Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Terrinoth #19 - Blood of Malar

Fight at The Golden Lion
Campaign Diary

Therion Lakemane was closing up his store ('Lakemane's Luxries') for the day when he heard a knocking on his door. Looking through the glass of his door, Therion saw a bald, middle-aged man with a salt-and-pepper moustache, dressed in the clothes of a merchant.

Therion opened the door, and the man introduced himself as Weiss, a shipping merchant, and asked if he could enter the shop and speak with Therion. He had found Therion through the blacksmith to whom Therion had sold the good-quality chains he recovered from the ruined keep in Blackwing Swamp a month ago. The chains, he said, were stolen off his barges, presumably by his rival, one Aris, and he had hoped to learn more about the circumstances of their recovery, so he could bring a formal complaint to the merchant's guild.

Therion played dumb and claimed that the chains were recovered by his employees, and that he himself did not know where they were found. Weiss then offered to buy Therion and his employees a round of drink the next evening at The Golden Lion tavern, as a means to thank them, and also to learn how the chains were recovered from them.

The next evening found Therion, Giso, Whisper, and Risvir at The Golden Lion. Tom, busy with tending to a new wave of red mist victims and the temple, was unable to join the party.

(Click here for PC profiles)

Therion related his encounter to the party. The name Weiss immediately stood out for Whisper, who recalled coming across it when the party investigated traffickers of the drug red mist, under the employment of one Lazar. The name Weiss was a common one in Terrinoth, and Therion had not managed to find any more information on his visitor, but our heroes decided to continue to play dumb in the hope of making Weiss reveal more about himself.

Weiss arrived at the appointed time and began to politely ask our heroes about the chains, but was met with feigned ignorance. Just then, Whisper noticed a carriage coming to a stop on the street outside the tavern - it resembled Lazar's carriage. Moments later four tough-looking men entered through the tavern's door, scanned the room, and then started to move towards the table where our heroes were seated.

Therion bade Weiss to move to a table further away from the front door, and signaled for the others to move to block the new arrivals. As our heroes sought to distract the men, they heard a cry, followed by a clatter, behind them. Turning around, they see that the serving girl had left a dagger in Weiss' back, and was drawing another dagger from inside the folds of her clothes. Whisper and Giso leapt into attack, driving the assassin away, while Therion and Risvir blinded the men with a combination of mind tricks and enchanted fog to cover the party's escape.

Leaving with the gravely wounded Weiss through the side door, the party soon realised that the snow on the ground would make it easy for their enemies to track them. Summoning what remaining strength he had, Weiss asked them to enter the sewers, and from there make their way to the outlet to the river, where he had a boat stowed for just such an eventuality. With no other option, the party entered the next manhole they found, and entered the sewers.

Now the old city of Tamalir was built upon the old city that was devastated during the Dragon Wars, and its old streets now served as the sewer channels of the new city. Risvir summoned up a magical platform formed of shadow, that floated a few feet off the ground. Onto this they placed the now-unconscious Weiss, whose wound would not stop bleeding despite the healing spells our heroes cast upon him. Desperate, they eventually took the risk and removed the dagger and cauterised the wound with a heated dagger. The bleeding slowed to an ooze. Therion examined the dagger - it had a triangular profile, and upon its blade were carved arcane runes. Was it a cursed blade?

With Weiss seemingly stabilised, the party followed the flow of the sewage towards the river, Therion opting to ride upon the floating disk so as to avoid soiling his shoes. For a while it seemed that they were alone in the sewers apart from some rats, but half an hour after they started their journey, they could hear footsteps echoing though the tunnels behind them.

Then they came upon a channel in the sewers which was too wide for them to cross easily. While they pondered over how to cross the span with the aid of the floater disk, a giant lamprey broke the surface of the foetid water and attacked them. Our heroes drove the beast off with steel and spells, but the din of battle had drawn the attention of their pursuers - there was need for haste now.

Whisper noticed a thieves' sign marked upon a wall - they were near the river now. As they continued south there was a change in the air, and light coming from ahead.

Whisper scouted ahead. Not far from where they were the sewer tunnels widened and opened into the river, and there two boats were moored. Here the ceilings were taller. Several ruined houses had new doors on them, and standing outside these, as if on guard, were a few armed persons... one of whom was the serving girl from The Golden Lion! The area was lit by a few torches set on brackets on the walls, and the moonlight reflected off the surface of the river.

With pursuers not far behind them, the party decided to launch an assault on the guards and seize one of the boats.Whisper led the attack, shooting off arrows from her bow and then rushing out from the tunnel... only to be ambushed by an attacker she had not seen hiding just around the corner. Giso moved forward to aid Whisper, but the other guards also moved forward, trapping the party at the mouth of the tunnel. Missiles and magical energies were exchanged. The party could not break through. Behind them the pursuers were getting closer. Risvir cast an enchantment upon his dagger, whereupon it became a spinning cloud of blades that blocked off the passage - but the spell would only last one minute...


In the sewers of Tamalir
One by one their enemies fell, and the serving girl from the tavern abandoned her comrades and fled in one of the boats. The party rushed forward to seize the remaining boat, with Risvir carrying Weiss on his back.

But as they were passing by one of the room, Weiss moved himself off Risvir's back, grabbed a torch from its bracket on the wall, opened one of the doors, and threw it in. Inside the room was crates and boxes, which quickly caught alight. Before the surprised eyes of the heroes, Weiss calmly walked to the remaining boat, and asked them to join him.

The party rowed out into the river, and was soon taken outside the city walls by its flow. Not long afterwards, Weiss pointed out a spot on the south bank where they could land. Our heroes accused Weiss of being less than honest in his dealings with them, and he wryly replied that they had been less than honest with him regarding the circumstances of the discovery of his chains. Now seemingly completely well, Weiss stepped off the boat, and disappeared into the nearby woods.

The next day a sum of 200 Gros was delivered to Lakemane's Luxuries, which Therion split equally with the others.

Prepping and Running the Game

This session was a natural follow-on to the last B Team game - my players came up with the idea of investigating the origins of the chains which they found on the beings at the ruined keep, and I reasoned that the person who had the chains made would likewise try to find those who took the chains via the same means. The sewer-crawl idea came from the module Blood of Malar, which involved the party escorting a merchant through the sewers while he was being hunted.

I will not yet reveal the true identities and purposes of Weiss and Lazar, but it is now obvious to the players and PCs that they have been employed/used by both sides in a conflict, and that the drug red mist was somehow in the middle of all this.

In the post-game talk they speculated that Weiss was perhaps an undead - maybe even a vampire - and that red mist was perhaps made from vampire blood. To prove this hypothesis, they wanted to find someone who knew more about undead and vampires, someone who could put their hypothesis to the test.

At the same time, they also asked to investigate Lazar, and to track down the serving girl-assassin who had twice eluded them.

