Recently I had another opportunity to fulfill a trust exercise.
Sometimes my friends and allies ask me to make them a drink or two. By now I've earned a decent mixologist's reputation, and have succeeded in the creation of enough drinks that many friends ask for them by name. And yet, with all of this training, there will come times where I feel no inspiration. No flavors come to mind, and I don't feel a modicum of motivation to try things out; like there are so many possibilities that I enter a choice paralysis.
To combat this "writer's block" of mixology, I wrote up a little exercise to jumpstart my creative process.
An Act Of Trust And Rapport
To place your libation fate in the hands of a person can be scary.
People often covet their liquor, and personal imbibing, after a certain degree or within a certain mood, personal exploration and surprise are avoided. But if you've built a measure of trust, empathy, and satisfaction among one another, one becomes much more adventurous, on both sides of the bar.
In truth, a good bartender isn't trying to make a buck. The act of serving another a drink made FOR them is an act of service and trust. If they enjoy it, there is no feeling like that satisfaction. If they don't, it becomes a personal mission to find the flavors that they will. We're always learning from each other, and that effort adds huge value to a relationship.
Rolling For Aberrant
I split my thoughts into three categories.
Roll a D6 to decide the Core liquor. Doesn't have to be the one with the most volume, but it is going to be the star of the mix.
Roll a D4 to decide the finish of the mix - the Dagger that you may or may not see coming.
Roll a D8 to decide the binding theme or agent to wrap the mix in; maybe it's a feeling, maybe it's a flavor, we'll see what you roll. It's a mystery! Like a...Cloak.
Roll a D6 (CORE)
1 - Tequila
2 - Rum
3 - Gin
4 - Whiskey
5 - Vodka
6 - Brandy
Roll a D4 (DAGGER)
1 - Sweet
2 - Sour
3 - Fruity
4 - Decadent
Roll a D8 (CLOAK)
1 - Holiday
2 - Cream
3 - Gold
4 - Nostalgia
5 - Horizon
6 - Juice
7 - Syrup
8 - Wine
Then, from this mixture of ideas, it is now my job to craft you something delicious. I WILL NOT throw a bunch of liquor into a shaker and send something random your way, your taste buds be damned. If anything, these randomizers act as a challenge to a theme; I get to augment and cultivate my skills by adapting to this challenge.
So of course I forced one of my friends to roll some dice without telling him what I was doing. :)
Aberrant I - Rolls: 5-3-6
1/2 oz Blue Curacao
1/2 oz Midori
1/2 oz Triple Sec
1/2 oz Silver Rum
1.5 oz Vodka (Core)
1 oz Gin
3.5 oz Cranberry Juice (Cloak)
THE EFFECT: First and foremost, the Curacao/Midori/Triple Sec/Silver Rum (Dagger) bomb is THE bomb. Fruity, tasty, and sweet. We smooth it out with the Vodka and Gin, and the Cranberry Juice thins the mix in the best way, elevating every flavor and binding them together.
Aberrant II - Rolls: 1-2-3
3 oz Gold Tequila (Core)
1 oz Irish Honey Whiskey (Cloak)
1 oz Grand Marnier
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
4 dashes Orange Bitters
2 oz Sour Mix (Dagger)
THE EFFECT: As these are more than just a smattering of randomizers and are intended more as a writing prompt, once I had assembled the basic components, the remaining additions easily fell into place, like the words of a poem. Good golly this one was delicious. The tequila is easily complimented by the orange notes of the bitters and Grand Marnier, the sour mix wrapping it all into a lovely potion. The Honey Whiskey is just icing on the proverbial cake.
If the friend on the receiving end was any indication, it was delicious.
Enjoy your randomizers, your writer's block, and here's to a new year. May it suck just a bit less than this one. Please. Thank you.
Sergeant Leonard heard the cries in the brush.
