Thursday, January 12, 2012, 7:24 AM
We are building a new party for an occasional game that my Brother in Law, my 2 sons and my nephew are trying to play whenever my BIL and nephew are in town. My nephew will be playing a Dragonborn Wizard or Warlock, my younger son will be playing a Tiefling rogue and my oldest son will be playing a Minotaur Runepriest.
While I tried to figure out which character would be a good compliment our party, I kept looking at the other party members. But instead of concentrating on the various classes and roles these characters would fill, I found myself looking at the races of the characters, and wondering where they had come from.
As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I started playing D&D about 30 years ago. Most of my D&D life involved what I consider the "classic" races: Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, Gnome, Half-orc and Half-elf. Halflings were less "really short elf" and more "Frodo Baggins", and "Gnome" was generally followed by "Illusionist." Noone in my groups ever considered playing anything outside of this group of choices, and I think it had alot to do with our Lord of the Rings, Sword of Shanara view of the fantasy world, growing up in the late 70's and early 80's. Back in those days, if you weren't one of the core races, you were a monster, and only the more "outside the box thinker" DM's would even use a non-core race as an npc, let alone a hero.
Now, it is a post-Drizzt world, and there are all these choices for players to pick from. Tiefling, Goliath, Dragonborn, Minotaur, Githrazai, Shifter and a million more, seemingly. I know the boys love having all these choices, and seem to start their character building based upon a cool-looking mini, which isn't necessarily a horrible way to choose. If that was the way I did it, I would be lobbying for either an Ice Archon or Shoal Reaver Water Archon PC. Whether all these choices are good or bad remains to be seen, but I cannot argue the positive point that it has gotten at least 3 of the New Generation of D&D players excited about playing. I'm still at the point where it feels too weird to play anything but one of those core races, like I'm trying for some kind of gimmicky PC to either min-max or force some awkward role playing scenarios.
I still haven't figured out what class to play, and any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, but I am fairly confident that I will be sticking to one of my "classic" races. Eventually, I might try out one of these new-fangled races. A Tiefling Infernal Pact Hexblade looks like it would have a ton of flavor, and his backstory would almost write itself. But, for now, those old school dwarfs, elfs, gnomes and halflings are calling to me like my favorite spot on the sofa.
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Thursday, January 5, 2012, 10:55 AM
I started writing this a long time ago. It's a bit clunky, but fun, too. It includes many characters either I or players from my group have played, including the aforementioned Bek and Mek, Tharm Bronzefist and Garlson the Gnome Illusionist-thief. I hope you enjoy this first section, and if people want me to, I will post more of the story in the future.
“Another chance to earn my namesake,” Bek Orccrusher muttered to himself as he gazed across the bloody sea of banners congregated in the valley floor. Although his clan had faced these foes on countless occasions, something about this time didn’t feel right. The orcs and goblins massed below, normally among the least disciplined of attackers, showed great organization and a chill resolve that he had not seen before. Bek did not doubt that he and his brethren would repel this latest attack, but this new found order suggested something much more intelligent than the brutish orcs was orchestrating the perpetual assault on the Citadel Abdar.
Bek shook the worrisome thoughts from his head, closed his eyes, and began to mouth a prayer to Moradin. As the prayer continued, Bek’s voice grew louder, until the dwarven troops close to him heard his prayer, and took up the chant. Although all the dwarves were steadfast in their faith to Moradin, Bek’s voice carried the weight of uncompromised conviction, and it rose above the din of noise. All dwarves who heard it felt strengthened in their hearts.
The prayer ended, and an eerie silence fell over the valley. Everyone knew this was the calm before the storm, and the tension was palpable. The only sound was the tightening of grips on weapons, and the drawing back of bowstrings.
With a deafening roar, the evil host of orcs charged the citadel walls. As the first ranks separated from the rest of the horde, huge siege weapons that were previously hidden came into view. The most sinister of these weapons was a great battering ram, its head carved in the likeness of a snarling demon. One only had to see the glowing eyes of the demon head to know it was enchanted with a baleful magic.
