The Princess and the Brewer – Daily Story Project #6

Tonight I try my hand at fantasy, using settings and ideas I’ve had in my notes for my Dungeons & Dragons game, currently on extended hiatus. Perhaps this will scratch my itch for low fantasy, and maybe my current players will stop by and be reminded the game should continue…

“Don’t stoke the fire too high, children. The night is dark and more than a few things in these mountains can see far better than we, and eat more than small game,” the woman said as she skinned the the faun she had caught just before sunset. As these two knew well, she thought.

The boy, younger than his sister, immediately opened his eyes, sat back, and dropped the stick he’d been poking into the flames. The girl, four or more seasons older than her brother, just stared from under her green wool hood, morose, tired, and dirt-faced.

“Didin’t mean to startle you, Mettio. I’ve been quiet while I worked. Just… perhaps you two need a distraction. It’s been a long day.”

The girl just clutched her legs to herself. “I miss auntie and mama,” she said, her mouth muffled by the way she’d tucked her chin into the neck of her loose shirt.

“Ah, I know, I know, I know, Rila. It’s a… a shame. What happened.” She continued to skin the deer, her motions smooth, the evidence of years of practice showing in the well-made boiled leather armor she wore, her knife flashing orange as it caught the orange light of the campfire. “I have no words that will help you, but it’s a thing that happens in the world. Death comes to us all. Your parents died but they died bravely. I’m lucky to have gotten to you when I did. That bear could have gotten you two, too.” She stopped, still crouching over the carcass that she’d laid out on a canvass, blood and guts everywhere but expertly contained. “Perhaps a story, to ease your minds while I get some of this little deer ready to feed us?”

Rila said, much louder and braver than before, “Where are you taking us?”

“That’s not really a story, girl.” The woman’s eyes were so brown they were nearly black in the firelight but they drew both the children’s attention all the same. “I have been a bit less than loquacious, haven’t I? I mean to get you to Kopno’domas, though we may have a few stops before then.”

“The Jeweled City? Emerald gem of the Valley?” This was the boy, Mettio, his voice low with wonder. “Have you been there?” Rila hissed at him but the boy didn’t pay her any attention. “What’s it like?”

“Oh, it’s a bunch of walled wards straddling a wide muddy river, with its back to the hills. All sorts of folk live there, and they trade and they plot and they bicker and nobody agrees with anyone. But that’s not very interesting, except to the small minds who squabble for this shiny thing or that social advantage. But there are interesting stories to tell about the city’s beginnings.”

“The princess! Tell us about the princess!” Even the girl seemed interested, now, though she was shy to show any sign of it.

“You know that tale? That’s a good one. Very well. Get that kettle over the fire, carefully, you get some water in it, and the both you listen while I tell you what I remember of it.”

As the two siblings worked, she began to speak. “The Empress’s secondborn–” Mettio nearly contradicted her but she silenced him with a point of her finger “As I was saying, the secondborn, known to the Free Folk and Sunsetters like yourself as Babble, but her given name was… alas, it was lost when the Empire fell. But her name was not a mark of her character; she was a singer of bright songs, and a swords woman beyond compare, wielder of a , and when she came of age, knowing her older sister was the heir, she wandered across the face of the world. She wanted to see every part of the Empire her mother had built, and even the parts that still refused to join her, and when she’d seen all of that, she kept going, until she found the lands under the shadow of the sleeping Dragon.

“She saw the land, this land,” the woman waved her hand, still holding her knife, sweeping from the north, through the east, to the south. “The valley, green and lush, extending south, marked by a serpentine river, and filled with tall trees, beautiful glens, and folk both fey and foul. A valley even the Eld, who bent their knee to the Empress, seemed to fear to tread in. The Princess, who was headstrong and wanted to claim some kind of birthright, saw the beautiful valley and wanted it for herself. The Eld, those mysterious elfs to the north, simply ignored her, and the Dwarfs in their mountains were uninterested in it as well, and the Dragon was asleep and would be for centuries more, so Princess Babble set out to conquer it, exactly as she’d been told her mother had done a continent away to the east and centuries before.

“She found some hidden villages, Free Folk who had been long forgotten, and some of them agreed to send their sons and daughters with her to war, inspired by her songs. And she made war on the Cold Ones, the lizard-folk and kobolds, and tribe by tribe, acre by acre, she drove them from the valley or made them submit to her. She was impetuous but she was determined and she knew strategy as if it were her mother’s gift.

