D&D – Temple of the Serpent part 4: The Crypt continued

Posted on Categories Games, LifestyleLeave a comment on D&D – Temple of the Serpent part 4: The Crypt continued

Our heroes, having finished rifling through the pockets of their slain foes and turning over every scrap of wood and rock in search of hidden treasures, now found themselves facing another closed door. In light of their experience with portals of the closed-door variety so far, a debate ensued as to how they should traverse it. Most wanted to proceed with caution but could not decide if they should just sneak in or don the cultists’ robes as before. Ribs, son of a butcher, on the other hand, was partial to, as he put it, “smash through”. It was at this point that Nimui remembered her trusty and lifelong companion Hawk. Hawk was, as you might have guessed, a trained hawk that Nimui carried with her. Hawk was presumably also mute, nearly weightless and perhaps somewhat translucent since he went unnoticed up to this point.

“I remember! I have a hawk!” Nimui blurted out her sudden recollection. The rest of the group regarded the bird perched on her shoulder and nodded in unison, confirming that she did indeed have a hawk. Hawk squeaked, grateful to exist.

“We can open the door just a bit and I can send in Hawk to scout the area. He’ll come back and report to me. I’ll understand since I’m an Elf and I have an affinity for animals,” said Nimui with renewed excitement. There was much nodding and agreeing from her comrades who all confirmed that all of this was perfectly true and reasonable. Thus it was decided, Hawk will fly in and scout the next room. With Leia standing ready to loose an arrow through the door in case a threat presents itself just beyond and Ribs, son of a butcher, ready to smash anything that might come through, Kastan gently pushed the door open. It creaked a little but opened willingly. When the door was sufficiently open, Nimui pulled the cord that kept Hawk tethered to her arm loose and, with her hand cupped around her mouth, whispered something in Elven in his ear. With an almost inaudible rustling of feathers and a gust of wind, Hawk launched himself through the door.

At this point a dice was rolled to determine whether Hawk successfully scouted the room.

With a single, majestic flap of his mighty wings and the adventurers looking on in awe, Hawk disappeared through the door and, with a shrill “Sqwah!”, smashed into a wall just a few feet into the next room.

The adventurers spent some minutes waiting to see if the noise had stirred up anything in the next room. After a few minutes without any response, they concluded that the room was empty and proceeded through the door to collect their slightly concussed bird. Beyond the door they found the room to be, much like the unconscious Hawk, in disarray. The roof had at some point partially caved in, perhaps due to a collapsed pillar which lay in pieces across the length of the room. The cave-in left very little usable room in the chamber. What space remained was rendered useless by moisture that seeped in through the exposed earth in the ceiling. A musky, nauseating odor pervaded the room and seemed to stick to one’s clothing and skin.

Nimui, ever the enthusiastic botanist, managed to find quite a few mushrooms flourishing in the rubble. Apart from the mushrooms there seemed to be nothing of interest in the room. While Nimui dug through the rubble for mushrooms, Kastan found a door that only barely escaped being sealed by the rubble. Putting his ear to the door he could hear a faint hum from the other side. Kastan felt around in the gloom for a keyhole and, upon finding it, looked through. Beyond the door he saw almost complete blackness except for what seemed to be a small spot of candlelight. Straining his eye to make out any interesting shapes, he saw a figure kneeling in the light but could not tell if it was a person or part of some statue.

While Kastan was spying into the next room, Ribs, son of a butcher, decided that he was hungry and, having depleted his supply of rations, poked around the rubble for anything remotely edible. Ribs saw the large, juicy mushrooms that Nimui collected and concluded that they must be good to eat, otherwise the botanist would not have collected them. He found an undisturbed patch growing behind a rock, their bright red and yellow coloration making them seem most appetizing. Ribs picked one and took a small bite. It tasted earthy but quite pleasant and he promptly ate the whole thing. A few seconds went by with no ill effects and Ribs concluded that these mushrooms must be made for eating and devoured the whole patch.

When Kastan looked back from the keyhole he saw Ribs lying prostrate on his back with Nimui and Leia trying to revive him. For some minutes Nimui and Leia called on every bit of healing magic known to them to try and keep the large man alive. After an eternity it became apparent that Ribs was, at last, stabilized. Then the next problem presented itself – how to move the son of a butcher. At long last it was decided that the remaining party members would leave Ribs, son of a butcher, with a spare potion of healing and an extra ration to recover on his own time and, depending on the circumstance, make his way back to the town or rejoin the group.

