Welcome to the Table – Episode 3 – What to say at the table

Welcome to the table! It’s good to see you again!

So, we should probably have quick discussion about what to say at the table. Obviously you will have had a successful session zero (we will go over what goes into that another time), so your players are feeling comfortable with you and with each other.

So what is the most important thing you can say at the table?

Arguments can be made for it being a comprehensive knowledge of the PHB, DMG, and MM. That’s useful, sure. Further arguments could be made for an encyclopedic knowledge of your party’s favorite pop culture phenomenon, and as someone who is always down for a reference pull I’d probably give that line of argument some oxygen. It could be very gently suggested that knowing both the phone number and the delivery menu of the pizza parlor du jour is the most important thing to say at the table. To which I would offer that most sessions you’d only need that once. There is something vital that could, nay, should be said multiple times per session.

It’s not “What do you mean a Nat 20 doesn’t automatically succeed?!”

For a moment, let me step into the nebulous realm of metaphor. Hopefully through this fog, we can find clarity.

Imagine your game as an exploratory expedition. You as a party are all setting out together to see what you can discover. You may have some idea of where you are going, and a rough idea of the direction you need to go to get there. And while you as the GM have the final say in where you head, everyone has a voice in the discussion of it. You all burn back the mist surrounding you together, and you all come to the same sets of crossroads at roughly the same time.

I put it to you that the most important thing you can say at the table is “Yes, and…”

If every crossroads is a decision to be made, and the path to your goal is unknown, then the most destructive thing you can do is close off paths before you have walked them. “No” is the fastest way to make sure your players get shut out of the experience you have so carefully worked to make them part of. Your players are creative too. They may or may not have had the same degree of practice, or access to story telling tools as you. You may all be discovering how to do this together. What they absolutely do have, is an imagination that is fundamentally different to yours. They may see possibilities in your world that you had never even thought of. Holes in the map, as it were. Could they be marked ‘Here be Dragons’? Absolutely, but through discovering those dragons they might allow you to create a new story hook, or an amazing character beat.

Allowing them to make mistakes is how they learn, and how their characters grow. Mistakes can be the best thing that happens to a party. They may also be terrible things that come at great cost to the players. The point is, you will never know, if you keep saying no.

You should also be wary of saying “But…” too often. The Monkey’s Paw is great fun to pull out, and if your players ever find a genie and you don’t indulge in a little malicious compliance then you aren’t having as much fun as you could be. Don’t even get me started on players who still trust the Fae to make a square deal. The thing is, if ever situation is an “Ok, but…” then that’s just a softer “No”. 

Let me be clear. You shouldn’t always say yes. Sometimes boundaries need to be drawn, and that’s good and fine. But you need to think of as a seesaw. No’s are very heavy, and sit all at one end. if you want the party to enjoy the ride, those weights need to balance well. And if your players fancy themselves gymnasts? Then you need to make sure that you get them all set up so that you can drop the huge weight on the right end at the right moment, and send them hurtling into the sky to soar or fall as their preparations provide.

To be blunt for just a second, if you want your players to go exactly where you want them to go, and do exactly what you want them to do, write a book. Otherwise you are just frustrating people that came to you to find an outlet for one of the most core human impulses there is, to tell stories together.

To end this on a slightly more positive note, I know that you may have thought about your world for countless hours. You have these grand plans for your adventurers, and amazing things you want them to see and do. But if you allow your players to be fully part of the storytelling, then those things will become the grand set pieces in the tale your party weaves for each other. All you need to do, is when someone makes a suggestion, just say “Yes, and…?”

I’ll see you at the table next session,

Jay Are

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The Tale of the Lone Knight

The Tale of the Lone Knight, as told by Mrs Nogg to her family.

Gather around, my children, and let me tell you a tale. A tale of duty, a tale of sacrifice, a tale of how one man keeps us all safe against the horrors of the night. Yes, little ones, this is the tale of the Lone Knight.  Now you all know the poem, and, like good children, you all say it before bed.  But this is the story of how the Lone Knight started his watch.

A long time ago, the world was in chaos. The Arrival had torn the fabric that had kept our world safe. Things, dark horrible things, from other places where children should never tread, even in their dreams, had made their way into our lands. Strange things lurked in the shadows, the Gods fought for their very survival, and magic was wielded, unchecked and uncontrolled, by mortal men.

Dark things embraced the night and wrought destruction on the innocent. People feared leaving their homes at night.  If the lights in a home went dark, come morning the inhabitants were never to be seen again.  They learned to fear those that lived in the embrace of the night and huddled together in the light to be safe.

