Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Campaign Pitch #2 - The Fey Border

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It is Christmas, 800 AD. In the holy city of Rome, Pope Leo III has crowned the Frankish king, Charles the Great (Charlemagne), as the first Holy Roman Emperor, in recognition of his success against the heathens. On the eastern borders of what is now his Empire, Charlemagne has finally pacified the heathen lands and pushed the borders of Christendom to the banks of the Elbe.

To the west lay the settled Christian lands of Europe; to the East the darkenss of the fey realm. Between them lay the border, anything but strictly defined and fixed. It fluxes and flows as the power of Christendom and Fey wax and wane. The border region is land where miracles of the church stand against and alongside the darker magic of the fey.  Where the 12 Peers of Charlemagne  carry the cross against the heathen. And where opportunists from the settle West come looking for power and glory.

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This one is a little different; a pseudo-historical campaign set in an alternate northern Europe.  The heathens of this world are not Saxons, Slavs and Danes, but forces of dark fey. Dark elves, witches, goblins, werewolves, etc.  In Christian lands to the west, it's just like historical Europe; no magic, dull, boring, peasants in the mud type of stuff. The Fey lands to the east are essentially some equivalent of Hell. In between, in the Fey Border, the two realms meet. And it's like D&D, but with a Grimm's Fairy Tale twist (the originals, not the Disney versions).

Locations, NPCs, and so on will be lifted straight from the history books. All suitably twisted to fit into a game of D&D of course. Elves, dwarves and halflings will still be playable, just in slightly different forms. There will definitely be a new paladin class, a witch class, and maybe more to suit to milieu. 

There are basically two ways this could play out. You could take on the role of paladins and crusaders, out to fight the powers of the dark fey. Or vagabonds and desperadoes out to seize wealth and power in a chaotic world. Or a little of both.    

The basic idea I'm stealing wholesale from Poul Anderson's "Three Hearts and Three Lions" [Fun trivia. The D&D troll is stolen directly from this book, as is the Law-Chaos alignment system]. Throw in some old English concepts of the fey and elves, a bunch of Arthurian legends and "The Matter of France", and John Borman's "Excaliber". And whatever histories of Charlemagne and the Saxon campaigns I can read.


Campaign Pitch #5 - Saltbox

Langushur is known as the "Far Shore" for good reason. Isolated from the rest of the civilized world, on the far eastern edge of the eastern continent of Easrae, the city states and towns of the region make a living from and on the sea. But always within sight of land. For as long as the memories of men allow, offshore lay a permanent bank of mist and fog. Ships that entered it never return. Always it lay, just on the horizon, a reminder that there were some places mortal men were not meant to travel.

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Until six months ago, when suddenly one morning, the people of Langushur awoke to find the horizon clear. The crew of one brave ship hoisted sail and headed east. And returned several days later with an unbelievable tale to tell. They told of a previously unknown archipelago of hundreds of islands, stretching across the eastern sea. On some could be seen fantastic ruins of a unknown age and provenance. On others could be seen strange creatures, and tribes of strange men.  Landing on one island, the crew explored some ruins and found it scattered with treasures and curiosities, examples of which they scattered on the docks as proof of their tale.

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As word spread, ships from all over the Wesrae and Easrae began to flood the once backwater of Langushur. All eager to explore new lands, and to wrest from them treasure, wealth and power. On board with the crews who sailed the ships were bands of hardened warriors, desperate cut-throats, questing acolytes and mages in search of lost magics. To these lay the task of landing on the dangerous new shores . . .

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On the surface, this one is a bit like the first pitch, the "Fist of Wotan". Except rather than a big mountain to climb and explore, it's a big archipelago. Characters start out as the hired 'away crew' on board a vessel. Think 'Star Trek', but hopefully with fewer redshirts dying. At first the campaign will be directed by the ship's captain, who decides what and where the PCs explore. With some influence and prodding from the PC's of course. Eventually though, I expect the PCs will be buying a ship and assembling their own crew to go wherever they want. Or stage a mutiny and take over the ship they're on. Whatever.

Again like "Fist of Wotan", most of the action will be away from civilization. The ship is the basic home base for rest and supplies. There will also be an island or bay where all the exploring ships tend to gather, and that  can act as a larger town for accessing clerical healing, special services, etc. There is the option to go back to the mainland as well, but that will be limited until the PCs are masters of their own destiny's. You can also expect to discover lost civilizations, crazy tribes, and other fun folks to deal with on various islands.

What kind of game? A mix of everything. Possible intrigue among the ships captains and crews. Dungeons to loot on some islands, overland exploration, interacting with all the new folks you meet. In addition, I'm going to work in some sort of XP for exploration and discovery of new things, to give the game a bit of an "Age of Discovery" feel. I'm also thinking in terms of Late Medieval - Early Modern technology and culture. So break out your cannon and cutlass.

