Dungeons that Drag On #2: Failed Charisma Rolls

It was a beautiful day on the northward running road out of Neverwinter.  Despite the fact they were heading north to the cold ice fields, the midsummer temperature was warm and comforting. Aria wore her feathered bard’s hat to keep the sun out of her sensitive elf eyes, but often looked up to feel the soothing warmth of the mid-morning sun.  The road was oddly quiet for such a main path out of the city, and the group rode on in relatively peaceful silence along the glistening sea.  Moses and Ivan rode either side of Aria and remained quiet, but Aria could hear hushed whispering behind her between Swagstag and Malifica.  She didn’t trust either of them as far as she could throw them, even though she did figure she probably could throw Swagstag quite far.  Of course, she wasn’t one to talk.  Bards came in one of two varieties- either trustworthy, honest entertainers; or untrustworthy, cunning bastards.  Aria liked to think she sat somewhere in between, but of course the others would not know that.  She knew they were following her orders for the gold she provided rather than any sense of trust or commitment.  Suddenly Aria’s train of thought was abruptly derailed by a shout from the trees to their right.

“What was that?” Moses said, looking into the trees.  Aria held up her hand to motion her company to stop.  A few moments later, a scared looking man burst out of the forest.  He looked rather dishevelled and his eyes grew wide with fear when he sort the mismatched group mounted before him.  But his expression quickly turned from fear to relief.

“Oh thank the gods there is someone on this road!” he said, “You must help me!”

Aria looked down at the distraught man suspiciously.  Even if she did want to help him, which she didn’t, they did not have time.  They had to get to Lorkan as soon as possible if they had any chance of being successful in their heist.

“Help you with what?” Aria asked, making sure her tone did not convey any suggestion that she planned to help him.

“Pirates from the Sea of Swords have besieged my fishing village on the coast ahead and are wreaking havoc.  I see you are armed- please, you must help us!”

Aria glanced at her companions, trying to gauge their reactions.  She knew Moses would definitely want to help, and she knew that Malifica would probably join in with the pirates.  The thief and the ranger were harder to read.

“We don’t have much, but we can pay you what we have.”

The prospect of payment piqued Aria’s attention.

“Alright then.  I guess we can see what we can do.”

“Oh thank you kind traveller.  Follow me!”

The group moved their horses forward after the estranged man.  Swagstag rode up beside Aria,

“It could be a trap you know,” she said.  Despite her appearance, Swagstag was quite intelligent, especially when it came to street smarts.  She too knew the dangers of compassion.

“If it is, then I think we are well equipped enough to fight off a couple of fisherman.”

“But what if they’re not fisherman.”

“We’ll take our chances.  After all, he is offering payment.”

Swagstag smiled, “That he is.”

Like her, Swagstag appreciated the power of money.  Moses looked at them in disgust,

“Is that all you two think about?  Gold?”

“No, it’s not all I think about.  But it’s at least 45 percent,” Aria replied.

“Nope, gold is all I think about,” Swagstag said, “that, and how I’m going to earn it.”

“I would hardly call thieving ‘earning’, halfling,” Moses said righteously.  Swagstag grew angry,

“Thieves are just as important as any professional in the world.  We keep the economy from growing stagnant- steal from the rich to distribute to the poor and all that,” she said defiantly.

“But the money isn’t yours to take!” Moses replied, holding his ground.

“The way I see it, money belongs to those who are smart enough to acquire it- however that may be.  If you don’t look after your gold properly, then you deserve to have it stolen.”

Moses went to argue but Aria held up a hand,

“Enough, you two.  I don’t want us arguing over as something trivial as this.  Besides, we approach the village.”

 

As the panicked fisherman had said, they came up on a small village situated down at the bottom of the short cliff.  And as the man had said, Aria could see a number of rough looking individuals swaggering about in the small village square.

“I will wait here,” the man said, cowering behind a rock, “You go take care of those ruffians.”

Aria dismounted her horse, and the others followed suit.

“Listen, I’ll try and talk to them first and see if we can get through this without any bloodshed,” Aria said, purposely glancing at Malifica, “But keep your weapons ready.  It may come to blows.”

