They Say Everyone Has a Book in Them….

…and in my case it’s true!

I’ve been quiet lately because I’ve been working on a number of writing projects, some of them gaming-related.  I’m happy to share that a project I’ve been working on for Fat Goblin Games has now been published!  I have written a book!

Heritage Composer is a character design aid that helps players and Gamemasters using the TinyD6 system modify existing character Heritages, or design brand-new ones.  I adopted a genre-neutral approach to ensure that it could be used with any TinyD6 game setting (and I do mean any.)  I also crafted rules for designing characters with multiple Heritages, designing Animal Companion player characters, and rules for creating Monster characters.  I really wanted this to be a one-stop resource that will complement any game.

I was given a lot of leeway to write the book, and the editorial team at FGG are a pleasure to work with.  I look forward to more projects with them!

HeritageComposerCover

This Just In…. (a slightly late mid-year review)

It’s been a while since I posted something.

Partly this is because of events in Real Life™ (job and whatnot), and also concerted efforts on my part to capitalize on progress made in game writing, which is beginning to bear fruit. I’ve also been trying to get back on the regular writing bandwagon, thanks to my friend and fellow author Derek Künsken, who once challenged me to write 300 words per day as a way of generating more stories. I resumed that practice in April, and at the time of writing this blog post have drafted 34,325 words. It may not seem like a lot, but it is more than I would have otherwise produced, and in the process I wrote a number of things that have either been accepted for publication or are still making the rounds. So without further ado, here is how things are shaping up so far this year…

Fiction

Four(!) works of fiction have been published this year by publishers, so that makes me happy.

First, Pole-to-Pole Publishing picked up “Deadly Cargo”, my Lovecraftian tale of terror on the Great Lakes, for inclusion in their reprint anthology entitled Re-Terrify, which was reviewed very awesomely by Ottawa-based horror author and podcaster Lydia Peever! This story is special to me because it’s the first historical piece I ever wrote, and it is set in Ontario’s Prince Edward County, which is where I’ve spent a good portion of time over the years, and is itself a place steeped in history.

Re-Terrify Cover
Second, Lycan Valley Publishing released its Subliminal Reality anthology, which features my story “The Draught of Dreams”. I’m especially proud of this one because it happens to be one of the first short stories I ever wrote, which I’ve submitted to a number of markets and never abandoned. It really does pay off to be persistent.

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Third, “By a Thread”, an alternative fantasy story I co-wrote with my partner, Fiona Plunkett, is appearing in EDGE Publishing’s long-running Tesseracts series of anthologies. Tesseracts 22: Alchemy and Artifacts, is out now!

Book Cover

Finally (and this is big for me), The NoSleep Podcast picked up my flash fiction story entitled, “Passing On” (which about laying family grievances to rest – and what can happen when they rise up again) for inclusion in their Suddenly Shocking series. This is the first time any of my work has made it into audio, so this is a real first for me.

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Roleplaying

The bulk of my game writing this year has been for Sentinel Hill Press’s Arkham Gazette, which is an awesome magazine for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game that features new adventure scenarios; characters or monsters for the players to encounter; evil tomes to acquire; and so on. A number of articles will be appearing in upcoming issues – due out fairly soon! I won’t say too much about what I created, but issues 4, 5, and 6 will feature a possibly sinister school in Kingsport (as well as a strange pond just outside of town); numerous strange curios (which may help or hinder players) that the players can come across in their investigations; and an adventure outline scenario that could put the players on the trail of a missing journalist. There could be even more in the offing but it’s still early days, yet.

I’ve also designed a collection of interesting random tables for Rogue Comet’s Dungeonesque game, which is an accessible version of D&D 5E. There could be more projects in the wings, but time will tell.

Finally, I am now a freelancer for Fat Goblin Games! I’m working on a product for the TinyD6 “rules lite” game engine, and I’ll be able to say more when it’s closer to being done.

 

If nothing else, all of this activity keeps me out of trouble!

 

…And That’s the Kind of Year It’s Been

At one point I promised myself I would improve my blogging habits, as it’s important to have something to shoot for. I’m happy to report that I continue to have a goal in this department. While I didn’t post much here in 2018, a lot did, in fact, go on – perhaps it’s accurate to say that I was busy trying to do things that would be worthy to post here.

