Tuesday, August 28, 2018

How to Be a Great Narrator (Game Master), #1

Welcome to all!

As we created, tested, and adapted the rules to The Hero’s Tale over the years, we’ve had an unwritten rule at our table: Anyone is welcome.

I will say up front that this has been both good for us and bad for us. However, overall, this has been right for us, and has been very helpful for many of us at the table.

How this has been good:

I’m not inside the heads of those who sit at our table, laughing and throwing dice, but as I look around it, I see a core group of great friends who have been through a lot together. We’ve saved the world and the universe a time or two, and, in the process saved each other. We all have issues. We all have struggles. Over the years, our (mostly) consistent adventure night has given us a chance to bond with each other. We’ve become “our tribe”.

All of us, in some way or another, have at times felt like we were socially disconnected. We’ve felt “not cool” or on the fringes of the mainstream. There are some of us at our table that have actually been professionally diagnosed this way, with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, or even with physical disabilities. When we’re playing, the table evens everything out.

Through the years, various people have drifted in and out of our group. Some stay for a while, some stay only for a session or two. A few have moved away and come back. Life is kinda curious that way. I like to think that each one has brought something interesting and beneficial to the group, and I hope that the group has been beneficial to them.

There are a few in the group that I’ve essentially seen grow up here. When we started, Jacob, my youngest son, was 14 years old. He’s 18, now. There are two or three that came in from his social circle that are in the same age range. A lot changes in those four years of a kid’s life. I look at the process of their growth, and I’m certain that the gaming group had a big impact on that.

How this has been bad:

There are some practical considerations with having an “open chair” policy. One can be the physical lack of chairs. There have been nights where we actually run out of chairs and room around the table. We’ve gotten good at adapting things.

That indicates another “big” problem. The party gets to be too big. It takes some tricky Game Mastering to manage that many players. At a few points, we’ve tried to split the group into two tables, but for some reason, we always tend to drift back to one big one. I guess we like the camaraderie. And yet, in spite of the challenges big groups bring, our GMs have never insisted that anyone leave.

That many people also means a lot of character inconsistency. There are few weeks where everyone is here. How do you continue the story with missing characters? You just adapt. Our running joke is that this character or that character is “visiting his mother”. Or someone else can play the character of the missing player (as long as he/she stays true to that character’s character).

In spite of all of the challenges it brings, I’ve seen the impact our game group has had on the players themselves. I’m quite proud to be a part of it all. For all of the problems it brings to the story line, I would now always err on the side of inclusion.

Keep on rolling!

Monday, August 27, 2018

“Stopping a Thief, Part II” - A Tale of Heroes - Scene 54: Karendle

I’ve lost him. I’ve lost the thief, lost the wizard, lost it all.

The sun was much brighter, shining down in mid-morning glory, and making the market air warm. Karendle wasn’t feeling it. She had just spent the last hours limping up and down the alleyways of this little town’s center. Back and forth, over and over, looking for some sign of the man in the dark cloak that had robbed her. By now, her leg was hurting her less, or maybe she was just getting used to it.

This is a small town! There isn’t that much to see! Where could he be hiding? She looked up and down the street. There were vendors lining far side of the street, away from the docks, mostly squatting on blankets with grains or cloth spread out before them. The de facto marketplace only went for a few blocks either way. She had asked a few of the vendors, but no one had seen the man she described.

The street was getting more full as the sun kept rising. Karendle found a bench near some bushes where she could rest and rub out the pain in her leg. I’m sure that by now, he’s opened the pouch up and tried to sell the oculi. Is there a jeweler in this town? Maybe he knows they’re magical. He can probably get some good money out of oculus stones.

The sun was getting warm on the side of her face. Of course, stones like that would have to be sold in a dark market. There’s no way anyone would have those out in the open. I wonder if there’s a dark market jeweler? 

She sat up and raised her head. Something familiar caught her eye. It was DeFrantis stepping out of a shop onto the main road, not more than ten yards away! A man was following her. It was Antonneri, but he was dressed differently. His church tunic was gone, and replaced by a finer shirt. His five-day beard was gone, too, and she was suddenly struck by how handsome he looked.

Quickly, she jumped up and stepped behind the bushes near the water. She leaned and watched them closely. What are they doing? Shopping? I thought they were going to go find some kids they were looking for. They talked to each other, but she was too far away to hear. They looked too focused, intent, to be casually shopping. They walked eastward down the street, into the sunlight.

She watched them go, wondering, then came out from the bushes. All that time I spent chasing her, and now, here I am, without my oculus to catch her. They could probably lead me back to Thissarill, too. 

