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 A study in SDE 
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Bottle Cap
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Joined: October 4th, 2015, 11:05 am
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Greetings. As we all await the arrival of legends and the beginning of a new way to play our games, I figured it would be fun to have a go at seeing the kinds of stories people plan on spinning and perhaps provide inspiration for the many homebrew scenarios that will surely be made by future GM's.
To that end (and because, though it's no longer my occupation, I enjoy writing), I carved out some time to fictionalise a session of SDE.
There were a few problems with making it an 'accurate' representation as well as an enjoyable piece of fiction, which forced me to take liberties here and there, but in the end, I was able to compress a 6 hour session into just a few thousand words.
I would appreciate it though, if someone could tell me how indents work in this forum, as without them, the text looks rather cramped.

Without further ado, let's begin;


The adventure began as all official adventures in Crystilla do. In the Departures Tavern of Crystilla Castle’s tower of heroes.
If you’ve never been on an adventure yourself, you may have heard of the tower, but no doubt you’ve no idea of what it’s like to be there.
The tower is the tallest thing in Crystillia Castle, extending from within the stone labyrinth of walls and battlements in the castle proper, high into the clear air above.
It is from that lofty perch, that the best oracles and wizards in the land survey the world, searching for signs of activity from the nefarious forces of the dark console and his lieutenants.
If troubles brewing, they’re sure to spot it and tear open a portal to the spot for some brave lads and lasses to travel through.
‘Course, not every hero is needed all the time- and while they wait for their turn to come, most of them wait in the Departures tavern, a massive food-court, inn and marketplace that takes up all four floors of the towers wide base.


The Fey Alchemist looked at her ticket and then back at the board. She’d come back from her last adventure successful- but at the terrible cost of her comrades. Pulling a bottle from her belt, she poured a stream of white-red liquid into her mug, covered the top with her hand and shook vigorously.
The liquid within burbled, releasing a cloud of aquamarine smoke before settling down.
The Alchemist remembered the Royal Warden and the Thundervale Huntress as she drank their health. Good heroes both of them.
Bit naff when it came to actually fighting though.
This time, she’d choose her comrades more carefully.

Facing down one of the Console’s generals, alone, was not an experience she’d care to repeat. Without the timely assistance of Lord Gruff, she would’ve quaffed her last potion when facing the Forgotten King.

“What is a foul Kobold doing here!”

The yell came from nearby, where a woman cleaning a rifle and a short, armoured kobold were being accosted by a knight covered in plate and sporting an ornate, flowing cape.

“He’s with me, so back off, we don’t need another bruiser in our party.”

“’Sss true. I’m an Honourable adveeenturer now. Got my blue card and everything.”

The Kobold held up his adventuring permit- temporarily throwing the knight off balance.

“Your people serve the console!”

“I am a disssgrace to my people. Thank-you for reminding me. Now hissss off.”