With Ribs taken care of the rest of the party prepared to venture into the next room. The minimal light coming from the next chamber made it impossible to see much more than Kastan had already seen and, besides the hum, no other sound could be heard. The party decided that they would risk venturing forth.

Kastan went first, pushing the door open as silently as he could and creeping forward as stealthily as possible. When he crept deeper into the chamber his eyes began to adjust to the new light and he saw that the kneeling figure was not part of a statue after all. The figure was an ancient, robed man and the hum that Kastan heard from the other room emanated from his throat. The ancient man knelt in front of some alien sculpture that Kastan could not, at this point, identify. Behind the ancient man stood another robed figure. Kastan signaled to the others and crept forward. The figures were so engrossed in their task that sneaking past them would be easy. After moving a few more feet Kastan paused to take in more of the chamber. His eyes had by now completely adjusted and he could see that the chamber was immense. He found that he was at the far side of the chamber and on the opposite side he could see the large, locked wooden doors the party had encountered in the first room.

Signalling the others to follow and try to surround the worshiping pair, Kastan started to move toward the first of six stone sarcophagi behind the robed men. As he took his first step a pebble crunched beneath his boot. The sound was minute and yet it echoed around the chamber. The humming stopped and the two men spun around in a whirl of robes. Seeing that there was about to be trouble, Nimui and Leia rushed in after Kastan. The younger of the two men started forming the question: “Who goes there?”, but stopped midway when he saw the intruders. “Intruders!”, he cried as he drew a dagger from his belt. From his other hand, a sphere of energy rose and danced between his fingers. The older man who had knelt before the mysterious carving raised his hands above his head and shouted some obscene, guttural phrase. A flash of green emanated from him and an instant later the lid of the sarcophagus nearest to them was cracked in half. The two halves of the lid thudded thunderously on the floor forcing Leia and Kastan, who stood nearest to it, to jump aside. A corpse, dusty and creaking, rose from it and hissed as clouds of dust escaped from its ancient lungs. Ghostly green eyes glowed in its empty sockets and they locked coldly onto Leia who found herself nearest to the ghoul.

Kastan lunged toward the oldest cultist, shouting, “I’m going to kill you, old man!”. At the same time, with lightning reflexes, Leia loosed an arrow that lodged itself, with a sickening, dry thud, in the chest of the animated corpse. The zombie seemed not to notice that it had been wounded, its hollow, glowing eyes still locked firmly on Leia. The impact of the arrow slowed the thing down enough for Leia to find her balance. Meanwhile, Kastan had reached the old man and swung his ax only to have the cultist dodge the blow with surprising ease. Kastan had no time to marvel at the ancient’s uncanny dexterity as a bolt of energy lept from the cultist’s fingers and glanced off Kastan’s armour. An instant later the cavernous chamber was, for a fraction of a second, lit as if by daylight as a ball of fire exploded against a far wall. This was followed by a grunt of pain as Nimui, who had dodged the projectile, struck a body blow to the younger mage who conjured it. At the same time Leia, who had retreated some way from the animated corpse, loosed another arrow at the ever advancing thing. The arrow struck it in one of its spectral eyes and, with that, whatever energies had animated it left its form and took with it whatever natural energies that bonded its atoms together so that it disintegrated as it fell.

The younger cultist, hindered by what was surely multiple broken ribs, took from his belt a ceremonial looking dagger and swung it desperately at Nimui. The she-elf dodged nimbly and, in the same spinning motion, struck a devastating blow to the back of the cultist’s head that laid him out, unmoving, on the ground. The ancient, seeing that he was now alone, sent forth once more the animating energies and another corpse rose terribly from the nearest sarcophagus. However, the action was as desperate as it was pointless as Leya, ignoring the thing, loosed an arrow that struck the cultist in the chest. The expression of horrified surprise had not yet fully formed on his face when Kastan sunk his ax into the cultist’s neck with a downward blow that nearly split him in two. The ancient was dead before his body struck the ground in a mess of blood and viscera. The half-animated corpse disintegrated before it had even fully risen and the chamber was suddenly still again.

For several seconds no one spoke a word. Silent and pale-faced the mercenaries took in the scene. Leya was the first to find her voice, “Where are the villagers?”, she enquired, more to herself than to anyone in particular. “There is not a living soul left here,” she continued when no answer was offered. The three stood looking around for any sign of where the lost villagers might be imprisoned but saw only the door by which they entered and the large double doors that led back to the sacrificial chamber where they had their first encounter with the cultists.
“There must be some clue here,” offered Nimui, “Search the leader, perhaps he kept notes on the kidnappings.”

