Saturday, April 06, 2024

Three Worlds #7

After they had slain the manticore and exonerated Jorrus, Arwin, Enree, and Mala (see PC profiles here) were recruited by the Castellan of Belton as his retainers. The trio spent a few weeks in the Castellan's service in Belton, until the beginning of summer, when they were sent by the Castellan to serve the Castellan of Obanhold in the north.

Now Obanhold was a fort at the edge of the Northern Plains that was beginning to become a settlement. It was also the gateway to the lucrative fur trade. But in the recent weeks attack from the Plains Orcs had resulted in the Castellan withdrawing his troops from two of the outposts that guarded the trade routes, and several fur trappers had failed to return to Obanhold as expected, and the Castellan of Obanhold had sent for aid from his friend in Belton.

Our trio of heroes traveled to Obanhold with a letter of introduction from the Castellan, and arrived at the wooden-walled fort. There they were led to the Castellan, who received them into his service.

Our heroes interviewed some of the soldiers who were attacked by the orcs in their outposts, but ultimately decided to investigate the rumours of orc sightings at the fishing village of Yngley; it had been reported that two fishermen had failed to return from the lake, and that their disappearance might had something to do with the sighting of orcs on the north bank.

Our heroes traveled to the isolated village of Yngley, and when Remunas the headman learned that they were sent by the Castellan, they were welcomed into his home. Our heroes declared their wish to take a boat to investigate the lake, and Remunas sent his young daughter Elze to row them in a boat.

The party first investigated the island at the centre of the lake, but there they found no trace of the missing fishermen, but were attacked by a bear defending her cubs, which they fled from. Reasoning that the bear must have been driven out of her habitat in the forests on the north shore of the lake, Arwin proposed that they investigated there.

When the party came close to the shore, Enree sensed that they were being watched. The party called out to the watchers, but received no reply. They rowed along the shore, shadowed by the watchers, until at last they found a pebbled beach where they might land. Leaving Elze with the boat, our heroes proceeded onto the land, and they were then attacked by arrows. Elze was felled, followed quickly by Arwin and Mala. Four orc warriors dressed in the fashion of Plains Orcs burst out from the undergrowth. Enree raised his hands to surrender, and was disarmed by the orc warriors, who seemed ready to kill them all, until one of them rolled Mala's prone body over and recognised him - the warrior was Achoka, one of the orc mercenaries whom our heroes had met at Fort Davelmag.

Achoka decided to spare our heroes, but warned them to leave Yngley and indeed Obanhold, or they would die as the two fishermen had, and would not say more. When the party rowed the boat back to Yngley, they were met with much dismay and anger.

The next morning they were sent off from the village with little fanfare, and traveled back to Obanhold.

The Castellan looked troubled at their report, and bade them to seek the aid of the fort healer while he pondered his response.

Prepping and Running the Game

I was unprepared for most of the session as I had expected the players to choose to investigate the abandoned forts instead of the story of missing fishermen. I did prep enough to give descriptions of the places they visited and the people they met, and come up with a couple of encounters.

The encounter with the orcs went badly, and I had to figure out a way to bail the PCs out - fortunately I had linked the four orc mercenaries from the previous arc of the campaign to this arc, which allowed me to do so.

I thought the session might have been a little frustrating for the players, but at least one of them enjoyed the interaction with NPCs over the exploration of cave after cave in the previous arc.

The unexpected path the PCs took does advance the plot of the arc a little faster than I had hoped for, but I have a couple of weeks before the next session to plan my next moves as both the Castellan and his adversary.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Three Worlds #6

At long last the Castellan of Belton, representative of the Duke, arrived at Fort Davelmag, accompanied by six bodyguards and a couple of servants. He had met the four orc mercenaries who had left the fort along the way, and come across the half-eaten body of the guard sent from the fort a few days prior, but nevertheless asked our heroes for their accounts.

After unsuccessfully trying to persuade the Castellan to abandon the fort, our heroes proposed a plan to weaken the orcs by sending out a fake caravan laden with poisoned food to lure them to attack. By means of a poisonous fruit collected by Arwin during his travels, our heroes laced some dried beans, and Arwin, Enree, Kargen, and Mala (see PC profiles here), accompanied by Gad and one of the Castellan's bodyguards set out in a mule train.

