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Aug 31, 2020

Heroes of Might and Magic Spells on DMsGuild!

In my free time, I like to adapt magic items and spells from other game franchises to D&D 5e, and the Heroes of Might and Magic series has always been on the top of the list for those. I recently finished, polished up, and published a collection of spells from both Heroes of Might and Magic II and III and put them up for sale on DMsGuild. It was fun to try and adapt the spells into unique and useful spells for a tabletop roleplaying game, and I know I'm definitely going to use some of them in my own campaigns that I run.

My suggested price is $2, but you can get it for free if you want as well. Click here to check out the product!

How do you like my copyright-free cover?


Aug 27, 2020

D&D Mechanics Inspired by Divinity: Original Sin 2

With the recent announcement of development of the game Baldur's Gate III, I found out about Divinity: Original Sin 2, made by the same company. It doesn't take place in the D&D universe like Baldur's Gate will, but its cooperative, turn-based, roleplaying style is very reminiscent of Dungeons & Dragons, and just while playing through the game lately, I've been inspired by some of the game's mechanics that could be useful in a homebrew D&D campaign. I also was able to see existing D&D mechanics in a new light, which may help me be a better Dungeon Master.

Skill Checks

Divinity finally helped me understand how passive checks work. When your character is walking around, if their Perception skill is high enough, they'll sometimes exclaim "I've found something!" and notice a pile of dirt that can be excavated to find a chest with an item in it, or sometimes an interred hostile skeleton or something.

Before, I thought it was cheap that if someone had a passive Perception of, say, 18, they'd just automatically notice everything all the time, but that's not how it works in Divinity. In the game, there's one crucial factor involved in making this mechanic work: proximity. You still have to walk around to notice things near you. You don't enter a room and immediately reveal all the secrets in it. As a DM, I should reward players with high passive Perception for looking more closely at things. If a player with a high enough passive Perception walks right next to a secret door, for instance, I should mention that they notice something off about the wall, or an odd seam in the stonework or something. That's another thing that's important: Discovering or noticing things is not the same as knowing things. Just because you find a secret door or you notice a trap on a door with the Perception skill doesn't mean that you have the right Investigation skill to figure out how to utilize that new knowledge. This knowledge from Divinity: Original Sin 2 will help me reward perceptive players without revealing too much too easily.

Moral Dilemmas

I was amazed at how well Divinity weaved moral dilemmas into its storyline. In some quests, there doesn't seem to be any way for a happy ending. And I like that. It makes a game seem much more serious, and more importantly, it puts very meaningful responsibility on your player character. So many times in Divinity I have spoken to one character and had a very clear quest laid out before me, and then when I encounter another character on the other side of that quest's conflict, another point of view is brought to light and I question which person I should trust. It probably takes effort to write up quests like this, but how amazingly satisfying would it be to see your players stop in their tracks ready to kill the boss and realize the boss may have been framed and the quest giver has been playing the characters this entire time?

Beyond the roleplaying and story aspect of moral dilemmas, I also would enjoy implementing "degrees of success" into my quests more, keeping in mind a best-case scenario reward and a worst-case one, and degrees in between. For instance, a king tells you to go save his daughter from a dragon. You could end up killing the dragon and accidentally getting the daughter killed too, ridding the kingdom of the menace and the beloved heir; or with more effort you could possibly end up taming the dragon and saving the princess, thus gaining a powerful draconic ally to guard the kingdom territory. That's a bit of a trite idea, but I'm sure it could inspire better ones.

Perhaps an easier exercise would be to simply get better at creating interesting NPCs with shades of gray in their motivations and personalities. Is the enemy you're seeking in this quest the one who killed all the elves? No, but they created the war machine that did. Does that make them worthy of death? Suppose they know who to really kill if you spare them? What if in order to gain the artifact that will kill the big bad boss, you have to kill an innocent guardian who has sworn an oath to protect the artifact from absolutely anyone, or sacrifice the safety of innocents who are already using the artifact?

If I can get good at this method of thinking, I think I'll be able to create much more memorable conflicts that really affect player characters for many months after they make the decisions surrounding them.

Socketed Runes

This is a mechanic that was in TitanQuest and Diablo probably other games before them, but I hadn't thought much about it in terms of D&D until I played a game that had both this mechanic and a resemblance to the roleplaying game itself. In Divinity, runes of varying elements and power levels can be found, as can weapons, jewelry, and armor that have sockets in them. The runes can be placed into the sockets to imbue it with new properties and bonuses.

