Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Terrinoth #13 - Moonspike Tower

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.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Terrinoth #12 - The Darkness Before Dawn

The party escorts Mama Clay to Maiden's Vale

Campaign Diary

In the month of Herbist Giso Meyer and Tom Kellosson, priests of Kellos, were tasked by their superior to escort Mama Clay, an experienced (and elderly) postpartum nurse, to Maiden's Vale, a village on the edge of Blackwing Swamp that was held by the church. The wife of the reeve of the village was due to deliver, and the church wanted to reward his loyal services by sending the best nurse they could find.

Acting as guide for the party was Whisper Blackmane, newly returned to Tamalir after attending her father's funeral in the Aymhelin Forest.

(Click here for PC profiles)

It was a short two-day journey from Tamalir to Maiden's Vale, but the incessant autumn rains and even more persistent complaining from Mama Clay about the effects of the cold weather and rough roads on her geriatric frame made the trip seem longer.

On the evening of the second day the party arrived at Maiden's Vale to find it curiously quiet. As they passed through the wooden palisade that surrounded the village, they saw a thin man being locked in the stocks in the village square. As they party got closer to the stocks Mama Clay recognised the man as Solly, a servant in the reeve's household.

The party soon learned that Sir Olvar the reeve had ventured into Blackwing Swamp soon after the birth of his son, on account of the local legend, and that his cousin, one Sir Klock, had soon afterwards with the help of ten thugs who had just arrived in the village thrown his wife and newborn child out of the manor house; when Solly protested, he was beaten by the thugs and locked up in the stocks as a example to the other villagers who might dare challenge his authourity.

Our heroes, incensed by this treachery, wanted to release Solly and then march straight to the manor house and eject the usurper, but Solly and Mama Clay argued that it would be foolhardy to do so, and that their first task should be to find Lady Angela, Sir Olvar's wife, and her child.

While the adventurers considered their words, a pine cone struck Solly on the head. It had been thrown by a kobold hiding in a nearby tree. The kobold ran off before Tom and Whisper could catch it and disappeared into the darkness, cackling as it did so.

The party decided that for the present discretion would be the better part of valour, and made for the unnamed public house in the village, where they found some villagers huddled around a table, speaking in whispers. After ascertaining that the new arrivals were not more thugs come here to reinforce Sir Klock, the innkeeper brought them food and drink, and told them of the local legend.

It was said that a long time ago, the villagers of Maiden's Vale offended a witch who lived in Blackwing Swamp, and in revenge she had laid a curse on the village, such that every child born in the three days before a full moon would die upon the midnight of the full moon; Sir Olvar's child had unfortunately been born three days ago, and tonight was the night of full moon. On the same day that the child was born, Sir Olvar had ventured into the swamp, seeking to beg the witch to spare his child, or die fighting her if she refused to do so. Sadly, the legend also told that all those who tried to do so had never returned from the swamp.

The party also learned that Lady Angela had taken refuge at the miller's home, outside the palisade, and under the cover of darkness the innkeeper led our heroes and Mama Clay to the place. There the found mother and child safe, at least for now. Speaking to the miller, they learned that he too had a child born close to the full moon a few years ago, and that he too ventured into the swamp the evening when his child was born, hoping to find the witch. He followed a trail into the swamp until he scaled a cliff and saw a green light in the distance. Following the green light, he eventually came to a hill overlooking a clearing, in the middle which stood a hut. Here he was overcomed with fear, and could not continue, and so returned to the village, and his child died at midnight on the night of the full moon as predicted. Now, seeing another child in danger, he volunteered to lead the adventurers into the swamp.

Leaving Mama Clay to care for Lady Angela and her child, the party traveled towards the swamp - it was now just five hours away from midnight, and they needed haste.

The rain stopped as they entered the swamp, and by the moonlight Whisper found fresh footprints in the path before them. Scouting ahead, Whisper and Tom found three armed men hiding in ambush ahead on them. They launched a surprise attack on the three, and in less than a minute one of the ambushers were dead, and the other two subdued. Interrogating the two survivors, they learned that they were among the thugs hired by Sir Klock to take over his cousin's manor. Sir Klock had predicted that his cousin would go into the swamp to try to save his child, and had in fact encouraged him to do so, but secretly, he had hired mercenaries from outside to help him take over the manor house, in the belief that Sir Olvar would not return - possession being nine tenths of the law, he hoped that the church would make him the new reeve of the village once they had learned of Sir Olvar's fate. His plan looked to be working well, until a villager arrived earlier in the evening with news of the adventurers' arrival, and the three thugs were sent to ambush the party in the event that they ventured into the swamp in an attempt to bring Sir Olvar back.

Our heroes stripped and tied the two thugs up, and sent the miller back to the village to summon help in bringing the thugs back, and continued deeper into the swamp. Soon they came upon the cliff which the miller told them about. Whisper deftly climbed to the top, but the cliff wall, wet with rain, caused her to be covered in mud. From here, she saw an eerie green light in the distance. Giso and Tom climbed to the top with the help of a rope lowered by Whisper, but while walking down the slope on the other side of the cliff they slipped and fell, covering themselves in mud too.

The party trekked in the direction of the green light, which seemed to be at the same distance ahead of them regardless of how far they have walked. After struggling for another hour through the swampy ground, the party ascended a low hill to find a clearing at its top. In the middle of the clearing was a tree stump. Here, someone had piled tree branches and bark on the stump, making a sort of a puppet booth. As they watched the bark curtains of the booth parted, and a candle was lit. A wooden figurine, with white hair made from moss, was mimed climbing a cliff represented by a piece of tree bark - the puppeteer then smeared the front of the figurine in mud, cackling to itself as it did so. Then two more figurines, each made to resemble Giso and Tom, were shown walking down a slope and tumbling, before they too were smeared with mud, all accompanied by the shrill cackle of the puppeteer.

The party recognised the laughter as that of the kobold that had taunted Solly earlier, and rushed forward to try to catch it. When it narrowly slipped Tom's grasp, Whisper nocked an arrow and shot it through its leg. The kobold fell to the ground, howling in pain. The adventurers tied the creature up, and healed its wound. Questioning it, they learned that it called itself Erkiss, and that it had been acting as a scout for "the mistress" who lived in the hut at the bottom of the hill. It also revealed that a man matching the description of Sir Olvar had come this way two days ago, and had come under her spell.

