Extra Life 2021: a personal appeal

It’s that time of year again. Tiny chocolate bars line the shelves of the grocery store, pumpkin spice coffee is a thing, and, at least in my neck of the woods, we start taking bets on whether it will snow before or after Halloween. Which can only mean one thing: Extra Life is just around the corner.

Extra Life is an annual, gaming-themed fundraising event. It started out as a grassroots charity, eventually became a part of the Children’s Miracle Network, and at the local level still runs on a network of volunteers. I am one of them, and have been for the past ten years.

Here’s how it works: fundraisers (like me) ask for donations on behalf of our local children’s hospitals. Then, on the first weekend of November, the global Extra Life community comes together for one epic 24-hour game-a-thon. This could be video games, board games, tabletop, heck if you want to play Twister for 24 hours no one’s going to stop you (but I wouldn’t recommend it). It’s the same basic premise as any other sort of charity marathon, and due to a combination of government grants and unpaid volunteers, 100% of all donations made via Extra Life go to the hospitals. No bull.

This year, the hospital I play for – which always relies on private donations to provide the scope and quality of care that it does, as its budget is folded into that of the general hospital it also shares a building with – has announced a five-year fundraising push to finance integrated, clinical mental health services. They want to create a 24/7 emergency mental health clinic, a dedicated team of psychiatrists, nurses, and social workers to work alongside physicians for bedside care, and provide specialized support for patients and their families in the wake of a suicide attempt. The Stollery does good work, and wants to do even more, and this is a goal I am behind one hundred percent.

If this sounds like a cause you’re interested in supporting, follow the link below to my fundraising page. It includes more details about the services provided by the Stollery, as well as a link to their website which includes annual reports and audited financial statements.

In the meantime, life has gotten in the way of our new campaign’s Session 0, but the behind-the-scenes scheming is in full swing. I hope to have some updates for you next week with a sneak peek at my new character, and perhaps a hint or two of what lies ahead. I am incredibly excited to tell our new story, explore some Savage Worlds mechanics I’ve never used before, and show the ruffians of the high seas who’s boss – in style.

Click here to support my Extra Life 2021 campaign!

Seekers of the Ashen Crown Week 45: Epilogue

The end…for now.

After the Ashen Crown was returned to the Kech Volaar under the party’s watchful eye, Ivello chose not to return to Sharn with the rest.  He spent the next several weeks in Rhukaan Draal, building up his relationship with the envoys of the Kech Volaar in the hope of convincing their leaders to grant his request to visit the kech in earnest.

While he waited, he stayed at the Lyrandar enclave and assisted Arend d’Lyrandar in putting together the necessary paperwork required for the House to properly deal with Enzo’s treachery.  He had never told anyone his whole side of the story that had led to Enzo’s removal from Rhuukan Draal.  Though Lhesh Haruuc had done his own investigation after the fact and refused to work with Enzo going forward, precipitating his exile to Lhazaar, Ivello’s subsequent disappearance and the only complaint against Enzo coming directly from Haruuc had given House Lyrandar little reason to punish Enzo further.  Relaying to Arend the full story of the attempt on his life on board the Kordenga at the hands of a Thuranni assassin, Ivello began to think that Enzo was not the only loose end that needed to be dealt with.  While he didn’t believe he’d ever be able to find the assassin Jalros again, assuming he was well-protected by his own House, Ivello sent word to Lyrandar representatives in various border towns to keep their ears open just in case.  Aruget had stayed in Rhuukan Draal with his friend, glad to spend more time in a place that continued to be both comforting and new.  Jak, of course, had been ordered by Captain Kalaes to return to Sharn with a report as soon as possible, and he had been more than happy to do so, and Kayde was eager to return to the luxury of the Five Nations.

In time, Ivello received the news he’d been hoping for: an invitation to enter the halls of the Kech Volaar along with his friends.  He sent a message to Jak and Kayde in Sharn, asking them to rejoin him and Aruget, and Kalaes gladly released Jak back to Darguun for this unprecedented chance to gather more information on their reclusive allies.

Deep underground, surrounded by awe-inspiring craftsmanship and deeply aware that he and his friends were likely the first outsiders to ever set foot in the kech, Ivello intended to make the most of his time and immediately requested access to their library.  The books he was permitted to see referenced little more than basic cultural information, as well as regular references to finding more information in “the archives” which lay even deeper below, and where he suspected the Ashen Crown and other relics now sat to wait for the restoration of Dhakaan.  Undeterred, his interest turned to the stories of the fall of the empire, the warlords for whom the pieces of the Crown were named, and as much as he was permitted to learn about the daelkyr and their creations whom he and his friends had encountered beneath the Six Kings.  