And just to add a little mystery. What was the fog bank? Where did it come from? Where did it go? Will it be back? What happened to all the ships that disappeared over the years?    

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Westmist Session #81 - Stonehell Revisited

With the sudden change in circumstances and location, there was much to keep everyone busy. Kern dove deep into his plan for a Stonehell based insurrection; Bjorn worked furiously copying spells; Gurruk took it upon himself to fill their hosts larder with fresh game; Rylee ministered to their spiritual needs; and Darnorth took the chance to study the mixed stonework through the dungeon.  This left Erijay and Lomar with little to do, as the expedition to recover the "Cerebral Shield" wasn't leaving real soon. So the elf proposed taking Lomar on a little tour of the party's previous haunts in the dungeon, and may find a little treasure and excitement.They were also able to convince a couple of the Stonehell Resistance to join them; Yar the over enthusiastic cleric of Saule, and Guy the moody man-at-arms.  And Fin the dog.

They decided first to visit Lachesis, for both Lomar and Erijay hoped she could direct them to some magical assistance within the dungeon. In particular, Lomar wanted to have his gelatinous arm healed, and Erijay was wondering what could be done about her somewhat surly and standoffish manner. So pilfering some gold from the party chest, off the expedition went. They easily and quickly found Lachesis in her rooms, and after some pleasantries (and disappointment on the spy-mistresses part that Kern was not present), they got down to business. Lachesis could unfortunately offer little direct help. For Erijay, she suggested trying the 'Wheel of Fortune" on the first level and trust to her luck. For Lomar, she directed him to the fifth level, down around the Vrilya, to a protoplasmic "Pool of Wisdom" that may have information on dealing with his affliction. Interview over, Rufus and Tusk directed the party out of the rooms to decide what to do next.

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Erijay recalled the gifts she had purchased for the Gentlemen Ghouls, so she dragged Lomar and the others along to recover them from their hiding spot, and then off to the back door of the ghouls home.  Unfortunately, she had misinterpreted a note on her old map, and they ran into a pair of hellhounds, newly spawned  from the eternal fire that guarded the back door. They party tried to retreat, but the hounds chased them down. In the ensuing fight, Yar was crisped by one hellhounds breath, and once more died in the party's service. They carried his body back to a nearby dwarven funeral room, and Lomar carefully scrunched up the body on one brier and said a few words over his fallen comrade. Looping around the eternal fire this time, they came to the ghouls back door and knocked. After a few minutes, the door was opened by a ghoul Erijay did not recognize. He was very haughty and very upset, as they were interrupting a dinner party. Erijay presented here gifts of fine glassware and new clothes, and tried to sweet talk her way into the dinner party, hoping to pump the ghouls for information. Alas, it did no good, as they were all turned away and told not to come again without first  sending a calling card ahead of their arrival. And please dress more appropriately.

Having hit another information dead end, they decided to head down one level and look for the "Pool of Wisdom". Taking first the main stairs, Erijay slipped on the elven cloak borrowed from Kern,and scouted ahead. At the bottom of the stairs she found the large portcullis shut, and could see with her infravision, figures moving about in the room beyond. Where once the hydras laired, there were now a pair of 10' lizards, and several Vrilya stood on the overlooking balconies. Going back to meet Lomar and Guy, Erijay studies the map again, and they headed north and descended via the elevator located there instead of taking a chance with the Vrilya. From there, they explored new ground, apparently more old mining tunnels like those encountered in the extra-dimensional mine. Cautious Lomar cast detect traps as they explored tunnels and chambers, but found nothing. They did find a small alcove filled with rusty bird cages though, and in each lay the dry mummified remains of a canary. Lomar, filled with the pity of Saule, stepped in the midst of the cages to bless the dead birds. When he did, he noticed one cage which contained a curious clockwork canary. Try as they might, they couldn't get it to activate or do anything, but Lomar was mighty pleased with his find and perched the the cage on top of his pack.

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 Further exploration uncovered rooms filled with old mining equipment and debris. In one direction came a strong animal and urine smell, so they avoided that room and headed the opposite direction. They soon encounter a dead end corridor. There lay a 10' cube, with perfectly smooth sides and no sign tool marks. Curious, the elf and cleric poured over the cube, looking for clues as to it's origin and purpose. Luckily, they weren't too intent, for Lomar noticed that animal/urine smell wafting down the hallway towards them. Turning around, they saw two fierce creatures, with the body of a cave bear and the head of an owl, approaching them. Fin rushed ahead to bite one on the leg, only to be crushed and torn to pieces by the fearsome beak. Lomar blinded one with his light spell, then cast sticks to snakes from his scroll. Meanwhile, Erijay fired a few crossbow bolts, then followed up with magic missiles, while Guy stood his ground with his sword. But Lomar's snakes delivered the coup de grĂ¢ce, poisoning the last of the owl bears.
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Finding nothing of interest on the bodies, Lomar deduced that these might have come from the similarly foul smelling room encountered earlier. Which meant it might now be unguarded, so off they went to investigate. Sneaking in carefully, they surprised two owl bears caught in a moment of animal lust. Which Erijay rudely interrupted with a lightning bolt, and Lomar finished up when he turned his poison snakes on the survivor. Pushing aside the smouldering and frothing corpses, they rooted through the nest. They found 5000ep (of which 1500ep they could carry out), a vial with a bubblegum smelling liquid, and a scroll case clutched in a skeletal hand. In the case was a note:

