Tag Archives: rpg

Something Went Wrong

The walls came down in ways she hadn’t expected. One by one, the neon barriers evaporated with a hiss of static as her fingers danced along her deck. Security programs flared into life, only to be disactivated moments later as she blasted past them in her search for the data. She dimly registered footsteps racing towards her in the darkened corridor.

“Eliz. We’ve gotta go! NOW!” Roark’s voice filled her head and her concentration wavered.

“Almost got it.” She whispered into her throat mic. “Nearly there.” Her fingers sped up, working the deck like an instrument, deleting firewalls left and right, brute-forcing her way through Ares’ defences. She could see the server stack now, a glowing pillar of gold in this virtual space.

The heavy booming noise of Roark’s hand-cannon rang out twice in quick succession.

“ELIZ!” He roared in her ear. “NOW!”

She gritted her teeth and slapped the code-bomb into place, tearing out a section of the stack as she did so. The virtual world began flashing and shaking around her, emerald lines spreading from the code-bomb deep into the radiant obelisk. She turned and ran, her avatar moving swiftly back to the portal, back into realspace and her body.

Sensory overload threatened to overwhelm her as it usually did as the world reasserted itself. Gone was the sterile, illuminated void of the virtual world, in its place an air-conditioned breeze wafting from the ceiling vents in the office block blew against her skin. She blinked and shook her head, clearing the post-deck haze.

The drone in front of her whirred and clicked as it pulled the deck back into its body. Another one, slightly smaller with a bulb of sensors on its back, chirruped, its wide, white wings beating slowly to keep it upright. The display on the end of its swan-neck glowed gently as text scrolled across it.

“Project.” She said quietly, standing and glancing towards where Roark stood, his arms braced against the corner of the corridor. The display darkened immediately, and lines of data began reeling in front of her eyes, projected onto the HUD of her glasses. “Roark. We’ve got ghosts incoming.”

He glanced back at her, his wide face frowning.

“Sure?” She nodded. “Right. Exfil plan B.” She looked at him, still woozy from the reality transfer. “Eliz, now!” She turned and started running, stumbling at first, the weight of her body at odds with the weightlessness of virtual space.

Cubicles flashed past her as she made her way towards the emergency stairs at the back of the floor, wageslaves plugged into their terminals, their minds toiling away at the currency mines, harvesting byte after byte of cryptocurrency. Her drones, all three painted white with mechanical wings and long, graceful necks tipped with blank displays, flew silently behind her, the snub-nosed pistols built into their chassis extending in readiness.

“Lopez, you’d better be out there.” She heard Roark call over the radio.

“Sure am.” The elf’s voice was cocky, self-assured. Her confidence was well deserved, Eliz didn’t know a better pilot.

“Cyg, door!” Eliz called out as the door came into view. The drone with her deck in it sped up, spinning in mid-air and uncoiling metallic tendrils from its back as it did so. The tendrils slammed into the door lock, sending sparks flying, and text began scrolling rapidly across her HUD as the drone’s software began overriding the security protocols. There was a beep moments later and the text stopped scrolling as the door clicked open.

“We’re there, L.” She said.

“Sure thing, honey.”  Eliz’s response was cut off before she could open her mouth by the sound of their escape shuttle’s guns spooling up and then punching through the hardened steelcrete wall of the office block. Dust and hunks of building material began flying through the doorway, the impact of larger chunks slowly pushing it open.

Eliz slammed into the wall next to it and closed the door, covering her ears against the sound of high velocity metal punching its way through the building’s external wall. Flashes of light caught her attention as Roark rounded the corner, his gun arm extended behind him, a bestial look on his face. She waited until he was mere steps from her and then slung the door open.

The cold night air rushed in, followed swiftly by the shuttle’s landing bay lights as the cargo doors dropped open.

“The party’s waiting.” Lopez’s voice cut into the artificial silence she’d created. Roark dashed through the door, holstering his firearm as he did so. Eliz glanced back the way he’d come, her eyes struggling to focus on the figures following him, their projected camouflage making them near invisible in the office hallway.

