Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Part 7: HMS Her Majesty's Mimic Takes Flight

We rejoin our heroes continuing their meeting, discussing the name of the airship. The party wanted the name to reflect independence, freedom, and possibly rebellion. And then Bubbles suggested Mimic.

Out of character, try as they might, the party couldn't come up with anything better, as they (and myself) were too busy laughing at the absurdity of the name, and, eventually, it stuck.

With the name assigned to the ship, and the goal of making a beeline back to Halinard's office to get the ball rolling on the safe transfer of assets, the rest of this session will now be a comedy.

The wacky shenanigans began with Bubbles attempting to steal Savin's accordion for a surprise upgrade a few nights previously. I had him roll stealth, but he completely blew the roll and woke Savin up. Savin demanded to know what Bubbles was doing, to which Bubbles responded, "It's a surprise!" He was then chased out of the room. A few days later, he tried again, successfully sneaking in, stealing the accordion, doing something to it, and placing it back in the room with a note.

While this was going on, Jangle managed to find an opportunity to speak with one of the warforged, Ray, by himself. That's right, finally, after six sessions, Jangle finally outed himself as a speaking cat to someone, even if that someone is an NPC. Out of character, his player explained that he was going to try to take advantage of the situation with Halinard being gone to take ownership of the warforged. In another campaign in another game (Traveller, basically a sci-fi space exploration game for those who wonder), this same player had abused programming principles to create a robot army.

I let him know that might not quite work in this setting as it would be dependent upon the skills of the warforged themselves, and they'd have varying levels of sentience, and he said he wanted to try it, so I asked him to explain what his plan was.

Basically, Jangle told Ray that, for safety reasons, Halinard knew that Jangle was awakened, and that he had left the warforged specifically in Jangle's care. This was, of course, a lie, and I asked Jangle to roll for deception, which he did. He rolled a ten. Which is right in the middle.

So, Ray didn't quite believe him, but decided to hear him out anyway, and he explained that Halinard didn't trust that the others wouldn't experiment on the warforged, specifically namedropping Bubbles to make his claim that much more believable. More believable, yes, but still a lie, so again, I asked him to roll for deception. This one was a little better, and I also had it at a lower DC, as it was a more believable. Bubbles had already asked the entire party for blood samples so he could study them, to varying levels of acquiescence.

Anyway, he said that he had paperwork back at the main office office that made it all official, and Ray left the room, unsure of how to process what just happened.

And thus she exited Halinard's airship office into a madhouse.

It started with Savin accosting Bubbles after finding the note on his accordion and not reading it. He demanded to know what Bubbles did, to which Bubbles continued to insist, "It's a surprise! Read the note and do what it says!"

Savin stepped forward, saying, "Again. Explain to me...using words...what you me accordion."

Fearing that he was in danger, Bubbles, instead of doing the logical thing and explaining that he had made the accordion into a magical item, used a potion to make himself invisible and tried to bolt to another area of the ship, narrowly avoiding running smack into a confused Ray. Savin, able to see through the invisibility potion, quickly dodged around Ray, chasing after Bubbles, before giving up and drawing his backup weapon, a whip, to incapacitate him.

He lashed the whip forth, missing Bubbles completely, instead hitting Yesmae, currently walking out into the main hallway. While Yesmae demanded an explanation, Bubbles escaped to the deck of the ship, injecting himself with a potion of flight to hide himself above the balloon that carried the airship until things cooled down.

They decided to set a trap for Bubbles on the deck with some rope and food, and after the party grew bored of waiting, Jangle, wanting to be included, brought a potion that Bubbles had been trying to steal to use as bait for the trap.

Bubbles, seeing an opportunity as he descended the balloon, decided to swing over to that area of the deck on a rope and grab the potion. However, as he was swinging, Jangle, out of sheer curiosity, took a sip of the potion, causing me to groan behind my keyboard.

You see, the potion was a Potion of Fire Giant's Strength, basically a way to add some chonk to whoever used the potion. Jangle had stolen it from someone earlier in the campaign, not knowing what it was, and while I could have decided that the potion was literally anything, I committed to the idea of it being a Potion of Fire Giant's Strength. My rationale was that, so long as Jangle kept his paws on the potion, nobody could identify it, and because nobody knew what it was, it could literally be anything from a deadly potion to something that would make someone invincible.

Basically, it was both too scary to use and too awesome to use at the same time.

Anyway, shortly after Jangle lapped up a little of the potion, Bubbles swiped it from him, gloating that he finally got the potion. His gloating was repaid in Jangle jumping up and swatting him in the face, doing quite a bit of damage because of his super strength, and again taking the potion and running, with Bubbles in hot pursuit.

Hot literally, as in Bubbles drew his pistol and shot at Jangle as he ran.

Before that standoff occurred, Yesmae was cornered by Ray in the hall. Ray, unsure of who else to talk to about what happened with Jangle, explained what everything to Jangle, but mentioned she might be malfunctioning because the idea of the talking cat seemed too far fetched. Yesmae agreed, and suggested that once they came to the next port they could find someone who could run some tests on Ray.

Their conversation was interrupted by the gunshot, as well as Jangle running past with Bubbles close behind. The two of them stopped Bubbles, who started Babbling about wanting to kill that evil little cat.

Yesmae didn't want to allow that, but she offered to try to help catch Jangle to see what he was doing, as well as to attempt to find the truth about his ability to talk, something that Somen agreed to upon exiting his cabin.

It took some work, but Yesmae was able to catch Jangle and hold him steady, especially since the small sip of potion was wearing off, while the group discussed what to do next. Somen suggested casting Detect Magic to see if anything seemed off, when, finally, Jangle said, "I'd prefer if you just asked me."

The room went dead silent.

A few moments passed, and then...

"So you can talk."

"Yeah. And you're not doing a very good job at proving my fears wrong there."

The party went back and forth on how to dissolve the latest dispute. Bubbles wanted the potion and to get rid of the cat. Jangle wanted the potion and safety. Neither one was going to feel safe with the other.

While there was no obvious answer to the latter, at the very least, Savin suggested the possibility of confining the two of them separately until they could prove that they could behave.

Unsure of what's going to happen now, Somen and Savin, seemingly for the first time since this adventure began, agreed: "I need a drink."

Monday, April 27, 2020

Part 6: Now What?

The party, finally in possession of a decent lead, set sail deeper into the Southern Isles. After a few days of travel, the party saw the wreckage of an airship run aground on a small island below, with an eerily empty sea surrounding the area.

As usual, Somen Hing cast Clairvoyance to allow the party to formulate a plan, but he was unable to see anything. No blood. No corpses. Nothing to indicate any form of struggle. Besides damage to the ship following the crash landing, nothing. Naturally, the lack of anything suspicious struck the party as extremely suspicious, so Somen then cast Detect Magic to see if anything else was awry, but again, he was unable to see anything.

Halinard, seeing his goal so close, explained that although the deck seemed barren, he should be able to find the store of mythril if the crew was following proper procedure, even if something happened to the crew themselves. So he led the party below deck, taking stock of the ransacked barrels and crates in the hold. He continued further into the back, and then smirked.