The journey to Stoneglow Draw campsite was uneventful, but a few hours before dawn the manticore swooped down from the night sky to attack the party. Enree attempted to control the mind of the manticore, but was instead commanded by it to attack Mala. The rest of the party was able to break the spell of the manticore by wounding it, and thereafter they were able to drive it off. Afterwards they left the campsite with the mules, leaving behind their stores, to give the impression of hurried flight, and doubled back to the campsite off the track to observe.

Sure enough, shortly after sunrise a party of orcs arrived at the campsite and took the abandoned goods before setting off south. Our heroes followed the orcs unseen down to the river, where they rested in the shade of the trees and waited.

As the sun began to set our heroes made their way to the orc tower. It was beginning to get dark when they arrived. The approach to the tower was unguarded, and our heroes entered the cave at the base of the tower to find some twenty orcs lying on the ground, weakened and groaning - they had taken the poisoned food. A tunnel led from the main cave; uncertain of the duration of the poison and unwilling to risk having enemies in their rear as they explored further, Kargen and Mala slew the helpless orcs as they laid on the ground.

Exploring further into the cave complex inside the tower, our heroes came upon a large cave where the orc chieftain and two of his guards laid, also ill from the poison. Enree employed his magic to probe the mind of the orc chieftain, but found that the chief was in fact under the control of the manticore, who was nearby.

The party tied the chief and his guards up, set Gad to watch over them, and explored further. In a long cave they found wall paintings that seemed to tell the tale of the manticore attacking the orcs, and how an orc received a magical bow from a masked character and with that was able to slay the manticore. At the end of that long cave the tunnel led to where the rock guardian kept vigil.

Returning to the chieftain, Enree once more interrogated him and learned that the cave paintings depicted the tale of how the orc hero Atoko received a magical weapon from the sun god and slew the manticore that attacked the canyon orcs, and how his body was entombed within the cave complex. Satisfied that they now had all the information they required, our heroes slew the chieftain and his guards.

They party located the tomb of Atoko, which was sealed by a stone slab which bore three niches upon it, each the size of the stone orbs which activated the teleport portals. Our heroes placed their stone orbs into the niches, whereupon the stone slab split and opened to reveal the tomb of Atoko.

The body of an orc laid upon a stone plinth within the tomb. Grave goods in the form of pottery and jewellery made from precious stones, silver, and gold were placed around the plinth, and next to the body of Atoko on the plinth were the remains of a bow and three arrows; the bow and arrow shafts had long decayed, but three arrowheads, which Kargen recognised to be made from star metal, remained untarnished.

Arwin affixed the three arrowheads to his crossbow bolts, and they party devised a plan to provoke the manticore into attacking them. Recognising that the manticore was nearby, but too large to fit inside the tunnels of the cave, our heroes surmised that it must be lairing at the top of the tower. The party split up, with Arwin and Kargen climbing up the side of the tower (which was about 100 feet tall) to reach its top, Gad and Mala waiting just within the entrance of the tower unseen, and Enree stepped out of the cave and shouted a challenge to the manticore.

Sure enough, the manticore peered over the side of the top of the tower to see who had challenged it. At the same moment, Arwin and Kargen reached the top of the tower.

The manticore dived off the top of the tower and pounced on Enree, knocking him unconscious. From the entrance of the cave Mala and Gad taunted the manticore, which moved to attack them. Arwin loosed a bolt at the manticore but missed, and the crossbow bolt landed on the ground. But his second shot found its mark, and pierced the side of the manticore.

It seemed then that the manticore would once more take flight and flee, but just then Kargen leapt off the top of the tower and landed on the back of the manticore - the impact knocked the wind out of the dwarf, but also caused the manticore's legs to give way. At that moment Enree came to, and seeing the crossbow bolt near his body, he seized it, and stabbed the manticore in its face. The monster stopped moving. 

The party rested for a while, and then Kargen returned to the cave to loot Atoko's treasure and retrieve the stone orbs, while the rest took the head of the manticore as trophy and proof, and afterwards they retreated once more to the river before more orcs could arrive.

