17 December 2009

meanwhile, back at the inn...

As I stepped into the common room of the inn, I noticed a young girl with her mother giving me the evil eye. I was dead tired and stunk to the heavens, but something about them glaring at me like I wasn’t the “Hero of Winterhaven” really ticked me off. I strolled up to the innkeeper and requested a hot bath be drawn and a meal be prepared for me immediately. Never taking my eyes off the two, I put on my coldest grin and walked right up to their table. Upon closer inspection, I toyed with the image of them both howling in my bedchambers as we instructed her young miss in the ways of “ill behaved madmen.” They seemed to get my point and cast their eyes back to their table.

“Something I can do for you ladies,” I spoke in what I hoped were tones befitting our newly gained status. They said nothing for a moment, but then the young lass spoke up. “My ma says that your lot are no more heroes of Winterhaven than she’s a dryad.” I couldn’t help myself and guffawed at her jest. She was dead on to my little song and dance. I can’t vouch for my companions as of yet, but she had me pegged. I composed myself again and took a chair at their table. I stared into the lass’s big blue eyes and waited for her or her mother to speak again. She just stared right back, but after a few moments she spoke again. “You hurt people for a living.” It wasn’t a question. I just nodded at her.
“My child means no harm, good sir,” her mother finally spoke.
“No harm done. Tell me, child, what else does your mother say about us?”
Neither had a comment for me, so I decided to spin them a yarn or two about what lie in store for their town.

One of the servers set my food before me. I took a much needed drink from my ale and began my story.

“Your town has been put in danger by Duvan. I’m sure that your mother has warned you countless times of the strangers that pass through this town. She has good reason to. Duvan has sold his immortal soul to conspire with forces that you have only glimpsed in your worst nightmares. The kind of dangers your own body forces itself to wake from. Real… EVIL. My lot, as you so accuse, have tried in vain to negate his ill advised actions. We tracked this madman to a cabin atop the mountain that your people have avoided for so many years. What we found up there was a powder keg set to explode. It just needed the fuse lit.”

A few other patrons of the inn gathered around. I took another drink and continued.

“We were warned by an elderly woodsman not to go after Duvan. He claimed that there were no answers at the top of the mountain. Only death… We couldn’t very well let Duvan consort with such evil unopposed, so we tricked the man and took an alternate path up the mountain. As we climbed higher our ears picked up all manner of whispering. The air hung heavy with dread. Not even the animals ventured up this far. All manner of wood had begun to turn to stone up there. Evil you could feel down to your very bones stirred upon this mountain. When we reached the cabin, we found countless signs of dark forces at work. Books of indescribable evil. Artifacts, potions, and powders that subdued you and lured you into an agreement with something that pulsed with evil from within the mountain itself. We found a trapdoor that led into a hell hidden within the mountain. It was down this trapdoor that we heard the ramblings of Duvan. He was speaking all sorts of gibberish, so we descended in hopes of getting to him before it was too late.”

Having emptied my cup, a stranger placed another before me. I nodded my thanks, and the stranger spoke to the growing crowd, “I never did trust that mad bastard.”

“You are wise to hold no faith in the man. As we traveled deeper into the labyrinth beneath the mountain, we were shown all sorts of horrors. Walls were carved with faces of the long dead that seemed to scream a warning to us from their stone prison. Paintings and murals of mortals and demons working together towards ungodly purposes. When we finally caught up to Duvan, he was kneeling at some sort of large pipe organ in a vast chamber. Duvan had undergone a horrible transformation since we last saw him. He had donned robes of some long dead cult. Most of his skin had begun to turn deathly pale as if to mimic bone. His eyes had rolled up into his head and he spoke to us in a voice that sounded like he had four or five other people inside with him. He damned us to a life of service to him and his foul gods. We tried to reason with him, but it was no use. Even the whisperings were getting louder. He must have felt he couldn’t bargain with us, so he banged upon the organ and fled deeper into the maze of tunnels. At once a horrible cloud of gas escaped from the pipes and we panicked. Poor Silas got a lungful of the stuff and almost died.”