A few wageslaves, their minds disconnected from the crypto-mines, were beginning to stand up, looking over the cubicle walls as they realised something was happening around them. She recognised the pale skin and blown pupils of long-term virtual space habitation. The world would be a dream-like haze to them for hours yet.

She pulled a flash grenade from her belt and primed it, throwing it over her shoulder as she dashed through the door, checked her drones were waiting, and yanked it shut. She took as few steps backwards and then turned, sprinting down the stairs towards the hole in the wall, heading for the shuttle hovering in mid-air.

She watched Roark launch himself across the gap and come to a roll on the metal floor of the cargo bay.

She reached out with her hands as she reached the bottom of the stairs, resting them on her drones. She jumped, letting them carry her across the short gap and lower her gently to the floor of the shuttle.

“We’re in.” She called out, slamming a hand against the door’s close button.

“Hold on!” Lopez shouted back. Eliz and Roark were thrown towards the closing doors as the shuttle rapidly accelerated away from the Ares’ owned office block. They shared a look and she offered him a hand up.

“I don’t know what you were doing in virtual space.” He said, taking it gratefully. “But something went wrong.”

Atlas Inspirare – The Monarchy of the Enduring Sages

With Widowfort at its far western point, and Scour at its eastern, the Monarchy of the Enduring Sages is the largest of the nations on Omnis. Its northern border abuts the Starspire Forest, the Ozark Desert and the tiny independent nation of the Iron Peaks, whilst the ocean bounds it on all three remaining sides. It is said that nowhere in Thalen are so many disparate peoples thrown together under the auspices of a single ruler than in the Monarchy.

But this is not quite accurate. The city-states which make up the Monarchy are allied through treaties and pacts, not through conquest, and the Sage-King (or Queen) is a monarch only through dint of tradition and elaborately worded agreements. The various cities themselves (Widowton, Scour and the Fire Keep) act as rulers of their own domains, ensuring the peace is kept, the people are fed and an appropriate tithe is paid to the Monarch in the Abbey of the Crown situated on the northernmost isle of Shearmouth.

Built on a cluster of islands, and later added to with the construction of the Abbey’s Refuge (a floating town sized pontoon designed to be a wharf, industrial centre and trading hub), Shearmouth is a holy city built in the mouth of the river Shear. The oldest of the principal cities, the monks who rose to power within Shearmouth realised that their position didn’t lend itself to growing crops to feed an army, nor were they positioned over important mineral veins or other mining opportunities. Instead, they focused on political power, placing Shearmouth as the middle party in the various trading, non-aggression and defence treaties signed between the various other cities. With a carefully worded clause here, and by exploiting a loophole there, the Abbey of the Crown, as it is known today, rose to prominence and could soon lay claim to the largest standing army on the continent.

Knowing they were beaten for the moment, the other cities focussed on developing their own holdings and protecting their own people. Whilst the Ashlands became a fertile land of fortified villages, and whilst Scour grew into a massive city incorporating all the industries it would need to become self-sufficient, Shearmouth became a political power to be reckoned with, negotiating with the other nations of Omnis and even sending emissaries over the Widow’s Walk to the neighbouring continent of Tremant.

Its power began to wane, however, with the fall of Gith-Drannok. When the enchantments surrounding the Jewel of the Southern Valleys fell, the weight of Shearmouth’s bureaucracy made itself known and by the time the Monarchy’s forces were marshalled, it was too late. Now, undead creatures and other monstrosities stalk the Heartlands of the Monarchy of the Enduring Sages. Travellers wishing to cross to the Vale of Tears in the west, journey to the Ashlands in the north-east, or the Pilgrim’s Peninsula in the south-east, must now hire guards, or risk their very lives on the Great Trade Road spanning the breadth of the Monarchy.

