosmic clockwork of the planes? Or is it truly a duty of a psychopomp to take the soul by the hand and guide it to its destination? The nature of the veil — what scholar who truly wishes to understand death would not make that their primary focus?

This is the goal to which I have dedicated myself. Many who claim the title of necromancer merely wish to dominate others with their animated corpses and fearsome spells that bring death. But do not evokers also bring death with fire and lightning? What of those illusionists who fool others into thinking that ravine is solid ground. No — true necromancy lies in studying the veil between life and death. Seeking to understand it. Maybe, for just a moment, penetrating it.

I have spoken to one who has crossed that veil in both directions. He claims his soul went directly from Mount Celestia and back with no stops between. Does he merely not remember the journey? Is the veil both thin as a razor and infinite as the void? These are the questions to which I seek answers, not “how do I cheat death” or “in what way can I extend my life until it is the thinnest of threads linked to a shambling corpse that plays at still being a wizard”?

The paths to the answers are dark. There will be false turns and pitfalls into roiling seas of madness. But I will find those answers. I will negotiate those turns, avoid those pitfalls. I have seen Death with my own two eyes. Now, I shall find ways to understand her.

That, in my mind, is true necromancy.

Adventure Review: Quelling the Horde

“Quelling the Horde” (DDEX03-09) is an Adventurer’s League module set during the Rage of Demons story arc. The story it tells is a classic one: farms and homesteads are getting sacked by goblins, and adventurers are needed to rise to the challenge. This time, some of the goblins seem to fancy themselves as ‘knights’. Calling themselves the Skullspike Clan, they gruesomely drive metal spikes into their heads to resemble crowns, and ride on death dogs and giant toads during their raids. Something is definitely driving them to this madness, and it’s up to the players to discover that something.

There is a misprint, in some editions of the adventure, claiming it is optimized for five 1st-level characters. However, in its opening text, this claim is for five 3rd-level characters. This can confuse some DMs, and lead to sticking points. For example, a party of mostly 1st-level characters encountering the scarecrows at Callidell Homestead as written can struggle mightily, especially if none of the party has fire-based attacks. It’s definitely something a DM should be aware of in preparing to run the adventure.

That aside, the adventure is a solid one. There’s opportunities for investigation and interaction before hitting the main feature, which is the Skullspike Caves. There are goblin antics with training different mounts, an encounter with an incubus, and the final confrontation with Agrak, leader of the Skullspike goblins. There are connections to the Underdark that tie the adventure into the greater Rage of Demons story tableau, and the adventure is flexible enough that it can stand on its own or be part of a larger campaign.

: Would run again with some modifications and a better handle on keeping the party moving.

500 Words on Refocusing

You may notice that things look a little different here. A bit more fantastical. More dragons. Maybe the implication of a dungeon.

It’s not an illusion. I’m refocusing my endeavors outside of the job hunt on D&D.

I’m still carving out time for the novel, as head weasels and real-world obligations allow. I’m still on the hunt for a dayjob to cover my rent and the other expenses of living, and I still want to make a (hopefully) significant mark with my words. In terms of hobbies, however, it’s been a very long time since one has given me the sort of creative impetus and deep satisfaction that Dungeons & Dragons has proven to provide in the last few months.

I think a big part of it is the collaborative storytelling. Everyone coming to the table is there to have fun, to work together to create that environment, and to cheer each other on as the epic story grows, changes, and builds. The DM does not exist above this experience, as some divine or diabolical overseer. They are a part of it, narrating the tissue that connects the players to the world and each other, as well as playing referee when conflict inevitably ensues. And I love filling that role. I do it just about every Friday night, for the Adventurer’s League.

I enjoy playing, too, and I’ll be doing that on Friday nights on occasions as well. And the characters I’ll be playing will be getting stories and profiles here. So, too, will go reviews of the materials I use both as player and DM. Advice for my fellow DMs, thoughts on what’s exhilarating or frustrating as a player, comparisons of the current edition to older ones — it makes for a lot of material, and I’m going tap that vein.

Not only does it make for fun and interesting content, it prompts me to write more. It’s like a warm-up before the big lifts when working out. My hope is that with a few hundred words every day, I’ll be ready to write at least a thousand in the novel. It’ll be the initial incision in carving out more time to write more. A positive feedback loop full of words.

Planning for, running, and playing games of Dungeons & Dragons provides me with a surprising amount of focus. Moreso than most of my other endeavors, from coding to video games. I think a lot about the stories I and my fellow players want to tell, or will tell. I understand the math involved. I dream up new characters, monsters, and dungeons. My mind works at a good clip with good ideas coming thick and fast.

I may never make a ground-breaking video game. I doubt I’ll develop the next killer app. But I’ll tell great stories, as I’ve always dreamed. From a table of a few friends, to readers all over the world, I will be a storyteller. And maybe that’s the way I can, and will, truly make a difference.

On Fridays I write 500 words.

Special thanks to Geek & Sundry, Critical Role, and Matt Mercer for helping to inspire these things.

Songs of Cornell: Just Getting Started

There really wasn’t anything Cornell Starblossom liked more than a lively tavern at night.

Night was when everybody shook of the day’s responsibilities, relaxed, and loosened their laces, especially their purse strings. The half-elf was adept enough with bandore and thelarr to maintain a decent enough lifestyle with just a few hours of song every night. What really got him attention — and tips — was his voice. Unlike the instrumental skills, honed by years of study at the College of Fochlucan, he’d been born with a melodious voice with good range and solid timbre. He’d trained that too, to be sure. From participating in hymns to Sune with his mother, to literally singing for his supper all up and down the Sword Coast, he’d built the stamina, clarity, and expressiveness to handle a night’s worth of song, much to the delight of patrons and approval of tavern owners.