Her mind was racing. So many things. How can she find her gems? How can she find a secret, dark market? Where would she look? Her mind drifted, then suddenly focused. Wait! I’ll bet he knows! I’ll bet he’s seen a lot more than he lets on! He’ll know where to look!

With an unsteady gait, she took off to find the alley.


This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing.

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Thursday, August 23, 2018

“Stopping a Thief, Part I” - A Tale of Heroes - Scene 53: Karendle

Karendle tried to run through the alley, but it was too cluttered and her knee and shin were painful and weak. The best she could do in the shadows of the dim morning light was to limp and stumble her way forward. After a few yards, she saw some barrels stacked along the side of the building and reached out to them for support. Her eyes adjusted. Maybe it’s just getting lighter. She steadied herself and ran ahead.

I can’t lose him! He had to come this way!

She came to a spot that was a bit lighter, where the alley intersected with another at the end of the building, along a fence. Which way to go? She looked each way. I’ll bet he went left, she told herself, and took off that way.

Immediately, her foot hit some garbage and she tripped. She fell, hard, onto the dirt of the alley. Just as quickly she heard something shout in pain. That wasn’t me.

She flipped over and leaned up. Next to a couple of crates was a small, brown burlap tarp. The broken twine at the corners suggested that it had probably been covering the crates at one point. Something was moving under the clutter. Yes, there are two legs sticking out from under that wrap! Ignoring the sharp pain in her leg, she stood and whisked the tarp away.

“No! Don’t take me! Don’t take me! Let me go home!” He was thin, and looked older. The empty jug on his arm and the ale-soaked shirt told her his story.

“Hey!” She said, grabbing him and picking him up. She leaned him against the wall.

“Don’t take me!” He shrieked again. She winced at the toxic smell of alcohol that wafted from him. His tunic was also a dull brown and caked with dirt and dust.

“I’m not taking you anywhere!” She shouted, shaking him. “Who would want you?” She let go and he slumped down again, mumbling. Wait. He might have seen the thief. 

“I’ll go home...”

“Did someone just run by here?”

He looked up at her, confused.

“I”m not going to hurt you! Just tell me if someone came through here!”

He sighed and wiped his face as he cleared his thoughts. Then, he nodded, and pointed. “Yeah. Just now. Did you get robbed?”

“Yeah.” She limped off in that same direction. Yeah. I got robbed.

He called after her. “Watch out! Don’t let them take you!”

Karendle didn’t allow herself a moment to wonder what he meant.


This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing.

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Monday, August 20, 2018

“What’s She Worth?” - A Tale of Heroes - Scene 55: DeFrantis

“I don’t like this!” Antonerri whispered.

“I know. But you look very good like that.” DeFrantis stood in front of him, with her back to him.

“I wasn’t talking about the shirt.” The room was dark, even though it was day. The windows of the old inn had been boarded up. Only a few thin rays of light shone through the cracks. It was also crowded, with people pressing their way in, out, and around the cramped space. There was a low rumble of voices filling the warm, smoky, damp air.

“I know you weren’t. We’ll be fine.” Her hands were tied in front of her, not too tightly, but enough to show who was the seller and who was for sale. Antonerri held onto the other end of that short rope like a child held his mother’s hand.  “You shouldn’t be talking to me. Push me around a bit. Find a buyer.”

He half-heartedly nudged her forward and she took a few steps, angling between a few others. She added, “And keep an eye out for children.”

“Quiet, you!” He nudged her again, then whispered, “Sorry”. She tried not to laugh. They stepped cautiously through the crowd.

To her left, two men spoke quickly to each other, gesturing intensely with their hands. One of them had a hold on a chain attached to two other younger men. They were in tattered tunics, and their thin, frail bodies were covered in mud and dirt. Their eyes were down, and hidden by scraggly strands of hair. Their elongated ears told her they were wood elves. Probably from Umbrawood forest. I wonder if they came to Dirae on their own or if the slavers had taken them in a raid on their treehold.

The two humans shook hands. As DeFrantis and Antonerri continued moving, she saw one hand the other a pouch. Then they were lost from sight in the press. We have to shut this down. So much suffering. But I have to stay focused.

She felt Antonerri stop and turn when someone with a deep, gruff voice said, “Let me see her!” A hand grabbed her shoulder and spun her around. Instinctively, her hand reached up to block, but she immediately realized it was tied to her other hand, and it reminded her not to react. She kept her gaze down.

The man standing in front of her wore tall boots of fine leather. His leggings and shirt were clean, and appeared to be expensive linen. He reached his hand up and grabbed her jaws and cheeks. He pulled her face upward and looked her over. His face was shadowed, but human and angular, bent in a scowl. With a look of disdain and a harsh shove on her cheek, he turned back to Antonerri.

