Saturday, June 25, 2022

Army Ants: The Untold Story (Part 3 of 3)

More ideas I never got to...

Return to Dinosaur Island

No idea how or why this would have happened, but the ants go back to Dinosaur Island one more time. Issue seven was probably my personal favorite of all the original run, and I had plans to go back one day and send the ants on a mission there. It seems that recovering a rare plant that can cure diseases would have been cool. It makes sense to layer this into the next story (the Plague below), and that is probably where it would have fit. It makes the most sense to send the ants on a daring raid to recover a jungle plant as part of establishing a cure for the plague. That would justify this mission. I had an idea that in the interim some other insects had created a secret base here, but not sure how that would have worked.

The Plague

Recently, I started (and again never finished) a story set some time later (probably ending up as issues 44 to 50) - the ants have relative peace, but a sickness breaks out that has been bioengineered by insane termites. The sickness creates a kind of zombie plague. While several ants become infected, they all are ultimately saved, the termites are defeated, and peace is restored. I never got too far in the planning stages of this one, but that is the broad strokes of it. Issue fifty would therefore have been a big assault on the termite mound. I wasn’t all that interested in this one ultimately because a lot of the same beats (fighting against a big enemy army - huge battle) had already been done better elsewhere. This was going to face a challenge not to tread ground I had already done (probably better) previously. I suppose that this storyline would have opened up possibilities of exploring some of the mysticism and religion of the ants, since there is this whole thing with Fate and the termites that I have already alluded to… this would have been the opportunity to maybe lock down some of those pieces in greater detail. It ran the risk of going all midichlorians, but I think it would have kept back from the precipice well enough.

Iron Ant

This one never got past the basic idea stage, but I wanted to have a prototype suit that Phil wears where he goes on a mission to test it, and he ends up doing battle with a bat. I had a few sketches for this, and not much else. Iron ant could have been a one-off, or a short story at the back of another issue that ran short. I did this a few times in the early issues (issue seven had both Dinosaur Island and Ladybug’s Picnic stories - more reasons it’s my favorite), so Iron Ant would have worked as an 8-page short to plug in somewhere else.

What To Do With This?

I’m a little tempted to create an archive that merges real and unfinished comics into one big thing - I could release this like I did the Doc Stalwart archive, or put together a ‘book’ (PDF) that I could put up on DriveThruComics just to have it there as an established ‘bible’ of the first fifty issues of the Army Ants (since that’s how I think of this whole storyline - I published 24 comics, had pages for another 3 issues or so published on the now-defunct mtdaa website, and had random pages done for a few others). I could draw covers for the graphic novels and put these in with more detailed plot summaries than those above. It would take a week or two to put together, but that’s not a bad way to pull this whole thing together and ‘finish’ work I spent several years on a few decades ago.

Ultimately, this included all of the stories I wanted to tell with these particular characters. I think they would have run their course at that point, and if the series continued after issue fifty, it would have to include a significant change in time or place for it to work. I love the idea of a series of Batman and Robin type stories with Zak and Malichi, but there’s no real reason to do them. I don’t have a meaningful story to tell with them, I just want to spend time with these characters again. That’s not a great reason to spend a few hours on each page.

By the way, it is strangely cathartic to finally ‘reveal’ things that only I have known for 20+ years. I assume nobody cares, but I still like it that the full story is ‘out there’ in some form now.

Going Forward

Man, this ended up as a long set of posts. I’ve got a set of notes (done in the last few days) for the next phase of the story, but it’s set a generation later, with an entirely different sort of vibe. One of the things that always interested me about the ants (but I never really explored in a meaningful way) is this inherent tension between the ideal and reality. It’s the same tension in America. The ants are, at their core, a tyrannical military state that presents as a noble kingdom that embraces individuality. It’s kind of like the US that way… we value individuality and peace while outspending the rest of the world by many times over to build the biggest military. Some of our loudest voices of individual rights are also openly supporting fascism. It’s the same conflict the ants face. I want to explore this idea more deeply, and I think I’ve found a way to do it. Basically, the next phase of the ants, if it happens, would be tonally and thematically far removed from what I’ve done before, but it would still logically follow the previous storylines. We all think we’re the good guys. Maybe the ants never really were…

Friday, June 24, 2022

Army Ants: The Untold Story (Part 2 of 3)

While the Fall of Valhalla was a story that I started, and that I would have considered a satisfying end to the overall comic if it ended there, I could also see the following stories having taken place. Theoretically, this would have been in 2003 and 2004 maybe.

Raiders of the Lost Egg 

The next story would have been Raiders of the Lost Egg, my homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark. This would probably have run in issues 37 to 40, as a 4-issue storyline.

The Ant Queen learns that of a cache of royal eggs that were stolen last season, one remains. Intelligence reports that the egg has been preserved, passed around the black markets of the towns in the Sandbox. This is the hope for the future; if this egg can be recovered and the child born, she would be the next ant queen. A small team is sent on a secret mission to recover it. I presume this would have included the core team of Gunner, Zak, Phil, Vince, and Slab.

After a series of small skirmishes with locals, they learn that the egg was taken to a hidden temple deep in the sandbox where a cult holds it in great value. There, they explore the temple, getting through a series of traps and obstacles to finally be captured by the cultists, a random group of insects.

It turns out the leader of these is the ant who hatched from the egg eighteen weeks ago - the princess has already been born (plot twist), and believes that she was sent by Fate to lead these insects out of destitution. When she meets the rest of the ants, her true lineage becomes clear, and together they bring this rag-tag group of insects into the fold of the new ant kingdom.

It turns out that the prophecy Sarge had seen previously (in work I published on the online Army Ants webpage when I started the Fall of Valhalla storyline in like 2014) was that Phil would be the next king of the ants, and would marry the Queen’s daughter - Fate had revealed that Sarge’s duty was to protect Phil. He had spent the rest of his professional career watching over Phil and trying to prepare him for this incredible honor and duty.

At the end, Sarge has married the Ant Queen and they consider retirement and the handing over of duties, while the young Crown Princess marries Phil, and they begin to plan for a new ant hill, and a new future for the red ants of the Backyard. 

I like it that the nerdiest character becomes the eventual leader. That was something I decided really early in my work, probably as far back as issue five or so.

Other Unfinished Works...

The Storm

In a side story, I started a narrative called ‘the Storm’ which was a bit of a Frankenstein story. This would have maybe run for two issues, comprising issues 41-42. There’s a mad scientist living in a stump. Phil, Vince and Slab get stuck there during a patrol where a horrible storm comes in. The mad scientist brings a dead insect back to life, and it goes on a rampage within the stump, ultimately killing the mad scientist and nearly killing them all, but it ends up making friends with Slab, because they both have the intellect of a peanut, and the same sense of humor. It was a one-off, silly story that I started as well but never finished. They leave the Franken-bug there to lord over the stump and live out its existence in relative peace. Maybe I would have plugged this one in before the Raiders of the Lost Egg story. Not sure. It makes more sense there; once Phil is with the princess, he probably retires from active military life altogether. I see this one as a ‘flashback’ story either way, set between issues 6 and 7.

