This site is an online accumulation of the Post Reports for my current ongoing D&D Campaign - for anyone who might be interested in reading them.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Meet 104, Adv 6, 1/16/16

The group had a chance to meet the remnants of the thieves guild/leader of Varohelm this meeting. Varohelm was always a strange place years ago for my players. Tucked away in the southwestern section of a larger Duchy that was always sending its young and gold further north to feed a distant and seemingly uncaring monarch and its dozens of stupid wars and causes - the people of Varohelm had nothing in common with the rest of the duchy.

Not insular, just overwhelmed and out of place. Two major wizards lived here at one time: Erazmus and Ceril Stormbringer - and neither was a white and black hat. Both were pretty despicable in their own way - depending on which side of the line you stood on. What I did for this group was fast forward time 15 plus years after the two wizards finally killed each other off and imagined what the place would look like.

And it looks like shit.

Spells and ensorcelled creatures run amok, broken cities and shattered people, the one time mantra of "Lead the Evil to Our Door, Good we Are we'll take No More" that the populace would chant when the roustabouts and elfhunters would march was silenced and broken. The church was a ruin of its former self, poverty was rampant, and everyone who could possibly leave...had already left. What they had remaining was serf and peasantry with little or no way to get out of the land safely and cheaply.

And as for the thieves guild? They took over the nobility, sort of disbanded and broke up as every high ranking member eventually left and each time they left, they took more and more riches and wealth from the land. So what was left was a handful of thugs and degenerates who had been left behind to run things, fleecing the flesh off what few riches were left behind, and leaving a progressively less capable mix of thieves and thugs to run things.

And that's what the party has now. There is no longer a guild, any guild organization left long ago. What you have are the last of the guild trained thieves (the ones who weren't smart, capable, or rich enough to leave any of the other times) in control of the river trade, ripping everyone off, and they are looking to cash out and leave the Helmian Lands/Darkenwoods behind. But they need money - lots of it to pay all the bribes and graft, and transport they need for their people to go with them (otherwise they'll never get out) - but there isn't any money left over, nothing else to take.

Until a group shows up and the stories say of a magic vault of some sort at Castle Sterling that no one was able to open before. And who knows about it? Two capos/rulers who heard it from their bosses who heard it from their bosses some 15 years ago. And the story they know is that it has wealth. The group opens it up? They keep half. If they don't? There isn't a civilized spot anywhere in the Helmian Lands the party can hole up in before they are exposed and hunted down, slain, and end up with nothing.

They can go it alone and stick to the wild if they want, but the land is crawling with other things that would kill them or at least try.

Write up follows:

We went over a number of plans and possibilities for us for the trip, at one point talking about getting a ballista, but settled on going to the stabler and getting a few donkeys and then hitting the greengrocer and seeing about getting some rations.

We purchased two donkeys including bags, blankets, leads, and bridles. We also purchased two switches, one of them scourging, the other not. We also purchased food stuff, knowing that after 3 days it would start to spoil. However, between Steiner and Flimflam, the two priests felt confident that their god would help them to have the food either not spoil or purify at a later date.

Meanwhile, we asked subtly about the land nearer to Castle Sterling, learning that it was most likely a bog of swamplands and we should be ready and prepared for the worst. A trip to the moneychanger (and his arrogant attitude) had us convert some of our coinage. We were…surprised to learn that the exchange had new Argosian coins, stamped with this year’s date marking available – which disturbed us since most likely Shakun doesn’t have them available yet and it’s not yet 30 days into the new year. Is this something that might come up later? A problem? Something we should be aware of? For now we noted it and moved on.

We talked to our people about leaving tomorrow and that we should eat well and expect a long trip through some difficult terrain. All the henchmen and hirelings were thrilled to actually get to the meat of the adventure and promised to be ready. During the evening and our meal, Flimflam was invited to see Lord Gongruck, apparently the high honcho and leader of Varohelm. Expecting a similar situation as we had with Sir Balderi, Flimflam had himself mentally prepared.

It was when he learned that he was supposed to come alone that the group grew concerned. A group of 4 went together and three were asked to wait outside, including his dog and any weapon bigger and more dangerous than a knife. Finally assured this would be without any issue (not that the gnome didn’t believe this) he was escorted into the faintly decaying manor house that Lord Gongruck presided from.

Lord Gongruck was an older man past 60, balding white hair, gout, heavy set, jowly. He had two associates with him, Antonius and Vincius – both of them that could best be described as either muscle or lieutenants. Conversation was difficult at first since most of the fa├žade and ruse the party had established was pulled back and exposed as flimsy at best. The hunting for great cats story held, barely, but Lord Gongruck just KNEW that the party was interested in Castle Sterling and the lands around it – suspecting that magic was involved on some level.

Turns out that there is a vault there, supposedly, it’s been years since anyone has been there to check. But this vault was never opened and according to some records it has some treasure in it and Lord Gongruck and his people want it. Or at least half of it. If the party goes there and opens the vault, Gongruck wants half of the monetary treasure within and in exchange will arrange safe passage and transportation out of Varohelm and the Helmian Lands for the group. If we don’t? Then things will not be nearly as easy or safe for the party.

Flimflam was being given an offer he couldn’t refuse…so he didn’t. Handshakes were exchanged and blowjobs were provided for by a bevy of broken women Lord Gongruck had at his disposal. The druid left with the deal…but he did not think it was going to end so simply.

By 9:30 he was back at the Shining Sword and passed on what he had learned to the party. We discussed it briefly but decided for now to focus on our trip to Castle Sterling tomorrow. Spells were studied, goodberries prepared, and all manner of readying was done.

We awoke on the 29th at 6AM and broke our fast, prayed, and packed up. Our keys were given to the innkeeper and we went to the stables to get our donkeys and loaded provisions. Between ourselves and our hirelings, we had enough people to handle to animals. At 7:15 we left town and proceeded on our way.

The main road curved around the north edge of Helm Lake, most of the land showing older signs of clearing and newer signs of planting and fieldwork. However as he left Varohelm further behind the trees of Darkenwood were reclaiming the land and turning the former fields of rye and wheat back into forests. A stout dwarven made bridge of arched stone spanned the western section of the lake at its narrowest point after the two rivers joined together to form the Lake. We turned northward from here (where the western road would take us to Mount Ada and the mining encampment) and headed onward.

The quality of the road began deteriorating rapidly. We could see the land rise ahead of us as the Blackwater River headed downstream towards up from Mount Despair, most of the hills and smaller peaks were tree covered and still some distance away. But the road became fouler, rutted, pocked, and then eventually broken and difficult. Our pace slowed to a couple hundred yards every half turn of a glass as we navigated our way onward through swampier and fouler land.

Flimflam tried to have a talk with plant spell conversation with the Cypress and Cedar trees in the area but didn’t get much of a definitive answer. The day passed on and as the night settled down and the temperature dropped, we shivered and shuddered and pressed onward through the moonlit landscape of swamp, bog, and fen – convinced that Castle Sterling could not be much further. Our druid called on Demeter to keep him in the know if any cats were in the area, hoping that the 600’ radius would be enough of a warning for us to be prepared. Torches were lit, enhanced thanks to Steiner’s log of everburning, and the group slogged their way onward.

By 11 (our guess) that night, the party was tired, cold, damp, and miserable. But they were also frightened because according to Flimflam, a feline presence was shadowing us at a few hundred feet away to our east on the other side of the river. We couldn’t see it, but a few of us were convinced we could see its eyes reflecting in the dark. Our adrenaline firing and our strength renewed (briefly) we marched on, Tranis assuring the group that we were very close to the Castle.

And he was right.

Rising up out of the gloom ahead were the 35’ tall palisaded walls of Castle Sterling. Taller warding towers were seen along the corners and through the open gateway was the flagstone courtyard covered in debris. The man house of the Castle itself was beyond and it appeared there was a tower of some sort along the back of the complex. We fired off a fire arrow far to the east and over the river to attract the attention of the cats (2 of them now according to Flimflam) while we entered the courtyard and looked around.

It seemed to be empty (outside of trash and a dozen years of neglect) and the entire Castle was leaning slightly to the right/east at 5 degrees, testament to the instability of the ground, the encroaching swamp, and the not too distant river from where we were standing.

It had to be midnight and we were worn out and stretched thin. Some of the party lifted and shoved the gateway closed, finding the blocking bar nearby and bracing it in place; the rest of the group went to the closest tower – Southeast, and gave it a look over. Narrow arrowslits covered both the front of the castle and the courtyard, a door that was open but could be closed, three levels, tall ceilings, some racks and pallets, and most importantly, a potbellied stove on the 3rd floor that we could use for heat and comfort.

