Meet Gwack Zextra

Our DM’s DM will be in town next week so he’s hosting a one-off game of Blades in the Dark for us. Today, I created my character for this new game.

BitD is a tabletop role-playing game about a crew of daring scoundrels seeking their fortunes on the haunted streets of an industrial-fantasy city. There are heists, chases, occult mysteries, dangerous bargains, bloody skirmishes, and, above all, riches to be had — if you’re bold enough to seize them.

I am Gwack Zextra (our DM taught me a ridiculous naming formula and I made it ridiculouser. Gwack is a 38-year-old male Leech, which is basically a technician, tinkerer and saboteur adept at forging criminal tools- forgery kits, lock-picking equipment, bombs, etc. Oh, I can also distill drugs.

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I like to design my characters as much as I can to help me get into their heads and understand them. Hero Forge is great for quick character design. For Gwack, our new GM sent me a shadowy reference image of a vampiric man holding a skull and it felt a bit trite, especially in Victorian times. It didn’t feel right. My inspiration for Gwack Zextra was more of a “what if Boris Karloff was cast in Twilight” vibe.

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The training required to become a Leech is rare and strange – As a sickly orphan in the city of Akoros, Gwack had to be resourceful to survive. His quest for medicine led him to a curious medical “doctor” who cured the boy with elaborate machinery and foul-smelling tinctures. Once healed, Gwack stayed on as a sort of apprentice. He learned how to build weapons, torture devices, and explosives. In his spare time, he worked out in the streets to regain his physical strength, growing in strength and formidability.

Now that he’s a double threat with strength and strategy, he prefers to use his skills for mayhem and destruction. Though he can be known to heal a lucky companion from time to time, the side effects often create their own malady.

Have you played Blades in the Dark?

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Tale of Ragnar Redtail

Alaria wasn’t always the skilled archer she is today. In fact, she didn’t learn the art of long range weaponry until just a couple of years ago.

Thieving is an up close and personal business. Daggers and deception proved the most useful tools on accomplishing her objectives. After all, a long-range thief is nothing but a murderer. It wasn’t until her Uncle Biro established the Assassin’s Guild that Alaria even picked up a crossbow. Uncle Biro warned her that versatility was a more valuable weapon than any she would loot in her travels and encouraged her to become adept in more than blades.

At first she was clumsy with the bow. Her small frame couldn’t seem to fit the clunky device. It felt jarring and unnatural to carry ammo separately. In a dangerous scenario, she worried she’d fumble the bolts and fall to her foe before she could load and aim.

Her perceived inadequacy drove her to practice several times a week. One foggy morning, she ventured into the woods to practice. She brought some breakfast scraps- orange peels, bread crusts and the odd apple core- for targets. The fog made practice more difficult than she’d anticipated. The moisture in the air dampened the bread crusts until they were too soggy to shoot. Alaria tossed an apple core into the air, aimed and missed. She was getting frustrated and tired of retrieving bolts.

“One more shot. Just one more and I’ll call it a day,” she said as she pulled the bolt out of a tree.

She reconfigured herself. Took a deep breath. Then in one swift movement she threw a curl of orange peel into the sky, swung her crossbow into position, eyed the peel as it hit the peak of its flight and squeezed the trigger.

She could almost feel the bolt pierce the flesh. A sense of pride and satisfaction washed over her… until she heard the squealing high note of pain.

A curious hawk made a dive for the peel at exactly the wrong moment and Alaria’s bolt tore through his left wing, rendering the poor creature flightless mid-flight.

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Alaria gasped. Surprise. Shock. Horror. The hawk seemed to tumble out of the sky in slow motion. Alaria darted towards him. She caught him, gently cradling his frozen body. He stared at her, eyes wide, his chest fluttering in which shallow breaths.

“I know it hurts, but it doesn’t look so bad,” Alaria said soothingly. “Let’s get you fixed up.”

She returned to the Guild as quickly as she could without jostling the bird and found the medic. He took one look at Alaria holding the pitiful creature and rolled his eyes.

“Do I LOOK like a vet to you?” He grumbled.

“Please! A life is a life. Besides, you owe me.”

“…fine. I’ll take a look. But no promises. I’m no avian specialist.”

He laid the bird on the table, wings outstretched, and carefully touched the bolt. The hawk flinched, but seemed calm. Understanding, even.

“Looks like the bolt missed doing some major damage by a thumbnail or two.” He looked up at Alaria. “Bird’ll fly again. But your aim could use some work.”

