Tag Archives: fantasy

TDOSS 7. The Bone Fiddler’s Chance

Ondo  19th Morgron – Year of the Stonehammer

Monsters Slain (0) Dungeons Looted (0) Gold Earned (0) Treasure Looted (0) Lord Cleaver (He’s the man. Sword. Whatever)

The walls ran red. Blood in the cracks and grain of the rock, the taste of iron on my tongue as I crept down the stairs under the tower. Soiling myself all the way. It was one of those times when every hasty, shallow intake of breath sounds like a wind storm and every footstep on stone is like the clanging of a chapel bell.

This was the lair of a Necromancer all right – or worse and by the state of the place, a powerful one too. Curse my luck.

You see, the more powerful the Necromancer, the more his surroundings begin to reflect the nature of his dealings. Bits of the other world begin to leak through into our Natural world. The blood soaked walls were pointing at a very experienced bone fiddler. The other thing about Necromancers? They are all evil, black to the bone. It usually starts with the inclination to heal, oddly enough. Most of their kind are failed clerics, the calling just wasn’t strong enough for them and their lack of conviction results in their inability to heal the living from injuries and diseases, stuff like that. When they realise that faith isn’t enough, they start looking for other ends and means.

Kester, an old friend of mine told me once in Kewoon that he’d been part of a desert raid on a Gith camp and had taken shelter from a sand storm in a ruin with nine other men. All experienced, all veterans. Only he and one other came out alive into the hot morning sun. He told me that the floor had given way in the night and down below the walls were made of bone. Old death magic that. Although that one other had made it out alive, he cut out his own eyes two days later before drowning himself in an Oasis. Kester went the other way and is a full time Paladin or some such. He got a dose of religion and spends his days hunting down the ‘darkness’ as he calls it. Good man in a tight spot, but a little intense.

Down and down that narrow staircase wound in a rough spiral, like the engraving on a Corrun Lion, the stone under foot giving way to hard packed earth and the roots of the earth poking through the dirt. The air was dry and dead on the tongue. To be expected.

I had been holding The Lord all this time in a sweaty grip. I was so tense that I barely noticed the dull glow that comes off him when bad things are nearby. He’s a stuck up arse most of the time, but like my man Kester, good in a spot. I stopped, narrowed my eyes at the darkness ahead and held my breath. Times like these, I go cold. Not fear, but something else more like fate has stepped in and taken hold.

‘You’re probably going to die in a minute Strongblade, no point squirming over it’ That’s what my head says to me

‘Stephan, this is bad’ That’s what Lord Cleaver says in a whisper and the fear comes back. The Lord don’t ever talk like that. Can a sword feel fear?

Catching a dry cough, I step forward into the darkness. Lord Cleaver’s glow has vanished and from experience I know that this darkness ain’t natural. This is bad.

I can hear this sound like itching, if that is a sound. Sweat is pouring off me and I can feel bile rising up, burning the back of my throat. Dark, dark magic all around. Tears in my eyes, visions of old Gra’ swimming in front of my eyes.

S’all right Stephan, I’ll get the blood off your knee, brave boy… brave boy…it’s only a scratch…’

‘If you’re going boy, take this with you. It ain’t much but it will get you food and lodgings for a few weeks. Your Ma and Da are going to miss you boy… they are going to miss you sore… we all love you lad, there ain’t no need to go… we all love you…’

‘Stephan, focusss!’ That’s The Lord hissing in my ear. Almost lost it there. Almost. Hells.

‘Enough of your shit and tricks! Show yourself’ Says I. I know I’m being watched.

I hope that anyone reading this never has the misfortune to be confronted by a real Necromancer. There are dabblers all over the place, most of them give themselves away and end up hanging off a spike or burned alive, but the real ones? They are clever enough to find somewhere well away from people and get right down to it.

This one stands before me dressed in stinking rags, his teeth filed down to points. Self mutilation is evident in his cloven tongue and the golden rings hanging, jingling from his rib cage. Runes are carved or burned into every scrap of skin. It takes me a moment to notice that the darkness is gone, banished by a thought, but not one of mine.

Behind that emaciated figure is a raised plinth and on that slab of cold stone is old Gazoo The Magnificent, still dead but in worse condition than when he’d been under my tender care. His skin was hanging in sagging ribbons about him and what looked like most of his insides were all placed around him in flat golden dishes. In his eye sockets rested two Ulgadalian coins. Nasty things and never meant for currency, or at least those coins don’t buy the usual things in life like a hot meal. Behind Gazoo’s head is a large glass jar pulsing with a dim light like a sick heartbeat.

