Bards & Ballads

Setting for B&B (Bards & Ballads – Not a Bed and Breakfast Podcast) Campaign

In 2019, I invented this setting for a podcast whose premise was a campaign where all the Player Characters were bards.

The Realm of Leiara is torn by civil war. King Huron has disappeared leaving his three daughters competing for the throne. Prophecy speaks of a band of bards, the Fabulous Five, whose melodies will bring harmony to the land…. 

The Players

  • Brian – Bruce Sprigtree (Human Bard) – middle-aged human musician who once toured with a band of minstrels called Bruce Sprigtree and the Dragonslayers. They went on to be more popular more simply known as the Dragonslayers after they dumped him.
  • Che – Buran Buran (Half-Orc Bard) – half-orc who maintains a constant disguise of being a human in order to pass amongst a population largely hostile toward orcs.
  • Lotta – Buno Mars (Halfling Bard) – Halfling nobleman and knight on the run from a personal family tragedy. Buno rides on the shoulders of his human retainer, Bodor, which is also the only word the man can say.
  • Natasha – Stevie Sticks (Elf Bard) – native of Elfland and curious adventurer eager to see the world on the other side of the misty border between her world and the world of her band-mates.
  • Talin – Eldon Jann (Halfling Bard) – Halfling ex-soldier from the Green Hills and student of the School of Swords.

Part 1: Getting the Band Together

November 25, 2019

Duke Loomitz of Ashwall is both a superstitious man and a patron of the arts. Situated on the edge of Elfland Forest, the city hosts a monthly celebration called Sylvanastra, when the veil between Hyracanum and Elfland is thinnest and elves and gnomes come to trade. To this century-long tradition the Duke has added a new one, the Lyricalia, a competition to find the best bard in the land which the Duke himself attends.

It is to this battle of the bards that our adventurers have come to meet and compete.

Bruce Sprigtree is a middle-aged human musician who once toured with a band of minstrels called Bruce Sprigtree and the Dragonslayers. They went on to be more popular just as The Dragonslayers after they dumped him.

Buno Mars is a Halfling nobleman and knight on the run from a personal family tragedy. Buno rides on the shoulders of his human retainer, Bodor, which is also the only word the man can say.

Buran Buran is a half-orc who maintains a constant disguise of being a human in order to pass amongst a population largely hostile toward orcs.

Eldon Jann is a Halfling from the Green Hills who heard about the Lyricalia and thought it might be fun to see how well he could do in the competition.

Stevie Sticks is an elf crossing over from her home in Elfland to see what human music and arts are like and bringing music from another world to the mix.

The Lyricalia began in the afternoon with bards spinning tales to wow the crowd. The second part of the competition was after sunset with the bards battling each other with words and wits. Buran Buran seemed to be clearly in the lead but before Duke Loomitz could announce the winner he was interrupted by his knight, Sir Edmore, and rushed away from the Lyricalia.

An hour or two later, all five of the bards were summoned to the castle for an audience with Duke Loomitz, who was most distraught. His infant son, Loofitz, had been abducted by the hag Granny Greyhair. Believing they might be the Fabulous Five, Duke Loomitz commissioned the party to go into Elfland, guided by their elf companion, and rescue little Lord Loofitz.

Next dawn, Stevie brought the four non-fey into the dream-like plane of Elfland, a limitless forest in perpetual twilight where time seems to hardly move at all. So disorienting was this that Buran Buran forgot about his magical glamour that made him pass for human and his secret half-orc identity was out to everyone in the party.

A while later, the adventurers came across three elves on their way to the Feymeet, a regular festival held by the Seelie and Unseelie Courts and presided over by Queen Titania and King Oberon. When told that the party was looking for Granny Greyhair and a baby she stole from the humans, the elves concluded that the hag is going to present the changeling to Queen Titania as a gift, a calculated exploitation of her resentment over Oberon’s own taking of a changeling last Feymeet and his subsequent lack of interest in her. Hags love to stoke such jealousies into full-blown miseries and she will undoubtedly find favour with the Faerie Queen as a result.

The adventurers moved quickly to intercept Granny Greyhair on her way to the Feymeet, finding her and her three goblins on the path. They attempted a negotiation, presenting Buno glamoured to appear as a giant baby in exchange for little Lord Loofitz, but the hag insisted only a child of noble birth would do for the Queen of the Fairies. Eldon then tried to steal the babe from Granny’s arms but failed, triggering a fight which killed one of the goblins but was quickly interrupted by Bruce trying his best to seduce the hag. Not wishing to delay her arrival at the ball another moment, and apparently unfazed by the death of a goblin henchman, Granny resumed her journey to the Feymeet.

