Dragondaze (… and Fate) – A Review

21 Sep
Dragondaze Logo

Dragondaze Logo

20th September saw me up at 07:00 on a Saturday, quickly packing my dice bag, a pad and a pencil and heading off on a journey to Wales, via four stops to pick up fuel and passengers.

Our destination?  Newport, Wales, for the Dragondaze Games Convention.

We arrived in good time – just before the official doors-open time of 10:00 – and I headed straight up to the Roleplay room.  I was keen to get in on a game of Fate, and wanted to secure my place at all costs, expecting the place to fill up quickly.

As it turns out, there were two Fate games and a lot of other choice, including Call of Cthulhu, D&D 5th Edition, Pathfinder and several other systems.  And that was just the RPG room!  The centre was enormous, with separate rooms for board games and wargames and the entire centre hall filled with game stores, clothes stands, jewellery, bookshelves and more.

Morning Session – Fate Part I

I secured my place in a Fate game run by a hugely enthusiastic “Ref” called Dom.  Dom and his team had clearly put an enormous amount of effort into planning the one-off session and I came away with a few system-agnostic ideas for my own games.  One of these was the inclusion of handy popup stands with character names on for one.  This helps with immersion, as you will always be able to use the character’s name when referring to them in-game and is especially great for a one-shot where you have a lot of other new names and concepts to remember.

I was joined in Fate by Damon and then Stuart from my gaming group.  It was interesting to see Damon play as a character, as I’ve only really known him as a GM.

Wow! I am still reeling from my impression of the Fate system, as taught by Dom.  Dom was brilliant.  He explained the core concepts and walked us through the character sheet and basic gameplay options before diving straight into the first setting.  I’ll summarise the parts of the game that impressed me the most, but won’t go into specifics about the story:

Good bits from the Fate game (and they were amazing):

  • Dom knew every pre-gen character inside and out.  This meant he was able to make suggestions in the early game, to help us understand how the system works.  He was also able to easily draw on the “Aspects” and “Trouble” for each character – concepts of Fate that push the game forward.
  • Fate’s Fate Token system not only helps to push the story forward, but enables very quick character immersion.  I felt by the end of the first hour that I had a pretty good idea of what my character was like, how he thought and what drove him; all based on his aspects and stunts.
  • The Fate Dice system helps to force the use of Fate Tokens.  The dice rolls average out at 0 (zero), so you effectively have to call on your character aspects, or the aspects of your current location (or other temporary aspects in play) if you need to make a difference.
  • Just as the aspects can be used to help your character, they can be equally used by the “ref” to provide obstacles that need to be overcome (gaining you a Fate Token).  Each character had a “Trouble” aspect, but any aspect could be interpreted negatively or positively, depending on the situation.  The best thing about this mechanic is that it always pushes the story forward, similar to fail-forward mechanics I’ve seen in other systems.
  • Dom did an excellent job of bringing the story to life, embracing the fantastic (and at times downright insane) and generally ensuring everyone present had a good time.  I don’t think I stopped smiling for 3.5 hours.

I’m a strong believer of the phrase:

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything”

So you will rarely get negative reviews from me.  However, in this case, I literally have nothing bad to say.  I cannot imagine how I could’ve enjoyed Dom’s Fate game more.  Thank you!

General Convention – Lunch/Walk-around

After the epic finale of Dom’s Fate game (which did involve the defeat of an elite German scientist-come-sorcerer and his goons and then escape by slowing down time and then building a stairway made of broken stone and glass to aid our escape from a deep underground cavern in the middle of the Egyptian desert that was collapsing around us… I did say it was epic), I wandered around the convention rooms for a bit, taking in the sights.

I’d already seen Captain Jack Sparrow, who wore an incredibly detailed costume and carried off the Depp drunken swagger impeccably.  During the morning session, a pair of Daleks had also come by to remind us how inferior we all are.

I was impressed by a Darth Vader and a pair of Imperial Stormtroopers.  I actually heard Vader before I saw him.  Feeling my spine shiver at the distinctive heavy breathing, I am almost ashamed to say that I mentally attributed the sound to a rather portly, elderly gentleman hobbling in front of me, leaning heavily on a stick.  It seemed to me that this man could easily be struggling to breathe through a respirator and that that was far more likely than Darth Vader being around the corner… How wrong I was!

There were several other recognisable movie characters, including a Minion and several Colonial Marines (no doubt there would’ve been more, if only they’d survived…).

In my travels, I paid a visit the Dreadball table in the war-gaming room and said hi.  They looked a bit lonely!  I sent a couple of players I’d met in my first Fate session their way afterwards, although I don’t know if they made it that far.

I met Tris, the Mantic Pathfinder for South Wales much later in the day, just as he was about to leave (I got caught up in another RPG in the afternoon) and am looking forward to the Cwmbran tournament in November.

A room full of boardgames!

A room full of boardgames!

Afternoon Session – Fate Part II

Okay, I might’ve gone a bit over the top on the whole Fate thing…

But I was seriously impressed by Fate á la Dom.  I was keen to see it in a different setting and joined the Age of Arthur game after lunch.

The Age of Arthur game was being run by a quietly enthusiastic man named John.  I was instantly drawn into his role-playing style, as I was acutely reminded of my first GM, Ritchard.