Leaving Erkiss by the tree stump, our adventurers walked to the far side of the hill. Here they could see a hut in a clearing at the base of the hill. Green light glowed through the windows of the hut. Standing before the door of the hut were four human forms. As they got closer they saw that them seemed to be in a trance, standing still with weapons in their hands, their eyes glazed over and staring into the distance. Three of them looked disheveled, as if they had been here for ages, while the fourth looked liked he had recently arrived - Sir Olvar.

Tom walked forward and tried the door - it was unlocked. He slowly opened the door to find the interior lit in the orange light coming from a fireplace in the far corner. A long-haired woman was seated on a chair before the fire, her back towards him; in her arms she seemed to be holding a baby, but neither the woman nor the baby made a sound. Whisper joined Tom in the small room, while Giso kept close to the entranced men outside. When their attempts at starting a conversation was met with silence, Tom and Whisper moved closer to the woman. Each approaching the woman on one side, they found her face covered with her long hair, but even as the edged closer towards her, they could not catch a glimpse of her face...

Then suddenly, the woman, child, and chair vanished. And just as suddenly, another figure, this one of an old woman with cruel features, clawed fingers and ragged clothes appeared out of thin air behind Tom and leapt at him, tearing a great wound in the back of his neck. At the same time, the four entranced men raised their weapons and started attacking Giso. Giso raised the golden hammer he had won on his last adventure and fought back, trying not to hurt his attackers more than he had to, but when Sir Olvar struck him, he was filled with a blind rage, and found that he could not stop himself from striking back.

Whisper joined Tom in fighting the witch, and soon forced her into a corner in the hut. She fought back in a frenzy. Tom called down the fury of Kellos and cast flames from his hands, scorching the witch and setting the wall of the hut on fire. Maddened by the fire, the witch struck Tom a mighty blow, knocking him to the ground. Whisper called upon the aid of the elven gods, and rained a flurry of blows upon the witch, throwing her against the burning walls, which collapsed from the force of the impact.

Now the roof of the hut was also burning, and the hut itself started to sink into the swampy ground. As flaming debris rained on her, Whisper helped Tom to his feet, and together they exited the hut just as the roof collapsed. Outside, the four entranced men had stopped fighting, and came back to their senses - they were all fathers who had come seeking to save their children from the witch's curse in the years past, and had come under her enchantment until now. Giso felt his rage ebb. Now they all watched, as the witch lay writhing on the ground as fire consumed her. Soon she stopped moving, and the fire began to die down. Whisper saw a green glow inside the witch's charred body, and reached to recover it. As her hand closed around the glowing object she felt a sudden chill in her arm, as if she had plunged it into a frozen lake - but the feeling soon passed, and she found a green cats's eye gem the size and shape of a cuckoo's egg.

Our party of seven limped and staggered its way back to the village even as the full moon climbed steadily into the night sky. Erkiss the kobold had freed itself from his bonds and was nowhere in sight when they passed the tree stump. They arrived at the base of the cliff to find that several villagers have joined the miller. By the time the enlarged group returned to village it was past midnight, but even before they reached the door of the miller's house they were greeted by a happy noise - the sound of a crying baby. Sir Olvar rushed through the door and hugged his wife and child in a tearful reunion.

The innkeeper arrived soon after, bearing food and drink for everyone. As our heroes rested, they noted that despite the lateness of the hour, slowly, more and more villagers have joined them. Encouraged, Sir Olvar decided to launch an attack on the manor house to catch his treacherous cousin by surprise. While Giso was eager to join him, Whisper and Tom persuaded everyone to let them scout ahead in case there was an ambush. The crowd agreed with their proposal, and sure enough, Whisper and Tom found the manor house abandoned, apparently in a hurry, with its treasures gone - it seemed that once again, someone had tipped Sir Klock off.

Prepping and Running the Game

Due to a miscommunication, I could not run an A Team game as I had planned, but fortunately a B Team player stepped up and we ended up playing a B Team game for the evening instead.

I had a hour to come up with a scenario, and instead of learning a new one I decided to re-use the one from the 2008 edition of Dragon Warriors, which I ran for my family in April this year. The game as it was written was a good introduction to gritty, low magic feel of the Dragon Warriors world, but in my view the ending was too contrived. Still, the pdf of the whole book is available for free on RPGNow, so I encourage you to download it and have a read.

I ran the first part of the game pretty much as is, substituting a kobold for a goblin for Erkiss. The players were unnecessarily harsh towards Erkiss, I felt, so I plan to bring him back as a recurring foil, or maybe even an unlikely ally in the future.

I used the name Mama Clay, forgetting that I had used it (and the same voice) for a herbalist in an earlier A Team game - apparently she made enough of an impression to make the player remember her name! I decided that she has many sisters living all over Terrinoth, so Mama Clays will now make appearances in my future Terrinoth games.

For the villain of the scenario I used a hag instead of the 'White Lady', which I also did for my previous game. The hag in the hut in the swamp is an old trope, but there is a reason why it is a trope. In my rush to start the game I had not decided on any loot for the session, and it was only after the fight was over and the hut was sinking into the swamp that I remembered to come up with something. I went with the theme of the green glow, and told the players that I will tell them what it was they found once I have thought it over. My current plan is to make it a hag's eye, and to make the hag who was killed one of a coven of hags; with the hag's eye in the possession of a PC, the other two hags can learn of where the PC is, and will most likely want to recover the artefact, which gives me hook for future adventures.

Over all it was a fun session, which while low in combat had many opportunities for role-playing. I guess one lesson for me from this session is that I should always have an additional scenario ready for contingencies just like this.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Terrinoth #11 - Blood & Gold

Campaign Diary

Our story began in The Black Bear, a pub in the working district of Tamalir, where Tom Kellosson, Whisper Blackmane, and Risvir Teliir have been invited to lunch by a man who called himself Lazar.

(Click here for PC profiles)

Without revealing too much (or anything at all) about himself, Lazar explained that our adventurers have been invited based on their reputation, and that he had a job to offer them, with a pay of 20 gold pieces upfront, with another 20 afterwards.

He produced a small glass vial containing a small amount of red powder from his cloak. The substance, he explained, was an addictive drug called Red Mist. Its use had become widespread over the past few months, and he wanted our adventurers to find out who was producing it, and where it was being produced.

Having seen the effects of the drug on the addicts that had been taken into the care of the shelter set up a few months ago by the Order of Kellos, Tom questioned Lazar's intentions, but the payment of an additional 10 gold pieces persuaded him that they were entirely honourable.

