Doroth’s Grace, Adventure 2

My party was halfway to Level 3 when they fell down the mine shaft…

zombieminerLocation: An abandoned platinum mine and an ancient, buried temple.

Mission: Find a way back to the surface (by helping Sir Roland defeat Mother Aradia).

Background: 300 years ago a gigantic meteor shower hit the continent. Known as the Firestorm, it destroyed cities, rerouted rivers, leveled some mountains while raising others, caused earthquakes and floods, and generally rearranged the geography of the land. Tens, even hundreds of thousands were killed. War and famine followed this “gods’ wrath” and new countries were founded. Eventually things settled down and the Firestorm and its consequences retreated to the memories of the sages and the land became what it is today.

While the Firestorm was happening, however, an order of knights sought to save as many people as they could. The Order of the Golden Gryphon, led by Sir Roland Leeds, ushered over 100 villagers and minor nobles into the Temple of Mundi Dei (an ancient name for Thealldea, the 8-Faced Goddess from which Clerics derive their 8 domains) to pray for salvation. The temple’s high priestess, Mother Aradia, led the prayers, but to no avail.

The earth opened up and swallowed the temple whole, burying it for centuries. But the knights, the villagers, and the clergy survived their burial, at least for a time.

However, arguments ensued and a schism formed. Some of the villagers followed Roland’s lead and continued to pray for salvation from death, even as they starved. The other half followed Mother Aradia into madness and began worshipping the phantasms of their broken minds. On one side: Mother Aradia, Lieutenant Merculo of the Gryphons, and about 60 villagers. On the other side, Sir Roland, Private Shiani Elan of the Gryphons, and about 45 villagers.

Doroth answered all of their prayers as they died. (Doroth is a negative aspect of the Life Domain; overpopulation, undeath, disease, and starvation are his demesnes.) Mother Aradia rose from death as a Wraith, Lieutenant Merculo became a Wight, Sir Roland a Revenant, Private Shiani a Ghost. On Aradia’s side, the villagers became zombies under Merculo’s and Aradia’s control. On Roland’s side, the villagers ate their dead fellows rather than starve, and thus became skeletons under Roland’s and Shiani’s control.

At first, the factions fought bitterly. But the divine necrotic energy that permeated the temple sustained the undead. Even after falling in battle, the skeletons reformed and the zombies rose again. Since becoming undead, Roland’s magic items would no longer respond to him and Aradia’s clerical spells had left her, so neither one could really harm the other. They were left at a stalemate for over 200 years.

Fast forward to 80 years ago. Miners outside of Greenhaven inadvertently tunneled into the basement storage room of the sunken temple. It happened to be on Aradia’s side of the temple, so zombies attacked. Many miners died and rose again under Merculo’s control. The miners fled, destroying the wooden stairs that descended into the main shaft so the undead could not follow. The mine was abandoned, the entrance boarded up, and the whole area shunned.

And so the party find themselves at the bottom of said mine shaft and the adventure begins.

The Adventure Begins. I used the Droskar’s Crucible and Kobold Warrens maps from the Crown of the Kobold King module for Pathfinder, slightly modified, but any tunnel map and dungeon/temple map will do. Instead of starting in ruins above and going down into tunnels, the party starts in tunnels below and goes up into the ruins.

Sir Roland is a Revenant who cannot rest until Mother Aradia and her followers are destroyed. Private Shiani Elan is a Ghost whose unfinished business is her dedication to Sir Roland.

In the tunnels scatter about a dozen Zombie miners throughout, throw in variety with a trio of Darkmantles in one area and an Ochre Jelly in a barrel in another (tough encounter), some Crawling Claws (some of the zombies are missing hands), and a walled-up (or chained) Ghoul. Give the party a hint of things to come  and a chance to survive with a room of small, flat, silvery fungus, identified as “Angel Buttons” which will remove necrotic damage (1d8 per button).