We coaxed the mules into the tower and left them on the bottom floor while the party made their way through the floors and proceeded to hack up one of the pallets for firewood and started amuch needed warming fire in the stove. We looked at the top of the tower and saw signs that a ballista had been mounted here once upon a time but was gone now. From here we knew we could see far and decided we would look more in the morning. For now we kicked off our boots and the mass of 20? Of us huddled on the 3rd floor to discuss what was to happen next and eventually get some much needed sleep.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Behind the Screen - Weather Effects

Weather Effects

I know there are tons of more complicated and in detail charts to use out there, I still own a pristine copy of the Wilderness Survival Guide and have just about every printed Dragon Magazine since issue #50 proudly displayed on the shelf in my basement, however I also like my game to flow and having a book of charts and tables to refer to so often and not get any real material worth out of them just seems crazy and bogs the game down.

So I use a simplified weather system in my world.

Type of Weather (d10)
1-3 Sunny day (with 3 being a few passing high altitude clouds)
4-6 Cloudy day (with 6 being a threat of rain/snow/storm)
7-9 Precipitation
0 Something special

And Temperature (d6)
1 15 deg F cooler
2 5-10 deg F cooler
3-4 Normalish
5 5-10 deg F warmer
6 15 deg F warmer

That’s it. The system is simple, sweet, and easy. No odd charts, it’s off my head and memory, and I move on.

Now some of the nitty/gritty/detail sections.

The area the party is in now is roughly the same latitudinal location as Georgia, North Texas, or lower California (sorry for the USA-centric positioning, I am a native of the country – Let’s call it 32 degrees North). This means that in the depths of the seasonal months (Feb, May, Aug, November – Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall respectively) I use 35, 60, 85, 60 as the normal temps. I’ll drift that number accordingly 5 degrees from normal for each month in the equinox season, and 10 degree swing for each month in the vernal/autumnal season.

WTF does that mean? Lol. Easy explain:
Jan 40 Apr 50 Jul 80 Oct 70
Feb 35 May 60 Aug 85 Nov 60
Mar 40 Jun 70 Sep 80 Dec 50

This means that I can have in Feb a day where the temp can swing wildly between 20 degrees and 50 depending on the dice roll and it makes sense since most of them will be 35 degrees. That helps when I check for snow/melting if there is any on the ground and I don’t need a chart. Remember – these weather systems are supposed to be easy and easily remembered on the fly without having charts or complex systems or tables in place.

The area that my group was in last time was much further north, latitudinally the same as North Jersey, Central Pennsylvania and the like (Call it 40+ degrees North). So my seasonal month temperatures were a bit different: 25, 50, 80, 50. Colder winters and seasonality, and the summers were only a bit off.

The difference between the two areas means/meant that for the first grouping, 5/6 days were cold enough to have snow and keep it on the ground with only infrequent melting. The second grouping has a different swing of things with only 1 or 2 tops out of 6 days being cold enough to generate frost/snow.

I mention it because the party has been doing a lot of travelling lately and the weather, state of roads and ease of travel is pretty important right now and they have been in situations (before) where there were freak snow squalls that gave 2 feet of precipitation.

And that leads us back to the 1st chart/random numbers – the type of weather and rain/snow.

To see the type of precipitation, again the handy d6 comes out with: 1-3 light, 4-5 medium, and 6 – heavy.

Again – WTF does that mean?

Light – Drizzle on and off, maybe a brief but sudden summer type storm – lots of rain but short. Overall the total accumulation hovers between annoying and getting wet. Rainfall for light is between 1/10 inch and ½ inch. If it is snow – it’s between 1 and 5 inches.

Medium – A regular rain storm. It comes in and rains all the day. Great for plants, not so good for travel unless you like mud. Rainfall runs from ½ to 1 inch. If it’s snow, between 5 and 10 inches.

Heavy – A serious soaking. You are going to wet and miserable. Baladrana’s will give up the ghost after a few hours and expect to make a sickness check. Hope you have extra clothes and underwear since you are going to be unhappy without it. Rainfall runs 1 to 2 inches. Again, if snow, 10 to 20 inches.

Snow is 10x the accumulation as rain – easy to remember. As for qty, you can hand wave it or a d5 (d10/2) gives you your total for the day.

And that brings us to the “0” on the chart – Special. All random tables need a special. And for that I pull it out of my hat. I have had freak storms that drop 26” of snow, heat waves that spike the temperature up 30 from base or cold snaps dropping the temp the same amount down from normal. Hurricane? Sure! Tornado touch down? Why not! The long and short of it, anything that seems like it would make sense OR I haven’t had/done in a while comes up on that magic roll of “0”. Could I make a chart and plot some stuff out? Maybe, but it defeats the purpose of the way I do it, and that is to keep the game flowing, have some sort of logic, a viable and easy to use weather system, and keeping it simple.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Meet 103, Adv 6, 1/9/16

This was our first meeting back of the new year and we spent some of the game time just catching up and chewing the fat before getting down to play. It was a travel meeting (with at least 1 more planned after this) and I decided I was NOT going to hand wave travel this go round. It drags out the adventure but I think gives the distance and places traveled more scope and weight. Long and short of it, we are FAR from home and way out of our normal comfort zone.

Write up follows:

Before the afternoon pressed on too much, we traded some of our Argosian coins for the local Helmian ones – noting the age of the coins, as well as their distress and chipping (heavily worn, edges chipped, diameters slightly off). Our normal coins would raise too many flags we thought and we wanted to avoid any odd entanglements in the future. Not wanting to run afoul of any issues in the morning, we went to bed early and slept well.

The morning of Deathmonth the 27th was cold and foggy, but the party broke their fast and was down at the docks before 6 in the morning. The barge master met us, reviewed our writ allowing us to not only board his barge but the fact that it took us upriver to Varohelm, and begrudgingly let us on. He reminded us that the writ did NOT allow us to get off at any time; neither did it allow us to do anything other than be passenger during the entirety of the trip. We were given the back third of the barge as a staging area for ourselves. We gave Captain Dornus 20 nobles to various dock crossing fees that we would have to pay when we arrived at Varohelm and assured him we would be no trouble.

By 6:30 an 8-donkey team had been assembled and with a number of handlers, leads, and poling, the barge was towed slowly upriver and we left Last Town behind. The trip was slow but steady and we got a chance to see the majority of the Black Water River in this area as well as Darkenwoods itself. Surprisingly, the amount of swamps were fairly small although the banks of the river were heavy with Cypress and Cedar trees. There was a short area where about a mile of the north bank was pretty swampy and the roadbed the donkeys were travelling on became a raised platform of wooden timbers.

As the evening was getting on we arrived at Midway’s Crossing, a mouthy name of a converted waystation that had grown to some sort of town. There was an arcing bridge that crossed the river here and from the look of things and the map that Steiner had the presence of copying from memory after we had left Sir Balderi’s earlier; there was a road north out of here that went north to someplace called Danver’s Clearing. However, as had been explained to us, we would NOT be leaving the barge since we didn’t want to a) piss off the locals, b) pay for 2 dock crossing fees (off and on the boat), c) give anyone a reason to separate the party for any reason AND possibly suss out both Marcus and Erd as elves on board. Captain Dornus told us that we would stay here at Midway’s Crossing for 2 hours or so in order for the men to stretch their legs and to get a new team of donkeys hitched up to tow us the rest of the way upriver.

Whether it was the citizens of Midway’s Crossing or some plants by Captain Dornus and his crew, a number of people did come to the dock to entice the party. First a group of hookers and their pimp tried to either get the party to come off or to come on board to take care of the group; we rebuffed them often and hard. Then in the dark, a shadowy figure offered to give us a sealed metal box and some coins if we could deliver it to a contact in Varohelm; we also said no and wished his well and to get the fuck away from us.

By 8:30 that night we were off and from what the Captain was telling us, it was 15 or so hours from Midway’s Crossing to Helm Lake (body of water that Varohelm was on, north side of the lake). It was dark and we were getting tired, plus being on the barge another more than half a day was going to make the party useless when we arrived. So we decided that we would stagger our sleep for now, with everyone getting a full night by spacing it out so that as many party members that could be up at one time would do so. It’s not that we didn’t trust the Captain or his crew…it’s just that we didn’t trust them.

It might have been for the best because at least twice, crewmen had some reason to come back to our area of the barge to “check lines” before leaving us alone. Eventually the dawn rose and the plodding donkeys and their handlers brought us further along. By 10:30 the trees were thinning and showed eventual signs of being harvested. Small fields of wild wheat and rye were dotting the land and in the distance we could see the waterway widening and a walled city taking up an area on the north shore.

