I got close to the end of my sketchbook so decided to kill it with a burst of drawing. Here’s me pushing some designs and working from people I saw on the train the other day.
So in the build up to starting my webcomic I’ve been mulling over a few things said by Andrew Ross Maclean and Dave Rapoza concerning style and motivations behind work. I’ve also been evaluating the artists who I like and what kind of art excites me.
I’m excited about starting this new project as it will be the first sword and sorcery comic I’ll have done. On the other hand committing to a webcomic is (and rightfully should be) quite daunting and the last thing I want is to grow tired of it.
With this in mind I’ve been sketching in my spare time to find way of drawing that is a little easier to handle, and one that I like more, since I’ll hopefully producing a large volume of work. Here are the results so far, you can see the comparisons between the earlier versions of these characters-
I think I’m getting there, I’m liking the more shape based stripped down characters, I just need to flex my drawing muscles a bit more and keep sketching!
<Continue reading the journal? Y/N>
It is by the lantern of an inn I write this entry. It has been a harrowing few days plagued with enchanted beasts and in party fighting as well as the reappearance of an old enemy who is proving to be a troubling foe.
We were in high spirits in whatever nameless town we were in. We all had our magical gear, I of course had my sweet neckerchief of poison resistance, Lorric had a blue lined cloak that defended him from the cold, Jigoku sported a fly short cape that absorbed an amount of damaged, Vanaya had a yellow scarf of lighting resistance and sweet innocent Beour opted for multicoloured undergarments of fire and psychic resistance. She decided she didn’t want to share an extra silk with Stoic as he had prevented her on her fool’s errand of using the crown we found to revive Rathbone’s head.
Sufficiently pleased with our new accessories we decided to take a look at a map that was given to Lorric by the high priestess of the Raven Queen, a sour faced old bag who both Lorric and Stoic revered. She proved massively unhelpful but directed us to a small seeker who could help us. The seeker again yielded limited information but was a half dog creature so I took a liking to him. I finally got a proper look at the map and realised that against all odds I recognised the area it showed.
It was a terrible place known as The Bay of Teeth, so named because of the horrific ship destroying rocks that surrounded it.
I had travelled there many years ago. I was being harried by an imperial navy, from which empire I can’t quite recall, and was forced to lose them amongst those treacherous rocks. For three days and nights we weaved between the spires of rock before loosing ourselves from the bay’s jaws, leaving our pursuers to the sirens and merfolk.
The bay was far off to the East, maybe 2 or 3 months travel. Given our group’s track record of ineptitude it wasn’t a trip I was much looking forward to. I clasped my Yaku amulet and prayed for a sign that would help us figure out a way to get there that hopefully wouldn’t get us killed. At that moment Crumplebum II cried out as a large horse took a crap on his head.
After I finished laughing I looked and saw that the horse belonged to a group of caravanners who were heading to this town’s outpost of the RedStone Caravan company also known as Red over Red. After a confab with the group we decided hitching with a caravan as mercenaries and riding it as far East as we could would be our best option.
Eager to make a good grift I took Stoic over with me to negotiate with some of the caravanners. We chose the biggest gaudiest looking caravan, a large gilt lined thing full to the brim with peacocks. We found the caravan leader arguing with the driver of the peacock wagon. He was demanding to know why the caravan was so late setting off to which the driver was saying the wheel had been damaged. Next to the wheel was a wainwright who was obviously blaggin the caravan leader on how much wheel repairs were going to cost. The wheel looked fine and smelling a very obvious con I took that as my cue to offer our services.
"You sir look like someone in need of some no nonsense hard working folks to command this vessel! You won’t be getting anywhere fast with this bunch of riff raff!" I motioned to the driver and wainwright who were about to object before they noticed the man mountain of Stoic stood behind me.
"Well" said the caravan leader "You er, certainly look like a bunch that can handle yourselves…"
I took this a cue and nudged Stoic in the ribs, he grunted and began to lift the cart. The wheels left the floor and I heard a sickening crunch emanate from Stoic’s back.
He turned to me his face impassive
yet a single thin tear ran down his cheek
and he released the cart and hobbled off.
The leader, driver and wainwright all looked at me, I could feel I was losing the crowd. Suddenly Jigoku appeared from out of nowhere, he was on top of the cart and grabbed the driver by the scruff of his neck. He hoisted the man up so his feet were dangling and proceeded to administer a flick to the man’s nose. His nose brutally crumpled under the ludicrously powerful flick and the driver was knocked out cold. Jigoku proceeded to wave the unconscious man at the wainwright and said
"How long that wheel gonna be?"
"It’s done" the wainwiright said raising his arms and backing away from the cart.
Impressed with how we handled the situation the caravan leader hired us on the spot. We were to deliver the peacocks to RedStone which was a few days travel east. Though the distance wasn’t as far as we would have liked the pay for the work was fine and as Lorric pointed out we could easily find more work at the headquarters of the caravan company that could get us closer to our destination. We were pretty chuffed until the caravan leader said-
"So which one of you has experience driving a cart?"
We all looked at each other until Jigoku stepped up once again and said
"Baby, Jigoku Jones has a PHD in Drive Cool"
The caravan leader looked impressed at this, though I feel that he didn’t know what it meant, and presently walked off. We secured some food from stores and a cross bow which I gave to Crumplebum II. He was riding on the caravan with Jigoku who had taken an instant liking to the birds. The rest of us took our places amongst the caravans and we soon set off.
This was the first day of the journey and it began slowly. Lorric spent his time talking to a tiresome ironmonger who imparted “wisdom” upon him. Jigoku spent the day teaching Crumplebum II an old dragon-man song along the lines of-
"Who’s the Brown Dragon-Man,
Drivin’ this here Caravan”
"Yer daaamn right"
I must admit this was amusing to watch since Crumplebum II can’t speak a word of the common tongue and his parroting of the large dragon-man was even enough to elicit a smirk from Stoic. I took some time out to get to know the other mercenaries, most were pretty standard however there was one dashing character wielding a long sword, I believe his name was Terry Longsword.
