Monday, April 27, 2009

dates and fates

Finally. Some dates for the Summer Sidequest. Sorry they took so long. I didn't want to be playing while Kelly was still doing homework assignments.

Sat, May 23
Sat, June 6
Sat, July 18
Sat, Aug 1
Sat, Aug 29

All of the above will hopefully be at Degolar's place. I figure we'll spend a little while on the first date actually rolling the characters and getting equipped.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The First One is Free

I think I might be on the brink of convincing Gobula to try some World of Warcraft again. Which would make questing more fun. What would make it really fun is to have some other real-world friends to play with, hint, hint, hint. You know you want to.

Friday, April 10, 2009

what a tease

I'm just waiting on one more person. He's new to the group, and a little bit new to d+d. We'll have 5 players (and 1 dm). I'm trying to get the schedule nailed down with Kelly, then I'll present it to you guys. I'm thinking early May for our first meeting.

I can say a little bit about the adventure, to whet your appetites. It's late summer, early autumn. Harvest time. You're all in a village in the nation of Galt, in the small town of Azurestone, though you may not know each other yet.

You might think about why your characters are there. Do they have family in the area? Are they part of a merchant caravan? Hunters? etc.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

A Conversation with Pavo Baradin (continued)

I didn’t always hate the gods.

In fact, my earliest memories revolve around wonder at the might and glory of the valorous god Heironeous. My father was a high-ranking priest in his church at [insert large Pathfinder city, in a theocracy if possible]—as was his father and his father and many of my extended forbearers—and as first born I was . . . groomed to inherit the family business, if you will. Belief in the supremacy and goodness of Heironeous was central to my identity and everything I knew. I was even born under an auspicious sign and it was believed I’d be the most successful Baradin in church history; expectations for me were high. My education was based on church history and theology, my reading material religious documents. I was always put in charge of my peers and taught to lead them, given every opportunity to speak in public (about the glories of Heironeous, of course), and trained in the martial arts to prepare me for the battlefield. Everyone knew—me most of all—who I was and what I was meant to be.

But as I was taught the family and church history, I was educated in ways no one intended. I was supposed to see a great line of heroes who had given everything for the greater good of the god. At first I believed all the stories at face value, but gradually I began to see those “heroes” as men who had sacrificed themselves at the whim of a self-centered greater being and a thoughtless, overbearing church. My epiphany began with my great-uncle Solangus’ death. Where I loved my father as the strict, distant, powerful role model who taught me the discipline I needed to succeed in life, Uncle was always exciting and dangerous and doting. He spoiled me and treated me to tales of his travels as an agent of the church, full of adventure, great deeds, narrow escapes, and exotic locations. But when he was captured by Hextor’s minions the church disavowed all knowledge of him—Heironeous doesn’t negotiate with Hextor—and he was killed. At his memorial he was hailed as a hero who died serving his god, but all I saw was someone betrayed and abandoned. He had devoted his life to his god and received only rejection in return.

I went through a period of quiet mourning and depression, then threw myself into my studies with renewed vigor. But this time instead of taking the lessons at face value I looked for the unspoken stories behind them. Uncle may have been a far-ranging agent, but only because early in his career he had expressed doubts about the orthodoxy and been exiled from the large churches so he’d be kept from the flock. Instead of rebelling, he had been a good follower and accepted his fate. After discovering Uncle’s story I began to find others, bullied into submission for the sake of the church, true believers dying young for their beliefs, abandoning families to obsess over duty. I couldn’t find anyone who had actually been happy, fulfilled, and allowed to develop to his full potential. And instead of believing in the church as my vessel to success and greatness, I began to see it as a prison I must escape.

My father died on the battlefield when I was 16, after which I broke down in grief and frustration and shared my doubts with my mother. At first I thought she was crying tears of disappointment, but she let me know she was feeling joy that I had learned to think for myself and relief that I might find a different fate than the one that had been chosen for me. She had lost enough loved ones to the church and wasn’t going to let it happen to another. Instead of letting me repeat my Uncle’s mistakes, she urged me to continue playing the role of true believer while she began working on ways to disentangle me from the web of bureaucracy that was our family’s life. Less than a year later she came to me with my inheritance, papers with a forged identity, and a guide who would take me far from the only life I had ever known. That was the last time I saw her, as I have never been back.

It hasn’t been due to fear, though. Mother let me know through letters in the following months that there was no pursuit; I was simply considered a disappointment lost from the flock and quickly forgotten by those who had invested so much in my future. No, I’ve never gone back because I don’t want to be reminded of the bitterness and betrayal I felt when I realized that my family didn’t matter to the god for whom they had sacrificed so much. As I left that day I vowed never to enslave myself to another’s whims the way they had.

