Dowreth’s Return: Prologue

 

As you may or may not know, I’ve been running a D&D game through Discord, based on the universe I write about in the majority of my stories.

The game begins with a prologue, where players pick a pre-made level 15 hero of the realm. I created a fighter, paladin, rogue, ranger, cleric, wizard, bard, or sorcerer for players to choose from. The prologue is a bit more “rail road” than I normally like my campaigns to be. Usually I’ll have an idea for a campaign, and if players go with it, great, if not, I adapt. It’s funny how often players wind up going with the story idea, but it’s fantastic when it goes completely off the rails, too!

I originally had 6 players who signed up for the Discord server to play, and they picked everything but the wizard and fighter. But when game day came, two of the players who had just moved the day before were a no show. I figured they were probably exhausted from the move, so we played with 4 players: ranger, rogue, cleric, and sorcerer.

I was then contacted by other people who wanted to play at my table, too, and it quickly filled up with the two people who missed the first session, and three new people. So we had a paladin, bard, cleric, rogue, and ranger.

Additionally, someone contacted me through Discord saying he wanted to support me through Patreon and join a group! It was after group 1 finished the prologue, so I told him if he joined, he would have to miss that and go right into the main campaign, which he was fine with.

And we’ve all had an awesome time playing through the prologue! I was going to record the audio for the first session, but didn’t have the right permissions. The session was longer than I thought it would be, mostly because of some impressive role playing, so we wrapped up the prologue on a second session with Group 1. We then ran Group 2 through the prologue in a single sitting, although it was quite the heroic session, taking until 12:30am EST. And I got an audio recording for that session, which I will post to YouTube when it’s done being put together.

What was most fascinating for me was seeing how the two groups played differently. I want to highlight some of those differences, so I’ll go through each section of the prologue, and show how each group handled the challenges.

Before I get to that, if you’d like a spot at my virtual table, Patrons are guaranteed a spot, so if you’ve got a need to play, donate today!

Lordship of Invenny

The players were informed that they were to head to the Lordship of Invenny and help Sir Petrick Mythos with an issue for which he required immediate aid. If they were successful, they would receive 5000 gold pieces each, and their choice of a magical item from the royal treasury. They then traveled 10 days from the Kingdom of the Sun (capital) to the Lordship of Invenny with a brief description of the travel, until they reached a pavilion tent where they met with Sir Petrick.

Group 1

After discovering that there was something wrong with the forest, (the rogue performed an insight check to ensure Sir Petrick was being honest – he was) they split the party. The cleric and sorcerer went to speak with Father Starson, who told them there was nothing magical or evil about the woods. It was naturally foul, with the bleeding trees, and they would be best off getting their wood from a forest further west. Sir Petrick didn’t like that plan, because it would slow down production, and he wanted the outpost built as quickly as possible, so it was ready for trade with the southern kingdoms.

The rogue and ranger went to the woods, where they discovered proof of the bleeding trees, and Sir Petrick’s son Kyln, who was skulking around the edge of the woods. He joined their group “to carry the bags.” (Ain’t that rogue a stinker?)

The cleric and sorcerer spoke with Harriette the carpenter, who discussed how the bleeding trees had spooked the workers two months ago, and also learned that the stone was “wrong” near the town. But the bleeding trees, one drained and dried, made for excellent wood. She told them that she had chopped down one of the trees herself, and the stump was still oozing blood, long after the tree was removed.

Kyln told the ranger and rogue about how Father Starson had gone the furthest into the woods. The ranger found Father Starson’s trail into the woods, but decided not to investigate without the rest of the party.

Together once more, they headed to the inn to rest. There, they found the lead stonemason, Kurtis, complaining about how Sir Petrick wouldn’t let him leave. He figured there was no way they could build the outpost without good stone, stating that all three of their pit mines south of town had come up with shattered rock beneath the surface. They had first discovered the problem 8 months ago, 6 months earlier than the bleeding trees.

