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The archer pulls the string of her bow and takes aim at her kill, a nothic. How or why it is in her region of the forest vale she cares not. Her arrow finds the mark, hissing through the forest glade and piercing the creature in its gleaming singular eye. The creature telepathically gurgles its horrid cry as it squirms, and then expires. The archer release her breath, but feels a cold chill run through her body as a multitude of green eyes begin to fill the darkened forest vale.

“I hate mondays,” she says, turning to flee.

Seasons, months, days, and hours are almost always excepted to be constants in our world. In the northern hemisphere, you’d expect it to be cold in January or hot in the summer. The middle of the week is a Wednesday, and months are roughly 30 days long, give or take. While the conditions are constant, heat waves, rainy seasons, snow, and the like; in fantasy stories and games hearing “Summer” or July rattle me free of the immersion I had hoped to escape into – and at the gaming table it has the same effect. As a player, there was nothing worse than asking the DM what day or season it was and then him saying “it’s close to spring, let’s say March.” It just severs the illusion. While it is something easily overlooked, Seasons and dates help shape the fantasy world of any campaign. They give context of language and land, rulers and religious observations, and add an extra coat of imaginary paint that helps cover the old cobbled walls of our present reality. To remedy that in my own campaign (as well as in many of my fantasy stories), I like to go out of my way to bulk up the “iceberg of illusion” content to help my players (or readers) actually believe that this world is apart from our own; but sometimes it is a little tricky to create something other than word salad. Seasons, months, days, these all have names that are deeply rooted in our own history. The days of the week, and even the months, are throw backs to ancient civilizations, languages, and practices that have been cut and cropped together for, well, since we started naming things. So how do I go about this? Read More

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tumblr_nt309qcSHp1ro2bqto1_500The rutted track emerges from a wooded hillside, and they party catches the first glimpse of Phandalin. The town, nestled in the lowlands in the Cusp of the Frontier, conists of forty to fifty simple log buildings, some of which are built on the old fieldstone foundations. More old ruins – crumbling stone walls covered in ivy and briars – surround the newer houses and shops, showing how this must have been a much larger town in centuries past. Most of the newer buildings are set on the sides of the cart track, which widens into a muddy main street as it climbs toward the hill at the east of town, where the remnants of an old manor watches down on the frontier town.

As they search the city of Barthen’s Provisions, bring the grave news that Gundred has been taken by a horde simply know as Cragmaw, they see children playing on the town green and townsfolk tending to chores or running errands at shops, all of them offering subtle glances only to look away when the party looks. Passing the a woodcutter’s shop and a weapons shop call the Blue Lion, the party is passed by a small pack of men, all of which we are wearing bright splashes of crimsons in the form of scarfs, cloaks, and kerchiefs wrapped around their neck. One of the members, a man with an eyepatch centered with a single ruby, offers a toothy grin as he eyes their cart of provisions. Taros bares a toothy grin to the mine, and flashes the blade of his axe, and quickly the one-eyed man looks away, grumbling something to himself.

“First Harbin hires those red fools and they run a muck in the city,” Barthen grumbled, “then those Cragmaws start prowling around, and now this… What else can go wrong?”

Giving the players a little tap of Expository dialog, but first an update from the DM. Read More

WARNING: Today’s Article includes a picture of HP Lovecraft and two pictures of “marital aids.” You have been warned.

pantygremlinthumbYesterday i wrote an article about Writing Prompts that basically explained what they were, how i came to learn about them, and their overall pros and cons. As an overview of yesterday’s article, i essentially pointed out that while they are a very useful, much like stretching before working out, there are certain pitfalls in using them (the biggest of which is when the Ridlies take over). I ended the article with a shitty cliffhanger gimmick saying that instead of writing prompts, i use Amazon Read More

chuck

Looking out my bedroom window and staring at the snow that’s currently blanketing North-Eastern Ohio, which is quite literally trapping me within my home; i am reminded of a blank word document. Since the end of NaNoWriMo i have opened WPS Writers (which is a wonderful program) nearly ever day and stared at the piercing white blankness, just hoping that the words will find their way from my brain to the keyboard, preferably in a cohesive manner. And each day, as i stare at the screen, i am nearly brought to a seething rage as the words slop out in unorganized, pedantic meanderings that slam any narrative i attempt to continue further into stagnation Read More

The encounters are built, the maps are drawn, and the story has been loosely organized on 3×5 note cards to make them easily interchangeable upon the whims of a die roll – lights, camera… Actors?