This game was very different in style to the first.  Whereas the morning Fate game had been a pulp fiction superhero blast-em-up investigation setting, Age of Arthur was almost the polar opposite; quest/reward-based, pseudo-historic in nature, with an element of politics and a much more gritty environment.  I got to experience social combat and see how it works in Fate, which is a very interesting mechanic – essentially, you are dealing verbal ‘damage’ to your opponent when trying to convince them to help you/leave you alone/etc.  It’s even possible to heal the damage with soothing tones.  Once again, Fate’s aspects come into play heavily, as the better your verbal onslaught, the more confused, or angry or scared your opponent may become.

I was impressed at the skill of roleplaying at the table and came away realising how Fate doesn’t just encourage good roleplay, it demands it and rewards it.

The Age of Arthur system is very slightly more rules-heavy than the core Fate system seems to be, with several additional stats.  Several aspects (my character had “skin-changer”) were padded out with official rules to dictate how they work and were therefore somewhat limited by those rules.  However, I have been in a game where shape-changing has broken the game, so I was partly glad of those limitations…

Good bits from the second Fate game:

  • The detail! John was clearly passionate about the world.  It was unclear how much came from John and how much was from the Age of Arthur canon (if I’d thought ahead about writing this review, I would’ve asked), but it was obvious how much preparation had gone into the game.
  • An actual trial that worked!   Part of our quest involved a trial designed to test various aspects of a person (very Arthurian and not in the least like Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail).  Not only did I not even think of this picture once during the whole session, but I actually felt the trial worked very well in the setting.
What... is the airspeed velocity of a fully-laden swallow?

What… is your quest?

  • The other good bits mentioned above still applied here.
  • I must add that I was personally drawn to the setting because it reminded me so much of the first Rune Quest game I joined, set in France.  It was wonderful to see how Fate could be used across such a wide range of possible campaigns.


I was there for Fate and I was not disappointed.  I was, however, also incredibly impressed with the sheer scale of the rest of the convention.  The main hall at the Newport Centre is enormous!

If there was one thing I would say could be improved in next year’s Dragondaze, it is the signposting.  I knew Dreadball was going to be there, but I actually had to go hunting for the war-gaming room (and nearly got lost in the gym… twice… looking for it).  A welcome map and a few signs along the way would do wonders to tie the different rooms together.  The lack of signposting may go some way towards explaining why the roleplay and war-gaming rooms were not as full as they could’ve been.

I will also be taking a packed lunch next year, as the Newport Centre café made very little effort to scale up its efforts with the large influx of visitors.  Queues for food lasting over 20 minutes ate into precious time I could’ve been visiting stalls or chatting to Johnny Depp… I mean Sparrow… I mean… what?  (His costume was awesome).

However, those minor negatives aside, it was clear how much effort had gone into the day.  There was an enormous amount of choice of activity – an entire room full of boardgames!  All the stands were manned with people really keen to show you something new.  It was truly a great day; very enjoyable and I came away with awesome memories!

I am already planning next year’s sojourn into Wales.  Next year, I plan to bring at least a whole car-load of extra people to enjoy it with me.

[Guest Post] The Burial of Garrick Greylock

24 Mar

[Extract from a tale told by Morgan the Bard, a while after the Ravenborn returned from Pedestal for the first time.  The tale is told of Garrick Greylock’s burial by Aart the Ranger and his acceptance by the Fae.]

Garrick’s body was taken through the portal and back to his homeland. He had fought hard and given his life so that his friends, and the land he loved, might be free of tyranny and evil.

It was taken, with great care, to the cave and it was decided that he deserved to be part of an honoured few – that he should be rewarded for what he had given.

Aart struggled to carry the body through to the pool where Garrick would be laid to rest. Lying the body down, he knelt beside it and called upon his mistress.

“I ask you to listen as I speak of a brave soul who has given his life in your name. Although he was a man of Sune, he acted for us. He is truly a man of deep honour and love, and he was taken from us by our enemies. He gave his life so your will may continue to be done; that light may spread throughout these lands and be shone upon our people.”

A radiant light emerged from the pool, filling the room. Aart slowly picked up the body as it started to glow – subsumed by the peaceful light. It felt weightless as he moved it over the water, as if he was no longer in control of its destination. Carefully and gently, it was submerged.

“His last dying breath was at the hands of Lolth’s great Bone Spider – the fangs piercing his body. His bravery was beyond that of all the people I have known. I wanted to save him, but could not. I was too late. He will be greatly missed and our mission is greatly hampered by this loss. I beg that he be taken care of, that he be given a place among the revered whom have chosen to give their life to you. This must be done. My desperation to do your bidding caused this injustice. I ask he be given comfort on his new journey.”

As the body was lowered under the waters edge, hands brushed over Aart’s, slowly taking the body from him. It descended deep into the pool, until he could barely make out the image of his friend.

A familiar voice entered his mind: “We will take care of him. He will be happy and fulfilled with us and one day you will see him again. Keep to your task, and never forget his sacrifice.”

The glowing light gradually left the pool as it rose up his arms. It filled his body until it seemed to embrace his whole being. The Fae had gifted him once more.

I am honoured to include this guest post on my blog.  

The entry was written by @3CubedReview, who plays the part of Aart each week.  He gave permission for me to share it here.  

Head over to http://3cubedreview.wordpress.com/ and show him your support!

Esther’s Diary, 19th Winterfills

19 Mar

[A scrap of a diary recovered from an ancient ruin in the Northlands.  The ruin is thought to be part of a small village, possibly the fabled Barrow’s Edge.]