He abandoned his post minutes before the yips began, and even then, he trusted his lightfoot roots to carry him over the marsh to where the child lay. He was certain everyone had evacuated; the militias were ready on the rooftops. Their intel was good, their scouts intact. Someone must have been left behind.
His boots sink into dense muck and mud, noting the deer footprints that surrounded him. He checks the horizon once more, columns of ominous smoke rising. Must be the war party, I still have time. The cries sound again - someone is sobbing. "It's all right, little one! You can come out. It's just me."
The sobbing stops, a choked reply comes shaking, "ArE yoU here TO KiLl mE?"
Poor thing; must be scared all to hell. He sheathes his sword, holding his hands out to the brush. "No one's here to hurt you. See? Just a friendly halfling. Let's get you out of here and home safely." He flashes a warm smile.
"What is it, Sergeant?" A call resounds behind him from the outpost.
He turns. "Just a child. Don't worry, I'll get them..." A stench fills his nostrils. Pungent and rotting, like the bile that spills forth from a rancid stomach. The sergeant's heart drops as his hand grabs the hilt of his saber, a low rumbling chuckle vibrating the tall marsh grass surrounding him.
Powerful, rotting jaws clamp onto his leg. They rend his plated greaves to ribbons and he cries out in pain. He is yanked backwards, his saber flying from his fingers, and his body disappears into the brush. His screams of pain are echoed by the frenetic laughter of hyenas, and the war party crests the hill, charging the town.
Children of Yeenoghu
The first of these creatures came from the hordes of hyenas spilling into the material world during Yeenoghu's rampages. Some of the beasts that feasted on the corpses of the fallen underwent different transformations than the traditional gnolls. Of those twisted amalgamations, Leucrotta were the most numerous.
Clever and cruel, a Leucrotta loves to deceive, torture, and kill. Despite there lupine appearance, these are not pets. In fact, Leucrottas tend to be smarter and more controlled than the gnolls that often surround them. The gnolls are entertained by a Leucrotta's ability to mimic the sounds of a suffering victim, or by its ability to "play with their food," prolonging suffering as long as possible. With such deceptive and terrible intelligence, a Leucrotta can hold an elevated position within a tribe, but rarely leads one. However, a gnoll chieftain might be seen riding one into battle. But this is not a noble steed; this is a tactical advisor - an influencer to draw the most out of a kill. Beware the fleet of gnolls that ride the dreaded Leucrottas - for they will do much worse than kill you.
The Leucrotta is a stinky boi.
Its horrible body of transformed hyena and deer oozes a toxic stench that pollutes and desecrates anywhere it lairs. Its breath is worse. Dripping from its maw, fluid corrupted with rot and digestive juices kills the plant life around it. In place of fangs, it has bony ridges harder than steel that can crush bones and open up a paladin like a soup can.
The stench alone should probably ward off any prey before they get too close, but the Leucrotta has a few advantages on their side. Due to their amalgamation, their tracks are indistinguishable from deer and other fauna. Also, and more alarming, they possess a mimicry ability that they use to duplicate the call and vocal expressions of just about anything they've heard. A crying child, a wounded bird, a missing ally; they'll use anything from their massive library to lure in potential prey and strike while they are confused.
By The Numbers
The attribute suite of this critter compliments the physical well, with a +2-4 in Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution. Unlike other dread doggos we've come across, this one's pretty smart and perceptive, but don't count on it for any Charisma checks. AC and HP are what you'd expect for something with natural armor, but just because most strikers can hit it, don't rush in half-cocked.
With its connections to Yeenoghu, this creature utilizes ferocity and tactics shared by its gnoll cousins, like their Rampage feature - where if they drop a creature, they can move and attack again. Also, a Leucrotta has multiattack, one of those attacks being with its hooves. Couple this with a special feature that allows it to Disengage as a Bonus Action after a hoof attack, and you've got a mobile (50 speed!) threat. And if this thing gets lucky on its bite, watch out - a critical hit from a Leucrotta rolls the damage three times, instead of twice. If you're using doubling rules, they triple their critical hits. OUCH.
