To the Gellesian Fields Part 10

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At a Michcon convention in the 1970’s I met Gary Gygax, the co-creator of D&D.  I remember him saying that playing the game was akin to writing a novel.  That always stuck in the back of my mind as a neat idea.  We all think this, but few ever put it into action – to actually script the game sessions as a book.  Hence this effort.

Thus continues the novelization of our current Dungeons and Dragons campaign.  Note: At the bottom of this post is the links to the previous segments if you have not been keeping up.

Althalus…

I limped the church in Whiterock with a bit of a wry grin on my face.  My gait was still erratic, but slightly better than in previous days.  I was coping with my injury as best I could.  Entering the temple, I was reminded all too well of the church’s disdain for magic that was not practiced by their priests.  They had been purging those that practiced the art arcane for years. Just admitting you were a practitioner of non-church magic was enough to bring down the wrath of the church.  It did not bother me as much as it caused them fear.

The church had a lot to fear.  I was a warlock, a Keeper of the Great Fire, Ushers of the Great Old One.  Our numbers in Whiterock were few, but it was more than enough to keep our mission ongoing.  While the church wasted time on mortal souls, our quest was much more complicated.  Bringing about the end of the world was something that consumed souls, even those that the church claimed to save.

The temple itself smelled of beeswax, incense, and false hope – at least in my mind.  The priest war long flowing robes and seemed to float across the dark wooden floors to me.  “What brings you here my son?”  The old man always made me edgy.  Some of it was the concern that he would learn that I was a warlock, but some of it was just his strange, almost always happy demeanor. Men that are always happy carry the darkest secrets – or so my sect-master says.

“This,” I said, pulling up my britches to show my leg where the cockatrice had bitten me.  The skin was gray and hard like a stone, a large patch that stretched from just above my knee and up almost to my codpiece.  “I was hoping you could heal me.”

The priest leaned in and touched the stoneskin almost apprehensively.  “How did you get this injury?”

“A cockatrice.”

The old priest shook his head.  “This is beyond me.  I will say a prayer for you though.”

“Save it,” I replied.  “I don’t need your prayer, I need a cure.”  I turned and shuffled out. The entire encounter summed up my dealings with the church.  They were always there in life when I didn’t need them, offering me things I couldn’t use.  That was one of the reasons I had embraced the Dark Ones. At least they offered power in exchange for my service.

I made my way to Braxton Oldsford’s home, a member of my sect.  I knocked and he and Dumar Ultard were there at the door.  “You’ve returned!” he exclaimed and ushered me in.  Ultard bombarded me with questions about the Gellesian Fields and the creatures we had faced there.  Both were interested in my stoneskin, though neither had any idea of how to cure it.

Inevitably the talk turned to the demon skull that had possessed, albeit only for a few short days.  “I have heard that such artifacts speak to you…is that true?” Oldsford asked.

“It did speak to me, though it did so in dissonant voices.  I could not understand much of what it said.  It was as if it were trying to impart something on me, pass on some message.”

Their mouths hung agape at my words.  “None of us have ever dared march into that haunted battlefield, yet you Althalus, you went there and found such an artifact.  To hold the skull of a demon it is said gives you power over them in the hells.  Where is it now?”

My lips curled.  “I was forced to surrender it by my comrades.”

“You no longer have it?” Ultard asked.

I glared at him, always the idiot.  “What part of ‘surrender’ did you not understand?  We were waylaid by a member of the Sisterhood of the Sword.  It was necessary to turn it over to her to get what we went after.  Now we must recover then go onto Karn and finish this fool’s errand.” I was far from happy about being little more than messengers for the long-dead Gray Rider.  This was not getting me closer to my goal…bringing about the end of the world.

Braxton Oldsford nodded then went to the large red leather tome he kept above his fireplace.  He carried it down.  “You have done well Althalus, better than any of the others of our sect,” he shot a disappointed glace over at Ultard.  “I impart on you the second rites – the spell for those that have communed with the dead.”  He handed me the sacred book.”

“What kind of magic does it hold?”

“You are only ready for those of the second verse – but you are more than ready.  Read on and choose your spells wisely.”

I was stunned.  Only Oldsford had ever read the second or third verses of the book.  “You honor me.”

“Nay,” he replied.  “You have heard the voices of the dead.  That is your first step down a greater path my young friend.  I see much of me in you.  Learn your new spells.  I foresee that this journey you are on is much longer than you anticipate.  You will venture far into the world, which has been foreseen in the fires.  You alone may be one of the few that brings about the return of the Great Old One.”

The disappointment in Ultard’s eyes gave me some happiness.  “I will not fail.”

“Study – learn what you are able – and prepared.  Your journey is a long one.”

* * * * *

For two days I stayed in my room, only leaving to eat and shit.  The spells in the second verse were difficult to understand at first.  The more I read and re-read them, the more they began to make sense.  I practiced at night, so my comrades wouldn’t see me.  Theren had gone off to his sacred grove, and Arius went to the temple daily to pray and meditate.  Galinndan hung with his friends from the Thieves Guild, drinking with the money he had paid them.  Bor – Bor just practiced with his sword.  On the second day I finally understood the words and could speak in incantations with some degree of accuracy.  The spells worked! The power came to me as a trickle at first, but as I mastered the new spells-arcane, it became a tidal wave.

On the third day Theren returned looking overly rested.  “We should be leaving for Karn,” he announced at breakfast. “I am now ready.”  Arius and the rest had traded some of our treasure for horses.  He called his Rollo, which seemed a strange name for a horse.  Theren’s was named Drago, which was somewhat sinister sounding for the druid.  We had all used our few days to recover and recoup, though I was still plagued with my stoneskin growth.

“Did the trees tell you it was time to go?” I asked, allowing myself a grin at his expense.  “Or perhaps you have smoked enough of the wild-weed that you finally are ready to finish this journey.”

Theren was not amused.  “I communed with nature and the forest spoke to me,” he said arrogantly.  “I have learned much now.  I can transform into the form of an animal, if it is my whim.”  He was proud of what he had just mastered.  I tried to picture him as a threatening bunny or a menacing mole.  Such a power was a waste in the wrong hands.  What I could do with that would be something to send ripples of fear into those that opposed me.

Arius grinned.  “Of course you can,” he sniped back.  “If you smoke enough of that forest weed and drink that mushroom soup, you believe you can do anything.  You druids are all the same.  Every little rock sings a song – every tree has a story to tell.”  Coming from a paladin I found his words ironic and funny because they were at Theren’s expense.

“Would you like me to show you?” he retorted.

“No,” I said flatly.  “We are really not interested.”  I saw the red rise on his cheeks at my words. His frustration made me happy.  Perhaps next time you will not be so quick to give up my possessions…

“Oh we believe you,” Bor added sarcastically.  “You can change into an animal.  Very useful I’m sure.” His piling on only infuriated Theren even more.  It made my heart less black.

