Friday, October 25, 2013

My RPG Person Profile (thanks Zak)

Okay, so I was over at the Age of Ravens blog and Lowell put up his RPG Person Profile, an idea posted by Zak S. yesterday over at Playing D&D With Porn Stars.  So, here is my profile:

I'm currently running (at home): Pathfinder (modified Shackled City adventure path)

Tabletop RPGs I'm currently playing (at home) include: Pathfinder, Castles & Crusades

I would especially like to play/run: Albedo: Platinum Catalyst, CthulhuTech

...but would also try: D&D 4th Edition, Exalted, ACKS

I live in: Maryland; people eat a lot of crabs here

2 or 3 well-known RPG products other people made that I like: Empire of the Petal Throne, Three Sixteen (3:16), Call of Cthulhu, Paranoia, Dyson’s Delves

2 or 3 novels I like: The Gray Prince (Jack Vance), The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge (Harry Harrison). The Princess Bride (William Goldman)

2 or 3 movies I like: The 5th Element, Castaway on the Moon, Princess Mononoke,
Big Trouble in Little China, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Best place to find me on-line: on Google+ or my blog, The DM from Outremer

I will read almost anything on tabletop RPGs if it's: a world or city guide (especially with maps!)

I really do not want to hear about: general griping/whining without a point
Games I'm in are like:  my chance to do bits of improv acting to entertain myself and my friends

Free RPG Content I made for D&D type games is available here:
Free RPG Content I made for Pathfinder/3.5 games is available here:

Free RPG Content I made for Traveler games is available here:

Free RPG Content I made for any game is available here:

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Chronicles of the Amazing Trevor: Chapter Six (Words of Passion)

In which Trevor encounters a ghoul, witchcraft, Veronica, magical treasures, and fantastical portals to other worlds--all of which pale in comparison to the incredible words which his lovely Katherine speaks to him in a moment of unreserved passion...

Following our late-night contretemps with the riverine child slavers who had posed as clerics of the Temple of Light we returned at length to the mansion, a place I was beginning to feel more and more at home in.  Katherine slept in the same room as the rescued children so as to relieve their fears but a couple preferred to spend the night in the stable with the gentle giant Kull.  Uhmri informed us that he planned to sleep up on the roof, but as I had earlier determined that he was in fact a druid I was little surprised.  I was however very much taken aback to glance down a corridor on my way to a well-deserved feather bed and see Katherine happily embracing the odd-fellow Brute.

Katherine happily embracing the odd-fellow Brute?

I stopped, uncertain that I had seen what I had seen.  But then it happened again...and again.


I quite literally did not know what to think.  So with that I simply took myself off to bed and let the deep oblivion of the dreamlands take me away.

The sound of marching military boots awoke me with a jolt early the next morning.  A raid!  No stranger to the sudden arrival of the watch, I immediately dressed and mentally reviewed escape routes off the property.  The troop halted outside the front gate and I heard the sargeant post two of his watchies and march the rest on.  But they could be posting guards in a cordon all around and so speed was of the essence.  I rushed downstairs post-haste to where Katherine already was gathering our troops, as it were.  She was all business and brushed off my attempts to apologize for the fiasco with Veronica at dinner the previous evening.

For some minutes we waited in breathless anticipation of the assault, but none came.  Apparently the house was simply being placed under closer guard.  We soon continued discussing our next move.  Katherine was determined to take young Broderick Natal to the city court and get him somehow recognized as the legitimate heir of his late councilman father Remi.  I demurred, pointing out that the remainder of his family and apparently also the household staff had been mysteriously detained.  If Broderick was presented as a surviving member of the family he might well be clapped in irons straightaway (and us with him, mind you).  Katherine, however, was not entirely dissuaded.  To mollify her I offered to make use of my not inconsiderable skills as a thespian to don a disguise and make inquiries at the court.  I planned to pose as a distant cousin of Remi's innocently arriving in town for a visit and finding him missing.  The group's reaction to my reasonably clever plan was mixed but in the end they were for it.

Katherine, Brute, and Kull gathered the children to head down to the temple once again.  My K. was particularly concerned that young Merity be included--as was I, to be quite frank.  However she was nowhere in sight.  The mute servant Kevin, in typically semi-helpful fashion, tried to pantomime the situation for us.  After a few moments of fruitlessly watching him we simply decided on our own that since she was not here she must be hiding inside somewhere.  The gnome, too, was missing.  This time Kevin was able to explain that the bearded little grasshopper was dead asleep somewhere inside.  Clearly this Kevin fellow would have to be replaced as soon as Broderick and I got around to reopening the mansion.

So we went our separate ways for the day.  Katherine, Brute, and Kull proceeded out the back with the children towards the temple.  Uhmri set out for the market for something--mostly likely a new fishing pole.  I  went quietly back up to Remi's room to browse his wardrobe for a disguise.  The contents were of reasonable quality materials but of a somewhat nouveau riche style.  Clearly I should start planning for my own wardrobe once I was all settled in.  Remi had been slightly taller and a bit thicker around the middle but I was able eventually to effect an ensemble suitable for the role I planned to play.

Suddenly it struck me that the mansion was very quiet indeed.  Then I remembered: the secret treasure room behind the fireplace!  It wouldn't take long to give it a look, and perhaps pocket a choice item or two, before heading out to the courts.  I slipped down the corridors towards the study, the entire time dreading an encounter with Merity who was still on the loose somewhere.  But luck was with me and I made it undetected.

Trevor by the mosaic (image found on the internets, not mine)
A bit of prestidigitation on the mosaic and the back of the fireplace easily swung wide.  To my surprise, and mild consternation, it was not a small treasure room but a fairly large bare room with a staircase going up and stone steps leading down.  Downwards seemed dark and unappealing so I chose upwards.  After a very long set of stairs I arrived at a landing with a door.

I paused, remembering that the houses of the wealthy often had secret back staircases.  These allowed a way to get out of trouble if secret assassins arrived and a way to get into trouble if secret lovers arrived.  This simple door likely opened into a bedroom--where Merity might be waiting.  The hairs on the back of my neck stood up like a hedgehog's spines.  I imagined her there in nothing more than a thin nightgown she was just trying on from Madam Natal's wardrobe, seeing me, and rushing over just in time for the gnome to walk in.  I would never be able to explain my way out of it, secret staircase or no.  But then, this might be just the hidden treasure-house of my dreams.  I couldn't turn back now.  I grasped the knob in authoritative fashion, took a breath, and made my entrance.

My rakish tilt of cap and well-executed grand sweep of cape were, alas, entirely wasted.  The room was unoccupied--but by no means unfurnished.  In fact the furnishings gave me more of a start than Merity in a nightgown.  This was clearly a chamber of magick most foul.  The room was hexagonal, the two walls to right and left each had a large mirror and the far wall a wardrobe.  Mirrors again!  Thankfully all the mirrors were covered with silk drapes to ensure that the viewer's soul could not be accidentally sucked from his heart and transported to the far nether regions of hell where cackling fiends would tear at it with cruel red hot claws and lash it with the tentacles of strange octopus-like creatures chained to the long rune-inscribed spinal columns of lich-werewolves which had been magicked by immersion in the caustic steaming oozes excreted from the bloated hind end of a...erm...I shook the visions from my head and focused once again on the intriguing wardrobe on the far wall.

It appeared ordinary enough--but as an experienced illusionologist I knew just how deceiving looks could be.  A bit of prestidigitation from a safe distance opened the door, revealing an assortment of women's clothing and two wooden boxes.  I gently lifted one box out with an additional bit of weirding and tossed it on the ground.  It shattered and out tumbled a tome of the most obvious evil.  I left it where it lay and brought out the second box.  Removing the lid I discovered two cloth bags lying inside.  Throwing caution to the wind I opened one and then the other.  The first contained four rings, fitted with a gem of red, dark blue, green, and white respectively.  The second held three items of mildly interesting jewelry.  I was quite chuffed.  Finally, things were looking up in the wealth department.  But I had stayed in this room of arcane devilry long enough--perhaps too long.  I descended the staircase, my spirits buoyed by the lovely twinkly bits of jewelry tucked snug in my purse.

As I learned later, the trio of Beauty and the Odd-Beasts had arrived in due time at the Temple of Light.  They met a priest there, apparently a genuine one this time, and discussed placing the orphans as apprentices at farms and other rural places with a lot of animals and poop.  Kull assisted the temple with repositioning a particularly large bit of ornamental stonework and they were rewarded with permission to arm themselves from an old crusader trove in the cellars.  Kull found a superb greatsword, Brute a greataxe and massive bow, and Katherine a shortsword, mace, rapier, and spear--almost as good a haul as two bags of jewelry, one might say.

Umhri, meanwhile, was browsing the market stalls.  He spotted the sneak-thief gnome we'd dealt with before who apparently made an entire career of posing as a child.  The little blighter was helping himself to purses right and left.  Failing to engage the interest of nearby guards he pursued the cutpurse on a merry chase about the market and finally cornered him in a woman's stall.  Awkwardly, the scamp concealed himself under her enormous skirt.  Uhmri seized the gnome's legs under her skirt and was almost arrested by the watch--who only now took an interest--for attempting improprieties with her nether regions.  To Uhmri's satisfaction the gnome was apprehended and marched off.  The young druid resumed his shopping and eventually purchased a rather decent set of protective bracers.

Back at the mansion I paused behind the fireplace and was annoyed to hear the gnome and Merity outside in the study.  Merity had apparently seen me entering the study.  For a tense few moments I listened to them search about the fireplace but they were unsuccessful.  With my exit temporarily encumbered with their presence I decided to descend the stone steps to whatever lay below.  A simple flourish of the wrist produced a quotidian arcane light to guide my way.  The steps wound down into a small room with a heavy iron-bound door with a small barred window.  The question was whether this door was to keep intruders out or something in.  After viewing the witch's playroom upstairs I was on my guard.  There could be any manner of creature penned in here.  Then I spotted a key on a hook on the wall--proof that this was indeed for containment.  Cautiously I peered through the bars of the small window...and something stirred within!  Indeed there were two, one lying on the ground the other straining at chains set into the wall.  They wore ragged-looking clothing and the active one made unnatural croaking and moaning sounds as it attempted to break free and feast on my flesh.

