D&D Chronicles: Beautiful refuge (lockdown style)

D&D lockdown style! The Great Pestilence forced us to move our game to an online platform and play from the comfort of our own (in my case) home office. We managed pretty well — more thoughts on that at the end of the post.

Meanwhile, our intrepid party had just defeated the orcs and won what was left of the treasure. We were left wondering —

Can we succeed in restoring our fallen companions? What on earth will we do next?


SARIEL

The holy dale of Labelas is everything I could have wished, and more. In the space of a week, my whole world has been upturned.

Remaking

Labelas Eronath, god of future sight, history and healing, has blessed and remade and marked me. I feel closer to my kin than I have in months.

I was dizzy and disoriented at first, emerging from the water. I did not recognise the underground chamber with the pool, overlooked by the god’s benevolent eyes. I barely recognised Aramil, first to haul me out of the water and clasp me to his chest…

My first thought was, he’s alive! Then I realised he was changed and I was changed too. The others stood around the edge of the water, looking relieved.

I understood then that I too had died, to be remade in the holy pool of Labelas.

Memory flooded back to our arrival at the dale. I had leapt over the magicked vines and found a way to let my companions and the cart through the entrance. Then those awful flying bloodsuckers that made me so weak… the water elemental that near-drowned me… the creature that ate Banyon and gripped Taz in its maw. A blinding white light —

A behir, they told me. The lightning blast so strong it threw me off the cliff ledge onto the valley floor.

So, I died. And have now been reborn into new skin.

Gone are all my old tattoos — representing my clan, bardic school and bonds of friendship. Now, the image of a stag adorns my shoulder, and sprays of vine leaves entwine both my wrists. Aramil bears the same. (I think he is more devastated than me for the loss of his former markings.)

The stag is the mark of Labelas. The other bears testament to an oath I have sworn.

The dale of Labelas

Over the following days, my friends filled me in on what else they found in this miraculous place and I had the opportunity to explore it for myself.

I have paid my respects to the fallen guardians of the dale: Doreah of the bow, Glynkas the faithful, and Edennile the last guardian, whose bones we’ve retrieved from the water and laid to rest with the proper rites of our people. Edennile also left a journal, which I have read several times. On every reading, I weep at his despair and celebrate his courage.

The sunset after my remaking, we restored Brosia. They were even more confused than I, having missed all our adventures with the orcs while transformed to stone, not to mention being confronted by many new companions. Brosia now bears the same markings as me and Aramil.

The following sunset, Aramina descended into the pool and emerged with her club foot completely healed.

The dale of Labelas is bountiful, with wild, productive gardens and plenty of shelter. Not to mention the pure, clean water that flows out of the holy pool inside the caves to form a pond outside. Now that the behir has been slain by my companions, this secluded valley is a beautiful refuge.

But we have also made it vulnerable. I am determined to send word to my people of what has happened here. Until reinforcements are sent, Drystan and the slaves we rescued are going to stay here as guardians.

So, our party of companions will now disperse.

Thomas and TJ will head back to resume their lives in Rivermeet, having laid their loved ones to rest here in the dale. I truly hope I meet them again, for they have become dear to me.

I believe Aramina will travel with them for part of the way, before heading to Alek’s father’s holdings on the Serpentine Way. Aramina is heir to the lost ruling house of the Fedulians, and apparently Alek’s father is a Fedulian baron of some rank… I don’t pretend to understand or be interested in Fedulian politics, but Alek has clearly been currying favour with the lady. It seems Taz will accompany Aramina for companionship.

Visions and oaths

As for myself and my fellow watch companions… Well, it seems we are to follow a path we had not foreseen.

Before I was remade, I had a vision.

An ally of Labelas warned me that our old foe is rising in the south, but they are vulnerable to a mighty artefact that has been lost. He gave me a few cryptic hints about the artefact and its location, and invited me to commit myself to the quest to find it.

So I have done.

I am now oathsworn to do all in my power to find this artefact and use it to vanquish our ancient foe. Even though it takes me to the notorious place in the mountains, west of my home, where I have never yet dared go. Azan Gedat, where the members of my family were slaughtered in their beds one fateful night two decades ago.

Azan Gedat. It both haunts and intrigues me.

My companions also dreamed and swore the oath, evidenced by the vines entwined at their wrists. Our dreams were all different, as though we’ve each been given a different piece of a puzzle we need to fit together. But our goal remains the same:

Defeat the ancient enemy who would ransack the human towns and burn down my beloved forests of Malos.

It is the drow. I was already certain, after what we saw in the cavern below the orc stronghold, and am now even more so. Until my vision, I was ready to follow the drow emissaries’ caravan south and see what we could discover. But now we have another option, one that will hopefully bolster our chance of winning.

My blood trembles at the thought.

Instead of south, we will head north to Azan Gedat.


Thoughts on D&D lockdown style

Overall, we all much prefer playing in person, sitting around a shared table with several bottles of good wine and cheese and other snacks. Playing this game with friends has become a valued part of my social life and an excuse to crack the premium wine.

All the same, our foray into an online platform has been pretty successful, and has proved an able method of keeping the game going during lockdown.

For the virtual tabletop, we’ve been using the free roll20 platform without video, choosing to use voice only and focus on the shared virtual tabletop (controlled by the DM). This meant we input all the stats from our individual character sheets and use the roll20 dice-rolling function.

We can also move our own characters around the provided map — see below. (The blacked-out parts are areas our characters haven’t seen yet.)

We also tried out the Discord voice channel, once to provide the audio for our roll20 session, and a few times to discuss aspects of the game. Discord offers more advanced text-based chat options, with group chat or one-one (secret) conversations easy to navigate.

Things I like about using the virtual tabletop: auto-calculation on dice rolls (assuming you have input the data correctly); ability to use halo for spell effects (as above); I can spread out my notes across my desk; the food doesn’t get in the way of the map (LOL); ability for secret conversations using chat without leaving the room…

But these aspects don’t come close to outweighing the benefits of playing in person.

Still, I think once the world goes back to normal, we’ll still be able to use these online platforms for short ‘in between’ sessions to optimise the time we have when we get together.

For instance, we’ve had a few ‘in between’ sessions in the past few weeks — to do some game housekeeping, such as work some spells to identify a bunch of magic stuff we found, and share the details of our dreams so we could figure out what to do next!

Azan Gedat, here we come!

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