“Princess Emerald.” The Alchemist pushed past the irate knight, “I’m looking for a party- I don’t suppose you’ve got a position open?”
The Princess shouldered her rifle and stood.
“As a matter of fact, we do. We’re down a wizard and every mage around is at that talk on curse-coven methods of Toadification.”
The Alchemist nodded to the Kobold.
“Former Templar?”
“ ‘esss.”
“Alright. When’s the adventure?”
The knight slammed his fist on the table.
“WHY ARE YOU IGNORING ME! THAT CREATURE IS EVIL!”
A mug of ale bounced off his helmet-
“Oi. Dragon !SODA!. If you’re suggesting that just because the console created something, it’s evil, me and my party here would like you to step outside for a little chat.”
The thrower, a Riftling was sitting at a table with a giant bear-chimera and a Freyjan mage. They, and quite a few other tables around the Departures Tavern were sending dark looks at the Dragon Blade.
The Kobold laughed long and hard at the Riftling’s jab.
“Tell you what matey. Why don’t you and your cloak come on an Adventure… We’ll Sssee just who does the most damage in the name of the goddessss, eh?”
The Dragonblade’s grip tightened on the hilt of his sword.
“At the first whiff of treachery, I’ll have your head, Kobold.”
“I’ll be sssurprised if you can sssmell anything with that fish on your head.”
The elf was confused, until the Kobold reached up and rapped a knuckle on his dragon-shaped helmet.
“Y’know, now that you mention it, it does look like a fish.” The Princesses words did nothing to soothe the irate elf’s temper.
The Fey Alchemist sighed- this situation was beginning to feel worryingly familiar.
Maybe she should've just gone into the solo queue instead of looking for a party on her own.
The princess registered the party and took a ticket- there were several parties above them in the queue, so instead of milling around near the gate room, the party split to wait for the next available adventure.
“So, where’d you meet the lizard?” The Fey Alchemist asked, staring at a row of potion bandoleers.
“Do you think they have this in a small?” The Princess ignored the question, instead holding up a brass ringed rifle scope for her inspection.
“If they don’t, I know a gnome two floors up who does lenses.”
“I wouldn’t mind that- I ran into him after I shot his Exemplar. Do you know how it works with Kobolds? The Console spawns Exemplars to lead Warbands and Templars to serve and protect them. If the Exemplar dies under the Templars watch, he’s put to shame- cast out, killed or worse, de-spawned.”
“That doesn’t explain why he follows you now.”
Emerald paused and set the scope she’d been fiddling with aside carefully.
“I’m not sure. After the Exemplar died he dismounted, put down his lance, got on one knee and asked me to kill him. I told him that this Princess is a fighter, not an executioner… I also happened to be out of bullets, but, he looked up at me and asked if I needed a knight.”
“Some story- Oooh. LymeBurst small-goods are releasing two new lines of equipment.” The alchemist exclaimed, pulling a leaflet from its holder alongside the stall.
“Really? Wow. We should totally check that out after the adventure. I thought they’d already covered everything. Speaking of, my crystal is vibrating…” The princess pulled out her communication crystal from one of her jacket’s pouches and placed it on the shelf.
From another pocket a reso-scope was produced, (which, judging by the ornamentation on the sounding needle and earpiece, was a royal present rather than personal purchase) and touching the needle to the crystal in its frame, the princess listened to the message.
“Looks like we’re up. Troubles brewing in the Emerald Valley.”
“Emerald Valley? We’re dealing with Shrooms? I despise those bloody things. No matter what concoction I use, the spores never come out in the wash. I swear out of all the forces rallied against us, they are the most obnoxious.”
“I know a trick or two that might help. Still, Scryers say that some rock-tops are trying to raise spawning points to bring in critters from the fire-flows. No word on why. ”
The two set off at a brisk walk, intending to catch the next elevator ride to the top of the tower before it left.
“Well, if it’s the emerald Valley, it means that Glimmerwhatsit the dragon is probably hanging around. And Goro.”
Emerald snapped her fingers, “I remember him. Yeah. He sent a troupe of Giri to make flowers for me on my birthday once.”
They’d reached the elevator. It was cast from metal, dark blue, highlighted with the white glow of magic inlays and large enough that a dozen or more heroes could ride atop the circular platform.
“My sister sapphire had them make this.” Emerald mentioned while they waited for the scheduled rise to begin.
“Really?”
“She spent time with the Hearthsworn Dwarves in the mountains, studying with some of those old guys that sit around on the peaks all day. Apparently they use these to get around inside the mountain.”
“Huh. So. You said Goro sent you a bunch of flowers… Um, why, exactly?”
“Long story. Though, I said he sent a bunch of Giri. Big difference.”
“How-so?”
“Turned up during the birthday ball father set up. Dropped some big plant spell right in the centre of the room. Floor, carpet, dresses, the buffet table, almost everything that could sprouted or turned into flowers. Dad spent, like, the next three weeks leading his old adventuring buddies through the fae woods looking to scalp Goro for it.”
“Why would he even…”
“He’s immortal. Who knows why he, or it does anything. I gotta say though, it was certainly the best party I’ve ever had then or since.”
The conversation came to a sudden and awkward stop when both the Dragon Blade and the Kobold arrived simultaneously. After a brief awkward face-off, both boarded the elevator as it rumbled to life and began to rise.
“So Princess, you’ve visited the deep-root tree right? Ever gone to the taproot?”
“No, what’s that?”
“Only the best bar in the whole forest. I mean, the Treant that runs it, he does all his own brews- and I tell you, nobody brews a beer better than someone with the patience of a tree.”
“Just beer?”
“Nah, all sorts of stuff. He has a bunch of Kodama help him speed up the growing and fermenting- and his signature, the Deep Root-“
The alchemists exaltation was cut short as the elevator ground to a halt at the gate.
“Adventure, party of four?”
The four presented their licenses and passed through. The mages in the portal room barely acknowledged them, focusing on positioning the exit point of the gate just right.
“Exit prepped. We’ll open the portal on the count of five.”
“Team Ready.” Announced the Dragon Blade before anyone else could respond.
“5”
“What? We don’t have an order prepped!”
“4”
“I’ll breach.”
“3”
“Ssscrew Off.”
“2”
“I’ll take care of it. Back me up.”
The portal opened, and the fey alchemist stepped through. There was no more resistance than stepping though a thin skein of water, nor any fanfare to mark the transition.
One moment she was in the tower- the next she was a foot above the ground, in a stone chamber.
Before her, a silent tableau of monsters posed, frozen stock still in shock. A trio of burning Gels, halfway through a strange game using rounded stones (or as strange as any game played by an incandescent slime can be), stared, wobbly mouths agape.
A pair of burning, smouldering hounds paused in drinking from the goddess fountain at the centre of the room.
For a single moment, the world was still and silent.
Then the rest of the heroes arrived.
The Knight, Templar and Princess, barrelled through the portal and crashed onto the floor.
Immediately the hounds began to bark- the roaring crackle of the inferno infusing their cries and making them echo through the chamber and far beyond.
The dungeon woke to the intruders- And so, as it happens, did a giant Centipede, which fell from the ceiling and onto the heads of the three newly arrived heroes.
‘aghgaghbgllgl’ went the Dragonblade.
“Sstupid Inssect!” went the Kobod.
“Dammit, GOOOORRROOOO!” went the Princess- beating at the critter with the stock of her rifle.
The Fey Alchemist looked at her party and after a moment of consideration, rushed the enemy.
The first potion landed between two of the slimes. The wolf she was aiming at sheltered behind the jellies as they split apart.
Her priority was taking out the spawn point, a red crystalline spike wreathed in flame- and her second potion wiped the hound and remains of one gel from existence.
The burst of light from the explosion reflected off polished metal, catching her eye. A chest. A split second decision prompted her to go raid the chest rather than immediately attack the spawn.
For a moment she considered picking the lock- but she neither had the time nor the tools so she resorted to the time honoured method of simply kicking the !SODA! thing open.
A quick magical check of the treasure within told her all she needed to know.
“TEAM, I’ve got protection and mobility! Bagging it now.”
She fed the treasure, a leafy parasol, into the mouth of her backpack- which was, like any good adventurers bag, linked to the ones carried by the rest of her party.
“Mine!” Emerald pulled out the parasol from her own pouch and inflating it with a flump, let herself be lifted into the air by the pack of playful breezes it commanded.
Emerald hefted her rifle with her free arm and sighted at the spawn.
“I got eyes on the spawn.”
Before she could take her shot, the remaining hound dashed forward- trailing a thick cloud of choking smoke.
“Goddess dammit! Bloody mutt!”
“Turtles incoming!” the Alchemist called out, leaning back as a pair of shells bounced through the door from the adjacent room, almost grazing her nose.
“I’ll get the spawn!” the Dragon-Blade rushed forward, slicing through gels, the hound and finally, smashing his sword into the spawn-point, shattering it.
Now as anyone who’s been on an adventure knows, getting rid of a spawn only fixes half the problem. Stops new critters from being created by the consul, but, breaking it causes all the pent up energy to release at once. The backlash invariably summons one of the Consuls lieutenants to the scene. Dark heroes, Giant monsters, or in this case…
“REEEEX!”
The Kobold-Ogre hybrid burst into the chamber, club swinging.
“OORRRRGHHHH YRREAAAAHHH!”
The first blow bounced off the Dragon-Blade’s shield. The second he ducked and the third was swatted aside by a swipe of his blade.
The ogre moved to strike again- but a pair of shots from emerald slammed into his shoulder, freezing it in place.
More turtles, propelled by an unseen thrower, bounced into the room- one ricocheting off the kobold’s helmet. Rex roared trying to break the ice covering his shoulder while he advanced on the Kobold.
“I Gotss This.” The Kobold dug his heels into his mount, hefting his lance and spurring it forwards. Skewering a pair of turtles and slamming into the Ogre, wounding it and sending it to one knee.
“Death to the servants of the Dragon!” The Dragon-Blade yelled, charging in to finish the wounded giant and bisecting it in a single mighty swipe.
“That wasss unnecessary.”
“Dragons and all their Kin shall feel the righteousness of the Lunar Elves! Revenge is the only answer to their crimes.”
“I meant the Ssstrike. Waste of effort on the dying.”
“He dropped a key! Shut up and bag it, we’re not done here yet.” Emeralds interruption prompted the knight to grab the dropped key and tuck it into his sack.
“I’ve got a chest spotted in the right room.” The Fey Alchemist announced from where she was crouching by the right-side doorway.