As the city fell, so too did the Sage-Queen’s influence. Her weaknesses exposed, the other cities rebelled, forcing her to respond with force, drawing upon an army she could not feed or afford to field for long. The war which followed was short, lasting only four years, and resulted in the defeat of the Sage-Queen’s forces. In the aftermath, the balance of power within the Monarchy shifted. The Trade-Cities Agreement named each city an independent state in its own right, with the Sage-King/Queen being the nominal head of the Monarchy in exchange for allowing the other cities’ access to the large store of information contained with the Abbey of the Crown. These days, the monks of the Abbey function as diplomats, advisors and spies, rooting out insurrections and criminal elements that would otherwise disturb the delicate balance of peace between the cities of the Monarchy of the Enduring Sages.

Plot Hooks

A movement, previously unknown, has been gathering support and works towards one goal; the overthrow of the Sage-King.

Travellers report the great dragon of the Heartlands has been seen again, terrorising merchant caravans as they travel along the Great Trade Road.

The waters along the coastline of the Monarchy have slowly been turning red and no-one knows why.

Emissaries from the Iron Peaks have gone missing on their long journey to Shearmouth. It is said they brought information on a new weapon with them.

A series of earthquakes and other natural disasters have been reducing large sections of the Monarchy to ruins. The common folk are scared and many fear a great demon has awoken in Gith-Drannok.

Auraknight

As I’ve mentioned previously,  I’ve started livestreaming my weekly D&D prep (along with some explanation of why I do what I do) over on Twitch and then archiving the streams on YouTube. Hopefully, if you check it out, it’s helpful, inspirational, or both and, if you do like it, consider following/subscribing.

Today’s update is the design notes for the Auraknight, a 5th Edition D&D class I released on the DM’s Guild earlier and available here.

Feedback and any other thoughts are welcome!


The Auraknight began as an idea from one of my players who thought it would be cool to have a class based around summoning construct weapons from a set list. Originally, I had envisioned the class to be a martial one with archetypes chosen at 1st level and each archetype granted you access to certain weapons which you would have to summon in order until you completed a long rest. I realised this level of book-keeping wouldn’t be to everyone’s tastes and so I left the project on the backburner for a while, allowing my subconscious to mull it over.

Eventually I reached the class as it is now. I was inspired heavily by the Monk, indeed the class feature progression is a copy of the Monk’s, but inverted the concept. Where a Monk focuses on the internal manifestation of ki to buff themselves and affect the world around them, the Auraknight focuses on an external manifestation of their own spirit, similar to my Spirit Warrior class.

By doing this, I was able to create a class that can be played primarily as a support (through focussing more on using the Aura aspect) or as a more martial character (by using the Manifest Weapon feature) without the player ever having to choose one aspect of the class over the other. The flexibility of the class, I think, is a great mechanical tie-in to the story of the Auraknight, that of a person who has committed to altering the world around them through intense spiritual training but someone who isn’t afraid to defend themselves should the need arise.

It is important to note that I didn’t want to create another class that relied on an expendable resource to power their class features, so I tied the features to a permanent effect with a fluctuating range, as the Auraknight concentrates on powering their abilities,  their aura diminishes until the effect has ended.

Starting Proficiencies

Again, here I was inspired by the Monk class but wanted to evoke a feeling of someone who is focused on externalising knowledge (copying rare texts) or expressing their will on the world (creating clothes and art from fabric) without being a formally trained warrior (hence the limited weapon proficiencies). The saving throws are focussed on honing the mind and body, and the skill proficiencies are intended to reflect their awareness of the world around them and their scholarly background.

Aura

One half of the bread and butter of the class, this is intended to reflect the Auraknight’s ability to alter the world around them in limited ways by sharing their skills as a passive bonus to allies.

Manifest Weapon

The other side of the class, the defender of others. By granting the Auraknight proficiency in a weapon only as long as it is manifested is intended to convey the idea that it is their will they are fighting with, rather than a mundane weapon, but considerations were made for magical weapons and at higher levels, the Auraknight can sacrifice the range of their aura to temporarily improve their weapon as their willpower strengthens.

Unarmoured Defence

The same as the monk feature, this is intended to represent a heightened awareness of the world brought about by self-mastery.