So I traveled, living off of my inheritance. At first I had no idea what to do with myself, as I knew only what I was running from and not what I was running to. Boredom can be a powerful motivator, though, and I was soon looking for something meaningful to do with myself. I tried finding diversion in odd jobs—quickly gaining an education in the ways of the world that I hadn’t known in my previously sheltered existence—but found myself drawn back into the types of things I’d been trained for. I knew reading and writing and churches; I was good at reading and writing and church things, and did in fact enjoy them more than anything else. In [insert Pathfinder location] I tutored a rich man’s children in history and theology for a year. In [insert Pathfinder location] I was a scribe at the library for a time. And in [insert Pathfinder location] I was secretary to a high-ranking government official. The pursuits were each interesting in their own way, but none of them sated my desire to round out my own education. I found I couldn’t stop thinking of the things I had been taught as a child and wanting to know if other gods and their churches suppressed their followers in the same ways.

In the end I decided to make my way in the world as an itinerant student, wandering from university to university to study as each would take me at my advanced age. And instead of avoiding temples and shrines, I began exploring everything I could find wherever I went. I wanted to know the nature of religion. In some ways I learned my family’s heritage of sacrifice and early death in the name of Heironeous was better than many, for we at least believed in what we did and that we were part of a structure attempting to be benevolent. Others were much more open in their greed, sometimes not even disguising the fact that all they cared about was the power they could attain by using faith as a mere tool of their individual ambitions. Not all—many were true believers in their own ways—but there were some. I spent years hopping from place to place, hoping at each next stop I’d find some form of religion that would break the mold, but all I discovered was greater and greater disillusionment.

The one constant to every belief system, every structure organized around a god—indeed, about every organizational structure of any kind—was hierarchy. The highest value is always placed on the god, then the god’s chosen, then the god’s leaders, then the god’s clerics, and on down the ladder until those at the bottom know in the depths of their hearts they have no worth except in the meager ways they might serve the church. And just as I had rejected that system in my own heritage, I gradually began to believe it my mission to help others reject it in theirs. I didn’t know it for many years, but somewhere inside of me was the seed that has become my new destiny. Those travels were my studies as a priest of no religion, of anti-religion, of belief in the inherent goodness and potential for greatness in each individual that should not be suppressed by worship of a god or anything else.

Over the course of my travels I went from negative study of what I didn’t want to be to developing my own belief in the worth of all life. Yes, I studied the bards and how their stories are nothing more than illusions, using exaggerations and lies to build belief in heroes who are no different than you or me, but I also spent time studying with the monks of [insert appropriate Pathfinder location] in their quest for godless enlightenment and individual perfection. I saw that it was people’s nature to rank each other and try to improve their sense of self-worth by comparing themselves to others that they might see as lesser, but I also saw wonderful examples of people setting aside their own interests to help others. I came to believe that if we work together we might overcome the oppression caused and inequality perpetuated by worship of the gods. Instead of trying to step on top of each other to gain dominance, we should focus on mutually lifting each other up and helping each other develop as one.

So that is who I am and what I believe. If you join with me you join with my mission. I will do what I can to help you develop your potential for goodness. I know spells that can protect you from harm, make you stronger in your quests, and cure you of injury. I exist to help you. But in return I expect you to help me in my mission, ensure that your actions are helping others instead of harming them. All we have is each other, and we must share our abilities with those we encounter. Come; let us make the world a better place.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Portrait of a dancing queen

Aliviana was a shy, meek child…until she was about four. After that she was a headstrong terror and the apple of her parents’ eyes. She grew up looking after the horses, lame gryphon, and tame owlbear alongside the animal handlers, mimicking her cousins’ acrobatics, learning how to flatter and fleece the marks from her father’s bogus fortune-telling, and standing statue-still before gasping audiences as her mother outlined her shape on a target with expertly thrown daggers—then making them cry out in alarm as the knives continued to fly while she danced through their path.

Her great aunt—and the caravan’s Matriarch—Aliviana, was exceptionally proud of her namesake, and nurtured the girl’s talents. A current of magic was known to run through the family, and the elder Aliviana suspected that some of the crackling energy that seemed to emanate from the young Livy was more than sheer force of personality. The suspicion bore fruit when, in the course of an energetic dance, Livy’s snapping fingers sparked, sending a waft of ozone through the tent and raising the hair of the enraptured crowd.

It was less than a month later when, puffed up with false confidence, Livy went wandering alone through the seedier parts of the backwater town of Litran. Varisians were not looked on with fondness there, and things could have ended badly, but Livy managed to pick up a drowned rat of a protector. After dragging young Drebin back to her family and begging to keep him, promising to look after him, the bedraggled boy was informally adopted into the Zershinka clan. While the encounter did manage to teach Livy about her limits, regrettably it did nothing to deter her wanderlust and independent spirit, much to Drebin’s dismay.

Some few years later, when the gawky young girl was on the verge of vivacious womanhood, the caravan encountered an injured serpent on the road from Tymon. While the others either overlooked the creature, or advocated killing it out of mercy, Livy felt an odd pull from it and decided to nurse it back to health. Shazuul, as she named him, flourished under her care and developed a bond with her. Audiences were consistently thrilled by Livy’s dances when she was joined by a snake longer than she was tall and the coins rolled in for the caravan. It was hard to resist the striking, exotic young woman with the flashing eyes and lightning feet, after all.

