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Character Codex IV RELEASED!

Cover Art by Brian Brinlee

Cover Art by Brian Brinlee

The Character Codex IV: Book of Unconventional Character Classes is now available in pdf format via RPGNOW.com and DriveThruRPG.com!

A new Character Codex containing specialist fantasy character classes that are strange and unconventional adding new flair to any Dice & Glory campaign! This book is a great resource for both Players and Game Masters wishing to introduce some eastern flavor into their game! Among those classes that can be found within the new Character Codex’s pages are the Dragon-Blood Warrior, the Leatherneck, the Leopard-man, Skull-Cleavers, Bookworms, High Sages, and Zombie Creepers!

Requires the Dice & Glory Core Rulebook

This book contains:

  • Over 76 Fantasy Specialist Classes with full descriptions of class abilities and level progression tables!
  • Of these, there are 5 Brick classes, 12 Fighter classes, 11 Adventurer classes, 6 Rogue classes, 9 Psychic classes, 22 mage classes, 6 Clergy classes and 11 NPC classes!
  • NPC tables which can be applied to NPC’s to easily apply specialist class levels!
  • 6 forms of stylized Martial Arts forms!
  • …Plus information on Specialist Class Variants along with 15 variants.

Riddles

Riddles seem to be underutilized in roleplaying games, at least the ones I’ve been present for as both a player and Game Master. The Riddle of the Sphinx to Oedipus, Samson’s Riddle to the Philistines (Judges 14:14 – 14:18), puzzles and word-games upon which the life of a hero balanced and the doom of the Philistines was set. Riddles need not be just the pun-ridden games of the Victorian nursery; ancient ciphers and cunning supernatural riddlers populate the yellowed pages of fantasy tales and legendry showing that great adventures are not just about exploration and action but also about solving riddles which can be adventures in and of themselves. Thusly, roleplaying sessions can be greatly enriched by the strategic use and shrewd construction of riddles by the Game Master. Riddles are a poetic mode of language of great antiquity not only meant to present a puzzle but also communicate a transformative perspective and carry a deeper meaning. A good riddle should be clear, fair, present a challenge to its audience, and have somewhat of an aesthetic appeal as well as having an element of engagement that draws its listeners in like moths to a flame.

A riddle is a short composition posing a question where the object of the riddle is to obfuscate the question itself forcing the listener (the riddlee) to decipher the question and in the deciphering the answer is reached through the clues discovered within the riddle. “The riddle is a short lyric poem that poses a question, the answer to which lies hidden in hints.” [Turco, Luis. 1986. The New Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics. Expanded ed. Hanover, NH: New England University Press. pg.134]. Apart from any strict structural definition of a riddle it’s the context that makes an expression with descriptive elements, whether written or verbal, into the question part of the riddle. A riddle presents its clues in a roundabout way or with an altered perspective and poses its question. These few and simple parts allow riddles to take on a wide variety of structures from lyrical poetry, songs, simple rhymes, short stories, as well as seemingly straight forward questions in non-poetic language. It is the context in which the riddle asks its question which is of importance. The clues set up in the riddle can imply the answer or yet another clue depending on their juxtaposition to the question part of the riddle.

The riddle can be thought to exist in its own world constructed by the riddler and explored by the riddle – very applicable to fantasy roleplaying indeed. The use of language in a different or unfamiliar way within the riddle itself can alter the initial impressions not just muddying the clarity of the statement or question but providing a completely bizarre and alien picture that appears to be something entirely different until its mysteries are penetrated and the machinery of the riddle is exposed. The Riddlee’s task is to turn the unfamiliar world of the riddle into the familiar. “The way in which the riddlee arrives at the riddle’s answer involves understanding the relationship of the parts of the riddle and grasping a new ordering of things, and along with it the meaning of the riddle.” [Montfort, Nick. 2003. Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction. The MIT Press. pg.50] Merely stating the answer to the riddle is not enough for the solution. The riddlee that has truly reached the solution must be able to completely explain the riddle-question and how each of the clues operates. To be fully solved the Riddlee must solve the riddle announcing the solution, and explain the riddler’s intent with reference to the clues. As it is the riddlee’s role to solve the riddle it is the riddler’s role to construct their riddle fairly and present it with clarity.