As the caravans were getting ready to pull in for the night we spied that most treacherous of mystical creatures, a Unicorn. Before any of us could speak Beour had ran and dived on the unicorn’s back. We all held our breath as the unicorn turned to look at her and admonished her for her rude behaviour. This seemed to go over Beour’s head as she seemed vastly more engrossed in the fact that the creature could speak. Lorric was toying with the idea of harvesting the creature’s blood when we bundled him to one side and politely let him know that these equine horrors are remarkably tough to kill. This one particular unicorn had decided it really didn’t like the fact that the road had been built along its path. I offered to piggyback it across the road however it was a stuck-up creature and wanted us to get rid of the road so it could cross. We banded together and successfully created a convincing looking forest path across the road, we got so into it we decided to add a babbling brook too! The unicorn was happy and introduced itself as Eio. Before it could canter off in to the forest Vanaya and Beour got Crumplbum II to do a selfie etching of them all together.
We settled the wagons into a circle and relaxed. Jigoku spent his time entertaining the other caravanners at the campfire. Worried about an attack I employed an old sailors trick of using an eye patch to preserve night vision in one eye and I put a bucket over Crumplebum II’s head to ensure he had a sound sleep.
That night was mercifully uneventful and Lorric took first watch.
When we awoke it was raining so I decided to puncture some holes in the bucket I put over Crumplebum II’s head so he could see out of it and keep the rain off him.
Part way through the day through the thick rain we were attacked. Three stones hit Lorric in the side of his head taking him down. We all looked in the direction of the throw and there in the tree lines was a familiar figure.
The halfling that had escaped our clutches on the way to Rathbone’s cave, the one known as Lazy Susan. She gestured that she was keeping her eye on us then bailed out of the tree.
Quick as a flash Vanaya was up and loosed a shot into that dense underbrush. Her arrow seemed to dance between the trees and sunk into Susan’s shoulder. She raised her middle finger and disappeared.
"Chew on that then ya fukin MEFF!" Vanaya called after her.
The rest of the day was slow. Stoic tended Lorric’s wounds and on the night Crumplebum II and myself took the watch.
The next day the rain had stopped. This allowed us, around noonish, to smell the unmistakable stench of a burnt village or hamlet in the air. Sure enough as we rounded a corner the caravans arrived at the smouldering remains of a small farming hamlet. Never ones to pass up on some looting we all departed the caravan and headed off into the houses. Vanaya was the only one who found anything of worth. A small puzzle box that we all scrutinised and took to be some kind of adult’s safe box. Shaking it revealed something was indeed inside and the group took to trying to solve it.
There was that unmistakable sound in my ears, the tocking of dice rolling and I had an ominous feeling that somewhere Yaku was busy rolling his dice of fate. I began to get agitated and stressed that we should leave the box for another time and get moving. It was Lorric that pointed out we had been away from the caravan from sometime and suddenly we all panicked. Running back to the caravan we found a smouldering wreck. Jigoku looked into the distance and shouted
"Biiiiug motha fukkin wing!"
We all hit full brown alert.
From Jigoku’s description it was a rather large and possibly old dragon that had attacked the hamlet and the caravan. The group decided that right then was the best time to pow-wow and look for supplies. I decided to run the fuck way from the place that had been hit twice by a giant dragon and Jigoku joined me. We hunkered down in tree cover until the rest of the group got their shit together and we headed out keeping the road in view yet in cover. We heard a rustling in the area before us. We all cautiously walked forward and peered through the shrubs to see… a peacock! One of the creatures had managed to survive the flaming death that visited the caravans. Jigoku stepped forward and slowly coaxed the bird towards him with food from his adventurer’s kit. The creature was soon eating out of his hand and then climbed up onto his shoulder! He proudly announced that he had a new familiar and from this moment on we should call the bird “Flava Dave”.
That night Beour took watch and in the morning we awoke to find a bunch of our equipment had been stolen. Looking around we realised that small tracks had been left that were soon identified as halfling and were a good few hours old. We knew it was Susan, but how had she managed to sneak into the camp when we left our most able night visioned member on guard. Quizzing her she was adamant that she didn’t remember anything unusual from the nights watch. Lorric has had a real stick up his arse about Beour, ever since that man’s leg exploded at the Rat Bastard pub all those weeks ago, and this time was no exception. He kept insisting that Beour had aided the thief to the point she began to cry. We all felt very bad for her and also felt Lorric was a bit of a jerk
"But! I mean! COME ON! HOW IS SHE NOT INVOLVED!?"
We shook our heads “Not cool man”
Through all of Lorric’s finger pointing Vanaya had been testing our water supply and discovered it to be drugged. The water was from the caravan’s supply which meant someone had been attempting to drug the entire caravan. This seemed to shut Lorric up and he moodily quietened down.
Concerned that we had a homicidal halfling coming after us and that there was still a big fucking dragon knocking about I stressed that we could sort all this shit out over a nice pint at RedStone if we got a fucking wiggle on! We made haste through the forest and soon the acrid smell of town hung in the air. It had grown dark by this point but we decided to not rest, we didn’t want to chance another run in with Susan so we force marched until morning. As the dawn broke we saw the town and soon the trees grew sparser until there just on the edge of the tree line we saw our equipment propped up against a large oak. Well aware we were walking into a trap the group began to converse when suddenly Beour stood up with an ashen hue to her face. She claimed to see a crone beckoning her, promising to take her to the fabled fountain of youth. I promptly clouted her round the back of the head and asked her if she though now was the best bloody time for having having daft visions pertaining to a quest.
Tired of this shit by now Lorric hefted a stick at the equipment which set off a large bear trap that slammed to. The trap however was a cheap Lysindan model and as it set off one of the springs ruptured sending a shard of metal racing across Lorric’s cheek. Satisfied that there were no other traps we grabbed our gear and broke from the tree line. As he entered into the open Jigoku spun round and hurled a huge blast of fire into the woods behind us, just in case we were being followed. As he turned to us the trees behind him ignited and Flava Dave opened his tail in a dramatic manner.
Quite content we had seen the coolest thing we were going to see on this trip and being hungry, tired and absolutely parched we ran into the relative safety of the town of RedStone ready to recuperate and to think of how we were going to tell the caravan company that we’d lost their wagons…
<To be continued…>
My super talented girlfriend Katie Hanratty went and made these awesome D&D player counters for us!
