On the 6th August 2022 we started a new campaign on my teen table. Based in their favourite town, Red Mills. One of the players, James, has expressed an interest in writing summaries for it. So hopefully we can do that here.
Getting that Club feeling, Online
So since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown our D&D club (Cork D&D Meetup) has become a disparate thing. Most games, I believe, have gone online. This is great, it is certainly much better than not playing, just not as good as playing in person and rolling real dice. But the good thing about the club is not just that we play a game in person but that we have contact with players at other tables too. We are and we feel part of a greater endeavour, around us are five or six other tables. The players at this table are being chased by owlbears, those at the next are negotiating with goblins, cheering at crits and moaning at the DM when a second dragon turns up. The last one is a true story!
Anyway I have been trying to find a way to keep the club feeling going. But also to include others from outside the club, a meetup session but online of course. I have been trying to figure it out. The problem in a nutshell (software engineers like to put problems in nutshells), is that we need to play games that matter to each other. We need to care that the group at the next “table” defeat those bandits or drive off that chimera. We need to have interaction between the groups and have players swap between groups for different adventures. Then I realised that I was describing something that I had heard of before. I was describing the premise behind a West Marches campaign.
I heard about West Marches on Matt Colville’s youTube channel. Simply put, you have a big group of players who all “meet in a tavern”. They discuss various rumours and then some of them decide to go explore the abandoned dwarven silver mine, another bunch head off to the haunted tower and a third group go to the enchanted forest. Then in one session they all complete an adventure and return to the tavern. They swap tales, maybe they saw something on the way there or on the way back, a strange glow coming from a lake or whatever. Then some go to the glowing lake, others follow those strange tracks up near the screaming cliffs.
So the idea is that we make a set of adventures in a shared setting. We have a chat room where people gather and exchange rumours; a virtual tavern. They form groups make a date with the appropriate DM and off they go. Three hours later, they come back laden with gold and buy better armour and weapons and then find more people to head into the forbidden forest.
So, if you like the idea, let me know. If you want to DM, excellent! If you want to help create the starting setting even better. You know where to find me.
Session 3.1 – The Non-Borns
It is twenty years since the murder of the one true god Amet and the world is now a very different place. A zombie apocalypse raged from the time of his death in 858 until 861. During that time, many small gods arose and wreaked havoc on the world. Then the hidden dwarf community of Gladak Bruin emerged and in just a few short years redeveloped many of their technologies. Whether they recreated them from ancient tomes or uncovered hidden stores or some combination of these two is unclear. They set about executing the new gods as they had the old, but this time there was even more death and destruction to the rest of the world. Pretty soon they was almost no one left except the dwarves and the gods as the last remaining pockets of free people were obliterated one by one.
Now, in the year 878, the once great trading city of Parchen stands alone, protected only by its magical barriers. But it cannot last much longer. The Merchant Princes of Parchen and the Wizards of the Three Wishes have come up with a desperate plan. They will send a team back in time to prevent the war from happening in the first place. There is no way for the spell to cross the barrier of chaos caused by Amet’s death, but they should be able to reach back to near that time and maybe some way can be found to repair the damage.
The spell that can send people back only works on non-borns. People who were not yet born at the time the spell goes to. So Parchen can not send back its greatest warriors and wizards because all the time-travellers must be under twenty years of age.
The Merchant Princes and the Wizards choose a group of young heroes. A kenku wizard named Quill, a tiefling ranger named Avihyq, a tabaxi monk who goes by the name of Bag Of Nails, a dragonborn called Tarako and twin tiefling druids named Fernia and Cassia.
An ancient priest of Amet’s dead religion, named Brother Albus, tells them to find Amet’s heir. Amet’s only child must be located and a ritual performed. No one in Parchen knows what the ritual entails, but they know that the details can be found “beneath the birthplace of Amet”. This is thought to be in a cave in the Boorhomec Desert, near the “Gates of Heaven”. After that it is hoped that Amet can be drawn back into existence and that he will hopefully take it from there. The only record they can find of an heir is of a desert religion which started around that time called the Cult of the Butterfly. It’s members claimed their leader and founder was the “Heir of Amet”, but most records of it were destroyed in the wars.
