Review of Star Trek Adventures RPG

Star Trek RPG
Put on your red shirt and prepare to beam down

I have to admit, I was excited that Modiphius Entertainment was putting out a new Star Trek RPG.  This stems from a few places.  First, I have been a Trek fan since the original series (yes, I’m that old.)  Second, one of my first writing projects in the gaming business was for FASA’s Star Trek RPG back in the 1980’s (yes, I’m that old part II.)  I wrote support books, rules, and scenario packs back in the day. I’ve even gotten to write game walk-thru books for several of the computer games for Star Trek. Third, we’ve been in a weird glut of Star Trek RPG’s.  There have been some good attempts in the past to rekindle this franchise into a game – but they all more or less fizzled.

So I pre-ordered the game and slotted some time to play at Gen Con. I lightly read the rules before Gen Con and I’m glad I played the game to clear up some of the ambiguity in the book.  That brings me to one point, some of the rules and examples are not entirely clear.  I struggled a bit with some of the core concepts until I played.

The rules can be a little confusing.  So if I made any mistakes, those are on me (and the gamemaster that led us on our adventure).  Once I got into the game there were some bits of brilliance here along with some, “what the hell?” moments reading/playing this as well.

Something brilliant – the use of momentum and threats poold.  This is a pool of points that you build by over-succeeding on tasks.  They are a group pool you can leverage to roll extra dice to try and succeed, or to up the ante (so to speak) on a certain situation.

The counter to that is the threat pool which his owned by the gamemaster.  This is the ying to the momentum pool’s yang.  The gamemaster can leverage this pool to his advantage, allowing him to toss in complications such as NPC’s recovering faster from damage.  The two pools interact with each other but are critical to the play of the game.  It does open up some questions from time to time as to whether a character should leverage the pool or not – but this forces good teaming with the players.

The game system itself is very simple.  But there are some strange things embedded in here.  For example:  The damage your phaser does is not just the weapons listing, but factors in your Security Discipline.  So if you are a red shirt using a phaser, you might do more damage than someone who has a low Security Discipline. This makes sense on a “to hit” roll, but not on damage.  Weird eh?

Star Trek
Starfleet needs a new crew because these guys are dying

There were other things that seemed a little lopsided in play.  I had an Advisor Talent with my character, which meant I could lean over your shoulder and help your character perform a task. The thing was, there’s no real limit to it.  So I helped a pilot navigate an asteroid field, helped coach a fellow officer in disarming a bomb, and even acted as an Advisor when someone was shooting.  It allowed players to re-roll a die for a task but this simple Talent feels like it needs some boundaries.  There were only so many times I could say, “Atta Boy!” while being an Advisor.

The game isn’t about killing but incapacitating.  I am changing that with my players.  Red shirts die – look it up.  It’s an easy hop to turn the damage into hit points.

The rules have a lot of fluff text (easily 1/3 of the book).  It safely presumes you know the Star Trek universe.  While the system is set up to play in all but the new films eras, there’s not a lot of guidance about what is different from a gameplay perspective.  The fluff text is great stuff, wonderful little nuggets for Trekkers, but these nuggets take you all over the place.  There’s no comprehensive timeline to help players only familiar with one era to jump in.

The rules for starship combat work but are pretty abstract. Your skills apply to combat situations, so it does work.  I still long for the old FASA system and may revert to that for my players.  The needs of the many outweigh the needs of Modiphius Entertainment – or the one.

Some rules seem missing – or at least I haven’t been able to track them down.  When they talk about Reputation for characters, they have a table listing the number of Responsibilities that a character has.  They never really explain this and the table seems contrary to Star Trek, “I have the lives of 430 crewmen I’m responsible for!” According to the table Captain Kirk, you’re only responsible for 17-20…17 to 20 what, I have no idea.

Go to the index you say?  Yeah, good luck with that.  The index is one of the biggest weaknesses in this rulesbook.  It is only four pages-ish long and far from complete.  I hope Modiphius releases a comprehensive one online soon. As it is, this index is worthless and frustrating.

The book is graphically laid out with good artwork and a LCARs Star Trek interface.  That’s nice.  With a black background the white lettering can be a little hard to read at times.

One minor nit – there’s no ship blueprints here.  I don’t need a Constitution Class ship – I’d setting for a Danube Runabout.  Yes, you can score these things online with no problem, but it seems lacking. As a sidebar, the Danube Class ships are shown as a graphic image, but no game stats for them appear in the book – another minor nit.

Star Trek Adventures is destined to be hard to run.  Players that know Star Trek can go down a lot of rabbit holes and whip out a lot of technical stuff that can imbalance play (I know, I’m one of those people!)  It’s a big universe so things can get out of hand quickly.  This is one of the few games where your inside knowledge of hundreds of hours of TV and films can force your gamemaster to pull out his/her few remaining hairs.  This means you have to craft your adventures very carefully.

So is it worth $58 dollars US for the book.  I think so.  I heard a lot of people griping online that the game is too pricy.  It is no more than any other high end RPG.  There’s 384 pages of stuff here, so there is a bulk value.  I love the star maps in the end pages, which is very useful and kind of fun to read. You will pay this much for almost any game system out there these days and this is on-par with the Star Wars RPG, though I found that system more technical than Star Trek – which favors true role playing.

The manufacturer is releasing miniatures for the game – but seems to be skipping the Star Trek II Wrath of Khan figures, which easily had the best uniforms we saw in Star Trek.

I have already prepped two adventures for my player group to go through.  So I like the system enough to continue to play it.  I hope they (Modiphius Entertainment) are planning some good sourcebooks to refine the rules for the eras.

Red Shirt 2

Out of five stars, I would give this 3.9.  I love the momentum/threat pool system and there’s a lot of simplicity here that makes it relatively easy to learn.  I am hopeful they will supplement this system to fix some of the rough edges.

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Gen Con 2017 After-Action Report

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“No running,” was the warning we got Thursday morning.  Not a problem.  It was physically impossible.

It’s time to summarize my Gen Con 2017 experience.  It was the 50th Gen Con and for some reason I expected something special.  Oh, there was some stuff different.  They have a museum of gaming, which is cool.  There was a concert this year.  Honestly though, it seemed like a typical Gen Con, only bigger.  There was a lot of walking this year because things have spread out across the city.

There was a lot of Gen Con 50 merchandise, that was for sure.  I doubt any of it will be collectible – I mean there were well over 60k attendees.

My buddy Kevin picked up the Bob Ross – The Art of Chill game.  Yes, that guy from PBS that painted trees is the subject of a game…a game about painting.  It sounds crazy, but it totally worked.

bob ross
What was amazing is that everyone knew who Bob Ross was.