The party slept that night (the rogue stole into Sir Petrick’s tent to tell Kyln that the plan for the morning had changed), and met up with Kurtis in the morning. They found the pit mines were exactly as described, with shards of stone, and decided it was time to find the source of the corruption. They entered the woods…

Group 2

After learning about the bleeding trees, the party went to speak to Father Starson together. After hearing the spiel about how the woods weren’t evil or magical, they performed an insight check and discovered that Father Starson wasn’t being exactly honest with them… (dun dun dun!)

He told them that there was certainly something unsettling about the woods, and they would be best off getting wood from the forest farther to the west. When pressed about what was so unsettling, he said he had found a hidden road half an hour into the woods and they should investigate for themselves. (They didn’t do another insight check… so perhaps he withheld a bit more information…?) If they wanted more information about the woods, they could speak with Harriette. The cleric asked what religious symbol was on the temple, and was told it was just a pavilion tent with no religious symbol hanging over the door.

They talked to Harriette and got the same information as Group 1, although they pressed her further and discovered that Kyln Mythos often spent time around the woods. So when they went to the woods, they called out to Kyln and he came out immediately to talk to them. He told them about how Father Starson had gone the furthest into the woods, and Kyln was too scared to go deeper on his own.

The cleric used Cure Wounds on the bleeding tree stump and discovered that the stump withered at his touch. They left Kyln and headed into the woods on their own…

The Forest of Woes

Both groups went into the woods and discovered the cobblestone road, buried under a layer of dead leaves and dirt. The entire time, there were no signs of life… not even insects. The forest was eerily quiet, and both parties had at least one character who detected an unpleasant odour of rot on their journey.

Group 1

At this point, they tried stabbing a tree to see what happened, and instead of oozing blood, it spurted at them. The party tried to close the wound with a Cure Wounds spell, which caused the tree to not only stop bleeding, but wither. Turn Undead was used, and the trees in the area shook in reaction. But the trees gave off no signs of being evil or magical, so the party didn’t know what to make of that.

After a day of following the road, the party came to a white marble tower. While the sorcerer and cleric set up camp in the road, the ranger and rogue explored the outer area around the tower.

They found an outer yard that was surrounded by a broken down grey stone wall. Inside the outer wall was an old fountain in similar disrepair. Digging through the dirt that had built up in the fountain over the years, the rogue discovered a golden key. Satisfied with the find, he and the ranger went back to camp. The next day they discovered runes around the base of the building for a Protection from Evil spell. They wondered if the tower was to keep out evil, or if there was something inside that was being kept from escaping. With what intelligence they had gathered, they sent Kyln back to town. They decided to enter, the outer wooden door collapsing at their touch…

Group 2

When they saw the tower in the distance, they immediately set up camp and went to sleep, not wanting to risk anything during the night. In the morning they also found the golden key in the fountain, and the paladin discovered the Protection from Evil runes using her Divine Sense. Upon further inspection, they determined that the runes were indeed set to keep evil out of the tower (they rolled better). What was more, the bard had done his homework and immediately recognized that the white marble was from far to the south, and not native to the area. It made him think of ancient history, which discussed the War of Light and Dark, where the Knights of Light built buildings to keep out the darkness (this is a hint that I reward parties who have high history scores, because there’s always lore behind everything, and knowing it will add flavour to the game). 

They knocked on the front door and it collapsed, so they entered…

Tower: Main Floor

The room had three walls with doors to the left, straight ahead, and right. The door to the left was wood in good condition, straight ahead was a crumbling wooden door like the one they had just knocked down, and the third to the right was made of stone. In the middle of the room was a stone desk.

Group 1

They ignored the desk, and inspected the doors. The rogue found the left wooden door had runes engraved into it, which they determined was a Firestorm spell. They left that door alone.

The door straight ahead they knocked down to discover a room full of thick dust. There were pads where bedding might have once been, and when the rogue investigated the room, the dust stirred and blinded him. Lesser restoration fixed his vision, and he went back in after Detect Magic showed something necromantic glowing on one of the pads, under dust. The rogue tried to get it, but again went blind. The ranger used her bow to hook the object, but before she could slide it off, a clump of dust fell and blinded her. This went on for a hilariously long amount of time, before they finally managed to get the object out, covered in a blanket, and left it there on the floor while they continued adventuring.