This gives me fodder for at least three more sessions. The players are now so determined to get to the bottom of the mystery they are not asking about reward for what they are going to do next. On my part I have promised that the truth will be revealed in the future. But for now, I shall not spoil it for them or for my readers here.

This was again a light-prep session - light to the point that once I had the basic ideas and the maps chosen for the session, I had little else to do on game day.

The maps that you see in the photos above are from Loke Battle Mats. These are A3 sized spiral-bound books with gridded battle mats which can be laid open to form an A2 size playing area, or even an A1 size area with two books. There are around 60 different designs per book - I got two of their fantasy ones and a sci-fi one off kickstarter.

You can find a place to buy a copy by googling "giant book of battle mats".

The glossy surface of the maps are a bit too reflective for photography, but they are dry-erase, and durable. They are not as flexible as the Heroic Maps tiles which I buy and print myself, but they are a lot more convenient, especially if you are a traveling GM.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Terrinoth #18 - Bad Moon Rising Part II

Percy encounters the werewolf

Campaign Diary

Entana, Gio, and Percy watched A'bomb'we's wolf form disappear as he raced north, tracking the scent of the ferrox, and then they ventured into the woods.

(Click here for PC profiles)

Percy led the party westwards, guided by her sense of direction honed from years of living in the wilderness. After an hour, the brambles gave way to a clearing. In the daylight, the party saw that in the clearing there were shallow mounds of bare ground, aligned in a single row. Each bare patch was about four feet long and two feet wide, with one being only three feet long.

With a sense of foreboding, Entana summoned up a magical servant to excavate one of the mounds. When about two feet of earth had been removed, the stench of decay became apparent - lying in a shallow grave was the body of a gnome, perhaps not two weeks dead. His clothing suggested he was a merchant, and the injuries on his body were those made by weapons and not the claws or teeth of a werewolf. Percy searched the clearing and found human tracks leading north.

Entana ordered the magical servant to rebury the gnome, and the trio made a promise to have all the bodies relocated for a decent burial, and they continued westwards on the trail of the second ferrox.

After an hour the party arrived at the cave which Percy had seen the ferrox take refuge the night before. Inside, they found the wounded creature and slew it.

As they returned to Nornholt with the carcass of the ferrox they were met by the burgrave's guards. A crowd gathered around them as the hideous form of the ferrox made its way to the towerhouse. The party was met by Gleeson the Steward, who paid them the reward promised, and the young burgrave, who declared a feast in the trio's honour.

Over dinner Gio regaled the guests with the heroic deeds of the party, while Reynard, the burgrave's half-brother and chamberlain, tried to seduce the shy Percy, without success. After his performance, Gleeson took Gio aside and handed him more silver, and bade him to keep the news of the slain gnomes a secret and leave the town the next day and not return to the woods.

After the dinner the party made their way back to the inn where they had taken rooms. There, Gio noticed that they were being watched from afar by the burgrave's guards.

The next morning the party made a great show of leaving town, but once out of sight of the town walls they returned to the woods followed the tracks from the clearing north. After an hour, they came upon smoke from a cooking fire rising from the ruins of a tower.

Sneaking closer, Gio found six armed men sheltering in the ruined tower. Around them were crates and barrels of goods. They grumbled about the cold, and spoke of "doing one last job" before returning to town.

Calling upon the magic of Fortuna, Gio took the form of a gnomish merchant and approached the men, pretending to be a lost and asking for their help to find his way back to the road and his cart. So convincing was he that the bandits fell for his ruse. However, as Gio led them closer and closer to the clearing, they grew nervous and drew their weapons on him. But Entana and Percy were laying in ambush, and after a short fight the leader of the bandits was killed, and the others surrendered. Our heroes disarmed the bandits, and a quick interrogation revealed that they had targeted gnomish merchants and had buried their bodies in the woods while spreading rumours of werewolf attacks. The party bound the hands of the bandits and began to lead them back to Nornholt to face justice.

The sun had set when the party emerged from the woods, where they found themselves met by a patrol of the burgrave's guards. After hearing their story, the guards offered to take custody of the bandits... and when they were handed over, the guards cut their bonds and passed them weapons, and together they turned on the party!

Although already wounded from their early encounter and outnumbered, our heroes fought with a fury, and soon overcame their enemies. Two of the bandits fled back into the woods - Percy gave chase, but before she could catch up with them, a large, dark, shape emerged from the undergrowth and mauled them. Under the light of the waning gibbous moon, Percy saw a towering creature, half-wolf, half-humanoid, blood dripping from its claws and jaws - she turned and ran back to the party.

When she had regained her breath and her composure, she told Entana and Gio what she had seen. But to their relief, the werewolf had not pursued her.

As our heroes pondered over whether they should return to Nornholt or just continue on their journey to Greyhaven, they spotted someone approaching from the direction of the town - it was Gleeson, alone, but clad in armour.

Gleeson surveyed the scene with a look of frustration, and asked why the party had returned to the woods despite his words. Our heroes in turn accused Gleeson of conspiring with the bandits, a charge which he angrily denied. The steward once more bade them to leave town, promising give the gnomes a proper burial, but would not say more than that he had acted to preserve the honour of the burgrave's family.

Unable to get more from him, our heroes decided to continue their journey to Greyhaven... but they will cross paths with Gleeson again...


Prepping and Running the Game

As mentioned in the previous post, this post covers the second half of the session.

I had expected that the players will track down the bandits immediately after they have killed the ferrox, and so had to improvise a whole feast scene, which actually gave me the opportunity to flesh out the NPCs.

Again, I am impressed by how the players have decided to seek justice for the gnomes even though it would mean further delay to their main quest.

I had expected them to attack the bandits in their lair instead of luring them out, which was a creative touch. Gio's player's original plan was to lead them to the burial ground, hoping that it will lead them to reveal their involvement in the murders, but unfortunately the dice meant the bandits became suspicious of him before they arrived - had he been successful, I thought it would be cool if he took the illusion of the dead gnome to spook a confession out of them.

Once again I was able to dupe the players and put them in a disadvantage at the start of combat, this time by having the guards free the bandits. I fear they may become paranoid after this encounter.

The whole story behind Gleeson's involvement is still not revealed to the players (and to the reader either - I must apologise) and there are speculations to the identity of the werewolf. I hope to return to this mystery in a future session, so stay tuned!

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Terrinoth #17 - Bad Moon Rising Part I

A'bomb'we is ambushed by a ferrox


Campaign Diary

Nine days after they left Dawnsmoor, Entana, Gio, and A'bomb'we were traveling on the road to the town of Nornholt when they heard a commotion ahead of them. Moments later, a riderless horse came charging towards them. Entana caused a burst of light to appear before the horse, which caused it to panic and run into the brambles on the side of the road, where it became trapped. A'bomb'we calmed the frightened animal and led it back onto the road, and our heroes found that it appeared to be a draught horse.  Proceeding down the road with the horse, they found a cart tipped on its side. The contents of the cart were spilled onto the road, and a gnome was pinned under it; another gnome was standing next to the cart, looking helpless.