Prepping and Running the Game

This session concluded the first of three modules which I have planned for our campaign. I had imagined that they players will enter the tower by overcoming the stone guardian, but they had a different idea, and I broke my rule of not allowing them to use poison to overcome enemies because, frankly, it was a reasonable one.

As a result of their plan I had to improvise much of the session, and instead of fighting orcs and the manticore, they ended up fighting the manticore twice. The first fight was "instructive" as it established that the manticore could control minds, while the second fight was interesting tactically due to the terrain, and the way the players devised their strategy.

I was a little surprised by the players' decision to kill the helpless orcs, but I suppose it fit the theme of the campaign. For the next arc of the campaign I will be running The Scourge of Northland by the same author; whether they will treat the orcs they encounter in the next arc remains to be seen.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Three Worlds #5

The news of the magical teleportation pits caused a stir in Fort Davelmag. Believing that getting past the rock guardian that blocked their path in the Tower cave complex held the key to finding the manticore, our heroes sought the aid of Dareni, the dwarven stone mason at the fort. Dareni revealed that the rocks in the canyon could be split by the careful application of force through a chisel placed along their planes, but that to do so required the guardian to be held immobile.

That same evening that our hero returned another caravan arrived at the Fort, this time from the eastern end. The merchant and guards of the caravan reported that they spotted several orcs at Watcher Butte the day before as their caravan passed. Concerned that this meant that the canyon orcs were plotting an attack, Captain Mossak asked our heroes to find out if the orcs were indeed gathering north of the river.

While Kargen and Rokas worked with Dareni on a means to immobilise the rock guardian, Arwin and Mala, accompanied by Enree (see PC profiles here), a guard with the caravan, Gad, and Lennard the porter returned to Watcher Butte to investigate.

A day's travel brought our heroes to Stoneglow Draw campsite just as the sun was setting. While the rest made camp, Enree went to the nearby stream to collect water. There, he saw the prostrate body of an orc across the stream. The orc was wounded and unconscious; he carried no weapon, but had a bag that held some berries, and a bone flute. Enree packed the orc's wound with his hat, splashed water on him to wake him, and gave him water to drink. When the orc had regained some of his strength, Enree helped him back to the camp.

The orc's arrival was met with disapproval by Lennard. To our heroes' relief the newcomer was a farmer orc like Gad, and introduced himself as Tokala. Tokala told the party that he and two other villagers was foraging for berries to take back to their village at the nearby Rak-Rosar plateau when they were attacked by canyon orcs. He was struck by an arrow but managed to flee, but grew weak from the loss of blood and fell unconscious just as he was about to reach the stream.

As they were having their meal around the camp fire, Enree asked to see Tokala's bone flute, which the orc happily obliged. Tokala then offered to play a tune for the party. As the party listened to the tune, they grew sleepy, and one by one, except for Enree, they fell asleep. Through his groggy eyes Enree now saw Tokala transform into a bestial form: his skin inverted and fur covered his body; a snout emerged from his mouth, baring sharp teeth. The transformed Tokala moved towards Lennard...

Enree called upon his magic to cause fear in the mind of Tokala, causing him to pause, and at the same time roused Arwin. The two then battled the monster, and were soon joined by Mala, who conjured up fire to set it aflame and kill it.

Afterwards Gad, who was frozen with fear throughout the event, told our heroes that the monster was known as a Skinwalker among his people: an evil shaman who had the ability to assume the form of orcs and beasts.

The party spent a fitful night at camp. The next morning, as they were eating breakfast, they saw a small party of orcs approaching their camp. The party hid among rocks as the orcs approached, and when they were close enough for Gad to identify them as farmer orcs, they revealed themselves.

The farmer orcs were apprehensive at first, but when they noticed the burnt body of the skinwalker nearby and learned from Gad what had happened, they became friendlier. Our heroes asked about the presence of canyon orcs, but the orc party had not seen any of them so far. The orcs in turn asked about sightings of Bighorn sheep, which they hoped to hunt. Eager to earn an ally, our heroes offered to lead the orcs to where they saw some sheep the day before. There, they saw a herd of sheep drinking from the river in the valley below.

