Monthly Archives: July 2016

Lyta: Landlocked

The second prologue piece for my serial.

I have also updated the ‘About’ section to include details of my novel.


Bubbles / Ryan

They’d barely outrun the privateer that had been dogging them ever since they raided the Industrious Mermaid, the tight grey sails always on the horizon at their back. The morning had brought a reprieve with the first of winter’s storms, the thick fog allowing them to escape their pursuers and make for the caves.

Around Lyta, the sounds of the crew unloading the ship brought a sense of comforting familiarity. She had been sent to work with the crew of the Broken Spar in payment for a favour owed by her previous captain. She had only been a part of the ship for a few weeks and she already hated it. Unlike her previous crew-mates, the crew of the Spar were not smugglers. They were pirates.

Before taking to the sea, she had not known the difference. Now she did, and she hated what she had become. She had known that the Spar wasn’t a good ship to crew, and that her elf captain was a harsh master, from what she had heard from her old crew. She hadn’t truly realised what they meant until the first night.

She shuddered and closed her eyes, breathing quietly out through her nose.

“OY! DRAGONBORN! GET YER BACK INTA IT!” The grating voice of the Spar’s first mate cut through her reverie. She glanced over to where the half-blind dwarf stood, his hand on the barbed whip at his waist. He glared at her and she bent to pick up the box at her feet.

The crew of the Mermaid had put up a good fight, and their spellcaster had been impressive, but they hadn’t stood a chance. The ship had been boarded, seized and ransacked in less than two hours. They had left only enough provisions and equipment for the crew to limp into Scour’s docks and further spread the legend of Captain Melrahel and the Broken Spar. It was fortunate it had not taken longer for as soon as had they cut loose, the watch had seen the privateer’s sails and they’d had to lay on full sail to escape.

Lyta grunted as she put the box down on the floor at the back of the cave, the movement jarring her sword-belt and causing one of the sheaths to brush the shallow wound on her leg where a crossbow bolt had grazed her.

She heard booted footsteps behind her and turned. The captain was approaching, his thin, charcoal-skinned face broken by a broad smile. He held a small glass orb in one hand and was gesturing with the other to the two half-elves following him. They nodded and stopped walking, turning to face the rest of the cave.

“It is your lucky day, Lyta of Clan Hiskil. Your captain’s debt is repaid in full already.” He met her eyes and gestured to a staircase at the back of the cave. “You may leave when you are ready. No-one here will stop you.” The smile faded. “Tell anyone of what you have seen or done while a member of my crew and I will know. It would go poorly for you. Do you understand?”

She nodded, ignoring the swirling, purple mist in the glass orb as best she could.

“You have been a good crew member so I will allow you to take your share.” He threw her a small pouch. “If you ever wish to rejoin my crew, you will be welcome, young dragonborn.” There was a sinister tone in his voice that she couldn’t place. “Swift travels and smooth sailing.” She bowed her head in measured respect and hooked the pouch to her belt. When she looked up again, he had already left.


The rain beat steadily down at her, sliding easily from her copper scales. The halflings she travelled with shivered under their damp woollen cloaks.

“Come, let us find shelter.” She said, looking around. “There will not be a break in the rain tonight.”

“You’re right.” Tobias Stoutfoot, the leader of the little band, said. He motioned to his wife and she began to chivvy the rest into some sort of forage line as they stepped off the road and into the woodland running along the western edge of it.

While they began searching for edible plants, she strode off into the wood, looking for a suitable tree to erect some sort of shelter from. Tobias had told her what to look for the first night, when she had stumbled into their camp hours after leaving the pirates’ cave. He had offered her food and introduced his family as pilgrims heading for Scour. With no goal in mind, she had offered her skills with her blades in return for company. They had been happy to accept.

She let out a cry as she found what she thought to be a good tree and leant against it, missing the swaying of a deck beneath her feet. It was strange to her to walk on land so far from the sea. It was a new experience and none of her knowledge or skills, save those with her swords and her hands, stood her in good stead of finding employment before her old ship made port in Scour. She was confident it would. After all, everyone came to Scour eventually.

She had been standing there no more than ten minutes when Tobias ambled into the small clearing with the massive tree at the centre and gave her a nod. She began to collect the fallen branches from around the edges of the clearing, trying to shield the pine needles as best she could where they remained attached. Behind her, she could hear more of the Stoutfoots fanning out to do the same.