"A-ha! I knew they wouldn't figure it out!."

He then knocked on part of the wall, causing it to slide out of the way, revealing a secret compartment with two chests in it. He whistled. "I figured they'd have been satisfied with all the stuff in the front of the hold and written this ship off as an unfortunate casualty in their search."

Savin, unimpressed, said, "Smuggling, Mr. Townsend?"

Halinard reeled back, saying, "Yes, but this is actually legal! It just so happens to be a commodity that I don't want getting into the wrong hands!" With a huff, he stepped forward to check inside the chest, his goal within inches of his fingers.

Unfortunately, he wouldn't live to see his goal realized, as tendrils sprung out of the chest, pulling him inside it, as a voice rang out, saying, "The Empire sends its regards."

Naturally all the players got upset, figuring he should have checked for a Mimic and wanting to find some way to save him. I guess I broke the cardinal rule of Dungeon Mastering: don't come between the PCs and the source of their money.

Anyway, the party began desperately attacking the Mimic, a bit larger than most (homebrewed Chest Mimic courtesy of D&DBeyond if anyone's wondering), trying to find a way to avoid sticking to it by using magic. Well, except for Yesmae, who struck out at the Mimic, slowly turning herself into a half-elven pretzel after accidentally smacking Jangle into a wall, after he had been grabbed by the Mimic himself.

As the fight went on, a missed shot hit a wall, and a roar of pain split the air, after which Bubbles' player shouted, "Are we fighting a Mimic inside a bigger Mimic?!"

I couldn't hold back my laughter at just how ridiculous my plan for the session had gotten.

Anyway, shortly after that, and confirming, indeed, the party was inside a giant Mimic as tendrils sprouted from the walls and started buffeting the party, Jangle got curious to see what was in the other chest. I reminded his player that, indeed, they were inside a giant Mimic, so there wouldn't likely be any treasure, and after Jangle pushed on, I confirmed that, indeed, the chest was part of the illusion the Mimic was keeping up.

It was around this time that I realized that anything touching the Mimic's surface would be stuck, so I explained my mistake to the party, who suggested that it was waiting for the party to go inside, since the second one person got stuck to the outside of the ship, the jig was up. Makes sense.

Eventually the smaller Mimic was destroyed, but Halinard was too injured to save, slowly, but surely, the party whittled down the larger one (after Somen discovered an easy exploit by Fireballing an empty area in the hold).

After the battle, the party sat together on the beach to discuss what to do now. Their sole benefactor was dead. The shipment was long gone. What now?

It was at this point that Yesmae felt it necessary to let the party in on her secret. She was, in truth, the missing princess Aveline V, heir to the Valmutian throne. When her mother started down a dark path, Yesmae fled the castle into the Western Confederation to meet with a former tutor of hers by the name of Don Chen, to train herself, body and mind, to stand against the injustices of her home kingdom. She had planned on working alongside Halinard, but that idea was shot.

Savin nodded, stating that he had his suspicions following the Doncaster incident, but opted to say nothing, leaving it up to her to reveal herself.

Somen, however, was unconvinced, and opted to cast Detect Thoughts to see if she was being dishonest. She confirmed that she was hiding nothing, and, seeing a possible opportunity to save his house, he knelt, pledging fealty to the princess as his Empress.

After some more discussion, the party boarded their airship, and they were met with Rex and Ray, Halinard's warforged. Ray started to ask if something happened, but stopped herself, and then silently walked back into her creator's office.

She returned holding an envelope. She then said, "We were instructed to give you this if something should happen the master."

Inside the envelope was a letter addressed to the party, who quickly scrambled to grab and read it. Eventually, the letter ended up in Savin's hands, and he read aloud:

To whom it may concern:
Hey guys. If you're reading this, then I guess that means that someone got to me, whether it's the empire, or pirates, or someone else. I have so many after my head at this point it's hard to keep track of them all. Regardless, consider this my last will and testament, as I can't trust any of the jokers on the mainland with this information.
I'm leaving my entire fortune and business to you. The ship, the artificial island, everything. You guys ought to be able to make better use of it than anyone else. Hing should be a good fit for running the business, but if he chooses not to, whatever. I've got nobody else to give the business to anyway. 
I'm sorry I dragged you all into my problems. I don't know what I did to deserve friends like you. I think I can rest easy knowing everything is in your hands. Rex and Ray are there to help you, as well, so make use of them. 
Also...someone take care of the cat. He's a mischievous little bastard, but he's got a good heart. 
Take care,Halinard Townsend

Closing the letter, the party sat in silence, which Ray broke by suggesting that the ship needed a name.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Kai McDragonfist And Impostor Syndrome

Around 2017 I changed my screen name on most online platforms from gamercoon, a name based on a nickname I received in high school that I never wanted, to Kai McDragonfist, and the shift might have seen kind of bizarre for those who noticed. Even more bizarre to consider that I based my screen name on something I didn't even like. Honestly, the easy answer there was I was hoping that, by morphing it into something I liked, I could settle for the fact that I was seemingly stuck with it if I ever ran into someone from my hometown who still insisted on calling me by that nickname, but it never fully sat right with me. So, naturally, when something better came along, I had no qualms about ditching it.

That something better, of course, came in the form of a crass, mouthy young monk, my first character in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. I get that that sounds incredibly out of place for a monk and I'd be lying if I said I planned that from the beginning, but he was a character that I slowly grew to love the more I stepped into his shoes.

It all started one evening in late August, 2017. My friend David offered to host a few of us at his place to play Dungeons & Dragons. Of course, this was a sudden invite to play a new system, and we weren't sure how to pull that off. It might just be because I'm slow but character creation in other tabletop RPGs tends to take forever for me, when it comes to following the exact procedure, making sure all numbers are filled in correctly, and in the worst cases, turning back and forth across the entire book to find all the information I want (thank you, Shadowrun). So I figured we'd spend a while making characters and then come back maybe the next day or the next week to play.

However, instead we were introduced to the website D&D Beyond, a fantastic service. It greatly streamlines the process of character generation. In fact, you can completely generate a character from step one with recommended stats and abilities in a few clicks, and while it isn't perfect for creating the perfect character, it is absolutely wonderful for beginners. We had the first-level characters within in a snap, only needing names to get started.

At this point, it was just expected to be a one-off, so I felt like I could get away with giving him a stupid name. His name literally was the first thing that left my mouth. And that's where I stopped, since, again, this character was likely not coming back, and because I was 100% certain whatever name I came up with next wouldn't top this one anyway.

So anyway, that one-off became a campaign that lasted nearly a year. And over the course of that campaign he quickly became one of my favorite RPG characters. Whenever I play a character in an RPG, I usually base their personality off of some aspect of my own. I use it as a bit of meditation on myself and a chance of self-expression, and I think Kai more than any other character I've played exemplified my feelings of impostor-syndrome.