Because both runes and sockets need to exist, implementing this into a D&D campaign would require a bit of work, but I think it could be an excellent way to reskin magic items. What if instead of finding a +1 mace, you could find a socketed mace, or maybe it could be called a runed mace, and then you could also find (or more exciting yet, enchant!) gems or runes that you could place into the mace's socket to grant it a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls? Depending on whether you go with Divinity's rules or TitanQuest's, removing a socketed rune could be a simple process, or it could require the help of a specific magical NPC who would either need to destroy the weapon or destroy the rune in order to free up space to rearrange the enchantments. Or it could be like the Sigil Stones on Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion that just straight-up permanently enchant an item. I think I personally would go with maybe requiring a jeweler's kit (and proficiency to use one) and a short or long rest to remove the rune so it could be relocated or sold or replaced. This adds a level of versatility to an adventuring party. If the main damage dealer is wearing a runed longbow and finds a +2 rune, they can replace their +1 rune in the longbow and give it to another member of the party, who can in turn enchant their runed warhammer with a +1 bonus. And with even bigger enchantments, like a holy avenger rune or whatever, a paladin could turn his favored flail or pike into the legendary weapon instead of being limited to just a sword.

Divinity also has a mechanic where you can add "frames" to runes to grant them additional power, but I didn't find that very interesting. I guess some way of upgrading the runes, or in actually making an item into a "runed" item could be fun, as could coming up with an actual system of what runes did what. You could just have the four elemental runes, or runes representing more abstract ideas like order, chaos, evil, and good; or just straight up pick a real runic alphabet like the Fu├żark and have fun translating their effects into armor, weapon, and accessory powers. I'd have to think harder about that to make a satisfying system for my own campaigns, but it's definitely a fun idea to consider.

Origin Characters

Like D&D and other roleplaying games, Divinity gives you the option of being whatever race and class you want to be. But it also gives you the option to play as one of several "origin characters"—characters who have a direct connection to the campaign's past and future storyline. As fun as it is in all roleplaying games to come up with a character to roleplay as, I can't think of a better way to get invested in a campaign's storyline than having your character's personality set up beforehand for you. The work has all been done for you in terms of your character's motivations, goals, and flaws, and the DM already has a storyline—complete with NPCs your character has previous relationships with—all set up for you to explore.

Divinity only limits your character's race. It has a suggested physical appearance for the character (except for things essential to the character's story, such as the skin color of the Red Prince), as well as a suggested class, but you can change either if you want, subtly changing the character's identity to your preference. I think this is probably the best way to do this in a D&D setting, though I would lean slightly toward more limits, since the fun of origin characters comes from fitting an initial mold but having the option to break it later. I'd probably just limit the class choice slightly... perhaps with a choice of three classes and no direction on subclass, just so if you were a retired soldier you didn't inexplicably start the game as a sorcerer or a warlock. But then again, that creative limitation could flip back to produce a very fascinating storyline... I dunno.

I suppose that technically, any character can become an original character if the DM works closely with that player enough to establish a rich storyline and destiny based on that character's background, ideals, bonds, and flaws; especially if the DM gives a few choices or points of worldbuilding during character creation so that the player can weave themselves into the narrative they're just learning about. But I think it could also be fun to start a campaign (especially for players new to D&D) by providing players with the option of choosing a premade character rather than making a new one from scratch. This would definitely require some trial and error though... I never regretted my choice as I played the characters Beast and Ifan ben-Mezd on Divinity, but in a longer-term campaign in D&D, maybe I would. I'm guessing it mainly depends on the quality of the origin character's storyline (up to the DM, of course), and the type of player choosing that character.

Background Significance

This leads me to a similar point that plays a part in Divinity: background tags. Depending on the tags that you start the game with and unlock later on in the game, you can approach situations different ways that can radically alter the outcome of the encounter, or provide additional information. For example, a character may come upon a crying child, and if they have the [JESTER] tag, they can try and cheer the child up with humor, or a [SCHOLAR] character can try to use logic to cheer the child up. Some tags, like [HERO] and [VILLAIN], are earned based on your actions in the game.

The closest translation to this in Dungeons & Dragons is character background, which I've decided should be a much bigger element in my campaigns than it previously is. Sure, a background provides great campaign and motivation material for quests, but I've largely ignored the more boring or less mechanical features of backgrounds, instead focusing more on the character's class to determine how people see them. I think this has been a huge mistake. I realize now that I should put a much stronger emphasis on backgrounds when planning out adventures. Admittedly, this would be easier when planning out a specific module, since I could set up NPC encounters long before any of my characters have chosen their backgrounds to avoid bias, but there's nothing stopping me from simply keeping all the existing backgrounds in mind and giving equal attention to each when creating NPCs and other situations that those backgrounds could affect.

A character with the noble background should be able to completely bypass the otherwise arduous process a non-noble character would have to take in order to get an audience with someone of higher station, and the same level of power should be allotted to all the other backgrounds in some situation or another. This seems harder for characters like hermits or urchins, but it probably doesn't have to be if I think about this harder. And honestly, a way to combine this and my goals related to origin characters is to simply know the campaign setting well enough to make custom backgrounds for it.

Aug 20, 2020

Wild Magic Table (Extended)

Do you play a Wild Magic Sorcerer in D&D 5e? Do you use the Wild Magic Table for wacky areas in your campaign suffused with magic? Do you think it's lame that the d100 Wild Magic table only has 50 options? Below is an expanded table with (I hope) 50 more effects that are just as wacky, powerful, and dangerous as the original table.