I leapt back.  What manner of creature were these?  The mansion had been unoccupied for some time and these hidden rooms did not appear frequently used.  How long had they been down here?  Then it struck me: they must be ghouls, unliving creatures kept here by the witch to dispose of the bodies of her victims.  The unliving did not need food or drink and could be kept in such a place indefinitely.  The view into the shadowed chamber through the small opening was poor but what else could they be?  Ghouls were accounted to be extremely dangerous.  Even thus chained they might use the necrotic weirding power in their eyes to compel me to place myself in their cruel grasp.  But I knew that the unliving recoiled from the Light and quickly resolved to find Katherine at once to aid in dispatching the foul creatures.

Katherine, meanwhile, was enduring an awkward interview with the head of the temple, a certain Brother Lore.  The trio described him later as freshly barbered, uncommonly fastidious, and smelling strongly of soap.  Lore did reveal that the temple was closed on certain days because most of his people were away up north opposing the goblin menace.  He also mentioned that he had not heard from them in weeks.  Lore promised to ask the L&Os to station a paladin on days the temple was closed to prevent bogus priests from operating there.

Hurrying up from the cell level I paused behind the fireplace to ascertain whether Merity or Boomtock the gnome were still there.  Merity babbled on for a bit as young girls do and then left to find more interesting pursuits.  There were some indeterminate noises and then I heard some unpleasant grunting noises from the gnome.  I was just blanking my mind to avoid imagining what Boomtock might be doing to himself after spending a time in unrequited proximity to the young maiden when the fireplace swung open.  Damn!  Damn gnomes and their annoying cleverness with mechanisms!

I stood nonplussed for a moment, then hit upon an idea.  "I say, Boomtock, you're just the man I was looking for.  I've found the treasure room.  It's downstairs.  It's desperately stuffy down there and I just had to come up for air.  Do have a look won't you, there's a good chap."  I went over and opened the window.  He took the hint and disappeared down the steps.  I edged over towards the door so I could run and get Katherine as soon as I heard the heavy door open.  Alas, the annoyingly clever little monkey-man reappeared almost immediately.  He reported finding no treasure, just some "people" in a room.

Back in town Uhmri continued his perambulations and by ill chance encountered Veronica, a woman who until last night had been my Biggest Fan Ever.  In typical fashion, she immediately took a fancy to his wiry physique (apparently despite the home-made wolf pelt overgarment which he insisted on wearing).  She was just moving in to take possession of her new toy when Kull, Brute, and Katherine arrived.  As the two champions of womanhood took the measure of one another, Uhmri took advantage of the distraction to make his escape. But Katherine had no intention of shouldering his burden and helpfully showed Veronica the direction he had taken.

The three continued their shopping.  Kull purchased some footwear, possibly his first ever personal experience with that particular item of apparel.  Brute, stout fellow, found himself in the unenviable situation of holding Katherine's belongings while she examined several gowns.  Bored and chagrined at his well-meaning but somewhat unmanly situation he made a terrible miscalculation.  Turning to Kull he whispered in jest, "Run".  Alas, he had entirely forgotten what a steadfastly literally minded fellow was our Kull.

Kull naturally assumed that Brute was warning him of some hidden danger and immediately began a one-man stampede through the crowded marketplace.  His massive bulk went through the crowd like a plow down a furrow.  The watchies on guard nearby made the mistake of taking up the chase.  Awnings and baskets flew up like geese disturbed by a naughty child as Kull followed his new orders to the best of his ability.  The pursuing agents of law and order struggled to match the raw power of his heroic thighs, each one possessing individually the might of a raging bull.  He was unstoppable.

Katherine, after an extended period of careful consideration, finally decided on a truly lovely gown of finely woven deep sapphire blue wool with a lining of the fairest silk.  Embroidery sewn by the most patient grannies in the city graced the hem and collar in delightful fashion.  It was absolutely worth every last gold coin she had (which is exactly what she paid for it).  But the romantic music of harps in her mind faded suddenly as Brute dragged her off to find Kull.

By now the largest of our odd-fellows was down by the cemetery.  Kull stood, looking about with deeply furrowed brow.  He rummaged about in the echoing caverns of his skull for the reason he was in this place but came up empty handed.  It was a hard question.  Kull wasn't good at hard questions.  His friend Brute was good at questions.  Perhaps Brute would know.  So he set off to find his friend and ask why he was at the cemetery.

Brute, Katherine, and their shopping bundles followed the trail of sweaty, exhausted town watchmen scattered in the streets in the wake of the bipedal leviathan.  They caught up with him at a small smithy.  The massive odd-fellow had happened on it and asked to work on his newly acquired sword.  Thus was he at his work, the very picture of controlled might.  His childhood skills came back to him easily as he worked the steel.  And he sang.  He sang with a voice uncountably pure for one so misshapen.  He sang with passion and feeling unleashed as his mind was concerned with hammer and fire.  Nearby the teenaged daughters of the smith secretly enjoyed watching his glistening, rippling, shirtless skills as he worked.  Brute and Kull had a joyful reunion like long-lost brothers then returned with Katherine to the mansion.

Uhmri made his way to the river bank just outside of town.  He intended to relax after his rather unnerving encounter with Veronica, the Ravenous She-Wolf of Adan, with a bit of fishing.  There was nothing quite so enjoyable as a bank, a stream, and a baited line.  The sun was warm and the grass soft.  Soon he was accompanied on the bank by several decently sized fish.  He was just starting to really relax when he was suddenly accosted by two oafish watchies who claimed that fishing was illegal here.  It was then that the young druid noticed the inconvenient sign nearby to that effect.  The two demanded he pay a fine--in cash.  Uhmri refused and after some roughhousing he dived in and swam quickly to the safety of the far bank.  The pair bantered with him a bit then confiscated his fish.  Squeezing the water from his assemblage of wolf pelts the soggy druid headed back to the mansion.

I, meanwhile, tracked down the servant Kevin.  The fellow always seemed to know more than he let on and it was possible he knew all about the horrors in the secret cellars.  However he seemed genuinely amazed at the secret room behind the fireplace when I revealed it to him.  Then I led him downstairs to gauge his reaction to the ghouls.  The poor fellow leapt back in abject terror, then fled with a silent scream curiously framed on his voiceless mouth.  Needing time to think all this over I headed to a nearby tavern in search of a much needed strong drink.

Kull, Brute, and Katherine were nearing the house when they beheld the spectacle of Boomtock bouncing down the street like some large, bearded rabbit.  He was pursued by an enraged watchie intent on his capture.  The escapade was occasioned by Boomtock needing an entertaining diversion after the disappointment of not finding any treasure in the secret cellar.  Looking out the window he'd spotted the two guards posted at the mansion gate that morning.  The watchies were always a handy source of entertainment.  He had quickly activated his magic boots and engaged them in a game of tag.  After Boomtock disappeared off down the street, Kevin rushed up to the trio and wildly pantomimed something about "Trevor in prison".

At the tavern I ordered a drink.  The barmaid began chatting me up, apparently taking a fancy to me.  She asked me what I did.  Confident in my well-chosen set of fine garments, with cap and cape adjusted to best affect, I looked into her eyes and said "I'm an illusionologist".  Now, women love a well-dressed man.  And when one combines that with a profession of significant status the effect is irresistible.  She would be the moth to my flame.  She looked back at me, clearly appraising my strong jaw and perfectly trimmed moustache.  Then she said, "Oh", and wandered off to take some dirty glasses in the back for washing.

Back at the mansion, Katherine, Brute, and Kull followed Kevin down into the cellar.  Entering the cell with little regard for their own safety they found a woman and man in servant's clothing chained to the wall.  The man was already dead but the woman was barely alive.  She struggled to speak but they saw that her tongue had been cut out.  Also in the room were whips, some odd devices for drawing blood, and several brass goblets with dried blood in them.  They brought the surviving victim up and made her comfortable.

Then they went upstairs to the witch's hex room.  Entering to explore, Kull accidentally knocked one of the coverings off a mirror.  Instead of reflecting him there in the room it showed him standing in a green forest.  They quickly pulled all the coverings off and found that the other three mirrors showed scenes of a sea coast, a winter landscape, and a desert.  The frames of the four mirrors were painted in colors suggesting the scenes: green, blue, white, and red.  Noticing the arcane tome on the floor where I left it, Brute considered destroying it with his ax.  Katherine prevailed on him to leave it, suggesting that the magic within could be used for good.

On my way back to the mansion I was almost trampled by Boomtock.  He bounded down the street with a wild grin on his face, clearly enjoying the effects of his new boots.  The two watchies pursuing him, however, were clearly not enjoying the effects of his new boots at all.  Entering the house I encountered my three companions downstairs.  I quickly warned them that there was a secret area with chamber of black witchery in the attic and ghouls chained in the basement.  In turn they quickly explained to me all that they had uncovered in those very same rooms.

I was devastated.  My mind reeled in consternation.  How could I have been so blind?  That poor woman in the cellar!  How many times had one of us gone down there, looked in with a light, then departed leaving her still chained in darkness?  Katherine challenged me on why I had not rescued the prisoner.  She was incredulous.  Her eyes blazed with passion.  She was magnificent while I was nothing.  Crushed, I attempted to explain how it all had seemed, the strange sounds the woman made, the darkness, and my plan to bring Katherine to use the Light.  She would hear none of it.  "Trevor, grow some balls!", she exclaimed.  It was like being stuck in the face with a hard-thrown snowball.

I was spared further devastation by the sudden arrival of Uhmri, still dripping.  We informed him of the recent important events.  I showed the group the four rings I had discovered in the wardrobe with colored gems corresponding to the colors of the mirror frames.  Then Kull finally remembered that he had a question for his friend Brute.  "Why Brute say run?", he asked.  That led to mention of the shopping in the market and only then did I notice all the weapons, armor, clothing, bracers, and shoes which my companions had acquired.  I found that a bit annoying.  I asked if they'd really spent the entire afternoon just shopping and flitting about town while I heroically braved dangerous secret rooms alone.  They countered with a query on whether I'd actually gone to the courts as agreed.  I counter-countered with the explanation that once I'd found a chamber of witchery and an apparent ghoul in the house the clandestine visit to the courts became of secondary importance.