StarFinder was the big “must buy” RPG of the convention.  It’s Pathfinder in space.  Paizo was good at forming a line for purchase, but lousy at processing them.  Two guys that came with me were in line for almost 1.5 hours.  I got in line (and got an autograph – which was nice) and then a guy from Paizo came buy saying if we were paying cash, he could take care of us.  Granted, it could have been some dude with a Paizo shirt, but it got me out of line before the other guys by 45 minutes.  Mental note – next year find out what Paizo is wearing (and Fantasy Flight Games) and run the same scam.  I could have paid for the next three conventions collecting cash that way.   I’ll review the game in an upcoming post.  My initial thoughts were that it looked awesome.

FFG’s big hit was the Legend of the Five Rings game.  Wizkids made an appearance but only brought a few products.  No Star Trek Attack Wing.  What the hell Wizkids?  I came with money – and you managed to just make me get more frustrated deep down inside.

I was geeked about Modiphius’s Star Trek RPG release.  I purchased the book a few weeks ago and I wanted the miniatures and dice.  Dice were on hand – but nothing else. That left me a little frustrated as well.   It was my hope to review them here – well that’s not happening – not yet.  I will review the game system later.  Suffice it to say I like parts of it, dislike other aspects.

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Pickle-Rick is here because he’s Pickle-Rick

Steamforged Games had a big presence.  I had never really taken a look at them before.  I watched a demo of Guild Ball and was actually impressed with the quality of the minutes and the fun of the game play.  I am already regretting not picking it up.  Argh!

Catalyst Game Labs released the other big hit – Dragonfire.  This is a cooperative card game based on their Shadowrun Crossfire system.  Pure D&D carnage with cards.  I have a copy and will be reviewing this later.  I have to admit, it looked great.  They also had some aircraft aluminum dice (I scored some Smoke Jaguars) for BattleTech and they had previews of the new ‘Mechs for the BattleTech boardgame release.

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A balloon dragon.  I was expecting something more I guess.

I got to see the minis from Cool Minis or Not for the Game of Thrones miniatures game.  I did the Kickstarter for it but it was very cool to play the demo.  Those miniatures are awesome and the game play is pretty smooth.  As Jamie Lannister I took out Rob Stark – ending the young wolf’s life.

There was a new game Wild West Exodus that had an impressive line of miniatures.  It looks like cowboys, Confederates, steampunk, aliens and other weirdness.  They had a lot of minis, but no rules or starter sets.

In terms of playing – we did the BattleTech pods (as always).  These never get old.  They had 14 this year and they had been upgraded!  The graphics were crisper.  Nothing says fun like an Alpha Strike to the rear of your enemy.  Seyla!

We signed up for the Gorn game of the Star Trek RPG.  That went okay…we ran out of time to complete it.  What sucked was that we had geared up for the Gorn and got the Romulans instead.  What the hell?  At the end of the game I finally asked, “Where were the Gorn?”  We got an excuse that the Gen Con folks had pressured them to do a tourney so they went with some material they already had.  There were some funny moments despite this being a clear bait and switch.  We beamed down and sent the ship away.  Twenty-five minutes into the game we called them to come back, only to be told they were 12 hours away!  The best was playing the Galaxy Quest theme music during game play.  Well worth the download to my phone before the session.

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The costumes were over-the-top cool this year

We played the D&D tournament as well, at least I think we did.  There was no combat and only one spell used.  We ended up in some dinosaur race and could only use quarterstaffs and no combat spells.  It was two hours of dino racing rather than D&D.  I came away confused as all hell as to what we had just done.  I wanted to swing a sword, go into a dungeon…you know, play D&D.  This was lame.

As one of the BattleTech insiders, I got invited to a super secret BattleTech strategy session.  We used to do these things at Gen Cons. It was great to be back at it.  I cannot share the details of the meeting (for free at least.  I am a complete mercenary otherwise.) I have included these photos simply to whet your appetites as to what is coming and how cool it is going to be…

After this I capped off Gen Con playing in the Master’s and Minion’s tournament.  Colin Duffy got stuck with me as a player on his side (pity his soul).  Colin paints a lot of the minis and did a great job.  True story – I told them I wanted Clan Wolverine paint schemes.  Somewhere along the way they told him “Wolverine.”  Well, in past years I had Captain America, Deadpool, and Iron Man painted ‘Mechs, so he painted my Wolverines as Wolverine from the comic books.  It was funny and oddly they fit my collection perfectly.

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My ‘Mechs and dice.  Wolverines!  No, wait, Wolverine!

My favorite paints (other than mine) were the Suicide Squad (shown at the bottom)

The battle left Colin saddled with a crappy player who refused to follow plans and went after every shiny object that caught his attention (that’s me of course).  I lost, two killer head shots.  Honorably defeated it was a lot of fun…as always.

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This is not going to end well.

So there you have it – another Gen Con under my belt.  I have a ton of booty to go through and material for game reviews for the next six months.

My 2017 Gen Con Survival Tips

gen con
Game on! 

Yes, it is that time of the year again – time for my unsolicited updated list of GenCon tips survival.  These are to be treated as tongue and cheek – intended with a hint of a sense of humor.  If you’re offended, well, suck it up…this was intended to be useful and hopefully funny.

#1:  Plan in advance.  Go online, figure out what you want to do.  DO NOT try and figure all of this out while you are at the counter buying tickets.  This is like that person standing at line at Starbucks for 15 minutes, getting up there and going, “Hmm…I’m not sure what I want…”  Don’t be that guy.  Everybody hates that guy.

#2:  Pack as if you are going to be at the convention center for 16 hours straight…because you are.  Slip in some snacks because let’s face it, convention food is expensive and sucks.  Bring pencils, pack your lucky dice (you know the ones!) graph paper, phone charger, a small tape measure (for miniatures games), aspirin, you know – typical geek gamer survival gear.  Think over seriously if you need to bring all of your rules books and game manuals.  Chances are the guys running the game are going to have a copy there.  Don’t over pack.  You don’t need to bring your PC with you, I’m almost positive.  Keep it simple, keep it light.  Pack what you need but remember, you’re not setting out to climb Mt. Everest (or Mt .Doom, your choice.)

#3:  Be prepared for the rush to the main hall when it opens.  Yes, when the balloon goes up and they open the doors to the sales floor, it is a geek equivalent to the running of the bulls in Spain (albeit a little safer).  Don’t fight the masses, ride it in.  To answer your question now:  Yes, it’s that crowded every year.  You can’t get in without a badge, have it out and visible.  The Stormtrooper Door Guards will stop you dead in your tracks, meaning you are subject to being trampled by the crowd surge.  Also, nothing sucks more than being in a crowd of 2000 only to find out you have turn around and run back to the hotel room through a sea of angry and exited geeks.

#4:  Cosplay is part of the experience and is encouraged.  If you are going to do it, don’t design a costume that is going to injure passersby.  Think it over.  No one is more of a douche-bag than a guy that has designed a costume that is hard to get around or trips/blinds people when you pass.

