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A trans person's measured take on the trans sports issue
So first of all this post was inspired by GGExMachina's brief statement on the issue:
For example, it is objectively the case that biological men have a physical advantage over women. Yet if someone points this out and suggests that transgender people shouldn’t be allowed to fight in women’s UFC, or women’s soccer or weightlifting competitions or whatever, suddenly you’re some kind of evil monster. Rather than saying that of course trans people shouldn’t be bullied and that we could perhaps have a trans olympics (like the Paralympics and Special Olympics), we are expected to lie.
I've found that this position is incredibly popular among liberals/left-leaning people, especially here on reddit. It seems like, once or twice a month, like clockwork, a thread stating more or less the same thing on /unpopularopinion or /offmychest will get thousands of upvotes. And while I completely understand the thought process that leads otherwise left-leaning people to come to such conclusions, I feel like the issue has been, broadly speaking, dishonestly presented to the general public by a mixture of bad-faith actors and people who have succumbed to the moral panic. And, as I've seen, there are plenty of people in this subreddit and elsewhere who are itching to be as supportive as they possibly can to the trans community but find themselves becoming very disillusioned by this particular issue. By making this post I hope to present a more nuanced take on the issue, not only in regards to my personal beliefs on what kinds of policies are best to preserve fairness in women's sports but also in regards to shining a light on how this issue is often times dishonestly presented in an attempt to impede the progression of pro-trans sentiments in the cultural zeitgeist.
Sex & Gender
The word "transgender" is an umbrella term that refers to people whose gender identities differ from those typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, the approximate composition of "the trans community" in the United States is 29% Transgender men (Female-to-Male), 33% Transgender women (Male-to-Female), and 35% non-binary. (The remaining 3% were survey respondents who self-identified as "crossdressers", who were still included in the survey on the grounds of being gender non-conforming) While non-binary people, as a group, are probably deserving of their own separate post. the focus of this post will be on trans men and trans women. I will also be primarily focusing on transgender people who pursue medical transition with Hormone-Replacement-Therapy, as they are most relevant to the issue of sports. (Mind that while the majority of binary trans people fit into this camp, there is a sizable minority of trans people who do not feel the need to medically transition.) What do trans people believe about Gender? The views of transgender people in regards to Gender are actually pretty varied, although the most prominent positions that I've personally seen are best summed up into two different camps:
The "Trans-Medical" camp
Transgender people who fall into this camp usually consider Gender Dysphoria to be the defining factor of what makes somebody trans. The best way I can describe this camp is that they sort of view being transgender akin to being intersex. Only whereas an intersex person would be born with a disorder that affects the body, a trans person is born with a disorder that affects the brain. Trans people in this camp often times put an emphasis on a clinical course for treatment. For example, a person goes to a psychologist, gets diagnosed with gender dysphoria, starts hormone replacement therapy, pursues surgery, then emerges from this process of either cured of the gender dysphoria or, at the very least, treated to the fullest extent of medical intervention. This position is more or less the original position held by trans activists, back in the day when the word "transsexual" was used instead of "transgender". Though many younger trans people, notably YouTuber Blaire White, also hold this position. Under this position, sex and gender are still quite intertwined, but a trans man can still be considered a man, and a trans woman a woman, under the belief that sex/gender doesn't just refer to chromosomal sex and reproductive organs, but also to neurobiology, genitalia, and secondary sex characteristics. So someone who is transgender, according to this view, is born with the physical characteristics of one sex/gender but the neurobiology of another, and will change their physical characteristics, to the fullest extent medically possible, to match the neurobiology and therefore cure the individual of gender dysphoria. Critics of this position argue that this mentality is problematic due to being inherently exclusive to transgender people who do not pursue medical transition, whom are often times deemed as "transtrenders" by people within this camp. Many people find it additionally problematic because it is also inherently exclusive to poorer trans people, particularly those in developing nations, who may not have access to trans-related medical care. Note that there are plenty of trans people who *do* have access to medical transition, but nevertheless feel as if the trans community shouldn't gatekeep people who cannot afford or do not desire medical transition, thus believing in the latter camp.
The "Gender Identity" camp
I feel like this camp is the one most popularly criticized by people on the right, but is also probably the most mainstream. It is the viewpoint held by many more left-wing trans people, (Note that in the aforementioned 2015 survey, only 1% of trans respondents voted Republican, so trans people are largely a pretty left-wing group, therefore it makes sense that this position would be the most mainstream) but also notably held by American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, GLAAD, and other mainstream health organizations and activist groups. While people in this camp still acknowledge that medical transition to treat gender dysphoria can still be a very important aspect of the transgender experience, it's believed that the *defining* experience is simply having a gender identity different from the one they were assigned at birth. "Gender identity" simply being the internal, personal sense of being a man, a woman, or outside the gender binary. Many people in this camp, though, still often maintain that gender identity is (at least partially) neurobiological, but differ from the first camp in regards to acknowledging that the issue is less black & white than an individual simply having a "male brain" or a "female brain", but rather that the neurological characteristics associated with gender exist on more of a spectrum, thus leaving the door open to gender non-conforming people who do not identify as trans, as well as to non-binary people. This is where the "gender is a spectrum" phrase comes from. "52 genders" is a popular right-wing meme that makes fun of this viewpoint, however it is important to note that many trans and non-binary people disagree with the idea of quantifying gender identity to such an absurd amount of individual genders, rather more simply maintaining that there are men, women, and a small portion of people in-between, with a few words such as "agender" or "genderqueer" being used to describe specific identities/presentations within this category. It's also noteworthy that not all people in this camp believe that neurobiology is the be-all-end-all of gender identity, as many believe that the performativity of gender also plays an integral role in one's identity. (That gender identity is a mixture of neurobiology and performativity is a position held by YouTuber Contrapoints) Trans people and biological sex So while the aforementioned "Gender Identity" viewpoint has become quite popularized among liberals and leftists, I have noticed a certain rhetorical mentality/assumption become prevalent alongside it, especially among cisgender people who consider themselves trans-allies: "Sex and Gender are different. A trans woman is a woman who is biologically male. A trans man is a man who is biologically female" When "Sex" is defined by someone's chromosomes, or the sex organs they were born with, this is correct. However, there is a pretty good reason why the trans community tends to prefer terms like "Assigned Male at Birth" rather than "Biologically Male". This is done not only for the inclusion of people who are both intersex and transgender (For example, someone can be born intersex but assigned male based on the existence of a penis or micropenis), but also due to the aforementioned viewpoint on divergent neurobiology being the cause for gender dysphoria. Those reasons are why the word "Assigned" is used. But the reason why it's "Assigned Male/Female At Birth" instead of just "Assigned Male/Female" is because among the trans community there exists an understanding of the mutability of sexually