Caravan of Misfits – Full Party Introductions (so far)

Anais Acantonat – a mostly elven cleric of the goddess Sehanine Moonbow, the elven psychopomp deity. Anais is a Silvaeren Temple Cleric and has served her goddess faithfully for the last 10 years. Now, at 40, she has been sent on an errand to deliver a letter and a package to the High Priestess of the Temple of the Raven Queen in Waterdeep. She has been on the road approximately three weeks when she met up with Velo and Zeek in the twin towns of Ironford and Womford.

Velo de la Mascara – a dark-furred Tabaxi bard, of unknown origin (“far away lands”) who made his way to Waterdeep, only to discover that he found himself regularly roughed up living on the streets and busking there. He took to the Caravan that runs north to Yartar, down the Dessarin River, and then back to Waterdeep via the Long Road mostly out of curiosity and to get out of the city. He is used to being distrusted, and is thus far torn between his desire to perform and his desire to blend in.

Zeek – a black Aarakocra with red markings on his face and chest, the last surviving member of his tribe from the mountains north of the Dessarin Hills. Zeek’s wings are charred and burned, and he cannot fly (though he glides very effectively – It’s not flying, it’s falling with style) – party members suspect, based on his reaction to kobolds and to the Drake egg they found that whatever happened to him, it had to do with dragons. He is on his way to Waterdeep, looking for a magic item to help avenge his family members.

Van Whisperfool – a young, brown-skinned gnomish archer fighter, of unknown origin other than “from the general hills of the area”. Van was found captured in the Kobold Cave, and so far the party knows little about him. He has agreed to come with them to the caravan, presumably for safety.

Cassius Skarpi – a very tall, rail-thin human wizard with curly brown hair, freckles, and spectacles. How such a bookish sort ended up in the Slumber Hills the party has yet to discover. Cass is Waterdavian though, growing up the son of a courtesan there and spending most of his time in libraries. Oddly, for being a wizard, the party has not yet seen him use any magic. He was found alongside Van in the Kobold Cave, though the party does not know how the two ended up traveling together. He too has agreed to come to the Waterdavian caravan, also presumably for safety.

Posted in D&D

Caravan of Misfits – Campaign Diary – 11/05/18

When last we left our intrepid adventurers…

It is the 18th of Eleint, and they had gone away from the Waterdavian caravan to search for Rinn, the shady half elf. Velo, Zeek, Anais, Wevami (and Jardin), and Jac had entered into what they knew to be a Kobold cave, and had thoroughly alerted everything inside to their presence.

The session began with a bit of failed skulking, as Zeek attempted to sneak around to see if he could see any Kobolds, tripped over a rock, and bit it hard in the middle of the cavern. He was quickly fired upon, and battle was upon them. Two blue-skinned kobolds put up a small bit of resistance, but ultimately were quickly vanquished – but not before one of them could blow a horn that made no sound.

Anais, convinced that there was more to this cave (as they’d all seen the drag marks left by Rinn’s unconscious body) set the whole group to looking for a secret passageway or door, which Jac (the guard) stumbled through. Another tunnel – this one much larger (much to Zeek’s relief) – led further into the hill and ultimately led into a large room, where several things happened all at once.

Rinn and two other prisoners managed to free themselves while the Kobolds were distracted by the incoming skirmish. Several Kobolds set up defensive positions only to be overwhelmed by ranged attacks from the party. The Kobold Leader – a sorcerer of some kind – charmed Jac and he turned and attacked the party as well.

The two other prisoners (soon to be introduced as Van Whisperfool and Cassius Skarpi) pulled a fast one-two punch against a Kobold, marking the first, and probably last, time the Wizard would get a killing blow with an unarmed strike in this campaign (on an attack of opportunity, no less).

After mopping up the last of the kobolds, the party is fully introduced. Van is a gnomish archer fighter, just over 3 feet tall – fairly young, with brown skin, blonde hair, and green eyes. Cass is a human wizard, a lanky, very tall (6’5″) man with curly, shaggy brown hair, pale skin and freckles, and spectacles. He too looks very young, and after some discussion is revealed to be Waterdavian.

After healing Velo, Anais uses her bells and the power of soothing voice and touch to calm Rinn, who had begun to panic while the rest of the group rolls the bodies for loot.

