Chapter 2: The Evening Watch and Quiffel Soup Part 1.

Zee perched on the edge of the rock face. He could hear the distant sound of the people of Yeigroth City going about their afternoon business. He had been tasked with watching the Follg pass, a large, naturally occurring staircase which led for miles to the surface world. It was first found by Glendora the betrayer, a cruel necromancer of legend who used it to sneak to the surface and strike a bargain with some daemon lord who nearly eradicated the race of man. Or so the story went, as Zee had been told it. Ever since that day the city elders feared mighty armies of men would march on their precious underground haven in search of revenge. ‘Why would they?’ thought Zee. Surface dwellers did not dare venture this far down for fear of getting captured and fed to giant Tunnel Naga or being cooked alive by some savage Dark Elf. Zee laughed quietly to himself at the thought. He was quite happy for them to have these ridiculous impressions of his race as he liked that men left his people alone. Besides, he had no intention of leaving the city Yeigroth. He had unfinished business and a mystery to solve.

For the watch Zee had brought his light-weight, custom carved crossbow and wore dark brown leather body armour under a long grey cloak. His naturally obsidian skin was the perfect camouflage in the murky caverns of the Under-dark however, his ash white hair had to be tied back as to stop it standing out like a beacon in the shadows. This particular duty was not a favourite of Zees, he was only here as a punishment because of his sister Lilly. The head of the Yeigroth Garrison, Captain Edyrm, had found stolen rations in her bunk and Zee had taken the punishment in his sister’s place. However improbable, today could be the day the armies of man come and he felt a duty to put her in as little danger as possible.

Lilly was the younger of the two siblings by 3 years. She always had sweet intentions but often got the two of them into trouble and this time she had been caught stealing Quiffel mushrooms. ‘Probably to make stew’ thought Zee. It was a simple dish but he knew it reminded her, just like him, of home and the last meal he, Lilly and their parents had together. That was the last happy memory Zee had. The next day their parents departed on a simple trade job but disappeared without a trace and both their lives were thrown into dismay ever since. After a sloppy, half-hearted investigation was conducted by the tunnel road company which turned up nothing, they were sent to live with their aunt in Niffren. Now, ten years later, they had returned to Yeigroth and enrolled into the Garrison Guard. Zee hoped to secretly investigate their parents’ disappearance and find answers but thought Lilly was too kind hearted and immature. Because of that he had been hard on her these past few years but Zee considered it their family duty to solve the mystery and find their parents.

“Zee” a familiar voice whispered. It was Lilly. Zee was known for having the best sense of smell and hearing in all of Yeigroth Garrison. He claimed he could tell you how many legs a Dwindler Spider had from placing his ear to the ground and focusing on its movement from more than a mile away however, his sister was equally as talented in the art of stealth. She had once snuck past several guards, stolen Edyrms personal duty ledger and replaced it with a fake just to get them out of morning shifts. Together Lilly and Zee made the perfect team but he did despise her ability to sneak up on him.

“Old Edyrm didn’t manage to find them all” Said Lilly as she produced a small metallic pot and wooden spoon from her cloak. “Happy birthday brother” she said with a smirk on her face. He looked down as she twisted the lid open to reveal a still steaming Quiffel Stew. ‘His Birthday?’ he thought, ‘She got him in trouble over his birthday?’ A look of anger flashed over Zee’s face for a moment until the smell hit his nostrils and filled his mind with memoires of him and Lilly and their parents. He then remembered how sweet his sister was and how she was only trying to do something special for him, ‘perhaps he had been too hard on her’ Zee thought. He looked up and smiled at his sister, “We will find them sister, I promise you”.

The two sat together, shared the Quiffel stew and reminisced about happier times. Zee couldn’t remember the last time he and his sister spent time like this together and when the next guard came to take over Zee sent him away in order to spend more time with his sister. Hours passed and Lilly, after much conversation, had fallen asleep on the grey cloak Zee had placed down for them to sit on.

Slowly the distant noise of Yeigroth City faded signifying the end of the working day. Zee was just about to wake his sister up when he noticed shadows moving in the distance by the entrance to Follg pass. He quietly and carefully reached for his crossbow and crept towards the crest of the shadowy rock they were hidden behind. He let his eyes adjust for a moment to the dark and peered out looking for any sign of movement. ‘It couldn’t be Dwindler spiders again? It wasn’t the season for them’ Zee thought. Suddenly he saw the shadow move again. Zee concentrated for any sound he could make out. “I’m telling you now missy, this isn’t the way! You’ve had me trudging through these dam mouldy caves for days. Contrary to my looks I much prefer the skies you know!” said a gritty male voice. Into view came the silhouettes of two figures that stopped at the cave entrance. One tall, one very short. “Well if you hadn’t been so insistent on taking the tunnels then we would have arrived here with plenty of sand left in the hourglass. I don’t think I need to explain that we don’t have much of that sand to spare so next time just let me teleport us” Said the second voice. It was female but Zee couldn’t tell which voice belonged to which figure. “No magic! You know I don’t trust the stuff” Said the male voice again as the short figure pointed toward the tall one with what looked like an axe. Zee didn’t know who these people where but he had orders to stop any non-Dark Elf coming from Follg Pass and that short figure was definitely not a Dark Elf. Zee levelled his crossbow at the figure and placed his thumb on the leaver trigger. He took a deep breath in then exhaled slowly. Without a second thought he let the bolt loose towards the unsuspecting target.