As they get closer to the place where the miners tunneled into the temple, throw in a couple civilian Zombies in ancient, tattered clothing. One of the party sees a flash of wispy white out of the corner of her eye. Private Shiani, a Ghost, is scouting in enemy territory.

Any given encounter is a chance to give your party treasure and items that may come in handy for the big battle to come. Like a Necklace of Fireballs. A Wight and a Wraith are big competition for a 3rd level party, even without the zombie army. Give them something they can use to their advantage.

When the party reaches the temple’s basement storage, have Shiani (a half-elf in my world) standing/floating on the stairs leading up. She warns the party to go back; only death waits above. If they speak calmly with her, she remarks about their zombie-killing prowess and says “perhaps you are whom we have all been waiting for. You should meet Sir Roland.”

If they attack her impulsively, Shiani defends herself and tries to flee and report back to Sir Roland (all bets are off, your party are assholes and they deserve to be ripped apart by the undead in the temple above). If the party is amiable and agrees to meet Sir Roland, Shiani leads them up the stairs and takes the shortest, safest route through Mother Aradia’s territory to Roland’s area. The rest of the adventure description assumes that your party is not comprised of assholes.

As Shiani leads, the party faces a few more zombies and a long hallway with an unaffiliated poltergeist (“Run! Don’t stop!”) who likes to lift party members up and slam them into the ceiling or throw them down the hall. Shiani can see the poltergeist (an invisible spectre) but cannot affect it. She can focus on one party member and tell them approximately where it is (“two o’clock,” “eight o’clock,” “on your six!”) which will give that person a +3 to their disadvantage to-hit die.

Shiani knows every twist and turn and secret door in the entire temple. She’s had 300 years to scout and memorize it. Without her, the party must suss things out for themselves.

Once safely in Roland’s territory, skeletons barricade and guard the doors. Shiani tells the party to rest. She’ll return in 10 hours to take them to Roland. At this point the party should be starting 3rd level.

While waiting for Roland in another room, the party can find a few pages of his journal. It reads:

I, Sir Roland Leeds, have doomed these good folk to die. I led them, one and all, to the temple of Mundi Dei to pray to the All Mother alongside me for our salvation from the Firestorm. On the sixth day of our vigil the earth shook and rocked and the temple seemed to plummet. Our windows are choked with rock and dirt. Our doors will not open. And our food is running out. What have I done?

***

Mother Aradia and her acolytes were gracious at first, but a poison has seeped into their souls. They have caused a rift in the good folk of Northurst and taken fully half of the weak and starving to the rear of the temple. To pray anew, they say. I have my doubts, but they will not let me pass. It has been 15 days. So hungry.

***

My beloved Raya is dead. I killed her to feed the children. The most magnificent steed I have ever known and they stripped her to the bone. I am cursed. I know that now.

***

Mother Aradia’s people have been digging at a wall in a back room, I saw when I went to offer them some of Raya’s meat. Their eyes! Madness has taken them all. And something more. Something sinister. Something unholy. If we ever get out…if they ever get out, I fear for the safety of anyone still alive up there. I cannot let that happen. I have doomed all of these people here, but I will not doom the world. I will remain vigilant, me and my few loyal scouts, for as long as it takes. Mother Aradia will never escape. I will not rest until they are all destroyed.

The clopping of hooves on the temple floor precedes Sir Roland. Into the room strides a big man with a desiccated, gray face and glowing orange eyes, bedecked in ancient, rusting plate mail, followed by a skeletal war horse in full barding. Shiani is with him, floating alongside. His voice sounds like it comes from the bottom of a deep well when he greets them.

Sir Roland lays out the plan for the party. Being living beings, they alone have the ability to help defeat Mother Aradia and Lieutenant Merculo and his zombie army. Roland will give the party his Scimitar of Speed and Driftglobe, which no longer work for him, and will lead his skeletons to attack on the party’s side. Shiani will scout ahead and report the enemy’s location and number. When the enemy is defeated, Roland will show them the way out (they’ve had 300 years to dig their way to the surface). They march on the morrow.