Leucrotta In The Ionian Planes
A Leucrotta is a creature of cruelty and killing, but one that enjoys the sport of it all more than its gnoll brothers and sisters. This even minute level of control lends to each greater opportunities for planning, tactics, and learning. I imagine behind the most successful chieftains sits a Leucrotta, bending agendas, granting advice, and guiding the power like a terrible surgeon. Their intellect, though stronger than most of their counterparts, is outmatched by many others, so garnering a pack instead of soldiers is where their above-average wisdom shines. However, at least in Io, packs blessed with a Leucrotta find great value in them, but can only seem to have one at a time. This is less the gnolls's predicament and more the pride of a Leucrotta, for once it has tasted power, it has little want or use for a rival. And if another were adopted into a pack, it is only a matter of time before one ends up dead at the bottom of a ravine.
And that does it for December, and 2020! Up next? Not sure. The polls haven't closed yet.
Celestials and Fiends are extensive. We'll see who wins next week. Happy New Year, friends.
Help support this blog and vote on its Monster Of The Week, every month, every week, by heading over to my Patreon.
Merry holidays from the DM's Den and from behind this smoking, ashen bar.
2020 has been a doozy, and I'm not sure how many more apocalyptic memes I can circulate before the existential dilemma finally reaps my soul.
So instead, I turn to music and art.
Painting has been happening on a daily basis and I have to say, it is one of the few things that has kept me sane in this chaos. Like taking back the shreds of my being from the claws of a world on fire, and gently sewing them back together, one stroke at a time.
And when I publish an LP; a tiny Digital Album of music I made, inspired by deep campaigns and vibrant adventurers, I take back a few more strands.
And when I mix something and hand it to a friend (even if physically distanced), watch them take a sip, and see that smile creep across their face, I am elevated. To know that I made a difference, even just for a little while. A few more strands are pulled back to my heart.
I enjoy creating things. And though I struggle with the higher nuances in cooking food, the liquid chemistry of a good drink is endlessly energizing to me. There is something special about it.
It is an act of service to another.
To mix a drink for someone involves empathetic listening, mixing with care and intent, and being open to feedback. Shot for shot and sip for sip, every flavor and subtle shift is an opportunity to make someone a little happier. It's a good feeling to know you have someone in your corner that's going to make something special for you, because they give a damn.
So today, in this time of reflection, family, and gratitude, I offer you three "gifts." Drinks with a slight theme, but if the flavor serves it, I'll gladly abandon said theme. Confused? That's okay; imagine how a toddler in the cold desert born of a celestial retcon when dividing by 0 felt when three old guys triangulated his position on their shamanic GPS and decided to throw money, weed, and burial herbs at his feet.
Yeah. You heard me.
The Three Kings
The following drinks are presented as shots and I highly recommend that you imbibe them as such.
When a wound on a tree penetrates through the bark and into the sapwood, the tree secretes a resin. Myrrh gum, like frankincense, is such an artifact. It is yellow at first, but darkens with white streaks as it ages.
Myrrh resin has been used throughout history as a perfume, incense and medicine. Myrrh mixed with posca or wine was common across ancient cultures, for general pleasure and as an analgesic.
When consumed, though, it evokes a musty, smoky flavor and maintains a beautiful amber color. It is these notes that inspire this beautiful shot.
1/2 oz Stella Rosa Platinum Wine
1/2 oz Rye Whiskey
1/4 oz Honey liqueur
1/4 oz Drambuie
+ Wary of Rye, but it makes the shot
+ Blends with honey notes, smoky without choking
+ Platinum is a smooth cloak
+ Really nice finish, smooth
Gold is gold. It's gold.
For this one I chose the complete aesthetic: flavor AND visual. It only took a short tasting to finalize this beauty. Bacardi Gold Rum, Honey Liqueur, and Drambuie form a sweet and savory and smooth potion. And though too much of this would ruin the total, a splash of Gold Tequila makes this something special.
