Friday, January 25, 2013

Westmist Session #32 - The Rod of Narissa Part 1

Having spent several excursions exploring the third level of Stonehell with no (financial) reward to show, the party’s thoughts turned to other ventures. In particular, to the rumors of the Rod of Narissa. So rather than delve once more into the dark depths, they chose to wait around town until they heard back from Thuridici the Sage. And after another week and a half, they were summoned into the presence of the learned man. Thuridici confirmed that the legend of Narissa was indeed true, and the details the party had been told by the Undervirtue matched well with the information he had recovered from his tomes of lore. What he could not tell them was exactly the location of the final battle between Narissa and Raxeses the elementalist lich. It occurred in one of the long forgotten mining villages that once dotted the flanks of the Western War Peaks in the days of the Third Imperium.  He was, however, able to provide a map showing the location of those villages. With that, they party loaded up on supplies for a wilderness journey in the dead of winter, and departed Westmist to explore between the western mountain front and the Great River. And an expedition it was, with Riley (and Guruk the beastmaster), Kern (and Beorn the Twice Cursed and Sweet Jenny), Eirjay (and Foxy the wardog) and Darnoth.

The first day passed uneventfully, with the party starting on the road to Stonehell before veering off into the foothills going west. The second day likewise went well, until just before noon Guruk grunted the party to a halt with the warning “orcs!”. The party scattered into the brush just as a war band of about 40 orcs marched into view. These halted when they saw the party’s footprints in the snow, and a band of the creatures split off from the main group and followed the party’s path into the woods. They didn’t get far, however, before Erijay and Beorn dropped most of them with a pair of sleep spells. When the rest of the party released a barrage of missiles, the main body of orcs retreated up the trail, leaving a picket line of archers to snip at the party as they proceeded to make the sleeping orc’s rest a permanent matter. That done, Kern and Guruk slipped through the woods to outflank the picket, while Erijay Darnorth and Riley engaged from the front. After taking out 3 of the orcs, the rest turned tail and ran back to the main body, which in turn decided retreat was the best option.  Which the party let them do, taking time to loot the bodies of the fallen before cautiously moving forward again, keeping an eye out for any orcish ambushes.
After another night camping in the cold, Kern’s early morning watch was interrupted by a pair of flying creatures, attracted to the camp by the smoke of the campfire. As they got closer, the bat-like wings and tail stinger showed the creatures to be wyverns. While Kern frantically awoke the rest of the party who then fled into the woods, the two descended on poor Sweet Jenny, who was soon torn to pieces by the ravenous beasts. Luckily, that was enough to satiate them, as once done with the mule’s carcass, the two wyverns lifted off again to fly back into the mountains.