The rest of the adventure follows that plan. The zombies are stationed around Mother Aradia’s territory in groups of 5 and 10 and can be picked off as they’re encountered so long as Merculo or Aradia doesn’t realize that they’re under attack. If either one becomes aware of the incursion, 40/60 zombies are called to Merculo’s side to battle. The other 20 zombies always protect Mother Aradia, who is a room where her corporeal body lays in state upon an altar.

With Mother Aradia, Merculo, and the zombies dead, Sir Roland can rest — as long as every undead creature in the temple and tunnels has been dealt with. That includes the pesky poltergeist if it’s still there. If there are zombies, claws, or the ghoul left alive downstairs, Sir Roland entreats the party to finish them off so there’s no chance that they’ll escape to hassle the surface.

Once all of the hostile undead are destroyed, Sir Roland releases his will from any remaining skeletons and they fall into broken piles of bones. He shows the party the way out, thanks them, and lies down and closes his eyes. An expression of serenity and peace replaces his stern features as his spirit departs his corpse. With Roland at rest, Shiani’s unfinished business is complete. She smiles at the party as she fades away. “Cielador. Tell my father I love him…” Her voice becomes nothing more than a whisper on the fresh breeze blowing down from above.

The Drow Girl Strikes Back

drowgirlMy son has gone home to Michigan, which leaves our 5th Edition D&D campaign down to only me and my spouse. I’m running 3 NPC adventurers to her 1 PC. With Valerius out of the picture (he left Greenhaven muttering something about hunting down the vampire who killed his family), “Captain Salvek” needed a new Rogue.

By the way, there’s a reason I keep putting “Captain Sal’s” name in quotes and not anyone else’s. It’s because he isn’t really Captain Salvek. My spouse gave him the Charlatan background and he assumed the name and rank after killing the original in a duel. Since he was a better leader than the original Salvek, the mercenary company’s 2nd in command (Morganae, a Tiefling) decided she’d go along with it and backed him up when he presented himself as their new Captain.

The Adventure Setup. I wanted to do something with low-level undead and give some more background into the ancient history of my world. Next week I’ll post the details of my adventure, Doroth’s Grace, if you don’t care how my party got to the start of the delve. The adventure setup is a continuity thing for my campaign, but Doroth’s Grace could be placed anywhere in anyone’s world with no setup other than a rotted floor or concealed pit collapsing under heavy adventurers’ boots.

I had planned for Ash to take over Valerius’ position in the party when my son went home, so I quickly wrote up some backstory for why he would know Roguey things when he grew up in a brothel/temple. Turns out, a couple years ago young Ash sheltered a wounded Tiefling Rogue by the name of Jessamae, who taught him her trade. As it happens, Jessamae was the little sister of Morganae, “Captain Sal’s” second. When the company broke up and was absorbed into other companies, everyone went their own way. You can imagine the look on Sal’s face when Ash told him how the good folk of Greenhaven found and executed Jessamae for thievery (and being a Tiefling).

So Sal the Fighter, Ash the Rogue, Donella the Cleric, and Lula the Gnome Wizard prepared to leave Greenhaven for the capitol, Delvinia City, but first they had to retrieve Ash’s Rogue gear from where he had hidden it in an abandoned mine where he had sheltered Jessamae.

The mine’s main room on the surface was split in two with a large shaft in the center preventing anyone from easily getting to the other side if not for a newly-constructed rope and plank bridge, secured to four wooden posts, two on either side of the shaft. On the other side of the bridge, in the mine boss’s office, was where Ash stashed his gear. The bridge was perfectly safe and sturdy and they got across and retrieved the gear with no problem.

On the way back across the bridge, that Drow girl who escaped while the party killed Ash’s father showed up on the other side, axe in hand. She didn’t waste any time cutting first one rope support (the bridge tilted madly, Dex checks were made for all, and Ash fell…) and then the remaining rope support. The rest of the party plummeted down the dark mine shaft.

