I have been putting this off

6 April, 2017

A message, sent by secret magic message pouch.

I have been putting off writing this for days, but we have a quiet moment and I can shirk my duty no longer.

I am to blame for the recent collapse of the protective wards around Santa Cora, and I suspect elsewhere as well.

As I have mentioned previously, I was gifted with a certain cloak by Edmund the Marked, granting me some access to the magics of the nodes of The Empire. By this means I reactivated the node at Ebony Watch, and the node on the dwarven ruins beneath Chancer’s Hope, which protected the city from the orc and giant incursion from the south.

At Santa Cora, I gained access to the Astronomer’s Tower, a structure which had been sealed for centuries. At its top was a node (connected to air magics, as it happened, not that it matters now). With Edmund present, I accessed the node. As I was doing so, Edmund gained control of the magics from me and cancelled them. This act appeared to not only shut down the node atop the tower, but also the one in the Santa Cora cathedral. I do not know how far the damage may have gone.

His stated reasons for doing so were preposterous lies. I do not know who he is working for and I will not credit anything he might say. Acts speak louder.

Edmund must be brought to justice and made to pay for his treachery. But I would not that the family name be associated with this. Let the histories not say that one of our family was responsible for the fall of Santa Cora. James is careful to not mention the family name – this communication channel is not entirely secure.

As for me, I travel with my companions now joined by one Nacelle, a paladin of the Great Gold Wyrm. Perhaps she will choose her friends more wisely than I. We travel south to the Owl Barrens in search of the Spear of Hoar, god of just retribution.

I still wear the cloak. Pride, perhaps. The Empire might be better served by my sword at Santa Cora – perhaps I could do for a couple of orcs, at least, before falling. But I shall at least see where this paladin leads us, and attempt to keep you informed.

Mother – I doubt I shall be returning home.


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.

Messages II

12 July, 2016

I actually wrote this post before I wrote part I. The scene at Lancet House suggested itself, and it seemed a shame to not write it down.

The old man (no name yet) is James’ maternal grandfather. His paternal grandfather is deceased. The marriage between Ducalis and Frances is a fairly typical one: his name, her money. Both the Mallards and the Lancets get a fair bit of advantage. The Lancets get access to some of the more usually inaccessible halls of government; and the Mallards get – well – nobody really respects a coat of arms not backed by at least a little money. The more money, the better.

This is what the scene where grandfather pledges his aid to Ducalis’ faction is about: grandfather understands the nature of the deal that he has made with the Mallards. And in any case, his sympathies rather align with theirs. They are all good people, because this is a happy and positive campaign. As to what the big picture is, the war: heck, I don’t know. All I know is something big is going down and our characters will be in the center of it all. 🙂

I see Frances as being quite a bit younger than Ducalis – ten years or so. Again, quite usual for this sort of arrangement. Nevertheless they are – maybe ‘devoted’ is a little strong, but certainly very happy. I had intended for Frances to be a bit more quiet and shrewd, sort of counterbalancing Andy’s idea of what Ducalis is like. Maybe she is, usually. We saw her in an unusual state last post.

A lancet is a medical tool for drawing blood – if you’ve ever had a finger prick to get a blood sample, that’s what the tool that does it is called. The name sounded suitably posh and very appropriate for a family of moneylenders.

The three golden balls I believe originally came from the arms of House Medici. In the real world, it signifies a pawnbrokers.

James wrote for hours. He attended a banquet held in honour of the merry heroes of Griffinsheart, then he returned to his room and resumed writing. It had been only a few months, but he wrote it all. When he ran out of ink and parchment, he called a palace flunky and got some more. His transfer to Griffinsheart. Salty Bob, the Devil of the Sea. Smedley’s taxes and probable land scams. Mal Sheildglider’s ancient mace, that glows underground. Edmund the Marked, the necromancer Aeg Ilsa, the white dragon. The detonation of the Griffinsheart estate, and the uncovering of the ruins beneath it, and their settlement by the dwarves.

