Chapter One – A Fresh Campaign

“No, I’m playing a pansexual, polyamorous, dendrophiliac Wood Elf Druid, and there’s not a fucking thing you can do about it,” Charlie said with an adamant smile on his face. “She can be anything she wants, and fuck anyone she wants.”

Chris put his hands up in a defensive gesture behind his Bastion Master’s screen. “Slow down. I know what the first two things are, but what’s a dendrophiliac?”

“Dendrophilia is the sexual attraction to trees,” Charlie said with a grin. “Just sexual though. My Wood Elf is aromantic.”

Chris looked stricken. “Your character is aromantic, but polyamorous, and attracted to trees?”

Charlie shrugged. “It’s my character, and I can play whoever the fuck I want to play. Her name’s Sylviana Bloodpetal, and I’m going to look hot as fuck wearing leather armor.”

Lorelei, Jason and Damien laughed at that, but Chris just let out a sigh.

“Come on, man!” Charlie said. “This is nowhere near as bad as the time I played as the Bard with dissociative identity disorder and I had to carry six different instruments because none of his identities could play the same thing.”

“Don’t forget that each of those identities had committed, long-term relationships with people across Alternia,” Lorelei said.

“Except for Korch,” Damien added. “Korch couldn’t open his mouth without putting his foot in it.”

This made the table erupt with laughter.

“Yeah, okay, that was pretty funny,” Chris admitted.

It was always the same, and he really shouldn’t have expected it to be any different. Chris was always roped into being Bastion Master because none of his other friends ever wanted the job. There was a reason for that – these arseholes turned every campaign they ever played into a shitstorm of the highest magnitude.

They’d scrapped the last campaign after Charlie seduced the Big Bad Evil Guy and convinced him to settle down, give up his life of evil, and run a bed and breakfast. As it turns out, rolling skill checks to crochet doilies sounded a lot funnier than it actually was.

This was their chance at a fresh start in a new Beasts & Bastions campaign, but these dickheads were already right back on their bullshit.

“Right, I don’t care,” Chris said as he threw his hands up in the air. “But I’m a little worried about how all of your alignments are going to play together. Lorelei, you’re playing a halfling rogue, and Damien, you’re playing a dwarf necromancer, but Jason’s playing a paladin. That’s not going to be fun for anyone. Paladins are pretty much only lawful good, and you two look like a car crash waiting to happen.”

Lorelei and Damien both shot looks at Jason, but he shrugged.

“Jon Vanduin isn’t a normal Paladin,” Jason said.

“Oh here we go,” Damien said with a roll of the eyes. “Here comes the elaborate backstory.”

Jason blew out a breath through his nose. “Fuck me for wanting to play a character with a little depth, right? Jon swore an oath to the light, he had to turn his back on it after a terrible tragedy occurred. Jon was a devout follower of the light up until a month ago, when the servants of the dark lord came and slaughtered his family.” Jason shot a nervous look at Chris. “There is a dark lord, right?”

“I guess there is now,” Chris said with a shrug.

“What’s his name?” Lorelei asked.

“I don’t fucking know, I haven’t invented him yet!” Chris said.

“You’re willing to indulge Jason’s crazy backstory and invent a dark lord without question, but you’ve got issues with my wood elf’s sexual identity?” Charlie asked. “I didn’t take you for a bigot, Chris.”

Chris took a deep breath. He wouldn’t allow himself to be baited. Not this early in the session. He was going to tell Jason that if he wanted to play a paladin like that, he wouldn’t have access to any of his starting abilities outside of the martial ones. He would be a paladin in name and deed only until he managed to forge an oath with another deity.

But thanks to Charlie’s bullshit attitude, that was a surprise Jason would have to learn once they started playing.

The gloves were coming off.

“You want to go crazy?” Chris asked. “Fine. Go as crazy as you want, because I can double down on it. I just want to have fun, and I’m just going to roll with whatever punches you throw at me.”

Lorelei grinned. “I’m really glad you said that. Because I’ve got a crazy concept that I wanted to hit you with.”

“No need to hit me,” Chris said nonchalantly. “Go for it.”

Lorelei laughed. “Seriously?”

