The Scion of Earth and Ash – Gromulus, Son of the Demon Queen

Yesterday, as I write this, I finished up one of the longest campaigns I’ve ever ran, and the first one that took the group from 1-20. It was an awesome nearly 3 years, and I’d like to share just a little bit of it with you. 

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When it comes to writing about D&D, one of the things that complicates my portion of the tale is that I am the DM. Being behind the screen and knowing that at any time one of my Players could read the article means I have to be worried about contradicting, exposing, or even creating information that is new to the world. However, I think that the effort of writing about the time behind the screen, its troubles and trials, is worth the potential risks, at least right now, and I’ve resolved to write more frequently on the adventure that I am currently running.

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D&D is one of my favorite past times, and one I have played for many years. As I’ve mentioned, however, I’ve had difficulty writing about it in a manner that I enjoy. Either I get to nitty-gritty, and it seems I loose what it is to be D&D, or I get the birds eye view, and miss some of the more fun and interesting die rolls, and I think both of them will overshadow any good sort of storytelling of he adventure that I do.

But, I’m going to try a bit anyway.

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Just yesterday i had one of the coolest and most enjoyable D&D experiences in a very long time. Sadly, though, I have an extremely tough time actually portraying a good time and talking about D&D in any good sense. Maybe I’ll try and make it more of a habit. This week, though, it wasn’t only the D&D adventure, it was the communication that happened before the session even began.

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One of the great things about D&D is that it a combined storytelling session that involves everyone around the table getting together and making a story out of paper, die rolls and imagination. However, that same awesomeness is also a great weakness. If someone can’t make it that day, sometimes the story isn’t going to move forward at all. Its a strange dichotomy.

In many stories, the characters are important and world shaking. Events can’t go on without any given character. One has the Scrolls of Infinite Knowledge, one has the Demonslaying Sword of Grondarialand, and yet another has Breathe Water (and they are exploring an underwater castle, say). If any of them were missing, the whole game breaks in half without a lot of hand waving and just because-ing. It makes the inevitable missing characters a nightmare to deal with on the spot.

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I like to think I have a signature style of DMing. I build gritty, realistic, low magic worlds that challenge the players both in combat and out. I give the characters plenty of time to shine, but the world isn’t focused on their trials and tribulations. They do many small deeds that become great deeds. This style leads me to dial in on aspects of the game that amplify these effects, including the Climate from last week, humanoid enemies, and the players starting abilities. It will also generally focus on the tales that the characters themselves weave, because they cannot rely on magic abilities, magic items or supernatural powers to get them out of problems.

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I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been DMing for a very long time, as my hobbies go. I believe that D&D may be my longest running hobby, and its been a staple of my nerd life for nearly 2/3 of my life. I can remember building and running dungeons for my reluctant family, who humored my 12 year old self as I ran them through unoriginal dungeon after dungeon. I remember, too, picking up the new editions of the books, pouring through them looking for insight into how they work, what new rules and abilities, as well as monsters, were contained within. Vicious and stalwart monsters always drew my eye as I tried to find a way to challenge and thwart my players.

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Spoiler alert! Someone dies!

We left off last week with finding a dwarf dangling from the ceiling, with a not-so-happy outlook on how to get him down. Surprisingly, it’s a lot easier than we expected. We get down to the gallery, and when nothing comes around, Haltz and I hoist Carric onto our shoulders, where he can reach the manacles of the dwarf. He begins working on them, with Ronin keeping watch, but then – We hear buzzing! It’s a whole swarm of those flying demon things with bows.

Two pop up from one shaft and fire at us, while three pop up from the other and do the same. Haltz is hit twice, Ronin and Carric are hit once, and my armor deflects another arrow. At about the same instant, Carric jumps onto the dwarf’s back, which frees Haltz to throw his last dart, although he misses his target. A fraction of a second later I cast Fog Cloud, concealing Haltz, Carric, and I from the creatures’ bows.

Ronin wastes no time, running across the room and making a flying punch into one of the creatures. His fist lands, crushing the creature, and then Ronin faces another problem – The demons were above a shaft, that was backed against a wall. This, however, turns out to not be a problem at all, as Ronin easily bounces off the wall and to the side of the shaft.

Haltz and I both move to the edge of the fog cloud while Carric works on unlocking the manacles. Out of darts, Haltz pulls the arrows from himself and begins throwing them, while I sling a Ray of Frost. We’re greeted by some more arrows, hitting both Ronin and Haltz, but they are too small to do significant damage.

Carric feels something poking him in the side as he manages to undo one of the manacles, which leads to him and the dwarf hanging from one of the dwarf’s arms.

I move to assist Ronin, who is still fighting his two creatures. My glaive is much more effective than my spell, and I cleave one of the creatures in half. Ronin, not to be outdone, kicks one creature hard enough to completely shatter it, and punches the other one to the same results. The last creature vanishes, so I drop the Fog spell, giving Carric more visibility to pick the final lock on the manacle. He also sees another one of the creatures coming out of the dwarf, who has now woken up and is shouting because there is a person on top of him and he is in great pain.

