The never ending story of ...

BoldItalic

Visitor
Od contemplated his room in the attic of the Pig and Lion. It was dingy and squalid but at least it was free. The previous occupant had left it in a filthy state but Od conjured up an Unseen Servant who soon set about cleaning it up. Mice scurried under the furniture in alarm as a broom wielded by invisible hands swept every corner free of dust and cobwebs.

Od settled on the bed and cast a Light cantrip on the bedpost behind his head. He drew out a letter and began to read. A halfling maiden had thrust it into his hand earlier, as he finished his performance in the common room downstairs. Tumbling and Juggling was his forte and it went down well enough tonight, but the customers had really been more in the mood for a sing-song. A few bars on the flute had been enough to set them off and the landlord was suitably appreciative, for singing makes thirsty throats and thirsty throats make good takings at the bar.

"Dear Od", the letter began ...
 

rgoodbb

Explorer
"Dear Od", the letter began ...

You must come home soon. Mother has gone mad and locked father in the basement. I can hear his cries and pleading to be let out. Mother has become dangerous. She thinks she is doing this for my protection. Od. Please get here as fast as you can, I beg of you. Together, we may be able to stand up to her once and for all.

Your loving brother, Ivan.

Od, stalling, reread the letter another two times, eventually sighed, collected his things and snuck out the Pig so's not to awaken the landlord. He took to the western road in the dead of night, old long repressed memories returning to haunt him.

So caught up in these emotional thoughts was Od that he almost failed to see.......
 

BoldItalic

Visitor
He almost failed to see.......

... the pirate walking towards him, with a rolling gait that spoke of a long-time sailor only recently disembarked onto dry land. A wind sprang up out of nowhere as the pirate casually suggested to Od that he hand over his valuables "because of the storm that was brewing".

Od knew a Charm Person spell when he saw one and countered with one of his own. "Your pirate hat is attracting the lightning, better let me hide it for you," he suggested. Their eyes locked and both laughed, recognising a kindred spirit. They shook hands.

"Nornthew," the pirate introduced himself. "Seafarer out of Neverwinter. I do a bit of Storm work."

"Od," replied Od. "I do a bit of performing. Taverns mostly. Where are you heading?"

Norn's reply astonished the bard ...
 

rgoodbb

Explorer
Norn's reply astonished the bard ...

"I was heading to the Pig to pick up an individual....who's....supposed..to av'.....some....magic." Norn stared into the face of Od, lightning reflecting in his eyes. "Well. I guess that's you. C'mon we av' one other to pick up along the way and then we're heading for your 'ome."

"Wha...How do you know all this? Who are we picking up? What is going on at home? Why are you involved?" Od began to hyperventilate with the intensity of the moment.

"I'll tell ya along the way. We av' to stop off at Lower Trieve, an' this one ain't gonna be 'appy abaat' this."

Norn did not divulge any more formation along the wet and muddy road west. It was early morn and the mists were still clearing when they entered the squalid village of Lower Trieve. They meandered towards the outskirts nearing a small wood-hewer's hut......
 

BoldItalic

Visitor
... nearing a small wood-hewer's hut......

A burly man was outside the hut, chopping wood. He looked up as the two approached and made a sign of peace. "Nordthew? What brings you to these parts?"

"We 'ave need o' ye, Sergeant Herewulf. This 'ere 'alfling bard, name of Od if ye believe it, 'as family trouble. Needs a peacemaker such as yerself. Or, if'n it comes to blows, yer 'ealin' 'ands."

Herewulf grumbled. "You know I've retired from the Order. And I've never taken the Oath. Can't you leave me alone?"

"Nope," replied the pirate forcefully. "There be evil afoot, turnin folks mad agin' each other. 'Tis just the start. We stand or we fall. You know the score."

"If it's too much trouble, please don't inconvenience yourself," offered Od in feigned meekfullness. This had precisely the effect he had calculated. The paladin stiffened and became resolute.

"I'll get my equipment," said Herewulf, laying down his woodcutter's axe and going indoors. He emerged ten minutes later clad in chainmail, a rapier at his belt and bearing a shield emblazoned with the sign of the goddess Eldath. "Let us venture forth!" he declaimed dramatically.

The three set off ...
 

rgoodbb

Explorer
The three set off ...

The weather deteriorated to such an extent that the uncomfortably muddy road transformed into a gloopy quagmire. Along the way Herewulf paused to lend his considerable strength in aid of a cart, its wheel slodged fast in the mush.

Od, taking a leary glance at the sky above spat out his thoughts. "Is this your doing Norn?"