         `Fredrick, the box with the items we found is buried in the alcove behind the stone cube`

Well, they knew where that was. So they headed back to the cube posthaste, stopping just long enough to grab a couple of old shovels from the mining detritus. Once there, a few minutes of digging uncovered a small metal box, latched but unlocked. Thinking this was a job for Kern, they popped the box in a pack and headed back for their HQ on the second level. 

Guy, impressed by the reward offered by Lomar, offered his services as a henchman to the cleric, grumbling that at least this employer hadn't`t gotten him killed ...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Campaign Pitch #4 - City of Bridges


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When the Imperator Jorax defeated the armies of the Olmen Insurrection and brought the conspirators to bay, he swore by Velas they would not live while they stood foot on the soil of the Imperium. The leaders of the insurrection, however, outwitted the Impiriator. They withdrew to the nearby HighBridge, an impressive span across the deep canyon of the Hquali River, and technically not on the 'soil' of his realm. After consulting the priests of Velas, the furious Imperator had to concede the clever move and leave them unmolested. And so The City of Bridges was born, a haven for those on the run, who no where else to go, and where no questions are asked.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thieves%27_World
Today, 300 years after its founding, the city spans 4 bridges across the river. It is watched over by soldiers of the Despot of Huzail, inheritors of the imperator's charge to isolate the city and keep it's strong minded independence and anarchistic from 'infecting' the lands and peoples around. Any who reach the City of Bridges are given leave to stay, but must stay and never leave. All manners opportunists, cutthroats, runaway slaves, crazed wizards, scheming crime lords, mad monks, twisted half breeds, and still darker beings inhabit the towering, teetering, and labyrinth structures of the four bridges.

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Another campaign set in the Westmist campaign world, at roughly the same time as the current campaign, but at some distance removed from Westmist (on a different continent to be exact).  This one will be quite a bit different than the other options, as it will probably have little 'classic' dungeoneering and monster punching. More skullduggery and sneaking about, trying to claw your ways to the top of the social and wealth heap in an extreme Dickensonian world. And some cool weird stuff (of course) like zip lines to get between bridges, magical zoos, more strange people and 'people' than you can shake a sword at. A good campaign for thieves, thuggish fighters, and malicious magic users.

Inspiration? Fritz Leiber's city of Lankhamar , Robert Asprin's Thieves World. Whatever I can get my hands on about Old London Bridge. And a bunch of other stuff I can't really seem to recall right now.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Campaign Pitch #3 - Crusaders and Sorcery

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When the Third Imperium tumbled into ruin, the chivalric orders who supported the Imperitor were blamed for the fall, and many were forced to flee the lands of the old Imperium and into exile. Some boarded ship and, trusting in the grace of Velas, sailed for the legendary south, to seek atonement and new lands to conquer and rule. And so they did, their fleets landing on the northern shores of the fabled southern continent, Azaria. The cities of the Pearl Coast fell quickly to the crusaders, and the northerners pushed inland over the mountains and across the plateau of Styria. There they stopped, their advance halted at the city of Kel Hazza by a vast sea of sand, the Great Thooz Desert.
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The crusaders settled down to rule their conquered lands and peoples, and more refugees and fortune seekers from the north joined them as rumors spread of their success.  Many ended up in the melting pot of Kel Hazaa, and listened to the wild tales of the desert related by turbaned men in the shadows of bustleing souks. Tales of savage cults who sacrifice humans to their foul beast gods, of ancient civilizations buried in the sands, of mysterious realms across the vast expanse of desert, of dark sorcery and cruel kings, and the siren call of legendary riches beyond the dreams of men.

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This campaign is set in the same world as Westmist, but some 250 years earlier than that campaign. It's part sword and sorcery, and part chivalry and crusade. Think Conan with the Knights Templer bolted on. Outremer meets Hyborian Koth and Zamora [go ahead, Google them. I'll wait]. All players characters start as new arrivals from the north. In keeping with the sword and sorcery feel, the campaign will be demihuman and humanoid light. No orcs, goblins, kobolds, or other 1HD humanoid cannon fodder. Players may take elves, dwarves, and halflings from the north as characters, but there are no 'indiginous' groups of these demihumans in the southern lands. At least not that you know of ...

