Friday, August 24, 2012

Church of the Three Virtues

The primary religion of the civilized lands is that known as the Great Church of the Three Virtues. Although other minor, older and hidden faiths are found, the vast majority of peoples in the lands of the old Imperium follows the teachings of the Great Church to one extent or another.

The Great Church venerates three virtues and the gods associated with them;
  • protection, just war and vengeance (Habuu)
  • justice, law and duty (Velas)
  • home, harvest and healing (Saule)

Individual sects, churches and temples may venerate one more than the other. For example, a militant order may worship Habuu more so than the other, whereas a temple in a farming district will likely venerate Saule.

The faith itself has been around in this form since the rise of the Second Imperium some 800 years ago; it was in fact a driving force behind the rebirth of the Imperium. However, the three gods had been worshiped for millennia before, in more primitive forms. Habuu had been a bloody god of war of the D’war people; Saule a fertility goddess of overt sexuality; and Velas a stern overgod who met out divine punishment to his followers. The organization of the church mellowed the image of the gods into the civilized forms known today. But in hidden places, the old sects may still thrive.

The church is a tightly controlled and bureaucratic organization, with a rigid hierarchy. The titles and roles are as follows:

Title                                                                     Role
Supreme Virtue (Virtuous Supremis)                        Head of all the Civilized Church
August Virtue (Virtuous Augustus)                           Head of the Church in a Country/Region
Most Virtuous                                                        Head of the Church in a Province/District
Highest Virtue                                                        Head of a Temple
Under Virtue                                                          Assistant / Head of Minor Temple
Sub Virtue                                                             Mid-level priest
Assistant Sub Virtue                                              Low-level priest

Many clerics of the faith practice outside the rigid hierarchy of the temples. These may serve the faith in one place, or travel from village to village serving those who do not have a temple of their own. Many also become landowners, lords, and even adventurers.

Westmist Session #12 - Boldly into the Unknown (and Back)

Scant days after their first expedition downriver, Rylee, Kern, Lorek and Erijay (joined again by Eazam) were preparing to leave for the ruins of Nasper, to  follow-up on the rumors of hobgoblin armies on the march. Apart from themselves, and  the hirelings Largesh and Narmor, in their own magical boat, they hired Gundar and crew to transport their supplies and the Barons` men-at-arms. As they prepared to head out on the river, the town guards informed them another boat had run under the bridge during the night, whcsh immediately put the group on guard. They resolved to take care going down river, and to especially watch for trouble at the spot where they met the first boat a few days before. 

Stopping again to spy on that spot, Kern discovered another boat pulled up in the creek, apparently loaded with cargo, and this time guarded by many more men. They choose not to challenge this group, but continued on their mission, reaching the Citadel of Amrath at nightfall. Intercepted by the Kings White Company on the river, a quick discussion reveled the garrison was not particularly worried about any activity on the far side of the Great River, having neither the inclination nor the manpower to do anything more than monitor traffic travelling on and across the river. 

Finding little aid from the citadel, the party chose to leave Gundar and the second boat there, and approach the ruins of Nasper on foot. Reaching the outskirts, they saw signs of activity throughout the ruined town, noting especially the ruined castle on an island in the River Thaytis, and the remains of some large building on a hill on their side of the river. Waiting until nightfall ,the party cautiously moved through the ruins towards that hill, Kern scouting in front. Halfway there, Kern broke into a clearing in the brambles only to see  a band of men dressed in wolf headpieces. They were likewise surprised, but with a whoop chased him back through the ruins, only to run straight into the rest of the party. Choosing mêlée over parley, they band swiftly dispatched the tribesmen, but not before the hireling Largesh fell with a spear through the chest.

Leaving the men-at-arms to bury the unfortunate Largesh ,the party pushed on, skirting around a group of mostly intact buildings which seems to be home to the wolf tribesmen. Reaching the base of the hill, they discovered some earthworks on the crest, occupied by a band of hobgoblins. Erijay handled these with a quick sleep spell,  followed by a charge up the hill to bind and gag the fallen creatures before  anyone might notice. At the top, they found the sleeping hobgoblins, a watch fire, and a brass gong in the earthwork. The building next to it proved to be a ruined temple to Velas, which Rylee and Lorek reverently explored before getting to the task at hand; squeezing information out of their prisoners. One by one, they awoke the prisoners to question them, breaking legs as they went to get them to talk. The hobgoblins' military discipline was strong though, and it took several dead prisoners before one talked. Unfortunately, he must have been a new recruit, and he couldn't provide a lot of information. The party did learn about a 100 hobgoblins occupied the town (the 3rd Century of the 3rd Cohort of the Hobgoblin Occupation Army), guarding a forward supply depot and receiving supplies from the river smugglers from the east.  And that a much larger army lay in wait further back from the frontier, ready to sweep down on Westmist and the rest of the  Kingdom of Kellowai.  