“I wasn’t TRYING to shoot him! Dummy went after the orange peel I was sporting.”

“Probably looked like a worm to ‘im.” He slid the bolt out of the wing in one smooth, steady motion. The hawk tried immediately to fold his wing, but jerked it back half open and lying at his side.

“Not so fast, pal.” The medic dressed the wound with cotton and gauze. “It’s gonna be a mite before you’re sky worthy again.”

“How long do you think?” Alaria asked.

“Couple weeks maybe. You gon’ look after him?”

Alaria gave this some thought. She knew nothing about caring for creatures. She had only ever looked after herself. But she felt indebted to the hawk for causing his pain and plight.

She nodded.

When he mended up, she took him to her quarters and gave him some bread.

“I’m really sorry. I never meant to… you know.” She sat on her bed and kicked her feet out. The hawk looked at the pitiful tiefling and cocked his head to the side, seemingly sizing her up.

“Can you forgive me?” She held out a small cube of cheese. The hawk fanned out his red tail and squawked before taking the cheese from her hand. Alaria giggled.

“I suppose you’ll need a name if you’re staying here. How’s Ragnar? Ragnar Redtail!”

Ragnar cocked his head again and blinked twice, seeming to try the name on. Then he squawked his approval.

Ragnar and Alaria grew close. When Ragnar healed, he didn’t fly off as Alaria expected. He returned time and time again. Often, he brought her berries or trinkets he found on his flights.

“Your vantage point sure makes finding shiny a cinche!” Alaria kept her collection displayed in her quarters so Ragnar could admire his treasures.

Eventually, Alaria began sketching coins and gems and keys. She showed these things to Ragnar and sent him off. Sometimes he was gone for stretches at a time and Alaria worries. But he always found her and returned with a treasure resembling her doodle. Alaria always rewarded his good worth with a cube of cheese.

Presently, Ragnar is off looking for items while Alaria journeys with Dany. She’s a bit worried he won’t be able to find her since she ran off from the Guild… but she’s hopeful.

Follow Dany and Alaria’s journeys over on Gluxbox’s blog.

Fortune-telling with d20

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There are so many different kinds of modern witches. Kitchen witches work rituals into recipes and turn their homes into vibrant, sacred spaces. Green witches work with lots of herbs and likely keep their homes full of plant-life. Love witches manifest through sexual energy. Tech witches probably keep several magical apps on their phone to practice. I guess I’d call myself a Geek witch. I’m inspired by and often incorporate pop culture themes into my work As much as I love my tarot cards, I discovered a fun new method of divination with a pop culture tool.

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A couple weeks ago, I bought a set of beautiful black and gold dice to start playing Dungeons and Dragons. If you’re not familiar, the set includes a 20-sided die that you roll in game to see if and how well your desired actions work. Everyone has probably flipped a coin to make a decision in their lifetime. That action relies on “fate” or the Universe or “chance” to inform your action. But there’s a whole range of possibilities between those two sides of the coin.

Rolling the d20 is like flipping a coin, but it gives you a sort of insight scale to guide your decision. For example, if my character wants to explore nearby ruins, I’d roll for investigation. A 20 might mean she finds a rare treasure. 12 could mean she finds some gold pieces. 5 might find her surrounded by snakes or something. Typically, rolls higher than 10 have positive outcomes where lower than 10 could have neutral or even negative outcomes.

Glux and I used a /roll bot in Slack to plan our joint birthday party next weekend 🎉🍾👯‍♀️

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Ok. That’s kind of a silly example, but shows a practical use, especially when you’re as indecisive as I can be! Unlike tarot cards, d20 works best for yes/no questions. The closer to 20 you roll, the more enthusiastically you should go for it! If you roll low, maybe think of other options or different timing. Interpretation is largely left to your imagination to populate the scale.

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If you want to pick out a d20 to give dice divination a shot, consider picking different colored die for specific purposes:  Green or gold for career, finance, or money decisions. Red/pink for love and relationships. Purple for creative pursuits and guidance. Of course, as always, go with what calls to you!

Do you use any unconventional tools?

Alaria, Tiefling Rogue

Looking for new ways to reengage my imagination and creativity has attracted me to DnD. Being new to the game though, I’ve found it difficult to find players willing to take me into their groups. Until very recently when one of my friends decided to try his hand at being a DM. Last weekend, he and Glux game over for cookies and character building. Glux introduced Danaeryzard the Dragonborne who you can read about there.