They find:
A Black arrow with a silver arrowhead and fletching (An Unbreakable Arrow – which went to Van)
A Bronze Tankard of Sobriety (to Cass)
A small wooden buckler (to Zeek)
and a Horn of Silent Alarm (4 charges, recharges on a long rest) which alerts one listener – and one listener only – when it is sounded. This was given to Anais, as she most often takes first watch.

In exploring the rest of the cavern, the party upended the cauldron of goop that the head Kobold had been watching, and it dumped out (among other things) a huge blue leathery egg. Between the group, they were able to piece together that this was a Drake egg, fashioned from the scales of a blue dragon and the dessicated bodies of human sacrifices in a terrible ritual that takes days to complete.

Drakes – large draconic dogs – are huge and powerful and hard to control, and also very deadly.

Zeek, upon hearing that this was a dragon thing, slashes up the egg with his shortsword and the rest of the party dump the dead, partially-formed body into the fire.

Van and Cass inform the group that they had heard large booming voices speaking in Draconic in the night they’d spent trapped in the cave, and the party decides to get the fuck out of Dodge before whatever that voice belonged to came to check on the egg. Anais’ curiosity of whether the Dragons were using the Kobolds to raise drakes for a purpose, or whether the kobolds were smart enough to be doing so on their own, remained unanswered.

After a quick march, accompanied by Velo’s melodic harmonica playing, the party safely makes it back to the Waterdavian caravan, just in time to arrive at Red Larch, the trading post halfway between Ironford and Amphail.

And thus we leave them until next week – whether they will become fast friends or simply traveling companions is yet to be determined, but the Caravan of Misfits gains two members and all seem determined to make it to Waterdeep – though to what ends not everyone has revealed, and some may only have revealed part of their tales.

Posted in D&D

Caravan of Misfits – Campaign Diary – 10/30/2018

When last we left our intrepid adventurers, it is the 17th of Elient, DR 1744, and they are in the Kryptgarden Forest…

Zeek, Velo, Anais, and Wevami (and Jardin) head back to the Waterdavian Caravan. Wevami seems a little spooked by the encounter with the wolves, which Anais attempts to soothe. The two quickly bond over the shenanigans of the bard and the rogue, who are still tree-hopping. Returning to the caravan easily, thanks to Anais’ marking of the trees (and a couple of great survival rolls from Velo), the party divvies up the fire beetle meat.

Velo and Zeek consume theirs raw. Wevami and Anais both cook theirs thoroughly. Everyone agrees they’ve eaten worse things. Anais is starting to get tired of so much meat – she’s lived on the diet of a temple cleric and would really just like oatmeal for breakfast just for once.

It’s approximately 3 days to Amphail, another day to get to the trading post at Red Larch.

Rinn, the stoner half-elf from the porch on the Bargewright Inn, approaches Velo and Zeek (and decidedly NOT Anais), attempting to sell them drugs. He says it will make them smarter. Velo haggles, and then purchases some weird black fungusy stuff for 5 gold pieces. He eats it, in the process of allowing Zeek to pick Rinn’s pockets back for the 5 gold he just paid.

Velo gets very high. This drug – Sves – makes him smarter for 1 minute, gives him bonuses to perception for 1 hour… and then gives him a point of exhaustion for the rest of the day.

Rinn also sells poisons – Stone Joint poison (a slowing poison) and something called Fungal Bile, which makes you very ill. Zeek and Velo haggle with him, and split a vial of Stone Joint poison for 30 gp (3 uses).

The party sets camp at the foot of the slumber hills. Zeek sleeps in the caravan with the leathers that belong to Elsa Roe. Velo volunteers for an early morning watch and proceeds to pass out in a nearby tree, exhausted. Anais offers to take first watch, since the moon will be up. They are set to their posts by Argyra, the paladin of Bahamut (the platinum dragon) – but Anais notices she’s wearing bracers with another emblem – two crossed swords, with a cloud and a descending lightning bolt above them.

Anais asks her fellow watchman – a guard named Jac – about the bracers, as he’s also wearing them. They are the symbol of the “Blades of Change” a Waterdavian fighter/mercenary guild. If you’re skilled with a blade (not so much magic) you can try for a spot there. Anais and the guard swap stories, and she thoroughly freaks him out with her talk of the Moon watching him, and the fact that she’s died and been resurrected. After her watch, the second watch again goes without fail, and then Jac wakes Velo up (unceremoniously) for the final watch.