From this chaos, one man rose and stood tall. His name was Heranous, and he was brother in arms to Sir Delamour. Yes children, Sir Delamour the Brave, the shining hope of the people!  But hush, for this is not Delamour’s story.

Now Heranous was a tall man and solidly built, not a beautiful man, but striking, nonetheless. A serious man, who never shirked his duty or shied from hard work.  A man who, was not one to win people over with his words, rather won them over with his steadfastness and humility. He was a man that the people respected, a true knight in those dark times.

He and Sir Delamour rode through the lands, driving back the dark things and giving succor and hope to the fearful people. Their stories are many and I could spend years re-telling them.  But you’ve gathered to hear a tale about the great sacrifice that Heranous made to keep us all safe from the dark things in the night.

One dark and unpleasant evening, as the storms lashed the coast, Heranous found himself standing outside an ancient keep. What fateful powers had brought him to this place I cannot tell you, but they were great powers, taking a great gamble to save our world. As Heranous approached the gates to the keep he was attacked by many dark creatures. He fought his way steadfastly through them and reached the cold iron gates. Putting his shoulder to the gates, he mightily forced them open and entered the courtyard. More creatures ambushed him and Heranous again fought them off.

He advanced into the dark keep, ignoring the whispered offers of power and greatness that came to tempt him to surrender to the night. He faced horrors that I will not describe to you, or you will never sleep again! With sure steps, Heranous fought his way further and further into the depths of the ancient keep.  It is said that at one point he nearly faltered, as the forces arrayed against him seemed never ending as he started to succumb to loneliness and exhaustion. The stories say that in his moment of need two figures appeared beside him. One was an old lady, and the other an ancient dragonborn. Yes children, the stories say these were the Earth Mother, and Vindr, He who watches.  They each placed a hand on Heranous’ shoulders and, emboldened by their presence, the Lone Knight fought on.

Eventually Heranous’ battles brought him to the heart of the keep. Here he faced a creature of horror, a creature of tremendous power, a Lord of the Night. Dark energies lashed out from this creature and wracked Heranous in pain, but still he walked on. The creature tore at him and assailed him with foul magics from the shadow world, but still he walked on. The creature tried to bargain with him and promise him power, position, wealth, but to no avail. Heranous would not be swayed, and when he reached  the creature it tried to flee.  But Heranous’ sword was faster, and the creature fell.

Moonlight shone in the keep’s hall for the first time in  this age of chaos, and the night was silent. Heranous gave thanks to all the gods for the light and bowed his weary head.

“Your task is not yet done, brave Heranous, ” the old dragonborn spoke. “Those that embrace the night will always try to enter our world and make it their own. What you have done this day has set them back greatly, but they will be back. And the terror they bring will fall once again upon this world.”

Heranous lifted his head, “How do I stop this?” he simply asked.

“Vigilance is the key ,” the old Dragonborn stated. “We must watch and guard against those that dwell in the night and hold fast this keep and the seals that it guards.  Lest another Lord of the Night will find his way through, and then another and another, until our world has fallen.”

Heranous looked at the old Dragonborn, turned and started to leave the room, “I guess I better get myself a room sorted here then. No time to sit around and discuss it, what needs to be done, needs to be done. The night will not be victorious while I stand guard in this place.”

After Heranous left the room, Vintr, the old dragonborn, and the Earth Mother looked at each other. “How long will his duty be?” the Earth Mother asked.

“Until the towers fall, and the sun is darkened. His duty will never end until he does,” Vintr replied. “Let us hope that he is as strong as we believe him to be.”

Now, my children, if you look far into the night, you may see a light in the distance, glinting off a lone knight’s armor as he stands his watch. Think well of this knight as his devotion keeps you safe.

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The Chronicles of Hastur: Part 7

The Chronicles of Hastur: Part 7

Excerpt from ‘The History of Vanagard – The Reuniting of the Tribes of Hastur’ by Professor Albert Lynath

The Chronicles of Hastur, taken from verbal story telling’s and combined into one written form.

The smell inside what passed for the tent was even harder to deal with than it was outside, Hastur had to breathe through his mouth and was cursing still the fact he had celebrated so much the night before, his stomach started to convulse and stir as he fought to maintain his composure. His discomfort was not lost on Belaadry who cackled.

“Ha ha! Does the stench of an old woman disturb the mighty warrior?” She giggled. Hastur, in extreme discomfort forgot himself momentarily as he answered.

“By the gods woman, how can you live like this? It smells like you eat ogre dung and then rub what’s left over your wrinkled body!” He gagged at her, this just caused her to laugh even more.

“Oh, Sverdoff, I like this one, he’s got spirit, most men make the sign of warding towards me or cast foul words or even stones” She was suddenly silent and stared at Hastur, there was a tension in the tent now that made Hastur forget the vile stench. “But this one, no, he will speak his mind and speak what he feels to be the truth.”

