Monthly Archives: February 2017

Sans Comic: Belladonna Origins – Page One

Introducing my new series, Sans Comic! This will be a script for a comic series to explain the background behind several superhero characters I’ve created for various RPGs.

I’ll be posting it a page at a time because some weeks I can’t write much more than that.

If reading scripts isn’t really your thing, come back next week for some supplemental rules for use in your own games.

If you do enjoy this, let me know and feel free to share with anyone else who might like it.


Panel 1

Description: A wide panel that depicts a city skyline abutting a small mountain. The sun is setting and the sky is full of grey clouds.

Text: Freshmount, a city of hopes and dreams. Founded in 1789, it has seen its share of troubles.

Panel 2

Description: A square panel that depicts a section of the city as seen from above. Traffic is heavy on one major road cutting through the district, and a few umbrellas can be seen on the pavements.

Text: At the heart of Freshmount lies the decaying district of Banker’s Hollow. Hidden from the rest of the city by a natural depression, it is here that the founding members decided to erect their banks and trading houses.

Panel 3

Description: A square panel that depicts a bird’s eye view of an alleyway cutting across it diagonally. A lone figure walks down the alley, her long violet hair blowing in a strong wind.

Text: Years of economic troubles have stripped the Hollow of its wealth. Now it is exists as a reminder of the golden days and as a place to house the poorer members of Freshmount’s citizenry.

Panel 4

Description: A wide panel that depicts a young woman walking across it, right to left. She is of medium height with violet hair being blown backwards in a strong wind. Her hands are buried in the pockets in a long, grey coat. The coat covers her body to her knees, revealing dark jeans and boots. A messenger bag is worn across her chest.

Text: For people like Isabelle Langdry, Banker’s Hollow is an opportunity for change.

Lady Kima of Vord and Cassandra de Rolo – A Grave Conversation

Here is the last entry for Critical Role Relationship Week and as promised, I have compiled a PDF of all the vignettes I wrote.

Enjoy!


The blade on my shoulder felt cool where it pressed against the skin of my neck. The tombstones lying all around were disquieting at this time of day.

With the sun barely risen, and the clouds in the sky, the scene looked like something I would have stumbled across back in the Dusk Meadow District. A mausoleum nearby caught my eye and, for a second, a tall, hooded figure stood in front of it. I blinked and the figure disappeared.

I felt my fingers tightening unconsciously around the sword hilt and forced myself to breathe. My breath plumed in the air visibly and I frowned. Something was wrong.

I stopped and looked around.

Ahead of me, I could see Lady Cassandra and her guards in front of an ornate crypt. Behind me, Jarett was sauntering out of sight. I could see nothing else in the graveyard and yet, I was certain that something else was here with us.

“Come out where I can kill you.” I whispered under my breath. The silence answered me and the feeling passed as abruptly as it had arrived. I shivered and glanced again at the mausoleum that had attracted my attention. A lone bird was perched upon it.

As I saw it, it gave a loud caw and flew off.

“Bloody bird.” I muttered and started walking again.

My plate clanked quietly as I moved and it broke the ominous silence. Birdsong filtered through the air and the guards with Lady Cassandra flinched, as if jerking themselves to wakefulness. One of them turned and leaned towards her slightly. She nodded and made a dismissive gesture. The two figures saluted and began walking towards me.

“The Lady bids you welcome.” One of them said, his voice deep in the full face helm. “We will be nearby if anything happens.”

I nodded and grinned.

“I’ll let you know if it’s something I can’t handle.”

The other guard laughed quietly and they continued past me.

“Lady Kima.” Lady Cassandra’s voice was strained, dark rings lined her eyes and her smile was a tired one. “Thank you for coming.”

“Lady de Rolo.” I inclined my head hurriedly, barely remembering the etiquette lessons I’d suffered through in the Platinum Sanctuary.

“Cassandra, please.” She flicked her fingers in a dismissive gesture. “I endure enough of the proper formalities in the castle.” She met my eyes, looking down into them with a pleading expression on her face.