Wild Magic Table (Extended)

Remember, if the rolled effect is a spell, it is too wild to be affected by your Metamagic, and if it normally requires concentration, it doesn’t require concentration in this case; the spell lasts for its full duration.

d100    Effect
  1. Roll on this table at the start of each of your turns for the next minute, ignoring this result on subsequent rolls.
  2. You lose concentration on any spells you are concentrating on, and an antimagic field surrounds you for 1 minute.
  3. For the next minute, you can see any invisible creature if you have line of sight to it.
  4. All of your teeth fall out of your mouth, and slowly regrow over 10 minutes.
  5. A modron chosen and controlled by the DM appears in an unoccupied space within 5 feet of you, then disappears 1 minute later.
  6. You become affected as if you just drank a philter of love.
  7. You cast fireball as a 3rd-level spell centered on yourself.
  8. Your size decreases by one size category for the next minute.
  9. You cast magic missile as a 5th-level spell.
  10. You let out a loud, thunderous belch that replicates the effect of a 1st-level thunderwave spell.
  11. Roll a d10. Your height changes by a number of inches equal to the roll. If the roll is odd, you shrink. If the roll is even, you grow.
  12. Up to 3 corpses within 30 feet of you rise as zombies hostile to all non-undead creatures.
  13. You cast confusion centered on yourself.
  14. Your body and all your gear take on a glassy appearance for 1 minute. During this time, ranged attacks that target you bounce off and target other random creatures within 30 feet of you instead.
  15. For the next minute, you regain 5 hit points at the start of each of your turns.
  16. For the next minute, the only languages you know are Deep Speech, Primordial, and Sylvan.
  17. You grow a long beard made of feathers that remains until you sneeze, at which point the feathers explode out from your face.
  18. Your body (none of your clothing or gear) teleports 10 feet in a random direction.
  19. You cast grease centered on yourself.
  20. You cast Tasha’s hideous laughter on the nearest creature to you. If there is no other creature within range, you target yourself.
  21. Creatures have disadvantage on saving throws against the next spell you cast in the next minute that involves a saving throw.
  22. A deck of many things appears hovering in front of you invitingly, only visible and touchable by you. It disappears at the end of your next turn.
  23. Your skin turns a vibrant shade of blue. A remove curse spell can end this effect.
  24. If you take acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder damage within the next minute, you gain resistance to that type of damage for 1 hour.
  25. An eye appears on your forehead for the next minute. During that time, you have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight.
  26. You gain a random form of short-term madness (see the Dungeon Master’s Guide) for 1 minute.
  27. For the next minute, all your spells with a casting time of 1 action have a casting time of 1 bonus action.
  28. You break your attunement with 1d3 of your magic items to which you are attuned.
  29. You teleport up to 60 feet to an unoccupied space of your choice that you can see.
  30. You cast haste on yourself.
  31. You are transported to the Astral Plane until the end of your next turn, after which time you return to the space you previously occupied or the nearest unoccupied space if that space is occupied.
  32. You cast silence centered on yourself.
  33. Maximize the damage of the next damaging spell you cast within the next minute, instead of rolling.
  34. Your feet and hands disappear. You fall prone and drop everything you are carrying. You cannot stand up or hold or manipulate objects until your appendages reappear at the start of your next turn.
  35. Roll a d10. Your age changes by a number of years equal to the roll. If the roll is odd, you get younger (minimum 1 year old). If the roll is even, you get older.
  36. You cast disguise self and appear as the nearest humanoid to you you can see. If you cannot see a humanoid, you appear as a naked, bald, androgynous albino human with no facial features.
  37. 1d6 flumphs controlled by the DM appear in unoccupied spaces within 60 feet of you and are frightened of you. They vanish after 1 minute.
  38. An overexcited flock of colorful birds (use the stat block of a swarm of ravens) appears in your space and attacks you. The flock disappears 1 minute later.
  39. You regain 2d10 hit points.
  40. You see briefly into the future. Roll a d20. The next time a creature makes an ability check, attack roll, or saving throw, the number rolled will be replaced by what you rolled.
  41. You turn into a potted plant until the start of your next turn. While a plant, you are incapacitated and have vulnerability to all damage. If you drop to 0 hit points, your pot breaks, and your form reverts.
  42. You become poisoned until you use your action to make a DC 12 Constitution check. On a success, you vomit and the effect ends.
  43. For the next minute, you can teleport up to 20 feet as a bonus action on each of your turns.
  44. You fall asleep and have extremely happy dreams for 1 minute, or until you take damage or a creature uses its action to shake you awake.
  45. You cast levitate on yourself.
  46. All the coins you have on your person fall to the ground at your feet. It takes an action to pick up 100 scattered coins.
  47. A unicorn controlled by the DM appears in a space within 5 feet of you, then disappears 1 minute later.
  48. You cast blur.
  49. You can’t speak for the next minute. Whenever you try, pink bubbles float out of your mouth.