We set out mid-morning, fully provisioned.  None of us had been to Karn before, there had never been a reason.  We had heard all sorts of rumors though about Lord Sklaven.  Some said he was mad with old age, others claimed that his advisors were the true power.  I did not care.  We needed to deliver our message recovered from Lexa Lyoncroft and be done with this business.

On the road to the east, we passed several farmers with carts heading off to Whiterock. My companions and I had changed.  In the past we would have merely waved to them.  Now we put our hands on the hilts of our weapons and wondered if every passing farmer was some sort of concealed threat, ready to spring upon us.

Several days passed and it wasn’t until the fourth day that we came across some strange wagon tracks.  What made them strange was that they crossed the road before us, rather than travel on the road itself.  Why would anyone not take the road and travel with wagons cross-country?  Also I noted that some of the ruts were deep in the dried mud, an indication that they had formed up in column to conceal their numbers.  This was not the work of farmers off to reap hay – that much I knew.  Theren agreed.

Near that end of that day Galinndan spotted something on the road before it.  It came into our view – a massive man, all muscles. He wore dark leather breeches and a chestplate of leather and steel.  His arms were bare, and looked more like trees than arms.  He was bald, except for his bushy eyebrows and a thin goatee. The man stood before us with a thick cape of fur on his back, from a creature or creatures I have never beheld before.  He was older than us, probably late 40’s or even 50’s, though the years did not seem to take a toll on him.  His sword was massive, with nicks and dings on its length that spoke to battles long fought and won.  In the warrior’s other hand was a battle axe, almost as menacing as the giant sword. This is no run-of-the-mill fighter, this is a killer. Handling one of these weapons would be enough for most – he wields both.

He spoke through gritted teeth.  “Who are you pond-scum-sucking vermin?  Have you seen them?  I am on their trail…they were headed this way!”

I could see that Bor and Arius were contemplating drawing their weapons and I was glad they did not.  Doing so would have probably done little more than decapitate us and perhaps leave another nick on his sword, if we were lucky.

“Who are you following?” I asked nervously.

“The Amber Elves.  They’ve stolen my granddaughter you woodchuck-humping, cockpiece-sucking fools.”

Before I could ask what Amber Elves were, Bor asked him his name.

“I am Matthias Blackshear, former First Knight of the Royal Guards, and I demand your assistance; you pansy-wasted little piles of minotaur shit!  If you do not aid me, I can only assume you in league with those kidnapping bastards.”  Pride hung in his words on the dusty trail.  He said his name as if we should know who he was.  We looked at each other with some confusion.

Seeing him, nearly half a man more than any of us, I realized that we were about to assist this man or perish.

“What kind of help do you need?” I asked.

I hope you are enjoying this as much as I am writing them up. Below are previous episodes:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

To the Gellesian Fields Part 9

xena

For our previous novelized gaming sessions, please go to the bottom of this post.

Theren Meliamne…

We stood atop the largest of the Bailey Hills as Lexa Lyoncroft departed with the demon’s skull that Althalus had been so obsessed with.

“There’s something you should all know,” Bor Boskin said when she was out of earshot.  “Lexa…she’s one of the Sisterhood of the Sword.

“That purged priory?” Arius said.  “They betrayed the church, that much I know.  Their members were excommunicated and their leaders executed.”

That may have carried weight with our paladin, Arius had a blind eye when it came to the dealings of the church.  I was not so misguided as a druid.  The church had been attempting to do the same thing with us, erase us from history.  So far, they had had failed.  I wondered though – what had happened with the Sisterhood of the Sword to lead to such a violent reaction from the church?  Was it something they were guilty of – or had they been played as guilty of some crime they had never committed?   In many respects, she may be facing the same wrath of the church my own people had been dealing with. “At least that explains that curved sword she had.”

Althalus nodded.  “Nothing good ever comes with people carrying big curved swords,” he said, as if his words carried the weight of law. I would have argued with him, but the memory of her with that sword in her hands was enough to hold my tongue.  This time the warlock was right.

“So where do we go from here?” Bor asked.  “We have the message now.”

Our course was clear to me.  “We were sent to complete the ride of the Gray Rider.  We take the message to Lord Sklaver at Karn.  We give him the message and we are done.”

“Karn eh?” Arius said, turning around and looking back down the road through the Gellesian Fields from which we had traveled already, twice. “I have to admit, I’ll be happy to put this place behind us.  And to get there, we have to go back home.  I will be good to return for a day or so, resupply, rest up. This place wears you out, from those trying to kill us to these strange hell-spawned creatures we have seen.”

It was hard to argue with a longing for home – even for a day or two.  I had seen much since leaving our village and had much to share with my fellow brothers.  I looked at my bonded brothers and they all nodded.  “So we go home – then onto Karn.”

We set out that day, making good progress.  The Gellesian Fields was wearing on our nerves though.  Our sleep was always restless in this place, no doubt because of the tormented spirits that lurked there.  The second night as we headed south, we came across a reminder of the horrors of where we were.  We heard a shuffling near our camp, from a small copse of trees.

We had learned that such sounds rarely were friendly and we were up and armed quickly.  As we moved in, a horrible abomination emerged.  Pale grayish blue skin, a sickening tongue – it had to be a ghast, from what little I knew of such thing.

The creature sprang on Galinndan, biting him on the same spot that the zombie had torn into his shoulder.  He reeled back in agony.  I struck it with my staff, which seemed to be lighter and stronger than ever before – no doubt the result of that water I had dipped it in several days earlier.  The wood ripped a nasty gash on the beast’s flesh, but it was seemingly unphased.  Althalus unleashed his eldritch blasts, but they only leave a shouldering hole in its upper left body – and an angrier look filled its eyes.  As it turned to go after Althalus, Bor sprung at it with his warhammer Skull Ringer.  His swing was so swift and true that it cut into the body of the creature, shattering its spine as his swing exited.  The ghast stared at us with confusion as its body folded in half at the furrow that Skull Ringer had cut.  It dropped.  I would say that it was dead but with such creatures, it had to be more than dead.  What is it when the undead die?  Good…yes.  But are they really dead?

The next day we came across a small carved stone pillar along the road.  Somehow we had missed it on our journey north.  There was a clay urn on top, sealed with wax.  We checked it and found no markings.  My thought was that it was some sort of offering, no doubt to some dead warrior or people that had fought in the Fields.  Galinndan pried it open and we found very old coins, platinum, gold, and silver.  We dumped those in a backpack.  I was wary of taking them but it seemed foolish to leave such treasure along the road.  At the same time I wondered if disturbing such an offering was to have consequences.  As it turned out my concerns were well founded.

On the fourth day since leaving Lexa Lyoncroft we left behind the Gellesian Fields.  As we glanced back we noticed an ominous darkness that seemed to hover beyond the stone arch.  It was as if thunderclouds were obscuring the sun over those troubled lands.  I pointed it out to the others.  “Did you notice that before?”