But Sal had given Ash the Ring of Featherfall (from the giant spider room in the previous adventure), so he was okay. Lula caught herself and the others in a Featherfall spell on the way down, so they all landed unharmed at the bottom of the mine shaft. The echoes of childish laughter drifted down from far above…

Rescuing Ash, Adventure 1

giantspiderOur 5th edition D&D homebrew game started thus.

Location: The town of Greenhaven, 2 days east of the capitol of Delvinia City.

Party (Level 1): Valerius ( Half-Elf Rogue, played by my son), “Captain Salvek” (Human Fighter, played by my spouse), Donella Freewalker (Human Cleric, NPC), and Lula Bree Liani something something Sharpwhistle (Gnome Wizard, NPC).

Mission: Rescue a teenage boy abducted by Drow.

Background: Greenhaven lies at the foot of a range of mountains that has access to the Underdark. Greenhaven’s claim to fame is the Temple of Vivilea, a positive-faced aspect of the Life Domain, in her role as fertility goddess. In this Temple, Vivilea’s priests and priestesses aid in helping couples procreate in a holy and intimate setting, and use their talents to help individuals overcome sexual anxiety. People travel for days to receive the blessings of the temple prostitutes.

15 years ago Drow warriors from House Sinjin, looking for slaves to capture and sell in Menzoberranzan, raided the town, concentrating on the walled gardens of the temple. Whom they did not rape and kidnap, they raped and killed. However, they inadvertently left one priestess alive, with child by a raider.

The philosophy of Vivilea’s followers is that the goddess gives life to fulfill a purpose. It is against the faith to reject that life. Thus, 9 months later, Ash was born.

The following 15 years were not kind for House Sinjin. Bad luck and defeat met them at every turn, reducing their numbers and status until they were finally driven from the city. It seemed that Llolth had turned Her back on them. It was the House Matron who finally divined why: the Spider Queen viewed Ash’s birth and allowance to exist as an abomination, and until the Drow who brought him into existence made amends by sacrificing him, She would continue to withhold her favor from House Sinjin.

And so what was left of House Sinjin made its way to Greenhaven once again, to set right their mistake.

Meanwhile, Greenhaven and the Temple of Vivilea recovered and forgot about the raid as much as they could. Ash’s existence reminded them of the injuries past, though, and although he was allowed to remain and grow up in Greenhaven, his mother kept him mostly out of sight of the other townsfolk. He worked at the Temple as a layperson, cleaning and tending the grounds, until the Drow came again.

The Adventure Begins: The party is staying at the Greenhaven Inn, about to turn in for the evening, when one of the townsfolk bursts in with news of terrified screams coming from the temple. Our heroes waste no time in going to investigate, but even as they arrive only minutes later, it’s already too late. Worshippers and priests alike lie dead in their own blood, cut down with short swords or impaled by hand crossbow bolts. Only the high priestess remains alive, though badly wounded. “They’ve taken Ash,” she stammers. Just as the word ‘Drow’ comes out of her mouth, two Drow warriors emerge from a side room carrying temple treasures and the fight starts.

(Being that this was my son’s first time playing D&D as an adult, I wanted to test my players’ abilities and team cohesiveness without overwhelming them with battles that would tax their resources. I also knew we would only get a few hours to play during his visit and I wanted to be able to finish the story before my son had to go home. I designed this easy, quick adventure to be played in 1-2 sessions. The encounters follow. I used only the lowest-level Drow [CR 1/4] in the Monster Manual for most of the fights, some non-combatants for variety, and the Elite Warrior [CR 5] for the final battle. I did not want a TPK by including a Mage [CR 7] or a Priestess of Llolth [CR 8] anywhere in there. I was even worried enough about the Elite Warrior [CR 5] wiping out my 1st level party that I was prepared to lower his AC and HP and fudge some rolls.)