“Ssspawn Spotted on the left- I’ll take it.” The two most agile members of the team split off into the unexplored rooms-
As the Alchemist set foot in the next room over, the ground shuddered and burst into a mass of writhing tendrils.
“Oh no. Not again. Bloody tentacle trap on the door!” The alchemist yelled, fighting her way to the chest through the flailing limbs.
“Deal with it! Open the box!”
The alchemist pulled the key from her bag and slammed it into the slot.
“Bag loot incoming! It’s an axe and an orb, both spelled for strength.”
“Axxess is Mine.”
“You can keep it dragonspawn.”
The alchemist turned around, just in time to see the spawning point in the right-side chamber activate.
A wave of turtles materialised into being, lead by a single massive Rock-Top Crusher.
“Major Rocktop Spawn on the right!”
Her yell reached the dragon-blade and the princess who moved to support her- but the former was on the far-side of the neighbouring chamber and when the latter tried to fly towards the right room, she was startled by a furious swipe from the centipede that had been gnashing it’s mandibles beneath her until moments ago.
The Alchemist was alone. Steeling herself she uncorked her explosive concoctions and rushed forwards. The first toss shattered the shells of some of the freshly minted turtles- and the second was aimed at the spawn- turning it into a pile of rubble.

Meanwhile, the Kobold Templar charged into the left chamber. Empty but for a small pond of clear water, his mount thundered forward in a burst of spray- carrying him to the spawn on the banks of the far shore. Pulling the newly acquired axe from his saddlebags, he clove the spawn in two with a single sweep.
While he destroyed that spawn point, the repercussions from the destruction of the other point were still unfolding.
“Incoming, Hostile flier- and it’s a dragon!” the Fey alchemist screamed, moments before the Faery Dragon Glimmer-wing burst onto the scene in a shower of dazzling light.
The Dragon-Blade engulfed by rage at the sight of an actual dragon (albeit a fairy one), didn’t even say a word. Instead he charged, intending to slay the dragon in a single fell strike. Rushing past enemies and trampling the tentacles around the entrance to the chamber, he lunged at the beast and with a mighty swing of his sword he-
Missed. Completely. The dragon took to the air and retreated behind the wall of freshly spawned turtles.
“How could you miss? I thought you were supposed to be good at this!”
The Dragon-blade was about to respond- when a purple corona of light swirled into being around his head.
“I…”
The alchemist knew a hex when she saw one and when the dragon attempted to throw its hocus pocus at her, she responded by uncorking a bottle on her belt. With a few shakes the liquid inside bubbled up violently and sprayed out mouth of the phial- the mist meeting the incoming spell midway and exploding in a flash of light.

The dragon looked a little miffed at the disruption of its spell and with a flick of its talons cast an illusion over the Dragon-Blade- causing him to charge straight into a wall.
“Emerald! Support!”
The princess glided over the fountain in the centre chamber and sighted at the dragon.
“Ice-Shot Incoming.”
The dragon perked up its head and yawed, avoiding the incoming shot.
“Son of a Witch!”