We bickered and traded counter-counter-counter accusations for a while, then I left to make what apologies I could to the unfortunate woman from the cellar.  She was resting in bed but seemed to not recognize her surroundings at all.  Apparently the horrifying experience in the cell had driven her senseless.  Humbled, I fed her some soup and tucked in the bedcovers.

Afterwards I returned to my room.  Exhausted and rather demoralized I dumped my borrowed finery on a chair and crawled under the covers.  The fragments of my shattered relationship with Katherine were now completely ground down into dust.  How could things possibly get any worse?  At length I drifted off into an uneasy sleep and had a dream wherein I stepped through a mirror into a bright, fantastical meadow...

The Journal of Katherine, Entries 39 and 40

Following our last Castles & Crusades romp, the young sorcerer-cleric Katherine once again ponders recent events in her personal journal.

Entry 39 (continues)...

Because of the evening's awkward moments, I wait for Brute to come back, for I must talk and reflect the day’s events.  He is such a big brute of a brother, I give him three hugs, once for being a big brother to me, once for going to diner, and once more for being right about Trevor.  My concerns lay with what the party does with thugs and brigands once they surrender or we subdue them.  I reason with Brute that killing defenseless people will not allow them to explain their actions.  He argues that if we don't kill them, they will just do their murdering again.  However, we are not sure if the thugs were coerced into doing their actions, much like the ogre being controlled by witchcraft.  Brute thinks this through and agrees to it, and agrees to talk to Kull as well.  We also talk about Trevor and why Brute and Kull must protect me.  Brute was fine if I liked Trevor, but not fine, if Trevor only wanted to make me like him.  He states but not in that nice of a way, instead a bit more of a "brutish" sort of a way.  I agree with Brute, in that I am not fine if Trevor makes me like him or if any man forces this upon me.

Trevor and I are at odds today and it has built over the past few days.  The differences are with his leadership role of the group, and also with where the responsibilities lay with the children.  And as the leader, he must guide the party to follow through with our intentions.  We accompanied young Broderick back to his mansion, and promised to have him restored rightfully so.  But we have returned twice and have done nothing with the court to have the ownership change.

The talk with Brute is good, talking about our differences make both of us aware of the other's concerns.  I express my concern about Trevor, and his lack of noticing me at diner.  Also, Trevor and I don't talk.  If only he stated how elegant I was, in my nice evening dress earlier in the night, and talk about us.  Why could he not say something?  Brute suggested that Trevor was only a "business associate."  I reluctantly agree.

I turn in for the night thinking of what might have been...

Entry 40

So much has happened this day.  I find myself writing here, more and more, almost daily.  A woman at death's door lies close by, as I nurse her back to good health.  She is a victim of senseless destruction.  And while we plan to search for more survivors in the villages attacked by goblins, Brute has a dilemma.  I, however, made my decision to stay here to find out who did this act of cruelty.  Let me explain how we rescue her, as it is by accident that we find her.  This is the following day, on a Friday, from my previous entry.

In the morning, I wake refreshed and ready to deal with the challenges I will face.  My first concern is the unfinished business.  I hear voices of guards outside of the house.  I peek to view through the shutters and see two men guarding the front door.  There must be a reason they are here, but that one will be for a different time.  Without waiting for the others to create more problems, I call a meeting of our group to tie the loose ends on the problems we already have.

My problem to handle is with my temple.  And Kull and Brute want to take the children to the temple, for we found homes before for a group of children we already saved once.  We all agree to this.  I suggest for Trevor, with his amazing talents, to go to the court, and have the ownership of papers move to Broderick.  Trevor thinks he should first find the reason why the family members were removed from the house, as maybe Broderick would be removed, too, using the same reason.  Trevor suggests making a disguise and appearing as an uncle.  This is Trevor taking charge, I like this, he is the leader.  Next is the house.  I want Boomtuck to clean the house under Uhm Uri's supervision.  I also suggest that Trevor talk to the gnome about the mess he made.  When I asked, the little one lies about doing the mess.  I point out here in my journal, how Kull does not want me to lie, yet, the gnome, just lies so obviously, and no one tries to change that.  Maybe I might have a word with Kull about that.  And Trevor did not seek me out to make an apology about last night.  No.  That did not happen.

The children, with Brute, Kull and I walk to the temple.  We make sure the children are safe.  Kull shines in that moment, as much as any saint, when he bends down on a knee, and asks the children what they want.  He continues to explain that we can not provide for them, and the children cannot stay with us.  This is another moment, so unexpected with the group, Kull specifically.  I feel the urge to embrace Kull, his action - so simple, but so correct.  I later give that big brother type of hug.  While we wait for the high priest to return, we discuss where we can find an armory.  The naives overhear us, and suggest we follow them.  They show us a place, a storage room, full of old weapons, from battles fought long ago.  With a little encouragement from the Power of the Light, we find some items of exceptional qualities, and generously donate to the cause.  I see a banner of a symbol from the temples long ago, when the Light and the Law were joined.

Once the High Priest returns to the temple, we conduct our meeting.  The office has an odor of supreme cleanliness, like fresh incense fills the air.  The priest appears as if his hair was trimmed a few minutes ago.  He is dressed in his normal robes.  Brute and Kull exchange glances and makes sure the priest does not see, then Kull seems upset about something and leaves to wait outside.  I prepare to argue with the priest, having my support reasons, and to demand the temple to be open every day of the week, volunteering if I must.  But he calms me in a second, explaining that many clerics are away to fight the goblins, and that the Law will have some Paladins check on the unopened days.  I am relieved.  It is almost like he read my mind, just total agreement.  With the issue of the children and the temple concluded, the priest asks of my name.  I state the truth, bracing for the consequences of my actions years ago - words travel fast.  He mentions a brother I remember, it has been years ago since I saw him last.  As we are leaving, he eludes to the reason of my departure, and the dreaded H word.  I move to take my leave, and avoid another awkward moment, by ignoring the statement.  This did bring back some unpleasant memories.  When I left, I was never told the reason, or I didn't pay attention.  I thought it had to do with my involvement with the sorcerers.  I did not have a trial, or at least I was not present at it.  I do know I did dedicate myself to the Faith, but that differs from the Order.  For orders interpret the Faith differently where the teachings are unclear.  I reference the Order of the Spirituals that believe in poverty.  And they are persecuted because there are many in the temples that want to retain and get more wealth.  And with wealth is power.  I must be careful.  I quickly leave without giving a look to Brute.

With our business done at the temple, we walk back and I move my thoughts from those years ago, to my new "business associates."  I'm sure Trevor has made progress with his task, I remembered thinking, too.  So we stop at the market for some new clothes, as I can not use my armor when practicing sorcery.  After making sure the items fit well, and the colors are to my liking: a nice blue silken robe, cloak and green pants, Brute calls out to Kull to run.  That is strange, almost like a battle cry.  Brute does not move.  I am startled by this, but with Brute not moving I continue to look at the wares.  The strangeness: do they not want me to know or is it a guy thing?  Brute gives the most strange conversations to Kull.  But Brute is very kind to me; he carries all of my stuff and he gives the clerk a large tip.

I think about how I will wear these new clothes, and I wander to think about Trevor, again.  I remember how interested he was with making the disguise, a new spark in him.  In my sleep I mulled over it, it was just a passing thought.  No, his action the night before, and no apology today, definitely says he is not interested.  If I write it here often enough, it helps me get on with other things.  I sure hope he thought of my actions as just business, too, for if I express any signs, he may take... No, I must not worry about that, he has no feelings for me what-so-ever, it is only my feelings I must cope with.  I practically threw myself at him - nope I have nothing to worry about.  Besides, it would never work out, for I am bound to my Faith, above all else.  And I find we are far apart on more and more issues: like consistency and dedication, as I will explain soon.

With all of my busy thoughts, I hardly notice Brute saying we must take a detour, for Kull ran, and we must find him.  We follow the path of many tired guards, for again, some strange reason they are chasing him.  We follow the guards like breadcrumbs dropped in the forest to find a way back.  Soon I am distracted by a most lovely tenor voice singing out a melody, accompanied by a rhythmic beat to a hammer and anvil.  I slow my walk since the voice is familiar.  With my eyes closed, I remove the visual distractions, and let my ears guide me.  One can study the sounds while immersed in darkness better.  I am swept off my heels as I listen.  I move closer, I can here others gossip.  It adds to the song.  I open my eyes and see a group of women observing the massive hulk of Kull, bent over the anvil, shirtless, muscles flexing, ripe with sweat, glowing and reflecting the red hues of the hot coals from the forge.  The girls, I can call them that, for they are enjoying the lust of their lives.  But me, I see something else that they don't see.  I see at first, a meticulous craftsman, taking iron ingots, and hammer shape and form, becoming a father of each creation.  I look again, and see an honest and caring, gentile giant that is great with children.  I also see an ideal that stands for his principles and a protector, but also an enforcer.  I also see a darker man, a boy that grew old to quickly, fighting an internal struggle, one able of immense destruction.  And for the first time, I see Kull, ready with voice to match any in the temple choir.

I want to tell him he has a great voice, I cannot remember if I did.  I remember walking back to the mansion.  Swimming in so many thoughts: of heresy, of new clothes, Trevor done with the court, finally the loose end tied, of the children cared for, new weapons, planning the next trip into goblin land.  And how did Kull learn to sing so well?  I try remembering the words to the tune, humming it over.  The melody voice with the ping and the clack, then the hiss of the water on the hot metal - I cannot remember more, for I am snapped back to the house, Brute is talking to Kevin, who is now hysterical.