At the tender age of twenty-two, Livy, longing to see even more of the world than she saw with her family, and wanting to experience life on her own terms, tearfully told her great aunt that she’d had a vision instructing her to leave her family for a time, but that she would return safely and with knowledge of use to her clan. Drebin was the only one to meet the pronouncement with skepticism and, as such, he was the only one who accompanied her—apart from Shazuul, that is. She feels a little guilty about deceiving the caravan, so she hopes to be able to make good on her promise.

Friday, April 03, 2009

A Conversation with Pavo Baradin

A waste of breath.

What? Oh, well you just muttered a quick prayer, right? You’re wasting your breath.

No offense meant, I just think you’d be much better off focusing your energy--and belief--on your own ability to accomplish the task than relying on some distant figure who doesn’t really care about your problems.

No, no, I understand he’s a benevolent god who only wants what’s best for the world, it’s just . . . look, are you sure you want to get into this? I’m going to be rather heretical and you may not like what I have to say. Can you keep an open mind and give me a fair listen? Because once I’m done I think you’ll be glad you did.

Ok . . . see those people drifting in and out of that temple across the street? They’re making themselves slaves, every one of them. Subjugating themselves. Lowering their value in the eyes of the world and, most importantly, in their own eyes. They could be working to better themselves and help each other, but instead they sit around praying and hoping and wishing that their god will somehow take care of it all for them.

And, sure, the god might help out some. The priests will channel his power to heal them and address their other needs, but it’s always for a price. If they’re not baldly taking money in exchange for these so-called favors, they’re taking dignity—in exchange for the god’s blessing you must worship the god, tell yourself and the world that the god is a higher level being than anyone else, more worthy of worship than anyone else. Ultimately, it’s not about you, it’s about furthering the god’s ends and raising him up as superior. Always, in the end, it’s about him, about them. They only help us to help themselves.

Well, I say don’t worship any gods, worship yourself.

Sure, they may have more power than you or I, they may be able to create miracles and alter the fabric of world. I’m not disputing their power. I’m arguing that doesn’t make them any more inherently valuable than anyone else. It’s a bully mentality. They’re saying, “I have all the power so I’m better than you. I’m grander. I’m more important. You’re a fly that I may notice enough to help out every once in a while, but really you’re nothing when compared to me. I’m stronger so I get to be the boss. Now go out and tell everyone else how wonderful I am, because you don’t really matter.”

Well, I say it’s not about who has the most power. Your existence is just as important as any god’s, and you don’t need to feel like you’re any less than any other being. You matter just as much as that god.

And you know what? You do have power. I have power, and he and she have power. We are all of us divine, if we just take the right perspective and know where to look.

How do I know? Because I’ve learned to tap into that power. I’m just beginning to understand the potential and how to draw on it. The gods get their power by standing on top of others. But by learning that divinity isn’t just about the gods but about all life everywhere, I’ve learned that when we focus on mutually lifting each other up we can make our own magic. Not when it’s just you or just me, but when it’s us. We do it together. When I can find the divinity in you and you can find the divinity in me, when we truly believe that we are all divine and don’t need to subjugate ourselves to gods or anyone, we can reach the power that gives us life.

But I’m talking in abstracts, here. Maybe it would be helpful if I told you my story so you could see how I’ve come to believe what I do . . .

(to be continued)

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Fighter Flight of Fancy

Drebin leaned against the plow, resting from his work. It had been a long day and would probably only lead to another hard day tomorrow. He had wanted to finish the field like his father told him, but over the winter months, the mole weed had snuck in and taken up root a good hand length beneath the surface. Its tough, sinewy root system had criss-crossed the field like a giant spider web and it was taking far too long to pull or cut the blasted tendrils of thorny plant loose from the ground. It would probably take an extra two days, just to clear the field and finish plowing the rows for planting. That is, it will if the damned root doesn’t re-grow and heal itself in the mean-time. Drebin reached and picked up a chunk of the mole weed and glared at it.

“It’s your fault, you know,” he said to the lump of putrid brown vegetation in his hand. “Right now, I could be out with my friends practicing with old Veren, the king’s old arms master. I could be learning how to use the sword and shield. I could be learning the ways of battle so I can get out of this forsaken pit of land. I could become a great warrior and join a band of adventurers and see the world. But because of you, I am stuck here, even longer in fact, to have to toil over this stupid chunk of land. Having to push this plow behind this stubborn horse…”

The beast turned its head toward Drebin.

“Just kidding, girl,” he said, patting her rump. “I just wanted to see if you were listening.” He dropped the weed back to rest with the rest of the pulled roots, into the bag he had tied to the handle of the plow so he could burn them all later and not give them a chance to sprout again and ruin the fields.

As he did, he thought about how much like the weed he was. How much he wanted to grow, to spread out across the land and see new things. But, like the weed, he was cut short and would probably be stuck in this bag until the day he too would be tossed into the void, never to grow again. This only depressed him more. He tugged the reigns and the plow moved forward. Drebin’s well toned and muscled arms kept it steady and the row straight.

A distance off, an old man lifted his head from over a scrying glass and smiled.