“Young man” she went on, “I do not eat ogre dung although I would relish the chance to use some for my ceremonies, you willing to go and collect some for an old woman? Eh? Though I do not doubt your bravery and skill, I doubt very much now with what is about to start you will be willing to spare the time or the man power needed to go on such a hunt.”

“What do you know of what is about to happen then Belaadry? Have you seen visions?” Hastur asked her, leaning in towards her despite himself and instantly regretting it, his face twisted involuntarily, this set off more chuckling in Belaadry.

“Oh ho! Forget yourself there? My you are keen aren’t you? Can you feel your destiny calling you, tugging at your very bones? I bet you can. But no, it was nothing so mystical my handsome young man, people talk and there are some people who still talk to me. Sverdoff being just one of them, I have my sources young man.” She said, looking outside through the torn and rent fabric of the tent.

“So, why are we here if you are just going to discuss gossip and cooking fire tales?” Hastur looked at Sverdoff, with more than a little anger in his eyes.

“Because Hastur, I do know things, things that untold years of life with the tribes has told me, life with not only the tribes but seeing how we live with the outsiders. I am not denying I have my powers, but I also have common sense, something that is sometimes lacking from the younger generations.” She started to fuss about with some small leather pouches and dried bundles of what looked like twigs and dried plants.

She had a small fire going in the middle of her tent, barely a few embers of dried animal dung burning in a small circle of blackened stones. Broken clay pots and wooden plates clattered as she moved about She grunted as she moved, obviously in pain and discomfort, muttering to herself as she added more dried dung to the fire and gathered some more odds and ends from various parts of her small tent. Hastur just sat and watched, glad she was no longer sat breathing on him.

The small tent started to fill with not only the acrid smell of the burning animal dung, but now it was mixed with a bitter sweet smell of whatever Belaadry was adding to the fire, her muttering was now becoming lower and more rhythmical. She had sat now and was starting to sway, gently as she started to chant, engulfed in the thick smoke that was now pouring from the embers in front of her.

Hastur’s eyes started to sting in the smoke and he felt himself starting to feel light-headed as the smoke started to effect even him. His troubled stomach now long forgotten as he sat, transfixed by this strange old woman sat a couple of feet from him. Time started to have little meaning, he was not aware of how long he had sat there now, close by huddled to Sverdoff, her warm body pressed against his. He felt her leaning in against him and the feeling was very welcome, but still felt distant and dislocated.

Belaadry’s chanting suddenly stopped, she sat now head down and totally still, the smoke now thinning was still burning Hastur’s eyes, the fog in his head though was still as thick and he had no idea they all sat there for, silent, breathing slow and calm. He jumped when Belaadry suddenly sat up straight and said “Hastur!”

“Yes?” He replied groggily.

“The dwarves Hastur, you need to meet the dwarves.” She replied, she sounded exhausted, she started to slump over to one side and Hastur, moved as swiftly as he could to gather her in his arms. She weighed next to nothing, her arms felt like sticks and he could feel her ribs through the foul rags of her clothes.

He gently laid her on the ground of her tent, little more than trampled grass and the odd badly cured animal skin.

“Do you have the honey you brought her?” Hastur asked Sverdoff.

“I… I think I can find it.” She sounded as groggy as Hastur still felt, but she was also starting to move. It took her a couple of moments but she soon passed him the small earthenware jar of honey she had brought the old lady.

Hastur took it off her and dipped his thick finger into the golden liquid, he then placed his finger into the ruined mouth full of blacked stumps of teeth of Belaadry. He slowly licked her lips with a pale tongue and swallowed.

“Thank you Hastur, I was right about you, you are a gentle and noble man despite your scars and muscles” She smiled weakly up at him.

“Yes, the dwarves of the mountains, they have something for you that without you will never see your dream realised. Find Skrannol Firehelm, he and his family will show what you need to know. Now, I must rest. Peace be upon you young man, you have a heavy life to live but you will have good companions to live it with you.” With this she looked over at Sverdoff. “And keep her close at all times. She is precious not only to you and your future, but to the tribes.”

Hastur looked about to see what he could cover her with, he could see nothing so removed his own woollen cloak. He laid it over her and found some furs to place under her head. She was already asleep before he had finished. Hastur and Sverdoff exchanged looks and then left her tent.

The fresh air was a shock to them both, like they had suddenly been splashed with cool clear water.

“Can you see the sun Hastur?” Sverdoff asked him “We were in there for much longer than I realised”

“Hastur squinted through suddenly watering eyes up at the sky, it was indeed much further over in its daily traverse of the sky.