I take a few moments to adjust to the new scene.  Kevin gives us gestures, his seriousness begs us to follow him to the basement quickly.  His gestures also show that Trevor is in a cell, somehow this vaguely makes sense.  Kevin leads us through a secret doorway behind a large fireplace in the study room.  A dark passage follows, but after a little conjure of light, I can see steps leading up and down.  Kevin points down and we wind down the stairs and find a cell, and this woman, which I mentioned at the beginning of this entry, is found chained inside of the cell.  She is a victim of torture, and has recent wounds suggestive of a dark blood drinking ritual.  Her wounds are not fresh, like made a week ago.  Brute breaks the shackle from her neck and she is free.  We remove the woman and place her near the kitchen, where I tended to her wounds.  But my healing can not replace her tongue so she can speak, as she was silenced by her captives, too.  I feel for her.  How easily could it have been me.  Most probably, she works in this house as a maid, and sees something, and then she is silenced in a very horrific manner.

We also check out the steps that go up, they lead up to a hexagonal room, with four mirrors, and each has a curtain covering them.  Each mirror has a picture of a scene: a desert, a forest, a coast, and a cold ice plain.  A wardrobe sits at the far side.  At the bottom of the wardrobe are two boxes, a large box with a book of arcane magic, and a smaller empty box.  We later find out that Trevor took four rings from the smaller box, that most likely control the four mirrors.  Black ritual robes are inside of the wardrobe.  Trevor's involvement I will describe next.

Once we are downstairs, Trevor returns to the house, bringing "...the images of shows, the wine is strong on his lips, tavern smoke is in his clothes, the dancing dwarven women, are reflected in his eyes, he just does not know how he looks, through my very own eyes..." (credit to the butthole surfers), and follows a heated discussion on where he was to go: the court, and where he obviously went: the basement, the attic and "out."  I will keep the dwarven women bar scene out of this - strickly "business," from now on.  What is his involvement with the secret rooms and the woman locked in the cell?  Obviously, he did nothing to the woman, but why did he leave her there, and why did he go out for ...?  Also, why was Kevin so upset with Trevor?

Neither do I want to defend his actions nor write an essay about his thoughts, but, I am writing the facts, and his statements, whether are true or false, must be included.  He said that the business here took all day, and he was to go to the court after this was done.  He thought the woman was a monster in the cell, and he did not want to risk opening the door, but he added that he risked his life for checking boxes, and found magic items.  He waited for me, the cleric, to be there to dispel the monster.  And when I show my frustration, he accuses me, of being slow and getting stuff at the market?  But I, along with Brute and Kull, solved two matters, one with the children and the other with my temple.

The discussion continues, and with discretion, I do not write every word, for I say a few inappropriate words which I should not have - but I am furious.  Still, I must apologize to him, for I am not being "business like."  Am I more upset because he failed to let me know, one way or another, what he thought of me or because he risked his life for material items and not for another life?  Before long, Brute steps in to quiet the discussion.  In after thought, if it were a monster, having more in the party would be better.  And his actions do discover this woman, who would have died had we not discover and free her.  If I may be judgmental, he should have gone to the court first, like we agreed, and then return to the house, like I did with Brute and Kull, after finishing our respective businesses.  Then we all could have explored the secret passage and have discovered the captive, together.

Back to the discussion, through some absurd aside, Ohm Uri walks right through our discussion, soaking wet, leaving puddles of river water where he steps.  And to finish out the day, Meritie bursts in, who is still here, comments about how complicated it is to listen to us.  She murmurs something about the temple, and she leaves us all.  Trevor could have hooked up with that, since he has no interest in me, or is Trevor leaning... back to the matters at hand.  With nothing more to say, in silence, I prepare to stay with the woman and will watch her, so she gets rest and in case she has any reactions or convulsions while resting.  I begin to write and now, I am caught up with the day’s events.

To think of Trevor's actions, they are most difficult for me to accept.  This, I alluded to earlier.  He works secretively, usurps his own directives, makes bad or incorrect decisions, drinks every night, and forgets his duties.  What was I thinking!  We are worlds apart.  It would only be of magic.  Or is there strong witchcraft at work?  This all started when we got to this house.  Let me review my entries...

... Entry 34 mentions of how I recall that Trevor is amazing, something I try really hard to avoid.  And this entry is after our first stay at the house, and after Trevor saw me sleep walking.  This must all be witchcraft!  These are not real feelings I have - I am sooo relieved. This house is affecting me, maybe all of us, is that the reason why the others were removed?  Wait, Kevin is also a mute, too coincidental? 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Kickstarter Updates: Ponies and 6d6

Both my current Kickstarter obsessions are still going strong: 6d6 and Ponies for Pathfinder.  Both of these projects have done a terrific job of sending out updates, providing sneak peaks at material, and providing opportunities to vote on stuff--even at a fairly basic level.  6d6 has several free 'zines on RPGNOW and backers have access to drafts of products.  As of right now I fully expect that both will be successful projects.  Now if I could just get 6d6 to do a ponies setting...hmm.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Dwarven Rearguard

Andrew over at Fictive Fantasies just posted a really cool adventure generator for dwarves traveling old dwarven roads called "The Road Home".  It's a great adventure generator and could even be played as a solo adventure.

As soon as I started reading it I remembered a really cool wargame idea from The Courier wargaming magazine (1993) called The Happy Little Rearguard by Jim Birdseye.  Roughly the idea is that you run a group of random stragglers from Napoleon's army retreating from Russia.  The board has a road running down the middle of it and your little band is in the middle.  The scenery is moved by on either side to simulate the group moving forward.  Each turn you randomly determine what scenery comes up next on each side and what random encounters happen.  To win you need to get some minimum number of your guys to travel X amount of road to catch up with the main force.  The keys are surviving fights, adding other stragglers as reinforcements, scavenging supplies (it's winter), and keeping morale up.

So...I was thinking that this game concept could mesh with Andrew's "dwarven road trip" game quite nicely. To keep with the original theme, the dwarves would battered survivors fleeing the recent destruction of their home fortress and trying to make it through a winter landscape crawling with roving enemies, monsters, and fellow refugees. They have a small cart pulled by strong draft ram with treasures and belongings, but no supplies (well, except the beer) and need to travel at least a week to safety.

So to Andrew's game I'd add these morale encounters, one per section of road (1d12):

  1. Beer keg leaked overnight: THERE'S NO BEER LEFT!!! (negative morale check)
  2. Small chest in road, probably fell off a cart, smashed open with coins spilled out (1d4 x 100 GP; positive morale check)
  3. Dying dwarf, riddled with arrows; 0 HP and just barely conscious; they have 1d4 turns to stabilize/heal or dies (negative morale check)
  4. Dwarf deserter comes out of hiding in rocks by side of road, claims he got separated in the dark, still wearing the clan guard tabard which is suspiciously clean (CN coward); fighter, with crossbow (full quiver of 20 bolts) and handaxe
  5. Abandoned cart, empty but in good condition; draft ram dead in the traces with enemy arrow in neck
  6. Spot cache of supplies in bushes by side of road, traditionally stashed by dwarf rangers for travelers; 1d6 person/days worth (positive morale check)
  7. Beheaded dwarf wearing royal messenger tabard of the fortress the group is heading towards; scroll case tossed nearby has official letter saying that the other fortress is under siege and asking the group's fortress for reinforcements (negative morale check)
  8. Draft ram pulling your cart steps on a thorn and gets a limp; half speed if not healed
  9. Sheets of ice: half speed unless they can think of something clever
  10. Sheets of ice: half speed unless they can think of something clever
  11. Pile of dead, stripped, gutted dwarves, clearly the members of an extended family, old and young alike (negative morale check)
  12. Pile of dead, stripped, gutted dwarves, clearly the members of an extended family, old and young alike (negative morale check)
Key change here is the addition of these morale checks. The party has just seen it's beloved clan fortress overrun, friends and family slaughtered, and now there's nothing back there but a massive pillar of thick, black smoke. So various events lead to a morale check. There are two kinds of morale checks, negative and positive. A failed negative check causes their morale (mental state) to drop one level; a successful positive check allow them to recover one level. The three levels are (per Pathfinder):
  1. Shaken
  2. Frightened
  3. Panicked
  4. Confused

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Journal of Katherine, Entries 35 to 39

This set of entries from the journal of the young cleric Katherine, as penned by the indomitable Kirk, brings her story up to the same point, chronologically, as that of the Chronicles of the Amazing Trevor.

Entry 35
I told them all. I am so relieved! It went well. I told them I ran away. I told them that I lied to the monks. I told them of the sorcerer Keith and his mentor. I told them of how I fell for him - and his magic. And I told them I was a lady of the Power of Light, traveling in disguise for safety and as a punishment. Done! I had to know that I would be safe; that I could trust them.

Karl was upset - in that I shouldn't lie again. Brute was upset about my treatment there. Brute also wanted to know why I ran away. That was a topic for another night, for the reason is complicated. Ohm Uri fainted. I stated that I was willing to leave the party, because I was not truthful with them, but they wanted me to stay. Maybe these are my new friends and family? I will always be truthful from now on; it is much easier this way. A fresh start, a new beginning, now is the time for me to work hard and earn their trust in me. I also told them that I learned some songs by the sorcerer. I wanted to make sure there would be no more surprises from me. I must explore that secret room in the house. I want to see if any books can help me learn more of White Sorcery. Back to the travels: we went north to find the tracks. We settled into a mindless trance, some days are worse than others, each one of us doing what is natural and expected: Brute - bent on destroying goblins. Karl - doing his workouts every night. Boomtuck - so money hungry, his illusions are spilling out of his head now. Trevor - wishing he was back in the city. Ohm Uri - quietly observing. And me - left to do all the rest, maybe because they think my place is the kitchen. Well, it seems like that. I lost track of how many days. Nothing much, but the road again.

We came to a burning village, filled with more horrors of war. I saw bodies tied up, tortured and killed. I immediately set about to prepare them for a proper funeral. Karl helped me, and the others went to explore. Soon, we heard battle cries and we started after them. On our way, we were ambushed by four goblins, two in front and two behind us. I turned and prepared for their charge, for Karl was well in front. The Power of Light held strong my shield, for one goblin's spear broke, and the other I blocked. I swung and connected a hard blow on a goblin, and its skull cracked under the weight of my hammer. Furry rose as I realized these hideous creatures were responsible for the torture and deaths of these villagers. Brute was right next to me in an instant, and felled the other goblin. The two in front of Karl turned and ran and then hid, but Karl just broke the hiding places and crushed them within. But still battle was raging. We continued to follow the sounds, and came across Trevor and Ohm Uri and soon the last goblin was dead. I healed our injured from the battles. My thoughts turned to the children, so I urged all of us to spend little time in the village, and resume the trail.

