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The Family That Stays Together Slays Together

This is an update on The Goblin Queen. From the story perspective, it’s getting there. I’m over 60,000 words into it and (I think) only have a few chapters left. Getting to those chapters is proving troublesome though.

I’ve been ridiculously busy as summer is upon me. Work is increasingly hectic of late and there’s talk of saddling me with more responsibilities (which may or may not be welcome, depending on how it plays out). I also spent the last couple of months cutting (dieting / exercising to focus on losing fat but keeping muscle) and did a good job of it, now I’m trying to build more strength and put muscle back on which means eating more and working out 5x a week, with at least 3 days having both an am and a pm workout in them. It takes a lot of time, effort, and discipline to do it right and not lose everything I gained when I cut the weight in the first place.

Oh, and we’ve got a new camper we bought this spring so we’re trying to get that out at least once a month and last weekend was one of those weekends. My son has baseball games and practices after school, and there’s been lots of house / yard work that has to be done.

All in all, everyday problems everyone has to deal with. For the most part, it’s simple enough to knock those things out. We haven’t had a chance to crack open any more D&D sessions since my last write up, but I’m happy to say that my wife is going to join us. After all, the family that slays together, stays together! Hopefully soon we can get her a character put together and continue the adventures. They’ve got much to do to finish off their introductory session, and then after that I have some really fun ideas to keep them invested and furthering their careers as fantasy heroes.

This is supposed to be about The Goblin Queen, but I can’t stop myself from sharing the idea I stole from some random reddit posts – I’m going to set up alternate versions of the Disney Princesses as a coven of witches spread throughout Kroth for the players to try to take out. They’ll meet a witch hunter when they finish their current story arc and he’ll enlist their aid (hopefully). If not, I’ll find another way to encourage them to do that. Then again, it is D&D and the possibilities are endless – maybe they’ll end up heading off in another direction entirely if they choose. Not a problem if they do, I’ll have the evil Princesses on standby.

Now back to The Goblin Queen. The good guys just triumphed over evil in the book! Yay! Except the victory didn’t turn out to be a battle like they expected, nor were they prepared for what happened when they struck down the enemy that had consigned their souls to the dark magic of the Order. Even worse was learning what comes after – they’d fallen into a trap that they might have survived, but at a cost that could be the lives of thousands of innocent people that they know and care for. The Goblin Queen has played her part, but the final victory they need rests in the outnumbered hands of a desperate paladin willing to risk everything for their faith.

Oh, the cover is coming along nicely too. We’re still trying to figure out the art work portion of it, but I’m in love with the design we’ve got so far. I’m trying for more of a cover reminiscent of Child of Fate instead of the recent covers in The Serpent’s War series that some people found harsh or disturbing (I loved those too, but generally what I like and what most people like are not the same).

Now then, back to work! This book isn’t going to finish itself.

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

We’re at it Again!

A few nights ago we managed to squeak in a little over an hour to play again. The players picked up after resting over night with no disturbances and pushed off in the morning. Not that they could tell much difference between the night and the morning – it was still pretty dark in the jungle!

After a couple of hours of walking Cody began to smell the smoke from a campfire. He told Jo, then took off at a run towards it. Jo stood still, shocked by his actions, and finally managed a face-palm. She hurried forward (at a walk) to assist.

He rounded a large tree and came to a stop when he saw the campfire and three men. Two were on their feet and facing him, while a third was sitting on the other side and looking up with a startled expression. Cody launched right in with, “Hi there, what are you doing out here?”

Queue another face-palm from Josephina.

An awkward conversation ensued, given that they were in middle of a dangerous jungle far from civilization. The three men admitted to having seen Dahlia recently, and even offered to show them where they went. The man on the far side of the fire said, “Erik, go ahead and show them.”

Queue the intelligence checks. Josephina failed but Cody did not. He remembered Erik was the same name as the guy that Dahlia ran off with. This prompted some more discussion then ended up with both characters being escorted (and surrounded) by the other three to where Dahlia went. And, as they neared the entrance to a cave, the bad guys attacked.

It was a heck of a battle. Cody drew two of them to himself and switched between them, alternating his attacks and getting pounded on in return as he was flanked. Josephina made fairly quick work of her opponent, and then moved to try and help Cody. That freed Cody up to focus on the leader of the kidnappers and he finally struck him down with a sword in the belly.