A riddle must express itself clearly enough to be solved, obliquely enough to be challenging, and beautifully enough to be compelling (Montfort). A riddle presents something familiar in a transformative and unfamiliar way, if the riddle concerns something that is unknown to the riddlee then it becomes unsolvable. A riddle communicates the known and is ineffective in carrying information about the unknown to the uninitiated. Take the Sphinx’s riddle for example which asks (what follows is a popular modern version, there are several different versions of this riddle), “What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three in the evening?” The answer given by Oedipus was “Man”. The question the monster posed was itself obscured by substituting the major phases of a human life (infancy, adulthood, and advanced-age) with another unit of time often poetically associated with those phases (morning, noon, and night) but still allowing them to serve as clues leading to the answer for one who can figure out how to look at the riddle when an infant one crawls (walking on four legs in the morning), when an adult one walks on two legs, and the third leg in old age would be a cane. This last clue changing the number of legs to three pulls double duty not only performing as a clue but also narrowing the potential answer as well probably confusing the unfortunates which the Sphinx strangled and ate. Though difficult the Sphinx’s riddle is a fair riddle, the hardest part of composing a riddle is making sure that it’s fair. Good riddles rely on description and metaphor with absolute clarity of meaning being reserved only for the solution and the presentation of the language of the riddle. The easier it is for the riddlee to understand the language of the riddle the more they can be assured that the riddle is fair. Of course, such aspects of the riddle as required prior knowledge, the more the riddle is a logic puzzle the less the riddler has to rely on the riddlees’ knowledge but the riddle may become overly genericized as a result, and difficulty should be taken into account. The riddler must construct their riddle fairly that is fair in the metaphorical clues provided within the riddle itself in relation to the riddlee. A riddle without clues or with those insufficient to lead to the answer is unfair even if its language is easily understood.

To pass into the city of Thebes, Oedipus had to answer the Sphinx’s riddle which presented an obstacle in the narrative for the hero to overcome but with cunning rather than shear brawn. In that mode the Sphinx rather than presenting itself as a classic sword & sorcery monster, takes up the position of what is known as a Guardian of the Threshold. “Generally, any GUARDIAN OF THE THRESHOLD is likely to require the answer to a riddle.” [Clute & Grant. 1997. The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. New York, St. Martin’s Press. Riddles] Samson’s riddle to the Philistines, however, is a great example of a bad riddle specifically an unfair one. His riddle, “Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet”, has clues within it but the greatest clue the one required by the riddlee, in this case the Philistines, to know in order to solve it is not present in the riddle itself. It’s unfair to those lacking Samson’s life perspective basically it’s unfair to everyone except Samson himself (and the reader of the tale). The answer is the honey he had taken from the honey-combs that he found in the body of a lion that he had slain (Judges 14:6) after he had passed back by its corpse later. He never let anyone else know from where he had obtained the honey. His riddle is contextually unfair. Of course, within the context of the tale the purpose of the riddle was more of a pretense for other events, it’s more of a literary device in service of the tale its quality is not of any actual importance within the narrative. Another well-known and very unfair riddle of almost an identical nature is that of Rumpelstiltskin’s which is meant to be unsolvable by the story’s heroine, giving her three days to guess his name. Another example of an unfair riddle is the Mad Hatter’s riddle asked of Alice, “when is a raven like a writing desk”, he admittedly didn’t know the answer to his own riddle. Of course, all three of these examples of the unfair riddle served other purposes within the narratives of which they are a part. The riddle of the Sphinx is a fair riddle but is also a part of a greater narrative relating to the previous unfair three to which the riddlee displayed his cunning by presenting the answer and the explanation of the question. In a roleplaying session riddles NEED to be fair to the players; of course if the player characters are posing a riddle then of course it will not carry that requirement.

When it comes to the roleplaying tabletop, riddles can add to the RP element of a game engaging the players and encouraging teamwork when attempting to solve it. Riddles can help to add an air of mystery to a game session as well as deepening the world setting. The riddle itself should have reason to exist and take elements from the setting in which it and the characters exist firmly imbedding it in the game world. The riddle should be crafted to avoid modern/real-world knowledge that is not present in the game world. Essentially what works for a newspaper puzzle is probably not going to work within the game world. A riddle posed by the GM should be incorporated into the adventure in a manner that emphasizes its importance such as needing to answer a riddle to open a riddle-door behind which a serious goal is hidden, pass a Threshold Guardian that the players can’t otherwise just beat-down, or occur at a critical point in the communal narrative of the campaign. Any puzzle, not just riddles, needs to feel like an important part of an adventure, not a simple barrier that can prevent the players from enjoying the game. Not every riddle needs to be a work of poetry or even entirely original when used within the context of a roleplaying session but the Game Master as the riddler must keep fairness and clarity in mind as well as figuring out how to engage the players. The riddle itself needs to be engaging and hold the players’ (and thusly the characters’) attentions. The riddle needs a reason to exist and a purpose there should also be a reason that the players actually want to solve it. Giving players at least an implied benefit and/or penalty if they do or don’t solve the riddle even if it’s just to propel an important plot point or trigger and event helps to engage them.  They should have some sort of an idea of the consequences of either success or failure perhaps both and if they have a choice the implications of accepting the challenge.