“Nay,” Arius said, leaning on one of the halberds we had captured from the orc patrol.  “It does not surprise me.  That place was an open wound on the land – a place where evil festered.  That Lexa, she was one of the nicest beings we saw there – and she tried to kill us.”

He was wrong of course.  I am a druid, the land, the creatures, and growth of the world are part of my fiber.  The land was not the problem with the Gellesian Fields, I was sure of that.  It was the heinous war that had been fought there, the corruption of magic and death that had been perpetrated there that had made the lands seem so dangerous.  The races of the world, not the land, had made those fields so hazardous.  I didn’t correct Arius though.  The last thing I needed was the perspective of the church and another one of our endless debates.  The problem with paladins, their lives are centered on the fact that they are always right.

Lexa…she had a story that we simply did not know.  I also felt that we would be seeing here again too.  Bor thought that same, so he confided to me.  Next time, I swore, the odds would be more even.

It took us three more days to reach Whiterock and home.  We returned to home and the people that we had left looked at us at first as if we were strangers, then they recognized us and greeted us warmly.  Even the portly burgomaster rushed to us to ask us if we had been successful.

“Yes,” I said.  “We recovered the content of the message that the Gray Rider had been robbed of.”

“What was it?” he asked excitedly.
“A message for Lord Sklaver’s eyes alone,” Arius said.

“Then you will be leaving for Karn?”

I nodded.  “Yes.  We need to rest up from the creatures we have fought in battle.”

“Then rest you shall get!” the burgomaster said as if he could will such a thing.  “We are all happy that you have all returned home.  We look forward to your stories.”

“Not tonight,” I said.  My private solace in my forest was all I wanted.  Once there, I knew I could gather the strength for the next leg of our journey – the Road to Karn.

Thus ends the latest segment of our campaign.  I hope you are enjoying this as much as I am writing them up. Below are previous episodes:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

Review of Falling Stars RPG and Tactical Game System by Lock ‘N Load Publishing

 

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I just notice that the female is walking away on the cover…which was a hint at what I should have done

I am an old school gamer.  I own dice older than most of the contemporary players.  I remember those heady days of Traveller – of my characters dying during creation.  I remember first edition Gamma World and Metamorphosis Alpha.  My first Star Wars RPG used six-sided dice…and I’m proud of that.  FTL 2448 was good too in its own weird way.  Then came Star Frontiers – and a plethora of other early game systems. For a while it seemed that space-opera-ish games were the rage.

The old games all had a framework they followed.  The universe was big.  Man was just one of the races.  There were aliens with psionics – which was the magic of the sci fi RPG genre.  Thanks to George Lucas, the games all had smugglers and aliens that were, for the most part, quasi-human.  You had to have cybernetics too – because that was a thing (thanks to The Six Million Dollar Man.)  They all claimed to be space operas (including the game Space Opera).  I always felt like most (with the exception of Traveller) just were cardboard-like clones.  “Take our fantasy RPG, swap out lasers for crossbows, psionics for magic, and ta da!”

So when I saw Falling Stars, I thought, “Hey, maybe this is a new spin on space operas, with some grit, some depth, some cool stuff.”

God I was wrong.

I rarely blast game products in reviews but this one compelled me to change that policy, if not for me but to save someone the cost of purchasing this system.  First off I’ll tackle the elephant in the room.  The book is 462 pages paperback and costs $54.99.  It is grossly overpriced for what you get.  The layout is a san serif font at around 14 point that looks all boldface, which just made the book too long and hard to read visually.   No RPG should make your eyes hurt – yet this one does…on multiple levels.

The game is well written, but it breaks no new ground.  In fact, it is boring retread of a lot of classic space opera stuff and things lifted from popular media.  The difference here is that the game universe is flat and dull.  Guess what, there’s cybernetics and a psionic race.  Wow. The cybernetics are nowhere as cool as Shadowrun.  The races are uninspiring, unthreatening, and dull.

The combat system is skill based except for a confusingly written Setting the Target Number set of rules. It’s supposed to be a big differentiator for them.  It’s not exciting.  In fact, I wanted to get clarity on it but, and here’s a surprise, there’s no written example in the combat chapter on a few rounds of combat.  I’ll grant you I’m no genius, but I’ve written a LOT of game books (and designed RPG’s myself) and I find examples to be, I don’t know…USEFUL.

The character classes are so bad I felt as if I threw up a little bit in the back of my throat when writing this review.  Example of the fluff text.  “Their cargo is technically considered to be contraband and subject to seizure without warning and for no reason other them being who they are.  Even with all of these dangers and pitfalls, most smugglers tend to make a very good living.”  How is this the case? We’ll never know – there are no rules for merchants and smugglers.  Oh, and the class bonuses?  “Never tell me the odds…” “She can make that run in a unit of measurement that doesn’t actually apply to this analogy.”  I’m not kidding.  This is no homage to Star Wars where they clearly lifted their inspiration – it’s an expensive knock off that lacks any depth.

The spaceship building rules work, but have all of the complexity and thrills of an Excel spreadsheet.  At least with BattleTech there are inherent tradeoffs you have to make – armor, speed, firepower.  With this you purchase modules and I guess they just fit in your spaceship frame.

The artwork is okay – actually, it’s a redeeming feature in the book.  It is all done by the same artist so everything has the same look at feel.  That was good.  What sucks is how they abused the art.  To describe extra arms, they took an image of an alien with extra arms (used elsewhere in the book) and faded everything but the extra arms.  It was as if the designers felt that people wouldn’t know what extra arms were so they gave you a visual reference.  I will grant you, some players may struggle with that concept – but not at my table.

This game needs and overhaul or, better yet, needs to die the same death of many of its other predecessors in the genre. No burial.  Cremation is the only solution for this system.

My review is one out of five stars and I am struggling to be that generous.  There are some interesting nuggets here, but the price to get to those concepts is far too high.  I won’t even taint my other RPG’s by putting it on the shelf with them.  This book should have been titled, “Failing Stars.”  As my mother would say, “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

Review of Bolt Action Konflikt ‘47

soviet
Yeah, this is subtle…

I got a chance to play this at GenCon when it was released and liked the look of the game, though the core is Bolt Action.  In fact, this hardcover rules book at $40.00 IS Bolt Action, with a few additions.  Konflikt ’47 is a low-tech sci-fi game set in the late 1940’s with a healthy dose of FFG’s Tannhauser game, more than a lifting of Dust Tactics walkers, and a bit of a steampunkish feel.

So how has the world changed?  When the US set off its first test of an atomic bomb it opened a rift in space-time.  The rift energy provides incredible power, allowing for new technologies, and the corruption of others.  WWII is altered dramatically as the powers start leveraging the rift-tech.  D-Day happens but the Germans are able to hold the line at their border after bitter fighting.  Likewise the Soviet steamroller is bled heavily.  The governments begin to field walkers – (BattleMechs) and powered infantry armored suits.  Germany taps this rift power to create zombies, werewolves, etc.  Japan turns the die in the Pacific and still holds a vast empire.  Alliances fracture…and the war continues.  It takes 20+ pages to give you that background in the book – but you get the idea.