We passed into Helm Lake by 11 and the current disappeared. Many smaller fishing boats and barges dotted the lake – over 3 miles wide and ¾ of a mile or so long. The city itself, Varohelm, was 2 or 3 times the size of Shakun and from our expectation, should house between 6 and 9 thousand people. The walls were over 30’ tall with numerous out pointed punji stakes fastened to the tops. Assorted towers stuck out further, some of them with ballista on top. Everywhere we looked though showed signs of decay, wear, assault, and undermanning.

When the donkeys were finally allowed to pass through the gate and tow the barge into the city itself, we had a chance to see how rough things really were. Varohelm was in a state of decay. At least a fifth of all the buildings we saw were either abandoned or demolished. It looked like swaths of the town were destroyed some time ago and although it was cleaned up, the rubble and foundations remained behind.

A number of docks stuck out from the city and we were pulled up to one where we paid Captain Dornus and disembarked. We walked the wharf area for a bit, eventually passing northward through the warehouse district. People were about, almost none of them in serious armor, but just about everyone was armed so we did not stand too far out. There was a hollowness to the people, as if they were tired or didn’t get enough nutrition in their diet.

We were given advice on two main inns in town, Shining Sword and the Flame Bolt Inn (the later one supposedly where Wizard-Lord Erazmus himself had stayed in the past). We went to the Shining Sword, reserved a room or two (at what felt was a SERIOUSLY reduced price – like 15% or so of what we would normally pay). We learned that the town is pretty hungry, empty, and poor. Although the citizenry are happy about their lot in life, they all seem to have this interest and desire to move away and making it “past Last Town and to the riches of Brewersbridge beyond.” However, the cost to move is very heavy with lots of graft and payoffs needed along the way. A few have hoofed it overland but with the giant Cats and the Risenwald, it’s pretty much assumed to be a suicide mission.

We got a layout of the two main streets and what shops were about and where we needed to go. As for Castle Sterling, the word is that the land has gone to swamp around it and a trip that might have taken 8 hours once upon a time with the roads, is now something to take much longer. We were going to need boots for the party. A cobbler was on the far end of town so we left the Shining Sword and proceeded our way there. Two main temples in Town: Ares and Gaia. There were a militant arm of the temple of Ares called Elfhunters and there was a reward if anyone was able to provide information towards the capture and sighting of an elf.

We avoided them.

Stopping at the Flame Bolt, we took a look at the two stuffed cat heads they had on display (learning that the first one was taken down by a group of 42, after which 10 of the party had died, While the 2nd one was a surprise attack on 17, where 4 of the party managed to survive the assault), and then moved on to the cobbler.

His prices were also crazy low. We bought 20 boots from his stock (high hard), spent a fraction of what were we would normally and left with our purchases happy and informed the man that his skills would go far in Shakun if he could make it there.

It was now 3 PM on Deathmonth the 28th and we were talking about what our next place to visit would be if we were to head off to Castle Sterling tomorrow.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Meet 8, Adv B2, 1/9/16 - Youth Group

The next youth meeting took place on a Saturday a few hours before my normal group got together. The new girl, Ashley, could not make the meeting since it was her sister’s birthday (as she indicated – she’d rather be over playing D&D) so I pulled her character out for the time being while the rest of the party revisited the goblin cave and pressed onward.

Write up follows:

The hobgoblins kept pace with the fleeing party for some time before giving up and turning back, their laughter taunting us as their voices echoed behind. As one, the party had retreated all the way back to the main entrance by the garbage pit and took the time to catch their breath and decide on what was to happen next. Proserpine was the most winded and freaked out, so we allowed her to leave, the elven spellsword making her way out of the caves and ravine, where she would meet with us at the wood line in a few hours after the party was ready to leave for the day.

One down now, the four remaining members went over our choices and decided going back to the hobgoblins now that they were aware of us and most likely prepared would be foolish. Instead we opted to head to the right corridor, which we knew led back to the goblin guard post and at some point the ogre that had been working with them.

So torches lit and swords and hammers at the ready, the party moved their way down the hall until they arrived at the “T” intersection – the right opened up to the goblin guard room (now dark, quiet, and empty) and the left led down a corridor we had never been at before. Discussions were hissed back and forth in the gloom but it was resolved we would look left and see what was down there.

Charlotte went first, checking for traps as we went. The corridor went 15 paces or so and turned to the left again, but at the end of the hall were over a half dozen large barrels and at least two oversized shipping crates. We approached with care, noted the shipments were all still sealed and had markings from Lyon on it – trade goods and quite some distance from here.

Looking past the stored goods the corridor went another dozen paces or so and ended at what seemed to be a dead end. A chipped and weathered water fountain took up the back wall and at the base of the fountain was a wooden chest banded in iron straps, latched and locked. No one wanted to touch the fountain (water was only trickling down the face) and the chest was inviting, but we were concerned.

It was decided that William and Loq would guard the “T” section of the hall while Charlotte and William went to work on what we’ve found. The barrels seemed to have wheat and rye – not flour, the seeds and chaff. As for the end of the hall, after 10’ poling the area and splashing the water a bit – it was assumed that there were no traps. Charlotte also couldn’t get the chest lock opened no matter how hard she tried. We discussed options and settled on William beating the wooden chest near the hasp with his sword for a bit until it gave way. This was going to make some noise – but we figured a minute or two tops and then the hell with it.

The problem became apparent after 30 seconds when we realized that we were making a REAL hell of a racket. So much racket that Loq and William were very worried. So worried that they kept looking back down the hall towards the main entrance – and that’s when they saw over a dozen small dog-faced lizard looking creatures coming down the hall towards us armed with bone knives and fire sharpened sticks. When they saw us at the end of the hall, the leader of them pointed at us, arced his head back, and roared something in his language long and loud – which inspired the rest of the kobolds to charge us.

William and Loq together took two of the flasks of oil off William’s backpack and hurled them at the ground by the entrance of the “T” – and then set it alight. The flames roared up but the spreading oil let us know that this wasn’t going to last very long. So we backed up down the hall, and the four of us shoved the barrels and boxes into a sort of barricade to slow the kobolds down.

But before we could finish it, a crazy kobold was hurled over the fire, rolled to a stop, and screamed his head off charging the party. And then another one followed. And another. They were tossing/leaping their warriors OVER the fire – and they kept on coming in 2’s and 3’s!

Arrows were shot, swords were swung, and the barrels actually helped to slow down the first few who died at the end of the corridor. But there were others, and they kept coming. And the dead and wounded were mounding up, which made the next jumping leaping lizard-like dog men easier to get to us. And there were lots of them.

One of them actually cleared William’s head, landing in the back ranks with Loq and Charlotte, bone knife slashing. Corg was holding his own but at one point we had 5 of them pressing our front rank and one of them behind us. Charlotte switched over from her bow to her enchanted dagger we got from Martigan the man holy man and his mountain lion. As she drew it and began to swing, a wave of peace slowed over her and she noted she was not as worried, at ease and calm, and moving a tick faster than the world around her – making her blows that much more likely to hit and hit a vital area.

As the combat went back and forth, it seemed that at one point the kobolds were going to break and run, but the fire died out and the last of them behind the flames joined the fight and the dog-faced monsters morale was renewed.

One of them ran to the goblin guard post and returned with a chair that he held on to his shoulders for some reason. We didn’t know what and why until one of the kobolds jumped onto the chair and brought his crossbow to bear against the party. And another kobold still at ground level did the same. This would allow them to shoot into the party AND still have one of them hit the back ranks.

Like Charlotte and her Leather Armor.

The bolts fired and William’s shield took one quarrel while Charlotte managed to dodge one that whizzed by her head. Loq’s Warhammer smashed one of the kobolds that was dancing on a barrel and stabbing at Corg while the party was finally getting the upper hand against the monsters, whittling the numbers down.

And then William was shot in the chest and his new platemail breastplate failed. The bolt punched in, dropping the warrior almost to 0, forcing William to man the front line alone. Charlotte swapped to her bow while another crossbow bolt just missed her by 4 inches. Loq had a healing elixir ready and was trying to yank the bolt out without killing the party’s fighter and leader. And the kobolds kept on attacking and shooting us.

Charlotte’s arrow only wounded the aloft crossbower who returned the favor again – and missed our thief again!! Corg finished off another front line kobold and William was finally stood upright, the minty taste of the healing elixir fresh on his tongue. The party rallied back and a lucky shot from Charlotte caught the held aloft crossbower in the neck, knocking him from the post and falling to the ground. Down to only a few, the kobolds looked at one another, spoke in their own language unhurriedly, and turned to leave – and from our biggest fears – to get a shit load more of their clan and kill off the group.