With heavy hearts, the party redistributed the mule’s load of supplies and headed out again, finally reaching the ruins of the first village on the mountain slopes ahead just as light started to fade. Most of the village consisted of ruined stone walls, but three building had been rudely rebuilt and smoke poured from the chimneys. While the prospect of shelter for the night was tempting, the party’s elected to ere on the side of paranoia and camp away from the village. Just before first light, Beorn and Kern crept forward to the building, hearing snores and horses inside. With no windows visible, they were unable to see who was inside, but that question was shortly answered when a half dozen scruffy men emerged to relieve themselves in the snow.  At that, the rest of the party emerged from hiding to confront the men, who quickly grabbed what weapons they had and called into the cabin for “Janus”. There emerged a tall man, armed and armored, and who appeared to be the men’s leader. The tense conversation that followed revealed little except that the men were probably bandits, were wary of the parties intentions, and that the two wyverns (which the bandits called Friz and Fritz) had a taste for horsemeat. With nerves on edge and hands on weapons, the party elected to leave, but not before Riley called on Habuu to locate the Rod of Narissa. Which was not to be found in this particular village.
 Moving out again, the party explored another ruined village (this one deserted) before approaching a third later in the afternoon. Here they were greeted by the sight of a ruined watchtower at the edge of what looked like a hanging valley. Yet again, Kern and Guruk moved forward to examine the tower, noting a path beat through the snow. Looking into the tower, they saw little but a nest or bed of furs and boughs, a sand drift and a set of old wooden stairs.  They also noted that the area around the tower was a sandpit, and a tunnel headed into the darkness at the north end. Calling up the rest, the party proceeded to rifle through the tower looking for any items of interest while Darnorth levitated up the stairs to keep watch for anyone approaching. Which he soon did, as a large humanoid shape came into sight and started up the trail into the valley. The party hid inside the tower and set an ambush for the creature, who proved to be a 12’ tall giant, all wrapped in furs. As he approached the tower, Erijay entangled him in a web, while the rest of the party pelted him with missile fire and then engaged in hand to hand combat. While the giant struggled to break free of the web, he started to cry out “No!, stop hurt Booh. Booh be nice to little people!”. Stopping their attacks, the party started to question the subdued Booh. From him they found out that “little crunchy men” had dug the tower out of the sand, and dug the tunnel the party could see on the opposite side of the pit. Booh hadn’t seen them for some time, not since he had a few for a snack back when the giant discovered the tower and decided to move in. While the party was unable to squeeze any treasure out of the giant, they were able to entice him with an offer of all the horse he could eat if Booh would help them tackle the bandits in the other village. But first Booh needed to rest and heal, so Riley cured the giant, and Booh then crawled off to bed and rest for awhile.
 With the bandit raid on hold for now, the party elected to explore the sand tunnel. They found a roughly 8’ high and wide passage, generously supported with timber frames and pit props.  After advancing awhile, they were surprised to find the wall of a half timber house along the side of the tunnel. Darnorth and Riley tried to carefully pry the boards off of a window, at which point they heard voices (speaking gnomish) inside and a bustle of movement, shouting and babies crying as the occupants prepared for whatever was in the tunnel.  Rather than chance opening the door right now, Kern slipped forward again, to find another half timber house and a larger chamber. From this house burst a half dozen gnomes, and the leader of the group demanded to know who the party were and what they were doing in the gnomes’ tunnels. A surly conversation ensued, and when the gnomes asked the parties business once more, Riley lost it and charged at them, a war whoop to Habuu on his lips. Simultaneously, the gnome leader started casting a spell and a sand wall appeared before the cleric. It proved illusionary, however, and Riley burst through and laid one gnome out cold on the ground, his head caved in by the cleric’s mace.  Reluctantly, the rest of the party prepared to assist the priest, but a sleep spell from Erijay and the flat of Darnorth’s sword made it a less bloody encounter than most.

To be continued …

Monday, January 21, 2013

Westmist Sessions #31 - She's Starting to Creep Me Out

Spending just a couple of days in Westmist to recover and refit, the party soon headed back to Stonehell to further explore the new level. This time a pair of new henchmen accompanied the four stalwarts; Erijay, Darnoth, Riley, Kern. Kern hired Beorn the Twice Cursed, a strange mage from a far northern land with a raven for a companion. Riley, meanwhile, took up with a strange Wildman by the name Gurruk, a beastmaster from the woods. And of course Foxy and Sweet Jenny filled out the livestock part of the party. Norm, for his part, chose to stay in Westmist to spend some of his hard earned gold and party away for Year’s End.

Trudging through the snow, the party once more entered the second level through their secret entrance. Reaching the old hobgoblin lair, they were surprised to see light ahead as they left the caverns. Sneaking ahead to investigate, Kern was surprised to hear a familiar feminine voice say “Hello Mr. Kern. It’s good to see you again”. When he and the rest of the party emerged from the corridor, they found Lachesis and her ogre henchmen waiting for them. The lady once more unnerved them with her knowledge of their supposedly secret entrance, and after a short conversation left ht party to scratch their collective heads once more.  Moving onward, the party encountered a band of kobolds scrubbing scorch marks off a length of corridor, and none to interested speaking today (“imagine putting hard working kobolds to sleep …”). Finally down the stairs again, they headed for the magically locked double doors. Riley, chanting orisons to the mighty Habuu, called on his god to dispel the magical lock. They party was then free to explore deeper into the complex without fear of having their retreat blocked by the locked portals.
 After ransacking an old storeroom (and loading some bags of leaves onto Sweet Jenny), they discovered a room with cistern in the centre of a wet floor. Cautiously moving forward, a section of what appeared to be the floor lashed at Darnorth with a grey slimy pseudopod. The rest of the party came to the dwarfs rescue, but not before the acidic ooze had largely destroyed his fine suit of plate mail. While there was some discussion of returning to town to re-amour the dwarf, they decided to move on and take their chances with a slightly less solid Darnorth.  The next room stood out due to its unusual door; unlike the usual iron banded wood seen elsewhere in Stonehell, this door was banded in what appeared to be bronze. Opening it, the party saw on the other side a rectangular shape, glowing with a bright white light. Entering, Erijay and Riley moved towards the object, only to be jumped by three gargoyles hiding above the door.  After battering the flying creatures into stone rubble, the party proceeded to examine the object. It appeared to have no physical existence, but yet the light did support weight and resisted their attempts to move or damage it. Going over it from top to bottom, no clues were found, except a sense of general unease and tingling felt by Riley when he crawled behind the object.
 Having exhausted all attempts at unraveling the mystery, the party moved on, only to once more meet Lachesis waiting for them in the corridor. Again, she gave them the distinct impression nothing they were doing escaped her notice. Once more, a futile attempt to pump her for information failed, and the party was left to continue on relying on their own wits. Although she did, in response to Kerns question, hint that there existed a safe room within the dungeon where the party could rest. And she would tell them where to find it, in return for the proper payment, of course.