This is something I've struggled with for most of my life. It doesn't matter what it is, but until very recently I've had trouble accepting my successes as anything but flukes, but holding up my failings as a shining beacon to the fact that I have the entire world fooled, that I didn't deserve to be where I was, and it was only a matter of time before everyone clued into that fact and put as much distance between themselves and me as possible. I recognize now that that line of thinking is preposterous and dangerous, but that's just the nature of how my brain has worked for most of my life, and I think Kai is a perfect example of this.

On the surface, he's super impressive. May not have the best social skills, but he's tough, dependable, confident, and only the smallest bit smarmy. However, this is all a shell to hide some really deep insecurities, jealousy, and fear of being abandoned once his many flaws are brought to light.

This isn't particularly groundbreaking writing, as many fictional characters wrestle with this sort of self-doubt, but I think my favorite thing about playing Kai was the fact that, no matter how he ended up feeling about his situations, he kept going. No matter how impossible the challenge he was facing was, no matter how grossly he was outmatched (which was a lot in this particularly campaign), no matter how many times he was knocked down or how hard he was hit (including being trampled by a horse and buggy...twice...within minutes of each other), he got back up. Like, it's the most basic anime protagonist nonsense, but dang it, it was inspirational. And that's kind of how it is, living with depression, anxiety, and impostor syndrome.

Not that one in that situation shouldn't seek aid, as therapy and medication can do wonders in that state (I've been on meds for over a year and my life has improved drastically), but, at the end of the day, those things are tools to help you with the actual battle, which is getting up when knocked down, hanging in there through the everyday ups and downs that life throws at you. While in real life, you're less likely to find yourself facing down master swordsmen, doomsday cults trying to summon demon dragon goddesses, or angry demigods enacting their own war against the heavens, that doesn't change the fact that the battles we do face in this life can only truly defeat us if we let them. As the Japanese proverb says, 七転び八起き (Fall down 7 times, get up 8). You got this.

By the way, I will be sure to write up some of those stories I referred to.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Part 5: Minor Acts of Arson

Can we go anywhere without the party splitting up and causing trouble? Probably not, but at least this time they stayed pretty close to each other.

After a few days of rest in Doncaster and getting their supplies topped off, the party set off for the Southern Isles. After a few days of smooth sailing (well, sailing in the airship sense), the party came upon a smoke signal coming off an island below, requesting aid. The party quickly conferred, discussing all the possibilities. Could be a trap. Could be legit. Could be a waste of time. Who knows? Naturally, to answer that question, again, Lord Somen Hing cast Clairvoyance to get a visual of what was below them, though he was less than pleased with the sight that awaited him.

What he saw was an encampment for a tribe of orc barbarian sailors. Naturally, the party was even more concerned about the sight, as orcs typically mean bad news, and without missing a beat, Bubbles suggested to just ignore them and leave. However, Savin, seeing a possible ally, suggested that they land the ship and hear them out. If anything went wrong, they could just leave, moving on for better opportunities. However, as it was now, the party was setting off into dangerous territory with only a general idea of where Halinard's mythril could possibly be. Any possible ally could prove indispensable in the journey to come.

The party was quickly greeted by the orc tribe's chieftain, who explained why he signaled the passing airship. The tribe had been involved in a long-standing dispute against a nearby tribe of red dragonborn wyvern riders. So long-standing, in fact, that neither tribe could even remember who struck first, as the feud had been going on for centuries. However, most recently, an orcish child was kidnapped by one of the wyvern riders for reasons not disclosed to the party. The orc chieftain offered in exchange for the party's attempted mediation in the conflict any service he or his fleet could offer in their journeys in the Southern Isles.

The party agreed, and, after Halinard opted to stay behind with the orcs, set off in the direction of the dragonborn village, making as quick a heading as possible to avoid any chance of the child getting hurt or another battle happening. After a little over a day of travel, the party saw the signs of the village and opted to land on the beach about half a day's journey away from the village to avoid drawing any more suspicion than they might already have.

Quickly the party deliberated on how to proceed, and the plan they came up with involved a quick investigation into where a captive could possibly be held, with a hopes that a quick resolution could be made without causing too much damage. In service to that, Savin, Somen, and Grula decided to walk into the town itself and investigate while Yesmae tried to keep Bubbles in line, with Jangle opting to follow the town party. Remember, at this point, the party is still completely unaware that Jangle is Awakened or that he has any idea of what they're doing, they think he's just a cat that always seems to show up where stuff happens.

So, the plan that Savin came up with involved him performing music in the town's square and trying to draw as much of a crowd as possible while Somen and Grula split up to search for anything even somewhat suspicious.

Savin quickly drew the attention of the town's elder, who, though surprised at the sudden visit from a traveling bard and his entourage, quickly offered to have him and his friends put up in the local tavern as payment for entertainment.

Somen wandered the village, searching for someone who was even vaguely close to his social standing that could speak his language, while Grula set off looking for any suspicious buildings that had guards. Thankfully, since Savin was putting on a great performance (he'd rolled insanely high), most of the village that wasn't doing anything specific had gone to see him perform, and Grula discovered a small shed not far from the square, diligently guarded by two guards. Grula paused to consider how to proceed, but before she could strike, an ear-splitting screech split the skies, the two guards quickly conferred, and one ran off in the direction of the scream.

While this was happening, unsure of there being anything worth stealing in the small village, Jangle wandered, searching for some way he could possibly aid the party without outing himself. To this day I'm not really sure what his end goal in all of this is, but on the bright side I'm not sure he knows either.

Anyway, his first idea was to find the stables where the wyverns were kept, to see if he could possibly trick a stablehand into letting one out. So I asked the player what exactly he had in mind. He suggested that he could attempt to sneak behind a wyvern and try to speak to it in the Draconic language, which he happens to speak. That obviously didn't work, so plan B was to get the attention of the stablehand and trick him into believing that the wyvern was, in actuality, a bored polymorphed red dragon.Well, Jangle rolled extremely well on his stealth check and deception check, and the poor stablehand completely botched his perception and insight checks.

So, surprise of all surprise, Jangle was able to talk circles around the poor stablehand, convincing him that he had allowed himself to be captured under the guise of a wyvern just for the heck of it, and after some more cajoling, the stablehand opened the wyvern's cage asking only that the "dragon" show its true form to him. Jangle, ignoring the request, decided to use his claws to spur the wyvern out of the cage, so I had him roll animal handling to see how the spurring worked out. didn't. He clawed a little too hard, and the wyvern, in an enraged panic, shot out of the cage and into the air, trying its darndest to shake the unseen assailant off its back. Naturally, I had Jangle make a Dex save to see if he hung on, and he completely failed. However, because of his race as an Awakened Cat, he has an ability to negate fall damage once per Long Rest, which of course he used. His mission accomplished, he ambled back towards the center of town to see how he could help the rest of the party.

Now that there was an angry wyvern circling overhead, Grula took her chance to take out the only remaining guard and try to get into shed, which, thankfully, the guard happened to have the key to the shed in his pocket. Inside the shed sat a confused and upset orc child, and upon seeing a possible way to freedom, he quickly scrambled to his feet to follow the strange bird lady to safety.

