Game Master’s Ramble – Fo Fizzle

Fizzle’s Ongoing Story

What happened to Fizzle, you may be asking? (OK. You’re probably not asking but I’m going to answer anyway.) Did he fizzle out as the name suggests?

Well the good news is that he is still alive. Well barely. Fizzle, the Cleric, has used up all of his spells and the rest of his teammates have drunk most of their healing potions. They have 12 hours before they can take another long rest. And they haven’t even gotten to the hard part of the dungeon yet.

Sadly I can’t post any more of Fizzle’s diary at this point, because I hope to run the other group through this same dungeon. They probably do not read this blog, but just in case it may be a while before I can continue Fizzle’s tale (written by the player, David) here.

Self-Promotion: Shutterstock Plug

Screen capture of my photos for sale on Shutterstock

Zevster is on Shutterstock

I now have my images available on Shutterstock. My photographer “handle” is Zevster.

There are currently images of dice backgrounds and travel locations like Ireland and Oregon. As time goes on I plan to add more, bigger, better offerings. Someday I’ll get that first 25 cent download!

I’m still working on adding more content. It takes longer than I expected to sort through the images, prep then in Photoshop, give them keywords and descriptions before submitting them for review with the Shutterstock overlords. And yes, I did finally break down and get a Photoshop subscription.

I haven’t gotten a single download yet, but that’s okay. There are millions of photos on that site. Eventually someone is bound to stumble over one of mine and say, “Yes! I gotta have that one!”

Rusty photography skills

Most of the images I’ve uploaded so far have been taken with my old point-and-shoot Panasonic Lumix or my iPhone. I’ve borrowed my fiance’s swanky digital SLR Nikon and have quickly realized that it’s been over 20 years since I used an SLR camera and there may be some learning curve to remember to things like ISO, shutter speed, and apeture. Though this chart below is pretty handy:

ISO, Shutter, Aperture chart
You can download the card on the Fotoblog Hamburg site here (in German). I couldn’t find a link to his English version.



Bestosa in Color

Bestosa continent color sketch

Revisited this pencil-sketched fantasy map I sketched out a year ago and gave it some color.

Fantasy map of Bestosa in color
Bestosa (colored 2/17/2019; original pencil sketch 2/28/2018

I kinda like leaving it unlabeled and without towns. It feels like it has more possibilities this way. And it has nothing to do with me being lazy and not wanting to deal with labels and whatnot. Or being too cheap to buy Photoshop.

I’ll confess that the first version has the “dramatic warm” filter on it. The real color is a bit more chipper.

Fantasy map of Bestosa (original color)
Bestosa’s true colors

I aMaze myself!


A new trial awaits

Square on the top left is the start with the end on the lower right. Or vice versa.

Unlike many of my past maze-like doodles, this one actually has a start and end point and at least one verified path to success. (The squares are the exit spots.) Sorry about the smudging! From my testing, I know there’s more than one path to success on this puzzle… Which I find philosophically satisfying.

Doodle Maze solution

Finally Using that Journal!

black leather journal

I have a beautiful, black leather journals filled with hundreds of lined, empty pages. I’ve had the thing for years and have never known what to do with it. Until now.

Now it is my official spot for doodling mazes, dungeons, castles, and other whatnots when I don’t care so much if a bunch of lines run through them. And it only took me ten or so years to figure this out!

From Fizzle’s Diary: Chapter 2

Viking Village by Lukasz Wiktorzak

Fizzle’s Diary:  Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8

Chapter 0, Character Intros: Tholin | Kromnock Mor | Fizzle

written by Fiznarthian Ooglenook (played David Pettit)

Chapter 2

Game day 1/26/2019

Morning the next day…

Kromnak Mor makes rat stew for breakfast out of the remains of our adversaries from last night, along with rocks and grass, yuck, blagh.

Were on the path to Ol’Shire from M’Ka it a about a 3 day two night journey.  It is in the Fall of the year so it’s pretty cold at night.  It is quite foggy this morning and it was a damp cold night. As we travel we discuss what we will do when we reach Amara.  When we reach the ruins we will scout the parameter up towards the north without reveling ourselves.  We can, hopefully, enter through a break in the wall that is depicted on the map. It looks like a short shot through the ruins to the cliff and the path to the cove from there.  We will make use of the Circlet of Protection to travel through the ruins without being set upon by the ghosts. We think the best time would be around 2pm to try this. We don’t know if it will still just be two guards but we will have to trust to luck.

Second night on the road

Its gray and drizzly as we continue along the trail making camp before full dark.  While Tholin and I gather wood and make a fire, Kromnak Mor catches two rabbits with his animal trap, and cooks them, so we have a good supper.

We settle on the same order for watch this night as last: Kromnak Mor, Tholin, and me, Fizzle.  We make it through the night without incident. Unknown to me Kromnak doses through his watch and Tholin tries to catch a snake.  Which he finds poisonous. It bites him as he tries to get rid of it in the bushes, but he is OK. Later on my watch I hear what sound like an agitated snake in the bushes, but nothing comes of it.