This game is Bolt Action, which is both good and bad.  Good in that it is a proven game system.  Bad in that I am offended that I had to buy a whole new rules book when this could have been a much less expensive supplement with the differences.

What’s new? Well weapons-wise is where you get the bulk of the new stuff.  Super-bazookas, rifle grenades, M17 Tesla Cannon, Zvkovoy Proyektors, Schwerefeld Projektor.  You have heavily armored infantry, though the British armor looks almost like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. Zvukovoy Proyektors are sonic weapons.  Schwerefeld Projektor’s crush targets by manipulating gravity.  Tesla weapons are just what you think they are.

Both sides field walkers which are pretty cool to look at. Then again they look painfully similar to Dust machines.

coyote

There are some rules changes beyond the new weapons systems. You now have a reaction to Escape! Which allows you to run to get out of a battle.  There’s also a Firefight reaction that allows a fighting response.  You have an option to Run to Cover too – which is nice.  There is an Ambush reaction too, which is good.  But honestly, these addendum’s to the rules should apply to Bolt Action as well.  (They may be in the new updated rules, I haven’t purchased them to find out).

Thanks to DNA splicing and rift energy there are new kinds of units with special rules.  Tooth and Claw for German and Soviet animal/human hybrids.  Large Infantry, the beefed up power armor.  Flight – jetpack-ish troops.  Fast – for genetically manipulated troops.  Infrared-Vision rules kick in as does super Strong troops and Horrors – which strike fear in their enemies.

The rules for walkers makes them feel like a variant of tanks.  I think the Warlord Games group missed a chance here to make them different, more ‘Mech-like.  As they are, while they look cool, they are just tanks with legs.

The cool part, you can use your Bolt Action miniatures with Konflikt ’47.  That’s a plus, but since you have to purchase a whole new rules book, it is little benefit.

I give the game overall a four out of five stars.  Interesting concept – far too close to Dust to avoid the comparisons.  This should have been made as a supplement and a standalone rules set.


 

RPG Humor – Famous Last Words

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I remember seeing some lists out there years ago, so I thought a fresh perspective might be in order.  This applies to a wide range of role playing games (with an emphasis on fantasy games) and is provided solely to give you a chuckle.  I didn’t cheat and look at the old lists out there, so any similarities are coincidental.

He’s got to be out of offensive spells at this point.  Let’s rush him!

He’s probably only got a few more hit points.

No, I’m not familiar with a polymorph spell.  What does it do to me?

They will never expect us to come at them from this angle.

We can survive in a vacuum long enough to pull it off.

They’ll never see us coming.

That dragon is bluffing.

Don’t worry – we’re well out of range of their (fireballs, catapults, arrows, trebuchet, ballista, machineguns, BattleMechs, lightning bolts, spears, lasers, missiles, etc.)

We have them right where we want them.

Ignore them, it’s a diversionary attack.

Gas?  No problem – we’ll just hold our breath as we fight.

The only thing these guys understand is brute force.

If we run fast enough through the fire it should minimize the damage.

Let’s pile all of the ammo crates in one spot, real close to our position.

Liches are not nearly as tough as you might think.

If we rush them, they can’t possibly hit all of us.

I don’t know what this wand does, but we’re about to find out!

I thought you said it was just a bunch of farmers in this village?

Freeze.  If we don’t make a sound or move, they’ll go right on by us.

We’ve got to win…we’re the good guys.

Don’t worry, it can’t get any worse than this.

What do you mean, “That’s no moon…?”

I’m only a little bit on fire…

Why yes, I give that lever a good hard yank.

(To the enemy) I dare you to use that wand again!

He’s not so tough now…wait…what do you mean he stands up and starts grinning?

We’ve taken out all of their heavy hitters.

He’s just a tiny dragon.

I disbelieve!

What do you mean it’s no longer in my backpack?  Where did it go?

Those are just statues – not everything is a golem.

We’ll let them have the first shot, just to show them what badasses we are.

For the record, they started it…

I’m out of arrows…I didn’t know you were keeping track.

I moon them Braveheart-style.

I get a running start and jump the pit/gap/chasm.

I wonder what this rope is attached to?  (Tug)

I spit in Zeus’ face to show him I’m not afraid.

We have them surrounded – so why are they laughing?

As long as they don’t have a magic user, we should be safe here.

It’s storming?  I move under the tall tree for shelter.

You’ll never take us alive!

I bitch-slap the head of the Thieves Guild, just to get my point across.

We don’t have time to make the light speed calculations — punch it!

I wonder what that whooshing sound is?

I take off my armor to intimidate them and show them I am not afraid.

I kill our hostage – that should prove we were serious.

No, I didn’t take off my armor before I jumped in…why?

I never would have set it on fire if I’d known that was the only exit!

The dragon’s asleep?  This is going to be a cake walk.

What do you mean ‘that’s the controls to the airlock?’

Owlbear?  That sounds more cuddly than dangerous.  How tough could that be?

I drink all of the unmarked potion – what happens?

It’s just fog guys.

Don’t waste your time burning those trolls – we need to see what is in their den.

What do you mean I don’t see the pin on the grenade?

I’m not going to waste time checking for traps.

We can relax, this room is secure.

(To the DM)  Blah, blah, blah.  Skip the flavor text and start rolling some dice.  Daddy needs the EP’s…

I look that Medusa right in the eye and I tell her…

Who was watching the horses?  Where is he?  Where are they?

I thought you were keeping the map so we could find our way out!

No problem – I’m invisible.

It’s probably a bad time to remind you that I was against this idea.

That has to be an illusion.

(To the DM) No, I’m not familiar with Greek Fire.  Why?

What do you mean he shrugs off my 18 points of damage and winks at me?

When you say the cave floor is moist and squishy, what exactly do you mean?

The only way I can miss is if I roll a one.

Watch out for that crossfire!

They’re not fooling me with that diversion.  We stand our ground here.

Guys, this probably is a good time to point out that we apparently are standing on a pentagram.

Kevlar stops everything – right?

For this plan to work, I need a volunteer to act as bait…

(To the DM)  Did you say thirty orcs?  I thought you said thirteen.

Where’s that guy we just killed?

I smash the dragon’s eggs.  How does that leather-winged bitch react to that?

I make a run between the giant’s legs.

When you say I detect a trap everywhere…what do you mean by ‘everywhere?’

What kind of a sick bastard fills a pit with acid?

Why are you handing me a blank character sheet?  You haven’t even rolled for the damage yet.

Of course I’m reading the scroll out loud.

What do you mean my sword is missing?

Split up – they can’t possibly follow all of us.

I swear to God I didn’t know those things could fly like that.