Outside of the village, Bubbles and Yesmae discussed what to do now that a wyvern had gotten out and things were getting out of hand. Bubbles wanted to stick to the plan, but Yesmae sprinted towards the village, much to Bubbles' chagrin. However, the two strange people sprinting into the village sent the wrong message to some passing guards, as they were quickly identified as those responsible.

Savin took advantage of the confusion to slip out of the tavern and follow after Grula out of the village, but not before committing a few minor acts of arson to possibly throw the dragonborn off the scent of the orcs. The group soon was able to form up and escape from the pursuing guards, travelling in the direction of the orc encampment nonststop.

Once the party dropped the child off with the orcs, Savin advised them to move onto a new location, as things were likely to get worse with the dragonborn tribe, and the chieftain agreed, promising what help he could offer in their search, having been filled-in by Halinard. Specifically speaking, he mentioned one of his scouts had seen an airship go down a little south of their encampment, and the party set off on their most solid lead since the journey began.

Friday, April 17, 2020

I Don't Care About Plot Holes

In the world of criticism of fiction, for whatever reason in the last few years, it feels like increasingly more and more emphasis has been placed upon pointing out literally every possible plot hole as a negative. What once was a game that came about from watching the same movie over and over, realizing that it's not perfect at following its own rules, has evolved (or devolved) into a downright obsession with picking apart every possible inconsistency, and to be honest, I've kind of stopped caring.

I'm not saying that pointing out plot holes or inconsistencies is invalid, as it definitely is a problem if it is bad enough that it ruins your immersion in the story. This is not a call to "turn off your brain", as I think it's good to think about pieces of media that we consume and analyze them. No, I think the problem is when the time is spent constantly nitpicking things that seem like plot holes or inconsistencies. But of course, having a standard definition of what a plot hole is would be the best place to start this discussion, and the definition I will be referring to is the one that shows up on Wikipedia, as it is the first response to a Google search.

"In fiction, a plot hole, plothole or plot error is a gap or inconsistency in a storyline that goes against the flow of logic established by the story's plot. Such inconsistencies include things as illogical, unlikely or impossible events, and statements or events that contradict earlier events in the storyline. The term is more loosely also applied to "loose ends" in a plot – side-lined story elements that remain unresolved by the end of the plot."

So, of course, a story should try its hardest to avoid contradicting itself, but one aspect of criticism for plot holes that personally bothers me is the assumption that characters making poor decisions falls under the umbrella of plot hole. It doesn't. The "obvious" solution to one viewer may not be so obvious to another viewer, so naturally, expecting it to be so obvious to the characters in the story is unreasonable.

Slightly related to that, having the story not go the way the viewer wants it to is also not a plot hole, though that also gets into the subjectivity of writing as well. Basically, much of the common things that are considered plot holes aren't actually plot holes.

So what of the ones that do fall under that definition, the actual plot holes? Certainly I must care about those, right? Well, yes and no. Yes because, as said, the less effort a story puts towards following its own rules, the less the audience is going to care. Duh. But by the same token, if we're going to start throwing a fit over every instance of "unlikely or impossible events", good luck finding any media to consume. Not saying it's impossible, but considering how many "cinematic masterpieces" have huge plot holes (the Storm Troopers should have shot the escape pod, nobody was in the room to hear "Rosebud," etc), making a list of movies completely free of plot holes is certainly a project.

Admittedly, this whole thing is super subjective. It's a question of how much one is able to stomach. That's actually why I struggled finding a title for this article. I didn't want to steal from the video everyone's seen entitled "Shut Up About Plot Holes", but wanted to emphasize that I personally don't care about plot holes. Not that you shouldn't, especially when they're particularly egregious. I personally like Alfred Hitchcock's perspective on the subject. "They don't (x) because it's dull." Basically, if, in fixing the "plot hole" the story gets less interesting, I'd rather it not happen. Sure, it would probably be better if the plot hole wasn't there at all, but if the rest of the story is interesting, I'm not going to throw a fit if not everything makes perfect sense.

Friday, April 10, 2020

That Time Our Bard Accidentally Started A Zombie Apocalypse

...Yeah. Normally when I say a character goes full bard, it involves trying to seduce another character for gain, be it money, information, or favors. However in this case, it comes more from the bard not giving due consideration to her actions, which wasn't out of character for her by any means, but I would say this was the worst example of this particular trait cropping up. Full disclosure, this bard was played by my wife, and she gave me permission to throw some shade.

Setting the stage, we were travelling to find a way to hatch some dragon eggs that ended up in our possession after stopping a cult from summoning the draconic goddess Tiamat. After the ritual was disrupted, several of the eggs were destroyed with us making it out with two of them, hoping to hatch them be honest I'm not 100% sure on what the plan with them afterward was, but whatever, not important.

Part of our travel involved us taking a raft down a river, as it was faster than walking along the banks. Well, a few days into the journey we noticed a couple of different symbols cut into the trees on either bank of the river, but nobody was able to figure out where they came from.

Long story short, orcs. On each side of the river. And one morning we were awakened to our raft (and the horse-drawn carriage on it) being peppered with arrows. They wouldn’t be reasoned with, they wanted us dead and wouldn’t accept anything less, so we attempted to escape

Well, that was the idea, anyway. In this particular game, my character was a monk whom the GM has previously allowed/encouraged to use ki points in order to do feats of strength beyond what’s in the PHB and other books, such as throwing one of the other PCs for one reason or another, and this time our Dwarf Fighter wanted to be thrown to one of the riverbanks to try to fend off the orcs. Bear in mind this is a force of about 15 on each side of the river riding on direwolves, so they were fast and their numbers were great. A bad idea in its purest form.

So naturally I went along with it since our Dwarf had shown himself capable of doing ridiculous things like this before/the GM just kinda went with it. His player believes that cool stories are what make tabletop RPGs fun, and I’m not going to complain about that.

Anyway, after a few dice rolls, the Dwarf was in the fray against a group of orcs and the rest of the party was focused on trying to shake the rest of them. We weren't sure how the Dwarf would fare against the horde, and my character decided to jump off the raft and swim to shore. While this was happening, on the raft, our Red Dragonborn Paladin was...encouraged by the GM to attempt to use his flame breath in combination with a magical item that he was carrying that would amplify it in order to turn himself into a makeshift jet engine to speed up the raft. The cone of flame extending from him reached far enough on shore to actually completely scorch a huge chunk of the orc forces. Why this idea was planted in his head is something I’ll come back to, but either way, my character made it to the shore and started fighting his way to the group of orcs that the Dwarf was then in the process of...completely annihilating. I didn’t really need to do anything here.

Anyway, since my character was flanking one of the mounted orcs, a simple attack would have sufficed to get the jump on them. Instead, however, I opted to, quoting myself, “Do something stupid.” I told the GM that I wanted to jump onto the direwolf and throw the mounted orc off, and after a strength check that should have ended poorly (this character's strength isn’t that fantastic), not only was the orc off the direwolf, but after a quick dice roll from the GM, it was determined that he fell into the river, which was currently picking up speed. A few rounds and dice rolls later, it was determined that this orc drowned instead of reaching safety.