The group proceeded down the winding cliff path to the small village.  The small wooden huts were locked tight, and Aria could see the fearful faces of villagers glancing out of their windows at the pirates who had taken over their town.  The pirate’s ship was anchored a little ways from the shore, and Aria could see longboats taking loot out of the village to the ship.  The man whom Aria deduced as the captain due to his outlandish clothing style and hat, stood at the edge of the dock directing his men.  Two pirates flanking him noticed the group approach, and held out their swords threateningly.  The captain turned around to examine the newcomers.

“And what do we have ‘ere?” he asked, his accent rough and thick.  Aria stepped forward and bowed slightly to the man,

“Just a humble bard and her contingent passing through sir,” she said humbly, “I could not help but notice your presence in this town as I passed through.”

“And what is it to ya?  Are you going to tell us you don’t like us in this town?”

“Oh no, captain. In fact, I saw your men here and thought ‘those poor pirates are missing quite the opportunity by wasting time in such a small fry village like this’,”

The captain scratched his tattered beard, “And what do you mean by that?”

“Well, I have come from the north, and only a day ago I passed a pearl fishing village north of here.  As you probably realise, pearls fetch a much higher price than fish.  It’s a shame you focused your attention here rather than there,”

Ivan looked at Aria, “But Aria, there aren’t any…”

Aria stepped down on Ivan’s foot hard.  The elf held back a wince of pain and was thankfully smart enough to realise he should be quiet.

“Pearls, you say?”

“Aye captain.  Pearls.  And if I do say so myself, a pearling village smells awfully better than a fishing village.”

Aria could see the captain was deep in thought, considering Aria’s information.  He went to speak, but sudden there was a burst of flame from one of the nearby houses.  They all looked across and saw none other than their resident halfling thief, Swagstag, dragging a sack of gold out of the town hall.  Malifica was with her, flames spilling out of her clawed hands.

“What are you doing!” Aria hissed.  Swagstag looked to Malifica and then back to Aria,

“I was, uh, checking out the village while you were talking.  And there was safe in here with gold, so I got Malifica to blast it open.”

The captain drew his sword, “These scoundrels aren’t simple bards!  They’re thieves trying to rob us of our loot!  After them!”

“Wait wait wait, no…ah who am I kidding,” Aria said with a shrug.  She kneed the captain in the crotch, incapacitating him momentarily,

“Back to the horses!  I think we’ve overstayed our welcome!”

The others all nodded in agreement as a large group of pirates brandishing swords ran towards them.  They hurried back up the cliff, running as fast as they could.  Aria looked back and saw Swagstag was still dragging the sack of gold,

“Leave it!” she said, “It’s the gold or your life.  Pick one.”

Reluctantly, Swagstag dropped the sack and hurried after them as fast as her short legs could carry her.  They quickly made it back to the horses and were galloping back up along the cliff side moments later.  Once they were far enough away, Aria reined her horse and looked back at the village.

“I think we lost them,” Ivan said.  Aria glared at Swagstag and Malifica,

“If I ever catch you doing something like that again, you are out of the heist.”

“We just thought…”

“I’m not paying you to think I’m paying you to follow!”

The halfling and the tiefling looked away sheepishly.  With a grunt of frustration, Aria turned her horse back towards the path, hoping that they could make it to Lorkan without any more interruptions.

My Melbourne Adventure Day 2: You Know What they Say About Big Wheels…

The next day we woke up fairly early, though it was still later than we had anticipated.  I don’t know if it was just me, but the sun seemed to rise a lot later in Melbourne than it did in Brisbane.  It was nearly 7:30 and the sun still had not risen properly, compared to Brisbane where the sun always seems to be up ungodly early and lights up your room at 4:00am.  Today the plan was to try out the trams, visit the Docklands and explore the CBD.