Dear diary.

My first entry in a new diary (thank you Beomea!).  I have so much to tell!  Ravenbluff was attacked by men in armour.  We were driven out of our homes and I saw many people killed…  my friends.  That all seems so long ago now.

A group of us, led by the baker, Bjorn , fled south, as our village burned.  Bless him, he did his best to rescue us.  But so many of us, like me, were old and unfit for such a journey.  We only made it two days before a group of men caught us as we made camp.  They beat some of us, even the women.  Bjorn was badly hurt – I think they broke his ribs.  Then they chained us together and led us in a line for days.  I don’t know where we went.

The next few weeks are a blur of brutality.  The men who held us captive were large and stank.  Most had blond hair and I think they spoke Landorian to each-other, although when they were in a rage with us, they barked Risen orders for us to follow.  They were led by a man named Gruthar.  He never seemed to be angry, nor was he violent towards us.  But the other men feared him.  I could tell.

I have no idea where we went, and the violence and suffering seemed set to never end.  Eventually we stopped walking.  We were led into a city of tents, surrounded by a wooden wall.  There was mud and waste everywhere, but we finally had some rest, so it was an improvement.

We were held in a large shed, with metal stakes in the ground to which they tied our chains.  We were to be slaves, apparently.  This was some kind of temporary holding before we were to be led off to whatever fate was waiting for us.  There were others in the shed from Ravenbluff and many others besides, including children, but we were too tired to talk much, and doing so was likely to invoke the wrath of our captors.  Periodically, we would be subjected to examination and some would be taken from the group.  They split families – parents from their children – they didn’t care.  We never saw anyone who was taken again.

Many died simply waiting.  Their corpses were dragged out of sight – to what rest?  May the elders guide them home.

Finally, it was my turn.  We were examined as normal.  This time, each person was asked if they were from Ravenbluff.  Any who answered yes were taken, including Bjorn and me.  There must’ve been thirty of us in total.  We were led out and beaten, before being loaded onto two wagons and driven out of the camp.

We drove for several hours before being forced to walk up a steep cliff into a cave.  There were guards at the cave, in the same armour as the men who had sacked our village.  I hate them.  We were driven to the back of the cave, where a man was busy working on some kind of iron gateway – it didn’t seem to lead anywhere.  Suddenly, it burst into flame!  A tunnel appeared in the archway and I could see another place on the other side, through the shimmering light.  We were pushed through and found ourselves in another place entirely.  It was a most bewildering experience.  We were all afraid – terrified, but had learned to keep quiet and keep our heads down.

A pair of carts were waiting for us, drawn by strange beats, like giant lizards.  The air was humid and hot and I slept on that journey.  Part of me secretly hoping I would not awake to meet whatever terrible fate was waiting for me at the end of the road.

Finally, we were taken off the carts and led into an inn, of all places!  A lady, dressed in red robes that covered her face told us we were to wait in the inn and that any who were hungry or thirsty could get food and water from the bar.  We weren’t given any more information, but that was good enough for me!  First meal in two days!  A few of the men asked for beer, but were refused – although not unkindly.  To be honest, the men seemed relieved just to get fresh water after the brackish piss we’d had in the camp.  The barmaid, Chekka, was friendly, if a little odd… Her face was like that of an insect.  Perhaps this was some horrible disease that disfigured her so?  I did not speak to her myself.

We slept in the inn that night.  I assume it was night-time, although there were no windows in the inn and the sky had already been dark when we arrived.  In the morning, I got chatting with a few of my friends.  It was so lovely to be able to simply talk, without fear of being beaten to near death for it.  Someone had heard a rumour that the Ravenborn were our new owners.  I thought they were just legend from old, but what do I know?  Surely the Ravenborn were not the kind to be owning slaves, anyway?

A few hours later, a group of travellers entered the bar.  It was one of the grocer’s lads that noticed it at first – they were Ravenbluffers!  Ariana, Ryce, Eru.  And Aart the ranger was with them!  They also carried the body of Garrick, poor soul.  It was a sight for sore eyes to see more friends from Ravenbluff in this dingy place, I must say.  They looked shattered, but they went through the bar and spoke to the owner – they seemed to know this place.  Though they recognised us, I got the impression they were confused about our being there.  We let Bjorn speak for us, for the most part.  It transpired that we were now free to go with this group of youngsters.  I had no idea what they did to secure our release, but I will be grateful for it until the day I die.

The very next day, we set out again on carts filled with barrels of stuff, but this time in much higher spirits.  We were guided down a dark road to a small stone stairway.  At the top was another one of those gates.

It was odd there – like it never seemed to be day-time.

Through the magic tunnel, we arrived in a stone cavern.  There wasn’t much room at all and we pushed on through the tunnel to make way for the carts and the rest.  We were met by a strange man in shining armour.  He seemed friendly, if a little odd.  He spoke in a strange accent – perhaps Southern?  His long blond hair also spoke of Landor, although I have not been there myself.  He announced himself rather formally as Aaron.  There were others there – Morgan from Ravenbluff, who I recognised, a young lad called Jareck, who seemed preoccupied with a couple of ravens, and a girl who was apparently from Barrow’s Edge, somewhere North of Ravenbluff.  I think her name was Lilith or something?  Luth! That was it.

My goodness this is a lot of writing!  I might have to write a book about my adventure.  Despite the horrific things I’ve seen and endured, this whole experience has opened my eyes up to the world.  I can hardly believe I lived in Ravenbluff my whole life when the world is filled with such incredible variety.

