Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Chronicles of the Adventurers Guild #10

On the 7th day of Ostar, guild members Findal, Grimmson, and Helmond asked for and received the Guildmaster's leave to quit the guild. All accounts have been verified and closed.

On this day guild members Tamira, Leowe, Madian, Piper, and Grak (see PC profiles here), with the bearer Karl in employment, returned to the underground complex via barrow #20, the skeletons guarding the way below having been cleared by guild members Brodir, Renard, Torvik, and Ornulf.

Turning south to the large chamber wherein the broken stele was found, they vanquished the skeletal warriors there, and broke through the door on the southern wall to enter into the chamber, wherein was found a sarcophagus of white marble. Entombed within (according to the inscription upon the door and cover of the sarcophagus, as translated by guild member Madian) were the remains of one Druentes, a "paladin of Yasoda, Giver of Gifts". The party recovered from within the sarcophagus a blue-steel mace of dwarven craft.

Turning then north and then east, the party then broke into and entered in turn two chambers opposite each other, finding within each a single sarcophagus, each of which held a single undead, which they defeated, although guild member Piper was seized by the second and fell down as though dead, and had to be revived.

The hour being late, the party returned to the guild. Grave goods recovered were assessed to be 53 Gros in value, of which 20 Gros was disbursed to the members according to the contract. The steel mace was assessed to be 84 Gros in value, and sold to guild member Tamira for 56 Gros, according to the terms of the contract.

Addendum: Guild staff Tosot was reported to be absent at his post this morning, and upon searching of his quarters found to have absconded with his possessions. Inventory of the stores and purse did not reveal any shortfall. There being no loss and no evidence of wrongdoing, Guildmaster Hassel-Hoffa resolved to not pursue the matter.

Prepping and Running the Game

Dave, one of the earliest members of our group, managed to join the session, bringing the number of players in the campaign to eight, and the number of PCs to a total of 14.

I opened the session by having the remaining members of the Fearsome Four bid the PCs farewell as they decided to seek their fortunes elsewhere, declaring the barrows to be an 'evil place'. The PCs asked where they were headed, but unfortunately I had not expected this and could not come up with an answer immediately - this was a lost opportunity as I could have planted a seed for future adventures.

I then introduced a new party to the guild, consisting of four warriors from Isheim, the Terrinoth analogue of the Norse realm. The Weiks (Terrinoth for Vikings, I imagine) first asked if Piper and Grak were Gio Gerbo and his servant Strigoi (see here), as they have heard about the two on their journey here - I had checked my calendar and realised that they would have passed Nornholt not long after the A Team's adventures there, and would have heard about them.

I then had the newcomers ask the PCs for tips and advice, partly to help Dave get up to speed on what the situation was. In return for their advice, the Weiks volunteered to clear the way into the underground complex for the party, which was my way of demonstrating that the northmen were competent, and to save us another skeleton fight... because I knew there would be more to come.

The party managed to defeat the skeletons set to guard the stele chamber easily. One of the skeletal archers there rolled a '1' on his attack roll, and I declared that the bowstring snapped, which I hoped reiterated the fact that bows and arrows required a supply chain to function.

While they were breaking into the next chamber, I had another party of skeletons attack them. This served the function of the wandering monster in old school dungeons, and hopefully gave the players the sense that even though they are now stronger, they cannot afford to be complacent. This lesson had to be taught again not long afterwards, however, as Piper's player had him pop his head too far into a sarcophagus, where he was seized by a mummy and reduced to zero hit points - fortunately for all of us he was revived with the loss of a point of Constitution, and did not die permanently like Laethen did, which would have been quite a blow for the player.

The party now have two magical items, which will give them a bit more bite against the enemies. Tamira had to take a huge loan from Brother Othar, but I guess that is the advantage of being a cleric of the church of Kellos.

The other event that took place was Tosot's abscondment. I decided that whomever was diverting supplies to the cultists would be feeling the heat by now, and would choose to flee at the first opportunity. The timing would be in the morning, soon after the adventurers and guild rangers have left for the barrows. I decided that he would leave with only his possessions, and not steal any of the guild's money or goods, which would give them a reason to pursue him. The players also asked to know which direction he headed towards, perhaps considering hunting him down; here I told them they had no way of knowing, as he had left when there were few people around to see him leave, even though in my mind I had an idea of which way he went. It would of course be possible for some of the PCs to try to track him down, but to do so would require not just splitting the party, but splitting the campaign - something which I was not prepared to do when already juggling seven players and 14 characters!

