Delving back into the archives of old school D&D character sheets, notes, maps, and art from my formative role-playing days in the 1990s, I came across a series papers titled “The Assembly’s Belongings”. These are– like most of the other documents in the old, faux leather folder– loose leaf sheets featuring my surprisingly tidy pencil printings.
The “Assembly” mentioned is The Assembly of the Dragon, the name given to the core group of player characters that went on adventures in fantastic lands while we sat in my basement, ate homemade caramel popcorn and mini Ritz crackers. The “belongings” is a list of possessions owned by various members of the Assembly of the Dragon. Over the years, the adventurers gathered wealth and used some of it to purchase manors in the land of Almor. These homes are where the player characters would spend some of their down-time between quests, but– more importantly– this is where they kept their accumulated swag. There is, after all, only so much you can hang off your horse. (I never was a fan of the Bag of Holding.)
The record begins with the following:
Each manor in Almor contains these rooms (special rooms not included):
- 3 servant quarters
- 5 storage
- 2 guest bedrooms
- 2 privy
- dining room
- common room
I cracked up reading this. It’s like cookie-cutter housing in a fantasy realm! Looking at this now, I wonder if each house had 3 servants or were there more servants and they, for example, slept three or even four to a room. I also find it interesting that each manor had not one but two indoor bathrooms– called a “privy” here to sound “classical”, perhaps. Surely, I don’t ever remember focusing on the particulars of bathroom breaks in the D&D universe, but perhaps the seasoned, well-heeled here would prefer to not have to walk outside to take a dump. Or, maybe, indoor plumbing was the creation of wizards.
The list of “The Assembly’s Belongings” continued with each player character’s possessions cataloged. I’ve not yet written about Cyric Lyonsbane (the character’s name is lifted from two characters from Richard Awlinson’s Forgotten Realms Avatar Trilogy), but he was one of the core player characters. Controlled by my friend Jason, Cyric was the dark, troubled member of the Assembly of the Dragon, with horrible facial scars and a long sword strapped to the stump of his right arm. Here is the loot lying around his “18 room manor in Almor” that sat on “20 acres of farmland”:
- Medallion – Defender of the King’s Justice
- 2 Aiel spears (Aiel is a culture lifted from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time)
- ruby hilted dagger
- Tigrarine spear
- Comoney armour
- whistle set
- sawed bastard sword
- Norghi bow blade (the Norghi were a monster– I can’t remember if I made them up or if I sourced them from somewhere; the bow blade was a lot like a Klingon bat’leth)
- two Retrecker swords
- suit of golden chain mail w/ plate chest
- steel capped staff
I’m guessing Tigrarine, Comoney and Retrecker were lands, monsters, or peoples encountered by the Assembly of the Dragon. The ruby hilted dagger tickles my memory, but I can’t conjure up the details. The sawed bastard sword was just like it sounds– a bastard sword where one side of the blade looked like a saw. So much of the hows and whys of these items have been lost, but perhaps future trips into the folder of old school D&D will reveal the details.
As mentioned yesterday, the new comic Manoel Magalhaes is working on for The Grim Collection was put on hold a few months ago when Manoel asked me to work with him on an even more exciting project. I am now proud to reveal the details of that project.
Manoel asked me to work with him on a 21-page comic for Aces Weekly, which is the award-winning, exclusively digital-delivery comic magazine published by David Lloyd. Past contributors include industry veterans such as David Lloyd, Phil Hester, John McCrea, and David Hine, but also a variety of other writers and artists. Manoel had already been published in Aces Weekly so he has a relationship with the publication. Manoel pitched our idea (and me) to Lloyd and in late 2016 we received approval and were given a publication date.
I am, therefore, so excited to tell you that “Found” written by me and drawn by Manoel will be published in the May 29 edition of Aces Weekly.
Here is a look at some of the characters in our 21-page sci-fi contribution to Aces Weekly. These are sketches from Manoel.
