DM Notes: Goblins of Salt Marsh

I had not DMed for years in any real way. I missed it. Being the master of a story that the players bring to life is so rewarding for me. While it cuts into my writing time a bit I love creating fantastic worlds for the players to adventure in and engaging conflicts for them to resolve.

In November I took up the Ghosts of Salt Marsh adventure for my group. For any who don’t know, it’s an adventure for dungeons and dragons which is made up of a collection of adventures from earlier editions. It has a bit of a pirate vibe to it and I leaned all the way into that. So did the party!

The group has honestly been creating ever more interesting characters and even working on whole party themes. My favorite to date was a group of unemployed circus performers who went by the name “The Perilous Performers” and had an entire dramatic introduction that we executed for new NPCs we met. It was a blast.

This time the group decided they would all make goblins, except my son who made a gnome. I placed them under the (forced) employ of a small time smuggler and soon enough they found themselves free of his employ and instead working for a councilman with a secret identity. With that the adventure had begun!

The goblin each had a color assigned to them by their former master that was vaguely representative of their class. The enraged barbarian is red goblin. The sorcerer is blue goblin. The monk is pink goblin. Of course, the gnome which they regard as their brother as well, either by choice or ignorance, is white goblin. Not your typical party, to be sure.

The adventures they’ve undertaken so far have been super fun. They don’t fight is quite the same way a more traditional party might and they certainly don’t role play in the same way as a typical party does. They have aspirations of pirating their own ship and I look forward to that dream being fulfilled.

Until then, I look forward to every Monday seeing the “Green Tide” sail the seas.

TBT: Epic of Cruhand the Rat Killer

So as a guy interested in fantasy and historical epic I decided to try and write some. It is not really that difficult because epics don’t necessarily rhyme and so I put together a form and tried it out. I decided that my epic form would have 10 syllables per line, 10 lines per stanza and 10 stanzas. Easy enough right? Well, here was my first attempt at it for a friend I game with.

The Epic of Cruhand the Rat King Killer

This is the story of a brave fighter.

He was a warrior from a land afar.

From the dark mysterious mountains.

In a land bathed in ever burning flame.

Where the dragons once ruled for an ion.

A place where only the strongest may live.

Where the weak are devoured by evil.

He was born with the blood of the dragon.

He grew up with a thirst for adventure.

His foes shook when they heard his name; Cruhand.

I, Rick James the Silver Tongue, first knew him,

Escaping from Rheek the Rat King’s sewer.

He and his brave band of adventurers

Were hacking and slashing their way inside.

I thought I was doomed with rats and ogres

Blocking my exit from the wretched place.

But ignoring the danger they attacked.

With much ferocity the foes were felled.

Shortly, before me lay our enemies.

With introductions I joined the party.

Their goal and now mine was to kill the Rat

So returning from whence I came we went.

And pushed through a space made for stinky rats.

Before we emerged on the other side

We were waylaid by a group of green slimes.

Cruhand and the rest went on the attack,

And our draconic hero was swallowed.

The slime began to digest his hard hide.

But succumbed to his fiery breath.

Slimes melted like jello we continued.

We journeyed into a pit for Rheek’s pet.

And nearly snuck by it undetected.

But the beast awoke and quickly attacked.

And Cru just laughed at the challenge at hand.

And pounded the beast with fist, breath and tail.

Bravely we fought the hideous creature.

Its tentacles whipped and smacked us around.

All the while Cru had his mark on the fiend.

Taunting it and teasing it to attack.

In bloody cries fell both hero and beast.

We gathered round to examine the mess

Fearing Cruhand had succumbed to his wounds,

The beast laying slaughtered covered in blood,

Cru faintly mumbled to hand him his hat.

Alive but injured there was one option.

We would bring our friend and cure his wounds.

I used my cunning to bluff by the guards.

Leading the team until Cru could be healed.

We disposed of more guards and fought gargoyles.

Finally resting in the Rat’s own nest.

With aid from me and a grumpy cleric

Cru was recovered and ready to kill.

Down hallways and into a room with ogres,

Cru yelled “plan A” and charged in with no fear.

Surrounded he fought in front and in back.

While I bluffed an ogre so cleverly.

The dragon man roared and spit holding tight.

Swinging and charging no thought for safety.