“But the larger creatures, the ogres, trolls, and giants, they resisted. And the smarter and stronger of them, three siblings, giants of the storm, ten times ten times the size of an Imperial or a Free Folk or a Sunsetter – though that name hadn’t been applied since you all didn’t exist yet – where was I? Ah, yes, the Giants Three led the resistance against Princess Babble. And the giants and their kin gathered in a camp on the plains east of the hills and east of the river at those hills’ base. And they dug into the ground to make a fortress, because many of them were nearly as skilled at stonework and building as the Dwarfs are, but they did not build up, as we do, but down into the earth. And they called it Turmlina, the Deep Mountain, and they dared the Princess to attack them there.

“And even with the army she had commanded, Princess Babble knew that she could not face the giant-kin in their warrens and dungeons. It would be a slaughter, and she was far too cunning a general for that. She did not throw her soldiers’ lives away. So she came up with a plan.

“She had an advisor that had traveled with her from her mother’s courts, a man of good cheer who was also a stout fighter, and his name was–”

“Rhoban!” the children shouted, nearly in unison. They startled at the sound of their own voices as it broke the cold night air, and, their chores finished, sat down as the woman continued the story.

“Yes, Rhoban, the Brewer, of whom other stories are told to this day. She called on him to make his most potent drink, and in enormous quantities, so that she could bring it to the Giants Three as a peace offering. Rhoban labored, and before that summer became fall, he had done it. He had brewed beer fit for the gods. The Princess delivered three enormous casks of it, each the size of houses, to the gates of the Deep Mountain. And I don’t mean the little farmhouse you two, uh, never mind, children, never mind that. She ordered her army to march away towards the sea, and intended to wait for the giant-kin to come out and either kill her or talk to her. She hoped for the latter, of course, but she wasn’t afraid of a fight. Rhoban, of course, insisted he stay with her, though whether out of love, or duty, or simply a desire to taste the drink he’d made, the tales are quiet. Ha!

“She knocked on the gates that morning, that evening, and the following morning, and finally, the Giants Three deigned to notice her. They did her a dishonor by sending out the youngest, and weakest, Deigam. But even being the weakest, he towered over her as he rose up from the dungeons of Turmlina, throwing back the gates of carved stone that even a hundred men could not move. ‘What does the beetle want of us? Here to surrender?’ Deigam said. ‘I think I am hungry though you and your fat friend are barely enough to fill my belly.’

“The Princess did not waver, she simply said ‘Before you try to eat me, perhaps you need to wet your lips first. I brought you and your brothers a drink my people love. I wager that you’ve never tasted it’s like before. We believe that it alone is proof that the gods love us. Try some.’ And she stood there, her sword within reach but not in hand.

“The giant rightfully suspected a trick, of course, and he demanded proof that it was not poison. This insulted Rhoban, and the brewer, filled with indignation and offense, climbed up to the top of one of the barrels and invited the giant to pull the cork. When Deigam did that, Rhoban stripped out of his robe, and dived into the barrel, swimming around and drinking deeply of the beer that filled it, and finally climbed out. When Deigam asked about the second barrel, Rhoban demanded that the giant put the man over on that one, and he repeated the scene, doing backstrokes and washing himself all over before finally, reluctantly, climbing out. A third time, for the third barrel, although by this time, even Rhoban the brewer was feeling a bit tipsy.

“And now Deigam was disgusted and claimed that all the beer was contaminated by human stench, to which the Princess replied, ‘Weren’t you just saying you planned on eating us? Which is it, are we foul or are we delicious?” Deigam could actually smell the hops and caramel in the beer, and he had been growing thirsty, and so he finally gave in to his temptation and lifted one of the barrels and tasted it, and on so doing, his thirst overcame his suspicion and he drained the barrel completely empty.

“‘I guess that was your barrel, then,’ the Princess told him. ‘I brought three, one for you and your brother and your sister. A gift for a worthy trio of adversaries.'”

“‘Oh, let’s not be hasty,’ Deigam said. ‘They thought so little of you and of me that they sent me out here. Did you know they were actually afraid of you? You’ve been fighting us for seasons and seasons and I think you’ve put the fear of death in their hearts. But I see that you are not so scary. I think I like you. But,’ he said with a smile, ‘I intend to keep all this beer for myself.’ And he scooped the two remaining barrels up, one under each arm, and he sauntered back past the huge gates and down into the ground. But he left the gates open. Quietly, softly, the Princess and Rhoban slipped down the stairs behind the youngest giant, following him, staying in the shadows as well as they could, until they reached the Giants Three in their court hall.