I did one page for this decades ago, and then went back and created the first ten pages or so on the webcomic page a few years back, but never got much further. It's a story that exists in some form...

One-off Ladybug Story

I had a few sketches done for a one-off ladybug solo mission with Honeydew where she raids a bee hive. I suppose this would have ended up as issue 43 in the hierarchy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Army Ants: The Untold Story (Part 1 of 3)

I left my story unfinished some years ago. I had a plan for a final showdown between the Wasp Empire and the Army of Ants, which would have been basically my version of Return of the Jedi. The largely unpublished sequence, called the Fall of Valhalla, is as follows…

The Fall of Valhalla

This would have started in issue 25, and run through issue 36, as a 12-issue storyline and ultimately the third ‘graphic novel’ of the series. Let's pretend a bi-monthly schedule, so ideally these would have appeared in 2000 and 2001, since the previous run ended in 1998, and I needed at least a year to recharge after that. I was earning my teaching certification at the time, so I probably wouldn't have had time even if I had the motivation and inspiration, but since we're revising history, let's go for it.

The Wasp Empress is on her deathbed, having been poisoned by General Groth (leader of the fly army, and ally of the wasps). General Groth  and Colonel Irons (a traitorous ant who is now a cyborg) had assumed control of the Wasp Hive. 

They frame Baron Sh’Ak (leader of the hornets and right hand to the Empress) with the crime. He manages to escape the Hive before his staged court martial and execution, rendezvousing with the ants. Some of his elite hornet soldiers realize Sh’Ak had been framed, and know that the primary culprit is General Groth.

When last we left our ants, most (including the Ant Queen) were imprisoned by the Wasp Empire deep within the bowels of Valhalla Complex, the Imperial Wasp Hive. They had been taken captive when the Ant Hill fell during the Year of the Ant storyline. Led by Sarge, these prisoners stage a breakout, and begin a riot within the deepest parts of the hive. They are aided by the general chaos within the hive, as some rank and file doubt who they should be following, and the chain of command starts to break down.

Concurrently, a strike team of remaining ants who had not been imprisoned when the Ant Hill fell (Gunner, Vince, Phil, Zak, Honeydew… and Baron Sh’Ak who had joined them as his only remaining option) launch a raid. They intentionally crash a stealth jet of ladybug design into the tether that attached the hive to the tree. They set bombs within to explode.

Entering the hive, they fight their way to the rioting prisoners led by Sarge. Together, they fight their way to the hangar bay. There, all don gliders and parachutes, fleeing the hive. At the last, the team detonates the explosives within the stealth jet, severing the tether that had connected the hive to the tree. It falls twenty meters (in a story called Terror at Twenty Meters), collapsing when it hits the ground. It is left unknown who within survived the fall, and who perished, but the ants presume that the bulk of the Wasp Empire is wiped out in the fall, and the bulk of its military might - its vast weapons of war - could not have survived the devastation of the hive.

For all intents and purposes the war is over. Baron Sh’Ak remains to rebuild the Wasp nation, although he declares that he seeks no further enmity with the ants, and that he may lead his people to start again elsewhere. This is left as an unresolved thread, and I had no plan for what, if anything, to do with this.

In an epilogue, the ants establish a new temporary hill, while the Queen reveals that Sarge had been the love of her life; she could not marry him because of his common caste, but in this new world, she is casting off old rules and she will marry him. They wed in a small ceremony and together they begin to oversee the restoration of the ant nation.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Let's Read: Army Ants?

Well, look who decided to finally blog again... yeah, I know. Between getting back into the swing of teaching, a series of interviews for jobs I didn't get (grrr) and lingering health issues that keep knocking me down (double grrr), gaming stuff has been pretty far from my mind. However, the school year wraps up this week, and I got the first genuinely GOOD health news today, so my spirits are lifted. I started to let my mind wander around to gaming stuff, and started thinking about my little team of Army Ants. So, I cracked out the hardcover copy of Army Ants: Legacy and decided to thumb through it. It has been 9 years (!) since it came out, so I am far enough removed from it now to be objective.

My first impression is that this thing is pretty nice. The layout is very clean. It feels full at 160 pages. It's got lots of art, and the art is consistent throughout. It's got that FANTASTIC Jeff Dee cover.

Reading the first 16 pages, I like it so far. The dice mechanic is pretty nifty, and it reads as if it's got enough nuance to it to keep things interesting. It's got that nice balance of simple but elegant that I am drawn to as both a designer and player. It's got a great vibe, and most of the writing holds up well. I found a few turns of phrase that I have since worked out of my writing, and I found one typo, but so far it's holding up quite well. I also went back and re-read reviews for it, and people were generally very positive about it. Final thing: It's all me. This is the only game where I'm not trying to ape someone else's universe, but I've created my own. That alone is, to me, a big plus. Maybe I'll keep reading and do some playing. After seeing Top Gun: Maverick on Saturday night (which I really loved even though I was generally meh about the original), I want to make a helicopter gunship pilot and send him on a few missions. Maybe I'll get to that, too... 

Monday, April 4, 2022

Mostly Not Gaming Thoughts

Sorry to have been relatively quiet the last few weeks, but I've been in the last stages of radiation, and I've been a little less focused as a result. That said...

I finished radiation treatments on Friday! Huzzah. I have been cleared to return to work in two weeks, which I am happy about. This weekend the final treatments hit me, and I'm more tired and achy than I've been this whole time, and the radiation burns on my neck are pretty painful. It is about ten times worse than the worst sunburn I've ever had, so... yeah.

As I said I wanted to, I started a poetry blog on April 1. This has already been more personal than I expected it to be, and I've shared some things I didn't think I would. Okay then. You are free to follow along, or free to not follow along. Because 'Merica! I'm posting a new poem every day for a year. I keep saying that instead of "I want to..." or "I plan to..." because that gives me a way out. "I will", darn it.

I downloaded Krita, a drawing App, because I realized that if I want my art to be taken seriously, I probably have to upgrade out of Microsoft Paint at some point. Seriously, if Paint had vector graphics and the ability to do at least two layers, I would probably never leave. I LOVE the simplicity of Paint, and opening an app that has hundreds of tools is a bit much. I figure that I can tinker with it over the next few weeks and get up to speed. The reviews seem really positive (talking about how intuitive it is), it was free, and I want to start challenging myself more as an artist anyway, so here we are. My long-term idea is a 'Official Handbook of the Stalwart Age' that has revised stat blocks for the characters I've released, a few dozen more, and the 'official' game mechanics for things like the Gloaming Lands and the Null Zone. I'd like this book to be pretty, where the art is more than just functional and supportive but is equally up to the text, but that's going to be a bit of a learning curve for me. Hey, not like I have a lot else to do at the moment...


Monday, March 14, 2022

A Grab Bag of Gaming and Not Gaming Thoughts

I just feel like posting some randomness. In no particular order... (although by numbering the list, I impose order upon it. Darn you numbers and your lawful neutrality).

1. I started week four of radiation treatments today. I am actually feeling stronger and have less discomfort today than I did a week ago. I have been diligent in things like my diet, water intake, physical therapy and light exercise, and my overall health is pretty good considering that they have been pointing lasers at my neck for almost a month now. 