dimorphic biology that the general population is often ignorant to. For example, often times people (especially older folks) don't even know of the existence of Hormone Replacement Therapy, and simply assume that trans people get a single "sex change operation" that, (for a trans woman) would just entail the removal of the penis and getting breast implants. Therefore they imagine the process to be "medically sculpting a male to look female" instead of a more natural biological process of switching the endocrine system form male to female or vice versa and letting the body change over the course of multiple years. It doesn't help that, for a lot of older trans people (namely Caitlyn Jenner, who is probably the most high profile trans person sadly), the body can be a lot more resistant to change even with hormones so they *do* need to rely on plastic surgery a lot more to get obvious results) So what sexually dimorphic bodily characteristics can one expect to change from Hormone Replacement Therapy? (Note that there is a surprising lack of studies done on some of the more intricate changes that HRT can, so I've put a "*" next to the changes that are anecdotal, but still commonly and universally observed enough among trans people [including myself for the MTF stuff] to consider factual. I've also put a "✝" next to the changes that only occur when people transition before or during puberty) Male to Female:
Breast development and nipple/areolar enlargement, including in some people, the development of mammary glands and the ability to breastfeed
Thinning/slowed growth of facial/body hair
Cessation/reversal of male-pattern scalp hair loss
Softening of skin/decreased oiliness and acne
Decreased muscle mass/strength
Widening and rounding of the pelvis
Changes in mood, emotionality, and behavior (anecdotally crying is way easier to do)
Decreased sex drive (anecdotally, taking progesterone helps a lot in regards to regaining sex drive, though attraction is often noted as being experienced a bit differently than how it feels with testosterone)
Decreased sperm production/fertility
Decreased testicle size
Decreased penis size
Decreased prostate gland size
Voice changes (As far as I've heard, most people only experience minor changes from transitioning in adulthood, so it's common to do vocal training on top of everything to actually get a female-passing voice. I'll add a ✝ here since vocal changes seem to be a lot stronger in people who transition before/during puberty)
Changes in body odor (It's been documented that men and women often times have different smelling body odor, and trans people commonly notice a change in this regard) *
Changes in how arousal, sexual pleasure, and orgasms are experienced *
Changes in facial complexion *
Slight changes in hair color, texture, or curl *
Slight changes in eye color *
Changes in alcohol/drug tolerance *
Experiencing pubescent skeletal development and bodily growth along female-typical lines, including both bodily size/shape and facial bone/cartilage features ✝
Female to Male:
Growth of facial/body hair
male pattern scalp hair loss (in some individuals)
Roughening of the skin and prominence of veins
Increased muscle mass/strength
Changes in mood, emotionality, and behavior (I forget the source for this sadly but I remember reading that trans men are significantly more likely to commit crimes and get into fights after starting HRT)
Increased sex drive
Cessation of ovulation and menstruation
Acne (especially in the first few years of therapy)
Alterations in blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides)
Increased red blood cell count
Deepening of the voice
Enlargement of the clitoris
Changes in body odor *
Changes in how arousal, sexual pleasure, and orgasms are experienced *
Changes in facial complexion *
Slight changes in hair color, texture, or curl *
Slight changes in eye color *
Changes in alcohol/drug tolerance *
Experiencing male pubescent skeletal development and bodily growth along male-typical lines, and closure of growth plates ✝
Often times, when the whole "transgender people in sports" discussion arises, a logical error is made when *all* transgender people are assumed to be "biologically" their birth sex. For example, when talking about trans women participating in female sports, these instances will be referred to as cases of "Biological males competing against females". As mentioned before, calling a trans woman "biologically male" strictly in regards to chromosomes or sex organs at birth would be correct. However, not only can it be considered derogatory (the word "male" is colloquially a shorthand for "man", after all), but there are many instances where calling a post-HRT transgender person "biologically [sex assigned at birth]" is downright misleading. For example, hospitals have, given transgender patients improper or erroneous medical care by assuming treatment based on birth sex where treatment based on their current endocrinological sex would have been more adequate. Acute Clinical Care of Transgender Patients: A Review
Conclusions and relevance: Clinicians should learn how to engage with transgender patients, appreciate that unique anatomy or the use of gender-affirming hormones may affect the prevalence of certain disease (eg, cardiovascular disease, venous thromboembolism, and osteoporosis), and be prepared to manage specific issues, including those related to hormone therapy. Health care facilities should work toward providing inclusive systems of care that correctly identify and integrate information about transgender patients into the electronic health record, account for the unique needs of these patients within the facility, and through education and policy create a welcoming environment for their care.
Some hosptials have taken to labeling the biological sex of transgender patients as "MTF" (for post-HRT trans women) and "FTM" (for post-HRT trans men), which is a much more medically useful identifier compared to their sex assigned at birth. In regards to the sports discussion, I've seen *multiple threads* where redditors have backed up their opinions on the subject of trans people in sports with studies demonstrating that cis men are, on average, more athletically capable than cis women. Which I personally find to be a pathetic misunderstanding of the entire issue. Because we're not supposed to be comparing the athletic capabilities of natal males to natal females, here. We're supposed to comparing the athletic capabilities of *post-HRT male-to-females* to natal females. And, if we're going to really have a fact-based discussion on the matter, we need to have separate categories for pre-pubescent and post-pubescent transitioners. Since, as mentioned earlier, the former will likely have different skeletal characteristics compared to the latter. The currentInternational Olympic Committee(IOC) model for trans participation, and criticisms of said model (I quoted the specific guidelines from the International Cycling Union, but similar guidelines exist for all Olympic sports)
Elite Competition At elite competition levels, members may have the opportunity to represent the United States and participate in international competition. They may therefore be subject to the policies and regulations of the International Cycling Union (UCI) and International Olympic Committee (IOC). USA Cycling therefore follows the IOC guidelines on transgender athletes at these elite competition levels. For purposes of this policy, international competition means competition sanctioned by the UCI or competition taking place outside the United States in which USA Cycling’s competition rules do not apply. The IOC revised its guidelines on transgender athlete participation in 2015, to focus on hormone levels and medical monitoring. The main points of the guidelines are: Those who transition from female to male are eligible to compete in the male category without restriction. It is the responsibility of athletes to be aware of current WADA/USADA policies and file for appropriate therapeutic use exemptions. Those who transition from male to female are eligible to compete in the female category under the following conditions: The athlete has declared that her gender identity is female. The declaration cannot be changed, for sporting purposes, for a minimum of four years. The athlete must demonstrate that her total testosterone level in serum has been below 10 nmol/L for at least 12 months prior to her first competition (with the requirement for any longer period to be based on a confidential case-by-case evaluation, considering whether or not 12 months is a sufficient length of time to minimize any advantage in women’s competition). The athlete's total testosterone level in serum must remain below 10 nmol/L throughout the period of desired eligibility to compete in the female category. Compliance with these conditions may be monitored by random or for-cause testing. In the event of non-compliance, the athlete’s eligibility for female competition will be suspended for 12 months.