The campaign starts out in the city of Kel Hazza. This is going to be a “sandbox” type campaign. unlike Westmist/Stonehell there isn't going to be one obvious place to start. You'll have lots of options to go do what you want. I expect it will be typically dungeon or city centered for the first bit, but ultimately I see it becoming more about heading out across the desert and exploring whatever can be found. Want to explore old tombs? Sure. Hire out as caravan guards and see where you end up? You bet. Follow-up on rumors of lost cities in the desert? Lead the way. Take on the local bandit king? More power to you. Become the local bandit king? Fill your boots. Play the lawful good paladin and right the wrongs of the world under the banner of your god in heathen lands? Do it. Wander where you will, and find adventure where you will.

Inspiration? Read a couple of Conan stories (No, don't watch the movies. read Tower of the Elephant or The Slithering Shadow or Red Nails). Anything about the Crusades. The movie Kingdom of Heaven is  decent background; it gives a feel for the the uneasy mix of cultures, and for the visuals.

Campaign Pitch #1 - Fist of Wotan


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The other Skaarling ship-jarls had long thought Othgar the Mad to be ... well, mad. Constant raving about voices in his head, a tendency to slip into a berserk rage, and conversing with old gods long dead; Woten, Thor, Loki. But they were convinced of his madness when, at the beginning of the last raiding season, he announced Wotan had told him to sail west and north rather than the customary (and rewarding) raiding and trading trips to the south and east. Nothing lay to the east but the Spine of the World Serpent, a mountainous peninsula that stretched from the mainland to the utmost north and the Sea of Ice.  A trip there was madness at best, and death for all concerned was the most likely reward.

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They were proved right that the trip could be fatal when Othgar's longship limped into port just ahead of the winter storms, with the jarl raving into the north wind and just a handful of men at the oars. But while a lack of strong arms to to sail her certainly slowed the vessel, it was the treasures piled to the gunnels that was mostly to blame. Once ashore, Othgar's men told of a mountain higher than any seen before, the summit lost in constant cloud. Dubbed the Fist of Wotan by Othgar, the slopes were littered with ancient ruins and cave entrances.  Guided by the voice of Woten,Othgar lead them into the depths. Tales are told of mist filled halls that drove men mad, tunnels through ice that held cruel & cold abominations, vast cavernous worlds ruled by giants, strange metal chambers guarded by statues come to life. And gold ... enough gold to sink a ship.

Othgar could have stayed in the Skaarl Islands and lived a life of luxury with the treasures he had won. But instead, he set sail at the start of this season to place his standard on the shore below the Fist of Wotan, and bade all men and women of courage and honor to join him there under the eyes of the All-Father, Many heeded the call, you among them, to wrest a fortune from the mountain at the call of the All-Father.

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The Skaarl Islands and the Skaarlings are the Scandanaia/Vikings of the campaign world in which Westmist is set (Bjorn's homeland BTW). So if you haven't guessed already, this is going with a Viking theme. Fur clad warrior (with or without horns on their helmets), skalds chanting paeans as they charge into battle, clerics of the Norse gods, etc. I'd like most PC's to have a Viking flavor, but I'm open to scimater wielding Zevestian warriors al la "The Thirteenth Warrior" and other exceptions to that rule.  It will be a low civilization campaign. The only "town" is Othgar's Trade Town, a seasonal and temporary base at the foot of the mountain. But this is D&D, so there will be somewhere to sell your treasure, heal your wounds, quaff your ale.

Gameplay will be dungeon oriented, but I'm going to try to make it  more 'alive' than Stonehell. More rival adventures (the other crews) in the dungeon, more chance for events in the dungeon to affect relations outside (and vice versa). This won't be a megadungeon like Stonehell so much as a collection of smaller, sometimes interrelated, dungeons. Go further up the mountain and the greater the dangers. There will be the chance to explore the area immediately around the Fist of Wotan, and actual figuring out the best/safest way to get higher up the mountain will be important too. Think of climbing Everest in armor and you get the idea.

Oh, and did I mention the thing about the old gods? Where do you suppose they came from all of a sudden? And why have they drawn you to this god-forsaken land? Could this be the chance to discover the true meaning of the gods?

Westmist Session # 80 - The Best Laid Plans of Kern and Friends ...

With Kern's body slung over his horse, Erijay, Bjorn and Lomar headed for Westmist. There was some debate about sneaking into town to avoid notice, but in the end the party passed through Marsh Gate as usual, after an uneventful two day ride through the snow covered hills. Collecting Darnorth and Rylee (who had proceeded them to town), the first stop was the Church of the Three Virtues to see the Highest Virtue and have Kern's little death problem looked into. This Liphanes was able to help with, but when Lomar asked about his gelatinous arm, the obese clergyman had to regretfully inform the newcomer that such assistance was beyond his power. Leaving the church, Darnorth suggested Lomar check in with Slate, to see if the dwarven engineer could rig up some sort of mechanical or bionic arm (hopefully non-explosive). After some painful prodding of the arm, Slate took on the challenge, and Lomar left 700gp lighter and with instructions to return in a month for a prosthetic fitting.