It seemed as if the entire inn were hanging upon my every word by this point, so I pressed on eager to satiate their small minds. Hopefully I could convince that my lies were far easier to swallow than the truth.

“We took a short rest, made sure Silas was alright, and took up the chase. All manner of crypts and tombs lie beneath that damnable mountain. I’d even go far as to say that mountain was alive! It’s voice crept in our heads. Louder and louder it got. It wanted us to go mad and give in. Cael’s prayers didn’t seem to ward of any of the hate and vileness of the place. Finally we found ourselves in a room with all sorts of vines blocking further progress. It seemed that the vines were the source of all the whispering, so we hacked at them in hopes of shutting them up for good. If only it were as easy as weeding your garden… These things were alive and strong as twenty men! They would grab you and squeeze you like you were their long lost, spurned lover come to pay a visit. With much bloodshed, we finally hacked them all until they either gave up or were dead. The whispering ceased and our morale seemed to surge.”

“Deeper and deeper we went. Tombs and temples long forgotten. It wasn’t long after our business with the vines that we began to hear low groans and shuffling sounds coming from behind the endless doors that seemed barred from the outside. Whatever horrors were behind those elaborately carved doors, we were certainly NOT going to release them! Leave it to Duvan, however… He seemed to be freeing everything down there. After dispatching ghouls and other such fiendish undead, we began to notice mysterious writings that none of us could decipher. All was soon revealed as we uncovered an artifact that allowed us to read the strange script. DUVAN KU! It was written everywhere. Surely our bumbling yet likeable old man Duvan was not the embodiment of an ancient evil? Oh how wrong we were…”

I couldn’t ignore the growling in my stomach, so I took my meal and continued the story in-between bites.

“Chamber after endless chamber. Hallway upon hallway. We feared we were lost! Our dread was multiplied tenfold as we watched Axis open up a sarcophagus to reveal a wooden box that held a vicious trap. Duvan’s mad cackle echoed all around us as we watched his body slump to the floor before we could even warn him to stop. Bronn was so angry that he picked up the box and dashed it upon the chamber walls. I noticed a liquid seeping from a broken bottle and drug poor lifeless axis towards it. Surely this would be the antidote for the trap’s poison!? Alas, it was not. Poor Axis’ body grew to enormous size as I fed some of the liquid to him, and we were forced to flee the chamber for our lives! Loud snapping and squishing noises signaled the end of our friend. What a way to go, huh? We all swore loudly that DUVAN WOULD PAY!”

“Several chambers later and our enemies slain thus far, we were beginning to feel the effects of this place dwindling our will. Duvan would appear out of the shadows and mock us, only to vanish as we tried to pursue. Duvan knew our resolve was failing and took no hesitation as he twisted our own group against itself. We were taking a small rest in some sort of ancient altar room when Bronn, in a fit of blind rage, grabbed Silas by the neck. Bronn, speaking in tongues long since gone, lifted Silas up to place him on the alter as a sacrifice to the Duvan Ku! Reasoning with him was lost, so we bashed him over the head and he soon came to his senses. Oh how weary we had become. This place was driving us mad. There was a point where we were all lured to what appeared to be a bottomless chasm. Duvan stood opposite to us across the chasm and laughed. He claimed if we threw ourselves in, all would be forgiven. Given our weakened mental state, it seemed likely to just end it all here, but we snapped out of it and shrieked every insult in every language we could fathom towards Duvan. Anger bolstered our resolve and we found our second wind!”

“Luckily our journey was coming to a close. In a room much like the others that we’d come upon in this maddening place, we found Duvan’s accomplice. He materialized out of thin air and stood before us. Bronn launched an attack and the creature dodged as if Bronn were moving under water. A VAMPIRE, my mind screamed in disbelief, yet here it stood as plain as the day that would burn it to cinders! Maximus was the creatures name, and he stood there calm and collected as Duvan strolled casually into the room. Duvan told us of his plan to raise an army of undead along with the help of Maximus. He swore the realms would fall before his mighty force of death! According to Maximus there were terrible places scattered all around the realms that held horrors exactly like the mountain we had trudged through. What could we do against such powerful creatures. We were at a complete loss, so we threw ourselves at our enemies! All our efforts were for naught. The harder we fought, the more our adversaries laughed. Exhaustion set in and we all collapsed. When we awoke, we found ourselves bound in the very cabin that sat on top of the mountain. I freed myself and my companions, and with much haste, we fled down the mountain in hopes of warning Lord Padrag in time.”