“Cassandra.” I smiled. “Why am I here?” I looked around again. “Graveyards aren’t really my thing, you know.”

She laughed.

“I know. You’re here because I wished to pay my respects to the memory of my parents and because I wanted somewhere we couldn’t be overheard.” I nodded. “I worry about a lot of things. I worry about my brother. I worry about redemption. I worry about my people.” She fell silent and looked up at the empty sky. “But most of all, I worry about what we’re going to do if the worst happens. I am not a warrior like you or Percival. All of this is new to me. Lady Kima, would you teach me to fight?” She looked down at me again.

“I’m always happy to fight, Lad- Cassandra. But Jarett…” She shook her head, cutting me off.

“Jarett is competent and experienced. But he will never think of himself as more than an employee. I need someone who isn’t afraid of shouting at me when I need it. I need someone who will show me how to get the job done. Someone who doesn’t care about social standing, or the niceties. In short, Lady Kima, I need you. Will you do this for me? Will you teach me to fight so that I may better defend my people?”

I grinned widely.

“Will I take every opportunity to hand you your ass without regrets? Of course, I will. But,” I stopped smiling. “I will also show you how to improve. A sword is only as good as the intent behind it. Intention, Cassandra, begins here.” I touched her chest with my gauntleted hand. “Do you have the resolve it takes to fight?”

She straightened.

“I am a de Rolo, Lady Kima. Much like Percival, I have the resolve to do anything I set my mind to.”

I laughed and held my hand out to her.

“Good. Then this will be fun.”

Role-playing 301: Role-playing in the Workplace

Today will be a bit of a departure from my usual articles on role-playing. Rather than being aimed at helping people get into the hobby, this article will begin to explore how role-playing can be used in a professional context.

It will not delve into every facet of this, and I plan on returning to this topic in a future update, but for now, it will serve as a basic introduction to the value role-playing games can have in the world of work. Before delving into this subject matter, however, I should remind the reader that my viewpoint is necessarily limited by my own experiences and so some of the material found below may not be applicable to every situation.

The main focus of this article will be upon team-work and the benefits that role-playing games can have upon a team’s ability to work together.

Most role-playing games depend upon a high degree of team-work to be successful. Many games involve puzzles of varying difficulties, investigations that require careful attention to detail and organisation, and enemy combatants that have weaknesses or attack patterns that can be exploited by a party of characters working together.

Team-work, in this context, depends upon several things: communication, organisation and a willingness to listen to the advice of others. These three skills are the three main things that a person will have to master in order to work well as part of the party in-game, as well as in their employment outside of it.

Let’s break down each skill and look at how it relates to both the game and the world of work.

Communication is perhaps the most obvious. It is the ability to convey your ideas in a manner which others can understand.

In-game, how your character communicates will be flavoured by their character’s peculiarities and experiences, as well as their relationships with other characters.  Regardless of that though, you should always be aiming to convey the information you have that your party needs in an accessible manner, or interacting with other characters to in a way that achieves your goal for that interaction.

Out of game, communication fulfils much the same role. You’ll need to relay relevant information in a manner that people can understand and in a way that you get the answers and results you require from any given situation (compromising where necessary).

But more than that, role-playing games can foster inter-departmental communication. In my experience, different departments of organisations are usually fairly insular. They’ll talk to each other but the information flow between two departments can sometimes be lacking. Playing in a group composed of members of different departments can help break down these barriers.

By spending time with other members of the organisation, you will grow to understand how they communicate best and a level of familiarity will exist that might not otherwise happen. This will have a knock-on effect in that you will know how to phrase questions and tailor your conversations with that team member, in order to get what you need to do your job.

Organisation is pretty much the same in-game and in the office (so to speak). This is more about keeping track of information, being able to have relevant resources to hand and generally having an easy to follow method of gathering and storing useful material.

The benefit here for the work-place is that the other members of your group will quickly pick up on your organisation methods (and you, theirs) which means that if you are asked to track down information only they have and they aren’t available, you’ll have a good idea of where to look or who to ask.