To finish, then, we spent two nights in the caves.  I chatted to Morgan quite a bit in that time.  He had travelled with Ryce, Eru, Ariana, Aart, Luth and Garrick here once before.  It had been filled with Picts at the time, and other things, far worse besides.  It was now under the control of a group called the Silver Circle and Morgan would be living here with Jareck and learning his trade from a man called Llewellyn, who I didn’t see, but who was apparently also there.

After the first night, the men, organised by Aaron and Bjorn, disassembled the wagons we came with and reassembled them at the cave entrance.  The wagons were to carry the barrels we’d brought with us.  However, there was a hurried discussion when the wagons were complete, as everyone suddenly realised there was no road for a wagon!  How funny!  I think Aaron was all for putting the wagon back together inside the cave, but Bjorn spoke up for the men of the village and said they were tired, so we rested instead.  Next day, we travelled on foot to Barrow’s Edge, carrying the barrels under pole slings.  It worked well and we would not have been able to make the journey with a wagon, even one pulled by a giant lizard!

Barrow’s Edge is a quiet little place.  They were surprised when the twenty-five or so of us who’d survived the journey from the slave camp arrived on their doorstep with the others.  I think they were a little upset as well, but our rescuers persuaded the Thane to let us stay for a while (I’m sure there are lots of useful things we can do, anyway!).

Boemea, a local trader and lovely lady, kindly gave me this book, pen and ink so I could start a new diary.  We still have to find somewhere to live, and there is still terrible sadness amongst us all for those who have died along the way.  But right now, I couldn’t be happier!

All my love,

Esther Grey.

The Watcher Files – Article Three: Leaving Pedestal

27 Feb

[Further correspondence between the mysterious Agent P and Mistress “Lacewing”.  It seems Agent P was present at the time of Garrick’s death.  The death of one of their members seems to have been an influential point in the Ravenborn’s history, sparking a sense of purpose and direction as yet unseen in the group.  It is interesting how further documents from the same time indicate that the magically gifted Ryce, born of dragon’s blood, and Ariana the master shape-changer, take a more influential role in the group from this point.]

Dearest Mistress,

I report that The Crow was a den of shape-changers.  A recent acquisition, for I had thought the spire’s entrance was long lost.  Their new place of residence was short-lived.  I counted only a handful of survivors fleeing the tower as I crept through the maze.

It would seem the group I follow made it their mission to drive these rat-girls out of the tower.  I found dead strewn liberally in several places; simply left to rot where they fell.  One body was missing her head entirely.  At first, I thought the group might have taken it as a trophy, but I found it later in a dusty corridor near the top.  Blood and bits of the rat-girl’s brain had smeared over the features and dried.  I almost missed it, thinking it was a rock.  Who are these fiends?

I am glad to be on this mission, mistress.  This is the most interesting work I have had for a long time.

I followed the group deep into the spire.  They had no idea I was there, I am certain of it – even the agent of Es Sarach.  I was careful, my mistress.  Very careful.  You need not fear for my safety in Pedestal and I will not do anything to alert Es of my work here.

The Crow itself was a dusty, empty tomb of a place.  The historic art and Thesselonian relics held little interest for me, although the rat creatures had been hoarding some of the more valuable items.

I will report the biggest finding of my investigation so far.  One of the group – the brawler they call “Garrick” – was slain by a device in Lolth’s chapel.  The group left as quickly as they were able almost immediately after their member’s death and I had to make a hasty retreat to avoid being detected.  I returned later to find the chamber awash with blood – most of it must’ve been Garrick’s.  There were sharp bits of bone embedded in the walls all around the construct…

The construct was fascinating to me – a spider creature, made of bone.  I have not seen the like before.  Perhaps it was some kind of guardian of the chapel?  I am uncertain as to its purpose there.

It seems the group returned to Es Sarach with no delay.  They slept one night and then headed in the direction of the West Portal, carrying with them around twenty five slaves and several barrels of unknown contents.  I am unsure how to proceed, mistress.  The signs tell me they went to a place called the Northlands, in a land called Risen.  Do you wish me to follow them through the portal?

Your faithful servant,


Unless you are my mistress or her assistant, I will kill you.

Ryce’s Crow

26 Feb

[This poem or song is part of a collection of similar works that fall under the banner of the Ballad of the Ravenborn.  Discovered with a series of similar pieces in a ruined tower in Helwyst, the pieces are remarkably well preserved.  Several have been used in performances and plays about the Ravenborn.  Royalties payable to the Ravenborn Trust.]

In the tower of The Crow
where the were-rats hide
lies a terrible room
with Lolth inside.

Where the rats stayed clear
and the old order died
Ryce was unafraid
and stepped right inside.

He cracked the riddle code
on the fire-metal door
then floated on a disc
(so that’s what Eru’s for!)

Ryce the dragon-born
Blood as old as the sky is long

There’s a spider on a ledge
in the room of silent dread
Ryce had done his bit
and was heading off to bed…

But as he climbed into his crystal ball THE SPIDER TRIED TO KILL THEM ALL!

Ryce the dragon-born
Blood as old as the sky is long

[No-one ever said the songs were any good…]

The Lost Journal of Garrick Greylock – Day 24

3 Feb

I must use this time to prepare my mind.  I have so many thoughts and my remaining parchment from Morgan is limited to just a few leaves.

