This week boasted a number of interesting, fun, and (likely quite) memorable moments, and the seeds of a number of new things have perhaps been planted as well…

For my disclosure on this or any of my posts or pages… please visit my Disclosure page.

I’d spent a good chunk of last week in preparation for the Blackspire game I’d been asked to run on Saturday at Artscape’s RPGB gaming show. Thankfully, I had HeroLab to help me pre-gen the Player Characters I’d have for folks to run…

But first, Jenny had suggested that I needed new business cards handy to promote my podcasts, and fortunately Aaron had actually mocked up an Adventure Hook card for me some time ago, and so with just a little tweaking (including dropping in a QR code) I sent it out to be printed

Since it was an option to get it printed on both sides (and since I have two podcasts) I had this flip side image on the back side of the cards. The cards are pretty simple, but serviceable, and they arrived this week in time for the show. I handed out a few to some potential new listeners at the show, and now have a few hundred left to spare…

The Ottobar is always a cool joint, and there were a few very cool vendors there to boot, including my fellow MICA alumni Justin from Severed Books, as well as the very high quality dice on display from Dice Dungeons.

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Initially I’d been worried we wouldn’t have enough players to run this scenario, but it turned out that (including Jenny) we had seven PCs total, which was the total number of characters I’d “rolled up” in HeroLab (to go along with the handful of miniatures I’d chosen to represent them).

It was the perfect number of PCs to attempt what I’d created…

A scene of the battle (at the Ottobar) during the Cult of the Spire’s Initiation.

While I did actually order a new medusa figure for Jenny’s new character Claerydia, I’ve not even totally finished the conversions on it yet (let along paint it), so for this adventure she just used her “old” miniature of her other medusa character Melaria. I had written this entire adventure to serve as a prequel adventure of Claerydia’s anyway… her Initiation into the Cult of the Spire…

The game was (as I’d planned) essentially a king-of-the-mountain style combat, with a few cerebral elements thrown in. The group of gamers we attracted to play were a fun bunch, and all seemed to enjoy the experience, but Jenny and I were particularly pleased to be joined by our friend Jen, who will be our newest player character in Season 2 of Blackspire. She actually ended up running Magi Blackskull (see below) for this scenario, though I also have a miniature for her “more permanent” kitsune (fox spirit) sorceress PC that I’ll be putting together for her as well, and we should also be getting together sometime in the near future to start recording our first brainstorming session. I think it’ll be interesting for the listener to hear the character creation process from the ground up.

Anyway… we didn’t actually end up recording this game at the RPGB for a number of reasons (ambient noise issues being the biggest concern), but in the end that may have been for the best, as there was a good bit of character motivation I’d written into each PC’s backstory that didn’t wind up mattering as much in game as I’d wanted them to. However, Jenny and I may want to do some unpacking of the game the next time we record, as we’ll still consider it Blackspire “canon”, and the handful of other potential cultists PCs that also survived Initiation could all go on to serve as interesting NPCs for the campaign down the line.

Even though they really didn’t come up, I still want to share the brief backstories I wrote for each PC, as well as the quick introduction. There were also three NPCs (a minotaur named Gessus Greathorn, and two mechanical men named RICASSO and FLAMBARD). Sure, what I’d planned was totally just a combat, but it’s not like I didn’t put at least some thought into who’d be in that fight, and how each character’s motivation might alter the course of things. See for yourself…

Introduction

For any number of countless reasons, many a citizen of the city of Blackspire has sought to join the mysterious ranks of the infamous Cult of the Spire…

  • Many are those unfortunates who marvel at the steampunk level technology that occasionally leaks out of the cult’s underground domain into the general populace, and they seek the improved quality of life that membership within the cult promises.
  • Some are criminals, traitors, or heretics seeking the Sanctuary that the Cult of the Spire can offer them… even from the most powerful and notorious entities in the city.
  • And others still can count themselves amongst those penitents who are actually true believes in the Spire’s divinity, and seek to join the ranks of its religion solely of their own volition.

Their reasons for joining matter not, for all who would seek to pass through the secret doors of the Cult of the Spire must first be tested… What challenges, trials, and tests await our aspiring cultists as they seek to find their place this powerful organization?