After dispatching the remaining orcs on that side of the river, the two of us that were ashore mounted the freshly terrified direwolf and began making their way to the raft that the rest of the party was now struggling to keep under control in the high speeds. The orc force on the other side of the river was now beginning to break off, the raft began to slow down, and the PCs reconvened to plan their next move.

For whatever reason, it occurred to our wood-elf bard to attempt to find one of the dead orcs, reanimate it with magic, and attempt to get it to tell us why we were attacked, and in short order, a freshly drowned orc floated to the raft. Well, we never figured out why they attacked us, but as a consolation our bard decided to command him to return to its home, and even gave him a name, Frank. As in, Frankenstein. Because all he could do was moan. Yeah. Anyway, Frank then started walking in the same direction the raft was headed, so out of curiosity (I guess) we followed it to a fortress that controlled a gate on the river.

Some more shenanigans later, and our bard got to Frank infiltrate his own ranks and open the gate on the river. As in, she commanded him to go in, walk to the control room of the gate, and open it. Which of course meant some dice rolls that Frank (somehow) effortlessly passed, tricking his poor brethren into more or less doing our bidding for us.

Anyway, about the river. Turns out the gate had completely dammed the river, causing it to dry up on the other side, because once the gate opened, the raft was gushed through at a breakneck speed. The GM later said that, because he had planned this part of the map, he’d hoped that our the Paladin would exhaust his flame breath before the gate so we wouldn’t be tempted to make things worse.

Anyway, gate’s open and we have a zombie that our bard is soon to lose control over, so what does she do? Tell him to go untie one of the horses we left behind at the fortress and then stab himself. You’ll notice I said stab himself, not kill himself. So he did just that. Untied the horse, sent it on its way, pulled out a knife, stabbed himself, did a small amount of damage, and then wandered back into the fortress, where I’m sure it’ll NEVER bother anybody ever again.

Is what I would say if it weren’t for the crap eating grin on the GM’s face as he made a few dice rolls, and, at the end, happily stated that, “Frank had a REALLY good day after you guys left.”

So, in true RPG hero fashion, we saved the day by making everything worse. Awesome.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Part 4: The One Where Everyone Gets Really Violent For Some Reason

Remember how last time I started the post by saying that the party managed to keep a low profile? And remember how Savin was usually considered the voice of reason, the one who was most likely to deescalate bad situations? Also, do you remember how Savin tried to assassinate Orkovac, by himself while the party was split up?

Yeah, there were always going to be some consequences for that.

Confused at the sudden shower of glass and hobgoblin, Somen quickly cast his eyes round about the square to see several goblins run off in different directions, including one rushing past him into the mansion, as the rest of the townsfolk quickly tried to escape from the shortly-ensuing brawl.

Seizing his opportunity to finish the job before things got worse, Savin quickly cast Feather Fall on himself and leaped out the window, gently floating to the ground. However, while he was on his way to the ground, Orkovac quickly stood and, after reaching for an absent weapon, threw up his hands and cast a Fire Bolt at Savin.

Fortunately for Savin, in his haste to fire off the spell, Orkovac missed Savin completely, instead hitting and igniting part of the house. Unfortunately, upon landing, Savin was rushed by one of the remaining goblins, taking a glancing blow while trying to dodge the goblin's short sword.

Seeing his opportunity to escape to a safe distance, Orkovac threw himself a decent distance behind two other goblins, planning to use magic to defeat his new foe while his two goblin flunkies tried to form a decent line of defense for their boss.

I say they tried because, seeing an opportunity to quickly solve the problem without much collateral damage, Somen cast a quick Fireball, quickly scorching the two goblins, leaving Orkovac completely unprotected.

Seeing an opportunity, Savin rushed at Orkovac with his rapier drawn. Orkovac, seeing an opportunity, once again threw up his hands to cast a spell, this time a Scorching Ray. Again, completely missing his target. This is a common problem with my villains. By the time the fight rolls around, their rolls are complete garbage.

By this time, the rest of the party had become aware of the brawl that had broken out and regrouped to give their friends some backup, as more goblins arrived. Seeing that this was as good an opportunity as any, Bubbles shouted, "Goblins, attack!" sending his new (still very drunk) friends into the fray.

Yesmae seized a chance to help Savin deal with Orkovac, and...well...

Okay so it wasn't quite that gory. Still, she did jump in and use Flurry of Blows on a pretty beat-up enemy, so he wasn't going to last long once the rest of the party joined the fray.

However, Orkovac had one thing hidden away in case of emergency that, while I informed Somen's player of because he had spoken to Admiral Dicken about it, I forgot to mention it in the last entry.

That detail, of course, was a troll.

Blasting the mansion's front door off its hinges, the troll scrambled through, goblin in hand. Well, for a moment, anyway, because shortly after the troll its goblin directly at the party, hitting Bubbles and knocking him flat.

The party focused all its attacks on the troll, Somen launching a fireball and Grula firing at it with her longbow, before Savin got the idea to try to intimidate it back into the burning building so the party could make a clean getaway. To do this, he quickly cast Dissonant Whispers, causing the troll to have auditory hallucinations.

Gripped with a new sense of paralyzing fear, the troll quickly dashed back into the mansion, trying to carve (literally) a direct path through the mansion and away from Savin.

However, because she wanted to avoid causing any unnecessary casualties, though the rest of the party moved to escape with Savin, Yesmae dashed after the troll into the collapsing house, eager to finish it off.

Grula rushed after Yesmae in hopes of pulling her out of the house before she could be hurt, but all that resulted was a tug-of-war between two characters with low Strength stats. What a gripping battle that was. A contested strength check with Yesmae rolling an 11. And winning. Because Grula rolled a 10.

Anyway, with Grula's urging, Yesmae decided the best bet would be to make a few more attacks on the troll to weaken it, her player reasoning that it would make the troll less likely to survive the collapsing mansion. Unbeknownst to her, the troll was already on its last legs anyway.

After her last attack, Yesmae spent a ki point to use Step of the Wind to avoid provoking an attack of opportunity from the troll, grabbed Grula, and booked it out of the house, troll in hot pursuit (I'm not sorry).

While this was happening, Bubbles quickly resuscitated the goblin that had been thrown at him (doing enough damage to both to actually reduce the goblin to 0 hit points), suggesting that the goblin join the party's crew. After this, he stood and watched the door, waiting for an opportunity for a clear shot with the pistol I kept forgetting he had (despite deciding from the outset that early firearms exist in this setting), Bubbles used his Heat Metal ability to, well...heat a bullet, the idea to add 2d8 fire damage to his shot. You might think this is an incredibly stupid idea, since this could accidentally ignite the gunpowder used for the pistol shot, and you're right. So I warned Bubbles' player about the risks if the gun misfired, though thankfully apparently Bubbles has read up on his gun safety practices, since his player suggested that if it misfired, he planned on having the barrel of the gun not pointing at himself or anyone else.

Naturally, this is an idea I put in my back pocket for future use, but for now, the shot connected with the troll, doing enough damage on its own to finish the troll off barring possible regeneration, as trolls in D&D can regain health if not attacked with fire or acid damage.

