16 December, 2016

Mother and Grandfather,

I write to you of a most urgent matter, as it appears that Santa Cora has been blockaded – I am told that there is no way to get a message out of the city. I hope that the way by which I send this message may yet be open.

Edmund of the Council of Four informs us that a massive orc army is some few days away. It seems that our little company for the past few weeks has unknowingly has traveled scant days ahead of it.

To out best information, the orc incursion is based at Proudfort. The army approaching Santa Cora appears to comprise at this point, James puts in the details that he got from Edmund and the commander about the composition of the army – numbers, naval, siege..

Although this information was initially not strongly credited, I was able to confirm to the city commander that Chancer’s Hope was indeed assaulted by a large orc naval fleet and land army, backed by giants. (Reassuring that the names “Mallard” and “Griffinsheart” carry at least some weight). The city now prepares for battle and siege, but I fear that Santa Cora is woefully unsuited to such, having always relied on its magics.

The magics of the city appear to be – well – not working properly, and it’s impossible to be more precise than that at this stage. I fear that the Lich King may be involved in all this, as there have been liches in the city and other phenomena relating to the undead.

It is something of a puzzle to me as to how this very considerable army – if these orcs come from their usual lands to the northwest – was moved to Proudfort. The logistics are challenging. The only feasible route, I suspect, would be along the behemoth path, to the ruins around the Grey Towers, down the coast and through the Koru Straits. This means that Drakenhall must also be involved – Drakenhall controls the straits, and in any case orcs simply don’t have ships as a rule.

Thus the most terrible enemies of the empire – the orcs, the dragons, and the undead – would seem to be in some sort of alliance, one of at least several years standing, which is now moving into open action.

James debated mentioning the very secret fact that the city has a second node, and that it is deactivated, and that activating it would worsen relations with the dwarves and elves. It seems that the nodes used to be more active in the past, and played a role in the old wars.

He is not mentioning it because it’s a military secret, and because it doesn’t directly relate to what the recipients of this letter need to know. If he included it, then grandad Lancet and Ducalis could not show this letter to anyone else, which is something they might need to do.

Irrespective of my speculations about history, obviously major action cannot be taken on my word alone. However, I hope that if indeed no communications are getting into or out of Santa Cora, at least someone has noticed and wondered why that might be the case. The situation is extremely grave.

Oh, mother – in happier news, it appears I am now a Captain.

On Empire

12 December, 2016

This is not a letter to anyone in particular. Maybe James just writes things down to organise his thoughts

The Lich King asked me an important question earlier today.

Yes, truly. I rather foolishly decided to attempt to wear a certain ring, judging that better me than someone else. In the end, perhaps I was right. I seem to have emerged mostly unscathed and un-ringed. (How on earth was Cannis simply able to remove it?)

Neverthleless he asked me: why should it matter who in particular is emperor? Is not the empire its people?

The answer struck me immediately as “no”, although I was at something of a loss to defend it. I answered that my loyalty is given to The Emperor, but the Lich-King’s question was a fair one. There have been other Emperors before the man we have now, and there will be others subsequently. If another man were Emperor, I would serve him as willingly and completely as I do this one. So to what, then, is my loyalty given?

Although, obviously, the possibility of having an empress doesn’t cross his mind. Can I just say, at this point, that Her Maj Elizabeth the Second by Grace of God Queen of Australia does a wonderful job, God blessah?

The notion that The Empire is its people belies itself the moment you start to examine the notion. Let us start with the obvious: there is nothing special about we the inhabitants of the empire. The people are simply people, the same as in other times and places, and nothing more. Nothing less, either: people are quite remarkable. But there is nothing inherently different between a work-gang of farmers and a pack of bandits. They eat and drink, they bleed, they have hopes and virtues and vices. It’s possible for a sailor to be punctual, diligent, and obedient and yet crew a pirate ship.

The difference between bandits and farmers is law. Framers obey the law because they are confident that the law – the emperor – protects them. That is, the substance of empire is its laws, its governance, its traditions. Why do people obey the law? Well, for some it is purely a pragmatic affair. But hopefully, most people obey the law because it is right that they do so.

In a word: the substance of empire is its legitimacy. A nebulous idea, to be sure. And so the need for strong symbols – flags and parades, a crown and a man to wear it. To give one’s loyalty to those symbols is not in itself wrong, even if that loyalty might be understood more deeply.