  50. You suddenly realize that you are nothing more than a fictional character in a game played by other creatures in another plane of existence, which causes you to be stunned. This existential crisis lasts until the start of your next turn, after which you shake it off as nonsense.
  51. A spectral shield hovers near you for the next minute, granting you a +2 bonus to AC and immunity to the magic missile spell.
  52. You feel lucky. You automatically succeed on the next saving throw you make within the next minute.
  53. You are immune to being intoxicated by alcohol for the next 5d6 days.
  54. You gain 2d10 temporary hit points.
  55. Your hair falls out but grows back within 24 hours.
  56. You cast faerie fire centered on yourself.
  57. For the next minute, any flammable object you touch that isn’t being worn or carried by another creature bursts into flame.
  58. If you are in combat, you reroll your order in the initiative at the end of this round.
  59. You regain your lowest-level expended spell slot.
  60. You lose your proficiency bonus for the next minute.
  61. For the next minute, you must shout when you speak.
  62. Your pants fall down. Until you use a bonus action or action to raise them up again, your walking speed is reduced to 10 feet and you have disadvantage on Strength and Dexterity saving throws. If you are not wearing pants, you instead fall prone.
  63. You cast fog cloud centered on yourself.
  64. You immediately make an unarmed strike against a random creature within 5 feet of you. If there is no creature within range, you target yourself.
  65. Up to three creatures you choose within 30 feet of you take 4d10 lightning damage.
  66. A pit 1d10 feet deep and 5 feet in diameter appears beneath your feet. You fall unless you use your reaction to succeed on a DC 11 Dexterity saving throw to grab the edge of the pit. The bottom of the pit magically rises upward after 1 minute, leaving no trace of the pit.
  67. You are frightened by the nearest creature until the end of your next turn.
  68. You no longer need to breathe for the next 1d8 hours.
  69. Each creature within 30 feet of you becomes invisible for the next minute. The invisibility ends on a creature when it attacks or casts a spell.
  70. All the rations you are carrying turn to soap.
  71. You gain resistance to all damage for the next minute.
  72. You cast fear in the direction you’re facing.
  73. A random creature within 60 feet of you becomes poisoned for 1d4 hours.
  74. A simulacrum of yourself appears within 20 feet of you. It defends itself if attacked, but it cannot speak and otherwise just looks around utterly confused. It turns to snow after 1 minute.
  75. You glow with bright light in a 30-foot radius for the next minute. Any creature that ends its turn within 5 feet of you is blinded until the end of its next turn.
  76. You become colorblind until your next long rest.
  77. You cast polymorph on yourself. If you fail the saving throw, you turn into a sheep for the spell’s duration.
  78. A strong wind swirls around you in a 10-foot radius, making ranged attacks going into or out of this aura automatically miss.
  79. Illusory butterflies and flower petals flutter in the air within 10 feet of you for the next minute.
  80. You gain truesight out to a range of 60 feet for 1 minute.
  81. You can take one additional action immediately.
  82. You sprout tiny fairy wings from your shoulders. You are under the effect of a slow fall spell until they disappear after 1d8 days.
  83. Each creature within 30 feet of you takes 1d10 necrotic damage. You regain hit points equal to the sum of the necrotic damage dealt.
  84. Everything made of gold on your person (including coins) turns into silver, and everything silver turns to gold.
  85. You cast mirror image.
  86. You become petrified for 1d10 rounds.
  87. You cast fly on a random creature within 60 feet of you.
  88. A column 1d10 feet high and 5 feet in diameter rises beneath your feet. If this height causes it to collide with a ceiling or object above you, you are restrained and take 2d6 bludgeoning damage, pinned against the object, unless you use your reaction to succeed on a DC 11 Dexterity saving throw to jump off. The column slowly lowers into the ground after 1 minute, leaving no trace of it.
  89. You become invisible for the next minute. During that time, other creatures can’t hear you. The invisibility ends if you attack or cast a spell.
  90. A coil of 50 feet of hempen rope immediately appears and ties you up. You are restrained. A creature can break the ropes by dealing 5 slashing or fire damage to them or by succeeding on a DC 11 (Strength) Athletics check. You can also escape with a successful DC 11 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check.
  91. If you die within the next minute, you immediately come back to life as if by the reincarnate spell.
  92. A tiny rain cloud appears above your head and rains in a 5-foot radius centered on you for 1 minute. Open flames in the area are extinguished.
  93. Your size increases by one size category for the next minute.
  94. Your arms stretch. You gain a reach of 15 feet with them for 1 minute.
  95. You and all creatures within 30 feet of you gain vulnerability to piercing damage for the next minute.
  96. Roll a d10. Your weight changes by a number of pounds equal to the roll. If the roll is odd, you lose the weight. If the roll is even, you gain it.
  97. You are surrounded by faint, ethereal music for the next minute.
  98. You take 2d10 psychic damage. This damage can’t reduce your hit points below 1.
  99. You switch souls with a random creature within 30 feet of you. You control it on its next turn, and it controls you on your next turn. You go back to your regular bodies at the end of your next turn, if the body is still alive.
  100. You regain all expended sorcery points.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Aug 14, 2020