Once the party had accepted the job offer, Lazar gave them three leads, and left them to finish their lunch and plan their first move.

It still being early, our adventurers decided to visit one Starker, known to be supplier of the distinctive glass vials that the drug was sold in. Arriving at Starker's shop, they found it closed. The view through the shop window showed the interior to be in disarray. After a brief interview with the baker across the street from the glassware shop, Whisper learned that Starker had become increasingly unhinged over the past few weeks, and that the opening hours of his shop had become more erratic, until it had altogether stopped operating for the past two weeks.

The party checked out the rear of the shop, and found that the backdoor had been left unlocked. Entering the kitchen, they were greeted by the sight and stench of rotten half-eaten food. Risvir moved to the front of the building to search the shop, while Tom and Whisper decided to explore the living quarters on the second floor.

Risviir found the floor of the shop to be strewn with broken glassware, among which were a few glass vials identical to the one shown to them by Lazar. Flipping through the ledger left on a table, he learned that consignments of 500 vials had been sold to one Kiemen every week for the past few months, until three weeks ago. While he pondered on the significance of his finding, he heard a commotion coming from the kitchen. Rushing back, he found Tom and Whisper on the stairs leading to the second floor, in a scuffle with a disheveled-looking man.

It took all three of our adventurers to subdue the gaunt man, who had the strength of a few men. When he was finally knocked unconscious, Risviir drew arcane patterns in the air with his hands, and the shadows of the banister on the walls warped and then peeled off the wall, took form, and then wrapped themselves around Starker, binding him.

A search of the bedroom upstairs revealed several more glass vials, this time with traces of red dust in them. It became clear that Starker had himself become an addict, and had succumbed to the long-term effects of drug use. The party roused Starker and interrogated him, but managed to learn nothing more than the confirmation that Kieman was the buyer of the glass vials. But Kieman was a common name in Terrinoth, so with little more to be gained at the shop, the adventurers arranged for Starker to be brought to the shelter, and proceeded to their next lead - a high-end brothel called The Pasha, where the drug was rumoured to be sold.

It was early evening when our adventurers arrived outside The Pasha, a grand building in the Terrinoth style, with an incongruous faux Al-Kalim style domed roof. Two bouncers, dressed in Al-Kalim style costume stood by the main door. Our party passed through the door to find a large, marble-clad hall decorated and furnished in the Al-Kalim style. Scantily-clad women and their clients lounged on large cushions placed on the marble floor, drinking wine from ostentatious goblets.

The presence of two elves and a monk of Kellos gained the attention of the Madam of the place, who approached them and inquired what services they sought. When our adventurers asked about Red Mist, they were told that The Pasha no longer dealt in it, and when it became clear that they were not interested in other forms of entertainment on offer, they were left politely alone with a pitcher of wine. The party refused to leave, and their obstinance eventually paid off, and they were led to the office to meet with Silas Hess, owner of The Pasha.

Tom used his position as a priest of Kellos to convince Hess that the party was working to end the widespread Red Mist trade. Seeing a possible ally, Hess revealed that he had previously sold Red Mist to the clients at The Pasha at a gold piece per dose, but a few months ago a new seller had moved into Tamalir, selling the same drug at half the price, making it no longer a viable business for him. Hess revealed that his men have found out that the new seller went by the name of Weiss, but not much else. He offered the party his hospitality for the evening, and wished them success, noting wryly that the vices of the rich are not always suited to the poor.

Tom returned to the ground floor for some wine, and tried to glean some information from a serving girl, while Whisper and Risviir took a working girl into one of the private rooms and questioned her. As it turned out Hess' staff knew more than he did: some of the working girls gained a taste for Red Mist from their clients, and after The Pasha stopped dealing in it they have found a supplier by the docks. Having learned the location of the dealer, our party headed to the river.

It was late when our trio arrived at the dock district, where they found a dealer on the street corner. Across the street, by the river, was a building with the sign 'Kieman Trading'. They were getting close to their target. Approaching the rear of the building, Whisper climbed to the rooftop and lowered a rope to Tom, and together they climbed in through the second floor window, while Risviir kept watch below. Whisper and Tom found themselves in an empty office with several ledger books, each detailing transactions that included purchase of glass vials from Starker, several alchemical components, as well as payment and delivery of food and other items to Weiss. While they debated whether this information was sufficient for Lazar's needs, the door to the office opened and a man entered to find the intruders. Whisper leapt out of the window and proceeded to climb up to the rooftop. Tom likewise jumped out of the window, but missed the rope, falling to the ground below. Things might have ended badly for the priest, had not Risviir rushed forward and broken his fall. While our heroes picked themselves up from the ground, bruised but still alive, the alarm was raised and soon a few thugs were running after them.

Whisper leapt from rooftop to rooftop, throwing darts at the pursuers to dissuade them but with little success. Tom managed to knock out one of the pursuers and outpace the others, leaving Risviir behind. Desperate, Risviir conjured up a shadowy version of himself, which proceeded to run into a side alley, while he himself jumped into the river. Under the cover of darkness, the trio evaded their pursuers.

The next day our heroes were back at The Black Bear, where they presented the ledgers to Lazar. Pleased with what they have brought him, Lazar paid each of them another 30 gold pieces, and left them to finish their lunch as before. As he exited the inn Whisper, filled with curiosity, decided to follow him, but only caught sight of him entering a carriage outside the pub, which quickly drew away. Who was Lazar really? And who was Weiss? For now, these questions must remain unanswered...

Prepping and Running the Game

This session was based on Blood & Gold, an excellent module by Adventurer's Inn. I will not reveal too much of the plot as there are still elements from the module which have not been revealed to my players, and which I am hoping to incorporate into future sessions.

I ran the module pretty much 'as is', changing names and place names, and some locations to suit. It was primarily an investigation scenario, with some potential for combat. Investigation scenarios can sometimes be difficult to pull off, being either too straightforward and railroady and thus unchallenging, or too dependent on the discovery of a single clue to proceed and thus stalling when it is not found. In this module the author provided three leads, each of which gave enough information to lead the players to their quarry.

I took the premise of the story and the idea of there being three leads/locations, got my story straight, and worked backwards and placed enough information in each to get the party a step closer to the quarry, but not enough that they can get to the end after visiting just one location; in this case, I decided to give them enough information after visiting two sites in the interest of time and also to reward their role-playing.