#5:  If you’re going to be one of those people who stop in the middle of a crowd to take a picture of the booth-babe wearing a chain mail bikini, do it quickly and don’t clog up the corridor.  She’s not going to go back to your hotel room with her because you’re taking her photo and you don’t need a photo to prove to your buddies back at the office that there were indeed females at the convention.  Okay, that last point – I may be wrong.

#6:  Bathe and use deodorant.  This shouldn’t have to be a tip, it should be common sense.  Based on my own experience moving through the crowd, I had to include it.  Look, you paid for a hotel room right?  Go back at some point and at least use the shower.  Foot powder, toothpaste, and clean clothing (a fresh set for every day) shouldn’t require mentioning – yet here I am doing it.  Why?  Because people don’t do it!

#7:  While you have no adult supervision and can do what you want, be respectful of others.  In other words, bringing your leftover Taco Bell burrito from dinner to that 8am gaming session and eating it during the set-up is just wrong.  You do know that their meat isn’t real meat, right?

#8:  For your meals eat outside of the convention center.  First, convention food sucks and is expensive.  My memory is that a single, room-temperature, piece of convention cardboard pizza runs around $425.  I don’t blame the folks in Indianapolis for this, it sucked when the convention was in Milwaukee too.  It is something of a tradition to stand in line at the nearby Steak N Shake for 20 minutes at least once during the con for me, but that’s just me.  I also like the brisk walk to the attached mall.  They have a food court, variety, better prices, and it’s a hoot watching the locals interact with the convention attendees.

Go only five blocks away and there are a lot of eating places.  Gamers hate leaving the convention site, even for an hour for food, so if you are willing to walk, downtown has a LOT of eating options and the further you walk, the smaller the crowds.  I recommend taking the stroll.  Ten minutes of walking gives you a few minutes of peace and quiet.

The Food Trucks are your best friends.   I only discovered where these vendors parked four years ago and found their offers to be a much better alternative to eating on-site at the con.  Let’s face it, everything is better than the food in the convention center.  While we’re on it…

#9:  Don’t frighten the locals.  Look, Indianapolis really seems to like having Gen Con in town – well, at least they like our money.  Don’t try and frighten that family on the sidewalk with your Orc costume waving a sword and cursing in Orkish.  A lot of locals come down town to look at the cosplay folks – don’t add to their stereotype images of us.  Not cool dude.

#10:  While I totally appreciate Cosplayers, sometimes the costumes are confusing as all hell.  Don’t be insulted if people ask you, “who are you trying to be?”  Corollary:  Taking any other costume and tossing on a Deadpool mask is not as innovative as you like to think it is.  (We call these folks “Douce-pools”)

#11:  There is always someone that knows the rules better than you.  He’s arrogant, overweight, and wearing a black tee-shirt (then again, who isn’t?)  Nothing kills a game faster than two guys trying to prove who is smarter about the rules regarding the splatter effect of a Mark IV plasma rifle in zero-G.  We get it, you read and memorized the rule book.  Stop ruining game play for everyone just to demonstrate your incredible powers of memorization…please.   We refer to these individuals as Rules Douches, or the more French- La Rules Douchebag.

#12:  Don’t just sit around.  Go and check out the miniatures games, or some of the big events like the Live Dungeon.  You didn’t shell out all of that money to sit and read a catalog you picked up did you?  The convention won’t come to you – you need to move.

#13:  Do some prep work if you are planning on buying some specific products.  Some companies are bringing limited quantities of games to the con for each day, or a certain day.  If you aren’t in line at the right time, you’re hosed.  The short version of this:  Make up your mind on what you are going to purchase and do it.  If you wait too long that newly released product can/will sell out.  Check the web sites and Twitter feeds of your favorite companies to see if that new product will be available and when.

#14:  Wear comfortable shoes.  Preferably shoes that do not have a predetermined aroma (see Tip Six.)

#15:  Go back to your hotel at night and get some sleep.  The convention is not designed as an endurance test.  You’ll need the energy.  All night gaming is great, if you’re young, but even then you need some sleep.

#16:  Attend the auction.  You’ll be able to tell your wife/mother/cat/significant other than that shelves and containers of games you have ARE of value.  You’ll be surprised at what games people collect and what they will pay for one.  It’s also kind of fun to see last year’s hot products being sold for a pittance of what people paid for them a year ago.

#17:  Play the demo games.  Look, games cost money – a LOT of money.  I sit in on demos, watch tournaments, etc. to figure out where I’m going to spend my cash.  I recommend you do the same.  Try some things you’ve never played before.  Think of this as a chance to test-drive new games and systems.

#18:  Don’t insult your favorite writer or game designer intentionally.  These guys work hard to produce your fun.  Don’t be “that guy” that shows up to tell someone how horrible a product they wrote in 1992 was, or how they made a mistake in an out-of-print 1989 book.  We get it, you can read.  If you’ve traveled all of this way to show off your knowledge, you’re a decade or two off.  If you meet writers, authors, artists, designers – be cool and respectful.  As a writer in the industry, I welcome comments from fans…but there is a limit to critique that I will endure, and I am not alone.  As a corollary – there is a limit to the number of things you want autographed.

#19:  Go early to the con.  Get out of bed and get to the convention early.  There’s a lot going on and the lines are significantly shorter.  I hit the MechWarrior pods usually at 8-9am when the convention hall is empty-ish.  They are a tradition I am addicted to.

#20:  WIN.  Savor your victories.  Cherish the lament of your foes as they are crushed under the weight of your killer die rolls and strategy!  Don’t rub it in, but enjoy it.  Serious dude, don’t rub it in when you win.  You didn’t travel all of this way to lose did you?  Hell no!  In other words, have fun!

#21:  Don’t wear costumes that are designed to deliberately upset people, unless those people are politicians.  You can abuse them all you want – they deserve it.

#22:  Wear something other than a black tee shirt.  At GenCon, black tee shirts are like camouflaged ghillie suit for snipers.  Everyone is wearing a black tee shirt.  Someone someday will earn a PhD studying why gamers are drawn to black tee shirts.  In the meantime, I recommend wearing something else (something clean), in a color other than black.  Corollary:  Reading the hilarious tee shirts is one of the more phone things about the Con.

#23:  Don’t abuse your demo time in any booth.  Okay, in the main showroom, the vendors often offer short demos on their products.  These are a major part of the experience.  Don’t abuse the privilege.  I saw one guy camped out a table last year for four hours.  There were a lot of people wanting to sit in, but this guy had decided to turn a demo into a full-fledged campaign.

#24:  Remember the GenCon food groups.  Caffeine, Chocolate, Salty Snacks, Caffeine, Pointless Carbs.  Beef Jerky, while not a formal food group, is also permissible but please be discreet when eating it – no one looks cool tearing into a piece of jerky.  Yes, Caffeine is listed twice because it is that important.

#25:  If you want to do free events plan on a wait or get there early.  A good example of this is the Paint and Take event Reaper puts on.  It’s cool to get a free mini you paint there, but everyone wants to do it and there’s usually a line.  See #30 below.