So, he thought, young Drebin wishes to be freed of his responsibilities at home so he can go out and see the world. Well, perhaps he shall get his chance.

A dark chuckle curved the lips of the old hedge wizard. He had been watching Drebin for some time now. The boy had caught his lustful eye some time ago when Drebin and his family had come into the heart of town for the festival of harvest. The old man spotted him in the crowd and followed him for hours, taking in every inch of him with a vile and shameless glare. From that day forth, the old wizard, Carrem, had been keeping a very close eye on the boy. An eye that now sparkled with the light of a cruel design that was forming in his mind.

Drebin awoke with a start. He could feel the presence of someone in his room. He looked around, but there was no one there. He took a deep breath to calm his nerves and slow his heart, which had begun beating quickly with fright. He closed his eyes and could hear the beat of it in his ears. He took deep calming breaths until it had finally slowed to its normal rhythm.

What was that about, he thought to himself. He took another look around the room and still, there was no one there. He moved to lie back down, but stopped when he noticed something out of the corner of his eye. To the right of his bed, near the doorway, he could barely make out a shadow on the wall. It was very difficult to see, but there was definitely something there. He started to rise from his bed to investigate, but was stopped as the shadow formed into the dimly lit form of an old man.

Drebin tried to call out, but the man moved his hand, sweeping the air, as if sweeping away flies, and to his surprise, Drebin could no longer speak. He could feel his lips moving, but nothing escaped them. Panic rose in Drebin and a sense of doom washed through him like wave upon the sand.

“Fear not, young one,” the old man said with a wry grin, “the effect is not permanent. Please relax and will tell you why I am here.”

Drebin eyed him cautiously and settled back against his headboard.

“That’s better,” the old man said, seating himself on the chair next to Drebin’s bed. Drebin scooted away from the man as he did this.

“You must forgive my brashness,” the old man said, “I could not help myself. I suppose some kind of introduction is in order. I am Carrem.” Drebin’s eyes widened at the name.

“And I see from your expression,” Carrem continued, “that you have heard of me.”

Drebin had heard of him. All of the town’s people knew that name. It was known throughout the small village of Berden, and probably throughout the town of Litram to the north, that name was. The name Carrem was to be feared by many of the mothers and fathers for many miles. This name was synonymous with the words “monster” and “fiend.” The stories of him varied, but all had the same base to them. Carrem was a stealer of children. It was said that he did terrible things to them until he grew tired of them, or until he used them up completely. Either way, there was nothing left of the child, alive or dead, when Carrem had finished with them.

Drebin drew away further, nearly falling off of his bed in the effort.

Carrem only sighed.

“I see you have heard those stories,” the old man said, shaking his head wearily. “You probably will not believe a word I say, but I tell you now, they have been fabricated and manipulated to the point of horror tales that children tell one another around a camp fire. They are not true, young lad. If they were that bad, why has no one come to destroy me for my evil ways? Why have I not been brought to justice? As you can see, I am but an old man, and can hardly defend myself.

“Yes, the tales call me a dark wizard, and yes, they tell of my great powers, but they are also highly exaggerated. It is true I have some powers of magic, but none the likes of the tales. Why, it took much of what little power I have to keep your tongue still for a limited time. I so worn from the effort, I cannot even remain on my feet until I rest a bit,” he said, motioning to the chair in which he now sat.

“But,” he resumed, “that is neither here nor yonder. I have come with a gift, my young friend. I have come with tidings of good will and of freedom for you, lad.”

At this, he reached behind himself and pulled out a bag. It seemed nearly empty to Drebin’s eyes, but when the old man reached in and pulled his hand back out, it was holding a large shield. Drebin looked back at the bag, which was scarcely half the size of the shield. His amazement at the sight must have been apparent, because Carrem grinned widely with amusement.

“Ah, yes,” the old man said, “I suppose you have probably never seen one of these before, have you my young friend. This,” he said, holding up the bag, “is called a ‘bag of holding.’ I wish I could take credit for its astounding power to hold such large items in such a small space, but unfortunately, I cannot. I can, however, take credit for this,” he said, nodding to the shield.

“This,” he went on, “is a very special shield indeed. It took me a very long time to craft it. It holds within it the power to deflect fire. It will stop the flame from reaching you, no matter how hot it may burn.” He handed the shield to Drebin, who took it cautiously.

“And there is more,” Carrem said, “much more.” He reached into his bag again and drew out a sheathed sword. He handed that over to Drebin as well. Drebin was so enamored with the object that not even his fear of the old man slowed him from taking it from Carrem’s hands. He drew the blade from the sheath and it shone as if lit by sunlight. The silvery glow of the blade seems to fade a little, but it seemed to keep a constant aura of light that lit the room around him as well as any candle. He swept the blade through the air, and he could swear it sang to him.

“You see,” Carrem said, startling Drebin, who had been caught up so much by the sword that he had forgotten the old man was still there. “If I meant you harm, why would I give you a means to fight me? No, no, my boy. As I said before, I am here to aid you in your upcoming quest.”