The module itself is quite open-ended, and gave a lot of latitude in what Lazar would consider as a 'success'. In our game the party did not actually find Weiss, or what Lazar's interest in the trade was (although they did suspect he was the original dealer of the drug). This allows me to use the two characters in future scenarios.

If you are looking for an urban adventure for a low-level party, with some interesting NPCs which can become recurrent quest-giver/antagonist, I recommend you check this module out. I shall certainly be keeping an eye out for future offerings from this publisher.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Terrinoth #10 - The Road to Damnation and The Golden Banner

Campaign Diary

With heavy hearts, Entana, Gio and Strigoi bade farewell to Orglath and returned to Skydown to report to the baron.

(Click here for PC profiles)

When they had returned to Skydown, the baron listened to their tale with interest, and rewarded them for their work. But rather ominously, they learned that the head of Mondock had disappeared from the pike it was mounted on one night, and his two captured followers had killed themselves in their cells rather than to reveal what their plans were.

The party reunited at Market Town on the 27th day of Windhume, where together with the band of pilgrims led by Johannes and, they started on their journey to Dawnsmoor. Orglath had yet to regain his full strength, but felt strong enough to go on.

The autumn rains meant going was slower than expected, and on the third night of the journey, unable to reach the next village at where they had planned to stay that night, the band had to make camp in the open.

A few hours before dawn, the company was woken from their sleep by the sound of combat - someone had attacked the camp while Strigoi was on watch. Four orcs had come into the camp grounds, and one was in melee with Strigoi.

Entana, Gio, and Orglath quickly grabbed their weapons and engaged the other three orcs, while Johannes herded the pilgrims towards safety. But battle had hardly been joined before it was interrupted by a loud roar; out of the bushes a huge brown bear came charging towards the orcs in combat with Gio, and before he knew what had happened he had been mauled in the chest and had had his throat ripped out.

The other orcs and our heroes bolted from the camp grounds at the sight of the beast, who instead of chasing after them, stopped are scanned the camp grounds. Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the bear transformed into an orc himself, and called the party's attention to a figure who was just now emerging from Johannes' tent.

The heroes turned and saw Talfen, one of the pilgrims, leaving the tent with a wooden box in his hands. Talfen took to his heels, but Gio used the favours of Fortuna to trip him - Talfen tumbled, and the content of the box fell out onto the ground. Without pausing to retrieve the item, Talfen picked himself up, and disappeared into the darkness.

Johannes ran forward and recovered the item - half of a horn. This, he later explained, was one half of the Horn of Kellos, a relic from the Second Darkness, when it was carried by Kellos' champion. It was cloven in half during the final battle, and the two halves had been revered as relics since then. One half of the horn was lost many centuries ago, and the other had been enshrined in the cathedral in Vynevale. Recently, a rich merchant in Dawnsmoor revealed that he had acquired the lost half, and offered to donate it to the church on the condition that the two reunited halves would be enshrined in the temple at Dawnsmoor instead. After ascertaining that the offered relic was in all likelihood genuine, the church tasked Johannes with delivering the Vynevale half to Dawnsmoor in secrecy. Entana asked for the name of the donor, and was not surprised to learn that it was his own father, Arwium Venier.

The party thanked the shape-shifting orc who had came to their aid. He told them that his name was A'bomb'we, and that he was a spiritspeaker among the Broken Plains Orcs. He had come to the west on a vision quest, and was camped nearby when he heard the commotion; once it became obvious that the orcs were the aggressors, he stepped in to help. At Johannes' invitation, he agreed to join the party.

Strigoi, on the other hand, declared that he would leave to pursue the orc who had attacked them, for it was Shaglot, his old comrade.

Fearful of another attack, the company broke camp and continued west in the pre-dawn darkness. Fortunately, the remainder of the journey was uneventful, and two days later the band arrived at Dawnsmoor.

The city of Dawnsmoor had no city wall, but the Temple Quarter, located on the south bank of the Flametail river and centred around Kellos' Landing, was protected by three layers of walls. The relic was handed over to the priests for safe-keeping. Here the party parted with Orglath, who had to remain to continue his healing. Entana decided to return to his family mansion in the High Quarter on the north bank with Gio and A'bomb'we as his guests.

At the gate of the mansion Entana was prevented from entering by a guard he did not recognise. A brief altercation ensued, with peace restored by the timely arrival of Bram, the head of the guards. Jeras the old butler then conducted the party to the sitting room to meet Arwium Venier.

Inside the Venier home Entana was warmly received by his father, who mistook Gio and A'bomb'we for his servants. When asked about the relic, the elder Venier explained that he had purchased it at great expense from some adventurers, and that he would be presenting it to the church at a lavish ceremony at the temple in a few days. He had also planned to have a dinner at his home the night before to show it to some of the city elites, and with his other sons away on business, he wanted Entana to attend. Entana informed his father that an attempt was made to seize the other half of the relic, and bade him to guard against a similar attempt on his half. Arwium replied that he had doubled the number of guards on his payroll, and that the relic was held in a safe place in the house.

As they did not share the elder Venier's confidence, Entana, Gio, and A'bomb'we decided to make their own plans against a move on the relic. Suspecting that the enemy would strike during the dinner, when the relic would be presented, Gio agreed to perform music during the meal so he too would be in the dining hall. A'bomb'we made friends with the servants, impressing them with his ability to make plants grow at accelerated speed. Entana meanwhile managed to coax his mother into revealing that her husband had a secret room in the basement.

Once they have found the door to the secret room, the party made their plan: Entana and Gio would be at the dining hall, while A'bomb'we would shape-shift into a giant spider and hide in a dark corner, after spinning webs over the door to alert him to any movement.

The day of the dinner came. In the basement kitchen the cook Geldrey served an early dinner to the guards and servants before they would all have to prepare for the feast. A'bomb'we, eating with the servants as was by now a custom, detected a strange taste in his stew and called for everyone to stop eating. The stew was laced with blackroot, a herb he was familiar with, and a soporific that would have made those who ate it become drowsy and then fall asleep. Geldry the cook was questioned, and quickly broke down: her grand-daughter had been kidnapped the night before, and someone had threatened to kill the little girl if she did not put the herb into the servants' meal on the day of the feast. Having tasted it herself to make sure it was not lethal, she obeyed the stranger.

Entana, the butler, and the head of the guards were called down, and a conference was held. Bram, head of the guards, wanted Entana to convince his father to call the dinner off. Entana, however, wanted to have all the staff play along and catch the attackers off guard instead. Jeras considered the proposal for a few moments, and decided that it was perhaps the best way to make sure that Geldrey's grand-daughter did not come to any harm.