Mary, Tobias’ mother let out a whistle of warning as the sounds of footsteps approaching their clearing intruded on the rain drenched quiet. Lyta dropped the branches and strode to stand by Tobias, her blades drawn and held loosely at her sides. She watched as a tall figure strode confidently out of the treeline and towards them.


Encounters for the Back Pocket: The Warehouse

Hi all,

Keeping with the theme of running a table-top gaming site that tries to be entertaining, informative and helpful whilst also giving me things to write about from week to week, here is another ball for me to start juggling.

Rather than geographical locations, this series of articles will be outlining encounters and situations that should be system/setting neutral enough to fit in most games. Obviously some things won’t fit in every game (technology based encounters for example) but in most cases, a bit of re-writing on your part should suffice.

With that out of the way, let’s get this thing started.


Bubbles / Ryan

Encounter type: Combat.

Suggested number of enemies: 2 x player characters (minions of slightly below the abilities of the PCs) and 1 ‘boss’.

Encounter location: Warehouse.

The warehouse is a long, low ceilinged building. Most of it is taken up by a single room, full of shelves and shadows. At the far end, there is what could feasibly be an office or two.

 The main room is dimly lit but you can see movement in the shadows at the far end.

Special Rules

The room is lit by flaming torches (fantasy settings) or poorly maintained light bulbs. Play up the deep shadows by making anything relating to perception more difficult. Have NPCs dart into and out of the shadows, using the darkness and the shelves to hide from the PCs. The shadows work both ways though.

The rows of shelving filling the room are climbable, with about 4 feet of space between the top shelf and the roof. Creative PCs may wish to climb the shelves to get the drop on the NPCs. It is up to you if the shelves are full, what is on them/in boxes, and anything else related to the shelving. The PCs may try to push the shelves over to obstruct movement/destroy things. This should be possible, but it should not be easy. The shelves will fall in ten feet long sections and make a lot noise, enough to attract outside attention.

There are two offices. One contains a small armoury and a bed, the other is the office of the ‘boss’. The ‘boss’ starts this encounter in their office and will leave to join the fight when either the alarm is raised by one of their underlings or the PCs make any loud noises.

Along one wall is a large door, currently closed, and a hoist used for loading and unloading cargo. If you feel like it, this door may be replaced with a trapdoor in the floor to be used with boats pulling up under the warehouse.

Depending on how full the warehouse is, movement may be restricted by boxes and equipment scattered over the floor, and the shelves may be quite close together, allowing only one or two people to walk next to each other. Long sightlines (albeit dark ones) and cramped close quarters combat should be the theme of this encounter.

Suggested Hooks

The party has stumbled onto a smuggling gang who have an item they need.

A contact of the party has been kidnapped and is being held in the warehouse.

Something leads the party to the warehouse where they find someone they thought they could trust selling something personal to them.

The party seeks refuge in a seemingly abandoned warehouse. While they struggle with the toughs inside, the force chasing them gathers its strength outside.

The party have been roped into some shady dealings and are using the warehouse to conduct their business when an outside party enters.

Atlas Inspirare: Mara’s Wake


Welcome to this, the first of a (yet another) new series of posts. The purpose of this series to provide inspiration for cities with which to populate your fantastical worlds, as well as supply some suggested plot hooks.

Feel free to take as much or as little content as you wish to use in your own games.



Deep in the middle of the Emerald Bog lies the city of Mara’s Wake. Named for the saint who raised the first walls and led the efforts to drain the bog, Mara’s Wake is a trading hub, and the gateway to the North, for the entirety of the Southlands. Protected by thick walls of stone and miles of mist-covered, bottomless peat, it has resisted invasions, plagues and disasters for five hundred years.

To gain access to Mara’s Wake, one must buy the services of an Emerald-guide, a select handful of people authorised to escort travellers, traders and pilgrims across the Emerald Bog, using the few safe paths that exist. After three days of travel in a permanent, green twilight, clothes damp from the ever present mist, visitors will come upon either the Star Gate or the Tower Gate.

The former is a solid construction of preserved timber, metal and stone that straddles the road leading directly into the marketplace. It is manned at all time by no less than ten guards and is the most used method of entry and exit for visitors.

The Tower Gate is situated at the base of a three storey tower built by master masons and guards the temple quarter where the Saint’s bones may be found. The tower itself serves as a barracks and armoury and only distinguished guests are permitted to use this gate.