2. I was thinking it might be a good exercise to try to write a poem a day for a year. I don't know that today is a good day to start that (March 14 seems pretty random), but April is National Poetry Month, and April 1 is my final day of radiation; I may not feel like writing a poem at that point, but that might be all the more reason to actually do it on that day. April 1 is the start of the next part of my life, so it all seems appropriate.

3. I have really enjoyed playing Resolute for a number of reasons, but the fact remains that it is holding up very well under relatively intense scrutiny. It does everything I need it to do, and I'm starting to think about how it could also do everything I might WANT it to do. I still don't know how much is actually baked into the rules proper, and how much is me intuitively knowing what I want the rules to do, and then allowing that to happen. I assume that it is somewhere between, but I hope that it is closer to the rules providing the framework and less about me making stuff up on the fly - but making stuff up on the fly is integral to it.

I was thinking this morning (I have been doing a lot of thinking today) that I could emulate the Odyssey pretty well with this game; for the most part, the people around Odysseus have very little impact on his efforts. I would think that having followers with you might give you a small bonus (maybe +1) to your Attack and Focus ratings, but would significantly upgrade your Resolve. Mechanically, it might look like this:

Followers of Odysseus. As long as you have at least one follower with you, receive +1 to Attack and Focus; for every group of up to 5 followers, add +1 to your Resolve. Track how many followers remain; every time you reach a threshold in increments of 5 followers, lose -1 Resolve. Your personal Resolve is not affected until all of your allies have fallen. For example, if you have 17 followers, receive +4 to Resolve (1-5 is +1, 6-10 is +2, 11-15 is +3, 16-20 is +4); When you drop to 15 followers, lose 1 Resolve; when you drop to 10 followers, lose 2 Resolve, etc. Attacks against you will strike your followers first; each point of damage kills one follower. If you have your noble son Telemachus with you, receive an additional +1 to Resolve; Telemachus will not fall until you reach Resolve 0, and he is subject to the same rules for Resolve 0 as you are, with the same outcomes. 

Yes, if you lead an army of 100 troops into the lair of a dragon, you have +20 to Resolve for that fight; the dragon however, will take out probably 2d6 of your followers with each breath weapon, and will take out 2-5 per round by any other attack, so it will still cut through your forces relatively quick. I'd have to play test this, but it seems like it would be fun.

This would then allow you to trigger henchmen effects. You could walk around with a healer to binds your wounds, a shield bearer to blocks attacks for you... any number of things are possible. These could also trigger in different ways; here are some examples:

Shield Bearer (costs 10 coins per day) Your shield bearer grants you unbreakable advantage with one Defend check each round; your shield bearer grants +1 to Resolve, and will not fall until you drop from Resolve 2 to Resolve 1.

Sage (costs 10 coins per day). Your sage grants you unbreakable advantage with up to three Focus checks each turn. Your Sage can also cast one spell per turn, using your Focus rating +1 to act. Your sage grants +1 to Resolve, and will not fall until you drop from Resolve 4 to Resolve 3.  

4. If numbers are lawful neutral (and they definitely are), then math is, too. Hmmm. What about Science? English? Social Studies? Lunch is chaotic evil. I think that Physical Education would be chaotic neutral, while English is chaotic good; science seems like it would also be Lawful, but I cannot decide if it is Lawful Evil or Lawful Good. Or maybe Science is completely neutral? Social Studies is probably Neutral Evil, since history itself is largely a story of evil with chaos pretending it's law. Let's think/pair/share this. Think for a minute, then share with a partner, and then tell the class what you think about this alignment system.

Or don't. As my students always want to know, this does not count towards your grade.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Abel's Vengeance: Session 8

Recap: Abel the Notable Paladin is 10 miles into a 44-mle expedition through volcanic tunnels He’s en route to the city of Parth Goldu to kill everyone there. Okay. It’s unlikely he’s going to burn the whole city to the ground, but he’s looking for ways to enact vengeance on those responsible for killing his father ten years ago and sacking the Bright Temple, which he has since reclaimed and helped to restore to its former glory.This is an actual play of my game Resolute.


Overnight, there are two chances of a random encounter; they would definitely explore the corpse, and Abel needs to check Focus (CR 8), with advantage from the rope, to wake up and be aware of the encounter. There is a 2 in 6 chance each check. 1. That’s a heck yes to an encounter.

Is the first with spiders? Possible. 6. No Is it with the gnomes? 3. Yes. Okay then. How many gnomes? 4. Are they riding their giant grasshoppers? 6. No. Are they looking for what killed their giant grasshoppers? Yes. Abel attempts his Focus check and gets 7 (even with advantage). He wakes up to find four gnomes pointing their javelins at him and asking what he’s up to.

Focus check for reaction; he rolls 11, which is MUCH better. He explains who he is, telling about his mission (kill bad guys), where he’s going (city of bad guys), and why (vengeance). He also says that he recovered a ring from the dead body of a gnome like them, and gives it to the gnome he is speaking with. He says he planned to bring it to the gnomes if he lived that long. They accept it. They deliberate among themselves. How much help they offer depends… I’ll roll 1D6. A low roll is less help (but still something - like a map through the tunnels to the city so he doesn’t get lost) while a 6 will be welcoming him to their stronghold and giving him help as he gets to the city. 1. They say that they are grateful for his help and returning the ring. They do not allow outsiders in their community, but they are grateful for the ring (it belonged to a missing friend they had been looking for), and wish him well on his journey. They give him a map that will mean he does not need to check for getting lost again. There’s a 1 in 6 chance they also give him a potion; I roll 1. They give him an elixir of levitation. Mm-kay.

He has to travel 34 miles (that’s two days of travel in these tunnels), and still needs to check 17 times for encounters. Going forward, there is only a 2 in 6 chance of an encounter, and the first check will always be for gnomes, since this is more gnome-controlled than the first set of passages were. I presume that the bridge area marked an important boundary for the gnomes, and he has now just crossed it.

These tunnels will also be darker and deeper, with no natural light. He’s going by torchlight the whole time. There is no encounter at mile 12 (rolled 6), at 14 (5), at 16 (4), or at 18 (5). Sometime between miles 19 and 20, there is an encounter (rolled 2). I roll a 1, so this is a patrol of gnomes. Again, Abel hails them when he sees them. There are four again, and these are mounted on grasshoppers (FINALLY the grasshoppers appear). He attempts a Focus check again with Advantage (since he has a map, knows the names of some gnomes, and can clearly explain his purpose). He gets an 8, which is just BARELY enough to succeed with the check. They do not attack him or try to take him prisoner, but they are suspicious. The most likely outcome is that they escort him beyond this area (since he is near their sanctuary). This is likely; I roll 5. No. The next option is that they require him to use a side tunnel (that will add a little time to his journey) to hew away from the sanctuary. 4. No. They may require him to appear before their lord and receive his approval for this action; 2. That’s the play. The leader of this patrol is concerned that Abel will somehow implicate the gnomes or bring attention upon them, and their action of helping him may put them in danger. They ask him to agree to be blindfolded and taken to the lord or turn back. He agrees to their terms (the other gnomes seemed friendly enough, and if they wanted to kill him they’d have already tried). 