The stone door had runes engraved in Celestial that said, “those who live in the light are welcome.” Through the door they found stairs leading up and down. They decided to go up…

Group 2

The cleric immediately headed to the stone desk, and the paladin went straight for the wooden door that was in good condition. She knocked, which pushed the door just enough to set off the Firestorm spell. Boom! The bard quipped, “Those were my favourite eyebrows” which was awesome. With the door blown off, they discovered a shelving unit with a charred garment and nothing else.

The cleric discovered 5 drawers with nothing but dust and broken glass inside them.

The door straight ahead was destroyed by the Firestorm, and they didn’t bother investigating what had been through it. They went straight to the stone door and decided to go up…

Tower: Top Floor

At the top of the stairs, they found a room with rows of stone desks and a lectern at the front. There were broken windows all around the outer wall behind the lectern with the remains of stained glass windows.

Group 1

After letting the others look and fail to find anything, the rogue went in and scoured the room, discovering an ancient holy text, a robe with a white key, and a secret door to a room with a loom, skein of jet-black fabric, and another tome. They took the fabric and the tome and decided to check out the basement, next…

Group 2

They didn’t do so great on their investigation rolls, only finding the holy text in the lectern. But the paladin used her Divine Sense, and felt goodness coming from behind the wall that shared the door they had come into the room through. After several attempts, they found the switch that opened the secret door. They took the fabric and tome and decided to check out the basement, next…

Tower: Basement

The door at the bottom opened with the white key, which both parties had, and inside they found another room with more of the jet-black cloth covering a huge 10 foot by 10 foot object in the middle of the room.

Group 1

The rogue got hurt as soon as he went into the room, so he left. The cleric wanted to pull off the jet-black fabric immediately, but the party begged her to reconsider. They had used up a fair number of cleric spells, and wanted to head out to examine their loot more thoroughly, so they left…

Group 2

The paladin, cleric, and bard entered the room without issue and started to look around. When the rogue and ranger went in, they both got splitting headaches and left the room. By deduction, they learned that Chaotic characters who entered the room were being injured.

They examined the cloth closely, finding that it radiated goodness. The paladin peeked under the cloth and when she couldn’t figure out what was there, the bard discovered that it was a magic portal. After much deliberation, they decided to go through the portal…

Group 1

Group 1 had taken a lot more time going through the town, so it was late by the time they made camp, and we broke off after they checked out the items, discovering that the holy text from the lectern was a 1000 year old tome that discussed how everything came into being, telling about a Lord of Light (Sharrow) even older than Pholtus, the god of light that the cleric worshiped. Thinking it might be of incalculable value, she stored it in a hole in a tree, where she could find it later when they were done with the tower.

The other text was an instruction manual for how to imbue cloth with magic, specifically the jet-black fabric with spells that would repel and burn any undead who touched it. They hung the skein of fabric from the broken front door, so nothing evil could come out in the night and get them.

The necromantic object they took out of the room filled with dust turned out to be a heavily pitted dagger. The ranger stabbed it into a tree, but the blade snapped off.

That night they all had nightmares (except the rogue). The cleric dreamed of Pholtus emerging from the holy text, a warm being of light. Then a much, much larger being came out of the book, swallowing up the smaller one. When it wept a golden tear from above, it fell on the cleric and smothered her.

The ranger dreamed of the white tower pushing away evil trees that grew around the outside. A vision that proved true, when she woke, for the trees grew in such a way that they did not touch the tower at all.

The sorcerer dreamed of Conflar, the dragon from whence his family’s power came from, attacking the tower, but being dragged away by the twisted trees, where he disappeared.

The next morning they decided to brave the Firestorm door. The rogue and sorcerer went into the main room, while the cleric and ranger stood outside the main door to the building. The sorcerer then case Mage Hand to open the door, which triggered the Firestorm spell. Boom! Even just outside the door wasn’t safe, and everyone took damage (except the rogue). Inside the closet they found nothing but charred fabric. No magic robe for either group!

To the basement they went, where they discussed their options. Once the portal was revealed, the rogue leapt into action and bounded through. The others had to follow…

(I will point out at this point that nobody thought to inspect the portal, or they would have found runes that described the function of the portal, and where it went… although there was a good chance they wouldn’t have understood where “Oos” was)

Through the Portal

On the other side of the portal was a small stone room, 20 feet by 20 feet. On the far side of the room, a gleaming great sword sat propped against the wall, and they found a hatch in the ceiling with no hinges and no lock.