Velo notices a small dark shape – which turns out to be Wingding, Elsa Roe’s assistant, who is a small red-scaled Kobold. He has a giant wasp in a cage. It is unclear if this is for alchemical research, dinner, or both. (Both. It’s definitely both.)

Jac and Anais meet up again for breakfast, where he proceeds to ask her for a test of her magic. She obliges, making the fire leap up with blue and purple sparks, and scaring the everloving shit out of Geordi, the halfling cook, as well as another of the guards. Velo is very distrustful of this entire operation and attempts to spy on them. Jac admits to Anais that he’s not sure what to make of Velo and Zeek, who are… unusual. That’s a nice way of putting it. Anais reassures Jac that the two are just as much people as anyone else in the caravan.

18th Elient, DR 1744

Rinn is missing from the caravan, and so the party (plus Wevami and Jac) are sent to go find him. They track him to the southeast, to the foothills of the Slumber Hills, following drag marks and Kobold footprints. After squeezing (loudly, and without any stealth whatsoever) through a 40 foot entry tunnel, we leave our adventurers standing in the open foyer of the Kobold’s tunnel, just on this side of a warning batch of bones (which Velo has already crunched through, that was the trap, yes). It’s rocky, soggy, earthy, and gross, and there are bones everywhere. Also Zeek is claustrophobic, sorry for not mentioning that earlier? Surely it’ll not be a problem right.

Until next time…

Posted in D&D

A Study in Contrasts

I had the distinct privilege this weekend of going to Scottsdale, AZ to officiate the wedding between two of my oldest internet friends, Pix and Quin. Pix is the DM for my Dar na Theria game, where Ancelyn Blackstone, dwarven cleric of the goddess of song and secrets, is discovering that she can’t be strong for everyone. We haven’t played that game much recently (something something planning a wedding), but it was still delightful.

All of the members of that campaign were there except the two most remote (Rades and Llanion are both Canadian, and could not travel to be with us).

We laughed, we played a ridiculous monster heist D&D one-shot. It was amazing and beautiful and I felt so very very loved. They are my people, even if I was meeting some of them for the first time.

I flew home this morning and discovered that the friend that I was paying to care for my cats… hadn’t come to care for my cats. He “wasn’t feeling well so he guesses he forgot.” The cats had no food and water when I got home. This person has a key to my apartment, and I’m pretty sure that I don’t want them to anymore.

Add to that the fact that the other local person who has a key to my apartment for emergencies hasn’t responded to my texts to even acknowledge them the last three times I tried to reach her. So I’m trying to get that key back as well.

So here I am, having just spent three days surrounded by amazing friends, only to come home and be completely failed by the friends I thought I had locally. It’s an odd sort of feeling, and one that I’m not sure I know what to do with. I need a few people to be able to get into my apartment in case of emergencies, but clearly the people I have chosen can’t be trusted to do that anymore.

I’m hoping some of my grove mates will be able to step in and fill those roles. But until then, I remain distant from my friends. There’s a funny meme that went around awhile ago about where your friends live, and about how most of them live in “Fucking Narnia or Some Shit”.

It feels especially true tonight. My friends all live in a box on my desk, and that’s pretty lonely.

Thankfully tomorrow night I’m going to go play D&D with Josh, and Josh, and Ken, and the Caravan of Misfits will continue for as long as we can keep our squishy butts alive. The guys are becoming friends, and I appreciate them, even if I roll my eyes at them a lot. They’re real though, and so is the Grove. I just have to learn how to make friends out of the people around me.

(Also I’m totally hiring a professional pet-sitter for my next trip. I’m tired of having this happen, and I’d rather pay more to have someone with ratings and reviews and who if they don’t do their job I can fire and get someone else without being mad at a friend that I like.)

The Druid, the Murderhobos, and the Coffee Bean

Today we dig into my favorite blog on D&D, or certainly my favorite D&D writer, Multiplexer. She hasn’t been writing for Critical Hits in the last few years (probably because blogging is slowly dying in favor of different media), but I thought I’d drag out a favorite story of mine.

This one is mostly true, only reskinned to make it about the D&D world.

The Druid, the Murderhobos, and the Coffee Bean

Enjoy!

Posted in D&D

First Game Post-Mortem

Monday night, from around 8 (I had some trouble finding the place, oops) until around 12:30, I got to hang with the new D&D table and see what that would be like. In reality, I only got to meet one new person – J I’d met before (we’ve been on a few dates), but K is their usual DM but taking a break, so he joined me as a player. J2 (yes, in a group of four players, we have two guys with the same name) had a flat tire and wasn’t able to make it last-minute.