Coming very soon – D&D fiction

Fêhc, my elvish barbarian character, rendered in Lego form by my son

I’ve just finished playing in a great D&D 5th Edition campaign. I joined a local group a couple of years back to play Feng Shui 2. One of the group’s number was away at the time, but when he returned and we’d finished the Feng Shui, he volunteered to run an campaign. The setting was Taldera, a world of his own creation but with most of the standard D&D tropes in place.

Apart from one session just after 5th ed at come out, I had not played D&D since my school group had spurned D&D for the “far superior” (as we decided, with all the confidence only a bunch of 12 to 14 year olds can have) systems of Runequest and Traveller. But that one 5th ed session I’d played in had encouraged me to buy the players handbook and I liked what I read, so I was very pleased to participate when he asked me to join.

I have to take a moment here to praise my fellow players, Jase, Tom, Thom and (before he left for university) Ashley and (when she joined for the later chapters) Sophia. You couldn’t ask for a nicer bunch of weirdos-you-only-know-through-your-local-games-shop. Together we played D&D as it should be played, tackling monsters, exploring catacombs, solving puzzles and risking our (characters’) lives with just the right level of silliness. We started off in the traditional manner, using maps and figures. But none of us had the traditional fantasy miniatures (it really hard to find “naked elf barbarian” in any manufacturer’s range), we used everything from tiddlywinks, through sculpted Blu-Tack to Lego. And as the scope and scale of the campaign grew, we dropped the floorplans for more of a “theatre of the mind” style of play. Only two characters survived from beginning to end. I won’t say who, because “spoilers”.

You see, the real star of our little gang was the DM, Jamie Lubbock, who took every decision we made in his stride, and shaped the world and the story around us. It was a great campaign, so good in fact, that its inspired Jamie to fictionalise it. Starting this evening Jamie plans to publish a chapter a week, on this very blog.

These won’t be session reports, but rather a work of fiction, authored by Jamie, inspired by what we did as players, but building on the story, not sticking strictly how the events played out at the table. I’ve had a preview of the first chapter, and I’m excited to see where it goes. Well, I know where it goes of course, I was playing. But I excited to see how it gets there.

So, please welcome Jamie Lubbock, the very first author who isn’t me FictionSuit.

#RPGaDay What have I played most in the last 12 months?

I've played more D&D in the last calendar year than I have ever played in my whole life.

I ought to clarify. D&D was my first RPG. I bought the GW boxed edition back in 1978, I think during the summer holidays before going to secondary school. But my first attempt at playing it was a disaster. I recall inviting my friend John around and us trying to get our heads around the rules. We failed – I particularly remember being stumped by a paragraph that explained how you'd get your party together by putting a notice in a local tavern and seeing who responded.

So we ran around the garden instead, shooting each other with pointed fingers. (No kids ever play "War" now – have you noticed that? Its probably a good thing.) When I got to school however, I found a "Wargames Club" that introduced me to D&D (actually it was AD&D, causing me to ask for all those hardbacks for Christmas). But we only played a few sessions of that before somebody brought Traveller into the room, then there was RuneQuest, Toon and a whole bunch of others, and those AD&D books I got for Christmas turned out to be a waste of various family members money.

We developed a sniffy attitude to D&D, with its levels and lack of skills. Traveller and RuneQuest (actually Call of Cthulhu) were the thing. And then when they brought out a second edition we were able to blame TSR for wasting our money on those unplayed AD&D books, and turned our backs on them.

I never played another game of D&D. (Actually I remember taking a school team to Reading University for a D&D competition(!) at GenConUK. We were hammered, out in the first round.) So I missed out on all the "edition wars" of third, 3.5 and fourth. But I was invited to join a campaign (which was actually reaching its last session when I finally managed to get there) using the then newly published fifth edition rules. No longer relying on grandparents to buy my D&D books I bought the Players Handbook on a whim. I'm glad I did, because every other player at the table, including the GM, had pirated PDF copies of the books.

I really liked fifth edition, levels and all, and even though that campaign was finishing as I joined, I got in on the first session of a new, weekly, campaign last year. These regular sessions are such great fun, and totally outnumber all my other sessions with other systems. My elf barbarian is fifth level now, and has recently discovered the pleasure of wearing clothes (much to my fellow players' relief).

It's not the ONLY game I've been playing though: I joined that particular group because they were playing Feng Shui 2, and my somewhat irregular get togethers with my oldest group have involved L5R, Song of Ice and Fire, Pendragon, Nights Black Agents and Coriolis. I've even been on line to run a session of The Warren (more on this in a later post).