This is the continuing saga/advice/mindpeek of my current campaign. I hope you find some use for it if you are looking into trying a low-prep/improv DM style. This is just MY WAY and its not the One True Way.
When the last session ended the Party was huddled in Rose Fox Cave, trying to figure out what they were going to do now that they had murdered a soldier.
Before I go any further, I want to mention that I am going to be posting all my notes, uncensored, throughout however long this goes. I am doing this to illustrate how I DM. This is in no way a treatise on the One True Way. There’s no such thing. I know everyone knows this, but I feel the need to point it out just in case (again).
A STICKY SITUATION
I mentioned that our Fighter, Lindale, was unable to attend the first session. I had no idea how I was going to bring him into the session, especially since the Party had left and was currently in hiding.
But I was thrown a liferaft. One that came from my random encounters, surprisingly. The phenomenon of the graffiti gave me the perfect excuse – the Fighter had glimpsed one of the sigils and had fallen into a coma.
All of the victims so far had not been able to be awakened. But I couldn’t do that to the Fighter, because that’s boring and kind of stupid. So I did some hard thinking over the next two weeks.
The showerthoughts that normally come so easily to me were dried up. I had NOTHING. I was starting to worry. I don’t plan much, but I like to have at least some damn framework, and I needed a good, plausible (as far as D&D goes) way to get myself out of the plot corner I had painted myself into.
Days upon days I thought about it. Somedays I tried to ignore it completely.
Then I was on Imgur, maybe, or reddit, and I saw this.
I laughed at the photo, but then I had a vision. I get these lightning bolts of inspiration that light up my mind from the most unlikely of places.
I saw a badger sitting on the floor near the coma-bed of Lindale, our Fighter. I knew the badger’s name was Krenn and that he could talk.
I suddenly had my explanation.
Instead of linking my notes, I’ll just paste them here. I wrote this down as soon as I was out of the shower.
Out walking, sees the sigil. Mind rabbits, drops into coma.
Hears voices – older elven man and a woman – not relatives. Can’t make out what they are saying at first, but then it resolves into an interplay about Lindale.
“it is the only way to save him, Oappa. He must find the answers for himself after he awakens, but it was either this, or lose him. Which would you choose?”
When Lindale awakens he sees a badger in his room. It is docile and staring at him. If spoken to, it will speak. Its name is Krenn, and its a badger who has willingly given its body to Lindale to serve as a shelter for the fighter’s fractured mind. When he viewed the sigil his mind fractured into two seperate identities. One of these is named Krenn and is protected from any future incursions from Golovkin (God of Insanity) because its hiding in a quantum signature that doesn’t match Lindale’s. Krenn will follow Lindale everywhere he goes. If they are ever seperated, Lindale will succumb to permanent psychosis. Krenn is tough, and can fend for himself, but cannot take much real damage from a determined attacker.
A man is also present. A sylvan druid (who has partially merged with the Green), who speaks gently to him. “You have been partially healed by my connection to the Great Stream, but there is a rock in your mind. It splits the stream in two, and yet connects it at the same time. One of the rivulets of the Stream is named Lindale. The other (nods at badger) is Krenn. Both are the same. Both must survive together, or perish apart.”
“Fear not. There is a way to remove the rock and rejoin the Great Stream, but it involves dropping more rocks into the water. If you are willing, I will speak more of this, otherwise, remember always to keep your Tulpa safe.”
<Continue> “You must seek out the úbarthas eruion. Cave clan is said to have 3 living ones among them. Only the chaos-born can remove this blockage and heal your mind. I’m sorry, son.”
A hallucination begins. It is Golovkin, disguised as Nathrak again, and the Chaosbringer speak to Lindale, and tells him that he must “kill the eater of the moon when the time is right, or all is lost”. Golovkin will also show Lindale a vision of Tellurian in the middle of a forest fire, reaching for a snow-white mushroom. Then it will show a flash of his people driven out of the now dead forest – a second Diaspora, and the arms of Rega scooping them up.
I didn’t know what half of this meant. The divided consciousness was fine. I’ve played with split personalities a lot and DM’ed a fair few. I threw in a connection to the Sorcerer (the Ubarthas Eruion, or “Chaos Born”). Throughout the notes I talk about how the God of Insanity (Golovkin) is disguised as the God of War (Nathrak) – I didn’t let the PC know it was a ruse. He thought it was the God of War talking to him/showing him visions.
I didn’t have a clue about how he was going to be healed, how the Sorcerer could actually help, or what the actual fuck “the eater of the moon” meant.
It would sort itself out at the table. That’s the key of being a low-prep, improvisational DM – You have to be willing to take risks and trust that you will come out the other side a damn winner. If you throw out vague hooks and connections, you will be forced to act upon them, and in that moment you will make arcane connections and come up with something amazing, or total shit, but at least the shit stuff will teach you for next time.
I still didn’t have a way of getting the Fighter to the Party. But this new idea of Lindale and Krenn, and being tied to the Sorcerer gave me an out.
I’m going to directly paste my setup notes for this session instead of linking them. They contain general notes as well as some random encounters for the session – I ALWAYS write new encounters each session. The old ones don’t always fit, and while I could recycle them (and I do for the really, really good ones) I prefer new stuff – it stretches my mind and forces me to think of new things, and new ideas, and that’s never a bad idea.