It is explained that some part of themselves remain in the present time and only by saving the world before Parchen falls can they save themselves. When the timeline is broken no one knows if they will snap back to the present, remain in the past or become truly non-born and cease to have ever existed.
The Merchants Princes tell them of a pass phrase which was in use amongst their foreign agents in 858; “The price of ivory is high this year in The Haj”. This should allow them to get help, money and resources. One such agent was Fayn Al-Gha who was a rich trader in Al Hajerit, they should go to that city on the edge of the Boorhomec Desert and seek out his house to enlist his help.
The group are outfitted with all the equipment and magic items that can be spared from the defense of Parchen.
It is decided to send them back to Al Hajerit at a time when it is believed that the Cult of the Butterfly emerges there. During the casting of the spell the heroes hear the wizards speaking in alarm about something they called “interference”. It seems the group end up being dumped in the wrong place and the wrong time. They are too early and hundreds of miles out. They start to see the sea beneath them and experience a feeling of falling. Then one of the wizards says, “There, look, put them there”. “We can’t do that” replied a second. “We have no choice!”
There was a feeling of emptiness and then the group appeared on the benches of a slave galley in the Erdel Sea on the day of Amet’s demise. They are, of course, chained to the oars and none of their wonderful equipment has come back with them, they have arrived with only the barest of clothes.
“Row!” commands a stern voice and a whip licks their backs. They pull on the oars to the mesmerising rhythm of a drum.
Boom-boom boom-boom boom-boom boom.
The ship was run by merciless orcs and for hours the group tried to escape their chains. But every time they got free the orcs whipped them to unconsciousness, chained them back up and forced a foul tasting liquid down their throats. The liquid burned them back to consciousness and once again they fell under the spell of the drum.
Boom-boom boom-boom boom-boom boom.
They rowed and they rowed. From snatches of conversation with the other slaves they discovered they were in the Erdel Sea. The water girl was named Sal and they tried to get her to help but she was too frightened.
Then the sound of the drum was drowned out by thunder. The sky grew black and the storm stretched from horizon to horizon. Lightning flashed and the world mourned the passing of Amet. The ship tossed about on the waves and suddenly lightning struck the mast and it exploded. A hole was ripped in the bottom of the ship. It listed to one side as it started to sink.
The orcs began shouting and the drummer and whippers dashed up to the main deck. Here they joined the rest of the crew in the only lifeboat and launched into the storm, leaving over one hundred slaves chained hopelessly to their oars.
Struggling with their bonds, one by one the heroes broke free of the oars and climbed out the forward hatch as water poured in. In the spirit of revenge they turned the ships balistas on the receding orcs, but whether from the angle of the ship or their inexperience with the weapons they missed. When all the loaded bolts had been fired they grabbied some flotsam and taking Sal with them, they began to swim towards a distant shoreline, sometimes visible during the brief flashes.
Ahead of them the orcs rowed on confidently. But then in a blinding flash their boat was hit by the lightning and they sank into the dark water.
The group swam on and on battling exhaustion until finally they were washed up on a wide beach where they collapsed into a dreamless sleep.
Everyone receives 300XP and is now Level 2.
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Session 2.7 – At the End of the Barrel
Carl playing Bobo the bard.
Tess playing Tinus the sorcerer.
Elliott playing Varis the druid.
Noah playing Monarch the artificer.
Niamh playing Thraa the sorcerer.
Ruth playing Orten the dwarf.
After the struggle with the ivy demon, the group settled down for a rest in the middle story of the gatehouse. When darkness fell a violent storm erupted outside. As far as the eye could see in all directions lightning flashed and thunder roared, but no rain fell. It was as if the world itself was mourning something and crying out in agony. The group got as much rest as they could under the circumstances. Left alone on watch towards dawn, Bobo got bored and decided to draw mustaches on the faces of the others. They didn’t notice until they woke up and it was very obvious who had done this because he was the only one without a fake mustache.
