This story was largely inspired by Harry Potter and the Natural 20 by Sir Poley. Naturally, it's also inspired by A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin and Dungeons and Dragons by Gary Gygax, but you probably already knew that.


When in doubt, go to a tavern. Words to adventure by.

Clerenbald Frostblight had certainly spent his share of time in taverns, between time spent fighting such menaces as goblins, orcs, warlords, frost giants, an evil cult, demons, and a white dragon. And, most recently, the dark conjurer Xibahn, a man of extreme power. He had to be at least thirteenth level, since he summoned a pair of chaos beasts with one spell. Magic wasn't Clerenbald's forte—that was Maruina's job—but it paid to be familiar with all of the rules. Literally, at times.

Xibahn was low on his points, but his summoned monsters and bound demon were wreaking havoc on the party. Maruina was trying to counter or dispel whatever spell he was casting, Stillshadow was fumbling with a melting wand in his corporeal unstable hand, and Clothair, the little nut, was telling everyone to hold onto something while he tried to stuff his portable hole in Thedret's bag of holding. Clerenbald tried using his trump card, the Rod of Wonder...then everything went dark and very, very loud.

He found himself in a forest, not far from a road. He traveled southwest along it, eventually coming across a village which told him the nearest major settlement was Tumbleton. He left the main road and headed mostly due west, curving north some towards the end. Largely uneventful, aside from a random encounter with some wolves. CR 1 monsters are almost no threat to a level 11 party, no matter their numbers...but a lone warrior, without so much as a ring of regeneration to help him out? That's a different matter. He was pretty low on hit points from fighting Xibahn, and had only gained the dozen from overnight rest; even though the wolves ran pretty quickly, Clerenbald had to drink what few healing potions he had.

And now, at last, he was here. Tumbleton, a city along an unfamiliar river. He traveled days to get there, only to find that it was just a little merchant town, with a building the locals called a castle in the middle. Clerenbald thought it hardly qualified as a small fortress, but it would hardly do to provoke the locals, especially given their reaction to his spiked dwarven plate. It's like they've never seen an adventurer before.

Granted, not many fighters looked like Clerenbald. So many forgot armor spikes even existed, and few would have a bag of tricks on one hip and a rod of wonder on the other. In fact, he couldn't think of any adventurer of any class who used a rod of wonder; they were just so unpredictable, even more than the rulebooks said if enough strong magic was around. Still, it had saved Cleren more often than he cared to count (and if he sold it, Clothair would probably just buy it right back). Could that be why he was here? Or was it the spell Xibahn was casting? Did it matter?

Surely, Diem wouldn't allow the party to be split for too long. Once at the tavern, Clerenbald decided to ask about his friends first. And Clothair, too.

"Pardon me, barkeep, but I have a few questions."

"Might be I'll answer 'em. Is one've 'em about drinks?" His accent was different than most Clerenbald was familiar with...English, maybe? He hadn't heard an English accent since that half-elven crime boss. Pushover in a fight, but he had good thugs.

"I suppose. What kinds of drinks do you have?"

"Got some wine for a stah. Not the fancy Dounish 'r Arbor kind y'might be used to, but 'sdrink. A half-groat gets you a cuppa ale."

"...And how many stars or half-groats equal a gold piece?"

"Ah...think it's a few thous'n stars t'the dragon..."

Clerenbald sighed. A cup of ale was...four copper pieces? His companions usually didn't have them floating about, preferring to only use gold, but Clerenbald found it convenient to have small change on hand. He even had about a dozen platinum pieces, just in case. He pulled out four coppers from his bag of holding and put them on the bar. "I'm new around here. How much is one of these worth?"

The barkeep's eyes widened when he saw the coin. He lifted it, as if expecting it to be made out of wood or something. "This...we don' see coins like these, roun' 'ere...I'd guess they're...about a star each? Soun's right."

Lovely. He didn't even have a particularly small division of local currency, and the alcohol here was piss-cheap. "I'll take wine. If you have enough coin to make change for the other three, I'd appreciate it."

The barkeep nodded and poured a glass of wine before sifting through a box full of coins. He swapped the four copper pieces for a tiny coin he called a groat, two more called half-groats, a small penny, and a few half-pennies.

"About those questions..."

"Oh, aye. What are they, m'lord?"

"I'm no lord, just an adventurer." How many lords wear plate armor? "First, I'd like to ask about some companions of mine. They might have been seen in the area. First is Thedret Cragaxe. He's a dwarven cleric, which should be enough to identify him."

"Aye, not many of 'em around. Haven' seen er heard o' any dwarfs, save the Imp."

"The Imp?"

"The Lannisser dwarf, I heard 'e got 'mprisoned 'n the Vale."

Is it an adventure hook? Solo adventures weren't unheard of, but they filled Clerenbald with concern. He still hadn't gotten all of his hit points back from fighting Xibahn, even though he drank all of his healing potions after getting in a fight with some wolves. They were only CR 1, but enough of them would still whittle down his hit points. And if he ran into something he needed magic to solve...Diem isn't so cruel as to send me on a solo adventure I can't solo. I don't think so, at least.