The high walls of the citadel prevented Bek and his companions from seeing its base far below, and it was a great surprise when the first orcish head showed over the wall’s crenellation. The shock wore off quickly, and Bek’s hammer caved the snarling face in, sending the beast crashing back over the wall.
For Bek, the battlefield became quite small, comprising of just the section of wall he and his fellow dwarves defended. He occasionally heard the cry of a dwarven warrior, and he had to stop himself from going to bestow healing on a fallen comrade. Any lapse in concentration would allow the orcs to break through the ranks. There would be more than enough opportunity for healing after the battle was won. Eventually, the push of attackers subsided, and Bek was able to look over the wall out onto the valley floor. The sigh of relief from the break in fighting died in his throat. A group of ogres, huge and muscular, were carrying the demon-faced battering ram towards the base of the wall. The dwarves were frozen in anticipation of the terrible damage that could be inflicted by the hideous weapon. Powerfully built shoulders worked, and the head slid backward, only to come rushing forward toward the thousand year-old citadel wall.
The impact knocked Bek and many of his companions off their feet; such was the force of the blast. The crashing impact echoed off the far valley wall, and slowly faded away. After a moment of shocked silence, a great cheer rose from the valley floor. After many centuries of trying, the orcs felt that they finally had victory in their grasp.
But dwarven ingenuity could address almost any hardship. Great basins of oil had been constructed on rotating arms. The oil was quickly lit, and the basins were poured over the walls. Everything that was within 50 feet of the great citadel’s walls was swept up in a great torrent of oil and fire. Bek could feel the heat from the great oil fire, and smiled at his clansmen and their cleverness. The smile was shaken off his face when a second huge impact shook the citadel wall.
How can this be, Bek cursed silently, his teeth grinding. He regained his feet and looked over the wall. The flames seemed to be in the shape of a great globe, and as the oil slid down, it became obvious that a protective spell had been cast over the battering ram. The orcs who were near the wall were all burning corpses, but the ogres just laughed and prepared for a third strike.
Bek heard a low chanting, and turned to notice a group of dwarves standing in a circle. At the circle’s center stood, Tharm Bronzefist, Bek’s mentor and teacher. His hands were over his head, his eyes closed tightly in concentration. He seemed almost to glow with an inner light. As the chanting reached its crescendo, Bek watched his teacher brandish the small hammer he wore around his neck as a symbol of Moradin. A golden light streamed from the hammer and struck the globe protecting the ogres. As the light touched the globe, a spider-web of cracks crawled across its surface. Dwarven “archers” posted along the citadel’s walls threw their axes and the globe shattered with a burst of golden light.
The destruction of the globe halted the ogres’ swing, and they stood at the base of the wall, dumbstruck. As they realized they were unhurt, an evil grin spread across the ogres’ faces, and they began to pull the battering ram back for a mighty blow that would breach the wall. A small door, hidden by its perfect fit in the wall, slid silently open, exposing the tip of what looked like a great spear. After an audible “thunk,” the spear shot forward, impaling two ogres and sending them flying back into the ranks of orcs clustered behind the great battering ram. The remaining two ogres, stopped their attempt to swing the ram, and drew two great clubs, eager to face whoever had killed their brothers.
After a moment, they got their wish, as a troop of well-armed dwarves poured out. The troops’ leader was a carbon copy of Bek, with the notable exception of his beard, which had been braided into a kind of rope, tipped with a miniature version of the axe he wielded with both hands. Normally, this axe would be tucked in his belt, but now his beard was slung over his shoulder. He rushed the ogres without hesitation, and his troops followed, yelling battle cries such as “ Moradin!!” and “Abdar!!” The fearless dwarf swung a heavy blow at the first ogre’s leg, meaning to knock it down and leave it for his companions to deal with. But the ogre was prepared for this attack, and pushed the axe blade past his leg with his club. The dwarf was unable to stop his momentum, and crashed headlong into the ogre’s great knee, bloodying his nose, and knocking him to the ground. The dwarf’s momentum was enough to make the ogre stumble, and allowed a group of his troops to slip past and attack the second ogre. Meanwhile, high up on the wall, Bek could only watch helplessly, as his brother collapse to the earth, apparently unconscious.