In the morning the storm had disappeared and while they had breakfast Monarch used his skills to make the old wooden duck into a Duck of Holding, capable of carrying a large amount of items. Then he turned his attention to the strange wooden box.
“How do we get this to open?” he mused, and when he said the word open, the box obeyed.
Inside the box was divided into two parts. One had twenty or more books and the other seemed to have a slot marked “In” and a flap marked “Out” next to a tray. They read the titles of the books and then each took one out in turn. Whenever someone took a book out the box clicked and their hand also clicked, but it did not hurt. There seemed to be no way to take a second book. The box only allowed one per person.
While they were studying their new tomes a bell rang and a letter popped out of the Out flap and landed in the tray. It seemed to be from someone called Nessy and it was an apology for killing Amet. If this were true then that might explain the strange storm. They scribbled out a response and posted it into the In slot. Then they closed the box and headed over to The Bad Penny. Rashi stayed behind in the gatehouse, she had had enough of the ivy.
Before entering, Varis called lightning from the sky to strike down the building’s chimney. Then finding the back door locked and not wanting to go back and fetch Rashi, they simply broke it down. The door led to the tavern’s kitchen and inside there were two dead people under the control of the ivy. One was scorched from standing too close to the fireplace. They fought their way in and during the fracas Monarch was knocked out cold. The fight spilled over into the main room of the tavern and on his way in, Orten bent down and took the Duck from Monarch’s unconscious form. Another vine came down from the upper level and it took a while before the group gained control. In the fight Tinus experienced a wild magic surge which cast levitate on him. He clung to the bar in an attempt to control his movements.
Orten and Thraa went upstairs and started searching the room, picking up anything valuable for safe keeping. Thraa found a nice rug and Orten popped it into the duck where it would be safe. Meanwhile Bobo and Tinus entered the store room which was full of barrels of alcohol free wine and beer. Behind the barrels they spotted a stairs going down to the cellar.
Varis noticed that Monarch wasn’t with them and went back to the kitchen where he found him and revived him. The artificer woke with a start, immediately noticed that his precious duck was gone and started to choke the druid. Varis pleaded for his life, his good deed forgotten and unrewarded. Not finding the duck on him Monarch let him go and ran out to find his next victim with screams of “Where’s my duck!”
Tinus and Bobo proceeded down into the basement. From halfway down the stairs they spotted some barrels with dwarven writing on them. Smaller than the wine or beer barrels, this must be the gunpowder. Bobo was about to run down in delight when Tinus stopped him and pointed out the wire running from the bottom step to the barrels. They were booby-trapped.
Varis came in from the kitchen holding his throat. He searched the bar, ignoring the alcohol free beer and the alcohol free wine. “Where’s the good stuff?” he said and his hand fell upon a bottle of Old Parchen Gin. He poured himself a glass, put the bottle down next to it and sat on a bar stool and prepared to take his first drink.
“Where’s my duck!” screamed Monarch at Orten who was coming down the stairs.
“I don’t have it” said Orten unconvincingly.
“Liar!” screamed Monarch.
He grabbed the bottle of expensive gin, smashed the bottom and attacked Orten with it. A shard of glass bounced off Varis’s head into his glass. He looked at it and the broken bottle in dismay.
Orten sidestepped and hammered his fist into the side of Monarch’s head, knocking him out without really hurting him. He caught him as he fell and placed him carefully on the ground.
Downstairs Bobo and Tinus skipped carefully over the bottom step into the basement. Bobo took out his key and started searching for a key hole. “There must be one here somewhere” he told Tinus. After a little while he found it, behind the barrels of booby-trapped gunpowder. As he turned the key in the lock, Thraa came down and Tinus told her about the bottom step.