#26:  If you want the Convention giveaways – go to those booths first thing when the doors open.  A lot of these vendors run out in the first 20 minutes.

#27:  Con-Crud – prepare for it.  Con Crud is not a new module release of Pandemic – it’s the social plague that hits thousands when they return from GenCon on the following Monday.  Use hand sanitizer (you have to bring your own on this).  Load up on vitamins and other legal medications aimed at reducing colds, flu, or whatever it is that morphs into Con-Crud.

#28:  Meet the celebrities.  I’m not just talking about the “name” celebrities.  This is a chance for you to track down that favorite author or artist and shake their hand.  I make a point at every GenCon to network and meet people (and re-meet people I met years before).  Mingle and be social.

#29:  “Language” I’m noticing more and more kids at the Con which is great.  If you feel the need to curse, make sure only the adults are around.

#30:  Take advantage of the crowds to do things you want to do.  Look, at 10am, everyone is lined up to get into the main hall.  That’s the perfect time to do things that otherwise have long lines.  Understand the masses, don’t always be part of the masses.

#31:  If you are in a wheelchair, it is not a weapon to clear the crowds.  I got hit by someone in a wheelchair last year just standing still.  He just plowed into my ankle because he wanted to get through.  I’m understanding, but not that understanding.

#32:  You will get a book of freebie coupons.  If you plan on redeeming them, you need to do it first thing in the main hall.  Some of that stuff disappears in a matter of minutes.

#33:  Play some things you never have before.

There you have it guys – GAME ON!

#GenCon

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: To the Gellesian Fields Part 15

Diplomacy

Welcome to the novelization of my current D&D campaign, told through the perspective of the characters.  Links to the previous posts are at the bottom of this one.  Enjoy!

Theren…

Just before open court convened, we went back to the keep.  When we arrived at the guard post, we were told to surrender our weapons.  Galinndan made a comment at the table where we lay our weapons along the lines of, “I know, I can use my disguise skills and join you and Bor at court.”  I looked at him – then at the guards only four feet away who had clearly heard everything he said.  “Why don’t you just let Bor and I handle this?”  The city of Karn had not been kind to our rogue.  He had crossed his guild’s wishes, tried to arrange the theft of his own comrades, had been kicked out of court by the Vizir, and now this.  Fate was not favoring him these past few days.

We went to open court and were greeted by an older gentlemen in formal garb, armed with a menacing sword.  The Master of the Court – Uthar Danielson.  “You must be the friends of Matthias.”

“We are.”  I introduced ourselves to him.

“Alright.  I will usher you in.  You must be respectful of Lord Sklaver and wary of his Vizir.”

I nodded and straightened my robes.  I had never spoken to a true lord before.  My palms were sweaty.  Bor looked bored by the formality and that almost made me chuckle.

Danielson opened the doors and announced, “Coming before the court of Lord Andrew Sklaver, Tenth of his Line, Lord of Karn, Master of the Rolling Plains – I present Bor Boskin and Theren Meliamne of WhiteRock.”

The walls of the long vast chamber were adorned with massive banners, most bearing the icon of a snake stabbed with a down thrust sword, bleeding red on a field a green – the Sklaver signet.  Some of the tapestries showed battles, one shows a dragon being slain by a knight standing on the beast’s head, running it through the eye.  The light penetrating the room showed the dust hanging in the air.

Lord Sklaver sat at the far end of the court room, on a gnarled wood throne of twisted tree roots.  Next to him sits Krof Lorraine in a smaller seat who was clearly flush with anger at our arrival.  Off to the right, at a table flanking the stairs before the throne, sit his loyal advisors and son.  Four members of the Royal Guard were present, armed with halberds and swords.  It made me wonder, had there been attempts on his life in the past?

Lord Sklaver himself was at least sixty years old, if not older.  His right eye has a milky cast to it.  The Lord’s wrinkles are long and deep and his skin almost looks like worn leather.  His bony fingers held a silver wine goblet in his hand that had clearly drooped enough to spill on his flowing purple robe.  Against the gnarled throne was propped a massive mace, the symbol of his power.  It is encrusted with jewels, silver, and gold interwoven in the wood – a true piece of beauty. As we stood before the throne, I caught a whiff of urine, old sweat, and wine in the air around the old man.

We both bowed deeply.  Uther Danielson cleared his throat.  “State your business before this court.” Slowly we stood upright.

Before I could speak I saw Krolf Lorraine lean over to Lord Sklaver, speaking just loud enough for us to hear.  “These are some of the farmers I told you about sire, the ones that claim they carry a message for your ears – one stolen from a Gray Rider.”

Sklaver glared at us.  “No one would dare slay a Gray Rider.  I find your presence here suspicious.”

Lorraine had clearly planned on us getting to Sklaver, and had attempted to poison that well.  “He was attacked in the Gellesian Fields my Lord.  We traveled there and recovered his message at great personal risk.  We brought it here for your ears and yours alone.”  I shot my own stern look at Krolf Lorraine who was clearly not moved.”

“Go ahead – relay your message then.”

I pulled out my copy of the message and read it to him.

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

Lord Sklaver said nothing for a long moment as he took in the words.  It hit me then, that we had fulfilled our quest.  We had completed the ride of The Gray Rider.  Weeks of journey and peril all came down to this moment.  Great satisfaction swelled for a moment in my heart.  It was dashed quickly as Sklaver spoke.

“”How do I know that this is not some sort of ploy – a plot to lure off my Royal Guard to the Gash and leave Karn open to some sort of attack?  One of the other lords of the realm no doubt his eyes on my realm.  Besides, the paladins guarding the Gash have done so for decades and have protected the lands from the blackness imprisoned there.  You men could be instruments of a coup…”

Bor responded.  “We honored the request of the Rider.  We are not tools to overthrow you.  We were simple men from WhiteRock. You are our liege lord and we are loyal to you.”

That answer seemed to satisfy Sklaver, at least for a moment.  “How did you recover this message?”

I replied.  “We went to the Gellesian Fields and found the person that had taken the message – Lexa Lyoncroft.  We fought with her, then struck a bargain to obtain the contents of what she had taken.”

Lord Sklaver winced for a moment.  “Lexa Lyoncroft?  She is a myth, a story to frighten travelers to take safer roads or stay at home.  The Sisterhood of the Sword was absolved years ago.  I have heard her name ever since then, always spoken by questionable men of shady character who claim they have seen her.  I doubt she exists.  The Church has assured me that all but a handful of the Sisterhood have been accounted for.  If she did live, the Church would pursue her to the ends of the world to kill her.  Your mentioning her only makes your story more difficult to believe.”

“That may be, but we have spoken truly.  Lyoncroft is quite real, I have faced her both in battle and parlay. The Church may pursue her, but she lives.  We met her, we prevailed – eventually – not without some loss on our part I might add.  We traveled long and hard to come here to provide you with these words my Lord,” Bor chimed in.