The ogre, uncaring that his cohort was being dismantled by a group of raging dwarves, laughed aloud and picked up the insensible dwarf at his feet and drew him up to his face.
“Mmmmm!! Dwarfs good food!” the ogre bellowed, looking at the unmoving dwarf with delight.
The dwarf’s eyes opened, and he shot a mischievous wink at the ogre before he whipped his head to one side. His beard, and the axe blade at its end, sliced across the ogre’s eyes. The ogre shrieked, dropped the dwarf, and clapped its hands over its ruined eyes. The dwarf, grinning broadly now, calmly picked up his axe, drew back, and struck the ogre in the chest with all of his might. The ogre lurched to one side as if drunk then dropped to its knees, putting its head right in line for another strike. This blow half severed the great head from its shoulders, and the ogre dropped to the ground. The dwarf barely gave the fallen ogre a glance before joining his troops in dispatching the second ogre.
Seeing their ogres defeated and their great weapon abandoned, the remaining orcs decided collectively they were done with their assault on the fierce dwarves. Once a few orcs started to desert the fight, the rest followed in short order. It was all the Mekcould do to stop his warriors from chasing the orcs down and destroying them.
“We don’t have time for fun!” he growled. “We need to be fixin’ that wall before they come back!” He had also noticed this wasn’t an ordinary attack, and he wanted to make sure they were prepared when the orcs came back. Besides making repairs, pits and traps would have to be constructed, and the great oil basins refilled.
As soon as the orcs began their hasty retreat, Bek started making his way to the base of the wall, intent on checking the condition of his brother. “If he acted any more the fool, I’d think him an elf!” Bek grumbled. His brother had always been the impulsive, and Bek seemed to spend much of his time getting him out of bad situations. But truthfully, Bek enjoyed the adventures they shared.
“Alright Mek…. How many bones did ye break this time?” Bek’s brother whipped his head around, nearly hitting him in the head with his axe. “Whoa! What in Moradin’s name is that?!?”
“It’s me bearded axe… get it?” Mek almost fell on the ground he was laughing so hard. Bek’s scowl stopped the laughter, but Mek was still grinning. “That ogre got me joke, didn’t he?” This time, both brothers laughed.
The blood on Mek’s face ruined Bek’s good mood. Mek saw his brother’s frown, and quickly tried to calm him.
“Tis just a scratch. I didn’t even break me nose this time! Go and tend to someone who needs it!”
And there were plenty of dwarves who needed it.
The grand council chamber of the Citadel Abdar was a huge cavern, easily large enough to hold the two thousand “important” dwarves who were gathered for the discussion of the new threat to Abdar. Usually, such matters were left to the Council, but this last assault had given even the most jaded of warriors pause. At the great stone table in the front of the hall, the council waited anxiously for the king to make his entrance. Among the councilors was Tharm Bronzefist, the spiritual leader of the Citadel. He was well respected, not only for his age and wisdom, but his reputation as the last of the people of Abdar to range far from its safety. Bek considered himself lucky to be an apprentice to “the Bronzefist,” and had swelled with pride when he overheard one of the older warriors telling the tale of his blessing of the warriors, and his bravery in battle.
As an apprentice, Bek was allowed a seat in the back of the cavern, and although he would barely be able to hear what was being said, he was very excited to be attending his first council meeting. From his position, he could gaze across the great hall. Many of its columns were stalactites and stalagmites, carved by cunning hands into representations of Dwarven heroes. They seemed to stand judgment over any proceedings. The ceiling had been worked smooth, and at its apex was a great compass, worked in precious metals. Working out from the compass was a great map of the region as it was many centuries before. Bek noticed how tribes of humans had once lived where orcs now dwelled. He wondered what it had been like in those days, without the constant threat of war.