"What? Oh. Nope. I have some power over inclement weather but this is just nasty." Thunder crackled ominously around them all as if to prove his point.

A whiles later they huddled and hunched under a therecastle tree for breakfast, Nornthew keeping the downpour off of them with minor magic, Od heating and flavouring the food.

"Flaimin' heck Od. That's some good grub there." Herewulf exclaimed, licking his fingers. "So what's all this about then?"

"Well....It's like this............
 

BoldItalic

Visitor
"Well....It's like this............"

Od sumoned up all his story-telling skills to try to make what he was about to relate sound halfway plausible. Which it wasn't. Even when he glossed over the complicated bits, it was still crazy.

"My step-father, Jonas, who is also his own aunt twice removed (it's a tight-knit family) goes mad and hairy every full moon so my step-mother Betty has to lock him up in the cellar for a few days otherwise he will start eating his relatives (which is the entire village, one way or another). He was Cursed By Fate two years back. Fate is the village witch, by the way, and is everybody's grandmother so no-one can get rid of her but she's really nasty and does things like turning people blue for no reason. Now Betty used to be a priestess of Lolth until she Fell From Grace and had to run away. She won't talk about it but she goes all weird if you mention slave boys and manacles. Anyway, she married Jonas for his money but then found out he hadn't got any and she's never forgiven him and keeps him locked up in the cellar even after the full moon, just out of spite."

Herewulf nodded. "So, what exactly is the problem?" he asked.

"The cat's gone missing."

"And the cat is ... ?"

"My uncle Barnabas."

"I see. What do you make of this, brother Nordthew? What do you propose?"

"Obviously a hotbed of evil. Plunder the village, slaughter the inhabitants and raze it to the ground."

"You mean kill everybody and take all their stuff?"

"How else?"

"Er ..." interjected Od. "That's my village we're talking about."

"Good. You can give us the inside on where all the loot is stashed."

"That isn't ..."
 

rgoodbb

Explorer
"That isn't ..."

"Don't bow out on me now boy. This is the stuff of intrigue. So....who's your daddy? Just kidding. Mum's the word. I give up. Uncle! But seriously. Our quest is to find the cat....your uncle....named Barnabas? That's some pretty messed up gronk right there."

"Welcome to my world. Why do you think I moved away?"

"Well incest..uhm I mean instead of running, shouldn't you be dealing with this?"

"I will. But no burning or stealing."

"Not even a..

"No!"

"Well is the cat a familiar? I mean I know it obviously gets familiar, caus like you entire fam... but, I guess we'll let you lead the way with this one. I don't understand the quest."

"Wait. Quest? Who told you about all this. My brother wrote to me, so who told you?....................
 

BoldItalic

Visitor
Nord looked hard at Od. "He din't jus' write to you, he wrote to the whole wide world. There's copies of his letter in every tavern up and down the Sword Coast. He din't know where you were, see."

Herewulf looked thoughtful. He did that sometimes when conversations took an unexpected turn and he wanted people to slow down and give him time to think. "If everyone knows about the Quest," he suggested, "there could be dozens of adventurers heading for Od's village right now, chancing their luck. That's fine by me - they can deal with it and I can go home. Thanks for the meal, I'll be off now."

"Not so fast," protested Od. "The letter didn't say where my village is. It didn't even give the name of the village, because it didn't need to. But I know where it is. No-one else can muscle in. There's just us. It's our problem."

"He's right," agreed Nord. "It's our problem."

The paladin sighed. "So it comes down to smiting evil. Why is it always smiting evil? Can't evil just take a break from being smought? Oh well. I suppose I must. But we need a proper plan, though. Objectives. Milestones. Diagrams with bubbles and arrows joining them up. That kind of thing. Now, what's the name of the village, and where is the nearest castle?"

"If I tell you, do you promise not to burn it down?"

"Oh, alright."

"It's called ... Wait! What was THAT?"

"What was what? Oh, that. Just the heavens being rent asunder and choirs of celestial beings singing in multitudes. It happens. Take no notice."

"No, I meant THAT. Over there on that hillside. What is it?"

"Looks like a gazebo, to me."

"I thought they lived in Africa?"

"That's gazelles."

"Oh."

"Whatever it is, it's headed this way."

Sure enough, within the space of a few short minutes, the gazebo arrived and ...
 

rgoodbb

Explorer
Sure enough, within the space of a few short minutes, the gazebo arrived and ...

...A genie appeared.

"Greetings and good welcomings to you my friends. I am THACO. I usually arrive in a trap door rope trick but I have taken the upgrade option with all the turkey trimmings as you good people are fond of saying. With one cast of Transport Via Gazebos , I will spirit you away to your destination."

