Black Goat Campaign 04

Black Goat of the Woods, Part Four

The heroes would travel south to Wyvernmoor by-way of the seaside town of Mistdale. While visiting the town they would try and overthrow a swamp hag that held the town ransom. Each summer the townspeople would have a lottery that contained the names of all the children between the ages of 5-8 years old. The child would be given to the hag for a year’s worth of good fishing and good tidings. This is something the town had been doing for more than a generation.

This side trek to battle the hag would prove futile and costly. Brona fell victim to a curse and their ally Grendel would die within the hag’s lair. Faye their cleric of St Cuthbert would be overcome with grief and return to the Abbey with Grendel’s body. The hag had escaped them…

The heroes left Mistdale behind them, crossing to Wyvernmoor aboard a ferry. Within the war torn city they learned the wizard they were looking for was currently in the neighbouring hills. Anton was a archaeologist of sorts and was excavating an ancient ogre ruin. The heroes joined him at his dig site and agreed to enter the ogre ruins to retrieve a bloodstone (arcane item) in exchange for him re-translating/sharing what he knew of the barrow scrolls.

The ogre ruins would prove to be a traumatizing and harrowing experience. Portions of the ruins were infested with aberrations known as grick. Worm like creatures with beaks that could snap bone and armour alike. Worse still, the ancient ogres had made pacts with devils and harnessed blood magics to ensure their secrets were protected. The heroes would be decimated within the ruins. Three died and Lyonesse found a cursed blade that would possess her every thought.

During the exploration two portals were discovered leading to two separate mountain ranges. On the summit of one of these mountains the heroes met Lady Wind, a cloud giantess. The giantess lived in a cloud castle and for a time allowed the heroes to rest there. As she learned of their quest, Lady Wind asked them not to turn the bloodstone they found over to Anton. Instead, she proposed they take the scrolls from the wizard and that she would translate them. In exchange they would give her the bloodstone as payment.

They agreed to this new proposal and to his displeasure terminated their agreement with Anton. Lady Wind explained that the writing on the scrolls were actually blood runes and that most likely human blood would be required to unlock them. Zetvosk cautiously agreed to donate some and the scroll’s writing twisted into arcane texts.

Now more easily read, the scrolls detailed that there were indeed three dark pools in the woods (but made no mention of their locations). The barrow scrolls named the pools as holy sites to The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young, also known as Shub-Niggurath. This entity was best described as an outer god of fertility and mutation. Although Shub-Niggurath was banished from this world, its avatar has the power to open a rift using the three pools as arcane foci. The final scroll revealed an image of Shub-Niggurath’s avatar… it was a clear depiction of the goblin’s Goat!

NPC: Lady Wind

There are stories that dwarves tell their children, of a beautiful giant princess who visits their dwarven Hearthmother. The princess arrives in a floating cloud castle and spends many days visiting. Some say that the two women speak of ancient times long since past. Some say that if you stand outside the door to their chamber you will hear laughter. The kind of laughter that defines true friends.

Upon her departure the princess always leaves a gift for the dwarves. Something that she has found on her travels. The dwarves return this kindness and once gave a great gift of mithral. It is unknown what shape that gift took, but there has never been a greater gift of mithral given to anyone.

The tale of the cloud princess is something of a fairy tale. No dwarf of the youngest generation has ever seen her opalescent tower floating over the mountain. But, her story keeps getting told and many dwarf children look to the clouds hoping to catch a glimpse of her approach.

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.

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.

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

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.



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!

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