“And when Deigam showed up with the two barrels of beer, his brother and his sister were just as suspicious as he had been before. But they could also see that their younger brother was sloshed, so they knew he had been partaking. And they demanded a taste of the brew, which angered Deigam, who put down the barrels and, drunk, raised his fists to Tergos and Vugara, and soon enough they were brawling, smashing the giant tables and chairs, taking makeshift clubs to each other, shaking the entire valley as they clashed, over a taste of beer. Deigam may have been the youngest and smallest, but he was the most motivated, since he’d tasted Rhoban’s brew, and in the end he stood, victorious, over his unconscious brother and sister.

“Which is when the Princess rushed in, Rhoban beside her, and took advantage of the injured and tipsy giant, and in three great slashes of her sword, killed him and chopped off his head. She managed a coup de gras on the remaining two, as well, and then she and Rhoban rolled all three heads out of the dungeon and set them atop stone towers on each of the three hills nearby, where legend says they remain to this day, facing east towards the Empire and serving as a warning to any foul creatures that would stand against the Secondborn.

The two children were yawning and their bellies were full by now, as dinner had been cooked and served during the telling. But they had stayed up for the end of the story, and now the woman firmly directed them towards their bedrolls, and she let the fire burn down, and then she leaned back against a tree and finished her own meal.

She stayed up all night, keeping watch, and once or twice, idly, she reached over to her pack, opening the flap, to make sure that the heart was still there. The heart of the children’s mother, her sister, that she had had to cut out, before the children had found her.

They think their mother was killed by a bear, she thought. I guess a she-bear is close enough.

At dawn, they broke camp and began moving west, toward Kopno’domas.

Refreshing fantasy

Right now I’m involved in two different Dungeons & Dragons games, which will mark me as a geek among the highest order. Which I’m quite proud of, so save your taunts and your barbs ’cause I will ignore them.

In one game, I am the Dungeon Master; I’ve written previously about that game and it has continued. In fact, we’re meeting again next Monday.

Tonight, though, I played in the other group. In this one, I’m a player, rather than running the game. Right now we have a group of five players, though we may be adding another player in the future.

I’ll spare you most of the details of the game and world, because I’m sure that listening to other folks describe their adventures is only interesting to a small handful of people. But the DM, Lynn,1 has made some interesting choices. He’s using an alternate historical setting, putting us in Europe around 950 C.E., with the additions of standard D&D tropes: magic-users, clerics with spells, elves and dwarves and orcs and goblins. Magic, though, is rare, and controlled by a group that owes ties to the Catholic church; and priests who cast spells and heal by touch are rarer still.

I got involved in the game on the idea that it would be a temporary gig; Lynn was writing a module for sale, and wanted a group to playtest it. So I was handed a character, one I did not create from scratch myself. That being the case, my character began a bit “vanilla” and outside my comfort range, but in playing him I’ve grown to like him and enjoy trying to put myself into his shoes. He’s a straight fighter, a swordsman of vaguely Germanic background, one who values the law and hierarchy and structure, and who gives at least lip service to the demands of the church.

He’s also a bit abrasive and tonight I discovered through play that he’s a bit of a misogynist, which I thought was a logical attitude for the times and considering his background, but led to a funny/awkward moment tonight when it bumped up against the rather modern ideas of our mixed-gender group.

We were investigating the disappearance of a local old maid who had disappeared, a cook who was renowned for her special herbed butter. When we searched her shack, she was gone, but Aoric, my swordsman, realized that the exotic and foreign herbs and spices were probably worth considerable gold coin, and began stuffing them into a bag. The priest, Father Caelin, and the elven nature-worshipper, Galithean, both admonished me for stealing. To which I replied, honestly if defensively, “It’s not stealing. She’s a woman.”

A shocked silence fell over the group. Including the DM.

I looked to the priest, sure he would agree with me (the player for the priest is well-versed in the historical context, much more than I am, surely he’d get it) but he just stared at me, eyes slitted.

“Oh,” I said, “even the priest is giving me the eye. Um, I’m just saving them for the old woman, so we can give them back to her if — I mean when — we find her again.” And if we don’t, I reasoned, I’ll just keep them and sell them.

The priest informed me that even though women couldn’t own land, they could still have posessions. In that moment, I had channeled my inner Jayne, and had found the nugget for my character.