A secret door opened before a highly self satisfied Bobo. Smiling he looked into the dark and the dark looked back out at him. A second ivy demon emerged and attacked him, knocking him out. Tinus stepped in to protect his friend. Thraa stood in the corner helping from a distance. Hearing the sounds of battle, Orten jumped over the bar and down onto the stairs.
Varis picked the shard of glass out of his gin and took a sip. This world was a strange place. No matter how hard he tried, things always went wrong for him. It wasn’t him really, he reasoned, but the idiots he traveled with.
Downstairs Thraa desperately shouted “Booby trap!” to Orten warning the dwarf about the bottom step.
Then the demon knocked Tinus out in one sweep of a tentacle. Thraa fired again and Orten jumped over the banister to land behind the demon. He slipped through the door there and in the room he saw two cells. One containing a huddled figure the other was empty. But most of the room was packed high with gunpowder and other barrels that appeared to be leaking a bright yellow liquid. He returns to the fray and gets a good hit in on the demon.
Varis looks at his empty glass. Puts it down goes into the store room and rolls a heavy barrel of wine down the stairs.
Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, went the barrel down the stairs.
The demon turns on Orten and he and Thraa are in a desperate situation. But if the barrel gets to the bottom step the booby trap will go off and everyone will die. He throws his javelin through the spindles of the banister and it pierces the barrel, holding it trapped halfway down the stairs.
Varis comes down and takes the javelin out, kicks the barrel onward and then casting a spell morphs through the stone wall of the building to what he believe is the safety of the outside.
Thump, thump, BOOOOOOOMMMMM!
The barrels exploded killing the demon, Orten, Thraa, Bobo and Tinus. Upstairs Monarch groaned in his sleep and outside Varis smiled. He was free!
KA-BOOOOOOOOOM went all the barrels of gunpowder and the strange liquid that Varis didn’t know about. The building vapourized. Monarch vapourized. And outside Varis vapourized. A column of green fire extended hundreds of feet into the sky.
Arlsfort the town that was more of a concept really, could now be best described as a crater. The gatehouse was blown off its foundations and rolled for a hundred yards before disintegrating on the hillside. A blood covered Rashi crawled out holding her ears.
Miles away in Pelville, windows shook and shattered and babies began to cry in this forsaken world without a god and with no heroes left to fix it.
Some campaigns end in victory.
This one, not so much.
Technically Rashi survived, but we will retire her for a little while
and perhaps find her along the highways and byways of our future adventures.
For the next session, could everyone bring a new character please.
I haven’t decided exactly what to do yet.
So please bring the same character at level 1 and at level 5.
Session 2.6 – Arlsfort Ivy
Carl playing Bobo the bard.
Tess playing Tinus the sorcerer.
Elliott playing Varis the druid.
Robin playing Rashi the rogue.
Noah playing Monarch the artificer.
Niamh playing Thraa the sorcerer.
After resting over-night in The Twelve Oaks in Pelville the group reconvened outside where Orten was loading his wagon with supplies for the trip to Arlsfort. The Rev was nowhere to be seen, having said something about building a chapel for his new religion he had departed. But two likely characters seemed eager to join the group; Monarch a dwarven Artificer, who specializes in potions and Thraa a half-orc Sorcerer.
Tinus and Bobo did some “clothes” shopping at Contin’s Costumes opposite The Shell Theatre. Flamingos were involved. Varis got the proprietor to make him a giraffe mask with a long neck. Monarch went down to what was left of Forester’s Alchemy Shoppe and encountered an angry Noeren Forester cleaning the place. She tried to shut the door in his face saying they were closed, but there was no longer a door and certainly no longer any merchandise on view for sale. Monarch bought some empty vials while Thraa had a look around and asked what had happened but Noeren was in no mood to talk and angrily swept the two out. Rashi just calmly relaxed next to a nice barrel.
When everyone returned to the wagon they saw a hooded figure waiting for them. As they approached they heard the figure tap out Tum-Te-Tum Te-Tum on the wagon boards. Looking around they spotted more of their Kalla “friends” on the nearby rooftops and loitering across the street.