We could not get over the barricade of barrels, boxes, and dead bodies nearly fast enough and were bemoaning that we would have to leave and leave now, giving up all the found barrels and chests and what not when we heard the sounds of combat down the hall and then a few pitched screams. Light came around the corner and we beheld a wandering party of armed and armored gnomes coming towards us, lantern held high and long spears pointed ahead.

There were 6 of them and they were here to try and make their fortunes here at the caves. They killed the leaving kobolds and we talked a bit. Honest and friendly, forthright and lawful, they discussed what they had seen, took the crossbows and bolts as a thank you for their efforts, and were given a heads up of the hobgoblins down the left hall since they indicated they wanted to go that way.

On their leave we decided to take the barrels and boxes that we could carry, and the inside of the chest had three cotton shirts dyed in a striped red and brown pattern that made no sense to us. Shirts? In a locked chest? We took it with us and then left.

Rejoining Proserpine we had a slow hoof back to the Keep, the trip taking longer due to our belongings. Upon arrival back at the keep we “gave” the trade goods we had rescued back to the Castellan who rewarded us 30 crowns (we split it up). We also learned the shirts were the daywear of a troupe of priest of Ares who had been missing from the area now for 2 weeks.

Resting for the night, we wanted to seek out other adventurers who had been further through the caves to try and get their heads up on what might be ahead of us and what we might see. Lastly, it was noted that Loq and Charlotte had performed pretty well in the caves and their skills seemed to be better that we gave them credit for. Loq was going to pray to Zeus as he felt a higher connection with his god and we hoped that this would help us out and pay off for us on the next trip out to the caves.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Meet 7, Adv B2, 12/29/15 - Youth Group

This was the last Tuesday of the Christmas break and my daughter had invited one of her friends over to play, a girl who had never played any game like this before (short of Heroquest the prior month during a sleepover). She rolled up an elf, dug around for a name in some Roman books, and was ready to go after a short purchase of equipment.

Write up follows:

Charlotte spent most of her time at the archery range with the fletcher in order to continue the making and balancing of fire arrows. This activity took up much of her time until the sun was beginning to set. William however wandered the Keep in order to help out those unable to function or who were down on their luck. He didn’t hand out coins; instead he lifted water from the well for the older women with the bent backs. He carried wood for the carpenters and pallets of stones for the masons. He made himself available to anyone who needed some help and was unafraid to get his hands dirty. It was noted by many of the denizens of the Keep William’s actions and besides a large amount of thanks, he was also given small tokens of appreciation. Not limited to a small platter of just made chocolate chip cookies.

And in true William fashion, he shared those as well.

At the tap room that night; William, Charlotte, Loq, and Corg discussed going back to the Caves of Chaos tomorrow and if they should look for a 5th to help out in the endeavor. This came up mainly because there were some new want-to-be adventurers who showed up at the keep over the last few days, and one of them was a dusky skinned elven spellsword from the Greensward Forests of Northern Genevosa. The four-some approached the exotic looking demi-human and introduced themselves. Within a few minutes the group had made the newcomer, Proserpine, feel welcome although she did appear to be quiet and a little guarded while surrounded by the humans. However, she was very interested in joining us tomorrow and made an effort to let us know that we would see her in the morning.

The next morning the party joined William at the Moneychanger where he cashed in his large supply of silver for gold coins and then after topping off the water skins, the group set off down the Eastern Road. It wound through the swamps and trees, curving ever more northward as it was swallowed on both sides by the thick forest before the came to where the western side of the roadway was flattened and upset, the mound of earth and wood leading up and then down into the Chaos Ravine and the caves there.

It was quiet here, sun was shining but no birds were in the sky. The grasses in the ravine were getting taller, up to calf height now, but as for movement there was none. Charlotte suggested the party wait here at the tree line while she went down to the entrance of the goblin cave again and checked it out. We felt it was dangerous and most likely stupid for her to go alone but she was adamant that she wanted to make sure the place was ok. So we watched her as she kept to the side of the ravine, darting from grass to bush to tree until she stopped at the cave. She looked in for a bit, disappeared inside a few moments and came back out motioning Proserpine only to come forward.

Not nearly as quiet as Charlotte since she was clad in platemail and sporting a clean elvish made sword, Proserpine still moved with other-worldly elven grace and in short time was standing by our thief. Charlotte let Proserpine know that she could not see beyond the entryway due to the gloom and darkness and hoped the spellsword’s infravision would let us know if the place was clear. So she walked in half a dozen paces, her vision snapped over, and she assured Charlotte that there were no living figures to be seen nearby.

We motioned the last three members over and then we entered and lit a torch. As before, we had three choices and this time we looked down the center one. The hall was sloping slightly and covered in garbage, leading to a hole in the back of the slope. There was talk about going forward and checking it out but it was obviously a garbage chute the goblins must use – and when a fat pink tentacle stuck itself over the rim of the pit and went questing for more “garbage” to pull in and eat, we backed away and rethought our choices.

This time we decided on the left passage since it had been sort of cleared by us in the past, eventually leading up to a set of stairs and a doorway with hobgoblin voices and a mentioning of dinner. So we went ahead until the passage split, the left side covered in webbing and smelling musty and rank. While we were looking around for secret doors and Charlotte was verifying that the next chamber was indeed empty, Proserpine and her keen infravision noticed a heat source on the ceiling was crawling around and getting…closer. And closer.

And then the group came back with the torch, spoiled her vision, and all we saw were webs on the ceiling hanging down like dusty drapes. She told us what she had seen so Charlotte…set the webs on fire with her torch.

This startled a LARGE number of spiders to drop from the ceiling into two decent swarms and then run toward the party. At the same time a very large spider the size of a small dog dropped down and launched itself at the group. It bounded onto William and scrabbled across his armor, spewing venom everywhere while Corg and Proserpine tried to fight it off. The swarms though charged the group and Charlotte threw herself up and out of the way, clambering up the nearest wall as the spiders passed below her feet and washed up Loq’s legs.

The big spider on William was eventually cloven in twain and the swarms were chased away. Some light wounding to the entire party but nothing that we couldn’t fight through. After making sure all wounds were bound and we were ready, we moved onward through the cavern.

The former guard room was empty, nothing of value left except for a copper brazier. There were thoughts about taking it but when we tried to move it it dumped over, spilling warm coals everywhere and making a butt load of noise. The group ran back and away, a door opened somewhere else in the complex ahead of us, a voice called out in hobgoblin asking who was there (Proserpine translated for us) and then closed the door and went back to whatever they were doing.

After making sure the coast was very clear, we all went back to the former guard room, climbed the stairs, (both sets), and made out way to the end of the hall where an imposing door was and had a note above it that they would love to have us for dinner. We weren’t amused.

We drew up into battle formation and then, opened the door. It had an 8 count of tall, orange haired green skinned hobgoblins! And they were NOT amused to see us. We bottlenecked the doorway and stood shoulder to shoulder, weapons out and met their charge head on. William was under the impression we were going to run, so was surprised to see everyone engage the hobgoblins as he tried to back away, eventually reversing his direction when he realized combat was occurring.

Two of the female hobgoblins ran back down the corridor in the back of the chamber, yelling as they ran about needing help. The rest of them hit us and hit us hard. Swords and axes cut, spears stabbed, and in no time we were fighting too damned many of them. Loq held the 2nd rank and was swinging his war hammer with surprisingly deadly aim and accuracy, the cleric calling out to the gods as he laid into the enemy one swing at a time. As our hit points whittled away, elixirs came out and kept the party standing upright and terrible; our own blows dropping the poorly armored greenskins with steady cadence, freeing us up to bring the fight out of the hall and into the room, widening our front and getting three of our fighters to the front line now.

But we did hear voices in the back of the cave and more hobgoblins were called to arms. And from the clattering noises and scraped and squeals, we assumed those coming down the distant corridor towards us were better armored and more militant – something our group did not want to face in such a short period of time. So we redoubled our efforts and the number of hobgoblins before us fell to three, then two, then finally one. He refused to surrender, struggling arm in arm with Proserpine, the two of them wailing away at one another until finally he fell.

