After cobbling together the formative details of a new campaign I got my guinea pi...er, players set up with their characters. Since, for many of these folks, it was their first experience playing a fantasy role-playing game, I decided to skip the character creation process and let them select one of the pregens included in the Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Game. After making their selection, they went off and customized their new avatars with names, physical descriptions and some brief back-stories.
Here, then, is what they came up with:
Bria the Rogue
played by Sabina
Distinguishing features: Bria has a crescent moon tattoo burned into her right shoulder blade.
Bria was rescued at age five by a group of traveling merchants who found her lying next to the bodies of her parents just outside the village of Castebridge. She traveled all over the mainland with her nomadic foster family, learning a host of practical skills both clandestine and deadly. After making her mark as a skilled burglar in Footholde, Bria left her adoptive family and recently returned to Castebridge. Here she intends to solve the mystery of her true heritage and track down the villains who murdered her parents. Despite the fact that she's quite seasoned and street-wise, Bria sometimes betrays her young age through a lack of self-confidence.
Roman the Cleric
played by Dean
Height: 5' 11"
Weight: 175 lbs.
Distinguishing features: Roman has the name "Claudia" tattooed in a sensitive area, courtesy of a night of hypothetical passion that he barely remembers.
Lorelei the Druid
played by Cheryl
Height: 5' 5"
Distinguishing features: None that anyone has found and then lived to boast about.
Mysterious traveler from Alamein who’s exotic good looks are presumed to be a gift from her homeland. Unlike her fellow adventurer Rincewind, Lorelei is a natural spell-caster who seems to possess an in-born aptitude for all things mystical. Coupled with a keen tactical mind, she is an opponent not to be trifled with. When asked to talk about herself she usually tells people to mind their own business and quickly changes the subject. Lorelei may seem ill-tempered and overly driven to some, but occasionally she comes across as haunted by some unknown tragedy. Although she's clearly a stranger in a strange land, she often displays an eerie affinity and familiarity with this new continent. For whatever reason, this seems to give her little personal comfort. When challenged, even her sworn bodyguard Barant is at a loss to explain why she's here and what her motivations are.
Rincewind the "WIZZARD"
played by Tom
(with apologies to Terry Pratchett)
Distinguishing features: If Rincewind has any distinguishing features, he's not aware of it. Then again, he's also barely aware of what town he's in.
Ever since he can remember, all Rincewind ever wanted to be was a mage. As soon as he was old enough, he applied to study at a school for mages in Footholde. Unfortunately, it soon became glaringly obvious that he had absolutely no aptitude for sorcery whatsoever. Desspite his best efforts, Rince's reputation for incompetence grew to nigh-legendary proportions and eventually he was kicked out under a cloud of scandal and ridicule. Rincewind then ventured to Castebridge to seek solitude, hoping to learn magic on his own terms. Despite his questionable level of bravery, Rincewind is starting to show promise as a wizard, probably because he's now free from the scrutiny of academia. Although his appearance could best be described as "odd", he's also a creative thinker who’s three dimensional plans often extricate him from sticky situations after his magic has fizzled.
After sizing up this motley crew I decided to beef up their ranks with a meat-shield NPC:
Barant des Apres the Fighter
A charismatic scoundrel that was kicked out of the Footholde town guard for laziness, cowardice and impudence. He just so happened to be in a drunken stupor when he pledged to escort the fetching Lorelei to Castebridge on her quest of self-discovery. Although his promise to Lorelei was made under questionable circumstances, he continues to stand by her, perhaps hoping that it will lend his life some meaning and guidance. At face value, Barant appears to be a foppish dandy, which often serves to lull his opponents into overconfidence. Whenever his lady is threatened, however, Barant is quick to reveal himself as a fierce warrior and a skilled swordsman. Despite his outwardly carefree attitude, he seems genuinely concerned that his life thus far has had no meaning and he may end with little or nothing to show for it.