“By the gods you’re right.” He paused, looking at her now. “Her words were pretty clear; do you trust her Sverdoff?”

“I would trust her with my life Hastur. I have seen her say things that have come to pass every single time. She has never been wrong in all the time I have known her. This is my clan Hastur.” She looked at him, almost shyly.

Hastur turned and looked at her directly, he gently took hold of the tops of her arms.

“You are of the tribes Sverdoff, as are these people, I will no longer see people like this shunned and outcast. If you trust her then I trust her. But what are we to do? How are we to find a named Mountain dwarf just like this? And how can I spend time going off to find him? I have work here Sverdoff, I am needed here to plan our campaign.” He spoke to her as gently as he held her.

“We can’t ignore her. I can’t ignore her! She’s been part of my life for as long as I can remember, even my mother used to speak of her from when she was a young girl. All of our clan respect what she says. You have to go to the mountains Hastur. Speak to some of the clan dwarves and see what they say perhaps some of them have heard of this Skrannol.” She said.

“But what of the clan chiefs? They are going to think it mighty strange that one night I call for the clans to unite and fight the outsiders and the very next day I am announcing I am going off to find some mountain dwarf no one has ever heard of. This whole venture of ours hangs on a thread and I can’t see that thread cut.” He replied.

 “The clans are not going to go anywhere for some time… Besides, I have an idea of how we can deal with it the clan chiefs.” Sverdoff said, and with that she started to walk out of the camp and towards the main throng of the gathered tribes.

****

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Mrs Noggs Jam Drops

Mrs Noggs Jam Drops

From ‘An Afternoon Delight – Things to serve those drop in visitors’ by Mrs Nogg.

Makes 24. Prep Time 20 minutes, Cook Time 20 minutes

Ingredients
125g Butter (room temperature)
165g Caster Sugar
2 Eggs
150g Plain Flour, sifted
Pinch of Salt
1tsp Vanilla Extract
Roughly 90g Jam – I like it with Good Berry Jam, but any jam will do if you don’t have a Ranger or Druid handy…

Directions
Heat your oven to 180 Degrees Celsius and line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
Cream the butter and sugar in your electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 mins.
Next add the eggs and vanilla essence, beat until combined.
Add sifted flour and pinch of salt slowly, mix until a dough forms.
Make balls a little smaller than a golfball, roughly a tablespoon of mixture.  
Place on the baking trays leaving room for cookies to spread.
Flatten slightly and form a well in the middle with your finger or the handle of a spoon.
Fill each well with jam.
Bake in the oven for 20 mins.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool on tray for 5 mins before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Serve with Tea and enjoy!

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The Kingdoms of Saragan, a brief history

Nearly two centuries ago, 150 to 180 years by various accounts, the elven Court of Terringorn ruled the continent of Saragan. When the Court fell to the Izon Supremacy, Saragon was thrown into chaos. Untold thousands of humans, dwarves, elves and other peoples were left behind, leaderless and free from their elven masters. This event caused a power vacuum in the region, as no force came to claim control of the continent after the fall of the Court. Thus began the hundred-year war.

Vying for power and dominance the free people of Saragan rushed to claim control over specific regions. Men rallied into tribes, tribes formed into kingdoms that rose and fell in rapid succession. Most kingdoms found their footing in common causes, regions divided among rich natural resources, forests, iron, wildlife and clean waters to name a few.

This conflict had multiple monumental battles. The sieges of Untailia, The razing of E’thu, and the clear water skirmishes to name a few. These battles helped divide regions and natural resources into the majority of the primary Kingdoms that we know still today. Unfortunately, many of the historic records of the war have been altered, ruined or lost to time. Kingdoms that no longer exist have either been absorbed or buried and left waiting to be uncovered. The Kingdoms that managed to endure the war were still forever changed. The larger Kingdoms still have a majority of their historical records intact but many of them contain conflicting evidence at times or are unclear when or how their thrones had changed hands. A treatise was signed by nearly sixty different Kingdoms, ending the hundred-year war and declaring Saragan “The Nation of Kings and Queens”. The Kingdoms began to solidify as relative peace had been brokered.

I have found that most of the larger Kingdoms are in fact built upon or within the ruins left behind by the Court. These structures have been modified and have traded hands through the years which has influenced the cultural designs and artistic history of each Kingdom in turn. Over time alliances formed, trade routes established and peace made through commerce and treatise. Very few of these have survived over the years however. Men rise to oppose tyrants and dethrone weak leaders. Small kingdoms form and fall, some lost to time and memory as none of their existence was recorded save for oral traditions.