While the actual delving was not too different, the plot did move along a little, and very soon the cultists will feel the squeeze even more as I plan to have their informant within the guild abscond next, and their meagre store of bows and arrows will soon be exhausted. Depending on how much pressure the PCs apply on the cultists, I may decide to have the cultists' rivals approach them and propose an alliance to eliminate them altogether. That will shift the whole campaign to a higher gear, and move the focus from looting to thwarting a villain.


Now some thoughts on the religion of the people who built the barrows.

On reading more on the Weiks after the game, I realised that the new additions to the guild can be used for exposition, as the people of Isheim have their own mythology about Nordros. The PCs/players have been asking me about Nordros, but I have decided that knowledge of Nordros among the people of Terrinoth is scant, with the church possibly suppressing the knowledge. In the Terrinoth sourcebook it is stated that the people of Terrinoth depict Nordros as Weiqar's (equally) evil twin brother, thereby casting Weiqar as the greater evil, and Kellos, their chief deity, as the champion and saviour of mankind. The Weik, however, see Nordros in a more primal, more elemental role, as the god of ice and death.

I tend to view Nordros as a god of the Indo-European-equivalent people from whom the Weik and Terrinoth people are descended from, and that he initially represented their storm god and was depicted with lightning bolts, as the Indo-European storm god was. When these people migrated to the current-day Terrinoth region, they brought along with them their diseases, which the indigenous people had no immunity to; the spread of diseases to the original occupants of the land made it easier for the ancestors of the people who built the barrowmaze to conquer them and become the dominant culture of the region. The role diseases played in this was recognised, and Nordros was given the aspect of the god of disease, and also death, who prospered his worshippers by striking down their enemies. and the javelins which he was depicted with turned from lightning bolts to contagion. This accounted for the rise of the death cult among these people. Their obsession with death led to the construction of numerous burial mounds, as well as the giant underground burial complex. Presumably the death cult eventually turned to human sacrifice, and the ruling and priestly class were eventually overthrown and the culture faded. When the ancestors of the Weiks migrated further north, the death aspect of Nordros became associated with ice and cold, and he became an evil god.

The god Yasoda, however, was something I made up for what would have been the next arc for the A Team. I see him as a sun god, perhaps of the indigenous people of the land. The people recognised the association between the sun and plant growth, and he is identified with both nature (and the bounties of the forests) and agriculture, and thus called the 'giver of gifts'. Perhaps the cult of Yasoda survived the initial conquest and continued among the conquered people, and eventually spread to the elites, who eventually overthrew the death cults.

Under this mythology, Kellos, in the form that he is being worshipped by the people of Terrinoth, is perhaps a manifestation of Yasoda, or at least inherits his aspect as the sun god and the protector/provider of the people.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Chronicles of the Adventurers Guild #9

On the 2nd day of Ostar was held a funeral for guild member Laethen, who was slain by an undead on the day prior. Also cremated was the prisoner who had died on 30th Lenzin.

On orders of Guildmaster Hassel-Hoffa the inventory of the bows and arrows was examined, and no loss was found. By the Guildmaster's order henceforth all purchases from the guild store are to record the names of the members making the purchase.


On the 3rd day of Ostar guild members Tamira, Leowe, Madian, and Piper (see PC profiles here) returned to barrow #34, where they avenged the death of guild member Laethen and recovered the grave goods of the undead therein; however, they were attacked by several other undead which came upon them from another passage in the tomb, who by their appearance were tomb robbers recently raised to undeath. Guild member Tamira was able to fend them off by the power of Kellos, and the party returned in safety.

Grave goods recovered assessed to be 45 Gros in value, of which 16 Gros were disbursed to the members according to the contract.


On the 4th day of Ostar, guild members Tamira, Leowe, Madian, and Piper, along with guild members Findal, Marak, Grimmson, and Helmond, returned to barrow #36, where the latter were driven off by an incorporeal undead, in the suggestion of Tamira. However, they were unable to overcome the undead, and Marak fell down dead, and could not be revived.


On this day the 5th day of Ostar a funeral was held for guild member Marak.


On the 6th day of Ostar guild memebrs Tamira, Leowe, Madian, and Piper returned once more to barrows #36, where they were finally able to vanquish the undead. The party recovered a stone sceptre topped with a skull, which was valued at 56 Gros. Guild member purchased the sceptre at the cost of 38 Gros, according to the terms of the contract.