(Click here for PC profiles)

Gio approached the gnomes and offered the party's help. Together, they lifted the cart and pulled the gnome out from under it, but he was severely wounded. A'bomb'we's offer to heal the wounded gnome was met with doubt by his companion, but Gio "explained" that the orc was his servant and could be trusted. Calling on the healing powers of Nature, A'bomb'we mended the broken ribs on the gnome's chest. The gnomes were profuse in their thanks. They explained that they were merchants from Nornholt who have decided to leave the town for good after a spate of attacks in the recent months on gnomish and human merchants traveling to and from the town. The attacks were blamed on werewolves, although there have been no survivors or witnesses to the attacks. The gnomes informed the party that their horse had been jittery all afternoon, and that something in the woods seemed to have spooked the horse just now, causing it to bolt and upsetting the cart.

Even though they were by now close to Nornholt, our heroes (being heroes) decided to accompany the gnomes back south towards the nearest village.

Later that night, as A'bomb'we looked out of the window of the inn where the party was staying that night, he felt a strange presence in the woods outside. The party ventured out of the inn to investigate. A'bomb'we caught the scent of death as he entered the woods, and it became stronger as the party traveled deeper in. Then suddenly, a humanoid form glided from the side of a tree nearby and landed onto A'bomb'we and attacked him with its clawed hands. Entana and Gio raced to help A'bomb'we, but two more of the creatures leapt down from nearby trees and engaged them. After a short, sharp fight our heroes slew one of the creatures, but the other two escaped by climbing onto trees and gliding from tree to tree. One had torn a lock of hair from A'bomb'we's head before it fled.

Under the light of the gibbous moon our heroes saw that the dead creature had pale green skin and hook-like claws at the end of its fingers. Thin membranes which stretched between its arms and torso had allowed it to glide. Entana recognised it to be a ferrox, a creature said to be a servant of Waiqar the Undying, but which was seldom seen outside of the Mistlands. A'bomb'we was anxious to hunt down the ferrox which had taken his hair, fearing that dark magic would be done to him with it, but it was impossible to track the swift creatures.

Our heroes decided to continue their journey to Greyhaven the next day, and arrived at Nornholt that evening. Chatting with the locals at the inn, they soon realised that the people of Nornholt were a superstitious lot who seemed to attribute every good or bad thing to supernatural causes.

The cause of the recent attacks on merchants was attributed by many to the prophecy that bad things would happen to the town if the position of the burgrave was not passed on to the eldest son of the previous burgrave: the previous burgrave died two years ago, but as his only son had died before him, leaving only an elder, illegitimate son and a younger, legitimate son, the position had passed on to the younger son; some townsfolk believed that the elder grandson should have been made the burgrave, as the previous burgrave had recognised his grandson after the death of his son, but others argued that the prophecy referred only to legitimate sons.

The next morning our heroes sought an audience with the burgrave to inform him that the so-called werewolf attacks were in fact committed by ferroxes. When they arrived at the towerhouse they were conducted into the great hall, where they were met by Gleeson, the burgrave's steward. Gleeson listened to their tale with concern, and then told them that the young woman also in the hall had arrived before them with the news that she had spotted a creature matching the description of a ferrox entering a cave in the nearby woods. Steward Gleeson offered the party a reward for the carcass of the ferroxes, which he hope would convince the townsfolk that the culprits of the attacks had been eliminated.

The young woman introduced herself as Percy Hazard, and claimed to be a servant of Kellos. She told them that she had traveled to Nornholt from the north the night before, and had spotted a strange creature in the woods which she trailed to a cave. Wary to entering the cave alone, she decided to bring her account to the burgrave, and now she offered to lead our heroes there. As our party was about to leave the hall, a young man dressed in rich clothes entered. He introduced himself as Reynard, the burgrave's half-brother and his chamberlain. He asked about their story and listened with interest, and his eyes lingered on the face of young Percy, before he wished them good luck on their journey.

The party left town and made their way towards to woods. Just outside the woods, A'bomb'we picked up a scent on the road leading north: it was the same scent of death he had met two nights ago. Hoping that it was the scent of the ferrox which took his hair, he took the form of the wolf and turned to track it, leaving Entana, Gio, and Percy to hunt down the other ferrox in the cave.

Prepping and Running the Game

This campaign diary actually covers one-and-a-half session - I have decided to cover the first part of the second session for better narrative flow.

The scenario is based on Bad Moon Rising, from Frog God Games' Quests of Doom compilation. The module has a rather interesting background, which I have more or less adopted 'as is', but the bulk of the session we ran was focused on the ferroxes.

I had introduced the ferroxes not just as an encounter combat, but to impress upon the players that their characters have now earned the attention of the dark forces.

I had initially assumed that the party would continue on their journey to Nornholt after they helped the gnomish merchants, and had planned to launch the attack on them when they were closer to the town. I did not expect them to go the extra mile and accompany the gnomes southwards, effectively losing a day of travel time - I had earlier impressed upon them that winter was closing in and that they had a narrow window to reach Greyhaven and/or Nerekhall to pursue the plot-hooks. I had to adjust things a bit to make sure the attack still took place, but I was proud of their decision.

I had one of the ferroxes grab A'bomb'we's hair as I was planning to curb the character's Wild Shape ability - the original plan was to have the bad guys utilise some form of voodoo magic to perhaps enchant a collar, which when placed on the beast form of the character would "lock" it in its beast form; finding a way to remove the enchanted collar would then be a challenging side-quest for the party, and an interesting (I hope) roleplaying opportunity for the player.

Unfortunately, A'bomb'we's player had to drop out of the A Team, so the whole hair thing became a plot device to separate him from the A Team. At the same time, Whisper's player asked for a spot in the A Team too, which helped me fill up the roster.

So far A Team has suffered three drop-outs, but I am happy to announce that Strigoi's player will be rejoining the table in January next year, which will add some much-needed melee power to the party.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Terrinoth #16 - Moonspike Tower Part II

Dalkon holds Therion hostage
Campaign Diary

In the month of Hailag, at a time when most sensible folks would not venture into the wilderness on account of the cold, we find our party wading through the frigid waters of Blackwing Swamp.

Having learned about the long-forgotten causeway through the swamp, Therion Lakemane, entrepreneur and adventurer, had put together a crew to explore and claim the use of the causeway for himself. Joining him on the expedition were Whisper Blackmane and Risver Tellir, elven adventurers, and Tom Kelloson and Giso Meyer, priests of Kellos who had come along on the prospect of setting up a shrine long the route. They had need for haste, as soon snow would arrive and render all travel impossible.