                                                                                                                                                                                            My D&D Player Characters, to Date

                                                                                                                                                                                            I've mostly been a Dungeon Master when playing D&D over the past three years, by preference as a creative outlet mostly, but also out of necessity since more people like playing than refereeing. But I've still had my share of chances to play in some games, and I thought it'd be fun to showcase these characters and their stories here. The only character I'm not showcasing is my very, very first character I made, who I never got to play, Mungo the Gnome Bard. He has no story, and thus no place in this post.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Radhemar

                                                                                                                                                                                            My first time playing a roleplaying game was actually not with Dungeons & Dragons, but with GURPS. My character was a lion-man wizard prince named Radhemar. In his attempts to save the king from the evil Tim Nantooth, he constantly rolled double 6s (the equivalent of rolling a natural 1 in D&D, except it's much rarer), when casting his spells, which caused horrendous damage to the kingdom. For example, attempting a very basic defensive wind spell caused a tornado to rip apart the kingdom's keep. His damage tab for the kingdom ended up costing him more than his reward for rescuing the king.

                                                                                                                                                                                            I soon realized I had no interest in a game as open-ended and limitless as GURPS, so Radhemar's playing arc was somewhat short-lived, but memorable.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Xilmar Dawnheart

                                                                                                                                                                                            My first real D&D character I got to play began in a Warcraft setting. He was a blood elf phoenix sorcerer whose idol was Prince Kael'thas Sunstrider. When the rest of my group wanted to back out of the Warcraft setting for something more accessible and homebrew, he instead became simply a high elf.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Xilmar was a charlatan. His nickname in the criminal underground was "Xil the Quill," since he was adept at forging documents. He used the magic he gained from a phoenix-related injury as a youth to constantly to impersonate other people and twist people's minds, and the two things he loved most in the world were fire (and admiring its beauty and power) and swindling. Eventually, Xilmar and his adventuring group, the Heroes of Silvermoon, made their way to an overly-lawful town called Port of Kings, where Xilmar could find no chance to ever be his swindling self. He eventually left the group in a huff and pursued his interests elsewhere. He may just show up in one of my future campaigns as a benefactor seeking to craft the legendary phoenix feather robe...

                                                                                                                                                                                            Artaldus the Devout

                                                                                                                                                                                            The next chance I had to play was in a homebrew campaign with my friend Dustin. My character was a human zealot barbarian named Artaldus the Devout. He had a fervent, zealous "every-knee-shall-bow" belief in the god Zenith, and his primary goal was to build a shrine to him in the settlement of XXXX.

                                                                                                                                                                                            His feats of valor included wielding the pillar of a temple as a weapon, climbing up a massive hill giant, and singlehandedly taunting and felling a shadow dragon. He was the embodiment of lawful evil religious hypocrisy, bedding a tiefling and paying the pennance for it because he believed all tieflings were damned to the Nine Hells anyway and attempting to convert all those who didn't know about Zenith whether they liked it or not.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Unfortunately, we stopped that campaign rather abruptly, so who knows whether Artaldus will continue his brutal crusade?

                                                                                                                                                                                            Quintilla

                                                                                                                                                                                            My favorite character of all time to play was Quintilla. She was a Shadar-kai elf from the Shadowfell, a cold, emotionless shadow sorceress with a pet hound of ill omen named Umbra and an unhealthy fascination with death. Everything except killing or watching people die was boring to Quintilla, but she was not evil. Rather, she was just stripped of emotion and callous to the process of dying.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Perhaps my crowning moment in my history of playing D&D was the time she killed a band of goblins using only the darkness spell and a few deceptive minor illusions to frighten them into killing each other in the dark. She also developed a crush on a revenant named Halleth and was sad to see him go when he completed his purpose and moved on into the true afterlife. She was a professional dungeoneer and it was implied that she had once dated a vampire in the Shadowfell, so in short, she was the most interesting character I ever played. She didn't really have an end to her story as she delved deeper and deeper into the Dungeon of the Mad Mage seeking a magical heirloom that had been stolen from her, but I really hope to play her again someday.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Paavu "Steadyhand" Katho-Olavi

                                                                                                                                                                                            Paavu was my interrim player character in my current campaign I'm DMing, so regretfully, he had to start at an already high level and I didn't get to play him consistently from start to finish. I still really enjoyed his story though. As a young goliath, Paavu was picked on for being scrawny and weak. Eventually he was banished from the Katho-Olavi tribe by its leader, Chief Keothi "Stormcaller," and left to wander and die in the mountain wilderness.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Eventually, he encountered a monastery that took him in. He learned how to be powerful not through physical strength, but through agility and mind over matter, and he also became an accomplished alchemist. His travels eventually led him to seek out a legendary wise man named Toldan with some adventurers. Being a goliath, he enjoyed daily "trials of leadership" to determine each day who would lead the party. Ultimately, though, he was deceived by a necromancer named Vaurarath, who had tricked Paavu and wished to sacrifice him to become a lich. Though he killed Paavu with a finger of death spell, Paavu was revived in time, but he bore a black scar on his solar plexis ever afterward.

