Seven Deaths of an Empire by G. R. Matthews

Seven Deaths of an Empire

ARC Review

On Character Voice

On Character Voice


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Dungeons and Dragons – An Adventure in Two Worlds

New Antioquia Cages by Emir Domínguez ParedesKenric awoke to the smell of his own urine. Sweet and acrid. He raised a hand to his head and massaged his temples. The thumping ache behind his eyes, threatening to push them clear of their sockets, and a throat more parched than the Calim Desert combined with the burning need to pee once more forced him to open his eyes.

“What the hell did I drink last night?” he muttered to himself, rolling over and struggling upright on shaky legs.

Slowly, as pain coursed up his legs and hammers played along his spine as he stretched, the world came into focus. Rough stone floors strewn with straw and five other cages just like his arrayed around the platform he found himself on. In each cage a figure lay, asleep or dead, it was impossible to tell. His friends; the two paladins, the cleric, the ranger, and the warlock.

Far off, across the wooden bridge which separated the platform from a wide ledge where the only door seemed to be, were a group of dark skinned, light haired men hunched over a table, drinking and rolling dice.

“Drow,” Kenric whispered. “S**t.”

– – –

Rochester, in the UK, is a town built on history. Oft featured in Dickens novels, grim and dark, it now features a high street devoid of chain stores, but ripe with cafes, little restaurants, and some of the largest second-hand bookstores in the UK. Overseeing it all and looking down upon the impressive cathedral located on the old Roman road of Watling Street, is Rochester Castle. Besieged three times in its long history, dating from the Norman Invasion (or just after) and still in use today (not as a place of defence, but as a tourist attraction) the castle dominates the estuary town.

Playopolis Cafe

And it was to this town I travelled on one Thursday evening for an “Open Night” of Dungeons and Dragons at Playopolis, the board game Cafe which opened in 2016. To me, and probably not to you, this was a new thing. The idea of a shop/club/cafe whose stated purpose was to provide a place for gamers to go and enjoy a board game with friends, and have a coffee, cake, coke, chips, or other foodstuff that may or may not begin with a ‘c’, has come at the right time (for me at least).

– – –

The dim light was like day to Kenric, the elven half of his heritage blessing him not only with a longer life, but eyes so much more sensitive than those of pure humans. Pure. Ha. Both sides claimed to be pure. Elves and humans – both held more prejudice than they needed and neither could see the truth. Change was coming. It might take a few thousand years, but out on the streets he could smell it on the air. Though, he shrugged, that could be the urine in the gutters.

Dungeon by Manzanedo

He scrabbled through the straw, picking at the dirt, searching for anything that might help him escape the cage or be weapon when the Drow came for him. A broken belt buckle. Not much. Just the thin prong with it rounded and bend end. Kenric eyed the lock on the cage.


But even as the thought crossed his alcohol sodden mind there was loud clang as one of the paladins crashed his heavy body into his cage, toppling it and eliciting a strangled scream of surprise.

Kenric sighed. Every time. Every single time.

– – –

I headed through the coffee bar, with board games on sale and patrons already attentive to their games; the coffee bar area, the scent of roasted beans on the air, tempting me; and down the narrow stairs to the vault below. It set the atmosphere for a session of Dungeons and Dragons: exposed stone, arched ceilings, and uplighting reminiscent of a candles and lanterns.

Playopolis Game Room

A lot of the tables were getting full, but there was one with room and I slid into a seat trying to overcome my natural, and renowned, social awkwardness. The DM (Dungeon Master – in a non Fifty Shades of Grey way) gave some guidelines about character creation (some of which I understood, and some I didn’t – ah, the joys of returning to a game) and off we went.

The adventuring party, finding their own, highly individual ways of breaking out of their cages, dealing with the Drow guards, each thankfully starving and run-down, came together as one. Well, a one made up of a fractured series of parts that could at least agree they needed to get out.

– – –

The Wizard and her Pet by Ros MoralesThe Drow magic user flung a bolt of energy from her pedestal. Kenric ducked behind a pew in the abandoned church into which they had emerged. The two Paladins, holy symbols on shields and weapons in hand, rushed forward to attack. Rather one rushed to attack, the other rushed forward to talk to Billy, the emaciated lackey of this evil wizard, perhaps preferring diplomacy over the sword.

While the battle raged, Kenric crept around the pews, coming up behind the wizard. Rising from his crouch, rapier in hand, he ran her through, the tip of his sword emerging from her stomach. Surely a mortal wound. The Half-Elf rescues the humans and the elves, and you could bet your last copper piece he wouldn’t be getting the thanks.

His blade slipped free and he waited, expectantly for her to fall. Instead she turned on him, her hands surrounded by twisting tendrils of energy.

“Oh, bugger.”

– – –

D&D Players Handbook (5th Ed)Dungeons and Dragons is on its 5th Edition, which you can view as either a clever marketing tool or a way to reinvigorate its player base. Either way, the fun of getting a group of friends, or strangers together and setting out on an adventure is still there and still strong. There really is nothing quite like it.

And Board Game Cafes are a new thing, at least to me. Playopolis in Rochester is the first I’ve visited and the atmosphere is friendly, the staff knowledgeable and you know, unlike other establishments, that everyone there shares the same interests as you. That’s got to make interaction easier and more comfortable. Even more importantly, the coffee was damn good (I had two and could not sleep until 2am!).

Kenric’s adventures will continue and I suggest, recommend, encourage, you to seek out a D&D game or visit your local Board Game Cafe – support and encourage them. There is a revitalisation of tabletop gaming – let’s keep it going!


One Comment

  1. Interesting article, with a nice way of focusing its topics! The context first, a social event along, and personal info about the author. I think that is a splendid way to inform new readers and interested fans.

    So nice the chism between roleplaying and ‘literature’ can be overcome. I myself remember a time, when roleplayers were auto-considered wrong-in-the head kinda nerds gone weird… 😉

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