And with the growing roar of the charging hobgoblins almost upon us, we turned and ran from the room and back down the stairs, trying to make our way to the entrance in hopes that the sure to be more than dozen greenskin monsters were going to give up the chase before too long.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Meet 6, Adv B2, 12/27/15 - Youth Group

After 9 months of not playing, it was once again Christmas break for my daughter and her friends so we reconvened where we left off. This was sort of a short meeting, mostly just in town (keep) role playing stuff they were to do and a short foray out into the wild.

Write up follows:

The party wandered around the bazaar and shops hoping to find what had been whispered as the apothecist where Loq had gotten his healing elixirs from. We got lucky and located the man along the south wall of the keep, near the rat on a stick salesman and the guy who sells gently used cloaks and shoes. Named Brakus he was loathe to sell to us since he only had 4 elixirs left and wanted to sell them all at once (at 20 crowns a piece). It seems the main ingredient, swamp lotus, was in short supply and the last few collectors who had dared to go to the Capeshin Swamp to bring them back had never returned.

It was here that the two of them dickered back and forth with Brakus eventually coming to a deal where if they were to bring him Swamp Lotus, specifically 3 of them, he would give them 4 healing elixirs and would even throw in a virulent weapon coating he referred to as “Foulmusk” which would add some kick to either one sword or two knifes/daggers.

So at 5:30 Charlotte and William found themselves at the inn where they ate a filling meal, listened to some minstrel, laughed at a few jokes, and gathered themselves up to go at 10:30 that night. The swamp lotus had to be picked at 12:00 midnight exactly in order to get the full potency, as evidenced by the faint purplish glow the flower gives off at that time.

The road was dark and the night was scary, but the two friends made it to the Capeshin swamp (roughly an hour) in more than enough time to beat the midnight hour. They combed the banks of the slow moving Capeshin River, torch lit, in order to find the best place to enter the stagnant water and head for the lily pads. Once they felt it was the right place, Charlotte started tossing gravel into the swamp, trying to make noise to attract…whatever. Nothing came into our light. So she then tossed bigger rocks.

Still nothing.

It was after she lit a fire arrow and shot it into the gloom that William told her to relax and he would wade in and get ready to pick the lotus. He stepped in, the cold water running under his boots, through his armor, and coating his skin beneath with its chilling slimy embrace. He found a decent cluster of them and tried to get Charlotte to join him, the thief eventually doing so but limiting herself to the closed lily pads by the shore, the water eventually coming up to her midriff.

And then the flowers started to glow purple and the two friends were pulling and yanking at the thick stalks in an effort to pull them free; first one, and then a second. Charlotte had managed to pluck a third and William was struggling with a fourth when she noticed a greenish/grey figure with a wide red crest coming up behind her fighter friend. She yelled to alert him and drew her bow, shooting an arrow at them which arced into the night and disappeared.

William was stunned into stillness, which might have changed the figure’s actions. It instead plucked the flower free just before midnight ended and held it up, rising out of the water and standing at it’s over 7’ in height.

It identified itself in sibilant Common as Bankthas, and was the Chief of his tribe. Tribe? Of lizardmen. And this was his land. Why were they here? Who shot a lit arrow into his swamp and scared his sons? Are you here to despoil his swamp like the others?

Charlotte was told to step out of his waters and if she ever entered them again he would kill her. She meekly left and stood on the road, bow at her side and watching Bankthas and William. William was able to treat with Bankthas and was allowed to leave with his swamp lotus. In exchange for the breastplate part of his armor. He gave it up (armor is cheap, life is not), promised that we had to come back again in the future for more swamp lotus he would bring a sword for Bankthas, and the two friends left – soaked, covered in slime and muck, missing half of William’s armor, but alive and with 4 of the lotus flowers.

We arrived at the Keep at a bit after one in the morning, went to the Inn where they got a bit drunk on their luck, stripped off their foul clothes and left them in the laundry basket outside the door for the morning washer women (who were going to be pissed!) and went to sleep.

They awoke late, eventually getting to Brakus’ stall at 10 AM where they exchanged the swamp lotus with the apothecist who gave them in turn the 4 elixirs and the Foulmusk poison. For the extra flower he tossed in a 5th elixir and thanked them for their efforts. He would work immediately on making more of the elixirs in the future and we hoped we would be able to do business with him again at some point.

We split up the elixirs (3 to William, 2 to Charlotte and the poison) and were going to spend the last day taking care of things around the keep before meeting Loq and Corg again on the morrow.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Meet 102, Adv 6, 12/12/15

The party has learned organically the situation in Darkenwoods/Helmian Lands and what some of the possible impediments would be along the way. Obviously they haven't even come close to arriving at the destination yet (3 days more travel?) but it gives a sort of frame on what might be waiting for them at the end of the day.

At this point we are "done" for '15 and will have our end of year dinner and one-shot game and should return either 1st or 2nd week Jan.

Write up follows

We rested at the Crossroads and met up with our new hires in the morning. Money was exchanged, packages put in order, and we set off towards the Western Wharf to talk to Bargemaster Athers. There are two rivermen who control most of the trade and barge traffic from the Helmian Lands and we had been informed that Athers was the better and more honest of the two.

We discussed the trip, our quarters on the barge, the length of time, and what cargo we were bringing (foodstuffs and ourselves). A fee was paid and we were informed that it would be 4 days to Last Town (as it’s referred to inside Darkenwoods) and the Keep there that is called Riverwatch. Meanwhile we then went to the Fartooth family (Dugan, our half-orcish linkboy) who life in the slum section of Brewersbridge nicknamed “Orc-town”.

There were 20+ of us armed and armored so although we saw a number of gang and guild signs, no one was daring to accost us at this time. We came to Fartooth’s home and met with his mom who was flabbergasted when she found out we were heading to Darkenwoods. She informed us that she was lucky enough to get out of there 12 years after the fiasco and internal fighting had gone on, the press gangs, taxes, and the heavy hand of the Wizard-Lord on the populace. We got a sinking feeling.

Coupled with some other strange rumors we had heard last night and earlier at the barges (the lord of Riverwatch is actually a thug, the people of the Helmian lands hate cats, wizardry and elves and looked on with terrible distrust) and we had a more disquieting idea of what was ahead of us. Dugan’s mom forbade him to go and Dugan said that he had made his mark and had to go. He left with us, but heartbroken and hurt – unsure of what was going to happen to him after this was all over. We assured him it would be fine and we’d look out for him. But when this was done, he should take what coins we were going to pay him and him and his mom (and brothers/sisters) should leave Orc-town / Brewersbridge and maybe move north to Shakun.

We returned to the river, boarded the barge, made out acquaintances with Captain Onvalay and set off. The weather held as the barge slowly poled its way upriver. There were no roads here, no trails, paths, or drags. The land on either side of the wide wide river was swampy and grassy, with little sign of humanoid habitation. Steiner warned us about lizardmen, but we didn’t see any. The only other people on the barge were a 3 count of merchants who wanted to arrange a shipment of stones directly from Last Town and try to save the 30% markup fee that would be gotten by dealing with a buyer in Brewersbridge.

As the days passed the western horizon became greener and deeper eventually side to side with forested trees. It wasn’t a defined line, just a slow growing and densening of the woods until we found ourselves in the “Darkenwoods” itself.

And it wasn’t dark, it wasn’t evil or foreboding or terrible. It was like any other gathering of trees, except there were miles and miles of them. Closer to the river were willows and cypress and cedar, further away we could see oak, elm, birch.

On Deathmonth the 26th, amidst the cold wind and sluggish current, our barge poled its way into the shallows and docked at the small wharf set up here at what seemed to be a working town set in the mud of the Black Water River of a dozen large buildings or so and an even larger three story stone keep. This was not a keep designed to show people your riches, it was a keep designed to defend and withstand.

We asked where to go and were told that we could get a drink and maybe a room at the tavern. Name? Vongard’s Tavern – west of the keep. We allowed the merchants to go and talk to Sir Balderi, the lord of Last Town and Warden of RIverwatch, hoping that they would put him in a good mood so he might be willing to talk to us.

We went to Vongards and got a table, rented the 4 rooms he had to spare, spoke about the amenities here (not much, warehouses, sawmill, carpenters, corger, wheelwrights, longshoremen, smithy) and pumped him subtly for information about Wizard-Lord Erazmus and the land abouts. Long and short, no one was going to let us go further west of here – Last Town was the last stop leaving the Helmian Lands and the furthest everyone gets when entering the Helmian Lands – but we were welcome to try and get Sir Balderi to give us a shot.