                                                                                                                                                                                            After personally killing the necromancer and after passing some time in the Feywild, Paavu returned to the mountains to meditate. Eventually, he was ready to face Keothi once and for all and show her the strength he had found in being a monk. The holmgang was set in front of the entire goliath clan, and he was set up against Keothi, who raged as a barbarian of storms against him. Paavu's tranquil calmness dispelled her mindless rage, leaving her open to his flurrying attacks, and after a furious fight, Paavu won by crushing Keothi's heart.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Paavu became the new leader of the Katho-Olavi goliath tribe, and he now strives to teach them how to find strength of their own within, rather than through mindless rage. Definitely my favorite story of closure (especially with how close the fight was... one more brutal critical from Keothi would have killed him), though I know it would have been more fulfilling if I had played Paavu all the way from 1st level.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Dakren of Swanbow

                                                                                                                                                                                            I don't know what the future holds for my current character, Dakren Kilner of Swanbow, but I'm excited to find out. Dakren was born the son of a peasant woman and a wandering elf out to sample the wonders of the world. Dakren worked hard to support his single mother and tried to make the best of his life growing up in the town of Swanbow as a half-elf. But it was hard when all of his friends grew up and aged faster than he did.

                                                                                                                                                                                            He fell in love with a woman named Collette and grew very close to her daughter, Stephana. When the Third Hobgoblin War began, Dakren was drafted into the Vardale Army. Though he was reluctant to leave what appeared to be his only chance at a family (since half-elves are sterile), Dakren was also anxious to earn enough money as a soldier to build a life with his girlfriend and adopted daughter.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Despite his natural skills in warfare and his climbing to the rank of officer over his platoon, the Basilisk Regiment, war was hard on Dakren. He injured his left shoulder and was unable to wear anything heavier than leather or wield a shield. One day, the Basilisk Regiment was ambushed by hobgoblins and Dakren was the only survivor. Feeling responsible for the slaughter since he had planned their tactics that day, Dakren called out to the cosmos for anyone to help rectify his mistake.

                                                                                                                                                                                            A fiendish voice answered, agreeing to bring his platoon back to life in exchange for a lifetime of dark servitude, or his own soul. Dakren agreed, and his war comrades were miraculously revived. Unfortunately, through spontaneous disease and a series of accidents on the way back, the members of his platoon died again less than a week later.

                                                                                                                                                                                            The war soon ended in victory for Vardale, and Dakren returned to find that Collette had died in his absence. Stephana blamed him for not being there to help her and her mother, and wanted nothing to do with him afterward. Dakren wants nothing more than to provide for Stephana, even if it means sending her money in secret and pulling strings from afar. Meanwhile, now he has a long half-elven life ahead of him in service to a mysterious devil. Dakren tries with all his heart to follow the fiend's demands in letter of law only and to twist its goals to good in any way that he can, in hopes that his soul may remain pure and intact when he finally reaches the end of his life.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Aug 13, 2020

                                                                                                                                                                                            Relic Short Story: "Pain-Ball"

                                                                                                                                                                                            I remember writing this story around sixth grade, but I can't for the life of me remember why I wrote it or how I got the subject material. I was never into pinball, though I guess I was into books where the main kid protagonist got sucked into a video game.
                                                                                                                                                                                            It's funny that I made the main character a fictionalized version of myself, complete with my actual brother's name, but my best friend's name is Yoshi Grendel? Really? At least I got to hand it to my sixth-grade self: the similes are pretty silly, but well written. And I for one wish I had kept going with the story.

                                                                                                                                                                                            "Pain-Ball"

                                                                                                                                                                                            "Ohhh, not again!" I cried as my pinball rolled between the flippers. I sighed and put in another quarter. I stink at pinball. It's like the stupid ball keeps slipping on purpose!

                                                                                                                                                                                            I pulled the knob way, way back and released. The pinball shot up like my brother when Mom shouts "REDGE BALLARD! How many times have I told you, 'Don't feed betsy milkshakes!'?! Now there's barf all over the—" But I won't get into that. Betsy's our cow. Apparently, she doesn't like milk.

                                                                                                                                                                                            The pinball hit the bumpers agains and again, raising my score. 1... 5... 6... The numbers increased like my brussels sprouts did when I ate too much and upchuck—Well, heh heh... Anyway, my score went up a few more points and I pounded on the flipper buttons. The flippers shot up and down like a rabid see-saw. My eyes were wide with anxiety as the pinball lights flashed.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Suddenly, I yelped as an electronic voice screamed "GREAT JOB! YOU JUST WON ALL THE QUARTERS IN THIS MACHINE! Thanks for playing Pinbop."

                                                                                                                                                                                            "Pinbop"?? My machine was called "The Pain-Ball"!

                                                                                                                                                                                            "Austin! Austin! I won! Look! I wuh-huh-hun!" a voice bellowed behind me.

                                                                                                                                                                                            "Yoshi? You won! I mean, of course you won... I know," I stuttered.

                                                                                                                                                                                            "Hey, dude, why are you shaking so hard?"