For a half minute, Lord Sklaver said nothing.  “Your story may be true – but these are dangerous times.  Caution is always prudent.  Wouldn’t your agree Krolf?”

The Vizir shot us an icy glance.  “If you believe them my Lord, then I must as well.  Perhaps, Lord Sklaver, the solution is simple.  We will send only a dozen men to the Gash…a gesture of our resolve.  We can impress these messengers to accompany them as guardsmen.  If their message is false, I can order one of our Lieutenants to met out the Lord’s justice and kill them.  If they speak the truth, they would be free to go.  If they are liars, it will send a powerful message to those that would attempt to deceive the throne.”

Sklaver nodded and grinned, his yellowed teeth showed.  “Excellent idea.”  He looked at me squarely.  “You and your comrades are now impressed as members of my guards, troops loyal to me and the realm.  You will go to the Gash.  If your words were a lie – you will die.  If you spoke the truth, you shall be released from duty.  You will depart on the morrow.  You will report to Lieutenant Rygar here at dawn.”

“Thank you my Lord,” I said, bowing and backing towards the door.

We exited and saw Danielson close the massive doors to the throne room behind us.  Bor put his hand on my shoulder.  “What just happened in there?”

“Krolf Lorraine got some revenge for us going around him and appearing in open court.  In short; we were just drafted,” I replied.  “It’s not so bad.  We go to the Gash and we’re free of service.  I mean how hard can that be?”

Bor flashed a wry grin.  “You get to tell the others.

I hope you have enjoyed the saga thus far.  Here are the previous parts if you have missed any installments.  Enjoy!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Part 13

Part 14

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

#DandD

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: To the Gellesian Fields Part 14

Dice-Hate-Me

Arius…

I have to admit, we were all a little mad at Galinndan for selling us out to the Thieves Guild, but none more than Bor.  I don’t blame him.  He had become quite attached to Skull Ringer. He muttered something about making the rogue’s skull ring. We thought he was joking, but you never could tell.

Galinndan and Althalus joined me for our designated meeting with Vizir Krolf Lorraine.  We went to the keep and were forced to disarm ourselves in front of the guards. The castle was situated in the center of the city, with plenty of clear ground around it.  My experience told me that those parade grounds and grassy areas would be deadly fields of fire in the event of a siege.  From the growth of vines and moss, it was clear that Karn had not seen military action for some time.

From what Matthias had told us about this Vizir, he was a man to not be trusted.  We were led to the door of his office.  His desk and chair were on a slightly raised pedestal, almost throne-like.  He was a tall man, lanky, in flowing purple robes.  His face was capped with a jet black goatee and mustache that was finely waxed.  His skin was dark, almost leathery, and there was something in the way he moved that told me that Matthias’s assessment of the man was not far off.

He invited us in and extended to us his hand to kiss his ring. I saw this for what it was, an act of domination. Galinndan hesitated.  I made the appropriate gesture, then drove right to the point.  “We desire an audience with Lord Sklaver.  We have message from a killed Gray Rider that is for his eyes only.”  I explained to him how the Gray Rider had come to our village and had died, and how we had been asked with his dying breath to find his stolen message and deliver it.  Krolf Lorraine was clearly unimpressed.

“His lordship is far too busy to waste time with a pack of mongrels wandering in from some backwater town with a mysterious message.  Still, I am curious.  Why not provide me the message and I will pass it to him when I have a chance.  That should satisfy your alleged need to deliver it.”  He waved his hand in the air as if to wave us off.

“We were told to deliver it to the Lord himself.  We traveled to the Gellesian Fields at the request of the rider before he died.  We have traveled far to complete his ride.” I stood firm.

“Why would Lord Sklaver act on the word of farmers from Whiterock?”

“How do we know we can trust you to deliver the message?”

“How did I know you did not kill this Gray Rider and seeking to profit from delivering his message?” Galinndan replied.  I almost whistled.

The Vizir clearly was not used to being questioned.  “You are dismissed.  Begone!”  Our rogue hung his head low and sulked out of the chambers.  Lorraine turned to us the moment that the door closed.  “Who would kill a Gray Rider?  Such an act would bring the wrath of The Herd down upon them.  No one slays a rider…they become marked men.”

“It was a woman, Lexa Lyoncraft.  She’s the one that stole the message,” I replied.

“Lexa Lyoncraft…well, now I know you are liars.  She is nothing more than a rumor on the wind.  The Church recognized the threat that the Sisterhood of the Sword presented.  They purged them in the name of the faith.  All were put to the sword except the handful whose names keep coming up.  I doubt she exists…I think it is someone using that name to instill fear. “

“Say what you will, I am speaking the truth.”

“Your story is fraught with flaws and lies woven within your lies.  The Gellesian Fields are at the end of our realm in un-ruled lands – the wilds.  Our patrols near the edge of that accursed place say that it is haunted land where the dead wander at night.  I doubt that farmhands such as you had the mettle to go there, let alone go and come back alive.”

Althalus weighed in on the debate.  “We have faced near death many times to deliver this message.  We only seek to pass it on and leave.  Why would we lie about meeting her and making up such a story?”

The Vizir sneered in response.  “You have constructed your little story quite well.  But there are mistakes.  Namely I have had agents who have seen you consorting in the city with a known man of low repute – Matthias Blackshear.  Drummed out of the Royal Guard for failing to perform his duty, any associate of Blackshear’s is presumed to be one of the dregs of society – not worthy of wasting the time of Lord Sklaver with.

“Why would we make up such a story?” I pressed.

“Perhaps you seek to lure away troops from the city, leaving us exposed.  Many lords would love the opportunity to seize control of our realm.  No.  You shall not have an audience.”

I was not surprised.  This had been anticipated by Matthias.  “You assume responsibility for us not delivering our message,” I curtly warned.

He laughed a deep almost crackling chuckle that reminded me of the story my mother told me as a child, a Vizir named Jafar.  “I do not think the realm is any lesser for your failure.  If this message is so important, you can give it to me.”

I shook my head. “Thank you sir,” I said bowing as little as possible.  We left and returned to the Copper Horse.  “How did it go?” Theren asked.

Althalus smiled wryly.  “Galinndan got himself kicked out of the audience.”  All eyes drifted to the rogue who was clearly embarrassed.

“As Blackshear predicted, he wouldn’t let us in.”

Theren nodded.  “Then we go with our fallback plan.  This afternoon, we go to court.”

 

I hope you have enjoyed the saga thus far.  Here are the previous parts if you have missed any installments.  Enjoy!