Battle some bandits

After a restful night (for some more than others) we continue on our way.  As we make our way along the path we approach some boulders. Ever vigilant, Tholin becomes aware that, what turn out to be brigands, are hiding in the rocks.  He warns us not to make any sudden moves and tells us of this. Kromnak untrained in the fine art of subtilty immediately draws is axe and says “where!”, giving away that we have detected them.  Barbarians, what are ya going to do? The brigands stick two arrows in Kromnak’s mighty (this is for you Tim) bicep, which we all know is no way to stop a barbarian. Now extremely, shall we say irritated, Kromnak hurls one of his throwing axes at one of the archers, it was a mighty throw and cleaves the air with its vicious furry, but, alas, misses.  Not to be outdone Fizzle and Tholin put a bolt and an arrow each into one of the archers knocking him back of his perch and killing him. Kromnak leaps forward and taking a dagger in the thigh, splits the smaller of the three asunder with one mighty blow of his axe. Whish slice splat, and we are left with only one adversary. Seeing his comrades stuck and sliced, or possibly having  forgotten something important elsewhere, this one starts running away. Fizzle, that’s me, takes a shot with his crossbow and sticks a bolt in the fleeing brigands posterior. Tholin attempts a long shot but hits a protruding bolder and the arrow goes wild narrowly missing Kromnak, who quickly throws a javelin and skewers the runner, pinning him to a tree. Fizzle heals Kromnak Mor with Cure Wounds, and the fight is over.

We search the bodies and find 2 Silver and 4 Copper.  I find a silver woven basket, which I use as a hat for now.  Tholin finds a woven hair net with pearls and Kromnak fines 13 gold teeth.  One of which fits a gap in his teeth. He and I each take 2 copper and Tholin takes the 2 silver, promising to give us each 6 copper more when he gets the silver changed.  Kromnak replaces his shredded loin cloth with a pair of pants, that sort of fit, from one of the attackers.


We move on from the ambush site and come to Ol’Shire around 4pm.  It is not much to look at perched on the edge of the Briarstone cliffs.

line drawing of fantasy town:
Ol’Shire (Original Map by SteveStillStanding)

Kromnak Mor accosts the first villager we meet and asks him where the bar is, this treatment scares him so much he wets himself, but does manage to point north.  Kromnak tosses him aside and heads that direction. We follow. Kromnak seeing two building in the indicated direction one with a Bowel on the sign the other with a bed.  He chooses the one with a picture of a Bowel on the sign. I’m not sure what logic that is but oh well. We get in the door just in time to see him sit down demanding Beer from the older gray haired lady (Her name is Morgath) keeping the place.  She provides us with a bowel of stew each, guess that’s why there’s a bowl on the sign, who knew. Kromnak says “This isn’t beer” shoves it aside and leaves. He heads across to the building with the bed sign to try there.

Meanwhile Tholin and I gather some information from conversing with the old women while we eat our stew.  We are not the only travelers to come through Ol’Shire recently. Some unsavory characters have passed through at least twice once going North with “someone on a stick” and once South, just a dark robed “magical” figure.  After this we head out to find where Kromnak has gotten to.

We enter what passes for an Inn in this town, and have an ale each, Tholin and I.  We hear much the same story about a dark robed figure that we heard from Morgath. About a day ago a dark short robed figure came through with 3 other persons, all tattooed the same way.  The short one sounds like the dwarf leader of the group, Kednar. During the cores of this the proprietor of this “fine” establishment discovers I am a Cleric and wants me to bless his ale.  Which I agree to do for two rooms. Inspired by the tails of hijinks from my elders as a boy, I turn away from him produce a little “holy water” from tap of my waterskin. Then sprinkle his ale barrels making the appropriate gestures and words. He seems happy with this. I feel only a little guilty.

Finishing our ale we leave.  It turns out Kromnak after drinking three ales, stirring up the drunk, and filling the proprietors head full of clap about Drizzle, went out to sleep under a tree where we find him.  We decide to go check out the cliffs edge where I pick up some shards of briarstone.

We head over to the stable, I thought just to check it out, and Kromnak ever on the lookout for an opportunity try’s to put one over on the boy guarding the stable.  Kromnak manages to convince the boy, with appropriate help from us, that the Mayor has authorized us to take 3 horses form the stable for our journey. In the course of persuasion, at some point, the kid wets himself.  I think I’m beginning to see a pattern developing in Interactions with Kromnak and the general public. Anyway we end up with 3 horses. Swayback used up horses but beggars can’t be chooses, right. So you’d think we owe Kromnak Mor a big thanks, right, well just wait.

Now we have to ride the horses, well Tholin and I are experienced riders but Kromnak is not.  He tries to mount and the horse side steps and he ends up on his butt on the ground, he, he. Tholin and I mount up no problems.  “We will ride slow so you can keep up leading yore horse Kromnak”. This is a huge joke to us until a passing villager yells out that we are stealing horses.  Instead of trying our story on this villager Kromnak, man of action that he is, whacks his house on the rear and starts to run North out of town. The house bolts turns and runs back to the stable, and now the whole town has heard and is out to get us, so Tholin and I have no choice but to galop (more of a quick trot with these old horses) out of town North as well, passing Kromnak on the way.  The towns folk concentrate on us as we have horses and Kromnak manages to pass unnoticed after running away.

Tholin and I manage to outdistance the townsfolk before we stop and they give up and turn back.  We settle in to await the arrival of Kromnak Mor. Meanwhile Kromnak having been passed unnoticed by all the villagers chasing us carefully creeps on through the tall grass after us along the road.  As a group of villagers approaches he hides in the tall grass to let them pass. Unfortunately they see a foot and he has to improvise. Cutting his forehead he jumps up and says the brigands who took the horses bashed him on the head and headed back to town and they should hurry to catch them.  Which, amazingly, they do leaving Kromnak to continue on his way.