Mek had been even luckier than Bek, and was allowed a prominent place near the council table for his heroism. He was chatting with the generals who orchestrated the last victory, and Bek inwardly groaned as he thought of how swelled his brother’s head would become. He had a smug little grin on his face, but when their eyes met, and Mek’s grin widened into a genuine smile, Bek just shook his head and remembered that he should expect nothing else from his brother.
The cavern fell abruptly silent, and Bek knew that King Harbromm had entered. The king was an ancient dwarf, and had lost all the hair on the top of his head, but his beard was a lustrous white, braided into two great ropes banded with gold. Atop his head was the heavy crown of Abdar, marked with a hand-axe in a circle of flame, the king’s personal forge mark. He was still dressed in his armor, a scarred and worn set of Dwarven plate, and he rattled and clanked as he stepped up to the great throne at the center of the council table.
“Citizens of Abdar!” the king shouted, and his voice was a hammer striking an anvil. “Once again, we have repelled the foul orcs and their allies from our walls!!” A shout of triumph rose from the crowd.
“But, ” The one word dispelled the cheers, “we have all seen that our enemy is not what it once was. They are more organized and more determined than ever to break down our walls, kill our people, and steal our treasures!!” This last statement was met with shouts of protest and growls of defiance.
“We have called the Council together to develop a plan to deal with this new threat. Before I make my decision, I would hear what our councilors have to say. Bronzefist, do you speak for the Council?”
Respectful eyes turned toward the Dwarven priest. He rose from his chair, turned toward the king and gave a bow. Then he turned back toward the crowd gathered in the cavern and spoke in a low voice, but a voice that carried over the crowd, so that even Bek, far in the back, could hear clearly.
“We have dealt with the orcs for generations. We have killed them by the hundreds…by the thousands!! It is easy to think one attack is much like the other. But some of you have noticed that our adversary has changed. Before, the orcs relied on power. Now they have combined their power with magic!!”
This statement was met with gasps from those who did not witness the battle, and shouts of scorn from those who did. Dwarves have an innate distrust of magic, and this was not improving their view of the mystical arts.
“We must find out who is behind this new attack on our people. To do this, the council suggests to mighty King Harbromm is to send a group out to find this threat, and, if possible, destroy it.”
The declaration was made calmly, but the reaction was pandemonium. Loud talking amongst the gathered dwarves made it impossible to hear anything from the council table.
Harbromm stood and struck his hand on the great table, making a sound like a thunderclap. “I have always respected the council’s recommendations, whether I heeded them or not. But this… Our people have not ventured from the Citadel in a hundred years or more. Why should we risk the lives of our people? Our walls can withstand any attack!”
The Bronzefist raised his arms to be heard over the shouts of approval from the crowd.
“My King, you have seen what the last assault did to our walls. How much more do you think we can take? If we do not stop this now, there will be no chance for us next time. This time, the orcs brought ogres with them, the next time, it could be giants!”
The king was not the only one who knew how to play on the fears of his people. Giants were feared and hated above all monsters by the dwarves of Abdar. The mood of the crowd turned from isolation in the citadel to eliminating the threat, whatever the cost. And Harbromm felt the mood change.
“Even so, Tharm Bronzefist, I will not send unwilling dwarves to their doom. If you can get volunteers, I will support your idea. If not, we fortify the walls, and prepare for the next attack.” The king rose from his throne, signaling the end of discussion. As councilors moved away from the table, the crowd gathered in small groups, talking animatedly about the surprising turn of events.
Bek was not interested in the heated conversations around him. He scanned the crowd, looking for his mentor. Before he could find the priest, he was clapped roughly on the back.
“Brother, this is the chance we’ve been waiting for!!”
“You mean the chance YOU”VE been waiting for, Mek!” Bek retorted irritably. “You’ve been wanting to have a great adventure since we were beardless.”
“And you’ve been as boring as a boulder since we were small!” Mek shot back amicably. There was a feverish light in his eyes that made Bek’s stomach turn sour. “You know this is a chance of a lifetime for both of us. I’m not the only one who wants to see what it’s like outside of these walls. This will give you a chance to see some of the things your beloved priest has seen…”Mek’s voice trailed off. He knew he had crossed the line, making fun of Bek’s mentor.