I just start randomly pushing buttons – does anything happen?

Why do you want to know if I have swimming as a skill?

Liche?  No problem, I can turn the undead.

Quick mix all of the potions together and drink them.  It’s do or die time!

Did their captain just yell, “Leave no one alive?”

I’ve got a 17 charisma, so I naturally put the moves on the princess…

I saw this once in a Roadrunner cartoon…we can do this…

There’s five of us and one of him…this should be easy.

How was I supposed to know she was married/intended as a virgin sacrifice/possessed by a demon?

I wonder why they are all chanting?

We run across the rope suspension bridge to get away.

Don’t worry, we’re safe here in this keep.

We can do this, I saw this scene in (Insert movie or TV show)

We torch the forest/town/tavern/castle – that should get their attention.

I climb into the catapult and give the signal…

What do you mean fireball’s expand?

This is usually the part where they break and run…but this time they’re not.  Hmm…

You’re darned right I refuse to bow down to the king.  I didn’t get to fifth level by being a wuss.

If we don’t move, they’ll never spot us.

I’m hearing his voice inside my head?  That can’t be good.

Yes I AM trying to jump wearing full armor.  Why are you looking so puzzled?

I don’t know if the spell needs components.  Is that important?

(After ten minutes to hacking through the door) Do we surprise them?

What do you mean I am out of ammunition?

I quickly dive out of the window…wait…what floor were we on again?

I told you that it was a waste of money to pay for maintenance on the ship.

I run across the flowing lava really fast so I don’t sink in.

Why yes, I am holding the torch while I prepare the oil flasks to throw them.  Why?

I start the auto-destruct sequence to bluff him into standing down.

What do you mean you need a shit-load of D20’s for the damage?

I’m low on hit points, I’ll take the rear guard.  There’s no way they will hit us from there.

We’ll be safe in that cave/up those trees/in that house/etc…

Of course we have a campfire going, why?

Don’t worry, if these guys were any good they wouldn’t be city guards.

It’s just a ballista…it’s probably like being hit with an arrow.

(To the DM)  Why are you checking the starvation tables?

Yes, of course we are still tied to each other in case one of us falls off the cliff…why do you ask?

I don’t have to take that kind of backtalk from a wizard.

I yell to the angry mob and tell them to bite me.

You didn’t just kill the pilot did you?

It’s almost as if they are acting as bait for us.

(About the DM) When I said, “what else could he throw at us,” I didn’t mean it as some sort of challenge.

That bright light in the sky is getting bigger and brighter?  Hmm…

Slow down, what plane of Hell did we open a portal to again?

The vampire turns into a cloud of mist…so we won, right?

I told you it would be easy…look, they’re running away.

How many spears are incoming?

Avalanche, smavalanche…

The crew abandoned ship?  How hard could it be to sail a vessel in a storm?

He’s just a little Beholder.

I cross the rope tightrope-style.

How many vampires coffins are in the room with us?

Everybody try and hide!

The only way to get his respect is to insult his wife.

Sure, I agree to a battle of wits with him.

Which colored flare do I use to call off the in-bound air strike?

We leap off the cliff and aim for the lake.  Wait…how deep is that water?

We’re safe.  You’d have to be a ninja or a monk to climb those walls to get to us.

I’m telling you, that dragon has breathed its last blast of fire.

I’m calling in an artillery strike – danger-close!

Wait…how many giants did you say were running at us?

It’s just an earthquake.

Damn right I’m going to mock that stupid bard.

This is a hell of a time to be getting a physics lesson.

That’s not how you desecrate a temple — THIS is how you desecrate temple…

I think we lost them.

(To the DM)  What do you mean there’s no point in me rolling for initiative?

Screw the druid…torch the forest.

I stick my head above the battlement walls to see if they are still there.

I discrete their temple…that should get their attention.

They’ve walked right into our trap.

I’m sure we’re out of the blast radius.

Did he really just yell, “Release the Kraken!”?

I’m counting on it swallowing me whole so I can gut it from the inside…

I know I’m blinded – I’m casting the spell in the direction of his voice.

Everybody spread out, it will force them to divide their fire.

Yes I did just refer to the Drow queen as a ‘Hot Black Chick’…why?

So shaman can cast spells?

Stop wasting time in looking up its stats and let’s just get on killing this thing.

Why is that goblin hoard laughing at us?

I’ve worded this wish so well there’s no way the DM can screw with us…

So that’s why they call it the Prison of Souls…

I’m pretty sure we aren’t all in its cone of fire.

I’m taking it off, armor just slows me down.

(To the DM)  When you say ‘tornado,’ what exactly do you mean?

(After five days of desert travel)  Look, and oasis….we’re gonna make it!

Who cares what the impact is – I’m changing alignment right here and right now.

Give me a hand prying open that coffin.

Mindflayers sure don’t look very tough.

We will never surrender!  You’ll have to kill us first.

What do you mean there’s a duration on that spell?

No one brought flint and steel?

Which walls are moving?

I really wish I’d bought a copy of the Monster Manual.

(To the DM) Of course I’ve seen the movie Alien.  Why do you ask…ut oh…

Alright, I sit down to barter with that Devil.

Before you throw the switch, what is the percentage chance that the noose/rope will break?

I don’t care what’s carved on the floor, everybody into the room.

What do you mean he’s kicking that grenade back at me?

Yes I’m putting the moves on the barkeep’s daughter.

Then I say, “Are all the city guards as stupid or ugly as you?”

I can’t believe that none of us bought rope.

I can’t parry a lightning bolt?  Are you sure?

It’s never too late to beg for forgiveness.

(To the DM) There’s a chart for explosive decompression?  Why are you asking for it?

Dive into the sewer, we’ll be safe there.

These guys only respect you when you respond forcefully.

How close is that star?

Why are our scouts running back towards us?

When you said the Thieves Guild was coming after us, I didn’t think you meant the whole guild.

When you said the ship lost power, you didn’t mean the whole ship, did you?

When you say the room is getting hot – how hot is that?

This isn’t the time to get all Paladinny on me – kill her.

Why do you want to borrow my copy of the Dungeon’s Master’s Guide?

If Butch and Sundance can make it – I’m sure we can.

Was that a “morpal” blade he’s swinging at me?  Oh crap…

They’ve stopped chasing us, we’re in the clear.

What do you mean I didn’t damage him with a roll of a 20?

When you say “transporter malfunction,” what exactly do you mean?

I’m beginning to think someone switched that road sign back there…

I have not begun to die!

Our line of retreat is blocked by what?

I ignore the radiation warning alarm and enter the room.

So that’s why they call them blink dogs…

Don’t listen to him, he’s just a bard.

I’m sure the “Rapids of Death” is just a name the locals use to scare travelers.

The joke’s on him – I cast featherfall.  No, it’s not slotted, why is that important?

That’s got to be the last charge on his wand/staff…

A demon – no problem – magic missile.