Nevertheless, we are in danger of a solipsism here, that the empire is legitimate because it is legitimate. As the Lich King points out – if he were Emperor, I would serve him. He may be right about that, but it does not follow from that that I should therefore support his efforts to overturn the current Emperor. To put it another way – it may not matter all that much who the emperor is, but it matters a great deal how he came to become the emperor.

If I travelled to another part of the world, with different laws and a different emperor, should I be obliged to follow the laws there?

I say yes. No – I say maybe. Laws can be unjust and oppressive. If the laws in this hypothetical kingdom were worth honouring, then they would be substantially the same as the laws here. They would outlaw murder and theft and sedition, they would oblige the strong to protect the weak, they would make it possible for a common man to pursue a trade and raise a family in security.

Perhaps I have just changed my mind. No – perhaps I have found a way out of the quandry of legitimacy. The emperor and his laws are right because they do right for the people that they are protected by. So it does come back to the people, but not in the manner the Lich King argues.

What a load of nonsense I have written! Necromancy disgusts me – I shall not serve a fleshless head under any circumstances, it’s as simple as that. Likewise, I shall not forswear my oaths – how could I have forgotten? I will oppose the Lich King, all who serve him, and any other enemy of the Dragon Empire to the limit of my power to do so, now and always.

Suicide bombers (Oooh! Controversial!)

17 October, 2016

Now that James has someone to report to (in-character) and a way to do it, it makes writing these things a bit easier. I’ll see how much I can recall of the last two sesssions.

James will make two copies, I think – one for dad via mum, and one for granddad. James is thinking that Ducalis would be more interested in magical happenings, and grandfather more interested in staying abreast of current events. He may be wrong about that 🙂 .

Events relating to attacks on dwarves in Santa Cora, (insert-date-here)

  1. Information

    1. Yesterday, our unit undertook a mission to kill a lichling in the dwarven tombs of Santa Cora.
      1. The lichling was present, and we sucessfully dealt with her.
      2. The lichling mentioned, I belive, something about “court”, which I take to mean the court of the lich-king.
      3. After the creature was dealt with, we recovered a heavily magical ring. I have it for safekeeping, but I have not worn it and doubt it is safe to do so.
    2. Yesterday evening, Xavier’s Home for Wayward Dwarves was approached by a person wearing a vest of

      1. Our unit intervened
      2. I rendered the explosive inert with a Dispel Magic abjuration.
      3. The attacker was This was game two weeks ago – I forget most of what happened, except what my character did. A don’t know what became of the dude, or if he was human.
    3. Today, the dwarven embassy here in Santa Cora was attacked
      1. The attacks took the from of large missiles, apparently from a heavy siege weapon.
      2. The embassy caught fire. I was not near enough to see if the source of the fire was the missiles themselves, or some other cause.
      3. We identified the source of the fire as being a particular tower at (insert address here).
      4. As there was already a bucket-chain forming to deal with the fire at the embassy, we chose to investigate the tower.
      5. We entered the tower – the door was warded, I believe the cloak I wear disarmed the wards.
      6. We found no-one and nothing at the top of the tower, from which the fire had been coming.
      7. We found a drag-mark on the roof, near the edge and in the direction of the embassy, consistent with something having been pushed off the roof.
      8. After a brief interval, Edmund of the Circle of Four arrived. He stated that:
        1. Nobody had entered this tower for centuries, and that he himself had made failed attempts to do so; and
        2. That a certain magical effect about 15′ above the roof of the tower was the source of the protection from adverse weather which covers Santa Cora.
    4. We have moved into this unoccupied tower and taken it for our base of operations.
  2. Evaluation

    Two attacks on dwarven establishments is most certainly not a coincidence. Quite obviously, some party in the city with considerable resources is attacking dwarves. They are not likely to cease. As it is unlikely that we just happened to be present for the only two attacks this party has made, there have probably been others.

    Whatever party organised these attacks has access to considerable magics. The missiles being fired at the embassy may have been conjurations, and it may be possible that the weather enchantment may have been used to enable or amplify the effect. I am reminded of the Ebony Watch node, where also an attempt was made to “hijack” an existing magical emplacement.

    Likewise, the explosives in the explosive vest was magical rather than alchemical – hence why the abjuration was able to disable it.