Bek’s face turned a bright red, but he said nothing. He knew it was true that he wanted to see the things that the Bronzefist had seen, to be a great adventurer. But he couldn’t just leave his mentor. He had so much more to learn. The conflicting emotions tore at him.
Mek could see his brother’s inner turmoil. “Awww, I’ll bet they won’t even pick us to go anyway. There are many others who are more experienced warriors.”
“But none who have been outside the Citadel Abdar as often as you, young Orccrusher,” came a familiar voice. “Although, most of the council doesn’t know of your ranging. And please stop gaping at me like an ogre. Did you honestly think yourself could sneak out so many times without someone noticing?”
Mek’s open mouth shut with a click. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Councilor Bronzefist. I’ll give you time to speak to your apprentice in private.” Mek quickly moved away, unwilling to look either dwarf in the eye.
The Bronzefist watched Mek slink away with an amused look, then turned to look at his pupil. Bek always found that although his teacher’s gaze was deep and penetrating, he never had a problem returning the look. He trusted his teacher completely, and shared everything with him, so he never felt like there was anything he needed to hide from his mentor’s sight.
“Bek, you know how important this quest is, don’t you? Any dwarf who goes, might never return to Abdar…” Bek knew where this conversation was headed, and he resigned himself to having to hear about other’s exploits. “That is why I will only recommend you if yourself is willing to go, with no reservation.”
Bek was dumbfounded. “Do you think me ready? I have so much more to learn!” He spoke with emotion that betrayed his true feelings. He desperately wanted to go, but he could not trust his own instincts whether he was up to the task.
The Bronzefist smiled gently. “Bek, you have always been my best student, from the moment you started your journey down the path of Moradin. Your faith is unwavering, and your wisdom is beyond your years. We will not succeed without the guidance of a wise dwarf, and the blessing of Moradin. But the decision is for you alone to make. Don’t answer me now. Take some time to think it over. And don’t be letting your brother make your decisions for you!”
Bek nodded solemnly and left the hall, making his way back to his room. Although sparse, it was a place where he could clear his mind and make a good decision. He was sure that if he was asked, then Mek was certainly asked, and surely had already accepted the honor of being part of the expedition. Bek found himself wondering who else could be a part. There were many great warriors in the citadel, but most had too much to lose to go on such a dangerous mission. Others would be very willing to go, but would be too reckless, and put the rest of the group in danger. As he pondered this, he realized that he felt a duty to join the quest, not only to himself, but also to his mentor, his king, and his clan. The Orccrusher name had always been held in high esteem, but this quest would bring glory and, hopefully, riches far beyond the clan’s current level.
Bek had also read in some ancient texts about quests inspired by devotion to Moradin. What quest would Moradin think more appropriate than one that seeks to rid the area of monsters seeking to destroy dwarves? With a nod to himself, Bek made the decision to join this quest, whatever the consequences.
As he exited his room, he was almost bowled over by a very exited Mek. As he had figured, his brother was also invited to join the quest, and he had agreed enthusiastically. But along with the obvious reason of adventure and treasure, he gave an unexpected reason to join up.
“When we come back, I’ll be able to support a family of me own,” Mek said wistfully. “I always wanted a wife and little ones to take care of.”
Maybe my brother is finally growing up, Bek thought to himself, and a grin spread across his normally serious face. Mek caught the grin, and also caught the meaning behind it.
“I just think it would be nice to find a good Dwarven maiden to settle down with. Don’t be making too much of it,” he protested. “Anyway, are you coming with me or not?”
“You know if I let you without me, you’ll just get yerself into trouble you can’t get out of…we’re doing this together.”
Mek clapped his brother on the back. “I knew you had it in ya. Now, who else do you figure will join the Orccrushers on this adventure? The Bronzefist said we should meet in the council chamber in an hour. Have you heard anything?”