‘Ooh. I like what you’ve done with him’ Playing the charming card. It’s a favourite tactic when I’m terrified ‘Never looked better’.

The Necromancer just put his bony head on one side and smiled, his teeth dragging along his bottom lip, drawing blood. ‘Chance…’

‘Eh? Chance?’ Odd thing to say at the time, but now I know better.

‘Behind you!’ Yells Lord Cleaver and I spin round to see something that looks like one of those Monks up at the Skaylian Monasty standing right behind me. He’s head to toe in grey robes and cowl, but I can see eyes gleaming from the shadows of the hood. A thin, mottled white hand shoots out and grabs my arm before I can spin out of the way.

‘Just one Chance’ Giggles the Bone Fiddler ‘Is all I need’

… Oh. Too tired to write anymore. Thomas looks like he needs something. I’ll continue in the morning.

Stephan Strongblade

TDOSS. Arcaziana World Map One. The West

Stephan Strongblade has mentioned a few places in his journal and it’s time to give you an idea of the geography of Western Arcaziana. So here you are. Hope you like it. Anyone who’s interested in how I created this map in Photoshop, please comment below. If there are enough comments to make it worthwhile, I’ll do a video tutorial and pop it on YouTube. It took about an hour to create, but bear in mind that I already had it sketched out on paper.

Any Dungeon Masters out there, please feel free to use it as your fantasy setting. It would be great to think that there were adventures going on in Arcaziana from your table top.

Click on the image to see the big version in your browser.

Western Arcaziana
Western Arcaziana

SMPOD Thunderspire EPS#2 Don’t Smash The Roof!

The fight with those nasty dwarves and some flying critters continues and we find a quick way out?

Stinky Monster T Shirts are available to buy and have been designed by Fool of a Took. Orcs will never look at you in the same way ever again.

Book review. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

This is the first of the Gentleman Bastards series by Scott Lynch. I don’t think we will be reviewing books that we don’t like so you can take it for granted that we are very much in favour of telling you lot about them.

We also won’t post spoilers because that of course would instigate a proper kicking. Not here, no way.

I’ve read many fantasy novels, as I’m sure you have or you probably wouldn’t be here. Role players don’t tend to be afraid of reading after battling through core rule books. Am I right? This one hits somewhere close to my favourites and the subsequent novels; Red Seas Under Red Skies (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
and The Republic of Thieves (The Gentlemen Bastard Sequence)
only enhance the opening novel.

The city setting of Camorr  is something like Waterdeep for Forgotten Realms fans, only it’s either in or alluding to a Rennaisance period. No guns though – I hate fantasy novels where guns turn up, except perhaps for … no I Won’t even mention it because it would be a spoiler for another novel which I intend to review later. But rest assured, no guns here. Just hand crossbows. The city is sprawling and filled with dangers, the characters that we are introduced to wear their surroundings like a big, blood-soaked leather overcoat and you are instantly in the thick of it. Our main man Locke is likeable and you come to love his crew. There is intrigue here, lots of it and dastardly deeds that keep you turning the pages, swiping the screen or clicking the Kindle buttons. If you haven’t got one, go and buy a Kindle from Amazon, they are truly awesome.

Although not quite in ‘Grimdark’ territory in my opinion, the novel has it’s fair share of gruesome. Always for a reason though and sometimes morally justified. The relationships within give you a genuine reason to want vengeance or justice to be applied when things go bad and some of the sequences are cinematic. I hope that Scott Lynch sells the film rights because I’ll be the first bum in the seat at the multiplex.

It’s hard to write a review without giving too much away, so my final opinion is that if you are a fantasy fiend who is getting a bit tired of long journey’s, hackneyed characters and names with too many consonants in them and you are looking for something a little different but still comfortable, this is your Huckleberry. Also, if you are a fan of Oceans 11 and Locke Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, this has a whiff of both.

Buy this wonderful novel right here: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Have you read this book? Tell us what you thought in the comments.