The orcs invited our heroes to join them in their hunt, which they agreed. Setting two parties in ambush on either side of the valley, a third party made their way near to the herd to cause an alarm. The herd split into two, each fleeing one way. One ram led the herd up the side of the canyon, right into the site chosen by Arwin for the ambush, who brought it down with a bolt from his crossbow.

The kill was met with much rejoicing by the orcs, who butchered the ram and presented the tongue and the head of the ram to Arwin. The party was invited back to the camp of the orcs, where a feast was held. There they met with the matriarch of the tribe, when our heroes presented gifts to her and received gifts in return. From the matriarch they learned about the history of conflict between the farmer orcs and the canyon orcs, and also about the legend regarding the manticore - which the canyon orcs called the Piasu. The Piasu was a creature from the legend of the canyon orcs - a monster that arose from the underworld and terrorised the people, until at last it was slain by a hero. Unfortunately, the means by which they did this was not known to the matriarch.

Prepping and Running the Game

A couple of the regular players could not make this session, and we had one new player, and so I decided to not progress the story to a final encounter with the manticore, but play a sort of a filler session. This session consisted of two parts: the encounter with the skinwalker, and the Bighorn sheep hunt.

I decided on the second part after a player wondered aloud in an earlier session how the Bighorn sheep (which I had said they encountered in previous sessions) tasted. I did a bit of googling, and it turned out that native Americans did hunt bighorn sheep, and still take people on hunts today.

I knew that a hunt would only take up part of a session, and so I looked for a combat encounter to fill the time. I came upon the legends of the skinwalker, and decided to build an encounter around them. The skinwalker as it appeared in our session is not representative of the skinwalker as the Navajo people know it; in fact it seems that the Navajo people are reluctant to share their tales of skinwalkers with outsiders. Now even though I included the skinwalker as an encounter which was not linked to the rest of the campaign, my players were very curious about it and asked many questions on its nature, which I was able to give second-hand answer through the farmer orc matriarch.

The campaign should come to a close in another session or two, after which I hope to move on to another sandbox campaign by the same author.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Three Worlds #4

Gad and Mala kept watch over the orc tower through the night. They learned that there were about two dozen orc warriors in the tower, and that they were receiving supplies from the south, which told them they were not leaving any time soon.

The next morning, with their supplies running low, the duo returned to Fort Davelmag. They arrived at the Fort in the evening, but just as they were reporting their findings to Captain Mossak over dinner, they heard a commotion outside: the manticore had flown past the Fort and dropped the body of one of the guards sent by Captain Mossak to Belton earlier that day to get help from the duke. It was missing the lower half of its body.

There were now only seven guards and nine caravan guards left in the fort, and no help would be arriving soon. To make things worse, the four orc mercenaries announced that they would continue with their plan to leave the next day with the remains of their employer, and take the message to Belton. On his part Captain Mossak was reluctant to evacuate the fort, reasoning that they would be safer behind its walls.

Fearing an attack by the orcs and the manticore, our heroes decided to venture once more to the cave of the manticore, hoping to kill it if it had returned to its lair. And so Arwin, Kargen, Mala, and Rokas (see PC profiles here) once more made the trek up Devil's Laugh Canyon, with Lennard, the fort's porter.

Returning to the cave that led to the salt lake, our heroes this time explored down another tunnel to find another magically cold cave with a shallow pit at the centre, and a firepit to its north, just like that which they found inside the cave complex to the north.

Further exploration led to a burial of another orc shaman in a nearby cave, along with similar grave goods and a necklace bearing a large gemstone, this time a white moonstone.

Mala sensed that the two stones were magical, and surmised that they were somehow connected to the caves with the pits. When our heroes brought the stones near the pit, the space within the pit turned pitch black, and objects placed within it vanished into the darkness, but could be retrieved.

After some experimentation, Kargen made the bold decision to leap into the pit... and found himself emerging in a similar pit in a similar magically cold cave. In the same cave was the frozen body of yet another orc shaman, who wore a necklace of yellow topaz. Kargen retrieved the stone and stepped back into the pit, and as transported back to the cave where his companions were waiting.