As of now the smallest Kingdom I have written record of is called Vi, which consists of a dozen servants and is ruled by its namesake the elven Queen Vi.  Though records indicate this kingdom still persists somewhere deep in the west, I still have to discover it’s exact location and trade. Unlike other regions in the world, Saragan is divided into Kingdoms, but this term is somewhat confusing. A Kingdom can be ruled by a King, a Queen or even a Royal Council. Some kingdoms possess many small villages and hamlets, while other Kingdoms are large singular cities.

In this day and age there are hundreds of kingdoms and sub-kingdoms throughout the continent. Larger Kingdoms are maintained by alliances with border kingdoms. Most major kingdoms have the most prized resources. For example, to the south of Saragan lies the iron filled mountains. Many bloody wars and battles have been fought over control of the mines. The northern river kingdoms command the flow of fresh water throughout Saragan. While none dare openly oppose the river kingdoms, many kingdoms in the region rise in fall in political intrigue and assassination.  

The western forest Kingdoms balance preserving their space and providing resources. Many battles have taken place to decide whether conservation or profit was in the region’s best interest. To the east the fertile fields of the farming Kingdoms play a prominent part in the continent. This region has the least amount of inter-region conflict, but they command the most powerful armies and are the greatest threat to all the other kingdoms.

As of this writing, I am still compiling a running history, researching fallen and forgotten kings, queens and other would-be rulers. Additionally, I am traveling and researching current kingdoms, their cultures and values. Though this endeavor may appear a monumental task most kingdoms are receptive to having their history recorded, adding legitimacy to their rule. I have surmised the vast majority of the region seems to be human controlled.

The industrious dwarven people mostly reside in a south, having several kingdoms of their own. It is not uncommon to see dwarven people in all regions of continent. Likewise, there are a great deal of halflings in the eastern kingdoms, though none to my knowledge are entirely comprised of halflings. This will require more research. There are a great deal of elves and in fact some elven kingdoms in the western realm, but these are more elusive, and secretive. It is rumored these people are all that remains of the Court of Terringorn, but they are so long removed they are barely even associated anymore. I will endeavor to learn more about these hidden kingdoms in due time.

While most would argue the river kingdoms are only human controlled, I must point out the merfolk kingdoms just beyond their reach, into the ocean. They are known to trade or even war with each other over trade routes and fishing disputes. While I haven’t seen any merfolk ashore, I’m told they are frequently integrated into the societies of the coastal kingdoms.

Over the course of my research, I intend to examine specific kingdoms of note. In these discovery examinations I will uncover the history of the kingdom, cultural facts and hierarchy of how the kingdom is run. First, I shall journey to the lands of the Iron Throne, the city of Nevannar, capitol of the Untalia Kingdom!     

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Kingdoms of Saragan – Untaila

On the southern border of Saragan lies the kingdom of Iron, known as Untaila.

Ruled by “The Bastard King” Eoward the Black. King Eoward is a brigand at best, and a monster at worst.

His father Eowan the Conqueror claimed the throne through warfare, and Eoward claimed the throne for himself after his father’s untimely death. Many presume Eoward killed his father for the crown but none have proof of such.

Upon taking the throne King Eoward has ruled with an iron fist, enforcing a great deal of taxes upon his people and blaming their burdens on the nonhumans in the region.

He has convinced his supporters that elves were responsible for his father’s death, through assassination during a diplomatic mission that took place at the time. There was a great purge of elven kind in his lands, and many elven people have been imprisoned or worse.

Though King Eoward is a tyrant in his lands he maintains a peaceful border with other human nations, mainly due to the fact that his army is not big enough to challenge them with any real success.

The kingdom controls some great resources including very rich iron and salt mines. The inner city and castle of Nevannar is heavily fortified. What Eoward may lack in the ability to wage war on other nations he makes up for with an extremely defensible position.

Elven Kingdoms have all but declared war on King Eoward, it is rumored that bands of elves have been disrupting his supply caravans and routes, but no elven nation claims responsibility for these “bandits”. Unfortunately, these strikes only further stoke the fires of hate for elven kind among Eoward’s people.

For many years the men have been at war with one another, it is presumed by most that this in-fighting was fueled by greed more often than not, but there is a shared hatred for non-humans for a number of reasons. Long ago the elves sought to rule over men, seeing them as lesser beings. Humans were, for a time, united against the elves and fought for what is now known as the five kingdoms. These human kingdoms have barely tamed the lands on which they are founded. The political landscape is mostly vying for control over the realms held by mankind while balancing political relationships with the kingdoms of dwarves and elves.