Valid criticisms of the IOC model are usually based on the fact that, even though hormone replacement therapy provokes changes to muscle mass, it does *not* shrink the size of someone's skeleton or cardiovascular system. Therefore an adult-transitioned trans woman could, even after losing all levels of male-typical muscle mass, still have an advantage in certain sports if she had an excessively large skeletal frame, and was participating in a sport where such a thing would be advantageous. Additionally, the guidelines only require that athletes be able to demonstrate having had female hormone levels for 12-24 months, which isn't necessarily long enough to completely lose musculature gained from training on testosterone (anecdotally it can take 2-4 years to completely lose male-typical muscle mass) So the IOC guidelines don't have any safeguard against, for example, a trans woman training with testosterone as the dominant hormone in her body, and then taking hormones for the bare minimum time period and still having some of the advantage left. Note that, while lower level sports have had (to the glee of right-wing publications sensationalizing the issue) instances of this exact thing happening, in the 16 years since these IOC guidelines were established, not a single transgender individual has won an Olympic medal Also note that none of the above criticisms of the IOC policy would apply in regards to the participation of pre-pubescent-transitioned trans women. After all, male-pubescent bone structure and cardiovascular size, and male-typical muscle levels, can't possibly exist if you never went through male puberty to begin with. What could better guidelines entail, to best preserve fairness in female sports while avoiding succumbing to anti-trans moral panic?
The most extreme way for female sports to reasonably go about addressing this issue would be to only allow for the participation of transgender women who are documented to have, with puberty blockers, carried out their transitions without having gone past Tanner Stage II or III of male puberty.
Sports leagues willing to be a bit looser could accept adult transitioners under the stipulation that their bodily measurements in regards to certain skeletal features fit within a standard deviation of the cis-female average
Sports leagues willing to be even looser could copy the IOC guidelines, but require documentation of having gone through HRT for a greater period of time rather than just the 12 months, (3 years would probably be better) to guarantee full loss of male muscle mass
In my personal opinion, sports leagues should pick one of the three above options depending on what best fits the nature of the sport and the eliteness of the competition. For example, extremely competitive contact sports might be better off going with the first option, but an aerobic sport such as marathon running would probably be fine with the third option.
How this issue has been misrepresented by The Right
Right-wing rhetoric surrounding this issue assumes that the issue exists as an innate consequence of trans activism (Ie. "This is what the left is pushing!") rather than as a result of individual sports leagues failing to have solid rules for participation. Often times, certain low-level sports leagues have failed to even measure trans athlete's hormone levels, and have, in some cases, let completely male-bodied athletes participate as women. This is obviously the fault of these specific sports leagues failing to implement or enforce reasonable rules for participation, but right-wing articles surrounding such instances will act as if these occurrences are an ideological goal of the pro-trans left. This runs off of the assumption that a majority of trans people and "the left" are specifically pushing for muscular males (who merely "identify" as women, and nothing more) to dominate female sports. When, in reality, we really had nothing to do with these occurrences, and the majority of trans people would even likely agree with the sentiments expressed in this post. Additionally, accepting the gender identities of trans people is something you can do irregardless of your opinion on the sports issue.
Over-exaggeration of the problem. The issue is often sensationalized to the extent of coming off as a call to action, to stop the trans activists and their SJW bullies from ruining female sports! They're coming after your daughter's lacrosse team! In reality, out of the hundreds of thousands (perhaps even more) of sports competitions that exist in the United States and throughout the world, an incredibly small percentage of them are actually ruined by trans participants. You hear the stories of the 6'5'' trans woman with the broad frame winning a weightlifting competition, but not of the hundreds of more average-sized trans-female athletes turning out more mediocre performances. This isn't to say that the niche cases don't present a problem that indeed needs to be fixed, but presenting the problem as more prevalent than it actually is acts as a rhetorical strategy meant to provoke anger as well as a more dramatic response. Buying into this rhetorical strategy, especially if you're is already somewhat ignorant to the issue to begin with, will make it much easier to convince you of accepting drastic solutions to the problems. Ie. "ONLY XX CHROMOSOMES ALLOWED IN FEMALE SPORTS", instead of any of the three more measured approaches suggested above. The provoked response of anger is also meant to turn people off of accepting trans rights in general.
Infuriatingly, I've noticed that right-wing rhetoric usually doesn't even mention pre-pubescent transitioners at all. Like, these people are fine with acknowledging the existence of puberty blockers when they're trying to make them illegal, but they refuse to talk about them in regards to the sports issue. There have been cases where conservative jurisdictions have banned the participation of all transgender students in girl's sports, period. Meaning a transgender girl who never went through male puberty at all, and has pre-pubescent hormone levels as a result of puberty blockers, could be banned from participating in girl's sports, while in reality said trans girl could possibly even be at a disadvantage compared to the cis girls, as a result of not even having started puberty yet. Nonsensical. And liberal allies are at fault of this too, I've noticed. I've seen countless reddit threads where left-leaning people voice their take on the trans sports issue without mentioning the existence of pre-pubescent transitioners. It's honestly ridiculous.
The sports issue is also used as an excuse to say derogatory things about trans women that would be less justifiable in other instances.
I'll use Joe Rogan as an example of this last thing:
She calls herself a woman but... I tend to disagree. And, uh, she, um... she used to be a man but now she has had, she's a transgender which is (the) official term that means you've gone through it, right? And she wants to be able to fight women in MMA. I say no f***ing way. I say if you had a dick at one point in time, you also have all the bone structure that comes with having a dick. You have bigger hands, you have bigger shoulder joints. You're a f***ing man. That's a man, OK? You can't have... that's... I don't care if you don't have a dick any more... If you want to be a woman in the bedroom and you know you want to play house and all of that other s*** and you feel like you have, your body is really a woman's body trapped inside a man's frame and so you got a operation, that's all good in the hood. But you can't fight chicks. Get the f*** out of here. You're out of your mind. You need to fight men, you know? Period. You need to fight men your size because you're a man. You're a man without a dick. I'm not trying to discriminate against women in any way, shape, or form and I'm a big supporter of women's fighting. I loved watching that Ronda Rousey/Liz Carmouche fight. But those are actual women. Those are actual women. And as strong as Ronda Rousey looks, she's still looks to me like a pretty girl. She's a beautiful girl who happens to be strong. She's a girl! [Fallon Fox] is not a girl, OK? This is a [transgender] woman. It's a totally different specification.