The merchants came back and were happy to have made a deal (10-15% in “fees” to Sir Balderi but still a profit over what they expected), telling us that the Lord of Riverwatch was in a good mood and even invited the 3 merchants to stay at his keep as guests and maybe play cards tonight. Knowing that there was a distrust of elves (we hadn’t seen any at all and had been warned, but did spot a shirtless dwarf) and the big dislike of mages, we left the people going to Riverwatch to be: Flimflam, Tranis, Steiner, and Avidius – with everyone else staying at Vongards for now.

Riverwatch was not only stout and sturdy from the outside and up close, but there were ballistae, a catapult, and crossbow wielding soldiers walking the parapets. The guards at the portcullis stopped us; checked to see if we were allowed in, and asked to make sure we left weapons here (we left them at the inn). There was a long corridor with slits and murder holes that would stop any assaulting force, another door that had to be unlocked from within, and then we found ourselves in a dining room.

From here it was a third set of doors before we could enter the central or meeting hall of the keep and meet Sir Balderi. There was a table set up here, a few guards, documents and coins, and what we assumed to be Sir Balderi. Late 40’s/early 50’s, black hair greying, thickening middle, and a presence about him that just oozed command and a shrewd mind.

As it was displayed when in a short time he poked holes in our cover of wanting to go “moose hunting” and looking for a permit. He knew of our trip up, our armament, and a rough estimation of who we are and might be. This was then a change on our part where we instead were looking at bigger game and it was revealed that there were still some Giant Cats wandering the land – but much rarer than they used to be. Giant – like 17’ at the shoulder and 30’ long, ¾ ton Giant Cats. He showed us a claw, 23” long. He would offer us a permit to hunt one down and that would give us passage beyond Last Town (for a price).

We also heard of something else, Risenwald, Giants in the Woods, that were north of here closer to Stormbringer Peak if we were feeling ambitious, but that was most likely a fool’s errand. So we paid the 20 crowns for the hunting permit, and even plunked down an additional 10 crowns to have one of his barges going upriver past Midway’s Crossing and onward to Varohelm ferry us up that way (keeping us out of the land, locals, questions, and other lords/people of Darkenwoods who might give us a problem).

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Meet 101, Adv 6, 11/21/15

There was a lot of chatting and speaking around the table, world building, not necessarily progress to a goal. The group just finished putting together their last hirelings - which brings our total party to like 16 people and 5 animal companions. Very much an old school sort of gathering! 6 PC's (druid, ranger, fighter/wizard, thief, cleric, fighter), 5 henchmen (valet, thug, lock picker, 2 warriors), 5 hirelings (2 shieldbearers, 2 porters, linkboy), plus 4 war dogs and a big assed raven.

We are now at the "end" of the known section of the party's map - 7 days hard travel from Shakun. From here, all paths lead back north and east so they are going to book a barge to take them upriver and head west towards someplace called Castle Sterling in the Helmian Lands.

However, to everyone around here - that area is merely known as Darkenwoods. And no one really goes there.

Write up follows:

The morning of the 21st had us ready to go. Vestanus signed on again as our porter and Liscinia was once more happy to join us as Shieldbearer. We went to the gem and jewelsmith first here before leaving (and Liscinia’s father) and offered to purchase all the cracked and fucked up crystals and stones he had in order to fuel a continual light spell. He sold it to us, saw up perform the miracle, and was intrigued to do this again in the future. We assured him we would be back through Heatherfield on the way home eventually and would gladly make a deal then.

As we left Heatherfield behind the land rose and fell around us, eventually a ridge of stone was on our right, echoing the map that we had recovered some time ago that might show the location of Roderick’s Skull. At the area on the map that we hoped was correct, Tranis and a few others peeled away and hoofed it up and overland to see if they could scout out the location (or possible location) of the cave that supposedly once held the goblin ambushers as well as Roderick’s skull.

They felt they had sussed it out, dared not to enter it now, and instead left a small pyramid of stones near the entrance that would do two things – identify it to us again in the future that this was the cavern of choice, and two, if it was disturbed in the future, then the cavern was an active cave and we should be careful because of it.

They ran back and the party continued on their way to the next stop – Marbledale. Situated at the foothills of the Silent Hills, this mining town was set up more like a walled keep with a firm hand on curfews, weapons allowed within, and fees to do so. We debated it with the guards and decided to camp outside the city/town walls in a makeshift camp area. A gypsy caravan family named Dagareth was heading northward and shared their fire and food with us. There was some conversation and somehow the subject came up to injuries and diseases – and one of the younger men and sons of Patriarch Dagareth was suffering from some VD. We made some deals to buy some blankets from the gypsies and went on to even offer healing. Call in Steiner and his magic hands, healing and massages, and eventually a “happy ending” that did have the cleric mutter “If he jizzes on my face, I get another blanket.” Truer words were never spoken.

We left the next morning and continued on our way south, arriving at long last at Brewersbridge on Deathmonth the 22nd at 4:30 in the afternoon. Brewersbridge was built on the shores of the Black Water River, a mighty waterway that was over a quarter mile wide, 80+ feet deep at its center, and capable of supporting the almost 7,000 people that live here. Sections of the town had been added on over time, and the relative age and remains of walls had the city sort of divided up in quadrants and sections. We progressed a bit further south nearer the river and the wharf area where we settled on staying at the Crossroads Inn and Alehouse.

The proprietor, Darrens Ekspoh, was willing to chat with us, fill us in on the difficulty in going upriver towards Darkenwoods (what everyone else calls the Helmian Lands), and even send some possible applicants looking for work our way.

So we ate, drank the local brews (all tasty!), and interviewed a number of people for another Shieldbearer, Porter, and also a linkboy. There were some good, and a few odd, in the group, but we picked: Nyssa Westfield, an early 20’s human warrior who follows Gaia and would serve as our second shieldbearer (plus we were forewarned about how she dealt with misogyny and attempted rape in her last group during night watch),  Corane Halfblood, a 30something plus homely half elf who has some carpentry skill and whittles often on his downtime (gifted us with supine statue of Aphrodite), and finally Dugan Fartooth, a 15 year old half-orc who towered over most of the party at 6 and a half feet tall and already pushing past 250. Many things lead us towards him (like he doesn’t want to set babies on fire and hold them aloft if need be) but his mother is from the Helmian Lands and we hoped to talk to her in the morning to get a feel for what we were coming into.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Meet 100, Adv 6, 11/14/15

The party decided to follow the breadcrumbs and go to Castle Sterling in the Helmian Lands and get the magical items that the former Tower Master (Cornelius for those keeping score at home) had commissioned. It's been made and stored up to 13 years ago by someone called Wizard-Lord Erazmus and was at Castle Sterling in the Vault.

Sounds like a cakewalk! It's about 11 days travel (without issue) from where we are and instead of hand waving the travel, I like to play it our day by day. You never know what's going to happen or who'll you run into.

Write up follows:

Flimflam spoke with Baron Taugis about reinstituting the harvest festival to the gods that used to be done prior to the Goblinwars and the Baron agreed, opening the coffers to help facilitate it. Meanwhile, our druid had been preparing a number of items of esoterica for his planting of the dryad acorns around Shakun. He had the surveyors travel with him to an unseen oval around the town and lands 4 miles by 8 miles. Once it was mapped out, the land was cleared on the perimeter of these circles in seven distinct spots of 100’ in diameter each. The earth was turned and churned and stripped clear of plants and grasses.

Then he gathered Castus Woodwalker and some of his former group to go with him to these locations where he performed a deeply moving and religious ceremony in which the acorns were planted along with a seven count of other items that would be considered holy to the 7 chief gods of the area. In addition, a charged Olympian Crystal was also put in place under the ground to empower the soon to be dryad and the landscape. A number of plant growths were cast which not only spurred on the growth of the acorn, but also the dozen plus other trees planted in the area, as well as all the grains that were put in place.

One by one, each day Flimflam encircled the area around Shakun with the seedlings of Davers the dryad, fertilized with his own seed, blessed by each of the seven gods, and hit with a number of consecrations and growths to cement their presence as well as spur their growth. At the end of each ceremony, he was able to lead the young dryads out of their trees where he made their acquaintance as well as those who came with him. And then he left them to get their sister planted.

And on the 8th day, Flimflam rested. We will see what his efforts would yield in time. For now, it was the start of winter, the growing season was over, and there were 7 dryads planted along an 8 mile oval encircling Shakun, bolstered with a number of other immature trees and fueled by the blessed Olympian Crystals of Demeter.

As the rains fell like sleet and the first few flakes dropped from the sky, the weather plunged to the mid 30’s and stayed there. Eventually Marcus returned from Woodhelven, exhausted and happy to be home once again. At his tower he was met by Geld who took the time to inform him of everything that had transpired to date as well as the increasing righting and cleaning of the tower. Marcus informed his henchwoman that the Council informed him he would eventually need to choose an apprentice and he had some 6-12 months to find and take one.