Aruget, for his part, was impressed by the Kech Volaar’s military precision and skill.  Their weapons and armour were like nothing he’d ever seen, but so were their dirgesingers.  He asked Senan, the one who had come to Darguun to claim the Ashen Crown on her kech’s behalf, to show him around, and they shared their stories of their fallen ally Yeraa.  As Senan spoke to Aruget of the other keches, she told him that what had ultimately convinced the Daughters of the Dirge to allow outsiders into their midst had been the account in Yeraa’s journal of Aruget defeating a leader of the Kech Sharaat honourably, in single combat.  Over the course of his stay, several warriors sought to challenge or train with Aruget for their own honour, and he offered Senan the Tiger’s Blade that had served him so well on his journey.  It was, after all, a relic of Dhakaan, and he did not want to keep it from them.  Senan refused, reaffirming that Aruget had earned the weapon honourably, but asked that he entrust someone to return it to the Kech Volaar in the event of his death.

Kayde, as expected, settled into swapping stories with the dirgesingers, and anyone else who would listen.  As he recorded their songs, and put some new ones of his own to paper, he set aside his own ego for a time in order to pay his respects to Yeraa’s memory.  One night, he found himself in front of a captive audience as he told the tale of her honour and bravery in their short time together, and her fellow dirgesingers seemed moved by the great respect shown by an outsider to one of their own.

Jak spent his time with the Kech Volaar doing what he’d been entrusted to do: observe and report.  He spent his time talking with as many scholars and warriors as were willing, but for the most part simply kept his eyes and ears open, committing everything to memory.  After a week, he, Kayde, and Aruget returned to the surface and made their way back to Sharn, but Ivello elected to remain behind as long as the Dhakaani would allow.  His new research led him to wonder if there was something more to be gained from a proper exploration of the ruins beneath Graywall, especially the sections Yeraa’s party hadn’t entered.  He was also determined to solve the mysteries of the Six Kings, particularly in relation to the tunnel to Khyber the party had encountered, as well as the unanswered question of what the ilithid at the Moon Pool had been up to.  Satisfied that he’d learned as much as he could, he spent the next few weeks trying to convince the Dhakaani to come with him on an artifact hunt, and offered his services as a guide.

Back in Sharn, a couple of months passed, and Jak was back in his element.  Partnered with Thom again and slowly beginning to build up the network of assets he hoped to oversee one day, the Dark Lanterns had more pressing problems for him to worry about.  The Swords of Liberty were starting to quietly become more active in the city, and Jak and Thom had been tasked with infiltrating their underground meetings.  After a particularly long night in Middle Dura, they returned to the Citadel in the early hours of the morning to make their report.

As usual, Citadel headquarters never slept.  No matter the hour, the halls held a steady stream of agents, clerks, and adjutants going about their business.  However, things were not entirely as Jak had remembered them before his exile.  Ever since the depths of Tik’s betrayal had come to light, there was a noticeable tension among his former colleagues between those who were confident that Tik was an anomaly, and those who had become paranoid at the prospect of traitors in every corner.  Kalaes had confided in Jak that there would be no public execution – the Lanterns would keep Tik alive until they were confident that he could be of no more use to them, at which point he would disappear for good.

Talking and laughing as he and Thom made their way through the halls, Jak had also begun to notice a distinct change in the way he was treated by his colleagues.  While there were some who sought to work their way into his good graces now that he had distinguished himself – and had Kalaes’ ear – there were others who resented his newfound success, and were eager to see him fail again.  He listened to the former with an aloof deference, revealing nothing and making no promises, and presented little more than a smirk to the latter, though their attitude stung more than he cared to admit.  

Turning a corner, his words died in his throat and his smile froze as he found himself face to face at last with someone whose opinion did matter to him, even after everything that had happened: him and Thom’s former captain, Kendra Torval.  A tall, severe-looking Khorovar woman with a perpetual scowl, Jak could not begin to guess whether she agreed that he had redeemed himself and regretted cutting him off completely, or whether she agreed that his success had been little more than a fluke.  When Kalaes honoured Jak’s request to take him under his command after his initial return from Darguun, he had heavily implied that it was not only because he considered it a coup to personally take on an agent who had helped take down the greatest traitor the Dark Lanterns had ever known, but also out of spite for Kendra, who was well-respected by her peers but largely unloved due to her unpleasant nature.  In spite of reaching out, he had not seen or heard from her since his misdeeds had come to light half a year ago, but he steeled himself and kept his head high as they passed each other.

She did not break her stride, and said nothing.  But she did look over at Jak with her trademark glare…and gave him a quiet, perhaps even respectful nod.  Jak considered her acknowledgement a sufficient victory.