(Click here for PC profiles)

Following the marks left by Whisper on their last foray into the swamp, the party arrived at the causeway just as the sun began to set. From here they planned to strike out northwards to the ruined keep where they battled goblins and a wyvern, and then to the northern end of the causeway, to see where it ended, before turning south again to find the other end.

Arriving at the ruined keep the next day, they found the wyvern still roosted at the top of the tower, warming its wings in the morning sun. The party waited until the wyvern had flown off to hunt before they entered the keep. There were no signs of the goblins - their carcasses had presumably fed the wyvern over the past weeks. Whisper laid a bear trap in the wyvern's bed of branches and anchored it to the floor below, and disguised the scent of the party using swamp mud. Our adventurers laid in wait inside the tower, hoping to take down the creature once it was caught.

Eventually the sound of flapping wings announced the wyvern's return. On the floor below, our heroes waited with bated breath. They heard a sniffing sound, followed by shriek as the wyvern took off into the air again - it had detected the trap! The party scrambled to the rooftop, eager to catch the creature before it can flee again. The wyvern defended its nest fiercely, but this time it faced more foes, and it was felled by an arrow as it tried to escape once more.

Therion had the wyvern skinned for its leather, hoping to recover part of the cost for the expedition by selling it off later. Exhausted from the fight, the party spent the night inside the relative comfort of the tower.

The next day they followed the course of the causeway northwards. As the afternoon wore on they found the ground now drier and the tree cover more sparse. Here, towards the edge of the swamp, the water gave way to boglands covered by moss and ferns. As the sun began to set, they saw the remnants of a tower by the side of the causeway, this one without a curtain wall, and in worse state of disrepair - only the first storey of the tower remained, and someone had laid a thatched roof over it, and smoke emerged from one corner of it. As the party observed the ruined tower from a distance, the form of an old woman emerged - it seemed that she had made a dwelling out of the tower.

Therion strode to the dwelling and introduced himself to the old woman, and asked permission for the party to be admitted to her home. The old woman introduced herself as Mama Peat ('on account of my using the peat for cooking and smoking lampreys, you see'), a 'wise woman' who had been living at the tower for years, living on smoked lampreys, moss and other plants, as well as other food and items which folks from the nearby villages would bring to exchange for potions which she would brew.

The party were given lamprey stew for dinner as Therion tried to interest Mama Peat in his business, but she replied that she had little use for money but had an interest in magical items, and asked if our heroes had any they were willing to trade for her help. Tom offered his throwing knife, but it was turned down. As the evening wore on Tom fell into a deep slumber. Talk continued to revolve around the subject of magic. Mama Peat began to tell our heroes of a tale of an evil witch who lived in the swamp and claimed the lives of babies born before the full moon... and revealed herself to be the sister of the witch whom our heroes have slain several weeks before! She demanded that the gem that Whisper plucked from the body of her sister to be returned to her, and in return she would leave their business with the causeway alone. Before Whisper could give a reply, Therion drew his rapier and attacked the witch, but instead of staying and fighting, she stepped into the fireplace and vanished in a blaze.

Our heroes searched the rest of the dwelling and found little else besides smoked lampreys and dried herbs and moss. They set watch and spent a fitful night in the dwelling.

The next day they found the northern end of the causeway a short distance away from the dwelling, and turned south to find the other end.

On the fifth day of their expedition dark clouds rolled in from the north. Late in the afternoon they came upon the remains of yet another tower by the causeway, this one so worn that only the foundations of the tower remained. As they approached the tower they saw that its floor had given way and now opened to a basement some ten feet below. They heard the jingling of chains, followed by voices crying for help.

Whisper crept close to the edge and saw that two men and a woman were imprisoned inside there, each chained by their ankles to an alcove in one of the four corners of the basement floor. Tom leapt onto the floor below and started to question them.

The three gave their names as Dalkon, Feck, and Tilsa, and claimed to be residents of Tamalir who woke up about a week ago to find themselves chained there. They had no knowledge of how they came to be there, nor who had brought them there or for what purpose, and they begged our heroes to free them from the chains.

Whisper cast a rope down and climbed down, followed by the others. As Giso examined the chains around Tilsa's ankles he noticed them to be of good quality steel, and that the manacles were not locked but forge-welded shut. Setting the chain against a rock, he set to work with his hammer, and after some effort broke one of them.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party grew more and more suspicious of the circumstances the prisoners were in: despite not having a source of food or water, the trio had remained alive for a week in the middle of winter, and indeed there were no signs of waste or excrement there. Whisper sensed magic on the three prisoners, but could not make out its nature.

Tension began to rise as our heroes pressed the prisoners for answers, and were met only with protestations of ignorance and increasingly desperate pleas to be freed. Eventually patience wore thin and Risver drew his knife and approached Dalkon, thinking to cut him and see if he bled. As he came within reach Dalkon struck out at him, throwing Risver several yards back. Enraged, Giso charged at Dalkon with his hammer. Therion stepped before Dalkon, shielding him from Giso's attack... and felt Dalkon's hand close around his neck in a vice-like grip.

Release him and the other two, he demanded, or he would kill Therion.

But the party was in no bargaining mood - they attacked Dalkon, even as he shielded himself with Therion. Unable to break himself free from the strangle, the bard passed out, only to be revived by Whisper chanting a healing word. Seeing this Dalkon cast Therion aside and seized Whisper by her neck instead. In the confusion that followed Whisper was struck by Giso and passed out, but her companions were able to wrest her from the grasp of Dalkon. As the three prisoners strained against their bonds to try to grab at our heroes, they one by one climbed out of the basement, and from the safety of their vantage point above called down holy fire against the now-defenceless trio.

When the prisoners were vanquished the party recovered the chains, noting the maker's mark upon them - they might solve this mystery yet!

Leaving the ruined tower behind, the party trekked on southwards, until they came to the end  of the causeway. Their journey had come to an end.

***

Having returned to Tamalir, Whisper recovered her gem from the vault of a merchant house where she had deposited it. Holding it in her hand, she called out silently to Mama Peat, but received no reply.

Then one night she awoke in her room at the Leaky Tap, and found the witch standing by her window. The witch repeated her offered to leave the dwelling in the swamp and not interfere with the party's business in exchange for the gem. Whisper in return told her that now that she has learned of the nature of the gem, she did not want it in her possession. She handed the gem to the witch, who stepped back into the shadow... and vanished once more.

Prepping and Running the Game

I apologise in advance if I blow my own trumpet too much in this post, but I feel the session was a good example of how an 'improv' style of GMing can work with experienced and engaged players.

This session was the first in the Terrinoth campaign that I did not base off a specific module, but rather the elements of the scenario came from loose threads left over from three previous session. There was very little to prep for in the specifics - I prepared the monster stats, a couple of terrain mats, and did some reading on peat, lampreys, and smoking lampreys with peat.

To begin with the whole reason for this expedition was based on an idea supplied by the players themselves. As the GM all I needed to do was to make up some reasonable challenges to provide more information on the causeway and its history (indirectly).

