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Campaign Journal #1

New house, new campaign!  After a long hiatus, I’ve finally talked my lovely and adoring wife into returning to the game table.  This time, I’m going to be on the ball and record the game as it unfolds.  We were lucky enough to recruit Phil in from the get-go this time.  Since two is a little grim of a number, I’ve thrown a PC of my own into the mix, a storytelling tool that’s proven just too useful not to keep doing.  This also, of course, affords me the opportunity to do my campaign journal from an in-character perspective.

Without further ado, let me present the first game entry from my new campaign (entitled ‘What is it good for?”)

I suppose it truly began in Rotquay. Our adventures prior to that had been the run-of-the-mill sort: rousting town bullies, killing wild dogs, and the other nonsense that concerns mercenaries in the earliest parts of their careers.

Rotquay will be familiar to anyone who engages in freelance mercenary work in the southern part of the Empire. Built upon an ever decaying foundation of past construction, Rotquay squats in the center of the most out-of-reach areas of the Numbraran Empire which still have the resources to support large populations. This means the surrounding areas, from the Aegis mountains to the Couali swamps, is rife with tribes of lizardfolk, gnolls, kobolds, and goblins, as well as a vast panoply of forgotten temples, ruins, and fortresses, each home to a succession of owners, usually isolating themselves for some nefarious purpose until such time as a group of sufficiently motivated young murderers comes along with malice in their eyes and an Imperial charter in their pockets to butcher the squatters and make off with their material wealth.
The Baleflame Company was a fine outfit for a murderous young hobgoblin, and the particular couali (or swamp elves, to my cousins from the shogunate) [A] that I had been matched with were as accepting of my heritage as I could ask, and of a like temperament to myself when it came to parting our enemies from both the their lives and their property.
My first impression upon meeting them both had been how pristine they looked. The universally pale skin of the swamp elves, like unto porcelain, brings to mind an image of frailty. Of course, the sight of Killian in the depths of the bloodwrath, wading through a pile of hewn limbs with the grace of a ballet dancer and the eyes of an enraged pit fiend, tends to dispel any notion of fragility.
I had been at the tables (a habit that misfortune had not yet broken me of; that particular night had seen a small fortune come my way at a game of Pirate’s Port [B]) when Voron brokered our future with his mentor (and our sponsor), the fairy wizard Thinhickory. [C]  Thinhickory, a founding member of the Blue Banshees, had retired from active adventuring to sponsor several groups of his own. Falinah was also at that meeting, although had I known what the future held I might have kicked the door in and taken her head that very night. Zandi, the Raloraelian paladin, was also there, representing his own group, and had I known the way our own paths would cross throughout the years I might have taken off his head as well.
We all had in our heads the same goal, of course: to reach the far west, where the forces of Julium Colsus Numbra were descending upon their next targets: the island nations of Zhun and Shotan.
The three kingdoms of the Numbraran Empire had been united by that point: Upper Numbrar conceded defeat after Emperor Numbra’s brutal execution of the reigning ducal line in 795. Lower Numbrar surrendered in 797 after the Empire concluded a diplomatic negotiation to bring Cadram into its borders. Jheira resisted the longest, but in 802 the forces of the Empire stormed the Great Ziggurat of Loz, slew the high priests, and tore the edifice apart down to the last brick. Although there was a brief period of turmoil, with the Taelar Shogunate and the Ustber dwarven clans both making organized rebellions in the north, along with the Derrichol rebels and the self-styled Cyclopean King in the east, and the so-called Shadow Court in occupied Sindle, these uprisings were relatively minor, and eventually put down, mostly due to the reinstatement of the mercenary charters. [D]
The concept had been defunct since the death of Sterron Numbra, but Julium had revitalized the idea as a way to inspire people to do a good deal of his work for him. In essence, a group of three or more people signed a contract with the Empire, which gave them exemption from a number of laws (primarily in regards to grave-robbing, trespassing, and other legal impediments to breaking in to old tombs and temples in order to kill the unliving inhabitants) in exchange for a stiff tax on their earnings (in some places and with some groups as high as sixty percent). The chartered sellswords (known as free parties) were organized into companies beneath a number of sponsors, each a trusted servant of the Empire (at first hand-picked by Julium and his inner circle, later commonly selected from retired mercenaries) and in turn answering to their own sponsors, all answering eventually to the Mercenary General. This organization allowed for a much greater sharing of information, meaning lesser work could be farmed out to the newest recruits, while the more dangerous bounties or assignments could be picked up by the veteran companies. (Of course, competition was still fierce, and we wound up in as much danger sometimes from our fellow sellswords as we did from the monsters we fought.)
The best work, at the time, was in the vast land of Zhun. As ancient as the Empire, Zhun was large enough to have its own factions, who hated one another with the same level of animosity they bore for the Empire. I had my own animosities, of course: coming from the prairies of Old Numbrar, I had grown up with a venomous hatred for the Taelar Shogunate. When it became apparent that the Empire had crushed my patriarchal kin beneath their boot, (wisely allying with the free hobgoblins of the plains to do so) I chose to accompany this vast army across the ocean to bring the same humility to the shogunate of the Chiangliba mountains.
Passage was another issue entirely. Thinhickory had negotiated to the best of his abilities, but with the supply of free parties outstripping the demand, it was difficult to find one which would not gouge us in the extreme. Fortunately, the fairy had a number of contacts from his adventuring days, some within the Red Cloaks (in addition to the chartered companies, Emperor Numbra had also revived this order of spies and secret police), who offered us a way to realize our goal at a much more rate.
Voron’s eyes (he still had both at the time) practically glittered as he told us the news. If we did a simple favor for the Red Cloaks, [E] they would arrange passage for us to Zhun. A deal which seemed too good to be true (although the Red Cloaks dealt fairly with us this time, there would be other times when they would not, and of course in every occasion we found ourselves merely playing a small part in a much grander scheme), but simultaneously seemed like our only option.
It was with a grateful heart that we set out upon the road. Emperor Numbra’s campaign to police the roads in the Empire had begun to pay off. A six day journey saw us almost completely unmolested (save for a single lone ogre that we dispatched handily, and a group of half-starved gnolls that had staked out a side road in order to enforce an illegal toll). We arrived, in short order, to the Fungfallow temple, once dedicated to his Mycological Majesty, the deity Festil, now fallen into disrepair. Our task was simple: drive the current occupants out. The repercussions of carrying out that job, not only in light of where it would take us but the scope of the event we would later realize we had been involved in from the beginning, would follow the three of us down through the years, and shape the course of the entire world.

