March means the travelling RPG Blog Carnival has jumped to another blog. The latest host is Brian Fitzpatrick at Moebius Adventures.
The chosen subject for this month’s contributions to the Blog Carnival is “Things in the Dark.” Brian outlines the topic like this:
This month we invite you to write about those “things” lurking in the dark. Perhaps it’s an encounter on an alien world cast in perpetual shadow. Perhaps it’s the thing dancing just out of sight beyond the flames of your comfortable campfire. Perhaps it’s the thing at the bottom of the basement, well, dungeon, or ruin.
Isn’t it time all of those places and things had a little illumination?
A Dark Shadow in Ulubrae
The current story arc in my Tales of the Hero Wars campaign is the Shadows of Ulubrae. Our setting is a subterranean dwarven city with social conflict and a strong troll presence. The city of Ulubrae is built into the side of a large cavern, with a river and canal network spreading out through the Underdark.
Much of the game is set in the darkness so beloved of our troll Heroes. Thus, the chosen topic for the March Carnival is very relevant to my campaign. On the basis of this topic, I now add a fresh thread to the story arc.
Legend of the River Ogre
A favourite story among the dockers and sailors of the Peregrinium port area of Ulubrae is the Legend of the River Ogre. The details of a story varies wildly depending upon who tells it. A few greybeards claim to have seen a victim taken by the Ogre, the fear shining in their eyes.
Some tales relate how a lone docker was snatched off the stone quay by a long arm reaching up from the river. A bargee swears his first mate was taken from the deck by a clawed hand. Hobbits scare their brood of children at night with stories of the River Ogre who watches for naughty children to snatch from the slums of Overspill.
Weaving in the River Ogre
It is commonly believed that something lives in the waterways surrounding Ulubrae, a monster which hunts citizens in the darkness. This could just be a tale to tell late at night after too much rum, or a fairy tale to scare children at night. Yet, to interest the Heroes, there needs to be something behind these persistent rumours.
I suspect the Players will tire of endless political intrigue and social conflict. They will eventually want their Heroes to venture out of the city and explore some of the Underdark. Here is one reason for them to do so. I can easily drop into a conversation dire rumours about something stalking the Ulubrae docks. Maybe a friendly boat captain has a member of crew snatched into the river, and she turns to the Heroes to help.
My Players read my blog, sometimes, so I cannot give too much away here. Simply posting this article highlighting the stories found in dockside taverns might be enough to persuade a Player that their Hero wants to investigate the River Ogre. Whatever the motivation, hunting down the River Ogre gives the Player a quick sailing trip through the Underdark, and probably a cavern complex to explore at the end of it. By the standards of The Tales of the Hero Wars, this is a close as we come to traditional dungeon crawling.
Defining the River Ogre
Given the possibility of my Players reading this article, I will be deliberately vague here. According to rumour, the River Ogre has the following traits:
- “Bigger than a troll, but with gills!”
- “Long arms with three joints, and claws the size of my arm.”
- “Pale eyes which glowed silver in the depths of the river.”
- “Scales like a fish, AND fur like a troll.”
At least some of these traits will be correct, but not all of them. It is not a troll, as they do not live underwater in my game. However, plenty of monstrous creatures would make for possible candidates. Nor are there ogres in the world, so the name offers little clue to astute Players.
Adding the River Ogre to Your Campaign
You too may want to add the River Ogre to your game. Obviously, the physical characteristics are up to you. Pitch the power of the River Ogre as you need to challenge your Players. The stories, and indeed the given name, can apply to your game. Simply use a suitable creature which can breathe underwater, and you are ready to go.
As I describe the River Ogre, I imagine a creature similar to Grendel from the Beowulf poem. This makes me even more determined to weave these rumours into the Shadows of Ulubrae story arc, and see how the Heroes respond. Will anyone rip the arm from the River Ogre? Does it have a vengeful mother? I look forward to seeing how the story plays out.
How would you use the River Ogre? What creature from your setting matches these stories? Is there more than one creature lurking in the river? Share your thoughts with your fellow GMs in the comments below.
- Read all the current entries to the March Carnival at Moebius Adventures.
- The RPG Blog Carnival is under the stewardship of Johnn Four, at his Roleplaying Tips website.
- See my dedicated page for a full list of all my RPG Blog Carnival contributions.
- Last month the host was Tabletop Terrors, where the topic was encounters.
- Do you need more Tales?
f you enjoyed this article, then please share it, or the associated quotations. You may also be interested in the following links:
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- Something for the Weekend next week: Improv Encounters 4, Who & GMs