“Yep. Your bullshit is pre-approved. Hit me with it.”

“Ooh-hoo okay then,” Lorelei said as she rubbed her hands together. “Dragons are notoriously prideful, right? They tend to think that nothing is above their power. But they’re wrong. My character is a dragon who went through a soul swap with a halfling. The halfling, while in the dragon’s body, went and got herself killed. Wings don’t come with instruction manuals, and the halfing-in-dragon took a dive off a cliff and drowned, leaving the dragon-in-halfling stuck there forever.”

Damien laughed. “Holy shit that’s amazing.”

Chris thought about it for a moment, then shrugged. “So it’s more of a roleplay thing than anything else. You’ll still be bound by your halfling body for all of your ability checks. I might let you have some hangovers from the power of your dragon’s soul.”

Lorelei bit her bottom lip. “I think I should get a bonus to my wisdom score, and I should get access to Draconic Lore and Draconic Glamour, because that’s tied to the dragon’s soul, right?”

“I’ll let you roll one D4 and you can halve it before you add it to your wisdom score,” Chris said, then raised a finger in warning. “But you’re not getting both Draconic Lore and Draconic Glamour. You can choose one. For lore, you’ll have to roll a wisdom check, and for glamour you’ll have to roll a charisma check. Most of the power of a dragon is in its blood, and the blood in your veins is pure Greenshire stock.”

“I’m okay with that,” Lorelei grinned.

A flash of light pierced the gloom of the night outside. The storm had formed out to the west, beyond Toowoomba and Warwick in the late afternoon, and now threatened to drop its guts just as they were due to kick off.

The clap of thunder made Damien cower from the sound. “Oh man, I hope my dog is okay,” Damien said.

“Doesn’t do well in storms?” Jason asked.

Damien nodded to himself. “He should be right. He’s inside, not out in the weather, but he gets scared when they shoot fireworks off at the park. This is a lot louder. He’s massive, but he’s a big sook. People look at him and think he’s vicious, but he’s really a big old marshmallow.”

“What’s your character, Damo?” Chris asked. “You said he was a dwarf necromancer in our pre-game chat, right?”

“That’s right. Dvarg Marrowbane,” Damien said.

“Okay, let me get this straight,” Chris said as he tried to figure out just how much of a shitshow this campaign was going to be. “We’ve got a dragon-queen-stuck-in-the-body-of-a-halfling rogue, a pansexual, polyamorous, dendophiliac wood elf druid, a paladin who’s abandoned by the light, and a dwarf necromancer. Am I getting that right?”

Another flash of lightning. The clap of thunder followed only a second after it. The storm was getting closer now.

“Have you got candles in case the power goes?” Jason asked.

“Better,” Chris said. “I’ve got some battery-powered LED strips in the office I can bring in. They’ll last for hours, and they’ll make the table look a bit magical.”

“Nothing’s going to stop this murder party!” Lorelei said with a grin.

“Oh fuck, this isn’t just going to be another murder hobo party, is it?” Chris asked.

He was sick and tired of these bastards ignoring all of the well-thought-out campaigns and plot hooks he spent so long coming up with. Not a single one of those storylines ever got played out to the end. They always got distracted by some weird fucking side tangent.

Oh well, they can’t ruin the story if there is no story. Chris decided that this time he was going to let them go absolutely wild. The crazier the better. He’d roll with their punches, and let them do whatever the fuck they wanted.

“You know what? I don’t care,” Chris said. “I’m game for anything.”

Jason and Charlie shared a look.

“Are you feeling okay, Chris?” Charlie asked.

“Just fine. Have you got your character sheets ready?”

“I’ve pre-filled mine out on my Surface Pro,” Jason said. “I haven’t rolled my stats yet though.”

“Are you sure you’re going to be able to play an oathbreaker, dude? You’re so lawful good,” Damien said.

Jason laughed at that, but he didn’t deny it. “Just because I broke my oath doesn’t mean that I can’t swear another one, right?”

“You’ll have to swear another oath at some point dude,” Chris said.

Still he held back on telling Jason that he wouldn’t have access to any of his spells and paladin abilities until he swore another oath. Chris thought about it, but decided to let it go. It’d be more fun that way.