He released the orc warrior back to where he came from (he admitted he was a beet farmer from somewhere else) and then changed his summoning a few times until a skeleton appeared. He gave it orders to guard his tower and then went to the Hall of Heroes to meet with the rest of the group.

The work at the Hall was still progressing along, most of the 1st basement was in place and the miners were sinking shafts for the 2nd sub floor. Support beams were in place and the entire Hall had a look of barely controlled chaos about it. Everyone shared their news with one another and then we got down to discussion. We wanted to go to the Helmian Lands and this Castle Sterling as it had been identified by the Wizard-Lord Erazmus almost 2 months ago when we finished clearing Cornelius’ Tower. There were supposedly magical items just sitting there, waiting to be claimed by the tower master here – and that was Marcus.

In addition, closer to Heatherfield on the way to Brewersbridge was an area where Roderick’s Skull (a totem sought after by the mage’s guild) was lost and we had some sort of map of the area. Given how things were going to be, we might look for the cave on the way back and try to get the skull if we could.

So we made arrangements, sent missives to Heatherfield to have Liscinia and Vestanus (shieldbearer and porter) ready to join us if they were interested, and were going to leave the next day on Deathmonth the 17th at the start of the new year 183.

We had a large group as we left: Flimflam, Marcus, Erd, Avidius, Tranis, Steiner, plus Taulib, Geld, Horace, Viridia, Fermius, PLUS Whosea, Hugin, Princess, Brutus, and Ringer. The thought was that no one was going to mess with a large and well-armed and armored group. Our first stop was right after nightfall at the Roaring Treant Inn where we rested in large comfortable rooms and partook of the nights song and revelry.

The 18th had us on the road without issue where we arrived at Timberton just before sunset. Once again we procured space at the inn and grabbed another night’s sleep – this time making sure that some of our members had bedrolls, blankets, and warmer clothing for the trip.

The 19th had us travel south, out of the Ponar Woods and in the lush rolling fields that brought us to Dairymeade. The Thorpe was lively and we were made welcome at the Laughing Cow in and had the pleasure to see Mayor Cokinstock who introduced the party to fermented alcoholic milk called Kvass. It was a bit…solid…but had about 15% alcohol in it and Steiner was brave enough to try it. We were invited to stop back on the way home and get shitfaced.

The 20th had us up early and we travelled in the gentle misting rain south some more, passing the abandoned estate homes north of Heatherfield and eventually making it to the town proper. We gathered rooms at the inn closest to the Temple of Demeter and then ate, eventually meeting with Vestanus and Liscinia. Both agreed to come with us. Vestanus took a reduced payment for the next 6 days (expected travel time until we get where we need to be) but was able to get it all up front – which he gave to his wife. The goal is to earn at least 50 nobles to help pay for the last of the moving costs to bring his family to Shakun and get them situated so they look for work. Liscinia had good memories at the way we handled things and was looking forward to joining us on our way out the next day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Meet 99, Adv 5, 11/7/15

This was a downtime meeting between adventures where the party not only trained, but also took care of whatever smaller tasks they wanted done. It's a bit low key and book-keepery, but is important to help the party feel connected to the world they live in.

Write up follows:

The group had almost 2 months of separate training and needs which necessitated an almost laundry list of tasks that the group performed in the waning days of autumn and the early weeks of winter.

Avidius who was training locally under the tutelage of Pelis the Rug Merchant and other members of the guild reconnected with his wife Senna and daughters. He and Fermius cemented their friendship and spent some of the days shopping and getting ready for whatever journey or work was to come up next.

Those who had been killed or wounded by the Para-Leech as it fled Cornelius…Marcus’ Tower were visited and efforts were made to offer them succor and aid if possible. He also made it his business to visit old man Hallax, the elder gentleman who had been visited by “Mary” as well as had his clock disenchanted.

To forestall any further loss of funds, Avidius and Fermius picked up any and every back breaking job that was available. The Homesteads were still short of labor so there was always a need for strong backs willing to work – which the two men did with gusto.

Lastly, Avidius made it his business to meet privately with Baron Taugis. After clearing it with Flimflam, our scout offered his services as Seneschal to the Baron, able and willing to report to the nobleman and our liege regularly about the party’s actions and what their next paths might be. He was thanked and given a small stipend for his efforts as payment.

Erdan also trained locally, his time was spent at the fighting school under the tutelage of Zarik Ikarsbane. Upon his completion of time training, he continued to offer his services as a “tossee” – the person who gets beat up in the mock matches.

As for Scarene, she continued to confess her innocence and was eventually tried where she was then to be sent to Elven Keep where her pedigree as an elf (not a half-goblin as she had been denying) would be proven. If she was an elf, she would be indentured for 20 years, if she was a goblin, she would be crucified. Erd offered to go along as a caravan guard, continuing his relationship and wooing of Scarene.

The trip was difficult and the caravan had been beset a few times by an almost nutty amount of predators – eventually having to give up more than half their food stores to deter the family of bears that was pursuing the caravan. Eventually they arrived @ Elven Keep where Scarene was proven to be half-goblin. She was dragged to the wall and crucified while Erd stayed below and tried to “get to her”. Eventually she died and Erdan took a return trip back to Shakun.

A chair in the Pervian Gnome style had been commissioned, except this one was Erd’s size – which he placed at the table in the Hall of Heroes in a manner to let Flimflam know that he couldn’t use HIS chair. From this point on, Erdan amused himself in the remaining weeks while hanging out at the fighter’s school and devoting his attention to guard named Morera.

Tranis had travelled to Gul where he had made what trades we could for Flimflam, in addition to bringing back potions for the party after trading some of our supplies to the Alchemist League. Once back he went out often and hunted, bagging a wolf or two, plenty of deer, and in one bit of surprise – a bear! Which had Erd chuckling to hear.

Steiner had travelled the furthest to Argosility where he met with the Patriarch. At the end of the day he also imbued the Olympian Crystal there with the power of Apollo and talked with the church about establishing more a Apollonian presence in Shakun (something they typically did not do – preferring to keep their efforts more to the east and the populace sections of the country). A business plan was set up where Steiner was going to build a poor house where the poor of Tanner’s Way could come and rest, get food, maybe some light work, and even clothes. Donations would help of course, but the church of Apollo would start the ball rolling (along with Steiner’s purse).

Four acolytes went back along with a half dozen administrative people. The Patriarch was interested in Steiner could enter the Mage’s Tower and if so, could he bring someone along with him. Back in Shakun though, Steiner hired a number of local carpenters and builders as well as some of the people from Tanner’s Way to tear down three of the lots and combine them with whatever building material they could get. He paid the lease price to the Baron who also accepted the plan.

As for other activities, Steiner hired Horace as his own henchman, the very outspoken tough and local thrilled to be “workin wit the party again.” Groan. In order to further spur on donations, Steiner would visit the Hospice often and heal for free – asking people to make donations to the Apollonian Poor House of foodstuffs or old clothes instead.

Lastly we had Flimflam who did not have to train this time around. Instead, our druid worked with local engineers and diggers about expanding the Hall of Heroes. We couldn’t build out, and up was not too smart – so we cleared out the main floor near the living room and had the builders dig DOWN. The entire project was going to take about 3 months to expand two floors downward and brace them – but this would be unfinished and the party would worry about the fallout from that later. As for costs – it was going to pump over 400 crowns back into the local economy and that was a good thing.

Flimflam also approached every follower of Demeter he could and wrote away to the church, asking for their help. What he ended up getting was a number of people willing to let themselves be bled for their god, meaning that Flimflam only had to power 4 of the 7 crystals himself.

He then went to the Roaring Treat Inn where he hired Taulib, the stable boy, as his personal valet, further outfitting the young man and helping him to relocate to Shakun. And then finally he took a long trip to the Endless Forest where he met up with the druid Kaer Kohnig. They spent some time together where Whosea was outfitted with a prosthetic limb which would help the dog walk and carry Flimflam. More importantly, they discussed the ritual, the acorns, and what Flimflam would be doing next. He then travelled back to Shakun and wanted to meet with the Baron about an idea.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Meet 98, Adv 5, 10/24/15

This wrapped up the last meeting of the 5th adventure with these characters. It was a shorter meeting, we all hung out and ate steak before hand, shot the shit, and generally just hung out. The meeting was a lot of larping and the big part of it was Marcus' mage test. In my mind it's a big deal. 4th level is the last level you can be before taking the test and committing yourself to the guild and the further advancement of magic. You can fail or opt not to take the test - but that means you are capped at level 4 unless you can find a Heretic-Mage willing to train you (and they are out there - but VERY few and far between - plus they are typically all douchebags).