“Quest,” Drebin said, and then started, realizing he could speak again. He was tempted to call out for help again, but was too intrigued by the idea that he may have the chance he had been waiting for handed to him.

“Yes, my boy,” Carrem said, a smile spreading across his lips and a gleam leaping to his eye. The boy was like a fish on the line now. All he had to do was pull him to shore before he knew he was caught by the hook, and the boy would be his.

“You see,” he went on, “I have chosen you to be a warrior of justice in the land. You must go forth from here and right a great wrong that is being done, and with this sword, you now have the strength to do just that. It was forged in the halls of the dwarves. It has the power to defeat a creature of great evil in the land, and you, my strong and handsome lad, shall be the one to banish it.”

Drebin couldn’t believe what he was hearing. It was too good to be true, and yet, something deep inside of him told him it was so. He would be the one to save the land from darkness and shine the light of hope in the hearts of others, throughout the world. His gaze kept shifting back to the glowing sword in his hand. The more he gazed upon it, the more his confidence grew.

Carrem saw the boy’s staring upon the sword and knew it was only a matter of time. Soon the spell he had placed upon it would take hold and the boy’s mind would be lost in a cloud of shifting dreams and imagination, but the rest of the boy, would be his to command. He would follow any order given without a second thought as the rest of his mind fought of countless dragons or ogres or whatever beasties the boy wished to slay. He would not feel the atrocities the old man would lay on his body, or if he did, they would meld into the dream and Carrem could have his way.

“And finally,” the wizard said, no longer hiding the lust in his eyes, since the boy was so far gone that he would no longer see it, “the last gift.” He reached into his bag and drew out one last piece.

Drebin watched and saw a piece of shining chain mail unfurl in the old man’s grasp. It was dazzling. It flashed and flickered in the light of the sword. At the thought of the sword, Drebin’s eyes were drawn back to it.

“This,” Carrem said, “is a very special piece of armor. It is so light weight, you will not even feel it against your body, but it is so strong that not even the strongest orc with the sharpest axe can damage it in the least.”

The thin length of chain in Carrem’s hands dangled limply and dully in his hands. Years of rust and dried blood encrusted it and chipped off as it swung. It would guarantee that the boy would never be free of him or the charm. It had been cast by the old man and enchanted so that it would invade the mind of any who wore it to make them docile and pliant to the will of its maker.

“Let me put it on you, my young warrior,” the wizard said, moving beside the boy. Drebin, transfixed by the sword merely nodded.

As the old man moved to put the chain around the boy’s neck, Drebin gazed at his reflection in the blade. In the silvery glow of the blade he could see what the wizard truly held. It broke the charm upon him and he tried to shake it from his head. Carrem saw the boy trying to free himself from the spell and moved to snap the chain into place, but Drebin pushed him away, flinging him from the bed. As the boy cleared his head, he saw that the shield he held had not changed, but the sword no longer held its glow. It looked so much less magnificent that Drebin, for a moment, regretted letting go of the vision. As he the thought crossed his mind, the sword, for a moment, began to gain some of its brilliance again, but Drebin knew it to be false now and it quickly washed away again.

Carrem had gained his feet again, chain dangling from one of his fists.

“Strong willed are we,” he hissed out as he stood. “Then perhaps we need a different approach.” At this he threw up his hands and dart of light flew from his fingers. Drebin dodged out of the way and swung his sword in the small distance between them. He felt it connect and rolled to his feet, like Veren had taught him. He focused back on the wizard who was now clutching a gash in his arm that was bleeding profusely.

The mage cried out, “You little son of a whore! You have no idea what you are dealing with.”

“I do now,” Drebin said, gripping the sword tighter. “I’m dealing with nothing more than a filthy old man who can throw around some spells.” The wizard cast another spell, but again, Drebin dodged it, moving closer to the door. He called out to warn the rest of the household that there was danger and to rouse help. Carrem started to laugh, his face going pale and his eyes filling with madness.

“You won’t be laughing when my father gets here with his bow,” Drebin said, smiling at the thought that he might get out of this alive. “He can hit a knot in a tree at fifty paces, you should pose no threat.”

The old man was nearly doubled over laughing. He took a deep breath and the laughter halted. He stared into Drebin’s eyes and said, with menace, “You young, delicious fool. No one is coming to aid you. I took the precaution of slitting their throats in their sleep, and yes, that includes that little sister of yours. Wouldn’t want her running off for help, now would we?”

The words struck Drebin like a blow and he was stunned for a moment. The thought of the loss of his sister, Heana, at any other time, would have taken him to his knees, but now it only enraged him and focused his will to stop the mad man in front of him. The mad man who had just raised his unwounded arm to cast another spell. He turned aside from it and blocked the brunt of it with his shield and swung out with his sword, severing the raised arm. He then spun and plunged the blade deep into the wizard’s chest.

“You,” Carrem groaned, “how… you can’t… I can’t… die. Not now.”

“You can,” grunted Drebin, twisting the weapon deeper, “and you will.”