By further experimentation, our heroes were able to determine that the stones allowed travel between this cave, the cave to the north, and a third cave, and that they could determine which one the portal led to by their thoughts, and that the thoughts "tower" and "manticore" led to the third cave.

Despite the lateness of the hour, our heroes traveled once more to the third cave, and exited the single tunnel that led from it. a short distance from the cave they found a boulder in the middle of the tunnel, and when they approached it the boulder shifted and took the form of a giant humanoid. When they got closer, the rock form attacked them, and pursued them back to the magical cave.

Unable to get past the magical guardian, and by now hungry and exhausted, our heroes returned to the salt cave to plot their next move.

Prepping and Running the Game

This session saw little combat, but took the campaign forward by putting the PCs back on the "right track" and let them figure out how the teleport system worked. The original portal in the module took the more traditional form of a portal/door, but I chose to lean into symbolism of the sipapu (the pit) and make it a real magical portal.

The module did not give much information on how the portals worked, and I had to make things up as we went along, but I think the way they work now is practical for the purpose of a game.

The rock guardian in the tunnel leading out of the cave is too powerful for the PCs to defeat in a straight fight, so the players will have to figure out a way to defeat it or bypass it.

Sunday, March 03, 2024

Forbidden Psalm, This Town Ain't Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us, and Tiny Towns

For our February session we played a game of Forbidden Psalm. Well technically it was two games: the play area being 2' x 2', I set up terrain to cover a 4' x 2' area and the four of us played two separate games side-by-side.

The game rules were simple enough, although with each character having some sort of special rules, it was difficult to keep track. It plays very much like Mordheim or Frostgrave.

After the game we played two games each of two board games: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us, and Tiny Towns. The first is a simple game that is sometimes difficult for new players to grasp, but once they get it it is easy to set up and play.

Tiny Towns is one of my favourite board games, but one which I am not very good at. Still, I managed to win the game for the first time in our first game, but a careless mistake in the second put me at the bottom of the table. I am keen to play that game again soon.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Three Worlds #3

photo by Stefan Thüngen

When they had rested from their travels, our heroes decided to explore the cave known as the Salt Cauldron Tunnel across the canyon, on the belief that it too may contain a chamber of magic which will give them more clues on the nature of the cave which they had explored.

And so Arwin, Kargen, and Mala (see PC profiles here) undertook the journey across the stone bridge across the River of Hiad and up the slot canyon known as the Laughing Devil Trail (for the eerie sound the wind made when it blew through the canyon). It was close to sunset when they arrived at the end of the canyon and at the foot of the path which led to the cave, but wary of spending a night out in the open, the party elected to continue on.

The path led to the entrance of the cave, and when Mala entered it he was attacked by a black mountain lion which had made the place its lair. Arwin slew the lion with a bolt from his crossbow, but Mala was much weakened from the attack.

Exploring the first chamber of the cave, they found two paths leading from it: one led downwards to the east, while another, some ten feet from the ground, was a tunnel which, from the salt left on the ground, was the tunnel which led to the salt lake which the orcs of old harvested salt from.

Despite their weariness, our heroes decided to press on. They entered the narrow tunnel, which was so narrow that they had to crawl on fours. For more than an hour they crawled upwards, until their lantern went out and they had to carry on in pitch darkness, until at last they could see the light of the moon at the end of the tunnel. Them making themselves as comfortable as they could in the confines of the tunnel, they laid down to sleep.

The next morning our heroes awoke and exited the tunnel. They found themselves looking down at a round valley some three miles across. At the floor of the valley was a salt lake a mile long and half a mile wide. A trail led from the tunnel to the shore of the salt lake, which was covered by a crust of rock salt.

Our heroes walked to the floor of the valley and explored the salt lake, but except for some signs of salt harvesting from a long time ago, they found little of interest. The resolved to return to the fort, but unwilling to endure the crawl through the tunnel again, they planned to climb over the mountain on the far side of the valley instead.

When they reached the foot of the mountain at the far side of the valley, they noticed a cave opening some 20 feet from the floor of the valley. Mala once more entered the cave to reconnoiter, and to his surprise found the "manticore" asleep inside!