Calling a trans woman a "man", and equating transitioning to merely removal of the dick, and equating trans women's experiences as women as "playing house" and "being a woman in the bedroom". These things are obviously pretty transphobic, and if Rogan had said these things about just any random trans woman his statements would have likely been more widely seen in that light. But when it's someone having an unfair advantage in sports, and the audience is supposed to be angry with you, it's much more socially acceptable thing to say such things. But the problem is, when you say these kinds of things about one trans woman, you're essentially saying those derogatory things about all trans women by extension. It's the equivalent of using an article about a black home invader who murdered a family as an excuse to use a racial slur. Now, I'm not saying that Rogan necessarily did this on purpose, in fact I'm more inclined to believe that it was done moreso due to ignorance rather than having an actual ideological agenda. But since then, many right wing ideologues who do have an ideological agenda have used this issue as an excuse to voice their opinions on trans people while appearing to be less bigoted. Ie. "I'm not trying to be a bigot or anything and I accept people's rights to live their lives as they see fit, but we NEED to keep men out of women's sports", as a sly way to call trans women "men". Additionally, doing this allows them to slip in untrue statements about the biology of trans women. I mean, first of all in regards to the statement "You have bigger hands, you have bigger shoulder joints", obviously even in regards to post-pubescent transitioners, not every trans woman is going to have bigger hands and shoulder joints than every cis woman (My hands are actually smaller than my aunt's!). It's just that people who go through male puberty on average tend to have bigger hands and shoulder joints compared to people who go through female puberty. But over-exaggerating the breadth of sexual dimorphism, as if males and females are entirely different species to each-other, helps to paint the idea of transitioning in a more nonsensical light. I hope this thread has presented this issue in a better light for anyone reading it. Let me know if you have any thoughts/criticisms of my stances or the ways I went about this issue.
While browsing Roll20, I happened across a post by someone that represented a group of players looking to branch out from D&D5e. As someone who has run 5e previously, I figured I would understand some of their preconceptions, so I made a post with a few choices I would be willing to run. They chose Godbound, which is a system I have loved from afar but never had the opportunity to run. This is how it went. (Wall of text.) Setting/Premise:
Initially, the players would begin as mortals on some nameless world. The gods of this world vanished long ago, magic is in decline, and things have become more mundane.
The players would become divine and somehow be transported to Faerun, shortly after the Time of Troubles. Exact time-frame TBD. Due to their background, I figured stomping around Faerun as demigods would appeal to them.
I stole a page from the excellent Beyond the Wall to lend backstory to the characters. The PCs would be childhood friends that ventured beyond their unremarkable village to save it, becoming heroes in the process. One of the players got zealous and created a PC almost immediately, forcing me to adapt these plans. Still, most of it remained workable.
Due to the setting swap, the PCs would forgo a Relationship Fact and receive an artifact in its place, something that materialized on their person when they became divine. In return, they will have to take a Relationship Fact at 2nd level, to show how their first moves in Faerun are perceived.
Mortière: A commoner whose father was a sheep herder, Mortière rose to become a great general in his kingdom's army and was bestowed a noble title. He returned to his home village on leave following a successful but brutal campaign. As a mortal, Mortière is cunning and a tactical master, but his ability to bond with and lead men leaves something to be desired. Bonded to Dragon, Lich, and War. Plans to become a sort of Eternal Dracolich of Conquest.
Cristoph: A tinker and builder that found a book from an ancient secret order. It detailed runes and enchantments for enhancing constructions, which he used to become a chief siege engineer in the king's army, serving alongside Mortière. Before joining the army, Cristoph had already begun to create crude golems, animated by runic magic, though devoid of sentience or the ability to make complex decisions. He wields a rifle powered by spark powder. Bonded to Artifice, Bow, and Endurance.
Liliana: As a young girl, Liliana was touched by a dark apocalyptic prophecy that drove her insane. She ended up apprenticing herself to the village witch, where she learned herbalism and basic magics. She was shunned and mocked for her insane ramblings by the rest of the village though, including the other PCs. Has a raven familiar named Poe. Bonded to Madness, Intoxication, and Knowledge.
The story picks up in the village of Kirkwall, in a nameless kingdom on a nameless world. Mortière and Cristoph are home on leave. Liliana never left. The village has experienced some strange activity in the last few weeks, which the PCs have helped with to some degree. These are background events pulled from a Beyond the Wall scenario and are used to give the sense that things have been a little off before we join our heroes. Each event has a skill check associated with it and appropriate consequences for success or failure.
The grass is brown and the crops are dying. Cristoph used his expertise to build a new canal from a nearby river, increasing the water and nutrients available to the crops. They are still unnaturally weak, seemingly being drained of life, but it has at least delayed the famine. Cristoph succeeded here. Had he failed, rations for the PCs would have been hard to come by. Liliana asked to use her witch training to help as well and also succeeded spectacularly. Between the two of them, I opted to completely ignore this event going forward, assuming it had largely taken care of.
Mortière received a palm reading from a traveling fortune teller. She told him of some great calamity, but he was unable to get more than a cryptic warning and a demand for payment. Lacking charm, Mortière was unable to convince the fortune teller to expand upon her warning. If this were Beyond the Wall, Mortière would begin the game short a Fortune Point. As it is not, I instead reserved the right to inflict something horrible upon him at the worst possible time. This would become important later.
Last week, a traveling scholar came to the inn. He claimed to be in the area searching for the burial site of the First King of this nameless kingdom. Liliana was able to convince him to reveal its suspected whereabouts: a day's ride east of the village, past the statue of the Nameless God. I was glad this event came up. Without it, they would have had to search for the barrow and I was worried that might bog down the game. There was enough to get through without adding that and I likely would have ended up handwaving it.
There have been general rumors of ghosts and other hauntings, though the PCs have yet to see anything personally.