The old man’s lifeless form dropped to the floor. Drebin felt a wave of relief wash over him, then a flood of grief. His family was dead. Tears filled his eyes, but then a thought occurred to him. The wizard may have been lying. He rushed towards the door, but as he turned, he saw it was engulfed in flames. The fire licked from the door frame and was spreading to the ceiling on either side. The heat was intense, but he had to get through, then he thought of the shield. It was fire proof. It would protect him. He put it in front of him and rushed through the flames, hoping it would be safe on the other side.

As was everything else from the wizard said, the resistance of the shield to fire was minimal. Drebin was lucky enough to be through them and safe on a barely touched other side of them, but he had to pat out several patches of his clothing that had caught flame and he flung aside the shield, which was now scalding hot. He had only one thing in mind though and pushed all else away for the time being. He had to check on his family.

He reached his sister’s room and found she was not in bed. He was relieved at this much. It looked as though the wizard had been lying after all. He checked up the hall and saw the flames advancing, quickly. He rushed down to his parents’ room and flung open the door.

The sight took his legs out from under him and he crumpled to his knees. There, in their bed, lay his parents, their throats sliced open and gaping. In their arms lay his Heana’s body. Her throat was also slit open, and on her face was a horrified, open eyed shriek. She had been awake when the bastard had killed her. Drebin’s eyes filled with tears, but they soon dried in the heat from the flames. He looked up the hall and the flames were all around him now. His only way out was through the window over his parents’ bed. He would have to climb over the bodies to get out. For a moment, he was tempted to just lay down with them and die, but then something inside him made him get up. He was moving towards the window before he realized it and was soon on the other side, burned patches of skin and glass cuts on others. He was running from the house as fast as he could as his past burned behind him. The only thing left were the clothes on his back and the sword in his hand. He had no idea where he would go, but he knew it had to be far from here.

He ended up in the town of Litram. He arrived with not even a copper to his name. He found a shop in the town that sold weapons and offered to sell them his sword. He needed the money for food, but the shop keepers merely laughed in his face, telling him what he had already guessed: the sword was worthless.

For two weeks, he lived on garbage and charity, but not much of either. No one wanted his sword and no one cared what became of him. One night, while he slept, three pick-pockets tried to steal the few coppers he had gathered together from what people gave him out of pity. He awoke and caught them, but only to be beaten to within an inch of his life. His sword had done him no good either. They had quickly disarmed him and kicked and battered him until he was unable to even move. They took every last copper on him, and his clothes, leaving only his undergarments, ripped and barely clinging to his waist. They left the sword.

When he awoke, he was barely able to move, but somehow he rose to his feet and wandered down an alley. He decided there and then that he would find an out of the way place and fall upon his sword. There was nothing left for him here.

He raised his sword and pushed the point against his sternum. As he closed his eyes, a small tear trickled out. He leaned forward.

A piercing scream brought him up short. It was nearby, around the next corner. He lowered his sword and stumbled towards the sound.

As he turned the corner, his eyes fell on the source of the scream.


He couldn’t believe his eyes. She was alive. But she was in danger. The men who had beaten him were now turning on her.

“No,” he bellowed and he raised his sword and rushed at them. The thieves turned and were stunned for a moment at the site of a nearly naked madman rushing at them with sword raised. The first of them lost his head before he could even draw a breath. The second was quicker to respond and rushed in, knife drawn. As the thief thrust a stab Drebin, the nearly naked defender moved aside and swung in a circle, arcing the blade around with him. It landed and was buried into the thief’s back. As the second thief dropped, Drebin pulled his sword free and stood facing the third, who had a crossbow leveled at the heart of the man who had just dispatched his accomplices.

“You should have stayed where we left you,” the brigand said, pulling the trigger.

Drebin side stepped enough that the bolt missed his chest, but pierced deeply into his arm. If he felt any pain, he showed no sign of it on his face, only rage as he rushed in and brought his sword down in an over head sing into the shoulder of the last opponent. It stopped an inch below his heart. As the thief fell, the sword, and any strength Drebin had left, fell with him.

Drebin turned to their victim and reached out a hand.

“Heana,” was the only word that passed his lips as he slipped into the darkness.


“It doesn’t seem like ten years, does it,” I asked Livy as we rode.

“Oh hush, Drebin,” she said back, a little blush forming. “Don’t give away my age. It might scare off the customers.”

“There’s no one around to hear us. We can talk freely, you know,” I said, grinning widely. It was a wonder though how I had lasted this long. After that night when I saved Livy from those thugs, she had taken pity on a poor, scrawny runt like me and hired me on as her personal body guard. It’s a strange life. Start out a pathetic yokel, and ten measly years later, end up as a pretty well off body guard with a bad eye and so many scars that you look like a patchwork quilt.

Still, besides that idiot with the bottle messing up my face and my eye along with it, it’s been pretty easy living. The occasional fight with rabid patrons, the occasional scuffle with sore losers at cards, and the other little annoyances are pretty fair trade. I get paid well. I have my freedom. I’m tied to no one, well, except Livy, but it’s not like we’re lovers or anything. She’s more like a bratty sister than anything. I could leave whenever and do whatever I want.