Rifling through the dead cultist’s blood-drenched robes, Kastan found a folded letter and an ancient looking scroll. The contents of the scroll were written in a language that none in the party recognized and it was stored away for future attention. The letter, written in black ink and an unfamiliar dialect, was at least decipherable and read as follows:

“Soth, may this letter find you engrossed in your most vital labors in service of our lord. I write you now to ask that you redouble your efforts in obtaining such persons as you can for the energies required for the transformation of our forms and the appetites of our great priest, as it grow by the day. I must also inform you that we have moved our base to another cavern for the form of him who prepares us for transcendence has grown beyond the capacity of that pool in which he lived before. I have drawn you a map on the back of this letter so your acolytes may find us with fresh captives. Be sure to destroy this letter as soon as you have memorized the new location. Be firm in your labors, Soth, and take heart as the time of transcendence is upon us and it will soon be your turn to receive the gift from the great priest and finally shed this form as a serpent sheds old skin.”

“What does it mean?” asked Leia when Kastan finished reading.

“It means,” replied Kastan, “That we’ll have to kill some more of these bastards before we can get paid.”

Next: Probably some more Crypt

D&D – Temple of the Serpent part 3: The Crypt some more

Posted on Categories Games, Lifestyle1 Comment on D&D – Temple of the Serpent part 3: The Crypt some more

When we last saw the group – consisting of Kastan, Nimui, Leia and Ribs, son of a butcher – they had just finished their first battle. They were investigating a crypt near the village of Darkmouth and came upon three robed men within the first chamber. They defeated two of them but the third managed to escape into the next room. The group is now taking the opportunity to inspect their environment and ready themselves to venture forth.

Kastan, a dabbler in cryptography, took the time to try and decipher some of the markings that covered the walls while Nimui tended to the wounds of the others. The markings proved to be somewhat beyond his skill but he did note that they were made some time after the crypt fell out of use by the locals as they did not seem to match any religion he knew to be practiced in these parts. The elements that stood out most were of strange marine monsters seemingly being worshipped by throngs of human and inhuman figures. A symbol consisting of a tentacled starfish with a large eye in the middle was repeated on almost every surface. Kastan gave up on the markings and went about searching the room for any useful or valuable items that the robed men might have hidden. He found some gold coins and a dagger hidden amongst the litter.

Nimui, after patching and healing what she could, set about searching the bodies of their slain foes. They had on them some coin and their weapons, but not much else. With the room now fully searched and everyone as patched up as they were going to get, it was time to decide on a strategy. Ribs, son of a butcher, proposed they kick the door down and slaughter all that still move. The others, remembering Ribs’ previous attempt at door-down-kicking, were not so keen and Kastan suggested a more stealthy tactic. “We should sneak in and see if we can surprise whoever is in there,” said Kastan. Nimui, unconvinced, said “Whoever is behind that door will be expecting us. Perhaps we should dress ourselves in the dead ones’ robes and, if there are more beyond the door, catch them off guard.” Leia and Kastan agreed to this while Ribs, son of a butcher, seemed disappointed that he would not have a second chance to prove his door smashing prowess. In the end, it was decided that Nimui and Kastan would don the robes and enter the next room while the others stay behind. Being the most skilled of the four in both stealth and charisma, Nimui and Kastan would enter and, if they found more foes, would try to bluff them into letting their guard down. At the right moment, they would signal the other two to enter.

Clad in the robes and with their weapons hidden, Kastan and Nimui carefully opened the door and entered the room. It took a moment for their eyes to grow accustomed to the new, lower light. “Stop!”, someone shouted from the darkness. “Who goes there?”

“We just came back from patrol and found bodies in the next room,” said Nimui. “What happened?”

By now their eyes have adjusted. They saw a robed figure, probably the one who had addressed them, standing behind a large table of alchemy tools while another wielding a large club and standing nearer to the center of the room. In the corner of his eye, Kastan saw another figure peering from behind a large pillar to his left. In the low light, he could just make out wisps of smoke still rising from the figure’s scorched hair and flesh.

(At this point a dice roll is done to see if, based on Nimui’s charisma vs. the cultist’s perception, the bluff is successful. It was not.)