    Another odd parallel with the Ebony Watch incident is the presence of undead. There is no direct link, however, it is very suggestive that this lichling should have been active, in the dwarven tombs, immediately before at least two attacks on dwarves. The involvement of some kind of undead nobility would certainly account for the the presence of a mage skilled enough to enter a tower that has withstood every attempt by Edmund do do so.

    Unless, of course, that party had a cloak like mine. The possibility that a party loyal to the empire (the cloaks magics require this) might be responsible for these attacks is gravely disturbing.

    Our unit numbers two dwarves. Mal Shieldglider will most certainly insist on taking some action. He is, after all, a Shieldglider – rank does come with responsibilities. The sympathies of the entire unit, myself included, are rather on his side in this.

  3. Action

    At this stage, the goal of any action would be to keep more dwarves from being killed, both as a goal in itself and to stabilize relations.

    1. Mal will wish to consult with the dwarf temple and community. I am concerned that they are not likely to know who is doing this, why, and may fall back on blaming the usual suspects, whoever they may be.
    2. In general: our unit comprises individuals of diverse skills and backgrounds. Most likely, what will happen next is that people will split up and each investigate in their own way. We will rendezvous here to compare notes.
    3. It might be wise, today at least, to prepare multiple castings of Message.
    4. I intend to investigate the magics of this tower further. I have not yet investigated as to how far (and in what sense) the structure goes underground.

      Examining this tower further will probably not advance our goals.

      Perhaps rather than this I should simply hit the books. There is no shortage of them here in Santa Cora. Why should these attacks be happening now?

      Perhaps I should simply systematically visit each graveyard and look for suspicious activity.

      I should just accompany one of my allies who does have a plan of action and would like a little back-up.

    In summary: at this stage we lack a clear plan of action. Which is to say: I do. My allies will seek information in their own ways.

We will have a talky, role-playing game tonight at the bar. I need to examine the books for some cheese that will permit James to craft some walky-talkies. Not as good as Edmund’s, obviously, but

Reporting In

6 October, 2016

As we have just arrived in Santa Cora, I write to “report in”.

Our group has taken lodging in Xavier’s home for wayward dwarves. The city is full, and so I have prevailed on cousin Buffy to take us in. She seems less than pleased, and it would be best if we found other lodging before long.

Some of us have business here, especially Misthanar, who seeks treatment for his petrified arm. I myself will be seeking some sage to consult about the reactivation of the Ebony Watch node, the change in the Chancer’s Hope node, and my part in it.

Hopefully, we will spend only a few days here before proceeding on.

(Initials J.M.)

Out-of-character, granddad has contacts, granddad knows people, but James is being round-about about asking for help. Perhaps he’s in a “Lancet” frame of mind, not wanting to create a debt. Meta-game, of course, it’s just a way for the DM to pass info to the party in-game. Although James isn’t happy about the drama, ut seems Andy is perfectly happy for us to stay at cousin Buffy’s 🙂 .

James did get some help from granddad, though – it seems the expert on nodes is Aeg Ilsa. The necromancer. I suspect he might be a Professor Snape character – everyone thinks he’s bad, but he’s was secretly good all along.

James doesn’t like necromancy. None of my good characters do, even though it is one of the best schools of magic for sheer hit-point damage 🙂 (the others being transmutation and evocation). Then again, I have always preferred utility casters.

Back to it – James has been a little rude to Aeg in the past, a little cool and distant. But, Aeg had previously said something about the nodes (“Do you think re-igniting the node was a good idea?”) and now granddad is saying that he’s the man to talk to. James is going to suck it up and be civil.

Oh – a fun moment in-game. Speaking of utility casters. Bad guy magically locked a door and split the party. Misthanar belted the thing but not enbough to break it. The DM permitted me to use the Hold Portal utility spell to undo the bad guy’s Hold Portal. Rolled a 20. In game, “The magic was the only thing holding the door together after Mist hit it, so with the magic gone it just [hand gesture]”.

Now that I have level 3 spells, I pack the wizard Utility Spell at third level, giving me access to Levitate, Speak With Item as well as the first-level effects. I even took the feat, so that I get two castings from one slot. James has High Arcana talent, which among other things grants you access to Dispel Maqic, so putting it all together its reasonable he might be able to undo an enemny Hold Portal on a 20.