Riddles can be constructed rather quickly by GM’s in their basest form in a few simple steps. First, think of an object (the answer), think about how to describe that object (specifically the vocabulary involved which will both obfuscate and carry the clues), and once you finish that you need to think of ways to tell your players this in a less obvious but more interesting way (this is where phrasing and any literary devices can be applied), then try to put together the riddle in such a way that’s interesting but also clear in that the riddlees will be able to understand the riddle itself keeping the clues in mind. Working backward from the answer makes sure that your riddle has a definite answer. Also check to make sure that the riddle is fair, the players should have the knowledge that will allow them to not only find the clues but also to process them to formulate the answer. When dealing with groups, then the tidbits of required knowledge can be distributed among the individual players forcing them to work as a group to solve the riddle. Note also the use of riddles should also be minded by the GM based not only on the nature of the group and what they may enjoy about the roleplaying experience but also the commonality of a riddle and its importance to the game. Not just a reward behind a riddle-door or the attainment of access from the Guardian of the Threshold but as a device that can add to the depth of the fantasy world and have consequences in the answering. Rarity is also a factor; if riddles are fairly common then they become less valuable as a roleplaying device the use of riddles as simple obstructions in a dungeon cheapens them likening them to the typical traps found in such a place.

The ancient art of riddling can add a certain mysterious depth to a roleplaying setting as well as adding a little cerebral fun to a game session lending a little diversity to the exploration, action, and strategic aspects of the game while also encompassing all of those ideas at the same time.

The Dragonslayers III Pt. 25: The Wasp’s Tale

Vorwulf had just finished chopping the head off of the barbarian chieftain (trophy headhunting is a Westlander warrior tradition of great antiquity), Magiia was busy looting the headless corpse finding 250 gold pieces, 50 silver, and 20 platinum pieces. Vor then snatched up a couple of small bags, both were black and yellow in color, from the dead man’s belt. He assumed that they were the Wasp’s property. One proved to be a bag of meals from which a hot meal of bread and meat could be pulled out three times a day. The other was a bag of holding full of what appeared to Vor as a bunch of spell components and other uninteresting stuff. They wisely left the medallions (the magic charges that had fueled their magic were spent anyhow) and their boots all of which bore the mark of the dragon. Grom checked the Wasp and found that he was very near death.

Vorwulf (Played by Cris): “Well, heal him healer. You are the group healer.”

Grom (Played by Gil): “Aww man, I don’t wanna waste a healing potion on this guy.”

Afterwards they moved the wasp to the rowboat and got on their way with Vorwulf at the stern of the magical craft. Grom eventually healed the Wasp up enough for him to ‘not die’ with his healing touch ability. It took a little while to catch up to their hill-giant guide, Jez. Vorwulf had mistaken a strangely shaped yew copse for the boar-hunter and taken them a little ways in the wrong direction. Jez agreed to guide them north around the bend of the ridge, a trip of around 11 miles or so. The trip was necessary as around the southern curl of the ridge was the Spider Wood.

Vorwulf (when the others complained): “Well it’s not named ‘Spider Wood’ for nothing.”

By evening they had reached the apex of the north bend and could see the Nor-Rills (river) a few miles directly north as they were on the high ground and completely in the open having broken into a large area of grassland. The night was quiet and passed quickly. Wasting no time they were off and moving again finally being led to a lakeside campsite hidden among reeds and cattails that were several inches above their heads and to Jez’s waist. Jez used the swampy place frequently when on hunts. It featured a stone-lined fire-pit and stash of dry firewood. After the giant set camp the slayers sat around the fire and discussed the Wasp.

Gil: “Maybe I should turn him into a mouse or snail and carry him in my bag.”

Cris: “Man he’s a mage so his Will save’s gonna be high. Maybe we can pay the giant to take him back to Merdna and the protégées.”

Jenn (Magiia’s Player): “Naw. The giant’s a dumb@$$ he’ll just talk the giant into letting him go or something.”

Gil: “Yeah man, he’s crafty he’s gonna find his way out of it.”

Cris: “Well, where we’re going he wants to go too so we’ll just have to keep an eye on ‘em.”

The night was quiet until Maggi’s watch when all were wakened by the sounds of battle but by the time they were all up and ready Maggi assured them that they were safe. A pair of Green Jellies had crept up on the bivouacking adventurers from the water and she had with a single powerful whack killed the both of them. All that was left was a sizzling puddle of slime at the water’s edge.

Morning; the argument between Vor and Grom about the Wasp continued. Eventually…

Vorwulf: “Alright, alright! Go ahead and try then!”

Grom attempted to cast Animal Form on the Wasp but the lanky wizard was able to resist the magic quite easily. So in an attempt to finesse some information from Xanto, the shaman engaged him in a brief conversation in which the Wasp was his usual charming self and tried to get Grom to loosen his tethers “just a little”. Vor who overheard the whole exchange saw right through the ploy and stopped the shaman from carrying it out. Probably a little embarrassed, Grom stopped playing nice and threatened the Wasp getting some information as reward for his intimidation attempt. Xanto told them about Millenium Trees and the immense power those legendary plants hold and that the Millenium Mushroom should have a similar potency. A few minutes later Grom had the genius idea to try to “recruit” Jez the hill-giant bribing him with the gold lightning javelin he had taken from Blackbrow. It didn’t work but the giant took the treasure anyway.