Erik surrendered and begged for mercy. He spilled his guts, more or less, and shared that they’d been paid to kidnap the baroness and deliver her here, where she’d be taken by someone else. He didn’t know who, only his boss knew that and he was in no condition to carry on a conversation anymore. All this happened after Josephina made an intimidation check that resulted in a 1. So instead of getting answers right away when she demanded he tell her everything, he proceeded to recite the alphabet and counted up to 20 before they stopped laughing and managed to stop him.

Erik led them into the cave, not warning them at just how truly vile it felt in there. Even with a burning log retrieved from the campfire the cave was dark and oppressive. Cody, a paladin, was beside himself with how wrong the place felt. They persevered and in the first alcove to the right, found Dahlia bound and gagged.

After they cut her free she proceeded to punch Erik square in the nose for his betrayal. They got a little more information out of him with her helping to slap him around a bit, such as learning that the people coming to claim her were to come from the back of the cave, not the front. A quick search led them to the rest of the shallow cave, where they saw an alter set up on a dais, complete with a statue of a dragon and carvings in the wall in the draconic language. They’d discovered a shrine dedicated to dragons.

They turned to leave just as they heard the sound of stone grinding against stone. Erik started cackling and said they were doomed now, they’d waited too long. If they let him live, he’d argue on their behalf to spare their lives. Josephina tried to get more information out of him but Cody, angered at being blackmailed by the thief, ran him through.

They searched his corpse for anything that would tell them more but found nothing, nor did they have time to waste. They searched the others and the campsite, finding Erik’s long sword he’d dropped when he’d surrendered as well as a modest sum of coins. The long sword was unlike any they’d seen, and when Cody picked it up to admire the midnight blue steel of the blade he noticed the sparkle of what almost looked like stars in the metal. The sparkle grew, captivating Josephina as the sword began to glow.

Cody turned, grinning at his find, and noticed figures emerging from the mouth of the cave. Figures wearing harnesses over their brown and green scaled hide and holding clubs and spears. Splisskin, and more kept pouring out.

It was time to run.

And so ended the first part of their adventure – finally! Both kids made it to second level, although they don’t know what that means yet since it was bedtime for them and we couldn’t go over it. Sometime soon, perhaps this weekend, we’ll dive back in and try to explain more to them. The biggest problem we’re having is getting my son separated from his electronics long enough to play, let along keeping him interested for more than an hour or so. He enjoys it and wants to do it, he’s just hard to keep focused on something for more than an hour. Or at least this.

In writing news, the end is in sight for The Goblin Queen. Not a matter of a few days time, but I’ve got a roadmap to the finish line, it’s going to take some work though. More of a marathon than a sprint, for sure!

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Apologies and Adventure!

For steadfast readers who might have looked into my website, my Terminus books website, or my Conan Exiles server I host (server name is Phineas for anyone interested in checking it out – I’m always anxious to get more players on it) over the last couple of days I have to apologize. First off there was a power outage that killed my server. Then (today) I installed a new server and moved my databases over to it. There was downtime associated as I had to do some extra work to get the routings set up right. Everything should be up and running properly now though.

Now then, while power was out it was a great opportunity to get a little further into the adventure. The kids (Cody the paladin and Josephine the monk) were well rested and set out to talk with farmer Sherman. After interrupting him miking his cows they had a conversation that was only mildly confusing. They learned of two strange people – a man and a woman – that wandered off the road to the south and into the hills. They also learned that farmer Sherman knew of a Dahlia that was Baron von Griffinmount’s daughter, but had not heard of the Dahlia that they served for (she’s a merchant’s daughter).

Some fumbling around at the road’s edge (a 1 rolled on a perception check, for example) ensued and eventually they marched off into the south with no idea what to look for her or where to look for it. Instead they crested a hill and found a group of rocks complete with enough bush-cover to leave them clueless… save for the muttering in a language they weren’t familiar with (Dwarvish).

They crept closer but weren’t very stealthy about it. The voice spoke again (in Dwarvish) demanding to know who was out there and what they wanted. When they didn’t respond the dwarf barked thieves, a command word for his dog, and charged out of the weeds. They had to fight a large mastiff and the unusual dwarven prospector and, thanks to some convenient 20s, the fight ended with little more than a strike from the dwarf’s pickaxe hitting Cody. Both kids were upset at having to fight and kill a dog though, and now they both want to get a pet of their own (argh).

