The Vale of Winterhaven

I already keep a record of everything that happens during my games, but I want to creatively chronicle my player’s adventures and share their story. But before I can do that, I need to introduce readers to the world that they’re playing in, because while it is rooted in the Forgotten Realms it didn’t start that way. It actually wasn’t until we were a couple of weeks in that I decided that we were going to do a little bit of retconning to the world’s history to make it fit into FR.

Fortunately, none of my players have characters that are particularly religious, so the complete gutting of the preexisting pantheon hardly mattered to them. Regardless, with such a big change to the setting it’s something you should consult with your players. I did and they were cool with it.

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The Winterhaven Enclave is located on the northern tip of Tiranor. Nestled between the mountains is the Vale of Winterhaven, the dominion of the Kingdom of Osiria. Despite its namesake the ever snowy valley is quite accommodating throughout most of the year. The kingdom is ruled by the Ivory Queen, a benevolent and revered monarch of the Grisonnant — A hardy race of humans native to the valley — and the Dwarves. The Ivory Queen is also the prophet of the Goddess Vasila, the deity of the monotheistic Pravdan Church.

The valley has experienced a peaceful spell for a number of years. The local guard and royal militia are highly sufficient in neutralizing threats to the livelihood of the people and creatures of the wild typically adhere to the boundaries of their territories. A land devoid of problems has little need of mercenaries and adventuring companies, and they have since moved on from the valley. But there is a new and dreadful peril that has taken hold of the kingdom.

An epidemic has overcome Osiria. Over the course of a couple of weeks the sickness has spread throughout the city and the church is doing everything in its power to combat the plague. To prevent the sickness from spreading, the north has been quarantined and the roads closed. Traveling merchants, citizens, and guards that have been dispatched to the southern territories are unable to return home until the sickness has been quelled.

With assistance from the north cut off the southern half of the valley is vulnerable and strange things have begun to transpire. People have gone missing, a mysterious fog occasionally creeps out of Winterknell Forest and whispers of the Ebon Witch reach ears in every corner of the vale.

Before we had our first game, I sent out invitations to my players. The invites had the general summary of Winterhaven as well as some notes regarding what they could expect from the games I run. Along with the invitations was a print out of a poster with text in Common and Dwarvish. It was a call to arms, posted by a newly formed adventuring guild looking to recruit new blood – The common thread that would draw the players together to begin the game.

We had a pregame meet up in which I explained a little more about the world, and since two of the players decided they wanted to be natives of the valley I had to give them a bit more information regarding the towns and cities, the general population, local legends, history and current events, etc.

We also ended up creating two new towns to coincide with their background stories, which just further enriches the already established setting and gives me more to work with! Communication with your players is crucial, and it sometimes helps when your players are also writers. Sometimes… but that pretty much covers the intro to the Vale of Winterhaven. Until next time!


LTTP: Returning Dungeon Master

As an artist, I’ve been drawing and crafting since before I can remember, and I got in trouble on numerous occasions for sketching away during class at school. As a writer, I always had a napkin or scrap paper in my pocket that had Worldbuilding notes that I jotted down while on the job at work. As a gamer, I got my start with a Tomy handheld Pac-Man console and a hand-me-down Atari 2600 when I was three years old, and I haven’t stopped. I’ve been able to use three passions of mine as tools to facilitate my abilities as a Dungeon Master for tabletop gaming; specifically Dungeons & Dragons.


When I first entered High School, literally on the second day, I discovered Dragon Magazine in the library. My first impression was, “How does a pen and paper RPG even work? It doesn’t sound like much fun…”

I was playing Final Fantasy VII at the time and the only D&D games I had played were Tower of Doom and Shadow over Mystara. I had heard about the tabletop game from my older cousins, but never had the chance, nor the desire, to try it. I loved fantasy and writing, so I spent a lot of time in the library reading through their stock of Dragon Magazine.

My closest friends are the ones I made during my freshman year, and they were all sophomores at the time. The one I hung out with the most, Josh, who at one point in time practically lived at my house, played tabletop RPGs and I had no idea! It wasn’t until almost a decade later that I found out, but by that time I was already married and had a kid.

It took a long time to convince them, but I finally got two of my brothers and my waifu to give D&D a shot. We got started just as 4th Edition was rolling out and our first campaign lasted for a few months. My friend Josh eventually joined, and then I got the chance to join his games. It was around this time that I started studying game design and I wanted to create a more streamlined system that my son could comprehend and enjoy.

I took the fundamentals and created a streamlined RPG. To add to the immersion, my son and I took his collection of Tomica and Legos, brought out a notebook and we started creating characters and assigned them to Minifigs. Giving these figures names and adding stats and backstories enhanced the fun and introduced narrative, stakes and consequence. Playtime was now also story time and my son loved playing within this reactive fantasy world. The fact that his actions and decisions influenced the story blew his mind and the random randomness of a child’s imagination blew mine.

Seriously, the whims of a child can challenge a GM’s ability to improv like nothing else! My son will bust out the most random shenanigans and I have to try and create some feasible reaction that doesn’t break the game or cause some type of cataclysm! I must be doing something right because, so far, the world remains intact!

Fast forward several years. My family packed up and moved so many times I’ve lost count. But we’ve all finally settled down, hilariously back where we started. I got invited to play test my friend’s game in development and that night the fire had been rekindled! I had heard promising things about 5E and after reading through the changes I was eager to get started.

I unpacked all the old goods and tools, and I’ve been setting aside a day per week to dress up the old stuff and craft up some new components. I have two separate groups gaming in the same setting. They haven’t come together just yet, but their fates are intertwined. I’ve been keeping a DM journal but with the resurgence of tabletop RPGs as of late, I figured it’d be worthwhile sharing our gaming experience for anyone who’s curious. I’ll be writing up entries detailing the unfolding stories and share my DM crafts and thoughts.

Until next time!