He wrote about their strange journey through the Wildwood, which had seemed like days but was probably weeks. The underground cavern in the woods, the phoenix. The grandmother’s cabin. He described Aeg’s gift at his camp in the woods, and his strange words: “The Archmage will be most … displeased”. The re-igniting of the Ebony Watch node and the sad fate of its captain, along with the problematic news that at least one node had been in the process of being claimed by a hostile magic user. He write about the stirring of the Eld, the baby giant, the closing of the southern hellmouth and the strange bleeding stone. (Did we see a Behemoth? He’ll put that down as well.)

He described their return to Chancer’s hope, and the orcish and giantish assault. His re-ignition of the dwarf node, the fight between Aeg and Edmund. Then the second attack, and his inadvertent turning of the node and the political fallout of that, including his own suspension from duty.

He wrote about the complete criminality of Newport, the obliviousness of the duke, the monk festival, the cage of people held to be food of the Chuul, strange portal to the plane of Darakuul – who waited for the end. The plane of ash, remnant of one of The Crusader’s wars. Finally, he described yesterday’s events: the great chuul and the portal.

He concluded:

In the end, I am not really sure what to make of all this. I see I have rambled more than I intended, but it’s probably best to tell you all I could.

Most of all, I am worried that matters between the empire and the dwarves may be turning sour. The empire cannot afford to lose an ally when giants and orcs are attacking cities, nor can we afford to acquire an enemy that can tunnel under our feet from one end of the continent to the other.

We continue west overland, as the ports are blockaded (I have no idea by whom, or why, or even how for that matter). From Santa Cora we should make quicker time. I will be able to head home, and Mal and the rest of my companions will head north to Forge, to whatever awaits them there.

The thick sheaf of parchment was dispatched by skymail next day – the skies over Newport not being blockaded quite yet.

I think we’ll have to agree that Ducalis’ appearance at Newport was some kind of quasi-real sending, or else it makes no sense why he would have left James there.

The duke held a grand ceremony for their departure, throwing open his vault of useful magics. James chose nothing, feeling it would be inappropriate. However, he did refresh his usual complement of three healing potions in case they should run into Edmund again.

Then the party hit the road to Santa Cora with provisions, horses, even a carriage. They made a formidable party and for the first part of their trip, at least, were unmolested. A week into their journey they came to an unnamed roadhouse – an imperial outpost along the trail. There was a package waiting for James.

From his father, two books and a letter. One book was the standard third-circle text with a few useful additions; and the other was a short history of Sir Draper’s disastrous Bitterwood campaign, with commentary. The letter mentioned that aside from anything else, it was clear that James’s studies had progressed to the point where it was safe for him to begin working with these new magics. His father also wrote that Mal Shieldglider’s safety was of great concern, as he held a hereditary position of considerable importance, and that above all James should make every effort to come home to the family estate as quickly as he may.

From his mother, another letter and a small pouch. The pouch’s long drawstring bore a small seal with the Lancet family mark of three golden balls and had a heavy scoreline across the center.

The letter read:


Your father is more worried than he will admit about your letter. We are both greatly concerned about your safety on the road; but the political situation and the state of the empire is more dire than you or your companions know. Your father tells me little of his work, of course, but it is plain that magic is roiling from one end of the empire to the other and beyond. As dearly as we wish you to be here at home, in many ways a road out in the middle of nowhere might be the safest place for you at present, especially considering your current company.

One thing, however, I must deal with. A Lancet does not borrow money – we lend it, and a Lancet most certainly does not haggle with regional nobility for travel expenses! I have had a chat with your grandfather, and he has agreed that one of us should not wander about the wilds on some nag, starving, in rags, and incommunicado. And so I have sent you this pouch. It is a small one, but more easily concealed for that and more than large enough for the purpose. It will manage a few coins, small letters. As you are on the road, grandfather might ask you to act as something of an agent for the family concerns. Discrete, of course. There are not many that will connect you with the Lancet name, and that’s all to the good.

Do be responsible with it dear. Avoid using it regularly or at predictable intervals. Hide it well, and be sure to snap the seal should it look like it might be taken. As to how to operate it, I must leave that as a puzzle for you.

Though you travel as far as Julian, stay safe. Return to us as soon as you may.