A second group approaches and bolstered by his previous skill (blind luck) he decides to bluff his way past.  Now this is a recipe for disaster if I ever heard of one but… you guessed it, he pulls this one off too. Spinning the same story and asking for copper for new pants, which he gets!  They also leave him to go his way and he catches up to us where we are waiting. We move further off the road to make camp. Where once again Kromnak comes through by getting two goats with one javelin throw.  Dinner is served, yum roast goat on javelin spit. Kromnak fills us in on his adventures along the road while we eat. Tomorrow the ruins of Amara await.

From the diary of Fizzle: Chapter 1

Fizzle’s Diary:  Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8

Chapter 0, Character Intros: Tholin | Kromnock Mor | Fizzle

written by Fiznarthian Ooglenook (played David Pettit)
Featured image from

Chapter 1

Game day 1/12/2019

I went back to the temple and met Slogarth, an acolyte.  He is still learning his cantrips. He told me that Master Foswith had left and taken all the able bodied fighters to Berlstrum because it is under siege from the worst of the worst, Tarken raiders.

“Listen slogarth on those cantrips just concentrate, bear down and push them out.” Hehe, hope he doesn’t have an accident, if you know what I mean.

Cleaned up in my room and put stuff away from my recent trip.

I headed down to the library to  check in and see if I can get some information on this map I acquired on my trip.

I ran into Penster (human) and Olmaree (halfling) there talking about a ruined city. Sounds kind of like Amara, so I ask them. They take me to see an old man that has traveled to the temple with a weird story.

human and halfling
Penster and Olmaree

Gorshank’s Tale

The old man (Gorshank) was out hunting and came across a band of thugs with a hostage.  They turned out to be Tarken raiders.  He followed them hoping to get a chance to rescue the hostage and be a hero.  The leader of the raiders was Kednar a dwarf and he overheard that the troops were complaining about missing the Berlstom siege and something about … Aheneus family tree.  Securing access for the Orcus, the Demon Prince of the Undead, a passageway between the material plane and the Abyssal plane.  The next day he followed them to a cliffside town that has long been in ruins.  The leader, Kednar, chanted something before entering the ruins. The old man kept seeing things out of the corner of his eye, but never anything solid. They went through the ruins and down a path in the cliff to a sandy cove.  Parting a curtain of vines revealed a cave entrance, which they entered posting 2 guards.  The old man watched from the cliff above and waited, but fell asleep only to wake surrounded by three transparent beings that seemed to be trying to communicate.  In waking he made enough noise for the guards to hear, so he ran. The transparent beings followed touching him off and on as he went.

When his story was done I asked the old man his age.  He said he was 22, but he looks 90.

Talking it over Penster, Olmaree, and I – we think my map of the ruins of Amara might be the ruins he saw.  Also the captive below the ruins seems to be the key to the whole Orcus plan.  The cave below the cliffs is the Dungeon of the Mad Molvei.  Legend says that a sacrifice of three from a specific dragon family line will make a bridge between the material plan and the abyssal one.  There will be lots of traps, so I’ll need someone sneaky.  I’m going to need some muscle too. We have decided that someone, me, needs to stop this. I’m to go to the Guild of Keepers of Balance and see if I can round up some help, while Penster and Olmaree see if they can pinpoint where the ruins are.  They have given me 100GP to hire some help.

Hiring Some Muscle

So I head over to the Guild of Keepers of Balance and talk with a Tiefling named Dohlean.  Fortunately, they have (according to her) just hired on two of the best dungeon crawling experts available.  Tholin a half-elf rogue and Kromnak Mor a tall dwarf barbarian, and imagine my good fortune to be able to hire them both for 50GP each 25% back on returning them live.  See gave me a receipt.

Upon returning to the temple I give them the receipt and find they have located the ruins.  I am outfitted with:

  • 6 small bottles of healing red glimmering potion 2d4+2 each
    • 3 each to Tholin and Kromnak Mor
  • 2 cloudy green water breathing potions
  • 1 yellow with black spiral haste potion (1min)
  • Circlet of Protection (p270 Spell of Protection) works 3 times/day renews at dawn. Lasts 10min
    • I gave to Tholin
  • 3 Amulets (for use with hostages) Proof against detection (hide from divination magic) requires attunement
    • One to each of us… for now
  • Boots of Striding and Leaping – Jump 3 times normal distance requires attunement
    • Me, Fizzle
  • Flame Tongue sword (long) speak the command word “flame,flame”  and it flames bright 40ft and dim 40ft until the words are spoken, it’s dropped or it is sheathed
    • I gave to Kromnak Mor
  • Chime of Opening (5 uses) hollow 1ft long tube.  Point 120ft at obj – strike – and obj opens (if it can be opened)
    • I gave to Tholin

We must travel from M’ka through Ol’shire to Amara (north easterly) see map

digital map of Briarstoone

I try to barrow horses from the temple but unfortunately they can’t spare any.

So on meeting up with Tholin and  Kromnak Mor and distributing some of the magic items I was given (see above) we head off on foot for Ol’shire.  It will take about three days and we hope to “acquire” some hoses and pony’s there.  Along the way on the first afternoon we exchange some history about ourselves and I relate the old man’s story and tell them of our quest.