Alaria Full equip

I created Alaria (pronounced like malaria without the M)

As a child growing up in the vast city of Eklatar, her tiefling parents were scarce, but doting. Her mother tended bar at a tavern frequented by wealthy travelers. Using her wit and charm, she made them feel at home on the road, while stealthily relieving them of any valuables they were unwise enough to keep at their hips to help pay back (and unintentionally enable) her husband’s gambling debts. Her father was a fletcher who crafted highly sought arrows. No arrow shot further nor more absolutely than his. His struggle with gambling kept the family from the life they worked hard enough to deserve and seeded deep paranoia in his mind. He passed his superstitions on to his daughter, who keeps one of his finest (and final) arrows in her quiver for perfect aim and direct guidance on her life journey.

At 9 years old, Alaria wanted to help her parents in a particular time of financial stress. She had been practicing her pick-pocketing skills by stealing corks and small coins from her mother’s tavern frock. However, one day, she fetched an ornate key from her mother’s pocket – two tones of gold, yellow and rose, twisted around the body gleaming like flames before meeting at the base in an explosion of pave rubies and diamonds. She was sure this would save her family from the streets! As soon as her parents kissed her goodbye for the day, she stole off to pawn the key. She never saw her parents again.

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You see, her parents were to deliver that key to the head of the Shadow Thieves – Birolesh – as a last resort payment. When they failed to deliver it that evening, Birolesh assassinated them both. Of course, Alaria doesn’t know any of this. So when a mysterious uncle appeared at her door with tragic news and an offer to take her into the Shadow Thieves, she agreed.

Under Uncle Biro’s mentorship, Alaria became a highly skilled thief. She’s proficient in the arts of manipulation, pick-pocketing, deception, and lock-picking. She knows every corner, shadow and sewer of Eklatar. Despite her horns and startlingly gold eyes, she’s a master of disguise But for all she has and all she knows, she will forever be indebted to Biro.

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Thieving business was good. Uncle Biro used his wealth to set up an underground training complex for an Assassin’s Guild so he could further develop his thieves and cultivate a profit-driving fear. As her first training mission, Alaria was to track and assassinate a dragonborn menace who had been setting forest fires just a day’s journey away. She’d never killed before, but hearing the reports, she justified this mission as a heroic deed to prevent a deadly threat from reaching her beloved city.

On the night before her planned departure, she overheard Biro assigning a job to a seasoned assassin: There exists an ancient key, crafted by a dragonborn demigod to lock the soul and fortune of Raethae. Legend tells of a two-toned gold key with a ruby hilt. Find it and bring it to me. Fail, and suffer the fate of the wretched tiefling stonescrubbers who lost it last.

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At that moment, Alaria understood three things:
1) She must leave that night and never return to Eklatar.
2) She had to somehow atone for the crimes she committed for him.
3) She would not be killing this dragonborn, or anyone, if she could help it.

Alaria formal

She left that night, anger so intense she had no plan other than to stick to the original idea: track the dragonborne. Her rage carried her pace and cut a daylong journey in half. By morning, she found her target napping in a forest clearing and talking in her sleep. Alaria silently perched herself on a branch above and listened. She learned of the traveler’s troubles and that she, too, was running from her own. Alaria empathized, and the emotional trauma of her childhood caught up with her in that tree. She let out pained gasp as it all came crashing down, startling the dragonborn awake and triggering an accidental torrent of flame.

Alaria leapt from the tree and rolled on the ground, turning just in time to see the blackened bark crumble to ashes. She drew her shortsword in defense.

“I’m not here to hurt you!” Alaria said. “Well, not anymore. It seems we’re both running from our own demons… I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“Dany,” the dragonborne introduced herself. “I’m really sorry about the flames. It’s embarrassing, but I can’t quite control my magic and -”

“I know. I heard you talking in your sleep,” Alaria interrupted.

“Well it hardly seems fair that you allegedly know all you need to about me and I know nothing about this tiny tiefling standing with her sword drawn before me.”

“Sorry.” Alaria sheathed her blade. “Reflex, I guess.”

Dany laughed and nodded her reptilian head toward the tree. “Yes. I know the feeling. Looks like I managed to cook a couple birds from that tree. Why don’t we have some breakfast and you tell me why it is you’re here?”

“I am famished…”

Do you play DnD? Tell me about your character.