“But where are your companions,” one of the locals asked.
“They are conversing with Padrag even as I speak. We will have a plan, my good citizens. The heroes of Winterhaven will not let you down,” I spoke to the crowd. I just hope we get the hells out of here before they find out what really happened…

30 November 2009

Game Thoughts: Resource Management and Logistics

Although I've never really fully incorporated encumbrance rules in a game or ever been terribly strict with my timekeeping or been very precise when it comes to movement speed (or ever known anyone else who was) I've always wanted to be. Those just seem like the kind of things a good game master should trouble about. It's rules like these where the game is it's most game-ish. With limitation of course - There's no reason to make a big deal out of that new magic sword you just found encumbering you or hauling away a mountainous pile of gold after the whole dungeon has been cleared out. But if there are still bands of gnolls prowling the corridors - that's another story. Same thing with light sources. There's nothing terribly fun about rolling dice to see if you get the campfire lit but if you are two miles underground and your last torch burns out while you're in the middle of fighting off some beasties, well that is fun. Or, rather, it might be fun provided the encounter ends well for the party. It's fun to me anyway but I've a cruel streak.

The same thing with encumbrance and provisioning. Delving into a mega dungeon should be a major undertaking. Troubling about pack animals and hiring porters or men at arms for the journey (despite being a big headache for the DM trying to track initiative and effects) should add depth to an underdark adventure. You would have the added enjoyment of managing your gold, your henchmen, and put a deal more thought into such an expedition than your average dungeon crawl. Again, it seems it would potentially add a great deal of fun to the game if you had a mule to sacrifice to a pack of hungry wolves to enable your escape or to eat yourself if you got trapped on level 3 or to haul away some great golden idol or to trouble about provender for the mule after three days underground.

All the same I wouldn't want to turn the game into hours of accounting and inventory and collecting rents but nevertheless I am going to start trying to be accurate with my timekeeping and light source radii and mileage per terrain type, &c. So I guess this is my warning of sorts. Make sure you have enough food if you want to try and journey over that mountain range because I don't want to spring starvation on you unannounced.

Of course all of the above depends upon me to actually provide the kind of scenarios/campaign where this kind of thing would even matter and hopefully make it fun at the same time.

20 November 2009

Have you seen this man?

You will.

New Houserules

Just as a heads up - as of tonight I will be using fumbles on a natural one and save or dies.


19 November 2009

The Railroad

Forgive me for taking liberties but in order to maximize Matt's play time I'm going to railroad you into a new quest: 

Whilst the PC's were away Douven got wind of another interesting location in the Winterhaven area from Valthrun. Of course the normally tight lipped Valthrun didn't give much information and what was given was inadvertent and vague but Douven was able to read enough between the lines to formulate another crazy theory. With what limited information he actually got from Valthrun Douven surmised that what was on top of the mountain that Valthrun called the "abominable mountain" must somehow be linked to his dragon burial site putting himself one step closer to solving the mystery of the Jormungandr, the last of the 7 great dragons of old. This was about as much as could be gathered from the note that was found in his room. Apparently he slipped away at the beginning of the celebration feast and it was the next afternoon before it was discovered so he has about a day's lead on the PC's. Douven is a lot of trouble, but Axis wants his money and he didn't come all this way not to get paid so he implored and pressed the rest of the party into yet another quest to save Douven.

Valthrun explains that this mountain was once the location of another mysterious death cult that claimed perhaps thousands of victims and that it was surpressed about 100 years ago. Since then the mountain has been forsaken and forbidden by penalty of law. He also says that about 50 years ago a band of adventuring dwarves had made their way up the mountain. The authorities waited at the bottom of the trail for days to arrest them but they never descended. One of the dwarves was a cleric and he wore a very nice HOLY SYMBOL and that a fellow would do well to have one of those things around his neck.