After a day’s travel they came to the pebble banks of a rapidly flowing westerly river, the appearance of the purple moon signaled their stopping. Jez departed dragging his sledge due east after telling the slayers to go straight north across the river, they could already see the chalk mesa of the White Heath about 2 miles beyond the unnamed river. To the south were seemingly endless rolling grasslands which gradually sloped down with a long low hill about half a mile from their camp. There was no good place to conceal their camp. They wisely decided to light no fire. Grom attempted to commune with nature in order to get a better idea about the ruins and to pinpoint their location but unable to get a bead on anything realized they were currently out of his range. The Wasp now demanded to be released as he knew which ruins they were seeking.

Magiia: “There’s more than one?”

Xanto the Wasp: “There’s two.”

Grom (intimidatingly): “WHERE? WHICH ONE!”

Vorwulf just stood there laughing to himself.

Xanto: “Uhm, Uh, there’s a southerly ruins and a more northern one. We want the northern one!”

Vorwulf (referring to the Wasp’s initial demand): “Not till morning.”

The group settled in to sleep; Maggi counted her dragon-blood potions and found she had only 3 left.

Come morning Vorwulf fed the Wasp from the bag of meals and discussed with him the terms under which he was traveling. The rawhide snapped as he cut the Wasp’s bonds (who was now conscious and complaining) and tossed the Wasp his bag of holding. The ranger kept the bag of meals. Xanto pulled out a yellow glass vial from his bag and drank down its contents, all his wounds instantly and fully healed. He pulled a fresh suit of yellow & black clothes and a clean pair of black velvet shoes.

Gil: “How’re we going to get across the river.”

Jenn: “It can’t go over water right?”

Cris: ?

The GM (me): “They think it’s like a hoverboard.”

Cris: “Nooo! It’s MAGIC!”

They proceeded in their hover-boat over the rapidly flowing river. Suddenly when they reached the dead center of the span a giant horned water-serpent leaped out of the water its bull-like horns aimed at the vessel’s timber but Maggi made quick work of it while balancing on the edge of the craft as they hovered over the raging water. Soon, they were able to quickly reach the pale edifice of the White Heath well before noon. The 200 ft. cliff-face was heavily pocked with hundreds of bird hovels with a few being “man-size”. Vorwulf climbed a pine, there many trees, thickets and woody shrubs growing in the cold shadow of the cliff, to catch a bird’s eye. The cliff stretched as far as he could see both northward and to the south-east. They deserted the rowboat and were determined to climb up to what appeared a bounding wall along the top of the edifice which fluctuated in height greatly depending on the level of ruin of that particular section.

Vorwulf used his scimitar of dimensional door to reach the top, slashing open a dimensional rift and at stepping through appeared at the top of the wall at its most stable-looking point. Maggi easily scaled the rope that Vorwulf had lowered arriving at his side at surprising speed. The shaman cast bestial might on himself gaining a pair of wings as well as a thick coat of fur, a pair of claws, and large owl-eyes. He flapped his wings and shot upward in the direction of his companions but from out of one of the larger bird-holes in the cliff-face as he passed over the opening a Roc (a brown eagle the size of a man) shot at him with talons bared. Grom got off a spell as a simultaneous attack blasting the powerful bird back into its burrow with a cleverly applied wind rush spell. He wasted no time in joining his companions; the monster-bird did not reemerge.

What they saw before them was a vast ruined city made of bone-white limestone with multiple gaping and shadowed windows, holes, and doorways in the remaining squat structures staring back at them like the orbits of malformed skulls and vast areas and piles of limestone blocks like broken teeth scattered everywhere. When they realized that they had taken their eyes off of the Wasp they noticed he was already at the top of the wall next to them.

Cris: “He probably has wasp-wings under that cloak.”

Jenn: “Well let’s see.”

Magiia gave the skinny wizard a “helpful push” knocking him easily from the wall, a pair of buzzing tough looking brown wings, much like that of a wasp, sprang forth and lowered him gently to the floor of the skeletal city. They soon followed one after the other. Vorwulf was determined to stay out of the buildings and try to stay in the open areas desiring to get out of the place fast as possible as there were probably “all sorts of things abouts”. He made it a point to make sure the Wasp understood that. They began to move and the shaman spotted several piles of scattered bones, indeed there fairly fresh bones everywhere. Vor identified them as the bones of bears and goats and the tracks all around the area as those of a pack of manticore.

Grom: “What’s a manticore, they have wings? Like a chimera?”

Xanto the Wasp: “I hate manticores. They freak me out!” He looked truly disturbed.