1. The Opportunists. (2 Drow). Greed has gotten the better of these two brothers. They have stayed behind to raid the temple of treasure. Either of the brothers can tell the party the direction the drow have taken Ash, providing the party leaves one of them alive to talk. (My party killed both of them before questioning them, but the raiders left a pretty obvious trail on their way out, so they followed it.)

2. The Scouts. (3 Drow). Noticing the missing brothers, three Drow scouts have been sent back to find them. They encounter the party on the forest trail. (My party got some information from the Drow this time, before killing two of them. When questioned about Ash, they replied with vitriol about the ‘abomination’. The third Drow cast darkness over the area, which caused my party to retreat until they could see again, and he got away to warn the next encounter group.)

The Drow cave is only a couple miles from town and should have at least 6 rooms in it, with the main tunnel leading to the final two rooms at the back of the cave.

3. The Guards (4 Drow). Four Drow Guards are stationed, two at the base and two on ledges, of the cliff face that leads to the cave opening where House Sinjin is living. The tree line is 50′ from the base of the cliff (Guards 1 and 2). The first ledge is 10′ up from the base (Guard 3). The second ledge is diagonal and up 15′ from the first ledge (Guard 4). The cave opening is 10′ up from the second ledge. Ropes and pitons are already placed by the Drow to facilitate climbing. The distance from the treeline to the 2nd ledge is about 100′. (My party arrived at the tree line in time to see the Drow Scout that got away in the last encounter warn the guards at the cliff base about the party’s pursuit. The Scout then began climbing the cliff past the Guards stationed on ledges on the way up. The party realized that they needed to take the Scout out first, before he got inside the cave to warn the rest of the Drow. Although the Guards were alert and ready, the party got surprise by splitting up and firing ranged weapons from different spots within the tree line, maintaining cover for at least the first round and making it seem like there were more than four of them. The Scout that got away was climbing between ledges 1 and 2 when the party attacked.)

4. The Pet (1 Giant Spider). The House Matron keeps a giant spider as a pet. Thick webs all over this room give its presence away. The spider attacks any non-Drow that enter or mess with its webs. (So far in the adventure I had forgotten to give my party any treasure other than XP. The spider’s webs here gave me an opportunity to plant some gold, a Wand of Rope Trick [3 charges left, in case the party got in over their head and needed a quick escape], a Ring of Featherfalling and a future adventure hook [an inheritance notice] on some of the web-wrapped dessicated corpses that the Matron had fed to her pet.)

5. Blowing Off Steam (4 Drow). Excitement from the raid is high. The party encounters four more Drow raiders (men and women) blowing off steam with a little S&M. Because the Drow are occupied, the party automatically gets surprise. (This was the first room my party looked in on. They did not attack the Drow having sex but left them to have their fun and snuck over to the spider’s room on the opposite side of the main tunnel. It was a mistake that made the battle harder when the spider attacked and the commotion drew the Drow to the noise. They used the Wand of Rope Trick to buy some time and breathing room.)

6. The Nursery. A non-combatant male nanny and six Drow children ranging in age from infant to 13 years (human equivalency) occupy this room. The oldest child, a girl, is abusing a younger boy of about 10 years old while the nanny and 3 younger children look on. The infant is fussing in a bascinet between the nanny and the party. The 13 year-old is the Matron’s daughter and fancies herself a force to be reckoned with, as she assumes she will one day lead the House. The nanny attacks the party as soon as he’s aware of them. He knows that if he doesn’t defend them to the death, the Matron will have his head. (My party killed the nanny swiftly, picked up the infant, and parlayed with the girl. The other children cowered behind the girl while she spat impotent defiance at them. Because my players thankfully aren’t psychopaths, they gave the infant back to the girl and managed to talk to her enough to get the whole story out of her that told of the House’s misfortune since Ash’s birth and Llolth’s condition that Ash be sacrificed by his father in order to restore the House to her favor. The girl eventually got tired of talking to the hairless male ape (Captain Sal) and, after telling the other children something in Undercommon, which none of my party spoke, she cast darkness and the kids scattered and escaped to warn the rest of the cave. Again my party had to retreat until they could see, and they were developing a growing hatred of the darkness spell.)

