Monday, March 18, 2019

Blossom Fall, Episode 9

Colonial Caerdia: Blossom Fall is a story being told through a 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign I'm running at a local hobby shop called the Devil's Bench. If you aren't already familiar with this series, you can find the beginning over here.

You can find the previous episode here.

12th-17th of Waxing Spring, 0 AL

Our group of adventurers show some interest in getting involved with some of the budding local politics, but they're far more interested in getting back out to explore and find the source of the river. However, they decide to take a day at camp for their various preparations. Jojen and Vala begin scheming to have arrange another, more private meeting with Silence, which inspires I'Un and John to leave before they get caught up in it.

I'Un takes the bone they found in the ruined flooded cellar over to Glavel, the priest of the Four who is building a temple. He tries to discover if it is some sort of relic, explaining that they found it locked in a chest, but as far as Glavel can tell, there's no religious significance to it. I'Un and John begin walking back to their camp, with I'Un talking about his plan for a council, and how he thinks Vala would do well on the council - John isn't so sure. Naturally, as they're talking about her, Vala shows up.

I'Un informs her that the bone found in the chest couldn't be identified as a religious relic by Glavel, so he's confused as to why it was important enough to put in a chest. Vala reminds him that the bone wasn't in the chest - it was on the floor of the cellar, in amongst the dirt. Suddenly disgusted, I'Un throws the bone away, then tries to recruit Vala for a seat on his council. Vala isn't certain about the idea, especially since she isn't sure she could win I'Un's planned tournament of strength - I'Un hints that it won't be a problem.

While the other two return to Jojen and their camp, Vala heads of to find Silence. The first place she checks is with Atsnid at the general store construction site, but the gazelle-horned tiefling says she sent Silence off, not wanting to be associated with working with a smuggler. Eventually Vala tracks down Silence working on the temple. Silence seems very happy to take a break. Vala expresses the desire to have a meeting, after dark, in the woods. Silence isn't inclined to attend, after what Vala pulled - sending her thugs after them and blowing both their covers. However, Vala hints at what her group may have found and intrigues Silence enough to agree to the meeting. Vala then suggests the possibility of Silence being put on a governing council, since that seems like a good place to have an informant. Silence is resistant at first, but Vala is able to talk them around to it - after all, it sounds like a nice, cushy job.

Back with the group at camp, John sets off to get a boat prepared for them for going upriver again, then spends the day hunting for the upcoming expedition. Jojen and I'Un go to speak with Lord Krandig, with I'Un demanding to know how the noble will help fund their expedition when no one in this society is accepting money. Lord Krandig expresses that, unfortunately, money is all he can provide - leading to I'Un storming off, while Jojen apologizes for his companion's behavior. He talks with Lord Krandig for a bit, learning that all is well with him, then heads off.

Regrouping with I'Un, who complains about how Jojen is always siding with Krandig, they make another trip to the temple to speak with Glavel. As Jojen is speaking to Glavel, I'Un interrupts, asking about why Glavel doesn't share his master's clerical powers, getting an answer that it's up to the gods to choose who they bestow their powers on. I'Un then pulls Glavel aside to show him ki, as well as something on his back that Jojen can't get close enough to see while maintaining a discrete distance. As they return to Jojen, I'Un is asking Glavel to put in a good word for him with people, since Glavel seems so much more popular. Glavel says he can try, but he informs I'Un that his words will do little - only I'Un's own actions and words will impact what people think of him.

In the evening, Vala takes Jojen out to the meeting place she selected in the woods so the bard can hide, then she goes to bring Silence. However, Silence leaves the moment Jojen attempts to magically charm them, informing Vala that she really needs to learn how to do business.

The next day, our adventurers take to the river, rowing upstream. It is slow going at times, but on the third day out they find the trees on the riverbanks thinning, and the land turning to open, grassy plains. They can see many herds of animals, but no signs of civilization.

Around midday on the fifth day, the river splits in two - one heading to the northeast, and the other to the southeast. After some debating, they take the branch going northeast, as it appears slightly wider. A couple hours in, Jojen spots movement on the shore. Off in the distance, there's a group of small creatures dragging some big bundle along. He points them out to the group, who start arguing about how to proceed, so he settles the matter by calling out to the creatures - who halt and spin around, brandishing weapons defensively.