Rejuvenation

Tying in with the narrative of defending others, this is a small heal and, at higher levels, a buff tied to control of the PC’s aura.

Infusions

The class paths each feature a different flavour and are described below.

Ability Score Improvement

The Auraknight follows the standard ASI pattern.

Extra Attack

The Auraknight has a greater knowledge of the flow of combat at this level and can use that to their benefit, but only gets this feature once as martial ability is not the focus.

Mystical Weapons

Because Auraknights may not benefit from magical weapons as much as other characters due to their limited ability to wield weapons and a functionally lower attunement limit, this was added as a balancing feature to ensure they aren’t useless when faced with foes with resistance to non-magical damage.

Manifest Aura

This is intended to function similarly to the shield spell but provide a wider number of creatures with its benefits, so it provides a smaller boost but lasts longer.

Soothing Aura

As the Auraknight gains greater control of their abilities, they can use their aura to heal their allies more often.

Mystical Insight

This feature is intended to reinforce the narrative of the Auraknight. Here, they can read the auras of other people and gain role-playing benefits if they do so.

Centred Mind

As the Auraknight masters their aura, they are better able to master their own spirit and mind. This feature is a representation of their growing discipline.

Selfless

As the Auraknight has some niche proficiencies and might not always want to be on the frontline, this feature is intended to add a layer of strategy and tactical placement to the aura by allowing it to be transferred to an ally for 1 minute.

Font of Hope

This is a progression of Centred Mind which applies to a single ally and provides a minor heal to creatures in the aura.

Master of the Spirit

As a keystone ability, I wanted something that broke the rules of the class and provides the opportunity for a few rounds of the Auraknight to use all of the options available to them by increasing their Aura’s range past its usual maximum.

Infusions

Conqueror

This class path is the most martial of the four and focusses on using the aura itself as a weapon.

Martial Teachings

This provides the Auraknight with a wider variety of weapons to tie it into the martial narrative of this path.

Commanding Presence

The Auraknight on this path becomes more of a tactician and is able to use their knowledge to help their allies position themselves for the best effect.

Aura of Iron

Each infusion has at least one aura ability to define that infusion and this is no different. The Auraknight may only make a single attack on the turn they use this feature, but it is made against multiple targets within their aura.

Will of the Conqueror

This is a debuff I felt was thematically appropriate for the class path and provides something other than another source of damage.

Victorious Spirit

This is a minor version of the keystone ability.

Defender

This class path focuses on the defence of others, rather than increasing damage outputs.

Bulwark

This feature is intended to define the class path and be a clear indicator of its focus.

Defensive Stance

Where other class paths offer utility or an extra source of damage, this feature is focussed on improving the Auraknight’s ability to withstand blows that might otherwise hit their allies.

Shielding Aura

This is a copy of the shield spell, flavoured to fit the Auraknight but with a significant drawback to compensate for the utility of it.

Disciplined Mind

A narrative related feature to reinforce the Auraknight’s ability to defend others.

Perfect Defence

This feature provides an ally with temporary immunity to damage but can be dangerous to the Auraknight.

Elemental

This is intended to be the spellcasting path of the class and provide some control over the battlefield by making the elements an extension of the Auraknight’s will.

Call to the Flame

A minor buff through learning cantrips.

Aura of the Wild

Difficult terrain is one the best mechanics in-game I could think of to represent the external mastery of the Auraknight on the world itself.

Flash Flood

Building upon the Aura of the Wild, being able to move enemies around is another way of representing the Auraknight being able to alter reality within their aura.

Heart of the Storm

It is only here where the Elementally Infused Auraknight gains a damage buff, when they have mastered the building blocks of physical reality itself.

Psychic

These Auraknights are more scholarly and their features are intended to reinforce their ability to study opponents and to control their own minds and those of others.

Blessing of the Mind

This is to represent their focus on knowledge over everything else, but also to signify their connection to a spirit of the Mind through the use of the mage hand cantrip.