Amidsts some more fumbled rolling for tracking (1s are a DMs best friend) they eventually found the tracks of their suspected targets and continued their journey. An hour or two saw them to the edge of a shimmering forest. Upon closer examination they realized the shimmering was the sun reflecting off of the very fine spiderwebs that stretched from tree to tree and branch to branch. Numerous tiny spiders could be seen weaving their webs, which prompted the mighty paladin to cower in terror (he’s not big on spiders), even after it was explained to him that the spider silks are gathered by silk farmers (people) who have a way to weave them into some of the strongest and most beautiful silks in the world. The spiders themselves are harmless.

Since the tracks led into the forest, they had to follow them. After another hour or so of hiking Jo (Josephine) got distracted and walked into a tree (even monks have bad days). That noise prompted a wild boars to burst out of a nearby thicket and charge. Cody was ready this time and met it halfway. After their first exchange of blows the boar’s mate came crashing out of the same bushes and bore down on Cody (get it? the boar bore down on him).

Cody was gored a couple of times by the boars but managed to triumph. Josephine saw the boars as marvelous animals and refused to join the fight. Cody, to get her back for abandoning him, butchered one so he could have bacon when next they camped. I also explained to Jo (after the fact) that she could have attacked the boars (or the dwarf’s dog) with the intent to knock them unconscious and not kill them. It was my fault for not letting her know that earlier as it slipped my mind (and I was enjoying the turmoil in the party).

With that dispute resolved, they returned to trying to track Dahlia. The battle caused Cody to lose his bearings though. Fortunately Jo hadn’t moved so she picked up the trail and led them through the forest as they day grew long and the air thicker. The trees became darker and their leaves longer and broader. Even the ground began to grow moist as the forest turned to jungle.

It was there, on the edge of the jungle that they decided to camp. The sun had long since dropped below the mountains in the west and there was precious little light to see by. The gaming session ended for the night, short but fun for all. Stay tuned for part 3, whenever we can get to it. Hopefully that will be the end of their first official adventure, although their second one begins immediately – they just don’t know it yet!

 

Now some GM notes on fifth edition as I’m learning it. I have to admit, I like it so far. Players seem overpowered compared to monsters, but I think that’s my fault as much as anything. After all, I’m accustomed to old editions where these monsters would be more of a challenge to 1st level adventurers so I’m not throwing as much or as many against them. I did toughen them up a bit after the first session though, and I think I’ve found a better balance.

One other thing I really like is the dismissal of a lot of bonuses and penalties that really bogged the game down. Situational modifiers and circumstantial adjustments adding or subtracting from the die roll complicated things for DMs and players alike – or at least slowed the game down. In 5e they have a simple way of handling things – a roll is normal, advantage, or disadvantaged. A normal roll is a single 20 sided die like normal for attacks, saving throws, skill checks, or whatever. In the case of an advantaged roll two 20 sided dice (2d20) are rolled. The better roll is taken and then normal modifiers used. In a disadvantaged roll, 2d20 are rolled and the lower roll is taken. Roll 20s on both or 1s on both and it goes from critical (success / failure) to epic – I’m not sure if that’s in the rule books or not but it’s one I’m implementing.

So what can make a roll advantaged? Lots of things. One player declaring that he wants to use his combat action to help another, for example (e.g. distracting an opponent giving the other player an advantaged attack), fighting against an impaired target, having some magical boon or luck, etc.. A disadvantage can be had if you’re on the receiving end of such tactics. It’s early and my brain isn’t kicking in yet, but there are a lot of different reasons for advantage or disadvantage, including many pack hunting monsters that are next to the same target automatically gaining advantage because of their combat styles.

Well, that’s it for now. I’ve got some work to outside in between rain storms. That and probably more adjustments and enhancements to my new server to make. Somewhere along the way I have to fit in more writing too. The Goblin Queen has reached volume length already and there is a lot of story left to tell before it’s over!

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Wayward Women

The first dungeons and dragons session with my kids went well. Surprisingly well, in fact. We didn’t get nearly as far as I hoped we would, but it only lasted a couple of hours. My daughter wanted more, but my son needed a break. It was a good stopping point and I was glad to use it to my advantage – I needed to modify the adventure I’d built now that I had some experience with the new system. They needed more of a challenge!