The three begin by questioning the village witch (who Liliana refers to as grandma), to see if she knows anything about the strange happenings in the village. She confirms their suspicions that the burial site could be involved. She explains that though magic has begun to fade from their world, the enchantments on the barrow are from a previous age and it is possible that they are capable of things not seen in an age. Mortière and Cristoph decide to investigate, while Liliana accompanies them because she suspects it might be related to the apocalyptic nightmares she has for the last decade. Mortière convinces the captain of the town guard to lend him the guardsmen for the expedition. Meanwhile, Liliana gathers poisonous mushrooms which Cristoph places in clay jars with small amounts of spark powder to create makeshift poison grenades. They aren't sure it will be useful against the undead, if their suspicions prove correct, but they aren't sure what else they might encounter out there. This takes the greater part of the afternoon, so the PCs pack their belongings and settle in for the night, planning to rest and then leave at first light. In the wee hours of the morning, the bell atop the lone guard tower begins to ring. Mortière, living nearby, is the first to answer the call. Captain Dishan, Mortière's mentor as a child, warns of shadowy figures moving beyond the east end of town, in the fields. By this time Cristoph has arrived and together the three of them come up with a plan. Mortière takes three of the guards to the fields just behind the mayor's house, where they set up makeshift barricades. Cristoph heads home with the last guard to warn his parents and attempt to activate a clay golem with brass clockwork innards he had been working on. He isn't sure it will work, but his last hurried rune is a success and the golem springs to life, albeit without a modicum of intelligence or self-direction. Cristoph asked if he could have had a crude golem he had been working on. I readily agreed, reasoning that it could have been an experiment he was working on with his book before he enlisted. I told him he would have to make a skill check and that if it failed, it might have unpredictable results. He succeeded and suddenly the party gained a golem. Meanwhile, Liliana wanders amongst the dead trees, talking to herself and her raven about dark visions and the end of the world. As the barricades are set in place and Cristoph joins the defenders, she finally decides to investigate the noise. She sends Poe up to survey the field and count the intruders. The raven spots ten skeletal figures, moving in two groups of five, headed straight for the barricades. She relays this information to her friends who, together with the guards and the golem, prepare to meet the attack. Dishan puts his trust in his pupil Mortière, now a famed general, letting him direct the men. The leading group reaches the barricades, while the trailing group is a few dozen yards out. The first exchange is uneventful, with Mortière and the guards attempting to stab the skeletons through the barricades with sword and spear and mostly failing. The skeletons mindlessly attack the barricades. Cristoph orders the golem to plug a hole between two barricades, which it succeeds at, but nobody manages to inflict much damage on the risen dead. Then Liliana weaves her dark magic, summoning a pack of rats out of the fields that begin to carry of pieces of the skeletons for their nests. The skeletons make no attempt to fight against the rats or even seem to register their presence, continuing to beat on the barricades mindlessly. Still, the rats weaken them. I believe everyone missed during the first round, aside from the NPC guards, which didn't feel right. I opted to have the guards panic a bit, seeing as they are unused to combat, let alone the undead. The guards, having taken down one weakened skeleton, rush around the barricades to press their advantage. Mortière and Dishan shout at them to get back, but it is too late: they are already engaged. Between the rats and the guards, two more skeletons quickly go down. The defenders make short work of the last two and turn their attention to the second group. With the first group down, they turn their tender attentions to the stragglers, still out in the field. With the first group down, the second group simply stops moving. The guards and Cristoph rain volley after volley of crossbow bolts and gunfire upon them until they are all destroyed. I had forgotten how boring roll d20 for combat can be when the players don't have many other options. Improvising can certainly improve things, but this battle taking place in a largely empty field with a few barricades didn't leave the players with many options. The guards panicking spiced things up a little, but I knew a second group would be boring as all hell to deal with, so I opted to have them simply stop moving. Boring the players this early in the session was not an option. It didn't make much sense, but the players just rolled with it, either not questioning the why of it or simply relieved that it was over. I vowed to keep that in mind for the remainder of the session, until the players got more... interesting options. Nobody got a ton of sleep after that. Mortière, Liliana, and Captain Dishan took chairs to the top of the lone guard tower to keep watch for the remainder of the night, napping in shifts. Dishan was visibly uncomfortable with Liliana's presence, but treated her more kindly and with greater respect than he had her entire life. No one addressed it directly, but it was clear she wasn't just the crazy girl anymore. Cristoph went home to check on his parents, then got some sleep, trusting in the others to keep the town safe. The party set out at first light. The directions Liliana received suggested the barrow was a day's travel away, so they would be gone for a couple of days. Captain Dishan told them that he could no longer send all the guardsmen after the attack on the village. He said he could still send one of the four if Mortière desired, but was obviously uncomfortable with the idea. Mortière agreed that the village needed its defenders, should anything else happen while they were away. The party set out alone, with only the golem and the two horses Mortière and Cristoph had on lone from the army. The day had dawned overcast and considerably colder than usual for a Spring day. A thin layer of fog lay across the ground and they heard to birds or other animals. Mid-morning, an earthquake took them by surprise. Earthquakes were almost unheard of in the region and none of them were sure they had ever recalled one happening in their lifetime. Still, by noon the fog had burned off and the sky was clear. Early afternoon they arrived at the Nameless God. The Nameless God was a local landmark, an enormous statue buried to its neck in the ground. The head was the size of a large wagon and it was made from a type of stone that had never been identified. According to legend, when the gods vanished the Nameless God was the last to remain. For reasons unknown, he petrified rather than vanish altogether and his corpse had lain here ever since, well over a millennia. There was an unusual hill nearby, some eighty feet long but only a dozen feet or so across. It was rumored that the Nameless God's sword was buried there and that upon its hilt was inscribed his name. All legends agreed that reciting the Nameless God's name would awaken him, but they disagreed upon what would happen next. He would either be the world's salvation or its demise. None had been brave enough to dig up the hill to test the theories. When the party arrived, they discovered the earthquake had disturbed the site. The statue was revealed to mid-chest now, revealing a hole in its chest containing a heart of blackest obsidian. Liliana recognized the heart from her nightmares, though in her dreams the heart glowed with purple light, shot through with veins of blue. She began to whisper cryptic apocalyptic warnings, but the party ignored her. Though unsettled, they opted to camp in the new crater, in the shadow of the Nameless God. They set the golem and raven to keep watch; the night passed uneventfully. The next morning they pressed on, hoping to reach the barrow before noon. As it happened, they were closer than they thought: half an hour into their