Before the figure behind the table could respond the still smouldering figure pointed a shaking finger at the two and shouted, “They lie! It was them, do not be deceived! They cut the others down and set me aflame!”

In response, the figure near the center of the room took cover behind the nearest pillar. The one who first addressed the pair flipped the table over, sending bottles and alchemical ingredients flying in the process. A ball of fire flew from his hand, flashed past Nimui’s head and exploded against the wall behind them. Nimui grabbed her staff and made for the club wielder, skirting along the wall for cover from the spell caster. Kastan, loath to leave a job undone, drew his axe and made for the trembling figure cowering behind the leftmost pillar. Leia and Ribs, upon hearing the commotion, came rushing in with their weapons drawn. Ribs, son of a butcher, ran straight for the spell caster, swinging his mighty club and roaring as he went. About halfway across the room, a fireball struck him full in the face and promptly halted both his momentum and his roar. Batting out his remaining flaming hair, Ribs rolled behind the nearest cover he could find. In the meantime, Leia had positioned herself just inside the door and was trying to get a clear shot of the caster. With Ribs, son of a butcher, finally out of the way she had a clear shot and took it. The arrow struck the mage’s shoulder and almost went clear through. The mage, staggered by the force of the close-range shot, screamed and ducked behind the table. Kastan, seeing all this, decided that the mage proved a much greater threat than the burned man cowering by the pillar and changed course to engage the mage. Nimui and her target were both still behind cover and waiting for an opportunity to strike. The mage had, with healing magic, removed the arrow and sealed his wound and rose to fling more fireballs just as Kastan reached the table. Kastan swung his axe at the surprised mage’s exposed head. His blade struck the mage’s neck and took his head clean off. The mage’s head fell with a thud at Kastan’s feet as his body slumped back behind the table. As he looked up, Kastan saw the burned man with his club raised above his head standing over Ribs who was too busy putting out the flames on his face to notice. Without thinking, Kastan, possibly drawing on his years of playing ball in the streets with the other street urchins, kicked the head of the mage. The head flew through the air trailing blood and hair and struck the burned man full in the chest. The club flew from the burned man’s hands and he fell back clutching his comrade’s head, horror twisting his burned face.

Kastan ran toward the burned man who just lay there frozen in horror and grabbed him. The man went limp as Kastan dragged him and threw him into a corner. Ribs had finally rid himself of the last of the flames and realized what had just happened. Enraged, Ribs, son of a butcher, charged once again. This time his target was the horror-stricken figure in the corner of the room. Kastan saw Ribs’ intentions and placed himself in his way. “Don’t kill him!” he said as Ribs came to a halt in front of him, “We can interrogate him.” Ribs, son of a butcher, with a grunt of disappointed agreement, lowered his club. Nimui, seeing that the spellcaster had been dealt with, had in the meantime tried to surprise the club wielder who was still hiding from Leia and her bow. She had dealt the man a glancing blow with her staff and they were now struggling fiercely in the center of the room. Leia tried to get a shot in with her bow but the two moved around so much that she might just as easily hit Nimui. Kastan saw all this and told Ribs, son of a butcher, to watch the prisoner as he tried to aid Nimui. Taking out his own bow he nocked an arrow. Seeing that he had a clear shot, he loosed his arrow. It flopped out of his grip, flew in a lazy arch and fell clattering just a few feet away.

(Rozier, the player who controls Kastan, still had an action left. He could not think of anything to use it on and had no potions or useful items on him. Not wanting to waste an action, he decided to use it in quite an unconventional way.)

Disappointed at his failure, Kastan farted in frustration.

(At this point the DM did a die roll with Kastan’s constitution points to check for fart potency. It was a critical hit. Everyone within a certain distance from Kastan had to do a constitution check to determine their resistance to the foul air. Ribs was closest and failed the check.)

Kastan’s street cuisine hardened bowels produced a fart with matching potency. So potent was it that it overwhelmed Ribs, son of a butcher, who had spent most his life around meat of various stages of rottenness. Ribs’ stomach turned around inside of him and he became sick. Unfortunately for the poor prisoner, Ribs was standing over him at the time. Witnessing the death of his comrades, being set aflame, having the wind knocked out of him by the decapitated head of another comrade, bearing witness to the vilest fart in human memory and being puked on by a club-wielding savage proved too much for the poor cultist and he subsequently died of shock.