“I’ll give you two gold.” He rasped, “And that’s generous.” He pushed her head down again.

She threw a worried glance at Antonerri and saw his jaw tense. Quickly, nervously, she dropped her head again, like the obedient captive she was supposed to be.

This could get ugly really fast.


This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing.

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Thursday, August 16, 2018

“Brother, Sister, Friends” - A Tale of Heroes - Scene 52: Granthurg

Granthurg pushed on the large wooden door. It gave way easily, though not without a sound. As it creaked, he stepped inside and looked at the cathedral hall before him. Immediately the vaulted ceiling and the arches supporting it surrounded him with a sense of smallness. The hall itself wasn’t so much big as its openness and vastness made him feel small. The colored lights of the morning streaming in through the windows covered the benches in warmth, but left the upper lofts shrouded in shadow and smoke from candles, incense, and hearthfires.

There was a peace, a calm about this place that he found oddly familiar, and, as he looked across the room, made him smile. Churches had always made him feel a bit uneasy, like he was unworthy of being there. But today, it reminded him of an easy summer night on the river, and it filled him with relaxation. He felt an urge to kneel, but he didn’t know where, so he simply stood, awkwardly, in silence, as Thissraelle moved out from behind him.

She stepped forward, interrupting his reverie, toward a man who had been walking up the aisle toward them. Granthurg had been so enraptured by the building that he had ignored the man entirely.  He was a human, but a bit short, and plump. He wore the robes of a monk, not a priest. His hair was cropped short, and his beard was trimmed. He bowed as he approached.

“Welcome! Welcome! A fair day to you both!” Thissraelle extended her hand in greeting. He took it, then surprised her by drawing her into an enthusiastic hug. He set her back down and reached up to Granthurg, who backed away slightly. I don’t know about this...

“Oh, come here!” The brother gently chided, and moved closer to Granthurg, reaching up to embrace the giant. He hesitated, then found himself relaxing. He received and returned the hug. After a couple of gentle pats on the back, the old friar released him and stepped back. “I’m so glad to see you both! Come! Come up here and sit down!”

Granthurg found himself chuckling at his odd and overly friendly style, and followed him toward the altar before the pews. Thissraelle followed.

“I’m Brother Mathazar. We don’t get many visitors,” He gestured to the benches, then sat himself on the edge of the altar’s dias, “Especially mid-day, and mid-week.”

Thissraelle sat on the most forward bench, and Granthurg eased himself down next to her. The bench groaned under his weight, but held.

“What brings you here, today,” Brother Mathazar said, “Confession? Worship service? Marriage?”

Thissraelle coughed, startled. “We’re here because we need your help. One of our traveling companions is looking for some missing children. We believe they might have been brought through this town.”

The sudden silence in the thick air was palpable. Brother Mathazar looked closely at each of them. “That would mean you’re not from around here. That would mean you don’t know about Dirae, do you?”

Granthurg’s eyes narrowed. “I’ve been through here before. I work the river. Mostly the Lesser Wynne, though.”

“When was the last time you came by here?”

Granthurg thought about this. How long ago was it? I was working the Portstown runs last year, and I wintered at home in the mountains.  “Perhaps, two, maybe three summers ago...”

“About a year ago, Dirae became a dark market hub. One of the darkest kind. There, they buy and sell the saddest of wares.” He got very quiet. “They’re slavers!”

He saw their reactions, and continued, “They’ll sell anyone, from anywhere! Even children! They have no shame! And they’re ruthless and bloody. They’ll kill anyone that gets in the way.”

Thissraelle ventured, “Is that why we see no children begging in the streets here?”

“Yes!” the brother whispered, “Good parents won’t let their kids out of their sight, and kids without get snatched up and sold! We had to move our orphanage to the abbey in the forest to keep them safe! The people have gone crazy, here. Every once in a while, there’s a big fight in the streets as rival guilds fight for control. Outside of the waterfront, people just work their farms and stay inside. They don’t come to church any more. Most of them are too afraid.”

Granthurg saw Thissraelle’s head droop. His large hand rested on her narrow shoulder. She looked up and said, “When will I stop being amazed by the horrors I see?”

“Oh, my dear sister,” sighed Brother Mathazar, “My dear, dear sister...”


This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing.

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Monday, August 13, 2018

“Going to the Chapel” - A Tale of Heroes - Scene 51: Thissraelle

“Maybe I’m too naive.” Thissraelle admitted. “It’s true that I barely know these people. And we’re being hunted by the Wizard’s Guild and who knows who else...”