But why would I go anywhere? I’ve got everything I need here. Besides, she wouldn’t last a week without me.

“You know,” she said with a wry smile, “that makes you 25. You’re getting pretty old.”

I smiled and said, “And just think, in three years, you’ll be just as…”

“Hush,” she reprimanded. “You’re my guardian. You don’t get the privilege of making fun of me.”

“Since when,” I said, grinning again.

“Oh, just… hush.” And with that she trotted off ahead of me.

Yes, sir. Life is strange.

A...Bard's Tale

Trudging dolefully across a field of grain, careful not to make too great a disturbance should anyone be looking across the stalks at a distance, Claustrum Errant again cursed his ill luck. Just a week ago he had been close to being a rich, rich man…so close! And now here he was, robbed of his warm room and comfortable bed, his fine clothes ruined, his fortune…meager compared to what he was on the verge of acquiring but substantial nonetheless…all gone, abandoned when he took flight. Pausing for a moment to indulge in bout of self pity, the half-elven man continues his march through ankle deep mud and fertilizer, snorting in irritation at the necessity of ruining such fine boots.
Hours and miles later, Claustrum wearily climbs a broad limbed elm tree deep in the patch of woodlands he was slipping through, preferring not to be lying helpless in the dirt should any pursuer somehow have managed to follow him this far. Settling back against the bole of the large tree to try and find a somewhat comfortable position to sleep, he once again considers the events that brought him to this juncture in his life.

Born In the Absalom, the city at the center of the world, he was the son of a couple of well meaning, if self centered government employees. For a time in his childhood his father had even managed to rise to one of the low seats on The Council. True, it had been the sanitation commission, but it was still a moderately high position for a commoner. Thus, it was perhaps natural that Claustrum picked up a thing or two about manipulation and chicanery, lessons that were only enhanced and polished when he enrolled at the Absalom Hothouse, a school for bards where he specialized in acting and mimicry, beyond the requisite study of music and culture.
Upon graduation, he had found that the prevalence of performers within Absalom was so great, that the stiff competition made eking out a living in the city a daunting task unless one had a unique draw. Lacking a talent to readily distinguish himself from the others in his field, he set sail for the mainland to ply his trade there, expanding his act and hopefully sharpening it enough that he could return home and take a place of note in the Performer’s Guild.
He quickly realized however, that scrounging for coins and trying to win the favor of a crowd just to have money for food and shelter was not exactly what he had pictured when he had chosen his path in life. A responsive crowd was a great thing, and performing for one was rewarding, both in coin and in adulation, but all too often the same act that had made the crowd at one inn cheer and toss money on the stage would be greeted with bored stares, catcalls, or worse. So it was that when chance found him wandering the streets disguised as a local noble to gauge crowd reactions, that a merchant called him into his shop. The merchant began talking, oblivious to the fact that Claustrum was not the noble. He prattled on about some trade agreement that he and the noble were engaged in, and Claustrum quickly got the impression that this deal wasn’t exactly above the table. Quickly improving, Claustrum fabricated a story about how customs officials were starting to look more closely at their operations and that expenses to keep this deal going were going to be higher than anticipated. The merchant appeared distressed, but ultimately nodded his head and before he knew it, Claustrum was walking out of the merchant’s establishment with a heavy pouch of money at his side. Trying to appear casual, Claustrum slipped into an abandoned building to change back into his regular clothes and count the money in the pouch. A small fortune in gold and silver glittered in his hands…more money than he would make in 3 months of performances! Plans started to materialize themselves then, and in order to keep suspicions down, Claustrum acted as though he wasn’t suddenly far wealthier than he had been the day before, and did shows in local inns for another 3 days to middling acclaim before moving on as any other bard would do.
However, when he entered the next city, it was not as a wandering bard, but instead apparently a man of means, who represented a distant trading syndicate here to open trade channels within the city. So began his career as a con artist, convincing merchants and nobles of this or that, most often that he represented outside trade interests seeking to establish new trade routes and collecting money in the form of bribes necessary to bring more product into the cities he was currently staying in. He had built quite a system of it, and was living quite comfortably as he travelled from country to country, having access to small samples of many highly desirable trade items to serve as props in his acts of deception, and was quickly establishing how many of the countries on the mainland were connected through trade, quite often illicitly.
All of this knowledge he turned to his advantage, and it was all going quite well, until came to the city of Cassomir, a key port city on the northern coast of the Inner Sea along the Sellen River. Given the amount of trade that came through the city from the corrupt River Kingdoms to the north, Claustrum thought it easy pickings for his scheming.
With a practiced ear he soon had followed the gossip and rumors in the town and located his likely mark; a businessman named William who ostensibly operated several mills in the city and a sometimes trader in the shipping consortiums that controlled the flow of grain throughout the Inner Sea. Posing as the owner of a textile company from Sevenarches, he claimed to have recently rediscovered the lost Nystran secret of growing silkworms and was looking for partners to invest in the operation and to aid him in distributing the bolts of silk. Given the prodigious appetite for silk of the Talderian nobility, Claustrum quickly hooked his mark.
Over the course of the next several weeks, Claustrum revisited William to offer him samples of the silk, and even showing evidence of authenticity by producing a few silkworm eggs, which he had obtained at tremendous cost from a disgraced Zho weaver he had encountered months before. After that it was a simple matter to convince William to invest tens of thousands of gold in Claustrum’s nonexistent silk making business. He just had to return at the end of the week after contracts had been drawn up and the gold would be delivered, and Claustrum could waltz out of the city a very rich man, and then just disappear back into the world.
Unfortunately, that’s when it all fell apart. Walking back through the warehouse district to William’s offices to sign the paperwork, Claustrum heard a cry of pain, and being the inquisitive type, slipped into the shadows and went to investigate. Entering a dark warehouse, he crept softly behind a row of crates and peered around the edge to see what was occurring within. Two men held a third between them, likely a dockworker to guess by his clothing, his face as an almost indistinguishable mash of bruises and cuts. Before them was a burly half-orc who questioned the man about the loss of some goods, drugs from the sound of things. When the man failed to give a satisfactory answer the half-orc lifted the man’s head up and slammed his fist into his nose, crushing it with an audible pop of broken cartilage. From the shadows near the half-orc a voice spoke, and in that moment Claustrum’s blood turned to ice in his veins. The voice of William the Miller spoke harshly from just out of sight, “The fool knows nothing. I think this betrayal goes higher in the organization. Kill him, and throw his body in the sea, I have an appointment with a silk trader to keep.” “Yes sir, Mister Butcher, I’ll take care of him and find the real traitor,” replied the brute to the departing shadow, “see that you do Karl, I would hate for you to join him.”
No one had been in Cassomir didn’t know the name of Butcher Bill, one of the most notorious crime lords in the city, but he was very careful to never let his real identity be known so authorities were never able to catch him. His legendary brutality and cold-bloodedness ensured that betraying ones loyalty to him was an almost certain, if painful, trip to an early grave. And here Claustrum was, not only betraying him, but if word of this scam leaked out, making a fool of him as well! Remaining hidden until William’s thugs departed with the doomed man to give him time to calm his nerves somewhat, he slipped back out into the fading daylight and made straight for the edge of town. He wished he could return to his room to collect his things, but every moment he gave himself to get further ahead of the inevitable pursuit, the better. He had made a serious miscalculation on his choice of mark, and unless he got very far away, and disappeared even faster, it was likely to be a fatal mistake.