The boat is pulled over to the shore and the group approaches cautiously without weapons in their hands to show they are peaceful. As they get closer, I'Un recognizes the small lizard-like humanoids as kobolds, and warns the group that they can be very dangerous in large numbers - and there are eleven of them here.

The group open conversation with them, asking what the kobolds are doing and wheat they know about the region. The creatures tell them they are taking tribute to Nurcukka, a black dragon who rules the swamp that is more than a tenday upriver. They are also very curious about what the group are, and are unfamiliar with the words 'human' and 'half-elf'. As they are talking, Jojen comes to believe there is something familiar about the hairy, net-wrapped thing the kobolds are taking to their dragon. He talks his way into getting a closer look at it, and moves away from the rest of his group into the midst of the kobolds.

Examining the creature, Jojen discovers that his suspicions are correct - this is his hairy orc friend Woo-die, whose carpentry kit was found with the nine dead on the Spring Blossom.He tries to convince the kobolds that Woo-die won't be suitable for their master to eat, but the kobolds don't appear to believe him. So, he begins casting a spell, causing the rest of his friends to jump into action as the kobolds prepare to do battle.

It is a hard fight for the group - the kobolds aren't very strong, but they outnumber the group almost three-to-one. A couple of the kobolds also have nasty tricks to attack with, such as releasing a skunk onto the battlefield and attacking them with scorpions tied to sticks. Jojen, cut off from his friends, falls unconscious. The rest of the group barely finish off the kobolds - with I'Un making a point to only knock out the leader - in time to tend Jojen's wounds and keep him from bleeding to death.

With Jojen stabilized, they search their fallen enemies, finding that they aren't carrying much of value. I'Un decides that he likes the idea of the scorpion on a stick, and deftly ties one of the scorpions to the end of his staff.

And brings this game session comes to an end. Check back next week to discover what happens in Episode 10.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Lark's Landing, Episode 59

Colonial Caerdia: Lark's Landing is a story being told through a 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign I'm running at a local hobby shop called the Devil's Bench. If you aren't familiar with this ongoing story, you can follow this link to Once Upon a Tabletop on YouTube to hear the start of it or read the brief summary I wrote when I switched from video to blog.

You can find the previous episode here.

32nd-34th of Waxing Fall, 1AL

It's the final day before the 3rd Watch head out to secure a route to the location they are meant to find for a new settlement - though they've already decided that the familiar white stone building they discovered long ago is the perfect location. They go about, doing their last minute preparations before leaving. In the evening, Extang asks T'Zaric about how he got the very expensive diamond he gave Patrick for his healing spells, and is surprised and confused when T'Zaraic is very forthright about keeping treasure for himself. This sparks an argument between the two, with Extang insisting that the rest of the group have pooled their resources, and T'Zaric saying he isn't willing to give up his financial independence.

Patrick leaves to go home and talk to Saul, letting him know he's going off to secure a location for the new settlement and learning that Saul is intending to live in the new settlement, even if it means leaving the ocean side - he says he's too old to be living in an area under the constant threat of war. Patrick then pays a brief visit to the graveyard to pay his respects to the mysteriously murdered dragonborn before going home to sleep - where he asks the strange being known as Yaella who appears in his dreams every night if she knows what has happened to the greatsword once wielded by Balasar - but he derives little from the cryptic response.

Fiaeorri also leaves, the argument not long after, seeing that Logan and Quib are just going to sleep. She arrives at the graveyard shortly after Patrick's departure, seeking to ensure that no one else speaks to the corpse of the blue dragonborn she murdered. Unfortunately, as she was avoiding the funeral and there were many deaths in the raid on Port Noble, she doesn't know which grave is correct - since everyone is too busy to engrave the headstones. She decides to spend the night sleeping hidden in the graveyard on the off chance the widow shows up, waking up early to sneak back home.

In the morning, they set out. There is a bit of debate over if they should walk or fly, but they decide to walk as they're meant to be securing a route - with T'Zaric flying overhead, of course, to look for nearby threats. They choose to follow the coastline, skirting the jungle, to save some time as well as to find a better route for wagons, before heading inland. On the second day out, they find themselves heading into savanna grasslands with the jungle to the south of them. They see no apparent threats so far, but they do see a lot of the local wildlife wandering in distant herds. Extang, spotting some towering brontosauruses, decides to use his magic to turn into one. Quib teleports himself and Logan up onto the brontosaurus's back, then climbs up to ride on the head.