She and Granthurg walked along the waterfront, to the west, as the road followed the flow of the river. The morning busy of the markets was beginning to show on the street. The shops were opening, and vendors were setting up by the side of the road. The sun rising over the town’s houses had replaced quiet with chatter. The barmaid at the inn had told her that following this road would take them to the town’s small cathedral.

She continued, “But then, I barely know you, too. And I find you to be trustworthy.”

He smiled. “Thank you. DeFrantis and her friend seem to be sincere enough, I guess. I’m just wary.”

“That’s probably a good thing, I would think.” She glanced up, and pointed over a shop’s roof. “I’ll bet that spire ahead is the chapel.”  He nodded.

They stepped over someone’s basket of grain. “You seem to be lost in thought. What is worrying you? Besides what we’ve already talked about, I mean.”

“I’m wondering,” He said, looking at the spire she had pointed out. Not really at it so much as beyond it. “What is on our barge that made those men attack us back in the city? What is it they want?”

She shrugged and looked behind her for a moment. “I’m wondering something, too.” Then she looked west again, down the street.  “Where are the children? Twynne Rivers had lots of them, running in the streets, playing, begging, stealing. There are none here.”

They passed the building before them and then stood in front of the cathedral. It was tall, but not as expansive and majestic as the one in the Twynne Rivers Center Towne. This one was plain stone, with smaller, circular stained glass for windows along the sides. It had no lawn, no foliage. It opened simply onto the street. There was a tall spire with a bell tower pointing upward to heaven, and a single larger stained window below it, depicting three bright yellow stars. The Church of Three Lights. I wonder why Antonerri and DeFrantis were so insistent on not coming here. His shirt bears that same image. You’d think that he’d want to talk with them. 

Granthurg turned his eyes away from the chapel to look at Thissraelle. “Well, let’s hope they know where they’ve all gone.” He stepped forward to the door.


This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing.

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Thursday, August 9, 2018

“Darkness” - A Tale of Heroes - Scene 50: DeFrantis

The morning sun in the eastern sky cast shadows before DeFrantis and Antonerri as they walked along the waterfront. Shops and taverns were beginning to open up, and dockworkers were unloading barges. Others, who just brought wares to sell, were laying out baskets of grain or fruits onto rugs and blankets on the side of the street. She had never been to Dirae before. It was not a large city, like Twynne Rivers, or even Portstown, but where most villages were little more than a collection of a few hovels where farmers and peasants gathered at the end of the work day, this one had streets of cobblestone, a series of docks on the river, and buildings and business.

The streets along the river were pretty clean, too, but as they walked past the side streets she could see that the paving ended quickly, and the mess and mud quickly replaced it.

Antonerri finally spoke, “So where would we find this dark market?”

“In Twynne Rivers, the dark market isn’t a place. It’s more of a network. It’s a lot harder to shut down that way. Where you go depends on what you’re wanting to find.”

He nodded. “...Or what you’re wanting to sell.”

“Yes. So, once we find a hub, they might be able to direct us to the right place.”

“Once, while I was a guard, our unit was sent to break up one such hub. We just went where we were told and arrested them.”

DeFrantis laughed. “It was probably another dark marketer who sent you. They must have had an argument over a payment or something. You were just doing the cleanup!” She nudged his arm and smiled.

He laughed, too, but not as enthusiastically. “So, what should we be looking for? Do we want to act like we’re buying something?”

She thought a moment, and stopped walking. She looked around at the shops.  “No, I think we’ll be sellers. But we’ll have to get you some nicer clothes. And with something other than the Church’s seal. It’s a good thing you shaved. The half-beard wouldn’t have worked.”

“Worked for what?” He was genuinely confused. “What will we say we’re selling?”

“That's easy,” She said, “You will be selling me.”


This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing.

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Monday, August 6, 2018

“Quick With the Fingers” - A Tale of Heroes - Scene 49: Karendle

Karendle stepped away from the crates and shook herself off. The light was starting to show a bit more in the eastern sky. She looked up and down the street to check if anyone had seen her. Across the street were some shops, and someone was there with a large cart, beginning to unload things onto the street in front. There was nobody the other way. It looks like it was clear.

The chilly breeze blew past her as she began walking westward, back toward the inn. She picked up her pace, a bit excited.

If I can get back before everyone gets up, I could even sneak into her room and take her from there. Then, it would be easy to slip away, get on a barge or a caravan heading east, and be gone!