As dawn was now approaching, the party decided to get away while the going was good. First they had the men-at-arms take the dead hobgoblins back to the site of their battle with the wolf tribesmen, to make it look like they had died at each others hands. Then taking their prisoner in tow, they headed back the way they came, and were glad to be away when they heard an uproar in the town  behind them when the hobgoblins discovered their guard post was unoccupied.  Recovering Gundar and boat, they headed back upriver to Westmist. Along the way, they did note the second boat at the creek was gone, but on the opposite bank signs of a recent fire and crude rafts could be seen.
Back in town,  they met with the March Baron, and presented their prisoner and their story. He was more than a little skeptical of their tale of vast hobgoblin armies about the descend on his land, pointing out all they saw were a few watch fires, basing much of their story on what their prisoner had told them.  He was not prepared to raise the alarm based on such thin evidence, but did agree a closer watch would be kept on the river to intercept any further boats, something the party also wanted to do. And he agreed the honor his agreement of freedom of the town, and a house for the growing group. 

Of the house, there was a hitch; it was abandoned, boarded up and reported to be haunted.  The brave adventurers didn't let that worry them, so guided to the spot by one of the Baron`s men, they bolding burst inside and began rifling through their new furniture. Little was found beyond old clothing and junk, although Eazem did recover a fine locked box (which he was able to have opened latter, to find a handful of coins and two gems, one a ruby of impressive size). On the upper level they encountered their haunt, a wraith who was dispatched withòut too much worry, but not before Lorek felt it`s chill hand of death drain him of vigor and power. Also of interest was a secret door found in the cellars, with a spiral staircase leading some 150`down. In a room at the bottom, they found a curious oval archway, filled with a purple shimmering haze. No one wanted to tempt fate  by walking through the arch, but they did note on closer examination there were 6 holes or cavities scattered around the perimeter of the oval, each about the size of a sling stone.
The band threw a great party in their new digs, and things got a little out of control. Lorek and Rylee got well into their cups and barely avoided mishap. Kern, unfortunately, got himself into some trouble. By the next morning, all he could recall was asking his god for help, and for once the god listened. And had now laid a quest on Kern to repay the his benefice.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Westmist Session #11 - Messing About With Boats

While Riley, Erijay and Eazam recovered from their near death experience, discussion around the tavern table revolved around what to do next. General consensus was they could use a break from Stonehell. Then Riley recalled a rumor he and Turrick had heard earlier, about boats running under the bridge over the Valen River. They were running the bridge late at night, and not responding to the hails of the guards at the bridge gate. Interest piqued, Rylee, Kern, Lorek and Erijay headed down to the bridge to question the guards. The guards confirmed the tale, noting it usually happened around the new moon and had been going on for a few months. The guards noted that the Masked Council of Three was not pleased, as the town was losing the 10% tariff levied on goods passing the bridge.

Armed with this information, the four headed for the Black Nobel Nymph and Staff tavern to talk with the Council. They found the three councilmen, in black robes and masks, dealing with various civic and criminal matters. Done their duties, the three removed masks and sat down to their cups. Rylee had the serving wench bring the councilmen some fine dwarven brandy, and after a few moments one of the council beckoned them over. The four discussed the issue of the boats with the councilman Anfor, and worked out a deal with the politician. The four would try to track down the identity of the boats, recover any goods being smuggled past the town, keeping half the cargo for themselves in payment. For his part, Anfor would supply a river boat and crew.

Deal made, the band hastily hired a pair of men at arms (Largesh and Narmor), then headed for Anfor’s private dock and boathouse to meet the helmsman, Gundar, and crew.  After Gundar made clear who was in charge of the boat (Gundar) and what role beyond working the boat he and his men would play (none), they prepared to intercept the mystery boats, as tonight was the new moon. Soon, the guards on the bridge signaled that a boat was approaching, and once it passed the docks, Gundar put his crew in motion and moved into mid-stream to follow. Dawn found the mystery boat pulling into a small creek flowing from the Marsh of Whispering Mists, while Gundar put his boat into the rushes a few hundred feet behind. Kern now moved forward stealthy on the bank to see what was happening. He saw the crew, a mix of rowers and armed men, being directed by a red headed woman in stained travelling clothes towards a campsite away from the boat. After some time, most had moved off into the mist, leaving a handful of grumbling men to guard the boat and cargo.  The cargo remained under wraps, so Kern could see only that the boat was loaded to the gunnels and low in the water. Listening to the men, he also learned another boat was expected at some point, so he rushed back to the rest of the group to decide what to do next.

After much discussion, the four and the men at arms crept back to the edge of the creek. Erijay then cast her Sleep spell, dropping the guards into slumber.  Largesh was sent running back to fetch Gundar and the boat, while the rest crossed the creek and hog tied and gagged the sleeping guards. When Gundar arrived, they ran a line to the mystery boat, loaded the sleeping guards aboard, and started to pull her from shore. Unfortunately, they were not quiet enough, and as they began to pull away, the rest of the mystery boats crew began running out of the mist. The rowers tried to circle around to cut off the boats before they reached deep water. The rest fired a rain of arrows, and the red headed women started casting spells. While it was a close run thing, the band did escape with the boat, cargo and prisoners.