After they have been walking for some time, those on the ground notice the shredded corpses of some creatures on the ground. Before they have much of a chance to wonder about this, four screeching wyverns take flight from the trees of the jungle and start towards them. The very odd battle starts off well, with a fireball from T'Zaric blasting a couple of the wyverns as they charge in, Patrick summoning up a storm and calling down lightning, and Fiaeorri hitting one with an arrow. As the wyverns get close enough, bronto-Extang whips one with his tail, Logan hits one that targets him with his axe, and Quib uses a spell to send one tumbling to the ground, rolling with laughter.

Then the battle turns a bit strange. As Fiaeorri tries to stab the downed wyvern with Renn and has to win a battle of wills with the rapier just to bring herself to attack - followed by the sword telepathically complaining to her about being stabbed into things and getting covered in gross ichor. Up on bronto-Extang's back, Logan gets hurt by one of the wyverns and flies into a rage, attacking what's closest to him - including the brontosaurus he's standing on.

Quib manages to use a spell to turn Logan's attentions away from Extang, but the paladin keeps attacking wildly in a blind rage, casting the powerful magic from his axe and hitting friend and foe alike. Fiaeorri finds that she's having trouble hitting anything with the distracting Renn screeching complaints inside her head, so she finally cleans the blade for a bit of peace and quiet.

One by one the wyverns fall - one in a dazzling display of electricity from Renn that electrifies Fiaeorri as well as the target - but when all the enemies are dead, Logan keeps fighting. He leaps off the back of the brontosaurus, landing a blow on Fiaeorri and knocking Patrick unconscious. T'Zaric wraps Logan in an illusion of being inside a cave and tells the others not to attack him - but that doesn't stop Extang from reverting to his own form and making a magical hole form under the paladin, of Quib from making the axe grow so hot that Logan drops it.

Miraculously, however, being isolated in that illusory cave seems to calm Logan down, returning him to his usual self. The rest of the 3rd Watch storm over, demanding to know what was going on. Patrick tries to convince Logan to part with the axe, but Logan finds himself unwilling to part with it...

And that's where this week's game session ends. Check back in another week to see how events unfold in Episode 60.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Blossom Fall, Episode 8

Colonial Caerdia: Blossom Fall is a story being told through a 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign I'm running at a local hobby shop called the Devil's Bench. If you aren't already familiar with this series, you can find the beginning over here.

You can find the previous episode here.

9th-11th of Waxing Spring, 0 AL

Having rested for the night after the tragic loss of John's cousin Will, our intrepid band of adventurers have decided to explore the flooded cellar of the ruined building they found - only to find, through I'Un entering the water, that it is filled with flesh-eating fish. His screams draw the attention of the morose John, as well as someone else - a high-elf who was travelling up the riverbank, who now creeps closer and hides in the forest's foliage to observe what is causing the ruckus.

Having been healed by Jojen, I'Un is ready to make another foray. He's determined to get the chest they can see down there. To draw off the fish in the water, they decide to throw in the carcass of one of the finned crocodile-like creatures they'd killed yesterday. While they are moving it, the high elf comes closer to get a better look and gets spotted. There's a tense moment at first, but eventually she introduces herself as Leshanna and a semblance of almost-trust is formed, largely due to her willingness to help move the creature over to the water.

They make their way over to the water and toss the creature in, with I'Un following close behind. The corpse distracts some of the fish as I'Un makes his way to the chest, picks it up, and carries it back to the cellar door. He wouldn't have made it that far without Jojen casting a quick healing spell on him. The monk holds the chest above his head, trusting in his group to pull him out - which they do. He scrambles onto dry land, bleeding freely and barely clinging to consciousness. Jojen has no spells left to cast, so John does his best to bandage I'Un's wounds.

They open the chest, finding inside some ruined books, some weathered clothes, a nice cloak that I'Un immediately claims, a pouch of coins none of them recognize - with a dragonborn head on one side and an anvil on the other - and, in the bottom, a smaller metal chest wrapped in black velvet. Vala promptly pulls out her lockpicks and opens this chest. Inside are small pieces of ruined papers, a crude stone statue of a sickle-wielding farmer with a wolf at his side, and five silver sickle amulets.