Yeah, we’ll go with that.

So, without further ado, I’ll run though how 2018 shaped up for me…

Fiction

The year started off with a high note when I learned that “The Wind Father”, my Lovecraftian weird western story that was published in 2017 by Third Flatiron Publishing in their Principia Ponderosa anthology, made it onto Tangent Online’s 2017 Recommended Reading list . This was almost as good as winning an award, and it buoyed my spirits in the early months of 2018.

In May, “Full House”, a science fiction story I co-wrote with my partner, Fiona Plunkett, was picked up by Exile Editions for their Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland anthology. This story was intended to be a fast-paced piece with space operatic overtones, and I was glad that Tangent Online also thought so. We had a successful book launch in Ottawa, and followed up with more readings later that year at CAN*CON. I was especially happy that “Full House” got the nod because I’ve long been a fan of space opera and wanted to get something published in that genre. Fiona and I ended the story with Alis and Risus heading out for further adventures, and I plan to see where they end up. 😉

Around the same time, I received word that a horror story of mine called, “The Draught of Dreams” had been accepted by Lycan Valley Publishing for their “Subliminal Realities” anthology. This was especially satisfying because this was one of the first stories I ever wrote, and each rejection (more than I care to count) only made me even more certain that it was a tale that needed to be told. The book is due out soon, and I happy the story finally has a home.

This year was also a good one for reprints—two, in fact. “Giving At The Office”, which originally appeared in Dusty Wallace’s People Eating People (2014), was picked up by Digital Fiction Publishing for their latest horror anthology. Also, my Lovecraftian tale of terror on the Great Lakes, “Deadly Cargo”, will appear in Pole-to-Pole Publishing’s “Re-Terrify” anthology, due to come out soon.

More recently I received word that another story of mine has been accepted in an anthology due for release in early 2019, but I can’t say more for the moment… 😉

Gaming

For the past couple of years I had been devoting a considerable amount of energy to my work for The Ed Greenwood Group, but when the company folded I saw an opportunity to take what I learned and cast my net out farther. I’m happy to say that a few articles of mine will be appearing in the next issue of Arkham Gazette, a Call of Cthulhu-themed magazine produced by Sentinel Hill Press under license from Chaosium, Inc. Writing material for my favourite Lovecraftian game has long been a career goal of mine, and getting my foot in the door makes me feel like I levelled-up (pun slightly intended). There is the possibility of more work with SHP, so time will tell.

2018 was also a turning point for me, game-writing wise, because it was the first time a professional market approached me to write something for them. Expeditious Retreat Press asked me for an adventure module, and I happily delivered one to them in the horror vein. Stay tuned for updates on when it will come out!

Other stuff is on tap for 2019, but again I can’t say anything about it right now.

Other Awesomeness

Perhaps the most surprising thing that happened this year was when Tito Ferradans, a Vancouver-based film-maker, approached me for the rights to make a short film based on my short story, White Noise”, which was first published by AE Science Fiction in 2013, and re-printed in the anthology, Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse”. This has been a hugely exciting experience, and I can’t wait to see the final product! Tito created an Indiegogo campaign to finance the making of this film. There’s still some time left before the campaign ends, so I invite you to check it out and support an indie film-maker!

My friend and writing buddy, Brandon Crilly, kindly interviewed us about the film and the story behind it.

All things considered, it *has* been quite a year…and I wouldn’t have wanted it to turn out any other way. Here’s to hoping 2019 proves to be just as fruitful!

Back to Adventure

While much of my focus, roleplaying-wise, is now on working with an awesome team of Creatives to develop The Ed Greenwood Group‘s world of Stormtalons, I still produce other works from time to time.

I’m very happy to announce the publication of my latest roleplaying adventure module, “The Crocodile’s Tear”, by Expeditious Retreat Press, an independent publisher of quality, old-school roleplaying games of a variety of genres – from high fantasy to gritty modern espionage. This is the third module of mine that they have published, and I enjoy working with them.