Cru and the group slaughtered all that challenged.

Countless guards and ogres met their demise.

I intercepted a guard getting help.

Enduring bolts from his deadly crossbow.

Evading him by crawling like a rat,

I quickly made my way to the prison.

With my grand silver tongue I bluffed the guards

Into releasing an ally they held.

But before I could escape with the man,

The archer fired a bolt in my back.

With battle raging, me nearly beaten,

Cruhand and group arrived and crushed them all.

Nearly to our goal I tricked all the guards

To think that Cruhand was heading away.

With madness they chased up to the surface.

Leaving us to find Rheek in his throne room.

But “Plan A” failed us as turning the door,

Dropped us into a pit with rot grub beasts.

The worms tried to eat their way through our skin,

But they could not overcome the dragon!

Cruhand burned the worms with his fire breath.

He crawled from the pit even angrier.

He burst through the door finally at his goal.

Guards and ogres would not stop him this time.

Too many times had Rheek escaped his fate.

The party made quick work of others there.

And Cruhand charged the Rat King on his throne.

His foot in an iron boot he fought on.

His hat looking magnificent as always.

Missing time after time, not losing heart,

He kept fighting, not accepting defeat.

Finally the Rat King died at his feet.

But Cruhand’s rage was still unsatisfied.

Even gold and jewels were still not enough.

He crushed statues and even Rheek’s stone throne,

Showing the way to even more riches.

He collected those and searched the whole room.

But he look around for more things to take,

Crawled in a hole too small for our hero.

There a rat attacked him, gnawing his face.

There he died having come all that way,

Beat the king, but another rat’s dinner.

Grigor’s not-so Mirror Images

Far to the north, near the Spine of the World, a party of adventurers trudged through the frozen landscape in search of giants who attacked one of the Ten Towns. The group consisted of a mighty, yet simple, barbarian, a devoted dwarven cleric, a noble human and a very clever and studious mage named Grigor Marsk. Prior to leaving town to track the giants, Grigor spent hours upon hours by daylight and candle light pouring over scrolls and tomes ever searching for new spells and strategies for defeating the beasts who plagued that land. With a twinkle in his eye and a sly smile he anticipated the next encounter with the giants. He sorted out a plan that would make quick work of even those formidable foes.

With huge tracks left by the giants, the trail was not difficult to follow. A trio of the monsters camped against a short cliff and the heroes approached from above. Hearts filled with confidence, they did not hesitate to engage their enemies. Grigor cracked his knuckles arrogantly as he began his work. The mage spoke the words of an ancient spell and energy suddenly surged through their loin clothed barbarian who flexed his swollen muscles and gripped his massive maul before shouting an enraged battle chant and leaping into the giants’ camp. Grigor smiled. So far so good.

With the barbarian swinging his mighty maul in an absolute fury below the ledge, the noble among them took aim with a musket he crafted his self and fired off a shot at one of the giants but the shot sailed helplessly wide of any adversary. The dwarf called upon his god for favor in battle and his spiritual hammer appeared and began to smash the giants along with the barbarian. “Excellent, this is going well,” Grigor mused.

The giants roared, toxic breath from their hateful mouths, picked up their enormous clubs and searched for targets. Two decided to batter the barbarian to death while one elected to climb the cliff and look for the being that fired a shot at them from the mysterious mechanical weapon.

The barbarian took some savage hits but stood tall to the onslaught and howled back at the beasts defiantly. He swung his maul with extra speed and might curtesy of his mage companion. From his vantage, Grigor the mage could see the giant climbing the cliff and would have none of it. Mages do not survive blows from a giant’s club. That is for the duller and sturdier adventurers. Grigor did not fret however, clever as he was, he closed his eyes to concentrate and recited the words of a new spell that would protect him. Moments later mirror images of conjurer appeared around him; four images in total. This was intended to confuse his enemies and protect him from attacks. Grigor smiled.

The noble gun slinger fired at the giant climbing the cliff and missed yet again. Grigor shouted at him to shoot the others but the nobleman would have none of it. Who was a dirty mage peasant to tell a member of the aristocracy what to do after all?

The dwarf battle cleric was not about to allow his friend the barbarian take all the glory so he too leaped off the cliff and into the fray wielding his hammer, swinging it at his hated enemies. Together the pair smashed the giants, cracking bones and bruising bodies.