From left to right-
Crumplebum the Second- Newly acquired goblin squire of Grognak!
Grognak!- Raider of the Stoney Shores
Vanaya- Ex member of the Honey Badgers of the Wirreldown.
If you want to see more of her stuff check out her Pinterest!- http://www.pinterest.com/katiehanratty/my-work/
<Continue reading the journal? Y/N>
As days go today was a slow one. Not that I didn’t need a rest! In the space of two days I’d formed a gang, killed some half-men, fallen into a river and been pummelled by rocks, fallen off a waterfall, met a group of oddballs and killed a bunch of drakes. Yes, I have seen some sights.
So it was that I suggested to Vanaya that we should ditch Team Question Mark, lay low and wait for Team Rat Bastard to get here. We offered to go grab some medium quality wine and ducked out laughing all the way, that was until we realised that somehow the hulking goliath I had dubbed Stoic Manface had joined us. Since he flat out refused to talk I figured he found us more entertaining or at let more questionable than Team Question Mark and wanted to keep an eye on us.
We retired to some rinky-dink pub on the outskirts of town nearest the forest. If I know a group of inexperienced adventurers going to kill some huge bandit leader they couldn’t resist a victory bevvy afterwards.
Sure enough after a couple of rounds of ale the Bastards made an appearance brandishing the giant bloody head of Rathbone! Lorric looked inordinately pleased with himself and couldn’t wait to regale me with the heroic deeds of the Rat Bastards, I really couldn’t be arsed transcribing it though so I just stole this page out of his papers-
Excerpts from the Pious record of Lorric Shortstep, Humble Cleric of the Raven Queen.
Peace is hard to come by, and the trials of devotion are unending.
Today I am at peace, and reminded that the words of my mantra have never rung so true. I sit writing now in the comfort of a well provided inn, surrounded by the hum of a modest town made more from trade and its associated prosperity. I am refreshed from devotions at the local Temple, Her home our sanctuary, fed and in enough ale to relax and recount the journey that brought me here.
Leaving the ‘Rat Bastard’ in high spirits, our group was quickly attacked, victorious and sundered anew with a careless misstep and a swollen river. Grognak and our exceptional archer Vanaya were swept from sight before any aid could be offered, leaving us with little choice to but carry on without them. The self same river caused us as much trouble when the Dragon-born Jigoku stumbled amongst the rocks and dumped our erstwhile captive into the torrent. Gravely injured as he was I can only imagine that he died shortly after (even for a Halfling… Shortly… That’s right sucka - Jigoku, included verbatim under threat of more ‘karaoke’). It would seem that the outlaw was never meant to have survived our encounter, despite our best efforts. Such is Her will, the hand that guides fate.
We were then three: myself, the monk and the murderer. We saw the lighted entrance to Rathbone’s lair ahead and made steady progress, unhindered by the terrain or traps, having elicited all the information needed from the now flotsam bandit. The cave was uninspiring and plenty dark, the torches discarded to give us the element of surprise. While we knew where the dangers of the cavern lay, we knew not what to expect from the occupant within. From the depths shone a warming light, inviting us to delve deeper and spy upon the riches that were beyond what any of us had thought possible. Tapestries of the highest quality, exquisite crystal, jewellery and gold abundant over shadowed by a great work of art and a greater presence still in the girth of Rathbone. Rarely have I seen such a figure, gluttony and indulgence embodied in a grotesque figure of obesity, flanked on each side by murderous looking hawks, sharp clawed and hungry eyed. He dosed and drank sat upon a great chair, careless amounts of food piled high around the table in front of him. Beour, with the tact that I have come to expect from her, suggested that she might sneak into the room and gut the man before he knew we were present, but I foolishly urged caution and that he may be reasoned with or indeed convinced to share with us what knowledge and wealth he could. To this end I entered the room and made conversation with the brute, under the pretence of having been recommended to his aid by my fellow Halflings.
This charade lasted for only a moment before his malice became apparent in the form of a great axe produced from the side of his chair. He struck me a mighty blow that due to my short stature spun me from my feet. Fate, guided by Her hand, flew with me in that moment, and I was able to gain purchase on the table and roll behind it for some measure of cover. Righteous fury overcame me and I called upon Her wrath, scorching Rathbone with a holy light that tore the flesh from his sneer and left him staggered in a pool of burnt blood from his newly ruined face. Jigoku, never one to be left out of violence, leapt into the room with an unnatural grace for one his size and delivered a series of blows to the obesity of the man. The force and speed of the strikes was such that I could scarcely comprehend the skill required and the effect was clear. Stumbling from the strength of our attacks he had not seen the delicate Beour work her way into the room and behind him, not until it was much too late and her dagger was lodged well into the region where I’m sure his liver had once been. I am comfortable to say that I was overcome by this display of martial prowess, which I account as why I was then shortly overcome by one of the hawks recently dispossessed of their master. As I struggled amongst the crockery from the table I was somehow upon I caught a glimpse of Beour dispatching the other hawk, causing my harrier to fly from me in her direction. It raked a hefty talon across Jigoku’s face in passing, dropping the monk for long enough for me to see Beour dance through the path of the beast and split its tail neatly with a blow of such force that it nigh evaporated into a cloud of blood and feathers. And thus ended the terror of Rathbone.
Beour took our trophy of his head with must gusto, but strangely none of the skill previously shown. It was almost as if she enjoyed the slow cut and snap of bone… We gathered what riches we could carry, including a strange crown of an unknown origin, and walked from the place weary but wealthy. As we made our way back down to the road a passing encounter with a ruined cart and a strange devotee of Pelor suggested some mighty struggle had taken place not so long ago, the scattered remains of a number of small drakes all that was left to tell us how this bloody encounter had ended.
Upon our arrival in the town we made our way to the inn, from which I now sit in blessed warmth, where we were pleased to see our companions Grognak and Vanaya survived and well into their drink. With them was a Goliath, a friendly reminder of the time I spent amongst the mountains, the sheer size of him bringing back the self preservation that had led me to master Giant as a second language. What’s more he is a Paladin of our Lady, the Raven Queen. It gives me a sense of solace, that another of our group follows in the footsteps of fate.