The city of Nevannar has a history of warfare. Whoever the original creators of the city are have been long forgotten as it has traded hands more times than history can recount. Carved into a mountain range, the city is a sight to behold even with the dreary peasants who are littered among its stone halls. Though most support their king, there is an active resistance movement present in the kingdom. While Eoward’s loyalists do their best to hunt down and silence these rebels who seek to oppose Eoward’s rule. Most fight to end the people’s suffering by striking out with random acts of kindness. These rebels call themselves “The Free People of the South” regularly steal from nobles and tax collectors to aid the poor. Their leader, known only as The Crimson Dagger, claims that they will not rest until Eoward is served justice for the high crimes of regicide and patricide for killing his father, usurping his throne and blaming the elves. For this reason, most presume that The Crimson Dagger is in fact an elf themselves. Loyalist use this to stoke distrust among those who would join the rebels. Those caught accepting aid from the rebels are harshly and publicly punished, labeled as elf sympathizers. 

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The Beginning

Everything starts with a beginning. Now it may not have a middle and most of the time it has an end, but there is always a beginning. The story of the beginning of this world on which you stand has been played out many many times across the cosmos, but in this case, this world had the most amazing witnesses to its birth. This is the story of the birth of this world, and the beauty of those that witnessed it’s birth.

In ages past, back in time immemorial, this world did not exist. The stars shone on a great emptiness, and no one was there to marvel at their beauty. Thus, it went for eons, stars shining in their glory, in silence and alone.

One day this emptiness changed. A section of the emptiness tore and through it emerged a magnificent multicolored dragon. The light from the stars reflected off its prismatic scales as it floated in the void between stars. The great beast looked around for some time then simply just vanished, and the stars went back to shining their light on the nothingness.

More eons passed and the stars kept shining. However, instead of nothingness, there was now something small and grey sitting in the center of the void. As the stars watched the grey ball unwound itself and slowly changed shaped. ‘What is this?” the stars wondered and watched.

The grey figure looked back and forth and shook its head. “This will never do” the stars heard it say, “no, not at all.” Then the grey figure began to pull at itself, stretching itself bigger and bigger until it had become an enormous ball. “Yes. This is a start” The stars heard, “this is a good start.”

The stars shone on and watched. Over the eons that followed, the stars noticed changes to the ball, mountains rose, oceans appeared, and the ball changed from grey to blue and green. The stars liked the new look of the ball and shone more brightly so the ball would be easier for them to see.

One day the dragon appeared again, its giant form sparkling in the light from the stars. The great beast seemed to nod its head and the started to circle the ball. As the stars watched the great dragon flew closer and closer to the ball until a lone figure drifted up from the ball to meet it.

“Greetings Ae.” The lone figure said and waved its hand at the great dragon. “Come join me on this world and let’s discuss times to come and times gone past.”

The great dragon inclined its head and said “Well met again Nogara. Times gone past are not our conversation today, but instead we must talk of times to come and your part in them. The stars are our witnesses to this day, and they will shine always upon your world here and remind you of your part in what is to come.”

“Lofty words Ae, and full of things that sound like decisions to me. What needs to be discussed if you and yours have already decided the outcomes.” The figure replied.

The stars shone brightly in shock as they realized they looked upon one of the great gods their far-flung brethren had whispered of, in the ways that stars do. This was one of those moments in time they realized, one that would forever change their corner of the void. But who was this figure that dared address one of the great gods this way, the stars wondered?

As the stars watched, the great dragon laughed. “Nogara, in whatever incarnation, on whatever world I meet you on, you never know your place and always talk when you shouldn’t.” The great dragon laughed again. “Very well Nogara, lets go to this world of yours and talk and reminisce of times gone by, of other incarnations of you and then let’s get to the future and your task in it.” With that the great dragon flew down to the world, followed by the figure Nogara, and the stars watched and waited.

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Welcome to the Table – Episode 2 – Making a settlement

Making a Settlement

Welcome to the table!

So you’re just about to kick off a campaign that would make Tolkein pack his pipe and nod approvingly. But the party needs a village to start in, or maybe you’re ticking along and the party needs some supplies that you just can’t get off goblin corpses. There’s a time and a place for rusty chainmail in child sizes, but sometimes you want actual healing potions rather than murky cave water with glowing moss flecks in it.

But the prospect of building an entire settlement can be daunting. Or at least, I find it daunting as all heck. So many possibilities for layout, so many things that can happen or go into it.

So lets start with the basics. Any settlement needs a source of water, and a source of food. Well, any settlement for living creatures, anyway. So you need those. Water needs to be where everyone can access it, food will be where there is space for it. This tends to be away from the centre of the settlement as fertiliser offends the noses of the delicately constitutioned(is that a possible hazard for an encounter? It is now!).