After getting used to the late sunrise, we ventured outside. It was a rather grey morning, but the clouds were light and did not look like they promised rain, which was surprising really since everyone says Melbourne is notorious for rainy weather.  It was also nowhere near as cold as I had anticipated for mid-winter, and the cool temperature was actually quite pleasant under my jacket.  Last time I had been in Melbourne we’d nearly froze to death.  Gladdened by the tolerable weather, we crossed the Yarra and managed to get on one of the free city loop trams with only minimal confusion.  This was a pretty great way to see city as not only did it take us through Melbourne’s heart, but it also had a voice-over providing facts about the areas and buildings we passed.  The tram itself was a restored tram from the early 20th century, which gave it character and added to the historical atmosphere.  We passed many beautiful old style buildings on the trip, including historic churches, hotels and an opulent government building.  Every bit of Melbourne we say seemed to have its own history and story, and everything had so much character.  There was so much to take in that I found it hard to keep track of everything.  Everything in Melbourne just screamed “culture”, both old and new.

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Our tram trip finished at the Docklands- a collection of shops and attractions near docks which gave the area its name.  It was oddly deserter though.  In fact, I think I only saw about ten other people in the whole area, which was saying a lot since it was quite a large precinct.  I figured that would be better for us, since there would be no crowds.  However I found the shops themselves somewhat disappointing as it was the usual stuff you’d find back in Brisbane.  I’ve never been one for shopping on holidays anyway, mostly due to the fact I can shop at home, and that I usually don’t have enough money (or suitcase space) to go nuts on holiday.

The highlight of the Docklands was undoubtedly the Melbourne Star, one of only four giant observation wheels in the world.  The massive structure is 120m tall and offered views of up to 40km away.  Despite the cloudy weather, I think we easily saw that far.  Our ride on the Star allowed us unrivaled views of Melbourne and its surrounds.  From the peak, we had unobstructed views of the city skyline and the Yarra flowing out through the port into Port Phillip Bay- a huge and almost entirely landlocked bay renowned for its fishing.  Even though the clouds had somewhat thickened, the experience was still spectacular.  You really got to see Melbourne as a whole and when you are up there locking across at the city, you almost feel as if it’s your city- like Batman standing atop a building in Gotham, gazing at his city below.

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After some morning tea (and the best Chai latte I’ve ever had, courtesy of the Coffee Club), we decided to look into an activity suggested by a friend of mine- black light mini-golf.  This was basically an indoor mini-golf course in almost total darkness, save for some cool black lighting and glowing wall paint.  The effect was very cool, and each room had a theme like underwater, jungle and outback.  It was a fun experience, even though the place was kind of falling apart (I think I did actually break something loose, but let’s not mention that) and smelled kind of funny.

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Our foray into the Docklands was now done, since we had seen everything likely worth seeing.  On the way back we stopped in at “the Minotaur”- a popular comic book shop in the CBD.  While the store certainly was all my wildest, nerdiest dreams come true, it was very expensive.  While the selection was amazing and I swear they probably had a Action Comics #1 in that massive collection, the high pricing meant I left with only one item- a plastic 30cm Winter Soldier figure for $30 (which I later found in Brisbane for $20).  But that aside, I do still love the atmosphere of an authentic comic book shop- something that is unfortunately dying out these days with the rise of digital comics.

We proceeded back to the hotel for a hearty dinner of 2 minute noodles which we purchased in a convenience store in the CBD.  I should mention that the CBD itself is actually rather unremarkable, mostly because it was depressingly similar to Brisbane’s.  Day two had come to a close, and we spent the evening with two minute noodles and an 80s music channel on TV as we watched the sun set and the lights of the city twinkle to life.

Day 3 is on the way!

 

Lisa

My Melbourne Adventure- Day 1

Now I know that I said this blog is for my writing, and for the most part it is.  But in my very first post I did mention my love for travel.  As a way to practice writing (and make sure my blog isn’t all just ramblings) I have decided to share my thoughts on a trip to Melbourne, Victoria in Australia.  Now I’m not one of those “hipster travelers” who think the only way to enjoy a place is to stay in an AirBnb house and do all your adventuring yourself.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I like hotels, okay?  I like guided tours and cheesy souvenirs.  I want to stay somewhere where I have high speed internet and a pool.  While it’s fun to go off the beaten track, I prefer to stay on a road where I know where I’m going.