We sat and recounted our tales, took ale and relaxed into what had become a group of friends through combat, and made our plans for how to proceed. Beour had developed a strange and macabre fascination with the ancient crown we had recovered from Rathbone’s hoard, and was set to place it upon his severed head. From my examinations I could tell that the crown had an origin within my religion, but that the spell engraved had been distorted in some abominable way. The Goliath that Grognak affectionately referred to as ‘Stoic Manface’ agreed with my concerns, and to prevent further temptation overcoming our pet rogue he safely stored it away. The protests to this were met with a glance that I should imagine has a number of very effective uses for an eight foot mute. Our bounty for Rathbone’s head was collected from the sot with a badge in charge of the local militia, and we then made progress to the Temple of Our Lady. Jigoku had become enamoured with the entertainment of unnatural uses for magic artefacts by Beour’s incessant appeals to disgrace the ancient crown, and once more Stoic made his objection very clear without having say a word.
The High Priestess at the Temple of Our Lady was a gracious woman, if sharp of tongue, who told us then of the crown’s place in the history of our Divinity. An arrogant duchess once sworn to Her service had taken it upon herself to forsake the inevitable fate of death, guided by Her hand, and succumbed to the allure of necromancy. The Priestess told us of a Lost Kingdom, far to the west, where it is rumoured that the treasures of the Duchy still wait for those brave enough to claim them, a place where the strong can test their mettle against the monsters of this dark magic, and the righteous may smite at the heart of the evil borne on the back of an ancient folly.
As I sit here now, my gold counted, a new cloak being made ready, I must admit that I am tempted with this quest. It is a duty to drive out the undead and those who would defame Her, and one that I bear gladly, but I am not convinced any other than Stoic would accompany in this simply because it is the right thing to do. The treasure however, and the prospect of a hard fight to win it, may sway my new companions. Grognak sits at the end of the bench explaining to his newly won ‘bag-bitch’ from a goblin gambling den exactly how he likes his spare axe carried, and Beour is casting a greedy eye at the purse of a drunken man a short way over. I get the distinct impression that Jigoku is a wandering soul who would like nothing more than another chance to prove his skill in combat, and anywhere that we can take Vanaya to try new and exotic ales is sure to win her heart over to the cause. Fate it seems, guided by Her hand, has provided me with everything I need to bring glory to Her name, and prosperity to my friends.
Lordy he goes on, he also glossed over some pretty awesome stuff. For instance though he mentions a cloak for himself he forgot to mention that the temple wench told us how epic the silks they brought back were! 5 rolls in total that they divvied out between our group, each enchanted to resist an element or malady. There were colours, uhh I don’t recall most, the main point is that I got a green neckerchief of poison resistance!
Also those daft sods went and gave me Rathbone’s axe THE BREADMAKER, it was a gift that truly touched my heart.
He is right though in that our sweet innocent Beour became obsessed with seeing what would happen if we put the crown on Rathbone’s head. Knowing it had to do with the Raven Queen I implored them to not do it in case the head flew off or something causing us to miss out on the reward. However I soon remembered that, since I didn’t kill him, I wouldn’t get a cut so I ducked out to go do some shopping.
It was around this time that I realised how cripplingly poor I was so I decided I needed to go where the action is. I went into the catacombs under the city and found a goblin dive bar.
Goblin is one of the many languages I know and knowing them to be heavy gamblers I figured this was a good place to bolster my gold reserves. I entered the table in the traditional goblin way, I killed the player with the smallest amount of money, this ensures fresh coinage is running through the game and that only serious players are going to get involved.
It seemed I was little rusty as starting off I lost a bunch of coins but soon gained it and then when the little guys started running out of money they started betting fingers and toes. Now I’m all for goblin toe necklaces, they’re considered couture in the more civilised states however I convinced them that it made more sense for them to combine their body parts as one whole goblin to save on dismemberment. A skittish creature was soon thrust on the pile and, with a bit of crafty card foolery, I won myself a goblin squire! Seeing this wretched creature reminded me of another wretched creature I had parted ways with only that morning, this though brought a tear to my eye. I decided to call him CRUMPLEBUM the SECOND in honour of that flea-bitten battle cat.
After that I exited the game and returned to the pub. Once I got there I was informed on our newest endeavour discovered by Stoic and Lorric, a foul necropolis teeming with riches and dead things to make deader. Truly this is the stuff of legends! I guess whilst the others wait for their magical items to be made I’d better get Crumplebum II in shape!
<To be continued>
<Continue reading the journal? Y/N>
Well this day started off shite and then got slightly less shite
After stomping out the halfmen and getting a hostage to spill his guts we were all feeling pretty good. We decided to press on and found the rain began to ease. As we ventured into a wooded area Vanaya our human ranger began to lead the party, picking her way carefully through the dense woodland. Suddenly there was a crash and Vanaya called out. After being upstaged by everyone, including the two small frys, in the previous battle I seised the opportunity to show off. I brandished my axe and flew into the darkness.
This proved to be somewhat foolish.
I found myself tumbling down a slick ravine bellowing at the top of my lungs as branches slapped me in the face. After a prolonged slide I landed heavily in a torrential river that had broken its banks. In the distance I could see Vanaya struggling to keep above the water. Despite the fact that there was no audience to see any heroic deeds I felt a sudden alien urge to save the girl. I swam with the current and pulled her head above the waters. At that moment Yaku deemed it prudent to roll his Die of Destiny and throw our bodies into the sharp jagged rocks of river rapids. Ordinarily this sort of thing wouldn’t bother a seafarer such as I but having not stretched properly before entering the water I found myself with a debilitating cramp which prevented me from avoiding these treacherous rocks. My head clattered off one and I found myself sinking into the deep. Thankfully Vanaya had gotten it together and heaved my head above the water just as something large and unpleasant swam beneath us. I regained my senses and held my axe fast ready to kill this river monster.
It was then we fell off the waterfall.
In those moments of free fall I spied the monster and managed to give it a two fingered salute before crashing into the river below.
Unfortunately it didn’t look offended.
I was beginning to get a little tired now and my cramp had reached a critical state, I must admit I was slightly concerned. Then on the horizon I saw a motley bunch of characters in a boat. Something about them made me question whether I should allow them to save me or just give myself over to oblivion. Vanaya had no such hesitations though and began to bellow at them-
"EEH stop gormin on that boat and grab us yeh daft shites!"