First Night Camping

Our first night we camp by a stream in the trees about 50 yards off the road.  Kromnak Mor catches a rabbit and I catch a fish, but Tholin has no luck trying to shoot a fish with an arrow so I share mine with him.  As we go to sleep around the fire Kromnak Mor keeps the first watch.  He keeps saying “Flame,flame” and making his sword turn-on and off.  It’s a little distracting. He can’t seem to get my name right either, keeps calling me sniffles and such. I worry he may be a little “simple” in the head.

Tholin takes the next watch and we are attacked by 6 spiders, smallish, which thanks to his alertness he sees coming.  Great fighters that we are we quickly dispatch, and in Kromnak Mor case squish with a vengeance, them.  We do take some damage and then its my watch.  Whereupon we are attacked by 3 giant rat creatures, which we likewise dispatch.

As we are all wounded. I use a couple healing spells on my companions and I drink a healing potion provided by Kromnak Mor.

Kromnock Mor’s Intro: Chapter 0

Fizzle’s Diary:  Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8

Chapter 0, Character Intros: Tholin | Kromnock Mor | Fizzle

Featured image was drawn by Mr. Jones for his character concept.

Introduction of Kromnock Mor

Level 1 Dwarf, Barbarin

The following notes are from an exchange of text messages between myself (GM) and Jones (Kromnock Mor) as a pre-game setup.

Chapter 0

GM: Since killing off your mentor and starting your life as a sell-sword … well … it’s been really boring.

Kromnock Mor: Yeah he just fights, eats, and drinks, and sleeps.

GM: Not much action or challenge. The couple of jobs you have done were uneventful escorts.

Kromnock Mor: It’s really the perfect life if you think about it

GM: Which is why I must mess with it 😀
Anyhoo … you have heard that there is a big fight brewing to the south. And that there is a group called the Keepers of Balance that hire mercs looking for capable fighters.

Kromnock Mor: Aye, but that is a long walk. I’ll meet up with them when they get up north.

GM: Conveniently there happens to be an office in the town of M’ka, where you find yourself.

Kromnock Mor: Got it. Well since I am out of beer money, I might as well go see what they have to offer.

GM: Much of the town has emptied out in the rush to help Berlstrum.
So you’ve definitely waited for the rush to pass.

Kromnock Mor: I’m not very ambitious. I have simple needs, but sometimes living the simple life drags me into complicated situations.

GM: LOL. That’s where you’ll start Saturday.

Kromnock Mor: Until then I will nap.

Tholin’s Intro: Chapter 0

sketch of a fantasy town by bulbar

Fizzle’s Diary:  Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8

Chapter 0, Character Intros: Tholin | Kromnock Mor | Fizzle


Introduction of Tholin

Level 1 Half-Elf, Rogue

The following notes are from an exchange of text messages between myself (GM) and the Big M (Tholin) as a pre-game setup. The Big M’s is a man of few words.

Chapter 0


GM: After the “incident” in Goremonte with your thieves guild, you made your strategic retreat out of town. Your rogue skills are currently a bit undeveloped and aren’t getting you the coin you’d hoped for.
Your down to your last copper, sitting in the Spiral’s End.
In the town of M’ka.
The town is pretty empty due to many having left to help defend Berlstrum from a hoard of undead.
The innkeeper, Razputen, took pity on you and gave you a small loaf of bread. He makes the yummiest bread ever.
He did it all sneaky like … “Boy, I hope no one snags this fresh warm bread from this table (next to you) while I take these dishes to the back.”
Do you eat the bread?

Tholin: For sure. But only part. Save the rest for later.

GM: The tavern is pretty empty this time of day. The old dwarf, Razputen, returns several minutes later carrying 2 large ales. “Would you mind some company while I rest my tired old feet?”

Tholin: Have a seat.

GM: The old dwarf puts the mugs on the table, 1 in front of you and 1 in front of him. He leans back in his chair and monologues rather randomly about the town of M’ka.
After a while he leaves and comes back with 2 bowls of delicious chowder. He places 1 in front of you and 1 in front of himself.
“You are a good listener,” he says. “Here’s thanks for listening to an old man ramble.”
He leans back and continues talking about the local goings on.
“… and with so many able bodies having headed south to Berlstrum, those Keepers of Balance are probably pretty desperate to fill their mercenary ranks.”
I’m going to assume you finished the chowder and ale?

Tholin: Quickly finish them

GM: Excellent. He seems pleased. He nods and gets up. As he is leaving, he signals in thievescant, “good luck, young one.” His untouched chowder and ale left behind.
Later you discover 10 gold in your belt pouch that weren’t there before.

Tholin: Nice

From the Diary of Frizzle: Chapter 0

Fizzle’s Diary:  Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8

Chapter 0, Character Intros: Tholin | Kromnock Mor | Fizzle

Introduction of Fiznarthian Ooglenook (Fizzle)

Level 1 Gnome, Cleric of Pelor

The following notes are from an exchange of text messages between myself (GM) and David Pettit (Fizzle) as a pre-game setup.

D&D Game Notes by David Pettit

Chapter 0

GM: You hadn’t been in M’Ka long (couple months), when your idol/mentor Master Foswith asked you to travel to Goremont to fetch a recently discovered map of the Ruins of Amara and the hidden tunnels below.

A vision suggested that there was trouble brewing to the south and that something about the Ruins of Amara might hold the key to turning the tide of great darkness.

Do you take the trip?

Fizzle: … Oh ya. Yes I have to get the map I love maps.