The guards were given instructions to act sleepy and slack on their rounds, but to keep an eye out for any intruders. As the guests started to arrive, Entana took his seat by his father's side, Gio donned his newly tailored performing clothes, and A'bomb'we took the form of a wolf spider and hid near the door to the secret room.

The dinner passed without incident, and when dessert was served, Arwium gave the signal for Jeras to fetch the relic. The butler descended to the basement, unlocked the hidden door with a key, and opened a wall safe in the room behind with another key, and brought out a richly decorated box. As he returned to the dining hall, A'bomb'we, still in spider form, followed behind him upon the ceiling, hidden from the sight of the guests.

Arwium unlocked the box and with a flourish revealed the relic to the gathered guests. At that moment, a window to the dining hall broke with a loud crash and a masked figure clad in black landed inside the hall. A split second later the door to the dining room was thrown open, and another masked and black-clad figure entered.

Before anyone could react, the first figure had sprinted to Arwium's side, grabbed the box and turned to run back to the broken window. But before he could reach it, Gio played a magical tune on his flute, which caused the man to fall to the ground, laughing uncontrollably.

The other figure then crossed the room, leaping over the dining table, and seized the horn that had fallen onto the floor. A'bomb'we jumped into the room, and took the form of a giant spider, which caused most of the guests to scream or faint in terror.

In the ensuing melee the second black-clad man was killed, but the first one fled through the window with the relic. He tried to climb over the wall around the mansion, but A'bomb'we, in his spider form, cut him off. He turned and sprinted towards the gate, and was mere seconds from escaping when two of the guards, alerted by the din and fully awake, engaged him in combat. Outnumbered and surrounded, he was soon taken down and paralysed by the venomous bite from A'bomb'we.

The party pulled off the man's mask... it was Talfen, the "pilgrim". The bound Talfen and brought him into a storeroom in the basement, and once the venom had worn off they interrogated him, demanding to know where Geldrey's grand-daughter had been taken to. Talfen sneered - he threatened that if he did not return to where he was expected, the little girl would be killed.

Realising that time was of the essence and that Talfen would not talk, the party decided they would have to find the girl themselves. A'bomb'we took the form of a dire wolf, and picked up Talfen's scent on the streets outside the mansion. Gio climbed astride the back of the dire wolf, and the trio made set off in the darkness.

Prepping and Running the Game

This session was based on two modules: The Road to Damnation by Megaton Games, and The Golden Banner by Sneak Attack Press.

The first part of the session was based on the main plot from The Road to Damnation - a fake pilgrim who is leading a band of bad guys to attack the pilgrims and steal a relic. This could have been omitted in the interest of time, but I decided to run it as an encounter as I wanted the players to feel that the villains are constantly plotting and acting to achieve their goals.

As the players of Orglath and Strigoi had to drop out of the campaign for a while, I recruited another player, who chose to play a Broken Plains orc shaman. As I expect the final arc of the campaign to involve the Uthuk Y'llan, I used the opportunity to weave it into the character's back story.

The Golden Banner supplied the plot for the second half of the session: the bad guys trying to seize a relic from a rich merchant. This plot line allowed me to tie a few threads together: Orglath's association with the Order of Kellos, Entana's strained relationship with his father, and the increasing boldness of the villains.

The structure of The Golden Banner was in a way flawed: the central plot of the scenario is that a rich merchant has received a tip-off that an attack was planned on his dinner party, and the meat of the adventure was supposed to be an investigation on whom the likely attacker was. However, players being players, they are likely to see this as being unnecessary legwork - if an attack is coming, they will just wait for it to come and fight it off. There was also no way the attack could be prevented or aborted in the scenario, regardless of how successful or bungled the investigations went. I found this unsatisfactory, so I decided that instead of a single event when the relic would be exposed, I would have two events: the private dinner at the Venier residence, and the public ceremony at the temple. This gave the villains and me some flexibility in terms of the timing of the attack. If the PCs were really good at preventing a planned attack on the dinner party, I could shift the attack to another time, either during the movement of the relic to the temple, or even at the presentation ceremony itself. I would also have to be open to the players failing in their mission and the villains succeeding in theirs, but the open-ended nature of this campaign meant that failure in one mission will just mean the hook to the next.

An open scenario is always risky, as players may become bored or frustrated when there is no clear direction to plan or work towards. In this case the players focused on the room where the relic would be hidden, which allowed me to play out how they determined the location of the room and let them spend some time on planning how to keep the relic safe, and made it clear to me that the attack would take place at the dinner as planned.

One thing I did not anticipate was the players doubting the authenticity of the relic. A fake relic would have made an interesting plot twist, but I could not come up with a way to use that to take the story in an interesting way.

The final fight turned out to be under-challenging again, but this time perhaps not due to the "weakness" of the bad guys (which on paper would outclass the party), but by some really good rolls on the part of A'bomb'we's player and some really poor saving throws on my part - we used my Gamescience dice so I can't even blame unfair dice.

In retrospect I had made a mistake in sending only two bad guys to seize the relic; having seen A'bomb'we's shape-shifting power, Talfen should have attacked with more men. Or perhaps he thought that A'bomb'we and Gio would have eaten the drugged stew and would not be in fighting form? I would have gone with that had they not discovered that the stew was drugged, and given them the "poisoned" condition for the fight, but even here I was betrayed by the dice, as A'bomb'we's player rolled a '20' when he tasted the stew!

Dealing with "wild shape" is always challenging for a GM. The ability to change into smaller or larger sizes, never mind the form, easily allows a PC to escape bonds, jail cells, and cages. However, now that my villains know about this, I feel justified in making specific plans in countering, if not negating it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Terrinoth #9 - Cave of the Kobold Queen

As two of the A Team players could not make the planned session, I put out a call for B Team players, and two members of my RPG chat group bravely volunteered for a foray into Terrinoth.

Campaign Diary

After obtaining a map of the location where our heroes have found the ancient burials (and treasure), Therion Lakemane, proprietor of "Lakemane's Luxuries" decided to mount an expedition of his own. He put the word out on the streets of Tamalir - he did not have to wait long before three adventurers turned up: two acolytes of Kellos, and a mysterious elf from the Darnati Highlands.

(Click here for PC profiles)

After telling the trio that he had purchased the rights to explore the burial sites for "scholarly purposes", Therion made them each sign a contract detailing the division of spoils that would be gained on the expedition; as all three potential employees were eager to smite undead and not used to the rules of conducting business, Therion's difficulty was more in making them understand the necessity of the contract than in convincing them that it was a fair one.