Aoric’s moment of glory came later, when he dealt the death-blow to the Italian mercenary who had been hired to ambush and kidnap the Margrave’s son. It’s the first and so far most satisfying critical hit I’ve rolled since I took up playing again.

But I’d promised not to regale you with tales of the game. The major point I wanted to make, before wandering off into storytelling, was that after each game, whether I’m running the game or playing in it, I am refreshed. I’m laughing, I forget my troubles, I feel as though I’m connecting to the other players, and my mind is always filled with plans and memories. It’s amazing to me how energized I always feel for at least the next day or two.

I like playing, but it’s more than that. I like telling stories, but it’s more than that, too. The accomplishments are minor compared to the rest of my life, but I think being in a small party of like-minded folk, as opposed to being in a social gathering of strangers with nothing in common, is the circumstance under which I flourish. This is my favorite kind of interaction, and it makes me very happy.

1 In the game I DM, we have a player whose name is Lynn and she’s female. In the game I’m a player, the DM’s name is Lynn, and he’s male. I’ve messed up emails by sending them to the wrong Lynn before. It’s mildly embarrassing.

Fish and cranberries

A quick recap of the D&D game from the other night, a first draft of an ongoing, improvised story…

Player Characters:

  • William “Willie” Brewer, human priest of Rhoban, and brewer
  • Maira, half-elven wizard (with Fith, her viper familiar)
  • Matla, barbarian of the north
  • Xanril, human rogue (and architect/engineer)

In the town of Warjos Dos, in late fall, on the farthest edge of the Old Empire, a group was formed in the weeks just prior to the festival of Redtoberfest…

It all started, as it often does, in the tavern down by the docks. Over beers and dinner (fish and cranberries), Willie and Xanril reminisced and Maira and Matla were looking for work.

Ilbhaan the Dark, keeper of the lighthouse, did not show up for his normal afternoon round of drinks. Some sailors, three men, remarked that they might not get their shipment. Maira questioned the sailors and they were cagey and did not want to answer any questions, and immediately beat a hasty retreat. The bartender asked Willie if he could check on Ilbhaan since it was so out of the ordinary

Xanril followed them to the docks, and was able to overhear a conversation between the captain of the ship and the leader of the gang about their shipment, which apparently is “building supplies”. The captain said to keep an eye out for the half-elf girl, but that she was of no concern. He ordered them to go find the dwarf. The sailors did not want to go back to the tavern, where they thought the half-elf girl was, so instead they began searching in the marketplace.

Xanril caught up with the rest of the group and filled them in. Willie and Xanril knew of several dwarves in town, but couldn’t think of which one the sailors could be looking for. Matla decided to go check out the lighthouse.

At the lighthouse, they found the dead bodies of Ilbhaan’s wife and 12 year old son, murdered in their beds, with slashing weapons.

While the others debated what to do, Matla decided to search the lighthouse. On the first floor, they found a library – and Maira immediately went looking for spellbooks. To Willie and Xanril’s surprise (because they never knew Ilbhaan was a wizard back in the day), there were not just one or two, but eight full spellbooks.

They search the rest of the lighthouse, but find nothing: no other clues, no other people… or creatures. They light the fire at the top of the tower, and prepare to guard the bodies until they can take them back to the cathedral in the morning.

Shortly after nightfall, as Maira and Matla stood guard outside, someone approached: a dwarf from town, by the name of Mavel. He’s suspicious, until he sees Father Willie. Mavel is saddened by the deaths, and over beers and dinner (fish and cranberries), Mavel shares his story. He is looking for his brother, Gorm, who, many years ago, was an adventurer with Ilbhaan and Worjos. On their last adventure, they found… something… out, something that was enough to make Ilbhaan swear off magic entirely. But that was many years ago; now Gorm, who is a miner by trade, has been approached by the same sailors that were acting suspiciously earlier. Mavel didn’t think that Gorm was in any kind of trouble, but he also didn’t think his brother wanted anything to do with the sailors.

After dinner, Fith the snake felt some creatures approaching, and Maira felt it through her empathic link. The creatures were approaching along the beach, below the cliff on which the lighthouse stood. The group went outside and tried to spot them; Willie stood and loudly demanded that they reveal themselves, and Matla tossed his torch down onto the beach to get a better look, but all they could see was shadows.

Willie was pelted with stones from down below! The creatures, who hid in the shadows at the base of the cliff, were attacking! Xanril, Willie and Maira shot arrows and crossbow bolts, and Matla climbed down the cliff to take the creatures on face to face. Xanril took down one creature, which Willie identified as a kobold, before taking a deadly blow to the eye with a well-placed sling stone; he was unconscious and bleeding to death…

Willie was able to heal him with the loving power of Rhoban, but when Xanril returned to the top of the bluff to take aim, he was hit again!