Can any of them hope to survive… Initiation?

Claerydia Saxum of the Medusae (gorgon inquisitor/assassin)

There is a Sacred Invoice made out to the Order of the Dark Mirror for one Lt. Zyrel Icorith of the Kavalosh. In ironic punishment for harming one of the Matron Mother’s prized brood spiders, the Church of Lolth would like to see this dark elf ironically killed by the venom of their own animal companion. You have learned that your quarry is seeking sanctuary with the Cult of the Spire, but first must pass Initiation (purportedly no easy task). The Sacred Invoice runs out tomorrow… and then it’s open season on Lt. Icorith (if the Lolthian hasn’t already become a cultist by then). Plus… apparently Lt. Icorith is no pushover, and the Kavaloshi already managed to escape a few of Cthaineous’s best wights.

Additionally, you have only recently joined the Order of the Red Mantis and have yet to become fully indoctrinated into the Cult of the Spire, and so you decide it’s time to undergo Initiation yourself. And so your new master Hiveless has set you to your first test:

Tsubasa of the Kogu Shinobi has a reputation of quickly snatching up expired Sacred Invoices… perhaps a little TOO quickly.  The ninja has also tracked Lt. Icorith to the Initiation test, and if Tsubasa should attempt to “collect” on that bounty before the Invoice expires, you have authorization as a Red Mantis to “retire” the assassin.

Lt. Zyrel Icorith (drow urban ranger + giant scorpion animal companion)

As one of the elite Kavaloshi warriors, have dedicated your life to raising and training the giant arachnids that are favorites of the Church of Lolth, but none you’re a closer with than your scorpion companion Ixx. One day Ixx was attacked by a particularly irate female brood spider (and prize of the Matron Mother’s) and your attempt to separate the two creatures resulted in “profane acts of violence” that the intransient dark elf clerics decried as “heresy”.

You fled your fellow Lolthians (“drow” being a racial slur in this world), fearing for your life… and it seems you were right to do so, for you and Ixx only narrowly escaped an assassination attempt by a handful of wight assassins. You conclude the Church of Lolth must have had a Sacred Invoice (an assassin’s contract) drawn up for you with the Guild of Silence.

Knowing that nowhere in Blackspire would be safe for you two now… you have made one final desperate effort of survival, and have sought sanctuary with the Cult of the Spire itself: the eerie religion (in service to the great deified Obelisk) whose members seemingly run the city.

But you are told you must first pass Initiation…

Magi Bel Blackskull (human sorcerer)

For your entire life, your family has expected that you sacrifice everything for the sake of the bloodline. The Blackskulls can proudly trace their lineage back to the ancient Nekrossian Empire, and were even one of the founding families of the College of Necromancy some five and a half centuries ago. You followed in those footsteps, eventually earning the rank of Magi in the College, but for you the allure of technological advances held just as much fascination for you as your familial magical interests did.  Not that anyone in the noble line of Blackskulls cared one whit about your personal interests…

And so instead… since your adolescence, it has been your duty to bear one of the family blades, a greatsword that houses the soul of one of your most bloodthirsty ancestors: Sir Skoullus, also known as the “Black Berserker“ (and a hero of the Dark Alliance).

Anyone who so much as lays a hand on the Berserker Blade’s hilt is driven into a bloodthirsty frenzy and attempts to slay anything and everything nearby, and so while it may have its occasional advantages, more often than not you find the “honor” of the sword more of a burden. Especially since the only thing your family seems to care about is you producing an heir to pass their coveted sword on to… In truth, you wouldn’t even put it past your family to actually secretly hire a mercenary to act as your bodyguard.

But you have had a fascination with the fields of life and death, and (having exhausted the knowledge offered by the College of Necromancy) now seek the mysterious truths teased by the Cult of the Spire.  The promise of new magical knowledge hand in hand with more advanced technology makes it worth you risking everything (including the goodwill of the Blackskull family) to seek the answers that lie beyond Initiation.