–Excerpt from “To Shine a Light in Dark Places: My Travels in Zhun” by Hijotan Dartama


A: Swamp elves, or Couali, use the statistics for Wood Elves from the Faerun Campaign Setting.  They dwell primarily in the swamps of Sindle, although they can also be found in the colder bogs and moors in Upper Numbrar and the Jadelands.  They are primitive (by elf standards) and isolationist as a general rule, although a high percentage of them travel extensively during their youth before settling down.

B: To anyone interested, Pirate’s Port is analogous to the real-world game Ship, Captain, Crew.

C: If anyone is interested, Thinhickory is a Petal (from the MM3).

D: The current year is 806 TR, fifteen years after the Homebrewed campaign.

E: If anyone missed it, the Red Cloaks were an organization that was headed by Iema, Natalia’s bard companion.


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And we have progress!.

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Sample XP Receipt

Here’s an example of the XP receipts I hand out to my players.

Here’s a breakdown:

A – Game number.  It’s presented like a periodical, with each ‘season’ running in ten episode arcs.

B – Character name.  This is a character that doesn’t actually exist in my game.  Fritz is level 5.

C – Combat XP.  I just lump it all together.  They know what they fought.  It’s the other areas where they

may not know what they earned XP for.

D – Bucking the script XP.  I tend to script out my games, with backups and contingencies to keep my PCs

‘on-plot.’  That being said, I am not going to plot-hammer them.  If they legitimately find a way

around my script, then more power to them, and I will reward them appropriately.

E – Contact XP.  The PCs earn a small amount of XP for making positive contact with NPCs.

F – Non combat challenges.  They also earn XP for overcoming challenges without resorting to violence.

G – Plot completion.  When the PCs wrap up a story, they earn a bonus for completing it.  This gives

them an impetus to wrap up the current storyline before taking downtime.

H – Teamwork bonus.  Can be awarded more than once per game.  Always equal to the average party

level times five.

I – Roleplaying bonus.  Usually awarded more than once per game.  Always equal to the average party

level times three.  I calculated Fritz’s XP incorrectly here.  It should be 15.

J – Alignment XP.  Equal to the party level times the number of adherent alignment ticks.  (See below.)

K – Total, including overall place in the group, since two players rarely have the same total.

L – Alignment drift.  I use a system of alignment ticks along a numeric graph to track alignment.  While

players are not privy to their exact score, they are told each week which direction their net

drift for that week inclined.  If they drift five or more ticks in one direction, the alignment will

be underlined, and if they have drifted far enough to be into a different alignment, then it will

be circled.  They have to end three games in the zone of the new alignment to actually change


M – Powers checks.  They don’t get to know what they were for (they should be able to figure it out) but

they do get to know how many, how severe, and whether or not they failed them.  It hasn’t ever

come out, but I do reserve the right to conceal a failed powers check if I have a reason to do so.

This part of the receipt is Ravenloft specific.


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So, my girlfriend, Spring, loves geeky things.  And recently she had the great and quasi-accidental joy of winning a bar of Hearthsoap from her friend Emma, over at ChronicGeek.  (Which I suggest you check out, regardless of your gender.)

The hearthsoap is awesome, and smells great!  It also functions as lovely decor.  I took some pictures of it for comparison, to show how much it brightens up our apartment.

Our Hearthsoap

Oh, hey, what’s this?

Hi little guy! You like our new decoration?

Wait a minute…

What do you think you're doing? Don't touch that!


Don’t worry everyone.  I got my hearthsoap back.  Unfortunately, now it’s attuned to R’lyeh.

Thanks again to Emma!  In addition, thanks to the folks at Geeksoap for creating the hearthsoap.  Also, thanks to Ruth for the adorable little marauder from beyond the stars!

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 Welcome to the Valt.  This blog is intended to provide background information for the fantasy world of Valt, created by Jim Stearns for use in fantasy gaming.  For those unfamiliar with my work, Valt is a world both alike and unalike to any you have seen before.

  Valt was never intended to support life.  The gods who came to Valt were renegades and runaways, who brought life to this place without realizing its true nature.  Those who live in Valt, however, cannot help but feel the presence of the malignant entity which resided here first, and whose foul touch pervades every corner of the world.

  But the races of humanoids cannot command the gods, and since they have no recourse but to make the best of their lives in this world, they have done exactly that.  By this time, several thousand years since gods and man first came to Valt, the humanoid races have spread across the globe, forming empires, dominating the world around them, and building their societies up in their efforts to survive in a world that can never truly be mastered.

  This is Valt.  Where things older than the gods went to slumber.  Where the renegades and the outcasts of a thousand worlds made their home.  Where the goodly races are united by a single dream, a dream they all share: to survive one more day.  Welcome to Valt.

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