Jeras, Guild Chronicler

Prepping and Running the Game

Although the players only explore two barrows this session, it was quite an eventful one.

The first part of the session was about the funeral, when the players/PCs protested the decision to cremate the dead cultist at the same time as Laethen - I had thought nothing of it, and it was nice to see that they felt strongly enough about the cultist to raise the issue.

Thereafter the PCs had a discussion with the Guildmaster on the issue of the skeletons being armed with bows and arrows, which resulted in an audit of the guild stores - I had decided that the cult's contact had pre-empted this, and worked the books; and as the cult paid cash, there was no shortfall of gold even when it was not recorded whom the bows and arrows were sold to. The decision to keep a record going forward though is going to throw another spanner in the cultists' works. I will have to figure out a way for them to obtain a supply, and until they can do so the skeletons will likely run out of arrows if they meet the party a few more times. Meanwhile, their contact in the guild will decide that the game is up, and will flee in the middle of the night before his involvement is discovered.

I also imagine the guild will also realise that the cultists will need other supplies like food, and similarly monitor the supply. This will really put pressure on the cult, as well as their rivals also operating in Barrowmaze. Again, I need to come up with a solution or the operation of both parties will no longer be tenable. The cultists and I are really paying the price for the decision to arm the skeletons with bows and arrows - we have solved a tactical problem, only to cause a logistical one.

The other thing which happened which pleased me was when the players proposed to the NPC party to combine forces and loot the barrow which the latter had failed to. It is always gratifying when the players take the initiative to engage with NPCs.

Unfortunately, the fight against the wraith went badly for the guild members, and Marak went down, and when I rolled the Death Roll in the open I rolled a 1, which meant a 'real' death. Now the NPC party is based on the Dragon Warriors cover art, and I named them the Fearsome Four after the party in the module, and they have been a fixture in our campaign for many sessions now, providing a rival for the PCs and making the setting more than just a plain dungeoncrawl. I will most likely have the Fearsome Four take on another fighter in Marak's place - after all, that's what the PCs do after one of their own died.

One side effect of the deaths is that the funerals allowed me to advance the calendar a little faster than before, and the time will allow the actions of the various NPCs to take place: the church and the wizard's university will have time to receive news of the stele the PCs discovered and make an offer on it, the cultists will have time to come up with a solution to their supplies problem and implement it.

Friday, January 01, 2021

2020 in Review and Looking Ahead

Against the backdrop of a global pandemic, the hobby seems to pale in comparison, but at the same time, it's something that connects us with who we are, and with each other.

We only managed to play nine sessions of RPG his year, with a couple more online. I was not able to complete the arc for the Terrinoth A Team, nor play the campaigns that I had planned for this year (nor FG make his debut as a GM), but we did manage to start a new campaign with new players.

What was unplanned for was the start of Thursday evening gaming sessions with Adrian and FG. Plus the few Sunday games Martin, FG, and I managed to play after lockdown lifted, we played a total of 15 sessions this year.

While the future is still uncertain, I am going to continue with tradition and lay out our plans for the year.

We will likely continue our Barrowmaze campaign through March.

In April I hope to play the Sorcery! sequel campaign. We will probably be using the Forbidden Lands rules, since they are suitably crunchy for my vision of the game.

From June onwards things get a little hazy. One of the big campaigns I planned for 2020 was Season 3 of our Space Opera campaign, using the Traveller Deepnight Revelation kickstarter campaign. The delivery of that kickstarter had been delayed, but it should (fingers crossed) deliver by then, which allow us to play through that campaign in the second half of the year.

Other possible campaigns are a return to our Gamma World campaign, or something that uses The Hero's Journey rules, which seem quite fun.

On the wargaming front we are planning to play a short league using the Blood Bowl Season 2 rules. That should take us through the first three months of the year. Thereafter Stargrave is a possibility - presumably Northstar will release more plastic and metal figures to tempt us closer to date.

Then there is also the Spanish Civil War project that Martin is helming, and my 28mm sci-fi WW1 figures to be delivered and then painted, and the 10mm Arab Revolt project I will finally get to complete

And that's that.

I notice that I have been more tentative than in previous years, for obvious reasons. The year has no doubt taken a toll on all of us, not just in terms of health and finances, but also on our morale. But perhaps that's all the more reason we should be gaming in the upcoming year: to keep alive the friendships we have made through the hobby, and to encourage each other.

Be of good cheer, my friends.