travels they spotted it. It appeared to be a hill, being as it was simply a mound of dirt with grass growing atop it. They might have missed it were it not for the half-dozen corpses standing guard outside. They decided to attack, with zero hesitation or equivocation. They dismounted and readied themselves. Cristoph shot first, blowing the scalp off the closest zombie and nearly re-killing it in the process. Though the party had military horses, the undead and the earthquake already had them unsettled. When Cristoph's gun went off, they panicked. The party had secured the horses to pitons they hammered into the ground, but Mortière's horse managed to pull free and ran off to the north, perpendicular to the party and the zombies. The zombies ignored the gunshot and turned to pursue the food source. After that first battle, I had already come up with a plan that would let the party circumvent this fight if they didn't attempt to do so themselves. I clarified whether they dismounted and they explain that they secured the horses. There were no trees to tie them to, but one of them suggested they might have pitons which surprised me. I made strength checks for the horses and one rolled quite well. To be clear, had this not worked out, I would have let the fight play out. In a sandbox game, it is important that the players make their own choices and I not force their hand. Though this first adventure was a little more on rails as many introductions are, I needed to make sure the precedent was set. They debated chasing after the horse for some time, with Cristoph worried that the army might force them to reimburse the cost of the animal. Liliana happily assured them that it wouldn't matter for much longer anyway. Ultimately they decided to take the opportunity the horse had given them and approached the barrow. The opening into the barrow was a narrow dirt tunnel with a low ceiling, descending into darkness. There were stone stairs cut into the floor, but dirt had settled onto them, creating a treacherous ramp. Luckily the tunnel was narrow enough that they could hold onto the walls quite easily, minimizing the danger. The tunnel was far too narrow for the seven-foot tall, burly golem however. They left it to guard the entrance and tied the remaining horse to the golem. Cristoph described more complex instructions like this being given by writing it on a slip of paper that he slips into the golem's mouth, which was a pretty cool image. I suggested that the text might be book-ended by runes that signal to the golem it is a legitimate command. Just before they entered, they noticed that the sky seemed dimmer, even though there were no clouds to obscure the sun. The stars were also out and shone strangely bright. Mortière lit a torch and they descended into darkness, the general leading the way and Liliana bringing up the rear. Soon after they entered, another earthquake rocked the land. Dirt from the ceiling fell on them and settled onto the stairs. This earthquake was more violent than the last as well as longer, continuing for nearly a minute. Once it passed, they pressed on. Eighty feet in, they encountered a small dirt room with another dark passage on the other side. The floor and ceiling were still dirt, but the walls here had roughly cut stone blocks set into the dirt to keep the structure in place. Mortière stepped into the room with his torch to get a better look and promptly passed out. He fell face down in the center of the room. His torch clattered a few feet away, but stayed lit. Mortière got a Spirit save but failed it. Liliana warned Cristoph that she sensed a magical enchantment in the room that put Mortière to sleep. Cristoph knew from experience that such an enchantment was likely powered by a rune somewhere in the room. They checked the walls as best they could without sticking their heads in the room, but could see nothing. Liliana asked if Poe, being a magical familiar, would be affected by the enchantment. I told her she was unsure. Liliana wanted to send the raven in to have a look around, but wanted to tie a rope around it in case it fell asleep. They realized they couldn't tie it around the bird's leg, as it was far too tiny and the rope was far too thick. She suggests she might simply tie the rope around the bird and throw it in (Like a football?, I ask.), but quickly abandon the idea. Poe squawks angrily at them for the mere suggestion. Eventually I suggest that one of them might have string with them, which Liliana realizes she likely has to bundle the herbs she gathers for the witch. Mortière snores blissfully. Liliana ties a string to Poe's leg and sends him into the room. He refuses to fly, realizing the danger, and simply hops into the room... and promptly falls asleep. Liliana pulls him back into the stairway and unties the string. The raven wakes up and flies a few feet farther up the stairs and begins to squawk angrily at all of them. Liliana recognizes it as some very unkind cursing. Finally, Cristoph realizes the only portion of the room they can't really see is the ceiling just inside the room, as the ceiling in the room is higher than the low ceiling of the stairway. They tie a rope around each of their waists. Cristoph removes his armor and Liliana dons it, as best she can, to give her more weight and leverage should Cristoph pass out. Cristoph leans into the room and manages to resist the enchantment long enough to spot two runes carved into a stone block set into the otherwise dirt ceiling, directly above the door. He recognizes the runes as meaning "sleep" and "chamber". They formulate a plan: the duo leave Mortière alone for a few minutes and retreat back upstairs into the open air, whereupon Cristoph opens one of the poison grenades he had made, empties out the poisonous mixture, and then packs it full of spark powder he had set aside for his firearm. They return to the room and steel themselves for what they must do. Cristoph leans into the room, Liliana braces herself to hold his weight, and then he flings the explosive at the runes. I had Cristoph make a new saving throw to make sure he would stay awake long enough to fling the makeshift grenade. I planned on this being a sliding scale, rather than a binary proposition. Should he fail quite badly, he might pass out before he threw... and the grenade was designed to explode on impact. It was a tense couple of minutes. Luckily, Cristoph passed and all went as planned. The explosion damaged both runes, immediately ending the enchantment. Unfortunately, they had used more spark powder than they needed and the explosion slammed Cristoph into the ground. A piece of red-hot clay shrapnel embedded itself into Cristoph's cheek; he could feel the point sticking into his mouth. He yelled out despite himself. As he picked himself up, Liliana got her herbs out and began mixing some together, explaining that she could make a poultice for the wound. About this time, Mortière woke up and climbed to his feet. When he turned around, Cristoph and Liliana could see that his left eye was missing entirely, gouged out by a rock on the ground when he had fallen upon it. The wound had not been visible from the angle he was laying. I decided to call in the bad luck Mortière had earned from the fortune teller prior to the game opening. I narrated him getting up with a black eye from the fall, intending to simply play it for the humor value. Mortière had another suggestion. When they became divine beings and Mortière transformed into a dracolich, his artifact would be a magical purple gemstone in the place where his left eye should be. His suggestion for his eye to be gouged out was perfect foreshadowing for what was to come and I eagerly agreed. I also told Mortière that he had had nightmares while under the sleep enchantment and had him make a Spirit save to see if he could recall them. He failed and remembered only fleeting images, apocalyptic visions and a flickering blue light in a large room. He mentioned nothing to the others. "It's happening," Liliana whispered. Unsettled, the others told her to shut up. They spent some time removing the useless remains of Mortière's eye and applying poultices to the eye and to Cristoph's cheek. At this point, Cristoph thought they should retreat so they could regroup. He also wanted to check on the village and his parents. Mortière insisted they press on and finish