The contracts having been duly signed, the party set off the next day with a mule-drawn cart carrying their camping equipment and supplies. The journey was uneventful, and after a week they came within sight of Fort Rodric at the base of the Ashen Hills. Therion's efforts to convince a patrol from the fort that they had legitimate business in the area did not prevent the party from being escorted to the fort, where they were questioned. The sergeant at the fort was not completely convinced that Therion's intentions were pure, but the presence of two acolytes of Kellos was reason enough for him to let them pass. He informed them that his soldiers have found traps in the hills, and asked them to bring in any poachers they meet.

The next day the party followed the map to the hill where the adventurers had explored, from where they got a bearing on the second group of obelisks. As they made their way towards their destination they came upon a goat-antelope caught in a snare set by a stream. Whisper set the animal free, and a quick search revealed another snare-trap set nearby. With no sign of the poachers, the party decided to continue on their quest.

Approaching the obelisks atop a hill, the party found that it was a megalith formation forming a sort of a portico into what appeared to be a natural cave opening. They entered the cave and followed a tunnel that sloped deeper underground. Tom led the way, tapping on the stony ground ahead of him with his quarterstaff to detect any hazard; but he failed to detect a shaft on the tunnel floor that was covered by a thin piece of slate, which gave way under his weight - his quick reflexes allowed him to span the width of the opening with his staff, saving him from a 20-foot drop. The other members of the party hauled Tom to safety, and they decided to hammer pitons for rope into the tunnel walls to aid in their progress. As the sound of the hammering echoed through the tunnels, they wonder if they made the right decision...

The sloping tunnel eventually opened into a cavern, where the party noted a rope hanging from an opening in the roof of the cavern to the cavern floor. Climbing to the top of the rope, Whisper found that the opening led to the top of the hill they were in, and that the rope was anchored to the ground in a similar fashion to the snares they had found earlier. Was this the hideout of the poachers?

The party followed the course of the cave deeper into the ground, and came upon a larger cavern. Here they found fire pits. Walking to examine one of them, Giso fell prey to a pit trap and plunged ten feet into the ground below. As the others hauled Giso out, they began to suspect that whoever occupied these caves did not welcome them here. Having found little from the fire pits except the knowledge that some were recent, the party pushed further on, until they came to a fork in the tunnel. Therion sent his pet bat to scout ahead, but even it failed to find anyone.

Therion decided to take the tunnel on the left. A short distance from the fork, the tunnel branched to the right, leading deeper into the hill. The party stayed with the main tunnel, and after a while came to another cavern. Littered all over the ground were more than thirty sleeping pallets made of rough fabric. From the size and smell of the pallets, our adventurers surmised that they may not be dealing with human poachers as they had assumed, but goblins or kobolds. However, with no sign of either to be found here, they decided to turn back and try the tunnel to the right.

The passage to the right led them past storage area where they found pots of ancient design, but with fresh soot on their bottoms, and various copper tools of unfamiliar design. They followed a spring that emerged from the cave wall and flowed in a groove on the side of the tunnel, to an alcove that seemed to be used as a latrine. The efflux from this latrine flowed further along the tunnel. As they followed the foul-smelling channel, Therion offered Tom extra silver if he would carry him upon his back so he would not risk ruining his fashionable high-heels. The monk obliged.

The foul stream eventually ended in an equally foul pool as the tunnel came to a dead end. As the party debated what to do next, a light began to glow in the pool. Giso took Tom's quarterstaff and probed the water... whereupon a tentacled creature broke the surface and attacked him. The party replied with spells and steel, and the creature retreated into the depths of its lair, and the light slowly faded. With little to show for their efforts so far, Therion was loath to leave the source of the light unexplored. He offered more silver to anyone who would retrieve it for him. While the two priests of Kellos recoiled at the suggestion, Whisper took up the offer, calmly removed her black-wolf cloak and all her clothes, and dived in. A short while later she emerged with a glowing globe - it seemed the object glowed for a short while when agitated. Therion happily put the find into his backpack, while Whisper, much to the discomfiture of the two priests, decided to continue the quest naked.

Returning to the second fork, the party now took the third tunnel deeper into the ground. Soon, they saw torchlight and heard cackling from ahead of them. They gave chase, but even as they went towards they moved further away. The followed the taunting light and laughter, passing tunnels too small for men but not kobolds or goblins. Therion once more sent his pet bat ahead, but soon its squeaking was lost in the darkness. Whisper decided to race ahead of the party, and as she turned a corner into a large cavern she caught sight of their quarry - a kobold! The rest of the party soon caught up, but they found that a dozen kobolds were lying in wait for them, and many more were behind them.

The kobolds attacked the party by throwing discs of sharpened obsidian at them, and soon Whisper was bleeding from multiple cuts. Therion sang a magical song that put many of the kobolds into a slumber, and the two priests laid about with their weapons... the tiny kobolds fell, and for a while it seemed that they party would cut their way out of their predicament... Then the kobolds fell back... and started to throw pottery jars onto the ground. Pitch spilled from the broken jars, and this the kobolds lit with their torches. As the pitch caught fire and smoke began to fill the cavern the adventurers searched for a way out (but not before they looted the bodies of the kobolds that already fell for the jewellery of seashells and semi-precious stones which they wore) and found it in a tunnel at the far end of the cavern. Following the tunnel, they eventually come to a sheer wall with an opening near its top.

Whisper, accustomed to climbing the moonstone cliffs of the Darnati Highlands, climbed unaided to the opening, and found that it led to a rock ledge that overlooked another cavern. Water seeped from the roof and walls of this cavern, falling and tricking down like rain to cover the floor below with clear water, and flowed out of it via a narrow tunnel at the far end. In the middle of the cavern floor was a rock plinth. Whisper lowered a rope for the rest of the party to climb up, and they huddled together on the narrow ledge and rested while Therion played a a soothing tune from a magical box he carried with him.

With their wounds bound, the party descended to the cavern floor with the aid of a rope. They found the floor covered in a foot of clear water, and dozens of skeletons with a coat of crystalline material over their bones. Turning his eyes to the plinth in the middle of the cavern, Therion noticed a glint of yellow light. He strode towards it, hoping to find the loot he had risked so much for, but as he neared it two of the skeletons on the side of the plinth rose up and turned their eyeless faces towards him.