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It’s a dirty term, but the players of any DnD session are essentially a motley crew of actors who come together several times a month to not only play, but to play a part in a world completely constructed on the thin strands of imagination we all have nearly forgotten when falling into the world of adulthood (and succumbing to all that entails). Each player builds a role, a character, an archetype they would love to experience this new world through, and then fills that role to the best of their abilities, the whole while being subjected to the whims and fancies of their sometimes patient, sometimes deviant director: the Dungeon Master. Using this analogy further, there isn’t one piece, or talent, of this troupe that isn’t more important than the other (regardless of what anyone tries to tell you). With out a director the actors don’t know which edge of the stage to fling themselves from, and with out the actors the director is a sad man, alone, on an empty stage with a head full of things no one will ever see. No one person at the gaming table has the right to feel that they are the center focus beyond when it is their turn or moment, just like no actor should try to steal the limelight during another actors dramatic entrance, or exit, because they feel that they alone deserve to be center stage. Each player plays their part, both in and out of character, and it heavily impacts not only the landscape of the world in which they play but it also challenges the DM to play to those characters individual strengths. But to do so the DM has to identify what type of players they have filling the roles of the heroes. Luckily, these players generally fall into four archetypes that are pretty easy to spot, if you know what you’re looking for. (I know, I ended a sentence with a preposition!) Read More

oneeyedshitmonkeythumbLike before an athlete runs or throws something (or whatever they do), a writer also has to warm up before he (or she…) gets into the literary heavy lifting. Be it a novel, a short story, or a heartfelt, inflammatory blog post; it’s never wise just to jump right into your project cold. This can lead to burnouts, constant rewrites, or even just cold, dead failures that are more plastic than the keys you’re hammering against. So a lot of writers, so i’m told Read More

tumblr_nt309qcSHp1ro2bqto1_500Several days south east from the sea spray soaked walls of Neverwinter, a small provisions wagon is heading for the rough and tumble frontier town of Neverwinter. Taros leads the ox slowly along the trail while a cleric, a fellow dwarf of the Holy Syncretism, sits next to him making small talk. Along either side of the wagon are Varis and Dexter, who survey the old cobbled road and encroaching forest thicket at either side, keeping watch for the troubles so far away from the city walls. Their proprietor, Gundren Rockseeker, had taken off a few days ahead of them, offering the party ten gold pieces each to deliver the wagon, and the goods it contained, intact, stating that there will be “more work” and more importantly “more gold to be made” when they get to Phandalin; but still, the party knows very little of what the old dwarf had found out there on the Cusp of the Frontier.

I’d hate to leave so soon, it’s been a while since I’ve seen ya’boys,” Gundred said, over an ale at the Sunder Speak Inn no more than three days ago. “But I need to meet up with my brothers and take care of a few things before you arrive. But don’t you boys worry, I’ll explain everything when we meet in Phandalin.”

On the third day of travel from Neverwinter, still wondering at what the old dwarf had in store for them, the party no longer hears the gentle sounds of the sea crashing against the sword coast. The cobbled High Road, and the watchful eyes of the High Road guard, are now almost a memory as they veered east, down the Triboar Trail, where they know that bandits hiding in the shadows were the least of their concerns. So close to the Wild Frontier, goblins grew in hordes, Orc shaman commanded tribes of loyal Gruumsh worshiping warriors, and fey creatures crept around the shadows, spilling forth into the mortal coil from the cracks and creases left when the world was molded. The air is thick with the sound of wilderness, the smell of spring, and with a tingling sense of danger.

As they come around a bend in the dirt road, Dexter’s keen eyes spot something laying in the middle of the dirt road: two dead horses. He signals to Taros, who slows the wagon to a halt, and the party steps forward cautiously to investigate, leaving the cleric as a look out. As they approach the horses they can see the bodies of the poor creatures are feathered with black arrows.

This isn’t the work of no bandits,” Taros whispered through his beard, and almost as if waiting for their queue, the goblins hidden in the thicket at either side of the road loose their arrows.

Roll Initiative, but first, some words from our DM. Read More