NOTE: As a Paladin, Abel should be able to detect evil, but the game has no official mechanism for this. I haven’t wanted it until now, but suddenly it seems very valuable. Might have a new house rule coming...

They travel for a bit, and Abel rides atop a grasshopper (that struggles under his weight) while the original rider goes with another rider on his grasshopper.

I could roll for what this fortress is like, but I already have an image in my head. There is a place where several underground streams meet and an underground island sits on the circular point where these streams merge. I almost think of it as a roundabout in a street with streams flowing in and out, and the island in the middle. The island is only (I roll this, 1d6 x100’ and get 1) 100’ across, so the fortress is very narrow, filling the entire island and rising to meet the roof of the cavern (2d6 x10’ and get 80), which is 80” overhead. This is a gnome-scale fort, so the roofs would be maybe 7’ high, with 1’ wide floors, so this could have ten levels to it. Most levels would be largely open areas. There are a few places in the roof where sunlight comes in at sharp angles, and moonlight filters in as well when it's out. The fortress is octagonal. I suddenly want to map it.

I will assume he is taken to a level at least 3 floors up… the stairs go around the outside of the fortress, and entrances are set along the exterior walls. Doors are left open most of the time, but can be quickly sealed if danger presents itself. The first floor might be a largely open-air stable area for the grasshoppers. They take him up to level 3, where there is a feast hall. The leader of the gnomes greets him. This could get tricky. He needs to check Focus, and gets 9. Whew. That’s barely enough for a decent success, but again does not give him any special benefits. I do think it’s likely that they’d want to escort him to the edges of gnome lands, and would make him promise to never tell of their existence to others. The leader would recognize his shield. Did the leader get a dream from the Seventh Goddess? Very unlikely… I roll a 1. It happened. Wow. Okay, that changes things a little. I’m going to re-roll the check when the leader sees the shield, granting Abel advantage on the Focus check because he has revealed his holy symbol and identity. I roll and get 7… yes, the leader got the dream, but it freaked him out rather than inspiring him to be helpful. He was told by the goddess to help Abel on his way, and he will in the minimal way possible. An escort will take him to the edge of gnome territory, but he must turn over the map (since it has gnome markings). The gnomes who gave him the map will face some minor discipline for helping him without checking with him first, even though Abel pleads on their behalf. Abel offers to return the potion of levitation that they gave him, and this allows for another Focus check, which is an 11. This softens the leader’s stance a little bit. Abel is permitted to sleep here overnight, and when he resumes (after the escort), he will have 2d6 miles of tunnel to traverse (I roll 5), but these will be inhabited by darker things that dwell near the city. He also is told about a secret door that leads into the sewers beneath the city, but navigating the sewers is not something that they can help with; they have not gone far into these themselves, but know of the entrance.  

Abel gets the 2 hero points he needs to increase his Renown to 2, since he is now a friend (as much as one can be) to the albino gnomes. There is a 1 in 6 chance that he gets another relic right now, delivered by the goddess to help him on his path; I roll 5. She helped him enough for now :) I put my character point in attack. He’s now HEROIC! In this game's economy, he's a pretty powerful character now. I'd consider this 'mid-level', the equivalent of maybe 5th to 7th level in BX D+D... in my 'head canon', it converts as:

Renown 0 = Levels 1-2

Renown 1 = Levels 3-4

Renown 2 = Levels 5-7

Renown 3 = Levels 8-11

Renown 4 = Levels 12+

When Abel gets his next relic, he moves up to level 7 territory. For now, he's closer to 5. I can start looking for opportunities to grant him a relic... hmm...

Abel the Heroic Human Paladin (Renown 2) Hero Points 25

Attack +4 | Defend +4 | Focus +1 | Resolve 5

90 coins; elixirs of heroism, invisibility, levitation, water breathing; scroll of fireball

Relic: Shield of the Final Templar (+1 Defense and +1 Focus)

On a Defend result of 13+ in combat, Abel can choose to either recover 1 Resolve point or receive advantage on his next Attack. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Resolute: House Rules

Updated 3/9/22

Do you really need house rules for an 8-page game? Shouldn't these have just been on page 9? Why are you asking so many questions? House Rules that I use follow...

Relic Creation. Only the gods can craft relics; although most relics are from the distant past, the gods are re-awakening - and are rewarding their chosen adherents with relics. If you have been particularly focused on doing the will of your god in the world (hey, if you worship the god of slaughter, he loves to see you out there killing things), there is a 1 in 6 chance when you increase in Renown that you are granted a unique relic. You may awaken to find that one of your current items has been supernaturally improved, or you may discover the relic or have someone deliver it to you.

Foes attacking en masse. Creatures of the same type can work together in groups of up to 4; they attack once collectively, receiving a bonus to attack equal to the number of creatures; they can never increase their total rating to better than 12 in this way. If four grey spiders (Attack 6) attack together, they have a single Attack 10; if successful, that Attack still deals only 1 point of damage. In this way, 12 goblins could attack in three groups of 4 each; you attempt 3 Defends against Attack 11 instead of attempting 12 Defends against Attack 7. Each successful Attack would still deal only 1 wound.

Attacking Critters at higher Renown. As you grow in Renown, you may attack an extra number of critters with each Attack equal to your Renown. With Renown +2 (Hero), you can attack 3 critters with each Attack you attempt. A Legendary Hero (+4) who is hasted could slay 10 critters per round (5 with each of 2 Attacks) as they cut a swath of destruction across the battlefield.

Abel's Vengeance: Session 7

Side note: I have now found TWO typos in the rules for Resolute, and it is giving me the vapors. I use the wrong form of hoard (‘horde’) for a dragon’s treasure on page 7 (that is a rookie mistake for sure), and the spell description of Lightning Bolt is missing the word ‘of’ near the end of the first line (‘against the Defend of)... in addition, it should say ‘Defend’ and not ‘Defense’... so I guess that is THREE typos. The VAPORS I say.

Back to play testing.

I did some Google searches for lava caves and volcanic cave systems, and the images are just incredible. Yeah. This is going to be fun. I need some sub-systems for determining events in the caves. It was forty miles to the city, but the caves are not going to be a straight line; we’re going to add 2d6 miles to the distance, (got a 4) making it 44 miles. There’s a 2 in 6 chance of an encounter every 2 miles. So I’ll be rolling 22 times, and am likely to have 6-10 encounters before getting to the city. I’m also going to say that every 1d6 miles there is a chance of getting lost. Tunnels often split, and it might not be clear which is the ‘main’ passage; it is easy to lose direction down here, and without any magic to guide him, that’s going to be quite possible. We’ll require a Focus check CR 8 to keep from getting lost every time I hit the mileage.

The dragon drops Abel off inside of a fissure; there is steam rising out of this hole, and the tunnel branches in several directions. The dragon points him down one passage, and he’s off…

The first check for getting lost will be at mile 5. Okay.