AA34 Cover

A “New” Roleplaying Release

As I’ve said a few times, I started my writing career in the roleplaying world.  The many hours spent adventuring in the imaginary worlds Dungeons and Dragons and similar games fuelled my imagination in ways that movies, TV shows, and even books never could.  After I’d run a few adventures of my own, I read the professionally-published adventure modules with a more critical eye.  The storylines offered the blend of heroism and peril that I found engaging, the adventure locales they presented were often interesting, but I couldn’t help but walk away slightly dissatisfied.  There wasn’t enough history.  I wanted to know more about the motivations of some of the personalities the players would meet along the way.  I often saw opportunities for further adventures that the module writers hadn’t explored (or, more realistically, didn’t have the time to explore because of production schedules).

So I started writing modules of my own, and in so doing learned quite a bit about how to structure a storyline (a well crafted adventure is a highly interactive story, after all), and how to build a world on a small scale.  I also derived a lot of satisfaction from producing something tangible that other people could read and use at their leisure.  After I joined the online roleplaying community and connected with like-minded people, I found an audience as well as friends and colleagues with whom I could share ideas, and give and receive constructive criticism that pushed me even farther along my path.  Eventually I moved into writing fiction, but I never forgot my roots and I enjoy returning to them from time to time.

With all that in mind I am very happy to share my latest release, an adventure module for Dungeons and Dragons (although it could be used with any system with a bit of tweaking) entitled “The Wanderer’s Grave”.  This product is free to use and share, and if you have any comments I would love to hear them.

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Happy adventuring!

 

My CAN-CON Schedule!

It’s been a very busy several months for a variety of reasons, and I have lots of great updates to share.  But all in good time….

In the meantime, I am posting my schedule for CAN-CON, Ottawa’s own science fiction and speculative fiction convention. If you haven’t been, I strongly suggest you go – we have an excellent program lined up and there is sure to be something for everyone.

Here are the panels I will be participating in…

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 3

  • 7:00 PM: “Be It Resolved: Stop Writing Novels – Write Short Fiction” – The Live Debate!
  • 9:00 PM: “RPGs: How the Industry Has Changed, Open Gaming Licenses, and Breaking In”

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 4

  • 6:00 PM: “Organic Readings with Gratuitous Punctuation” – I am reading from my short story, The Old Boys Club (which appears in Imaginarium 2013, which should be available at the ChiZine Table)
  • 7:00 PM: “Email Spam: Can a Narrative be Created?”

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 5

  • 12:00 PM: “Guardians of the Galaxy – The Phenomenon”

What’s Old is New Again

Artistic expression – any kind – is a form of discovery in my view. Whatever the medium, you give life to ideas and set them free through the creative process, and in so doing you can learn a bit about yourself. Depending on the circumstances you can also experience a form of discovery by revisiting, and rethinking, something you created a long time ago in order to create something new.

Case in point: The next issue of Threshold Magazine (#3), a publication by and for fans of the Mystara campaign setting for the D&D game, will feature an article I wrote several years ago about an exotic (and highly dangerous) island that players could visit – and possibly even return from. I was a very prolific member of the Mystara writing community at the time it was first written, and many of my works centred on the Lovecraft-inspired Outer Beings, which I had just begun to develop. I was also a more exuberant writer then and explored many ideas in quick one-offs, such as the article in question, that I rarely revisited. Given my current writing interests, this seemed to be the perfect piece to explore.

A regular feature of Threshold Magazine is that it combs through the extensive Vaults of Pandius (the nexus and main archive for the Mystara community) to shine some light on older works that people may have overlooked, or forgotten. The original author is then invited to revisit their old work to expand on it, comment on it, and so on. So, when the theme for issue 3 was being discussed, I proposed my article for possible inclusion, and received the green light. I then hopped into my TARDIS and got to work.

Working with my younger self has been an interesting challenge. While he was full of ideas, he didn’t flesh them out to the extent that I would today (“I wish you’d expanded on that a bit more,” I told myself a number of times), and his approach to incorporating Lovecraftian elements into D&D tended more towards action-oriented pulp than dark fantasy. However, he was also more likely to run with a random idea and see where it went than I, accustomed as I am now to thinking about how an editor or publisher will react to something I write. He also had energy to burn, if the sheer amount of material he released to the community during that time is anything to go by. We turned out to be a pretty good team, in the end – even though there were a few “what was I thinking?!?” moments.