                                                                                                                                                                                            "Sh-sh-sh-sh-sha-king? W-w-what-whatever d-do y-y-y-y-you-you mean, Y-Yoshi?" I was so embarrassed of my shock. Yoshi Grendel's my best friend. He likes almost everything I like.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Meanwhile, my pinball, which looked like a green eyeball, rolled into the chute. "GAME OVER," a voice shouted. I hate those words, yet I hear them every day. I watched as Yoshi scooped about 10 pounds of quarters into his shirt.

                                                                                                                                                                                            "Hey—" he heaved. "Little... help... Aust?"

                                                                                                                                                                                            I frowned. I hate it when he does that. It always reminds me of the time our class went to Washington D.C. and Yoshi mooned the president. The guards were strangling him and he choked, "Little... help... Aust?" Luckily, it was in second grade and the president said "He didn't know better," and left.

                                                                                                                                                                                            This time it was because of weight, I thought. My frown evolved into an evil grin and I slid over the lake of quarters and dozed a shirtful of money. The chute was still pouring out money and some kids were staring.

                                                                                                                                                                                            After my pants, shirt, shoes, socks, underwear, cap, and mouth were full of quarters, I went to the treat counter and let it all out. The cashier's eyes literally popped out of her head. They landed on the pile of silver and I screamed. The eyeballs were green!

                                                                                                                                                                                            Suddenly, everything around me clotted into an incline and huge bumpers appeared above my head. My eyes almost popped out. "I........... I'm in a... a pinball machine?" I said aloud.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Suddenly, a HUUGE face appeared above me. "Ohhh, boooyy, III LLOOOVE Paaaainn-Baaaallll," he roared, and I heard a clinking sound. Then, an eyeball flew above me and hit my head.

                                                                                                                                                                                            "Owww!" I moaned. That hurt! Then the incline beneath me shifted and I found myself skidding...

                                                                                                                                                                                            Aug 9, 2020

                                                                                                                                                                                            Relic Comic: Invasion Aves

                                                                                                                                                                                            My best friend as a teenager, Jason Durfee, gave me the idea for this comic. I planned to make it go even more unnecessarily long, using all kinds of different birds that would have specialties in every aspect of a military regiment, but I think it's probably good it didn't go on much longer.

                                                                                                                                                                                            I think it's funny how it demonstrates my lack of shame of blatantly ripping off existing jokes word for word (Home Alone). It's also funny that I misspelled "aves." "Invasion Avis" would mean "Invasion of the Grandparents," not birds.


                                                                                                                                                                                            Aug 8, 2020

                                                                                                                                                                                            Relic Comic: Pie for the Guy

                                                                                                                                                                                            This is a weird one. Especially with that oddly philosophical border around the edges of the paper. Much like the Head of Osiris one I shared earlier, I seemed to start with some kind of idea and then devolved into just wanting to draw something else entirely but not abandon the drawing. Very admirable, actually, considering all the truly unfinished comics I've made. At least it ends somehow.


                                                                                                                                                                                            Aug 7, 2020

                                                                                                                                                                                            Relic Comic: The Frost Wyvern

                                                                                                                                                                                            I'm not sure why I was so into monks getting interrupted while writing when I drew comics back then. And I wish that the "lighting effects" I talk about at the end showed up better after scanning. The pencilwork is quite admirable.



                                                                                                                                                                                            Aug 6, 2020

                                                                                                                                                                                            Relic Comic: The Tamarisk Tree

                                                                                                                                                                                            I already had this comic uploaded on my computer, but I never put it onto Pretzel Lectern! Funny that this same situation made it into two comics, down to not knowing what the actual tree was called.


                                                                                                                                                                                            Aug 5, 2020

                                                                                                                                                                                            Relic Comic: The Head of Osiris

                                                                                                                                                                                            Clearly this comic was inspired by the PC game Age of Mythology, specifically the 18th level in the campaign, "A Long Way from Home." I called it the "Tree-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" because I forgot it was called the Tamarisk Tree, and I just thought it was funny.

                                                                                                                                                                                            I like the video game elements scattered throughout, like the damage numbers, health pie charts, and the line chart showing the unit populations. And of course, the fact that I got bored and settled halfway through is hilarious. I think it made it so much funnier than an actual full-length comic! 
                                                                                                                                                                                            Another funny thing is, I'm pretty sure I made another comic about the Tamarisk tree that had some Paper Mario jokes in it... I'll have to look for that one too sometime.


                                                                                                                                                                                            (Click to enlarge)

                                                                                                                                                                                            Aug 4, 2020

                                                                                                                                                                                            Repunzel's [sic] Revenge

                                                                                                                                                                                            I stumbled upon a wealth of relics from my childhood and adolescence this week while vacationing at my parents' house! The first I'd like to showcase is this spin on a classic fairy tale I wrote in February 2000. You can learn a lot about my ten-year-old self from reading this story and seeing how I warped the familiar plot and characters, and the word choice I use that just indicated what I thought was funny back then. True to my nature, I hid a couple of Easter eggs from my interests at the time of writing it (Digimon, in this case).