Who cares if they have the high ground?

These guys aren’t beating us – they’re tenderizing us.

Everybody into the portable hole!

I switch to my old trusty bronze sword.

I break the wizards staff over my knee.

I don’t need a physics lesson – just tell me how much damage do I take after a 300 foot fall into the river?

What do you mean I hear the sound of wheels?  They can’t have any siege equipment…

Don’t worry about him…he’s dead.

Why are you rolling that many dice for initiative?

(To the DM) I call foul.  That’s not in the Monster Manual.

They’re immune to fire?  Are you sure?

Bob – why are your eyes glowing?  Bob??

Wow…that was easier than I thought it would be.

Why is our scout running back to us so fast?

Set the self-destruct for a twenty-second count down.  That should be plenty of time.

I have a two for driving skill – why?

Hey guys, I think we’re standing in some sort of oil.

Yes I do remember being bit by that wolf…why bring it up now?

The ring can only be used once a day?

We can make it – I saw this on Survivor once.

On the count of three…one…two…

Finally, a safe place to camp.

That noise in the bush is probably just another rabbit.

I can’t be dehydrated…my character has been drinking regularly from his wineskin.

No my sword isn’t magical or silvered — is that important?

Death Stare – that’s a real thing?

Weapons lock?  Who’s locking onto–

What do you mean they can see in the dark?

I’m not wasting power on the cloaking device.

When you say giant snake – how big is giant?

I don’t care if he is standing in the same pool as the rest of our party – I fire lightning bolt!

Fine, leave us!  We don’t need your cleric anyway.

He gets how many attacks per round?

Who drank the last of the healing potion?

I taunt them, their mothers, and their sisters.

Is that incoming artillery barrage ours or the enemies?

Don’t bother me with the details.

Hey, why are our hirelings running?

You guys will back me up…right?

That abandoned mine should give us cover.

None of our spells or magic weapons work?  That’s impossible.

Who cares what my character smells?  Tell me something important.

Does anybody have any silver weapons?

Summoning that fire elemental may have made things worse.

The joke’s on you…I took my armor off to fight this rust monster!

Everyone run through the portal!

Ramming speed!

My ribs are now poking through my back?  That doesn’t sound good.

So he pulled the battle axe out of his chest and licked the blood off of it?  That can’t be a good sign.

What do you mean, I don’t detect that statue moving?

I’m tying the bag of gold onto my belt so I don’t lose them while swimming the river.

Boy, you kill one High Priest and the whole temple takes it the wrong way.

We’ve been fighting for an hour.  Maybe I can convince them to negotiate now.

I stand before the charging cavalry like Jon Snow and draw my sword.

If the dwarf thief says he’s disarmed all of the traps, then he’s disarmed all the traps.

Yes I’m concerned, that giant just sprinkled me with seasoning salt!

I’m not pulling the ripcord until the last possible second.

Quick, dive into this old lava vent!

It’s just a tiny hole (in a spacesuit, in a vacuum).

Did he just say he was calculating the in-flight velocity and splash radius of a fully armored dwarf?

They get how many attacks per turn?

Wait – did he just say that the mountain moved?

There was only one hag here a minute ago.

The joke’s on them.  It’s going to take a lot more than that to knock down that castle wall.

Sure it’s a 200 foot plummet but I’ll survive – I’m wearing armor.

I don’t have time to confirm the coordinates of that air strike.

You suck as a dungeon master…

zombie

To the Gellesian Fields Part 8

warlock

Althalus…

“You promised her what?”  I couldn’t have been more furious.  I felt the power surge in my blood and it took all of my restraint to not unleash the full fury of my magic on that tree-kissing druid.

“The demon skull,” Theren replied.  I could see it in his face, he could feel my wrath coming. Instead of cowering from me as a sane person would – closed the distance between us.  “We needed it.  We are not wealthy men.  She wanted something consummate with the value of the message.  If it means anything Althalus, I am sorry.”

His pitiful apology was not nearly enough.  “It was not yours to bargain,” I replied, barely getting atop my rage.  “I had plans for that skull.”

“What kind of plans does a man have with a demon’s skull?” asked Arius.

Nothing a paladin would understand.  “Don’t worry, I assure you, they were beyond your comprehension.”  He hates it when I am evasive with him.  He could never fully fathom what power might lay in a skull born on one of the lower planes of Hell. Even I only understood the most basics…but I knew that skull would help me.

It told me so….

“We should go back, retrieve the skull, then make the exchange,” Bor said.  “The sooner we are off this accursed ground, the better.”

The others agreed.  This Lexa, if that really was her name, was trouble.  I knew it.  Turning over the skull to her was the kind of mistake that no one could comprehend.  Only a handful of people might have a use or need for a demon skull.  If her master would be interested in it, he could only be trouble…if not for us, than for others.  If I possessed it, at least I could control any power it might have.

We made our way back to the road and started south.  Two days into our journey, we heard the sound of someone coming down the road behind us.  We took to cover before they were upon us.  It was orcs, at least they nearly matched the drawings I have seen of them in my tomes of study.  Horrible creatures – deformed faces, and a stench that came to us as soon as they came into view.  They wore a patchwork of old armor, probably salvaged from the dead in the Gellesian Fields.  Their weapons caught my eyes.  Halberds.  Not crude weapons either.  These caught the sunlight and glistened.  They were freshly forged – and in good condition.  I pointed it out to Bor who agreed with me.

The four of them paused along the road, fanning out.  The way they were sniffing the air, they must have caught our scent on the wind.  Then they moved off the road right at us.  Such audacity for such dullard fighters.

One of the brutes rushed at Bor and swung his halberd down in a vicious chop.  If it had hit the warrior, it would have cleaved him nearly in half.  Nay, this swing missed so much that the orc buried the blade into his own foot.  Howling, he struggled to extract it.

Bor took the dwarven war hammer he had recovered from the ambush and swung it hard in an upper cut.  The lower jaw of the orc was crushed and driven up into its skull, and out of the top.  What was left of his body dropped.  I turned, but with difficulty, my half petrified thigh stung at my flesh as I tried to move.

I unleashed my eldritch blast on one of the creatures – the white-blue bolt of energy searing into its throat as sure as any dagger, dropping it instantly as its blackish blood squirted into the dirt.  Bor sprung at another one of the creatures, hitting it in the head with his war hammer and crushing its skull, littering the road with gore, bits of bone, and whatever counts as the brains of an orc.  The last one was felled by Arius after it stumbled.  We emerged from the fight without so much as a scratch.

“That hammer of yours,” I asked Bor.  “Does it have a name?”

He grinned.  “In Dwarven it says that it is Skull Ringer…well, that is the closest interpretation in our language.  Dwarven language has four words for skull, depending on the situation.”

“Well-named,” I responded.  Yes, you are keeping your prizes of battle – but I must give up my best prize – my demon skull.  Hardly fair.