The Gold Recipe
1/2 oz Gold Rum
1/2 oz Honey Liqueur
1/2 oz Drambuie
Splash of Gold Tequila
Notes: Since this is equal parts, you can increase each equally and still get the same effect, though I recommend not exceeding 1/2 oz of the Gold Tequila.
Frankincense, also known as olibanum, is made from the resin of the Boswellia tree. It's supposed to have a woody, spicy smell, and people like to rub it all over themselves in ointments, or make tea with it, or even inhale the stuff.
My first exploration into this was exciting.
Pulling out all my weird nature liqueurs: Lavender, Birch, Rose, Elderflower, Honey.
Initial notes: Rose and Birch go really well together. Lavender is SUPER POWERED - just a 1/4 oz and it will overpower your palette in this mix. The Honey Liqueur is lovely...and has a tendency to be the main thing you taste in this mix, even with only a splash. At the end of it all, the Elderflower gets nearly lost.
So I did more research into the flavor palette when one tastes Frankincense.
A memory of pine.
Creamy and sweet.
I think I might know what to do this time. Prepare thyself.
1 oz Irish Cream
1/2 oz Honey Liqueur
3 dashes Orange Bitters
Splash of Grand Marnier
+ Irish Cream and Honey are AMAZING
+ Seriously, best thing I've had for awhile.
+ Many notes of subtle flavor as it flows (nothing on blast)
+ Honey subtle at the finish
+ ...Still finding notes long after.
In my fantasy restaurant, you'd order this as a sequence of three shots. Myrrh, Gold, Frankincense. With time between to enjoy them. Don't muddy these as full drinks.
See you at the table.
It is a dog. No, a hound. Tufts of layered, dense, matted purple fur rolls over wide shoulders and long, hunched neck. A whimpering mule shudders up from the body as I approach. SNAP. My boot crunches the twig and a wince. The muling stops and I watch those shoulders slope forward, the head turning my way...and a pit forms in my stomach. A humanoid, twisted face with burning red eyes stares back at me, jaw hanging open. A mix of flat and sharpened teeth jut out from open mouth, and the moaning returns, rising to a howl. I try to draw my sword, but my body can only shake as I watch the hound rise and float a foot off the ground. Even as it wales, its head tilts to the side curiously. Then it flies toward me.
Gifts Of The Dark Fey
If one impresses members of the Old Guard of Fey, they might be gifted with a Yeth Hound. Such a gift is high praise, as the Yeth is a companion for life, connected telepathically to their master and charged with their protection at all costs.
But these hounds reflect their original creators, and are by no means good creatures. Originally personified by a headless, bloodied hound in some cultures, the origin of a Yeth is one rooted in sorrow, always reflected in their strange, baleful howl. To hear the howl is a warning, but to see its source often spells doom.
According to Volo's Guide, these creatures are large hounds with flat, humanoid faces and features, and though it looks like they may bound quickly, they often HOVER creepily overhead. It is this unnatural mobility that makes them deadly sentries for their masters.
By The Numbers
In terms of raw defenses and hit points, the Yeth Hound isn't that intimidating, but make sure you're packing something silver. Their physical stats (Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution) are noticeably high, but they're dumb as a post most of the time.
Where they become truly dangerous is in their unnatural, creepy mobility and their dreaded "Baleful Baying" howl ability. The thing's got a 300 foot range, so make sure your Wisdom is decent before engaging with one. If you happen to be one of the unlucky low rollers against the howl, that frightened condition does a lot more for the Yeth than it does for you, stacking on extra psychic damage for its scared victims. And I can't blame them; the image of this thing bearing down on you is NOT pleasant.
As an aside, I was actually very intrigued to write about this thing.
There is something wholly unnerving about these large Fey doggos with humanoid faces, who creepily hover overhead and paralyze prey with their baleful howl. It's just such an unsettling image. Add on to this the fact that as long as it's on the same plane as its master, it can ALWAYS contact it telepathically. Woof, buddy.