While the three of them fought the dragon, the Kobold knight faced off with the miniboss created by the destruction of the spawn on his side.
The succubus looked at the Kobold. The Kobold looked at the Succubus.
“Well, Hello, there.”
“Sssame, to you.”
“I see you’re all alone there ‘Hero’. Why don’t come on and swing back my way?”
The Kobold looked at the Succubus…. And looked at his axe.
“Sure thing.”
Before the demon could react, the Templar had spurred his mount forward and with two deft slices, quartered her.
“Sso Sssory, Sweetie. No Ssssolicitors.” The Templar flicked black blood off the blade of his axe with grim satisfaction.
Things weren’t nearly going as well with the dragon. Every time the group tried to focus it, the Rock-Top Crusher would unleash a furious stomp and send everyone off-balance. Emerald got hexed while Glimmerwing passed through the central chamber and took cover in the far room- the one area the party hadn’t breached yet.
Bombarded by spells and hexes, the adventurers struggled to deal with the Crusher.
A Roller grabbed one of it’s fellow turtles and hucked it at the alchemist, winding her and sending her tumbling to the far side of the central room.
The Templar charged in, intending to even the odds, but ended up locked in a struggle with the crusher, his axe taking huge chips out of the creatures shell- but doing nothing more than annoying it. Glimmerwing attempted to hex the Kobold- but the Templar, unlike the princess or the Dragon-Blade, resisted the spell, wheeling his mount around and snarling.
Vexed the dragon tried twice more- only succeeding on the third try, when it aimed the curse at the heroes steed.
The alchemist struggled to her feet. The party was in disarray, she was the only one not hexed and the knight and princess had long since been overwhelmed.
“Stuff this.”
For the third time that day, she charged into an unexplored chamber- Glimmerwing was taken by surprise and failed to dodge the barrage of potions that followed, five phials exploded against it’s scales, bringing the beast down for good. With the mini-boss taken down, the kobold cleaned up, delivering a decisive blow that slew the Crusher and charging down the remaining turtles.
The princess had fallen into the fountain at the centre of the chamber- and kept there by the relentless quakes created by the crusher.
“Need a hand?” The Kobold flipped his axe and extended the shaft to the dripping wet Princess.
“I’m okay, I think. How’s the other guy?”
The Kobold glanced at the Dragon-Blade, who was struggling to get up off the floor like a beetle flipped onto it’s back.
“He’ll live.”
“Alright, so was that everything?” The princess asked, fishing around in the fountain for her hat and shaking the water off it.
“Of course not. Sssilly. We ssstill have one more to go.”
“AGH, I knew it, thrice cursed goddess damned shrooms!”
Realising that the alchemist had been left out in the cold, the Princess and the Templar righted the dragon-blade; but quickly found themselves stymied by the fungal creatures the final room held. Every blow aimed at them sent the attacker reeling back and every one that died did so in a burst of soporific spores. Clothes and skin were saturated and mouths and noses quickly filled with the cloying taste and scent of the stuff.
However, while the Heroes couldn’t seem to make a dent in the shrooms, the spawn point in the final chamber was working overtime to produce more- and as spawn-points do when they’re pushed past their limits, it broke- releasing the final boss.
Goro descended. Though his face was locked in it’s usual perpetual grin, his annoyance was palpable. With a sweep of one stubby arm, a quartet of miniscule Giri appeared and swarmed the princess, mobbing her.
Goro laughed deeply and called forth more Giri, who in turn summoned shrooms to attack the Dragon-blade.
In response the Dragon-Blade loosed a battle-cry and attempted a mighty swing at the giant hairy fairy- wounding it.
Goro, mirth abated roared mightily and called forth a pack of Rock-tops to assault the Dragon-Blade… Surrounded on all sides, he fended off attacks from turtles, Giri, shrooms and finally- Goro himself. This final enemy was too much and the elf was overwhelmed.
The Alchemist appeared in the doorway to the other room and signalled to the Templar.
“I’ve had to do this too many bloody times today.” She panted, rushing forward one more time tossing potions into the mass of minions and cutting open a path for the Templar.
The Kobold charged forward and slammed his axe into Goro- Once. Twice. Three times; cutting deeper and deeper with each strike.
Goro swayed wobbling back and forth, before falling flat on his face.
The Templar flicked the blood off his axe and shouldered it, surveying the remaining minions.
“Ssso. You sticking around?”
The monsters scattered and the Templar Dismounted, picking up Giri and tossing them aside to reveal a battered and peeved Princess Emerald.
“Now it’sss over.”
“And I’m filthy. Look at this. My cloak could be used as a mushroom farm.” The alchemist complained, beating at her clothes and raising clouds of spores with each blow.
“Is the elf alright?” Emerald asked, leaning on the Templar for support.
“Don’t worry…. I’m… Fine.” Croaked the Dragon-Blade.
“Okay. I guess we’d better get an exit…. But, first, let’s just take a breather.”
“Yes. Very much, Yes.” The alchemist nodded vigorously at the Princesses words- eliciting a short chortle from the Kobold.
“Hey, you haven’t had to run everywhere.” The Princess protested.
“Yet I’m the one that did all the work. Ssso, you girlss got planss for thisss evening?”
The Alchemist pulled the Dragon-blade to his feet before answering.
“Apart from bandaging my wounds and trying to get the mushroom out of my stuff, not as such no.”
The Princess blinked and fumbling around in her pockets, pulled out a watch.
“Aw, Darnit. I’ve gotta go to a ball at the palace. I wish I could join you, but it’s my birthday and I can’t exactly get out of it.”
“I guess Goro won’t be sending you any ‘gifts’ this year.” The Alchemist had meant it as an off-hand comment, but, in the silence that followed, she turned and saw the princess looking at Goro’s body, eyes downcast.
“I’ll miss him. Immortal trickster and prankster or not, he was one hell of a guy.”
“…C’mon, let’s get outta here.”

And with that another tale of the official adventurers of Crystillia comes to an end.

Epilogue:

After the heroes had departed, Goro opened an eye, and rolled over onto his back.
“Sorry Dearie. I did my best.” Glimmerwing, battered and burnt, shuffled over to the Faery lord.
Goro mumbled and let loose a depressed sigh.
“Don’t worry so much. We can always invite them to go rock-top bowling at Roxors.”
Goro’s wide mouth drooped and he knitted his fingers over his stomach, staring up at the ceiling.
It’s just not the Same, Glimmerwing. I suppose it’ll have to wait till next year.


Author's Notes:

While writing this I learned there are a few idiosyncrasies to be respected when fictionalising events based around this game.
To begin with, the consuls troops move at a rate between 0 and X times faster than the heroes, where X is the number of heroes in the game.
This problem is not present in arcade mode as typically either all monsters are moving and attacking, or they are not and any lulls can be represented as a surge or charge on the part of the heroes.

Secondly, unless it's something game-changing, like the Parasol providing flight, it's better not to mention loot and treasure drops that aren't from chests.
In a typical game you're going to encounter quite a bit of loot, but it doesn't have that much impact on the narrative. Hence while the Templar did open the chest in the tile he was in after killing the succubus, he drew terrible treasures and therefore, the whole act wasn't really worth mentioning.

Lastly, Princess coins relocating people when they die has quite a bit of impact on how things play out and forces you as the writer to play fast and loose with events. Since the game ended with excess coins on the part of the heroes, I assumed everyone was just 'knocked down' and then fudged the sections where the relocation would've mattered. I.E. the Fey Alchemist coming from the tile with the shrooms. She in fact died over there, respawned in front of Goro in the centre tile and cleaned the way for the Kobold to bring the executioner's axe to bear.

Anyway, that's all for this evening- but there will be another tale, in a rather different tone, coming soon.

I hope anyone else who feels the itch will jot down their sessions as well.


October 4th, 2015, 11:48 am
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Minion
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Joined: April 27th, 2015, 8:01 pm
Posts: 159
That was quite enjoyable, thank you for posting your story :)


October 5th, 2015, 5:33 pm
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Bottle Cap
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Joined: October 4th, 2015, 11:05 am
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Glad you enjoyed it, Juice.

With today's post on Crystillia Castle, we see more detail enter the realm; however, as it often happens, if you're in the position of running a game for people based in-world, sometimes questions and scenarios will occur which exceed the established limit of the canonical setting.
Many players and GM's will have limited experience in storytelling and improvisation, so I figured that it would be good to put forward a few tips and tricks to help out.