Despite the occasional frustration, I did achieve what I had set out to do. I revisited an old project and updated it in a way that suits my present tastes – thanks to my deeper knowledge of writing that my younger self lacked, and to advances in technology (digital hex maps are much easier to create now than they were when I first wrote the article). Revisiting my old work was like reuniting with an old friend, but while it was enjoyable it was also good to return to the present, and look towards the future.

Now *THAT’S* a Character Sketch!

Sharon (roryseviltwin on Deviant Art) has made the art I commissioned public. It was very exciting working with her to make Megane the Dark real, in full, living colour. She is exactly as I imagined she would be – you can check out the description here.

Sharon is wonderful to work with, and I highly recommend her. I will definitely be going back to her for future commissions. Check out her Deviant Art gallery!

Bringing Characters to Life

I’m enjoying a bit of time off during the holiday season, but in the meantime I’m sharing a small piece of some art I commissioned. One of the characters for my blog series on cultists was created with the help of one of my friends, and the end result was so interesting that I thought it should be brought to life.

Working with the artist was a very positive experience, and she was able to create a realistic drawing of the character based only on the text from my blog post, plus a few follow-up questions. Here is a small piece of the final product – I will share the link when the artist formally posts it on her Deviant Art profile.

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Death and Destruction from the Deeps: More Followers of the Forbidden for your Campaign

The seventh, and final, installment of my series on memorable cultists to pit against your players will present a couple of worshippers of Ubbeth, the Outer Being whose domain is the watery deeps.  An overview of Ubbeth and His aims, as well as those of the other six major Outer Beings, can be found in a cosmology I wrote, which is available on Bruce Heard’s blog.

As with the other parts of this series, everything written here is set in the campaign setting known as “Mystara” in the year AC 1000.  Readers are, of course, welcome to modify the material to suit their own campaigns.

Mystara Alphatia Frisland Heraldry
(image courtesy of Bruce Heard)

DEMETRIOS, APOSTLE OF DAGOS

Background:  Demetrios Sistovaris was born in the village of Klasomenai, on the fringes of Kastelian-controlled territory, in AC 946.  Most of the inhabitants of his village made their livelihoods from the sea, and his family was no exception.  He could swim before he could walk, and by the time he could run he was already helping his father bring in his catches.  Klasomenai had always been blessed with plentiful fish compared to its nearest neighbours, due (according to the faithful) to the reverence of most of its people for their chosen patron, Dagos (otherwise known as Ubbeth).  The other inhabitants of the region, although jealous of Klaomenai’s good fortune, shun its folk due to the prevalence of their strange deformities, which seem to grow progressively worse with age.

None of this had any meaning for Demetrios throughout his childhood, as neither he nor anyone he knew had any contact with outsiders, and thus the progressive changes that affected most of the locals seemed normal to him.  On his 18th birthday Demetrios, along with all the other youths born on the same day as he, was rowed to a reef offshore and instructed to watch the waves for one day and night.  This he did, and in the dark of night a massive, scaled, tentacled creature rose from the waves and descended upon the cluster of youths who cowered on the reef.  After regarding each one, it grabbed Demetrios and tossed him about like a rag doll before dropping him in the water, and then sank out of sight.  The surviving youths (several had died of fright) were rowed back to the village the next day, but everyone gaped in awe at the mass of barbed sucker marks that covered Demetrios’s body.  The village priest disrobed at the sight, revealing his own markings.  Demetrios became apprenticed to the priest, and replaced him when the man died the following year.

Demetrios, as the priest of Klasomenai, soon began instructing the people to expand the temple to Dagos, and to venture farther out to sea for greater catches and to attack lone vessels belonging to other communities (and to bring any surviving crew to him for sacrifice).  Fish catches have grown under his watch, and more children are now surviving infancy; although some of the deformities that used to strike villagers in their later years are now starting to show up among the very young.  The minority of villagers who venerate other Immortals, such as Protius, have come under increasing pressure to convert, or leave.  Even though Demetrios governs the village on all matters spiritual, he also has a great deal of influence over the village elders, and hardly anything happens here without his permission.