At that point you also pick a school and your spells from that point on are usually in that school. I used to use the 8 schools but instead boiled them down to the 4 elements - each element houses two schools. 1st and 2nd level mage spells, you can use without limit - 3rd and above - if they are IN your school - your DC save is 1 higher. You cannot use spells 3rd and above that are opposite your school (ie - Fire mage can't use Water mage spell). It's elegant, simple, and neat.

Write up follows:

The next few days had the group discuss the situations as they stood with Baron Taugis and his council. They briefly brought up Kalt and the First Sons of Shakun and then left the matter in the Council’s hands to resolve. One of the things that did come up in a private meeting between Baron Taugis and Marcus was the fact that historically the Tower Master was a member of the Council and Marcus was invited to sit on it. Which he accepted. And then he was knighted, formally adopting the title of Sir to his name.

We talked with Horace, Viridia, and Fermius after the fact, with Avidius and Tranis offering to contract and accept the vassalship of Fermius and Viridia respectively. With the two of them on board they became henchmen of our Scout and Ranger and there was much rejoicing. Flimflam was going to spend some brief time with Eherego regarding the wounding and disfigurement of Whosea and was then talking about taking a trip to see Kaer Kohnig for his own purposes.

The party was then separating for training purposes. A number of the members were able to stay here in Shakun (Erd, Geld, Avidius), while others decided to take longer tips to other towns for the sure to be longer training (Marcus heading to Woodhelven, Tranis to Gul, and Steiner taking the longest trip to Argosility). Marcus left Geld in charge of his tower while he was gone, along with a large stipend to help pay for the slow reacquisition and restocking of the place.

While Tranis was in Geld, he was able to broker with some locals to see about swapping out some of the magic items we had to get something for Flimflam who had lost a number of enchanted items during the time in the Tower.

If was Marcus’ time in Woodhelven that was most interesting. The Mage’s Guild representatives there were shocked to learn that a Neophyte was a Tower Master and a Wizard by the name of Danklage was most perturbed – since he was the next in line for the tower here in Woodhelven. Marcus finished his training as a fighter and committed himself to the study of the Weave from this point on.

Part of his commitment was to engage in the Mage’s Test – knowing that if he failed, it could actually mean his death. Suffice it to say, Marcus did wonderfully, scoring 17 out of 18 possible and getting the begrudging respect of Master Danklage for his efforts. He opted for the Rune of Preservation for his main spellbook, knowing that it would now be resistant to water, dirt, fire, and even casual tearing.

As the days were winding along, the weather was growing colder and winter was most definitely settling in.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Meet 97, Adv 5, 10/17/15

My game is a hybrid of 1st and 3.5 so I use the d20 resolution often. Typically I run DC10, 15, 20, 25 for difficulty and let the chips fall where they may. So when I put together the crafting piece of the homunculus in the game, I expected there to be some failure along the way and then some recrafting.

I think I fucked it up somehow.

In the Tower there is a room called the Workshop (level 6) where as long there is crafting going on there, the people in the room will get a +3 on their roll. Pretty much they had to describe what they were making and if it was well explained and used what tools were there (simplistic) it was a DC:10, otherwise I would run it at DC:15.

The party did such a good job and had such great rolls as well as working together that there were no failures in my 5 checks. Lowest roll ended up as a 12 (after modifiers).

So there you go, destined to get a Mage's Tower in the game. Not bad after almost 25 years of waiting for it to happen.

Write up follows:

We went back through the ritual of the Tower Master one last time and left Marcus to his studying the Tower Master’s spellbook for the required enchantments. There was no way he could do this in 1 sitting, so we would do most of the Homunculus crafting tonight, followed by a rest and the remainder tomorrow.

While this was going on, the party moved the golem/armor suit back to where we had found it and then spent a little time giving the bedrooms a final look over and cleanup. More required supplies were gotten, then a meal, and finally we all convened in the Workshop to meet with Marcus after he finished studying. The party had cobbled together a rough doll using no threads, limiting themselves to just the raw unprocessed goods that we were finding. It was fragile, but should hold up long enough for Marcus to stitch in place.

Sure enough, it worked. Prior to getting it sewn up, Marcus added his hair, nails, spit, and whatnot into the body of the golem he was making, sewing it in place before moving on to the stuffing and spell work. Four stitch spells adhered the arms and legs to the torso, leaving the head unfinished for now. We talked about the next day and the group went to sleep.

On Earthmonth the 24th the group woke up pretty stoked and Marcus studied more spells, while Flimflam stretched out our food stores with more goodberries. The party was cobbling together some of the dismantled items found in the basement – one was a crow’s cage (torture cage to hang a person in), the other was a rack. A look at the log books showed that Cornelius was also making money as an inquisitor for the Sheriff (and Baron at that time) – supplementing his income. Shudder.

We stitched the head in place and then colored the doll as needed. We know we had to be in the Observatory at 12 when the Searing Crystal would shine down, but there was no clock in the tower and we’ve been guessing on the time. Steiner offered to go up to the roof and let us know, but when the top was open, we saw rain and clouds – no way of knowing when noon was. Our priest of Apollo was going to meditate on the roof and would hope his god would give him a warning when noon was approaching. Meanwhile, Viridia and Geld walked with Marcus a few times making sure he could navigate the area and steps between the Workshop and the Observatory – since he would have to do so as he was concentrating on maintaining the simple illusion spell.

The clock ticked along and then Steiner called out that it was almost time. Marcus cast the simple illusion spell on the homunculus and allowed himself to be guided upstairs where we stood under the crystal, forcing the doll to appear like himself. And then the light blasted down and the illusion was seared into the doll. From there we all went to the Master Bedroom where the 1st words of the ritual were spoken and the doll placed into the proper place. The tower groaned slightly and there was a thrumming.

From there we propelled our way through the rest of the ritual. The charging of the Olympian Crystal took 12 hours and required Geld watching over her friend/employed and then Marcus cutting himself and placing the crystal into his own flesh. When the crystal was glowing he returned to the Master Bedroom, placed it on the shelf and intoned the 2nd words of the ritual – again the tower shook and groaned. Then we all fell asleep.

Awakening on Earthmonth the 25th and some more studying and prep work had Marcus run through the rest of the ritual, eventually anointing his hand with the blood of Cornelius taken days ago from the body in the kitchen. The spirit had been guided/coaxed here by Steiner and the party watched with baited breath as Marcus intoned the final words of the ritual.

“From Master to Student, Adult to Child, Teacher to Pupil, I take control of this Tower from this moment forth. No force in the world or from another can force me to relinquish this charge without my unfettered and uncharmed will. So I do swear from this day until I choose to end my duty. With this seal, let the tower and all who enter know that I am the Tower Master.”

The tower groaned and stuttered, and we felt a crystalizing in the air. Then a voice called for the Tower Master to come to the Observatory. It was here that we learned the tower had some simple sentience and was able to answer some questions that Marcus had. We decided NOT to announce to the other 4 wizard’s towers that this one was occupied (better safe than sorry) and Marcus gave permission for Geld to come in and out when and how often she wants. He also opted to keep the ward on the front door to make people sick and scared if they come too close (opting to remove that feeling for the rest of the party).

There were also some messages that had been sent here that Corenlius never got – all from someone called Wizard-Lord Erazmis of Castle Sterling, from someplace referred to as the Helmian Lands. Seems that Cornelius had ordered some enchanted material/armament from this Erazmis before he died and it has been waiting for him to get for the last 15 years. We were able to deduce that this Helmian Lands are 4 days upriver from Brewers Bridge and would take us almost 2 weeks to get to.

Cleaning ourselves up we all went down to the front door and walked out together to the thronging crowd. The tower no longer looked worn, instead new and clean. The metal trees up top were crackling with energy and the entire place was thrumming. We heard about the escaped goblin/demonic and feigned ignorance, stating that we had killed 3 of them already and this once must have run and escaped.

The party went to the Hall of Heroes, knowing that we had much to catch up on, the case against Kalt, Horace, Viridia, and Fermius and their involvement and maybe recruitment, Marcus taking stock of his tower and what’s responsible on his end of it, and about 2 dozen other smaller issues.

Erdan did have a talk with the owner of the 4 Rings Brothel who was concerned that his “dancing studio” was actually a front for another brothel – and she’s like to talk about putting him out of business. Erd agreed it was not necessary and was not going to open up as either a brothel OR a dancing studio for now.