7. and 8. Dinnertime. (2 Drow and an Owlbear). Two Drow are preparing dinner: an owlbear the raiders encountered and subdued on the way back from the raid. The owlbear is chained and wounded and will attack the drow in the kitchen if it gets the opportunity. Once the Drow threat is gone and the owlbear is freed, it will attack the party. (I know how to push my spouse’s buttons when it comes to getting her to look at an encounter in a certain way, and this was no exception. The Drow were torturing the owlbear, ripping out its feathers and burning it with fire-heated pokers when the party arrived, the owlbear screaming in pain and rage. That was enough to make her attack the Drow in the kitchen when they could’ve snuck past them like they did in Encounter 5. I originally had intended to have a Bugbear chained up, but when I was describing the scene, I confused the ‘bears’ and mentioned feathers. The price of getting old and senile.)

9. The Altar Room. (5 Drow). Two female Drow stand guard, facing the entrance. Two young female Drow, one of them pregnant, are purifying an altar to Llolth, drawing sigils on it with blood while chanting praises and beseeches to the Spider Queen. The House Matron, an older Drow woman, looks on, directing them in their duties. The young women and the Matron are non-combatants. The Matron will try to run if she can. (When the fight started, my Matron ran for the exit while the girls cowered behind the altar and the guards attacked. The Matron almost made it out. One of the young women did make it out and was able to appear in the final encounter, which made it more exciting.)

10. The Boss Battle. (1 Drow Elite Warrior). Behind the altar room is another room that is bisected with iron bars wedged into the floor and ceiling, creating a prison cell. In the cell is Ash. In front of the cell is Ash’s father, ready and waiting to do battle with the party. (When my party arrived to face down Ash’s father, the girl from the altar room was in the cell with Ash, had the boy down on his knees with a fistful of his hair and a knife at his throat, waiting for a word from dad to kill him. A couple magic missiles and a crossbow bolt from the party wizard and rogue [Lula and Valerius] took her out in one round while the fighter and cleric [Captain Sal and Donella] kept Dad busy. Despite my fears about Dad’s CR, they were landing their hits and doing some damage. They exchanged blows for two rounds, and then I found out how awesome the Witch Bolt spell is. Lula hit with the spell, causing 1d12 points of damage, and then only had to concentrate to get 1d12 automatic damage every round [and she rolled high]. With no other opponents to worry about, it was easy damage. Then Valerius moved in and, thanks to the new rules, all he had to do was have another comrade within 5 feet of his target to deal 1d6 extra Sneak Attack damage. Sal continued to hammer at Dad while Donella kept him healed up in between her own attacks. It was all over before Ash could pick up the dagger from the dead girl and throw the knife at his father’s back.)

It was a quick adventure, maybe 7 hours of play total, and probably too easy. But my players had fun (which is what counts) and made it to Level 2. And the Drow children got away, which the party later regretted…

Did you find this adventure interesting? How would you change it for use in your own campaign? Leave a reply below and let me know.

Here Be Dragons

tiamatThis blog is about to turn into a D&D-centric RPG war stories site. You are warned.

My spouse and I have been D&D and other tabletop RPG gamers since before we met, when we were still young and thin and agile and could read the damned dice from across the table. As life happens, we’ve slowed down considerably in gaming and in years past have gone months (years?) without playing. I always miss it. Like writing, it nags at the back of my mind as something I should be doing.

We cut our teeth on 1st edition AD&D and really racked up the hours with 2nd edition. 3rd edition D&D was awesome and we played a lot, but the sheer volume of books, new rules and supplements, coming out all the time got very overwhelming. And it was expensive when we had a teenager to get through school.