After explaining to Grom what may be wandering about, Maggi didn’t care “as long as they bleed”, Vor told everyone to stay close and don’t stray. The Wasp was staying almost too close to the ranger as the party snaked their way through the remains of the dead city. To calm his shaky nerves the Wasp started to run at the mouth telling the slayers a story:

 

Y’know around 600 years ago the Brown Horde seized the entirety of the White Heath and both cities which at the time were still but weakened bastions of the Mad Mages. It was they that chewed the maze of tunnels that now exist in the limestone edifice connecting the tombs, natural caves, labyrinths, storerooms, and oubliettes. And I guess the bird-holes now. I have no doubt some of those Roc-burrows lead there. They run the entire underground of the heath. The first city the hordes attacked, the southern one, resisted their attacks to the bitter end but the northern city was betrayed by a small wizard faction connected with the Obsidian Guild possibly some of its founders which allowed them to remain unmolested for a time. Eventually however with the coming of the Red Horde and then the Black the city was reduced to a complete ruin. The fate of the betrayer wizards was never recorded though an adventurer and brother of good standing with the Obsidian Guild led an expedition about 100 years ago chasing down the lost brothers after discovering some documents in the library at Ezmer recorded by an anonymous Hill-Lander bard. He discovered their tomb, or at least where their bodies were piled but he also noted the active leyline and silvery filaments that were a part of some strange inter-dimensional fungus which was too powerful for him to “molest” in any fashion save to come out of the tumulus the only survivor with a single silver strand. I have read his notes the filaments lend a special potency to viands and potions and especially to the imbiber. I have done the research as well on the mushroom and it is indeed akin a millennium tree though I admit, I have no idea it’s nature. I do know though that in 2 days the mushroom should sprout if the planetary charts are correct, ah druids ever their eyes to the skies, with the Green Moon making an appearance. We need to get there before the cap fully opens. If the Outrider, wherever he is, was correct we are still about 2 days away from the northern ruins though.

 

Vorwulf: “Good to know.”

 

To Be Continued…

The Dragonslayers III Pt. 24: The Mark of the Dragon

Mark-of-the-Dragon

The titular mark

The sharp-toothed cannibals charged the slayers all bearing a common mark branded into their foreheads. Grom recognized them as an enemy of his tribe from the far north, dragon worshippers. All of the barbarians were clothed in red dyed bear-hide armor and wolf-skin mantles with steel pectoral plates held in place by a cross-harness and a spiked bracer on each arm, the armor also bore the same crude mark. The chief, baring his pointed teeth from under his open-helm and its antlers, was wielding a two-handed great bipennis axe in each hand and what they took as his second was wielding a two-handed great war-hammer in each hand. Just behind them were 7 warriors each wielding a two-handed great mace and following the 7 was a shaman wearing only a red robe and wielding an iron-staff covered in runes. All were also wearing gold medallions around their necks stamped with the familiar mark. Suddenly bounding over that group appeared what appeared to be a winged red-scaled dragonsaurus, Vorwulf instantly recognized it as a Drake. The creature was wearing scale mail barding.

Vorwulf (Played by Cris): “Sh*#. They have a war-beast.”

The slayers disembarked their vessel. With some seconds before the raging barbarians would reach them Vorwulf activated the Ring of Orbs ability on his scimitar and Bear’s Endurance on his gold helmet. Grom cast Mass Bull’s Strength, as did the enemy shaman for his allies, and summoned 4 earth elementals which began to move forward very slowly. Vorwulf shot a magic arrow at the oncoming tribals which exploded in the air unleashing the Thunder Arrow spell raining arrows of pure electrical energy over the entire area. But they disappeared before colliding with their targets, the medallions around their necks glowed with unnatural power. In response the shaman cast Call Lightning with the same results.

Cris (with more than a little sarcasm in a rather hostile tone, and referring to the medallions apparent abilities): “OH OF COURSE they have something to stop magic! OF COURSE THEY DO! OH SURE, SURE!” He threw his hands up in the air in disgust. “SURE THEY DO!”