In short order they discovered the cargo consisted of scale mail and polearms. Separating one prisoner form the other, a mix of threat and promise was used to find out what was going on. The prisoner, Breen, told them the boat was running arms and armour down to the ruins of Nasper, where they were being turned over the a group of hobgoblins. He and the others had been hired for the job in the city of Kingsford by the red headed lady, Alia. Breen didn’t know exactly what the hobgoblins were up to or who was sending the supplies, but he was pretty sure his captors would be sorry for getting in the middle of it and that he wanted to get as far away from them as possible. That was arranged, as the four stuffed a bag of gold into Breen’s hands, and then proceeded to dump him overboard to swim for shore.

Back in Westmist, they split the cargo with Anfor, while the three prisoners were tried and executed by being turned to stone in the town square. The party was also sent to the March Baron, Lord Merdwyn, to tell their story. Much worried, the Baron asked that the party find out what they could in the ruins of Nasper, offering some supplies and men at arms to assist them. They also bargained a house and freedom of the town out of the distracted baron in the process.

Preparing for the journey into the Untamed Lands, they were surprised to find the river boat they had stolen was no ordinary boat. It was in fact magical, and could be changed from a river boat to row boat to box by using the appropriate command words engraved on the gunnels.  The four also found time to celebrate their success. In the process, Erijay had a bit too much lotus and brandy, and tried putting to moves on some mysterious stranger of uncertain gender and race. Whoever it was, the stranger was not impressed by the elf’s advances, and tired to turn Erijay into a pig. It must have been the booze, as the enchantment had no effect, and the elf maid awoke the next morning with nothing more than a bad hangover.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Westmist Session #10 - The Crypts

The day opened with Eazam, Rylee, Kern, Erijay (and newcomer cleric of Habuu, Kentra), clustered around a table at The Golden Drake. They were  examining the map of their explorations in Stonehell thus far, looking where next to seek their fortune. It soon was obvious the only substantial area left on the first level were the crypts to the east.  Confident their two clerics could handle any undead occupants, the band descended once more into the benighted halls, accompanied by the dogs Rufee and Fifi, and Sweet Jenny the mule.

 First step was to convince Sweet Jenny to go into the dark again, accomplished only with a healthy bribe of carrots. Stopping first to speak with the talking stone head to gather information about the crypts, the band was waylaid on their way by a pair of crab spiders, which were quickly dispatched. Passing through the stone doors emblazoned with the danse macabre, the first challenge was traversing the grand entrance hall. Where once fire beetles grazed, now a trio of giant shrews snuffled through the moss and lichen looking for food. An uncertain stand-off ended with the party attacking, only to find the lighting fast shrews were much more of a challenge than anticipated. In fact, Kentra's brief dungeon delving career was ended by the teeth of the vile rodents.

Finishing with the shrews, next stop was the exploration of a few crypts. When one proved to hold zombies, these were barred in the room by nailing in some iron spikes, and the party decided to explore elsewhere.  Passing into another large chamber, they encountered the skeleton of a huge serpent.  Harmless itself, it did hide a number of other skeletons which were quickly dispatched by axe and the power of the mighty god Habuu. Found cowering the corner was Lorek, another cleric of Habuu and the lone survivor of another adventuring band, who immediately joined his rescuers.

Passing south out of the serpent room, Erijay discovered another way to the second level by falling through a trap door and down a chute. Finding a room full of previous trap victims (now deceased) , bloodstains and broken equipment, she was soon pulled back to level one by the rest of the band. Continuing on, a room with a great statue of Baal, god of Death and Fire, was encountered. Sitting in the statues lap was a great furnace, and the room was marked with signs of fire or explosion. Cautiously, the party explored around the edges of the rooms, avoiding the scorch marks as they feared a trap. Interrupted once by a easily handled band of skeletons, the band hurled torches at the furnace to try setting off the trap, but to no avail. Puzzled, they moved on, only to be surprised when zombies began bursting out of walls and surrounding them in the corridor. Again there was a flurry of melee, missiles and turning before the danger was ended, but not before Fifi the wardog lay dead.

Now the party entered what was easily the largest chamber encounter so far in Stonehell. The vast hall had a ceiling where bats circled far beyond torchlight, massive bone-carved columns and a large brass gong at one end. A quick survey by Erijay with her infravision also showed an army of the undead approaching from all around the room to attack! Quickly vacating the room, the party gathered back in the serpent room, poured oil on the floor between them and the trapdoor discovered earlier, and waited. As the mindless army of undead approached, some fell to a second death below. Those who made it past the trap were then engulfed by flames as the oil was lit, the final few flaming zombies being dispatched by the front line fighters. 

Relived at having survived that onslaught, the party moved forward again, only to find behind the next door a trio of ghouls, hungry for new flesh. Things went downhill fast, Erijay, Eazam and Rylee all falling to their claws, near death and/or paralyzed. With what must have been divine help, Kern and Lorek managed to drive back the foul eaters of the dead, spiked the door shut and then quickly hauled their companions out of the dungeon and back to town for recovery.