The giants pounded the enraged barbarian, badly beating his body as he pummeled them in return. The third, however, pulled a large bolder from a massive bag and took aim at the mage, Grigor. The mage just smiled knowing his mirror images would give the giant enough targets to consider that the chance of him choosing the actual Grigor was small. The giant reached back and hurled the boulder directly at the unarmored mage smashing him hard on one side. Dazed and wounded, Grigor shook his head and looked at his mirrors who seemed to look back blankly at their conjurer.

The battle raged on. The rifleman fired at the giant on the cliff hitting him, bullet penetrating the giant’s flesh deeply. Grigor shook his head, dismayed his party was not following his expert strategy. The dwarf prayed to his deity and channeled some healing energy into the savage barbarian who did nothing but smash the giants before him with speed and precision. Grigor shouted words of power and magical energy flew at a giant, pelting him with the magic missiles. Satisfied, the mage remained confident that the battle would be one.

With bellows of hate, the giants would not relent and again their heavy clubs pounded the brave barbarian who dared oppose them. The rock heaver took aim once more at the mage and his mirrors. As the dull monster considered his target he was momentarily confused by the number of identical mages that stood beyond, yet in the next moment it seemed as though four of them pointed to one. Not one for thinking, the giant hurled the bolder once more, at the actual Grigor, knocking the poor mage nearly from his feet and injuring him further.

Head spinning and body aching, Grigor fell to one knee and tried to reason out what was wrong. He looked around him and in fact his mirrors were still there, yet the giant had not been fooled by them in the least. They even seemed to shrug at him as if to suggest they also didn’t know what was wrong.

Below, the barbarian smashed one of the giant’s knees bringing him low while the cleric blasted his war hammer into his face, caving his skull and ending his miserable life. They turned to the other giant next to them and started hammering away at him. The noble marksman took aim and fired again at the foe on top of the plateau, once again hitting the beast, bullet burying deeply into the creature’s chest causing him to wail in agony.

Sensing that his life was nearly over, the badly wounded giant drew another boulder from his satchel and looked to take one of his enemies with him to the grave. The mage watched as once again the monster took aim at him, hoping his mirrors would finally confuse the beast. The giant glared at the group of copies and noted that four appeared to gesture towards one yet again. The giant, strength failing, launched the rock at the mage. Grigor’s eyes grew wide and he froze while he watched the rock hurl towards him. His mirrors watched as well, unconcerned. The mage held his breath and closed his eyes anticipating the end. A deafening crash rang in his ears and he was certain the boulder had smashed him. Another moment passed however and the sounds of battle below continued so he slowly opened his eyes. He was still living. The rock lay next to him and his mirrors smiled at their master and raised their thumbs simultaneously in approval. Grigor was not impressed.

The mage decided he could not remain on top of the cliff and was convinced his mirrors were in league with the giants. He slid down the cliff on his rear end so as to prevent the fall from killing him and remained prone while he cast yet another spell to injure the giant below.

Another blast from the rifle ended the giant on the plateau and with his friends dead and his body badly beaten the final enemy chose to flee from the heroes. He turned tail and ran away only to be chased down by the hasty barbarian and smashed once more with the heavy maul, splitting his spine and bringing him face down into the frozen ground.

Victorious yet bloodied, the heroes celebrated. All except Grigor, who glared at his innocent looking mirrors, wondering why his illusion was so unsuccessful in confusing his foe. There would be many more hours studying his scrolls and tomes to try to understand why his mirrors were so disloyal to their own conjuror. Perhaps some team building was necessary to bring them together?

Fall of Gloryfate

Generations ago a clan of dwarves stood out among the other clans and shone brighter than any other. Gloryfate Clan was chief in the old world and was renown throughout the land. Master craftsmen of both weapons and jewelry, trade caravans traveled far to gain access to the Gloryfate riches. Days were good and the halls of Gloryfate glimmered in the mountain depths. All good things come to an end however.

Goblin hoards crawled from cracks in the stone and clawed at the luxury of the clan with lust. As a sand storm they assaulted the hall and wrecked havoc where ever their filthy feet carried them.