When 4th edition came out, I eagerly bought it, hoping for a fresh start. That was a mistake. 4th rules required miniatures, and the classes all had comparable abilities that gave them all the same feel. It seemed…bland. We hardly played it, and it was a LOT of money gone to waste. I eventually sold my entire collection of 4th edition books and minis on eBay, and we switched to Pathfinder (which uses D&D 3.5 rules). Except Pathfinder had the same problem 3.5 did: book glut. If I didn’t buy all the books and supplements, I felt like I would miss something important. All the books were a  big hit to our pocketbook when there were bills to be paid. Even with 4Shared.

Now there’s 5th edition, or D&D Next as it was called in development. It’s a strange combination of all of the above, and it works well. And although it follows 4th edition’s habit of feeling too safe for the players at times (“Back in my day, we didn’t regain all of our hit points just from resting a few hours. We had to find a cleric or be laid up for weeks, damn it!”), the nice thing is that the Wizards have decided to forego the glut of new rules and sourcebooks and concentrate on adventure books and their optional supporting items. As of now I have only the core rules books (PH, DMG, MM) and one adventure book, Curse of Strahd, with its supporting Tarokka Deck (the Vistani tarot cards).  I had to buy that one because, hey, it’s Ravenloft!

We haven’t played the Ravenloft adventure yet. I was going to run it for us when my son (26 years old this year) came to visit, but it was too large for the time we had together. I came up with a small adventure that took about 8 hours collective play time and was an easy introduction for him (and us) into 5th edition. Following posts will detail that and subsequent adventures. I don’t know when I’ll get to Strahd, but he’s there, waiting for when I need him.

In addition to logging our current campaign, I’m also planning on posting my ideas and home rules for the game, which I hope readers will find interesting and inspiring.

But enough about me for now. Are you an avid tabletop gamer? What systems have you played? How do you like the new D&D? Leave a comment and let me know!

ROW80 Update – Day31

Really quick update today. My goals: write, exercise, life.

Write: I’m taking a break from word count goals this week to hash out a skeleton plot. I understand why Ian, my main character, is being hunted, and how that should play out now. I think I’m good to go to get back on track next week.

I have realized that by Friday, after a week of writing all day, my brain is fried. I may switch writing to Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and leave Wednesdays as a mid-week mental rest from the plot. I’ll keep aiming for my average of 500 words a day, 2500 per week, by upping my 4-day word count to 625 words, instead of 500.

I’ve also joined Scriblophile. With a mid-week break from my novel, I can dedicate some time to reading and critiquing others’ novel chapters. If anyone reads this who’s on Scriblophile who’d like me to look at their stuff, please scratch my pad: http://www.scribophile.com/authors/athan-carter/  and tell me you found me here.

Exercise: My back is really screwed up, sending shooting pains into my legs, and a constant sharp ache. I need to get to the chiropractor, but our insurance doesn’t really cover it. It says it does, but only for visits over $30 or $40, which is what they typically charge for a visit. Which translates as it’s not really covered. So, I’m laying shavasana for a half hour every day, because it helps for a few hours afterward. When I’m a rich and famous author I will be able to go to the chiropractor whenever I feel like it. Being in constant pain is very exhausting. I will get some walking exercise on Saturday, at least.

Life: This weekend my spouse and I are going to the Chocolate Fantasia in Silver City. Last year was our first time, and it was lovely. The dog is not going this time because we want to spend more time looking in the shops and galleries during the walk around town. We will be read the Husky Riot Act when we get home, I’m sure.

A Really Bad Car Analogy

redwoods

It’s 3 p.m. on a Friday and I’m a couple hundred words shy of my daily goal and 12,000 words in my supernatural thriller In the Flesh. Today, I can’t concentrate on writing the next scene because I’m not completely sure where I’m going. My brain is restless and wandering. And I want to move furniture. I move furniture a lot, especially when I’m feeling restless, usually in Spring and Fall, or when I’ve been cooped up in one place for too long. It drives the cats and my spouse nuts, but it’s cheaper than road trips.