GM: Eager to put your new found holy powers to practice in the real world, you head out on your solo journey.  “Real world” meaning outside the temple.

Fizzle: … Haha I got that.

GM: In the temple it’s been holy scriptures, cleaning, sleeping, eating. Perhaps not as exciting as you had envisioned?

Fizzle:… But the library was great.

… Latrine duty sucked.

GM: You didn’t have near the amount of free time you’d hoped for to read all those books. Practicing those cantrips over and over was exhausting. And then to have to clean the latrines …

It’s a good thing you’re such a positive, optimistic gnome.

Would your gnome ride a pony? Or walk? Or cart?

Anyway, your trip to Goremont was long, but uneventful. Goremont is probably the largest and noisiest city you’ve ever been in.

Do you do anything in Goremont aside from your assigned task?

This is also the first time you’ve seen people like full orcs, tieflings, goliaths, hobgoblins, and other such politely walking the streets and carrying on business with humans, dwarfs, gnomes, and halflings.

Fizzle:… Well am I rich enough for a pony?

GM: Would be on loan from the temple.

Fizzle: … I’d want to look around. You know, see the local library. Maybe take the underground haunted tour.

GM: They’d also provide you with a small stipend for meals.

Fizzle: … Oh ok a pony then.

… Good I get hungry.

GM: Sadly Goremont does not have a library nor a university. The closest you’d get would be the shelf of books/scrolls in the small Temple of Pelor.

Fizzle: … Oh well ok. I’ll look at those.

GM: You play tourist for a few days, taking in all the new exciting sights of this border harbor town. Sadly, at some point in your wanderings about the city you lose all your gold.

Fizzle: … I’ll have to see if I can get an advance from the local temple.

GM: The reading material in the small temple is mostly observations/notes on the different races of Glorte and Heshtia. (Neighboring countries) A couple of stories involving the mating habits of dragons that read more like bard tales.

Also some tombs on medicine, herbs, and non-divine healing methods

The small temple is sadly lacking in coin.

They’re happy to offer you lodging and share their food with you while you visit.

Fizzle: … Well that’s good. Maybe I can sell a chess set.

GM: You can certainly try. Did you character start with one?

Fizzle: … I bought one and I could craft one. It’s my hobbie.

GM: It takes you awhile to find someone interested in buying this strange game of yours, but the figures are pretty and will look nice on their mother’s mantle. They offer you 5 silver for the set.

Normally I’d have you roll a crafting skill and a diplomacy for negotiation, but this is all pregame.

Fizzle: … Ok was that a good price?

I better get the map and skedaddle before anything else get stolen.

GM: That’s half a gold. Your new to big city living. Do you think it’s a good price?

Fizzle: … They cost 1 gold normally.




GM: Congrats. You’ve sold a chess set and have funds.

Fizzle: …Whoo hoo. I’m a success!

GM: Map and info dump in hand (to be provided later), you and your pony  travel back to M’Ka. It’s as uneventful as the trip up.

The history of Amara

The Ruins of Amara on the NE Coast of Briarstone

Hand drawn sketch of the Ruins of Amara

The citizens of Amara had been harassed by a decidedly evil dragon that was destroying their crops and livestock and demanding they pay tribute. Even giving into the extorsion, the dragon continued to pillage the town and the surrounding area. The townsfolk went to a nice, friendly elder dragon and asked if it would be so kind as to remove the dragon from their lives. The nice dragon was welcome to all the treasure that the evil dragon had extorted from them.

There was an epic battle between the two dragons. Magic flew. Breathes of fire and acid spewed. Buildings were hurled at the enemy. By the time the battle was done, the village was in ruins and the entire population was dead. The spirits of these dead villagers haunt the ruins to this day, demanding to know why their savior failed them.

Fizzle: … Go me. Happy Gnome!

Travelled through Obsidian (Lower level human upper gnome) on the way back to M’ka.

A New Tale Begins

artwork from box cover of the D&D 5.0 Starter Set

What have I done?

I started running a new 5th Edition D&D adventure for some friends I met through work. It’s in the same world setting that I created for the Dreadstorms Lost campaign, which I’m continuing with the several-years going now Sunday group. (Note, the image at the top of this post is from the Wizard’s of the Coast D&D 5.0 Starter Set. I sam not using the starter set for this new game, but I did buy it as a going away present to get one of them hooked.)

So this new group … To protect their privacy, I’ll refer to these new players by the supper duper secret code names: the Big M, DP, and Jones.

Setting the Bar

The Big M and DP have been listening to Critical Role to get an idea of what 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons is all about. Talk about setting the bar high. Mathew Mercer is an incredible story teller and a master of improv. His players are also voice actors, so I guess that sets the bar high for my new players too. Back 3ish years ago, watching Critical Role got me excited to game master again. Which has led to other great things in my life like having a fun excuse to get together with old friends more often, a better job, and finding new friends to addict to this hobby.

But back to the new guys … The Big M hadn’t played D&D since it was AD&D. (I mean, wow! the man still has the original books! and Dragon Magazines!) DP and Jones haven’t really played much, if any role playing table top games before. But let me tell ya, all three took to dungeons & dragons like friggin’ fish to water. Their enthusiasm is awesome, inspiring, and terrifying. They are a delightful group. Just don’t tell them that. I’d never hear the end of it.