But without further ado, let me tell you of my first day in Melbourne.

Day 1- 22nd of July, 2016

Now I’m sure all of you well seasoned travelers are used to get up early for morning flights, but for a novice like me, even a 5:30am start seemed too much.  But after my sensing came online (thanks to our good friend coffee) the excitement really kicked in.  See, I don’t travel a lot for financial reasons, so when I do go somewhere new it is incredibly exciting.  This trip I was taking with my mum (who is the best mum ever) who is just as much as a travel nut as I am, but is also restrained by pesky money.

We were departing from Brisbane Airport- a small airport by comparison to most but one that held a place in my heart.  After all, BNE Airport was my launchpad to the entire world.  Though everyone could tell what travel novices we were after we struggled to figure out the baggage self check in (in our defense it was 6:00am and we hadn’t had breakfast).  After some much needed food, we headed to the Jetstar terminal just over an hour later.  Now, for most flying is nothing special- it’s a way to get from point A to point B.  But for some reason I love flying.  I’ve been on a couple of flights in my life, all domestic thought, but every time I am just so excited to get on that plane.  Perhaps it’s the speed and wonder of the planes, perhaps it’s the fact that they take me to new places.  What ever the reason is, I am always ecstatic when I board my flight.  I spent most of the two hour flight (short by a travelers’ standard) playing Shovel Knight on my 3DS.  It paid off, since I finally defeated Plague Knight, a boss that had been plaguing me for months.

As we began our descent into Melbourne, I noticed two things.  One- Victoria was covered by a thick layer of grey clouds and two- the land below was incredibly green.  My home state of Queesland is always brown, yellow and very dry, so it was nice to see a state that was so green and lush.  The city itself and its surrounding suburbs looked quite similar to Brisbane’s from the air, except perhaps a little bigger.

 

Finally, we landed and took our first steps into Melbourne.  Well, technically it was mum’s first steps into Melbourne, but I had been there once before with a school band tour, though I didn’t remember a lot.  Though I could remember glimpses of memories of the airport.  Somehow I still remembered where to go.  Once outside, I was surprised that the weather wasn’t too bad, since Melbourne is notorious for bad weather.  It was cloudy with patches of blue, and it was cool, but nowhere near as cold as Melbourne could be.  After a rather long wait for our airport transfers, we were off into the city.

I must mention that my home city, Brisbane, is a rather new city, whereas Melbourne is a very old one, at least by Australian standards.  So I was quite struck at how different Melbourne was to Brisbane.  You could see Melbourne’s historical side, characterized by old, Europeanesque buildings merged with it’s new, artistic side, characterized by sleek, modern buildings with artistic architecture.  Even the foliage was different, and many trees were bare for the winter, which is something you don’t see in my sub-tropical home city.

Excitement was high as the taxi brought us to our hotel- the Crown Promenade.  It was situated in the perfect spot- in the heart of Soutbank right over the Casino, and with an excellent view of the city.  It was by far the fanciest place I ever stayed at, which probably says a lot about my previous accommodations.  I mean, it even had a fancy pond and a water feature INSIDE the foyer itself.  How cool is that?  AND a man took our luggage to our room for us!  For those used to the high life, that probably is nothing, but to us it made us feel rather fancy.  Despite the upper classiness of the place, everyone was still very welcoming and friendly.

Our room was a pretty standard size, but very luxurious.  You should’ve seen the size of that shower!  The hotel’s class and proximity to the Casino gave it a sort of “James Bond” sort of feel, and it was easy to imagine this being the sort of place where international espionage took place in the Casino below.

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After settling in, we decided to acquaint ourselves with the area.  A brief visit to the Casino introduced me to a whole new world of upper-class Capitalism.  But what was more impressive was Melbourne’s beautiful Southbank area.  From an incredible selection of dining (including the best Indian food I’ve ever had) to a scenic walking path along the Yarra river and the spectacular nightly fire show, it certainly blows Brisbane’s Southbank out of the water.  After an hour or two of exploration and the fire show, we called it a day, since there was much more to come and we needed plenty of energy to take it head on.