A long discussion between the party members about what to do next followed. Stevie, because of her fey nature, was automatically invited but none of the others were welcome. Knowing that the Feymeet is forbidden to non-fey attendees – under penalty of death – Bruce and Eldon were quite happy to accept defeat and leave alive, but Buran Buran was compelled to save the child by his Good nature and Buno was simply too curious to pass up the chance of sneaking into the ball.

It was decided that everyone but Stevie would disguise themselves as fey and infiltrate the Faerie Queen’s ball. With a lot of luck, they might be able to find baby Loofitz and sneak him away. Without it, they all may die.

December 15, 2019

Part 2: In the Court of the Faerie Queen

The adventurers decided to use their disguise kits to pass themselves off as Fey and infiltrate the Feymeet, with the halflings Eldon and Buno easily transforming into gnomes while Buran and Bruce somehow managed to pass for elves, albeit un-pretty ones. Bodor was put to sleep by his master, Buno, who then disguised the sleeper as a bush and left him to go with the party to the Faerie Queen’s ball.

On the way, the bards discussed what lay ahead. Stevie told them that all attendees are expected to arrive with gifts for both Queen Titania and King Oberon, but even just a bouquet of flowers would suffice. She also warned them not to eat or drink any fairy wine or cakes for such food will completely overwhelm any sense of discretion. The Feymeet is forbidden to non-Fey under penalty of death, so loose lips would be fatal.

As they neared the lights and sounds of the Faerie Queen’s ball, the group was met by a team of Sprites who escorted them to the gift garden, where everyone’s gifts were held in check before the giving and, sure enough, the basket Granny Greyhair was carrying little Lord Loofitz in was among the treasures. Noting this stash between two oak trees surrounded by guard Blink Dogs, the bards checked their improvised gifts and passed into the party.

Ahead lay a clearing in the endless forest of Elfland lit by fireflies and lanterns where Fey of all kinds frolicked and made merry, presided over by the Summer Queen, Titania, on one side and the King of Shadows, Oberon, on the other. Stevie and Buno quickly located Granny Greyhair on King Oberon’s side of the festivities and got close enough for her to overhear them talk up a lie about her sister and rival hag, Auntie Anomie, coming to the ball with a gift of her own: a little baby girl. This calculated gossip had the intended effect of sending Granny, who couldn’t help but eavesdrop, into a fuming rage and she stomped away from the party to intercept her sister.

While this was going on, the “mute” members of the party managed to misdirect curious party-goers by instigating food fights and slipping around groups of horny dryads and satyrs until Buno and Stevie came back. The group moved quickly to the gift garden to see if they could grab the baby basket with everyone trying to distract the sprites and blink dogs but it didn’t work. Just as things were getting dicey, Buno bluffed to the guards that he was one of Granny’s helpers and that she had sent him to get the gift when she had to leave suddenly. The sprites believed the deception and the party walked away with the baby basket and little Lord Loofitz fast asleep inside.

Next, the adventurers needed to find a Fey Crossing to return to Hyracanum, one that would not have a huge time distortion effect. The closest one Stevie could take them to was across the bog where Nana Wartnose, the third hag in Granny Greyhair’s coven of spiteful sisters, lives. They would need to be very careful that the hag didn’t get wind of the baby because no hag can resist a baby, but they would need to have something to offer her for the use of her bridge.

As they approached the squat little hut beside the rickety bridge over the bog, the door flew open and Nana Wartnose glared at the party, demanding to know who they were. Stevie stepped up and declared their desire to go visit the human world, and they wanted to use her bridge to get there. When the hag asked what they had to offer, the bards presented a number of fairy cakes and wine they had lifted from the Feymeet – an event to which Nana had pointedly not been invited – and she was instantly won over, stuffing her mouth with irresistible fairy confections and letting the adventurers walk free.

The exit from Elfland brought the party back to the same day they had left, albeit the sunset rather than the sunrise. They walked to the city gates and were immediately brought to the castle to deliver little Lord Loofitz to his father, Duke Loomitz of Ashwall, who was enormously grateful for the deeds of the party. This was confirmation of the prophecy about the Fabulous Five, according to him, and he announced that the next day there would be an official celebration and Buran Buran would be proclaimed the winner of the Lyricalia.

In the meantime, the bards checked into the inn for a long, well-earned rest.