Leia, who was miraculously unaffected by the chemical attack, loosed another arrow and managed to wound the last remaining man. This left an opening for Nimui to land a blow with her staff. A sickening crack was heard through the room as the man’s skull fractured. He went immediately limp and was dead before he hit the floor.

With the immediate danger finally past the group could once more take the time to tend to their wounds and explore. The only items they found that are worth mentioning were two unlabeled potions that had survived the table being flipped over. Nimui used her knowledge of herbs and alchemy to identify them as a common health potion and a less common bottled fire. The latter potion takes quite a bit of skill and daring to make. Once it is made and successfully bottled the potion is extremely volatile and will combust in a fiery explosion if thrown with enough force to shatter the glass. The volatility of the potion depends on the skill of the alchemist and some may be more sensitive than others. Some of these potions have even been known to explode for no reason at all. With this knowledge, Nimui felt perfectly safe carrying it around in her pack.

With the immediate danger finally past the group could once more take the time to tend to their wounds and explore. The only items they found that are worth mentioning were two unlabeled potions that had survived the table being flipped over. Nimui used her knowledge of herbs and alchemy to identify them as a common health potion and a less common bottled fire. The latter potion takes quite a bit of skill and daring to make. Once it is made and successfully bottled the potion is extremely volatile and will combust in a fiery explosion if thrown with enough force to shatter the glass. The volatility of the potion depends on the skill of the alchemist and some may be more sensitive than others. Some of these potions have even been known to explode for no reason at all. With this knowledge, Nimui felt perfectly safe carrying it around in her pack.

Next up: The Crypt part 3

D&D – Temple of the Serpent part 2: The Crypt

Posted on Categories Games, LifestyleLeave a comment on D&D – Temple of the Serpent part 2: The Crypt

DM (Dungeon Master):
You arrive at the place indicated by the mayor of Darkmouth. Weatherbeaten headstones and long forgotten graves are visible among the brush. Clearly the villagers have long ago stopped tending the place. Beyond the farthest headstone is a thick, impenetrable wood and beyond the wood rises a sheer cliff. It is in the face of this cliff that you see a large doorway carved from the stone. Heavy, rotten wooden doors seal it off from the outside. This must be the crypt that the mayor spoke about. Off to the right you see a strange stone formation. Large monolithic stones are placed upright in a circular formation and another is placed horizontally across every two, making a circle of stone doorways with another single, flat stone in the center. Each stone doorway is high enough for a person to easily walk underneath.
What do you do?

So it’s like Stonehenge?

I don’t know this Stonehenge you speak of, but yes, just way smaller and more intact.

It’s a sacrificial altar, isn’t it?

I can’t say…

I knew it!

I use my tracking skill to look for signs of recent activity.

Kastan proceeds to investigate the area, drawing upon years of survival and tracking experience to discover the slightest sign of activity.
Kastan succeeds an ability check with a critical hit.
He finds tracks among the headstones. To his experienced eye it is clear that there are three individuals and they moved toward the crypt door.

The kidnappers!

They might just be innocent people, we should proceed with caution and see what their deal is.

They’re kidnappers, we should go and kill them.

Ribs, son of a butcher:

I agree with Kastan. They might be innocent. Let’s try to sneak up to them and find out.

Okay, I pick the crypt door’s lock.

Are you sure?


Treading lightly and careful not to make a sound, Kastan sneaks over to the large, wooden doors. He takes out a lock pick from his pack and sets to work on the lock with the kind of ease that only years of experience can allow. Something is amiss. Kastan finds no tumblers for his pick to lift or turn. Trying to get a better idea of the inner workings of the lock, Kastan tries to peek inside the keyhole. In doing this he leans forward against the door. It gives way with a creaking sound and swings open. Kastan, left off balance, falls forward into the doorway and lands flat on his face. Kastan looks like an idiot and everybody sees. It is at this point that he realises he should’ve checked to see if the door was unlocked in the first place.

Ah, just as planned…

Of course. Moving on..
Beyond Kastan, who is still on the ground trying to hide his tears and stop the bleeding from his nose, you see stairs leading down into semi-darkness. Dust motes can be seen floating around in the light that now poured into the doorway. Despite the low light you seewhere the flight of stairs end. The hallway also ends a short way after that and a closed door can be seen on the right.

Can we peek through the keyhole?

That sounds like something people can do.

I look through the keyhole!