Vorwulf charged to meet the oncoming war-party which as they closed with the slayers erupted into a foaming rage. As it flew low over Vorwulf the drake unleashed its fire breath which Vor easily avoided. Magiia charged forward 50 ft. following after the battle-thirsty ranger. He quickly drew his great axe and attacked the charging war-chief dealing but a scratch to the barbarian. Grom cast Entangling Growth and caught every charging barbarian warrior save for the leader and his second within the twining grasses. The war-chief swung at Vorwulf missing. The red drake swooped in with a talon attack against Maggs barely missing his target. The barbarian lieutenant attacked Vorwulf missing by a hair’s breadth with his paired war-hammers. The entangled warriors were held fast until their shaman neared and he was able to counter the active spell freeing them as the spidery grasses retreated. The warriors continued their charge homing in on Maggi and Grom. Vorwulf continued his two on one duel with the barbarian chief and his lieutenant. Maggi engaged the drake and Grom pulled out a magic rod and used its Quicksand ability trapping 3 of the charging warriors. The fight continued this way with Maggi getting a powerful hit against the drake on a counter attack and Grom sent his elementals forward to try to get at the enemy shaman who was still a fair distance away. Four of the encroaching warriors finally reached and surrounded Maggi landing a few solid hits on her. Grom called down lightning on the enemy shaman, his medallion prevented it from harming him as before. The 3 warriors in the quicksand were able to extract themselves from the quagmire with a group grapple check roll of a natural 20. Vor was holding his own against the pair of powerful barbarians though he took a couple of nasty blows. Near the end of the round the Drake pounced on Maggi forcing her to the ground with a flying tackle. The 4 warriors that had surrounded her unable to reach the Ferenoi through their war-beast instead turned on Grom nailing him with several furious blows. He unleashed a primal scream on them dealing some damage and partially deafening them but they were proof against the fear effects and continued to wail on him with their spiked maces. The enemy shaman countered Grom’s elementals which melted back into the earth and used his iron staff to teleport right next to his counterpart and swung with the heavy staff. Grom caught with only a magic rod in his hands attempted to parry the red-shaman’s blow and successful got caught in a clinch locking the staff in a test of strength against the iron rod. Vorwulf found himself in a similar situation with his buckler locked with one of the leader’s great bipennis axes. Fortunately his sword arm was free and as he saw it one of the leader’s axes was tied up as well.

Maggi was able to force her way out from under the drake, Vor hacked away at the leader with his free arm, and Grom got free of the clinch by dropping the rod but the red-shaman whacked him in turn with the iron staff. The war-chief’s second swung madly at Vorwulf as did the war-chief with his free arm and freeing the other of the clinch with shear brute strength. The red drake lunged at Maggi with a powerful bite but was batted away and wounded savagely by her counter attack. The four warriors around Grom began to swing in unison with their maces and the shaman countered with a simultaneous Mass Animal Form spell. All four were zapped into rabbits which immediately fled hopping away in all directions. Maggi chopped the drake down with a finishing power-attack opening the mighty animal from shoulder to belly, shrieking as it fell. Vorwulf continued to battle the war-chief and his lieutenant almost losing his weapon in a serious fumble. Grom pulled out his morning star of supernatural might and swung at the red-shaman whose robes immediately shot forth dozens of red-scaled serpents which entwined the shaman’s body serving the barbarian as some kind of hideous magic armor. The morning star smashed against the writhing snakes and a few serpents struck back at him but missed with their venom dripping fangs. Maggs charged the barbarian lieutenant landing a blow but finding her opponent her toughest yet though she had drawn blood.

Magiia (Played by Jenn): “If he bleeds I can kill’em!”

After avoiding a powerful blow from the war-chief and with succor from Maggi engaging his second foe Vorwulf disarmed the barbarian leader of one of his weapons. Vorwulf continued his assault against the cannibal chieftain and Maggi blasted his second with blow after blow which he tried to match never quite landing a blow of equal power. Grom meanwhile valiantly stood against the enemy shaman and 3 of the barbarian warriors. The Blackwings’ shaman activated his ring of Frost Nova which unleashed a blast of cold which enveloped him dealing frost damage to any who would dare to strike at him and freezing 2 of the nearby warriors’ feet to the earth. The third however struck a horrid blow mashing half of Grom’s ribs into a single purple, bleeding mass.

Gil (Grom’s Player): “Guys!? I’m gonna die here!”

The cannibal lieutenant and Magiia continued to exchange blows. Vor caught the chieftain in a fumble when he tried to parry his axe blow and nearly cut him in half slaying the cannibal chief in a geyser of blood. The ranger turned and ran to Grom’s aid. The warriors fighting with Grom alternated from getting their feet frozen to the ground and freeing themselves as they struggled to continue their assault with one nearly throwing his weapon in a dramatic miss and another bashing the unfortunate shaman with a natural 20 reducing him to knockout points. The red-shaman swung with his iron staff again the whistling blow ending in a clinch with Grom.

Maggi and her foe continued to furiously hack and hammer at each other. Vorwulf chopped into one of the warriors assaulting Grom. Grom activated the Mage Armor ability on his morning star in the hopes of saving his own life; a semi-transparent field of bluish light came around his body taking the form of gently glowing transparent full plate armor. The red-shaman attempted to disarm his clinched foe but failed. Vor was able to drop one of the still-standing fighters while the other two redoubled their efforts against him while the two shamans fought it out in single combat. Maggi eventually felled the lieutenant and moved to assist Vor; she was badly wounded by this time. Grom disarmed his enemy flinging the iron staff far into the tall grasses, it was lost. He followed that with a mighty blow of his morning star which tore through the red serpent armor; the tattered serpents fell away from the enemy shaman’s body and faded to nothingness. The red-shaman backed up about 25 ft. from Grom and cast a spell that caused his hands to curl into bestial claws.