I'Un informs Vala that while he was in the cellar, he felt something odd in the silt beneath his feet by the chest and the five skeletons, something that didn't feel like rocks. Vala wants to go in for the rest of the treasure, but she's convinced to wait for Jojen to rest up enough to be able to cast more spells. However, another argument is sparked - between those who want to explore more, and those who think it's more important to report back to camp and let people know that there have been other people here before. They eventually decide that they'll return to camp together after one more delve into the cellar.

They rest the day away, and in the late afternoon they prepare for the next venture. This time it's Vala going in, and she's tied her chain around her waist so she can be pulled out. As an additional part of the plan, they've tied some wood to a crocodile-creature corpse so it will float, in the hopes of having more control over where the fish congregate. Jojen lights up the fish with a magical, non-burning fire called faerie fire, Vala is lowered into the water, and the creature thrown in after her. Getting nibbled, Vala makes her way over to the skeletons, then begins scrabbling around in the dirt and silt for whatever she may find there, stuffing what she finds into her pockets.

The rest of the group notice a flaw in their plan as the floating fish bait is in their way of seeing what's happening in the water, so John pushes it to the side. While Vala proves better at avoiding fish teeth than I'Un, the water begins to redden, and Leshanna decides not to wait for Vala's signal to reel her in. Once she starts hauling on the chain, the others join in, except for Jojen, who gets ready to heal Vala should the situation turn dire.

After scrabbling for a few more items, Vala joins in the efforts for her departure, blacking out for a moment until Jojen heals her. Finally, the halfling is dragged back onto dry land and they slam shut the cellar door. She empties her pockets, revealing a handful of copper coins, two silver anvil amulets, a couple of rocks, a piece of bone, and a small key. Vala tests the key on the metal chest and is delighted to find it fits.

Packing up their findings, the group get their boat into the water and begin the journey back downriver to the camp, arriving late on the 11th of Waxing Spring. John immediately heads off to find Opal, with Leshanna following, to tell the captain about what they found. Opal listens with moderate interest to what they tell her, and though the coins are unfamiliar to her, she is able to identify the anvil as the symbol of the goddess Mirinrie, goddess of crafting and tradition, and the sickle as the symbol of Oa, god of summer, agriculture, loyalty, and dedication. John and Leshanna then spend the rest of the day helping Opal unravel ropes and making fishing nets.

I'Un goes off to rest, while Vala goes straight to Lord Krandig, who she shares their discoveries with. Krandig is also able to identify the religious symbology, and believes the statue to be a representation of Oa. He's very interested in this new information, and tosses Vala a handful of gold coins to keep him informed, and is quite eager to have her discover some more civilized lands in this wilderness. Vala also asks about what's been happening in camp, and Krandig informs her that there hasn't been much going on aside from people constructing houses. He, himself, is trying to put together a council of nobles - inspired by I'Un - but some of the other nobles want to set up a more traditional monarchy, and a number of peasants believe that Glavel, the young priest of the Four, should be in charge.

The group reconvene at their camp that night, sharing what information they've learned. I'Un expresses his skepticism about Kranding continuing to provide money, or being someone worthwhile to keep contact with, but the others don't seem to share his concerns. The talk of the evening turns to the proof they've found of other people living here, and that they worshiped the same gods as their own people. Eventually, they head off to sleep.

And that's where this game session comes to a close. Find out what happens next week in Episode 9.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Lark's Landing, Episode 58

Colonial Caerdia: Lark's Landing is a story being told through a 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign I'm running at a local hobby shop called the Devil's Bench. If you aren't familiar with this ongoing story, you can follow this link to Once Upon a Tabletop on YouTube to hear the start of it or read the brief summary I wrote when I switched from video to blog.

You can find the previous episode here.

7th-32nd of Waxing Fall, 1AL

The 3rd Watch are home at Port Noble, trying to get back to life as normal after the attack while they wait to hear what the council decides to do next. Fiaeorri takes some time to form the magical bond she needs with her new sword for it to work, and is surprised to hear a voice speaking in her head. The sword, Renn, is delighted to have a new owner, as the last one kept stabbing it in things.

Extang returns from his excursion where his attempts to go on a solo mission in giant eagle form resulted in him barely surviving an encounter with a flying draconic creature. He decides to spend some time learning all Feryon knows about dragons.