 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Part 13

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

 

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: To the Gellesian Fields Part 13

Bor

Bor Boskin

The mapmaker, Grayson, told us where to find Odd Bob’s and The Twang – a bow and arrow maker.  We stopped there and Galinndan tried to ascertain the origins of the obsidian arrows he had found.  The owner, one Tagon Vrill, a lanky elf, offered to buy them but would not tell us what the arrows did. Galinndan demurred at his offer, saving the arrows.  To him, they seemed to be special, perhaps magical.  To me, firing arrows were a coward’s way to fight – from a distance.  Skull Ringer, my new warhammer, now that was the way for a man to fight.  Up close and personal.  If you are going to kill a man, at least look him in the eyes.

We reached Odd Bob’s little shop midafternoon.  From the outside it appeared to be a store that sold oddities and, well, junk.  I mean there was a plain rock on display in the window, along with a strange wooden headdress, a necklace of teeth, and other things.  Inside the shop were shelves filled with knick-knacks and trinkets.  The air smelled of dust and mold to me.  Seated on a high stool looking over a thick leather bound journal that filled his cluttered desktop was a small man with a long nose, beady eyes, and white hair that shot out form his balding head as if he had been hit by lightning.

“Welcome!” he said gleefully.  “I am Robert the White.”

“Why do they call you Odd Bob?” Galinndan asked.

“Because I’m odd I assume,” the man replied with a wry grin.

“We were sent by Matthias Blackshear,” Theren said.

“Ohh.  Matthias has not been here in a long time.  Any friend of his is a friend of mine.  It is a shame, what they did to him, dragging his reputation through the mud that way.  It was no fault of his that the prince lacks the common sense of a squirrel.  He was wrongly forced out of his post in disgrace – the man never did play politics well.”

“Do you sell these goods?” Theren said.

“I do.  Mostly I trade them…for good stories. Stories are what separate men from monsters.”

“Really?”  Theren said crossing his arms.  “Let me tell you of our journey into the Gellesian Fields…” He then went on about the murder of the Gray Rider and our journey into the fields and back.  I noticed that Theren highlighted his role in the affairs, such is the gift of a druid to spin such a yarn.  Odd Bob’s quill flew furiously in his journal, taking down every word I thought…or most of them.

When Theren finished, Bob looked at him.  “You may take any object from the first shelf.”

Theren took a small object, one I could not see.  Odd Bob said, “You mentioned a highwayman.  Who was it?  Tell me more.”

“Lexa Lyoncroft,” Theren said.  I added, “She bore the mark of the Sisterhood of the Sword on her arm.” I nodded in agreement.  I had seen the tattoo myself.

The old man squirmed at her name.  “Her I have heard of. She was Swordsworn in the Sisterhood at one point, one of their best.  They thought they’d killed her, twice, but she survived, or so the stories say.  She has found a way to cheat death, though none know what it is.  She only plays the role of mercenary to fit her own needs – that is restoring her order and honor and making the Church pay for what it did.  If she is working for anyone in the north, she is only playing them.  Lyoncroft only leave survivors to let the word reach the church that she is alive still – like a threat without speaking the words.  The church has even sent teams of killers from the Priory of the Burning Blade to apprehend her, only to disappear in the Fields.  Word is that she sent their severed heads back to the priory, but I doubt that she would be that brazen.  If my sources are correct, she has quite a reward on her head from the church.  For her to risk the wrath of the Herd by killing a Gray Rider means that she has become even more bold.”  Odd Bob paused for a moment then said, “For your story including her, you may take an item from the second shelf.”   Theren walked over and picked up a twig.  I presume it was a twig.  Of course he did – that’s what druids do.  Maybe the trig spoke to him.  You could never tell with Theren.

I had come to believe that there was a lot more to the story of Lyoncroft than we knew.  She had a reputation and that could be useful, and dangerous.  I had a nagging feeling that I would cross her path again.

We conversed with the strange man for some time then went for our rendezvous at the Copper Horse Inn with Matthias.  We noticed that we were being shadowed by a bald friar of some sort wearing a blue hooded cloak.  He seemed harmless enough, but I kept my eyes on him.  My father had warned me that cities were places of danger. “The more people you have in one place, the greater the chance you come across one to do you harm.”

The inn was true to its name, a green tarnished copper horse hung on the sign.  We entered and were greeted by the innkeeper, a chubby rough looking woman with moles and warts aplenty.  You could toss her in a pond and skim ugly for a week.  Victoria “Momma” Bellrung ordered us up a meal and drinks.  We were cordial despite her lowly looks.

I noticed a man bumping into Galinndan and seemed to pass him some sort of parchment. The rouge said nothing about it but excused himself to go to the Guildhall.  I remember him saying that he was supposed to check in at such establishments upon entering a town or city, but he had been so caught up with all that there was to see and do, he had failed to do so. At the time, I thought it was a minor infraction.  Of course, at the time, I had no way of knowing how important it was.

Matthias joined us during our second round of cool ale.  “Arrangements have been made, but you boys had better be coy.  This isn’t’ easy.”  I have to admit, with an opening like that, I was concerned.

“Krolf Lorraine is the court’s Vizir, and more a dangerous and crafty man will you find in the entire realm.  He controls the real power behind the throne and covets that seat for himself.  You will need to meet with him.  Do not share your message with him, no matter what.  If you do, you will never know if he delivers it or not.  Information is power to such a man, and if there is one thing I know about Lorraine is that he craves power.

“You have to go to him though – that is court protocol.  He will refuse you.  Lorraine hates not having control, and you speaking directly with Lord Sklaver represents a loss of such control.”

“If he will be turning us down, how do we deliver the message?” I asked.

“The Master of the Court – Uthar Danielson,” Blackshear said with confidence.  “He is an old friend of mine and I explained your desire.  The Master of the Court determines who is admitted into court. As a personal favor, he will give you entrance during the open court session.  Lorraine will be furious, but once you are in the court, it is up to you to pull this off.”

We all agreed, that sounded like a plan, though one with some risk.  Making an enemy of a man like this Krolf Lorraine made me feel a bit nervous.  Matthias confirmed for us our meetings.  “You meet with Lorraine at nine-bells tomorrow. At first bell of the afternoon, you will go to the main court and Danielson will let you in.”

“Will you be staying?” Theren asked.

Matthias finished her drink in a single gulp.  “No.  I need to get back to my farm.  You helped me and I have returned the favor.  But know this, we have shed blood in battle together and are friends from this time forward.  Just don’t abuse that right.”  He winked at us then rose.  “Best of luck to you all.”

We finished up for the evening, each paying for a hot bath.  I bunked with Galinndan and we left Arius and Theren in hall on guard duty.  I have to admit, it felt good to sleep on something other than the hard ground.  The bath felt even better and it gave us a chance to wash our clothing and patch up the damage we had.  I drifted off to sleep in a matter of a few heartbeats.

I awoke with a figure looming over me in the dark. Whoever it was grabbed my gear, armor and all, and darted out into the hallway.  I followed, naked as the day I was born.  In the hallway, I saw our “guards” asleep in their chairs.

