Friday, March 24, 2017

Portents

Gray mist on the ground.
Willows weeping by the pond.
Something wicked comes.

Gray clouds gather now,
greasy raindrops fall to earth,
poisoning the land.

Can you hear that sound?
Heavy footfalls on wood steps.
The world holds its breath.

A knock on the door.
Sharp. Loud. Forceful. The frame shakes.
Something wicked waits.

Your heart skips a beat.
Your breath catches in your throat.
The knock comes again.

You approach the door.
Your skin feels hot and too tight.
Your hand grasps the handle.

You open the door,
onto black night and cold rain.
Death looks back at you.

Gray mist on the ground.
Something wicked leaves with you,
and the willows weep.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Comic Recs for 3/23/2017

Empowered is one of those books that is consistently good and also almost unheard of among the general population. That's a pity because it does a fine job of skewering super-type tropes in clever and humorous ways. The current story has Emp and gal-pal Ninjette facing off against the machinations of a magical girl gone rogue, using love as a weapon. This book is not for kids, but adults would love it. If I have a critique, it's that the art feels a bit inconsistent. 3 out of 4 stars.


FutureQuest is a great slice of nostalgia for fans of a certain age and a fun book for people who don't know anything about the Hannah-Barbera superhero universe. It brings together characters as diverse as Space Ghost, Frankenstein Jr., the Impossibles and the Herculoids as they battle a parasitic alien invader. Nice art. Great story. 4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Lux Tenebris: Belhar

BELHAR, L12 Dragonborn Cleric

STR     19 (+4)
DEX    14 (+2)
CON   14 (+2)
INT     12 (+1)
WIS     14 (+2)
CHA   11 (+0)
HP       87
AC      18 (Scale mail & Shield)

Traits:
Draconic Ancestry: Bronze
Breath Weapon: Lightening
Damage Resistance: Lightening
Languages: Celestial, Common, Draconic, Dwarvish

Proficiencies: +4
Armor: Light, Medium, Shields
Weapons: Simple
Tools: None
Saves: Wisdom, Charisma
Skills: History, Insight, Persuasion, Religion

Feats:
Shelter of the Faithful
* * *
Divine Domain: Light
- Warding Flare
- Improved Flare
- Potent Spellcasting
Channel Divinity: Turn Undead, Radiance of the Dawn
Destroy Undead
Divine Intervention

Spellcasting:
# of Spells: 08
Spell DC: 14
Atk Mod: +6
At-Will(5): Light, Mending, Resistance, Sacred Flame, Spare the Dying, Thaumaturgy
L1(4): burning hands, faerie fire, Guiding bolt, Healing word
L2(3): flaming sphere, scorching ray, Blindness, Lesser Restoration
L3(3): daylight, fireball, Create Food and Water, Dispel Magic
L4(3): guardian of faith, wall of fire, Divination
L5(2): flame strike, scrying, Greater Restoration
L6(1):
L7(1):

Equipment:
Mace. Melee. +8 to hit; deals 1d6 +4 bludgeoning.
Javelins(4). Ranged, 30/120 ft. +6 to hit; deals 1d6 +2 piercing.
Scale mail. Defense. AC 14 + Dex Mod (Max 2). Disadvantage on Stealth.
Shield. Defense. AC +2
A holy symbol, a priest’s pack, a prayer book, 5 sticks of incense, vestments, a set of common clothes, a belt pouch with 15gp.