The Yeth In Io
Sentries Of The Deep Night
As servants gifted by old Fey, a Yeth Hound always has a home in the Feywild. Denizens and visitors alike who gain favor in the Verdant Court may find themselves with a Large, loyal, and evil companion that can't be charmed or frightened away.
Just, imagine for a moment, waking up with this thing sitting in your living room. Just. THERE. Totally silent. And then its red eyes slowly turn your way, like some living furred statue and a voice enters your mind like Dug from Up. "I sat in your living room in the dark because I love you. And now I'll love you FOREVER." The face doesn't change the entire time. Lol.
But not just any Fey can gift you a Yeth. They must be made first, and only one of the four Courts knows how. Skilled in curses and the binding of souls, the Ladies Of Winter, under the instruction of King Oberon himself, have much practice in plucking the unfortunate mortals of deals gone wrong and pipers unpaid, and supplanting their essence into a new form - one to serve the Deep Night and the citizens of Air and Darkness.
If a singular entity can be gifted one Yeth for an impression, imagine the army Winter commands. Hundreds of baleful, wailing sentries silently drifting across the night skies; keeping watch and wary over the fane kingdoms.
Watch for the red eyes and motionless face, and keep your distance, lest the mournful cries of a soul forever trapped in servitude reaches your ears...and rends your mind asunder.
Sleep well, travelers.
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I don't often take requests for tasting. Not because I'm some eldritch snob who couldn't be bothered by the inquiries of his minions and seeks only to watch his endeavors execute - a diatribe of burning villages and rising tides, fallen to the wayward eclipse of many an errant and shattered heart!
...I just don't get very many.
So when a random patron brought up a singular reference, in a singular moment, I was peaked to do a little digging. What transpired was a short rabbit hole ending in a curious drink. Curious only in the sense that I had never heard of it.
The Chestnut Cup
An odd duck popularized in a little restaurant in Santa Monica. Learning of its apparent popularity, I dug up its recipe and tried it on for size.
It did not go well.
The Chestnut Cup is garbage (so I fixed it)
ORIGINAL RECIPE - The Chestnut Cup
1 oz Gin
1 oz Campari
1 oz Lemon Juice
3/4 oz Orgeat
+ Oh, isn't that a nice fruity...
+ What IS that finish?? It's a sour cling to the back of my mouth, throat, and nose?
+ Still waiting for it to get better.
+ Tastes like rotting grapefruit.
+ Not fermented, like in the good way, just rotten.
+ Second sip: in fact, the whole drink tastes...wrong. Like there's one note that's being played as loud as possible out of tune.
So what happened?
Campari happened. No joke. Super expensive, rotten liqueur. Just to be sure, I sipped it on its own...and spat it out. The first liqueur I've ever done that with. Not kidding. Even Black Sambuca, and Uzu of all things, I swallowed to measure the finish. THIS STUFF was unbearable. And it spoiled the whole drink!
So I removed it.
Let's class this up a bit.
Yes, yes, Campari supposed to be this high class liqueur that only the snobs drink. Is this one of those real-life examples of when rich people down literal rotten food and call if caviar? Cuz that's what it feels like. Congratulations, you've arrived at my first truly CONTROVERSIAL blog post about booze. Woot.
Instead, let's consider flavor pairings.
Gin is a Vodka derivative with a citrus quality. This is why Tequila blends so well in its company. With this knowledge, I swap out the disgusting Campari for Grand Marnier (orange liqueur). The compliment is a match made in noble blood. Lemon juice and Orgeat already do a great job elevating the Gin, so I only adjusted their levels. The end result...is actually enjoyable to the mouth and does not assault the senses. Classy.
MOONRIVER VARIATION - The Chestnut Chalice
1 oz Gin
1 oz Grand Marnier
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
3/4 oz Orgeat
4 Dashes Orange Bitters
+ Ah, what a nice citrus front!