This adventure has a hold on me.   I feel different.  More powerful and more sure of myself.  The longer I spend with my companions, the more I feel empathy for all of them, even the learned Eru.  They are true friends, my comrades.  They are my new family.  I still hold my clan dear in my heart and will see this mission through to try and save them, or at least honour them, but this adventure, this journey, both physical and within me, is my calling.  I know this now.

There are forces at work in Pedestal and across a world so much larger than I ever imagined.  Forces that we have yet to understand and some forces we may never understand.  But they are within our grasp!  It is within our power, as adventurers, as people of note and as friends to make a difference.  Everything we do has an impact.  Everything.  We need to start thinking about this as a group…  Until now, I feel we’ve been led.  We need to think for ourselves and decide how we want to play our hand.  

I have been foolish to disregard magic until now.  It is part of this world.  The clan’s impact on me lingers, and rightly so for that is my heritage.  But those rules have no bearing in this harsh place.  This is not a tournament or clan fight – these are real people, my friends!  I must seek out and be prepared to use tools that are available to help them.  I ask Eru “Is this alchemical or magical?” as though it makes any difference!  Is alchemy not magic to me, anyway?  I do not understand how it works, only that it works!  What difference then that non-magical chemicals light my way through this dark maze of the Crow, and not magical light?

Ah, Eru, Eru.  How I hated you before!  Your foolishness and, at times, lack of tact or sense have got us into a few scrapes, aye, but nothing we have not been able to handle – and we have become a better group for it.  Whether my hate for you was seeded by my distrust for magic, or if I merely bore too much of a grudge for your foolishness, I am sorry.  I owe you this apology in person and will seek you out in the morning.

I feel a tension in the group.  It’s more than just excitement at nearing our goal.  I think the events of the past few days are not falling easily on some of my friends… I was so shocked when Ariana, lover of nature and life, cut free a head from one of these tower girls.  What was that?  A trophy?  We have barely spoken since.  It is true, I feel no remorse for killing these vagrant shape-changers, but to dessicate their dead so…  It sickens me.  I truly feel I never knew her.

I know Aart feels it too.  He and I are much alike, I think.

I feel silly with my torch out whilst all others are able to see in this pitch black maze.  I miss Morgan.  When we left the Northlands, Aart, Ryce, Eru and Ariana were the outsiders, the odd ones.  Now, here in Pedestal, we are all outcasts… and yet the others seem not to have noticed.  Perhaps it is because they have always been thus.

Enough talk of feelings.  The day has been eventful.  We have nearly tracked down the second piece of the shard – we must be so close now!  To get to this point, we have battled through the huge black stone spire in Pedestal, known as the Crow.  There was some resistance from its occupants – female bandits.  Some of them seem to have the ability to change into enormous rats.  It is unsettling.  One we held captive – perhaps the leader – managed to escape by changing into a rat to slip her bonds.  This was shortly after her corrosive gas trap nearly killed all my friends.  Somehow I was less affected by the trap than the others.  I fear if I had succumbed to the gas, none of us would be alive today.

Our travelling ‘guide’, Rasheed, is getting on my nerves.  I get the feeling his skill-set would have enabled him to complete this task alone, perhaps with much less bloodshed.  It is difficult to tell what he is thinking, as his face is covered with a bone mask… Or perhaps that is his face?  I have seen enough oddness recently to believe there are people with bones on the outside.  What an odd thought.  Regardless, he has helped us little and we already had a map to this place.  I know of at least one item he has taken for himself, despite knowing we share everything we find amongst us, and despite us having offered him various items in the past.  His lack of willingness to engage with us puts me on edge – I believe he could turn on us at any time: who knows what his real mission is?  I will watch him closer now.

Tomorrow, we find out what is in the locked room nearby.  From our brief glance inside, the markings on the wall and enormous statue of a bone spider remind me of Lolth worship.  The symbolism seems right; all spiders and death.  But it seems out of place in this tower – until now, the only artwork was of ancient murals of giants.  How do the two relate to each-other?  Best to get what rest we can now.  I have a bad feeling about tomorrow.

The Ballad of the Ravenborn – Battle for the Crow’s Nest

15 Jan

[Extract from a folk tale about the Ravenborn.

The tale in its entirety has been told in many guises and has many versions.  It is largely believed to be little more than exaggerated legend and myth, but some aspects of the tale are anchored to known truths and solid fact.  Among other things, this makes it the perfect breeding ground for conspiracy theorists.  This extract relates to a well-documented fight within The Crow – an ancient spire in Pedestal.]

… And so it came to pass that the Ravenborn at last rose to their true form.  The beasts of war within their bodies broke free and decimated lines upon lines of the rats inhabiting The Crow.  Rat blood ran in rivers from the mouth of the broken spire and mixed with the blood of the heathen tower girls – their lives instantly and rightly forfeit for their heinous acts of bestiality and rat buggery!  Oh the Gods of justice crowed in delight as their will was brought down in mighty blows from Garrick’s hands

… and Ryce’s claws

… and Spot’s great jaws

… and Aart’s drawn bow of light

… and Eru’s raw power.

And at Ariana’s command those rats themselves gave up their will to live, and died.  Their own skin wanting not to sit upon their backs!

T’was a great day for justice.  Many thousands of corrupted souls were banished and the goldren treasure held within was set to be captured by the Ravenborn as honest pay for honest work in delivering the will of the Gods.