Nimui sneaks up to the door and peeks through the hole. The room beyond is lit by a large fire in its middle. Three figures are sitting around it, two of them are near the door while the third is next to a large pillar near the other end of the room. The figures seem to be clothed in robes of some kind and are engaged in conversation. You cannot make out what they are saying, though.

We should sneak in and kill them.

Maybe we can sneak past them without them noticing?

Yes, we still don’t know if they’re innocent or not.

Ribs, son of a butcher:
I will break the door and use it as a shield.

Everybody else:

So I guess you do that.
Ribs, son of a butcher, moves up to the door and readies himself. Everybody else gets behind him.
Ribs must now succeed a strength check to complete the action.
Ribs, son of a butcher, fails the check.
Ribs, son of a butcher, summons all of his strength and throws his weight against the door. The door creaks slightly but holds its ground. The rest of the group, prepared to follow Ribs into the room, crashes into Ribs’ back and trips over themselves. Ribs, thinking that the door was weakened, throws himself against it once more. The door does not move. Frustrated, Ribs kicks the door and this time it slowly swings open making a long, drawn out creaking sound that echoes through the next room. you see the three figures in the room on their feet with weapons at the ready. The closest two both have a club while the farthest has a bow nocked and ready.

Uh, this isn’t the bathroom…

Everybody roll initiative and prepare for battle.

Now that you have an idea of the back and forth dialogue of the game, I will continue relating it as a story.

An arrow flies past Ribs’ head and embeds itself in the door. Kastan, most dexterous of the group, slips into the room and makes for the nearest figure. He swings his dagger and connects. The figure staggers backward grasping a bleeding gash on his chest. Nimui readies her staff and storms the other figure. She swings but he dodges the blow. The previous enemy swings his club at Kastan and deals a glancing blow. Ribs, son of a butcher, readies his club and advances on the figure next to Kastan. He swings with all his brute strength while the figure is still recovering from his own swing and connects with bone crushing brutality. A sickening crack echoes through the room and the figure falls backward, gurgles and becomes still. The farthest figure retreats a few steps towards a door in the far wall, notches another arrow in the process and loose. The arrow strikes Kastan in the arm. Leia, taking cover in the doorway, aims her bow and loose at the farthest enemy. The arrow misses and shatters against the wall. The remaining club wielder, seeing his comrade laying dead on the stone floor, launches into a desperate attack. He swings his club at Nimui in blind desperation but she nimbly deflects the attack with her staff. Kastan sees the bowman retreating towards the door and moves to intercept him. Meanwhile Nimui swings her staff at her exhausted opponent and deals a fatal blow to the side of his head. Before his limp body even hits the ground his only remaining comrade, seeing that they are defeated, makes a dash for the door. Ribs, son of a butcher, sees that there is no hope in chasing him down. In a rare moment of inspiration Ribs kicks the brazier with all his strength and sends blazing coals flying at the fleeing figure. Flaming coals rain down on the man, blinding him and setting his robes ablaze. The man, now screaming in agony, flails blindly trying to put out the flames. As he struggles Kastan finally catches up to him. He grabs at the man and catches a fistful of burning robes. The robes tear off the man as he struggles and, freed from the fire, he makes a desperate dash for the door, somehow evades more attempts to seize him and disappears as the door slams shut behind him.

With the battle over for the moment the team takes the time to regroup. Wounds are bandaged, and healing spells cast. With their wounds wrapped and tended, the adventurers take in their surroundings. The room they find themselves in is much larger than they had expected. Leather sleeping mats are arranged around the fire and one could tell by the items littered around the floor that there are more than three people who call this place home. The walls are covered by strange hieroglyphs featuring human figures in various acts of reverence. Strange monsters and shapes also appear and a symbol like a seastar with one large eye in the middle is repeated throughout the engravings.

Next up: The Crypt part 2

D&D – Temple of the Serpent part 1

Posted on Categories Games, LifestyleLeave a comment on D&D – Temple of the Serpent part 1

The Machinations

This is technical talk, so scroll down if you just want the story.