By mile 2, he has not encountered anything. It is possible that these tunnels have been pretty well explored; I’d think that there are some phosphorescent rocks or cracks where lava seeps through that give off light. We’ll roll to see how much light there is every two miles; lower is less light. For the first two miles, I roll 3; there is a little bit of light coming from natural rock formations that glow, so he can see to medium range well enough. He avoids the torch and moves slowly. I’d expect he can cover 2 miles in an hour with careful walking. He wears thick-soled leather boots, so it’s not like he’s continually worried about sharp rocks cutting up his feet. Plus, the gnomes have been forging decent paths here. They travel routinely, so there are places where, if the footing is especially bad, they have erected simple bridges or stairways. 

By mile 4, he has his first encounter. He descended a bit into deeper places, and the light has all but disappeared. He had to light a torch to help him forward, and despite the fact that the halls remain relatively tall and wide (1d6 x10’ on average, and I get 3, so 30’), he’s feeling a bit claustrophobic. Is it spiders? Yup. It could be one big spider, lots of smaller spiders, an ettercap, or some combo… or something else spider like. First, one big spider? No. A few smaller spiders? 2. Yes. It is going to be with 2 tomb spiders. There is no webbing that lets him know, so surprise here is quite likely… he will be checking Focus with disadvantage because of the conditions; he checks Focus and still gets 10. Okay then. He is not surprised; even though he is about three miles in to his journey, his battle senses are still on high alert. One spider drops in front of him, and another scurries behind him from where it was hiding along the wall.

Round 1. The spiders both attack, and he rolls a pair of natural 12s to block. Well then. I’ll say he gets an attack against each; against the first he rolls 9 (missing) and against the second he gets 12, hitting for 1 damage. 

Round 2. Both spiders attack, but he rolls 13 and 10 to defend. He manages to avoid both bites, and attacks with 13, dealing 1 wound. That first spider is at Resolve 1.

Round 3. Two more attacks; he defends with 11 and 12, so gets no advantage on his attack; he rolls a natural 12 anyway! We’ll put that on the unharmed spider, dropping that to Resolve 1 as well.

Round 4. Two more attacks; he gets 12 and 11 to defend, so again no advantage. The 11 on his attack is still enough to kill the first spider.

Round 5. He defends with 13, which grants advantage on the attack, and then attacks with 12, killing the second spider.

He decides to look around for the nest of these spiders; it will be CR 8 to find; he rolls 8. How high up is it? 1d6 x 5’ up… 20’ up. Hm. How difficult is the wall here to climb? We’ll set the CR at 7 + the 1d6 result; CR 10. Abel gives it a shot, rolling this as an attack action; he gets 7. He cannot get a good hand-hold in the wall, despite several efforts. He tries to use a rope and grapple to grab the nest and pull it down. That will be a little bit easier, CR 8. I roll 9, so after a few tries he manages to grab the web-like nest and pull it down. There is a desiccated corpse of a smaller creature (it’s got to be one of the gnomes) that still has its gear; time to roll for treasure! It has something worth 50 coins. Well, I just got my money back from the dragon donation :) Is it actual coins? 6. No. A piece of jewelry? 1. Yes. Necklace? 4. No. Rings? 2. Yes. 1 big fat ring with a huge ruby in the middle of it. That’s nice. I take it and pocket it. The gnome has no magical treasure, but this is a good find. I mean, for the temple. Yes. The temple will like this. Unless I need to use it for barter before then, which is quite likely.

At mile 5, I make my first check. The cave comes to a crossway. I guess I can roll for an encounter here too, while I’m at it. 5. No encounter. I can see the remains of some dead spiders and a dead ettercap (not that I’d know what that is… ) and what appears to be a scene of a battle somewhat recently. These are different spiders than I’ve been fighting. It’s hard to tell for sure which passageway these came from (there are quite a few webs hanging in places here), and two passageways look like they could lead towards the city. Focus check, CR 8. I get a 10, so I choose… wisely. Onward and forward. Another check will be required in 3 miles.

At mile 6, I check for an encounter, and get 4. Nope. At mile 8, I need to check for an encounter, and have a chance of getting lost again. Encounter first. 6. Nothing. These halls have been decidedly devoid of encounters. I am at the outer edges of what might be the territory of these gnomes, so they and their enemies probably don’t come out this far very often… but that means the likelihood of other random things might be better than it would be near their population centers. Let’s check lighting here (since I’ve been forgetting to do that). 5. It’s dark. I’ve been going by torchlight for a lot of this way. Is it stairs I come to? 1. Yes. Descend? 1. Yes. Okay, stairs descend into an even deeper part of the caves, where a lava flow? 2. Yep. Is traversed by three bridges that lead to three different tunnels. At least there would be some light from the river of lava passing under the bridges… I have to attempt a Focus check to pick the right tunnel. 9. I almost go down the wrong tunnel (the middle one), but realize that an air current is coming from the one to the right. That’s the one I follow. Only 2 miles until I have to check again. Sigh.

I hit mile 10 after about five hours of walking. The cave splits again. There is, again, no encounter (rolled a 6). CR 8 Focus check and I get 6. Rut row. Wrong direction.

I start down the cave to the right (I’ve had luck with going to the right). I go five miles (no encounter at miles 2 or 4) before any indication that this might be a problem… Do I come to a dead end? 1. Yes. Did anything follow me down this tunnel? 2. Yes. Spider-things? Oh yeah. Big spider? 1. Yup. A really big spider. I passed under its web (60’ up in the ceiling of this incredibly dark cave, far beyond my torchlight), and then has been following me for 2 miles. Patient bugger. The odds of me finding its nest are pretty much nil. Okay, let’s stat up a really big hairy spider.

Large Cave Spider

(Dire 2) Attack 11 | Defend 11 | Focus 10 | Resolve 6

Wall Crawling; Fast; On a Defend of 8 or less, the spider gets an immediate second bite; those bitten by a spider must check Defend (CR 11) or suffer +2 poison damage.

These 5’ spiders do not build webs, creating small nests in hidden corners and alcoves.

Ugh. This thing is going to be tough. I turn around and see the spider move into the edge of my torchlight. As it runs towards me, I quaff the potion of haste. I think I might need it… If it gets surprise, then I will need to take disadvantage on my Defends (because I’m drinking the potion quick); if not, then I get to prep my shield before it gets to me. I think it wants to take a second to squeal in delight at the tasty meal ahead of it. I roll 8. It’s able to squeal and run at the same time. Talented spider.

That cancels my advantage, so it takes its bite, and I block with an 11. Whew! I get to attack twice now with haste, getting 6 and 9, missing twice.

Round 2. The spider bites, and I defend with 14, triggering advantage on my two attacks. I roll 11 and 13, dealing 2 hits, and leaving the spider at Resolve 4.

Round 3. The spider bites, and I defend with 14. With advantage on attacks, I get 13 and 9, hitting once. The spider is at Resolve 3.

Round 4. I defend with 13, triggering advantage. I hit with a natural 12, dealing 2 wounds and leaving the spider at Resolve 1. With my second attack, I roll 13, killing the spider.