An announcement comes from the council, along with a vote. They explain that they didn't know the complete accuracy of their information, but that the attack seems to have come from a group known as the Soggy Alliance, who apparently have killed off anyone living within two or three days of the coast for so long that the coast has been avoided for several generations by sentient creatures. They also make it publicly known that there are spies reporting on Port Noble, known only as Koa-Toa, and that any information on them should be given to the militia or the council. Finally, they share that this attack was referred to as a 'small raid' and that it's unknown if the Soggy Alliance can be negotiated with, as one of the reasons given for the attack was for sport.

The vote they are given offers three choices on how Port Noble can respond to this threat: fleeing inland to establish a new settlement, digging in and remaining at Port Noble, or splitting their population in two with some staying in Port Noble and some heading inland to build a new settlement. They also get to vote on if Port Noble - should they stay there - should focus on defending itself, or if they should try to hunt down this Soggy Alliance. After a lengthily discussion (which Fiaeorri vanishes part way through to consult with Gregor), most of the 3rd Watch vote to split the population, and all of them vote to take a defensive stance.

It's a few more days before it is announced that the majority of the populace voted for the same course of action, and Port Noble begins its preparations for establishing a second settlement. Patrick, wanting a quick warning system in place in case either of the settlements is attacked, tries to find another cleric that can send magical messages across long distances like he can, but doesn't succeed - however, he gets inspired to make a scroll of the spell that someone in the settlement he isn't in can use. He even convinces the council to take care of some of the funding. In addition, he commissions some new armor from Gorbosh.

It will take some time for the scroll and armor to be complete, but there are some other concerns that the group decide to take care of in the evenings after they are finished with their various tasks. They have realized that Merara, an old sailor who took care of the orphans, established the fishing industry, and used to be on the council, is missing along with her house-raft. After she fails to respond to a magical message, they try to detect her body with Patrick's magic, while Extang polymorphs into a giant eagle so they can travel faster to get the most of the ten minutes Patrick's spell lasts for. They have no success, however, they come to another realization - they could use this to find the body of the blue dragonborn who went missing at the same time as Balasar's murder. They need to wait until the next day before they can do it, but not only can they put the dragonborn's widow's mind at ease, they can use magic to speak with the corpse and discover the identity of his murderer.

That night, Fiaeorri sneaks of to speak to Gregor again, this time asking for help. She explains how a year ago she murdered a blue dragonborn to help someone fake a suicide - but the fake suicide turned into a real murder and suddenly there were two bodies. She had buried the body, but now there is a chance it might be found, and she needs the body eliminated before the murder can be traced back to her. Gregor agrees to have this taken care of, and Fiaeorri describes the location of the body as best she can remember.

The next evening, the whole group goes out again, this time seeking the body of the dead dragonborn. Fiaeorri is very surprised when they find the body in a completely different place than she remembers burying it, and hides in the trees while the others are digging up the body.

Once the body is retrieved from its shallow grave, Patrick uses his magic to question it, learning that the last thing the dragonborn did before dying was follow a human woman into the jungle to help with something. He describes the woman as best he can, but it's a fairly vague impression; it could be any number of women in Port Noble. He didn't see how he died, other than a strip of metal coming out of his chest. However - and this was important to Patrick to learn - it was a clean death and he didn't suffer.

Fiaeorri sneaks off to demand of Gregor why the body was moved to such a stupid place - only to learn that the body was never found in the first place, as she had given the wrong location. Fiaeorri asks for advice on how to deflect the situation should suspicion and proof point to her, and recieves some - with the final option being to eliminate those who are suspicious of her. Gregor even offers the help of the rest of the True Daughters of Pagslas should it come to that - though Meglin, on bodyguard duty, objects, thinking Fiaeorri should clean up her own mess or pay for her own mistakes.

The rest of the group deliver the corpse to his widow, who is finally put at her ease, though she's confused about why her child was threatened to be killed if she didn't stop searching for her husband if he was dead. The 3rd Watch refuse the offered reward and report their findings to the council, who aren't particularly interested at the moment with everything else that is happening.

Everyone returns to their various tasks. Over the next ten days, Patrick finishes the spell scroll he is making. Extang is given a very sarcastic map by the cartographer, Saifon, who he then then begins taking cartography lessons from. Fiaeorri questions her sword and learns a little more about their attackers, including that they are part of something called the Deepmer Alliance and that the swords former owner was frustrated that the alliance doesn't provide enough sport. And the group gets a visit from Stor, offering them their choice of the newest jobs from the militia - one to find these koa-toa spies, and the other to find and secure a location for the new settlement. The group unanimously agrees to take the latter job. However, they don't head out right away - they wait an additional ten days so that Patrick's new armor will be ready for him.