Mala made his way out of the cave silently, and together the trio hatched plan to smoke the manticore out of its lair by setting their bedrolls on fire, setting a rope across the mouth of the cave to entangle it when it fled out, and Arwin would shoot it with his crossbow.

The party put their plan into action, but when Mala attempted to set the bedrolls alight the striking of the flint woke the manticore. As the bedrolls caught fire the manticore let out a roar and charged through the flames, knocking Mala down as it sped towards the cave opening. Arwin let fly his bolt but missed. The manticore ran into the rope stretched across the opening of the cave, one end of which was anchored by a grappling hook to the side of the mountain, and the other end held by Kargen; the force of impact ripped the grappling hook off the rocks, and threw Kargen to the ground.

The manticore took to the sky, while our heroes retreated inside the cave, expecting the manticore to turn and attack, but it flew eastwards over the mountain and disappeared from their view.

Wounded and low on supplies, our heroes had little choice but to continue their journey back, and in the evening they arrived at the fort hungry and tired. Based on their testimony, Captain Mossak decided to move Jorrus from the pit in the courtyard and placed him under guard in the dormitory instead.

During the time they were gone another caravan had arrived at Fort Davelmag, escorted by four Plains Orcs. Despite the news of recent events, the merchant nevertheless decided to set off the next day as planned. This proved to be disastrous as the four orcs would return the evening after with news that the manticore attacked their encampment at night, slew the merchant and their mules, and they had to flee with nothing but their weapons and the clothes on their backs.

Captain Mossak then despatched a few guards, our heroes, and the orcs to return to the campsite to investigate. There they found the bodies of the mules and the merchants eaten by coyotes, and the food, furs, and tools looted, leaving behind the silver and iron ingots which the merchant carried. The orcs declared that they would bring the body of the merchant back to his family, taking the silver for their labour.

The next morning the orcs and the guards set off for the fort, while our heroes, accompanied by Gad, followed the trail of the looters, which led down to the canyon floor, across the river (which there ran as shallow rapids), and up the opposite slope of the canyon. The trail led to a spur of the mountain which was raised above the surrounding like a promontory. At the end of the promontory was a high tower, which our heroes could not determine if it was natural or man-made.

Arwin tried to make his way to the tower long the steep-sided spur, but he found that orcs had built a low wall of stones across it, and when he got near they shot arrows at him.

With the orcs unwilling to communicate, our heroes decided to split up, with Gad and Mala staying near the tower to keep an eye on the orcs, while the rest returned to the fort.

Prepping and Running the Game

Despite having sufficient time and heads-up to prepare for this session, I made an error in describing the map, missed out a fork, which led the players to choose the courses of action which they did.

It is not an unrecoverable mistake, as I can simply put the room down the other passage which they did not explore, but it did lead back to the discussion of Blorb Principles about which I had a discussion with my friend Steve the week before.

My mistake had kind of accelerated the development of the plot of the campaign, but it being organic, I am happy to live with the consequences. I am quite curious to see how my players will deal with the situation which they have found.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Three Worlds #2

Kargen falls afoul of a giant scorpion
When our heroes returned to the fort they found that their success had already been made known by the restoration of the spring. Once more a modest feast was held in their honour, where they made acquaintance of two newcomers to the fort, who had escorted a priest of Andeus there.

After learning what our heroes had encountered, Captain Mossak asked our heroes to lead a party of his soldier to the site of the dam, where they hope to pick up the trail of the orcs and find their lair and end the threat. Arwin and Kargen, the two new arrivals, were asked to join the mission.

The next morning Arwin, Kargen, Mala, and Rokas (see PC profiles here) and five soldiers from the garrison made their way back to the site of the dam. There they found that the bodies of the orc warriors slain by our heroes the day before had been dragged away. Following the trail east for two hours, the party came upon an abandoned village set against the side of a cliff. The adobe houses of the village lacked doors at the ground level; a wooden ladder led from the ground to the second storey door in one of the houses, and through its windows Arwin saw a few orc warriors.

Kargen and Rokas approached the house, but immediately the orcs shot arrows at them - the ladder to the door was withdrawn.