So we spent a few hours shooting the shit, getting to know each other and nerding out together, which was fun and encouraging. I love being around other nerds, because nerds unabashedly, unashamedly LOVE things. (Sometimes this leads to gatekeeping, but these nerds are not like that, and gatekeeping can suck it.) We nerded out about D&D, about druidry and paganism, about the Astros. It was all around a good time.

And then we sat down and rolled some dice. K’s character was a bit of a douchebag, but Annie Mae took him right in stride and – quite frankly – saved him from being a victim of human trafficking, so she figures someday he’ll at least give her some credit. Being an urban ranger is fun too – all sneaky in back alleys and pass without a trace to get away from the bad guys.

Overall, it was grand fun, and I look forward to next week’s continuation.

Things I did notice – this is both an alcohol and a 420 friendly table, which is 100% new to me. I’ve played D&D slightly tipsy, but never with drunk or high people, and it did change the timbre of the game slightly. Not in a bad way, and in fact, it slowed the game down a little, which meant I had more time to think (and meant my quick thinking got us out of some scrapes). Nobody was pushy or anything, and they were all super polite (and due to both politeness and good ventilation I did not go home smelling of cigarettes or MJ).

The table is gorgeous and hand-made – but currently lives in an un-airconditioned garage. They have lights, full music and sound, everything you’d ever want to play D&D… just no A/C. So my planned outfit, which included a pashmina headwrap made of black wool and silk, was a little too warm. Thankfully the night was pretty mild – only about 85 outside – and they have fans running so there’s good circulation.

I will hopefully meet J2 on Monday, but so far the two guys I have met are super excited to have me there – which is flattering. I’m an experienced player, but I’m nothing compared to the folks who stream professionally. Still, I felt warmly welcomed, encouraged to roleplay and take risks with my character, and rewarded for rolling well and thinking quickly.

So yeah. I’m happy with how this turned out. I’m thankful for Critical Role, which brought me to this group, and which has given me so much to learn as a player and even inspired me to think about sitting behind the DM screen sometime in the future.

Here’s hoping things continue to go well.

First Game Jitters and a Dice Blessing

I play my first D&D game with the new group tonight. We’re not jumping right away into campaign 2 for them, instead taking a month to do some one-shots or short 2-3 game campaigns. The first actual game will be the first Monday of October.

Tonight though, I get to meet these guys (and they are all guys – I’ll be the only woman at the table) for the first time, and I’m honestly pretty nervous.

The one-shot we’re playing is being DMed by my current crush and possible new beau, J. (He’s usually a player, but is DMing for September to give the usual DM a break.) It’ll be urban D&D in a Forgotten Realms-ish port city. I’ve decided to bring back Annie Mae Spursparkle for this stint, because she’s fun, funny, easy to roleplay, and I have a friend in the City of Fangs campaign who has a level 5 urban ranger that I can just lift her character sheet and not have to worry about rolling up a character from scratch.

Annie Mae is a halfling ranger, a country girl at heart, living in the city to make ends-meet, with her pony Meg, her giant dog (unnamed as yet), her shotgun, and her Very Fine Hat.

HORSEGUN GNOMEPOWER

I think she’ll translate well into D&D, and I’ll get to stretch my roleplaying muscles just a little. Wish me luck – I’m turning over a new leaf in life right now, in a lot of ways, and I’m really hoping that this game will be part of that turnover. So far everyone I’ve met has been really chill, and I hope the table chemistry is as good as J says it is.

Here’s hoping this is the start of something really cool. I’ve needed more real life friends, and these guys are Critters, so there’s a good chance we’ll get along just fine. I’m trying not to be too nervous, because I know I can’t control this, but I really do want it to work. It’s been too long since I sat around a physical table, rolling dice and shooting the shit with friends.

And in that vein, a blessing for your dice. What good is a priest if she can’t write a blessing for good rolls and good times?

 

Gay Tieflings are the Best Kind

In Which Anvari Zarthus, Warlock of the Undying Light, makes doe eyes at her new girlfriend, Leyl Tyranas, Trickster Paladin of the Goddess of Song and Secrets. Anvari and Leyl have thus far kept their relationship a secret from the other players. For how long that lasts, your guess is as good as mine. Personally, I highly doubt it’s going to survive whatever the end of the current campaign arc is bringing, which includes a giant Met-like Gala onboard a new ship in the City of Fangs.