Gloryfate would not be undone by some dirty goblins however and their stout warriors fought back with strength and fury, pushing back the unholy creatures. When it appeared that the vermin would be exterminated the giants arrived. 


Huge creatures cold and angry plunged into the battle and left a path of death and destruction in their wake. Their hatred of the dwarves was unmatched by anything the dwarves had seen before and in spite of their bravery, fear crept in among their ranks. The giants could end Gloryfate, 

A weapon was commissioned. CLan King Oloben Gloryfate ordered his best smiths to forge a weapon for their king to weild and break the strength of the giants. Furiously the smiths worked without rest until, at last, they completed their task.They presented to their king a battle hammer unmatched in the world. They called it Gloryfate Giantbane. 


As Oloben Gloryfate lifted the weapon for the first time his hands were filled with courage that rushed like lifeblood throughout his body. His eyes blazed with vengeance and his clan rallied behind their king as they thrust in to the giants as a dagger into flesh. 

Giantbane crushed the beasts under its massive strength; breaking bones and caving skulls. Its song was the howls of giants under its weight and the song was sung loud. The notes echoed in the stone halls of Gloryfate clan. 

Giants could not resit Oloben’s vengeance and fell at his feet; bashed and crushed by his hammer fueled by his anger. But one still stood. 


A fabled foe stood tall against the king. He was Zanros Titan fist, Death Dealer; an ancient giant who led the war against the dwarves. He craved blood and death and hated dwarves beyond all other creatures for their constant tunneling and mining. Olobin found him surrounded by dwarf bodies, blood dripping from his lips. The two kings rushed each other and collided like mountains crashing together.

Their battle raged on, rumbling ever deeper into the earth. The mountains shook as they smashed and hit and kicked and pummeled each other. Dwarves and giants alike watched the champions dual to the death, pausing for a moment their savage conflict to witness a struggle more epic than any in multiple lifetimes. 

The battle was an earthquake, felt throughout the relm. Oloben swung his warhammer smashing the giant and Zanros countered, spitting hateful spells and swinging a wicked flail, each crushing against cave walls, shattering stone and bone alike. The struggle threatened to split the earth in their fury and rage. At last they drew close to death, their bodies and will wavered. 

With a final mighty blow, Oloben Giant Slayer, Champion of Prohpecy, Dwarf Avenger, crushed Zanros’ chest toppling the mighty foe. The wicked creature did not die quietly however and whispered one final, hateful curse that gripped the dwarf king’s heart and turned it black as if a dark cloud covered the sun and cast a long shadow over once beautiful land. The dwarf king collapsed. 

Dwarves ran to their king and giants rushed to theirs. No longer fighting, each breed tended to their champion. The giants carried their fallen king back to the depths from which they crept, and dwarves gathered their king to carry him to his throne room. The warhammer, Gloryfate Giantbane, had cracked and broken into two halves with the shaft separated from each. 

The dwarves laid Olobin down with the shaft of his hammer in his cold hands. The darkness gripped him and squeezed the life from his body. Mourning began and priests rushed to try to lift the curse from him. They prayed desperately that Moradin spare their king. To no avail. 

Within days the curse stole his life away. The moment the king exhaled for the last time a furious earthquake shook the mountain. Zanros had cursed not only they king, but the entire clan. Rock collapsed from the ceiling and walls crumbled and caved. The quake seemed endless as dirt and dust filled the air choking those were not crushed by the rubble. Darkness fell in Gloryfate Hall. 

When the rumbling was through and tourches were lit, Gloryfate clan was destroyed. Like the hammer, the hall had cracked in two. Rubble and rock separated the halves of the great clan. Weeks of digging could not reunify the clan. Families were lost or split up. Entire sections of the hall were gone. The king and his throne room were buried along with the shaft of Gloryfate Giantbane. The two halves of the hammer were also separated. One on each side of the hall. 

In time the dwarves found their way out of the mountain though they were now divided. Gloyfate was no more. Eventually two new clans rose from the ruin of the one from the refugees that survived the tremendous battle. They were Battlefate and Gloryborn. Each thrived on opposite sides of the insurmountable range. Each believed they had kin on the opposing side. Neither knew for certain. Glory and Fate remained separate. 