Appearance:  Demetrios is fairly short (5’4”/162 cm) and has a stocky build (150 lbs/68 kg).  Like most of the people from this part of Davania, he has a light olive complexion, but much of his skin has a rough, sand-papery look, and is marred by purplish, saucer-sized sucker marks.  Webbing is growing between his fingers and toes, and long, deep wrinkles on each side of his neck mark where gills will emerge when his transformation is complete.  His dark brown eyes seem to bulge from their sockets, and he rarely blinks.  He has lost much of his dark brown, curly hair, and his now-exposed scalp has a decidedly scaly texture.  Normally Demetrios wears the voluminous sea-green robes of his faith, but on religious festivals he has begun the practice of wading naked into the sea to perform his rites.

Statistics:

Demetrios Sistovaris (18th level cleric of Ubbeth):  STR 12, INT 15, WIS 16, DEX 15, CON 13, CHA 6.  Hit Points:  61.  Armour Class:  8.   Alignment:  Chaotic.

Skills:  Ceremony – Ubbeth (WIS+2), Leadership (CHA+2), Nature Lore – Jungle (INT), Navigation (INT+1), Persuasion (CHA), Sailing (INT+1), Swimming (DEX), Outer Being Lore (13).  If your campaign uses the optional Weapon Mastery rules, Demetrios is “Master” in the trident.  Languages Known:  Milenian (Kastelian dialect) + 1 free slot.

Special Abilities:  Sense Tainted within 300’, ESP with Tainted within 100’.  Demetrios has access to the full list of cleric spells.

Special Equipment:  Trident of Ubbeth (see below)

Personality:  Demetrios is an egotistical despot who views Klasomenai as his personal fiefdom, and his fellow villagers as his subjects.  The fact that word of his belligerent stance towards outsiders, and accounts of his less reputable acts (as told by people forced to leave the village), will eventually reach the nominal authorities in Kastelios does not cross his mind.  He is confident that Ubbeth will watch over him, just as the Outer Being has watched over the faithful of his village for centuries, and should any outsiders try to crush him, they will be destroyed.

Demetrios is convinced that his mission in life is to turn Klasomenai into a holy site dedicated to Ubbeth.  To that end, he takes great joy in crushing the other faiths, and in reciting the ancient rituals that are accelerating the transformation of the villagers into semi-aquatic hybrid beasts.  Thus, he sees himself as Ubbeth’s personal champion, and has given himself a grandiose title to match.  In fact, Demetrios is so taken by his own perceived importance that he has begun to refer to himself in the third person, and has demanded that others do the same.  Almost everyone else in Klasomenai is too cowed to dispute his claim, and many of those who have expressed discontent have disappeared.

Roleplaying Notes: Although Demetrios is in many ways a small fish, he is in a rather tiny pond, so his influence in the region is actually considerable.  He could easily become a problem for local shipping if he becomes more organised, and as his followers venture farther from Klasomenai in search of sacrificial victims his shadow will grow.  Eventually the authorities in the city-state of Kastelios, which claims the region for itself, will need to step in and do something about Demetrios.  The player characters would be natural candidates for such a mission.

Should the player characters wish to purge Klasomenai of Ubbeth’s influence, they will have a long, but possibly highly rewarding, quest ahead of them.  They will have to learn about Ubbeth, His methods, and how He came to influence the village.  They will also need to learn how to neutralise Demetrios and eliminate him before Ubbeth realises that one of His champions is being attacked.

NICOLA THE RED-HANDED

Background:  Nicola Robbards was born in Minrothad in AC 968, to a merchant sailing family that had been living on both sides of the law for generations.  When times were good the Robbards family was reputed to be canny in business, but when their fortunes fell they turned their talents towards piracy.  The family avoided trouble for the most part by attacking foreign shipping, but Nicola’s father was the youngest of four, and knew he would never inherit.  He made piracy his vocation, and his only child learned from one of the best.  By the time Nicola was 16, she was commanding her own small sailing ship and raiding smaller cargo vessels.  She acquired her nickname from a particularly nasty duel with a ship captain.