For players, the first challenge many will have (assuming that they're relatively new to tabletop RPG's), is in fleshing out their chosen hero as a character. Thinking about the person behind the stats involves a somewhat more intimate knowledge of the setting that they may not have, which often leads them to ask the GM-
For GM's, the challenges generally come as the players start to ask questions and think laterally about the elements of the setting/scenario.
In the latter case, the best way to deal with inquiries is to simply roll with them as becoming defensive or rebuking the questioner tends to put a dampen on things- and moreover, such questions show that your players are becoming more interested in the world you're laying out before them; and can even present a great opportunity for worldbuilding.

So, say Lauren want's to play as Survivor Marie Claude, and Steve wishes to be a Tabbybrook Mage. Bob wants to be a Royal Warden and all three want to start the adventure with the characters as friends.

Say we start with Marie Claude. She's a 'Survivor'. If we think about it, that implies she survived something important. Since she lives in Glauerdoom, a good candidate (accurate chronology aside), would be the change in management to Von Drakk.
If the other two were caught up in the same events and together they pulled through, the three of them could easily be friends despite being from very different backgrounds.

As you've just seen in the above, the quickest way to flesh out something without any first hand information on it, is to use logic.

For example, if you're running a scenario where, due to a malfunction of the portal at Crystillia Castle, the players have ended up on the Mistmourne coast and your intent is they're going find the pool of Tears, the Source of all the Sorrows on the coast- and stumble upon a tribe of trolls intending to pollute the pool with a strange mix that will make the Sorrows more aggressive... Your plans might grind to a halt when Bob asks if his Warden knows of a village nearby- seeing as he travelled the realm collecting taxes and all. The heroes are going to just wander off and miss out on the adventure!

What to do? Well, let's think about where the characters are. The misty mourne coast (At least at the time of this writing) is not listed as being heavily populated.
Well, if we think about why, it's entirely plausible that the plane is close enough to sea-level that it's too salty for most crops to grow.
Such a salt plane would mostly have coastal fishing villages and be otherwise pretty empty inland- which is where the characters landed.
Moreover, any roads would run by what few towns there were close to the ocean.

"But I've wandered the realm for years, I wouldn't always have just stuck to the roads?"

Good point. Let's consider the Warden himself with a dash of logic. And logically, collecting taxes on foot is a very slow process- not to mention rather dangerous for the person carrying a full load back to the castle.
Perhaps the Wardens lead groups of conventional soldiers or guards on long circuits of the realms, probably with a couple of carts to carry both the currency and the supplies needed to travel for months collecting tithes.
Considering how many wandering monsters crystallia seems to have, it seems likely that citizens and merchants would travel in the wake of the tax-carts and thereby take advantage of their protection.
Thus, while the warden has seen a lot of things, most of them were within a short walk of the road.

Such leaps of logic have the benefit of becoming an element you can reuse later in their adventures; for example, the party might find themselves short of cash and far from home. You want them to investigate rumors of some mountain drake lair, but, they haven't picked up on any of the hints you've dropped so far.
They get the idea of hiring on as guards to a merchant heading in the right direction.

This gives the GM a fair few options to work with. You could have them be accepted by a merchant and have the Drake's attack them en route- but they might not follow up or think about the origins of the critters.

You might say that no merchants are hiring and block them from that train of thought.
Or you might draw upon the idea of the Kings Caravans and tell them that the cities traders are scared to send anything out right now, after the last caravan leaving the city got set upon in Rockback pass and the tax monies stolen.
In one fell swoop you can divert their attention from leaving the city, to what stole the money and how they can recapture it.

To use another example. Glauerdoom is, under V. Drakk's rule, known to be in a semi-perpetual gloom.
Why?
Well, the easy answer is, magic. But even if you say it's a grand curse upon the land cast by the vampire upon his ascendancy, it doesn't really add all that much to what's going on.
So, how else could the big D ensure that he'd never have to deal with sunburn again? Maybe we can at least tell our players what kind of magic; such as an invisible net that holds all the clouds in place, or special wind-chimes positioned with great care to redirect incoming thunderheads.
Both sound somewhat silly though.
Let's think simpler. Gloom requires clouds. Clouds require water. While there are other factors involved, it sounds pretty plausible that if we had a constant source of water pouring down from high above, we'd get a permanent layer of thick cloud over the land.
But where could we get such a water-source?
Well if we turn our eyes to the map, there are several bits of celestial floating around, doing the fantasy thing with ever-pouring waterfalls. Maybe several such islands have been anchored in place, physically or otherwise, high over the moorlands and thus maintain it's cloudcover.

This is more effort than simply saying 'magic' but it offers more opportunities. Now the heroes might get the idea of breaking the anchor-chains holding the islands in place and thus releasing the land from it's 'curse'. Perhaps a cunning celestial herald will team up with a crafty sister of light to fly around to each island and bless the waters, thus crippling the undead of the plain with every cloudburst.

Having discussed multiple hypothesis, lets see them work together in practice;



The inhabitants of the Glourdoom moors used to joke about the name. Some folks said that a cartographer of old had such poor handwriting, his F’s and B’s looked like G’s and D’s.

Other’s just shrugged it off with a careless chuckle if asked, before going back to drinking spiced wine, relaxing in the shade of the summer sun.
Back when the fields were verdant and the Von Wilding’s ruled the moors from their manor-house.
Back before the night of Von Drakk.

Marie-Claude wasn’t an adventurer. She’d spent her life in a coastal village, serving at the inn by night, washing clothes and cooking for the sailors by day.
Her slice of the world was peaceful, if boring and year by year of lifting laundry, tapping kegs and moving tables turned her muscles to teak- something that any new fish in town who figured her for an easy lay would quickly and painfully learn.

One day when she had a little laid by, she resolved to visit her sister, who’d married a baker in a village closer to clockwork cove, on the other-side of the Mist-mourn coast. The baker in Marie’s village wasn’t getting any younger, and replacing him would certainly earn her a few extra coins alongside her normal work.
She travelled away one day with one of the King’s caravans- Organised by the Royal Wardens, the Caravan’s travelled around the realm collecting tax monies and returning them to the castle.