DP’s character, Fizzle, is keeping an online diary of the adventure, which I really quite enjoyed reading. I’m hoping he’ll let me share these with you here. It is fascinating for me to see how the story unfolds from someone else’s perspective. It’s like hearing a voice recording of yourself that doesn’t sound anything like you image you sound like. And then realizing that there are more voices than just your own in that recording that all sound different and more alive through someone else’s eyes.




Town of Obsidian

multi-level steampunk town

Check out the improved upon version of this map of Obsidian posted in April 2019

Ground Level of the Town of Obsidian

The town of Obsidian lies along the northern stretch of Briarstone’s Free Road, between Berlstrum and Goremont.

The population is primarily gnome. The ground floor is “human” size and scale, where the rather random levels off the ground are more comfortable for the shorter races.

Beneath the city is a well guarded secret, or at least not widely advertised to enemy forces. A large diamond mine runs many levels and tunnels underneath. The town has a dark gritty layer of coal dust that covers much of the town. Processing plants are a large source of employment here.

Places of Interest


The Frenzied Ferrett Dance Hall & Eatery

Nightly contests based on performance scores (dancing, instruments, bands, solos, comedians, etc.)
Gambling room

Salty Swan Retreat

Bath house and optional adult entertainment/companionship

The Tipsy Unicorn Tavern & Inn

Cheap drinks & small rooms

Dizzy Dragon Den

Rooms 1gold per night

Stables 6 silver per mount

Specialties: Dragon Pepper Poppers, Dragon’s Breath Ale

Yahkle Arodite (Dwarf); talkative cheerie fellow; closely shorn red hair;  no beard nor eyebrows; happy to spin a yarn about how his beard burn off and how lovely life as a dwarf is without a beard.

Mayor’s Office

Mayor Kayrem O’Riley. Male gnome with greenish hair, vibrant blue eyes, plaid red/black suit with black button up shirt and matching pocket square.
Glenarra, Mayor’s Assistant.  Female halfling, flaxen haired, tired rings under her dark brown eyes, horribly hung over from partying at the Frenzied Ferrett last night.

Military Baracks for Sovereign’s Troops

Colonel Bodo Mutah. Male gnome, gray & grizzled

Places of Worship

The Congregation of the Somewhat Virtuous

Collection of various Choatic Good kiosks
Calista. Seerer. Human androgenous. Royal blue; follower of Daghdha
Cleric Zorbit (Cleric of Aphrodite). Halfling female, short bobbed orange hair; grey eyes.

Temple of Eternal Song

Keepers of Balance

Paragons of Pelor

Sparks Refinery

Buric VonBellor. 1/2-Elf male. Head honcho of mines – technically, the diamond mines belong to the country of Briarstone and the sovereign


The Pounding Hammer Smithy

Basic metals smith; armors

Metal Mayhem

Armor/shields; some basic +1 items available

The Majestic Gray Blade

Weapons, bladed

Berttle’s Bloody Blades

Blades and other shady magic items

The Raven’s Maze

Basic magic items, potions, scrolls

The Daper Dandy

Leather and Cloth goods and armor

The Royal Yeti

Fancy clothing

Possible Side Quests in Obsidian:

Mining Pests

The owner of Sparks Refinery, Buric VonBellor, is losing minors in a new vein of the mine to a territorial Bullette that finds gnomes and halflings tasty. Buric is offering 500g per claw (12 claws per bullette) as proof of success. Buric volunteers Svensen, a portly gnome with anxious brown eyes, to take the party to the end of the new vein. Svensens not excited to be bullette bait.

Each adventurer is provided with a basic hooded lantern, if needed.

They will be escorted blindfolded by guards and Svensen through the building, down the mine shaft elevator, and into the tunnel entrance to this vein. The guards will stay at the tunnel entrance.

Berttle’s Bloody Blade

Located in the poorer part of town, behind a greasy food stand Berttle’s Bloody Blade sells questionable magic items, mostly bladed. Berttle is a angry, greasy gnome who bellows at his apprentice, Goffenmauker. Though Berttle is excessively polite to potential buyers.

Berttle has intel that there is a large boulder that contains the rare terrunium ore hidden way below the diamond mines of Obsidian. (For a description of terrunium, look under the Nation of Glort here: Dreadstorms Lost Campaign – Overview) The diamond mine operators want nothing to do with some stupid rock with terrunium. He sent his apprentice to find someone to sneak through the minds and retrieve the stone, but the hapless Goffenmauker has had no luck. No one familiar with the diamond operations wants to risk getting on their bad side.

Our adventurers enter the premise as Berttle is scolding Goffenmauker for his failure to procure some “dumb-ass idiotic adventure types” to get the stone. If the party is interested in taking the job, Berttle will offer to make a single bladed with terrunium with two minor enchantments in exchange for sneaking the boulder out of the mines.

rough sketch of path through mines to Berttle's rock
The roughly sketched path to Berttle’s terrunium boulder through the diamond mines below Obsidian (Player Version). While the path looks flat, the tunnels are constantly slopping off in different up/down angles. The round space is a huge cavern with hundreds of tunnel entrances. There are zig-zagging paths with color-coded flag posts at the bottom of each section. (Sketch on the bottom left for GM clarity.)