From here you will probably want a shop of some sort. Obviously the type of shop you have will depend on what sort of settlement you are in, and what your party has need of. This could include travelling merchants,  a frontier-esque general store, or a specialised shop front for specific goods. Don’t be afraid to limit the stock of the shop, no shop is going to have an infinite amount of storage space, and no shopkeep will be able to keep an infinite inventory list in their heads. Just because the players want something doesn’t mean the shop should have it. Make them work for it a bit, they’ll appreciate getting it all the more.

Outside of these basics, you’ll want to have some houses. These don’t need to be super fleshed out, unless your players are especially light fingered. If they are, might be a good time to remind them that actions have consequences, and nobody likes being stolen from.

This framework is also applicable for larger areas, like big metropolitan cities. All yyou need to do is replace settlement with neighborhood or suburb, and stick a bunch of them together. Some slight tweaks around what goods are available, and how expensive things are, and you’ve now got a workable format for a city. If you haven’t worked out all the details for all of the neighbourhoods, fear not! There’s an easy fix. The players can only access THIS neighborhood because the one next door has been quarantined because of a plague. Or people are barred from entering because of a public insurrection. Or any other reason a part of the city might be locked off. Maybe the locals don’t like strangers, but recognise the necessity of some limited contact. These also neatly serve as potential plot hooks for the party to explore.

Ultimately, the joy of creating a settlement doesn’t need to get bogged down in the minutiae. Have some fun coming up with something cool about this settlement, and let the players find what they need in it.

I’ll see you next time at the table,

Jay Are

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The Chronicles of Hastur: Part 6

The Chronicles of Hastur: Part 6

Excerpt from ‘The History of Vanagard – The Reuniting of the Tribes of Hastur’ by Professor Albert Lynath

The Chronicles of Hastur, taken from verbal story telling’s and combined into one written form. 

Hastur and Sverdoff left the cacophony of the initiation ceremony behind and made their way deeper into the main camp. To say the rest of the camp was quiet was incorrect but compared to the noise of the ceremony it was a haven of peace and tranquillity. Sverdoff walked ahead of Hastur and he could not help but admire the lithe grace with which she walked. She was indeed a killer; she was deadly but with a beauty that took Hastur’s breath away.

“Where are you taking me my lady?” Hastur asked. Sverdoff stopped dead still in her tracks.

“What did you call me?” She had her back to Hastur but he could hear the snarl in her voice. “I am not your lady.” She replied. He could see her entire body had stiffened instantly.

“No, you are not” He said, ignoring the tone of her voice, “But I am beginning very much to wish you were.”

He saw her the tension in her shoulders go as she started to walk again.

“We shall see Hastur, we shall see!” Her voice sounded much lighter, he could tell that she was now smiling as she threaded her way through the tents and yurts of the encampment. “I am taking you to Belaadry, she will know what we need to do now.”

“So it is definitely we then is it now?” Hastur asked, pleased with her response, and trying to keep that emotion out of his voice.

“You know it Hastur, don’t hunt for compliments or praise from me.” She said, “This is right for our people. I have seen the villages and towns of the outsiders, they grow in number and they need feeding. Their “lands” were once ours. We have been complacent for far too long. For every raid we have committed over the years, they have planted more fields, cut down more trees and expanded their walls and palisades. We have done nothing to halt their slow march across our ancestral home. We need to take back what was given to us by the Gods Hastur.” She had stopped as she spoke, she was now facing him, hands defiantly on her hips.

“By the Gods you are magnificent Sverdoff! Take me to this wise woman of yours then and we shall she what she says.” Hastur almost pushed her on her way he was so eager now to see where this force of nature was leading him.

He realised she was leading them towards the edge of the camp, the tents and yurts got smaller and shabbier as you got to the outskirts, Hastur realised that there was still a class system within the tribes, the lower the standing of your tribe, the more to the outside of the encampment you were forced to pitch your own camp. This was something that deeply irked Hastur.

“Why is this Belaadry so far out of the camp?” Hastur asked.

“She is of the Hill Goat clan; they are not well thought of.” Sverdoff said, in an offhand manner that also irked Hastur.

“This is something about our people that bothers me. We are all brothers and sister of axe and sword, there should be no clan that is not “well thought of” amongst the tribes.I will address this intolerance and ignorance.” Hastur said.

“You are an idealist, I guess that’s why you are proving popular amongst the tribe especially the younger folks, but be warned Hastur, a lot of these old alliances and feelings amongst the clans go back for generations. Concentrate on the outsiders before you take on the troubles inside the tribes.” She replied.

“I wish I was I could.” He paused “But I see us as a single tribe and for us to fight and be effective as a single tribe, we need to start thinking and acting as a single tribe, not one mass of squabbling children.”