The first part of the session was to me the most straight-forward, so I was a little surprised when the players took a long time trying to decide how to tackle the wyvern. Eventually I decided to make it fly off to hunt for food so they could get close to it without being detected.

The second encounter was a follow-up to the session where they encountered and killed an evil hag. I had wanted to introduce the idea that the hag was once one of three hags in a coven, and when I needed to populate another location for this session, I decided to make use of this thread, I left the encounter very much unscripted, hoping to react to how the PCs acted instead. I had actually a model of a purple worm (painted in flesh colour) on my table to use as a giant lamprey ally for the hag if a fight broke out, but it didn't seem to fit the feel in the room at the moment, and I decided not to use it.

I had imagined that Whisper and the two priests of Kellos would want to attack the hag once they learned her true nature, and that Therion would rather strike a bargain with her, so I was rather surprised when it was the other way round.

The third encounter was my favourite. The mysterious nature of the prisoners and their reluctance to provide answers, and their physical prowess displayed later really puzzled the players. I will not spoil the story here, but this location is tied to the Blood & Gold scenario. One of the players even asked if his character knew if this was in anyway linked to the Cult of Nordros - as a GM it is always gratifying to have bits of lore you told the players thrown back at you in a later game.

I could feel the tension and the frustration (a good kind, I thought) at the table rise as the players and PCs started to disagree on what to do and then each went ahead and did what he or she felt was right - it was a little like the scene in The Avengers when they started to turn on each other. But as in the movie, once the enemy showed himself, the team acted together and defeated their foes.

When Therion's player placed his figure in front of Dalkon to shield him from Giso, I saw the perfect opportunity to raise the stakes and took it, actually physically moving to behind the player and passing my hand in front of his neck (which unfortunately meant I could not see the look on his face when that happened). The player was so traumatised by the event that after the game he told me that Therion's alignment had shifted from Neutral Good to True Neutral after this.

Despite the fight being fought on a fixed location on account of Dalkon being chained, it was actually one of the more tactical fights in the campaign as the PCs tried to rescue their comrades without hurting them, trying instead to pry them loose from Dalkon's grasp. I thought I did rather well too when I made Dalkon take the risk of letting go of a hostage and grabbing the healer instead.

Once the PCs were all out of reach of the prisoners, it was basically shooting fish in a barrel as they had ranged-attack cantrips. It was however fitting for the prisoners to not have any ranged attacks, so I allowed them their victory.

Once again the players were experienced enough to bounce off elements I had included in the scenario without much thought, in this case looking for a maker's mark on the chains, which I had described as well-made. This will allow them to trace the buyer of the chains (presumably the person who imprisoned the trio there), but in fact it will be the other way round: allowing the person to find those who have killed his prisoners!

All in all this was a very enjoyable session, and it has given me more confidence in running a less prepped game.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Terrinoth #15 - Retribution

The heroes fail to stem the tide of zombies...

Campaign Diary

Giso and Tom's recent adventures had earned the attention of Abbot Kostel, who decided that it would be best if the two priests did a spot of penance at St Olfryc's Priory until after the Winter Solstice mass. They would be accompanied on their journey to the priory by Whisper Blackmane, who had been employed as a guide.

(Click here for PC profiles)

Our reluctant priests headed north from Tamalir, with a mule carrying winter supplies in tow. St Olfryc's Priory, our priests knew, was founded as a hermitage several centuries ago, and was later expanded to a priory when a childless noble obtained permission from the Baron to bequeath the land to the church upon his death. For a period the priory was home to a sect of the church of Kellos known as the Order of the Cleansing Flames, whose members practised self-mortification by branding themselves. The practice gradually fell out of favour, and had stopped in the past few decades.

On the third day of the journey, as the party climbed the hill to reach the priory, a snowstorm began. The trio struggled on, but found their path ahead blocked by two large wolves. The wolves growled menacingly at the party, but would not attack. Faced with a long trip back to the nearest village or a long detour, the party chose to attack, and after a hard battle managed to kill the wolves and continue on their way.

The winter sun was close to setting when they finally arrived at the priory. They were welcomed into the compound, and introduced to the monks who lived there: Prior Ruan, his assistant Dean Leland, Brother Rosen who ran the scriptorium, Brother Enthel who did most of the cooking and cleaning, and the young novice Brother Malven.

The party reported their encounter with the wolves, and were told that the woods had been strangely quiet the past week. With the storm showing no signs of letting up, Whisper was invited to stay at the priory until the weather improved. Giso and Tom were assigned to work with Brother Rosen to copy scriptures during their penance, while Whisper volunteered to help around the place.

Th next morning when the monks left their dormitory for morning services, they found five dead ravens on the snow-covered garth in the middle of the priory. The birds were frozen solid, with no signs of injury on them, and there were no tracks leading to or from where they were laid.

At the scriptorium, Tom did his best to impress Brother Rosen with his calligraphy, while Giso, protesting his exile to the priory, deliberately did a mediocre job, and earned the disapproval of Dean Leland. Whisper meanwhile earned the attention of the dean when he found out that she was not a follower of Kellos, and found herself being proselytised to at each meal time.

Later that night, Giso and Tom were awakened from their slumber by a repetitive knocking sound. Tom dragged the reluctant Giso from the warmth of his bed, the two followed the noise to the door of the scriptorium, where they found a dead fox hung by its tail over the door - the winter wind slammed its frozen body against the wooden door periodically, creating the irregular knocking sound. Closer examination of the carcass showed a jagged wound on the chest of the animal, and that its heart had been ripped out. Again, there were no tracks leading to the door. Giso recalled from his reading that cultists of Nordros removed the hearts of the animals that they sacrificed to the evil god of Death and Winter. Tom and Giso alerted the other monks, but with no clue as to who the culprit was, there was nothing to do but to return to bed.

The mood at the refectory was subdued the next day. Dean Leland behaved coldly to Whisper, perhaps suspecting that she was responsible for the events. Brother Melvan suspected the villagers, whom he believed to be protesting their tithe to the priory.

Work continued at the scriptorium for our priests, while Whisper took a walk outside the priory walls during a lull in the storm, eventually chancing upon a nearby graveyard, where the deceased monks and worshipers were buried.

Thankfully, nothing strange happened that night.

On the third day, the priests were interrupted in the work at the scriptorium when Prior Ruan came to ask for help: someone had left the window to his chambers open, and the snow had blown in, wetting the floor and furniture. While the party helped the old man clean up, they noticed that he had brand marks over his forearms. Prior Ruan revealed that he had been an adherent of the Order of Cleansing Flames in his youth, and that he had been a zealot who forced self-mortification onto novices, which eventually resulted in his transfer out of the priory. It was only with the death of the previous prior of St Olfryc's that he had been reassigned to the priory. Age, he said, had mellowed him, and he now regretted his actions.