Left alone again, the party pushed on, fighting a band of bugbears lazing around in one room. In others they found a few curious objects (a wooden statue of a mouse labeled ELEPHANTS TERROR; and an iron coin, painted white with the number “5” on each side). Opening another set of double doors, they were greeted by heavy, humid air and a smell of earth and plant growth. Pushing west beyond the doors, they soon encountered loam on the floor and then a tangle of grasses, ferns and mosses. Overhead was a curious set of iron pipes dripping water, while about them was a faint ethereal glow. Breaking into a few more rooms, they found more verdant plant growth. One was an old horticultural library, and the other contained a pair of crates. One full of fine glassware and the other full of bottles of 100 year old wine. Taking this as a sign on Year’s End Eve, the party backtracked and headed home to Westmist to celebrate the end of the 1577th year since the rise of the First Imperium, and to look forward to additional adventures and riches in the year ahead.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Westmist Session #30 - More and More Curious

Before delving back into Stonehell, the party decided to track down information onthe Rod of Narissa. Asking around, they were directed to the home of Thuridici the Sage. Having discussed their needs with the learned man, he agreed to take on the job of tracking down the likely location of the Rod.

Crossing the town square after meeting the sage, the party observed a company of the March Baron’s mercenaries at drill. As they passed by, one of the men in the ranks make eye contact with Erijay, and proceeded to draw a strange snake symbol in the air. Leaping to the elf maid’s defense, the redoubtable Riley grabbed the man with a mail clad grip and started to question the fellow. When the rest of the company began to draw weapons, the mercenary’s commander (Captain Jackson) intervened and none too kindly confronted the party. After some angry words and shoving, the man-at-arms apologized, saying only that he thought he recognized the sword Erijay carried and meant no disrespect. Walking away before blows were traded, the party was none the less intrigued by the man’s actions and comments, and arranged to have Riker track him down later and arrange a meeting.  That evening, Erijay and Riley made their way to the Foam and Whistle tavern where they found the man drinking with his mates. Discreetly separating him from his friends, Erijay and Riley began to question the mercenary. The swarthy man, Bithaboon by name, said he came from the far southern jungles where the tribes worshiped the dread serpent Yg. And he recognized the sword the elf carried as an artifact of that cult. Bluffing, the two convinced Btihaboon that they were secretly members of the cult, and pumped him for information (particularly about the Cobra Codex). He was not able to provide much new information, but did confirm a lot of what they already knew, including the fact that there was a second shrine of Yg in Stonehell.