She was so wrapped up in thought that she didn’t see the figure step up at her side, or the stick swing across her path and across her shins, sending her face-first onto the cobblestones. The pain shot harshly through her legs. She tried to roll over but suddenly felt a weight on her. Someone had jumped onto her back, and was pressing her face into the street. She twisted and squirmed, trying to get a hand hold to press herself up.

“Hold still, wench!” He leaned a knee into her back, between the shoulder blades and pulled back her cloak. “There it is. I knew when you came out of that nice inn, you’d have some money!” She felt a harsh tug and a snap at her belt and suddenly the weight and pressure were gone. She heard his footsteps rush down the street. She rolled and saw him running east. He turned quickly between a couple of buildings.

She tried to stand, but the pain in her shin bones racked her legs and she sank back to her knees. She glanced at her hips. He got my pouch! My oculi! My bounty! 

Wincing through the pain, she stood and lurched toward the alley where he had gone. Gradually she picked up speed and was able to start walking, then running.

When she got to the alley, she turned and a short breeze blew a noxious odor of manure and trash past her. In the dark she could see piles of rubble. Looking deeper, she saw light ahead, probably another street.

She swore, a little more loudly, and stumbled in.


This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing.

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Thursday, August 2, 2018

“What’s in a Name? Part II” - A Tale of Heroes - Scene 48: Karendle

Karendle wrapped her cloak more tightly around her, against the chill of the morning, while she sat on the bench. She grabbed her pouch and opened it up. They said the blue one would be for communication, and that I should only use it if I caught a wizard. I did that. Still, she felt a bit nervous. She wasn’t sure how it worked.

In the early morning shadows, she stepped toward the docks, toward some crates stacked close together. She looked for a spot that would give her a little cover. She wriggled herself in between a couple of the crates, and reached into the pouch. The first draw brought out the red gem, but the second fetched the blue. She held it in her hands and focused her concentration on it.

It did nothing, but feel cold and smooth in her hands.

She frowned, and furrowed her brows more, as she closed her eyes and concentrated more.

Still, it did nothing.

She let out a sigh of exasperation, and held back the temptation to step out and fling the stone into the river. Instead, she just held it, and looked at it in frustration. How do you make this thing work? The flame one and the capture one worked just fine!

She turned it in her hand, looking at the facets carved into the sapphire. She looked at the angles, as they seemed to sparkle in the dim light. The blue hue grew deeper as she stared into it, and suddenly she realized the glimmer wasn’t a reflection, but a light shining from within the stone. It became lighter and brighter as her eyes grew wider with excitement.

“What’s going on?” She was startled by the voice and lurched to hide the glowing stone. She looked out beyond the crates and saw no one near. Was that voice in my head?

“Yes, it is.” It was a man’s voice, sounding very clear, as if it were close to her, but she knew she wasn’t hearing it.

Uh... Hello?

“You have my attention. I’m awake. It’s early, so I’m hoping you’re telling me good news.”

She smiled, proud to be able to deliver just that. Yes! I caught one! I was trailing one who had tried to steal a chicken, and I caught another one instead. He’s actually one of the wizard’s guild.

“Oh! Well. That’s an interesting twist.” There was a pause, and in the silence, she wondered if the communication was still flowing. She looked at the stone. It was glowing. “How did you find him?”

Oh, it was easy, actually. He and his friend were trying to catch another mage that was also on the barge! They said something about trying to take her home. For some reason they were all in trouble and had to sail out of town fast. I don’t know what was going on, but I traveled with them to this small town upriver. I’m going to get passage back to Twynne Rivers and bring you this guy right away.

“Ok. That’s a good plan. When you get here, contact us again.”

“Thissraelle!” Karendle called out, as she suddenly remembered the name. Then, just as suddenly, she huddled back against the crates to hide.


Thissraelle. That was the name of the wizard that the one I caught was chasing. I traveled upriver with her and the others.

“What? Did you say her name was Thissraelle? Is she an elf, by any chance?”

Yes. Do you know her?

“Are you still with her?”

No, she’s back at the inn with the others.

The man’s voice took on a new intensity, almost an excitement. “Here’s a change in your plans: Follow her. Capture her. She is your next target.”

Karendle was taken aback for a moment. OK, sure! She must be pretty important, then, right?

“You don’t need to worry about that. Just bring her in with the other one, and we’ll pay you well. Very well.”

Sure. I’ll do that. No problem.  With that, the glow dimmed. She sat for a moment, thinking about Thissraelle, and wondering why she would be so critical to capture. Finally, she shrugged and stepped away from the crates, walking briskly back toward the inn.

She swore quietly under her breath. I STILL forgot to ask them their names!


This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing.

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