It also has the added benefit that players will share good organisational practices with each other, meaning everyone becomes more efficient at organising things that they are responsible for.

Finally, the ability to listen to others is an undervalued skill that role-playing games promote. Beyond merely paying attention to others, this is actively internalising what they say.

This is tied in somewhat with the familiarity that spending time with others breeds, but it is also a mind-set that some people lack or ignore. The puzzles presented in role-playing games often require a mixed skill-set that it is rare to find in one person, so listening to the advice of others is important.

In the wider world of work, being able to do this means that you will be able to learn from those more experienced than you. Team-members will be able to share skills and knowledge between each other when completing projects and the project as a whole will benefit from it. The practice gained in-game should translate to an ability to internalise and build upon the advice of others, as well as allowing team-mates to listen to each other fairly and not ignore less vocal participants.

By freely sharing information, knowledge and experience, as well as by listening to everyone equally, team morale should improve and projects should be completed smoothly and efficiently.

Efficiency and a greater degree of familiarity with each other are the two main outcomes of role-playing together in a team-work sense, but they are by no means the only benefits that role-playing can offer in a work-place setting.

I will expand upon other benefits in future updates, but for now, if you have any feedback, please let me know in the comments. If you feel like role-playing is something you would like to try in your workplace, share this article with the relevant people so they can see some of its benefits.

Until next time!

Jarett Howarth and Trinket – Prepared for Anything

Today is the penultimate day of Critical Role Relationship Week. Tomorrow’s entry will round things off nicely and be accompanied by a PDF of the entire week’s worth of updates.
Look for another update later concerned more with the usual content on this website.

Enjoy!


“Look after him, darling.” Vex’ahlia said over her shoulder as she walked through the doorway back into the castle.

“Of course.” Jarett replied, eyeing the growing crowd and turning to address it. “I can see there won’t be any training until this happens, so you may as well come in and watch.” He gestured for the onlookers to line the walls of the training yard. “The life of a mercenary, or a soldier, or even a guard, requires you to be ready for anything.

Obviously, at the moment, our problem is dragons, wyverns and lizardfolk. But that does not mean you can be caught off-guard by less…” His voice trailed off as he searched for an appropriate word. “Less awe-inspiring threats.” He drew his sword. “It is my job to make sure that you’re prepared for any enemy, at any time.”

A few of the guards watching began to whisper amongst themselves and he rounded on them.

“You think that you know all of this?” He asked, his voice quiet. “You think that you know how to use a sword? That, when the moment comes, you will be able to do what you must in defence of your city?” He gave a grim smile. “Good. You will need that certainty to carry you through.” He stopped pacing and turned to face the centre of the training yard.

A large, brown bear stood there, the morning sun glinting from the metallic plates of chitin that it wore as armour. Jarett took a few moments to admire the workmanship of the armour and the primal might of the bear.

“That, as you can see, is a bear.” He looked around, his sword by his side. “A common sight in the forests around the city. Lady Vex’ahlia has kindly agreed to let him spar with me so that I can teach you the skills you need to use in case you ever encounter one whilst out hunting. As you can also see, it is armoured. This is not a natural state for a bear.”

A few guards let out a laugh and he nodded.

“Because this is the Lady’s companion, I have agreed to do my best not to hurt him and, I have been assured, he understands not to try to kill me.” Out of the corner of his eye, Jarett saw the bear make a clumsy nodding motion with its head. He smiled and walked over to a rack of training weapons.

He scanned it quickly, looking for one of the heavy wooden practice swords. He sheathed his own blade, drawn more for emphasis than intent, and lifted a wooden blade from the hooks it rested on. Giving it a few practice swings to learn its balance, he picked up a shield from where it leaned against the rack and turned to face the bear again.

“Assuming you live long enough to draw your weapon against a bear in the wild, you have a few options. You can try to fend it off and summon help, you can try to run away or, and this is the foolhardy choice, you can try to kill it.” He looked at the bear and readied himself. “Pay attention, because what you are about to see may save your life. Now, Trinket.”