This sultry call did the trick and I found myself being heaved out of the water by a ridiculously oversized Raven Queen follower. Once on the boat myself and Vanaya proceeded to vomit up a good load of water we had swallowed. Despite this a very eager pointy-eared wizbiz took it upon herself to thrust a wine skin in my face. In my land we call these types “Lushes” and the easiest way to deal with them is be direct. It wasn’t working this time though so I accused her of trying to poison us.
Once we were on the other side of the river introductions were made. I stood in front of the group and offered my hand to the half-giant who had pulled me out of the water.
"I am Grognak of the Stone Shores, this is Vanaya of the Wirreldownes and who might you be?"
The giant stared right through me. Vanaya and I exchanged glances.
The pointy-eared wizbiz appeared suddenly in front of us and introduced herself as Raka before disappearing and reappearing in a tree to drink her wine. Next up was a demure, well as demure as a 7 foot tall half-orc could be, warrior wearing a tutu who perplexingly had a magic llama. This made my head hurt so I moved onto the next person, a kind of genie fellow named Um’bal who claimed to be the party leader, I laughed heartily at his jape patting him on his back and moving onto the last of this odd bunch. Before me stood a filthy critter that appeared to be made of fur and flatulence. It introduced itself as Crumplebum then proceeded to ignore me resoundly. There was a strange connection in that moment of neglect, something that resonated deeply with me, that feeling of coldness reminded me of times spent with my belligerent grandmother who would beat me with a switch. Yaku, I loved that old woman, she made me the man I am today!
With introductions done we headed out. The ferryman had told this group that they were near a town and it happened to be the biggest settlement in the area. Vanaya suggested that sticking with these goons could be beneficial. The Rat Bastards were bound to head to this town to collect the bounty once they had killed the yeasty shite known as Rathbone and we could reconnect with them there. Begrudgingly I agreed to tag along with Team Question Mark.
Not far from the town we came across an upturned cart. Not needing a bunch of rocks wanged at me to spot this as a trap, I asked around the group if anyone was bold (stupid) enough to go out and set off this trap. T.Cup stepped up, a good choice I felt, it wasn’t very likely that anything could trap eir.
As Chip waded towards the cart Vanaya decided it would be a good idea to scout the place out and began pelting the bushes on the ledge overlooking the cart. There were screams and from out of the bushes fell two raggedy looking farm hand types.
"Mah knee! I’ll never be an adventurer now!"
"Oh you’re in for it! We was gonna go easy on you weirdoes but now you’re done!"
The taller of the two who had been hit in the knee produced a whistle and blew into it. There was no audible noise but Crumplebum did mutter “Bugger off” under his breath.
The bushes behind the yokels erupted with tiny drakes that teemed down the ledge towards Chip. These were followed by two larger drakes, almost the size of a young dragon.
Um’bal, most likely feeling a bit belittled from our exchange earlier, bellowed to Team Question Mark to follow him into battle. Most of the team carelessly rushed towards the little creatures. I looked at Vanaya who shrugged and notched another arrow onto her bow. Next to me was Crumplebum who seemed to be battling an urge to get comfy and go to sleep. Off to one side was the silent paladin I had taken to calling Stoic Manface. He seemed to have absolutely no emotion to anything happening around him and just stared off at the battle. Lacking any long ranged weapons or gnomes to throw at people I decided to jog into the fray. I positioned myself neatly behind T.Cup who seemed to be a far better bit of cover than the over turned cart.
Looking around the cart I saw that Um’bal’s courageous charge had landed him in deep shit. He was laying on the ground being swarmed by the horrible little creatures. I stepped out to get them off him but found myself assailed by the little gits so retreated back behind T.Cup, just to get my bearings of course. Chip was busy crashing ire scimitar into the ground which caused large spikes to appear from the earth and pierce a horde of the horrible things. I took to directing Chip, I felt this was a much more efficient use of my talents.
Raka was busy doing a stellar job of blinding creatures, we later found out however the blinding effect only worked to mask her so the creatures were in fact more likely to blame the rest of the party for the strange wounds they had received.
Um’bal’s caterwauling evidently inspired something within Stoic who walked toward the prone genie-folk and gave him a strong reassuring pat on the back which seemed to perk up Um’bal despite him still being swarmed by the little devils. This unusual sight prompted one of creature tamers to begin mocking Um’bal
"Aww, as your mummy come to make you feel better you windy git?"
At this Stoic looked the man straight in the eyes with a gaze so powerful that he simultaneously pissed and shit his breeches then convulsed to the floor.
"Bro what’s goin- "The second tamer caught that same gaze and curled into a ball crying.
That left a few stragglers and the two larger drakes to deal with. Vanaya had stayed under a tree peppering anything that moved with arrow after arrow, this had weakened the drakes somewhat but she had yet to land a killing blow. Then I saw one of the most majestic sights of my well storied life.
Crumplebum apparently tired of all this shit stood up and waved his javelin in the air. Suddenly a horde of bats descended on the drakes causing them to panic and fall down the ledge. But wait, he wasn’t finished. The small creature hefted his javelin and appeared to me to grow ten feet tall and assume the glowing aura of a majestic bird of prey. As he hefted the javelin the aura seemed to envelop it giving it an eagle like aspect as it flew through the air heading directly towards one of the large drakes. There was a beautiful moment where the drake looked directly at the javelin and shed a single tear before the weapon blew the drake’s skull clean out of the back of its head.
Raka had decided that now would be a good time to kill something violently with magic instead of annoying things. She let off a hex that cleared the small beasts from Um’bal. Um’bal now free of tiny creatures was enraged by his treatment from the beasts. He flung himself at the last large drake ,who seemed to be in shock from seeing its brethren die in such a spectacularly violent manner, and began viciously tearing at its throat with his teeth. It was spectacularly savage and the rest of the group stood there wordlessly as he literally bit the life out of the creature snarling occasionally and hissing if anyone tried to address him.
After an eye opening battle we divvied up the treasure, Vanaya got a sweet Bow+2 whereas I just received some gold. I mean don’t get me wrong, gold is great and all but it’s not a bow+2 is it? Once the treasure was distributed we all walked into town giving Um’bal a wide berth.