Kayde, for his part, was in no rush to get back to work.  Riding high on his recent success, he returned to the Phiarlan enclave in Sharn with as much swagger as he could muster, which was considerable.  However, he only returned long enough to deliver his report, and then informed his handlers that he had some personal business to attend to.  This personal business largely involved schmoozing, partying, and continuing to climb Sharn’s social ladder, though he was also careful to continue building up his connections within House Phiarlan as he went.  Agreeing to some odd, low-stakes espionnage jobs here and there to keep his pockets lined, Kayde spent the next few months enjoying the finer things Sharn had to offer before his Phiarlan handlers made it clear in no uncertain terms that it was time to step up once again.

Meanwhile, Aruget had his own business in Sharn.  Finally able to reconnect in earnest with his sister Razu, he explained his plan to return to Graywall to get answers about their brother Dabrak’s death once and for all.  However, he’d need her help first, to get out of his contract with House Deneith.  Between the revelations that he’d learned from Dabrak after speaking with him through Zaraani’s Solitaire, and having gotten a taste of the wider goblinoid world from his time in Darguun and the Kech Volaar, he felt that it was time to move on from the Blademarks and forge a path that was more true to himself.  Razu walked him through the paperwork, helped him buy out the remainder of his contract, and wished him well as he began the long journey overland back to Graywall.  Aruget had never been comfortable with airship travel, and now free to be his own man, he happily made the considerably longer trip with solid ground under his feet.  

Unfortunately, his investigation into the war troll Kalak – whom Dabrak had worked for in the time leading to his death, and was now even more untouchable as the captain of the Mayor of Graywall’s personal guard – did not go as planned.  After hitting a solid string of dead ends, and getting into a bit of trouble with Kalak directly, Aruget remembered Jak’s exhortation to call on him if he ever needed a favour and sent a message to Sharn asking his friend to come to Graywall to do what he did best: navigate the seedy side of the city, gather information, and put his networking skills to Aruget’s use.  Calling in a favour of his own with Captain Kalaes to take some personal time, Jak boarded an airship to Graywall and arrived a few days later.  He quickly got down to business, finding a few leads Aruget had missed, but he had some personal matters of his own to attend to while he was there.

Begging Aruget’s indulgence for a few hours, Jak made his way to Brelish Ceramics, where the local Dark Lantern Thrandi kept his cover as a potter, and where the old man had called in House Tharashk to arrest Jak for treason.  Pushing open the old but sturdy door, Jak found Thrandi behind the counter with his apprentice.  Quickly sending the young man away, Thrandi steeled himself.  He wondered if Jak had returned to take revenge on him, and quickly tried to deflect any hard feelings now that their positions were reversed and Jak was held in high standing – after all, he’d only been doing his job and following orders.  Jak calmed the old man’s fears.  He hadn’t come to hurt him, or to further harm his own position in the Lanterns, but did give him some trouble about having been so cruel to Jak even prior to his arrest.  Caught between defending himself and apologizing, Thrandi uncharacteristically stumbled over his words before Jak stopped him.  As he’d said, he hadn’t come back to do him harm (though perhaps he had come back to gloat a little).  What he really wanted was what he’d wanted from the moment they’d met: to hear Thrandi’s story, and learn how he’d wound up stuck in Graywall.  Though he’d long since drunk the bottle Jak had brought him as a peace offering all those months ago, Thrandi agreed to the younger agent’s request at last, and they talked long into the afternoon.

His next port of call was the Tharashk enclave.  Though Jak knew he couldn’t give Korbus everything she wanted, he had long prided himself on being a man of his word, and he hadn’t forgotten his promise to join her for dinner once he’d cleared his name.  He identified himself at the gate, asked for Korbus, and was given a funny look in return and told to go inside and speak with the clerk.  The same surly half-orc who had processed Jak’s arrest was behind the desk, and his face betrayed no emotion as he informed Jak that he couldn’t see Korbus, for she was no longer in Graywall.  Although her superiors had been unable to acquire any concrete proof of her involvement in freeing Jak and Aruget and enabling the party to escape the city, there had been too many holes in her story, and too much suspicion surrounding her.  While they had no grounds to punish her severely, they still considered her to have actively worked against her House, and she had been reassigned to a dragonshard prospecting expedition in Q’barra for the foreseeable future. 

Jak felt a twinge of guilt, but also one of relief.  He hadn’t been looking forward to formally letting her down.  She had been a good ally, but when it came to matters of the heart, he’d had someone else on his mind for a long time.  It hadn’t been in the cards at the time, as he firmly refused to mix business with pleasure, and he hadn’t contacted her since his abrupt disappearance from High Walls and subsequent suspension, but he’d never forgotten her.  He had never wanted her to get mixed up in his troubles, but now that his fortunes had changed, he wondered if there was a place for her in his life, and he in hers…but that is a story for another time.