I have a number of exciting writing related announcements to make– some of which I could have made a few months ago but decided not to until the projects were more likely to be a sure thing. The first bit of news is that my friend and long-time collaborative partner Manoel Magalhaes started drawing a new comic for The Grim Collection. Manoel was responsible for art on The Orphan for The Grim Collection and for The Three Princes in the crime comics anthology Acts of Violence. You might also recall we collaborated on two sci-fi comics, Colonel and Synchronicity.
This new short comic for The Grim Collection is more in the crime genre than horror, but The Grim Collection was never intended to be just straight-up horror stories. I had always wanted thrillers and crime to be explored, too. Basically, anything that might make folks uneasy when reading the material. The new comic is called Glen. It is about a troubled business professional whose day spirals out of control.
Manoel started drawing Glen in 2016 but we ended up putting it on hold when Manoel asked me to work with him on something that was very exciting for me as a writer. I’ll be back tomorrow to post about that…
But, for now, take a look at the image below– that is Manoel’s pencils for page 4 of Glen. (click the image to see it in larger form)
Many of the player characters were complicated dudes, with complex pasts that often came to influence the present. I do believe all of those characters were originals– that is, characters who had been with the campaign since the first adventure. As the DM, shaping stories for the player characters was a lot of fun, something to which I gravitated. Action has its place and I certainly did not shy away from dangerous foes, but I certainly took the most enjoyment from the character stories, especially seeing the players react to and use what I gave them.
One of my favourite player characters though was Salporin Charn, a character who joined the Assembly of the Dragon in a later campaign. He was a sailor who wanted to own his own barge. He was a drinker, womanizer, hearty eater and gambler. His story was simple yet I was very interested in him, in part, because of how Jason drew him: His conical helmet, his whiskers, and the fantastic bastard sword with the falcon hilt. I remember Chris and I marveling at how straight Jason had drawn that sword. He claims to have not used a ruler and we had no reason to not believe him. It was a treat to see the original drawing still intact in the folder of old school D&D material from the 1990s.
Looking at his character sheet, Salporin was a Level 8 Fighter. His weapon of choice was the aforementioned bastard sword. His shield was emblazoned with a “spear” and “bird”. (I don’t think that shield was ever drawn.) He wore a breastplate in the bluish-silver plate of the Assembly of the Dragon. His conical helmet was plate with a “leather back”. His boots were “brown leather”. His pants were “loose” and “dark brown”. His jerkin was “dark blue” and his cloack “long, dark blue.” I quite like that his gloves were recorded as “deerskin”.
The back of his character sheet mentions that his light grey, dark grey Dhurran horse was named Boulder. Jason also saw fit to record that one of the saddle bags was filled with “tea, cups, and kettle.” I seem to think that Salporin was the campfire cook of the bunch.
Here is his biography as written at the bottom of this character sheet:
38 years old; 6ft; 228lbs, born in the spring
He was born and raised in the port city of Vilekta. His father was a riverboat captain, so naturally Salporin felt drawn to the sea. When he was old and strong enough he was hired on as a crew member of a river trade ship. He hoped to save enough money to purchase a barge of his own, but he often spent most of his earnings on drink, gambling, women and food (the latter of which accounts for his rounded figure). He was on shore for a few days when the Assembly found him. He has taken up adventuring but the sea will always be his first love. He still hopes to buy a river trade ship and has recently started saving money he earns as the captain on one of Alon’s barges. Salporin loves a good laugh and a good story– not to mention good drink and fine women. At times, his sea-going manners make him appear rude and disgusting, but the Assembly of the Dragon accepts it all in good humour. He has recently found himself involved with one of Enid de Caela’s friends, a relationship that is looked upon not-too-favorably by some of the nobility. Those closest to these two, however, wish them the best of luck. Salporin’s body is muscle, covered by some fat. His dark hair is worn short with a bald spot on top. He likes to keep a scruffy face “to tickle the cheek of a pretty woman on a close encounter”, he says.