But not all the rat beast girls were slain.  Even in the heat of deliverance, the Ravenborn saw that mercy could be given in place of punishment!  For one lucky rat, named Sasha the Coward, ill-fated to spend her days in lonely contemplation at those evil deeds, this day would not be her end.  She ran, set free, and escaped justice that day.  The will of the Ravenborn is truly a mystery for us mortals.

Another, perhaps the greatest evil within that spire, was hidden – allowing her army of shape-changers and animal-lovers to die without showing her face.  The Queen Were-Rat Aiella, retreated to her den.  Of course, the Ravenborn would not, could not, leave their work unfinished.  To let a creature of such evil live would be a crime unto itself!  They followed her, then, into her lair.

Oh and they tracked her!  How they tracked her, my dear reader!  The cleverness of the Ravenborn must not be forgotten.  They tracked her down in her lair – she would not, could not, escape!  Read, thee, reader.  For you will know the Ravenborn for their most awesome …

[At this point, the story goes off on a tangent for a few chapters.  It returns on Page 832 of the texts to continue the tale of the Battle for the Crow’s Nest.  Bards often leave this section out altogether, feeling that the original author was somehow infatuated with the Ravenborn.  It is strongly suspected that many of the tales attributed to them by this unknown linguist are false, or grossly exaggerated…]

… The room of goldren fire metal – sky-fallen and lustrous – sat before them; The Crow’s Nest.  The Ravenborn did not falter.  Through cunning and the cleverness of Eru, the master wizard, they opened the door and entered the burning room without suffering from the heat of the metal.

Before them sat the nest.  All other doors were closed and they began to try and solve the puzzle of the Crow’s Nest.  LISTEN… THE EYES…!  How simple it must have seemed to their enormous minds, and yet it took scholars years to decipher the text.

The rat queen Aiella, was nowhere to be found in the room, but sneaky, hiding, sneaky… She triggered the trap!  The Ravenborn were engulfed in poisonous clouds of gas and vapour.  Their precious lungs were filled with vile acidic air and their very minds were infused with corrosive thoughts!  This trap could spell the end for the Ravenborn.  Only Ryce and Garrick remained standing and Ryce soon collapsed as he succumbed to the searing pain.

This, then, shows the full extent of Garrick’s power.  His rage at the trickery fuelled his will to survive.  He went first to Ariana, the Druid.  Seemingly asleep, but unconscious and dying, he lifted her in one arm and broke open one of the unexplored doors with the other, laying her gently against the wall outside, he gazed into her eyes; hoping for a sign of life.  A sound from behind brought his attention back to his task.  Garrick was attacked!  The were-rat Aiella, evilness spilling from her very furs, was in this room!  With gas seeping out and drawing the very life out of the Ravenborn party, Garrick had no time for sentimentality.  Garrick quickly grappled the rat queen, pinned her down and tied her up.  He was fortunate that night, for the evil beast’s strength was only matched by her evilness.  Perhaps she was simply still in shock at having lost her whole pack, but she barely fought back…

And so Garrick rushed back into the burning room, saving first Aart, then Ryce and the group’s useless assassin companion, Rasheed, then Spot the Brave.  Finally, Garrick made a last dash across the room to save the wizard, Eru and his trusty ferret, Heimdal.  It is no secret that the two did not get along, but despite their differences, their companionship grows their bond yet stronger by the day.

With the day saved and the vermin captured, Garrick took a well-earned rest.   The Ravenborn lived to see another day, having fought their most fierce battle yet, mostly asleep.

[The story continues for several more chapters and the writing becomes less and less legible towards the end of this section.   From other evidence and a forensic examination of this “Burning Room” nearer the time, this part of the tale, at least, holds true and is believed to be a fairly accurate depiction of the events in The Crow, leading to the unearthing of the Second Shard.  A few other parts of The Ballad of the Ravenborn correlate well with physical and historic evidence, but the majority is merely waffle.]

The Watcher Files – Article Two: New Orders

16 Dec

< Go to Part One | Main

[The true identity of Agent P is currently unknown.  Several letters of correspondence between the Mistress “Lacewing” and Agent P are included within the Watcher package.  Whoever compiled the collection may have had access to both parties, or acquired letters from other collectors.  The collection is, however, incomplete – there are some gaps, although this is by far the most complete record of these events we have uncovered to date.]

Agent P,

Much as I appreciate your concern regarding the interception of these messages, I must ask you to stop putting death threats at the end of each correspondence.  My assistant, who often reads these letters on my behalf, has a weak heart.

I am intrigued by this group of travellers.  Their description fits the profile given by a client.

I want to know more before agreeing any terms with the client.  Follow them.  Send me as much information as you can.  I will leave it up to your judgement how you proceed if they enter The Crow.  This order supersedes any you are currently working on.

Do not engage, under any circumstances.


< Go to Part One | Main

The Watcher Files – Article One

9 Dec

Main | Go to Part Two >

[Note to reader: This file was discovered during the raid of a Dusklorn hideout, near South Spire.  The seal was broken, although several letters of reply were included, suggesting that they had reached their intended recipient.  Several other documents related to the Ravenborn were also present, dating back to some of the earliest known encounters.  A carved wooden medallion was also included (image below).  The package was seized for further examination.]

Mysterious careved wooden medallion

Wooden medallion, found within the “Watcher Files” package from the Dusklorn, South Spire.