"Um. OK. Sure. I guess."

A couple of dumb nods and grunts later, they were at the house of Od's upbringing.

As a house, it was polite. With a good upbringing, taking in all the respectful customs and rituals....It was a Manor House.

The tempest as it truly was here had reached a crescendo of epic proportions.

Od was wondering what chaos his near and extended family had gotten themselves into

Herewulf was wondering how many xp he would be getting for this mission. It might level him up and he could really do with that inspiring leader feat.

Norn was wondering where all the girl adventurers had gone to these days.

Within the house itself, near the cellar door, words were being exchanged.........
 

BoldItalic

Visitor
The conversation went something like this:
"I'm not letting you out until you say sorry!"

"I'm not coming out until you say sorry!"

"Barnabas has gone missing! It's all your fault you stupid man!"

"He's right here with me! It's all your fault you stupid woman!"

and so on. Nord looked at Od, Od looked at Herewulf and Herewulf looked at Nord. Then, as one man, they crept quietly away and repaired to the local tavern, which was called the Harmonious Blacksmith. The bartender recognised Od, nodded sympathetically and set down three mugs of foaming beer.

Od slapped a few coins on the bar and said "Thanks. My friends will have the same."

After a few minutes silent drinking, Nord remarked "Seems a nice enough tavern. Shame to burn it down."

"We aren't going to burn the village down," Herewulf reminded him. "We're going to wait here until a mysterious elf woman in a blue cloak comes in, looking for three adventurers to accompany her on a mysterious but very lucrative quest."

"Bit cliché, isn't it?" suggested Od.

As if in answer, the door opened silently to the sound of invisible trumpets and an elf woman in a blue cloak entered, looked mysteriously around and espied the three drinkers. She raised an eyebrow, consulted a small book in apparent confusion, looked at them again and shrugged. "You must be the ones, I suppose. You may call me Jelenneth. It doesn't matter what your names are."

"Siddown, wench, and prepared to be dominated," countered Nord. Lightning crackled around his ears as he attempted to cast Charm Person, forgetting that elves are immune.

"I have little respect for anyone who is not a proven warrior." replied Jelenneth haughtily. "It's my only flaw."

"Nice come-back. Way to get Inspiration," remarked Od. "So, what's the quest?"

"Thank you, little man," she replied, "it's all about ..."
 
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rgoodbb

Explorer
"it's all about ..."

...Hook Horrors....pause for dramatic effect.........nothing............still nothing........I said HOOK HORRORS!"

"We erd you the first time. And 'ook 'orrors are a problem because?"

"Because they have infested our high woodlands through some sort of dark portal and we are having to defend ourselves on a daily basis."

"But they're easy to beat."

"What! How?"

"This is really basic stuff princess, D&D amateur 'our 'ere. You just lure them to fabric." The pirate waited for the copper to drop. It didn't. "Look, while on and around fabric their echolocation is dulled and, well, av' you eva' seen a cat get its claws stuck? Times that by 10 queeny. It's flippin' hilarious."

Jelenneth shifted uncomfortably in on her bar stool, readjusted her beautiful longbow and her stunning short swords, and regained her uppity High Elf pose.

"........Uhm................Very...well...............Prove it."
 

BoldItalic

Visitor
Nord poured on the pressure. "You need large quantities of cloth and mesh. And I'm not talking lace handkerchiefs. You got any decent ships in your neck of the woods? Sails? Rigging? Cargo nets? Don't tell me you don't even have ships."

"We are Elves of the High Forest. We have no need of floating bath-toys."

"Well, you're snafu'd then."

"Pardon me? Is that a piratical slang word? I know it not."

At this point, Herewulf attempted to defuse the situation before the mental arm-wrestling got out of hand and someone said something that someone else might regret having heard. "Madam, is there a river within your elven domain, flowing softly to the sea, eddying delightfully between willow-lined meadows and whatnot?"

"The River Immeral is just as you describe, worthy paladin. You have surely seen it?"

"Just a lucky guess, but it will serve our purpose. Nord, here, will arrange with the ship's chandlers in Neverwinter for a quantity of sails and rigging to be transported by barge up river to your lands. No doubt your bankers will be able to come to some accommodation with the chandlers regarding payment. You will, in the meantime, prepare your mages to be ready to transport the cargo by magic to where it is needed in your forest. We will be there to direct operations. Afterwards, when we have saved your realm from imminent peril, we shall expect to be showered with riches beyond our wildest dreams. Any questions?"

"Just one ..."
 

rgoodbb

Explorer
"Just one ...You have passed the first test. Are you good enough for me to lead?"