Faith is a curious thing among the Draconic Empire’s dragonborn citizens. Although they acknowledge the gods, they have little interest in most of them, with the exception of Meleh and Sumet. The God of Battle and the God of War are almost universally worshipped in the empire. So when a dragonborn chooses to serve a deity, and they don’t choose Meleh and Sumet, it is viewed as somewhat . . . odd.
Belhar has served Enla, Goddess of the Sun, for decades. With the collapse of the imperial invasion and rumors of prophecy being fulfilled in the capital, Belhar has been sent west by his goddess.  He arrived in Shrike several weeks ago and has taken up residence in the local Temple of Enla, much to the confusion of the local accolytes and priests.
His mission is twofold: to spread the light of the sun-goddess among the people and to observe the dragonborn legions and report back to his superiors in the empire. There has been a growing resurgence of faith among the common folk of the empire. Many of the temples have started taking a stance against the empire’s military expansion, citing tales of corruption and violent excess among the legionaires. Belhar has been sent to observe the legionaires and report on his findings.
The dragonborn cleric finds himself in an awkward position. The legionaires are mostly dismissive of Belhar. Some have heard rumors of his mission and are openly hostile, questioning his loyalty to the empire. The priests of Meleh and Sumet view the other temples’ actions as an attempt to supplant their traditional place in imperial culture, and have coldly banned Belhar from their temples. His presence in Shrike has become a political hot potato for Governor Darrix, one she would rather not have to juggle at all. So far, the only person in the current occupational government who has welcomed Belhar is Araven Logos, the aasimar paladin.
Among the populace of Shrike, Belhar stands out from the other dragonborn priests they’ve met. He’s staying in the Temple of Enla in Rosewell, and is more than willing to talk about his goddess with anyone who asks. He’s also been generous with the use of his clerical gifts. The resistance is watching Belhar, having fereted out his mission in Shrike. They aren’t sure how to use that information yet, but until they do they’ve ordered that the sun-priest be left alone. At this point, any violent action against Belhar could have thunderous consequences for Shrike and the Draconic Empire.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Lux Tenebris: Lady Ursera

LADY LOLA URSERA, L6 Human Noble Warlock

STR     09 (-1)
DEX    08 (-1)
CON   16 (+3)
INT     16 (+3)
WIS     14 (+2)
CHA   16 (+3)
HP       51
AC      12 (Armor of Shadows)

Languages: Common, Dwarvish, Elvish

Proficiencies: +3
Armor: Light
Weapons: Simple
Tools: Chess set
Saves: Wisdom +5, Charisma +6
Skills: Arcana +6, Deception +6, History +6, Persuasion +6

Feats:
Position of Privilege
* * *
Otherworldly Patron: The Fiend
- Dark One’s Blessing
- Dark One’s Own Luck
Eldritch Invocations: Armor of Shadows, Mask of Many Faces, Voice of the Chain Master
Pact Boon: Pact of the Chain

Spellcasting:
# of Spells: 7
Spell DC: 14
Atk Mod: +6
At-Will(3): Eldritch blast, Friends, Prestidigitation
L1: Arms of Hadar, Command, Witch Bolt
L2: Crown of Madness, Misty Step
L3(2): Counterspell, Gaseous Form

Equipment:
Daggers(3). Melee. +2 to hit; deals 1d4-1 piercing. Finesse. Light. Ranged, 20/60 ft.
Quarterstaff. Melee. +2 to hit; deals 1d6-1 bludgeoning. Versatile(1d8).
An arcane focus., a scholar’s pack, a set of fine clothes, a signet ring, a scroll of pedigree, a purse with 25 gp.
Dagger of Venom. Magic. Melee. +3 to hit; deals 1d4 piercing. You can use an action to cause thick, black poison to coat the blade. The poison remains for 1 minute or until an attack using this weapon hits a creature.  That creature must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or take 2d10 poison damage and become poison for 1 minute. The dagger can’t be used this way again until the next dawn.