“I just decided to come myself. I haven’t heard anything. Anvil has to be coming, though I hate to think of what you two will get us into! I hope there is another follower of Moradin. We will need his help. It would also help to have one who can be a bit more….quiet than the rest of us, to scout ahead for danger.”
The brothers made their way through the winding halls, specifically designed so that no enemy could gather in great numbers in one place, back to the Council’s chambers. There was a group already gathered and, by the looks sent the brothers’ way, everyone had expected the two for a good bit of time. The whole council was seated, and all quickly took their places on the benches placed in front of the great table. The Bronzefist rose to address the group.
“Thanks to all who have come, whether invited or not,” he began, and Bek’s heart sunk considering how small the group assembled was, knowing that all would not be coming. “It’ll please yer King to know how many brave dwarves are looking to protect their people. The Council thinks a small group stands the best chance of sneakin’ out without getting caught, so there’ll be five brave dwarves in the group.” Murmurs drifted through the crowd, which numbered far more than five. “We think that young Hammersmith, the one called ‘Anvil’ should be going. He’s strong as a stone giant, and he’s a good fighter, too. But you all know we’re not for forcing any dwarf to go. What do you say, Hammersmith?”
A mountain of a dwarf with reddish brown hair and beards stood. He wore a suit of leather armor, worked with huge iron rings. On top of his helm was an anvil, which appeared to be full size. He had a broad sword on his belt and a shield strapped to his back. “I’m ready to go,” he growled confidently. His voice was so deep it was almost hard to understand him. “Just say the word.”
A round of applause echoed through the mostly empty chamber. The first adventurer had been asked and accepted, and confidence was high. After all, what would dare stand in the way of the Anvil? Bek looked over to his brother, who was waiting to leap out of his chair and accept the Bronzefist’s invitation. He smiled to himself, feeling the confidence that the huge dwarf gave to the rest of the group. The anticipation built as the Council conferred as to who they should ask next.
“Pelwin Broadaxe, bring yerself before the council.” Most of the group looked around, confused, as they had never heard this name before, but Bek grimaced to himself. Pel’s a good enough dwarf, and a devout cleric, but he won’t fight! How is he gonna help in this quest? Bek silently wondered.
A sallow-skinned dwarf crept nervously to stand in front of the Council. He wore the robes of a priest of Moradin and, in line with Bek’s assessment, carried no weapons, with the exception of a walking staff. The staff was beautifully carved, and it was topped with an ornate mithril hammer, the symbol of Moradin. He was well kept, too well kept to be a dwarf, it seemed. His hair was combed, his beard plaited and tied neatly. On his feet, where dwarves usually had sturdy boots, Pel wore light shoes, and moved so quietly that he had startled Bek on more than one occasion. Scars and scabs normally found on Dwarven faces and hands were noticeably absent. As the council spoke and Pel answered quietly, Bek scanned the remaining group to gauge reaction. Mek and the Anvil were off in one corner, too absorbed in their own conversation to be concerned with this ‘dwarf-who-looked-like-a-clerk.’ Some of the older dwarves who had come to the meeting to share in the honor of having their son picked, looked shocked, confused, or just plain angry. The Council finished their inquiry with the most important question of all.
“Pelwin Broadaxe, are ye willing to risk yer life for the good of the Citadel?”
“With Moradin’s help, I am,” Pel answered in a voice much braver than Bek had expected. Bronzefist gave him a nod of approval, and he moved silently back to his seat. Bek continued to watch Pel, trying to see if his willingness to join the group was real bravery, or a good show. Pel’s face had a look of inner peace, and Bek decided that Pel must have prayed over the decision, and accepted his choice with a clear conscience.
“Mek Orccrusher, stop yammering like an elf and present yerself before the Council!” the Bronzefist bellowed. For any other dwarf, this would have been a huge embarrassment, but Mek snorted out a laugh, and jogged over to stand in front of the great table.
“I don’t guess we have to ask if yer willing to go, huh? Yer all too ready to get yer fool head torn off, aren’t ya? Just remember, if you go get yerself killed, yer leavin’ the rest of the group without ya. And you have yer clan’s honor on yer shoulders. Don’t forget that.”