Game Intro: Dwarves wanted

Arsenal Battlefate paced the great hall in Konigsberg. His head hanged low and his mind was a world apart. His long grey beard nearly brushed the ground as he trod left and then right. All eyes were on him. Gnarl Battlefate sat nearby watching the elder dwarf and clenching the hilt of his sword so tightly his knuckles went white. The air was thick with fear and gloom. Arsenal muttered to himself though knew that the group gathered would hear.

“There’s not enough of us,” Arsenal grumbled, a hint of desperation in his voice. “We can only hold for so long. We certainly cannot push them back and reclaim the hall. It is not going to work.”

“Then we die trying!” shouted Gnarl rising to his feet and lifting his sword high.

Arsenal swung to face the warrior dwarf and his eyes were ablaze. “No!” he shouted as he lifted his hammer high above his head and slammed it down on his counterpart. Gnarl parried the blow but the force and rage of the old cleric was so great that when his hammer hit the ground besides then a shock wave blasted from the stone sending Gnarl against a wall and tossing the tables and those seated there from their seats.

Everything in the room was frozen in time. The only thing audible was the breathing from enumerable quivering throats. At long last Arsenal lifted his hammer from the cracked stone where it landed; cracked like the Battlefate Clan. He slowly stood straight and gathered his breath, calming the blood that boiled in his veins. Not a soul dared to move.

When Arsenal spoke this time his voice was strong and clear. “The fate of the clan fell to me and I will not allow us to be destroyed. We will hold this city until the last of our strength and then flee if necessary to ensure the blood of the clan survives. We will not fade at the hands of these evil creatures.”

Gnarl crawled to his feat and sheathed his sword. In a low and weak voice he questioned, “Are we to abandon Battlefate Hall? Konigsberg? We are not a weak clan. We are strong and I do not wish to run.”

Arsenal did not look at the captain of the dwarven guard instead he stared off as though trying to envision a time not yet come. “It is true. We are strong and we are proud. We are not finished either, but we do not have the strength to reclaim the hall at the moment. The best we can manage is to hold the city and even that has been difficult. We have recruited as many as we can to help in our defense but it is not enough to push the enemy back. We need more. We need dwarves.”

He shook his head and lifted a table, placing it back where it belonged and then turned to stools and began to replace them as well. The others in the room did the same. In a few minutes it resembled a hall once more and with Arsenal seated at the head everyone took a seat and waited. His gaze was beyond the physical. Arsenal saw images far outreaching what the others could see. His mind searched for answers through a lifetime. All waited in silence for him to find what he was looking for. At last he spoke his voice echoed from a place nearly forgotten.

“When the Battlefate clan was at it’s peak, long before our enslavement by the giants, we dwarves tunneled through the entire mountain range. So large we were that we populated the entire mountain. The giants arrived and the ensuing struggle forever altered our history. We battled for years against the hideous foe and finally in victory we celebrated. By then we were fewer. Many of the tunnels had been destroyed or damaged. No longer could we travel through the mountain. We did not despair however for we were pleased to have survived. We rebuilt and grew. Time passed and many of the memories did with the dwarves who made them. All was nearly forgotten until were got word from some travelers of afar that there were dwarves on the other side of the mountain range. Glorygem they call themselves. They are undoubtedly our kin; long lost cousins of Battlefate. We defeated the giants once before. If we are to do it again, we will need all the dwarves we can find in order to do so. You five heroes of Konigsberg must venture to reconnect with our kin. Find them. I will send you with proof of our kinship. Ask that they join us in our crusade to once again defeat and ancient foe. Remind them of our glorious heritage. Inspire them. Only united will we prevail.”

Arsenal stood, saluted the group and retired to his chambers. All stared from one to another searching for and answer to the cleric’s call. Will you answer his call?

Game intro: Missing in Action

Goblin parts litter the town and blood soak the ground.Fires burn and smoke fills the night sky but they will be put out. Goblins snuck into Konigsberg! Upon investigation a tunnel is discovered and dwarves immediately begin filling it. At least they haven’t attacked the walls yet and instead they are left to digging underneath. It is annoying but can be dealt with. Dwarves are great in tunnels as well and so the goblins have little advantage underground.