Lady Lola Ursera is one of the most influential, reviled and feared noblewomen in the city of Shrike. Born the daughter of a wealthy merchant, her father bought a title from a desperate nobleman, and arranged his daughter’s marriage to a moderately wealthy lordling.
The newly minted Lady Ursera received a dismal welcome from the nobles of Shrike. Ostracised by society because of her origins, Lady Ursera began a careful pogram against her enemies. Her actions brought her to the attention of a fiend, Onorel. Onorel made a deal with Lady Ursera, empowering her as a warlock in exchange for her service.
Over the years, the pact between Lady Ursera and Onorel has benefited both of them. Lady Ursera’s enemies have fallen before her, like wheat before a scythe, and Onorel has risen in the hierarchy of Hell.
Of course, the pact has not gone without its consequences. Lady Ursera’s granddaughter, Taline, bears the mark of her grandmother’s infernal curse. And rumors abound that Lady Ursera’s hands are red with the blood of her enemies.
Strangely, since Shrike fell to the Draconic Empire, Lady Ursera has become a powerful patron of the resistance.  She funnels money and resources to them through her servants, oftentimes right under the noses of the Draconic Legionaires who patrol the North Quarter. Many in the resistance don’t trust Lady Ursera, but they can’t afford to be picky. They need the resources she provides if they are to have any hope of freeing the city.
As for Lady Ursera’s motives? Who can say? Perhaps her patron has instructed her to help the resistance for his own motives? Perhaps Lady Ursera considers herself a noble daughter of Shrike? It’s more likely, though, that she’s playing a long game, setting things up for her benefit, somewhere down the line.  Given the empire’s history of executing anyone hell-touched, Lady Ursera’s actions could just be enlightened self interest.  It isn’t likely anyone will find out her motivations, until the lady herself reveals them.

Lux Tenebris: Dicel Anerok

DICEL ANEROK, L8 Half Orc Fighter

STR     20 (+5)
DEX    10 (+0)
CON   14 (+2)
INT     09 (-1)
WIS     10 (+0)
CHA   14 (+2)
HP       56
AC      18 (Chain mail & Shield)

Traits:
Darkvision.
Relentless Endurance.
Savage Attacks.
Languages: Common, Orc.

Proficiencies: +3
Armor: All armor, Shields
Weapons: Simple, Martial
Tools: Vehicles: Land, Dice
Saves: Strength, Constitution
Skills: Animal Handling, Athletics, Intimidation, Perception, Survival

Feats:
Alert
* * *
Fighting Style: Dueling
Second Wind
Action Surge
Martial Archetype: Champion
- Improved Critical
- Remarkable Athlete
Extra Attack

Equipment:
Longsword. Melee. +8 to hit; deals 1d8 +7 slashing. Versatile (1d10).
Light x-bow. Ranged, 80/320 ft. +3 to hit; deals 1d8 piercing. Loading, 2-handed.
Chain mail. Defense. AC 16. Min Str 13. Disadvantage on Stealth.
Shield. Defense. AC +2.
An explorer’s pack, a momento from an old love, a set of bone dice, a set of common clothes, a belt pouch with 10gp.

Dicel Anerok’s mother was the daughter of an outcast orc warrior. He sold Dicel’s mother into bondage to a caravan master as a child. Dicel’s father could have been anyone along the caravan route, her mother never said. Dicel grew up in the caravan, as a sort of mascot among the guards and merchants. When her mother died, Dicel’s freedom was purchased by several of those same guards and merchants. To repay them, Dicel became a guard herself, selling her services to the caravans running between Shrike and the Southern Palatines. After some years, Dicel had acquired a tidy sum of money, enough for her to invest in a merchant enterprise in Shrike. Over the years, Dicel has become a formidable presence within the Brightcoin District as a merchant and moneylender. She was briefly married, but it didn’t work out, and Dicel lives alone in a large house on the northern edge of the district.
When Shrike surrendered to the Draconic Empire, trade was briefly disrupted. Dicel portioned out her resources very carefully, taking payment only in hard currency and extending credit to no one. Now that trade has begun to flow again, albeit between Shrike and the empire, Dicel is once again accepting letters of credit from reputable merchant houses and banking institutions.
A pragmatist, Dicel’s willingness to do business with anyone who can pay her in coin has turned some city hardliners against her. The resistance considers her a sympathizer, which has put a large target on Dicel’s home and businesses.  Governor Darrix finds the half-orc woman’s bluntness refreshing. 
Dicel doesn’t care. She’s not political. It doesn’t matter to her who is running Shrike, as long as they don’t interfere too much with her business ventures.  She looks after herself, her employees and her friends and neighbors.  Anyone who targets Dicel or her friends, imperial or resistance, would make enemies throughout Shrike and beyond that could cost them dearly.
Dicel, herself, is no push-over. She’s kept in shape and is probably better now with a sword then she was when she guarded the caravans.  Plus, her household consists of several seasoned veterans and fighters who would rally to her aid.