"Wait. What? So...no 'ook 'orrors then?"

"Indeed"

"So what's the real plot then?"

"I'm not sure. I think by going off the rails, we have taken the DM unawares. We shall sit patiently in a trancelike state and wait for a plot 'ook..uhm hook."

"The 'orror."

"Shh!"

"Can you hear that?"

"Shh!"

"I can hear something but I dumped my Wis. My passive is only 8."

"Oh very well. since you cannot be trusted to keep quiet, let me listen. Ahh. It is the pages of a Manual of Monsters being frantically turned."

Silence

Silence

Suddenly.................
 

BoldItalic

Visitor
Suddenly.................

A parchment map appeared on the table. It hadn't been there a moment ago, but now it was there. "Oh look, a map!" remarked Od perceptively. Fortunately, Jelenneth had taken Read Maps. She explained it to the others, despite that fact that anyone can read a map and they could all see what it was. It showed the village and surrounding countryside. In the middle it said 'TAVERN. YOU ARE HERE' and off to one corner it showed a jumble of rocks and 'DUNGEON. GO THERE.'

"It's a fake," declared Herewulf. "Real maps have East at the top but this one has North at the top."

"True enough," agreed Nord, "Mariners' charts are the same. The sun rises at the top and falls down the map to set at the bottom. Common sense."

"What if we turn it sideways and read the writing up and down," wondered Od, squinting with his head on one side. They all tried that and agreed that it made drinking beer difficult.

"We could go and look at the rocks anyway," suggested Jeli. "Assuming it's a trick, there should be nothing there and then we'd know."

"It could be a double trick. We might be surprised by monsters and have to fight for our lives."

"How are we at Stealth? Can we surprise the rocks?"

"I don't think rocks have Passive Perception, do they?"

"They might be animated rocks. Soon as we get close, they turn out to be trolls."

"Good point. Okay, while it's still daylight, we take plenty of oi flasks and firebrands and creep up on the rocks and surprise them."

"Wait a bit, trolls are CR5 and we're only first level. It can't be trolls."

There was a stony silence. Someone had metagamed.

"Sorry," muttered Od. "Excuse my beer. Of course it's trolls."

Half an hour later, our four friends were creeping very stealthily towards a jumble of rocks that were all turned sideways, for no apparent reason, preparing to set fire to them in a pre-emptive strike. The rocks failed to notice them, they gained surprise and rolled for Initiative. In the first round ...
 

rgoodbb

Explorer
In the first round, Jeli walked right up to the first sideways facing rock. Herewulf prepared to protect her with his fast reaction shield-work.

"Wait a minute." Jeli stopped. "Where did that shield come from. You didn't have it before."

"Sure I did, it was strapped to my back."

"Nope. Elf eyes. C'mon..."

"My Oath is my shield. My god is my shield. I have a soul that, like an ample shield, can take in all, and verge for more. Love is my sword, goodness my armour and wit...

"Herewulf!"

"What?"

"You're not going to tell me are you?"

"um......no."

"Uhm. Folks."

"What!"

"The rocks. They have turned to face us."

"You sure?"

"Yeah they're no longer sideways on."

"I can't tell the difference"

"Is it like the map where east is wrong? Is it a clue?" Piped up a clueless and very Od bard.

"Does anyone have stonecunning"

"What's stunk'ning? I have divine sense."

"You have little sense."

As the fearsome foursome flapped fourth, five feldspar fissures flew fast four feet from......damn. run out of F's. Rocks fell, everyone almost nearly died.

"I think surprise is gone."

"To Arms!"

"Where?"

"Agh...
 

BoldItalic

Visitor
There was only one way it could end. The valiant four ran away, hotly pursued by two boulders that came to rest in a convenient gully.

Jeli used some words of common that made even Nord blush. He produced a handkerchief and blew his nose loudly to cover his embarassment. "We need to tack upwind of 'em, then rake 'em with a broadside o' cannonshot," he suggested. It wasn't a very useful suggestion, but the first thing he could think of.

"Suppose we keep doing that until they run out of rocks?" wondered Od.

"Supose we take the hint and go back to the tavern?" countered Herewulf.

"No," said Jeli firmly. "If someone goes to the trouble of throwing boulders at us, they must be protecting something important. We need to find out what it is. Let me see that map again."

"Er ... we didn't bring it?"

"I could go back to the tavern and get it for you?"

"No, Herewulf, that won't be necessary. We will make do without it. Does anyone have something about the size and weight of an apple?"

"I have an apple I was keeping for lunch," offered Od, "It's about the size and weight of an apple?"