this. Liliana giggled again. Poe, still upset with Liliana and concerned for Cristoph's injury, opted to ride on his shoulder, squawking occasionally in his ear. Liliana was hurt, but said nothing. It's happening! It's happening! They continued on. The tunnel began to change as they descended deeper into the earth: first the walls, then the ceiling began to transition to the same roughly cut stonework they had observed in the room above. The stairs began to switchback, working itself back and forth but always ever deeper. As they rounded a bend, Mortière spotted the end: the stairs opened into another room. Though he could not see into the room from his vantage on the stairs, he got the sense that it was large from the way their steps echoed and the breeze that touched his cheek. The breeze carried the stench of death. The opening shone with a faint blue light. They readied themselves for battle and then rushed into the room. They found themselves in an enormous chamber, lined entirely in stone. They themselves stood on a raised stone platform with stairs descending on either side of them to the floor some thirty feet below. The ceiling was high and supported at regular intervals by simple stone pillars. The pillars were set with bronze sconces in which glowed enchanted blue flames. Between the pillars, skeletons stood at attention, holding polearms and staring sightlessly ahead. There were at least three dozen. An honor guard. At the far end of the chamber, a hundred feet away, there was a raised dais, and upon it was an ornate throne, and upon that sat the First King. He was a withered dried corpse, preserved by the dry air. His flesh had not rotted away and twin specks of red light shone where his eyes should be. His right arm rested on the throne's armrest, while his left supported a massive ornate battleaxe. Unlike the skeletons, his armor was intact, an intricately covered plate mail set with gemstones and trimmed in gold. A gold crown, set with sapphires and rubies sat upon his head. The negotiations were brief. "What do you want with the village? How do we end these attacks?", Mortière asked. "There will be no parley! Bring me the head of Uwhu Ghiirk. He will die for disturbing my tomb," the First King demanded. Uwhu Ghiirk was known to all of them as a scholar of their village. He was friendly with all of them as children and known to sometimes sing at the tavern in town. "I will make no sacrifice of my village!" "Then you will die." At his last word the honor guard slammed the butts of their weapons on the stone floor in unison, creating a deafening noise, then turned toward the platform as one. They began to march toward the stairs. Mortière and Cristoph debated briefly. Mortière wanted to position himself in the doorway to hold them off while the others escaped. Cristoph insisted they must all leave to warn the village and attempt to defend it. Liliana laughed maniacally. Poe took off, flying back upward without waiting. The trio quickly followed, with the skeletal army in pursuit. After what felt like an eternity, they emerged back into the daylight. Strangely, though there was still light in the sky, the sun was nowhere to be found. The stars blazed like fire. Another earthquake struck then, more violent than any before. The burial mound collapsed, inverting into a broad, shallow crater. "Maybe it's over?", Cristoph said hopefully. As if in response, a single skeletal hand emerged from the dirt in the center of the crater. The skeleton dug itself free, then another, and another. They swarmed out of the ground like ants. Cristoph shouted for Mortière to take Liliana on the last horse and ride ahead to warn the village. He climbed onto the back of his golem and instructed it to take him home, praying it would work. The golem carried him with ease, but though faster than a man, it could not keep up with a horse at a full gallop. Mortière and Liliana reached the Nameless God a few hundred yards ahead of Cristoph. They descended into the crater to find that the statue was now unburied down to the waste. In addition, the hill had been disturbed, revealing a colossal sword. As they reached the bottom of the crater and started up the far side, they spotted rotting figures standing on the lip of the crater, between them and the village. Liliana recognized one of them as a woman from the village that had died last year. Mortière tightened his grip on his spear and spurred the horse on. Liliana lost her grip and tumbled into the dirt. Mortière rode on, hoping that Cristoph would be able to pick her up. Liliana asked if she should make a save to keep her grip. I gleefully agreed. She made a Hardiness save and failed, falling off the horse. I was delighted to see Liliana lean into the fiction here, knowing what 'should' happen and what would make for a good story. Mortière's spear broke as he impaled one of the zombies through the head with enough force to decapitate it. He threw the useless piece of wood away and rode on, free of the crowd of zombies. Back at the Nameless God, Liliana approached the massive sword, mumbling to herself. Cristoph passed through the crater around this time. A quick glance over his shoulder revealed a skeleton army over a hundred strong, rather than the few dozen they had spotted in the throne room. At the head of the horde rode the First King atop a skeletal horse. He looked at Liliana and shook his head. He couldn't afford to detour so far. He instructed the golem to run on. There were words written on the hilt, just as in the legends. It was the language used by those that founded their kingdom, long since fallen into disuse, placing it at over a thousand years old. Further, the dialect suggested that it was even more ancient. She did not know this language, but the words swam before her eyes and somehow she knew what the words meant. Mors Omnia. The End of All Things. Liliana spoke the words aloud. The earth began to shake again, violently, and this time it did not stop. Liliana turned to climb onto the statue for shelter to find it moving, reaching for her. She laughed and jumped up onto its hand then climbed onto its wrist. It was then that she realized it was not reaching for her: it was reaching for the sword. As the Nameless God grasped its massive blade and began to lift it high, Liliana scrambled onto the giant's shoulder. She began to laugh, tears streaming down her face. "It was real! It was all real! I was right" Liliana continued to laugh. The Nameless God, still buried to the waist, leaned forward and braced itself on the ground with its left hand. With sightless stone eyes it targeted the First King. The first blow from the sword buried the king and left a crevasse eighty feet long and twenty deep in the ground. It raised its sword and prepared to strike again. Liliana threw her head back and looked at the sky. The afternoon had plunged into complete darkness, lit only be the stars which now blazed like fire. Tears streaming from her eyes and still laughing, Liliana allowed herself to fall. Time warped and stretched. Mortière found himself near the village. The village was surrounded by another skeletal army, this one numbering in the thousands. The witch and her apprentices, two young girls from the village, were drawing runes around the perimeter of Kirkwall. The runes had formed a barrier that kept the undead for now, but it would not hold them forever. The skeletons beat at the air, as if hammering an invisible wall. As Liliana fell, she passed the chest of the Nameless God. Its heart was glowing purple, shot through with blue veins. She saw a detail she had not noticed in her dreams: the heart was cracked and began to crumble before her eyes. Just as she passed the heart it exploded. A beam of coruscating energy enveloped her, propelling her miles across the sky. She slammed into the ground on the west side of the village, leaving a crater. Her body was a broken, smoking wreck. The beam of the last god swept across the battlefield and where it passed, undead were incinerated instantly. The energy passed over Mortière and then Cristoph. The horse's heart, tired from galloping and overwhelmed with terror, gave out; it collapsed beneath Mortière. He didn't have time to worry as he began to burn as he was dumped into the dirt. Cristoph's golem was incinerated the same as every other unliving creature. Somehow, Cristoph