OnTo Destiny Episode 7

From the diaries of Isyadora.

When our valiant band of adventurers awoke, they were lead to a giant dining hall where all manners of creatures were eating and talking. “Sit, eat, replenish. The Archmage will see you soon” their guide gestured at a table. They sat and ate and watched in wonder as strange creatures appeared and vanished all around the room. After some time, their guide appeared again, “The Archmage will see you now”.

The party rose from the table and their guide lead them to the entry door. As they walked through the door, the hallway changed into a comfortable room, stacked with books, weird objects and plants. Waiting for them was the Archmage Chastormax, in his prismatic robe.

“Greetings and thank you for freeing my cousin from the other side.’ He gestured and chairs appeared. ‘Sit, and let me tell you of your part in the events that are unfolding.’

“I will be brief, for unlike some of my colleagues, I understand that boredom is thing that the young suffer from… You sit now in my study in the Prismatic Tower, currently in the continent of Gallia on the World of Vanagard. Gallia is the home of my people, the Izon Supremacy. You will see much of wonder in Gallia and learn from masters that are older than the nations you once called home.”

“Gallia is a protected continent, the City of The Twins, where you first arrived and Drenger Holm, are the only two cities in our land that non citizens or special invited guests can set foot. Hmmm? Oh lets just say that we are little private and that if you stray past these cities your death will be quick and absolute. Hmmm? Magic is in the soul of my peoples and we will know and find you… Anyway, back to my tale…”

“You will be graced with special markings that allow you to travel our lands. You would call them tattoos, we call them The Knut. They symbolize the union between us, the land and our Gods, and also allow you to use the vehicles and magics that form part of our societies daily life.”

“Now,” and the light seemed to fall heavy on the adventurers, “When you defeated the Lord and Lady, you started a chain of events that now must be contained and controlled, or the darkness will be loose upon the worlds again. You are now pivotal parts of this and must fulfill your destinies. Trust me when I say, failure is not an option I am interested in discussing. You have started the unlocking of the doors that will allow the Darkness in and if all these doors are unlocked, the war for supremacy will span countless worlds and leave most of them ash.”

“The weapons you carry are ancient symbols of my people, so I suspect your part in this was foretold. Hmmm? Meddle not in the plans of Gods, little rogue, for they are honestly not often well thought out and it will leave you feeling very glum…”

“The next step for you is to go to see the Oracle, she will confirm my thoughts and help set you on your way. But first…” Chastormax raised his hands and a burning feeling arose for a moment on the adventurers arms. Startled, they looked and on their lower arms were now swirling runes that shifted color as they watched. “This is The Knut. Whether the Electors like it or not, you are now all one of us, bound together on this path. Glory is yours for the taking, and the worlds will sing your tales should you succeed.”

(cue end of episode credits).

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The Chronicles of Hastur: Part 8

The Chronicles of Hastur: Part 8

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 chewed his lip deep in thought as he and Sverdoff walked back into the main body of the camp. The smells and noise from his recent experience in the tent of the mad old crone still affecting him. The weight of what she had said was pressing him down. Planning for war and conquest was one thing, fulfilling the prophecies of an old lady were another.

“Just how do you expect them to go for this Sverdoff?” He asked.

“It may have escaped your notice Hastur” She replied, “but the people of the clans are a superstitious lot, don’t worry about the elders. Leave it to me.”

And with that she gently took his hand and led him deeper into the camp, at first he was shocked at the open display of friendship. It was not unusual for the people of the clans to hold each other’s hands, it was a sign of friendship and trust, you would often see men deep in conversation with their fellows, hand in hand. It was normal, but for members of the opposite sex to do so was considered a sign of a deeper friendship and a public display of that friendship had much deeper meaning.

“Are we a couple now?” Hastur asked.

“Are we not?” Sverdoff countered.

“I would like us to be. I think you can tell that. We have been with each other lass than the passing of one day and yet I feel there is something more there.” He stated, “Don’t you?”

“Yes, I feel there is something more there, I feel like we were supposed to meet last night. I have spent a lot of time with Belaadry in the past and I have learned from her to trust my instincts. And my instincts are to stick with you now. Besides,” She paused and looked at him almost bashfully “you are not unattractive and you are quite attentive, even when you have been in your cups.”

Hastur felt himself blush, this was something he was not used to or expecting.

“Ah, yes… I am not sure how to reply to you Sverdoff. It is true I do like you and feel very comfortable with you, your words however have, um, shocked me somewhat. You are certainly not like other women. I am not sure what to say now! He said.

“This is obviously confusing for your meathead brain!” She laughed. “Look, I like you, just leave it at that shall we.” With that she giggled and started to jog, Hastur had no choice but to follow her despite his fragility after the night before and the events in the tent of Belaadry.

***

It was late afternoon by the time they got to the centre of camp where the tents were gathered in a large circle, this was where the elders from all the clans met. At the centre of the circle was a single wooden post with a horn fashioned from a mountain Ogre’s horn suspended from rawhide, Hastur took this up and gave it a mighty blow, the sound coming out of it was loud enough to be heard over all the camp and would summon the elders to the circle. It was a simple but effective method of gathering the clan chiefs and elders to conclave.