Awaking a few hours later, not rested, but at least refreshed enough to continue travel; Claustrum climbed down from the tree and set off deeper into the Verduran forest figuring the River Kingdoms would be a good place to lie low for a while. Even though his story to William had identified him as coming from Sevenarches, he had never been there before in his life and had used a fake name, so with a change of his clothing and hair, he should be able to disappear completely without much trouble. As for his lost riches, he pragmatically accepted their loss and decided that perhaps it was a sign from the gods that he abandon his schemes and go back to basics and see the world through his own eyes rather than through some character whose only purpose was to swindle money from those less clever than himself. Yes, that would be just the thing, to gather material again for his act so he could return home some day, because certainly his actions over the past several years could never be aired publicly, or privately for that matter. Butcher Bill likely was quite angry with him, and it would be impossible to say for absolute certain who might carry word back to him some day, the man reputedly was not one to let go of a grudge. Perhaps he would cut his hair short, and grow a short beard; few half elves could manage much facial hair but he was perhaps blessed with more human blood in that aspect, and nothing changed a face more readily than a beard. And different clothes, less flashy, perhaps earth tones that wouldn’t show dirt from travel, ah and a pendant to Fharlanghn around his neck would really show that he was just another adventuring bard travelling with a group of adventurers, even more distance from the persona he had adopted in Cassomir! With a renewed spring in his step, Claustrum Errant began to hum one of the old tunes he had learned in school as he made his way northward.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

the (still slightly ethereal) party

I received four character submissions so far. I know that there might be at least one more floating out there. Two of you have created incredibly stunning backstories. One is an excellent concept, and the last one is good. I'm impressed.

Two of you already have names for your characters. Right now, here's the make-up of the party:
  • bard
  • cleric
  • fighter
  • rogue / sorceror
I think that's actually a pretty good mix. Great job to those of you who submitted characters. I'll give more info soon.

Also, I'd like to narrow down the dates before we start, so that they're locked in for everyone.

Summer Sidequest 2010

I like what Scott is planning for this summer, so I want to organize another one for next year. I just want to be a player, though, so we need to figure out who will DM. May-August. Four sessions. Here's the twist. Our current pool of DMs is too big for everyone to run a game. We've got 9 potential DMs.

1. Dave
2. Rachel
3. Tiger
4. Jason
5. Brett
6. Nathan
7. Eric
8. Matt
9. Scott

So what I'm going to do is give you guys some guidelines to develop a campaign and I'm going to pick the best one. That person will DM. I'm sure this'll piss people off, but 9 DMs is an unmanageable size. I think most of you'd agree. If you're interested, let me know in the comments field.