Hearthstone for Beginners

Hi! I’ve been playing Hearthstone on and off few a few weeks now and it’s probably the most intuitive and generally fun digital CCG out there. It’s made by the monstrous Blizzard Entertainment and is set in the  Warcraft universe. It’s big and clunky, not in a bad way, the cards actually ‘clunk’ , ‘thump’ and indeed ‘wallop’ when they hit the deck. Minions squeal, chuckle and abuse each other. It’s a flippin’ delight. I’ll go into more stuff about getting new cards, tournaments and all of that in another post, but right now if you haven’t seen it already, just watch the video below…

TDOSS 6. Talk with an Orc

Zinthata  17th Morgron – Year of the Stonehammer

Monsters Slain (2) Dungeons Looted (0) Gold Earned (2) Treasure Looted (0) Lord Cleaver (Helpful for once)

If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s Orcs. Call it a pet hate if you will, but washing the stink of Orc off your clothes is a nasty job. Imagine rolling around in fox poo and burying yourself for three days in a cabbage patch and that’s not far off the mark as far as the smell goes. I don’t mind fighting them too much, more than three in a scrap is a problem, but the two that gave me grief last night were just scrawny little scouts. Lord Cleaver gave the alert, yelling something along the lines of ‘Oi! Wake up fatty! You’re on!’. Next thing I know Lord Cleaver appears in my hand (how does he do that?) , and one nasty green head is already lopped off at the shoulders. I was still yawning and blinking the sleep out of my eyes when I took the swing. The second swine was rummaging about in my backpack looking pretty wary. He tried to dance off into the shadows when I caught his eye but I hefted Lord Cleaver and lobbed him in a wide arc that took the Orc’s leg off at the knee. No more running for him, ha ha!

Before I brained him properly, the little puke told me that he was in the Grey Toad clan. Never heard of them and apart from a couple of gold pieces and a naff short sword with more rust than iron on the blade he didn’t have much on him. I did manage to get a nugget of good out of him though. He saw the cart I’m tracking the day before yesterday and had even been part of a raiding party that tried to rob it. ‘Tried’ being the word here because apparently, and you can’t really trust an Orc, when they got close the fella driving the cart did some sort of foul magicks that sent them all running scared. A black cloud of screaming badness or something like it. Translating Orc is pretty hard and I don’t like talking to them, all spit and snarls and their breath? Whooo! Anyway it seems that the cart, driver, donkey and ‘Gazoo the Magnificently Dead’ are heading towards a ruined tower that used to be called ‘Bal-Gulga’ or somethin like it’. Probably one of the old outposts set up by the first men a long, long time ago.

I’m on my way to an old tower on the trail of a dead wizard and what looks like a pretty powerful live one. This has a whiff of Necromancy about it and if there’s one thing I hate more than Orcs, it bone-fiddling, graveyard lurkin’ bastards. Hate ‘em. Hate ‘em. Hate ‘em.

Stephan Strongblade

TDOSS 5. Into the Wild Country

Sheem  16th Morgron – Year of the Stonehammer

Monsters Slain (0) Dungeons Looted (0) Gold Earned (0) Treasure Looted (0) Lord Cleaver (Orc Watcher)

So where are we?

I’ve been tracking this damn dead wizard for an age. Lord Cleaver, my magic and supposedly ‘intelligent’ sword thinks I should give up, but that shows just how much attention he pays to me – his bloody master!

A few days ago a travelling priest of Taff the Mender told me that he had seen a wagon, pulled by donkey, heading North. I’ve been trailing across country and have finally picked up a trail. I’m about a day cold by my reckoning, but gaining ground on Bluebell.

Still wondering why someone would want to steal a dead wizard and head into dangerous country. Which reminds me, I caught glimpse of a bunch of green-skins up on a bluff this morning. Don’t think they saw me, but no camp fire tonight. I’ll be freezing my plums off! Balls and ashes! Still, I’ll stick Lord Cleaver in the ground to keep watch. He’d rather be with me than an Orc. I think.

Stephan Strongblade

TDOSS 4. Anyone Seen a Corpse?

Zinthaka 11th Morgron – Year of the Stonehammer

Monsters Slain (0) Dungeons Looted (0) Gold Earned (0) Treasure Looted (0) Lord Cleaver (Still a shit)

I’m looking for a corpse? Anyone seen one? This one is dressed in fancy robes and goes under the name of Gazoo the Magnificent. I’ve been tracking the bastards who inched my wagon and dead wizard bounty for days and nothing. Not a squeak. I followed the trail to a bridge, found the wagon, but no body. The Gods!

I got a tip off from a wandering priest this morning. He said he saw a battered cart being pulled by a donkey only hours ago some miles North. Best be off, just stopped for a bite and a piss. Wish me luck.