The old cleric’s serious tone faded Mek’s mischievous grin, and he nodded solemnly. “I won’t forget what I’m doin’ this for. I promise ya that.”
“I know you won’t, and that’s why we’re letting yerself go. I think that all yer ranging will come in handy, too!” Bronzefist said with a knowing smirk. “I think you’ll be more help than even yerself knows!” Mek, not used to being the one without all of the answers, blushed, bowed to the Council, and returned to his seat.
“To help us out in our time of need, one of our gnome cousins has offered his help. Garlson, bring yerself,” Bronzefist hesitated, grimaced in apparent pain, “…that is, please bring yerself in front of the Council.”
Although Bronzefist strained to use a bit of diplomatic politeness, it quickly became evident that such formalities were wasted on the newcomer to the meeting. The gnome was a bit taller than his Dwarven cousins, but weighed much less. His clothes were full of pockets and pouches, and were a patchwork of blues and greens, obscenely bright compared to the earth tones of his traveling companions. He wore a great floppy hat, and he looked like he wore the clothes of someone much bigger than himself. His hair was a brilliant gold, along with his beard, trimmed into a sharp goatee. His eyes were the same shade of blue as some of the pockets on his jacket, and they held a gleam of excitement that was both energizing and frightening. He waddled up to the Council table, and prostrated before the dwarves in an overly exaggerated bow.
“My esteemed cousins!!” he boomed, and his voice would have surely filled a cavern twice the size, “I cannot express the sincere joy and appreciation your generous offer to join your worthy quest has given me! Why, I haven’t had an adventure of these proportions since…well, sufficed to say, quite a while! Oh, just like the old days… It reminds me of a song I heard while visiting a great little pub in Baldur’s Gate…” He wiggled his fingers, and from nowhere came the sound of drums beating and cymbals crashing. The dwarves looked at the gnome like he was a three-headed ettin, but the gnome was oblivious, humming an off-key tune to himself along with the cacophony of spectral music.
“Garlson, PLEASE!!” The Bronzefist was standing at the center of the Council table, waiving his arms wildly, his face brick red.
Suddenly, the noise stopped, and Garlson looked up sheepishly. “My apologies, my good dwarf. I sometimes get… overenthusiastic. I assure you, it will not happen again.” He turned to address the astounded dwarves, as the Bronzefist sunk back down in his chair. “I assume that you, my honorable cousins, now think me a buffoon. I pledge to you all, by my honor, I will prove a worthy companion. I have many other skills in addition to the ability to start an instant party, as I will impress upon you now, with the assistance of the venerated Tharm Bronzefist! Please, my honored dwarf. ”
The Bronzefist hesitantly walked around the great table to join the eccentric gnome. “What do you need me to do?” he asked suspiciously. “I’m not one fer singin’ or dancin’.”
“No, no, your mere presence is more than adequate. What I would ask all of you is to close your eyes and count to ten.”
Many apprehensive glances were exchanged, but when the Bronzefist gave a reluctant nod and clamped his own eyes shut, all followed suit. After a few moments, gasps of horror and the ring of weapons being drawn caused the Bronzefist to snap his eyes open. The rest of the dwarves were rushing toward him, weapons drawn. At first, he thought they were attacking him, but he noticed that all of their eyes seemed to be focused over his head toward the ceiling. In what felt like slow motion, the Dwarven leader spun around to see a great leg the color of granite, and just as solid. His gaze drifted upward, past the huge chest and the hideous face of the giant to the great club, which would squish him like a bug. He immediately began to chant a prayer to Moradin, and the ground at the giant’s feet began to shift. Great spikes of stone shot up through the giant’s feet, but it didn’t move or seem to notice the damage. Bronzefist was shocked the huge beast was not affected, and started to chant a protective hymn to get more time to think of what to do against this seemingly unstoppable foe. Then, unexpectedly, the giant was gone, vanished as though it never existed. Over the shocked silence came the sound of clapping and whistling as Garlson came back to stand next to the bewildered priest.