The party froze. For a few moments the cave was silent except for the sound of the falling water.

Therion shifted. The skeletons turned their heads to follow him. He froze again.

Then Giso let out a war-cry and charged at one of the skeletons. The sound of battle filled the cavern as warhammer, sword, staff, and fists clashed against bone, and it was over in seconds. The broken remains of the two undead guardians lay under the water, and the treasure they guarded was for the taking. The party beheld a golden treasure: dozens of golden discs and panels which once must have adorned the clothes of an ancient king, necklaces of gold, and a golden hammer, all of which Therion gleefully swept into his backpack.

The party swam through the narrow tunnel and emerged on the side of the hill that they had entered. They found their bearings, and by late afternoon had returned to Fort Rodric, where they reported on the presence of the kobolds (but not that of their find) and were given a small reward for it.

When they returned to Tamalir, Therion set about the business of having the loot evaluated and paying his crew. Giso, strangely drawn to the golden hammer, offered his share of the loot and a hundred Gros (gp in my game) for it, which Therion accepted. Whisper and Tom were paid their shares of the venture, and as Therion Lakemane counted his own share, he congratulated himself on his good business sense.

Prepping and Running the Game

The session was based very loosely on Cave of the Kobold Queen by Cut To The Chase Games, but its genesis was in the creation of the character Therion Lakemane. I mentioned to the player that the A Team would need someone to fence their loot off to once they returned to Tamalir, and he took that and created Therion's backstory, and asked to buy the location of the tomb from the PCs - this gave me the premise I needed for the B Team.

The premise meant that the B Team will be exploring an ancient burial cave complex as the A Team did, but I wanted a different type of scenario, especially since two of the players would be from the A Team and have already explored two ancient burial tombs. I added a twist by having kobolds take over the tombs, so that instead of fighting undead as the expected, they will be fighting kobolds. Kobolds in Terrinoth are not the dragon-related humanoids in D&D, but essentially smaller, dumber, asexually-reproducing goblins who are often more of a nuisance than a real threat. I decided to let them occupy the same ecological niche as the D&D kobolds, and use the same stats.

I looked for modules featuring kobolds on RPGnow, and decided to get Cave of the Kobold Queen. The module provided some ideas on how a kobold cave complex would function, but again for the actual map of the cave I wanted something based in real history. Thinking back to the many fantastic locations I learned about watching Ancient Aliens, I looked for maps of the Rising Star Cave, and found this stunning graphic:

Graphic by Graphics24
The graphic immediately conveyed the 3D nature of the cave system and suggested ideas; for example, the vertical shaft near the larger cave entrance could be exploited as a trap against intruders, while the kobolds used the smaller shaft as their way to enter and exit the cave complex.

I needed to expand the cave and add some branches, and to do the cave system justice I wanted to do it in "3D", so I downloaded some isometric grid templates and drew my first isometric dungeon map - its is a fun and potentially addictive activity.

Once the map was done, I assigned the functions of each of the chambers, and added a water source and a latrine and a garbage disposal area to make the complex livable for the kobolds. The creature in the pool - a grick - was added as a filler, and the globe (a driftglobe that does not drift) was added both as an extra piece of loot for the PCs, and also as a means for the grick to lure prey to it. Perhaps the globe was dumped into the pool by the kobolds by accident, or maybe a kobold carrying it fell prey to the grick.

I assumed that the outer caves would have been looted by the kobolds a long time ago, but I still wanted the PCs to be able to find unlooted treasure. Looking at the map of the cave system, I decided that the final chamber, accessible only via climbing up a sloping cave wall, contained greater treasure, but also undead guardians, which explains why the kobolds have not yet looted it.

At this point I had the happy accident of confusing another burial cave with the Rising Star Cave - the Actun Tunichil Muknal cave in Belize, famed for the "Crystal Maiden", the crystallised skeleton of a young woman. I ran with the idea and decided that the skeletons interred here have become crystallised over the centuries, and so looked different, and were tougher (not very scientific, but...) than the usual skeletons. I also gave them the ability to crystallise/petrify those whom they wound with their claws to further distinguish them from "normal" skeletons, but sadly they did not manage to land a single blow on the PCs.

Then finally, I needed to assign the loot. After some googling, I came across the Varna burials, currently the oldest burial site in Europe with gold grave goods. This was a Copper Age burial site and thus far older than either of the ones I used before. The site is noted for the large amount of gold artefacts found there, and the golden hammer found by the PCs is based on the one found in Grave 36, shown below.

I decided that the graves of the people from the lower strata of the society would have been in the outer caves and so were already looted by the kobolds. To indicate this I had the kobolds use and wear the grave goods, in the forms of pottery used for cooking and storage, flint and copper tools, as well as the spondylus seashell and carnelian jewellery worn by some of them.

The golden treasure I reserved for the final chamber, where once again the players have to make a choice between disturbing the dead and returning relatively empty-handed to Tamalir. Again, it was too much to expect for players to respect the dead and their possessions.

When I was prepping the session I was worried that there would not be enough content for a 3-hour session. As such I made up to "optional" sections of the dungeon which could be dropped in as needed. As it turned out we barely had time to get to the last cavern.

As the two new players were both experienced GMs, there was a lot of role-playing done, especially in the opening scene of the game as the contracts were signed - I did not have to do anything for the first half hour of the session as the players discussed the terms in character.

I was over all satisfied with how the session went, but a little disappointed by how little challenge the combat encounters gave to the PCs. In the future I may need to do some maths on my own instead of relying on the Challenge Rating system.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Reaper Bones Manticore

This is the Reaper Bones Manticore that fg passed to me, and which I painted with the specific aim of using it in a monster-hunting scenario in my Terrinoth campaign.

It's a multi-part model that comes with its own scenic base, which I have glued to a 50mm round base. As Bones models go it is not too bad, but it does suffer from the mould line running right down the middle of the creature's face. It also suffers from the problem of having a slightly glossy and sticky finish, as the larger Bones models tend to?

I really like the draconic and scorpion part of the creature, which you can see better in the photo below.

A manticore isn't really a multi-use monster for RPGs, but hopefully I will have a chance of using it for other scenarios like Sorcery! Shamutanti Hills, or White Plume Mountain.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Terrinoth #8.2 - Lair of the White Wyvern

The high point of the battle: In the foreground Gio drags Entana out of the stream. On the right Strigoi has just cut the rope bridge, causing two goblins to spill into the stream. On the left Orglath sees off two goblin warriors.