I cast Sleep, putting the dwarf, the creature, and Haltz to sleep. Thankfully, Carric is an elf and immune to such effects, so he dispatches the creature as Ronin wakes Haltz. I assist with Carric, who proceeds to pull out the hooks holding the Dwarf’s chest-portal open. This wakes the dwarf, but he is remarkably lucid, and after we explain what we’re doing he stops fighting us.

Once the pillar heals him to the point where he’s not dieing, he tells us who he is – Demiphus, the Captain of the Guard. He came in after losing a few villagers, and recounts the tale of losing a few people to the natural hazards before he was captured.

At the same time, Haltz and Ronin explore the two galleries below us, with my owl following them. One of them is a rubble-filled semi-collapsed, with a shaft that leads into the water table. The other, I lose my owl to a frog-man with a sling. It is obvious which one we need to go down, so we take a short rest. I regain some of my spell capabilities, and we give Demiphus directions to where Stacia is staying, after giving him what first aid we could.

We decide to all drop into the next gallery at the same time, which is a good thing. There are four frogmen, and also one of the ape creatures – Standing next to another pillar, this one with a small boy attached to it. The ape charges Haltz, a frogman charges Ronin, and one charges me, while the other two stand back with slings. Carric and Haltz are hit with the slings, and Ronin is hit with the creature’s spear, although he dodges its angry-looking bite. I cast Shield, blocking my attacker’s hits, but Haltz is slammed by the ape creature and falls unconscious.

Carric shoots one of the creatures, significantly harming it but not killing it, and Ronin hits the creature attacking him, also doing significant damage but not killing it. Seeing a large threat, I attack the ape creature, managing to kill it with my glaive.

One of the slingers manages to knock Carric out, leaving Ronin and myself to deal with the four frog creatures. We both fail to do anything with our attacks, but the creatures hit both of us with their spears, and Ronin is hit with a sling. Angry, he retaliates by killing both of the creatures next to us.

I move forward to the slingers, engaging them so they can’t simply pelt us at range. Ronin tries to help Carric as I attack one of the creatures, and while I hit, Carric is still bleeding out – And there is also the pressing matter of the two frogs. They both attack me, one doing heavy damage to me.

I fall back, moving away from Carric and Ronin, trying to buy some time as they, hopefully, go after me. One stays in combat with Ronin as the other comes over to me. Ronin manages to beat the third frog creature to death, but my adversary manages to get in a good hit, dropping me as well.

At this time, Carric miraculously wakes up, just in time to see two things – One, another ape creature attempting to pull itself from the young boy’s chest portal, and two – Ronin being dropped by the last frog creature. It notices him and moves towards him.

Carric’s first bow shot misses, but his second one lands, killing the frog. He easily dispatches the ape creature, then tends as much as he can to Ronin and I. Haltz is, unfortunately, beyond any help that we can provide.

While Ronin and I wake up, Carric tends to the boy, removing the hooks from him and removing the manacles as well. He consoles the boy, telling him we are going home “Soon.”

I wake up a little before Ronin does, resting for a little before re-summoning my owl. Ronin rests, helping Carric with the boy. Once my owl is re-summoned I send him down to the gallery below us, finding that it is empty – And the only shaft leading from it leads into water. We pause to make a cairn for Haltz, honoring our brave friend.

We carry the boy, whose name is Balric, to where Stacia and the now-clothed Demiphus are waiting. We decide that, as all of us are rather rough for wear, we should wait and take a long rest before returning to the surface. I spend that time using Mending on the plate armor we had to beat up beforehand, turning it into a useful set of equipment.

When we head up, I form a plan – Make a sling from the rubble and other items we have. Send two people up, and pull the others up. I go up first, and double check outside the entrance – There are several guards outside, who are overjoyed to see us – And to hear of the survivors. With their help, it is easy to pull up everyone, and we make our way first to their base camp and then into town.

We decide that, as Haltz had pledged his portion of the gold we found to Stacia, we would honor that. Ronin split his money between an orphanage he had pledged to help, and helping Balric and his family. I match his support of Balric, bringing it up equal to what Stacia recieved, and offer some to Demiphus – Who, being a humble man, refuses. We inform the guard of all the exits we found, and they are glad to hear of them – And send some parties out to find their other ends.

We still have to travel back to Parminium to report to the Obsidian Vault that our job is complete, and to collect our payment. But for now, we rest in town, enjoying not being in a mine.

As we are in the town, among my inspection of the dead demonologist’s spellbook, I find it has a false back – And inside is a purple gem. Detect Magic fails to produce any useful results, almost as if it doesn’t exist, and my jeweler’s knowledge tells me two things. One: This gem is one that, even in my extensive work, I have never seen. And two: The way it is cut is impossible. It is a puzzle that I definitely intend to work out.

As my brother has been relating, I’ve taken my party down into a silver mine outside the town of Metarius, just east of the City of Parminium, in western Killbar. This means nothing to most of you, but thats alright. Today I’m not going on about my world, but about how I went about building a dungeon. I want to talk about Parminium, Killbar, ect, but I have to wait until each of those parts pan out and are explained to the players before I get really into it.

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