I am able to make some good time back up the hall (with haste active) now that I’ve realized this is a dead end. I can try to find the spider’s webby lair, but it’s going to be CR 12 to see the webs hanging down where it descended to follow me originally. I roll 11, and use the +1 from my Renown to get to 12. Buh Dang. I find the webs 25’ up, but with a rope and grapple thrown into the webs, I can climb with a CR 8 Attack check; I get 10, so it’s no problem. In the webs, I find 1 Elixir; water breathing. Meh. Okay. I’d rather have my haste back, but it is what it is.

I’m a bit shocked at how easily I was able to dispatch that spider. Yes, I had haste active, so I was able to cut through it much more quickly, but I expected it would hit me at least once… its attack of 11 meant that if I rolled at all below average, on Defend checks, I’d get tagged. Granted, I have advantage on Defend, but still the odds of rolling 2/2/3 or something like that have to be pretty good. I chalk that up to healthy living.

I make it back to the original crossway at the 10 mile mark. There’s a 1 in 6 chance of an encounter here now, and I get 1. Yes. Spiders again? Yes. Sigh. More spiders. Another big one? No. Little ones? Yes. Is there an Ettercap with them? Yep. 1 Ettercap and 4 grey spiders heard the sounds of the cave spider that attacked and have been waiting to see if anything came out of its lair. Something has… me! Let’s stat up an Ettercap. 


(Dire 2) Attack 11 | Defend 11 | Focus 8 | Resolve 6

Wall Crawling; Immune to webbing; communicates with spiders; attacks either with 2 claws (1-3) or 1 bite (4-6); those bitten must check Defend (CR 9) or suffer +2 poison damage.

These 5’ spider-like humanoids dwell among spiders and lead groups of weaker arachnids.

I roll 4 on the Focus check, so they totally surprise me. They attack as I come into the main hall; The ettercap attacks with its bite, while the 4 grey spiders all go to bite. I roll that only 2 are able to get to me during the surprise phase, while the other 2 skitter towards me.

Against the Ettercap, I defend with 15 (nice), and against the spiders I defend with 11 and 12, which is plenty against them.

Round 1. The ettercap uses two claws; I Defend with 10 and 13, getting his once. My Resolve is at 4. Against the four spiders, I Defend with 12, 12, 15, and 14. This triggers my attack advantage, which I use against the Ettercap; I attack and miss with a 10. Haste would be SO nice right now.

Round 2. The ettercap attacks with its claws. I Defend with 10 and 14, getting hit once. I’m at Resolve 3. I could trigger my attack advantage, but I will instead recover 1 wound (I don’t think I’ve used that trigger before!) and am back to Resolve 4. Against the spiders, I defend with 12, 12, 11, and 12. I block all of their bites. I attack the Ettercap with 9 and miss.

Round 3. The ettercap attacks with claws again. I Defend with 15 and 11, so trigger my ability and block both claws. Against the spiders, I defend with 11, 8 (ugh), 14, and 12. Their attack is only 6, so I only get hit if I roll 3 1s. I’m thinking of some alternate rule for en masse; they get to add their total number of creatures to the attack, but only deal damage for 1. Let’s try that here; there are four of them, so they would attack at 10. In that case, my first defend is the only one that matters, and that’s an 11. Okay then. I like that better. House rule applied.

Round 4. The ettercap attacks with a bite this time. I roll 13 to defend, getting advantage on my attack. Against the four spiders attacking together, I get 10, so just barely keep from getting bit. I attack the Ettercap with advantage, getting 10 and missing. Drat and drat and double drat.

Round 5. Ettercap bites again, but my 13 Defend makes sure those gross teeth get nowhere close to my pretty jugular. The spiders fare no better, since my double 6s push them back. I attack the ettercap and get 12, which finally hits him. He’s down to Resolve 5.

Round 6. Ettercap claws twice, and I defend with 15 and 8. I get hit once. Against the spiders, I fare better with a 14. On the advantage Attack, I hit the Ettercap with a 14. He is down to Resolve 4, and I’m down to Resolve 3.

Round 7. Ettercap bites, and I defend with a natural 12. Against the spiders, I defend with 13. On the attack against the Ettercap, I get 15. He’s down to Resolve 3 as well.

Round 8. Ettercap claws twice, and I defend with 12 and 10. I get hit once, down to Resolve 2. Against the spiders, I defend with 14, which I use to recover a wound and am back to Resolve 3. I attack the Ettercap and get a natural 12 without advantage! He’s down to Resolve 1. 

Round 9. The Ettercap bites; I roll 14 to defend; against the spiders, I roll 13 to defend; I will take my advantage on attack, and roll 10. Yick. 

Round 10. This is the longest combat ever… The Ettercap claws twice, and I get 12 and 14 to block, so all good. Against the spiders, I defend with 9, so they actually hit me. Ouch. I am at Resolve 2. I turn my 14 into advantage on my attack, and get 10… which misses. Should have taken the resolve point…

Round 11. I didn’t know rounds went past ten. Who did? Ettercap bites, and I roll 10 to Defend. Uh oh. I use my +1 from Renown to bump that to 11 and narrowly avoid getting hit. If he hits, then I might get poisoned… and then my character is finished. These are not the type to hold me for ransom. There’s good eating on these bones. I still have hero points I could burn as well if I really needed to, but I am very hesitant to do that. Against the spiders, I roll 13 to defend, and I’ll trigger my advantage (and cross my fingers)... or will I? Ugh. Decision time. Last round I didn’t and I nearly died this round… I’m at Resolve 2. I’ll take the safe play and claim my 1 wound recovery, putting me at Resolve 3. I attack the Ettercap normally, getting 10 and missing. Grrrr.

Round 12. The Ettercap goes with 2 claws, and I defend with 10 (so suffer 1 wound) and 13 (so trigger an ability). I will have that wash, so I immediately recover the point I lost). Against the spiders, I defend with 10, which barely keeps them at bay. This combat is very touch and go.

Round 13. The ettercap goes with 2 claws again, and I defend with 14 and 9 - the defense giveth a point, and the defense taketh a point away. Against the spiders, I defend with 8, and suffer 1 wound. I’m at Resolve 2.

Round 14. The ettercap claws twice, and I defend with 13 and 14. Whew. Against the spiders I defend with 7, so not whew. Again I use my trigger to recover the wound so I can lose it again immediately. Attacking the Ettercap, I get 12, and finally hit him! He’s been at Resolve 1 since round 8… took me 6 rounds to finish him. Dang.

Round 15. Spiders bite, and I defend with 12. I attack and get 10, killing one spider.

Round 16. Three spiders bite, and I defend with 9. Because I just killed a spider, this barely succeeds. I attack with 13, killing a second.

Round 17. Two spiders bite, and I defend with 13. Attacking with advantage, I get 9, killing 1. One remains.

Round 18. I roll pooly getting a 9, but this is a critter… I roll a natural 2 on my attack, and lose advantage on my next defend. Abel is clearly exhausted after almost 20 rounds of combat.

Round 19. He rolls 7 to defend (yikes) which is still 1 better than the attack of 6. He fortunately rolls 13 to hit, killing this last spider and he falls to his knees, panting.

I think it is likely that this little group is pretty nomadic, and any treasure would be carried on the Ettercap. 2. It is so. I roll for treasure, and get the following: 90 coins and an elixir of heroism. Nifty. I like haste better, but this is not bad at all.

