Brinewater Market

So chasing down colorful animals in the swamp is not the brightest thing I’ve done. Turns out blue popplebumps are magical. Their poisonous secretions are used in anti-magic potions, poisons, and spells. Worse, the little buggers are raised by these evil, vile, foul, frog-faced monsters who like to coat the barbed tips of their spears in the poison.

To be fair, they may have been upset because I was eating frogs’ legs.

I’ve been languishing in Brinewater’s healer hall for the past week or so while my leg heals and the seizures stop. I’ve been pestering the apprentices, and this is what they told me about their home, Brinewater Market.


Photo by Chloé Lam on Unsplash


I’ve been exploring the swamp and marsh around BrineWater Market, and I’ve found some delightful little frogs that the natives call popplebumps. The have sweet chirps, like song birds, and fill the evening with their songs. I’m told mating season only lasts a few weeks in spring.

Spring? What happened to winter…?

Anyway, popplebumps are bright green, though some species have bright red, orange, or yellow spots – which always means Danger! Those are highly poisonous, like poison-dart frogs back home. I’ve even seen a group with bright blue spots, and I’m intrigued. Even here, blue pigments are rare. I’m going out to investigate them further. In the meantime, click the link to read what I’ve learned about the local popplebumps.

The beautiful photograph is by Chloé Lam on Unsplash

Creative Commons License This work by Jean Headley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Character – Grelna

Yesterday I got to play in my very first Adventurer’s League (AL) game, and it was a blast.  I got to meet some new, awesome people, and immerse myself in another world with them.  We had a good DM, a fun module (5 chapters!) and active players.  I love the character that I played; she’d been in the back of my mind for a long time and I never thought I’d get the chance to play her, much less to play her in the AL.

Quick Info, from the AL FAQ, available here:

The D&D Adventurers League encompasses all organized play for Dungeons & Dragons, and uses the fifth edition rules. The organization is maintained by Wizards of the Coast.

So this is Grelna, in all her nascent glory (minus world-specific details)

Grelna’s parents met during one of her mother’s many adventuring missions. Ingulf was in a spot of trouble, and Ulla rescued him. She convinced her companions to spare Ingulf and instead recruit him to their company. They adventured together for many months. Adventuring, however, is a very dangerous profession and when Ulla discovered she was pregnant they decided they’d had enough.

Two half-orcs alone are vulnerable, especially with a baby. They weren’t particularly welcome in any community, and neither wanted to subject their baby to the violence and cruelty of the orc tribes, so they decided to start their own community. They recruited several like-minded half-orcs, and began a nomadic village. It was a difficult life, and still dangerous, but they were free and had a modicum of safety in their numbers.

Two years after Grelna was born, her little sister Firda was born.  Their baby brother, Gerolt, was born three years after that.  By that time the little tribe had six families, and by the time Grelna was twelve they were eleven families strong.

Grelna has always been fierce and fearless.  She loved weapons training more than hunting, and would spend hours pestering her Poppi for stories, and begging him to show her his great sword, Rosethorn. Neither Ingulf nor Ulla ever let on that the sword actually belonged to Ulla – they didn’t want to encourage Grelna in her adventurous ambitions. It didn’t matter. Grelna eventually bought a great axe, named it Rosebud, and took off to seek glory and fortune.

Grelna wants to explore the world and live life to its fullest. She also wants to fight stuff. Above all, she wants her parents and her clan to be proud of her, and to be worthy of her “father’s” great sword. She has no set plans, and is perfectly happy to go wherever the work takes her. She maintains strong ties with her family and clan, and visits as often as  possible. She believes it is her duty to provide the clan with good strong children – someday (and Firda is happily trying to find her a good strong man to do the job!) She is brash, and sometimes reckless, and generally thinks all problems are nails and she’s a war hammer. She is not rude – Momi would kill her. She is often thoughtless, though, and causes harm through carelessness. Which she apologizes for. Please don’t tell Momi.

Get yer Feets Wet!

While doing research on the mercenary companies I found a record of Phoenix Company that included all of their residence halls.  One of them is located in a place named Feets-Wet Cross-Market.  Well, with a name like that, I had to check it out.  Feets-Wet is in the middle of a place called Wobble-Grass, a swamp covering a large portion of the south-central part of the continent.  Feets-Wet is a big city made of living bridges and buildings, and it was beautiful as well as terrifying.  I also found out that “Market” is the title given to any town large enough to create and sustain trade.  There is only one Cross-Market, where all the trade routes of Wobble-Grass come together.  I found references to only two other Markets: Pantano Water-Market, on the coast of Pantano Bay, and Water Drake Hunt-Market.  A Water-Market is a port.  “Hunt” is the title given to any community that focuses on hunting.  Water drakes are 6-8 feet long reptiles that look like a dragon mated with a crocodile.  These people literally make their living hunting the most dangerous animal in the entire swamp.

Anyway, click this link for a brief description of Feets-Wet Cross-Market.

This beautiful photograph is by Chloé Lam on Unsplash


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This work by Jean Headley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Erde’s Shape-Shifters

I had made the climb to the Bright Mother’s Fountain, and this gave me the right to be there.  But I was still uncomfortable in this company.  Not because they are predators – a bunch of my family are cat-people, or dog-people.  We’ve even got a family of dolphin shifters.  No, it’s because this was clearly a sacred place to them, and I was very much an outsider.  So, although I was invited to join them around the Fountain and be part of the Ritual, I politely declined.  Instead I wandered the plateau and talked to people.  And I discovered they were terrifying and fascinating, lovely and terrible, haunted and driven, kind-hearted and killers.  Their power is seductive.