The natives of Mara’s Wake themselves know of a number of smaller gates and paths out into the Bog, many leading to popular fishing spots or the few hills capable of supporting farming that exist within it. Whilst they are welcoming to outsiders, the people who live in Mara’s Wake treat themselves as a people apart, unwilling to share the secrets of their city but happy to share its bounties.

Due to its position as the nearest city to Great Eagle’s Pass, Mara’s Wake sees visitors from both the Southlands and the more populous folk from the North. Common traveller’s tales tell of chance meetings between the Kings of the North and the Emperor of the South taking place in Mara’s Wake and many within the city can claim descent from travellers of both nations who met there and never left.

Governed by a council of five, Mara’s Wake holds an election every three years with only one post being hereditary. The Speaker is always a member of the Saint’s family, responsible for maintaining the temple district and directing the people of the city in matters of faith. The other four posts are open to any master-craftsman who wishes to stand for election.

Only three times in the history of the city has a council proved so unpopular that it has been dissolved by the Speaker. For the most part, its decisions are viewed as fair and just, with many people regularly visiting the council chambers to discuss matters or listen to hearings and council sessions.

In addition the temple district, where many travellers and pilgrims have set up their own shrines, and the marketplace, Mara’s Wake has a thriving Artisans Quarter and a large fishing and farming district pressed against one of the city walls where the Bog has been turned into farmland for crops and animals, as well as large pools of deep, clear water. No-one knows for certain how the fish get into the pools, but there have never been any signs of shortage or over-fishing.

Plot Hooks

The council has been killed, and the Speaker kidnapped. No-one knows who did it or how it happened.

Fishermen have reported strange lights from the bottom of one of the pools each night.

A spate of deaths in the temple quarter has caused great concern among the city Watch, but there are no clues to be found.

A recent outbreak of plague in the marketplace has forced everyone inside for safety and the city is suffering. Can a cure be found?

The Speaker has not been seen for weeks, her house is empty and the Saint’s bones have been stolen. The city Watch is not trained or equipped to deal with situations like this.

Roleplaying 108 – The Inner Actor

Here is the update at last! My apologies but life got in the way as it does from time to time. Regardless, feast your eyes upon the fruits of my labours! Or not, it’s up to you.

My recent posts have been focussed more on helping the GM/DM to prepare for games but today I thought I would switch back to offering some player advice.  The last post I made for players was about character creation, following on from that this post will deal with how to role-play as that character. All the advice and information is based on my own experiences and your own experiences will probably differ, so do NOT take everything contained here as the gospel truth or set in stone.

The first thing you should really decide is how you wish to role-play. Usually there are two options; you narrate everything that a character does from a third person perspective or you narrate everything from a first person perspective.

The former can offer more comfort for people as it allows you to distance yourself from a character (if you want/need to) and buy yourself time to think things through. On the other hand though, you might find that approaching the game in this manner limits your immersion into your character.

However, the latter offers chances for greater immersion but can leave you feeling somewhat on the spot from time to time, struggling to react appropriately to the situation. Because of the pros and cons of both approaches, I try to mix the two. Usually I will narrate my character’s actions in the first person and will break character to narrate in the third person when I know that I want to buy some time to think about how that character would react.

In addition to these two approaches, there is also a more physical one. I find it far easier to role-play and become immersed in my character if I act out what they do to some extent. Whether this is walking across rooms or limiting yourself to gestures and facial expressions, you’ll find your own comfort level but I cannot tell you how much my gaming enjoyment grew when I started to do this. Not only does it help with immersion but by ‘inhabiting’ the character, I found I began to react to things in a more instinctual and less planned manner.

When it comes to reacting to things in character, or just acting in character, you should (I’ve found) base your actions on knowledge that character would reasonably have and do it in a way that agrees with your character’s personality. If it does not agree with your character’s personality, either work out if you can incorporate that reaction into your character going forwards, or see if your group is happy to allow you to change your response.

I know my post is a bit short today (I’m still quite tired from ‘life’) but I may revisit this subject matter in the future. In the meantime, if you want to offer any of your experiences, feel free to do so in the comments section below.


– Bubbles / Ryan

Service Will Resume Shortly

This is just a quick update to say that today’s post is delayed until Monday but from next week onwards the regular update schedule should resume.

Have a great weekend!

Bubbles / Ryan