Does it seem odd that someone has stolen a dead wizard? They must be after the bounty too. Also, does it seem odd that I found the wizard dead on the road? I didn’t really think about it before. I’ll sleep on it.

Stephan Strongblade

TDOSS 3. The Spindle Hermit

Effron 10th Morgron – Year of the Stonehammer

Monsters Slain (0) Dungeons Looted (0) Gold Earned (-1) Treasure Looted (0) Lord Cleaver (Unhelpful)

There’s a mighty, tall rock around these parts that the locals call ‘The Spindle’. At a rough guess it’s 300 feet to its highest, peaky point and is about an hour ride from the Gallow Path, a spur from the Great Northern Road. Legends tell of an old hermit that lives in a cave about half way up the spindle and if you give him a packet of pipe weed and a hard-hitting joke, he will tell you a bit about your future.

I’ve been trundling along this road on my lonie for three days since I picked up this stinking dead wizard, ‘Gazoo the Magnificent’ – now ‘Gazoo the slightly stiff and smelly’ for a healthy gold bounty and to be deadly honest I’ve got a bit out of sorts in my own head. When you’ve accomplished deeds and smacked up the monsters that I have, your memories play tricks on you and you start getting attacks of the philosophical. The monks of Etta Bree explained philosophy to me once, but I still didn’t give their gold back.

Anyway, I resolved to seek out this Spindle hermit and tell him a joke or two. I also happened to have a pouch of Wheezers Best pipe weed on me and I’ve always been a sucker for divination magicks.

Covering the waggon and the stinky wizard with long grass and brush wood, I set off with Bluebell, my horse and Lord Cleaver across my back towards the towering Spindle rock with a spring in my step, although my shoulder still hurt something rotten from the arrow I’d taken from Black Jacksie’s bowman some days ago. I should have poked his other eye out but that’s just not me anymore.

Some time later I find myself at the foot of the great standing rock and begin to climb. When I was a lad my best friends used to call me Stephan the Manky. Apparently a Manky is a hairy creature that swings around the giant Dustle trees in the jungles of Abwakaan. Years later I found out what ‘Manky’ really meant and a man got hurt quite badly in the Broken Shield at Tythe. Nice Inn, but I’m barred.

I am a good climber though and it didn’t take long to find the cave entrance. I lit a torch with flint and steel and ducked in. ‘Hallo! Hermit! I have pipe weed!’

‘Come warrior. Come in and show me your weed’ came the hermit’s rasping voice.

I stepped into an expansive, flat cave lit by a large magical globe that bobbed around the ceiling. Apart from a few blankets and a cooking fire there wasn’t much going on really. Quite dull, but then what did I expect? A hunched figure sat picking his nose, smiling at me.

‘Stephan Strongblade is it?’ Says the Hermit

‘The one and only’ says I. ‘I’ve come for a bit of your divination’

‘Feeling a bit lost are you? Lack of direction? Wandering?’ He wipes snot on his blanket and chuckles into his ratty, grey beard.

‘I don’t like explaining myself old man. I’ve got the weed and a joke, how about we just step on. I’ve got a manky wizard waiting for me downstairs and he’s not getting any fresher’

‘Tell me the joke Strongblade’ He starts wobbling a tooth and lies back on his blanket, all bones and dirt. His feet have fungus on them, like lichen on an ancient Oak. Smelly bastard.

‘What do you call an old man with a bump on his head?’ I launch a gold piece at his skull with vicious accuracy.

‘Owwww!’ Says he clutching his baldy head. ‘That wasn’t funny’

‘Made me laugh’ I threw the pipe weed on his lap. ‘Your turn’ says I

‘Very well’. The old bastard sprinkled some powder into the flames of his cooking fire with little in the way of theatricals and murmured some of that chanty stuff that makes your spine prickle and your plums crawl up. Slap my arse if his eyes didn’t flash green and roll back into his head.

He speaks in a weird, high voice…

‘Stephan Strongblade. You are going to meet a woman who is half bear, half wolf, half bird and ALL lady…. and…. You will see many, many things…. and…. Someone is about to steal your smelly Wizard’

‘Shit’ That got me up and moving.

He called after me as I ran from his cave

‘Have you got a pipe?!’



I got back to where I’d left the waggon and the old shit was right. The waggon and wizard were gone.

There will be blood tonight! Or tomorrow maybe. Depends how good my tracking skill is.

Stephan Strongblade