At his words, the bear exploded into action. Giving out a deafening roar, Trinket charged straight for him. He watched the beast’s movement with an experienced eye and dove sideways at the last moment, rolling to his feet as Trinket slammed into the weapons rack.

The wooden construction collapsed in a cloud of splinters and Trinket bellowed again, turning to face him. Jarett had backed away from the bear and stood facing him across the yard, sword and shield readied once more.

The bear shook itself free from the wreckage and took a few steps towards him before breaking into a blur of teeth and muscle.

He tried the same thing again and realised too late, that Trinket had anticipated his movement. As he dived sideways, the bear lashed out with a massive paw, hitting him solidly in his breastplate. He skidded along the ground and smashed into the stone wall, where he lay winded.

Trinket, thrown off-balance by his own attack, stumbled and fell.

The bear was the first to regain its feet and stalked over to where Jarett lay, struggling to breath and fighting the pain that threatened to overwhelm him. Trinket lowered his head and butted his muzzle against Jarett’s throat.

The man nodded and dropped his sword, reaching up to use a plate of the bear’s armour to help him stand.

“And that,” he gasped, “is why you do not fight a bear alone. Or in such a small area. The main strategy when fighting a bear is attack in large numbers.” He patted Trinket’s head cautiously. “What do you think about getting some food?”

The bear looked at him for a second and then, slowly and deliberately, licked his face from chin to temple.

Allura Vysoren and Kaylie Shorthalt – A Lesson in Spell-casting

Hopefully you are all enjoying this week of vignettes. I’m having a lot of fun writing them. Anyway, here is the next one.

As ever, enjoy!


The workshop was back to how it had been before her experiments with Trinket.

The small rug in the centre was covered by a sturdy table, parchment scattered over its surface.  Chairs that had been moved into the hallway outside were once again crammed into the corners and shoved under the long tables against each wall.

While she had an organised mind and excelled at bringing order to the world through her actions, Allura’s private spaces always tended to end up as a chaotic mess. She smiled as she remembered the moment Kima had discovered that little secret. The halfling had spent five minutes laughing before affectionately teasing her about hypocrisy.

A knock at the door brought her out of her reverie.

“It’s unlocked.” She called. “Come in.”

Kaylie Shorthalt, draped in a voluminous cloak, pushed the door open and slipped inside.

“Wow. I thought my room was a mess…” She said, her eyes wide as she took in the disordered room.

“I know where everything is.” Allura answered dryly. Kaylie laughed, unclasping the cloak and looking for somewhere to put it that wouldn’t knock any teetering piles of books or equipment over. Allura sighed and muttered a short phrase under her breath, summoning a spectral hand to carry the cloak over to a hook on the wall.

“Sure, you do.” The little gnome teased, standing awkwardly in front of the door.

“Please. Sit.” Allura said, moving a pile of papers from a nearby chair. “How long do you have?”

“Not long. Dr. Dranzel will notice I’m missing in an hour or so.”

“It’s a good thing I can get you back there then.” Allura paused as a thought occurred to her. “Do I want to know how you got here?”

Kaylie looked down at her depleted pouch and mud-stained boots.

“Probably not, no. But when you offered to teach me magic, I had to say yes. To study under a member of the Arcana Pansophical…” An innocent, dreamy expression drifted over Kaylie’s face and Allura was reminded how young she really was. “That wasn’t a chance I could pass up.” The world-weary expression of practiced cynicism cloaked the young gnome’s face again. “What do you get out of this?”

Allura shrugged.

“With all that has happened, students are few and far between. The preservation of knowledge is enough of a reward for me in these dark times.”

Kaylie gave her a piercing look, as if doubting her honesty. Allura gazed back at her, an expression of practiced neutrality on her face.

The silence stretched between them until it became uncomfortable for the garrulous gnome.

“Fine.” She said, sitting down at last.

“Before we get started,” Allura began, “you must understand something. Our ability to cast magic comes from the Weave. It saturates the world around us, a metaphysical material that empowers those who are sensitive to it and allows certain people to manipulate the very nature of things.” She stopped as Kaylie nodded impatiently.