and Mortière lived. Cristoph, fearing his life is at an end, crawls weakly toward the village, still burning from his injuries. On the far side of Kirkwall, Liliana stood up and walked out of her crater. At this point we moved to combat time. Each round after the first, I asked the players to choose one of their Words that they would manifest and then encouraged them to think up a miracle related to that Word to use that round. I encouraged them to ignore their gifts for the time being and left out Effort to explain later, figuring that riding high on their newfound divine power, the players would temporarily be wielding limitless power. I had initially planned on this being a tutorial for how Godbound combat differed, using the damage table and how damage was applied directly to Hit Dice instead of hit points. Mortière and Cristoph had already studied the rule book to some degree, so I altered my plans. However, I had forgotten that Liliana joined late and wasnotas familiar with the rules. This failed to go as smoothly as I hoped as a result. Liliana should have received more guidance. Still, once Mortière began to explain how damage worked in the second round, I realized my error. With some suggestions from myself and the other players, we got some cool stuff figured out. All in all, it came out okay, but I regret not having been better prepared. Mortière was the first to act. He felt himself filled with untold strength. Unfortunately, the only weapon he had left was a dagger; his battleaxe was on his horse that ran off and his spear was broken and discarded. He drew his dagger and charged into battle without hesitation. The first skeleton he encountered blocked his puny spear. When Mortière resorted to his training and attempted to kick the skeleton back to unbalance it, the undead foe exploded from the force. Mortière kicked its dropped sword, a rusted and pitted blade, up into his hand. Mortière missed his attack, but his fray die killed it anyway. Liliana moved toward the center of town and attempted to target the skeletons near the others with another plague of rats. The spell, overwhelmed by her fresh divinity, malfunctions and she merely releases a bolt of uncontrolled arcane energy. Half a dozen skeletons were consumed in spellfire. I was caught with my pants down. I had brainstormed how I would handle Faerunian magic in a general sense, but hadn't hammered out the details yet. I figured I had time. Neither Cristoph nor Mortière were primarily spell casters, so I wasn't worried. Liliana was a late arrival and ended up devoting a fact to being the Witch's Apprentice, which made her magic more central to her concept. I didn't realize until this moment that I was unprepared to deal with how that would interface with her divinity. I've since worked out the details, but I admit I panicked a bit here. Cristoph, realizing he was okay, picked himself up and sprinted into the village, using the opening the beam of energy had created in the undead to get to his parents. He ran up to the door, but finding it locked as he had instructed, began to pound on it. His parents, unable to hear his shouts over the battle, began to scream. He kicked the door off its hinges. He poked his head into the room and his father nearly shot it off with a rifle Cristoph had made for him. "Cristoph! I nearly killed you boy!" "I'm glad you're okay..." Back on the battlefield, Mortière suddenly found himself filled with more knowledge about War than even his experienced mind was used to. He could sense the position of the enemy, seething all around him. He called out to the town guard to join him, hoping to buy the witch time to reinforce the barrier. To his surprise, the guards appeared around him, materializing in a flash of light. They weren't happy about their sudden move, but they grimly set their jaws and then set to work defending Mortière. One of them was quickly cut down, but the other three remained standing, hacking away. Mortière quickly cut down two more skeletons. The wight-blade he wielded had transformed into a perfect blade, fresh off the forge and glowing with bright yellow light. War. Something inside Liliana finally snapped. The madness of her childhood, the mockery she had received all her life, and now finally seeing that her visions were true: it was the end of the world. She began to laugh maniacally. And then she wielded her madness like a weapon. She pointed into the crowd of undead and somehow two of the skeletons, though mindless, were overcome with contagious insanity. They stopped and pulled daggers from their rotting belts, then used them to scratch out runes carved into the roofs of their mouths. Both collapsed into dust. Madness. Cristoph is finally reunited with his family, only to be met with horror. His skin splits and then begins to peel away. Pieces of brass metalwork peeks through his flesh. His parents scream in terror and soon he joins them. Endurance. Lighting cracks across a dark, clear sky. Silhouetted against the stars, the Nameless God seems larger. He swings at the ground again and again. The earth quakes without end. In the lightning, Mortière thinks he sees his own bones through his flesh, just before it begins to rot. It doesn't hurt and he feels strangely unworried. "Get up," he snaps at the dead soldier, thinking him merely exhausted. The soldier complies, rising to his feet with a rusted blade still run through his chest. The other soldiers take a frightened step away as the undead soldier attacks the skeletons with reckless abandon. Mortière feels his heart beat one last time and then stop. Lich. Cristoph's flesh is gone now. His skeleton, still standing, appears to be made of brass. It has begun to expand and grow however. He begins to resemble a brass golem. His trusty firearm, one he built himself, transforms as well; it has become some sort of arcane rifle. Artifice. (Cristoph hasn't settled on an exact description for it yet, but I like to imagine it is covered in blue runes and fires explosive bolts of arcane energy.) Liliana closes her eyes and wills the screaming populace of Kirkwall to be calm. All will be well. They will be protected. Instantly, the mortals are calmed, albeit because they suddenly find themselves wine-drunk. The fighting men are filled with fearless, berserker fury. Intoxication. Mortière begins to grow, his armor splitting and falling away. Soon he resembles a twelve-foot tall vaguely reptilian skeleton. Most of his flesh is gone now and his eyes have rotted away, leaving only a single gleaming purple gem in one eye. "Begone!", he bellows, then exhales a wave of purple energy at the crowd. The energy strips the bound souls from the undead and atomizes their remains. Along the entire western side of the village, the enemy is obliterated, reduced to a fine gray dust that covers the ground. Dragon. Liliana is overcome with dizziness and closes her eyes. She begins to rapidly absorb information. She is filled with the collective knowledge of her village, then the region, the kingdom, and eventually the world. It only takes a few moments. When she opens her eyes, a single piece of information is fixed in her mind: the runes are wrong. She fixes her eyes on the barrier the witch and her new apprentices have been carving. The runes are wrong. But Liliana knows how to fix them. She rushes to the perimeter. Knowledge. Above it all, the Nameless God strikes the ground again and again. He now stands a mile high, his blade a mile long. Each strike opens new valleys in the shattered earth. Behind Mortière, out beyond the village, the ground begins to crumble away. Even the stars are fading. Their world is done, but the trio have hope that their new abilities might at least save their village, they might save their family and their friends. Suddenly Mortière realizes that the barrier that keeps the skeleton army at bay, now reinforced by Liliana, will keep him at bay as well. He is no longer among the living. And that's where we left off! It had gotten late so we had to call it for the night on that cliffhanger. I hope you enjoyed the wall of text. If not, that's cool too. I've hammered down how to deal with Liliana's magic, so that shouldn't be an issue going forward. Next time we will see if the village will survive and where they will go if their world is truly dead!
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