+ Bright finish, and sweet.
+ I scaled back the Lemon, and the Gin and Grand Marnier compensate well.
+ Orgeat makes the drink feel bigger and thicker, allowing the flavors to mingle in the syrup
+ An easy sip.
In the time immemorial, long before the mortals killed them, the masters of the goblin races beseeched the General of Gehenna for aid. The General provided yugoloth souls to serve the goblinoid triumvirate in the Infinite Battlefields of Acheron. Yet when the time came to honor the debt, the goblin gods reneged on the deal.
The powerful entities that ruled Gehenna marked the goblinoid races for slaughter, and, as an act of vengeance, created the scourge of their nightmares...
A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing
In 5th Edition, a Barghest is born from goblin parents just like any other offspring. But this entity harbors a deadly and dreadful secret. Though it emerges in a goblin's body, it will learn quickly how to assume its true form: that of a large, fearsome, and fiendish canine. In some cultures and lore, the difference is clear: a Barghest can be a yellow-skinned goblin of bigger, more muscular frame, and is marked by the fearsome yellow glow that spills into their eyes when they're excited. In other cultures, the Barghest looks like any other of its sheep, and will do its best to hide its true nature, at least in the beginning.
A Barghest's purpose is to devour the goblinoid souls of creatures it kills, the more important or renowned the better. This means that they are discerning with whom they "honor" in consumption, and there's a limited number of seats in their mission. You see, when Maglubiyet, and others like them, broke in total 17 oaths to the General, so it is decreed that one soul be consumed for every broken oath. After this, the Barghest may return to Gehenna and reap the spoils of its completed mission. Fail, and be torn asunder for its insolence.
For this one might think that a Barghest discovered by its goblinoid brethren would be killed in fear, but it is often the exact opposite. Goblins and others of their ilk will fawn over and shower the discovered Barghest with praise, servitude, and diminutive allegiance, constantly attempting to show that they are equal parts useful to its cause AND lowly enough to be undeserving of consumption. It is this strange dance that will drive those under a Barghest's leadership to commit great deeds in their name, only to be cut down and eaten for such renown.
Rooted In Folklore
As with many of our modern edition's monsters, the classical images and inspiration we draw from have a long history of deep folklore and iteration. The Barghest is no stranger to this, summoning up dark tales across multiple peoples and regions.
According to old North English folklore, the Barghest was a mythical, monstrous black dog with huge claws and sharp teeth. This original picture holds true across time, if not for a few creative liberties and adjustments, but the etymology of the word is of note. Barghest, or Barguest, roughly translates to "bear" and "ghost" in the old tongue. Couple this with further alternative spellings and we get my favorite version, the Bahr-geist, bringing the rough translation swinging more toward "spirit of the funeral pyre."
This creature has always been connected to the consequences of death, much more than a simple ghost story. A creature of intense malice and hatred, its purpose is derived through perceived destruction of its own community, at least at first, but ends in realms of power. What began as a warning of the things that go bump in the night grew into tales of shapeshifters and long-lived fiends, doppelgängers and howling at the moon, and a lupine strength coupled with a sentient intellect, and a burning, hateful purpose.
By The Numbers
A Barghest is one tough cookie. Already resistant to most elemental damage and non-magical weapon damage, this thing boasts an AC of at least 17, and have no stat with a negative modifier. Trained in Deception, Stealth, Intimidation, and Perception, they are keen to their surroundings and good liars. Couple that with superior tracking abilities and innate charming spells at their disposal, and you've got a tricky (and STRONG) not-goblin on your hands.
Did I mention it has Blindsight and Telepathy out to 60 feet? Dude.
Despite its fiendish classification, the Barghest has a difficult relationship with fire, but not for the reasons you think. It's resistant to the stuff, which tracks, but any mass of it larger than the Barghest's body acts as a tearing of the veil between this plane and Gehenna, and poor thing can be banished there just by being in close proximity. Sure, you think, they can just bamf back, right? Unfortunately, no, as a Barghest is more likely to be caught, tortured, and killed for its failure to collect its souls for the General. Tough luck, doggo.