Citizens who wanted to travel in safety therefore found them a blessing; though it was customary to pay a fee to travel with the Caravan, the King’s men would protect both the tax Money and any travellers who’d tagged along should danger strike.

Her visit to her sister was long- Jannet was expecting and Marie’s arrival gave her a much needed set of hands to help around the house. Petrov, her husband was relieved- his oldest apprentice had struck a Paladin who’d insulted his rolls and even now waited to receive the King’s Justice. To make matters worse, two of his younger apprentices had been charmed to Clockwork cove by rumours of a planned expedition to the floating isles.

“I don’t understand those whippets, getting all addlebrained over a trip to a sky-island. Look at Fort Tolo. Five years of hard labour to get it running and what do we here who paid for those airships with our taxes see from it? Not a sliver.”

Petrov’s massive hands set the latest batch of dough in the prover and slammed the door.

“I didn’t realise that Clockwork Cove imposed a tariff on you.”

“Criminal I call it. The king takes two tenths of what we earn- but first the Cove council takes a third... barely enough left to pay for flour and coal.”

The bell in the front of the bakery rang and Petrov went to serve the customer.

The apprentice mixing dough by the oven turned to face Marie, his spoon twirling as he spoke;

“Don’t mind Petrov. He’s just made so much sough-dough, it’s flavoured his head. Plus he’s mighty worried about his missus.”

Marie looked up from her rolling, her curiosity not yet satisfied.

“Why do you have to pay tax to the cove?”

“Because the cove manages the village. The council builds roads and light-posts, keeps our records and so on. Every day we report our takes to city hall and they write it down. We pay more to the cove than the King, but less to the king than we would- since we can prove to them that we’re giving exactly two tenths of what we have left. The Wardens don’t like it a bit.”

Marie thought of the doughty character who’d lead the Caravan she’d travelled with.

“I can see that.”

“Petrov’s just bitter because he’d arranged to trade for dried fruit from Fort Tolo- but now all those airships are sent directly to Crystillia castle for the Royal kitchens.”

The shop bell jangled and Petrov reappeared.

“Miss Marie. You said you’d wait till the next Kings Caravan to travel home? Well, it so happens one bound for the Dragonback Peaks on the other-side of the glourdoom has arrived.”

Marie-Claude dusted off her hands.

“Sorry to leave you shorthanded.”

“I’m sorry I haven’t the coin on hand to give you your backpay. You’ve been a great help these last four months.”

Marie clapped a floury hand on his shoulder.

“Ah, but what are friends and family for. Fair’s fair, you’ve taught me plenty. The caravan will be here tonight, so I’ll leave with them at dawn.”

That evening, when Jannet laid out the evening meal, it was accompanied by a large cylinder wrapped in soft cloth.

“You mentioned wanting to bake back in your town. I haven’t used it since mother left it to me, since Petrov brings in bread from his store.” Jannet handed the
present to Marie, who unwrapped it slowly.

“Her rolling pin.” She hefted it. It was an old stone pin, the polished marble heavy and cold to the touch.

“She said it was Dwarf-made. I found it a bit too heavy to hold…. Marie?”

Marie started, “Oh, sorry. Yes. It’s got a good weight to it. It should roll dough just fine, even when the damp gets into the flour. Thank-you.”

Used to bakers hours Marie packed her things and retired early and was seen off the next morning by Petrov, who insisted on pressing a few coins into her hand
on the way out.

She was soon thankful for the generosity. The price of using the caravan had shot up due to attacks from kobolds and Freyjan bandits. More soldiers flanked the cart, their faces hidden behind steel visors and when they walked, it was with the clank of mail and plate.

The Warden leading the caravan was a young one, fresh faced and without the scars or scowl that years of tax-collecting and peacekeeping tended to brand onto their faces.

“If you don’t mind me asking Miss, are you much of a cook? We’re a sizable company yet, but not a one of us can handle a skillet to save our lives.”
Marie gave a brisk nod.

“Well, if ye wouldn’t mind cooking for us, I’d gladly reduce your fare some.”

She agreed, glad to save the coin, and so the walk back along the Mistmourn coast was a fairly pleasant one… at least until the stop at Umbridge Tavern.
When they arrived, Marie was riding on the cart with the Warden, chatting.

They both let the soldiers go in first while they watered and tied up the horses, but were soon interrupted by yelling from inside.
The Warden ran in, leaving Marie to finish tying the horses.

When she made her way to the door, however, she rather wished she’d simply stayed at the cart.

“Goddess above.” She murmured. The Warden was flashing his badge of Office about, ordering the soldiers to search the room and find any trace of the culprit.
Though there were no bodies, tables were overturned, and red-black splotches adorned the walls and floor. One of the soldiers discovered the partially crushed remains of a skeleton under an overturned table… but the real find was when they broke through the barricade around the cellar door.

“We’ve got a live one.” the guard who broke through the door called out, descending into the darkness, torch held aloft.
Marie watched from the doorway as the guard reemerged, a bundle of cloth hoisted over one shoulder.

One of the unbloodied tables was quickly righted and the body laid out.

“It’s a Freyjan. Think she did it?”
The Warden absentmindedly slapped the soldier over the back of his helmet.

“She’s a tabbybrook. They’re basically pacifists- and if she did it, why did she barricade herself in the basement… In any-case, until we sort out this crime scene, she’ll need somewhere to recover.”
A guard descended from the second floor of the inn.

“Sir, respectfully, this attack must’ve happened at night, the beds, were… are, occupied.” The man removed his helmet to wipe his brow and Marie could see that the upstairs rooms had given the man a greenish tinge.

“Good Warden. My town is about ten minutes walk from here. If I leave my belongings on your cart, I can carry the Freyjan to the inn there.”

The warden doffed his hat.

“Sorry to impose, but that would be excellent. We’ll move on once we’ve organised a standing guard here and sent runners to the city, so I’d appreciate it if you could hold her a day or so after she wakes so I have time to come and question her.”

“Certainly.”

Marie slung her knapsack around the front of her chest and with the help of two guards, hoisted the unconscious Freyjan into a piggyback hold before setting off down the road.