The tracks lead west, towards the trees and into the woods. We pressed on until we came to a camp. When we searched, Karl found an arrow head - the kind that rangers would use. This is a good sign.

Entry 36
We found Merity and the children. They were safe in a cave, I am now with them writing and answering their many questions. I am the same age as some of them, or maybe a year or two older. Seeing the trauma and strain in their eyes, I can tell they grow up fast in conditions like this - much like I grew up fast, under a different set of circumstances. The cave is home to a ranger, a girl, about as old as me, much stronger, but dirty, or should I write filthy, fighting for what she believes.

Let me back up for I skipped many details. It was morning, after we broke camp; Brute was following the trail leading through the woods. We passed in the woods in the late afternoon when the temperatures get hot, but here, the temperature feels cooler in the cover of shade. The trail went close to the clearings, but stayed out of site. Merity saw the same farm houses through the trees that we saw; only we saw burnt frames of ghostly reminders of the goblin's raid. I can only imaging the terror she and the children felt, as they were walking then, looking out at these very same houses, possibly with the goblins attacking, and they just huddled to remain unseen.

We came to a campfire where evidence showed the two groups of children were here together. This was the spot where they separated because of the wolf attack. Brute found the tracks leading towards the west. "This was not good," Brute said and he mentioned that Orcs live there."

We settled in to make camp, and in the middle of the night, we were awakened by Orcs attacking. They did not last long. In the battle, an unknown arrow sails into the last one alive. This arrow was from the young ranger, named Faylen, I mentioned earlier. Faylen led us to the cave where we are now. I was grateful that she held the children safe. I think she was more grateful they were coming with us. Half of them are now sleeping. Trevor dozed off first, and mumbled something about a mirror in his sleep. There is a different view of Trevor I see in the cave, how the firelight dances on his features. The others were hard on him, for not telling of my secret sooner, but he was doing it for me. That was thoughtful. Young Merity was there, and I watched closely how Trevor was with her. He treated her with respect. I approved. What am I thinking, how can I have any time for a relationship, when I've devoted my life to the Power of Light? But Trevor looks cute on the fur, almost comical with the way he tries to keep his clothes from getting dirty. The trip back to the city should be easy, but long with the children. Let us see how Trevor handles the children.

Entry 37
Back in Aden, the city, our first stop was to tend to the children. We promptly took them to the Temple of Light. A different priest we talked to now but, we left the children in good hands. We will check up on them in the morning. A short word about the trip back: I had suggested that Trevor sing a song for the children to make the time pass faster, but he would have none of that. Instead, I sang to Ohm Uri's playing. The music lifted the children's hearts. I gave encouraging words of comfort, retelling some stories I learned, and showed a joyful smile of infinite hope. Trevor was cold and frowning. On another night, I tried again to warm Trevor to the children; still he was cold, even stating that children are never to be around and in shows, or the like.

One last attempt to lighten Trevor's heart, I tried my old songs of sorcery that I learned years ago. I found out that my armor makes it near impossible to work these songs. After removing it, I showed the "Whisper: Softly on the Breeze," as I call it. This sends a message on the air, as I whisper to someone far away, but still within sight. To my amazement, Trevor heard my words! I had remembered it all this time! Keith and I would use that many times to plan late night meetings - we would talk about the far away places he traveled, and just show me so much magic. Somehow, he was able to alter the songs. He truly had mastery over it. Next I tried the "Sorcerer's Palm Push." This can move small objects without touching them, just by concentrating and with the right gestures. I tried it on a rock, but Boomtuck wanted to interfere. So, I used it to lift Boomtuck's dagger from its sheath. That was a surprise! The children and I laughed at that. It was nice to hear the children laugh, after all they were through.

I had persuaded Trevor to open the secret door, in exchange for a promise to have a glass of wine in his company. Once in the room, I found a nice book on arcane fire. I'll read this after the wine and food. Trevor also found something of interest.

Entry 38
Boomtuck, that gnome made a mess in the house. It was good that he did not go to dinner, as I had stated rather forcibly that he not go with us. However, his mess does not even compare to the mess that Trevor made this evening. Let me back up to before dinner...

Trevor thought going out for food would be best. So I wanted to get more comfortable, instead of this chain mail. I must really get a better suit, since I do not require this disguise anymore. I thought about Trevor. I agreed to just a drink, yet we are now going "out." He has been good to me. He did keep my secret when I asked of him. He has been close to me in battle, and was able to come to my help, when it seemed like I was in trouble. Could he have a fancy for me? Would he think of this as a "date?" Date or no date, I had to be presentable. I put on my formal white evening dress, and tied my sandals on my narrow feet. Letting out my long braided light-brown hair, the curls fell naturally over my fair shoulders. I haven't felt like this in a long time, but I knew Brute was near and I am much more confident in myself. Brute has become like a protective older brother. I went down stairs, Brute saw me with my hair let down, and a striking evening dress on my slender frame. He only shook his head sideways and rolled his eyes. I did not see the events that were coming this evening like Brute did, and he was able to see through Trevor.

We continued to wait for Trevor in silence. Then he appeared and well, appeared amazingly. He dressed in a scarlet red tunic, gold trimming on his outfit, his hair almost blowing in a non existent wind. A man of this talent and statue will make a fine lady proud some day. I wanting to say something, but I waited for him to say first. But did he? No. No remark of me or how I am dressed. He did speak, but only about food. Did he think I was fat or ugly, or not his type? This was just the first of many awkward moments this evening.

The inn was called the Boars Head. The three of us sat at a place where Trevor wanted a quick exit. Why, the reason will be along soon. Instead of talking about me or him, he was fixed on the smell of good food. After dinner was served, Trevor was annoyed by a rather vocal woman, with vast tracks of land, I can add. Trevor did not want the attention of that woman, and I saw that same look before, the look of avoidance. Then the woman remembered.

She invited herself to eat at our table right between me and Trevor, putting her back to me! That was so rude! Losing track of what they talked about, I was no match for that bosom of hers, for Trevor seemed fixated upon it. I thought Trevor was better than that. My pale green eyes seemed to pierce a cold wind, compared to her wide warm eyes with obviously fake eyelashes. My thin arms didn't have the massive soft texture of hers, the kind that show wealth. Then I was snapped back to the inn when I heard Trevor discounting me as just a business associate! That hurt! He must not have any feelings for me. How could I think of this as a "date?" Brute was quiet through all of this, but I can only imaging him telling me "I told you so." I was beginning to loose it. Brute must have seen me as a vengeful angel, for I was ready to strike like Karl in a blind rage, but again, Brute had that look about him that states "don't make a scene, finish and leave quietly." I recalled the breathing techniques that calm and relax, I slowly realize I am less stiff and the anger left. Then I hear this same woman telling the entire bar, that, Trevor never showed after he promised to meet her. This was a different Trevor that I knew. Was this true? I looked at Trevor, and he was caught in her trap. He did not look at me. If he made a promise, he had to keep it. I could not accept this. I do not mind who he saw, for I have my own past too, but, he should be sincere and keep his promises. My next memory was back at the mansion, I was swimming in thoughts, trying to put the pieces together. Maybe Brute had some words for Trevor (only of what a big brother would say), after I retired to my room, alone. I wrote the events, for good or ill, here in my journal. Did I discover the real Trevor without all of the illusions? I let down my guard with Trevor. With Keith, it was just so much more fun, musical, and magical.

Enough of this fantasy, I must be onto real work. The evening wasn't a total waste, I did get the book. And let me write of it. It mentioned a few elementary magics, but got cryptic early. It would take a while to learn of these runes...the book is too difficult. It decided I am not ready. But worse still, is this room. It is calling to me. The mirror. Let me find Trevor and Brute...

Entry 39
Instead I found Ohm Uri and he brought disturbing news that the children were missing from the Temple, the very same children that we dropped off there. He showed a bag of shackles he found. This was bad news, indeed. What happened to the priests at the temple? Were they killed? I rushed out of the house, not wasting time to get my armor, but only in my evening dress - the same that I wore to dinner on this ill fated night - and I asked that Brute be ready in the courtyard and all to head to the temple.

When we arrived, Brute started tracking the children's movements to the wharf. The priest at the temple stated that it is closed on certain days. I made a mental note to review this with the high priest in the morning. Meeting up at the wharf, the barge with the children was easily spotted. I had almost fallen into the water, if it were not for Boomtuck. He summoned colored lights which illuminated how close to the edge of the dock I was. I gave him a wink that I was grateful for his actions - maybe the small things matter the most with Boomtuck. The slavers were hiding the children in barrels. Ohm Uri and Karl were first on the boat. Karl lost control when he noticed the two slavers, and blindly swung his weapons and appeared like a wall of whirling blades. We had to get the children out of the boat, for Karl's rage threatened their safety. The rest of us did just that. Not realizing how many children were still in the boat, I tried the "Whisper: Softly on the Breeze," to get Karl to stop. However, only Karl knows what he heard in his head, but I must have reached him, for he did stop. Ohm Uri pulled the slaver free from Karl's view and bound him.

Once the children were calm, due to another nicely timed conjuration from Boomtuck, we decided where they should go. I succeeded in arguing against Trevor. He insisted the children were noisy, a burden, and a number of other names I will not write here. He did not want the children to stay at Broderick's house, but I could not trust anyone to take the children.

In the morning, we will deliver the slaver to justice and be used to further expose anyone else involved in the enslaving.  And the temple should have priests living there, to minimize this type of ruse.

When we arrived at the mansion, I wanted to have Ohm Uri and Trevor watch me as I get my things from the room. That room has strange witch craft powers. I cannot stay in that room. But, the same mirror that was calling out to me, the same mirror that I covered, the same mirror that lead me to the secret room, the same mirror that Trevor mentioned in his dream - that same mirror, Trevor was now staring into...