I find it interesting that Salporin’s dad never involved him on his own riverboat. It was similar for Aspitis Previs— he was a son of a nobleman who did not support his son’s interest in seafaring. I also like that in between quests Salporin worked as a captain on a river barge. (Alon was a player character who owned several river barges.) The final quote about tickling the cheek of a pretty woman is about as salacious as I’d ever be in D&D back in those days.
I distinctly remember in the late 1990s / early 200s feeling disappointed that we never “finished” D&D. Several of the later adventures were building to a final fight with the “Dark One”, a powerful, evil force that was starting to influence the world. I often wondered how it would have all ended. I don’t think that anymore. As I look through the binder now I think about fond memories of those days, but also envision what the characters would be doing. The younger me would have certainly have made it so that Salporin did save enough money to get his own ship. The older me feels like Salporin never did save enough money– he could not cut back on drink, food, gambling, and women– and thus remains as captain of a barge within Alon’s fleet. When old age gripped him, Salporin would become an administrator of the river boat trade, often conducting business in the dockside taverns, regaling the younger folk with tales of his time with the Assembly of the Dragon.
In writing about the player character Ren Treesinger (here and here) I came across a mention of a fallen character named Aspitis Preves. I have no memory of this character so I dived back into my old collection of D&D papers from the 1990s and uncovered more information about him, which I shared in a recent post entitled “The Mystery of Aspitis Preves.” It provided some answers, but I still did not remember the character. I remember a lot of details about other player characters so it is odd I cannot remember this guy. Tonight, I went back into the files and uncovered the reason why I cannot remember: He was met by the players in Adventure #11. As previously stated, he died in Adventure #12, which means he was only around for one adventure; but, it is very likely he was a NPC in #11, which means he was a player character that did not survive his first outing.
The image above is part of a hand-drawn map. It is labelled Adventure #11. You can clearly see “Pansis” on the island. Aspitis’ character sheet biography states he was from Pansis. I then found a passage in a story written by me entitled “Beginning Story #12”, which means it was the introduction I read to the players before we began Adventure #12. The story is written in ink, is shockingly tidily printed, and contains very few scribbled out words. The passage is as follows:
Ren and Illistyl spend time becoming more acquainted with Aspitis Preves, the newest member of the Assembly [of the Dragon]. The Assembly invited Preves to join soon after seeing the dwarves off to safety, but [he] refused. He knew he could not stay in Balta so he accompanied the Assembly to Almor where he would then decide what to do. In a new land, Aspitis felt the ties of an odd friendship he had made with the Assembly and he could not get himself to leave. Now he enjoys hunting with Ren and Illistyl. Oddly enough, Cyric has become very open toward Aspitis, showing him around the land of Almor and training him in swordplay. Maybe it is the fact that Aspitis, like Cyric, lived in darkness, but saw the light. Whatever the reason, the two have become trusted companions.
I had been surprised to learn I had used slave-trading in an adventure, but this passage strongly suggests the slaving was the main plot for Adventure #11. The mention of “seeing the dwarves to safety” makes me think Aspitis and the aforementioned villainous Morgan Eskalderne were antagonists in the quest, with Aspitis eventually turning his back on this “darkness” and perhaps even betraying Eskelderne. Redemption was a reoccurring theme in my old school D&D. I returned to D&D via 5th edition a couple years ago and in the limited number of campaigns– I don’t call them “adventures” anymore– I’ve run there has been no whiff of redemption. Often those that do wrong feel the bite of justice / vengeance even when they try to right the wrongs. If I really think about that I find that odd because I consider myself a forgiving person who believes people can change and redeem themselves. And if I think about THAT then I think it just boils down to crafting campaigns with emotional punch and not campaigns built around my personality. “I’m tired of happy endings” might be another way to explain it.
Across this span of years, the ending for Aspitis Preves might be the most unhappy of all those who perished in service to the Assembly of the Dragon. He changed his life and set out on a grand quest with his new companions only to have the details of his death forgotten. His character sheet is incomplete. His entry is the list of the fallen is incomplete. He never even had a chance to name his horse.