Squire Rook (wight fighter)

As an undead creature you were created (quite recently) by powerful necromancers from House Blackskull. You think you used to be a sell sword, but can’t remember much more about your former life than that. Naming you “Rook”, the Blackskulls made you to serve their family, and gave you many powerful gifts in the bargain. And now you’ve even been sent on a secret mission on their behalf…

A magi by the name of Bel Blackskull has foolishly put their life in danger by attempting to join the Cult of the Spire. More importantly however, the soul of one of the most illustrious members of the Blackskull family (Sir Skoullus, also known as the “Black Berserker“) actually inhabits a magical greatsword the sorcerer carries. While the life of the magi is important to protect, what is even more important is that the Berserker Blade not fall into the hands of someone NOT in service to House Blackskull.

This mission must remain a secret (even from Magi Blackskull) and during the Initiation process, should anyone mistake you for something you are not (such as a mercenary or an assassin) don’t do anything to disabuse them of that misconception. But your truest priority is to defend that sword…

Tsubasa of the Kogu Shinobi (tengu ninja)

You are a ninja from the honorable Kogu clan, an Order of assassins in service to the Guild of Silence, which is one of the three Guilds of Fleshcraft (and overseen by the mysterious 1000 Eyes). When a Sacred Invoice (an assassination contract) is issued to one of the Orders, each document usually has an expiration date (typically a week). If the assassination isn’t carried out by the time indicated on the Invoice, any other Order of assassins may then step in to “collect”… and you have a reputation of being the first to “snatch up” bounties the very moment they become available. This is achieved typically by simply shadowing the more elusive of quarries (sometimes days in advance) and striking when the timing is “right”. Though you are hardly the only assassin to utilize this technique, and so occasionally you find yourself needing to move on a target just a LITTLE earlier than you probably should.

You ARE quite good, and so far you’ve never been caught “poaching” another Order’s soon-to-be-expired Sacred Invoice. You definitely wouldn’t want the 1000 Eyes to send one of the infamous Red Mantis assassins after you for breaking Guild law.

Still, you have been shadowing a very choice bounty recently, a dark elf named Lt. Zyrel Icorith. Apparently the Lolthian (the word “drow” is considered a racial slur in this world) has already managed to give the assassins of the Order of the Dark Mirror the slip… and is now seeking sanctuary with the Cult of the Spire. But still, the Church of Lolth apparently really wants Zyrel slain, but the Dark Mirror only has one more day left to do it and then it’s “open season”.  However, if Icorith actually manages to pass the cult’s Initiation… then Sacred Invoice or no it may be too late to collect!

And so you decide to follow Lt. Icorith and risk the Cult of the Spire’s Initiation yourself…

Ghepenscallus, called “Greenwing” (green dragon cleric)

Even as one of the Green Dragon Flight, for a newly ordained cleric of the goddess Tiamat you have suffered difficulty in making a name for yourself among your fellow dragons. And one of these best ways to do that is through evangelization.

In this world, Tiamat is usually depicted with her four loyal heads (Red, Green, Blue, and Black) biting the neck of her disloyal White head. The White Dragon Flight have chosen to keep to their ancient pagan ways, and in the city of Blackspire there is little opportunity indeed to encounter one of those. Even converting a handful of apostate kobolds, or even recruiting a medusa or two to Tiamatianism will probably not have the major effect on your status you’ve been hoping for. No, to truly stand out among your brethren you must attempt something only the bravest of Tiamat’s servants have dared try before…

And so… you have decided that you will attempt to win back any of the dragons who have forsaken the faith of the Dragon Goddess and instead have joined the Cult of the Spire. But before you can have a chance of speaking with any of those “lost souls”, first you must pass the Cult’s Initiation.

Veison the Errant (dhampir anti-paladin)

Born the bastard of some vampire nobleman, you were abandoned as a child to be raised in a Blackspirian workhouse and quickly learned that one needed to be cunning and vicious to survive. Trusting only in yourself and your sword arm, you made a half-decent living as a mercenary for years. Laughing at death, the only thing you revered was the Spire. You would pray fervently to the great Obelisk each night for years, until the day came when your prayers were actually answered… and you soon began to grow in mysterious powers.

The only demand the Spire made to you was COME TO ME.

Already seeing yourself as a blessed member of the Cult of the Spire, worthy of the rank of Spireknight (if not already Bishop material) other members of the faith did not share your views. At least once before you have sought to pass the Initation process, and the last time you tried you ended up slaughtering all of the your remaining fellow applicants… including a mechanical man named RICASSO who pleaded with you to consider another option before you destroyed him and remained the last initiate standing.