The characters are a paladin and a monk and they’re off on a mission to rescue a merchant’s missing daughter. She’s run off with a young man of questionable character and intent, heading not only outside of the city but to the west, where there’s only a few farms and a lot of danger. After three days, her father fears the worst and, since it’s outside the city walls, the city guards are unwilling or unable to help.

So off they went and, with the city walls only a few minutes out of sight on the dirt road, they come across two travelers walking toward them. Cody, the paladin, hailed them while Josephine, the monk, noticed how the two seemed to be looking everywhere but at the players. The travelers continued to approach while bantering with Cody and even mentioned being concerned about bandits. The players assured them that they were not bandits – in fact, they were upstanding citizens in search of a lost woman. The two men they’d met grinned and said, “Oh good, that must mean we’re the bandits!”

Battle was launched! Cody stood there, stunned by the sudden turn of events, while Josephine (Jo) seemed to know what was coming. She even managed to attack first, slicing high with her short sword and forcing her opponent to duck – and then delivering a kick to his chin that staggered him. He recovered and tried to counter attack, but she twirled away from the thrust.

Cody managed to knock the sword thrust at him aside with his shield, but was unable to counter. On the second round of combat Jo finished her dodging spin and thrust her sword into the bandit’s belly and up into his heart. He dropped, predictably, and that left Cody  squared off against his for. He gashed the bandit on the arm before the bandit could realize they’d picked on tougher opponents than they though. He turned to flee, giving Jo a chance to stab him in hip with a glancing blow. Off balance, he had no defense against Cody’s sword swept his head clean off.

Hearts pounding and breath coming in gasps, the characters and their players took a moment to recoup and then continued on. Next up was a farmstead they investigated. Speaking with the farmer was an awkward and nearly fatal experience given their direct questions and forgetfulness that they’d just taken part in a battle and looked the part. They managed to avoid getting shot by a crossbow or upsetting the man overly much though, and continued along their way with no new guidance to help them.

Needless to say, they skipped the next farm they encountered!

An hour or so later they found a third farm and decided to investigate. This time they were spied by the farmer’s son on their way up the lane. He warned his father of the dangerous looking visitors and they were greeted with caution. Cody and Jo handled themselves a little better this time and soon were able to move on feeling like they hadn’t just courted death, though they learned little they could use to help them find the missing girl.

Soon thereafter they were set upon by a pack of hyenas that lunged out of the grasses. Cody was daydreaming of righting heinous wrongs and missed the skulking forms in the waist high grasses. Jo tried to warn him, but she was busy defending herself from the toothsome beasts. Even five hyenas were no match for the would-be heroes, although Cody did suffered a bit of damage when one of the hyenas bit his arm and tried to pull him into the grasses.

They passed the 4th farm and hurried on to Silk City, which was little more than an encampment made by the silk farmers that gather the resilient webbing left behind by the spiders in the forest and turn it into particularly strong silks. Indeed, the silk crafted from these webs is unlike any made anywhere else in the world of Kroth, and is used for many purposes from clothing to durable and light weight rope and more.

They met a few of the people at Silk City, including Gwendolyn a semi-permanent resident that ran a small general store and hostel, and Reginald, a portly silk farmer that recommended they talk to Farmer Sherman, just up the road towards Griffinmount (the fourth farm that they skipped, of course). Turns out Reginald had spoken with the man while trading and he remembered him saying something about seeing some new faces wandering about.

And that was the day and their first adventure ended. Cody charmed Gwendolyn into letting him stay in her hostel while Jo slept on the floor. During the next session they will follow the clues and, hopefully, explore more of what I have planned for them. Perhaps even finish the original adventure – but not to worry, I’ve already expanded it and planned for what comes next. It will be some nonstop fun! If they thought the first session was tense, wait until they get to the new stuff I have planned!

Oh, and incidentally they haven’t quite made 2nd level yet, but I did learn that my encounters weren’t tough enough. I had to buff up the encounters on the fly to keep them from being over in the first and second round, for crying out loud! That’s something about D&D 5e I’m noticing – characters are a LOT more powerful than they used to be. Then again, I’m coming from a 1st and 2nd edition memories and, especially in 1st, everything was designed to kill you in the fastest way possible.

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.