Group 1

The great sword radiated evil and necromancy, but had the words “Sharrow’s Law” etched into it. Believing the ancient Lord of Light could not have a weapon that was all that bad, the ranger took it. They then boosted the rogue up to the hatch, who successfully pushed open the door and he rolled out of the way to avoid harm as stone and earth cascaded down.

Using the rogues rope of climbing, they climbed up to discover a ring of white stones around them. Upon further inspection, they determined it was probably a similar tower to the one they had left behind, but it had collapsed ages ago. All around them was a familiar scene, with old, twisted trees. And in the distance, a faint light bobbed up and down, illuminating a cloaked figure that walked away from them…

Group 2

Detect Magic showed the sword was necromantic, and an identify spell let them know it had a +2 enchantment. When no one else said they would use it, the ranger offered to take it.

The rogue and cleric failed to open the hatch, so the cleric and ranger boosted the paladin up, who successfully pushed the hatch open. They all took damage from falling debris. The rogue used the rope of climbing, an they all went up to see the light in the distance, moving away from them…

The Clearing

Both groups followed the light, and the cloaked figure who held it, until the figure sat down on a tree stump inside a clearing.

Group 1

The sorcerer cast Dancing Lights to get a better look at the figure. When they saw it was undead, they decided they had no interest in speaking to such an evil abomination and leapt into action. But the lich was ready for them and the lantern exploded, revealing a demilich! The floating skull rose up and screamed a bloodcurdling howl that dropped the cleric and rogue to zero hit points. The lich then pointed at the sorcerer and said, “Die,” and he did. The ranger, all alone, said out of character, “I hope you guys don’t think I’m a jerk, but…” They yelled, “RUN! Get out of here! Warn everyone on the other side! Cover the portal with the anti-evil cloth!”

And she ran. As she fled, she saw countless undead moving in the trees. She evaded them with her quick movement speed, made it back to the fallen tower, through the hatch…

To discover the lich had cast Dimension Door to beat her there. It dominated her, and she went back out of the tower and walked alongside the lich, who asked her questions about G’lothor, “the greatest of us” but she had never heard of such a figure. When she returned to the clearing, she found her old companions raised as undead monsters, and the scene faded to black…

Group 2

This is where things were WILDLY different. Group 2 spoke to the figure, not knowing it was a lich. It mentioned how it alone had stayed sane over the 1000 years since G’lothor had fallen. The bard, against all odds, knew of G’lothor, an ancient lich that had felled cities and civilizations in its attempt to cover the world in darkness. The party decided that they didn’t want anything to do with anyone who had a friend like that…

The lich picked up the lantern and threw it with the aim of it dropping in front of the party. The cleric ran forward, fumbled the catch, and the paladin – right beside the cleric – caught it. The cleric peered at the lantern to see what was so special about it, and the demilich stared back. The lantern exploded, and the demilich howled. The rogue and ranger were reduced to zero hit points.

And this is why the fight was so wildly different. With a paladin (boosting saving throws), a cleric (giving advantage on saving throws), and a bard (extra healing), it was REALLY hard to get the players down and keep them down. A Mass Healing Word got the rogue and ranger back up, but the lich used Power Word Kill to kill the rogue. The demilich took damage regularly, but also managed to heal through its Life Drain ability (until they started getting advantage on their saves from the cleric’s spell). The cleric, bard, and paladin held their own through five rounds of combat, surviving a second howl from the demilich.

But then the undead army swarmed through the woods into the clearing, and the last thing they heard was the lich laughing…

Because it was 12:30am at that point for the players out east, and I knew they needed to get some sleep.

What’s next?

Both parties will be starting in different locations. Group 1 is far to the north, 5 months travel for regular folk. It’ll be deep into winter when their adventure begins.

Group 2 will be in the desert city of Khor’thun, not so far from the Forest of Woes, so they will be experiencing the first wave of trouble in the late fall, long before the threat reaches the far north.