Greatest Hits: The Table’s Favourite Moments

Ivello fondly remembers the time he and Lestok decided to try to produce a forgery in the most complicated way imaginable: by fooling Morgrave’s alchemy department into believing they had a flea infestation, posing as fumigators, and breaking into Lestok’s arch-nemesis Lenard’s office to steal his official documents seal. You can revisit those shenanigans here.

Aruget will never forget the time Kayde tried to short-change a minotaur, with disastrous results. The fallout of that decision is recorded here. He also particularly enjoyed the time he found himself responsible for getting a rather fatalistic Jak out of jail, and the final showdown with Demise and her horde of undead in the Dragon’s Forge.

The GM really enjoyed playing Tik, and how things played out with Tik. Aruget and I very much agreed that he was a fantastic nemesis. The GM’s acting was top-notch, making Tik the perfect villain we loved to hate.

I have a laundry list of memorable moments from this campaign. From Aruget’s very first action with this group – having joined in media res in the back half of a fight – being to save Jak’s life, to the absolute delicious run of events that began with Jak’s arrest in Graywall and carried straight through to the end, and the time in-between when Jak told the party about his greatest triumph only for it to be turned into a 20-minute lecture on the questionable state of his moral compass, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This has been a campaign I’ll never forget.

Some moments were universally memorable to the group and GM alike. Those included Aruget challenging a leader of the Kech Sharaat to single combat, the attempt on Ivello’s life, and Thom’s unintentional betrayal – and a series of incredibly well-timed Adventure Cards – that allowed our epic showdown with Tik at the Traveler’s Rest to end with capturing him alive after Aruget’s sister called in reinforcements to deal with his goons…and an angry mob of displaced barflies took care of the man himself.

We’ll be back in two weeks time (barring any unforeseen technical difficulties as the GM completely resets our game world in Foundry) with a new cast of characters, a new player, and a new story to tell. In the meantime, if any of you have your own favourite moments from Seekers of the Ashen Crown, be sure to leave a comment!

Seekers of the Ashen Crown Finale: To Everything There Is A Season

As Jak, Ivello, Aruget, and Kayde made their way up the massive steps of Khaar M’barost, a group of equally imposing bugbears dressed in elaborate armour stood guard, halberds at the ready.  Approaching the entrance, no one stood in the party’s way – the guards clearly felt secure in their power. If the party proved troublesome, it would be no effort to deal with them.

While Kayde complained about the unfamiliar smells, earning a dismissive rebuke from Aruget about his overly sensitive nose, the party entered a courtyard which brought them inside the gates of the fortress proper.  Before the main gate to the building’s entrance, a huge statue of a hobgoblin warrior stood watch, illuminated by everbright lanterns as assorted hobgoblins and bugbears milled about the yard attending to their duties.  Taking in the sights and sounds, but ever on guard, Jak stopped Ivello in his tracks with a gentle hand on his shoulder.  Noting that Ivello had given him an edge in the past, using his magic to enhance Jak’s senses, he suggested that it was perhaps time for Ivello to grant such a boon to himself.  Ivello nodded, centering himself as he called on his powers to flow through him, restoring and enhancing old memories of the intricacies of Dhakaani culture and tradition and his own time as a diplomat in Lhesh Haruuc’s court a lifetime ago.  Gathering his bearings, he informed the group that the envoys of other nations and the dragonmarked Houses would be gathered in the gallery above the throne room, and proposed that would be a good place to look for the seer Huugan, the man to whom Yeraa had intended to deliver the Ashen Crown.

At the main gate that granted access to the halls of Khaar M’barost, a hobgoblin guard held out his hand to stop the party with a gesture and demanded to know their business.  Cautious about rival factions within the Dhakaani and unwilling to reveal the party’s true purpose, Ivello replied that he was looking for the Lyrandar envoy, and asked the guard if he would be so kind as to bring him to them.  The guard questioned Ivello’s need to see the envoy immediately, as court was in session, to which the clever scholar replied that there had been a scuffle in the city which had caught him off-guard – in fact, Aruget had fended off some of the troublemakers on the way.  Grinning through his bloodied and crooked nose, Aruget piped up that he was really enjoying Rhukaan Draal’s taverns, but confirmed Ivello’s story that they had indeed run into trouble on their way to court.  Sizing up Aruget, the guard brusquely ordered Ivello to wait, calling a runner over and whispering some instructions.  As the runner disappeared inside the gates, Aruget wrenched his nose back into place as Dol Arrah’s light flowed from his fingers, mending the bone and stopping the bleeding while Jak quipped that it wasn’t going to improve his looks.