A while ago a few friends from work and I decided that we wanted to get into Dungeons and Dragons. None of us have ever really played the real thing, so I started researching the rules. In the end I decided to merely use the actual D&D rules as a template for our game and made up some rules and mechanics to suit the game we wanted to play. This game was much more battle orientated and, as we would soon find out, had some pitfalls that years of game design experience had already ironed out of the real game. Part of our game was an interactive character sheet that would, in theory, calculate the character’s stats and attributes automatically. Along with the combat focus other modifications came as well. For example, I elaborated on the armor system so that instead of having leather or iron armor with a fixed Armor Rating (AR), the armor is split into six parts namely head, hands, torso, legs, feet and shield. Each piece of armor has its own AR so that the player can wear an iron helm and leather boots and basically any combination he or she wants. The players enter their armor into the character sheet along with each individual bit of armor’s stats. The character sheet then automatically calculates the player’s total AR. With this system players could have a maximum of 500 AR. By now we were already a long way from the base game rules, so I needed a way to calculate hits and damage during battle. To solve this problem I created a damage calculator inside the character sheet so that players could calculate the damage they took based on their AR and the enemy rolls. Here is how it worked: when an enemy was attacking a player, the enemy rolled to see if they hit the player by rolling a D20 and adding the appropriate skill to the roll (dexterity for bows, daggers and other speed based weapons, strength for strength based weapons such as hammers and axes and wisdom for magic based weapons). The result is compared to the player’s dexterity plus another D20 roll to see if the player dodges. If the result of the the enemy’s roll is higher than that of the player it is a hit. If the enemy hits the player it triggers the next phase, calculating damage. To do this the enemy rolls the appropriate weapon die, 1d4 for a basic dagger for example, the result is multiplied by ten and entered into the damage calculator. A random number between 100 and 400 is then generated by pressing a button on the calculator, which represents the amount of the player’s AR that is ignored by the attack to simulate randomness. Finally the calculator turns this random number into a percentage of the player’s AR and calculates that percentage of the enemy’s damage roll, the result is the true damage done and this is subtracted from the player’s HP. If the calculator generates a random number higher than the player’s AR the enemy does full damage. And there you have it; a complicated, bulky, time consuming, yet immersive combat system. We only later realised that; however, this system does give the player a lot of immersive options when choosing gear.

Now that I have explained the mechanics of our game to some extent, let’s dive into the story.

Shipwreck and diplomacy

Our story starts with just a handful of adventurers: Ribs, son of a butcher, Kastan, an assassin with a history of violence and drama, Nimiu, an elven mage who lost her farm and family to an orc raid, Talila, a girl of noble birth who ran away from home in search of adventure and Leya, yet another elf with no discernable backstory.
This rag-tag crew were employed by a mercenary organisation who specialized in muscle for hire. They were on their way to a small village named Darkmouth to meet with its mayor who promised a hefty sum of gold in return for their assistance. On their way there, however, our would-be heroes suffered a shipwreck. Their ship was damaged during a storm and sank only a few miles from their destination. The adventurers were the only survivors and lost all of their gear except for a few gold coins in the incident. Note here that Natasha, who role played the character of Nimiu, understood that they had nothing except coins and assumed that they were all naked. She therefore wrapped herself in burlap sacks that washed up on the shore to cover herself.
So it was then that our heroes limped into the town of Darkmouth moist and bruised, all dressed in their traveling clothes except for Nimiu who was wrapped in soaking wet burlap sacks. They were met at the gate of the village by a solitary guard who upon spotting them, called for them to halt and state their business. Instead of stating that they had business with the mayor of Darkmouth, the players, for some reason, decided to try and lie to the guard by attempting to convince him that they were traders. The guard was not buying it. “Traders avoid this place”, he said. The village of Darkmouth had nothing to trade and no money to buy goods and strangers never came here due to recent disappearances. Besides all this he pointed out that they did not seem to have any goods and one of them was even clothed in sacks, what could they possibly trade? He seemed dead set on refusing them entrance. The group then, rather unsubtly, discussed the possibility of overpowering the guard who overheard the whole discussion. This did not help their situation. After a lot of arguing and the guard nearly cutting them to pieces, the group finally decided to admit that they were there by the request of the mayor. The guard was still sceptical as he could not understand why, if they had legitimate business in the village, they would lie about being traders. He was eventually convinced after a lot of diplomatic bungling and let them through.
After being let through the adventurers went in search of the first and best merchant they could find. However, the village seemed nearly abandoned and the few people they saw cowered inside their houses and only peeked out from behind boarded up windows. Finally after some searching, they came upon a shop that seemed to be open. A sign that read “Smith” hung in the front and, inside, movement could be seen. Once inside they saw a greasy, pale-looking man behind the splintering counter. The man greeted them with silent suspicion. Kastan was the first to speak, addressing the man with a friendly greeting and enquiring as to his stock. The man, still eyeing them as if they were just released onto his shop’s floor by a stray cur, replied shortly that he had very little in the way of adventuring gear. Kastan asked to see what he had and the man grudgingly showed them an assortment of rusty daggers, wooden clubs and poorly made shortbows. The merchandise was too expensive for the unlucky heroes and they tried to strike a bargain. The merchant was, however, unmoved and even sceptical of their plight. It didn’t help that they suggested that he provide them with free gear, arguing that they were doing him a favor by coming here to save the town. The merchant grew weary of them and decided to bar them from his shop. In response Nimiu, still wrapped in soaking wet sacks, accused the shop owner of looking suspicious and insinuated that he must have something to do with the disappearances. The man did not take this well and the situation escalated when Nimiu suggested that they simply take what they needed. In the end the guard from the gate had to intervene and escort the would-be heroes to the mayor’s house. The mayor who, as luck would have it was a cousin of the merchant, met them with some distaste. Kastan, shaping up to be the voice of reason albeit one that rarely speaks, did some impressive diplomatic dice rolls and managed to soothe the mayor’s temper. Once the mayor was suitably apologised to they could finally discuss the job at hand. It turns out that the disappearances were not a recent phenomenon. People have been disappearing from the village for many years without raising too much concern as people assumed that they found better prospects elsewhere or succumbed to the region’s many dangers. Only recently have people started vanishing with such frequency that it became a source of concern. The reason the mercenaries were summoned, the mayor explained, was because people were now vanishing from their very homes almost every night. The adventurers were eager to begin their investigation and they asked the mayor where they should start. The mayor told them that the people of the village are quite fearful of the crypt not far from there and some claim to have seen strange activity thereabouts recently. Before they left the group explained their predicament and asked if the mayor could help them acquire some gear. The mayor was resistant at first, being quite poor himself and having already paid the company for their services. In the end he relented, though, and allowed them a small loan and a discount at his cousin’s shop. The adventurers thanked him and went on their way back to the shop. The merchant, having already been notified of his cousin’s decision, met them with stoney passive aggressiveness. He was brought around somewhat by some charismatic shenanigans and soon the group of adventurers were on their way to the crypt armed with clubs, bows and arrows and clad in a ragtag assortment of armor. Ribs, son of a butcher, who had up to this point not spoken a word, took the biggest, gnarliest club he could find, placed his entire bag of gold on the counter without asking the price and left to await the others outside. The burlap sacks, this time, were left behind.