Aura of Observation

Auraknights of the Mind can use their aura to help their allies’ attacks land more easily but at a cost to their own aura.

Adaptive Mind

Where other Auraknights focus on the world around them, these Auraknights can use their mind as a weapon and are able to force other creatures to experience the effects of certain conditions and spells.

Extension of the Self

At this level, Auraknights of the Mind can influence the minds of their opponents to a limited degree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Handful of Dust: One Day and Twenty Years Later

The following is an in character session report delivered by my barbarian, Baptiste. The game he is from is a West Marches style game and so this probably won’t be a frequent feature on this site, but I hope it is at least mildly interesting.

Whilst I kept most of his way of speaking out of the text to improve accessibility, Baptiste has a Cajun accent if you’d care to read it thus.

Enjoy!


The Fool’s Respite, four walls of hopes and dreams held together through a unique mix of stubbornness and despair, was the only place he could go when he returned to the Fort that evening. The wind, bitingly cold and threatening to topple him at every step, pushed him towards the battered wooden door and the sanctuary inside.

A few of the regulars, soldiers and other freelancers like him that he knew by sight, glanced up as he entered. Some looked back into their drinks immediately, their curiosity outweighed by their apprehension. The rest, their eyes wide and their mouths open, followed his swaggering progress towards the polished log that served as a bar. He still wore the cerise silk jacket, its brocade as pristine as the day it was sewn on, and he still carried the longsword with its ornate hilt, but apart from these obvious signs of wealth and foppery, they couldn’t believe it was him.

His hair, once a rich, golden brown was now sandy and greying at the temples. His face when he had left a few days before had been soft, his features still slightly blurred by youth, but now it was hard, a square jaw and sharp cheekbones covered in pale skin marred by a slight cut to the cheek and a dusting of stubble.

“My gods, Baptiste, what happened?” Elisa, the only barmaid who had been willing to look past his cocksure arrogance and get to know him, poured him a pint from the barrel behind the bar and pushed it towards his hand. As one, the chairs in the tavern creaked slightly as their occupants leaned closer. Baptiste raised the tankard, turned to face the crowd and downed a mouthful of the dark, bitter liquid. A barely suppressed grimace flashed over his face.

“Y’all want to know?” An easy smile drifted lazily onto his lips and a few of the nearby patrons looked away, intent on their own drinks. Most of the regulars, bored of being trapped inside by the biting wind, merely nodded. “Fine. I’ll tell ya.” He took another mouthful and pulled himself onto a stool at the bar. Elisa moved down the length of the log so she could watch his face better.

“As y’all know, I was in here a few days ago, helping Marek celebrate.” A knowing nod spread among the regulars. “I was due to head out beyond the fort the next day, so I shouldn’t have had has much to drink as I did, but a man’s got a right to drink his fill.” A murmur of assent flashed among those closest to him. “Reckon you’ll know the people I travelled with.” He paused and closed his eyes, his lips moving slightly as he recalled the names. “Fianna, Argavistus, Gwendolyn and Alister.” The names met with a mixed reaction and he waited for the crowd to fall quiet again.

“We headed out into the wilds, plannin’ on clearin’ the mines out so the Fort can start workin’ metal again, an’ sign postin’ the way for others. We found our way easy enough, followed a path Argavistus knew down a shallow valley towards the mines.” He paused, sipping the beer, “That’s where we found Baptiste’s Boulders. Two perfectly round boulders just layin’ in the middle of the path and it’s an adventurer’s right to name weird things they come across.

“So, we walked past the boulders and found the mine. Fianna knew the mine wouldn’t reach the other side of the hill, somethin’ ‘bout the air not movin’. While she was working that out, Agarvistus was poking around some faeces. He spent so long doin’ that I got bored and went in, figurin’ we’d either find the thing that made them or it’d find us. It was almost evening by this time so no-one was surprised when we found an empty bear den. It’d be huntin’, you see?