To aid in the task, Berrtle will provide the party with:

  1. Rod of Tensers Floating Disc. Has 3 uses of the Tensers Floating Disc spell. Activates by pushing the button on the end of the rod. The button must be held down to maintain the spell. The button is stiff and takes effort to keep active. Trying to secure the button with glue or “tape” will cause the rod to fall apart.
  2. Two scrolls of Pass Without a Trace. 
  3. One scroll of Mass, Disguise Self – As the spell “Disguise Self”, but can be applied to up to a total of 6 willing creatures. All those under the effects of the Mass, Disguise Self spell must stay within 30 feet of the caster or the effect ends.
  4. A poorly drawn directions to the terrunium rock hidden beneath Obsidian

In the Works

I am still working on drawing fantasy cartography maps (is cartography and maps redundant?), but not as diligently as earlier this year. I’ve been distracted with traveling and running D&D games and all the other stuff that takes up one’s day. And there’s this game on my phone … man, is it a time sink!

But to prove that I’ve been doing something, even if I have been ignoring my blog, I’m including a couple of in-progress sketches in the early stages of creation.

The nameless ones

These map doodles are currently without names. Ideas are welcome.


Ireland: Bunratty Castle

While some might suggest that posting photos of my trip to Ireland here is a bit off topic. I’d argue that it was research. Research for drawing better castles and the like on my fantasy maps as well as inspiration for my D&D games!

“Bunratty Castle is a large 15th-century tower house in County Clare, Ireland.” – Wikipedia

Personally I still thinks it’s a friggin’ castle, not a “tower house”.

Bunratty was intereting in that they actually staged the rooms with furniture and nick-nacks, so you could see what it might have look like with people living in there.


Ireland: Blarney Castle

I was recently on a trip to get some inspiration for castles and the like. We don’t have a lot of those in the Pacific Northwest. In September I travel with a delightful group of ladies to the majestic land of the Irish, which is chuck-a-block full of old castles, cemeteries, monasteries, and ruins.

Blarney Castle & Gardens was one of my favorite stops. It was a beautiful, photogenic location, and the weather was well behaved. A couple days before the area had been hit by quite a wind storm. Up on the tower it was still as cold as tits on witch, but it could have been MUCH worse. (I’m not actually sure why witches have cold tits. Is it because of dancing naked in the moonlight? But considering all the history/mythology of witches tied with Blarney, it seems appropriate.)

Blarney Castle

Kissing the Blarney Stone

Hoping to get some elequence for my D&D game mastering!

Traveling Companions

Bench by Blarney Castle
My delightful traveling companions, Sally, Carol, and Donna
3 women on a bench in Blarney Castle
Me with 2 of my traveling buddies, Carol and Donna. The spot on the bench was wet, so I chose not to sit my bum down.

Harpy Battle

View of harpy nest from above

When fighting a battle with harpies in a forest, sometimes you have to get creative with those trees and nests!

November 2018 – Added backstory below photos.


These notes are being added in November, 3 months after the game occurred. My game notes aren’t great, so some of the details are a little fuzzy.

Our band of adventurers were camped beside the free road when a band of 5 harpies swooped in and tried to steal all of their shiny goods. The harpies only managed to grab a couple of things before being chased off by the party, but not before losing one of their number.

The next day they arrive in the town of M’Ka. The town has netting strewn between the buildings, covering the streets of the small town. They soon discover that in the last 6 months harpies have grabbed 6 young children off the streets of M’Ka. The townsfolk have not been able to find where the children were taken or if they are still alive. Two of the kidnapped children are the mayor’s.

The mayor, Winnie Soolfulright, convinced the town to raise a “king’s ransom” in gold (12,000g) to pay the Keepers of Balance to rescue the children. The Keepers of Balance declined to take the job. The mayor offers to give the players the coin if they can bring back the kidnapped children. Our gallant heroes leap at the chance!

Lost Children of M’ka:

  • Istaak Alfrenridge (8)
  • Anise (6) and Kayla Pennywise (4)
  • the twins Herman (5) and Shaila Soolfulright (5) – mayor’s kids
  • Golfree Thompson (3)

The next morning the cleric (Annabelle), the sorceress (Kethra), and the ranger (Aphodel) head east, in the direction they saw the harpies fly after the initial encounter on the roadside. They arrive in the small, ocean-side town of Ol’shire. The people there claim to know nothing of harpies, though it’s clear that some are lying.

The good folks of Ol’shire made a bargain with the harpies. The harpies would protect the town from the marauding pirates that had been troubling the town as well as not bother town and the town would keep people away from the harpies’ nests.

Harpies have a difficult time bringing their eggs term, often forgetting to keep the eggs warm when they left the nests to search for food or treasures or whatever drove these cursed beasts. So the harpies stole the youngest, easy-to-control children to warm the eggs while they incubated.

Our suspicious group leaves Ol’shire under the stealth of night and travels north along the coastline. They find several abandoned harpy nests along the way. Eventually they come to an area that shows signs of recent harpy activity.

They set up a trap near a grove of trees: a camp fire with shiny cursed armor, gems and a backpack filled with rocks as lures. Then they find climb the nearby trees and wait for the trap to spring. Much waiting occurs. It’s windy. One of the team almost gets blown off the tree branch they’re hiding on/clinging to.

The harpies approach, singing their songs. All but one of the adventuring group is able to resist the hypnotic pull. Battle ensues. With the use of sacred flame, scorching ray, and magic missiles the harpies once more run away before they can be captured or killed.

The team tracks the harpies back to their active nests. There are between 20-30 harpies making their home there. Our heroes don’t do a great job of hiding.