Back to Stonehell the next day, Darnorth, Riley, Erijay (with Foxy) and Kern (with Norm and Sweet Jenny) headed for the old hobgoblin fortress to find the stairs going down they had been informed of on their previous expedition.   These they quickly found, but not before an unfortunate incident involving kobolds, bearer beetles and a sleep spell. After waking the kobolds and smoothing some ruffled scales, the party did learn the kobolds were headed to level four with a load of ‘fresh’ bodies for the Gentleman Ghouls. But the upset little humanoids weren’t really interest in much talk given their treatment, and soon headed down the stairs and away from the party.  The party followed shortly, finding themselves in a room with a pool and a large iron cube stuck on end in the middle. After fooling around a bit with it, they explored a few other rooms. Highlights included one with a cantilevered floor that could be turned on its axis, another rune covered obelisk like the one on the second level, and a set of stairs going down. They also discovered a room eerily lined with about two dozen statues, several of which showed expressions of extreme terror. Passing warily through, they next encountered a door covered with outward protruding spikes. As they examined the door and hallway, it suddenly started to open, and a huge ogre emerged. Reacting quickly, swords were drawn and blood flowed, but the ogre retreated through the door with a howl and slammed it shut and locked it despite the party’s best efforts. Inside, the party could now here two voices calling out to each other (“Rufus!”, “Tusk!”, “tell mistress!”). They first tried mollifying the ogres, but that didn’t seem to work. After fiddling with the door (and setting off some spikes in the process), they were able to force it open. On the other side they found an opulently furnished sitting room. Fine rugs covered the floor, ornate furniture lined the walls, and a silk dressing screen covered  the north wall. But there were no ogres.

Searching further, the party found a storeroom with foodstuffs (and a cage full of giant rats). At the next door, Kern heard someone on the other side. Assuming the room was occupied by the ogres and their ‘mistress’, they tried parley again. After some persuasion, a cultured woman’s voice told them to go back to the audience room and await her presence. The party obeyed, and spent an hour cooling their heels. Then, the door hidden behind the silk screen opened, and the two ogres emerged (incidentally blocking the mirror set up to observe whoever or whatever came out of the room). Hidden behind the screen, a quite female voice informed them her name was Lachesis and that she dealt in information about the inhabitants of Stonehell. And she then related precise knowledge of everything the party had done in the dungeon over the last 8 months. Somewhat unnerved, the party starting asking questions, only to be met with the response that ‘knowledge is gold’. They did convince Lachesis to take the cold stone for her larder, and squeezed a little information out of her regarding the shine of Yg and the Cobra Codex on the fifth level. Cannily, Kern asked what the party could do for her. At that, she stepped out from behind the screen. They observed a slim female figure, clothed in fine but dated gowns, with head and face covered in a veil. She softly informed them she would much like to have information on the wererats that inhabited part of this level, and who were somewhat rivals of hers. Riley tried to clarify if she wanted information on her rivals or elimination of her rivals, but she was much too coy to answer that directly. Riley then offered to cure Rufus of the wounds they had inadvertently inflicted on him, after which the two blind ogres escorted the party out of the chamber and back to the corridor outside the spiked door. 

Back to exploring, the party again approached a set of door they had earlier found. These particular doors were locked, but the wily Kern could find no mechanical lock to open. Instead, Erijay used her knock spell to open them.  Unfortunately, the doors closed and locked behind the party, despite their best spiking efforts.  Confident they could still get out (since Erijay still had a knock spell memorized), they pushed on and encountered a band of bugbears in the next room. A short sleep and melee session followed, and the bugbears were soon dead. Finding nothing of interest in the room the bugbears were trashing, the party passed into the next room to find one of the odder sights seen thus a far in the dungeon. A half dozen baboons, composed half of gangrenous flesh and half of mechanical bits and hoses filled with a glowing green liquid.  Each had one hand replaced by a serrated blade, and their jaws were of metal. Not particularly interested in tangling with these creatures, the party tried to avoid them. But the things were in no mood to allow the intruders to leave, and they moved to attack. The party soon found that in addition to biting or slashing with their blades, the odd creatures could pair up and shoot lightning bolts as well. They were shortly all slain, however, with the tried and true combination of another Erijay sleep spell and slashing/smashing by the rest of the party. Puzzled and unnerved by the odd events of the last few hours, the party elected the head back to Westmist to rest and reequip for another day.

New House Rule - The Player Character Entourage

As we discussed last game, here is the formalized ruling for having 'back up' players characters. I’ve also update the Google Docs "House Rules" to include this one.

Entourage Rule: Each player may roll up one extra character, of whatever class they desire, to act as their ‘back-up’ PC. This second character will be a henchman/hireling of the primary character and follows all the rules for henchmen/hirelings (i.e. morale checks when necessary, half share of xp and treasure, etc).  In the event the primary character meets an unfortunate and permanent demise, the ‘back-up’ PC gets promoted to be the new player character. The player may then promote one of their other hirelings/henchmen or roll another character to become their new ‘backup PC’.