Oh boy wouldn't it be a shame if someone had shot the troll with a flaming sphere of steel doing an extra 2d8 fire damage oh wait that's exactly what happened, and the troll doubled back, bursting into flames.

But wait, you say, what about Jangle? Ah yes, what about Jangle indeed, for you see, while the party was locked in combat against Orkovac, the troll, and the goblins, Jangle took an opportunity to sneak into the (need I remind you, collapsing and on fire) mansion to search for loot to steal, deigning to try to escape from the third floor window when things got too hectic.

Again, I like to think of myself as a fair DM. I don't believe in telling my players that they can't do something if it's something they could reasonably pull off with their abilities (or at the very least some creativity), so I made sure to warn Jangle's player that Jangle was, in fact, a cat, so he wouldn't be able to get much, nor would he have much of a chance of survival if the house collapsed, and that I wasn't going to pull punches. So I rolled a few d20s, basically reasoning that, if I rolled above a certain threshold, parts of the house would collapse.

Well, my terrible rolls struck again, and Jangle made it out of the house unscathed with a decent amount of cash.

As the fight reached its conclusion, the city's guards reached the location in front of the house, demanding an explanation of what had happened. The surviving goblins circled around Bubbles, who pointed at Savin, with Savin responding, "What makes you think it was me?"

Bubbles then said, "You are good at talking. You talk."

Savin, realizing he wasn't thrown under the bus, quickly composed himself and explained everything that had happened to the guard captain, who quickly thanked the party, offering them a place to stay and clearance to leave when necessary, as he considered the possibility that, since the mayor was now nowhere to be found, he was suddenly the one in charge of keeping the now destabilized town from falling into chaos, and the party returned to the tavern to celebrate a job well done.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Life Under COVID-19 Quarantine

So...elephant in the room. I used the Coronavirus outbreak as an excuse to start this blog. I wanted a place to throw up D&D recaps as well as whatever else I felt like writing, be them thoughts on things I like, short stories, whatever, and since my current job is working at a low capacity and I wanted to stay home for the sake of not making anything worse if I could avoid it, I needed something productive to do anyway.

It's actually kind of funny. I had actually applied to a graduate program near where I live, and I got rejected about a month before this all happened, and while at the time, it was a huge bummer, it's interesting seeing how little that's come to matter. And I don't say that for fear that we're heading for a depression or that the market will never recover or anything like that. I truly think we're going to make it through this. But it is interesting to see how my daily life has become, both in ways it's changed and ways it hasn't.

There are definitely a few obvious ways that life has changed. Obviously, I can't really go to a lot of places I used to. I've become acutely aware of how often I touch my face. My internal clock is all out of whack, though admittedly because I work early mornings it wasn't exactly normal in the first place, and returning to that schedule will be an adjustment.

Branching off the difference in schedules, on a positive note I get to spend a lot more time with my wife, who is also stuck at home because her place of work is closed until further notice. Sure, she has been busy working on things for her job from home, but considering the fact that she worked a normal day schedule, what little time we got to spend together during the week was in the evenings before I would go to bed. From that, the fact that we're home at the same time is a bit of an unexpected upgrade.

All that being said, surprisingly there are a few ways my life hasn't changed all that much since the outbreak.

I think I'm more or less used to the toll that solitude can take on a person's psyche. I say that because it's an observation I'm making on a discord server I am a part of. On an almost daily basis you can see how the lack of social interaction is affecting the various members there, something that likely isn't helped by the constant news coverage. It's on everyone's minds, so everyone is, naturally, on edge. That being said, for whatever reason, maybe since I'm used to being by myself for long stretches of time during the day, maybe I've unconsciously just gotten better at coping with that.

The fact that I can't go anywhere kind of sucks, but to be honest it isn't as if I had a lot of places to go before this all happened anyway. I live outside of a nearby city, so going anywhere involved a 15 minute or so drive anyway, so I usually didn't go anywhere unless I was already in the area or had other things to do in that area. What? Gas is expensive.

The real question will be how much life will continue to be disrupted, but I suppose the best thing to say is stay safe, don't go anywhere if you don't have to, stop hoarding all the freaking toilet paper, and hang in there. We're gonna make it through this.

Here Comes A New Article!

I actually got an article published on the LDS Gamers Blog on my thoughts on the new Animal Crossing, a series I have absolutely zero experience with! You should go check it out if you haven't already!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Se'Kai Part 3: Why Are We Splitting The Party Again?

This one was a long one. Remember kids, don't split the party, unless you really want to make your DM work harder than he was planning!

Somehow the party was able to keep a low profile throughout the night while the city was searched, and the next morning they met to formulate a plan of how to get out. After gathering some information, the party discovered that the goblins were working under the command of the hobgoblin Orkovac the Wrath, and while there was the necessary high level of organization for the goblins and hobgoblins to take over the city of Doncaster, there was a distinct lack of camaraderie among the goblins. Orkovac was notorious for playing favorites with his soldiers, and put his favorites in the richer areas of the city, securing for himself the mansion the city's mayor, Admiral Elias Dicken, leaving those who hadn't gained his favor to make their scant living in the slums. The inequality suggested that, if Orkovac and his posse just disappeared, the goblins would leave for greener pastures.

Naturally, when presented with a decent spread of information over several areas in the city, the party did the most logical thing possible.

Oh, wait, that would be finding which house in particular Orkovac was staying at, rolling up as a group, and ending him.

No, the party decided to split up, with Somen and Savin wanting to, in their own ways, scope out the richer parts of the city, Jangle going back to the ship for his knife, and Bubbles taking Yesmae and Grula to the slums to see if they could gather some more information on any weaknesses that Orkovac had or easy ways he could be reached.


Bubbles, Grula, and Yesmae slowly made their way to the slums of the city. It definitely appeared that, perhaps a half-century ago, this was a rather busy center of commerce, but with the passage of time, as the city expanded and new districts sprang up, this once-lively neighborhood soon lay forgotten to all but those who could afford no better.

It did not take long for the group to spot a handful of bored-looking goblins. Before they could agree on a plan, Bubbles quickly greeted the goblins.

The goblins, not sure how to respond, quickly muttered among themselves. One finally broke the silence, asking, "Who are you and what do you what?"

"Ah, I'm sorry. My friends and I were just passing through. My name is," and then, in typical Kenku fashion, Bubbles gave the true pronunciation of his name, imitating the sound of boiling water.

Naturally, the goblins had zero idea how to respond to that, to which Bubbles said, "Bubbles is also fine. Anywho we were wondering how it is that you guys ended up in the slums."

"Orkovac is a-" followed by an unseemly insult in the Goblinish language. "He led us in this campaign as a way to get us out of caves and into some decent living, but then he just holed up where all those classy people are with his friends."

Bubbles, seeing an opportunity, said, "Oh, what do you say we step into that tavern over there and chat about this?"

The goblins agreed, and they entered.

Not long after, the Bubbles had encouraged the goblins to drink themselves into thinking that a revolt, followed by joining up with our ragtag group of heroes starting the next day, would be a good idea. And I mean, I tried. I actually had everyone who was drinking roll a quick Constitution Save, and while Bubbles was fine, the goblins got completely smashed. So I, as the DM, resolved that, if the players could pull this off, they might have a few new crew mates.