Nice to see the utility spell come in handy straight away, although the main reason I took it was for Levitate, which will get you out of a number of jams (being thrown in a pit, drowning). At fifth level you can cast it on an ally. Still, seeing how the bad guy so effectively split the party with it was a nice lesson. And Message also has its uses.

We are mid-combat. Andy has permitted us a sort of semi-short-rest, recharging encounter powers, and carrying over over my command points and Nova quick actions. I have plans for the lichlings’s book, which doesn’t seem to be a phylactery but which is nevertheless so, so evil.


13 September, 2016

Damn I hope my message pouch still works. Baisek Toasten is “The Occultist”, from “13 True Ways”.

Dearest Mother,

I write in hope that this message finds you in continued good health, as is mine thanks be to all the gods. (or something like that). This letter concerns certain peculiarities about the magics of one of my companions; which has been something of a mystery to me for some time; and, having become more acquainted with it earlier today, I am at something of a loss as to what might be the import of it. Which is to say, perhaps Father should know.

I travel with a dwarf, one Baisek Toasten. He is a user of magic, but not a wizard, or sorcerer, or necromancer, or divine caster, or – in short – any form of magic that I am familiar with or have ever heard of. He is certainly self-trained, but his magics are not driven by passion in the same way that those of a sorcerer are. On occasion, he would mention “threads” – moving them, manipulating them. It seemed to me that this was as good a metaphor for what we do as any other, and I thought not much more of it.

A recent incident that I was not privy to had put him into some sort of induced insensibility for about two days. Last night, I resolved to take action. Baisek is bonded to a magical item, a stone orb (originally some sort of geode I believe), and so it seemed I might be able to reach him though a Speak With Item ritual thought that orb.

The ritual I believe was a success, although Elsbeth did interfere and credits Baisek’s awakening to her intervention. I suppose we will never know if Baisek awoke from his magical coma because I had managed to make some sort of contact with his soul through an item bonded to him; or if it was because Elsbeth stabbed him to wake him up. It is an enigma, and shall remain forever a mystery.

In any case, Baisek and I “got to talking” as they say. As near as I can make out, the threads that he speaks of are threads of time, or perhaps ‘fate’ is a better word. He assists we his allies in battle by somehow altering the outcome of what would have otherwise happened, or by augmenting a blow by adding to it the blow from another possible reality, so doubling it. I am persuaded that he is being truthful – I have several times noticed the effects of his magics which, while not especially showy or obvious, are indeed visible to the eye.

Recently, I was entrusted by Edmund of the Circle of Four with a certain book; which describes certain aspects of astrology and the overworld; and from which I have been supplementing my studies. “As above, So below”, but that simple formula unpacks into – well – hundreds of pages, and really this book merely scratches the surface. The Gods decide our fates, or orchestrate it, or perhaps argue over it; but nevertheless certainly have something to do with it; and we see this in the motions of the stars above us. There is a resonance between the courses of the stars in the sky and human affairs, and the stars are manifestations of the gods – their thoughts, perhaps, their will.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Now, it’s all very well to credit the gods with great grand designs, but all plans however grand must come down to action, to events “on the ground”. All strategy must be implemented through logistics and tactics. If the gods influence human affairs, then that influence must in the end come down to the outcome of a sword blow, a rogue wave on the sea. “And all for the want of a horseshoe nail”, as the saying goes.

The question then is: what do we make of a dwarf who more-or-less directly – as he puts it – pulls on the strings of fate? Oh, only in a very limited way, of course, in a limited scope. For now. As far as I have seen. But nevertheless, fate – the province of the gods. Is he a servant of the gods? A messenger, a pawn, a priest? Is he an an offence to them, a blasphemy, an abberation? A mere mortal interference to their plans? Does he wrest these “strings” from their hands? Does he merely tug a little on the strings that are already in place?

All I really know is that Baisek himself does not know.

Perhaps I make too much of this. Perhaps there are places where “fate magic’ is quite common. It’s simply that the things that Baisek tries to describe and the things I am reading in this book seem to be – seem to be two different ways of saying the same thing, if that makes sense. It may not be a coincidence that we travel to Santa Cora. If someone is pulling us by the string, I hope they mean well.

I should be grateful for any insight into the matter.

Your most obedient son,

Drewf’s mini-campaign finale

6 September, 2016

Well, Drewf’s mini-campaign is done. A good time was had by all. And he finished up with a tie-in to Andy’s campaign.