The soldiers took shelter behind some rocks, while Kargen and Rokas ran towards the houses and stood against the walls of the houses beside the one occupied by the orcs so they could not be shot at. They were soon joined by Mala.

After a failed attempt by Kargen to flings a lit lantern into the house, the trio decided to entered the house next to the one held by the orcs. From there they ascended to the roof top by a hole in the ceiling, and sneaked to the roof of the house held by the orcs.

Through the hole in the ceiling there, the trio could see that four orc warriors were in the room. The three planned a co-ordinated attack: Rokas would hurl a throwing axe at one of the orcs shooting from one of the windows, Mala would cast a spell of fire to burn the two behind the other window, while Kargen would leap from the roof down and attack any surviving orc.

While Rokas and Mala managed to execute their attack as planned, Kargen found to his surprise that when his feet landed on the floor of the house it gave way and he plunged into the room in the floor below. Almost immediately he heard a clattering sound and turned to see giant scorpion charging at him. Kargen was seized by the giant claws of the scorpion, and fell unconscious.

On the floor above Mala and Rokas had trouble taking down the last orc warrior, until the soldiers entered the fray and cut him down. The party then shot missiles at the giant scorpion to keep it away from the prone body of Kargen. Eventually Gad, an orc soldier, offered to jump to the floor below with a rope tied around his waist, and recovered the dwarf.

Eventually the soldiers killed the scorpion, and when they searched the house they found that the bodies of the two lost soldier had seemingly be fed to the scorpion, while their gear were found in another room. With the hour being late, the party made a sweep of the village to make sure there were no more threats, and then settled for the night.


Two days later, when they had rested and recovered, Valdus offered to take Arwin and Kargen into employment, and sent our heroes out to scout the routes ahead to make sure they were free from orc raiders. So once more our heroes ventured out of Fort Davelmag, this time to investigate the cliff painting of the manticore which gave the valley its nickname.

It was late afternoon when they arrived at the base of the cliff which bore the painting of the monster, which differed somewhat from the manticore of the Old World. Under the painting, some 20 feet from ground level, they saw a cave opening the size of a door, which they entered by employing a grappling hook.

image from wikipedia

Inside, they found a large cave with the floor covered by a layer of sand blown in from the outside, and a tunnel leading further into the mountainside. With sunset approaching, they resolved to spend the night in the cave and explore further when morning came. While they prepared to settle in for the fight, Mala was attacked by a giant lizard which had laid hidden under the sand. After a short fight, Mala killed the lizard with a blow from his shovel, and the party settled down for the night.

The next morning our heroes ventured deeper into the cave. There they found a larger cavern which was used as a burial site for orcs. In another chamber they found the remains of an orc interred in a seated position, with grave goods placed on and beside him. Our heroes took some of the goods, with Kargen claiming a necklace with a turquoise stone the size of an egg.

One tunnel led to a strange round cave that had the size and shape of the pit which served as a jail in Fort Davelmag: a round chamber some 12 yards across, with a ring of stones placed in the centre serving as a fireplace, and a small pit about two foot across set north of the centre. The room was also unnaturally cold, and frost formed upon the floor and walls of the cave.

Mala was able to sense magic in the cave, but was otherwise unable to learn more about it, and so the party decided to return to the fort.

Prepping and Running the Game

The first part of this session was a continuation of the encounter from the last session, but I changed the scene of the combat from a dungeon to an adobe village and added a vertical element, which worked well and provided some tension and laughs.

With the first encounter and quest done, I asked the players to choose which location they wished to explore next. There are about seven "dungeons" in the module, so it was not difficult to prep all the locations beforehand, especially since I modified all of them to cut them down and make them easy to remember.

The "manticore" in the photo above is actually a piasa, a mythological monster from the Mississippian Culture, which I borrowed because I thought it fit the name of the module.

The magical cave is based on the kiva of the Ancestral Puebloan culture, and is actually an important part of the plot of the campaign.

The character Mala had scored three criticals while attacking with the shovel in our two sessions, and it had become a running gag in the campaign. The player and I have decided to capitalise on this and use the shovel as a device in the character's specialisation as a warlock.