Nicola’s first big score happened when she was 18.  Her ship, a two-masted schooner named the Zephyr, attacked two cargo ships en route to Thyatis from the southern continent of Davania.  She had the element of surprise and managed to cripple both ships before any serious manoeuvring could take place.  She and her crew pillaged both vessels and left their surviving crews to fend for themselves on the high seas.  The Thyatians had been transporting spices and other choice commodities (such as coffee) that would fetch high prices in Minrothad and Darokin, but one crate contained strange gold jewellery decorated with marine motifs that did not seem to have been made for humans to wear.  Her crew wanted to sell the jewellery to the first merchant they came across for some quick cash, but Nicola overruled them.  She had occasionally visited the more reputable, mercantile branch of the family as a child (the Robbards family sticks together), and knew enough about art to realise that the cargo they held would be worth far more to a collector.

Using her connections, Nicola tracked down a collector in Athenos, who paid a handsome sum.  Nicola was ambushed by a band of robed assailants that night, and taken to a swampy island in the Malpheggi Swamp.  There, her captors interrogated her about how she obtained the jewellery (which their cult used for religious purposes).  Since she had proven her usefulness in retrieving something of value to them, the cultists offered her a choice:  death, or eternal service to Ubbeth, their master.  Thinking the whole thing was a farce, Nicola pledged her allegiance to the Outer Being, but after a portion of His essence was implanted in her she realised what she had done.  Now she is bound to Him, and is compelled through dream messages to do His bidding.  However, she did not bend fully to Ubbeth’s will, and always looks for ways in which to reinterpret His wishes in ways that benefit her, or which actually harm the Outer Being’s plans.

Nicola plies the Sea of Dread and the Western Sea of Dawn on her ship, the Presumptuous, and regularly attacks Thyatian and Minrothaddan shipping – although she will not attack any vessels flying the banners of the Robbards family (in fact, she occasionally escorts her cousins on particularly risky runs).  Although she has a hideout in the Thanegioth Archipelago where she keeps her second ship (the Audacious), Nicola can often be found in the rougher parts of the Minrothaddan capital, Harbortown.

Appearance:  Nicola stands 5’8” tall (172 cm) and has a solid, muscular build (160 lbs./72 kg).  She has a tanned and weathered complexion from a life at sea, and her arms are a mass of black tattoos that resemble tangled squiggles interspersed with marine life.  She keeps her hair (dyed bluish-black with squid ink) short in the back, but long enough in front to conceal her eye patch (Ubbeth’s transformative influence had begun with her eye, which she plucked out – it seems to have stopped for now).  Her remaining eye is a deep emerald green.  Nicola is a practical woman; she wears a linen shirt and trousers, low boots, and a leather vest – finery would just get in the way.  Her one concession to piratical stereotypes are her rings – each finger has at least one

Statistics:

Nicola Robbards (10th level cleric of Ubbeth):  STR 17, INT 14, WIS 11, DEX 16, CON 15, CHA 12.  Hit Points:  54.  Armour Class:  5.   Alignment:  Chaotic.

Skills:  Bargaining (INT), Ceremony – Ubbeth (WIS), Drinking (CON), Intimidation (STR), Navigation (INT+1), Persuasion (CHA), Sailing (INT+1), Swimming (DEX), Outer Being Lore (2).  If your campaign uses the optional Weapon Mastery rules, Nicola is “Expert” in the short sword.  Languages Known:  Thyatian (Minrothad dialect), Makai.

Special Abilities:  Sense Tainted within 300’, ESP with Tainted within 100’.  Nicola has access to the full list of cleric spells.

Special Equipment:  Short sword +1, +3 versus servitors of the Outer Beings.

Personality:  Although Nicola is an unpredictable, dangerous pirate who occasionally consorts with outer powers for personal gain, she has not (yet) descended into inhumanity.  Her crew is her surrogate family, and although she is indisputably the captain and will not tolerate any insubordination, she will go to the wall for those who serve her well.  She also follows a code of honour, of sorts:  She always keeps her word (unless the other person has ever wronged her), she will not (unless provoked or instructed otherwise) abuse a prisoner, and she will give quarter to a vanquished opponent who fought with courage.

Nicola is someone who thrives on living life on the edge.  The greater the risk, or the greater the chance of being caught, the better.  She does not believe in laws or structures of any kind, and resents attempts by other people to constrain her activities; although she will accept offers of help – so long as the help is given on her terms.  Nicola is also very impulsive, and will set sail anywhere if the promise of loot and glory is great enough.