The windows are open (tomorrow it’s supposed to be 70+ degrees! In January!) I love the Southwest! But that warm air and sunshine does nothing for my need to sit BICHOK (Butt In Chair Hands On Keyboard). I look out the window and see all of the yard work that needs to get done. And I look at the mountains and want to go hiking. Or driving; I love road trips. Meanwhile, inside, my progress stalls.

When I was writing in my 20s I was largely a pantser. I had a calendar appointment book for my ongoing shared-world anthology filled with one-sentence reminders of what the next installment should be. I used to hop in my car and drive for hours, out of state, to places I’ve never been to meet virtual strangers (fellow authors of my shared-world). Did I mention I love road trips?

These days I have discovered that, after raising a child, working 15+ years in an office setting, and having bills to pay, I require more organization and stability than I did in my wild, misspent youth.  I still love the freedom to go off somewhere unknown on an adventure of discovery, but the journey is always planned in advance. I also have a need to Google the hell out of where I’m going so I know what to expect and how to act (important in a state with many American Indian reservations) when I arrive, and to have detailed maps of how to get there. I don’t interact with strangers as easily as I did when I was 25. And now I am conceding that my writing process requires some structure as well.

I have tried pantsing this work in progress, and what I have so far isn’t too far off the mark of where it should be at this word count. But now I’ve written myself into a dilemma. I hopped in my car and drove into the unknown, but didn’t get directions to where I was headed, and I have only the vaguest idea of what to expect. And now the car is breaking down and I’m running out of gas.

So next week I’m taking a break from my word count goals and working on my plot. My demon narrator, Ian, is being hunted by a conclave of magi and I have no idea why. My goal for next week is to find out why and make some maps (read: outline) for where I need to go. Next Saturday I get to go on a little road trip through the Gila mountains with chocolate as the destination, so that should take care of some of my seasonal restlessness. Then, it’s back to my word count goals. If it takes all week, I’ll lose 2500 words worth of progress. But slowing down and getting to the destination is a lot better than driving in circles at high speed.

old race car

ROW80 Update – Day 24

catwordsOscar, my yellow tabby cat, loves it when I take corpse pose (shavasana). Within a minute of my half-hour relaxation he steps onto my torso and settles down. Since he’s one of our thinner cats this is not a problem and I let him stay there until I’m done. If it was Eddie sitting on my chest, however, my spouse would be calling the paramedics when she comes home for lunch. Eddie weighs 25 pounds, easily.

Here are my goals and accomplishments for A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life.

  1. Write. 500 words a day is my goal, and today I should have 11,000 words. I was a little ahead of the game, so yesterday I did some scene editing, though, and I actually lost words. I hope to make it up today and get back to where I need to be. I also think I need to consider developing a skeleton plot so I know where I’m headed. Some major story questions have appeared and I have no clue as to what the answers may be. I might brainstorm plot structure on Saturday.
  2. Exercise. I’ve been doing 20 minutes of Yoga every day, excepting Sunday and today. My back has been aching a lot, so today I gave myself a break and just did shavasana, which helps a lot.
  3. Life. Let’s see… I went out into the yard on Sunday to pull up some stakes, measure for a fence, dig out a t-post, and move the compost container to where our garden will be. This also qualifies as Exercise. We had the windows open that day, the first time this year. The same day that the east coast was being bombarded with heavy snows. I’m still getting used to spring starting in February where I live along the Rio Grande. I only miss Michigan in October because of the fall colors, but that’ll pass as we spend more time hiking in the mountains in the fall.  This weekend we’re going to our local cinema to see The Revenant. I keep thinking it’s a zombie movie because of the title, but it’s not. It’s something my spouse is interested in. Since she’s agreed to go to see Deadpool when it opens, I’m going to see this with her.
  4. Goals. My fourth goal is a meta-goal. It’s the goal of sticking to these goals. I’m doing good on this part, so far, but we’ve got over 2/3 of Round 1 to go yet, so I’m not going to brag about it yet.

Click here to see what other ROWers are doing!