“I know all of this already.”

Allura gave her a stern look.

“As I was saying. Our ability to cast magic comes from the same place but that is as far the similarity goes. I channel the Weave through words of power and prescribed gestures and components. To me, the act of spell-casting is something learned and practiced.

To people like you and your father, it is something instinctive. You enact your will upon the world through force of personality and will. Anyone can learn to be a wizard, it takes someone special to be a Bard.” She smiled and leaned backwards against the desk.

“So what will you teach me? How to throw fireballs? Summon lightning from the air?” Kaylie fell silent as she noticed Allura’s amusement. “What is it?”

“While you are, no doubt, capable of learning such things and wielding them to great effect, I was going to start with something easier and, in my experience, far more useful. I will teach to you see the workings of the Weave itself.

So, shall we begin?”

Jarett Howarth and Lady Kima of Vord – A Warning From God

Here is today’s update for Critical Role Relationship Week. Enjoy!


“Alright, the show’s over. Get in there.” Jarett pushed the nearest guards through the doorway and into the training yard. “Maybe you’ll get to see how adventurers fight again tomorrow.” He leaned against the door-frame and watched the taciturn cleric pick up his shield and return to his drill.

“I’ll get him next time.” Kima said, stopping next to him.

“I am sure you will.” Jarett replied, turning his head to look at her. “That’s a nice blade, by the way.”

Kima grinned and admired her great-sword.

“It is, isn’t it? Killing a chromatic dragon was reward enough, but getting a platinum great-sword? It’s great to know your god appreciates what you’re doing.”

“A certainty I have never been afforded the luxury of having.” He straightened. “The Lady of the castle has asked me to escort you to her in the graveyard.”

“Why?”

The tall man gave her a measured stare.

“When your employer tells you to find the brashest, most cock-sure halfling paladin you can, you don’t question them.” He paused. “Well, when your employer’s sister who also happens to own the place you’re living does all that.” Kima laughed.

“Still sore about our bout last week?”

“Not at all. You beat me fairly. The sun was in my eyes for the whole fight. The fact it was reflecting from your armour had nothing to do with my loss.” He grinned. “Besides, I know you can’t hit the broadside of a barn with a crossbow.”

“It’s a stupid weapon. Why would you want to be so far away from a fight?” Kima grumbled, her voice almost petulant.”

“Because it is safer to be far away from the swords.”

She glared at him.

“It’s boring, if that’s what you mean.”

He laughed again and motioned for her to follow.

The castle was waking up around them as they walked. He heard servants going about their business, messengers running along the stone corridors and guards talking to each other as they were relieved. The calm order of the place brought a smile to his lips.

He had learned long ago that peace could shatter in an instant, so he took what comfort and pleasure he could in it. Whether that was drinking, sparring or warming the bed with another, Jarett was content.

Kima, on the other hand, was not. He watched her from the corner of his eye. Her hands were wrapped tightly around the hilt of her sword, the long blade resting against her armoured shoulder. Her eyes were constantly moving and looking for danger.

“You’re not handling the tension well, are you?” He asked.

“I need something to do.” She growled. “I’m so bored.”

He laughed as they strode through the castle gates and began walking towards the graveyard.

“If Vox Machina pull this off, we’re all going to have a lot to do.” He said quietly. “Try and relax while you can.”

She glared at him.

“I like you, Jarett. But if you tell me to relax one more time; I will kick your ass so hard, you’ll need the gods to help you find it.”

He laughed again.

“You are welcome to try. Maybe next time, we won’t fight in bright sunlight.”

“But how will I be able to see the skills you are so proud of, if there is no sun to portray you in the best light possible?”

“I’m paid to do what I’m good at. Not to look good.” He glanced up as a shadow drifted in front of the sun. Kima burst out laughing.

“I’m not the only one jumping at shadows.”

He shrugged.

“There is a difference between being relaxed, and being unprepared.” He forced his hand away from his sword hilt. Kima grunted.