And furthermore at the conclusion of the banquet a snow storm has blown in. It's very early in the spring yet and such things aren't unheard of but it seems like a particularly ill harbinger of things to come.

If anyone has anything they'd like to sell or buy while they are in town please do it by email post before tomorrow night. Otherwise you'll be ready to set out at 7 on Friday. There are a couple of local youths who have been impressed by the party's valour and your success in the keep that are requesting to accompany you as porters on the journey up the mountain. You'll probably need them to haul all that cult gold back ... or your corpses.

07 November 2009

What happened next...

was this:

After slaying the evil death priest Kalarel our adventurers took turns urinating on his corpse and then Bronn dragged the body to the other side of the room and threw it down the shaft on top of the wights. Cael then defecated into the pit. Bronn, Macon, Oskar, and Silas then went back into the rooms that were skipped and slayed a gelatinous cube and a dozen more hobgoblins and brought back two untapped kegs of very fine beer from the hobgoblin's stores. A good time was had by all. Keegan even left his crypt to come down to the cathedral of shadows to have a few rounds with the chaps. Then Cael got down to business. After thumbing through Kalarel's ritual book he decided on a course of action which consisted of chanting an ancient drawven exorcism rite that drove the thing in the portal back into shadowfell. With the assistance of Maro he then ritually cleansed and purified the altar from which Kalarel had carried on most of his infernal work. The bodies of the sacrificial victims that were found were blessed and given a proper burial. The party then found the good stuff from the kobold's raiding in Kalarel's coffers -- 981 gp, 260 sp, some very fine silver goblets, a painted portrait of a very stuffy looking noblewoman, and ritual scrolls for Traveler's Feast, Make Whole, Comprehend Language, and Water Walk to be exact as well as a magic dagger (which gives a +2 to hit and to damage rolls as well as dealing an extra 1d6 damage on a crit) and every PC also gained another 400 xp for completing the quest.

The villagers of Winterhaven were eagerly awaiting news of the outcome of the party's success or failure. Lord Padraig and the town guard had actually mobilized and defeated some undead who were rising from their graves in the church yard. When the PCs returned to town with their loot in tow there was a banquet held in their honour by Lord Padraig in which the whole village was invited and Macon finally got his steak. And it is from this banquet that we will probably begin our next adventure in two weeks.

25 October 2009

KotS Session ...4? 5? I forget.

In the latest chapter our party continued their exploration of Shadowfell Keep. We witnessed:

1. The recovery of a magical gimp suit from the body of a hobgoblin torturer, everyone agreeing it seemed like Axis' size and style;

2. The recovery of a halfling sorcerer from the hobgoblin's gaol who insisted on being fed steak. No one obliged him so he grilled himself up three goblin burgers with a rogue-b-que as a side item;

3. A new deck of cards with hand painted Goblin girls on the back;

4. Zombies, zombies, zombies;

5. Record time, a milestone, 3.5 encounters in 5 hours of play;

6. and Dustin not throwing a single die, another milestone.

18 October 2009

Specks of sunlight flitter down through the dappled forest leaves. The autumn wind has just kissed their branches and they shiver with a flurry of color. Leaves unhinged from their natural homes upon the limbs of giant forest oaks glide silently down and dance upon the whimsical kiss of this chilly wind. I pause to collect my thoughts and to formulate a plan of action. Autumn caresses the long black stray hairs loosened above my elvish ears with her soft breath. The voice of my mentor soft in my ear, 'My roots are flesh and blood, but supple as the soil they
suck.' The forests mysteries unfold before my senses.Supressing a shudder, I gaze diligently into the forest and open myself to its mysteries. It speaks and I listen ever the diligent scholar. Seeking enlightenment in the twist and sway of a bent blade of grass or twig the forest gives unto me its secret gnossis. A sharp biting wind disrupts my current course of study and my mind leaps to memories of her. She lies out there somewhere; for the nonce she is safe though in what condition I know not. The gods shall not defy me in this. I have not travelled lonely from the halls of our fathers only to be denied our destiny. I have not shed blood upon the stones of Kier Dunnow, nor lain wasted and left for dead upon the moss carpeted floors of Mith Drannor only to be denied now. I will find her and assume my rightful place as her protector. Corellon Larethian guide my endeavors. All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