 It took a matter of minutes for the first of the elders to turn up, they quietly took their place, in the circle and started talking to the few others that gathered. They asked no questions of Hastur and Sverdoff who remained in the centre of the circle. The procedure was to wait until the entire conclave was filled, to the observer this would seem impossible without a register being called, but there were people present who were selected for their incredible memories who knew by sight the faces of the chieftains or their representatives. At the nod from these select few the meeting would begin, but not before.

It took over an hour for that nod to come, it was starting to get dark and all around the camp, the sounds of the daily activity gave way to the sounds that took over in the night, singing, shouting, drumming. The camp truly came to life at night Hastur thought.

It wasn’t Hastur that spoke though, it was Sverdoff who faced the gathered faces of the chieftains and elders.

“Mothers and Fathers of the tribes.” She started, Hastur noticed her voice did not tremble with nerves and she looked utterly at ease doing this. “We have had to call you here this night, although I am sure some of you will still be feeling the effects of last night.”

There were more than a few nods and groans in agreement with her statement.

“You decided last night that the words of this man stood in front of you” She motioned towards Hastur, “Should bring the tribes together and fight our common enemy outside our realm and stop them encroaching any further into our ancestral lands.”

There were nods and shouts of agreement now, the gathered faces looking eager at her words.

“But as you will know, we are a people bound by tradition, bound by honour and bound by duty to our past and to our elders.” She paused to acknowledge again their nods and consent. “It was with this in mind that I took Hastur to see one of our eldest, the wise woman Belaadry from my own clan. Hastur was keen to get started on battle plans and campaigning, getting our logistics organised and appointing generals!”

She paused again, Hastur felt now she was being theatrical, but he would be the first to admit, the people of the clans loved a bit of theatre and show, they would be appreciating this, it would form part of the stories they would go and report back to their own tribes as soon as the conclave broke.

“But I persuaded him, I said Hastur, this is no time for hot-headedness, this is a time for council and for listening to the spirits, he was not convinced, but I took him anyway!” The gathered elders laughed at this. Hastur was beginning to appreciate what she was doing, she was painting him as keen and eager to serve the tribes, but also as someone who would listen to council and if necessary be guided to do something for the good of the tribes. She was a fine woman and his heart was beginning to fill with admiration for her.

“Those of you who know Belaadry will know that she has always been here for the tribe and that she is to be taken seriously when the spirits call to her. I have known her all my life and my mother before her knew her from when she was a child and she has never been wrong, although she has also never been clean!” That last statement raised laughter and more than a few of the elders gathered there wafted hands in front of their faces to indicate they knew what Sverdoff was talking about.

“We went to see her just hours ago and she said that Hastur would be successful, but that he needed to meet with Skrannol Firehelm of the mountain Dwarves before anything else could be settled.” There were some murmurs now in the crowd, people looked at each other trying to figure out what this information told them.

“We don’t tell you this because we need permission, we will go regardless. But we do need you to understand, the fire in your bellies at the thought of war is burning bright at the moment and we want you to understand that we do this because we have to, we need your understanding.”

Hastur spoke then, understanding why Sverdoff had said she would talk to them first.

“Sverdoff although young is the wisest person I have met, she understands the ways of the tribes better than I do. She knows that I needed to go but if I just went, you would perhaps feel I was just playing at leading you to war and that perhaps I wasn’t serious. Believe me, I am serious about war, it is what we were born for! But I know we need to do what Belaadry said and to hold the fire of war in our bellies until I have been to the dwarves. I need you to understand I am not running away from what I asked so fervently of you last night.” Hastur now paused as the elders were silent. “I want to fight, but I also want to do what is right, and I believe that this is the right thing to do, before the war comes.”

An elderly lady stood to speak from amongst the gathered elders.

“Hastur and Sverdoff, you have shown, to me at least that you are taking this seriously. We have time enough for war and Sverdoff is right, the spirits and the elders need to be heeded at this time, more than any other time. I don’t speak for us all here, but you certainly have my understanding and blessing to go seek what Belaadry says you must!” The elder sat down, stiffly but with dignity Hastur thought, only for another to take her place, a man, younger, not much older than Hastur himself.

“Hastur you have shown more leadership in coming to us to seek council than just charging like an Ogre into the task of war. We respect you more for this, you have the blessing of my tribe.” He sat, for his place to be taken by yet another who voiced similar feelings as those preceding him. This was repeated by many others until Hastur raised his hand for silence.

“My brothers and sisters of the tribes, have I your understanding and consent to go and see the mountain Dwarves as foretold by Belaadry?” A great shout came from the gathered elders. “So be it then, I will be getting a party together to travel as soon as possible, as I am impatient for war, my axes thirst for blood, but I will respect the tribes and more importantly the spirits of the tribes. Svarya, our blessed god of war will have to wait, for now. We thank you for your time, brothers and sister, this means more to me than you can possibly imagine.”

With those words the elders stood and slowly started to make their way from the conclave in twos and threes, all talking and as far as Hastur could tell, all looking pleased. One figure remained though, the small figure of a Dwarf, one of the clan dwarves of the tribes, he started to make his way over to where Hastur and Sverdoff stood.

“I am Beskadur of the Stone Wolves, I think I may be able to help you with your quest to meet my brothers and sisters of the mountains.” The Dwarf said.

***

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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