Review: D&D Next (Sept. 2012 packet)

 Okay, so I've had the packet for a while now but was too lazy to actually read it.  Overall I'm satisfied with what they've presented.  My take is that they simplified 3E and then added a couple nice bits of 4E.  Would I play it?  Sure, but since to me it's just a simplified, augmented form of 3E I'm not super-excited about it.  If I switched from Pathfinder it would be due to crunch fatigue.  I love the crunchy aspects of 3E/Pathfinder, but the older I get the harder it is to find the time and energy to really absorb it all--and since I usually DM, that's an issue.  And if I was to chuck all that crunch it would be for something much, much simpler (like Old School Hack).  But since I usually approach RPGs from the perspective of a DM I also have to seriously consider whether my players would go for it; if they're not interested there's not much point in my buying it.  But anyway, here are some random comments on the latest (last) playtest packet:

These are optional--which is interesting.  I'm assuming they are optional to keep the basic game simple and also lure the square-wheeler grognards back, most of whom seem to rail against skills and feats.

Backgrounds and Skills
Like that backgrounds are included--and that you need one to get skill proficiencies.  As a DM I'm so tired of players making up characters with no background of any kind.  The PC just sort of materializes in the tavern fully-fledged, apparently as the result of spontaneous divine creation or something.  You want skills? Then you need to pick a background.

Like this part a lot.  Glad to see that each race (except the always boring humans) has two variations to choose from.  Very happy they included the "Unusual Races" of dragonborn, drow, gnome (including a fun tinker type), half-elf, half-orc, kender, and tiefling (but why no aasimar if including tiefling?).  I prefer a fantasy game to have plenty of non-human ("non-boring") races to choose from.  Again, I'm sure these were carefully slipped into a separate category to make the early-edition types happy.

Character Sheet
- Very happy that they have a fillable PDF character sheet right with the game; so many games today still have ones which you can only print off and fill by hand.  This is the 21st century people--fillable PDFs should be standard everywhere!

- Glad to see they're including the full range of barbarian, bard, cleric, druid, fighter, mage, monk, paladin, ranger, and rogue right from the start rather than putting some/most into later supplements as in 4E (which was understandable from a marketing standpoint but still obnoxious).
- Like the quick creation option for each class: very handy for new players.
- Like that each class has two or more paths/colleges/traditions/etc. to add some variation; I'm assuming they plan more of these in supplements to be sold later.
- Like that as you level up you have the option of taking an average number of HP (e.g., 5 for a d8) instead of rolling; it's quicker and makes doing NPCs a bit easier.
- A bit unclear on the domain spells for clerics (which is the coolest class in the game, thanks for noticing); apparently in D&D Next you get two domain spells per caster level and each day both(?) are automatically prepared instead of you choosing one?  Interesting that they seem to have cut back on the number of spells clerics know at each level, which I like over 3.5/Pathfinder where clerics automatically gain access to a huge new list each level.  Of course I'm still in favor of each deity/pantheon having its own separate, more limited custom spell list.
- Wizards get a bonus for using a magic focus--like it. When you prepare a spell of  a certain level you can cast it as many times as you have slots at that level, rather like the sorcerer in Pathfincer/3.5.  Also, you can finally regain some spell energy during short rests, not just after a full 8 hours of sleep.
- Like how the barbarian raging bonus does not include +STR and +CON like in Pathfinder, where you have to work out what all your bonuses, HP, etc. are with the new stats.
- Paladin Detect Evil is now detection of celestials, fiends, or undead--but still unlimited uses per day.  I find this ability to be very powerful in roleplay and would prefer to see it limited, perhaps to a number of times per day equal to the paladin's CHA bonus.
- Rangers have several fighting styles to choose from, which is better than the old choice of ranged weapon or two-weapon.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Journal of Katherine, Entry 34

Ardent roleplayer Kirk continues the journal entries of his character Katherine in our on-going Castles & Crusades campaign.  These entries complement the Chronicles of the Amazing Trevor about the same campaign.  Our next session is scheduled for this Monday and we should have Katherine's journal caught up with the chronicles before that so they will be in sync from that point on.

Entry 34

This is the morning after my last entry in my log. Last night was difficult to sleep.  The continued bloodshed left me crying myself to sleep, but I have learned to not show my emotions. I felt no guidance yet.

Now, I must write of Trevor.  We were attacked by wolves in the middle of the night.  Trevor, he is amazing. He conjured two wolves of thin air which scared away the rest of the pack, then later, when he saw that I was in trouble, he offered to help me, by again conjuring, only this time, it was this huge image of a dragon that shot fire from its mouth.  He must have thought highly of me and to get me out of trouble, for he reached deep into his soul to manifest such strong imagery as this.  I was able to see through this imagery, but the wolf did not. It believed it was burnt.

And Brute saw it as real, too, and that it was hostile, and so he attacked it.  Trevor was lucky that Brute's shot went wide.  Before with the brigands, Trevor was quick to leave and that contrasts his actions now which were of good heart when he saw others in need. I was too early to judge him.

I certainly used my martial training, and these wild wolves were bent on finding us to be their next meal.  I am not sure if I could have felled this wolf on my own, if it were not for Trevor.  I did cause it some pain with my hammer, before it met its demise by Kulr's axe.

After the wolves were driven off, I found Onri was hurt.  I called upon my deity, who must have looked unfavorably upon Onri. His faith could be lacking as his wounds were healed some, but did not close.  I suggested that he pray more and give to a worthy charitable organization.  But after thinking about it, he does not accept coin, like me.  Maybe his wounds were deeper than what I initially saw.  I should not be so quick to judge.

Let me write also a short remembrance of my Keith, of whom I travel borrowing his name.  I dreamt of him.  I cannot state how real the dream appeared and just like it happened yesterday.  It was the time when he showed me how to move small objects with just his fingers.  If only I had more time to practice.  Then the dream shifted to another time when he taught me the whispering.  We used it to tell each other things, without others knowing. I should try these again.  Why did I give up these things that Keith taught me?  The only one I have used routinely is the light song.  My dream continued with me in the cell.  I recalled that twice I was put there, for twice I was punished. I am not sure if I would have survived without the light song.  It allowed me to write while in solitude.  I remember the fun that Keith and I had.  Is the punishment that I have something that I have self imposed?  But now, I almost feel like he is with me, helping me, mentoring me.  No, how can that be?  He is gone from me, forever.  I will always miss him.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Journal of Katherine, Entry 33

 Katherine continues her recollections of the events earlier recounted by The Amazing Trevor, adding her own sensibilities to the narrative...

Entry 33

Where to begin?  We had a skirmish today with some brigands.  Fizzleboom saw one traveler and he remembered the traveler as a murderer.  Not a moment later Trevor noticed another man and also remembered him as a murderer, and they were traveling together with six others.  As our party passed theirs, it got silent - too silent.  I hailed out to them, asking where they come from.  They attacked us right then. Before I could say another word, Trevor made an illusion of color, which dropped two of them.  Kulr picked one up and killed him.  Brute killed the leader with his first shot, and Onri grappled another.  Then Fizzle Boom dropped two more, with an illusion.  The one woman left standing, turned and fled.

The events that unfolded next were must horrifying.  Brute went on a killing rampage of the remaining brigands, one he struck his axe that severed the head from his body.  Kulr started squeezing another brigand, I was not sure if he was trying to get information from him, or was he just enjoying the act. The brigand was so scared.  Then I turn my head, so I would not to see what Kulr did next.  But the sounds of bones and flesh tearing, I could not turn away from - they were so sickening.  And the smell of... I felt vomit in my throat.  My knees almost gave way.  I felt a wave of heat.  I dove deep inside myself to find the courage to bear this.  I wanted to leave - be far away from this scene.  I might have said something, but I cannot remember.  I've heard from my training, that after the battles are over, the losers are "finished" like this.  No one really talks about the details.  They just experience it.  That is a grim task.  Not for me.  Could we handle this another way?

I focused on the wagon; after all, this was the wagon that identified them as brigands.  It was full of items; some were from the inn where we stopped the half ogre.  This meant the inn keeper most likely perished, possibly by these brigands.  The gnome Fizzle Boom made off with something magical, for I saw him slip it from the wagon, and he had an item glowing when I called forth to my deity to reveal magic items - he carried it.  There was also magical studded leather.  Brute used it.  Even though those two half men in the group were efficient at their killing, my deity worked its healing through me to them, for without even thinking, I took my hands and sang of healing.  Bluish light shown under my hands, and closed the wounds of Brute.  I did the same for Kulr.  There was one left alive, and I persuaded to have Trevor pass judgment, so if the killing had to continue, it would be justified, and sort of lawful.  The sentence was swift.  All brigands were found guilty of theft and murder.  This last one was executed.  All of the bodies were stacked like boards in a ditch.  I think of their parents, to know that their own children died like this.  Then I think of my own parents, if I had died at the hands of these murderers: my mother already dead, and my father, he has forgotten me.

We continued with the journey to the crossroads.  We decided to empty the cart and continue north.  After a while we made camp.  And I write in my journal about this group, I continue: So far, they have been good people: they defended the noble from the ogre, and let it go, because of witchcraft.  They showed kindness to the refugees and to Broderick.  But now, with their barbaric actions and blood lust, what will happen next?  Am I any different with the deceptions I caused in my past, compared to Brute's and Kulr's barbaric ways?  I must pray for guidance.

Chronicles of the Amazing Trevor: Chapter Five

Once again passion has triumphed over reason and another session of Castles & Crusades under maestro DM Kaiser is part of the glorious history of this celestial globe we call home.  In this epic installment The Amazing Trevor, and the apple of his eye get a chance to work together on their child-rearing skills--in a manner of speaking...

The trip back from the devastated village was blessedly free of any further incidents of violence. I abhor violence, the crudest and least human of activities.  And indeed the last several days had encompassed a wide variety of behaviors ill-suited to my desired station in life.  But at least for the journey back to Adan the worst in store was additional wear and tear on my pantaloons from the rough hewn seat of a waggon clearly built by one self-taught in the cartwright's craft.  Once again, however, my slight familiarity with handling a waggon obliged me to be the one at the reins of our new-found rustic conveyance.