Undeterred by Jak’s teasing and happy to be in such a marvelous place of goblinoid power and might, Aruget peeled off from the group and strode up to one of the bugbear guards.  With a sly grin, he asked if the guard’s armour was real or just for show, earning him a scowl and an observation that he wasn’t from Darguun – was he a chaat’oor?  Letting the insult slide, Aruget shrugged and replied that he’d already held his own in a fight in town, and turned the tables to question what the guard had done to deserve his place at court.  After some more posturing back and forth, the two quickly developed a mutual admiration for the other’s strength, and compared scars and war stories until Aruget asked if he could take a swing at the guard to see just how much his fancy armour could take.  The man enthusiastically agreed, and Aruget got down to business as the rest of the party watched in bemusement.

Twenty minutes later, the runner returned.  The hobgoblin who had stopped the party at the gate informed Ivello that the Lyrandar envoy wasn’t expecting anybody.  Revealing his dragonmark and old signet ring, Ivello stared the guard down and repeated that he needed to see them.  Resigning himself to the whims of the Houses, the guard shook his head in defeat and pointed to another one to lead the party to Arend d’Lyrandar – and to escort them back out if there was any trouble.

As the party followed their escort through Khaar M’barost’s halls, they climbed a large stairwell and emerged onto the gallery two stories above the throne room.  The lighting below created deep, dramatic shadows, carefully placed to accentuate the statues of goblinoid warriors lining the way to the throne.  With guards standing at regular intervals, and the gallery occupied by an assortment of races from the Five Nations, Aruget began to feel a little out of place – but all eyes were on the lhesh.  On a dais at the head of the grand hall, Lhesh Haruuc sat on his throne.  Large even for a hobgoblin, decked out in full plate armour adorned with spikes, with a sword built to match his size leaning against his throne as the light reflected off the blood-red tint on its bare blade, the lhesh was clearly no one to be trifled with.  Focused on his goal and scanning the room for any sign of Arend d’Lyrandar – a man Ivello had never met, and couldn’t identify on sight – Ivello whispered to his friends that the assorted keches weren’t necessarily aligned with the lhesh’s goals, and to be careful of what they said.  Recalling their defeat of the Kech Sharaat on the road to Graywall, Ivello worried that they might be recognized and confronted.  Jak shrugged and replied that they’d cross that bridge when they came to it – he was more concerned about what kind of welcome Arend might have for Ivello.

Making his way through the gallery, their bugbear escort led the party to a small group of Khorovar, addressing one of them directly and pointing to Ivello.  A middle-aged man with long blond hair and a calm expression turned to look at Ivello and wondered who he was.  As Ivello introduced himself to Arend, one of the envoy’s companions looked on silently with an eyebrow raised in surprise, and Ivello recognized the man as one he and the disgraced envoy Enzo had worked with.  Summoning his confidence, Ivello established the relationship between himself, Enzo, and Arend – who was Enzo’s successor – and asked what had become of his former superior, curious to hear the official story.  Arend replied that Enzo had been summarily dismissed to the Lhazaar Principalities some time ago, and that he’d heard Ivello might have had a hand in that.  Why had he returned to Darguun?  Ivello declared that he had come on his own business, and hoped that Arend might do him a small favour by pointing out Huugan.

While Ivello and Arend talked, Aruget leaned on the gallery rail and looked down into the throne room, taking in an intense debate between the representatives of two rival clans as they made their cases to Lhesh Haruuc.  While Haruuc was hearing their grievances and seemed to be doing his best to mediate, he looked tired by their pettiness.  As Arend considered Ivello’s request, he decided that he’d be willing to help…but would want to hear Ivello’s story in exchange.  He found it very interesting that a wayward son of House Lyrandar had returned after all this time, and after disappearing under questionable circumstances.  Ivello agreed to the deal, but insisted that it was a story that would take time to tell, and that his own time was of the essence.  Arend nodded and pointed down towards the great hall, to a hobgoblin dressed in elaborate robes and standing on the dais behind Lhesh Haruuc as he asked Ivello to join him for dinner at the Lyrandar enclave later that evening.  Suspicious of Arend’s motives after all he had been through with Tik and the Citadel, Jak wondered if the man was leading Ivello into a trap, but ultimately decided that as curious and overeager as Arend was, he posed no threat to his friend.

Returning to the group, Ivello filled them in, and suggested that their best bet was to catch Huugan on his way out after the lhesh dismissed the court.  Scrawling a quick note, he called a runner over to deliver it.  As they waited for a reply, Jak took note of a few groups of hobgoblins on the opposite gallery – an unexpected sight in an area typically reserved for representatives of the Five Nations.  Able to identify their dress as Dhakaani, but unable to identify who belonged to which kech in the dim light, Ivello enlisted Aruget to take a seat among them and see if he could overhear anything useful.  Gambling on which group to spy on, Aruget chose one, and their conversation proved interesting if not particularly fruitful.  Uninterested in the proceedings in the throne room, the Dhakaani were discussing the vagaries of training tiger cavalry, and Aruget listened in eagerly before returning to the others.