Dropping Kern back at the house, Bjorn and Erijay headed to see Synthini the alchemist. After determining she had no potions available, nor salves to heal Kern's burn scars, Bjorn placed an ordered for potions of extra healing (paying 1500gp down on behalf of Kern). Erijay, meanwhile, inquired about learning some of the alchemists craft from Synthini. The tall lady was willing, but informed the elf that it would take 4 months of instruction and 4000gp. Erijay for now deferred her lessons, until things were safer in the town i.e. hopefully certified Jax-free.  Gurruk, meanwhile, took some of his cash and went to visit Thuridici the Sage, looking for information on magical trees and groves, something from which he could craft a magical weapon. He too left 1000gp lighter with instructions to return in 2 weeks. 
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Speaking of which, Darnorth, Rylee, and Lomar (with Riker in tow), went out on a bender to gather rumors. They found that things were not quite right in the town of Westmist, and an undercurrent of unnamed fears abounded. Also learned was the fact that Jax was rarely seem about these days, usually only in the evenings or on dreary days. People feared to go out late at night as those who did tended to disappear, just like the petty criminals and beggers the party had learned of earlier. The trio decided to test the danger of the night, and choose to wander home in the wee hours, acting loudly drunk. They did not get far before being confronted by a patrol consisting of two of Jax's men in yellow and black, and a half dozen of the March Baron's men-at-arms. While matters were tense, things didn't go completely downhill until Rylee announced, in response to demands to identify themselves,  that he was the "Mighty Arm of the Faith". Meaningful glaces were exchanged between the men, and the leader announced that the quartet MUST come with them to see Jax. 

After a little more fooling around, Darnorth, Rylee, and Lomar (with Riker still in tow) decided it was time to run; they didn't want to end up having their minds probed by Jax. Splitting up, the four fled in a hail of crossbow bolts, one of which dropped Riker like a sack of dead cats. Darnorth and Lomar scooped him up and carried him back to the secret tunnel into the house, while Rylee led the guard off on a wild chase through back alleys and then back to the house. He got inside and barred the door just as Lomar and Darnorth emerged from the cellar, and Erijay, Bjorn and Kern appeared from upstairs to see what all the fuss was about. As the guards pounded at the door and demanded entrance, others could be heard raising the town. Knowing they would soon have no choice but to fight and kill, or surrender and likely be killed,  the party gathered what they could and  fled through the tunnel. On the way, Erijay deep froze Riker's body with the Wand of Cold and hid it inside the secret tunnel. Once outside in the night air, they party rushed across town under one of Erijay's haste spells, headed for the wall. Almost there, they were seen by the guard, but apart from a few crossbow bolts in Rylee's behind, they made it over and into the night. Stopping to get Gurruk and Booh at the hovel, they then headed back to the familiar halls of Stonehell, thinking that hiding in that hole full of monsters was the best place to avoid detection for now. 

Entering through their still secret entrance, the party decided to hole up with their old henchmen/dungeon toll collectors. It took a few minutes to get them to open the door when they saw Booh, but eventually relented and let them all in. The party was careful not to let on that they were on the lam from the law. Darnorth went on a sweet talking mission to get them all on side first, while Lomar used his culinary talents to make the various beasts Booh and Gurruk brought back from the hunt into enticing meals for all. Kern recovered, and Erijay rewrote spells. However, the elf also cast a few well timed ESP to probe the minds of their hosts. Essentially, there was some suspicion on the part of the ex-henchman. They suspected something wasn't right for their former employers to be hiding out with them, and most harbored some level of resentment for having previously died in the party's service. So when time came a few days later for a couple of the men to go to town for supplies and news, Erijay's mind probe discovered the two planned to find out what news they could of the party and use it to advantage i.e. probably turn them in when they discovered what had happened. This info was relayed to Booh and Gurruk, who ambushed the two and ended that threat, returning with a tale of ambush by wolves for the rest of the henchmen/bandits. Meanwhile, Bjorn had cast invisibility and slipped back into town. Everything seemed back to normal, except for the wanted posters offering a 500gp reward for information leading to the party. He also discovered their house burned and the ruins tumbled into the cellars. A quick check of the secret tunnel showed that it was still intact and undiscovered, with Riker's icy body still there. He also discovered the Company of Good Cheer had arrived in Westmist, looking for the party. It seems someone had put together the coincidence of party's departure from New Breven with the disappearance of the Rathgold and Zana, and Quid and company were looking for some answers.