"Hm. Well, maybe there's news of Maruina Moondancer from Myra?" City of Light! City of Magic! "She's a venerable elven wizard."

"...Not sure...what tha'd be, m'lord."

"A caster. And an elf."

"Sorry, tha's—"

"Caster. She uses magic. Elf. Pointy ears, forest people, kind of dicks?"

"...Ah. Can' say I've seen one o' 'em."

Clerenbald sighed. "Nygell Smith, calls himself Stillshadow. Multiclass, rogue/sorcerer/arcane trickster/shadowdancer."

"Pard'n?"

"He's a magical thief."

"If you're looking f' thieves, maybe check the dungeons a' King's Landin'. They've got more thieves'n we do, m'lord. Plenty headin' for th'Wall."

"The Wall?"

"You've never hear' of the Wall, m'lord?"

"I'm not from around here."

"Wall's not 'round 'ere. It's way up north, past Wintehell. 'Sa mile high and made o' solid ice, with massive cas'les guarded by the Night's Watch. They're a bunch o' criminals who a few lordlings, noble bastards, and other folks no one wants try to get ready for next time the wildlin's or Others attack."

Noble bastard? There's an oxymoron. "Other what?"

"The Others. You've surely heard o' the Long Night?"

"I'm from really far away. Probably a different plane of existence."

"...The Others're folks made o' ice'n darkness. They came eight thousand years ago, tried to wipe out all of us. The Night's Watch formed t'stop 'em if they came again."

"And they haven't?"

"...No, m'lord."

Now, that was an adventure hook. Going to the Wall would require crossing the whole kingdom, probably passing by this Vale, and Clerenbald was willing to bet that Shadowstill or Clothair (or both) would be among the criminals sent there. It still wouldn't hurt to ask...probably.

"The last person I'm looking for is a gnome bard named Clothair." With some warlock levels, but this guy gets confused easily enough by single-class characters.

"...Gnome?"

"Short person? Big nose? Magical, weird?"

"'Nother dwarf, then?"

"No, dwarves are bigger than gnomes."

The barkeep laughed softly. "I c'n tell ye I've seen nor heard o' no one that short."

This was almost a complete waste of time. "Well...have you heard of any quests?"

"Quests."

"Bandits, warlords, dragons, abandoned dungeons, unexplained deaths or disappearances, rumors?"

"'Salways some bandits, and I've 'eard people saying sailors from King's Landing are spreading tales o' dragons in the D'thraki Sea."

Oh, great, a water adventure.

"Ain't gonna find an abandoned dungeon, less the local folk's been good enough to stay out. Deaths...I hear King Robert's died."

"Oh?"

"Aye. They say a boar did 'im in. Some folks're saying it's the 'And that did it, wanting to usurp the throne."

"The...Hand?"

"The King's Hand, Lord Stark. From Winterhell or whatever it's called. Came after ol' Jon Arr'n died. Supposed to be the king's right-hand man. He's gonna be executed, I 'ear. Or 'e is."

"The Hand?"

"King's already dead, isn't he?"

Interesting...head to the Vale, dealing with bandits along the way, rescue the Imp from the Vale, head to Winterhell and kill this Hand, go to the Wall to fight the Others, and at some point sail across the Duthraki Sea and fight sea dragons of some kind. Sounds like a campaign.

"Do you know where I could find a map? Or a temple?"

"Dunno 'bout no maps, but I'm sure you'll find something. There's a sept down by the river."

"Thank you, barkeep." Clerenbald finished his drink (not nearly as bad as you'd expect it to be at a copper to the mug) and left the tavern.

—o}====

Clerenbald couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"Not one of you can cast a spell. Not a single spell. Not one."

"N-no, m'lord..."

This had to qualify as a small city, maybe even a large one, which meant it should have at least a couple mid-level clerics and adepts. Naturally, you'd expect such people to be in a temple, and this temple to Thusevin seemed to be the only one in town...but all they could offer was mundane healing. Heal checks? Those were fine for first-level characters, but Clerenbald was missing forty-two hit points and didn't want to waste two or three days resting. Maybe only one, if he agreed to be treated by Thusevin's "maesters". And, of course, no mid-level clerics meant no one who would be willing to join his party until he found Thedret.

Lovely.

"I suppose I have no choice but to stay here, then." One day of full rest while properly treated would fix his hit points right up.

He submitted to their care, impatiently. When they finished treating his wounds, he went to a room provided by the septons (Clerenbald gave them a copper piece for their kindness) and started passing the time with his old fallback: "Zap-the-bag-of-tricks-with-the-rod-of-wonder".

Badger, swarm of butterflies, enlarged badger. Septons entered before Clerenbald could use the rod a third time, demanding to know why there were hundreds of butterflies and why Clerenbald seemed to think the badger was unusually large.