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Day 2 coming soon (soon being when I get round to writing it)

Lisa

 

Dungeons that Drag On #1: Shouldn’t We Have a Fighter?

The sun shone brightly overhead in the azure blue sky.  Lying on her back, Aria watched gulls squawking and circling above.  Around her she could hear the sounds of Neverwinter’s port- the splashing of waves lapping at the docks, the creaking of the ships’ sails and ropes and constant buzz of chatting sailors and merchants.  And for that one, beautiful moment as she laid upon the gently swaying deck of the ship, she felt peaceful.  But of course, that wouldn’t last.

“So, when are we leaving?” said the excitable halfling, Swagstag Memebarrel.  She was leaning over Aria, her boyish face only inches from her own.  Aria sighed,

“When Moses arrives with supplies from the market,” Aria said, exasperated, “I thought I already told you.”

“Well, yea you did but it’s so boring here,” Swagstag said, twirling one of her daggers in her small hand, “There’s no action.”

“We could go make some,” said the voice of Malifca Paladin-Bane.  She smiled slyly in a way that made Aria somewhat uncomfortable.  At least their other companion, Ivan Greenbean, the wood elf, still remained happily asleep on a pile of sacks under the mast and would not be, for the moment, causing trouble for her.

“No one is making any action.  I hired you all for a purpose- a purpose that you all promised you’d help me achieve,” Aria said, putting her hands on her hips.

“Yes, yes, we know all about your ‘purpose’,” said Malifica, strutting over to Aria.

“And we bloody well better get paid for it,” added Swagstag.  Aria sighed yet again.  What had seemed like a great plan at first was starting to look a little uncertain.  The premise was clear- Aria had heard that there was a ski resort somewhere up in the mountains guarded by goblins, and this resort was filled with gold.  This gold was promised to anyone who won their yearly snowmobile race.  Asides from that, she had very little information, be she would have it soon.  Her old partner and friend, Bowen Dilson, had information they would need to get this gold, but he was in Luskan, to the north.  With no intention of participating in such a race, Aria and Bowen decided a heist was in order- but they needed help. That’s where Aria’s band of misfits came in.  With rather limited funds, Aria did not have the freedom to be picky when hiring help, which left her with this undesirable group of adventurers.  A hyper-religious cleric, a feisty halfling thief, an intelligently challenged elf ranger and a borderline insane tiefling sorceress.  They weren’t Aria’s first choice, but they were the only choice she had.

 

“I come bearing great gifts!” exclaimed Moses as dragged a sack of supplies up the gangplank.  Aria helped the human cleric haul their supplies on board.

“There’s enough supplies to make it Luskan, easily, with plenty more for the trip into the mountains,” he said.

“Good, good,” Aria said, nodding, “Mind giving me the leftover gold?”

“Leftover?  Why, I spent it all!”

Aria’s eye twitched, “You what?!”

“The hard working merchants of this city often struggle to make ends meet, so I thought it charitable to not haggle and accept their high prices.”

Aria suppressed the urge to shout at the overly-kind cleric.  She took a deep breath.

“Alright.  Okay.  Just…let me do the shopping next time,” she said.  Aria was glad she organised the horses, otherwise their adventure would have already put her in debt.

“Now that we are all here, we can finally begin.”

The adventurers gathered around Aria,

“As you know, I have been informed of a rather valuable hoard of gold hidden away in the mountains to the north.  This gold is locked away in a vault beneath Globlin Slopes- a rather expensive goblin ski resort,” Aria explained.  Ivan raised his hand,

“What’s a ski resort?” he asked.

“It’s where people go stay on holidays where they strap two pieces of wood to their feet and slide down the slopes of the mountain.”

“You mean, they purposely slide down the mountain?” Ivan said, confused, “But why bother climbing all the way up if you’re just going back down…”

“Don’t worry about that,” Aria said, somewhat irritated, “As I was saying, this gold is the grand prize for a snowmobile race…”

Ivan raised his hand,

“I swear to god Ivan if you ask what a snowmobile is I’m throwing you off the side of this boat,” Aria said.  Ivan lowered his hand.