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Back to Stonehell went Bjorn carrying the news. A council of war was held, and the party decided on two courses of action. First, recruit the henchmen/bandits  to their cause and have them start fomenting insurrection in Westmist. Second, to carry through to recover the Cerebral Shield of the Gann. While it was less critical now that they were on the run, blocking their minds from Jax still seemed a good idea. Darnorth was once more elected to bring the henchman/bandits into the fold. A another rousing speech about freedom for Scotland Westmist, a sack of gold, and promises of further reward when they'd met their goal of putting Duncal in the March Baron's brought the henchmen/bandits to their side. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Westmist Session #79 - Duncal Rescued (Again); Kern Dead (Again)

The party awoke the next morning to a blanket of snow covering the ground, and to find Riley, Gurruk and Darnorth had departed during the night on some urgent business. None the less, Kern, Bjorn, Lomar and Erijay decided to brave the abandoned halls of the Blackhammer clan once more before, Duncal and Janus were lost forever and beyond saving.  Passing once more through the entry chamber, and following the oil/stone trench to the right, the party paused briefly for some spell casting. Erijay caste locate object to hone in on Janus' mighty warhammer, while the ever cautious Lomar cast find traps to ensure the path to that hammer was clear. Erijay was able to get a fix on the direction of the hammer, so the party turned right again to investigate a new corridor. Here, the found that the oil/stone system ended here in front of a pair of iron double doors. On the opposite corridor wall, two additional iron doors could be seen.  Erijay's spell seemed to point towards the two smaller doors, so Kern stopped to listen. Behind the second he could here the faint sound of whimpering.  "Must be Duncal" said Erijay, so Kern knocked on the door and called out.

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There were a few tense moments as Janus tried to confirm that it was the party and not some foul fiend intent on tricking the watchful knight. Inside  stood Janus, four of his men (and a crestfallen Duncal), in what proved to be a storage or supply room for the dwarven blast furnaces, At the back lay a body, wrapped in a cloak. Questioned by Kern Janus revealed he had dragged Duncal along into the dungeon  so the young man could learn to 'face dangers and fight like a man and leader'. That didn't work out too well, and they'd ended up trapped in here, forbidden to leave by Duncal for fear of encountering more slime beasts. Once Duncal recovered his composure now that salvation was in sight, he raged at Kern and the party for not honoring the intent of their bargain (he lives in luxury, plays along with the coup attempt, but then gets to go his way). Much foot stomping and hissy-fits followed before the erstwhile 'March Baron in waiting' was placated. Ready to leave the awful darkness, Duncal was once more crestfallen when Sir Janus agreed to accompany the party on further exploration of the dungeon.
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With Janus, Duncal and entourage in tow, the party choose next to investigate the double set of double doors. Lomar carefully tied a rope around his waist, gave one end to Erijay, and poled himself across the oil pool on one of the stones. Opening one set of double doors revealed a large room with three blast furnaces on the opposite wall. Scattered around were barrels, heaps of slag, piles of ore and charcoal, and various implements and bellows. Erijay crossed over the join Lomar, and stuck her head in one of the blast furnaces. Disturbing some ash and soot, the elf also disturbed another of the ash creatures encountered previously, which billowed down from the flue to pummel and blind and suffocate her. As Erijay stumbled away, Sir Janus lead his men in a charge across the oil/stones (in which one slipped into the viscous stuff and began to drown), dragging a terrified Duncal after them. Lomar turned to try assisting Erijay and/or the drowning man-at-arms, while Kern and Bjorn provided missile and magic missile fire support from behind. While battle raged, Erijay dunked her head in the oil to try washing the ash off her eyes and throat, but instead just made things worst as the molasses thick liquid coated her head. Lomar tossed her a wine skin, which the elf pored partly over her head and partly down her throat.  Then Lomar pulled out the drowning man-at-arms. Sir Janus, Kern and Bjorn continued to fight the ash thing. The knight's men however, unable to hit their foe and with one eye on the simpering Duncal, thought discretion the better part of valour, and turned and ran. In the process of which another slipped in the oil and began to thrash around and sink. All was not lost though, as the ash thing was finally dissipated, the drowning man rescued, and Duncal's tears dried.