I then proceeded to tempt this pack of misfits with the following invitation posted around town:
T'was this cryptic proclamation that compelled these hardy souls to visit the Rambling Rogue tavern on that fateful day. The gathering itself was hosted by Lord Denneth the Mayor of Castebridge, Valais the Petty Alderman, Baron Gilles de Vrais (former Mayor and now Baron of Terecassé in Alamein), Chief Bailiff Durant de Montfort as well as the tavern owner Falstaff. After some intense discussion with the Baron, Denneth finally called the meeting to order.
"Greetings! I thank you all for coming out. I'd expected a larger turnout, but with your lot becoming increasingly endangered in these parts nowadays, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. It’ll just make my job a spot easier, eh?"
For an endless moment everyone in the pub could hear crickets chirping. As the Baron massaged his temples in obvious pain, Denneth chuckled awkwardly and then plowed on.
"I suppose you’d like to know why we've asked you here. Well, to state the obvious in no uncertain terms, Castebridge is a town besieged by savagery. Initially we'd hoped that our brave men town militia could be called upon to bring order to the surrounding countryside but this proved to be rather...impractical. Ideally, we want our town guard to remain committed to their primary role, that of defenders of our proud hamlet. Besides, we've since discovered that they were lacking in certain specialized 'skills' required to succeed in these ventures. Which brings me to you.
"At the behest of town council, you'll be tasked to perform certain...missions. In addition to being paid a flat fee for your efforts, you will also retain salvage rights for any recovered sundries that have no claim of ownership. As an added bonus, our illustrious host, Falstaff has agreed to let you all stay at the Strongholde Inn for free tonight and at half the regular rate each subsequent night. All of your meals will be included in this fee."
After a brief Q&A, Denneth offered his congratulations to the successful candidates. The celebration was short-lived however, as a wild, burly-looking fellow burst into the tavern, shouting for the Mayor. Denneth took him aside, but quickly grew impatient with the interloper. Eventually he turned back to address the group, leaving the panicked visitor standing around looking dejected and frustrated. The Mayor quickly apologized for the interruption, but the flurry of questions that followed derailed any chance of ignoring the intruder.
Denneth rolled his eyes as he explained:
"Please, I beseech you, pay him no heed," he said dismissively. "He claims that some sort of creature roams the woods near the lumber camp to the east. The locals attribute healing powers to it..."
"Tis true!" hollered the woodsmen, who's name was Beren. "It healed Elron right up that one time when he nearly cut his own peck..."
"It’s not important," Denneth interrupted, dismissing Beren with a wave and leaning in to address the adventurers in hushed tones. "He's probably drunk out his gourd on flaxberry wine..."
When he was finally allowed to speak, Beren went on to say that he witnessed a war party of goblins capture this creature of legend: an ivory unicorn. He explained that the goblins make their home in the catacombs underneath the ancient ruins of a long-abandoned house to the north-east.
Much to Denneth’s chagrin, the newly-forged Fellowship collectively decided to venture forth and confront the goblins.
"Well, if you decide to do this then you will do so by your own accord," sniffed Denneth. "You'll receive no compensation from us."
After much consternation, the Baron called Denneth back to his table. Clearly incensed, the Mayor soon returned with an offer of twenty Gold Crowns apiece to make the woodsmen happy. Although the newly-minted alliance had its first assignment, everyone was left chomping at the bit when they were told that the city gates were locked up tight for the evening.
Their first expedition would have to wait until morning.
Solstice 18, 1492
The group left in good spirits early the following morning, taking care to stay well clear of Tanglewood Forest and its rumored denizens. Bria used her lock-picking skills to get the jump on the goblin wardens, but Rincewind’s curiosity got the better of him. He was knocked into mystical unconsciousness while opening a treasure chest when all of the others were preoccupied by battle.
Despite this minor setback, the noble unicorn was liberated and, with their first humble victory under their belts, the Fellowship returned to town in triumph!
Next time out: a founding member of the group gets Yoko Ono'ed and a new arrival becomes his secret replacement! Plus...the challenges get a lot harder and the group has an increasingly difficult time distinguishing friend from foe.
PHOTO CREDITS: Bria, Roman, Lorelei, Rincewind, Barant, unicorn, goblin.