While you were informed that you did not pass Initiation, neither were you outright rejected. Instead you were just politely encouraged to try the process again.

I’ve also got the next meeting for the (remaining) B.R.U.W. Crew scheduled to play out how they’re going to try to mitigate the damage they did in the Zombie Museum the last time we gamed. That whole thing became the seven part story arc (which I’ve finished the show notes and scheduling) which will be available exclusively on Patreon starting next week! I’ve named the next session “Cleanup! Aisle Z.”

Trust me, that’s hilarious…

I am also going to be doing a side session to resolve the vampire Solina’s misty return to her “original” coffin in her maker’s home: the Black Palace (which I’m still debating what I want to do with that scenario) as well as an entirely separate one to resolve the gargoyle St. Jezebel’s bout of insanity after seeing the Yellow Sign (which I’m even more at a loss of what to do about). Still, all this has the potential to create some great content (especially for the higher level supporters) and I’m often at my best when I’ve not actually planned anything that happens in game, it’s all improvised on the spot…

I also realized that bi-weekly 10-minute teasers are probably not going to be enough to keep people listening long term while we create Season 2, and since the idea is to entice folks to listen, engage, and even participate with the whole process via Patreon anyway, I decided to put together two more teasers; two interesting/exciting series of excerpts from the $10 level: Season 2 – Side Sessions: Reservations at Mynphauna’s Reserve. The first of these is already live, and the second will go out in two weeks (leaving the other pending one to still release next week as planned).

I think I selected some really good scenes for these teasers that, while still making you feel like you got some sort of small recap of what went on that session, they should also be cut up in a way that’s compelling/cliff-hanger-y enough to make you want to listen to the rest of the show, and be enticed enough to be willing to pay for the privilege…

Hell, if the Part 2 Teaser I made for Season 2 – Side Sessions: Reservations at Mynphauna’s Reserve doesn’t hook you, I doubt there’s much else I could show case that would…

I also realized with the updated WordPress I can now embed the player of the episodes on adventurehook.biz into these posts as well, so I did a bit of clean up of the Adventure Hook page on this site (mine has all the teasers you can scroll through to see what strikes your fancy)…

While I probably won’t go back and create stand alone posts/show notes (like I did for the Red Moon posts) for all the old AH episodes, I may still definitely do that for any new ones… especially Episode 29: Full Disclosure which is already live on Patreon this week… and is one which has the potential to net us all kinds of new interest… and from a different crowd perhaps even…

A potential opportunity to be of service in this particular regard came up this week, and while I’ll say no more just yet, I got this image in front of at least one person of influence I’d hope would appreciate it. We’ll see what happens after that show actually goes live…

And the Red Moon show has definitely had a hand in spiking the download numbers of both Blackspire and Adventure Hook, and (again I dare not speak out of turn) but the potential of doing some more crossover stuff with other cool RPG podcasts has come out of that as well…

More on that soon, I should hope.

And Aaron is back from a very fruitful San Diego (including some other encouraging news for me personally that I dare not jinx), and after we discussed the premise of our next episode of Adventure Hook (which we plan to record this coming week) he brought up an interesting cross-promotional opportunity that came out of SDCC that we’ll try. As such we’ll be utilizing Jim Zub’s new D&D gaming resource aimed at younger readers: Monsters & Creatures: A Young Adventurer’s Guide.

All age appropriate as well as potentially educational? This could wind up being another landmark show indeed…

And, I don’t know how it was in your part of the world, but temperatures in Baltimore crested 100 degrees Fahrenheit this past weekend. That’s why it was doubly cool that friends invited us to an actual pool party. It’s been a while for Jenny and myself to enjoy socializing at a party we weren’t the ones actually hosting it… Soaking in that shaded backyard must have knocked 20 degrees of the heat index or whatever…

Good times! All good times this week!

And lots more good times just like it to come…

***

Tuesday 7/24/19-

Sun: Leo–

Moon: Aries (50% Waning)

If you’d like to start from the “beginning” of all this… you can read from my first blog post.

For my disclosure on this or any of my posts or pages… please visit my Disclosure page.

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