I can’t wait to dig into it. Group 1 has already generated their characters, and Group 2 has started discussions. I’m hoping the other two players in Group 2 can get their sound working and will be able to join us for next time!

So many projects, so little time

In some ways, I made great strides this month. In others, I feel like I haven’t done enough. Why? Let’s take a look at the list!

Fan Fic to Anthology

As I’ve mentioned before, I started volunteering as a Dungeon Master (DM) at The Round Table (TRT). The world that we play in was created by Tom Gofton, the owner of TRT and Lynnvander Studios. As such, I have no rights to the IP, and thought I’d just write a little story summary of the games I ran, so I could share it with the players.

Then there was some question as to whether fan fic is actually legal (it’s not. Written works are covered by copyright laws). However, after the good folks at Lynnvander Studios discussed the situation, Tom was more than happy to have fan fic for his world. I just need to sign a legal agreement, which will be done soon. Moreover, Tyler – also from Lynnvander – requested that I hurry up and polish the story as much as possible and submit it for an anthology he’s helping put out. So this 19000 word novella is off to a good home, and I couldn’t be happier with how it all worked out!

If you’d like an exclusive sneak peek at the first scene in the story, get ye to Patreon and select the $2/month donation option. You’ll see it there on October 1st!

DMing

How much work is it to create ideas for campaigns every two weeks? A lot. On our return from Quebec at the end of August, I spent a couple hours of the drive with my nose buried in a notebook, creating maps and descriptions for a dungeon crawl. The next session early this month followed up on that dungeon crawl, and led to the exciting conclusion where the party fled the mountain complex just before it exploded in fiery doom, a dracolich rising from the lava. (Dracolich: Dragon that defeats death by returning as an undead abomination that can use powerful magic)

Later in the month we were low on DM’s for our regular sessions, so I decided to try something new and run a campaign in my own world, with my own unique spin on the D&D system (more on that later). I churned out 7 first level characters for players to choose from, with the idea that I’d have around 5 players at my table, so a couple characters would go unused. This worked well, because it meant people could choose classes that were interesting to them, and everyone seemed happy with what they got.

And then I pretty much winged it, in terms of coming up with the game session. I mean, I knew the inciting event, but I had no idea what the players would do with it. It turned out to be a lot of fun, and instead of it being a “one-off,” I hope to run another session some day when we can’t run the normal campaign.

Editing A Hero’s Birth

I’ve made this project my primary priority, so it’s been swimming along just fine. No issues here. Promise! I’ve been keeping up with my editor as she sends chapters to me, and we’re 2/3rds complete!

Writing A Queen’s Decree

This … oh, this … Work on my fourth novel has pretty much ground to a halt. Why? So many other projects. I mean, I’m about 3/4 of the way through writing the first draft, and my third book isn’t even out yet. So I feel like I’m way ahead of the game. Also, I’m not sure I’ll have the finances to publish it when it IS complete, so … not high on my priority list. If the Empire’s Foundation trilogy takes off with the release of the final novel, that would bump this up the list of priorities again. However, with slow sales on existing books, and just not getting reviews from people who do buy books, I’m feeling discouraged on this front. The last short story I released had a grand total of one sale on Amazon. I hope the book will do better.

I’ll still write stories, but depending on how other things come along, it might just be at a slower pace, with no intention of publishing them unless something drastic changes. With each book costing so much to bring out, I just can’t keep sinking money into it without seeing some promise of return on investment. That sucks. I love writing, and if money wasn’t an issue, I’d keep doing it forever. But at some point you have to evaluate what you’re doing and figure out if it’s a good use of your time.

Creating board game prototype 3.0

Perhaps you remember the frantic pace I set in whipping out prototypes v1.0 and v2.0? I was like an unstoppable juggernaut of efficiency.

This, too, has slowed. There’s been a disruption with the board game developer nights, with the man who ran them looking for greener pastures. Since then, finding answers to questions has been much, much slower. I’ve still had some game testing and minor tweaks. I’ve been putting together a component list for things I need to make the game. I’ve been arranging game board and punch boards so they’re in a format fit to print. But the urgency behind it all has evaporated. This latest version has taken weeks to put together, instead of days.