After some discussion, the party decided it best to escort Duncal and Janus out of the dungeon before exploring any further. With some coaxing and slapping by the elf, Duncal was made to look leaderly for his emergence from the dungeon, with great (well, some) cheers from the assembled men. Duncal disappeared into his pavilion, and the party disappeared back into the dungeon (but only after Erijay rounded up a suitably ornery porcupine to slip into Duncal's tent). Heading back to finish exploring the corridor they;'d just left, the party was surprised by the sudden appearance of another slime beast at the first intersection.  Erijay, then Kern, were pummeled by the dwarven pseudo-pod which appeared, and both ended up paralyzed and being slowly engulfed by the thing. They were luckily rescued by Lomar and Bjorn, respectively, and a series of potions of healing  rammed down throats revived them from paralysis. They then rejoined the fight, assisted by a haste spell from Erijay, fireball from both Erijay and Bjorn, and lots of flaming oil from Lomar. It was not long before the great monster was an ankle deep layer of crispy goo on the floor.
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Rather than continue to their original goal, the party decided to explore the hallway off this intersection. Like the others it was a 20' wide corridor, but unlike the others it contained no oil/stone trench. A set of double doors lay at the far end, while a pair of regular doors lay to the west, and a small hatch or door lay to the east. This small door intrigued Kern, so he hustled over to listen and search for traps. Hearing/finding nothing, he opened it up to reveal a narrow, low tunnel. This extended about 20' before opening up into what appeared to be the massive flue and chimney for the blast furnaces. Poking around uncovered nothing but ash and soot, so the party moved on to the other doors. At one Kern heard sounds of movement, so they bypassed that one and entered the next room. This looked to be a dwarven domicile, complete with stone furniture and a stone chest. The chest received immediate attention, and Kern disabled a scything blade trap before opening it to reveal the shine of gold coin.  Which were quickly swept into Kern's chest of holding. The second room was quickly checked later, but left unexplored when the sounds proved to be 5 more of the stone centipedes.

Moving on now to the double doors at the end of the corridor, Kern opened these up (after the usual noise and trap checks) to find a vast hall on the other side. In the center stood a stone lectern, formed of three large black hammers, on a circular base. Scattered around were stone benches, all at weird angles. Something shimmered on the wall to the east, but of immediate concern was another large slime beast at the south west end of the room. It lunged forward as the party opened up with flasks of oil , crossbow bolts and a scroll cast fireball. This all made relatively short work of the thing, but alas Kern did not live to see it's defeat, and he fell dead to it's terrible blows.

Temporarily leaving Kern's corpse in the safe dwarven domicile, the party continued to explore.  Erijay poked about the lectern and discovered that the whole thing (including the round base) could be turned with some difficulty and a god-awful grinding sound. Eager to find what lay below, she and Lomar rigged up a block and tackle to lift the whole thing out of the floor. Inside the shaft and on the base itself, they found a series of now somewhat stripped gears. Putting it back in place, they discovered the thing moved easier when pushed opposite the way they'd turned it before, but still saw no sign of how the mechanism was activated normally.
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Bored with the mechanical stuff, they now moved on to check out the shimmering wall. There they found and arched opening filled with what looked with a film of quicksilver, A little experimentation proved that there was some 'give' in the film, but nothing (10' pole, hand, face) could penetrate it. A little flummoxed at this point, the party decided to move off and check out a few other doors they'd missed. Behind one was a dwarven workshop where fine iron work was done. The other was empty, except for a stone font filled with a silvery liquid. Again much poking and prodding ensued, until Lomar exclaimed "hey, maybe this has something to do with the silver door", and everyone started filling vials and empty wine skins with the liquid. Marching back to the lecture hall, Lomar tossed a vial of the liquid at the wall, and it miraculously passed through! Bjorn then stood in front of the shimmering arch, quaffed a flask of silver liquid, and tried to walk though. To no avail. Next he spread some on his arm, and was able to stick it through the wall. At which point, Lomar dumped a flask over his head and walked right through. On the other side was a small room with an interesting feature. Three black metal pillars stood in the center, each forming the point of a triangle. In the center was a rapidly spinning matching pillar of what appeared to be liquid gold. Passing the news on to his compatriots (who now followed him through the gate), Lomar moved towards the gold. And was immediately drawn into one of the pillars, where he remained stuck until Erijay the brawny elf-maid pulled him free. She then proceeded to pick up a small stone, and toss it at the golden pillar. It immediately started to wobble and oscillate until it was obvious it was about to collapse or something equally unpleasant. Lomar and Bjorn quickly dashed out the gate, but Erijay was too slow and was caught in a spray of hot liquid gold as the pillar burst out of it's containment and scattered all over the room. Once she stopped cursing the pain, the elf beckoned Lomar and Bjorn back into the room to help her scrape the massive pile of now cooling gold off the floor and walls. Which was stuffed into the magic chest to be smuggled out of the dungeon. And with that the trio headed out, after picking up the cooling Kern along the way.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Westmist Session #78 - The Cold! It Burns!

A little perturbed by the boneless corpses (and considering it was nightfall), the party retreated from the dwarf hold to rest and regroup with Janus' men. Who were anxiously awaiting word of their leader Janus,  and their (new) liege, Duncal. There was some grumbling and grousing when the party emerged empty handed, and only Darnorth's rousing speech, and promise of a share of found treasure, kept the band together. Thankfully, reinforcements had arrived in the from of Riley and Gurrak, so the much strengthened band hefted weapons at first light to make another delve for Duncal. As they were preparing to enter, there stumbled from the ruins a bedraggled man, armed and armored much like themselves, but with one arm hanging limp. Challenged, the man replied he was Lomar, an adventuring cleric of Salue. Lomar could offer little more immediate details, as he was much traumatized from encountering the slime-monsters, showing off his be-jelloed arm as proof of his previous encounters. After some discussion, the cleric agreed to join the party in their search.