“You might have a point.” She glanced up at him before settling her eyes on the road in front of them. “Back in the Sanctuary, they used to tell me that my restlessness and eagerness to fight was unwarranted. That Bahamut would send warning when violence was coming. But He hasn’t done so yet.” Her voice was quiet, almost sad.

As they reached the graveyard, Jarrett laughed.

“What?” She asked, shooting him an annoyed glare.

“Bahamut did send a warning. He sent you.”

Kima grinned and raised her sword to the sky where it caught a few glints of light.

“Yes. He did.”

Allura Vysoren and Trinket – Bear in a Workshop

This is the update I would have posted yesterday for Critical Role Relationship Week, had I not been busy. Enjoy!


Allura Vysoren, scholar of no small renown and member of the Arcana Pansophical, was speechless.

She had hosted many curious and strange guests in her years as a member of the Council of Tal’Dorei, but never a bear.

Vex’ahlia had been interested when she had brought up the subject of further, painless experimentation with the Raven’s Slumber. Allura was curious about the effects of the magical item upon any creature held within it for weeks, and Vex’ahlia’s concern for Trinket was well known. It had seemed like a mutually beneficial agreement to let Allura investigate Trinket’s health, both physical and magical.

Which was why, despite the limitations of her workshop here in Whitestone, there was a bear standing in the exact centre of the small room.

Trinket, for his part, looked comfortable stood on the blue rug. He was being very careful not to move, but nothing about him seemed distressed. True, Allura was no expert on animals, but she hoped the preparations she had made for him were enough.

“Right.” She began, talking to herself. “Let’s get the obvious things out of the way.”

She picked up a small brass orb from a nearby work-surface and brushed her fingertips over the runes carved into it. A peculiarity whose construction still eluded her, it had proved useful in the past when looking for signs of disease or poison.

The shimmer of azure magic surrounded the orb for a second before expanding to envelop Trinket. The bear blinked and shivered as its fur stood on end, but the magic returned to the orb without displaying any of its indicators.

“There doesn’t appear to be any corrupting influence from prolonged exposure to the artefact.” She said, writing her thoughts in a flowing script on a fresh piece of parchment. “None that I can ascertain. Mentally and physically draining effects are beyond my ability to ascertain. Perhaps Kima or Pike would be able to follow this line of inquiry further.

Setting the orb and her quill down, she took a moment to focus her mind.

“Serenil.” She whispered, her fingers flashing through the motions she had learned by rote all those years ago. The workshop around her immediately let up with a wide variety of magical auras as her eyes adjusted to perceive the Weave and its workings.

She turned her gaze on Trinket and sighed quietly. She dispelled the magic with a flick of her fingers and picked up her quill once more.

“The artefact does not appear to bestow the occupant with any lingering magical effect, arcane or divine.” She lowered the quill again and stared pensively at the bear. Trinket looked back at her, standing still on the rug as Vex’ahlia had told him to. “My examination, however brief and necessarily limited, seems to indicate that the Raven’s Slumber, despite being an intensely magical artefact of divine origin functions like any similar arcane spell.

It is my belief that the pendant acts as a portal and nothing more. Speaking the command word activates it, prompting it to consume the creature that is touching the body of the artefact and depositing said creature in a demi-plane like any other.

If my belief is correct, time likely does not pass for the occupant. Testimony does report that the occupant retains awareness and an ability to see out of the artefact while inside. Assuming my theory is true, significant amounts of time spent within the Raven’s Slumber should result in no physical aging but still allow the creation, and retention, of memories.

The uses this artefact has for transporting rare and dangerous creatures are numerous, but for now, I feel it should remain with Vox Machina.” She put the quill down again. “If only I had access to my old equipment,” she sighed, “I’d be able to find out so much more.”

Trinket made a noise and she smiled.

“Thank for your patience, Trinket.” The bear seemed to nod in understanding and she wondered, as she had many times before, if everyone under-estimated his intelligence. “Come on then. Let’s go find Vex’ahlia.”