“We kept movin’, pushin’ deeper into the mine where we found something that seemed to eat the iron in the walls, and after we dealt with that, we found a dead dwarf, crushed by fallin’ rocks. I assume it was a dwarf, it had a map covered in ancient dwarven runes sewn into its clothes. Course, Fianna, a dwarf herself, wanted to lay it to rest so we set up camp and I went to sleep.” His knuckles whitened on the handle of his tankard and his eyes dropped to the floor.

“’magine my surprise when the mine got cold, wakin’ me up in time to see a gnome’s ghost walkin’ towards Alister. That’s how this happened.” He gestured to his hair and face. “Reckon I lost twenty years to the Shrieking Cold.” He fell silent and emptied the tankard in one long pull before slamming it onto the bar. “Didn’t sleep well after that, and I was happy when my watch came around.

“Breakfast, when we had it, was roast bear. I heard it returning during my watch and we tried to sneak up on it but,” He paused, looking around him, “dwarves in heavy armour with a lame leg aren’t the quietist travelling companions.” A laugh rippled through the bar. “But we managed to bring it down.” His left hand slid into his pocket, pulled out a bear claw and began toying with it. “It’s not the nicest bear I ever ate, that was in Albert’s in Rocquevin, but it filled us and gave us the strength we’d need to follow the dead dwarf’s map.

“From what we could make out, we knew we were lookin’ for a waterfall, probably stained red by the iron in the earth accordin’ to both Fianna and Alister. So, we retraced our steps, walking back towards the mountains where we found such a thing, a waterfall of red water falling in front of a fake wall. Fianna pushed, and the wall opened, revealin’ some sort of temple.” He met the eyes of those looking at him. “I pray you’ll never have to hear the wailing of the trapped souls we found in there, their essence holding an undead creature of great power at bay.” He shuddered.

“The thing almost took the life of Valor, one of the Fort’s guards, when he joined us earlier that day, but I managed to drag him out of danger in time. Thanks to the two clerics of smith gods we had with us, Fianna and Argavistus, my sword and Fianna’s hammer managed to wound the creature enough to undo whatever magic held it together and we sent it back where it came from, laying the trapped souls to rest and freeing an elemental thar was also being used to jail it.” Absently, he took the full tankard Elisa passed him. “If you go beyond the walls, you’ll find a new river rising.

“The frontier isn’t what I thought it’d be.” He said, raising the drink high. “So, here’s to us, the fools at the edge of the world, and to Gwendolyn Maple, a warmer heart you’d struggle to find.”

Prophecies of the Elements

Here is a selection of prophecies to inspire your own story hooks in whatever tabletop rpg you are playing, or to provide an ambiguous plotline for you to incorporate into your own games.

I would be interested to know what you, or your players, make of them, so please let me know in the comments.


 

When the sun burns green,

And the trees sing in an unknown breeze,

A faceless man will bring a rose from the East.

When he reaches the tower and gifts the rose to a woman of unmatched knowledge,

The winds of the Great Plains will sweep over the land and bring plague with them.

*/*

At the dawning of the new age,

An age of blood, steel and smoke,

A child will be born.

To her, will the secrets of the Ancients be given,

To her, will all the skill of the Children of the Stone be taught.

When she is of age, a great calamity will befall the house of Hask.

Only a gift of the earth, purest of the many Azure Crowns, will save it.

*/*

As the sun and the moon meet,

As the seas fall calm and the animals sleep,

As the plants in the field wither,

He shall come unbidden.

A stranger, cloaked and playing a lute,

With hair of fire and tongue of silver.

He will charm all who see him,

And destroy all who follow him.

He brings the cold, cleansing fire of death.

*/*

There is a cave in the middle of the world,

A mouth of broken stone and trailing plants.

A bear lives in the cave, her fur matted and hide scarred.

The world-bear carries the weight of the world on her shoulders and guards the fortunes of all.

At the height of its powers, a great empire will challenge the moon for supremacy of the night.

It will win, and the moon will fall, shattered into a hundred pieces.

As it dies, the seas will rise and wash into the cave, drowning the bear.

My vision sees nothing more,

Save a bear skull bobbing on a tide of blood.