There is reason to celebrate! Gareth is through. He is shackled and tied and tossed into Gnarl’s dungeon awaiting interrogation. Jared is exausted but pleased. He alone can manage the humans now and he can be trusted by the dwarves. Ale is passed around as you rest from the long night of battle. There is no need to ration any, one never knows whether his next mug will be his last.

During your celebration you notice you are one hero short. The minotaur is not present. Quickly you begin asking around and everyone agrees that they saw him in battle but cannot recall him with you as the final goblin was cut down. Where is he? Did he fall? Did the goblins capture him and carry him down the tunnel? Then you recall the slavers who tried to claim the bounty on his head. Did they return? Have they been waiting for another chance to lash your friend and haul him away? Nothing is clear and in the clamor of battle and no one can know for sure where he is.

Will you go in search of him? How will you find him? What will you risk to recover your loyal monk?

Another Epic Poem

So there were a couple characters that I wrote epics for in a previous game. Here’s the one for Vladimir:

Epic of Vladimir the Executioner

In a world so full of haunting nightmares

Where babies cry out, screaming in the dark

And women sob, clutching their dresses tight

And even men cower and hide in fear

Evil lurks and snarls in every shadow

Ever threatening with violence and death

It seems no one is safe from evil

As it forever creeps across the lands

Devouring people and towns alike

Destroying any that stand in its way


Some however stand against the evil

Paladins of light standing tall and proud

Claiming to bring love, peace prosperity

They are champions of all that is good

Widely loved and revered for their strength, faith

In their presence maidens grow weak and faint

Young lads aspire to one day join them

And men salute their heroic efforts

They are the pride of a people afraid

But all of them are weak and pitiful


There is one who is stronger than others

Who has no weakness, no fear and no love

At least not for the pitiful masses

And their pathetic champions of Torm

For they worship and follow out of fear

Instead of worshiping the source of fear

But he worships evil and tyranny

The one who will dominate the masses

His god is the evil Asmodeus

Vladimir is his executioner


Unwavering in his faith toward his god

He too stands tall and proud, full of strength

Swinging his mighty axe with spite, vengeance

He dominates all that stand in his way

Taking no prisoners, all unworthy

He needs no friends with his god as his lord

He is dark as night and just as scary

He holds his axe as though he holds death itself

And lets it fall on those who are not strong

Each blow bringing him closer to control


Vladimir is champion of his god

Asmodeus seeks to dominate all

To bring all the world under his control

Through any evil means necessary

He’s the evil god of domination

Who will control the world in tyranny

The world deserves no better fate than this

Mindless ignorant sheep, pitiful folk

Will all bow to the might and greed of he

Huddled masses needing their god to live


Vlad brings the bad news of the coming fall

A knight of evil he delivers death

To those who would rebel against his god

They fall before his terrifying might

His vice is much stronger than their virtue

And his body a temple to evil

Day and night preaching death and destruction

Heralding the coming domination

Sowing the seeds for the fall of the world

Making straight the path for Asmodeus


He is the evil executioner

His axe lops off the head of any foe

From splitting in half unworthy ogres

To felling like a tree a thief empire

To enjoying the screams of Palor’s whores

As his paladin and cleric collapse

Under the might of his murderous axe

Crying to a god too weak to save them

The last sounds they heard were evil laughter

From the mouth of their executioner


No creature or being stands against him

He has hacked apart monsters of sewers

Laid waste to the animated undead

Gone toe to toe with angels of the sun

Murdered dozens of thieves and assassins

Stood against flying wyverns from above

Resisted the call of deadly harpies

And fought against the gaze of medusas

He’s even exterminated spiders

All will fall at his cursed feet unworthy







He has no need for friends or flattery

His axe and his faith are his companions

He is the nightmare that keeps your kids up

The chill that runs your spine and shakes your bones

The dread that grips your heart and squeezes it

The figure that woman fear in the dark

The man that makes others feel miniscule

Meeting his gaze means feeling all your shame

Knowing that you are pitiful and weak

Not worthy to speak his name nor his god’s


Know that he is out there coming for you

Intolerant of weakness and meekness

Baring the standard of Asmodeus

He will bring the world under his control

Make it submit and rule in tyranny

Hacking down any that stand in his way

With his mighty axe he’ll remove your head

Leaving behind him a trail of carnage

His evil prophecies cannot be stopped

He’s Vladimir the Executioner