“Dire”. Like the rest of her family, James’ mother was inclined to be shrewd and cautious. It wasn’t a word that she would use lightly. But there was nothing for it for now but to continue on to Santa Cora.

Which first? The books or the pouch? Well, the books would take hours just to get started with them. He was going to be spending the next few weeks on the road reading and practising, drawing circles, cajoling sprites, and doing new tongue-twisters. So: the pouch.

Examining it with his magical senses, he could clearly see how the interior was not quite present in this reality, or not entirely, and how the seal was some sort of keystone for the whole. It was activated by some sort of very elaborate ritual, probably, but there was no clue as to what it might be.

So he scanned the letter for clues. And it was obvious: Julian Lancet – his ancestor on the distaff side. Not nearly so ancient as Baron Geofrrey, but still a fair way back. It’s said he went out onto the endless sea to find spices, and then within 8 years parlayed the profits into a fleet and a counting house.

And then he recalled the childhood guessing-game. His mother played it with his brothers, and with him in his turn. You had to say a rhyme and them guess what was in a treasure-box. The game was mainly about getting the rhyme exactly right: it’s rhythm and patterns of emphasis, the secret knock on the box. On getting it exactly, exactly right, his mother would open the box, revealing a sweet, or a toy.

James looked about to confirm that he was in private, and recited the child’s rhyme:

“Julian Lancet sailed on the ocean
Julian Lancet crossed the sea
Julian Lancet rapped on the lock
And lifted the lid to see:

“Ten silver pieces!”, finished James. After a moment the pouch … did something, and inside were ten silver pieces. James left them there. The pouch’s magic was depleted, of course. He put the long drawstring over his head and patted the pouch into place under his shirt. He then broke out his new textbooks and started reading.

That evening, at about the end of first watch, the pouch – well – “ping!”ed in James’ mind. James lit his magelight and wandered off away from camp for a private moment. In the pouch, the ten silver coins had been replaced by several coins of various denomination – even a couple of platinum – and an unsigned note in a neat masculine hand on onionskin paper. It read:

Well done James. You needn’t be quite so cautious in future when drawing minor expenses against the vault. Significant drafts are another matter. It’s best to clear the pouch after use. Now that you are bonded you can send items to other pouches by nominating the recipient, but for now you should communicate only with me or your mother and not mention your bond with the item to the rest of the family. Or indeed, to anyone.

Stay in touch, but do not over-use the item. Inform me when reaching Santa Cora.

Without needing to be told, James burned both letters with a Spark.

As for James’ hopefully cheesy new item, subject to DM approval of course, I’m thinking that the Lancets have several of these connected portals. Thing is, the way they actually work is that sprites carry whatever it is via the Low Way. This means that if you use them too much or too regularly, especially if you are using them to convey valuables, then something will eventually notice and you will find that the transport becomes a little unreliable. Your sprites will get eaten and your stuff stolen, basically. It’s better to send a cheque than coin, but not a lot of inns take cheques.

As for in-game effect, as well as being a handy plot hook and general Deus Ex Sacculum, I’ll ask for an in-game effect of the pouch giving in effect two background points in “Being from a banking family”. It’s the equivalent of a feat. Haggling, appraisal, that sort of thing but large-scale. Tarry might be better at telling you how much, say, a silver cup might be worth (ie: can be fenced for); but with the pouch around his neck James is the person to ask how much a ship might be worth, or a business. And either of them can probably make a decent stab at the gp equivalent of a gem. And of course, he can always ask granddad. Up to a point. Not that we’ll be actually working out the money in detail, because that’s dull. We’ll hand-wave it.

Quirk might be “keeps careful track of money”. James won’t tip out his money and count it obsessively. Well, at least not every day. But he will start tracking purchases and expenses.

I have no idea what work granddad might want James to do in Santa Cora, or elsewhere. If any.

Dammit, I nearly forgot – thanks to John for his notes on dropbox. I had forgotten some cool stuff.

James Mallard -needs to snap out of it

29 April, 2016

I mentioned my blog on another website, and just spent a little time re-reading it. In particular, the events at the node in Ebony Watch.