A harpy lands near where they are hidden and offers parlay. Offers to give these adventurer’s “shinnies” to go away. They have 3 eggs that are almost ready to hatch. They can have the kidnapped children back once they hatch in about a month. While intrigued by the offer of “shinnies”, which they learn are coins and magic items, they are not in favor of leaving the children with the harpies. The cleric offers to keep the eggs warm herself it they will release the M’ka children. The harpy doesn’t trust that the cleric would stay put or leave the eggs unharmed and declines the offer.

Negotiations break down. As a fight becomes imminent and terrified of being destroyed by these hardened killers, many of the harpies fly away, carrying as much of their loot as they can on the way. The polygamous group whose eggs these belong to stay.

At the same time as this chaos occurs, an old friend – Barbang, the dwarf fighter – is transported from Berlstrum to this battleground in thanks for aiding a hag. A battle between the remaining 7 harpies and the 4 adventures ensue. Five of the seven harpies are killed. The surviving two harpies grab the 3 eggs and one of the children and make their escape.

The newly abandoned nests are in huge old trees bent over the tall Briarstone cliffs. The tree with the children is surrounded at the base by a large water pit, placing the edge of land 25 feet from the trunk of the tree. The children warn the rescuers that there is a giant snake hiding in the water at the base of the tree. With the aid of several Ropes of Climbing, a Potion of Giant Strength, and some great climbing skill, they are able to get the 5 remaining children safely down from the nest without waking the giant snake. They are filthy, malnourish, and dehydrated, but otherwise unharmed. Anise Pennywise is the one that was carried away.

There is much happiness, rejoicing, and celebration upon the return of the 5 children to M’ka. They swear that they will find and bring back Anise. They also swear amongst themselves to find those shiny coins and treasures the harpy alluded to during the negotiations.


Ruins of Amara

My first effort drawing a town.

I think I ruined it!

[pause a beat] … cause the town is in ruins! [insert polite laughter].

As my first sketching of a town map, I think it works pretty well. It’s really clear that the town was destroyed quite a while ago, right. Do you agree?

Are you reading this?

I hope none of my players actually visit my blog, since the group hasn’t been here yet. I’m reasonably sure they don’t. Maybe I should sneak some important clue on this posts just to find out!

Cause this is in-game stuff

The Ruins of Amara is a key location in finishing a big story arch the players have been working on in my current Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) campaign. The current arc takes place in the same world as the Dreadstorms Lost campaign and is actually like a Part 2 continuation.  This is a large part of why I’m having a hard time finishing the Dreadstorm Lost campaign on this blog. My brain has moved along to where we are currently in the game. The end of the Dreadstorms Lost happened in real life a couple of years ago now. Trying to drag my head back there is challenging. Especially when I’m trying to plan what might happen next in the current story.

The history of Amara

The citizens of Amara had been harrased by a decidely evil dragon that was destroying their crops and livestock and demanding they pay tribute. Even giving into the extorsion, the dragon continued to pillage the town and the surrounding area. The townsfolk went to a nice, friendly elder dragon and asked if it would be so kind as to remove the dragon from their lives. The nice dragon was welcome to all the treasure that the evil dragon had extorted from them.

There was an epic battle between the two dragons. Magic flew. Breathes of fire and acid spewed. Buildings were hurled at the enemy. By the time the battle was done, the village was in ruins and the entire poplulation was dead. The spirits of these dead villagers haunt the ruins to this day, demanding to know why their savior failed them.

Hand drawn color fantasy town map
The Ruins of Amara on the NE Coast of Briarstone

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The continent of Luapi is a hand-drawn fantasy map with towns and topography. No labels. Some buildings turned out better than others.

How would you use the word cartography in a sentence in this instance? Because Google isn’t happy that I’m not using the key words (tags/categories) in the body of my blogs.

Why yes, this doodle is an example of my attempts at hand drawn cartography.  This map includes mountains, lakes, forests, and other examples of topography. I’ve also included sketches of towns, villages, huts, towers, and docks.

This map and all the others are the sort I would use in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. You too are welcome to use them in your campaign (D&D or otherwise) as long as you don’t claim you drew it yourself or make a profit from the sketch.

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Xarundran – X marks the spot in color

Colored pencil sketch of a fantasy continent for use in a role playing game like Dungeons & Dragons. No labels on this one!

Decided to skip the towns and labels on this one. I just wanted the topography without the civilized bits.

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Anzorae – Back for More!

After joining the Cartographers’ Guild, I’ve learned that most of my rivers have all been messed up and that I’ll never really be done with a map.

The orginally posted version of the Anzorae map with information tidbits on the locations is here.

So I made the following changes:

  1. Fixed the multiple rivers leaving a lake or a river splitting downstream. By “fixed” I mean I found ways to cover up the BAD rivers.
  2. Added smaller townships (red circles with X)
  3. Added roads, major and less well-maintained ones
  4. Filled in the blue ocean around the continent. I just felt unfinished like it was before.
  5. Added “ANZORAE” title to page
  6. I haven’t figured out how to make the wiggle-squiggly, ocean water lines look better. If I squint, I can ignore those. I’m really tempted to take it into GIMP to get rid of those buggars.
a hand-drawn isometric map of a fictional place
Anzorae Map Version 2.0 – now with roads! (To see it without the distracting ocean lines, see below)
a hand-drawn isometric map of a fictional place
Anzorae with the squiggly ocean lines removed. Unfortunately this also removed the island and the title of the map. GIMP is great for a free program, but Boy! Oh boy! I miss PhotoShop!

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