Art by Jenn St. Onge

Being a Good ???

Before I launch into my own spiel about this, know that today’s mumblings about D&D are inspired by Matthew Colville, who posted a Youtube video in the last few days about being a good player at a D&D table. Colville is an inspiration to new DM’s everywhere – so much so that he has ME thinking about running a Waterdeep: Dragon Heist game when that module comes out next month. The video isn’t long – about 17 minutes – and it’s worth a listen.

This is a departure for Colville, who has talked about how to be a good DM for different KINDS of players, but who hasn’t really talked too much (beyond one “why do we even play this whole D&D thing anyway” video – which is also great, you should watch that too) about approaching it from the players side of the table.

Full admission: If you hadn’t caught on – I’ve never sat behind a DM screen except in jest.

But what he talks about here – the lessons he’s learned as a player of D&D (and he even alludes to this at the end) are things that are just generally good ways to be a good human. He doesn’t tell you what kind of player to be – a strategist, a roleplayer, a mathematician, a maximiser. He tells you how to be yourself within the boundaries of a cooperative game in which somwhere between 3 and 8 other humans are all ALSO attempting to have a good time.

And that’s important.

D&D is not a game with winners and losers. Or more accurately, D&D is a game where everyone wins or everyone loses, together, and you roll with it as best you can. Because D&D is, at its core, a complex set of rules that are attempting to mimic the most complex thing in the world – reality. A fantasy version of reality, yes, but reality nonetheless. A quarterstaff does less damage than a greatsword, but a greatsword takes more strength to use. A simple spell might be more reliable, but the risk-reward payoff from a larger spell is sometimes worth it. Problems always arise because there’s no way for any ruleset to truly perfect upon reality, and so there are disagreements about particulars sometimes, but – as a good player – you learn to hash it out, make a “table rule” that applies at the table you’re at, note it down, and move on.

But the thing that got me thinking about this last night when I watched the video, and again this morning when I had a little time to extrapolate, is that the things that make people “good players” in D&D, are the things that generally make people “good humans” in real life. Respect the game you’re playing. Be prepared. Know how your stuff works. Find your fun within the fun that everyone else is also having. A conversation is not a competition. Know how to lose gracefully.

The D&D revival has been extreme, and I’ve loved and rollicked and frolicked in the new opportunities to revel in this game that I love more than any of the other hobbies that I have. But one of the things that I hope that it is showing us – and that I think most of the live streamed games that you can watch on Twitch and YouTube also show us – is that being a good person, a good player, means the fun is different. Whether you’re showing up to bash your head against a meat-grinder of a dungeon or play through a long-range adventure that tells a greater narrative, with D&D, when everyone is having fun, you’re winning, and being a good person goes a long way toward making sure that we’re all having fun here.

I thought of this, in particular, in contrast with another group that I am part of, that is more serious and not a game.

And I realized that while I could work with them, and could get things done with them, I didn’t want to play D&D with them. I couldn’t trust them to be willing to put the group first. To let everyone have their own spotlight in turn, to let the table as a whole determine the fun. For them, maybe, like Colville suggests, they’re looking for a different kind of validation than you can truly get from D&D. Maybe a different game – one with clear winners and losers – would make them happier. Because one or two players that enter into D&D with the mindset that they have to win every encounter, personally; that they have to have the last word, the fastest zinger, the slickest burn; that their character should get the killing blow on every enemy… can destroy not only the fun of the other people at the table, but eventually the fun they’re trying to have for themself.

That’s a slightly deeper layer for me, as well, because I am at heart a roleplayer, and that requires a place where I feel safe, that I can trust the other players to let me have a reaction that is true to my character, regardless of what that reaction is. A place where I can be vulnerable – and hopefully where others at the table can be vulnerable too.

I don’t know if I really have a point to this ramble, but it’s been percolating in my brain since last night and I thought it worth writing down, since I have this here blog thinger and that’s what blogs are for. But if I have one takeaway, it’s that the same things that make me want to sit and play D&D with someone are the kinds of things that make me want to be involved with someone on another project. That the breakdown between “being a good player” and “being a good person” is a lot smaller than I probably ever would have thought it was.

So thanks Matt for inspiring that train of thought.

And for giving me some new ways to aspire to be the kind of person that my friends want to sit at the D&D table alongside of.