Meanwhile, Kayde caught sight of a small group of elves down in the hall.  Making his way down to them, he established that they were fellow members of House Phiarlan, and Kayde always liked to hedge his bets.  Although Ivello was still waiting on the runner he’d sent to Huugan, Kayde parlayed his status as a House Scion into the Phiarlan envoy’s additional assistance in gaining an audience with the seer.  Hanging back on the balcony with Ivello, Jak scanned the hall to try to determine which exit Huugan might take after court ended, and together they came up with a plan to head him off.

Fourty-five minutes later, the wait was over as Lhesh Haruuc dismissed his court.  Regrouping, the party made their way down a back passage, which they followed quite far until they were eventually stopped by a guard – who stood between them and Huugan, who was deep in conversation with Lhesh Haruuc himself as they made their way down the hall.  As the seer and the lhesh passed by, Ivello made sure Yeraa’s sword on his hip was visible.  Pausing and speaking a quick word to Haruuc, Huugan excused himself and approached Ivello, asking him to identify himself.  He commented that Ivello had been quite insistent to see him, to which the scholar replied that it was a matter of some import.  Huugan questioned whether his business was good or ill, seeing as how Ivello was wearing Yeraa’s sword and the dirgesinger was nowhere in sight.  Stepping forward, Aruget broke the news that Yeraa had died pursuing her goal, and that he and his friends had been working towards that goal alongside her, and had come to Rhuukan Draal to honour her memory and return her possessions to Huugan.  Leaning against the wall, trying to look casual, Jak interjected that it would not be wise to return all of Yeraa’s possessions in a public place – was there somewhere private they could talk?  

Leading the party a short way down the passage into a sparse, functional room, Huugan gestured at them to sit and explain themselves.  Kayde immediately fell into his element as a storyteller.  He explained how the party (as a group of perfectly innocent Morgrave researchers) had come across Yeraa and decided to join forces with her, and how she had been betrayed by one of her own – who had in fact been working for an enemy group that had been pursuing her the whole time.  He told Huugan that he and his friends wanted the Ashen Crown to be in the hands of those who could use it for good, and even revealed that they knew the location of the shrine needed to perform the re-forging ritual.  Huugan listened intently, occasionally interjecting with questions, and asked to see Yeraa’s journal.  As Ivello handed over the book, Aruget began placing the pieces of the Crown on the table.  Huugan’s eyes went wide as he compared the artifacts to Yeraa’s drawings, and he bluntly wondered why the party had returned them.  Jak replied that the Ashen Crown belonged to the people Huugan represented…to which Huugan replied that he represented Lhesh Haruuc.

The party sat in stunned silence, trying to process this new information.  Had they been deliberately misled?  The Citadel had wanted the Crown to go to the Kech Volaar, not Haruuc.  Huugan grinned at their discomfort and chuckled that Yeraa had apparently “forgotten” to mention a few details.  He explained that he had been the delegate of the Kech Volaar in Rhuukan Draal for a long time, and had determined that it was in their mutual interest to ally with Haruuc, who would take the Crown in order to give it to the Kech Volaar himself in order to establish trust and respect between his people and the kech.  Still rattled, Kayde questioned Haruuc’s intent to give the Crown away and not keep it for himself, and Huugan swore by his atcha that he would make sure it made its way into the right hands.  Though satisfied with Huugan’s honesty, Jak questioned what Haruuc would gain from giving his crown to the Kech Volaar.  Huugan replied that the lhesh had his own crown already, and that this one would unite the keches for the good of all dar.  Turning to the others, Ivello affirmed his own confidence in Lhesh Haruuc as Aruget noted that they had come to Darguun for one reason, and that it seemed they had fulfilled their purpose.  He asked to be present when the Crown was delivered to the Kech Volaar, while Ivello asked if he could meet with their delegate and Jak quietly but firmly insisted that where his friends went, he went.  Huugan scowled and replied that that would take some work, as the Kech Volaar had their own prejudices regarding outsiders, but he would try to grant their request.  Satisfied with the seer’s promises, the party took leave of Khaar M’barost.

That evening, Ivello went to the Lyrandar enclave for dinner with Arend as promised.  While Kayde joined him, Jak and Aruget elected to stay outside and keep watch in case Jak’s gut had failed him regarding Arend’s intentions.  Inside, over the best meal Ivello had enjoyed in months, Arend listened to his story intently.  As Ivello spoke, he watched the reactions of Arend’s companions, and it soon became clear that they hadn’t held Enzo in high regard even before his disgrace and resented having to clean up his mess. He also soon got the impression that Arend seemed eager to bring Ivello back into House Lyrandar, a move that would likely boost his own status for having returned a wayward heir.  