Keeping the rescued children entertained was an enervating occupation at best.  The lovely Katherine prevailed on me repeatedly to sing songs to them but I wisely demurred, pointing out that my performing talents clearly lay in the arcane and mystical.  Uhmri gamely had a go at it and I was surprised to find that he knew no sea-chanties whatsoever.  Perhaps singing aboard ship tended to scare the fish away.  The young Merity continued her besotted advances, all fluttering lashes and wide eyes, which I deflected with a reasonable amount of aplomb.  The massive odd-fellow Kull was all the gentle giant with the tykes and played with them whenever they were in the mood.

At the crossroads where we were to turn for Adan our odd-fellow Brute found two wagons headed for the city and suggested that we hand the children over to the waggon drovers for transport to the Temple of Light in Adan.  He eagerly explained that this would enable us to return north for more savage bloodshed with as little delay as possible--apparently thinking that this reasoning would serve as some sort of positive incentive.  I objected immediately in the hopes that I could cut him off before any of the others be caught up in the madness.  I argued that the drovers were complete strangers and we could not be sure of their intentions.  To my great relief Katherine and some of the others joined me in opposition.  His notion failed to pass muster with the majority of the group and we resolved to push on to Adan.

Not long after, Katherine revealed yet another secret to us: she had some elementary ability in the arcane arts learned from the sorcerer Keith she had met in her past.  To my delight she prevailed on me to help her practice and develop her spells.  She suggested that she could ride on the waggon with me and work on her spellcraft on the way.  How could I possibly refuse so gracious an offer?  She decided to try her first spell with us that same day at a small pavilion near the crossroads.  It would be our first spell together and I was determined to enjoy it to the fullest.  She first attempted the sending of a whisper, a spell I'd used many a time to let intruding pickpockets at our carnival know that we'd twigged to their presence.  I was quite keen to hear what sweet nothings she would whisper in mystical confidence.  As Katherine began the hand gestures, the wind wafted her hair to let the sun glisten off her burnished tresses and her lips moved to form her first arcane poetry and then...nothing.  She tried again, but alas all was interfered with by her armor which she had neglected to remove.  She promptly doffed her mail and helmet and tried again.  This time success, but apparently the confusion had distracted her from conveying the intimation I expected.  Instead she simply inquired if it was successful.  Crestfallen, I drew little enjoyment from watching her next success in magickally lifting Boomtock's dagger from its sheath.  However, she then used another spell to determine that the gnome was wearing an enchanted item.  We ascertained that it was a ring he'd pilfered earlier from the bandit's cart of loot.  The ring was one which greatly enhanced the wearer's ability leap--alas, perfect for gnomes for whom jumping about comes as naturally as to fleas, rabbits, and similar creatures.

We arrived at Adan, veritable crucible of culture, early in the morning and went immediately to the Temple of Light.  We quickly handed the rescued children over to the care of some clerics there.  Their attitudes seemed a bit odd at the time but I was too eager to get back to the comforts of the mansion to take proper notice.  The mansion looked much as before, still close-shuttered and quiet--except for a succession of military drill commands which wafted over the courtyard wall.  I quickly recognized the voice as that of the young heir, Broderick Natal, my potential ticket to the life of ease to which I was eager to become accustomed.  He was busy ordering his mute servant Kevin about on the cobbled yard like a toy soldier but upon spying Kull over the wall he let us in.

After an exchange of banal pleasantries, Broderick offered a bit of news which ran through me like a lightning bolt: he'd sold off some of the old paintings in the mansion.  Not only was I shocked that the young jackanapes would so casually dispose of potentially priceless artwork (likely for pennies on the pound to some fool-skinner) but that the mysterious painting reappearing in my dreams might have been among them!  I abruptly took my leave and rushed inside in rather unseemly haste, eager to survey the remaining treasures.  The others, meanwhile each took to their own interests.  Boomtock hurried off to the main bedchamber eager to resume his bed-jumping but this time with the added effect of the ring.  (The question of who in our motley party would get the annular arcane appurtenance after he broke his neck would have to wait until later.)  Kull went with him to enjoy the show.  Uhmri scavenged up some tools and set about turning his collection of rancid wolf pelts into an item of apparel, which I hoped he would quickly donate to someone worthy of it, such as a leper.

Inside I quickly located the large portrait of Broderick's illegitimate father, the recently deceased councilman Remi Natal.  I was immensely relieved that this particular pigment-covered expanse of canvas was not among those liquidated.  I also considered that if I could not unlock its secrets this time around then it would be wise to cache it somewhere for future consideration.  As I pondered the portrait the lovely Katherine came up and requested that I accompany her back to the secret room.  We returned to the main bedroom where Boomtock was fully enjoying the effects of his new toy, his neck impertinently intact.  Kull was there as well, looking on in enjoyment.  An image of the enormous Kull jumping about on the bed with the ring on briefly flickered through my mind; I resolved to not suggest any such thing to either of them.

Katherine lit a candle with her nascent arcane talent.  The movements of her soft hands were deft and supple and, ah, the movements of her lips equally so...I shook off the enchanting vision and opened the secret wall panel concealing the small room beyond.  Entering, we launched a thorough search of its contents in hopes of uncovering clues and information.  It was immediately apparent that this was a chamber devoted to black magic.  There was a classic pentagram circle on the floor, books of arcane lore including summoning and binding demons, ritual candles, and the small ritual "black mirror".

Black Mirror (from Mirror by 7 Dragons)
Kull squeezed in through the doorway to join us in the small space and accidentally broke the door mechanism with his odd-fellow bulk.  Boomtock left off his amateur acrobatic displays and came to have a look as well. True to form, the diminutive mage was immediately eager to light one of the ritual candles just to see what would happen but Katherine demanded he do no such thing.  Further searching turned up a spell book of arcane illusionology, which I took into protective custody for later study, but none of the information we'd hoped for.

We rejoined the others and found that Uhmri had already completed his cloak.  Bedecked in rough-tanned deceased lupine he now gave the impression of being some sort of druid.  Well, a sort of half druid, half leper anyway.  Perhaps he was less a fisherman than a riverine druid with a penchant for fishing.  Only time would tell.

As supper time drew nigh I suggested to Katherine that we sample the gourmet delights of one of the city's dining establishments.  A week of eating camp food which most trolls would refuse had left me pining for something, anything, more civilized.  Katherine agreed, albeit slightly reluctantly, and I thought that at last we would have our evening together.  My hopes were dashed immediately when she asked if the odd-fellow Brute wished to come along as well.  He agreed and not wanting to appear uncouth I graciously acquiesced to the additional company.  Katherine came downstairs dressed for dinner looking absolutely radiant in a long white gown.

Katherine Radiant (fantasy_costume_2_by_colin_ashcroft;
We asked the servant Kevin for directions to a nearby dining establishment of good reputation but the fellow was of no help at all.  So we strode out upon the cobbles and followed our noses to the Boar's Head, which drew us in with the scent of roasting meat.  As we entered it was immediately apparent that the clientele here was of the coarser sort.  Two hefty dwarf girls gyrated suggestively up on one of the tables, but we were quite hungry and asked to be seated anyway.

The dwarf girls will now dance for your pleasure (pic found on internet, not mine)
The barmaid who came to take our orders was quite rough around the edges, even for a place like this.  She made several off-putting allusions as to the source of the roasted meat whose aroma had drawn us in, but finally insisted that it really was chicken.  I had some misgivings, but since that was the only dish on offer we perforce ordered roast chicken all round.  I was about to essay a bit of light conversation with my Katherine when a voice behind me exclaimed "Amazing Trevor, is it you?"  My heart froze.  I knew that voice and the woman attached to it only too well.  I fought down an urge to flee immediately and turned in as casual a fashion as I could manage.  By the gods, it was her: Veronica. My Biggest. Fan. Ever.

Veronica, My Biggest Fan Ever (pic found on the net, not mine)
The shock of seeing her again so suddenly was redoubled when I realized that she was absolutely the last person I wanted to meet while engaging in an intimate dinner with Katherine.  My mind raced.  I needed to defuse the situation as rapidly as possible without seeming ungracious in present company.  Veronica was much as I remembered her, all ample bosom and aggressive insistence. 

"Trevor, where have you been?  It's been ages!"
"I, ah, I've been on a sort of tour across the country.  Business, you know."  I smiled, rather unconvincingly.
"We have so much  to catch up on, don't we Trevor?", she said, in a tone rather too intimate for my present situation.  I resisted the urge to glance at Katherine; it was absolute agony.  "I haven't had dinner yet, why don't I join you?"
"Oh, well, my new business associates and I were just having a quick supper and then, had some business to, ah, take care of, you know."  Pathetic--think you fool, think!
"Business.  I see.", she said, her tone gaining a tinge of frost.  She was looking daggers at Katherine.  "So, Trevor", she continued, returning to her more sultry tone, "I'm free tomorrow.  Let's do something then."
"Tomorrow, ah, well we have some things we're doing, and I'm not sure when I'll, ah, be free exactly, you see."  I smiled unconvincingly again.  It was hopeless.  The best I could hope for now was to avoid an out-and-out actual slap in the face.
"Surely, you won't be busy in the evening Trevor", she countered, the frost creeping back over her words and her mouth hardening.
"Well, Veronica, I..."
"Well, nothing, Trevor!", she spat.  "I thought we meant something to each other, but I see your new 'business' is more important to you now!", this time looking poisoned daggers at Katherine.  "You haven't heard the last of this Trevor!  You'll be sorry!"  And with that she turned and made a decently dramatic exit, a woman scorned with murder in her eye.

Finally I could turn back around,and was peeved to see that Katherine and Brute seemed to have rather enjoyed our little show.

Dinner and the trip back to the mansion were a blur.  What a fiasco!  It would take all the ingenuity I could muster to salvage the battered remains of my already tenuous relationship with Katherine.  A full bottle of wine before bed and perhaps something would come to me in the morning.  The rest of our party was not at the mansion, having followed our example and set out to find victuals worthy of consumption.