“Hi Guys”, said the hooded woman, “We see you’re finally heading north to Arlsfort like we asked.”
“Yeah”, replied Bobo enthusiastically.
“Well just be careful up there, it seems to all be one way traffic. Plenty of people have gone up that road since the war ended, but no one has come back down.”
“Oh great” they all agreed.
“Keep an eye out for one of our own while your up there. Jana Jeve, runs the Bad Penny, she went up a few days ago. Oh and we got you some doves as a gift” said the woman, indicating a pair of common wood pigeons in a small cage on the back of Orten’s wagon.
“They’ll carry a message back to us when you find the … errr … items” she added with a whisper and slunk off.
With that the group climbed on Orten’s wagon and they drove north towards Arlfort. On the way they noticed that the countryside was quiet. Too quiet. They almost missed the companionship that getting robbed by the Blood Moon Orcs brought with it.
But not quite.
After an hour or so, they topped a small rise in the road and there ahead of them was the concept of a town they knew as Arlsfort. But it looked a little different. It was totally covered in some form of ivy. Over all the houses and the walls the weed spread out, reaching down the road towards them. The ivy seemed to be concentrated on the Gatehouse and the building them remembered as The Bad Penny. In the road in front of them, lying face up on the weed was the body of an Arlsfort soldier.
Suddenly without bending his knees or using his arms he tilted straight upright.
“Who …. goes … there” he challenged in a broken not very human sounding voice. Looking at him carefully the group spotted ivy growing in under his uniform and even a few leaves poking out of his nose. After that the conversation took a turn for the worse and may have involved a fireball. At one point Monarch was grabbed by the weed and pulled in with ferocious speed, but his friends managed to save him although he did get slightly singed.
Once the possessed soldier seemed to be pacified the group looked around a bit. Rashi chopped off bits of the ivy and a black viscous sap dripped from it, burning whatever it landed on. Varis took to talking to a nearby tree, the tree was delighted to have someone to talk to especially since it was frightened of the ivy. It didn’t like the ivy. The stuff had been growing here for about seven days. The tree begged them to move it away from the ivy. Monarch was stuffing samples of everything into his vials. Thraa started to blast a path through the weed to the town gate while Tinus and Bobo took to the air.
As they all approached the gatehouse, the dead soldier reanimated by newly grown vines sprang back up and attacked again. He was joined by the vine-animated corpse of Baron Feldar which came out of a trapdoor on the roof of the gatehouse. Again this conversation involved a fireball but in the end the two were destroyed and the vines started to darken and become brittle as if dying.
Suddenly a figure burst from the trapdoor. It looked like a tree-stump with eight waving branches. In the centre of the stump was a large single eye. It was a dangerous foe and just when they thought they had the better of it, it transformed into a mist and proceeded to attempt to poison Tinus in mid-air. Tinus lost his concentration and he and Bobo both fell to the ground. Varis called the wind and blew the mist back whereupon it turned back to its tree-stump form. They managed to finish it then and when it fell all the ivy that was centered on the Gatehouse died completely. The tree-stump form melted into a black bubbling liquid and started to seep into the ground. Monarch scooped some up in a vial and drank it. He then immediately fell down, dying from a massive poison dose.
Searching the gatehouse, the only interesting thing that Thraa discovered was a large and very heavy wooden box but could not immediately see how it could be opened. Bobo came in via the bottom door just as Thraa threw the box down the hatch. It was undamaged by the fall and Bobo was intrigued. But hearing shouts for medical help from outside he reluctantly came out and revived Monarch.
10200 XP divided evenly between 6 for 1700XP each.
Tinus, 11060 + 1700 = 12760, Level 5
Bobo, 10457 + 1700 = 12157, Level 5
Varis, 9716 + 1700 = 11416, Level 5
Rashi, 9405 + 1700 = 11105, Level 5
Monarch, 7500 + 1700 = 9200, Level 5
Thraa, 6500 + 1700 = 8200, Level 5
Next Session Sat 1st Feb.
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