He sang songs of pure love, loves lost and regained, learning to love one’s own self. He sang ballads of heroes long gone and the battles of mighty nations. He sang of dragons, dire portents, and powerful magic. Most of all, he sang to the individuals in the tavern, rubbing elbows with men and sitting beside ladies, all the while keeping a fine hat in view for the depositing of coin.

It was getting late at the Clover Wall Roadhouse when Cornell wrapped up his encore. He felt tired, but satisfied. After recent ordeals, he was glad to have time to simply ply his trade and get to know the locals, especially those in high standing. The blacksmith in particular had been of interest to him, in terms of acquiring better means of protecting himself. Having done that, he resolved to spend the next tenday involved in nothing but good song, good food, and pleasurable company.

He was thinking about the feisty redhead who’d invited him to her chambers in a few hours as he counted the night’s coin. Just enough for his upscale rooms and meals to last him until tomorrow night. He leaned back with a smile. He had no taxes to pay, no lands to manage, no manor to worry over. Just him, his music, and the road. It was freedom, and he valued it highly.

“Oi. Knife-ears.”

He blinked, slowly, and looked up at the source of the voice. It was a burly, smelly human, beefy hands in fists. A thinner, weasel-faced human stood behind the first, sneering at Cornell.

“Gentlemen.” Cornell’s voice came out in his easy drawl, an affect picked up from his youth in Daggerford and time on the road. “Got some feedback on th’ set? I’m always lookin’ t’ improve.”

“We bet good money on you in the arena, flower-muncher. We want it back.”

Ah. So these two were from the Redplumes. Or, at least, had supported the Redplumes in their assault and kidnapping of innocents along the road. Especially non-humans. Cornell’s smile faded just a touch, remembering the roar of the crowd, the frothing of the quipper-infested waters…

“Ain’t my fault you bet on th’ wrong odds.” He paused. “Were they good odds that we were gonna bite it? I shoulda placed a bet on us, myself. Might’ve been able to help you kind gents.”

The beefy one slammed his fist into the table. “We will have coin, or we will have blood!”

“Oi.” This was the barkeep, wiping down his bar, looking up from tending to his last few customers. “Keep it down or get out. No fighting in my place.”

Cornell gave the barkeep a nod and a smile, and got to his feet. “You heard th’ man, gentlemen. Care t’ step outside?”

The two humans shared a vicious grin and moved to the door. Cornell handed the barkeep his coin — “for my rooms and board ’til tomorrow night” — and followed, running his fingers over the feather in his hat before putting it on his head. He thought about the rapier hanging from the left side of his belt, and the new crossbow on the right. It was his bandore that he hefted onto his left shoulder, however. As he walked to the door, he did a quick check of the tuning of the strings, plucking one or two to get the notes just right.

As soon as they were outside, he saw Weasel-face pulling out a pair of crossbows not unlike Cornell’s new acquisition: built for a single hand, quick to reload, deadly with good aim. Ham-fist’s weapon of choice was a hammer with a long haft and a heavy-looking head. They grinned. Ham-fist opened his mouth to speak.

Cornell looked squarely at Weasel-face and gave the bandore a quick riff.

this may hurt a little but it’s something you’ll get used to

The discordant melody and minor chord made Weasel-face’s eyes go wide. Screaming in panic, the man dropped his crossbows to clutch his head in pain, and turned to run as fast as he could. Ham-fist whirled to yell an imprecation, and that’s when Cornell drew his crossbow, aimed, and shot the human in the back of the thigh.

Howling, Ham-fist went down.

Cornell walked over, hanging the crossbow from his belt, and drawing his rapier. He placed the tip of the blade under Ham-fist’s chin, and lifted the human’s face towards his.

“I’m no killer, nor am I thief,” he said, his voice grave and even. “But I am a Harper agent.” Cornell lowered his instrument to the ground gently and opened the left side of his jacket, showing the badge he wore underneath. “An’ you are a threat t’ the common folk, or at least those who ain’t like you.” He put a little pressure on the rapier, a tiny bead of blood appearing on the man’s white skin. “I suggest you grab your friend an’ leave. Don’t let me see you here again. Remember: we’re watching you, racist.”

Ham-fist nodded, or at least did so as well as he could with a rapier at his throat. Cornell smiled, stepping back, and sheathing his weapon. Ham-fist stumbled to his feet and jogged after Weasel-face.

Cornell took a deep breath, and let it out again. While he had no taxes or land, he did have his responsibilities. It was the Harpers who had sponsored his entry into Fochlucan, kept his mother safe, and appraised his father, an elf wizard and adventurer in his own right, of Cornell’s progress. And there was the whole empathy-for-the-common-folk thing. Growing up half-elven wasn’t easy, especially in areas in the North of the Sword Coast mostly dominated by mainline humans. He could empathize with so many of them. It was part of the reason why stories of the Harpers had always appealed to him, and why he now wore their emblem.

He adjusted his hat and headed back for the Roadhouse, bandore on his shoulder. The night, much like his journey across Faerûn in search of story, song, and worthy causes, was just getting started.

Mondays are for making art.

Dungeons & Dragons copyright Wizards of the Coast.

Older posts

© 2017 Blue Ink Alchemy

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