<To be continued>
<You stumble upon a camp. Investigate? Y/N>
<Creeping into the camp you happen upon a large figure huddled under some furs. He’s snoring like a champion and appears to be cuddling an axe whilst muttering obscenities in his sleep.
You get the unmistakable feeling that to wake him might end badly for you.
You wonder if he’s a wanted bandit you could claim a bounty on but killing him outright probably wouldn’t sit well with local authorities. Next to the him is an open sack with a bedraggled journal hanging out of it.You feel that you might glean some important information about him if you read it.
They call me Grognak.
Ravager of the Stone Shores, Slayer of the Giant Lord Thurm. The mention of my name causes men to weep and women to swoon. Well at least that’s the case where I’m from. I mean as it stands no one here knows who I am or what I’ve done. Since Stikk Strongbrow caused my crew to mutiny and stole all my stuff I’ve been a little less legendary and more horribly destitute. As it stands I have a little gold to my name and I’m miles away from anything that could count as the open sea. My legendary exploits have been reduced to searching out the worst ale in the land and there’s a good chance this current shithole houses that fabled brew.
Yaku is certainly a cruel god to have rolled his Die of Destiny and landed me here in this tavern aptly named The Rat Bastard. The torrential rains outside have driven the motliest of this land’s vagabonds indoors and there’s a palpable tension in the air.
Being a keen warrior I have learnt to assess threats as they become apparent and this deluge of oddballs was definitely worth checking out. Trundling in aside from the peasants and farm hands were some notable characters. First entered the dragon. Dragon man that is, he had an odd air about him and appeared to be some kind of punch monk. After dragon man-thing in shuffled a halfman wearing Raven Queen garb with a self righteous demeanour. He was followed in by two human wenches, actually one of them looked more elvish and shifty. I think I saw someone else in the crowd but they were so short I couldn’t make them out, ah well, when has a tiny person ever been a cause for concern? These notables spread throughout the bar with the half man and shifty elf joining me in propping up the bar. The dragon-man was busy bewitching a serving lad with what can only be described as “fly” moves and the human wench kind of stood awkwardly to one side looking like she really wanted to talk to someone but simultaneously looking like this was the last thing she wanted to do in the world.
I have little patience for japery but I do find amusement in people being arseholes to other people. The bar man was a supreme arse to the halfman of the Raven Queen, I was amazed that the shite he had given me to drink wasn’t actually the worst they served and he made the half man pay a pretty penny for his pisswasser. The shifty elven wench finding herself bereft of coin gained a sinister glint in her eye then proceeded behind me. I felt all was above board until I heard a commotion and felt the unmistakable warmth of arterial splatter on the back of my neck. One of the peasants began to cry and the half man went over to check on what was happening. This seemed like a pretty regular occurrence to me and as some kind of town watch ran into the pub to see what the commotion was I motioned for the bartender to come hither.
I had an urge to ask about mundane tasks that I might complete, why I felt this compulsion I can’t say, all I can be certain of is that Yaku’s hand was in this as all things. The bartender served me some more rat’s piss and for a small fee divulged that there was what can best be described as a yeasty bastard called Rathbone who had shown up in these parts not too long ago and has seen fit to rob and threaten people with his band of merry men. The bartender supposed that a reward could be had if his head was to be taken to the nearest large town.
It was at this point that the shifty elf decided for some reason to engage me in conversation. This was the first time I’d turned around in a while but I wasn’t that surprised to see one of the small folk had bled out onto the straw covered floor. His friend was getting into a heated debate with the dragon-man who, rather reasonably I felt, was asking if he could have the man’s shoes. The elven wench was covered in blood. I asked her what had happened to the man on the floor and she told me someone had stabbed the poor fellow. Despite the fact she was covered in blood and held a bloody knife in her hand I totally and perplexingly believed her when she said it wasn’t her that done it. Then the spark, the details began to fit and I grabbed the girl
"The one who killed this hapless troglodyte, could it be the one they call RATHBONE!?"
She seemed genuinely relieved that I had figured out the answer to this mystery, what a sweet angel she was, so consumed with justice and the care of others! I however saw this as a meal ticket. It had become obvious I needed a new crew and a new legend to forge. I’ll show Stikk Strongbrow the gormy bellend that he shouldn’t have put Grognak in the corner. NO ONE PUTS GROGNAK IN THE CORNER! Fuelled by righteous fury, and shite ale, I stood onto the dead man’s table and proclaimed to the bar
"Fearless freaks and small folk, it is obvious that the one who killed your poor disgusting peasant bro is none other than Rathbone, the gret’ shite-hawk who’s been buggering up these here lands! Are there any here who are rough and tough enough to join me in fillin this guy in?!"
The was a general murmur from the aforementioned freaks whilst all the farmers just kept on drinking.
And so we set off! Just before we got to the door though we all quite neatly introduced ourselves and decided that we needed a snappy gang name. With all of us being horribly unimaginative we settled on The Rat Bastards, vowed to make RB signet rings at the earliest convenience and set out into the rainy night.
One of my greatest loves in life is giving piggyback rides and that’s just what I offered for any of the tiny people who were having trouble walking through the quagmire. I feel that Lorric, our Raven Queen Cleric, took this as a bit of a piss take. And of course it was but a piggyback ride is a piggyback ride right? The shorter person who I had missed in the bar turned out to be a gnome druid called Nyra. She wasn’t a hard faced dullard so she got the a piggyback ride out of the mud.
I was just settling into singing a shanty about an amorous Dire Elk when a rock clattered off my chest. Being tough my body wasn’t hurt but even the heaviest armour can’t protect ones feelings and mine were truly bruised, if they didn’t like my singing they could have been polite about it. Once the third rock had hit I began to realise we were being ambushed which, though more dangerous, certainly made me feel better.
We were being assailed on all sides from tall grass and peeking behind a few strategically placed bits of cover in the distance I could see halfmen. My shoulders sagged, was the first battle in forging a new legend really going to find us kicking in the teeth of small people? Oh Yaku, you are a cruel fates-master.
I was quite pleased that no one had any moral objection to kicking the halfmen around, everyone was surprisingly on board for it, which bodes well for future questionable adventures with the group.