“An orc patrol,” I observed.  “The fields are not patrolled, not by orcs anyway.  There is something amiss with this.”

Theren nodded.  “And those halberds…they are not the kind of weapon we would see with an orc.  Someone provided them with these weapons.”

“The Gellesian Fields have always been a place of dark magic. Now even Gray Riders are not safe here,” I replied.  “This points to something else – something more sinister I fear.”

We discussed it as we walked but could not arrive at any conclusions.  It was like having pieces of a Gnome’s puzzle-block, without knowing what it was you were trying to construct in the first place.  The pieces existed, and some could fit together, but we had no idea what they made.  It was frustrating and ominous at the same time.

The next day Arius spotting someone following us.  “It looked like a dwarf.  He faded into the brush before I got a good look.”

“Do you think it is one of Lexa’s thugs?” Theren asked.  I almost laughed.  There was more going on here than Theren could see.  The orc patrol on the road…now a stealthy dwarf following us.  A woman that would risk her life to kill a Gray Rider.  Circles within circles…

“She doesn’t trust us,” was all I replied. “Nor should we trust her.”

For once, Arius and I agreed.  “I will fall back with Bor, see if we can catch this shadow that stalks us.  The rest of you travel on and recover the skull.”  Good.  If the paladin wants to go over the stalker, let him.

We reached Cockatrice Hill and I was sent in to recover my beloved skull.  I half-hoped it wasn’t there.  When I found it in their nest, I toyed with lying to my blood-brothers about it.  Why should I have to surrender my prize?  My conscience got the better of me…that is something I am going to have to work on.

As we left I passed poor petrified Phillipe’, my horse.  It made me wonder if I would ever get a cure to the bite I had on my upper leg.  Poor little Phillipe’…

We started back up the road towards the Bailey Hills when we rendezvoused with Arius.  “It was a dwarf, he was following us.  He works for Lexa – as we suspected.” I saw a faint red mark on his lower neck that told me there was more to the story than he was relaying to us.

“’Works?’  I take it he is still alive?” I prodded.

“I do not wish to discuss it,” the Paladin said, rubbing the red mark on his neck.  I have to admit, it made me smile.

Two nights later Theren was on watch.  I was not sleeping well.  Nightmares plagued my slumber all night…I felt as if I had ants crawling on me.  I kept the knapsack with the skull close.  Losing it at this stage would prove to be treacherous.  The druid altered us that he had come across something, “unnatural.” That piqued my interest.

We saw it and I marveled at the image.  It was some sort of undead, a spectral skeleton knight mounted on a skeletal horse.  It wore armor of the older age, still in magnificent condition.  The entire apparition shimmered in a blueish light.  There was a dull crimson glow in its eyes.  This was no ordinary skeleton, that much I could ascertain.

Theren climbed into a tree as it advanced, a long war lance before the long-dead steed.  I was unafraid.  Arius moved in beside it.  “It is dead – we should kill it.”

I frowned.  Typical paladin – off dispatching evil when there was much to learn.  I used my powers to communicate without speaking.  It approached me slowly, the tip of the lance right before me.

“Are you good or evil?” I asked with my mind.

It only responded with by advancing another half-step.  The lance hovered in the air only a few hands from my face.  I did not cower.  The undead were to be avoided but I knew something of their nature.  Something in the back of my mind told me I had nothing to fear, and I have learned to trust that inner voice.

“What do you want?”  I pressed.

It did not respond.  Perhaps it could not.  The magics that enveloped it were strong…strong and dark.

“Move aside warlock,” Arius said through gritted teeth.  “I will send this creature back to the Hells it was born from.”

I held up my hand to hold the paladin at bay.  I looked at the skeletal rider, the glowing red eyes.  It understood me but could not respond.  Whatever was binding it to these fields held it tight in its grasp.  The magic energy seemed to flow from the ground into the ghostly image.

I kept trying to reach it, trying to find a way for it to respond.  I knew it could sense my thoughts, but responding was as far beyond it as was life itself.

The skeletal horseman reeled his spectral mount about, hovering just above the ground.  Then, without warning, it charged straight at me.  I braced for the impact – with my stone-stiff leg leaping was out of the question.  The lance should have pierced me but instead passed through me.  I expected it to feel cold, but it was the opposite – a burning sensation.  The phantom crashed into me as well, passing right through my body.  I held out my arms at my side, embracing it as its black energy passed through me.  It rose into the air and flew off, shimmering into the night like a fading star, then disappearing.

It had seen something as it passed through me, almost like when you remember a dream the next day.  Many of the details were obscured, but I could see the torment that this warrior was possessed of.  It could not leave the Fields, no matter how much it desired to do so.  It was trapped there, an eternal prison.  Perhaps Arius was right.  Destroying it might have given it release.  Now it was far too late.  It was gone.

“What was it?” Arius asked as he moved beside me.

“Something wondrous,” I replied.  They will never understand what I saw.

On the tenth day we arrived back at the five Bailey Hills.  The day was overcast and gloomy, perfect weather for our exchange.  Lexa Lyoncroft stood atop the largest of the hills, looking down at us.

“This could be a trap,” Bor offered.

I clutched my back pack before me.  “Let us go,” I managed to say out loud.  Before I change my mind.

We reached the top and she was there alone.  I had not seen her before.  She was beautiful, but there was something about her, a dangerous energy.  Not an aura, but you could sense her power.  And that sword of hers…it had a strange curve to it.  This was not some woman to be trifled with. That didn’t mean I wasn’t about to try.

“You came,” she said with a hint of surprise.

“We did,” Theren replied.  “How do you propose we do this exchange?”

“You come here with the skull.  I will hold the note and one of you can read it.”

I came up with a plan – one none of them could have guessed.  “I will do it,” I said.

“Are you sure?” Arius asked.  I bet he fears I will not fulfill our end of the commitment.

I closed my eyes for a moment and used my powers to connect our minds.  “Trust me.  I will relay the message to all of you.  We will get a complete version that way.”  The words were not spoken aloud, but projected into the minds of my companions.

Even the paladin smiled.  It would be the same as all of us reading the message.  No chance for anyone to forget something important.

I stepped forward and Lexa opened the Gray Rider’s pouch.  “No tricks,” she said, pausing for a moment.

“No tricks,” I communicated into her brain through my magic.

“Do not do that warlock,” she said bitterly.  “I know your ilk.  Don’t test my capabilities by entering my mind.”

“What do you mean?” I asked out loud. I gave her a little grin.

“You know what I mean,” she replied.  There was something in the tone of her voice that told me that she meant business…that and her free hand drifted to the hilt of her magnificent great sword.

I opened the back pack and removed the skull.  It was heavy, heavier than before.  It did not want me to let it go – I could feel that.  I hesitated, I admit that, then I handed it to her.

“Very well,” she said, taking out the message.  I could see the faint wax seal, already broken on the scroll.  I read it, and as I did, I sent it word for word to my blood-brothers.