Campaign Diary - Part II

Some time after noon, our heroes traced the stream to a cave. Scouting ahead of the party, Gio found four goblins standing sentry at the mouth of the cave.

(Click here for PC profiles)

Guessing that more goblins were inside, the party planned a surprise attack on the sentries. In a co-ordinated attack, they took out all four goblins before they could raise the alarm.

The cave opening led to a long, high cavern. Our heroes crept further in, following the course of the stream and avoiding a trip-wire set near the entrance. Unfortunately, Strigoi lost his footing on the slippery ground and alerted the inhabitants, and soon goblin archers started shooting at the party from a tunnel across the stream from them. Orglath leapt across the stream and threw himself at the archers. Strigoi noticed more goblins rushing towards them from across a rope bridge that spanned the stream, and moved to cut the ropes, causing the goblins to spill into the stream.

Orglath cut one goblin down after another in a berserk rage, and the battle looked to be in the party's favour, when from another tunnel came a roar - a manticore emerged. Entana attacked the monster with his magic, and in response the manticore took to the air and pounced onto the wizard, striking him with the sting on its scorpion tail. As the venom coursed through his veins, Entana felt his muscles weakening and his breathing becoming laboured - the same symptoms experienced by the villagers! Entana slumped into the stream - the team was one member down, and decisive action was needed.

Strigoi yelled at the manticore to distract it, while Gio rushed forward to drag Entana out of the water and then feed the party's remaining healing potion to him. Orglath returned to the stream and leapt onto the back of the manticore, and was struck multiple times by its sting. Under attack by three opponents and unable to fly away, the manticore eventually succumbed. The party cleared the bodies of the goblins and manticore from the stream, took trophies, and ventured deeper into the cavern, eventually coming to a cave by the source of the stream. A steel chain lay on the ground, between two pillars of rock, each into which a steel bracket was set. Claw marks and droppings on the ground revealed that this was where the manticore must have been chained and its venom presumably extracted and used to poison the stream; but how could mere goblins capture a manticore?

The party found an opening in a wall of the cave, covered with thick webs. With Strigoi standing guard, the party took a brief rest, and then set the web on fire, which revealed a cave beyond the opening. Our heroes entered the cave to find crates of looted trade goods, bearing the same mark as the wagon which they came across on the road, but no one... until Strigoi looked upwards and found a goblin hanging like a lizard on the ceiling of the cave, staring back at him. With a hiss the goblin dropped onto Strigoi. This was no ordinary goblin though, as the stream of lighting that issued from his hand soon revealed. A desperate fight broke out in the close confined of the cave. Braving the lightning, Strigoi grappled the goblin sorcerer as Orglath delivered the death blow.

Searching the body of the goblin, the party found an iron amulet in the form of a snake. With his dragon hybrid affinity for magic, Orglath could tell that it was magical, and claimed it as his prize.

With no means to cart all the stolen goods back, our party left them behind and made their way back to the village. As they descended the effect of the venom began to show on Orglath, and by the time they reached the village he could barely walk.

Fortunately, during the day a Priest of Kellos and a Knight of Kellos has arrived to aid the villagers, and they administered to Orglath. Over the next two days the villagers began to recover, but Orglath's strength did not return fully. In the hours spent ministering to Orglath, Johannes, the Knight of Kellos, had come to know him, and now he proposed that Orglath joined him and a band of worshipers on a pilgrimage to a shrine to Kellos at the city of Dawnsmoor to see if he could be healed there. As Dawnsmoor was home to Entana and the party's next destination, they agreed. Strigoi, Entana and Gio would return to Skydown Castle to report to the baron, and then travel to Market Town to rejoin Orglath and the pilgrims.

Prepping and Running the Game

The fight in this session was the biggest one in the campaign so far. It was in fact three fights in close succession, and all played on one single battlemat by Heroic Maps. The boss fight in the original module was set in a dungeon, but I wanted a more natural setting, and this battlemat was almost perfect for my vision.

I use Heroic maps extensively and almost exclusively in my games, and they are now integral to my "process". I would read several modules to find a story line that resembled what I wanted, which I then modify to fit my setting and campaign. I then look through my collection of Heroic Maps files and tiles and also their catalogue to decide the shape and form of my "fight locations".

I was very impressed by how co-ordinated my players' tactics have become. They took out the four goblin sentries in a single combat round, and Gio's player has worked out a system of hiding and fighting from behind one of the larger PCs.

I amended the "stat box" of the manticore. In the Monster Manual a manticore's tail shoots spikes, which are not venomous. This did not gel with the physical appearance of the creature with its scorpion's tail, and I needed it to be venomous to fit the story. I therefore made it a melee attack, with a "save versus poison" effect.

The snake pendant that the party looted was again something by design. So far each of the PCs except for Orglath has picked up something special. I did not want to grant another magical weapon, and magical armour would not be an optimal choice for a barbarian. As Orglath had been "downed" in combat in the two previous sessions, I decided to give him something that would make him last longer in combat. Looking through the DMG, I decided that the Periapt of Wound Closure was a good choice. I wanted a more "primitive" appearance for the amulet instead of the one that was in the DMG, and so I first googled for animals which symbolised healing. One such animal was the snake, and when I googled for snake pendants, I found a very nice picture of a replica of Lobi snake currency, which I used for the loot card.

The appearance of the Knight and Priest of Kellos brings together two story threads. During the previous session the players talked about multi-classing so they could get some healing abilities in the party. Orglath's player expressed an interest in multi-classing to a cleric, but at the same time he had established that Orglath was sceptical of religion. Johannes the Knight of Kellos is a character invented by fg as a mentor for his B Team character, and he seemed a natural choice to be the NPC to bring Orglath into Kellos' fold.

I used Orglath's motivation as a hook, telling him that:"All your life you have sought acceptance, but your violent ways have not brought you that. Kellos knows that it is only in service to others that you will find acceptance by others, and also by yourself.".

Orglath's player asked me if Orglath would become the first dragon hybrid cleric of Kellos if he took up the offer - I thought for a moment and decided it would be cool if that was the case, and so I replied 'yes', and he was sold.

We are taking two weeks' break from gaming after this session, but the next leg of the journey will see the party traveling to Dawnsmoor, Entana's home. This seems to be a perfect opportunity to bring his family, in particular his father, into the game, and have him work through some "daddy issues". I have not yet decided what these issues might be, so if you have any suggestions, do leave them in the comments.