Jigoku Jones the punchmaster dragon-man threw himself headfirst into the tall grass, there was a pause then an almighty scream before an explosion of blood and viscera erupted from the grass. Jigoku emerged with nary a splatter on him. He flashed us a smile and said
"They aint no never mind honkies."
Missiles continued to fly and, lacking any long range weapons, I found myself with only one alternative. I hefted Nyra into the bushes. I was hoping she would be heavy enough to cause some damage but, even better than that it turns out she can shape shift! She turned into an amusingly small wolf that proceeded to sweetly savage one of the halfmen.
Lorric Shortstep, clearly not wanting to be out done by Jigoku, and clearly having little regard for his own kith and kin proceeded to call down heavenly fire on anything that moved. His technique was sloppy with a few misses but by Yaku when the beams hit they messed up those little guys but good.
Looking off into the distance I could see Vanaya, our ranger, burying arrows into some of the further halflings. A survivor of Jigoku’s attack got the drop on her but she managed to kick the little bastard in his hobbitses crumpling him to the ground. It was at this time the sweet and very much not evil Beour Blackleaf, our half elf rogue, sprung upon the downed halfman and proceeded to shank him into oblivion creating a very similar mess as to what was in the pub. Hmmm…
Feeling a little left out I buried my axe into a teary eyed halfman. I wonder if he was crying because we killed his friends or if he was scared? Ah well, pendulums and spinners eh?
That left one lone half-man-woman person who unsurprisingly scarpered once we all decided to run towards her weapons raised.
We all felt it was a bit anti climactic. Our first battle together and we hadn’t managed to massacre all of them. To top it off we didn’t know who they were or why they attacked us! We were all feeling down until Nyra appeared dragging along a hostage shaped present. I flashed a knowing look to Lorric, a look that said, you be good gaoler I’ll be bad gaoler. I proceeded to bury the halfman’s head into a puddle filled with the viscera of his companions. I pulled his head out of the puddle and realised I didn’t have anything snappy to say so I just stared at him.
I should have said- “At least you’re still a halfman, all your friends are quarter or eighth men now.” Man, I always find it annoying when you think of things to say after you’ve had the damn conversations.
Anyway, Lorric steps up and smoothly talks to the guy, like he was his bestest friend that asks too many direct questions. We found out that they were Rathbone’s guys and that we had happened to kill pretty much his entire gang. Rathbone was in a trap filled cave at the top of a nearby hill, a little coercing got the sap to draw a diagram of all the trap positions and dish the dirt on Rathbone and his pets that appear to be some kind of bird.
After coercing all we could out of the halfman we began to feel a bit bad, he was bleeding out and had shit his pants so we did the only humane thing we could think of. Take him prisoner whilst leaving his wounds untreated.
<Affixed to this journal page is a note written in a much more competent hand. Will you read the note? Y/N>
Excerpts from the Pious record of Lorric Shortstep, Humble Cleric of the Raven Queen.
The journey thus far has been a long and arduous one. Peace is hard to come by and the trials of devotion are unending.
I arrived at ‘The Rat Bastard’ tired, the weather inclement had slowed my progress and I had hoped that I would have been able to pass through this particular hole without having to stop. Fate it seems, guided by Her hand, had other plans. The common room was average by any standard, poor by sanitation and far from ordinary in its clientele. Such a mix I had not seen in many a day, but I paid no mind, thirsty and in need of refreshment.
The barkeep was a surly man, and a racist. He tried to overcharge me, by account of my stature, for what could only be considered piss weak beer, and I would have taken him to task further but for the commotion that was caused behind me. I must confess to these pages of record that I failed here in my response to Her call. The sound of a man unexpectedly near death roused me to action, whereupon I collided solidly with a peasant man stood behind my stool at the bar. Fate, guided by Her hand, saw to teach me humility in this. By the time I regained my feet and reached the scene of the disturbance there was little I could do other than offer a simple rite to the unknown man who had passed so long before his time. There will be a reckoning for this, but not yet.
A woman, half elf, stood by and claimed that an assailant had overcome the man and run from the room. It was clear to me that this was a falsehood, evidenced by the blood slick blade swiftly tucked into the folds of her cloak, but no one else seemed to pay heed.
Another approached, a common man of uncommon skill it would seem, who declared to the room that he intended to find the assailant and bring him to the officers of the local justice, themselves shortly arrived. The half elf, ‘Beour’ by name, easily slipped into the role of the innocent witness to face the militia, and the uncommon man ‘Grognak’s call garnered a swift response from those more colourful characters that I had been surprised to see and swift to ignore.
It is not my place to judge those who would execute Her will, but this appeared to me an unlikely selection of avatars, worthy of my guidance by Her hand and worth watching very closely. After all, a cold knife in an open room so easily unnoticed could only be an act of divine provenance, the shadow of the Raven Queen cast across the lives of those unable to see, but eager to follow.
<To be continued>
So over the past month I’ve taken up D&D with a group of friends.
D&D has always sounded cool as hell to me but the problem I have had is finding a group of people I could fit in with. It was at a gathering of friends that the subject was brought up, Jack said he had DMed before and that he’d be happy to host a game so our party was hastily formed.
We had a day to set up characters and try to get to grips with what the character sheets actually meant and then set a date for the first game.
Playing that first game was awkward in the beginning, we basically didn’t have a clue what to do, but as we eased in to how to play we all began riffing off each other and soon we were beating the shite out of halfling bandits and shanking people in bars.
The fun I’ve had over the few sessions I’ve played has prompted me to start chronicling the adventures of our characters so this post is the preface. I’m going to write this from the point of view of my character so you can expect it to be heavily biased!
In total there are 11 of us that wanted to take the plunge. Here’s the list of players and their characters to save on the explanations in the actual posts.
Myself- Grognak! Human Warlord. Grognak is a seasoned Reaver who hails from a harsh area of Fjerpenlann known as The Stony Shores. Famed for the pirates it creates The Stony Shores have turned out some of the meanest, cruellest and most charismatic deviants who ever stalked the waves.