I miss my family.  I think after this I’ll go home for a bit.

Click here to learn a little more: The Shape-Shifters of Erde


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The Fountain of the Bright Mother

Hello fellow World-Walkers!  I’ve been off on a grand adventure the past couple of weeks and I’m only now returning to civilization.  I also learned there are places on Erde where my ship cannot go.  That was new and different.

Near the border of the Yoremba and Unhur’ahn, where the desert meets the mountains, is a high plateau.  You can’t get there unless you climb, or have wings.  I tried.  I tried really hard because it’s a long climb.  Had I realized my ship would not take me to the plateau directly I’d have planned better.  But I made it!  And because I made the climb I was also made welcome by the most diverse, wonderful, chaotic, terrifying group of shape-changers I’ve ever met.  (And some of my family are shape-changers.)  I will not share the details of our celebration: that was private (if you can call a gathering of a couple thousand people “private”).  But I will tell you a little about the plateau, and the well known as the Bright Mother’s Fountain.  <— Click the link!

May the Bright Mother bless you as well, and warm you in your travels!



Creative Commons License This work by Jean Headley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Black Locust Worm

During my research I found several accounts of travelers who were afflicted with worms burrowing beneath their skin. #shudder  This creature lives in forests where the black locust tree grows, and it resembles the seed pods of that tree.  I also found that there are other species that mimic the seed pods of other trees.  I am going to be much MUCH more careful about setting up my camps from now on.

Click the link to read more: The Black Locust Worm




Creative Commons License This work by Jean Headley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Photograph by Jean Headley.

The Place of Wisdom

I find myself back in Mawali, in the Great Library.  I could spend many years in this place, combing through books and scrolls.  A team of researchers could spend their whole lives in this library and not touch half of it.  I found an ancient scroll with strange markings on the case, marks that turned out to be impressions of a labyrinth.  The librarian had to cast some preservation magics before we could handle the scroll inside, and we were rewarded with a beautiful full-color illustration of a labyrinth.  We have yet to decipher the writings.  We combed the wall for other scrolls, and found a few references.  I’m going to get some lunch then go back to trying to translate the old scroll.  You can read what little we found here: Mahali Busara


Creative Commons License This work by Jean Headley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Photograph [Paphos Archaeological Park. House of Theseus: Mosaic of Theseus killing the minotaur – Labyrinth ( detail ).] by Wolfgang Sauber used under CC license:

Runes and Runic Magic

I’ve been thinking a lot about magic and casting and runes.  Even when magic is all around it’s difficult to access it, difficult to harness and shape it.  We use items to help focus our thoughts and the power.  We use mundane items, from herbs to gemstones, to help shape the magic.  We use runes to write it down, to imbue an area or an object with magic.

But why do the runes work?  Why can’t anyone jot them down on a piece of paper and create a spell scroll?  Part of it is in the ink, which itself it created using magic and spell components.  But many runes are carved into wood or stone, or scratched into the earth.  What is it the spell casters are doing that makes a difference?

Well… they know that runes aren’t two-dimensional.  Runes are three-dimensional.  All those gestures the mages make?  Those are runes, drawn in the air with absolute precision.  When mages write runes on paper or vellum, they are visualizing the runes in all their dimensions and embedding that power onto the flat surface.  The rest of us only see the flat result, never realizing the full scope of the marks before us.

This is one of the reasons learning a new spell is so difficult.  Mages must not only memorize the complex mathematical formulae that represent the manipulation of energy, but also decipher the runes used to execute the formulae:

“What is this?  I’m fairly certain this rune describes electricity, but what is this mark?  Oh… if I move right five inches and simultaneously move down one inch at a 45º angle, then delineate a horizontal circle, that describes a space five feet wide.  Hmmm.  Now, what about this mark, where does it go?  Is that an ‘out’ or an ‘in?’  Is that a spiral movement?  No, that makes no sense.  Wait, wait, if I move ‘out’ at the end of the ‘wide’ movement, then this becomes ‘distance’!  But how far…?  Oh!  Oh!  This creates a bolt of lightning!  Oh sweet!”



Not all adventures take place in the wilds, or in ruins.  Some of them take place in the library.  The Librarian asks that you please not practice Lightning Bolt or [shudder] Fireball in the stacks.  Thank you.


Image courtesy: By Lyoha123 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons
The image was modified for the page, rotated and cropped.  View the original here:


Underground Garden Map

The module I’ve been working on is cooling.  I’ve got a friend looking at it, and when he’s finished I’ll make revisions.  I spent some time this week scouting around for artwork, and I’m not satisfied with what I’ve found.  We’ll see.  The most frustrating part is that I always underestimate how much time these things really take, from the blog posts, to the maps, to revising my game notes into a coherent module that other people can use.  Oy!  Factor in the puppies, and my time gets stretched really thin!  Ah well.

I also bought some new grid paper that I’m hoping is light enough the grid won’t show when I scan it.  *crossing fingers.*

Here is another map for your personal use.  It’s an underground complex including two large, domed gardens.  I don’t know who built it, or why.  I just get a sense of a desire for retreat and seclusion.  Not the “we’re hiding something nefarious” kind, but the “We want the world to leave us alone” kind.




Creative Commons License This work by Jean Headley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.