Black Goat Campaign 03

Black Goat of the Woods, Part Three

Upon returning to Darkwood Abbey the heroes learned that the Archdeacon and Brother Jacob had made some progress on their research. The eldritch glyphs matched a trio of scrolls, known as the barrow scrolls. The scrolls belonged to the Abbey’s archived collection and were said to be unearthed from a nearby burial mound. The barrows belonged to the barbaric culture that preceded the founding of the Kingdom.

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By: zarono on Etsy

However, the scrolls were written in an unknown language and the Abbey’s librarians could not translate them. There was a wizard (Anton Valchrist) who visited the Abbey a few years prior and had studied the barrow scrolls. It is believed that he was able to translate them, but he returned to Wyvernmoor without sharing his translation with the Abbey’s officials.

The Archdeacon also told them of a dark tale that some elders tell their grandchildren. About three brothers and three dark pools in the woods. The brothers searched for the pools to ask for blessings. The blessings granted were mixed in nature and the tale had moral lessons attached to it. There was no evidence that would lead anyone to believe these tales were true. So, it was simply passed off as a bit of folklore that had been passed down over generations. The  clerics of the Abbey dismissed them as boogeyman folklore.

One of the heroes a fey-touched elf named Lyonesse, put more faith into the folklore and went so far as to wonder about the Abbey’s location. “Holy sites are commonly built on places of mystical power. Could one of the pools be here, in or below the Abbey?” The Archdeacon avoided this line of questioning, but did admit that the Abbey had a set of vaults beneath it guarding something. He then asked the heroes to pursue the translations of the barrow scrolls. The heroes obliged him and set out for Wyvernmoor, to find the wizard Anton Valchrist.

Black Goat Campaign 02

Black Goat of the Woods, Part Two

The heroes express their fears of more goblin attacks to Archdeacon Torel at Darkwood Abbey. They describe the pool and show examples of rubbings they took of the eldritch glyphs in the goblin caves. The Archdeacon assigns the abbey’s librarian, Brother Jacob to research the pool and the glyphs.

In the mean time, the heroes hire a half-elf guide (Allendel) and take their Darkwood Acorn into the Great Wood. They are hopeful that the reclusive wood elves might have knowledge of its power. They are met inside the border by a large retinue of elf warriors, who stand vigil over a dying Darkwood tree. Darkwood trees are sacred to wood elves and allows them to commune with one another over great distances.

The elves are aware of the goblin incursion, skirmishes are rampant along their eastern border. This retinue is lead by Ry’ll a renown champion of the elves who insists the heroes surrender the acorn to him. The heroes question his intentions with the acorn, but the arrogant champion does not respond. They refuse to hand it over and instead are joined by a wood elf druid (Brona) who assumes guardianship of the rare acorn.

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Darkwood Entrance by Yesterdawn

Brona secretly leads the heroes north, unbeknownst to her kin. They continue deeper into the Great Wood, hoping to reach a healthy Darkwood tree where she can contact the elf druids about the acorn. They are ambushed by elf trackers sent by Ry’ll. The ambushers are defeated and the heroes continue their journey northward. They finally reach a Darkwood tree, but are immediately attacked by its wood elf guardians. As the heroes fought with the elves the sound of battle drew the attention of another threat. A goblin war party, led by “The Goat” herself joined the melee, the heroes and wood elves soon found themselves battling their common enemy.

The war party was driven off and the wood elves made a brief truce with the heroes. They turned over the acorn to a druid named Taryelle. Taryelle stressed how rare their Darkwood acorn is (one has not been seen in an generation), but that she sensed this one had been tainted and held no power. She also told the heroes that the Guardian of the South Wood (Ry’ll) had declared them enemies of the wood elf people and that Brona was to be exiled for bring the heroes north. Taryelle returned the acorn to Brona and bid them to leave immediately and not return.