Deep down in a layer of James’ mind he was not fully aware of, the cloak posed him a question: “would you die for the empire”? And in that same layer, his training and its cameraderie, the histories he had studied – stories of valour and sacrifice, his commitment to make the best of his father’s decision to place him in the army, and perhaps even his childhood storybook lessons that the noble must protect the common people, together formed a wordless reply: “I am a soldier of The Empire.”

Sort of reminded me what James is about. He’s been in a bit of a funk since being suspended from duty. The whole “screw it, let’s go to Anvil” is a bit of a sulk, and he needs to snap out of it. Seeing the politics has disillusioned him a bit, but ultimately there are illusions we all have to grow out of.

My goal for the character, of course, has always been that one day he would be archmage. It’s pretty obvious – that’s why I gave him the “One Unique Thing” that I did. Hidden, locked-away arcane talent. Duh. But he doesn’t plan to be archmage one day – that’s my idea. He will do what’s best. He will serve if he is called.

Which is why I refused the shortsword that the DM offered him (obviously it was for James – no-one else uses a shortsword). James actually is good, and loyal, and responsible and all that. Heroic, even. He’s not going to take some proffered shortcut to a goal that he doesn’t even have, and he’s intelligent enough to know that you are cautious with magic items. After playing a string of bad guys (I re-read Korgul’s stories: funny as hell, and I wrote them), I want James to really be the kind of person you would want in the job.

Having said that – this is not something that could possibly happen in the game. The way I see it, 10th level is when you start being a serious wizard. A bit like a black belt – all it means is that you have learned all the forms of your school. It’s after that that a martial artist starts getting serious.

So, there’s been politics, and he’s been relived of duty. He’s beginning to see what a tangled mess life mostly is. Nevertheless it remains the case that there being an empire is better than there not being one, it remains the case that the emperor is warden and guardian of civilisation and all the people in it. It remains the case that, as Hobbes suggested,

During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man.

“To this war of every man against every man, this also in consequent; that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law, where no law, no injustice. Force, and fraud, are in war the cardinal virtues.

“No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

Snap out of it, man. Being a soldier of The Empire is still the worthwhile thing that it always was.

James Mallard – bad magic, good magic

22 September, 2015


From: Lt James Mallard, Chancer’s Hope
To: Capt Gerard, Ebony Watch
To: Sir Leonard Griffinshart, Chancer’s Hope

Subj: Reactivation of Ebony Watch defensive node

  1. Summary of events
    1. I am currently acting as part of a team of civilian specialist, under the direction of Sir Leonard Griffishart.
    2. Our group’s current mission has resulted in us passing through Ebony Watch.
    3. On arrival in Ebony Watch, Lt Green apprised us that the previous CO had barricaded himself in the top level of the watchtower. This occurred several months ago.
    4. Lt Green requested our aid in the matter.

      Did this actually happen? I forget. But it’s his word against mine, so screw him.
    5. I and other members of our group investigated the tower on insert date here.
    6. We broke through the barricade barring the top floor of the tower. Within was the skeleton of the previous commander; a skeleton of some kind of reptilian humanoid, wearing the remains of robes; a large pile of gems and currency; and the defensive node.
    7. I investigated and reactivated the node. I attempted to alert it to the various magical disturbances in Ebony Watch which appear to be originating from the direction of The Eld.
    8. It was clear to me that the node had been tampered with. Various operating runes and link-lines had been altered.
    9. Correct reactivation of the node initiated a self-repair sequence, absorbing a portion of the pile of currency and gems for materials.
    10. Upon the reactivation of the node, the skeleton of the previous CO and the reptilian humanoid reanimated and attacked.
    11. The reptilian skeleton appeared to be illegally drawing arcane power from the node.