My dearest mistress,

I have encountered something of interest during my assignment in Pedestal.  An unusual party of travellers has entered the city.  It appears they are searching for the construct, but their approach is… most unusual.

The group first came to my attention outside the residence of Natalya.  I have been monitoring this house for some time – the girl is one of Es Sarach’s agents, but has been behaving oddly.

The group arrived, entered the house and killed everyone within.  There was another of Sarach’s agents with them, the assassin, Rasheed, but he took no active part in the fight.  Perhaps this was some kind of test set by Sarach?  Regardless, the group did not reappear for some time, and Rasheed eventually made his way back in the direction of The Ring.

After Rasheed had gone, I surveyed the house.  The dead had been looted and simply left to rot.  No attempt had been made to conceal the murders, although this is not unusual in Pedestal.  It appeared Natalya’s companion, a mage of some power, had been no match for the group, which includes a druid and two others schooled in the art.  Scorch marks and the trail of blood led me to check the back yard.  The group had set off at quite a pace away from Rasheed and Natalya’s hideout.

I did not proceed to follow the group at this point.  As interesting as they were to me, I had other priorities.  However, our paths crossed again this day – the reason I write to you now.  Clearly Es Sarach was not displeased with their actions taken against his agent – I have seen evidence of his displeasure at times and failures do not usually get a second chance.  His assassin, Rasheed was with them again, this time near The Crow.

The group made their approach right up to the walls of The Crow.  They seem to care little of being discovered.  I had business nearby and was attracted by their loud discussion.  My official assessment at present is that they are incredibly confident, or incredibly stupid.  My business was done, so I followed them this time, intrigued.  They were being led by a map.  My guess is they picked this map up from Natalya’s, as I have reason to believe Natalya had discovered the location of another shard.  Rasheed nearly saw me a couple of times, so I dropped back to a side street.  It was easy enough to follow the group by sound alone.

A few streets down, my path was blocked by the rot.  Two or three whole buildings, by the look of it – I marked them and enclose details for triage.  I noticed signs of a Sahuagin clan there, too.  Heading for higher ground, I tracked back to the group just in time to witness the full extent of their ignorance.

I watched, disbelieving, as they stopped to investigate a scream, cut-short.  I wondered whether they might be looking for loot, or information. However, further thought on this has led me to believe they did, in fact, intend to try and help the unknown victim.  Such senseless altruism is so rare in Pedestal I nearly revealed myself in my surprise.  These travellers are very far from home, here.  Though no stranger to violence, they would risk everything for a stranger in the dark?

One of the group entered an infected house, intent on passing through it to get closer to the source of the scream.  This one carries no weapons, save a wooden staff, and does not seem to be gifted in the art.  Clearly not gifted in brains, either.  Sure enough, he was pulled out, coughing, shortly after; no doubt slightly wiser.

One of the magi, a tall fae-touched with fiery hair, began leading half the group down an alleyway, only to discover a gel being there, blocking their path.  I was expecting those two failures to put the group off and for them to return to their quest, but was further astonished when they attacked the gel being!

Rasheed retreated at this point, clearly not paid to take part in this battle.   The dynamic there is interesting – Es Sarach is definitely using this group for something; they are disposable to him.

As expected, the being proved a tough opponent.  The fire-haired magi quickly became ensnared and was being digested.  I then witnessed the other arcane member, a small tiefling with a tail, coordinate an unusual rescue: dragging the – now paralysed – aasimar whole from the gel being, by use of a rope.  Fascinating!

This party clearly have no notion of silent combat – another indication that their home lies far from here.  I would not want to guess at their origins, but their fighting style reminds me of that of barbarian militia; mere peasants far from their lord.  If I am right there may be more of them – who would their lord be?  Not Sarach…

Their noise attracted a Sahuagin patrol.  I would give the group credit for moving swiftly into the building in an attempt to avoid detection, except that I could still hear them inside, breaking doors and shouting to each-other.  Such rewarding entertainment is rare, especially here in Pedestal.

I forget myself, mistress.  I intended only to inform you of my findings in Pedestal.  I will try to keep future correspondence more to the point.  Also enclosed are my reports from the Spire.

Your faithful servant,


Know this, reader: If you are not my mistress, I will hunt you.  I will destroy you.  The seal of my mistress is the mark of your death.

Main | Go to Part Two >

The Lost Journal of Garrick Greylock, Day 23

19 Nov

I really know not how we remained standing until now. My companions have rightly taken rest. I remain on watch, although even my lids are heavy – the toll of another long day.

I will be brief, and through necessity will sadly miss much detail.  Following our rest at Barrow’s Edge, we met again with the mysterious bard, Llewellyn.  Having given us the night to discuss everything we had learned, he expected an answer from us, and we gave it.  Though our families and friends from Ravenbluff are likely in great danger, the greater threat is the unlocking of Ravenbluff’s fane and the return of this legendary Gith Empire we have been told of.  I do not trust Llewellyn still, and feel he has kept much from us, but I sensed urgency in his voice and believe his description of the Gith and the fact that this fane could spell their return to be true, at least.  Fortunately, my companions felt the same way.  I was worried that the decision, being so personal for many, would cause a rift in the group.  Only Luth seemed really torn and she ended up staying at Barrow’s Edge to help out there, where she could.

Our decision was to follow the Gith key, which the wizard had traded with Urrtarr for passage through the portal, to an underground city called Pedestal.  Pedestal is apparently the unofficial capital of corruption – filled with the most unseemly types from all worlds.  We expected trouble, but no more so than an all-out battle with the Risen.