SESSION 2 SETUP NOTES
NATHRAK: God of War – has no part to play in any of this, and has no idea Barhador, Tellurian or Lindale exist. Poor sap.
GOLOVKIN: God of Insanity – A puppet who has had his identity stolen and is being used to confuse the party
HARLEQUINE: God of Deception – The real master here. All this is part of some larger (still unknown) plan.
Tellurian and Barhador in Rose Fox Cave.
The coma victims will awaken in 24 hours and seek out Barhador as a prophet. The are called The Hand of the Mad. They are all quite mad, but will go along with B’s assumption that they are there for Nathrak, as they each will say they are “godsent” to serve him. They will create chaos and violence around them if none is to be found for too long. They truly serve Golovkin as clerics (of a sort), and refer to the god as The Will. (“Must we not serve the Will?”)
The Hand of the Mad (Barhador’s “groupies”)
(Thumb) – Erwel – female seamstress (fur/hide) – makes animal puppets out of dead animals. Quick to laugh. Defers to the rest of the Hand.
(Forefinger) – Olaf – male warrior. Verbally offensive, moody, and terrified of Krenn.
(Middle) – Shearwater – overly dramatic and sadistic. Revels in murder.
(Ring) – Bitterbind – female warrior – tries to control the Hand. Mostly succeeds.
(Pinky) – Glessor – male miner – completely fawning and obsequeous. Arsonist tendencies if not watched.
KRENN STUFF (basic badger facts)
Krenn is nocturnal normally, but will be forced to become diurnal. Digs a sett each day. Weighs 35 lbs (15kg).
Krenn is omnivorous and will eat birds, small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, eggs, roots, fruit, tubers, worms, insects, cereal, carrion, tubers and the like. Favorite prey are hedgehogs. Will attack livestock (lambs and chickens) and sometimes small rabbits if given the chance. Can tunnel quickly.
GETTING TO Echadi Sedryn (Eglan Camp) will take 4 days without incidents.
- A Cave clan elf has gone rogue – he’s wearing a cursed Ring of Cannibalism. He is surrounded by Cave and Hill clan warriors.
- Thunderstorm and 2 days of hard pounding rain. Local flooding.
- The little girl who is haunting Tellurian decides to show herself again, pickpocketing Barhador. She is bound to one of the silver coins he carries (received as change from Ruby).
- Hill clan posse hunting for the PCs. They are confused and upset. NPC names are Yusuf and Hector and Priskin
- A woman is screaming that someone has stolen her daughter. She is pointing “that way” and will tell any who listen that her little girl’s name is Binta and she is only 6 years old. She will try to accompany anyone who says they will help search. She will keep thinking she sees her daughter. She is delusional. She has no daughter.
- A small boy appears in the party’s camp one night, sitting by the fire. He never speaks and cannot be touched, not through being incorporeal, but through a repulsion field that is beyond 30th level magic. The boy stays one hour and then vanishes. This event occurs every night for a week. On the last night one of the players finds a ring on their finger. This ring contains 1 dose of a poison that will kill any creature in the known realms without a saving throw. It also kills the poisoner.
So I had ALL the coma victims wake up, not just Lindale. That turned out to be inspired.
A note on the 3rd random encounter. I didn’t mention this in the last post, as it was sort of a minor event, but it turned out to be a recurring thing, so I should mention it here. Tellurian was in a tavern back in Kenkennerinken after the Gibberling attack and noticed a little girl pickpocketing some patrons. She was pure spirit and was singing a jump-rope song while she was spirit-robbing these people. Tellurian started to sing along with her, and she turned and noticed him. She smiled and laughed and clapped her hands and started to dance all over the tavern before disappearing. I decided that she attaches herself to Tellurian and will be seen every now and again.
Back to the sequence of events
Tellurian and Barhador hiding in Rose Fox Cave.
Lindale has his scene with the Druids and Krenn. I tell him he knows exactly where Tellurian is – like a GPS marker in his mind (that was a cheap trick, but it worked out ok).
So he goes to find them, Badger in tow. Lindale was NOT happy to have this creature with him, and played this guy really sarcastic and was quite damn funny. He added some lightness in a story that was already really dark and only 1 session in.
After some tense, WTF moments, the Party unites and they tell each other their tales.
They decide that they need to regroup, maybe get some aid, and they decide to head to the Eglan Clan camp (called the Echadi Sedryn). I tell them it will take 4 days.
They set off. Stealthy as hell and end up hiding from some patrols who have been sent out to find Barhador and Tellurian.
The meet the first Finger of the Hand – Olaf (the Forefinger) – there is some seriously tense roleplaying going on. Olaf is praising Barhador as the True Fist and being very obsequeious and there is a lot of shouting and “WHAT DO YOU MEAN?” going on. I sat back and watched it all unfold. My roleplaying was a lot better this time. I was getting my groove back.
It was, in short, awesome.
It started to rain. I mean it was bucketing down, with lightning and thunder and all. They saw a lightning flash outline Oxo Tower – on the map in the SW corner, in an area called The Jumbles. I had no idea what the tower actually was when I drew it. But they said they wanted to go there, and I decided to make it a Sage’s tower. Perfect. They had a LOT of questions.
I’m going to end this here, as they are about to enter the tower, as this has gotten stupidly long. I’ll continue the session next post – keep in mind this is still session 2.