Up next: The Crypt

The journey begins

Posted on Categories Lifestyle2 Comments on The journey begins

We have now officially made our entrance into a strange new world. Elanke and I decided to get married last year and, instead of saving up for a big event, we had a small get-together with our families. Our fathers, both being ministers, each had some role to play in the ceremony which took place at a lodge near our house in Namibia. Besides our mothers, fathers and my youngest sister, two swallows also showed up to witness the event, sat silently until the end and then flew off. Afterward we had a lovely dinner and went home.

Now, back in South Africa, we have moved into our new home; a pretty two storey two bedroom apartment with an open-plan kitchen and living room on the first floor as well as a small garden. Since both of our previous apartments were tiny single-room affairs with the bathroom attached, we’re quite excited about this. Katryn, our out-of-wedlock cat, will also be joining us soon and, for both her and our benefit, we have begun preparing the garden and are looking forward to her ignoring us in our very own home.

The fact that you are reading this, dear reader, also means that we have officially launched our website. We look forward to filling it with tons of interesting blog posts and projects. Tusks and Tentacles, this joint venture of ours, will showcase our designs, illustrations, stories and photos and I invite you to watch it closely as we expect it to grow quite a bit in the coming months.

Illustrated marks 1

Posted on Categories Illustration, PortfolioLeave a comment on Illustrated marks 1

Josef Johannes “Jopie” Fourie was a scout and dispatch rider during the Boer War and was executed during the rebellion of 1914 – 1915 against General Louis Botha. Today Jopie Fourie is still considered a hero by many.
This illustration will be used mainly on t-shirts.

Nicolaas Petrus (N.P.) van Wyk Louw was an Afrikaans-language poet, playwright and scholar who viewed Afrikaans as a bridge that connects Africa with Europe.
This design is mainly for use on t-shirts and mugs.

William Ewart Gladstone Louw, known to most as W.E.G. Louw, was an Afrikaans-language poet and the younger brother of N.P. van Wyk Louw.
Also for use on t-shirts and mugs.