Abel has traveled a total of 20 miles (although only 10 miles of progress out of the 44, since 5 was on the wrong path), so he needs to call it. That is about ten hours of slogging through tunnels. He goes a few hundred yards into the secondary wrong way tunnel, and finds a nook to rest in. He also sets up the body of the ettercap in the middle of the hall with his rope tied to it and pulled pretty tight; if anything disturbs it, he should feel the tug on his arm that will wake him up. He puts out his torch and at least tries to get a nap in…

He should earn 2 hero points for this; I will say it is unlikely he gets 3. 4. Nope. 2 hero points it is. He will move up to heroic after the next session, assuming he survives that long. That Ettercap was tough! Also, I can start thinking about how to go about getting a second relic… a sword or gauntlets of haste would be very, very helpful. I’m thinking there should be some way before I get into the city to actually earn my second relic… here’s the revised Abel after 7 sessions:

Abel the Notable Human Paladin (Renown 1) Hero Points 23

Attack +3 | Defend +4 | Focus +1 | Resolve 5

90 coins; ring worth 50 coins; elixirs of heroism, invisibility, water breathing; scroll of fireball

Relic: Shield of the Final Templar (+1 Defense and +1 Focus)

On a Defend result of 13+ in combat, Abel can choose to either recover 1 Resolve point or receive advantage on his next Attack.  

By the way, I’m going to update the master file with the typos corrected and fixed stats for dragons; I'm going to add a blog page with new house rules for en masse attacks; I think against critters, you should be able to attack a bonus number equal to your Renown; there is no reason Abel cannot cut down 2 goblins or grey spiders with a successful attack at this point. He’s B.A. enough. Plus, an un-hasted legendary character should be killing more than 1 goblin per round; 5 goblins at a time is reasonable. I don't think this can fit in the core rules (I tried), so a house rule is fine. If you want to play it as written, you're fine, but I think that this house rule makes those combats stronger.

Session 8 Doth Await

Abel's Vengeance: Session 6

I think that in the week he has, Abel can spend a little time (or the healer can on his behalf more likely) going through the scrolls to see if there is any lore about the forces of Parth Goldu, or a thing he can set out for or seek. I’m going to call that very likely. 2. Yep. Is there a dungeon? I want to explore a dungeon. Possible. 5. Why do the dungeons elude me? A tower to explore? 6. Hecks no. Hm. Time to get a little outside of the box here. A city? 3. Yep. Crap on a cracker. I don’t think I’m up for a city, but here we are… okay. How far is the city? We’ll say 2d6 x2 leagues… but we’ll also allow for 6s to explode and re-roll those, so that it could potentially be much further. Nope. Only 12 leagues. So about 40 miles… Any intel on this city or rumors about it? 2. Is it about the leaders? 4. No. About the size of the city? 1. Yes. Same thing - going to measure the population in hundreds; start with 2c6 x200, with exploding 6s. I got two explosions of 6s, so ended up with a city of 4000. That HAS to be mostly goblins, right? 1. Yep. Lots of goblins. Is this the same city that had the gladiator pits my other playtest character had escaped from? 4. No. Okay. Fine. It might have gladiator pits, but not the SAME gladiator pits. Okay. We’ll call this city Kysh Ethan, which in goblinoid means the city of blades. I will come up for some reason why blades are so important when I get there. I have 40 miles to figure it out.

Abel is ready to set off into the lands of Parth Goldu. He has a full backpack with 2 weeks of provisions and all of his basic adventuring gear. He is feeling rested and ready for what is to come.

He’s probably not, but he feels like he is.

As he descends the hill upon which the temple rests, he steps into an unfamiliar landscape. I think it is likely that this is rocky lowland punctuated by moors and broken hills. I envision small, dark edifices surrounding him on all horizons, and occasional pits of acid or black liquid or something. That’s likely; I roll 5. Hm. Okay… it’s not that. Is this more volcanic in nature?  3. Okay. Is there any vegetation at all? 5. No. Well, that de-escalated quickly. He’s crossed into a bleak hellish landscape of lava pits and worse. I was thinking at some point he might cross over into some other-planar dark land, but he’s already pretty much there.

I roll 1d6 to see how often I have to check for encounters here: 2. So every 2 hours we’ll say there’s a 2 in 6 chance of a random encounter. It doesn’t necessarily have to be with a monster, but it will be with a challenge of some kind. The first question is always if it’s a creature of some kind, and then I solve from there.

Despite being a paladin, this is a little bit of a stealth mission; I am not looking to sound a horn and call forth the full armies of Parth Goldu to face me. Abel’s going to need to be as clever as he is trying to be brave. His goal is to sneak into the city; it’s like a bigger temple is all! He’s already done that once.

That said, is there something that looks at least interesting or worth exploring in the immediate area? That’s possible from here. 6. Not at all. So, he’ll start walking. Is there a clear pathway of some kind? 2. Yes. There’s something like a road that moves through the landscape, descending into broken, rocky land below. Off we go.

In the first two hours, I roll 1. I have an encounter of some kind within the first hour. Is it creatures of some kind? 3. Yes. Is it more goblins? 1. For sure. I’m getting a little bolder and more capable, so I will say that there are 2d6 of these; I think I can handle that many. I roll 7. What do they seem to be doing? Are they marching towards me? 6. No. Are they encamped? No. Are they fighting something? 6. No. Are they on the run? (the goblins I fight seem to always be on the run). 1. YES THEY ARE. Is it from a mythical creature? 1. Yes. Is it a dragon? (please be a dragon) 1. YES IT IS. Moving to intercept goblins and maybe make friends with a dragon. Or maybe die trying.

11 on the Focus check to intercept the goblins without being noticed (they are kind of distracted by the dragon that is chasing them). Is it a dragon that is linked to light in some way? 2. Yes. Such good news. Current theory: This dragon dwells at the far edges of the lands of Parth Goldu, eating small groups of goblins or any creatures it feels like it can eat easily enough. The naga must HATE this thing, since they’d see it as a traitor to their kind. I already like him and we haven’t met yet. 

Some goblins come upon me. I get a free action, so I just go ahead and try to kill one. 6 on the attack, so that’s a no. I did not make a good first impression on the dragon. It’s behind them. I have to assume it is playing with them like a cat; it could easily wipe them all out in one round. I don’t think my character knows much about dragons, but I will decide its age real quick; 1d6, with higher being older. 2. This is a young adult dragon, so maybe 100 years old or so. It is likely to stop and see what I do for a few rounds. 4. It debates this for a moment, and then sets down nearby and watches.

Round 1. I lose initiative; all of the goblins attack me. I think only 4 can attack me at a time, so we’ll go with that. I get a natural 12 on my first defense, so get advantage on my attack, and then 12, 10, and 12 on the remaining three; on my attack, I get 10, so kill one.

Round 2. I defend with 10, another natural 12, another natural 12, and 14. I think it is reasonable that I’d get a second attack this round; double 12s seems like it should give me something. I attack twice with advantage, getting 10 and 13, killing 2 goblins.