Ivello indulged all of Arend’s questions, but as the evening came to a close, he asked for a word in private and revealed the attempt Enzo had made on his life by hiring a Thuranni assassin – evidence that, even in exile, Enzo continued to have significant resources at his disposal.  Receiving the news with a grim look on his face, Arend asked Ivello to make his deposition to a Sivis scribe in the morning, as evidence for House Lyrandar to deal with.  Ivello agreed, but declined Arend’s offer of accommodations for the night, feeling that everything was happening too soon and still unsure of his future in the House.

Two days later, the party was summoned to an audience in Lhesh Haruuc’s private chambers.  They arrived to find Huugan with him, who told them that this was the meeting the Lhesh had called with the Kech Volaar in order to hand over the Ashen Crown.  Having sat in silence while Huugan spoke with the party, to everyone’s surprise Haruuc rose from his seat and walked over to greet Ivello.  He remembered the starstruck Lyrandar from his time at court – in his twenty years of service, he’d made an impression.  Composing himself, Ivello thanked the lhesh for following through on the information he’d given him regarding Enzo’s treachery, and Haruuc returned to his seat to prepare for the ceremony.

The chamber doors opened.  A tall hobgoblin woman entered, announcing herself in an otherworldly, captivating voice – she was a duur’kala, a dirgesinger, as Yeraa had been.  Two guards followed her, along with a small goblin dressed in black clothing over light leather armour.  Both Huugan and Lhesh Haruuc showed her great deference as they made their introductions.  With a gesture from the lhesh, a door opened behind him and five servants entered the chamber, each bearing a pillow on which sat a small chest that held a piece of the Ashen Crown.  As the dirgesinger Senan and Haruuc made their formalities and conveyed their mutual respect for each other, the solemn but functional ceremony was quickly completed.  The Ashen Crown had been returned to the Kech Volaar as the party had promised Yeraa it would be, and as Huugan had promised them in turn.

Exiting the lhesh’s chambers, Senan confronted Ivello about Yeraa’s sword.  He replied that he’d intended to return it to someone who would see her memory carried on, and Senan replied in turn that as a daughter of the dirge, Yeraa’s song would be carried on forever.  As Aruget and Jak conveyed their own respect for Yeraa’s memory, Senan asked Ivello to give her the sword.  He complied, and she declared that the party had muut and atcha – the highest compliment an outsider could receive.  

Before they parted ways, Ivello had one last question for Senan – now that the Kech Volaar had revealed themselves to the world at large, even coming as envoys to foreign courts, would they consider accepting an outsider among them to see and behold all the Kech Volaar was?  

Senan paused for a long time, looking deep into Ivello’s eyes, and repeated that he had honour.  She would take his request back to her people.  He might be welcome in time, but they would have to discuss it, as it had never happened before – and the invitation might not extend to his friends, but that was for the High Daughter of the dirge to decide.

Shortly thereafter, the party boarded the Kordenga and returned to Sharn.  Returning to the Citadel with his head held high, his skills and loyalty respected once again, Jak delivered his final report on the Ashen Crown to Captain Kalaes.  As the four unlikely friends found themselves no longer bound together by their quest, they considered their next steps in journeys that a few short weeks had changed forever.  Some sought to return to their old lives, some sought to begin new ones, but one thing they knew for sure…

Raat shan gath’kal dor.  The story stops, but never ends.

Join me next week for epilogues, a retrospective of the campaign’s most memorable moments, and a sneak peak at the next campaign to come! Thank you so much for joining me on this journey. It’s been a heck of a ride.

We’ve Come A Long, Long Way Together: A One-Year Retrospective of Life and Love in Savage Eberron

In which the Seekers of the Ashen Crown turn 1, and I reflect on how it started vs. how it’s going…and what comes next.

*Record scratch* You’re probably wondering how I got here.

Well, truth be told, so am I.

A year ago, I didn’t know a thing about Savage Worlds beyond hearing a few shout-outs on an popular Eberron podcast called Manifest Zone. A year ago, I also didn’t have any real prospects for playing at an Eberron table using any system. I’d had some pretty negative experiences in my short time playing TTRPGs and, combined with a lifelong battle with anxiety, there were more than a few self-imposed barriers to entry for joining a new table and learning to trust a new party.

By that point, I’d been a casual poster on the official Eberron Discord for about eighteen months. And I’d been lurking that server’s LFG channel pretty hard, but none of the games being offered spoke to me in way that seemed worth making the effort to rise above my baggage for. Then, at the end of July, everything changed.