As they related later, Kull and Uhmri made the egregious mistake of following Boomtock in search of a place to dine.  Boomtock had no idea where he was going--which was the whole point of the exercise as far as the gnome was concerned.  After uselessly thinning their shoe leather on the cobbles for an hour or more they ended up by a graveyard and the Temple of Light.  They knocked and roused one of the temple staff to find out how the urchins were coming along.  The confused cleric explained that the temple was not open on Tuesdays or Thursdays--and this was a Thursday.  With a shock the trio realized that we had most likely handed the orphans over to some imposters that morning.  Kull flew into a rage and kicked the temple door open.  The three pushed their way in and searched for any signs of the missing orphans.  Kull sent Boomtock back to the mansion for Brute, sensing that reinforcements were needed.  Uhmri soon came across a backpack tucked away which contained sets of chains and manacles, something not at all typical of a Temple of Light.  Alas, Kull had neglected to remember that Boomtock had found the temple entirely by accident and thus would have to rediscover the whereabouts of the mansion in similar fashion, and thus also return to the temple relying on chance.

Back at the manse, Katherine settled into bed to read one of the books discovered in the secret room.  Downstairs I uncorked a bottle of something with "vinyard" on the label, little caring, and wandered down to the study to ponder the mysterious portrait and my equally cryptic future.  I found the study in a shocking state and was at first concerned that persons unknown had ransacked it in search of the secret treasure cache.  A cursory examination of the scene, however, revealed scuff marks high up on the walls undoubtedly left by the vertical peregrinations a certain gnome wearing a certain ring.  Relieved but still peeved I draped my tired frame over a comfortable chair and set my mind to determining the original position of Remi's portrait.  The cad had already gone to his hellish reward in a wretched little village in the back of beyond but he might yet lead me to my earthly rewards here.  The walls had numerous light rectangles in the paint where the various paintings had hung.  If I could but match the councilman's framed visage to its original location it would indicate where to start my search.  And just half a glass of wine later the decidedly mediocre bit of brushwork was back where it belonged--with Remi's hand gesturing towards the fireplace!  I set to work examining it with gusto.  If I could just have half an hour to myself then all would be revealed.

Upstairs Katherine finished reviewing the arcane tome.  It did indeed contain spells which might be learned but as a beginner she was unsure of the true nature of many of them.  She put it aside for the night and was about to lay her head down when she heard whispering.  The whispering was her name, repeated softy and suggestively, and it came from the Black Mirror which was still covered.  Perturbed, Katherine rushed out to find me.

Uhmri, in the meantime, exited the temple to survey the area around it.  In a corner by the steps was a sleeping beggar.  Uhmri recognized the pathetic fellow from that morning when we had relinquished possession of the little snot-noses to the bogus temple priests.  The fellow greeted him cheerfully, probably assuming from his canine-pelt overgarment that he was a fellow beggar.  The beggar informed the former fisherman that a group of men had in fact taken the children away and that those same men had also been at the temple on the preceding Tuesday.  Not long after, Boomtock returned to the temple.  Alas, his surprisingly rapid return was because he had lost his way and circled back quite by accident.  Being a gnome, he simply transmogrified the facts into something more enjoyable and claimed that he had returned to the mansion but found none of us there.  Being a sensible fellow, Uhmri disbelieved the explanation immedately and set off for the mansion himself.

As a matter of fact we were all still very much at the old pile.  Brute had gone in search of an armory in order to better equip himself.  With some difficulty he was able to communicate his interest to the mute servant Kevin who then took him down deep into a series of cellars.  At last Kevin stopped at the end of a hallway by a heavy padlocked door set with a small window.  Brute was suspicious and inquired of the servant if there were any traps but Kevin was evasive.  It was difficult to determine if the mute was indeed unsure or held back for reasons of his own.  Kevin left silently, taking his candle with him.  Brute peered through the window and in the pitch dark his unnatural odd-fellow eyes made out what appeared to be a crypt beyond.  With that he left off his explorations and returned to the main part of the house.

All this while I was poring over every aspect of the old fireplace.  The craftsmanship of the mantle and surround was excellent--which was exactly the problem.  There were indeed many nooks, crannies, seams, protuberances, and bas-reliefs which might conceal a hidden lever or catch.  Testing the multitudinous possibilities would clearly take some time.  Just then I heard Katherine calling and by luck--or inspiration by my golden-tressed muse--I pressed the eye of a gargoyle crafted into a bit of mosaic.  The back of the fireplace swung open!  I was overjoyed, but closed the concealed panel and went off to join my my other secret treasure as she came down the hallway.  As she related the disturbing whispers from the mirror, we were startled to find Uhmri creeping silently up the stairs in the darkness like some wolf-garbed assassin.  He said he had returned to report the situation at the temple but I found his oddly stealthy approach suspicious.  Was it because he'd heard my Katherine's voice hoped to find her alone?  Druid or no, I would have to keep a closer eye on his whereabouts in future.  But gathering Brute we hurried back with him to join Kull and Boomtock.

Our small band was soon reunited, both in body and purpose, at the temple.  We lacked, however, any idea on where to find the kidnappers.  They could be hiding out nearby or already in a lair outside the city.  It was possible the charlatans would return to the temple on Tuesday, continuing their modus operandi of appropriating it on days when it was closed, but we dared not wait that long.  Brute suggested we start searching down at the river docks.  Lacking other direction we rushed down the darkened streets to the waterway.  Emerging from a narrow street we came across the docks quite suddenly.  Katherine was saved from a tumble into the dark waters only by a quick bit of magic by the gnome.  There were several boats and barges quietly tied up but little else in view.  Then the beggar from the temple showed up.  I thought it odd that he happened to be here of all places, but then there few other people about on the streets from whom he could wheedle the odd copper or two.

I was about to tell him to sod off when a couple of my companions heard suspicious sounds from one of the boats tied up at the bank.  Uhmri slipped aboard with surprising stealth, even for a druid of the rivers.  He found quite a few barrels about the deck, which would not be unusual for a merchant cargo, then sought to ascertain the source of the sounds.  But Kull, with typical disregard for caution, took the direct approach and called out for the children.  Then, not waiting for an answer he leaped aboard and made for the cabin door.  For a moment I was worried that he might be creating an awkward situation with some innocent boat owners, but far be it from me to get between the massive odd-fellow and whatever he was after.  Instead I made note of the nearest dark alleyways in case I might have to depart via one with alacrity.  This wouldn't be the first time I'd made an expeditious withdrawal from a potentially embarrassing affair.  Smashing in the door Kull immediately encountered three ruffians.  Two were menacing a group of the orphans with swords and a third stuffing a small child into a barrel.

With that discovery no further caution or niceties needed observing.  The beast within Kull took over and he became a storm of axe blades, roaring like a tornado.  The rest of us leaped into action as well.  I jumped across to the deck with a decent show of bravado but Boomtock crept across with strange caution.  I looked askance at him and he pointed to his ring and explained, with gnome logic, "This isn't a play situation".  Uhmri opened one of the barrels on deck and was surprised to find a small child within.  Katherine opened another by applying her budding arcane talents and also discovered a child.  Not to be outdone I quickly considered the set of barrels in my vicinity.  If Uhmri was rescuing pitiful trapped urchins in front of Katherine then I would have to do likewise, preferably with a great deal more heroic panache.

But oh, fateful choice.  I pried the wooden lid from one oaken cylinder and who should emerge but young Merity.  "Trevor!" she exclaimed with glee, "my hero!"  And with that she flung her arms about me with abandon.  "Ah, Merity", I replied with difficulty, "I'm so glad you are...all right".  "Oh Trevor, I just knew you'd come rescue me!" she gushed breathlessly.  She hung from my neck, her young arms squeezing my like a hangman's noose, clearly with no intention of ever letting go.  I glanced sideways at Katherine and was relieved to see her and the others focused on extracting more children and passing them over to Brute on the docks.  "Yes, well, we really must be going now Merity" I tried to explain in as casual a manner as I could muster.  I struggled to devise a way to pry her away without actually laying hands on her.  From the cabin I could hear the clash of steel and someone screaming, but it all seemed so far away.  "Oh Trevor, my Trevor, how ever can I thank you?  You've saved my life again.  This must be fate.  We must never, ever be parted again!" she vowed with the utmost conviction.  There was some sort of activity on the deck behind me involving urchins and axes or something or other. "Um, look, Merity, there might be more of your little friends in this barrel here", I offered hopefully.  Merity went even more doe-eyed at the suggestion.  "Sweet Trevor, how so like you to think of others before yourself even amidst the worst of dangers.  No wonder everyone calls you amazing!"  She hugged my neck even tighter and laid her head on my shoulder.  A bead of cold sweat trickled down my temple.

Katherine and the others had just about finished freeing the encapsulated young captives and would soon be looking around.  I cast about wildly for some way to divest myself of my much-too-young admirer before anyone could notice our rather inappropriate-looking situation.  Suddenly several of the released children rushed over and began hugging Merity.  To my great relief she let go and exchanged hugs and words of affection with them.  I stepped quickly away, noting the faces of my rescuers.  I would have to remember to slip them each a shilling later as reward.

Kull staggered up the stairs from the cabin, barely able to keep to his feet.  His axes were red with blood and the crimson liquid was spattered all about his person.  Uhmri dragged one of the ruffians from the cabin alive but cowed with fear, the others presumably slain.  Kull said something like "Yes, mother, I'll try", taking deep breath after deep breath to ease his savage energies.  Boomtock helped calm the children with a deft casting of illusory fascination..  Brute stayed with Kull while he recovered; later the massive one plunged into the river for a cleansing bath.  The rest of us returned to the mansion with the children.  Merity kept trying to hold my hand the entire way back, repeatedly assuring me that now we would always be happy together.  I resorted to entertaining the urchins with some stage magic as we walked in order to provide me with an excuse to need both hands unencumbered.

Back at the house Uhmri and I accompanied Katherine to her room in case the shrouded mirror began whispering her name again.  As we entered the room I realized that this mirror was the same one which had appeared in my earlier dream.  I decided that despite my misgivings I would have to explore its secrets before long.