And that brings an end to this week's game session. Come back next week to see what happens in Episode 59.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Simulating Public Opinion

            Understanding the nuances of public opinion is a challenge for me, as it is so hard to pin down what it actually is. Yet, for someone like me – who writes books and runs games where I need to know what entire societies are thinking – it’s important for me to continue striving to understand what they are, where they come from, and how they can be portrayed.

            Through my explorations, I have discovered two key points to understanding the currents of public opinion: the source of information, and how much the person receiving said information trusts the source. For example, one day I read two articles on the same political gathering – one from a right-wing source, and the other from a left-wing source. Due to my own leanings, I instinctively distrusted what was said in one of them, and wanted to believe what was in the other. However, being the type of person I am, the opinion I ended up with was that the truth was partway between the two – though I still favored the one I wanted to believe.

            Another factor that needs to be considered is how readily people will change their opinions. We see a lot of it these days, where one piece of information that goes viral on the internet can take people from thinking someone is amazing to hating them – or vise versa, though this seems to be less common. In many cases, it’s remarkable how easily people will flip their opinions – and they won’t even bother checking into the information before changing their opinions, which is remarkable in this age of satirical news sites and deliberately misleading article titles.

            It appears from this that people are quite fickle, but this isn’t entirely true. While there are some people who will change their opinions at the drop of a hat, there are others who will dig in their heels and refuse to change, and still others who will carefully consider before keeping or altering their opinion. However, the important thing to note about public opinion is that it isn’t really made up of all the opinions of the people who make up the public, and it isn’t even made up of the majority. It is defined by those who speak the loudest, and those who are heard the most. Since the people who refuse to change say the same thing all the time, they tend to blend into the background, and the people who take time to formulate their opinions aren’t there to be vocal at the beginning, this means the bulk of public opinion is formed by those who are fickle. And since having more people supporting an idea puts pressure on others to agree with them, the fickle masses drive and shift the overall perception of the world.

            So, as it turns out, public opinion is simply the opinions of the loudest, most easily swayed individuals in a society. People’s actual opinions can be pushed and swayed by public opinion – because it is within human nature to try to fit in – whereas other people can’t be swayed at all. From a governing perspective, this is a very useful tool – because if you can control the perceived public opinion, you can quiet the people with opposing views – but it isn’t so helpful for my purposes. Yes, it gives me an overall view to present, but it doesn’t help with narrowing down what an individual character thinks.

            For that, it’s important to go back to those two points I mentioned before: where did the person get the information from, and how much do they trust that source? Public opinion can sway them of, of course, but how much of the information has reached them? How diluted has the information become trough the telephone-game? What are their own opinions before receiving the new information? People are more likely to believe something if they want it to be true or if they’re afraid it is true, so how does that impact them?

            That’s all very complicated, though, and while it’s sometimes necessary to go that deep, often it can be simplified into 3 basic views: in favor, neutral, or opposed to any given concept. Sometimes a few more complicated options need to be added, but even with a few more added, it’s fairly simple to define those basic perspectives. From there, one can be designated as the public opinion, and then the others can be assigned to characters as it seems appropriate, and they can even be tweaked from there to personalize them to the character.

            And that is how it becomes possible to realistically simulate the currents of public opinion, based off of my own observations and experience. All opinions are my own.

Check out my YouTube channel where I tell the stories of my D&D campaigns.

Click here to find the charity anthology containing a couple of my short stories.

To see the chainmaille my wife and I make, click here.

Also, make sure you check out my wife's blog and her website.

If there's any subject you'd like to see me ramble on about, feel free to leave a comment asking me to do so.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Blossom Fall, Episode 7

Colonial Caerdia: Blossom Fall is a story being told through a 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign I'm running at a local hobby shop called the Devil's Bench. If you aren't already familiar with this series, you can find the beginning over here.

You can find the previous episode here.

7th-9th of Waxing Spring, 0 AL

Our heroes left off in a public argument with Silence, a tiefling smuggler acquaintance of Vala's. Jojen is very upset about the deaths of his friends, who had been smuggled by Silence, but John and I'Un can see they aren't in the best position, and they don't want to inflame the situation. They both have a quiet word with Jojen, encouraging him to step away from the situation, then leave - off to where Silence has pointed to Vala lurking on the fringes of the activity.