      Yeah – it wasn’t just trying to kill us, it was breaking the law!
    12. The skeleton of the previous CO kept repeating words to the effect of “No brother, I will not permit you”. (this is fairly typical of the undead – they can tend to replay whatever was occuring at the time of their deaths).
    13. We destroyed the remains of the reptilian arcanist. As we did, the remains of the previous CO also de-animated, saying “No brother, I will not let you – it is cursed”.
    14. During this fight, undead had reanimated around the tower. When the remains of the reptilian were destroyed, they de-animated. Regrettably, there may have been civilian casualties.
    15. The node now appears to be correctly operational.
  2. Evaluation

    I cannot make anything of the words of the commander’s remains beyond the obvious: that the reptilian humanoid was tampering with the node (which I gather has been inactive for many years), and that the commander stopped this at the cost of his own life. Any more than that would require knowledge of local events which I do not have.

    There appear to be some sort of magical attacks being made on the town currently, although they only appear to be probing at present. These attacks take the form of a music which seems to be making people aggressive or otherwise affects their emotions without their being aware of it. There has recently been some sort of unusual activity in the direction of The Eld (odd lights, mainly). As giants are known to use bardic magic it is possible that they are up to something, but at this stage I can only offer speculation.

    The nodes are intended as magical defenses of the empire and its outposts, but I do not know specifically what – if anything – the reactivated node will do with respect to this magic. Ebony Watch requires better information on its node from an empire arcanist.

  3. Recommendations

    1. Our team will be departing Ebony Watch this evening. As I have indicated, they are a team of civilians not in the chain of command and cannot be ordered to remain for an investigation. I request that we be permitted to depart without delay.
    2. Our team has retained some of the pile of loot in the tower in lieu of bounty or reward. I request that this be permitted. Our group is in need of supplies, and a reward would otherwise be customary in these circumstances. I myself have retained an amount of loot for supplies and spell components.
    3. The node should not be approached by untrained personnel or civilians. It is, as far as I can determine, fully operational and will defend itself.
    4. The node is now in communication with other defensive nodes of the empire. In due course, an arcanist will be dispatched to investigate its reactivation. I recommend that Ebony Watch make every effort to expedite this. The town will require an empire arcanist to manage and monitor the node on an ongoing basis.
    5. No attempt should be made to replace the roof of the tower at any time. Nodes require line-of-sight to the sky. This is why the node removed the roof of the tower when it was reactivated. Even a tarpaulin over the roof will be treated similarly. If the tower leaks during the rain, that will have to be dealt with in some other way.

      It’s this nugget of information that makes this report secret, empire eyes only, and arcane ops. I’m thinking nodes communicate by bouncing signals off the stratosphere.

Lt James Mallard


We are Level 2! W00T!

James Mallard – Giants to the South

12 September, 2015

Haven’t felt like writing for a while. Soooo sick, for weeks. Lets see how we go.

James entered the tower on the heels of Mal Shieldglider, Tarry bring up behind.

They had marched through the Wild Wood for what has seemed like a week, but was probably three, and had made it to Ebony Watch – three quarters of the way up The Grandfather, within sight of The Eld. They had arranged passage, to embark that evening, but Ebony Watch had a few pressing concerns. Basilisks on the outskirts, a missing little girl, giants in the north, and the unknown fate of the previous garrison commander – shut away in the highest floor of the tower that gave the town its name.

Andrew deliberately split the party and ran three simultaneous mini-games. As someone who has tried to run game and never been terribly good at it, I thought it was amazing.

The party had scattered into three smaller groups. No-one was willing to take on the basilisks again – Cannis having only just survived their first encounter with, perhaps, a little help from James. As the transformation to stone progressed along his body and up his neck, James – having no other way to help – attempted to Counter Magic the effect. Impossible to say whether that helped or not, but the petrification halted and faded, and Cannis survived.

Drewf was failing his saves. I argued that basilisk petrification isn’t a simple poison, it’s a magical effect, and rolled high for the Counter Magic. The DM allowed it. W00T!

James knew his duty. The fate of the military commander. Shieldglider had recognised the name, and James appealed to that – Shieldglider having means to break into a stone tower with his strange ability to sculpt solid stone as if it were clay. Tarry had been keen to harvest the organs of the basilisks – good money, there – but went with James and Mal rather than face them on his own. A welcome addition, the halfling being good with traps and locks.