Irritated about being volunteered to attempt to speak with the richer citizens of the city, Somen spent some time considering how best to approach the situation. He followed the wall of the richer, uptown area, to its one opening, a gate manned by a quiet, unassuming guardsman, seated, bored, reading a book.

Upon seeing the well-dressed nobleman approaching him, the guardsman quickly put down his book and bowed to Somen. "I do apologize, welcome, welcome, to what do we owe the pleasure of a visit from such a distinguished..."

"Lord. Lord Somen Hing. I just happened to be passing through on holiday and hoped to stop by to leave my favor with the mayor. I've heard that he's indisposed,"

"Oh, he ain't that busy at the moment. Let me check his schedule." He then flipped through another book on the desk of the guard station. "It looks like he's not expecting anybody."

Somen smirked at this comment. Of course the mayor wasn't busy. If he was alive he was likely doing nothing. The fact that he wasn't held in a jail cell likely meant that the goblins were having him take care of all the official city business while they gorged themselves on whatever they could find. Important work, certainly, but he would not be busy. Certainly not too busy to briefly speak with a traveling noble. If any of the plebeians in this city had that kind of sense, it would be the mayor.

"Right, so if you'll kindly show me your papers, I can let you through."

Somen grimaced. The papers, right, the one thing he had hoped he would not have to draw upon. Hopefully any unsavory news Somen was trying to escape would not have reached this guardsman's ears. Wanting to avoid making an unnecessary scene, Somen produced the necessary documents.

The guardsman quickly leafed through the papers. "Ah yes, everything appears to be in order. Uter, you say? That's quite a long way from here."

"Yes, as I said, I am on holiday."

"Well, I see no issues. Carry on." He handed the paper back to Somen.

Somen tried to offer no clue to his thoughts. "Where am I to go?"

"Ah yes, right, the mayor's manor. Biggest one at the top of the hill. You can't miss it."

"Thank you." Somen continued through the gate, up the hill to the indicated mansion, a three-story mansion with a large circular window in the center of the top floor.

The meeting with the mayor was as awkward as it was brief, until Somen used the Message spell to telepathically speak with the mayor about what was really happening, quickly gleaning much of the same information as the party in the slums, with the added knowledge that Orkovac was residing in the mayor's manor, currently gorging himself in the mayor's chambers. Somen promised to bring his friends back and quickly take care of Orkovac to bring the city back to some semblance of normal.


As Savin watched Somen enter the more wealthy district of the city, he considered what options he had, and then he flipped a coin.

"Tch, tails. Looks like I'm about to do something really stupid."

Making sure Somen had a decent lead on him, Savin also made his way to the same guard station. Naturally, the guard was confused at not one, but two unscheduled visits. "Yes, how can I help you, sir?" he asked.

"Oh, I don't mean to cause any trouble, I am but a simple travelling musician. I was hoping to drop in on Orkovac and offer my services."

The guard paused for a bit, and then said, "Well, I don't know, I just let someone else through, and I don't want to draw any undue attention."

Savin casually produced a few coins from a pouch hidden in his sleeve. "Perhaps this can sweeten the deal?"

The guard hesitated, then reached for the coins. "You know, maybe some levity would cause the goblins to loosen up a bit. Go ahead, sir, but, try not to cause any trouble. Though that shouldn't matter. I'm grabbing my family and leaving." With that, he quickly pocketed the gold and sprinted out of the guard station and into the city. Savin shrugged and continued up to the mansion, where he was stopped by a human guard doing his rounds, followed closely by a few goblins.

"What business brings you here, bard?"

"Good afternoon, I am Savin Breen, and I have come to introduce myself to Orkovac, and possibly work out a deal with him to perform music for him."

The guard nervously looked at the goblins, who nodded, and he said, "Yes, of course, I shall show you to his chambers."

Following the guard up to the third floor, Sabin took note of the mansion, trying to commit to memory any important features in case he should return or make a quick escape.

The guard sheepishly knocked at the door, and announced the arrival of a musician. From the other side of the door came some grumbling, before it was opened, revealing a rather annoyed hobgoblin. "Let him in, let's get this over with."

Savin introduced himself, taking note of the spacious room that Orkovac had claimed as his own. In particular, he noticed a large circular window at the edge of the room, overlooking the city below. As they discussed a possibility of organizing a concert, Savin walked towards the window. He sighed. This is a lovely view of the city, don't you think?"

Orkovac stood and walked to the window in front of Savin. "Y'know, it is, ain't it?"

"What drove you to take over this city?"

Orkovac, a little taken aback by the forwardness of the question, shrugged. "I just wanted something more for myself and my crew than what we were getting before. Hiding in caves and beating up traveling adventurer parties isn't exactly the most lucrative business."

"Haven't you paid any mind to what your actions could be doing to these townsfolk, by disrupting their lives?"

"I let them do what they want, they just have to make sure to pay regular tribute to myself and my crew. Anyway, it's nothing different from the way I was treated in the caves."

Savin frowned. Hopefully, Lady Luck was feeling generous.

Savin drew his rapier and lunged at Orkovac, the flourish of which combined with Orkovac's genuine surprise at the assault sent him careening through the window to the streets below, right as Somen was passing through the front door...

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Se'Kai Part 2: Big Trouble In Little Doncaster

Upon landing in Doncaster, the party was informed that their ship was to be searched again. Halinard excused the party to go explore the town while he dealt with this problem.

Bubbles, being impressed with the silks that the textile merchant was carrying, had purchased some the night before, with the intention of having a suit made of them once he could find a tailor.

"How fast do you think you can have this done?" Bubbles asked.

"Ah, should have it done by tomorrow, but uh...not like you guys are gonna be going anywhere, right?"

"No, we're leaving tonight."

"That...might be difficult."


"Whaddaya mean, we can't leave?" Halinard demanded of the guards.

The head guard leaned in close and said, "We've got a bit of a situation here." He then directed the party to look more closely at the town, where they saw an abnormally large number of goblins wandering around.

"The city has been taken over, and while they're more or less letting us go about our daily lives, they've reminded us time and again that our families could be at risk if any funny business happens, and they've made a habit of demanding things of travelling parties who happen upon our lovely city. Do be careful."

Halinard groaned. "Well, you guys go check out the city, and find Bubbles. I'll hang back and take care of this."


After being informed of the blockade, Bubbles and Yesmae, along with Jangle whom Bubbles had been carrying with him, returned to the ship to secure some of the that Bubbles had been storing on the ship. Quickly whipping up potions to disguise himself as a goblin and Yesmae as a human, Bubbles and Yesmae infiltrated the ship to grab his things, while Jangle sneaked back into Halinard's chambers to make sure that his own stash was secure.

It was not.

Seeing a guard walk out with a bag full of things that Jangle recognized as his own, Jangle quickly resolved to get it back by whatever means necessary. So, he pretended to be a cat to get the guard to let his...umm...guard down, where he was able to climb onto the guard's shoulder. Jangle's player then said, "Since he's distracted, I'm gonna use Mage Hand to draw my dagger and attack him!"