Round 3. I defend with 13, 14, 12, and 10. On the attack, I get 8, which is barely enough to hit, killing a goblin. Three remain.

Round 4. I defend with 9, 14, and a natural 12; I attack with 11 and kill one.

Round 5. I defend with 12 and 15. I kill one with 10.

Round 6. I defend with 15, and kill the last with 13. 

Abel steps back and nods at the dragon. I’m going to wait a second and see what he does. I think it is likely that the dragon eats the goblins while keeping an eye on Abel. 1. Yep. Exactly what happens. Abel cleans his weapon while he waits. The dragon eats slowly.

Abel will speak as the dragon gets to the final goblin (and before it has a chance to leave). He would know enough to be very flattering to dragons, and respectful, and deferential, and all of that good stuff. He carries what is clearly a holy item of the Seventh Goddess, and this is a dragon of light in some meaningful way (not sure what to call it yet - maybe Morning Dragon or Dragon of Morning… that second one better fits with the rhythm I already have with the dragon in the core rules). Any chance Abel knows this or has heard legends of dragons of morning? CR 8 Focus check. Gets a 9. “Noble dragon of morning, I greet you from the Bright Temple of the Seventh Goddess…” He bows here.

Reaction time. I think he’d get advantage on this check, because he carries the shield, and because he just killed a bunch of goblins… I will interpret the results; anything of 8 or better is a decent result. 7 or lower is pretty bad. 12. Awesome! Does this dragon speak? You can take the boy out of BX, but you cannot take the BX out of the boy. This would have a better than 50% chance of speaking, so we’ll say it’s likely; I roll and get 5. Nope. This is one hissy and grunty dragon. 

It makes sense that the dragon would want to go somewhere they could chat, and I think it is very likely that the dragon has a scroll of tongues in its lair (roll and get 3, so yes). It gestures that it will allow Abel to ride it, and they fly back to its lair, a high cave in the hills that border these volcanic lands. Can they see the city from here? Very unlikely, but I’ll see… 6. No way. The air here is thick with sulfur, and visibility is limited to no more than 4 miles, even up here. All he can see is a hazy mist and the rocky slope leading up to the cave. This seems safe enough.

A potion would be better than a scroll (no chance of failure), so we’ll say that’s likely. 6. Nope. Totally a scroll. Abel tries to read it (ugh. Going to need a 9 or better on the dice to make sense of this) and he gets a natural 12! Woot. Able is able (see what I did there) to speak to the dragon for 1 turn.

Was the dragon sent a vision of Abel last night? 1. Sure was.

I like this idea that the goddess sends visions to her faithful. It’s a nifty mechanic that has helped move the story along. I like that.

Abel reveals his plans - go to the city and kill the leaders of Parth Goldu. The dragon has to offer some help. I don’t think the dragon wants to get close to the city (otherwise, he’d already be there), and instead likes being the last line of defense to catch things as they are passing through. He cannot stop big armies or larger forces, but the small foot patrols and rabble he’s more than happy to take care of. He’s got to have some better plan than marching 40 miles across open land to a city full of goblins. Abel is going to get eaten at some point. I’d think that things like wyverns would be pretty common in this area. 3 on the die. The dragon says as much. No chance Abel gets within 10 miles on foot.

Is there an underground way in? I’m ending up with common motifs here (he did sneak into the temple through an underground tunnel), but this one would be a natural cave network he could traverse. I think that’s likely (this volcanic land would have created lots of underground passageways). I roll and get 4. That’s my play. I get the dungeon I wanted (kind of) as a huge underdark highway.

I imagine that whatever lives down there is not friendly towards the goblins. That’s likely. 2. Yes. Okay, so there are two societies here; the forces of Parth Goldu on the surface, and another society beneath. How well structured is this under society? I’ll go 1 is pretty savage and wild, 6 is highly structured. 2. Pretty loose. Is it a form of demihuman like elves or dwarves? Possible. 2. Okay. Is it dwarves of some kind? 5. No. Elves again? 4. No. gnome-like creatures? 2. Yes. Hmmm. Are they attuned to flame? 6 Heck. No. Darkness? 6 Heck no again. Are they actually friendly? 4. No. Generally neutral towards humans? 6. No way. Are they sort of an albino sub-species of savage gnome that battles among rival clans of the same species for supremacy of the underworld? That’s a 1. Okay then, they’re gnomish versions of the Morlocks.

They have raiding parties and I assume train lizards (4 - no) or maybe spiders? (5 - no) or beetles? (4 - no) or… um… I do a little googling, and it turns out that there are native species to volcanic caves, including a grasshopper. Is that it? Giant grasshoppers? 2. Yup. So is this a tribal species of albino gnomes that rides giant grasshoppers while battling spiders and forms of ettercap in their massive tunnel system? I’m not even going to roll on that - it’s too cool.

That’s what I’m getting into… Option one for encounters is always going to be spiders or ettercaps, option two is going to always be gnomes on grasshoppers, and option three will be something else random that might dwell in underground tunnels… I like this already.

Does the dragon give him anything else to help on his journey? It’s possible… while dragons love their treasures, this dragon did get a vision about a dude that he (she? I roll - it’s a she) should be helping. It’s possible that a potion or two is offered. Nah. This dragon is good with sharing intel. It offers to take Abel to the entrance to the caverns, but he will have to find his way from there; the primary cave leads towards the city, but that’s all the dragon really knows. There are lots of side caves that he probably wants to ignore. 

Abel decides to take his bag of coins and dump the whole thing at the dragon’s feet. Yeah, it’s only 57 coins, but the symbolism of offering his last coin to this dragon is probably going to be effective. He does so, and attempts a Focus check one more time. 6. The dragon accepts the offering, and uses its tail to push the coins into its already-significant hoard.

He gets 3 hero points for getting this far, and +1 for making an offering between deeds. There is a 3 in 6 chance he gets +1 since the offering was so substantial, and I roll 5. Nope. The dragon is not going to brag about this to anyone; it’s their little secret (sadly enough).

With the updated hero points, we have:

Abel the Notable Human Paladin (Renown 1) Hero Points 21

Attack +3 | Defend +4 | Focus +1 | Resolve 5

0 coins; potion of haste; potion of invisibility; scroll of fireball

Relic: Shield of the Final Templar (+1 Defense and +1 Focus)

On a Defend result of 13+ in combat, Abel can choose to either recover 1 Resolve point or receive advantage on his next Attack.    


Abel easily cuts through large numbers of goblins with minimal risk. This does not bother me; he should be able to do that. He's defensive-minded, so if he was getting smacked around by goblins I'd have some class design issues. We’ll see how he fares against more challenging foes soon enough. He’s done with critters for a while, I’d suspect. Lots of big spiders and ettercaps in those tunnels, in addition to grasshopper-mounted albino gnomes with javelins. There will be stuff to do.

Again, I am surprised at what happened. I had no idea that’s where I’d be going. I fully expected this to be a LotR style ‘crossing of Mordor’ kind of thing. It’s gone quite differently, but in the best way.

I remember seeing this image at some point when I was thirteen and thinking ' that is a monster I will never bother with'. Yet here we are... and with Jim Holloway art, to boot. LOVE me some Jim Holloway art.