The Tabbybrook didn’t weigh much- though every so often Marie had to pause to re-adjust her grip when the unconscious Freyjan’s tail started to drag along the ground.
The day was overcast and mist seeped from the grass by the roadside, to the point where she only spotted the town when the lamplight from a window cast a yellow glow through the fog.
It was the inn- but it was empty. Tables bare, the hearth cold.

“Oh my Goddess.”

The Freyjan started to stir in her arms.

“Please… no…” the soft sob reached Marie’s ear and overpowered her unease.

“Hush now. Let’s get some food in that belly of yours.” Marie said reassuringly, carrying her to the kitchen and setting her down on a chair to rest.

Unhooking a blackened iron frypan off the wall, Marie lit the stove and fed it coals until the warm glow started to fill the room. She could find any fresh cuts, so she settled for some salt meat and vegetables from the cellar, dicing them and combining them with flour and ale to create a hearty stew.
She poured a mug of grog for herself and the Freyjan and pushed a steaming bowl of stew under the lass’s nose.

“Get that down your throat and you’ll be alright.”
The girl picked up a spoon and slowly, almost mechanically began to eat.
Spoon to lips. Spoon to lips. Not a word, nor a twitch came out of her. She just ate.

Marie picked up a bucket.

“I’m just going to draw some water.”

The Tabbybrook stiffened.

“No. Don’t! Don’t leave!”

Marie turned around to see the girl standing, tail bristling and swaying behind her.

“What’s wrong?”

“You don’t want to go out. It’s night isn’t it! They come out at night!”

“They? What?”

“The monsters. They’re everywhere in the moor! Witches, Spiders and all manner of the dead. I was with some people who were running to get help from the king- And….”

The Tabbybrook trailed off- but Marie could see where she’d been going… or rather, she’d seen the bloodstains where she’d been.

“The Consul?”

“I don’t know. But, if it’s bad, it has to be him, right?”

“Well, there’s a Caravan of the Kings men but a few minutes walk from here- if you’ve the strength, we can walk to them and they’ll protect us.”
Marie started towards the door- but was stopped by a swift tug on her shoulder.

“I wouldn’t go. They hide in the mist. We should just dampen the lights and wait in the cellar till dawn. If they don’t find us, we can run as far as we can along the road at first light.”

A rattle from the front of the tavern caused them both to turn. There, it’s faced against the glass panes of the window, it’s face contorted into a horrible semblance of a grin, was a rotting corpse.

“GODDESS ABOVE!” Marie yelled. The dead thing pressed its face against the glass, yellowed teeth scraping against the wooden window-frame.

“No…. It’s seen us! The prowlers are the eyes of the Voodoo men, they’ll be after us now!”
There was a crash from behind them- Marie dashed back into the kitchen to find the back door open, a shambling corpse lying prone amidst a pile of shattered crockery.

“No choice now. We have to leave.” Marie picked up the pan from the stove and when the corpse made to rise, she struck it such a blow with the pan, it’s skull split apart onto the kitchen floor.

“… Alright. Just… Don’t leave me behind.”
Marie slung her bag over one shoulder.

“Stick close and it won’t come to that. We circle around to the road and follow it back to Umbridge Tavern. Ready?” Marie grabbed a hurricane lantern and pressed it into the Tabbybrook’s hands.

The Tabbybrook nodded. As they stepped out, Marie could see that the world had changed with the coming of night. Fireflies glowed and buzzed through the mist, adding a greenish tinge to the world that only served to make the darkness more eerie.

“Hold that light tightly now and keep an eye out for anyone who tries to sneak up on us.”
The two of them advanced around the side of the inn- Peering around the corner at the front, Marie saw that the prowler who’d been at the window before was gone.
“He might’ve gone back to his master.” She murmured to the Tabbybrook- whose ears twitched in response.
“No. Wait… Look out!”

A strong shove pushed Marie into the street- just as the Prowler landed where she’d stood.
She went to rise and bring her pan to bear against the fell creature, but was instead surprised as, in a burst of white-heat, the undead being fell to the ground with an unearthly scream. Steam rose from its grey skin and it clawed at itself as though on fire.

“Finish it off!”

Marie didn’t hesitate a moment longer. A quick one-two with the iron pan and the dead thing went still.

“You’re a mage?” Marie asked, turning to the Tabbybrook.

“I thought you knew? The Tabbybrook is a river where scholars study water magic. I studied at the Tabbybrook house, so I’m a Tabbybrook mage.”

“Never heard of the place… We can talk about it later- I think I see something in the fog.”

Sure enough down the street there was the shilluette of… something. Taller than a man, yet certainly not a beast.

Thankfully, the strange thing was further into the village and so they were able to retreat back along the road towards Umbridge Tavern un-opposed. As the road twisted inland, the fireflies disappeared from the mist, their eerie glow replaced by complete darkness. Even the light from the lantern only seemed to intensify the shades of the night and it wasn’t long before both ladies found themselves shivering for reasons unrelated to the chill evening air.

“So… Tabbybrook. What was that like?” Marie asked in an attempt to lighten the mood.

“It’s nothing grand. It started as an old mill on a river-bend- but with the Kings Dam on the Frostflow river… um, a meltwater river that flows from the Frostbyte reaches, but, anyway, with the big waterwheels on the dam, nobody needed the small mills anymore. A famous water mage made his home in one and that’s how the Tabbybrook schools were founded. They’re small, but there’s a few of them now, and they teach the different ways of working with water. If you want to learn everything, you have to travel to each one.”

“Isn’t that a lot of trouble?”

“It’s hard, but it’s not a hassle. It’s a pleasure to learn. The healing waters of the fae wood’s streams… the life giving oasis of the dunes, the crashing waves of clockwork cove and the volcanic springs of the dragon-back peaks. The original Tabbybrook is close to frostbite and it’s the biggest of the lot, so it teaches us of rain, rivers and ice.”

Marie was curious despite herself and the niceties of conversation helped to dampen the night-terrors that flitted about in the shadows.

“So you were passing through here on your way back from the peaks?”

The Tabbybrook scratched behind an ear awkwardly;

“Yes and no. I’ve finished my pilgrimage, but I was thinking of starting a school of my own... One fully focused on rain and mist, somewhere here on the Moore’s… at least I was.”