When they asked Prior Ruan about who had access to his chambers, the party also learned that the monastery had been missing some gold and silver candlesticks and goblets, and that the remainder had been kept under lock by the Prior.

At this point they all heard a loud sound followed by a scream coming from the nearby kitchen. Rushing there, they found that the lintel over the kitchen door had fallen, nearly missing Brother Enthel, who spilled the pot of pottage he was holding. Examination of the broken pieces of the lintel showed signs of sabotage, and our heroes volunteered to help investigate, which would also conveniently take them away from their duties in the scriptorium.

The next day our trio kept a close watch on the monks. Giso spied on Dean Leland from outside his office, Whisper feigned interest in the scriptures to spend time with Brother Rosen, and Tom watched Brothers Enthel and Malven from a discrete distance.

In the middle of the morning, Tom noticed Brother Enthel leaving the compound surreptitiously. While he trailed Brother Enthel, he noticed Brother Malven behaving around the tool shed in a suspicious manner. Making the decision to check on Brother Malven first, Tom crept next to the tool shed and saw the young novice rummaging in a corner. After Brother Malven left, Tom entered the tool shed to search it, and found the lost gold and silver items buried behind various tools in one corner. Leaving them in their place, Tom left to try to track Brother Enthel, but the falling snow had covered his tracks.

By now our heroes were on edge and suspected something bad was going to happen. They knew not what it was, but they resolved to keep a watch over the priory all through the night. Whisper stood watch in the scriptorium, while Tom and Giso guarded the two entrances to the priory: the door to the antechamber that led to the garth and the prior's chambers, and the door to the chapel respectively.

At around midnight the storm abated. Then Brother Enthel opened the door from the garth to the antechamber and walked in nonchalantly. Surprised but not suspecting anything sinister, Tom thanked him for the nice dinner he made earlier. Brother Enthel walked slowly over to the door and replied:" I'm glad you enjoyed it... because it was your last meal."

Then he lifted the bar across the door, opened it, and zombies spilled in.

Tom's cries alerted Whisper and Giso, who rushed to aid him. In the confusion Brother Enthel managed to slip past our heroes to enter the chapel and open the other door to the outside - more zombies entered.

While Whisper and Tom fought to contain the zombies in the antechamber and Giso faced off against several zombies alone in the chapel, Brother Enthel led a few zombies into the garth, heading towards the prior's chamber by a different route. The party despatched the zombies, sustaining grievous injuries while doing so, and chased after them.

Tom threw the throwing knife he had found in the wyvern's lair at Brother Enthel, imbuing it with the holy flames of Kellos as he did so... the knife missed its target and stuck in the door to the scriptorium, setting it alight. Tom called out to Brother Rosen, who had thus far been hiding in the dormitory with Brother Malven. Alerted to the fact that his beloved scriptures were in danger, the monk overcame his fear, rushed out, and began shoveling snow onto the burning door, eventually extinguishing the flames!

While Whisper and Giso held off the zombies in the garth, Tom entered the kitchen to find Brother Enthel strangling Prior Ruan - like the older man his forearms bore brand marks too. Tom struck at Brother Enthel's neck, killing him. Searching his body, they found more brand marks, and a tattoo of a skull, marking him as a worshiper of Nodros.

As the party gathered around him, Prior Ruan revealed that Brother Enthel suffered under his tutelage when he was a novice and was made to brand himself many times. When the two met met again on Prior Ruan's return, the older man had apologised and asked for forgiveness, which was given - but now it seemed that Brother Enthel had never forgiven his erstwhile mentor, and had plotted a terrible revenge.

In the aftermath of the chaos Tom took Brother Malven aside and questioned him about the stash in the tool shed. The young monk, already shaken by recent events, spilled the beans: he was a wanted thief who had joined the priory to escape from the law, and was plotting to return to civilisation now that he thought things had blown over. Tom flipped the young man a Gros, and ordered him to depart, which he quickly did.

With only three members left, Prior Ruan realised that the priory could not sustain itself any longer. Packing their scriptures and as much supplies as they and the mule could carry, the monks and our heroes left the priory, and made their way to the nearest village.

Prepping and Running the Game

As this was the Halloween game, I thought it would be a good time to run Retribution by Raging Swan Press, a mystery-horror scenario. This is probably the third or fourth time I have run a "stranded in a monastery in the middle of nowhere in a snowstorm with suspicious monks when murder and fire happens" scenario. It is not an innovative premise, but Retribution excelled in laying out how the GM can slowly rack up the tension in the game.

The original scenario has more content than the scenario I ran, with some details on the village near the monastery, and a whole dungeon section which I left out. It also has more combat encounters and a larger cast of villains and NPCs. The scenario as written would probably require more than the three hours we had, so in the interest of time and make it easier for me and the players to keep track of the NPCs I cut out most of the combat encounters, locales, and trimmed the list of NPCs down to five.

With a mystery scenario it is always difficult to strike a balance between giving the players enough clues to allow them to pinpoint a suspect, and not giving them so much information that the solve the mystery in the first hour. Retribution takes this into account, and has advice on what to do in case your players correctly identify the suspect early in the game.

In this case I think I did too good of a job making Brother Enthel low-key, such that the players suspected Brother Rosen, Dean Leland, and even a Prior Ruan with a split personality, but not Brother Enthel. The last one is an interesting idea which I may actually use for my next monastery mystery game.

For the layout of the priory I chose to use the beautiful 30" x 30" St Olfryc's Priory from Heroic Maps, specifically the winter-themed one, which was perfect for my purpose. I adjusted the plot to the map, which almost proved catastrophic at the critical moment in the game: there were only two main entrances into the priory which Brother Enthel could let the zombies in, and they were each guarded by a PC! If a PC attacked Brother Enthel before he could open the door, the game's climax would not happen.

The scenario had not predicted that the PCs would be guarding the route by which the zombies would attack, no did I expect them to stand guard all night. I literally stood hunched over the map with the figurines placed on them for a whole minute before I decided to let the dice fall where they may be and let Brother Enthel make his entrance. The seconds when I casually moved Brother Enthel's figure across the antechamber to the door and then uttered his line was the high point of the game for me.

I think the players were genuinely surprised by the suddenness of the zombie attack. Giso's player was so taken off guard that he did not think to turn undead until several turns into combat, when the PCs had all taken heavy damage.

The comic moment of the game happened when one of the players noted that the flaming throwing knife might set the scriptorium door on fire. I went with the suggestion and had Tom's player roll for fire damage. When they called to Rosen to help put out the fire, I decided that the natural thing for him to do would be to shovel the snow on the ground onto the burning door. I rolled to see how effective he was, and rolled high: he was a human hurricane, as one of the players put it!