It is with much hope and trepidation that I have agreed to undertake my current task. The wife of a wayward man named Duvenstall has enlisted my talents as a scout and tracker to uncover his current whereabouts. She fears the worst for his condition as she has not had word from him for many a day. A moon and a day upon his path the road leads me to Nentir Vale. From conversations and information gleaned and gathered upon my journey it
seems my quarry has moved north to conduct some form of business in a town named winterhaven not many days past. I have followed him from Fallcrest. A secret meeting in the forest outside of town not many days before.

Branches and leaves make no sound as I tread lightly through the domain of moss and fern. My feet float in the effortless dance of the hunt. At one with the forest and my quarry, the unwieldy tread of his boots emerge from the forest floor and guide my direction of travel. His city ways leaving a trace in my domain as easily followed as if he were magnetized and I a compass. A heavy and sharp crack behind me, cloak spinning and blades drawn, brigands hoping to catch me unawares. There are three men now before me. Feral and evil is the gleam of
their eyes. Wicked and sharp is the glint of the sun off the swords in their hands. The steel of my drawn knives is cold where it meets my lips, a kiss before the dance of death. Flesh and steel meet, flesh giving way to the power of sharpened steel. My steel is sharp, my skills keen. The veins of my foes offer up their sanguine gifts. A shifting foot, a spinning slash...a wonderfully macabre dance in which my skills surpass those of the wastrels moving higgledy-piggledy before my stinging blades. A slight shift of the weight to the ball of the left foot, right hand flashing down. A spin following to the left, bow to your partner(wind breaks the reeds) and up slicing in a silver flash the steel in my right hand. Poetry....

Quickly now moves the right,
jugulars part
bright red delight.
Crimson drops
like rain upon the eaves...
falling down on forest leaves.

And the task is done. Bending down I cleanse my steel. Your rot shall not pit my blades. There is an awkward silence now. All the woodland creatures have fled from the sounds of slaughter. A moment more to regain my bearings before the hunt resumes. She is out there and I will find her. And him...I will find him as well. One task before the next. She is safe, for now...and in that I must take comfort.

Ahhh...Winterhaven..what secrets dost thou hold.

11 October 2009

Scraps of Parchment


I do not even know where to begin, so I’ll just start with an apology. To say that I am sorry would be a huge understatement. As I set quill to parchment, I realize that you probably have already forgiven me a thousand times over, but nonetheless I am genuinely sorry for all the trouble I have caused you personally. I think of you often and wonder how you are. If P had allowed me to bring you, I would have, but you know that it was probably for the best that you remained home. When I decided to write this to you, I had no idea how I could possibly get a letter to you. I think the simple task of sitting here contemplating all the things I want to ask you is more therapeutic than anything. I can actually see you sitting here with me as I write, or at least I can vision the woman you have become. Hopefully these ramblings will shed some light on my life at the present. Why not spill the whole sordid affair of my life since I left home? Silly, I haven’t got that much parchment, and you surely do not wish to read an entire book about me.

Who have I been traveling with? I had spent so much time wandering around alone, it seemed rather odd to find myself with actual companionship for a while. It was probably a combination of luck and boredom that brought the group together. Upon actual reflection of those events, it seems by some sort of fate that set our group along the path we are recently traveling. You know how much stock I put in gods and their plight, but I can’t help shake the feeling of some divine hand dabbling in things it shouldn’t. Yes, of course you would approve of them. For the most part they strike me as the “adventurous” type of people you were fond of. We did have a short run with a dragonborn. When I met him and actually found out what he did for a profession, I could not believe it. Having never seen an actual warrior of faith or a dragonborn… to say the least, I was quite amazed. All the tales we were told of their savagery were not entirely true. Savage… Like the land I used to live in. Are you still there, or did you leave as I did?