Marie searched for something to say to move the topic back into positive territory.

“So what can you tell me about these clouds?”

The Tabbybrook looked up and a peculiar expression crossed her face. Her ears began to flap and her nose twitch in a most unusual manner.

“The clouds are wrong.”

“What?”

“They ought to be coming from the south east, over the ocean. Instead these are coming from the west. Rain-clouds like these shouldn’t be able to pass through the dragon-back peaks…. I know weather and this is wrong.”

“Somebodies causing this gloom? But, how? Why?”

“I don’t know. But when I do. I’ll kill them.”

Till now, the Freyjan had seemed more a scholar and scardey-cat than a warrior, but in a few short words Marie heard a barely contained fury that matched a species known for its savagery.

The words reached something else too, something that stirred in the gloom;

“Marie? Lass? Can Ye hear me?”

The Tabbybrook lifted her lantern high and the circle of light reached far enough to reveal the battered form of the warden, lying against a tree by the roadside.

“Warden! What happened?” Marie and the Tabbybrook rushed to the wounded Lawman’s side.

“Don’t speak.” The Mage’s firm words were accompanied by an equally firm removal of the warden’s heavy jacket and mail vest. The jacket was in shreds, but his vest had protected him from being torn open- instead his chest was covered in heavy bruises and purple welts.

“Keep watch while I heal him.”

Marie complied immediately, picking up the lantern in her free hand and surveying the gloom, frypan at the ready.

“I’m surprised he had the strength to call out.” The words were soft but in the silent night Marie caught them easily.

“All Warden’s are toughies. He would have come out of this with a spring in his step and a few extra scars, mark my words.”
The Tabby-brook examined and cleaned the wounds, before gently dragging the warden from underneath the tree. Once he was in the open, she reached out and started to gather water from the dank air, drawing the mist and fog from all around and compressing it into a small heavy cloud that hovered just overhead.

“What’re you-Agbhbhghgbl…” The question from Marie was drowned out by the downpour. All three were soaked to the skin by a deluge of fat raindrops from the tiny cloudburst- though the rain lasted for only a few seconds.

“What was that for?”

“Sorry, I can’t cast a healing rain any smaller than that.”
Marie blinked and rolled her shoulder around experimentally. She’d gotten a cramp carrying her new friend when she was out cold earlier- but now, it was like it hadn’t even been there in the first place. A quick look at the Warden confirmed it- his wounds were fizzing, leaving smooth bare skin behind.

“While I’m not ungrateful, this dress takes forever to dry out. Can you fix that? Hello?”
The Mage wasn’t listening, staring past Marie into the area that had until moments ago, been shrouded in mist. Umbridge tavern, now shrouded in a purple haze of magic and creaking ominously.

“No.”

A figure ambled out of the tavern doorway, the face underneath its top hat painted in a bone white imitation of a bare skull. The Shaman saw them and his face split in a cruel mockery of laughter. Behind him, the building pulsed- the doors and windows suddenly filled with a mass of freshly raised dead, struggling mindlessly to escape. The dead crawling from the mass of limbs shocked Marie and the Tabbybrook back to the present.

“Kill the man. Burn the house.” The mage nodded in agreement and without further hesitation, Marie surged forwards. The swampies lurched forward to meet her, dead hands searching for opportunities to grab and hold, only to be dispatched by a few swift strokes from the iron pan.
A prowler rose up from the darkness behind Marie- only to be put down in a stream of scalding steam. The shamble priest looked less certain of himself, pulling out a doll and with a swift jab of a pin, sending a violet hexbolt at the charging Marie Claude.

Without a single pause, Marie raised her pan and let the magic earth itself into the surface of the cold iron. Before the priest could react, Marie was already upon him, delivering him a blow to the chest with the edge of the pan that sent him reeling backwards in a crack of breaking ribs.

“In the Goddess’s Name!” Marie yelled, breaking the oil lantern against the wall of the Tavern and setting the porch around the wheezing priest aflame.
Without the priest to lead them, the zombies that managed to escape the burning in were quickly dispatched by steam and cold iron. A few hours later, the two stood tired but victorious in front of the charred husk of the inn.

The cellar was intact and yielded the Tabbybrook’s staff, left behind from when she’d hidden there- and a few intact bottles of grog the fire above had passed over.

The latter made watching the cinders of the building smoulder in the early dawn more enjoyable, as Marie and the Mage took turns swigging from the bottle of green glass while waiting for the sun to rise.

Neither raised the question of leaving. The Warden was still sleeping off his narrow escape and the horses from the caravan had torn free and bolted… and, there was something more to it as well.

“The Warden will wanna run to the nearest army fort…. Will you go with him?” The Tabbybrook took a swig of grog and passed back the bottle.
Marie accepted the grog and held it up to the light, frowning at how far the level of the bottle had fallen. “This morning, I woulda. Now. Dunno. The town I was going back to is dead.”

She ended her sentence by gulping down the last few drops and tossing the empty bottle aside.
“Open ‘nother bottle.” The Tabbybrook’s suggestion met with a nod of approval from Marie. Raising her voice the Freyjan called out to where they’d left the Warden lying. “You awake yet?”

The Lawman groaned and stirred. Something bounced off his head and filled his nose with the scent of hard-liquor. His eyes snapped open and ignoring the lingering aches and pains of the night before, he rolled to his feet, eyes darting around wildly.
When he’d crawled out of Umbridge during the massacre last night, the air had been dank, eerie and heavy with death. Now, dawn was breaking through the clouds, rays of sunshine dancing across charred woodwork and ashen remains. In front of this still smouldering grim pyre, Marie and the Tabbybrook from the day before were sitting on barrels, cheeks rosy with exhaustion- and evident from the bottle that passed regularly between them, inebriation.
“What the hell happened here?”
The girls looked between each-other.
“Long story. Drink?”


October 6th, 2015, 6:34 am
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Minion
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Joined: April 27th, 2015, 8:01 pm
Posts: 159
I hope you keep posting more stories and DM'ing tips :)


October 13th, 2015, 1:52 pm
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Minion
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Joined: March 6th, 2015, 2:41 pm
Posts: 85
Sanareth, your stories are very entertaining and most enjoyable. Good work!


October 14th, 2015, 10:54 am
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