It was a post from someone I’d never even come across on the server before. He was advertising a system I’d never played, and he was looking to fill a seat at a table that was already together – all of which I’d normally find pretty darn intimidating. And I did find it intimidating, but what caught my attention above all the other LFG posts in the sea was the declaration that he wasn’t looking for players – he was looking for the right players, and he was going to take as much time as he needed to find them.

When you get to my stage in life, and you’re not the kind of player who just wants to roll dice and isn’t too concerned about who they roll those dice with, the idea of a GM wanting to curate a group that will mesh well together (as opposed to just looking to put butts in the seats) is incredibly appealing. So of course I stared at the post for a while, closed Discord, and did absolutely nothing about it, because change is scary and trusting new people is hard.

Two days later, I was still thinking about that post. It was constantly on my mind, along with a little voice whining “you should message that guy. Hey, I can’t help but notice that it’s 3p.m. and you haven’t messaged that guy yet. Have you thought about messaging that guy?” I was getting rather annoyed with that little voice, so I indulged it. I messaged the guy.

Truth be told, I wasn’t afraid that he wouldn’t write me back. If he didn’t, I could tell myself “oh well, I tried!” and happily fade back into mediocrity and not have to face my demons. But if he did write me back, well, then I’d have to put up or shut up. And that’s exactly what happened.

Long story short, he thought I was the right player. A few days later, I found myself on a video call being walked through character creation, and the week after that, it was game on.

Slowly but surely, I learned. Under my GM’s patient guidance, I learned how to make the most of my character, and how to tell the story I wanted to tell with him within Savage Worlds’ framework. Combat was a big hurdle to overcome, but he had my back for that too. I came to admire the elegant way this new-to-me system meshed mechanics with storytelling, and quickly fell head over heels with Savage Worlds as a means of exploring Eberron. The other players welcomed me into the group as an equal from day one, and not only took care of Jak, but took care of me. And while my year had its share of ups and downs, I never stopped looking forward to Tuesday night as the highlight of my week. These guys aren’t just people I roll dice with. I feel like I won the lottery, and the prize was four new brothers.

And then, on top of all that (which is more than enough already) I somehow stepped into the role of “content creator.” When I started posting my game tales on the Eberron server, it was just because I really like telling stories. I also like sharing things that pique my interest and make me happy. All the same, when Kristian Serrano messaged me in March asking if I’d be willing to turn my stories and behind-the-scenes/mechanics talk into a blog to make it accessible to a wider audience, I was skeptical. Kristian may be familiar to some of you as a former co-host of Manifest Zone, as well as the creator of the go-to conversion document for Savage Eberron, and at the time he reached out to me, he was also managing the Savage Worlds Media Network. My skepticism didn’t stem from anything to do with Kristian (who is well respected in the Eberron and Savage Worlds communities and is just an all-around nice guy), but from my own hang-ups. Surely no one would be interested in such a thing beyond the five people who read my recaps on Discord (can’t be more than five, right? Heck, that number’s probably high!). And besides which, if there was interest in such a thing, that would be even worse (see: anxiety)! But Kristian gently and firmly made his case that there was potential for my stories to encourage Eberron fans’ interest in Savage Worlds, and Savage Worlds fans’ interest in Eberron, and that there might be more people interested in my content than I thought. So I said sure, why not. Worst case scenario, I just end up shouting into the void, and it’s not hurting anybody.

Well…the void stared back. It stared back big-time. Within a week of launch, Tales from Savage Eberron had over 300 views, and it was ten more weeks before I saw a single day pass with no traffic at all. I’ve shared other creative endeavours online in the past (and present), but none of them have made nearly as big a splash as this one. The Eberron community is full of absolutely amazing content creators – podcasters, adventure and supplement authors, mapmakers, visual artists – and it is incredibly humbling to have been welcomed into their ranks.

While next week marks the penultimate session of Seekers of the Ashen Crown and the retirement (for now) of Jak and co., well, as our Dhakaani allies would say, the story stops but never ends. We’re losing one player, gaining another, and after a week to catch our breath, we’ll be rolling straight into a new campaign. There will continue to be plenty of stories to tell going forward as a new cast of characters faces the harsh realities of life on the high seas of Lhazaar together. As much as I am processing feelings of loss about the end of Seekers, I am incredibly excited about what the future holds.

In other words, this was a very long-winded way of saying thank you. Thank you for joining me on this journey, thank you to everyone who’s encouraged and promoted me along the way, and thank you to my amazing table.

Raat shi anaa. The story continues. Life in Savage Eberron is good.

Looking to start your own adventure in Savage Eberron? Here are a few resources to get you going: