Strangers in a Strange Land

Strangers in a Strange Land

 

(Photo Credit: Jerreth Esq: Music to role-play to)

Mist coalesced around the three rickety Vardno’s as the road ahead sloped ever downward into a thick and onyx black forest. Even the bright colors of Vistanti’s wagons and clothes seemed to fade and a heavy air set deep in the lungs of the caravan. The fours strangers seemed oddly out of place in the group, but somehow also fit in. The tall silent Elf that sat in the front of the wagon held his bow tight, either from fear or habit. The mischievous Drow sat behind him counting her coins and watching the road ahead looking for any sign of civilization. Next to her the naïve Teifling  playing with whatever bauble took her fancy for the moment, uninterested in the road ahead. Driving the wagon sits the final member, a stout and iron clad paladin, searching with weary eyes for threats and fighting hard to keep the horses steady. The Caravan marched on, even as the woods encroached father and father on the path, until finally not even the sun shown through the thick canopy. The most eerie part of the forest was the ever present mist that entangled everything, and was always visible even in the almost blackness around the forest. It was as pale as the moon, and followed them as a hunter would prey. Just as the group settled in to the stark difference of their new surroundings the ghastly howl of a beast, not far from the path broke out. Almost instantly in response more calls broke out all around the caravan, It was clear that more then men traveled these roads. The Ranger drew his bow also in response, and the drow picked up her crossbow, they would not be caught unawares. The howls continued for sometime but the source was never revealed, left behind in the wood to remain a mystery. As the road broke from the oppressive trees and roots into an open clearing a large pool, or perhaps a small lake sat. All around were varndo’s like the three of the caravan, and a fire’s blazed at edge of the water, It was a camp, and perhaps even safety.

As the caravan approached, and parked in an odd semi circle fashion, gypsy like characters exited and began various actives, starting fires, preparing drinks and food, one casually strolled over the wagon where the four strangers sat, also preparing a camp for the night. “Come with me, Madam Eva is expecting you, she will have all the answers you seek” the brightly dressed man expressed as he motioned to a particularly old looking varando at the other end of the camp. The group casually shrugged, to one another, it had been such a strange trip so far, why question it now? The Drow began to voice some objection, but the gypsy man simply shook a long cord attached to his shirt, fashioned to it was a ridiculous number of bells and cymbals which caused a metallic racket to loud to over power in a causal tone. afterwards he simply said again “Madam Eva has the answers you seek”.

The group gave a motion of acceptance and followed the gypsy through the camp of oddities. As they walked they passed a group of gypsies gather around a campfire, one of them clad in stripped green and orange costume took a swig from the jug in his grasp. He spit into the fire causing the flames to roar and grow like the breath of a dragon. He began

“There was long ago a hope for the people, he came clad in red robes and clutching a staff of immense power. A Wizard! He came from a far away place, one of those lands not choked by the mist, he knew nothing of our land, our Barovia! save for the name of the man he came to defeat, Strahd Von Zarovich, the devil, the bringer of our sorrows! This man the wizard who’s name is forgotten in time. Hidden among us for a time he studied the devil and when he thought it time he rallied the people! the lowly ones the devil has cast aside. He took them to that black fortress on the mountain and they challenged the despot! Almost immediately at the sight of the monster the villagers ran for safety, and those who stayed did not survive for long, save that mysterious wizard. The two hurled bolts of lighting, and ray of scorching flames at other, and at the end of the struggle our wizard stood at the precipice of that cliff. He was casted down below into the dark, and the last hope for the people of this land faded. “

The party stood ringed around the dancing flames, entranced by the tale of green and orange storyteller. “Who was the wizard?” asked the curious drow. The orange and green man, stared back at her, “He was a man from beyond here, and is lost now, we searched but could not even find his remains, such is the fate of the devil’s enemies”

She went to ask more, but the first gypsy again shook his bells and they knew their time among the warm flames was over. They set off again, towards that ancient wheeled house which was promised to hold all their answers. While it was in reality only a short walk, the four, who had come so far as to trust the one another, couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread, that stretched out mere moments into haunting hours as the approached the foretold sage. The gypsy stopped, and shook his bell’s when an air of finality. He reached out and opened the door to the varando. Inside a sinister light illuminated the small hut, lined with a thousand gold tasseled pillows. At the other end sat a small, frail women whose loose grey hair and hard wrinkled lines both displayed her power and deceived it.  “Madam Eva I suppose?” asked the timid teifling, who couldn’t be more curious about the old women.

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The Start of a Journey

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(Picture credit dnd.wizards.com)

You sit in a Tavern Surrounded by strangers

It all began with a random comment and a curious friend, he asked me something about D&D and boom, there  was, I didn’t even know what had been let loose. I told him all about the adventures I had, as an Oath sworn Paladin, and a Greedy Rouge, I told him about dragons, and wizards, about turning javelins into rail guns, and about nuking towns with scrying spells, and funny enough he didn’t seem to care nearly as much as I did. I wanted that feeling back, I wanted to dungeon delve, and solve the great mysteries of the kingdom. So I took up the mantle of  (queue that funny Zelda treasure noise) Dungeon Master, but I found out I was a few editions behind, I played 3.5, and 5e is …. different, especially for a rusty player. I had books to buy and Adventures to write, but then I realized what’s an adventure, monsters, plots and all with out the adventurers? I had the usual troubles, flakes, half commitments, and an ever shrinking group, But eventually we settled for four solid newbie’s not unlike myself, It was a case of the blind leading the blind and looking back even just a few sessions (were about 7 sessions in now) I can see the myriad of mistakes made.

Hindsight Always rolls a 20

I find I make the most mistakes when I feel the most confident, not unlike a fighter charging into a group of bandits, only to discover their all werewolves, and you don’t own any silver. The first few sessions, at the start were not all that bad, (see that’s the confidence bit) but as the grind went on, I began to feel like the last party member, bleeding out without much hope. I had what equated to maybe, 3 more sessions of experience with the game then my Players did, and almost none of that was as a DM. It’s like teaching your crew how to build a house, when you don’t even know how, you make the best of it.

I skipped a lot of crucial steps, first off, I had my character creation session, and our first play session at the same time.  Which led to a lot of stress, How does the party know each other? Why do they care? and most off all why are they here? My party was practically all new to the game, and I wasn’t much less green.  I got hung up on these small details, and it pained me that my players couldn’t care less. They wanted to play, whatever that meant for them, I found out that meant a lot of talking, a lot of rolling 20’s, and apparently marrying each other, oh and collecting every random item worth anything.

I guess the REAL take away for me was that lesson the books keep repeating, but that you never really learn until you play. It’s about having fun, however you do that, if that’s the serious horror campaign, or the silly high magic where dragons constantly get turned into shep’s and a man-bearpig leads your party. It’s about how you have fun. That’s the real magic a DM brings to the table.