The remaining pair of warriors landed massive blows (both Natural 20’s) on Maggi nearly killing her. She served back some damage back to them but they still stood fast. Vorwulf continued to strike at one of the two hitting only air. The enemy shaman slashed at Grom with his evil talons and Grom responded with a wide and powerful swing accidentally flinging his magic weapon several feet away. One of the warriors swung a massive and hateful blow (Natural 20) at Vor whom expertly parried with a natural 20 and the other warrior unleashed a possible deathblow at Maggi with another natural 20 roll but this time on a power-attack! She knocked the massively powerful strike away with a natural 20 of her own! She then replied with a nasty swing of her axe dropping the savage steeping herself and weapon in blood up to her elbows. Vorwulf took a few more swings to kill his enemy and then tossed the wounded amazon a healing potion. When they looked over to the dueling shamans they saw that Grom had clinched a paired claw-strike at his eyes and then wrestled the red-shaman to the ground and pinned him down.

They attempted to question the barbarian but he continued to fight and was able to free a single clawed hand. Vorwulf saw through his attempt to swallow some poison from a pouch around his neck snatching it away just in time so the savage clawed out his own throat. Maggs turned to the pouch which Vor had tossed away and saw a few strange looking yellow pills had rolled out so she scooped them back into it as she picked it up.

Magiia: “Hmmm what are these?” She shrugged and put the small leather pouch into her bag of holding.

The scent of human blood was overpowering. The Blackwings were surrounded by 10 butchered human corpses and a dead drake.

Vor: “Wait. Where’s the Wasp at?”

He looked over and saw the Wasp was still where he had been dropped. It was evident that he had tried his rawhide bonds but was too weak to escape.

The slayers walked over to beaten wizard. His battered face rolled up towards them. “Hi guys.” He said pathetically and then his face flopped back into the dirt. He had passed out.

 

To Be Continued…

The Dragonslayers III Pt. 23: Black, Yellow & Red

The dawn broke over the dewy grass and heather of the East Meadow, the great ringed purple moon began to fade gradually in the West in proportion to the new rays of the sun, and the acrid stench of burnt troll-flesh still choked in the throats of the Slayers as guttering columns of black smoke rose from the improvised pyre. The Blackwings’ morning ritual commenced Grom the shaman applied war-paint to each in turn. Jez their Hill-Giant guide kept his distance finding the “heathen practice” distasteful; he mumbled a quick prayer to Vinshru and to all of the Saints of the hill-people and of the Hyvalians. A little while later Vorwulf the ranger found some elevated ground and began to survey the land with his spyglass. The ranger spotted a column of grey smoke in the distance, the faint remnant of a distant campfire only about 2 miles off to the northeast.

It took about an hour with the speed of the giant and the slayers’ weird craft to arrive at the sight of the smoldering campfire at the top of a hill-ridge. There was no cover in the immediate area with only distant clumps of low evergreen shrubs scattered over the wide undulating grassland. It was obvious to all a fight had taken place by evidence of the torn ground and the ratling corpse and dead riding-boar among the hastily deserted camping gear.

Vorwulf (Played by Cris): “Well, I guess that’s it for the Outrider.”

Grom (Played by Gil): “You think that’s him?”

Vorwulf shrugged his shoulders in response.

The ranger was able to discern that there were tracks moving north and another set going east maybe southeast. The tracks moving north were of 3 boars and 1 goat probably being ridden; those moving in the other direction were the prints of around 10 humans. Maggi stood by keeping an eye out as she was “still messed up from the troll-fight”. The shaman sat down near the corpse of the ratling and began chanting trying to Commune with the Spirits. Jez the giant found this practice distasteful as well and walked away mumbling something about “blasphemy”. The shaman was able to contact the ratling’s spirit after about an hour and asked its name. Bellok fourth-born told Grom that his master and brothers were guiding a mage to the White Heath, a mage that wore black and yellow named Xanto when they were attacked in the night while they were distracted by an apparent battle to the southwest (the slayers fending off the night-trolls) by barbarians with sharpened teeth.

All of the players went wide-eyed, I swear, and all at once hissed, “The Wasp”!

Cris: “It’s that mushroom. There’s something up with that mushroom! He’s after it.”

