Wednesday, August 29, 2018

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

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.