Nicola’s feelings about serving Ubbeth are complicated.  She knows that He is a very unpleasant, very powerful being who would destroy most of the world if He could.  She also knows that He would sacrifice her to advance His plans without a second thought.  The few times Nicola communicated with Ubbeth left her feeling disgusted afterwards – so much so that she chooses to interpret His dream messages in a way that suits her interests best.  At times, she has even hindered Ubbeth’s plans.  Yet she also revels in the power that He provides her.  To Nicola, playing Ubbeth’s game while using His power for her own purposes is living life on the ultimate knife edge.  Her crew has no idea where she gets her strange powers, and so long as the loot continues to pour in and she treats them well they will not care.  Thus, every additional day of life is something to be celebrated with wild abandon.

Whenever Nicola is in a port, she spends the bulk of her money on her ship and what is left on personal entertainment.  She is as aggressive and impulsive in her personal life as she is on the high seas, and does not care at all what other people think.  She does not believe in saving or planning – she always seems to hear a rumour about a juicy cargo vessel at just the right time (she chooses not to speculate as to whether Ubbeth is behind that or not).  Focusing on the fun aspects of life also distracts her from the unpleasantness that lies at its core.

Roleplaying Notes:  Player characters may run into her at a bar, spend half the night gambling and drinking with her, and walk away with emptier pockets and a smile.  Or they might wake up on the deck of her ship, sailing to parts unknown, not knowing that she had drugged their drinks because she needed a few tough-looking individuals for a job, and no one was volunteering.

Because Nicola’s ultimate loyalty is to herself, she can be an ally or a foe depending on how the player characters react to her.  It is unlikely that the source of her magical power will be immediately apparent, so if and when it does become revealed the party could have a difficult decision to make if they have come to know her.  Do they confront Nicola as a follower of the Outer Beings because Ubbeth provides her with spells, or do they consider that she has only used those powers for personal gain, and not to further her master’s goals?  Regardless of their views on the matter, Ubbeth will eventually become aware of Nicola’s activities and He will not be pleased.

NEW ITEMS

Trident of Ubbeth:  This trident is encrusted with barnacles, dried seaweed, and coral-like growths which sprout tiny white fronds that constantly wave about – even when there is no breeze.  No matter how long it is out of the water, it is always damp to the touch and none of the living creatures that have colonised its length ever die.  Anyone who wields the trident instantly becomes known to Ubbeth if they are within sight of a body of water – even a river is sufficient.  This weapon also always smells strongly of the sea, no matter how much one tries to clean it.

If used as a weapon, the trident functions as a trident +3; however, anyone stabbed with it in combat must make a save vs. Poison.  If the save fails the victim not only takes damage, they are also “injected” with polyps from the coral-like growths on the trident.  These polyps react with the victim’s bloodstream and begin growing.  The victim will begin to feel listless six hours after being injected (-3 to Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution), and after another 12 hours will become so weak that they will be unable to move.  Coral growths begin erupting from the victim’s flesh soon afterwards, inflicting 1d6 damage per turn until death.  Not long afterwards the victim’s corpse is transformed into a vaguely person-shaped coral formation.  The disease can be halted by a cure disease spell.

The trident also grants the wielder the following abilities:

  • The ability to speak with marine animals (as per the spell speak with animals) five times per day.
  • The ability to breathe underwater (as per a ring of waterbreathing).
  • A reaction bonus of +3 when dealing with any of Ubbeth’s followers.

NOT QUITE A FINAL WORD

Although this series has run its course, I will be revisiting the Outer Beings and their interactions with Mystara over the coming months.  I will flesh out the magic used by the cultists I have been describing, and I will expand on what Bruce Heard and I developed on his blog – including providing more detail on the accursed city of Orzafeth.  I will also (because one can never have too many villains in their campaign) flesh out more followers of the Outer Beings.  The sky is really the limit, but I would be very interested in hearing what you would like to see.

So in closing (for now), I would like to send special thanks to Bruce Heard, Nicole Lavigne, and Megan Fulton for their unique roles in making this series happen.  You know what you did.  I owe you all.