The thief reached the stairs and I sprinted, catching him there with a vicious punch from behind.  It was a half-orc.  He fell forward, down the stairs, my armor and Skull Ringers crashing down with his body down the stairs.  I came down after him and when I reached him, he threw three small glass marbles on the ground near us.  They exploded, filling the stairwell with as dense acrid smoke that stung at my eyes and nostrils.

My reflexes kicked in, along with my legs – delivering a devastating kick to him as he tried to regain his footing.  I sent him flying down the last few stairs, sprawling him unconscious on the floor.

“Momma” Bellrung was behind the bar, washing mugs.  She grabbed an iron skillet from a hook and looked at me.  “Problem?”

“No ma’am,” I replied. “Galinndan, fetch some rope.  Let’s tie this bastard up and fight out what he was doing.”

Galinndan hesitated, but obeyed.  The foggy-headed Arius and Theren joined, as did a barely awake Althalus.  “What happened?” I asked our “guards.”  You two were supposed to watch out for us.  You had one job to do…”

Theren rubbed his eyes, fighting to get awakened.  “He came by and blew smoke from his pipe towards us.  It must have been some sort of drug. We went right to sleep.”

As we tied him the half orc came to.  He glanced at Galinndan who looked strangely embarrassed.  Then I spotted it as did the others in our group.  The half-orc had a tattoo on his arm that matched that Thieves’ Guild, matching the one that Galinndan had.  All eyes turned to our party thief.  “You want to explain?” I demanded, only then becoming aware that I was standing in the closed tavern buck naked. I quickly checked to see Skull Ringer on the floor.  If he didn’t answer to me, he would answer to the cold steel of the hammer.

“Um, well…you see, I was supposed to check in with the guild when I came to town.  They summoned me.  They took my money and asked me if we had anything of value.  I may have mentioned your magic warhammer of yours.” I couldn’t tell if he was embarrassed that he had been caught or afraid.  I also did not care.  My anger rose red on my face.

“You set me up to be robbed?”

Galinndan stammered.  “No one was supposed to be hurt.”

“Not good,” Theren said.  “Not good at all.  You don’t sell out your party.  We are practically brothers.”

“It wasn’t my fault.  The guild demanded it, that or they would remove on of my limbs.”

“Oddly enough,” I said picked up Skull Ringer, “I would be comfortable enough with that.”

“Guys…please.  I made a mistake,” the rogue replied. He did sound sincere, but honestly, I didn’t care at that point.

Arius shattered the calm.  “You don’t get to carry the party treasury anymore,” he said.

“The guild is going to be pissed at me,” Galinndan said.  “They have assassins working for them.”

“That’s your problem,” I said.  “No one touched my warhammer.”  I gathered up my gear and headed for the stairs.  I was confident that Momma would be more than capable of making sure that the half-orc ended up with the right authorities. “And I want a different bunk mate!” I added.

I hope you have enjoyed the saga thus far.  Here are the previous parts if you have missed any installments.  Enjoy!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: To the Gellesian Fields Part 12

Joxer
Every party needs a thief.

Galinndan…

The celebration at Omsford, where Matthias Blackshear lived was incredible.  The families were so overjoyed at recovering their lost children they threw us a feast!  It was the first time other than my annual day of birth that anyone had thrown a party in our honor.  I’m not counting that time we killed those Owlbears.  That was not a feast but more of a drinking event.  Many a chair and table were broken that night! Compared to this meal, the whole Owlbear incident was nothing more than a fading memory.

Everything thanked us, shoot our hands, even kissed our cheeks.  This was what it was to be a hero – one of the greatest thieves in the land.

Matthias’s granddaughter Miley stayed close to him and her mother, Clarissa.  She thanked me three times, so we all know what that means…she was in love with me!  I saw her eyes catching mine, and that smile.  I remembered Guild Rule #88  Never pass up an opportunity to make a new friend, especially if she is cute.

After my third ale I asked Matthias, “Is your daughter married?”  I saw no ring nor sign of a husband.

He didn’t answer. He just glared at me with squinted eyes and flashed his gritted teeth.  I got the impression he was offended.  How could that be?  I was a hero like him and the others! Surely Clarissa could do no better in this tiny farming community.  Blackshear stalked off.

“You had better watch it,” Arius said.  “He’s likely to take your head off.”

“I think I could seduce her,” I added as I finished another tankard of ale.  “Besides, she’s cute.”

Theren heard our conversation and shook his head.  “We’ve done a lot to win these people’s trust Galinndan.  Don’t do something that is going to get us killed.”

“What—killed?  All I’m saying is that I think we could hit it off.  Me helping rescue her daughter and all.”

“Do you really want Blackshear as a father-in-law?” Arius asked.  “You slip up one time and your head will go bouncing like that Amber Elf he decapitated.”

That was a good point.  Over the years I had become quite fond of my head and neck and they were right, Matthias seemed to be a bit over reactive at times.  I settled on giving Clarissa a wink.  She didn’t return it but I could tell, she wanted me.

Blackshear pulled us aside an hour later as the party began to break up.  “We are only two days travel to Karn.  Sleep well and tomorrow I will escort you there myself.”

We thanked him for his hospitality.  My father had gone to Karn before, usually to pay taxes and homage to Lord Sklaver. I always wondered why he had never taken me.  Our home was but a village.  Karn was a small city, or so I had been told.

The next morning there were potato cakes and we found our haversacks stuffed with dried meats and fresh fruit, compliments of the citizens of Omsford.  We set out and saw little more than a farmer with an oxcart who we passed along the way.  The next day five riders approached us, all in full armor, glinting with the morning sun. Their armor was matching, as was their slung shields.

Blackshear rode out a few yards ahead of us, meeting them men.  One of them was a lanky fellow with a flowing yellow beard that poked out from under his helm.  “If it is isn’t Matthias Blackshear,” he sneered.  The other men seemed amused.  Two put their hands on their swords.

“Blondebeard,” Matthias spat back as if it were a curse.  This had to be that Syrus Blondebeard that he had told us about, the First Knight of the Royal Guard.

“Where are you going old man?” Blondebeard asked.

“I am taking my friends here to Karn.”

“I thought you were banned from there,” one of the men said half-jokingly.

“Who would stop me?” Blackshear countered. “You?  You’d piss yourself the moment I drew my sword – we both know that.” He turned back to Blondebeard.  “What are you doing away from the whorehouses and taverns?”

“There have been reports of Amber Elves roaming the countryside.  We are merely doing our job – your former job – searching for them.”

Blackshear flashed a grin of pride.  “Well you can turn your pansy-asses around.  We found them and recovered the children they had kidnapped.”

“Really?” Blondebeard said suspiciously.

“You doubt me Syrus?”  His jaw set firm.

There was an awkward pause, I sure felt it.  Finally Blondebeard spoke, not to Matthias, but to us.  “You men have thrown in with a dangerous man.  I’d advise you to part ways with him now.  He’s not welcome in Karn, which means the same will apply to you.”