Mal’s stone shape thing is his “one unique thing”. James’ sense of duty is partly just natural for his character, and partly a quirk of his Mantle of the Mage.

Mantle of the Mage: As a bearer of this cloak, you are authorized to tap into the Archmage’s arcane power nodes, drawing on the magic that’s supposed to be used for fueling the wards that protect the Empire against existential threats. … Quirk: Crushing sense of duty and obligation to the Empire.

They ascended the tower. Mal commenced to dig out the stone around the heavy iron hinges of the stout trapdoor in the ceiling – his power strangely stronger than usual. James’ magical senses prickled – this place was one of the magical defensive “nodes” of the empire. Tarry seemed oddly animated and keen.

Tarry’s one unique thing is that he can smell gold.

They braced for combat, specifically, for undead. But no. Above a strange tableau. The trapdoor had been weighed down with a pile of treasure – gold and gems. James thought to warn Tarry not to take any, as it was Empire payroll, but gave it up as a lost cause. There was more than Tarry could take, anyway. And the loot was not the main concern.

A dwarvish (mostly) skeleton sat in a fine chair – garishly decorated with gems, some falling off. Pearls, rubies. And in an empty space right in the centre of the tower was something visible only to magical senses: an invisible flame in the shape of a two-headed dragon, twin symbols of the Archmage and the Emperor. But the dragon slumbered, the flame banked and merely smoldering. But unquestionably still alive and alight.

James mentioned to the others that there might be papers in the drawers, and then turned his attention to the node. But what to do? Should he do anything at all? Yes he should. The giants in The Eld to the south were up to something, there had been odd magical attacks on the town. This place was part of the Empire, and its magical defences ought to be in operation. Cannis had mentioned the music – this node should be making such attacks impossible, or at least alerting the other nodes. But was it his place to do anything? Yes. He was the senior arcane officer available in Ebony Watch. The cloak, Edmund had explained, gave him authority to interact with the nodes as well as the power to do so.

Perhaps James was merely reaching for justification – perhaps the cloak compelled him and he was making excuses. Perhaps. There was going to be some explaining to do. Nevertheless, he had decided to act.

But how?

Had he been a sorcerer, he would have roused the flame by force of will, he would have symbolically blown on it or fanned it. But James was a wizard. There was a spell – Speak with Item that might serve. He had been studying the spell of course. It was beyond his ability, but perhaps here, at a node, with a cloak whose entire business was to deal with the nodes, it might be possible.

For reagents, he had a pile of treasure. No quicksilver for communication, but silver coins graven with the correct rune would do (more experienced wizards could draw the rune on stone, or scribe it in the air, or even imagine it clearly, but James needed the metal – something believable). Sapphires for the Archmage, gold for the empire. He paused – gold alone would not do. It needed a drop of human blood. But not as a sacrifice of life, rather as a signifier. So this was not necromancy.

(Unknown to James, the reason gold would not do is that it is the wrong metal altogether. Gold is for dragons and the gods; silver, lead and zinc for elves; iron for dwarves; copper for halflings. The true metal of humans is tin, but humans don’t like to admit it. Much history can be explained metaphorically by the human’s stubborn insistence that their metal is gold.)

James drew the circle, placed the signifiers around it in the direction of Horizon, Axis, other nodes that he knew of. But what if the ritual worked, and he could speak to the node, what would he say? By chance, he glanced to the south, and perhaps caught a glimpse of The Eld. He went back to the pile of treasure and found clear gems. Clear as ice. Signifiers for the giants. He placed them to the south.

And then the ritual. Speak With Item three-quarters memorised, without the magical power of preparation, but what James lacked, the cloak supplied. Perhaps it was a little impatient – none of this rigmarole was necessary, but it had chosen James and had to work with what it had. Deep down in a layer of James’ mind he was not fully aware of, the cloak posed him a question: “would you die for the empire”? And in that same layer, his training and its cameraderie, the histories he had studied – stories of valour and sacrifice, his commitment to make the best of his father’s decision to place him in the army, and perhaps even his childhood storybook lessons that the noble must protect the common people, together formed a wordless reply: “I am a soldier of The Empire.”