I had not thought about how to end the game, but when one of the players made the remark that the priory would probably be too understaffed to continue, I went with it and had them abandon it for the season. This actually provides me with another site for a possible "holdings" campaign, so if either Giso or Tom's player do decide they want to "settle down", we have a site which they can feel a certain connection to.

Over all it was a fun session with plenty of opportunity for roleplaying. If you are looking for a horror-mystery scenario based in a monastery, I recommend you check Retribution out.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Terrinoth #14 - The Road to Damnation and The Golden Banner Part II



Campaign Diary

Our heroes raced through the abandoned streets of Dawnsmoor, as A'bomb'we in his wolf form followed the scent of the assassins south towards to dock district. Then, out of the corner of his eyes, he spotted a green glow approaching from the south. Gio, Entana and A'bomb'we hid and waited for the green glow to come closer.

(Click here for PC profiles)

As it came near, the party saw that the source of the glow was a disembodied skull, floating purposefully towards the north, at just below the level of the roofs. It seemed to be headed towards the Venier residence!

For a while the party was unsure if they should return to the residence in case the skull meant to do the people there harm, or if they should carry on to find Geldrey's girl before she was killed, but Gio made the decision for everyone when he used the magic granted by Fortuna's coin to conjure an invisible hand to tug at the skull. This certainly got the skull's attention, as it turned around and started charging at the party! Entana threw magical flames at the skull, but it seemed unaffected by fire.

"You will not find it so easy to kill me this time!" the skull cried, before it shot beams of sickly green light at Entana, who felt his limbs weakened before he fell to the ground, unconscious. A'bomb'we caught hold of Entana's robe and hoisted him onto his back, and together the trio fled down the streets, pursued by the skull.

They were able to shake their pursuer by ducking into an alley, but Entana was still unconscious and growing weaker by the minute. Faced with no other option, A'bomb'we resumed his orc form so he could heal Entana with his druidic magic; but this meant he could no longer take wolf form and find Geldrey's girl. Undaunted, Gio climbed to the roof to see where the skull had gone. To his relief, the skull seemed to have changed its plans and was now heading south! Sending A'bomb'we to return to the residence to give them a warning, Entana and Gio resumed their journey to the south, until they came to the docks, where Gio saw the skull disappear at the base of a warehouse building.

Approaching the building, they found light coming from the basement windows. Moving closer, they looked into the basement and saw the skull in conversation with an elf and a few men.

Ravik, said the skull, has failed in the mission, the skull argued, and that they should kill the girl as planned. At his order the men began to move the crates by a wall, exposing a hidden door. Despite the odds, our heroes decided to take a risk: Entana jumped through the window and summoned a gust of magical wind, throwing the skull against a wall and causing the elf and some of the thugs to fall. He then followed it up with a magical fog, and under the cover of this Gio rushed into the secret room, where he found Geldrey's girl and led her out. With their enemies still in confusion, Gio helped Entana lift the girl to the basement window, before returning to the room to grab a chest and some papers he saw on the table inside the room. Out of the basement, our heroes ran as quickly as they could back to the Venier residence, where Geldrey was reunited with her grand-daughter.

Our heroes examined their find from the secret room. The chest held several hundred Gros. One of the paper was a promissory note for the sum of 300 Gros, issued in Nerekhall to one Maczko Neihart; the other was a letter addressed to Faenwyn (an elven name), informing him that "Mondock has failed but he still serves our Undying Master", and that Ravik was now in command.

Suddenly the skull's words made chilling sense: Mondock was the name of the necromancer they had killed and decapitated several weeks ago, whose head was displayed on pike on the walls of Skydown Castle, and had subsequently gone missing!

As Gio and A'bomb'we returned to their rooms, Entana was summoned to meet with his father. The elder Venier thanked his son and his friends, and finally gave his approval for his choice of a career in the magical arts. He too had a longing for adventure in his youth, he revealed, but had been prevented from pursuing this path due to his obligations. Now, he planned to hand over business to his eldest son, and travel to the lands of Al-Kalim, where he had seen but briefly during his "business trips", but had never had the chance to explore.

The next morning, our heroes joined in the procession as the relic made its way through the city to the docks, where it was carried across the river on a barge to arrive at Kellos' Landing, and there in a pompous ceremony formally presented to the Temple of Kellos.

The party took a well-deserved rest in Dawnsmoor, and after two days they set off to Greyhaven, where they hoped to learn more of the pendant that they had found on Mondock's body.

Prepping and Running the Game

The report above covers only the first part of the session - I have broken it down into two parts for narrative purpose.

This part of the report is essentially the continuation of the previous episode. I had introduced the floating skull as a dramatic element, knowing that A'bomb'we had run out of Wildshape slots for the day, and that the party would be forced to choose between saving the girl, returning to defend the house, or else split the party. I had expected them to split the party, with Entana returning home and Gio and A'bomb'we carrying on to the docks. I had not counted on them drawing the attention of the skull right there and then, and had to improvise so they still had a chance to locate the villains' den.

I made "props" documents for this session as I thought it would be an interesting way to present the clues to the players. These were made in a rather "primitive" way: I first searched for free fonts of the appropriate type, then created the text. I then looked for png-s of wax seals, and pasted them onto the respective letters. To give the parchment look I first printed a parchment pattern onto the paper, then printed the text onto the same sheet of paper.

The use of a font type to represent the 'handwriting' and the use of a seal will allow me to present future letters as further clues to my players, which is something I plan to work into the future scenarios.

Entana's father's retirement and his acceptance of his son's career choice resolves part of the arc for the character. The choice of traveling to Al-Kalim is however not random - the player has come up with the idea that the family wealth came from trade with Al-Kalim, and as I plan for the next arc of the campaign to be a larger sandbox encompassing all the lands outside of Terrinoth, this will give me a hook to draw the PCs to Al-Kalim if the players chose to explore that region of the setting.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Terrinoth #13 - Moonspike Tower Part I


Campaign Diary

Our tale opened in the taproom of The Leaky Tap, a dingy inn on the south side of Tamalir, where Whisper had made her temporary home. As she came down from her room on the second floor this evening, she heard a small figure wearing a broad-brimmed hat calling to her, or to be exact calling:"Hey, white-hair!".

The wearer of the hat turned out to be Erkiss, the kobold the party had encountered in the Blackwing Swamp a few weeks before, now disguised as a gnome, and sporting a black eye. Against her better judgement, Whisper sat down at Erkiss' table and listened to his tale:

After the events of the last adventure, Erkiss had found a ruined keep in the middle of the swamp where a dragon laired. He offered to lead a tribe of goblins to the dragon and its treasure hoard for a 10% cut. The goblins drove the dragon off, suffering many casualties, but afterwards reneged on the deal and gave him a beating before kicking him out of the keep. Now Erkiss had come to Tamalir to find his 'friends', whom he hoped will drive the goblins away and give him his 10% cut afterwards.

