The Bardic Chef

Broiled Beholder and Other Dungeon Delicacies

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine, the same one that ran the Island Ourbossa campaign, contacted me to say that she was running a new campai...

Always read the terms before you sign...

By 9:30 PM ,

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine, the same one that ran the Island Ourbossa campaign, contacted me to say that she was running a new campaign soon. She asked if Prianna, the character I use for everything, would be in this game as well. She also asked how Pri's other game, a Curse of Strahd game I'm a player in, is going. I talked forever about that game - it's one of my favorites - especially Prianna's attachment to her NPC boyfriend.
I, and the other players in the game, had that in common. NPC partners for our characters that we loved dearly. Using that information against us, she informed us that we'd be playing our characters AND the child of them + their NPC partner. Instant connection for all of us to these kids, we didn't want to get attached, it meant the DM would have something to hold against us the entire game, but we had no choice. The second we knew they existed, we loved them.

The children in this game are between the ages of 8 - 14. Just old enough to be learning how to do class skills from their parents, and independent enough to star in a show like Stranger Things. Only one child was different - mine. Prianna's.

Meet Madeleine - Maddie for short. Named for both Prianna's Richemulot roots (Ravenloft's version of France), and also the name of a dessert. She is four. FOUR. You know why she's four? Because I was the hardest sell to this entire thing. I'm known in this group for being able to distance myself from many DM emotional tricks, mostly because I've used them so much myself that I've made myself immune to them. But there's one particular age, around 3 - 4 years old, that makes me melt like every female stereotype in the world. She knew that. She used that.

Watching everyone play two characters in this campaign has been interesting. The trend is to make a mini-me of their character, someone slightly less mature, shorter, but with generally the same characteristics. I find it adorable to watch the back and forths between parent and child when they're so alike. You know what? It would've been easy for me to go that road too. A very tiny Prianna, little plastic spatula in her hand, constantly sassing off at people. She would have terrorized the group for sure.

But no.

Oh no no.

I had to make something far worse.

I had to make something I knew.

I made myself at four years old.

.... and little Arella was fucking hell on wheels.

I identify strongly with children on Toddlers & Tiaras.

Let me break off into a story, if I may. 

Picture Little Arella, thin as a stick from the constant asthma she fought, mouse brown hair already down to her mid-back, giant green eyes that seemed too big for her face and made her look alien to a lot of people. Side ponytail in a scrunchie because everyone around her still thought it was 1983, and a Little Mermaid t-shirt as it was the Frozen of it's time.

Little Arella seemed like a decently average little girl, except for the fact that her particular Little Mermaid craze took a hard shift into evil land. Arella wanted to be Ursula.

For the better part of a year, her tiny pink ballet bag was stuffed with construction paper, with illegible scribbles in glitter crayon, and a big bold line across the bottom. She would march up to complete strangers in Walmart or Waffle House, present one of these pieces of paper, along with a "grown up pen" (anything with ink that she wasn't allowed to have at the time), and asked them to sign the contract.

Since this was a four year old asking, nobody asked what the contracts were for, they would just sign their actual names to the bottom, laugh, and go back to what they were doing. Little Arella would skip back to her family, zip the contract back up into her purse, and pretend like nothing happened.

The child's reign of terror would come to an end nearly ten months later. Her family was growing tired of all the construction paper scribbles she was putting on her bedroom walls with tape - it was everywhere, she had over a hundred of them at this point. At the end of Christmas dinner, the gathered family entered into the bedroom to confront Arella, who had put her latest conquest - her uncle's contract - onto the wall with the others. 

"What are all these for? You're wasting paper!" her aunt yelled.

Little Arella slowly turned, smiled, and answered calmly: 

"I have lots of souls now."

Convinced she was possessed by Satan, all of the "contracts" were burnt by one particular aunt. She was never allowed to make contracts ever again.

I felt I had a lot of ambition. I suppose people living in a super religious community wouldn't agree.

Transferring this insane child version of myself into this new child was very easy to do. It was like putting a key into a rusted lock - took some jiggling around but it eventually opened, like it had been waiting to be opened all this time.

Madeleine likes certain things. She likes undead creatures, given that her father is a necromancer and she's surrounded by them at all times. She likes being outgoing and confident, something both parents - but especially her mother - can be really great at. But most of all... she loves contracts.

Madeline is classed as a wizard - the same way her NPC father, Victor Vallakovich is. She only knows very basic cantrips, and shows a natural talent. We were also able to select one skill for them to have a score of 8 in, while the rest were very poor (because they're children), and I selected Arcana for her. I figured sitting on her father's lap while he worked away at spells would've taught her a few things, and he'd be one to sit around and explain things to her anyway. 

The child also randomly rolled at negative dexterity score.

D&D 5E doesn't have very many rules about magical contracts as of yet, so the DM made her own when I brought them up. Arcana needs to be above a 6 off the bat, paper is needed but doesn't have to be magical, both parties must agree to the terms, and both must sign the contract. Since money isn't really a thing in this particular game (we're trapped in a giant evil carnival), she opted that spell slots would have to be blown to make the contract legitimate. If you really wanted the contract, you'd have to give up all of your top level spell slots to write it and make it magical, until your next long rest. This could be tricky in a battle situation, since you always want those more powerful spells available.

Not Madeleine.

Not Madeleine, the four year old now able to make a binding Magical Contract.

Using paper she's been stealing out of her mother's unfinished cookbook, she's been writing jibberish on the papers. To her, it makes sense. She's making people swear to be hers because she's a princess. She makes a line at the bottom of the page, runs up to a party member - or even a clown or member of this carnival - and asks them to sign it for her. They always agree. Every single time, with a smile on their face and a shake of the head, they pretend to read it, go "Oh! How interesting!", sign it, then hand it back to her. I always ask the players if they want to know what's on the contract for the hell of it, and nobody ever said yes, they just go "nah it's cute whatever" and wanted to move on. Fair enough.

Madeleine currently owns a total of eight people, all adults. She wrote on her paper that "if they go away or are bad then they get nothing but spinach". She really dislikes it when Prianna makes her eat spinach.

Our party's fighter told Madeline she wasn't going to give her the cotton candy she was asking for. Our party's fighter can't figure out why her entire inventory was just replaced with squishy cooked spinach.

Madeline just peers out from behind her mother's legs, and smiles.

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