That said, I’m planning on showcasing the game at my artist table at SkyCon at the end of October. So that at least gives me a deadline to have everything ready to go. I’m hoping the convention will help generate some interest in the game, which will in turn help with raising funds to make the game with a Kickstarter campaign. With the positive response I’ve had to Wizards’ War, I feel like it can do well. The trick will be getting enough people interested in it to get it funded. When you run a Kickstarter, you’re trying to generate enough funds to make a LOT of copies of the game – somewhere around 1,000.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know 1,000 people. So it’s intimidating. But I love doing it. So even if the Kickstarter isn’t successful, at least I’ll have a game I created and enjoy to play with people I know. It’ll just be the most expensive game I’ve ever owned, with over $300 already invested into prototypes!

Creating RPG based on D&D 5e

When I started writing, the first thing I did was create a bare-bones role playing game (RPG) system. Now, the games we played that inspired the writing were set in the D&D rule set, but I wanted something that was uniquely mine. So I created classes and powers with vague descriptions that I could reference while I was writing. “Okay, the party is about due to level up after all that fun stuff. What new things can they do?”

When I DM’d in my world this month (as mentioned earlier), I decided to work with the D&D 5e rules in order to flesh out my ideas. I have several standard class options to choose from: Hunter, Druid (splits later into Mending or Wrathful subtypes), Protector, Aggressor, Stealth, Fast Talker, Wizard (splits later into Air, Water, Fire, or Earth subtypes), and Priest. But the system doesn’t stop there! There are hybrid classes for every conceivable combination of classes, and the ORDER that you take them in matters, giving you different classes. For instance, a Stealth that takes a level of Wizard can create the hybrid Shadow class. But a Wizard who takes a level of Stealth can create the hybrid Illusionist class.

And then there are what I’ve coined the Ultimate hybrids, which are effectively triple-class characters. The Hero, for instance, is Protector + Wizard + Priest. The Sieger is Hunter + Wizard + Druid. And there are more. PLUS unique classes for other races. That’s right. All that stuff I’ve mentioned so far? That’s just humans.

So when I say I created 7 characters for them to play, that was a LOT of work, figuring out what all those vague powers actually DO in terms of D&D 5e mechanics. So that was a major time sink this month, but oh so worth it. If you’d like to read more about that, I posted on Facebook about the game session:

Conventions

This hasn’t taken up much of my time at all, but it’s worth noting. Tyler (mentioned earlier) attended the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival and was kind enough to bring along my books. He even sold a copy of A Noble’s Quest! So that was a nice surprise. EMWF is more of a literary event, so I wasn’t expecting anything from that one. My wife predicted that maybe someone there would have a relative who liked reading fantasy and pick up a book for that other person, and that’s exactly what happened!

I’ve also signed on for two upcoming conventions. The first is SkyCon, which is a gaming convention in Kitchener at the end of October. They’re having Ed Greenwood as a guest. If you haven’t heard of him, he created this little thing called the Forgotten Realms. It only has something like 300 novels associated with it, a chunk of those written by my favourite author, R.A. Salvatore.

I’m going to get to meet Ed Greenwood. I’m so excited. As my wife would say, “NERD ALERT!” I can’t help it. This guy’s a living legend.

Now, it’s the con’s first year, so I don’t expect big crowds, but the table prices are pretty reasonable.

Coming back for its second year (after a hiatus) is GenreCon, right here in Guelph! Last year’s event was … quiet. They kind of threw it together without much notice, they had no celebrity draw, and so it had some problems. But they’ve been working hard at it all year, because they want it to be better. No, awesome! So this year there’s rumour of some star power hitting the con. I don’t see any official posts about it up yet, so I won’t post anything more … but you’ll want to keep an eye on this one.

What’s next?

Great question!

This month I’m going to continue editing as fast as my aunt gets chapters to me, I’ve got DMing at The Round Table, game design nights (with a new one at The Dragon’s south end location), I’m volunteering at Guelph Book Bash on Sunday the 15th, I’m running a Genre Fiction Writers meeting at The Red Papaya on Sunday the 22nd at 2pm, and that should be about it.

Y’know… plus all my normal duties as a husband, father, and researcher.

Onwards!