The Barghest In The Ionian Shadowfell
Twisted By Perpetual Darkness
The Ionian Shadowfell is one of dark purpose. Creatures born here do not hold sway in D&D's legacy of a sorrow-filled landscape. No, the creatures that spawn in this place are fueled by furious purpose and twisted by the Perpetual Night.
The Barghest is a rarity among such denizens, but their existence, especially following the engineering colonization before the turn of Io Shar, is not unheard of. Goblinoid mariners and pirates became more common beyond the Evernight, far in the reaches of Gressil's Helm.
Goblins and Hobgoblins born on the dark sea can sometimes bear the Mark of Gehenna, a sigil of deep crimson in the small of the back. Creatures bearing the Mark are both cursed and blessed with extreme bloodlust and wicked strength. At a coming of age, often in battle, the Mark can manifest, turning the skin of a "marked" jet black, and its true form will reveal itself.
Barghests take many forms in the Shadowfell, but all are lupine. Some appear like broken glass, the shards a refraction of their vision. Others are amorphous clouds with teeth. Many are hounds with sharpened, boney spurs and horns. And all are very, very dangerous.
Hounds Of The Chainbreaker
It is the Barghest's greatest will and purpose to complete its mission and return to the Generals of Gehenna. A throne awaits them in The Bleak Eternity.
Yet, this mission could take months, years, decades. In this time, a creature could gain power, prestige, and ownership. Perhaps they gain even more fulfillment than what awaits them in the worlds beyond. Which begs the question: what happens when a Barghest completes their mission...and does not wish to return?
Is it power or retribution that awaits them? To scorn their masters and their promise, and break the chains of their birthright. Or are they the husks of great warriors before, the lost soldiers of Gehenna hopelessly clinging to life and sanity, even as their masters siphon away what's left?
Unfortunately, the lore ends here. For no one seeks the Hounds of the Chainbreaker. The only thing that persists is a tiny warning scrawled in the stained journal of a deckhand, lone survivor of The Kretch Jumper and their ill-fated voyage.
"And to the poor souls that tempt venture beyond the ruins of Evynlee's Veil and seek the Moaning Gray through the Formless Cante, keep your eyes pinned to the horizon and seek not the masked hound that watches you from the peaks...for it covets all that meet its third eye."
It is worth noting that this message is written as its last entry, and the handwriting does not match previous entries.
More Of This Please
Unfortunately, in my experience so far, this critter is drastically underutilized. Their story is one of grand deception, superior command, and a cosmological mission with possible sweeping consequences. Imagine a villain poised as general of a goblin army, especially considering the complex relationship with his subjects. Imagine a hero, biting the line between the best picks of the worst people to destroy for his dark master.
There's a lot of depth here, and I can't wait for my players to begin to scrape the surface.
Sleep tight, doggo.
Source: The Barghest can be found in Volo's Guide To Monsters, published by Wizards of the Coast for use in 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons; also, TONS of actual British folklore.
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Some Lore Drop and Context
Sailing through the Ionian Shadowfell, the young adults recently encountered a curious lady.
Whilst staying at the Grendal's Spindle in the machinist city of Kennrock, the captain of the group looked for a local to hang out with. As luck would have it, she came across a well-dressed woman face down on a table and surrounded by partially empty tankards. The woman, though, sprung to drunken life as the captain sat to join her.
Dressed in a fine coat of gold and crimson, she rocks a belted corset over a white silk shirt, the open collar revealing the thin mithril chain underneath. Two "gunslinger" belts cross around her hips, accenting the hip-hugging leathers below, the brand of a barbed whip just barely visible before it disappears up under the corset. Her hair is a deep magenta-red that fades to black, and her pale skin only further draws the eyes to her own; rings of topaz and black, that seem to spiral and telescope depending on her level of interest in the conversation. As she smiles, it is a tentative action; nervous, but playful, as if she is gauging how others may react. Fair, considering the not-so-subtle fangs on one side of her face...
