Monday, February 3, 2020

Dolmenwood DM Journal 1 - Prelude to Winter's Daughter (5e)

I've been trying to get my table more interested in the idea of playing some OSR systems, and so far it's been a steady progression of wanting to mess around with it. Playing a game set heavily based off Dolmenwood has spiked that interest for the two players I'm running Winter's Daughter for. Something about it's fairy tale Brothers Grimme approach to a lot of it's backdrop and history really appeals to us and our current binge of Witcher 3 and the Witcher Netflix series. Something about the perfect sync of taiga ambience, soft music with haunting vocals, and the oddities of the setting that are accepted as the norm really enraptured the whole table - me included.
Like Dolmenwood, Witcher's setting mixes fairy tale legends and a medieval setting to make a unique environment for swinging swords and talking like a viking at a renfair.
I was not expecting the setting's materials to spark such excitement from me. Being in the middle of setting up another homebrewed world, I thought I'd pluck away at the Welcome guide and take what whatever seemed handy. At the end of the day, I basically just glued Dolmenwood into a far-Northern corner of the map. By the end of the session, I started seriously considering abandoning most of my worldbuilding prep for places outside of Dolmenwood and start planning a West Marches game.

Basically, the setting is really good, y'all. You can grab the spoiler-free introduction to the setting here, as well as the (super cool looking) DM/Referee map for it here.


- Gwendalyn Thatcher, handmaiden and chore-runner for the noble Lady Maryaa-aa-aa-an
- Sif of Prigwort, ex-soldier of the Kingdom's army, currently in-training to be a Grey Guard from the School of the White Wolf
- (NPC) Egthil Gruewater, acolyte of the True Faith sent to accompany Gwendalyn under official orders from the duchy

(Egthil is an NPC I added to the party so they can have a couple heals on their side.)

Ambience | Music ]

The party starts their journey on the tail-end of a week's travel. Lady Maryaa-aa-aa-an, a noble Goatman lady of a popular house, has recently received a large inheritance from an old and long-lost relative. Among the papers Gwen had sorted through was a charter with a family tree that connects her fair Lady to one Brigford the Wise, brother to the legendary Sir Chyde. The charter showed a rough map of the tomb's general whereabouts, and mentioned an exquisite sword and a magical ring that could potentially open doorways to the fey land of Fairy.

With a Moss Dwarf as their guide, the party landed on the beach shores of Itch-by-the-River, a small hamlet that rests on the side of Lake Longmere. With little idea of where the tomb is, they began asking villagers if they've heard of any old burial grounds. One villager said he knows where it is, but wants to trade the information for a task - get rid of the wolves that keep eating his livestock. With such a simple-sounding job, the crew agreed to help out.

And so they followed the path to the bait left out.

[ Ambience ]

In the evergreen forests that hug the hamlet's boundaries was a clearing of sweetgrass; in its center laid the body of a recently killed goat, guts laid out in front of it. Sif thought this was the perfect place to spring a trap on the wolves, and suggested the group camp up until nightfall to wait for the pack's arrival. Gwen, with the help of her magical servant Gavin, positioned herself in one of the taller trees surrounding the 60ft clearing. Meanwhile, Sif and Eghtil stayed on the ground, Sif spending the rest in thought. "Maybe I should have told someone I'm, like, deeply afraid of wolves after my near-death experience that led me to monster hunting." thought Sif to herself. "Hrm."

When the wolves arrived, the party quickly figured out that the pack is led by a sentient talking wolf that goes by the nickname "Two Moons" when talking to two-legs. He explained that the pack has been pushed out from their normal hunting grounds by other creatures that are gaining sentience. The pack has been eating the livestock of the nearby village out of desperation - Two Moons was taught to avoid civilization for as long as possible. Moved by their struggles, Gwen convinced the party to help out the wolves - and in return the pack will leave for greener pastures.
 A beautiful view you can find deep in the forests. Art by Ville Assinen
The party headed back to the village and bartered with some locals to get enough food to last the pack at least a week. Two Moons promised that he, and his pack, are forever in their debt before running off into the night. With no one that will take them in and not a tavern in sight, the group camped out near a shed on the outskirts of the town for the night. Sif kept watch, drinking to get over the trauma she had to fight back during the wolf encounter.

[ Ambience ]

In the morning, they packed up camp, got the location of the tomb, and embarked on a mission to collect the inheritance they came for. On the way out of town they found a notice board with a "HELP WANTED" posting by a court wizard from a nearby town. Seems the wizard is looking for a ring in the tomb, possibly the same one that is Lady Mary-aa-aa-aane's property now. With the thousands of gold the wizard is offering, the group began considering what to do if other adventurers rear their head around the tomb.

During their walk they were interrupted by two gray goblins coughing furiously as they stepped out of a trapdoor laid out in the grass. Turns out they're oddities merchants that collect old belongings wherever they find them. The trapdoor they took leads to Fairy, though it looks so blended into the ground that it might not even be there anymore! The goblins waved a how-do-you-do, traded some items, and went their separate ways from the party without much issue.

After an hour of walking along the calm forestry, they ran into a stonehedge-like circling of large rocks. In the center was two hooded figures in black robes chanting ominously near a tied up woman. One of the hooded men lifted a great, jagged dagger in the air, while the other moved a copper bowl beneath the lady's throat...

And that's where we ended. Next session, we'll see what the crew will do with this dilemma. Fun stuff!
Art by Pauhami for the Dolmenwood Campaign Book coming later in 2020.
Stuff I liked:
- The general setting that Dolmenwood encourages was very captivating. There was a point where I was revealing some backstory for one of the mythical figures in Winter's Daughter and it felt similar to telling a bedtime fairy tale story. Sentient animals, goat people, and weird threatening druids are a great recipe for a fun time.
- The player characters are fun and very fitting to the world. Since I'm running this in my post-magical-apocalypse world, I was worried about running into the dilemma where someone makes a character that doesn't fit at all in the world. I was pleasantly surprised to see characters that can blend into the established lore right off the bat! I think this is also mostly the setting of Dolmenwood, it has a very strong "voice" for lack of a better word.
- The incredibly small and boring atmosphere of a tiny hamlet that barely qualifies for a name. It truly is the itch by the river, a tiny speck in the great woods that stretch for miles and miles.

Stuff to note:
- Gotta remember that Two Moons and his friends are out there, somewhere. My hopes is that they can come back up during a crucial fight (maybe the druids next session perhaps?) like the dog in Resident Evil 4
- Should start considering if I should add some fun mystical items somewhere along the adventure.

All in all, I'm very excited to run the whole adventure, and I've only run the very introduction! I hope to keep this up so I have an easier time recalling previous sessions - with any luck I can also track my train of thought when prepping future sessions!

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