Come evening the slayers found themselves further to the northeast having traveled the rolling landscape of Norusk keeping north of a small forest of pine and yew that Jez referred to as the Steppe Wood. They were setting camp in a shallow gulley in a glade that ran between the Steppe Wood in the south and a large unnamed thicket to the north a high ridge was visible about 2 miles directly east over lower ground. The shaman used up the last of his magic for the day healing Vor and Magiia and before sleep both of the latter also rubbed on some healing salve. Just before first watch began and while all were just about to settle in Vorwulf decided to pull out his spyglass and take a quick scan of his surroundings. He immediately spotted a large balefire, easily in the gloaming, directly east presumably at the base of the ridge. Activating the Eyes and Ears of the Dragon ability on his magic helmet he was able to spot out those dancing about the fire with some detail, barbarians with the hides about their shoulders dyed red. They also had a prisoner tied to a post where one of them was casually brutalizing him occasionally holding a dagger to the poor soul’s throat. The bright yellow stripes, spattered with blood, of the prisoner’s clothes gave away his identity though Vorwulf couldn’t make out the face through the blood. Squatting on a stone next to the thick wood post and the prisoner was a very large man presumably the leader of the band turning what appeared as yellow silk mask or hood over in his hands inspecting it before ultimately scrunching it up and tossing it into the fire, the steel helmet at his feet which was presumably his own had a pair of deer antlers attached on either side.

Jenn (at hearing the details of Xanto’s situation): “Oh no!”

Cris: “S#*t! The wasp went and got himself captured.”

Gil: “So, we got to go and rescue him?”

Jenn: “Hey! We got a giant don’t we?”

In response Jez the boar-hunter started fake snoring and rolled over so that his back was to the slayers.

Gil: “I’m out of spells.”

Jenn: “Yeah, I’m still kinda hurt, I don’t think my girl can take another battle right now.”

Cris: “S#*t. Well I guess we wait until morning and try to follow them. They’re probably going east – same place as us.”

Morning. They struck camp as quickly and quietly as they could munching leathery trail rations at the same time. Vorwulf kept an eye on the enemy camp. The barbarians were apparently eating human and possibly faunic remains for breakfast. Xanto was still tied to the post and whole from what the ranger could see. After Grom war-painted them the slayers got into the rowboat and Vor activated his helm. They readied for pursuit.

Jez: “Hey guys um I ain’t gunna fight, I wasn’t hired ta do dat. So I’ll uh meet you guys somewhere easterly if’n we get separated.”

Grom: “What!? How about if we pay you some more money, we got alot.”

The GM (me): “He’s only a hunter, just an NPC class.”

Cris (Vorwulf’s Player): “Yeah. He isn’t gonna help us he’s only tough ‘cause he’s a Hill-Giant.”

Both Jenn and Gil sighed in disgust.

The barbarians began to disembark Xanto still bound to the pole, was being carried between the shoulders of two of the hulking warriors. The savages were farther from the ridge than Vorwulf had initially guessed but were heading directly towards it. The group began to make plans as they tried to stealthily follow the enemy party; the landscape broke into a desolate pale rocky mostly flat area with absolutely no cover. The Blackwings pondered waiting for nightfall then sneaking into the enemy camp as they slept, snatching the wasp up, also pondering leaving the wasp with their hill-giant guide as to cover the escape anticipating some immediate “blow-back”. Barbarians had sharp senses after all.

Jenn: “We can’t leave the wasp with the giant, he’s a dumb@$$. The wasp will just talk his way out of it.”

After less than a quarter of an hour it appeared as if the barbarians had reached the foot of the white cliff and were getting ready to surmount it which would make it hard for the Blackwings to follow in their mysterial rowboat.

Cris: “Well, I guess it’s Plan A then.”

Gil: “Wait. What was Plan B!?”

Jenn: “Follow then wait till midnight.”

Cris: “Plan A is CHARGE!”

Before our heroes were able to put their brilliant plan into action the barbarians suddenly turned, every single one of them easily spotting the boat-load of dragonslayers whom had floated dangerously close (within about 600 ft.). The savages snarled showing their sharpened teeth, dropped Xanto to the stony ground right onto his scabby, swollen face and charged. Without missing a beat Jez burst into a run southward towards the trees of the Steppe Wood deserting his sledge.

Jenn: “Stupid giant.”

 

To Be Continued…

The Character Codex IV

The editing and artwork are FINALLY done and the Character

Cover Art by Brian Brinlee

Cover Art by Brian Brinlee

Codex IV: Book of Unconventional Character Classes is soon to be released! Among those classes that can be found within the new Character Codex’s pages are the Dragon-Blood Warrior, the Leatherneck, the Leopard-man, Skull-Cleavers, Bookworms, High Sages, and Zombie Creepers! The PDF release date is Aug.29 on RPGNow and DriveThruRPG. With a print edition to follow shortly after through Lulu.com! Keep an eye out!

Player’s Handbook Released!!!

The new Player’s Handbook has been released and is currently available at RPGNow.com here. A print edition will be available through Lulu.com Aug. 29!

This 114-page supplement reprints chapters 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6 from the Core Rulebook (so GM’s no longer have to share their copy of the CRB) and includes new material to help new and experienced players to create fully realized characters with a full chapter on The Basics (group role & relationships, expanded disposition table, rounding out the details), Step-By-Step Character Creation (a walkthrough of 14 steps), and Character Starter Packages. This book has 9 chapters and a complete index of Specialist Character Classes for all current Dice & Glory publications.