Black Goat Campaign 01

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Goblin hunter by FLOWERZZXU

Black Goat of the Woods, Part One

This tale began on the road from King’s Gate to Darkwood Abbey. Four would be heroes arrived in the village of Creekford. While they rested in the Blushing Pony Inn, goblin raiders sacked the village. They took two hostages and all the town’s blackroot. A root used to dye cloth and tan hides.

The heroes tracked the goblins into Syla Thalor or as the men of Khrullion call it: The Great Wood. During their pursuit they learned the goblins were gathering: blackroot, dellberries, spiralweed and human blood. These ingredients were then brewed into a strange alchemist mixture.

Within the Great Wood, the heroes discovered a goblin encampment and a set of ancient watery caves. The caves were riddled with eldritch glyphs and carvings of goat eyes. Their gravest discovery was a dark pool filled with a sickly black ichor (created from the alchemist mixture) that moved of it own volition.

It was here that the heroes would be defeated by “The Goat” (a powerful spellcaster revered by the goblins). Defeated, but not slain, they escaped with scars and the knowledge that a large goblin war-party was stalking The Great Wood. Prior to departing they flooded the goblin’s caverns hoping to seal and bury the dark pool.

After returning the hostages to Creekford, the heroes would continue their trek to Darkwood Abbey. They would again find trouble when they reached the doomed village of Split-Pine. Overwhelmed by a large spider infestation, its population was decimated. They heroes tracked the source of the infestation to a powerful ettercap lair. Upon defeating the spider-like monster they found a Darkwood Acorn among the bones of its victims (a rare treasure indeed).

D&D at The Devil’s Bench

I have been what they call the “house DM” at The Devil’s Bench for the past two years. Even though I don’t game for the accolades, I kind of like the sound of that “title”. It’s a great unneeded boost to my ego. With the conclusion of my last campaign I took a short break from DMing. Did some reading and tried to power up my creative batteries.

I am very happy to say that in my absence one of my previous players (Jon) has started DMing his own game at The Bench. I really like the idea of a D&D community growing there. So, now as I return to run another campaign, there is a second table of D&D players in the room. I couldn’t be happier about that. If you’re interested in Jon’s game you can check out its progress on his YouTube channel.

My new campaign at The Devil’s Bench is a return to a previous setting of mine called Khrullion. The setting is vanilla D&D, it assumes if it’s in the Player’s Handbook it’s somewhere in Khrullion. I also do my best to make sure that Khrullion is new player friendly keeping the learning curve to the game gradual. Which is a good thing because my new players are very new to the 5th edition rules. We have started fresh new 1st level characters and the group consists of the following:

Faye, a Human Cleric – A hermit raised among the dwarves of the Kirn Mountains in the East.
Orophell, an Aasimar Paladin – An acolyte on a holy quest, guided by the angel Valandras.
Lyonesse, an Eladrin Archer – A sage of lost magics, seeks to blend them with her fighting style.
Malscythe, a Dragonborn Warlock – An acolyte of dark powers granted by an unknown evil.

I’m not sure I’ll have time to blog each session, but I’ll certainly be giving updates as the games progress. I love being back in Khrullion under the Reign of the Red Queen. My last campaign here saw her rise to power and now we will explore what Khrullion is like under her rule.

Below is the map of Khrullion drawn by Matt Jackson.

Halloween Gaming – Dread

I dungeon master an annual Halloween one-shot D&D game. This will be my third year doing it. We’ve done a vampire adventure, a mummy adventure and this year it was a haunted house. I always DM with a costume on, and our hostess does up the house and food in Halloween fashion. It’s great fun, but it’s never scary, tense or nerve wracking. I don’t find D&D to be a very good game engine for horror stories. I’ve been in a few spooky Ravenloft games, but the system falls a little short in my opinion.

So, I looked around the internet for a better way to run Halloween one-shots and I came across the independent RPG Dread thanks to Wil Wheaton (twitter @wilw). Dread is a storytelling RPG that uses a Jenga tower to determine outcomes instead of dice. If the tower falls while you’re pulling on it, your character is dead (or removed from game). The stories you tell can be any genre/setting and the tension created by the teetering tippy tower bleeds over into your story.