Silence magically amplifies their voice, saying it's clear that Jojen want's a scene, and announces to all who are listening that they are retiring from smuggling - turning over a new leaf in this new world - and that anyone who wants any smuggling done should go to Vala, although anyone who does so should be careful that she might send her thugs after them for no discernible reason.

Finally, Jojen decides to go on his way, saying he'll give Silence the benefit of the doubt - for now. He leaves, and goes off to try to find something strong to drink - finding that he either has to talk to the tiefling Atsnid - which he doesn't want to do - or wait until what the tavern is brewing is ready. The others go their separate ways as well - Vala trading her axes for a length of chain to secure her barrel to a tree and I'Un attempting to get Opal on his side for building a council - though he fails, as the former captain of the Spring Blossom wants to stay clear of leadership, even if it only involves passing on the mantle.

Vala gathers the group together again, suggesting it's time to go out exploring to give people time to forget this day's exploits. Jojen wants to wait until tomorrow - with a keen interest in acquiring some money from Lord Krandig first - but the others talk him around to leaving right away. John fetches one of the long boats for rowing upriver, getting told by the sailors that he and his friends aren't to burn this one. Then he and I'Un attempt to recruit some people to accompany them, returning with nothing but a black eye for John. Will, at least, is willing to come along.

The group set out upriver, passing the cave they had explored previously and continuing on through the forest. As night falls, they pull the boat out of the water and camp up in the trees. The next day, they continue on up the river. Late in the afternoon, John spots a small section of the riverbank that looks like it is made of bricks.

They pull their boat up on the shore, flipping it over and concealing it in the brush. Slowly and carefully, they approach along the shoreline. As they draw close to the right spot, they see a greenish fin sticking up out of a hollow in the ground. I'Un rushes up to draw out whatever it is - whacking it on the head and accepting a nasty bite as he runs off to the side, slightly more concerned now that he's seen three more of the creatures in the hollow.

Vala shoots the fin, and Jojen casts his sleep spell over the hollow - he's relieved for a moment, seeing the fin fall over, before three more of the creatures come charging out - looking much like crocodiles with fins on their backs. One of them takes a bite out of I'Un, while the others charge in at the group. Jojen can also hear some splashing from the direction of the river.

Will rushes in to stab one of the creatures with his spear, while John shoots an arrow at the creature harassing the heavily-wounded I'Un, allowing the monk to finish it off before retreating to Jojen's side where he receives healing from the bard. Vala tosses her bow aside in favor of her rapier, then steps in to stab one of the creatures - which bites back. The fin of a new creature begins approaching them from out in the river. The other land-bound crocodile-like creature lunges forward, tearing a hole in Will's stomach. Will drops to the ground, dead.

Seeing the death of his cousin - the only other surviving member of his tribe - John trows aside his bow and charges in with his rapier, stabbing furiously at the creature responsible, but in his rage he doesn't even hit it. Will's death also rallies the others, and though they take a few more wounds, they manage to finish off the creatures - even the new one that comes in from the river.

Jojen and I'Un attempt to offer condolences to John, but John insists on being alone - dragging Will's body off into the woods to bury him. The others take a look at the hollow the creatures have dug out. They find what looks like the mostly-buried remains of the foundation of a building. I'Un also notices, one of those strange circle-oval clusters on the bricks, and the corner of a buried trapdoor. However, it is getting late, and they have wounds to tend, so they decide to wait until tomorrow. They camp up in a tree again, except for John who is unwilling to leave Will's grave.

In the morning, they finally convince John to come away from Will's grave, though he spends his time skipping stones into the river rather than helping the others unearth the trapdoor. It takes a while, since they have no shovels, but they manage to clear the trapdoor and pry it open with their crowbars. Below they see what looks like a flooded cellar with fish swimming in and out of a hole out to the river. There is a decrepit-looking wooden chest, along with five corpses.

I'Un lowers himself into the water as carefully as possible, not even causing a ripple, intending to investigate further. When he lets out a surprised yell, John come running to see Jojen and Vala pulling I'Un out of the water, legs bloody from the fish that decided to snack on him. Jojen instinctively casts sleep on the swarming fish in the freshly bloodied water, but it doesn't seem to have that much impact on the hungry creatures.