Maira got off another shot but missed. Instead of continuing, she picked up on the way the kobolds avoided the torch on the beach and cast a light spell on a rock near the center of the group. The yapping little creatures scattered, half of them going north and the others going south – straight for Matla, who had had some blood drawn by a slung stone but was still ready for a fight!

Matla’s greataxe made quick work of the small creatures, and soon only one was left. The cowardly kobold, wounded by Willie’s crossbow, threw down its spear and prostrated itself before the mighty barbarian. Matla showed it mercy and told it to go – and with a leap, the creature was off and running to catch up to its comrades.

Xanril once again felt the power of Rhoban, and the group convened to watch the lighthouse for the rest of the night, which passed uneventfully.

Out of my head at last

Last night I hosted my first game of Dungeons and Dragons in well over 15 years, maybe longer, if I stop to think about it. Myself and four others played, and I had the best time improvising and story-telling and being surprised by where the players took the information, characters and setting that I’ve been dreaming up for the last several weeks.

There’s so much I could babble on and on about, but I don’t want to spoil anything yet to come for my players, so I’ll keep that to the barest minimum. And it’s likely the few readers my blog has left may not be interested in hearing about the nitty-gritty work of creating and running a fantasy role-playing game. But once again, as I recall from the long ago days when I played quite regularly, I remember how satisfying it is to sketch out some simple basics – a town, some interesting folk with a history and goals of their own, some economics and basic lifestyle – and have it all come to life when presented to four other creative, active minds. Suddenly my little frontier town, which until now has only existed in my head and in random sketches here and there, and in a handful of statistics from a book, is full of life and intrigue.

I’m also reminded how important it is, as the Dungeon Master, to be careful in how I describe things and what I say. My words are the primary means for the other players to interact with the world, so everything I say and do can be fuel for their reactions and consideration. And anything I forget to relate, like, say, the fact that the little reptilian creatures were reddish in color, or skipping over the dwarf’s grief, shock and horror at discovering a murder, has to get woven into the story, no matter my previous intentions. That’s part of the surprise: no matter what I had thought about and planned previously, the words and the story as it happens with the other players becomes the actual story. So I have to adjust.

But, likewise, I don’t have to be responsible for everything. I don’t want to dictate to the other players things that may relate to their own characters, so if they ask me “How long have I been in this town?” I can generate some excitement and encourage their participation by turning it around: “I don’t know, how long do you want to have been in this town?”

Really, running a role-playing game is very much like being a writer, only with the help of several other authors. And anyone who knows me or has read my blog much can probably guess that I really like story-telling.

So for now, this is a great hobby for me…


So… I’m in the last week before I actually start running a Dungeons & Dragons game, and I’m… worldbuilding.

Which means: drawing maps, creating characters, deciding on stories, and setting them all together, like dolls in a house, so that the other players can come over and play around in my world and, hopefully, change it for the better. And we’ll all have a great time. That’s the goal – to enjoy ourselves.

And I’ve been scurrying around, trying to make it all work and all come together, as the time ticks down to Thursday 5 PM, and I feel the press of the deadline and want to have it all done… so that the players feel like it’s a real world. At least as much as a world with Elves and Dragons and magic wands can be, anyway.

Did you see this post on IO9? Josh Friedman was the producer for the Terminator TV show (that was awesome, by the way, if you ever get a chance to watch it on DVD) and in this article he talks about “worldbuilding” and, because I’m in the middle of worldbuilding myself, it really resonates with me. Especially about how some of the world is always going to be fuzzy no matter how much work I do. It will always be bigger than I can imagine it, because it’s a freakin’ WORLD.

He says:

Which lead us to this: there will always be a point in your world-building when the world you’ve built outgrows the scope of the story you’re telling. The edges are fuzzy; the next town over is mysterious. Perhaps you’ve hinted at something which suggests something else, which would really turn things on its fucking head IF you were to go down that path BUT YOU ARE NOT.

Not now. Not yet. And possibly, never. If you’re world-building well, your world should feel full and alive and bustling in the corners, even if you’ve never actually made it over to the corner to see what the fuck is going on there. The world is true to your vision, but there is ambiguity and mystery and things undiscovered. I can know a thousand things about my the world I’ve created, but if there aren’t a thousand others just outside of my creative periphery, then I start getting a little sketchy and bored.