"Good, Throw it as hard as you can into the middle of the rocks."

"But that's my lunch!"

"I'll get you another one."

"Oh, alright then."

Od threw his apple as directed. His aim was true and a yell came from yonder. "Ow! What did you do that for?" came a gruff bass voice. A dwarf emerged from the rocks holding the apple and rubbing his head. He was dressed in grey robes and wore a leather harness from which hung various mining tools. He glared at the four. "Clear off," he shouted, "Don't you know the meaning of the word Mine?"

"Did you throw those boulders at us?"

"No," lied the dwarf. "I threw them at a gannet."

"I think you are going to come down here and surrender," suggested Od in a strange, lilting voice that seemed oh, so, terribly reasonable.

The dwarf ...
 

rgoodbb

Explorer
The dwarf ...Failed to resist the magical suggestive force of nature that was Od. And then, somehow, proceeded to successfully resist the magical suggestive force of nature that was Od. That was really Od.

"What just 'appened Laddie?" Asked the one time deck-slausher.

"I think we've just met our match. I think he's a Chancer by chance. I think he's......lucky."

"Na, na. that's a halfling trait. It must be something Portentious, or a chaotic tide or something."

"It is none of those things. He is a Dwarf that is Lucky. That can only mean one thing.

"Fourth level" all characters stated at once.

A big boom cracked and arced across the sky as four foreheads all banged the table at once. Both in embarrassment at the horrendous show of meta and at a DM controlled enemy of this level and of this power.

As the party looked aghast at each other, one unified thought crossed their minds. MinMax. We have to powergame now. There is no choice. We have entered an arms race that we will not win but must fight regardless because that is the only answer. THE only answer.

"Wait a minute." Startled the High Elf, a grin appearing across her face. "What if we don't go down that road. What if we go the other way."

"Dear lady what do you mean?"

"You Herewulf, yes, you are a Paladin are you not? You Norn a Storm Sorcerer from the heart of the Vexatious Sea, you are Od...it has to be said....The Bard, and I am Jeli the Bladelock. Don't you see? We are all Charisma based. We are all the faces of the party. Let us attack by.............social encounter."

"............Against a Dwarf?"
 

BoldItalic

Visitor
"Tell me, what do dwarves really like doing, when they aren't digging up gold and singing the Hi Ho song?"

"Drinking ale?"

"Right, so we invite him back to the tavern and take turns to drink him under the table."

"Until he fails a CON save?"

"That's it. This DM is an ex-4e type. He can run it like a skill challenge."

"Now who's metagaming?"

"Metagaming in a good way. We're helping the DM."

"New one on me," commented Nord, scratching his chin. "You sure that's allowed in the rules? Helping the DM?"

"Trust me on this."

Back at the Harmonious Blacksmith, the dwarf miner, whose name was Veit Assek, accepted the challenge of drinking all four under the table whilst simultaneously playing a game of flapjack. They allowed him to win small amounts of money and occasionally lose large amounts. He didn't seem to notice. He also didn't notice that the four were switching tankards around so that for every mugfull the dwarf drank, they drank one mugful between them and Nord, who had the constitution of an ox, was using the Help action to give the others advantage on every CON Save.

With Veit gurgling incoherently under the table, they slipped away and gathered outside in the darkening gloom of evening. They were half way back to the rocks where, according to the map there was a dungeon, when something ...
 

rgoodbb

Explorer
When something emerged from behind them.

“Bluuuuureeuuurp!” It was Veit.

“What are you doing here?”

“I told you this was mine. But you are persistent little buggers aren’t you. Well I’ve heard that there might be dangers passed these rocks so I’ll let you in on a cut of the findings seeing as you’re gonna come along anyway.”

“We left you dead drunk. How are you here?”

“Resilient Con.”

That’s two feats! What level are you?”

…Well…


----Backstory Alert----​



“Before I was a Miner, I was a Magical Master Brewer. And I concocted this drink which I lovingly refer to as Home-Brew. I then found a way to make it flow forever into my endless canteen. Home-Brew is a magical drink that allows me to use any Feat if I take a sip. It comes out tasting like orange brandy for some reason. I didn’t really need to take any levels in anything as the Feats get me through everything. I was just about to Misty Step through the rocks when someone hit me with a flying apple”

“Wait. Misty Step. That’s an Elf Feat.”

“Like I said. Any Feat.”

“Wow.”

“You could try Magic Initiate and Mould Earth” Offered Od.

“Tried it. Loose Earth not boulders and don’t tell me my job boy.”

Veit thought for a moment, nodded to himself as if he had made a decision, took a sip of Home-Brew and……
 

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