“You dwarves are absolutely amazing!” he enthused. “You were ready to attack at a moments notice, and Master Bronzefist, you’re skill surpasses my wildest expectations! But, I do trust I have successfully demonstrated my minor skill with the illusionary arts, have I not?” He patted the cleric on the back. “I believe I could be of some small use to your party, no?” He paused as some dwarves, who had recovered from the shock, began to advance on the oblivious gnome. Once a dwarf’s battle rage is up, it is tough to just turn it off.
“Our cousin knows some good tricks, don’t he?” asked Bronzefist to his angered kinsmen, subtly waving his arms as a sign not to dismember their foolish guest. The old cleric silently wondered if pounding this fool into a bloody pile would effect their relations with the rest of the gnomish community. All the while, Garlson remained oblivious to the clan’s hostility.
“I have other skills,” he prattled on, “that might prove useful as well. Master Bronzefist, I believe this pouch is yours…?” He held up a sturdy leather pouch, which looked to hold roughly 50 gold pieces. The Bronzefist’s brows furrowed into a murderous glare. Garlson held his hands up to placate the angry dwarf. “Merely another example of my skills, my irate friend. I assure you, I have taken no gold from you. Even I know better than to steal treasure from a dwarf!!” He laughed and tossed the pouch back to the fuming dwarf, who proceeded to count every coin until he was assured the gnome had been true to his word. Many of the dwarves laughed out loud, using the Dwarven leader’s embarrassment to cool the fires of battle within them.
“Ehem…well, if you’re done ‘provin’ yer worth’ you can sit down… Quietly!!.. and let us continue with the choosing.” The cleric fought to keep his composure and regain control in the agitated hall.
“Bek Orccrusher! Bring yerself here! Now!” The command sounded harsher than intended, and Bronzefist waved his hand at his distressed apprentice to calm his fears.
“You have studied the ways of Moradin for many years, haven’t ye?”
“Yes, Master Bronzefist.”
“Well it is time to prove ye’ve been listening all this time! You are the best of all my students, Bek. That’s why I’ve decided, and the Council agrees, as does yer King, that yerself will lead this quest.”
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Tuesday, January 3, 2012, 10:28 PM
Fifteeen years ago, or maybe even a bit more, I played Dungeons & Dragons with a fantastic group in Tallahassee, Florida. I have never had more fun as a player or DM as I did with that group. We were all in our 20's, and could play from 6 in the evening until 6 in the morning without feeling too poorly the next day.
Of my characters, my favorite was Bek Orccrusher, Dwarf Cleric and twin brother to the rash theif, Mek Orccrusher. I had so much fun trying to pull Mek's hide out of the fire, shaking my head in exasperation all the while. Suffering the adverse effects of trapped rooms, fighting mostly unseen beasts in a partially submerged room, running for our lives to get to the Yawning Portal before Halaster blows us into oblivion.... good times.
As for everyone, life moves on. I got married, and had 3 boys of my own. Time became tight, and getting games in became tough. Recently, that changed. My brother-in-law, my nephew (7) and two of my sons (9 and 6) decided they wanted to play Dungeons & Dragons. I got a few new books, some more dice, and Keep on the Shadowfell. Over the winter holiday, we played a few encounters with the pre-made characters. I got to DM, so I was able to just sit back and enjoy as the boys tried to figure out strategies, role played a bit, and even took down that tough Goblin, Irontooth.
While I can't wait until we can get together again and continue this adventure, I am really looking forward to getting some playing in myself. I have the incredible good fortune of living across the street from a fantastic game store - Emerald Knights, in Burbank, California. I am in the midst of negotiating with the wife to get over to an Encounter session in the near future. And I subscribed to D&D Insider, so I can use the fantastic Character Generator. I have my first Encounters character all rolled up. He is a Dwarf Cleric, and his name is Bek Orccrusher. My old friend is ready to heft his warhammer again, and I can't wait to see him start adventuring again.
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