This is how I feel lately: every time I turn my attention to some part of my D&D campaign, there’s always something more to be decided, or detailed, or written down, or rolled up, or named. Always. No matter how much work I do, no matter how much effort I put in. There’s always going to be a part that’s overlooked.

I just want my players to feel that, no matter where they look, they see something that’s a part of the whole.

Yeah… I’m probably going to have to let go of that want. ‘Cause I barely have time enough for this world… Let alone a whole ‘nother one.

You’ve been hired to explore and protect a lighthouse…

I’ve been thinking about Dungeons and Dragons lately and putting together a few ideas for a campaign setting.

My sister and her husband have a beach house in Washington. It’s on the Long Beach peninsula. The little town of Ilwaco, WA, is right on the southern tip of the peninsula and right at the mouth of the Columbia River. There’s a lighthouse there, and a small sheltered cove for a fishing fleet, and a small town. To the east and north are cranberry bogs. The peninsula shelters a little bay and there’s a little village called Oysterville; at the north end of the spur of land is a marsh and wildlife refuge. And, of course, to the west is the gigantic Pacific Ocean.

I haven’t been there for a few years, but on my many visits back in the day, I’ve pondered using Ilwaco and the surrounding areas as the geography for a fantasy setting.

The lighthouse and fishing village I’d keep, but in the center of town I’d place a large cathedral/religious school. Back on the small lake I’d put a walled lord’s manor; not big enough to be a castle, just a fortified mansion. Instead of paved streets and cars there would be carts and horses; swords and bows instead of guns. A medieval technology level, with a smattering of magic.

I imagined stories about a young man who had grown up in the area and who had rejected becoming a fisherman and had fed his curiosity with the stories of visitors to the city; the young man wasn’t much of a fighter but was very sneaky, picking pockets and stealing food when he could rather than trying to earn or catch it. The young man (I had never named him) would be fascinated by the stories of the powerful men and women (and occasional elven princes and princesses and dwarven barons and baronesses and… stranger things) that came to seek help at the religious school or seek the counsel of the lord of the town. Wizards and paladins, who were once the military might of the Empire, have fallen into decline and in some areas are even feared and hunted and thought to be the cause of the dark age that has fallen; but the boy has seen some things that make him believe that the wizards and paladins are returning and that someone is trying to put the Empire back together again. For good or evil, though, he can’t yet decide.

The town was once the farthest outpost of a kingdom or empire that, centuries ago, was the most powerful political and military force in the world. But the eternal Empress had died, and her sisters and brothers, and her few sons and daughters, had not been able to decide on an heir to take the throne, so the Empire had been splintered. Some regions were overrun with wild monsters; some areas were under control of one of the families and children of the Empress; and some had reverted to local customs or been merged with the non-human races. The tiny coastal town, that I had modeled after Ilwaco, though, was self-sufficient enough to survive in roughly the same manner for a long time, and had been blessed with a string of benevolent masters and mistresses in the lord’s manor. But it was still a wilderness; there are still monsters in the bogs and wetlands.

That setting has been sitting in the back of my mind for a long time. In the last couple of days I’ve added a bit more backstory and given some thought to what the overall story of a campaign would be, and most importantly where and how it would start. The beginning characters could be fighters, thieves, clerics, wizards, rangers, human or non-human, either locals or visiting, hired by the priests or lord for a specific purpose, to protect the lighthouse or a sailing vessel or caravan on a trip inland. And I’ve got some ideas for what the first few adventures would be; the lighthouse has fallen into disrepair and needs cleaning out and guarded; monsters from the swamps are raiding the town and need to be stopped. That sort of thing.

…and, of course, the more I think about it, the more details I come up with and need to start writing it all down. The Empress’ crown, and shield, and sword, and scepter, were all magically endowed and were lost when she died; each had special powers that aided her in ruling over such a large land. Finding those items might help bring the Empire back; likewise, keeping those items out of the wrong hands could prevent a lot of suffering.

I’ve started drawing up maps and making character sketches of some important people in my setting. I still need to get a set of the rule books, though, and I’m a little lost in which edition of D&D is the best for this kind of thing, but I’m semi-settled on Edition 3.5, even though, used, those books still go for $30 or more. But the rules themselves don’t much matter, I think.

I’ve always known that Dungeon Masters are often frustrated writers. And I’ve been a frustrated writer for a long time. Maybe it’s time for me to return to a medieval fantasy setting…