I miss the harsh cold sometimes if you can believe that. I miss watching the winter wolves in their endless migrations back and forth in search of prey. I miss watching the moonlight illuminate the snowflakes as they gently fell from the night sky. I miss hearing you laugh. I hope you still think of me.

Anyhow… where was I? My companions: Dwarves! How we always had a good laugh with our beloved U. Everything she said was true, by the way. I am positive that my new dwarven friend would love to share a meal or two with her… not to mention several tankards of ale and then her bed. As I mentioned earlier, faith and divinity and other such matters have again intertwined in my life. This fine example of dwarven kind is a truly righteous force to be reckoned with. His short stature is belittled by the enormous amount of conviction and faith that emanates from his presence. No, he is nothing like our ancient T. T was indeed a great man of faith and conviction, but did he ever venture far from his own chapel? Clangeddin Silverbeard’s justice is served mightily to all those in need. I owe my life to my new friend. Times are dangerous in the realm, but do not worry about me. You probably are more aware of the cruelty and slanderous ways of our times. Our father’s informants are second to none, but I digress… Let me speak more of my fellow adventurers.

There is an eladrin that is traveling with us that will one day pen the epic tale of our journey that will be told a thousand years from now. We’ve seen our fair share of traveling performers at the keep, but none could hope to have as much talent as this charming individual. He and I get along like a house on fire, and then we have a drink as the ashes rain down from the sky! I’m sure you would fancy him. Most females do. Most men do as well! Strange times we live in… You should hear some of the yarns this guy can spin. He could convince royalty to eat their own children and then shit on their remains! Seriously, I’ve never seen him pay for anything. Somehow he just does as he pleases an no one complains.

We also have a multi-purpose killing machine that we use to slay our foes! This guy is like a walking armory. He should have probably taught us combat skills instead of M. I hope M is still doing well. Saying his name out loud makes me remember that time I sparred with P. Do you remember? That day will probably stay with me until I die. That day I decided to put on a suit of our finest chain mail in hopes of impressing her. It’s funny looking back on that moment knowing where things stand today. I still feel the surge of power and invincibility as I did even back then, but I have seen the bloody turns that battles can take at such short notice. Experience is something that every adventurer of every class thrives on. Without it, we are simply overzealous students that are eager to prove our stupidity. I remember she was smiling and laughing at me as I donned each piece of armor. “Do you want to lose a toe today?” she asked. I didn’t understand where she was coming from with such a question, so I just shook my head. This made her laugh even more as she chided at me, “We shall soon see, my strapping young warrior.” She gave me a playful cuff on my shoulder and sent me to the practice yard.

A large crowd had gathered around the practice yard. It seemed as if everyone was eager to see what P wanted to demonstrate. Everyone cheered as I exited the armory and placed myself in the midst of things. I pulled my short sword and riled the crowd up. Echoing in the small practice field, their rallying cries boosted my adrenaline even more. Trying to remember each exercise with Marklin, I began to put myself through my lessons to show-off my extensive training. She seemed to only be wielding a small iron rod as a weapon, but I knew she held something else concealed somewhere. I wasn’t entirely stupid, but then again, I’d never faced a female opponent before. My mind was a mix of emotion. Should I make light of the situation? Would she have me come at her with everything I have? I really did not know how to play against her, but that would soon change.

Our match lasted less than a few seconds, yet it seemed to stretch for hours in my mind. Calculating within my mind that I should disable her mobility somehow, I lashed out with my sword in a broad arc towards her leg. In one fluid motion, she evaded the blade, drove the iron rod through the toe of my mailed boot with her right hand, placed her left hand on my head and shoved me along the rest of my attack towards the ground with my own momentum sending me to my doom. As events played out in slow motion, I kept wondering if Marklin had set this up or was it really an attempt on my life. I felt gravity as I had never known before. It was as if my own body had betrayed me. I was stuck in a crouched heap of useless armor with no means to retaliate. I heard the crowd gasp as I felt the blade pierce the mail on my back. Before P or myself could act further, M tried to take the situation into control. “Release him at once,” he shouted at her. “Do not worry, boy,” P purred in my ear, “You are safe with me.”

I actually shiver as I recall those events. Well, I have bored you enough for now.

All my love,