Contact! “Wake! Wake! Giants to the south, magical attacks on this position! Defend! Call for backup!”

All had been invisible to Tarry and Mal up to this point – James fussing about with gems and piles of coins, mumbling formulae. But the effect was spectacular. As James stumblingly chanted his formula, the barely-visible metal threads in his cloak flared into life, shifting into fleeting complex shapes sometimes oddly reminiscent of the wards of a key. At the center of the tower floor, a visible flame appeared and took the shape of a two-headed dragon. It roared and the sturdy wooden roof of the tower – a late addition – shattered into flinders, exposing once again this top floor to the sky. The silver and gold melted, alloyed, becoming electrum: the metal of magic, and began to trace out lines and circles in the floor, this tower’s place in the webwork of empire defences. The ancient node-runes in the stone, worn and barely visible, gilding with metal as the node repaired itself. And the gems around the periphery moved – the sapphire focii that James had given the node shifting exactly into line with the other nodes, and the clear gems moving precisely in line with the Eld. Except for one smaller one, which migrated into the broad inner circle of the design on the floor and assumed a position there.

Over towards the chair on which the late commander sat, something moved.

Aaaaand Andy leaves us with a cliffhanger 🙂 . TBC.

Just a simple soldier

5 August, 2015

I have missed so many weeks blogging, I am not even going to attempt to do a catch-up post.

Ok – briefly:

  • we stumbled into the woods looking for Edmund the Marked.
  • Found orcs and trolls. Wound up in a three-way fight. Beat eveyone up.
  • Elves came out, looking for Tarry. Some centaur important druid person want him.
  • Got taken to some other part of the world. A woodhenge.
  • Centaur is dead. Everyone is dead. Smells like orcs.
  • Tracks led thataway. We followed.
  • Came to a ship in the river. Hold full of dead orcs.
  • While investigating, we were attacked by an adventuring team of some sort.
  • The sorcerer got away. One left alive – the boss. We questioned him.

We questioned our prisoner, who appeared to be the leader of the gang. I Charmed him, but he told me little but that they had been hired by a man in a white hat. Some of us suspected Captain Colonel, but I doubt that he could or would have anything do do with either murdering an envoy of the high druid or sending men to hunt us down several days south into the woods.

We did not learn anything from him about the orcs in the hold of the ship, or the ship itself. He offered to tell us more for an extravagant sum of gold, but we decided that he was almost certainly lying, and tossed him bound into the hold of the ship.

We elected to pursue the remaining member of the gang. Misthanar returned to the ship to speak to him again, buy he had already slipped his bonds and escaped.

Andy’s way of telling Jez “Dude, that whole scene of the play is over. Move on.”. It’s like herding cats, honestly, without an actual cat-herder.

The sorcerer’s tracks led to a cave opening. Shieldglider and Toasten, naturally, took the lead and led us underground.

… meanwhile …

Our NPC “Derrick the Cleric” is now being played by the new guy. Andrew got him up to speed with how to play, a process much, much easier in 13th Age than in Pathfinder. Derrick had lost our horses, was wandering about. He found a cave.

Derrick’s backstory is that he has been bumbling around on the fringes of the group, holding the horses, being a bit of a pest. He tried being a cleric, then he tried being a rogue. Andrew had the new guy play him – he kept away from the mooks, fired his bow. So the ruling is “ok, Derrek seems to be using his bow, so we’ll make him a ranger”, which is just a great way to make that kind of decision with a new player that hasn’t got definite ideas on what he wants to play. And we don’t have a ranged combatant, really, so is all good. Other thing is that Derrek rolled a couple of 1s and shot Misthanar, to cries around the table of “Fucking Derrek! God, he’s useless!” It was a fun moment. Role-playing games are not about winning, they are about having a good time.