Time, Erkiss explained, was of the essence - the goblins have suffered many casualties, but with the treasure they have found their leader could attract more followers, and very soon their numbers would swell and they would even become a threat to the humans!

Leaving Whisper to pass the message to the others, Erkiss left The Leaky Tap, promising to meet the party at the south gate at dawn the next day.

At dawn the next day, Whisper, Giso and Tom left the city gates as they were opened and found Erkiss waving at them from behind a tree outside. The kobold led the party westward into the swamps, with the party keeping a close eye on him and Giso insulting him every step of the way.

(Click here for PC profile)

Retracing his step by the means of a series of chalk marks made on tree trunks, Erkiss led our heroes deeper and deeper into the swamp. Whisper made marks of her own, but she also found that she could sense the presence of the green cat's-eye gem (which she had gained from the last adventure) that she had left in Tamalir even from this far.

As dusk fell, our party found themselves before an ancient causeway that ran from the south to the north. Here they made camp for the night. During the second watch of the night they were woken by a deep roar in the distance, which was followed by the sound of something approaching the camp site. Giso cast a light spell on a rock and threw it towards the sound, and found a few panicked deer, which fled away.

The next day saw the party make faster progress northwards along the causeway, and by mid-morning they have arrived at their destination: a ruined fort by the side of the causeway. The design of the fort dated it to the days of the Dragon Wars; much of its walls and three of its corner towers were in ruins, but the largest, the east tower, still stood tall. There, Erkiss informed them, was where the treasure of the dragon was held. Two goblins kept watch from the top of the tower, and another two guarded the gate-less gateway.

The party planned a stealthy infiltration of the compound from one of the smaller ruined towers, dragging the reluctant Erkiss with them. One by one our adventurers scaled the tower, moving only when the vision of the goblin sentries were directed elsewhere; everything seemed to be going well, until Tom's foot dislodged a loose rock, sending it to the swamp below and making a loud splash. The time for stealth was over!

Moving to the ground level, the party ambushed the first two goblins sent to investigated, and then cut through the reinforcements, sending them fleeing back to the east tower. The party gave chase, and for a while did not notice that Erkiss had not followed them.

Climbing up the spiral staircase in the east tower, our heroes quickly despatched a couple more goblin archers. The third floor seemed unoccupied, so Whisper stayed as a rearguard while Tom and Giso continued to ascend.

Arriving at the roof of the tower, Tom and Giso found neither goblin nor treasure. Meanwhile, in the floor below, Whisper heard heavy breathing coming from behind a doorway to her right...

Before she could raise the alarm, a two-headed giant burst through the doorway, swinging a huge spiked club at her. At the same time, two goblins rushed out of a doorway on her left - she was surrounded!

Tom and Giso rushed down from the rooftop upon hearing the commotion, evening the odds in the combat, but beset on both sides, Whisper was knocked out and had to be healed by Giso.

After a hard fight, the party slew the goblins and the giant, whom they noticed was already wounded before the fight. Searching the room where the giant had emerged from, they found a chest filled with old silver coins dating from the Dragon Wars.

Our heroes limped out of the tower to find Erkiss waiting for them outside. When questioned about why he did not warn them about the giant, the kobold grinned sheepishly and claimed he had forgotten to.

Any thought of punishing the kobold for his amnesia was forgotten, however, when the shadow of a large winged form moved across the courtyard of the keep. The party ran for the gateway, but the winged form descended before them: it was a large winged reptilian creature, with... two legs and a tail with a stinger on its end - a wyvern!

It was no dragon, and it too bore wounds from an earlier fight, but it was still a formidable adversary and our heroes were still in no shape to take it on. The four scattered in different directions, yelling out an agreement to meet back at their camp site if they made it out alive. The wyvern roared - a sound which the party now recognised from the night before - and swooped at Whisper, clawing at her as it passed. Whisper turned and dodged as best as she could, until Tom and Giso, regaining their courage, halted their flight and turned to her aid. Together, the three pelted the wyvern with missiles and spells, until it decided they were too much trouble and flew away.

Erkiss emerged from his hiding, and together the party hurriedly made their way south on the causeway. When they returned to their camp site, they counted their haul: some eleven hundred silver Gros. True to their word, our heroes gave 10% to Erkiss, and split the rest among themselves. The kobold used his hat as a coin pouch, declined the party's offer to return to Tamalir with them, and disappeared into the swamp. Tired but fearful of the wyvern finding them, our heroes trekked through the night to return to the city.


Prepping and Running the Game

The planned A Team game did not materialise, but fortunately I had a B Team scenario ready, and Whisper's player was once again able to step up at short notice.

The scenario was a mash-up of a few modules and adventure hooks, but I used Moonspike Tower for the title of this session as the module was the inspiration of the main location of the session.

I got the idea of having a goblin be the quest-giver from a module I read, and decided to use Erkiss from the last session as the players seemed to dislike him for no good reason - sure he worked for a witch and taunted an unfortunate man, but he never really did the PCs any harm!

I ran him as Leslie Chow (international criminal!) from the Hangover franchise - to top it off, I told the players OOC after the game that contrary to his claim, Erkiss did not lead the goblins to the wyvern's lair, but merely chanced upon their attack and hatched up the whole plan, and gave himself a black eye to make the story more convincing.

I enjoyed playing Erkiss, and hope to bring him back in future sessions - who knows what he will do with his small fortune in the meantime?

The scenario was pretty straightforward otherwise, with just two small twists to make things a little interesting. The main fun from the session came after the game, when the players started discussing the significance of their discovery of the ruined keep and the causeway.

I had used the causeway and the ruined keep as they were an element from the Moonspike Tower module, and had earlier had some vague idea about criminal organisations using the causeway as a smuggling route, and my players saw the same potential right away.

The players asked me if they knew anyone they could sell the information to, and I pointed to Therion Lakemane, another B Team character. Whisper's player sent a text to Therion's player (in real life), offering to sell that information to him (in-game). While we were waiting for his reply, Whisper's player discussed her plans for a day job for her - there weren't really many career options for an elf in Tamalir, but she was looking for a job that had a lot of outdoor time...

Then Therion's player replied: not only would Therion buy the information, he would employ Whisper to police the smuggling route as his enforcer!

The offer was quickly accepted, and now I find myself having to plan a whole new arc to the campaign. Thankfully, it is close to winter in our game world, so any plans would have to wait a few months before they could be implemented, which leaves me some time to plot while we play through a few winter-time scenarios in the future.

At this point I am glad I have backed Matt Colville's Stronghold and Followers, which will be delivered soon. Hopefully there are enough numbers in there to help me come up with the costs it will take to refurbish the causeway and the keep, and some numbers for the potential revenue their venture will make.

There are many potential complications and therefore adventure hooks that arise from this: what if another criminal organisation wants to muscle in on their business? How will the two priests of Kellos feel about this? Will Erkiss return and try to claim a piece of the pie?

I have no idea, and I can't wait to find out.