Theren spoke for us.  “Thank you…but we will stick with him.  We’ve shed blood together.”

“Your choice then,” Blondebeard said.  “You watch yourselves in Karn.  That is our city…our rules.”  He and the other men in the patrol passed us without further comment.

“You make a misstep in Karn, you’ll be dealing with me, Krolf Lorraine, or Adrian Kraverhall.  None of us have much use or patience for farm boys causing trouble.”

Farmboys?  We had been to the Gellesian Fields, had battled ogres, cockatrice, and had even been tested by a member of the Sisterhood of the Sword. Not to mention the Amber Elves.  If anyone was a yokel, it was this Blondebeard.  Armor made men pompous – I saw that.

“He sure doesn’t seem to like you,” I said.

“Mounted pile of shit wearing armor he doesn’t deserve to polish,” Blackshear replied.  “I trained that arse in everything he knows – and only half of it stuck. Now he and the guard are nothing but playthings for the Vizir. Look at them, riding out five days too late.  When they were under my command the Guards were there to protect the citizens.  They would have driven off those yellow-skinned bug-suckers days ago.  Now they hide in Karn.  It is getting more dangerous to live outside of the city every year.”  There was a longing in his voice, the first time I had heard it from him.

We arrived at Karn later that day.  The road leading to the city was dotted with farm houses and cottages.  The city itself was surrounded by a stone wall that was very old.  Vines and moss clogged every mortar seam in it, given the twelve foot walls a green shimmer.  The gate was manned by five guardsmen, though I thought none of them looked too impressive.  They seemed to notice Blackshear.  One of them said, “We don’t want any trouble,” the oldest of the guards said.

“No one ever does,” Matthias said in response.

At the inner portcullis we were told to stop and to read the sign.  It was red lettering painted on a white background with the rules for visitors. I presume that the red lettering was supposed to instill a sense of warning or threat.  It was faded and chipped.

Murder, arson, or rape is punishable by death administered immediately by the City Guard.

Theft is prohibited in the city limits.

Fighting is frowned upon.

Laying of hands on members of the royal family or the City Guard is prohibited.

Magic of all kinds outside those of the church is prohibited.  Violators will be turned over to the church for justice.

All dangerous animals are to be kept secured.

Horse thieves will be whipped in public.

Have a glorious day!

Theren pointed to the theft line and gave me a knowing wink.  “I think that means you.”  I had no intention of stealing here – not now anyways. Doing so without checking in with the guild would result in punishments that I didn’t know the details of, but feared nevertheless.

As we entered the city the smell gave it away first.  Unlike our home Whiterock, it was a stink of sewage, dampness, and dirty feet that stung at your nostrils.  Smoke mingled with the odors and I swore I could smell rotting meat too.  There were people walking through the cobblestone streets, more than in our village.

Blackshear pulled us into a huddle.  “Alright ladies, here’s the plan. For you to get to Lord Sklaver you have to do it through his bloody Vizir.  Krolf Lorraine is as crooked as Wilding Creek.  I may be able to get you in to see him.  You’ll have to work your way past that greasy weasel to get to Lord Sklaver.  I don’t trust Lorraine in the least…for reasons I’ll tell you about sometime.

In the meantime – I’d recommend you stopping by Grayson’s Maps.  Chester is well known and worth stopping by the see.  No matter what, you should go to Odd-Bob’s too.  Robert is, well, strange, but always good for a story or two.  Stay away from the Wayward Knight Inn if you go and seek a drink.  Try and get a room at the Copper Horse – I’ll find you there later.”  With that Blackshear waded into the people on the street, most of them parting to get out of his way.

Arius stabled our mounts at Kurn’s Stables for what seemed like a lot of money.  We made our way through the twisting main street of Karn, finally spotting a sight for Grayson’s Maps.

The inside smelled musty with a hint of old man.  Rolled maps stored in wooden tubes lined the walls, along with books.  In the center of the building was a skylight directly over a large table where an old man leaned over a map, looking at it with a magnifying glass.  “Just a moment,” he said as he moved his pen over the large parchment on the adjustable table.  Then he looked up only out of the corner of his eye at us.

“What are you working on?” Theren asked, genuinely curious.

“A map of Tempora,” the old man said, dipping his pen in ink and continuing to work.

“What is Tempora?”  I asked.

“The lost city of the dwarves to the north of the Gash. I found some references to it in a book I recently purchased and wanted to add to the map that I started.  Tempora has been lost for ages, it was said to be a great city that could only be accessed on the path of blood…whatever that is.  A lot of adventurers have tried to find it, only a few have come back and none of them sane.”  He set his quill on a stand and turned slowly to face us, flashing an instant smile.

“Ah, visitors!  I am Chester Grayson.  Welcome to my humble cartography works.”  He waved his hand to point to the maps.  “What are you looking for?”

“Matthias Blackshear told us to stop here,” I said.

“Matthias? Is he here in Karn?” the old man’s voice got excited.

“Yes.  He’s helping us,” Theren said.

Grayson smiled.  “Friends of Blackshear – well, you must be travelers from afar.”

“We’ve been to the Gelllesian Fields and back,” I said with pride.

“Marvelous.  Did you happen to make a map of your journey?  The fields are difficult for many to navigate.”

I shook my head.  “Sorry.”

“Well then, you are travelers, so you need a map of the realm,” he climbed off his stool and shuffled over to a tube, pulling out a map.  “This is one of my best sellers – the most accurate map of the realm.”

“How much?” Airus asked.

“Fifty gold…but well worth it.”

“Not exactly the ‘Friends of Blackshear’ price,” I said half-under my breath.

Grayson heard me.  “I will also give you a map of the city.  If you are new here, it may help you.”

“Done!” Airus replied, dolling out the money.  I checked my own funds and was surprised.  I had a bag of copper pieces where there had been gold.  It was the coins we had found in the fields, in that offering urn.  Damn!  I guess I should have not stolen the contents of that urn.

Outside he saw some men pass and Chester Grayson winced.  “Blue Cloaks!”

“What are they?” Theren asked.

“They have been here for a year or so.  Strange monks.  They make people nervous more than anything.”

I watched them in their hooded azure cloaks.  These were bald men shifted in and out of the people on the cobblestone street, almost blending in – but not quite.  There was clearly more to these men then meet the eyes.  I had heard of monks before, but these were the first I had ever seen.

We huddled over the map and for the first time realized how far we had traveled.  I focused on the Great Gash.  That was tied to that message we had gotten from Lexa Lyoncroft.  It was a like a nasty scar on the map.  I wondered for a moment what had happened to those paladins.

“Come on,” I said.  “We need to find the guildhall and Odd Bob’s.”

The Campain Part 1 Player Map

Karn3.png

I hope you have enjoyed the saga thus far.  Here are the previous parts if you have missed any installments.  Enjoy!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

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