Honestly, I was a little skeptical. How suspenseful and doom inspiring can a bunch of blocks be? I decided to give it a go, I ran two games of Dread leading up to Halloween. The first was more of a play test and both games used the same scenario. In both cases there was real tension at the table as players had to pull blocks from the unstable tower.

In the second game of Dread, the players dressed in costume and we played by candle light with spooky music. This seemed to enhance and amplify what we were going  for. On one occasion a player simply could not work up the nerve to make a pull from the tower. He instead chose to intentional knock it down and make a heroic exit. This intentional destruction is a part of the game and leads to some awesome role-playing.

Following the game I heard back from multiple players with comments like: “That was an awesome game.” and “I wasn’t expecting that, it’s visceral. I could not recommend Dread more! If you’re looking for a Halloween game that your friends will remember, this is it. Also, the rules are so light (almost non-existent) that non-gamers can easily join in on the game and not feel lost. The Jenga tower doesn’t create fear, but it does create suspense and the feeling of impending disaster… aka DREAD.

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Curse of the Onyx Order

A small group of men and women push against the winds and snow of the glacier Kang. They climb with purpose towards a mist shrouded mountain top. Their loose clothes and hair whip about as if Kang were trying to tear them from the peak. The snow stings their faces and the cold is unrelenting. The day has grown long and little light pierces the billowing clouds.

This tale began many moons ago, in Old One-Tusk, a busy taproom in the city of Droum. The heroes sat near a burning hearth, when they met a hooded woman, in robes trimmed with fur. Her skin was sun kissed and her orange gaze and blueberry lips charmed and lowered their suspicions. They would come to know her as Tantra Heploy. This exotic woman would lure them into a terrible curse and bind them to one another.

They became the bearers of the cursed, broken, Black Idol and they would be pursued by the Cult of Crawling Chaos. To remove the curse they would reassemble the Black Idol and in doing so doom the lands of Thule. To not pursue the idol’s pieces would drive them each into madness and depravity.

Their adventures would take them to the elf ruins of Serisedyn, and there in the shadow of Kang, they named themselves the Onyx Order. They would go on to brave the ghoul infested Silent Courts of Droum, the pirate controlled streets of Rime and finally the ruins of Gyar Gunn Vodd. They would lose friends along the way… the warlock Cididel, the ranger Elise, the wizard Wallace and the Paladin Han. Devastation lay in their wake, caused by the building and binding of the Black Idol; the destruction of Droum’s port, the razing of Rime and the doom of the Bearslayer clan.

In the ruins of Gyar Gunn Vodd they bound the final piece of the idol in its place. As the curse lifted from their souls a great meteor fell from the heavens. The Mouth of Dhole, an ancient portal to another world descended from it prison in orbit and crashed upon the snows of Kang. What terror would this eldritch relic release upon Thule?

The Onyx Order now approaches the summit and the opportunity to reap their revenge. The Cult of Crawling Chaos has ascended to the peak ahead of the Order. Their leader, a warlock known as Yadawa, is intent on opening The Mouth of Dhole. The time has come to finish what Tantra started. Death awaits…

Thank you to all the players that made this campaign so great! Here are some pictures from the final game.

 

End Game

I have been a part of  many session zeros. Kicking off a new RPG campaign is very fun! However, its no as common that we get to see a campaign run its course and have an ending. I recently watched the conclusion of Critical Role’s campaign and took note of the emotion around the table. There was joy, sadness and celebration! Rightly so, the campaign had spanned a number of years and the characters had been fleshed out and had many great bonds with each other.

I have similar feelings headed into our final game of my current D&D Campaign. It did not last as long as the campaign mentioned above. Our campaign ran for close to 10 months and even in that time I feel our characters got fleshed out. It could have run for longer, but life happens, people have other projects and schedules change. I have a great group of players and I will miss our games together. Playing D&D for more than 30 years I can attest to the fact that the game creates bonds and friendships. This campaign is no exception and I’ve witnessed my players who were strangers, become friends.