Llewellyn seemed to be pleased by our decision, but gave us plenty of chance to change it – I felt he was trying hard to avoid dictating our choice and I do respect him for that.  Perhaps we are being overcautious in not trusting him.  Or perhaps it is simply another bardic trick.  I must remember to discuss this more with Morgan when I have the chance.

And so we set off once more for the Pictish Caves.  I left the egg with Eefie – one person I really hope we can trust (she certainly has the trust of the resident Priestess of Sune, Dera).

On the way to the caves, I tried to glean more from Llewellyn.  I learned that he planned to convert the Pictish Caves – now empty of Picts, who had been under the control of the Morrigan and had now dispersed – into a base for the Silver Circle.  In fact, Llewellyn hopes that we will take up the control of this base.  That would involve us choosing to ally with the Silver Circle – an organisation of which we know very little… But then, out of everyone we’ve met, they have given us the least grief and the most aid.  Perhaps they truly can be trusted (or maybe that’s just my fatigue getting the better of me).

Arrival at the portal room, deep in the caves, sparked a disagreement.  Piecing together what we know from our experience and what Llewellyn told us, the time scales didn’t add up at all!  According to Llewellyn, he had visited the caves whilst we were through the portal.  During his visit, he noticed no Pict bodies… However, when we left the portal, the Pict bodies were still there, as we had left them.  This was nearly enough to tip us over the edge – not a one of us trusts Llewellyn, it seems.  However, we have no choice at this point – Llewellyn put the difference in experiences down the Morrigan influence.  Perhaps he’s right…

We received a portal key from Llewellyn to help us through the portal without losing time, like last time.  The item is an odd structure, made of bone and silvery metal.   I have attempted to draw it for this journal entry, although my skills with the pencil leave much to be desired and I’m sure one of my companions would do a better job of it!


With barely a backward glance, we headed off through the portal in search of Pedestal.

The journey through the magical portal was sickening.  It felt as though my body was being squeezed through a tiny hole – my very bones ached and I couldn’t breathe, as though underwater.  At the other end, the effects stopped immediately, without any noticeable side-effects.  I do hate magic.

The other end was murky and smelled of damp and tiny green motes or spores float everywhere in the air.  Even now, the smell permeates everything, creeping through clothing and skin.  I fear I will need to consult an alchemist or herbalist to rid myself of the smell upon my return to the Northlands.  Funny, though, how we barely notice it now. My nose has adapted and I can pick out smells of food, candle wax and wood smoke from my bunk in the Dripstone Inn, though the musty stink of mould is always at the edge.  However, I get ahead of myself!

We encountered a fearsome creature at the portal exit – a basilisk!  I have learned of this creature during my training with the clan and tried to warn the group of the danger of the basilisk’s eyes, but Morgan was reckless and was turned to stone by its horrible power!  Whilst I was creeping up on the beast, Ariana called forth eagles – they seemed to appear from her hands, mid-flight.  It was a spectacular sight!  Sadly, one of the eagles was also turned to stone and then shattered as it hit the ground.  I could tell Ariana was distraught that the bird died because of her summons.  However, if it wasn’t for the eagles and the ever-fierce Spot, we may never have rescued Morgan.  As it was, Spot finished off the basilisk before I even reached it and we were able to bring Morgan back with its blood.

A wondrous thing, that transformation to stone and back – I never want to see it again.

I retrieved some of the creature’s blood for the vial around my neck.  This is the blood of the creature that my masters had chosen to be my worldly trial.  I feel slightly guilty for not having played much part in the battle.  Spot is a powerful beast indeed.  I admit to this journal and all who read it that I feel my position as protector of this group is threatened by him.  Perhaps I am being childish, to be threatened so by a mere cat, but his courage and loyalty to Ariana cannot be denied.  I must try harder…

The basilisk had initially been almost hidden behind a wooden cart.  The driver of the cart had also been petrified.  We used the remaining blood of the slain beast to free the driver from his stone prison and met Cyctha Dax – trader extraordinaire.  A fascinating man, from a far-off land called Brovia.  He told us much about Pedestal in return for us saving his life.  The city is run by a group called the Dusklorn, for whom Cyctha works (he was delivering high quality silk material, when he was attacked by the basilisk).  In addition, he told us of the spores in the air – we must protect our faces, or risk becoming infected by some kind of fungal disease.  Finally, he gave us a name – Es Sarach – of an influential figure in the city who would be able to help us find Urrtarr.

To skip ahead a bit, this is where we are now – within the common room of Es Sarach’s inn, the Dripstone.  My companions, my friends, lie asleep around me, intermingled with other ragged figures of all shapes and sizes.  Pedestal is, indeed, a place of great diversity.  Although its inhabitants feel somewhat less evil and more desperate than we were led to believe.  So far, we have encountered little trouble on The Ring, which is a great road that circles the dilapidated city.  People and creatures living on The Ring seem to wish to keep themselves to themselves.

Since arriving at Pedestal, I do believe we have found in Es Sarach a man of great resource – one who can get us to Urrtarr and possibly further.  But I cannot tell at what cost.  He has already had us murder one of his agents in search of a magical artefact of great power… A power that took complete control of Aart, turning him into a complete dick for half an hour.  Perhaps I will write more on this another day, but for now I am tired and must rest.

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