"Okay," I thought. "He's a rogue, it won't be that bad, right?"

No. He's a rogue. Which means he has Sneak Attack whenever he gets advantage or is flanking, and he most certainly caught this guard unawares. Not only did he roll maximum damage on the initial hit, totaling 8 damage, but of the 3d6 he rolled for Sneak Attack damage, he got a 6, a 5, and a 6. So, in total that's 25. Now, I wasn't planning on this becoming combat, so I had to quickly pull up the guard's stat block because I had hoped that the poor guy would survive long enough to blow the whistle.

Fifth Edition guards are at a 1/8 CR with a grand total of 11 Hit Points! Yeah. He dead. He very dead.

He so dead in fact that when Bubbles, who was a room away, heard the violent thud against the ground, Bubbles was completely unable to resuscitate him.

And since Jangle was quickly able to hide the dagger, in-universe, nobody knew who the culprit of this assassination was, and naturally everyone was on-edge.

Thankfully for Bubbles and his player's quick thinking, Bubbles quickly took charge of the situation to send the rest of the guards on a wild goose chase and get off the ship with Yesmae, while Jangle slinked off to rehide his stash.


While all this was going on, Somen had stormed off to get away from all the poor people he was surrounded by, while Grula and Savin followed close by to ensure nothing happened. Eventually, their wanderings took them down an alley where they were accosted by a group of goblins led by a hobgoblin. Since the goblins were bunched together, and since his patience was already ground to near nothingness, Somen quickly fired off a Fireball to thin the ranks of the goblins.

Now that the situation had escalated, the lead hobgoblin blew a whistle for backup, and Savin and Grula quickly joined the fray to dispatch the hobgoblin before help could arrive.

Naturally I, as the Dungeon Master, was not going to take the sudden nuking of my first actual combat encounter in this setting lying down, so I did what any self-respecting DM would do in this situation. I spawned the exact three goblins, this time surrounding the party and forcing them to fight more tactically.

Also with the party possibly ending up in explosion range, I put some pressure on Somen to not nuke all his problems to oblivion. So I won this round.

Anyway, the party quickly mopped up the remaining goblins, knocking the final one into the main thoroughfare, drawing the attention of more people who were already starting to gather around on account of explosion. This gathering of people also included Halinard and the other party members, wondering just what the heck happened while Savin quickly and quietly pulled them into a nearby tavern to first scold Somen on his lack of deescalation skills, second to wait for things to quiet down so they could formulate a strategy for getting out of the city.

After making a deal with the innkeeper for room in exchange for musical performance courtesy of Savin, the party waited for things to die down...

Se'Kai Part 1: Introductions and Getting Up To Speed

This is a setting I have been working on, and as it is a work in progress, there are bound to be slip-ups and inconsistencies, but I will try to keep that at a minimum. The party is all starting at Fifth Level as a means of giving them (and myself as the Dungeon Master) more options.

Since time immemorial, the Holy Valmutian Empire stood as a symbol of peace and prosperity in the land of Se’Kai, seemingly blessed by the gods themselves. It is this Blessing that Valmutian rulers have attempted to live worthy of, as the belief was that as long as the current empress walked upright in the eyes of gods and her subjects, the land would continue to prosper.

In the midst of this prosperity, technology has rapidly progressed, as ancient technology melded with modern engineering to produce such miracles as steam, airships, and trains. However, this peace hides some unseemly secrets, and now especially under the rule of Empress Aveline IV, this prosperity seems to be wavering. As there always seems to be, bandits and pirates are there to attempt to plunder what goods are produced. At the same time, at least as far as anyone is able to tell, the Empress herself has been growing more tyrannical, seeing enemies where there previously were none, mobilizing the Valmutian military against her former allies, conducting witch hunts against her own counselors, staging mock trials and public executions, all these things to the extent that her own daughter, Aveline V, stole away in the middle of the night and has not been seen in three years.

While this is going on, rumors begin running rampant of ghost ships, cults, and other dark powers threatening to pull down what little stability there still is.

It is in this time of strife that our heroes were called upon by a mutual acquaintance named Halinard Townsend, a Halfling merchant, formerly chief airship engineer for Valmutia.

Our party includes Bubbles, a Kenku Artificer; Grula Rekaa, an Aarakocra Fighter; Jangle, an Awakened Cat Rogue that had been staying in Halinard's office; Lord Somen Hing of Uter, a Human Wizard; Savin Breen, a Human Bard; and Yesmae, a Half-Elf Monk. Details of their pasts will be given as things are revealed throughout the campaign, but at this time each character has secrets of their own.

Our story began with the party meeting in Halinard's office on his private island, discussing the mission which he had called them for. He had been expecting a large shipment of mythril from the mines in the Southern Isles, but once the schedule began to slip he quickly cobbled together a team to investigate the disappearance before the shipment fell into the hands of pirates or worse. They set off in his newest experimental airship, so new in fact he hadn't even given it a name, hoping to quickly find the shipment and retrieve it.

After a short time travelling and getting a chance for the party to get to know one-another, they landed in a small city to refuel and stock up on supplies. The party broke to explore the city and gather information. Savin made use of his musical prowess to draw a crowd, from which he was able to glean gossip about a group of pirates in the Southern Isles aboard the ship The Fury of the Small.

While this was happening, Grula met a textile merchant on the run to transport his illegal silkworms to another city. That was his cover story, anyway. The party never found his real motivations.

Halinard was a little wary about transporting the merchant, as was Savin, both wishing to avoid drawing attention to themselves via any form of illegal activity, but Halinard conceded, as the party could use the extra cash.

En route to the next major city, Doncaster, the party was awakened to the sound of an alarm going off. Rex and Ray, the two Warforged Halinard had created to help him run the ship, had spotted a suspicious airship that had been following them. Sensing a trap, the party quickly met to discuss a possible solution. Somen Hing offered to cast Clairvoyance to see if he could glean what the other ship was up to, as the ship was within the spell's cast radius, and most of the crew seemed to be on deck.

The ship was full of bounty hunters after the textile merchant. Seeing an opportunity to peacefully resolve the situation, the the party quickly hatched a plan. Using Bubbles' Bag of Holding, the party would hide the merchant and consent to being searched. Savin insisted that he would do the talking, and the party tried to act as naturally as possible. Well...most of them. Yesmae, fearing that the bounty hunters were after her, decided to try hiding under her bed in her cabin.

She rolled a 10.

Naturally the person searching her room saw her feet sticking out from under the bed. In a mildly annoyed tone of voice, he asked, "What're you doing?"

She slid out from under the bed and muttered an apology, after which the bounty hunter examined her closely. "You...look familiar," he said. "D'you or one of yer relatives have a bounty on yer heads?"

"No," she quickly replied.

"Ah, guess you must have one of those faces." He then quietly ducked out of the room.

The bounty hunters, seeing that they'd found nothing, bade the party safe travels and left, and soon enough the party landed in Doncaster, seeing the merchant off.

However, once in Doncaster, the party noticed that the people were acting strangely...