“There may be something in that Hastur but I have a feeling you will find a lot of shields pushing you back if you try to tackle the issue of castes and clans head on.” She replied. “Anyway, we are here now.”

They had reached what was the very edge of the encampment, the tents were little more than badly cured skins and scraps of felted fur over very old frames and poles that had seen better days. The clothes the people wore were shabby and also had the look of being at the end of their useful life. Everything just looked run down, even the people seemed dull and tired. They all stood and stared when Hastur walked into the camp. There were murmurs and Hastur could see them whispering to each other as he walked past.

Sverdoff strode up to what was easily the roughest looking shelter of them all, barely a tent, more a collection of scraps pulled over some bent sticks. The smell coming out of it was rank and even Hastur wrinkled his nose and pulled a face.

“She’s in there?” He asked “It smells like she’s dead.”

“She does have a certain odour that is for sure, but I have never known her to be wrong with her predictions and visions.” Sverdoff replied. “Belaadry, it’s Sverdoff, I have a friend with me, we have come to listen to your wisdom.”

She waited for a moment, Hastur could hear people laughing behind them and he turned to see a few of the watchers sniggering into their hands.

“Belaadry!” Sverdoff almost shouted now. She shook the tent. Hastur was sure it would fall down if she shook it harder.

“What… What is it?” An old and broken voice sounded from inside the tent.

“It’s Sverdoff Belaadry, I have a friend here who needs your wisdom.” Sverdoff replied.

“You have Hastur with you, the Bloodthirster.” The voice said.

“I see your powers have not left you old woman.” Sverdoff said.

“Did you bring me the usual fee?” The voice asked. Sverdoff shrugged something off her shoulder and Hastur saw now that Sverdoff had been carrying a small waxed leather bottle with a wooden stopper in it slung over her shoulder off a leather thong.

“Yes Belaadry, I would never forget to bring your favourite drink with me.” Sverdoff gently shook the bottle and it sounded full, she turned to Hastur and said. “She has a fondness for mead, and not just any old mead. It has to be made from mountain bee honey.”

A head poked out from the tent, Hastur nearly fell over with the shock. It was an elderly woman with a shock of white hair that was matted into long strands. In the strands of matted hair were bones and beads and sticks of all shapes sizes and colours that rattled as she moved. Her face was covered with a ix of dirt and what looked like coloured clays that had been daubed thickly over it with broad finger strokes. He did not want to acknowledge the ruin that was her mouth, there were a few brown and rotten teeth still there and the smell from it was overpowering even from a few feet away.

“It’s the bees.” She said, “They feed on the heather on the high mountain slopes, they produce the finest honey you can find. Mind you, you have to fight the mountain ogres and bears for the honey!”

“Here!” Said Sverdoff and she thrust the leather bottle at Belaadry’s outstretched hand.

She took the stopper off and sniffed the contents suspiciously, then she placed the mouth of the bottle to her cracked lips and took a sip, her eyes brightened.

“This,” She said with a smile. “is worth more than any ransom or blood-fee. I will take this drink from the gods over the finest spring water. Not even the gods piss anything as sweet as this.” She cackled and went back into her tent.

“Well,” Belaadry called, “Are you coming in to speak to me or not?”

Sverdoff looked at Hastur. “You will be ok, just try breath through your mouth, believe me, she has never been wrong, her words are worth enduring her charms for. Sverdoff grinned and pulled the flap of the tent aside.

“After you.” She said with a grin. “My good man.”

Hastur threw Sverdoff a grimace and with that he bent and entered the old lady’s tent.

****

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Mrs Noggs Famous BBQ Ribs

Mrs Noggs Famous BBQ Ribs

The barbeques at Mrs Noggs are literally world famous. You can find yourself passing the salt to a Seated Lord from Valarnin one moment and then caught in chit chat with a Troll Master from the Garyn Heights the next. Her BBQ ribs are said to be the best in Vanagard.

Ingredients:

210 g (¼ cup) tomato sauce
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp brandy (Mrs Nogg prefers to use Dynwyth Estate, but if you can’t get a bottle of Vanagards best Brandy, then you will just need to improvise with something from your own world).
2 tbsp caster sugar
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp hot Spanish paprika (pimento)
2 kg pork ribs, ribs separated

Instructions:

Combine tomato sauce, dark soy, brandy, sugar, garlic, oil, paprika and 1 tsp pepper in a large bowl. Add ribs and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (if you don’t have access to a refrigerator, see your local Artificer)

Preheat a barbecue to high. Cook ribs, brushing with remaining marinade and turning, for 25 minutes or until caramelised.

Eat!

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