                                                                                                                                                                                            I've preserved the incorrect spelling of "Rapunzel," but otherwise I've fixed the grammar to read better.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Repunzel's Revenge

                                                                                                                                                                                            Once upon a time, a long time ago, there was a king and a queen who always longed for a child. One day, the queen got pregnant and got a strange sickness that gave her furious cravings. She discovered a patch of "repunzel" plants in the yard of their next-door neighbor witch. As soon as she saw them, she craved them so badly she feared if she did not get some, she would die.

                                                                                                                                                                                            The king decided that during the night, he would try to steal some repunzel for his wife. He did, and the queen was so delighted, she made a salad out of it (with some tomatoes and onions) and gobbled it up. It was so delicious, she begged the king to fetch some more. He did, but she still wasn't satisfied.

                                                                                                                                                                                            The king kept repeating this night after night until he got caught. The witch was going to turn the king into a petrified toadstool, but he begged for mercy and she said "Alright. You can have all the repunzel you want. If..." she paused. "If you promise to, when the child is born, give the child to me." The king agreed, and the very next day, a child was born. The king refused to give the witch their child, so she turned him and the queen into petrified toadstools and ran off with the child.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Her first task was to give the child a name. First she tried calling her something like "Fiddlewhack" or "Zudikkaku" or even "Togelilly," but the child didn't answer to any of those. So she tried something simpler like "Id" or "Ok" or even "Zy," but she still didn't come. Finally, she tried "Repunzel" after the plant her mother loved, and the child came running.

                                                                                                                                                                                            When Repunzel was sixteen, the witch locked her in a tower with no door and no stairs. Each day, the witch came and visited Repunzel in the tower. To get up, she only needed to say "Repunzel! Repunzel! Let down your... HEY! Stop singing and listen! I said 'Let down your hair'!" So Repunzel would let down her strands of long, long hair and the witch would climb up.

                                                                                                                                                                                            One day, after the witch had gone, Repunzel noticed a book and a rope that were stuck onto a sharp nail outside the tower window. The witch must've gotten her cloak caught onto it. Repunzel picked the book up and started reading. Her beautiful face begat to twist and fold into an angry sneer of rage until she looked almost like the witch herself. The book was a diary and had told Repunzel about the witch and repunzel plants and her real parents. Repunzel took out her secret needle and gold thread and began to sew onto the rope.

                                                                                                                                                                                            When the witch came back to visit her again, she called "Repunzel! Repunzel! Let down your... HEY! Stop singing and listen! I said 'Let down your hair'!" So she let down the rope that looked like her hair, and the witch began to climb. When she was about halfway up the rope, Repunzel let go and the witch fell to her death.

                                                                                                                                                                                            After the witch was dead, Repunzel cut her strands of hair off with her secret scissors and took her dress off so she was just in her underskirt. She tied the hair onto the dress into the formation of a parachute and jumped out the window. The parachute, unfortunately, didn't work so well, so instead of gliding gently down, she sort of, well, just fell hard into a green shrub.

                                                                                                                                                                                            After she regained consciousness, Repunzel stood up and put her messy, crumpled, muddy dress back on and started limping towards the witch's house. Right next to it, though, was her old house that she didn't remember at all, but she went in anyway.

                                                                                                                                                                                            The house was now covered in moss, lichen, and ivy and looked more like a jungle than a house. She found two petrified toadstools in the throne room. They both had tiny crowns on their caps, which were also covered with ivy. "Mom?" Repunzel whispered. "Dad?" she started sobbing. "Mom, please wake up," she pleaded. "Daddy, please!" She started crying, then screaming. A rain of tears streamed onto the petrified toadstools, turning them a different color with each tear.

                                                                                                                                                                                            After about a half hour of sobbing, crying, and screaming, and after the toadstools had turned a pale shade of aquamarine, Repunzel remembered about the plant repunzel. She ran out back and took a leaf of Repunzel from the green plant in the garden and, for some reason, dropped it right in front of their cow. The cow ate it and Repunzel started to milk it. The milk filled only a tablespoon's worth of milk in a tiny bottle. As Repunzel sniffed the milk, one last tear landed in it. The milk smelled a smidgen like Caesar salad and a hint like cabbage.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Repunzel ran back inside her jungle, I mean house, and poured the "repunzel milk" all over the toadstools' roots. The toadstools' caps grew into human heads and their mycelial threads into arms, until they were queen and king again.

                                                                                                                                                                                            After a lot of thankful hugs and kisses, they heard their door-bell and Repunzel answered it. There stood a handsome prince that Repunzel immediately fell in love with, who said "Is this the house of Togelilly?"

                                                                                                                                                                                            The princess was about to lie and say "Yes!" but for some reason, her tongue refused to lie. "NO!" said Repunzel. "I mean, no, sir."

                                                                                                                                                                                            "Oh, sorry," said the prince. And he left.

                                                                                                                                                                                            And everybody except Repunzel lived happily ever after. Until a black-cloaked woman moved in next door...

                                                                                                                                                                                            The End