Goblin attack, underground cave, Wild Woods 4 days SSE of Chancer’s hope

  1. Terrain, etc
    1. Our group entered a cave on the trail of a mage (probably sorcerer) who was part of the group that attacked us at the orc ship.
    2. Below was a large chamber with a throne of some sort built into the stone.
    3. The chamber had two exits – a door and a passageway.
    4. The passageway was intersected by a narrow (10′-15′) chasm of unknown depth.
    5. Unknown to us at the time, Derrek had also found this same cave by another entrance.
      What are the odds, eh?
    6. A number (approx 12-20) of goblins emerged fro the chasm and attacked.
    7. One of their number appeared to be a shaman or other spellcaster, who remained behind the line and the chasm.
  2. Course of battle

    1. Shieldglider advanced to block the passageway.
    2. Misthanar advanced further into the cave and beyond line of sight, to assist Derrek whom he had heard.
    3. I ordered Tarry to spike the door so that we would not be flanked. Tarry dissappeared into shadow.
    4. Tarry did not spike the door, but advanced to attack the spellcaster.
    5. I moved forward to Shieldglider’s position to fully block the passage.
    6. With a line at the front and spellcasters to the rear, we killed about 5 to 10 goblins within a few seconds.
    7. The spellcaster then summoned a rust monster from the chasm.
    8. Our casters concentrated fire on the rust monster.
    9. Shieldglider concentrated on the goblins.
    10. Misthanar at this time was surrounded by goblins and fell to them and to friendly fire from Derrek.
    11. As the numbers of the goblins had been thinned, Lashley moved forward through them and was able to revive Misthanar.
    12. I moved forward to get a better view of the situation.
    13. I judged that our casters (Elsbeth, particularly) had the rust monster in hand, and so I deployed a Color Spray against the goblins surrounding Misthanar and Derrek.
    14. The rust monster was killed, and we moved forward to mop up the remaining goblins. Shieldglider’s armour is beyond repair.
    15. The caster, whom we had not dealt with, commenced to summon more Rust monsters.
    16. At which point, Edmund of the Council of Four intervened and magically dealt with the remaining foe.
  3. Notes, evaluation
    1. Tarry’s action was reasonable. I am not in command of this group, and dealing with the caster was a reasonable thing to do. It transpired that that door was blocked on the other side, and so spiking it would have accomplished nothing.
      That’s in-character, of course. In character, James is the only one who’s an actual soldier and officer, apart from maybe Sheildglider, so the tries to throw orders around. Sometimes, people listen (especially when the order is “Try Again!” 🙂 ). He might occasionally pout a little, but this is the situation he’s been thrown into and he’ll do the best he can. Its a heroic campaign, so he is not butthurt and negative about not being the boss.
    2. I have mentioned before that Misthanar will get himself killed if he continues to separate himself from the group. That nearly happened this time.
      A glass cannon cannot run around the corner where no-one can see him into a mob of bad guys, even if the are mooks. Mind you – the reason for it was that Derrek was right in the middle of it all.
    3. We needed to have dealt with the goblin spellcaster more promptly. None of us but Lashley and Elsbeth are able to engage a foe at range. Derrek will be a valuable asset if he can be trained to shoot straight.
      As I mentioned – he rolled a couple of 1s. It happens.

Edmund led us to a clearing with a “house” at which lived a blind gypsy woman. She read the cards for us – it is always unwise to completely trust or completely discount such things. The trick is knowing what to trust and what to discount, but if you had such a trick then – why – you yourself would have to be able to see the future.

Edmund sent me into the house to fetch his cloak. Quite a lovely thing – very fine, an amazing blue. It wrapped itself around my arm and across my shoulders when I picked it up. Edmund seemed to find this amusing. “So!”, he said, “The Archmage will be most displeased!”

I have no idea why. It seems that there is no escape from Horizon politics, although what I am embroiled in, I cannot say. The cloak is clearly magical, but what its magics might be, I can only guess. One does not prefer to be a target of the Archmage’s displeasure, obviously, but it’s many leagues between here and Horizon.

Unknown to James, he has a two-die “conflicted” relationship with The Archmage.

In 13th Age, magic items are meant to be special and unique, and Andy has been handing out a signature item to each character. At present, they have no special powers. So far as we know.

I’m pleased with mine, I think it’s awesome, and I made this eye-bleeding background to celebrate. W00T!