To Lord Andrew Sklaver of Karn

My lord – two months ago the Order of the Fang marched to the north east in pursuit of a dark force that emerged from the Fangs of Kraylor.  The force numbered most of our garrison, 400 men and horse, almost our entire legion.  They road into the mountain pass at Sever and never emerged.   

We have sent parties in search of them but no trace has been found.  The Order is down to a mere 30 noble knights, nowhere near enough to protect the realms of men from what lies at the bottom of the gash. 

I beseech you to send us reinforcements – holy warriors that can help us defend this keep or can assist with finding what has become of the missing legion.  I ask you keep this information private.  If word were to get out of our plight, it might cause panic. 

This is our most desperate hour.  Any and all assistance is honored at our gates. 

Sir Karrick of the Silver Blade

Acting First Shield, Order of the Fang

She held the note long enough for me to read, then re-rolled it and put it in the pouch.  “We are done then.”  As if it weighed nothing in her hand, she put the skull in one of her saddle bags.  “I advise you to leave the Gellesian Fields farm boys.  This is no place for the uninitiated.”  She mounted her horse and departed.

Bor looked like he had seen something on her, something important.  His brow was furrowed, and that was usually a bad sign.  “What is it?” Theren asked.  “You look confused or angry.”

The fighter nodded once and tried to relax his brow, unsuccessfully.  “I may tell you later.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“We were wise to not cross her,” was all that Bor said in response.  One day I would have the power to take his thoughts from him, if all went as planned.  That was not the case this day.

We immediately compared notes, jotting down the words I had written before we forgot.  We all looked at the message.

“A missing legion…” Arius said in disbelief.  Being a holy knight, the thought of the most elite army of paladins being lost, possibly killed, hit him hard.  I would have offered pity, but I was still angry at having to surrender my precious demon skull.  I will get it back…I swear it.

“Thirty knights will not be able to hold the Fangs of Kraylor,” Bor offered grimly.  “Fortress or not, thirty warriors are not enough.”

Theren was shaken too.  “The legion was the most elite army I have heard of outside of the church’s fighting orders.  For them to have disappeared…what has that kind of power?”

The kind of power I want to know…and possess…

“What do we do now?” Galinndan asked.

What do we do next indeed…?

 

Thus ended the session…with our heroes recovering the message they were sent to find, but now facing even more challenges and choices.

I hope you are enjoying this as much as I am writing them up. Below are previous episodes:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

Some questions from some BattleTech fans…

Exodus Road

Well these came in via Facebook so I thought I’d blog the answers out, in case others were interested.

Question:  A.  What kind of prompts and story elements were you given, if any, as touchstones for the novels? Like, did someone tell you that you needed to mention this or that specific event? B.  Or were you given free reign to write what you wanted? Also, how difficult is it to keep track of the timeline and planets and people? C.  How do you manage your writing time with research and checking already published canon?

Answer:  A.  That depends.  It has changed over the years.  With Surrender Your Dreams, I was told they wanted three short stories tied to when Fortress Republic went up.  I came up with the whack-a-doodle idea of linking the stories and telling them out of sequence.

Sometimes I’m told, “We need a Civil War story,” other times, especially with the MechWarrior books it was, “do something stand alone.”  Catalyst gives me some freedom, but with a well-defined leash.  It helps that Randal and Loren and I have been doing this for decades.

I like to write stories I’d like to read.  This last project, forthcoming shortly, is a real treat. I’m doing more with character arcs than ever before, the journey of the hero.  It is really fun to do.  The plots are not as important as the characters.  The more flawed, the better.  Ever wonder why Trent was so mutilated?  There’s always reasons for stuff I put in my books.  Sometimes that reason is to just mess with the readers…  

B.  You have free reign, as long as you get stuff approved. I draft a summary of the book for initial approval, then a chapter-by-chapter breakdown for final approval.  That way, I’m pretty set in writing the book (and I’ve thought through most of the details at that stage.)

C.  Keeping track of the BattleTech universe a constant challenge.  There are some covert secret documents, like for the Jihad, that show what units are where and when.  Those things are pretty scarce and rare.  Because my outlines are cleared in advance, I identify the units up-front.

I do a LOT of research and reading…thank God I’m a fan of the BattleTech universe.  It also helps to have written a lot of that source material.  For my upcoming novel, I had to reread two of my novels and a Stackpole book to get some the details fleshed out and accurate.

Question:  Did you and the other authors (pre vid conference tech/internet) ever get together in person and do a group game?

Answer:  We used to assemble once a year at GenCon for breakfast – to map out the events for the coming year and where books and products fit in.  We stopped doing that after a while.  It was fun, but we all have slightly different creative processes.

Question: Did you guys share knowledge of characters/plot points?

Answer:  Sure!  We offer tips to each other to make the books fit together too.

Question:  Have any disagreements with other writers that may have demonstrated itself via faction vs faction, character vs character as inspiration in your writing?

Answer:  Yes, we disagree.  Not in that bitter…I’m going to kick your ass…kind of way.  We just approach things different.  For example:  When we plotted the Twilight of the Clans, my original idea was a commando raid to seize a Clan warship and rip the map out of the databanks.  Mike suggested, correctly, that the Clans were smarter than that – that we should get it some other way.  Thus Trent the traitor was born.

We didn’t agree on the assault on Huntress either.  I’ve written about this before.  I worked with Bill Keith and came up with a rocking solution that got shot down.  I still think our way was much cooler, Bill did a great job with a very loose concept, but in the end, we aligned on a solution.  Alignment means we agree, but we might not be happy about it at the time.

I was less-than-enthusiastic as to how Mike Stackpole handled Trent.  It didn’t keep me up at night.  I got where he was coming from with Victor’s perspective – but Trent was never about the revenge.  That was probably the only time I felt a little grumpy about one of my characters in someone else’s novel.  I respect Mike enough that it isn’t a sore spot or anything.  You have to remember – this is not our universe.  Topps/Catalyst controls it.  We just take it out for a test drive now and then.

Question:  Who is your favorite House, Clan, Merc Unit, and Character(s)?

Answers:

Mercenary Unit:  Snord’s Irregulars.

House:  Cameron (I’m a traditionalist)

Clan:  Smoke Jaguars…for all of the right reasons.

Characters:  Archer Christifori appeals to me, mostly because of my age and some similarities we share.  Trent is also very important to me, because ultimately he is a man driven by pure honor.  We all face challenges every day, fight battles, where the right answer is the wrong answer.  Trent embodies that.

Question:  Who would you say was the character you least liked?

Answer:  Kai Freaking Allard.  I respect Mike Stackpole.  Allard drives me bonkers – and for no really good reason.  It’s just a preference.

My least favorite character I wrote about was Adam Steiner.  Taking the cartoon series character and making him fit well in the novel universe was challenging.  I’m not sure I hit the mark even today.  Fitting in “Information is ammunition!” just felt awkward.