Grognak earned his stripes alongside his childhood friend Stikk Strongbrow on the ship of Murderaxe Bronson. After cutting their teeth (and a few throats) on Murderaxe’s ship they soon bought their own boat and assembled a crew which took more of a liking to Grognak and made him their captain. As the crew gained notoriety Stikk grew ever resentful of Grognak’s popularity. During this time there were many raids and notable adventures had including the slaying of the giant lord Thrum and the Incursion of the Æder Cult.
Grognak’s attitude and tall tales gained the crew a little too much notoriety and they spent most of their time avoiding assassins and various navys. Stikk used this to his advantage and had the crew mutiny against Grognak. Since it is considered bad luck to kill your captain the crew offered him to the Gods and abandoned him in the middle of the ocean. Against all odds Grognak survived and vowed one day to kill his traitorous friend and crew.
He’s brash, loud and violent yet likeable all the same. He believed in reading the books of the cities and towns his crew attacked rather than burning them. His literacy granted him a keen knowledge of history and language. Used to commanding murderers and cut throats he finds leading and decision making easy. He is a known teller of tall tales.
Katie H- Vanaya. Human Ranger.
Former member of the Honey Badgers, a notorious all female gang known for terrorizing the roads surrounding the Wirraldowns forests.
Vanaya joined the group as a young girl after her family was left destitute and she was sold to a merchant to be his servant. Shortly after the merchant left the small hamlet of Lisgarden his caravan was set upon by the Honey Badgers who promptly killed him and his guards. While plundering the caravan they found Vanaya hiding amongst a pile of pelts, they decided they would take Vanaya with them. She was trained by Lautrec de Royale the leader of the Honeybadgers, who encouraged her talents with a bow. She learnt bushcraft including how to track, hunt and, of course, steal .
One night Vanaya packed up her weapons and meagre possessions (and possibly a few bags of gold from stores) and snuck out of camp covering her tracks and headed north. Her reasons for this are still unknown.
On her travels she worked as a hired guard for rich nobles and their pampered courtesan’s. She became close friends with many of them and spent her time drinking, telling rude jokes and learning some tantalising pieces of nobility gossip. Vanaya is quiet and mistrusting of strangers. This makes others distrustful of her as well but she is a loyal companion who works hard to keep her allies safe. She has been known to push to the front when loot is being handed out.
Anthony H- Crumplebum, Longclaw Shifter, Old ass cat, Seeker. A grumpy Yorkshire tom who has been specifically engineered to piss off DMs (It works)
Sasha M- Chip T Cup Half Orc Warden Bad Ass for Life! A pure gender neutral thug, easily the hardest hitter on the team.
Mike D-Lorric Shortstep, Halfling cleric of the Raven Queen. Aka “The Straight One” totally about faith and justice, all round goody two shoes with mega high diplomacy.
Marian D-Beour Blackleaf, Half elf, Rogue Tries to pretend she isn’t evil but has consistently proved she is, usually by shanking people on the floor.
Katy K- Raka (clearly not actually her name), Eladrin, Fey-pact Warlock "Raka" was born an Eladrin noble from a very well to do family. She spent much of her youth learning all the skills of a respectable, charming young lady and attracted an irritating number of suitors, all of whom she found crushingly boring. Deciding the only way to avoid getting married off was to sidestep high society all together she struck off on her own.
This all went well for a while, winning money and lodgings through music, stories, gambling and generally convincing people they should be nice to her, until one of her ‘patrons’ got a little too interested for her liking. Unfortunately this one happened to be a member of the Fey courts who did not take kindly to being told to take a hike. She found herself dragged off to the Feywild to entertain the court, an unpleasant time she does not speak of. However, just as the court seemed like they would grow bored of her, she proposed a deal as a last ditch attempt to free herself from what was looking like a very long, very horrible death. The deal was this: If they let her go back to the land or mortals, she would furnish them with a story that would give them much more entertainment than could be had by keeping her in the Feywild. The court decided to humour her, and accepted (ominously easily). They kept her true name in collateral to remind her she would be required to uphold her end of the bargain, but threw her a little power to give whatever tale she came up with some more spice.
Since then she has burned through 3 temporary identities, mostly pulling confidence games and tricking people out of vast sums of money, casting off names and lives as soon as they got too inconvenient. However she has recently been informed that she has gotten too comfortable and not nearly exciting enough, so has shelved her most recent identity and is in the process of making a new one, and figuring out a new direction that will keep her Patron from dragging her back to her doom for a few days longer.
James L- Jigoku Jooones, Dragonborn, Punchmaster (AKA monk) Jigoku Jones doesn’t recall a lot of his past before he was sold to one of the more popular fighting pits. Initially marked down as cannon fodder, Jones’ penchant for backsass and smooth grooves caught the attention of veteran fighter-turned promoter Bahamut Kreed, who took him under his wing.
As the years rolled by, Jigoku Jones showed a startling aptitude for both fisticuffs (also footicuffs, elbowicuffs and bodyslamicuffs) and working an audience, rising to stardom as a flamboyant and formidable fighter. Alas, the fat stacks of gold coin eventually began to pall, and the roar of the crowd started to ring hollow. One day, Jones announced a leave of absence, to travel and hone his mad skills, that he may become the meanest, the prettiest, the baddest mofo low-down around this particular town. This came as a shock to the audience, but even more so to the Pit’s proprietors, who wondered if Jones had forgotten that he was actually still a slave. Before the issue could be raised however, Jones disappeared, taking nothing with him but the clothes on his back, his prized nunchaku (a gift from Kreed), and a large section of his cell wall.
There is currently a significant price on his head for his return.
There have been, as yet, no takers.
Phil L- Stoic Manface (Not his real name), Goliath, Paladin of the Raven Queen. The largest member of the party and also the most hardfaced. Despite two games he hasn’t bothered to tell anyone his name, hence the nickname.
Toby R- Um’bal, Genasi, Warlord. Also known as assistant warlord when Grognak is in the party, Um’bal is an air genie who floats like he’s riding a segue.
Kirsty S- Nyra, Gnome, Druid Super small shape shifter, can shift into animals of equal mass to herself. It’s surprisingly funny seeing a 3 foot tall bear.
JACK C- The devious DM YAKU, Lover of sly dice rolls. Is also Grognak’s God.
Hopefully these posts will prove to be entertaining to anyone who reads them and let the fun begin!