“Ooh, wait a second! Are we doing house rules this time?” Lorelei asked with a hopeful smile on her face.

“Sure! Why the fuck not?” Chris asked. He grabbed a hat from the buffet behind him and put it in the centre of the table. “But like always, the Bastion Master has the right of veto. If I don’t like the rules, they don’t get in. Be as awful to each other as you like, but don’t fuck with the game world and break it. Got it?”

The players murmured their assent. Grins bloomed on their faces as they tore strips of paper from their notebooks and scribbled down a brand-new game rule each. The scraps of paper were folded or scrunched up before being tossed into the waiting hat.

Chris abstained from submitting a rule. He was already going to have enough fun fucking with these guys with the opening gambit. Just because he didn’t have a storyline worked out didn’t mean he wasn’t going to plant the seeds of some conflict that might travel in a bunch of different directions.

Once the four players had submitted their rules, Chris grabbed the hat and swirled it around. He grabbed the first ball of paper and uncrumpled it. It was easy enough to tell who wrote that chicken scratch than it read to decipher what it said.

“Anyone who rolls more than 3D6 as 1s during stats has to roll for a… Roll for a pobis? Phosis? What the fuck does that say, Damo?” Chris asked.

“Phobia! God-damn it my handwriting isn’t that bad.”

The rest of the table laughed.

“Yes it is. You should be a doctor, mate,” Jason teased. 

“Fuck you all!” Damien said.  “Anyway, it’s simple. If anyone rolls 3D6 or more as 1s when they’re rolling ability scores they need to roll for a phobia. Each time it happens they roll, they roll for another phobia.”

“Oh, that’s nasty,” Chris said. “But you’re just as unlikely to roll 3D6 1s as you are 3D6 20s. I’ll allow it. I love it. We’ll use the D100 and the phobia list in the Adventurer’s Handbook. All rolls are final.”

Lorelei winced. “Fine. What’s the next rule?”

Chris grabbed the next piece of paper. This one was neatly folded, with impeccable handwriting.

“Ability checks can crit,” Chris said, with a grin.

“Oh yeah!” Damien said, and Charlie rubbed his hands together gleefully.

“This is always a bone of contention at my table, but I’ll allow it for this campaign,” Chris said. “If you roll a natural 20 on an ability check, it will be an automatic success. If you roll a natural 1, it will be a devastating failure. You will not like the outcome if that happens. Are we all in agreeance?”

They were, so Chris moved on to the next rule.

The next rule was interesting, and not something Chris had ever contemplated. “Players do not level automatically. They must take a long rest to go up a level.”

“Oh, come on, what the fuck? That’s some bullshit!” Damien said.

“Oh, I don’t like that at all,” Lorelei said.

“Whoever put that in can die in a fire,” Charlie added.

Jason said nothing. He just looked down at his luminous Surface Pro screen with a grimace on his face. Then he looked up at Chris. “You have the right of veto, dude.”

Chris shrugged. “I actually like that rule. Adds a bit of ritual and importance to the level up process, doesn’t it? No, I’m keeping that one. It’s in!”

The table groaned, but Chris through that was interesting. One of the people at the table put that rule in, but they all bemoaned its inclusion. Someone was playing a game of their own at the table tonight.

“Lucky last rule,” Chris said as he retrieved the final house rule. This one was folded up into a square. “Whoa, okay, I like this a lot.” He read aloud the words scribbled on paper. “Every three levels, each player is given a permanent modifier based on their actions in the game so far.”

“Whoa,” Damien said. “So if I keep reanimating dead bodies, I’d get a permanent perk or something that makes that even better?”

Chris grinned with evil intent. “Maybe. It’s Bastion Master’s choice, and I could decide to give you a modifier based on any of your actions in the game. The way I’m reading this, I get to decide exactly which actions that modifier is based on.”

Charlie winced, and Lorelei opened her eyes wide. This rule was going to be fun. Another flash of lightning turned night into day, but the thunder came an instant later. Everyone around the table winced. The storm had arrived, and it was just about time to get the game underway.

Read on to Chapter Two – Rollin’ the Bones
Back to Beasts & Bastions

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