Romantic Fantasy Fiction meets Duet Campaign Diary
A sudden burst of inspiration struck at the end of 2021, igniting immediate interest in embarking on a high-intrigue duet D&D campaign.
Jonathan was happy to join me on this journey, and we put a temporary pause on the exploratory campaign I’d recently set up and started what I initially called “Scandal in Sanctuary,” or something like that. But we quickly came to refer to this particular narrative arc as Phantom Pain.
In what follows, you’ll find the prologue to this story, told from the perspective of my GMPC, Natalya Slipshayde. In future posts, we’ll follow events from the POV of Jonathan’s PC, Silas Graveston.
timeline in Eldura
This is one of many concurrent stories set in the world of Eldura. Phantom Pain takes place after the fall of Orison but still a few hundred years before the disappearance of Steymhorod and the events of The Tree of Silver.
I’m planning to post an initial campaign sketch here on Fantasy Afield accompanied by more detailed sketches for members of the Story Conclave.
what is a high-intrigue campaign?
My initial inspiration for this campaign came with the arrival of the Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide adaptation for 5e. Blue Rose is a romantic fantasy setting, which places a greater emphasis on person-to-person interaction as opposed to the slaying of monsters.
This difference often makes me think of season one of The Witcher, when Renfri, if memory serves, declares that most of the monsters she’s encountered take human rather than creature form. That’s something that comes up often in my D&D campaigns, and it’s something I’m really excited for Jonathan and I to explore together.
In this case, we’re both playing rogues, which is something we haven’t tried before in a duet campaign. I’ve had to make a few adjustments for the combats so that Silas and Natalya survive them. But once I added other NPCs fighting around them so Silas can use his sneak attack, combat became a lot less dicey. (Or the dice were more on his side—sorry, couldn’t resist the pun!)
We also made the characters a higher level starting out than we usually do, in part so they can use some of their exciting rogue-ish abilities. Jonathan’s subclass got its most exciting additions at 9th level, and his PC does have quite a bit of experience in the world of Sanctuary, so he’s starting at level 9. My GMPC is level 5.
But without further ado, let’s start our adventure!
It began with an emerald necklace, first seen around the neck of my sister as she lay dead before me. I killed as many of the guards as I could, but I was one, and they were many.
When I awoke, I wore the necklace in Piper’s stead.
I don’t know how many days passed in and out of whatever magic concoction they injected into me, but eventually, I found my way to a mirror, and instead of my own white hair and purple eyes, my sister stared back at me—black locks, red eyes, upon me, the face of a vampires, on Piper, beauty and mysterious light.
For three months, I had been imprisoned after I tried to free her from the noble’s castle. For two months after, he kept me in chains, locked in a small room. Most of the time, I did not know what was happening. I caught vague glimpses, shadows, but little else.
I learned we were going on a journey, and journey we did, to the city of Madrogas, the queen’s city, in the region of Draykemire, in the kingdom of Sanctuary.
It was my first time at court, having spent time in the worlds that stretched below the cities in my years before.
The noble who had imprisoned me, Lord Felix Oxbrow, presented me and the two courtesans who also served as my jailers, Candie and Trixie, to Queen Alsea and her brothers, Duke Andorr and Duke Heinrik, on the third day of the Harvest Festival in Madrogas. I was to use one of my special talents to test Duke Heinrik’s food for poison while he was at the festival.
But as I stood before the queen, I felt a strange glow coming from behind her to my left. I scanned the crowd and caught a glimpse of dark, brooding eyes before they disappeared into shadow.
That first night at dinner, the eyes found their way to me. Their bearer asked me about the necklace that I wore. He informed me that it belonged to him and to his family.
I nodded, knowing from what Lord Oxbrow had said, in and out of my days in a drugged stupor, that he had stolen the necklace from a rival of his. One of this second noble’s courtesans came to speak to me during the dinner. She showed me a kindness that I had not experienced in months, but I had seen across the dining hall the dark eyes that sent her in my direction, and I could not quite still the beating of my heart as the noble made his way across the room to speak to me himself, to ask my name and about the necklace.
I felt the tug of fate that day, when I met Lord Silas Graveston. I know not if he felt it as well, or if he remained interested only in the emeralds that belonged once to his grandmother and then to his aunt.
Part of me wanted to tell him that the emeralds were not a gift as he had originally believed. They were not a kindness from the old queen to his family. Lord Oxbrow used them to keep me in check, but I knew that they had a deeper, more sinister purpose. I felt the eyes that they conjured, that followed me room to room, place to place.
I knew not then whose eyes they were, but they were not the near-black orbs that found me at the dinner, eyes that would find me again when I least suspected them.
a new project for a new year
On January 1st of this year, Grove Guardian Press turned three years old. It was in 2019 that Jonathan and I first launched D&D Duet, which would go on to add Beth Ball Books for my fiction alongside a few other trial sites, including Fantasy Afield.
2020 and 2021 brought several changes in our personal and professional lives, and by the end of 2021, it was time for a business pivot. I had been dreaming about Fantasy Afield and what it could be for some time, but by the end of the year, I finally had a plan ready and in place for what that transition would look like.
The mission of Fantasy Afield is to share immersive stories through fantasy, folklore, and adventure. Some of these, like the prologue to Phantom Pain, will be stories you experience through reading. Others, like the campaign sketches or Witches, Fae, & Foes, aim to help you embark on adventures and stories of your own making.
Over the coming year—and years ahead!—I’ll be sharing more legends and lore of Azuria and Eldura. I want this Storyverse of Verdigris to be a place that feels like home for you, a land you treasure, where you get to explore.
I’m so thankful to be taking this journey alongside you. Here’s to many more adventures ahead!
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