Now the final game is just a few days away and I am working to make it a memorable and exciting climax. I’ve made some 3D terrain and I’m polishing the stat blocks so the enemies are challenging. I don’t think that is where the magic of a final game is though. That special quality and emotion in a final game comes from the players. I think they’re up for the task and hopefully my machinations will be the catalyst for some awesome role playing. I can’t wait!

Human, Subraces

I am considering removing elves, dwarves and halflings as player character races for my future Primeval Thule games. This would leave the players to choose from Humans and Half-Elves. I needed to figure out alternatives to replace the variety in player races. Primeval Thule already introduced a human subrace with the Atlanteans, so why not take it a step further and create all the human cultures of Thule as subraces.

Human, Dhari
The Dhari are a spiritual people giving reverence to nature spirits. They speak their minds and prize self-control.
Ability Score Increase. +2 Wis, +1 in ability of your choice
Feat. Gain one feat of your choice.
Skills. You gain proficiency in one skill of your choice.
Control Emotions. Advantage on all saving throws to resist the Frightened condition.

Human, Kalay
The Kalay show concern for manners and appearance. They have a gift for the gab and are known for their skill in conversation.
Ability Score Increase. +2 Cha, +1 in ability of your choice
Feat. Gain one feat of your choice.
Skills. You gain proficiency in one skill of your choice.
Chatty. Gain +2 on all persuasion and deception checks, so long as the target understands your language and is not a Kalayan themselves.

Human, Lomari
Most Lomari consider themselves warriors and martial training is a standard part of their childhood. They are honourable and settle disputes with challenges and duels.
Ability Score Increase. +2 Con, +1 in ability of your choice
Feat. Gain one feat of your choice.
Skills. You gain proficiency in one skill of your choice.
Early Training. Gain +2 on all athletics checks.

Human, Nimothan
A Nimothan is tall and strongly built. Bold and boastful they are easily angered, but rarely hold a grudge. They live in the most northern parts of Thule, in some of the coldest regions.
Ability Score Increase. +2 Str, +1 in ability of your choice
Feat. Gain one feat of your choice.
Skills. You gain proficiency in one skill of your choice.
Strong and Resilient. Gain advantage on all exhaustion checks.

Primeval Thule – Races

Having Dungeon Mastered a few Thule one shots and a short campaign in Primeval Thule, there are some revisions that I would suggest to make it more low fantasy. It’s my hope that this will make it less likely that my future Thule games will slip into the high fantasy genre.

Elves, dwarves and halflings are one of the staples of high fantasy and while I feel there is a place for them in Thule, I don’t think they need to be a player race. Many of the fantasy D&D races were already removed from the Primeval Thule setting: half-orc, gnome, tiefling and dragonborn. So why stop there?

Elves are from another world and migrated to Thule in ages past. They’re civilization is in decline and many of them have grown addicted to the black lotus milk. I think they make a better mysterious “alien” race and the less the players know about these strange elves the better.

Dwarves migrated to Thule from parts unknown and with the exception a few clans all live in the eastern volcanoes. The best part about Thulean dwarves is that they know the secret of steel. So many great stories come to mind of heroes seeking a dwarf smith to forge them a weapon. They fill a niche as the NPCs who know how to forge steel.

Thulean halflings, to me seem to be an after thought of the design team. Tribal halflings who live in the jungle reminds me of the cannibal halflings in Dark Sun. Besides there are far better pint sized cannibals in Thule like the tcho-tcho. So why keep halflings?

That leaves us with atlanteans, half-elves and humans as player races. It’s a short list, but lets not forget that Thule expands its humans into sub-races. We can further define these sub-races by assigning them unique racial traits specific to their culture/heritage. In the coming weeks I’ll post some examples of the human sub-races for Thule.

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