This is Miriam Windrunner. The players know her to be the niece of one of the Vampire Lords directly connected to another Player-Character, but only the captain knows that information at the time of writing this (a lot can change in a week, though). Miriam is my play on a Fell Dhampir - a progeny born from the union of a vampire and another being, a creature always wrestling with monstrous lineage and making their own way. The "Fell" part of this complicates things; as creatures born in the Shadowfell are blessed or cursed with more mysterious abilities that only get more complicated and interesting as you get older.
To help with this, Miriam carries with her an adamantine blade. Like a cross between a longsword and a straight katana, it vibrates at a strange frequency when drawn, seeming to focus the wielder's attacks in battle somehow. Yet, Miriam rarely draws the weapon. She carries it for the little perk it offers instead; companionship.
You see, the pommel of the blade is a sculpted, ashen skull...named Bob. Bob is sentient, his eyes lighting up with blue fire and jaw unhinging to speak whenever Miriam calls his name. She quiets him by gently stroking the skull's head with her thumb. Bob serves and protects Miriam unconditionally, even if he offers unwanted advice often. Manifesting sometimes as an adorable, magenta skeleton spirit with a sword and shield, or a druidic staff, he serves both as the Dhampir's Spiritual Weapon and Healing Spirit, depending on what is required, and he would never leave her side. Beyond this accord, though, it remains a mystery on the what the depth of their relationship is, and that is a story for another day.
Influences and Theming
Anyone that knows my affinity for Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files can clearly see where I'm pulling Bob from, but the narrative device of a spiritual companion is one that's been explored fifty times over in fantasy. And in the dark and dangerous Shadowfell, it felt right to introduce such a thing for a creature that, at least at one time, would have been very lost.
Miriam Windrunner is, now, a capable young woman. Not a loner by any means, she will protect those she finds connections with, even at great risk to herself. Yet, once they are safe, she finds little need to follow; she is currently a creature of instances - wayward, strong, but directionless and mysterious. When I ponder her, it is an image of drifting fog, like smoke on the water; yet, when you meet her, she is immediately intriguing.
So I wanted to explore that idea with flavors.
Now, I'm not some nuanced scholar of mixology, I just wanted to make something with a certain aesthetic that tastes nice. If it evokes a few subtle feelings, even better.
Hanging on to that image of smoke on the water, I am drawn to one of my silver liquors. Silver Rum ain't my jam at the moment, so I pull out the Tequila. It also doubles as a distinct, vibrant flavor. A splash of lime will bring out the hints of sour. But now we just have a "mostly water" with a rusty green from the lime.
I've been experimenting with syrups lately, so let's bring out the Orgeat, a hazelnut syrup popular in rum drinks, and mix that in. Yes. After a quick stir, the thicker marzipan syrup "muddies the waters" if you will. And, after a sip, smooths that Tequila right away without sacrificing it.
The first flavor that came to mind when considering Miriam, however, was the underrated Stella Rosa Pink. Bright, silky flavors without being overpowering, I thought it aligned beautifully with her personality. And following my success in blending Pink and cinnamon, I am overconfident this will work out.
2 oz Silver Tequila
1 oz Orgeat
1/2 oz Lime Juice
3 oz Stella Rosa Pink Wine
+ A lovely drink
+ Tequila is a flavor you don't hide, so the Pink and Orgeat only smooths its finish
+ A great vehicle to accent the Orgeat without overpowering other flavors
+ Pleasant and smooth and bright
+ I could drink this easily and quickly...be careful
Adding on that the wine brings a silky pink chamise to the visual is just icing on the cake, as it reminds me of her crimson coat, which is awesome.
See you in the shadows.
Professional Game Master musician, music teacher, game designer, amateur bartender, and aspiring fiction author.
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