In the end, the amulet was the lich’s phylactery, with a gold dragon bound into it which was released when the amulet was destroyed. The ruby was destroyed by the final blow to the lich (what kind of idiot lich wears his phylactery?), and I was like “oh noes, we failed the misson”, but our principal wanted the amulet found and was happy with that, and we also retrieved a stack of dragon loot for the Zero Company kitty.

The gold dragon was expecting some other group. The dudes from Zero Company were not “the ones”. He (?) killed the occultist, nicely making way for another one to be born (as there can only ever be one). Our actions also released a load of dead gods, at least one of whom has been reborn in our main campaign.


  • The 13th age Ranger is a DPS beast. John rolled a quadruple crit at one point. Insane. Crit range bufs can stack in 13th age, so for his first attack he was critting on 15-20 or something ridiculous like that.
  • My druid build tanked like a goddamn tank. He had 60 hp, dead at -30. Came back – by himself– from taking a 60 hp hit and being 20 hp down to being pretty much good to go. Druid regeneration, d10 recovery dice, and the rule that if you get healing you start at 0 (13th age is a forgiving, casual game system). A potion from a concerned party member fixed the rest of the damage.

Prize for coolest character went to AJ’s cigar-chomping dwarven crossbow ranger, who regrettably was not there for the final battle. Nearly half our original party did not make it out of the tomb alive. I expect the rest of the company poured out a beer onto the ground for them, and then went on to even more exciting and mercenary adventures.

Next week Andy is back on board. We will mainly be doign talk, catch-up, and sorting out characters out. Everyone is 4th level.

The Purge

20 July, 2016

The dreams again. Destruction. Fire. Judgement. Most of all, judgement. Oh it was hard, hard doing the righteous work, rooting out the evil. The wickedness.

Most recent had been the west quarter of the town of Esterven. A sink of depravity. Corruption. There, was the house of the demon alcohol. There, was the place of opium and sweetleaf. There, were there brothels of every orientation, even miscgenation – humans mating with non-humans. There, were the gambling houses, the fighting pits. There, were there rich and poor, male and female, human and halfling, elf and dwarf, their souls black, their spirits bowed low under the weight of their many, many sins.

There, there had been fire. Fire and judgement, and the screams of burning sinners. He had readied himself with the armour of God, he had strode up to the Welcome Arms – worst of the worst, he had kicked in the swinging doors. “Woe unto thee!”, he had cried. “Woe unto thee Apollyon – father of harlots!”

Before the bouncers had made more than a step, he had called down the fire of his god, the fire of cleansing, of purification. The fire of Jehovah. The whiskey exploded, setting light to the bar, filling the whole sink of depravity with the sweet smell of malt and alcohol. The fire had spread. It had been a dry, hot summer, and the west quarter was in disrepair, buildings leaning against one another, the wood dry with rot, alleys choked with tumbleweed. By morning, it had almost all been cleansed.

In his sleep, Reverend Josiah murmured, his hand clutching his hip flask, the whiskey in it untouched since the day of his first vision, the day of his own salvation. His talisman. His temptation. The fine engraving on it, “To Josiah, with love” was overwritten with the symbol of his God, the all-seeing eye inexpertly gouged into the silver with a horseshoe nail.

“Woe unto thee”, he murmured, and turned in his sleep. His faith was strong, his purpose unfaltering. In two days time, he would make Crystalwood. His god urged him along, eager and uncompromising, avid for justice and for kindling.

I’m thinking of building Rev. Josiah as a Hybrid cleric/druid (fire and mountain). I see him as a lanky old western preacher-man – string tie, spurs. The cleric/druid hybrid requires wisdom and strengh, and the mechanics of it just don’t work. Maybe I should just go with druid alone. I had intended him to have a little healing, but meh – less complicated. Or maybe we can just go “screw it – lets make it Wis and Con instead of Str”. Other possibility might be a druid/ranger, but we’d make his ranged weapons guns with the same stats as a crossbow.

Perhaps I should bring some extracts from the more bloodthirsty parts of the bible to go with him – there’s plenty to choose from.

If we are short of characters, someone else could play Badger and I could play the good reverend. Or swap around. Or whatever.

His one unique thing, of course, is that he personally and directly works for the volcano-god Jehovah. I believe that in other worlds, this entity is named Imix – prince of elemental fire.