And that brings an end to this game session. Come back next week to see what happens next in Episode 8.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Lark's Landing, Episode 57

Colonial Caerdia: Lark's Landing is a story being told through a 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign I'm running at a local hobby shop called the Devil's Bench. If you aren't familiar with this ongoing story, you can follow this link to Once Upon a Tabletop on YouTube to hear the start of it or read the brief summary I wrote when I switched from video to blog.

You can find the previous episode here.

4th-7th of Waxing Fall, 1AL

The 3rd Watch and Port Noble have fended off an attack by blue-green aquatic humanoids accompanied by flying sharks. T'Zaric and Extang work with the militia to burn the corpses of their enemies, while Quib goes out to help heal who he can. Patrick finds himself approached by a burn-scarred woman, asking for his help, who leads him to a wounded man. He heals the man's leg, but, upon discovering the man still can't stand properly, finds that there is an older wound that he thinks he can repair with magical treatment over several days - which he arranges to do. Logan tracks down his apprentice, Lykos, who is proud to have helped in the fighting, but is also extremely grateful for his master's healing powers.

Fiaeorri, after looting some bodies with the help of the creature she magically charmed, sits down to examine the rapier T'Zaric had found and given to her. Partway through examining it, she finds herself being stabbed in the back because her spell wore off. She quickly dispatches the creature and returns to examining her rapier, which is, indeed, magical.

After completing their various tasks, everyone wearily return to bed to sleep away most of the day. When they are up and about again, they discover that quite a crowd has gathered around the town hall. Upon investigating, they discover that the council is meeting with Hargrom and discussing the situation - and many concerned citizens wish to know what is going on. There are many opinions being tossed around, ranging from fortifying Port Noble to fleeing from potential future attacks.

When Extang talks his way into the council meeting, he gets finds they are talking about the same things - though in a much less frantic manner than most of the populace. He provides them with the saved head of one of the enemy 'generals', claiming they can get information from it. They need to wait until the next day, however, for Patrick to prepare the spell. The next day, however, they remember that they don't know the language the creatures speak. So, they end up waiting another day so Patrick can prepare a spell that can account for that as well.

Finally they reconvene with the council and the creature's head to ask the five questions allowed by the spell, with Patrick posing them and translating the responses. Through them they learn that these creatures serve something called the Sea Queen, which apparently didn't send them on this attack but is a god - though, after meeting Zotzillaha, the 3rd Watch are somewhat skeptical about the claim of divinity. The attack - called a small raid by the creature - was to verify the reports of spies called Koa-Toa, which can apparently be unreliable, and also for sport.

With this new information, the council goes back to their deliberations and the 3rd Watch go off for their own tasks. Quib retrieves his stack of notes from Stor, who he'd left them with some time ago. Logan returns to training Lykos. Fiaeorri pays a visit to Gregor, the head of her order, to offer more funds for their rebuilding project, and is surprised to spot Patrick leaving the building. She hurries between buildings to get ahead of him, casually approaching from the other way, to ask what he's doing in this area and learns that he's visiting patients. Accepting this answer, Fiaeorri continues on to visit Gregor, learning nothing new other than that he's being treated from an old pitchfork wound.

T'Zaric follows up on a lead from the Caedian Explorers' Guild from Gilligan, looking to hire trustworthy bodyguards because someone was spotted trying to sneak into baby Chance's room. However, Gilligan doesn't trust him enough to hire him. T'Zaric decides to keep an eye on the house anyway, on his nightly searches for anyone involved with this mysterious cult he isn't sure exists, or the disappearances he's heard about. Fiaeorri is also out at night, looking for signs of the third piece of her necklace.

Extang decides to follow up on another lead from the Guild - a request for a large slab of sandstone. Turning himself into a giant eagle, he flies out on his own, hoping to make a fast trip to the desert and back. However early on his second day out, he finds himself attacked by a winged, dragon-like reptile. The creature destroys his polymorph reverting him to his own body, then dives in at him as he drifts down on the magic of his feather-falling belt. Through several more uses of the polymorph spell - turning himself into a giant ape and pulling the creature down to the ground - Extang is just barely able to fend off the creature. He tries to kill it before it gets away, screeching - possibly for help - but it gets away. Deciding that going out into the wilderness on his own probably wasn't the best of his ideas, Extang uses the last of his magic to turn into a giant eagle again and rush for home.

And that's where this week's game came to an end. Check back next week to find out what happens in Episode 58.