“Of course, none of us know how to operate such a thing, so we’re going to steal that gold.”

“And how do you plan on doing that?” Malifica asked.

“I haven’t quite gotten that far yet,” Aria said, “But when we meet Bowen in Luskan, we will sort that out.  For now, we have all we need to get underway.  Does everyone have what they need?”

“I have my staff,” said Moses.

“My daggers are ready to go,” said Swagstag.

“My bow is strung,” said Ivan.

“And I’ll happily set something on fire with my magic when you give the word,” said Malifica.  Aria dropped her hand to her own weapon- a rapier that was more for show than anything.  As she looked at her companions, a terrible thought hit her.

“Wait a second, do we not have anyone who can wield a sword?  A fighter?”

“You have a sword, don’t you?” said Ivan.

“Yes, but I’m a bard.  I was hoping to talk my way out of any problems we get into.  But I would expect if we met bandits or monsters on our way that they would not be open to discussion.”

“Why do we need a swordsman?  We’re all capable warriors,” said Malifica.

“Yes, but…I mean all the songs and stories of great adventures usually have a hero with a sword and armour.  They’re usually a man, in his early to mid-thirties, white and attractive with a beard and a lawful good disposition.”

“By the powers, you are quiet right,” said Moses, “There are indeed a lot of tales with heroes fitting that description.  Do you think our tale needs one as well?”

Aria shrugged, “Perhaps, perhaps not.  I have a feeling our band may not yet be complete.  The road will only tell.”

“Enough talking!” said Swagstag, “I say we go and get ourselves some goblin gold!”

The others all murmured in agreement.

“It’s agreed then,” Aria said, “Our quest has begun.”

 

Meet the Gang – Dungeons that Drag On

As a bit of blog-exclusive, I will be starting a little mini series called Dungeons that Drag On, which is pretty much a couple of little stories inspired by some of the Dungeons and Dragons sessions I’ve attended.  They’re not going to be overly serious as some of the hijinks that come with D&D can be pretty out there.  So first of all, let’s meet our intrepid adventures- characters based on my dungeons and dragons characters.

Aria McElf
Race: Half-Elf
Class: Bard
This charismatic, blonde bombshell wields words as her weapons, though she isn’t too shabby with her swords either. Her temptress personality and honey-coated words have gotten the gang out of a lot of bad situations, as well as getting them into some as well.  By far the most intelligent of the group, she proves that brains and beauty are not mutually exclusive.

Moses Seasplitter
Race: Human
Class: Cleric
Moses comes from a distant, strange land, and has brought with him even stranger magic.  Always upholding good morals, he stamps out evil wherever he may find it with surprising skills with his staff.  He’s a bit of a religious nut though, so don’t go asking him about God or you’ll be there all day.

Swagstag Memebarrel
Race: Halfling
Class: Thief
Of course Swagstag isn’t her real name, but like all good thieves, one needs an alias.  Don’t let her size fool you, this feisty little thief will rob you without you even knowing it.  Try not to upset her, because you will be surprised how much anger could fit in someone so small.

Ivan Greenbean
Race: Wood Elf
Class: Ranger
A man of little words and a lot of stares. But don’t take that as a sign of mysterious wisdom- poor Ivan struggles with words longer than three syllables.  He can put an arrow through a target a mile away, but struggles with basic math.  He seems nice enough, but you somehow get the feeling he may just snap at any moment and kill everyone…

Malifica Paladin-Bane
Race: Tiefling
Class: Sorcerer
Pure.  Evil.  Or at least, that’s what she’d like you to think.  This sorceress certainly is not the nicest of people, but all she really wants is a friend.  She just needs to make it long enough without killing them.  She’s got a great sense of humour and she’d have a lot more friends if she didn’t keep setting people on fire.

So now you’ve met the crew, let’s see what antics they get up to.  Of course, this is not all the people you’ll meet.  There will be many more colourful characters on the way.

Dungeons that Drag On Chapter One: Shouldn’t We Have a Fighter?
Coming soon!