Heading into the dungeon, the party cut left at the end of the entry hall, and explored a narrow corridor that ended in another pile of rubble. Along the way were a series of stone pillars in 10'x10' alcoves, on one of which was a rusty iron dinner plate. With whispers of 'mind the tetanus' from the nervous Lomar, Darnorth and Kern investigated. Scattered on top of each was some bits of old organic matter of uncertain, but probably food related, origin. While curious, it didn't help in their search for Duncal, so the party headed back to the hallway where they'd fought the gelatinous slime-thing. Turning the corner and advancing slowly, they soon observed another 20' corridor in a T-intersection with the narrow one they were in. A floating stone/oil trench could be seen here as well. Before advancing further, Kern crept forward under the protection of his elven cloak, and listened at the intersection. To his horror, he heard loud squishing sounds to both left and right. Peering around the corner, he saw two of the slime-things, one to each side of him and about 30' feet away. Backing away, he conferred with the party. Erijay decided a well placed fireball should take care of things. A burst of flame filled the corridor ahead of them, and the sound of something wet being burned and broiled could be heard. Once the crackle of flames died out, Kern once more listened. And noe heard the slime things approaching! He gave Bjorn a poke, and the magic user flicked his own fireball down the corridor. Again the flames subsided, and again the sounds of squishing could be heard. But this time moving away. Well, that couldn't be, so the party rushed forward to finish their gelatinous foes. While Kern fired his crossbow, Erijay and Bjorn flicked magic missiles, and Darnorth and Riley rushed up to lay axe and hammer on the closest one. (Lomar and Gurruk held the rear) The slime thing lashed out at the dwarf and cleric via two dwarf shaped pseudopods, striking both and paralyzing them. It began to slowly engulf the two, but Gurrurk rushed up to pull his master free, while a final magic missile from Bjorn slew the creature and freed Darnorth. The two, however, remained paralyzed, until Lomar used a pair of cure light wounds to bring them back to full fighting form. There was no fighting to be done however, as the second creature had retreated out of sight and reach, despite Erijay and Gurruk's best efforts.

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 After a short discussion, the party decided to head to the right, to see if the corridor they were now in connected with the other 20' corridor. It did, and they also discovered the long deceased skeleton of a dwarf lying on the floor. On the wall above was a  red sandstone block, which Kern investigated and deemed trap free, but obviously some sort of mechanical device. Darnorth, assuming that as the dwarf hew knew what he was doing, pushed on the block. There was a a few second pause, then a awful rumble of falling rock was heard coming from the end of the corridor they'd just vacated. When the last sounds of falling ruble and wisp of dust settled, new sounds could be heard coming from behind. obviously something attracted by the ruckus. Taking up a defensive position at the 'T-intersection' of the two 20' corridors, the party confronted a pack of 3' long centipedes, heavily armored with stone like plates growing along their backs. They scrambled across the oil/stones (and one fell in and disappeared from sight in the viscous liquid), and were met by a sleep spell from Erijay and a web from Bjorn. This took out most of the beasts, and only one was left for Darnorth to to clobber and the others to pelt with bolts and sling stones. It stony carapace make this harder than it looked though, and Darnorth received a nasty bite on the ankle (as well as a bone chilling stone cold feeling) before it was destroyed. The others were dispatched likewise, and to everyone's surprise Gurruk started piling the bodies in a neet stack to one side of the corridor. "Gurruk make good strong armor from insect things" grunted the wild man. 

Collection done, the party headed east down the new corridor, finding more intersections as well as a pair of rusty iron doors. Once certified 'safe' by Kern, Darnorth opened the first. On the other side was a room with several odd 45 degree angle walls. All the walls, plus one down the middle, were covered in stone tablets engraved with dwarven runes. After a little study, Darnorth declared it to be the history and lore of the Blackhammer clan. He was able to discover one passage that explained one of the battle scenes in the entrance, a battle between dwarven clans (one of which on the side opposite the Blackhammer were Darnorth's own Longbeards. Who lost the battle apparently). Kern meanwhile, using Darnorth's helm read the last few tablets, which descibed in part the opening on new deeper mines that intruded on some sort of alien structures. Humm, guess that tunnel collapse took care of that. While all this study was going on, Erijay was checking the angled walls for secret doors, but to no avail. .

Exiting through another door, they part found themselves in an elongated hexagonal chamber. On one wall was a series of angled shelves, each with what appeared to be a 1" cube of metal on it. On the opposite wall were three words in 1' tall bas relief letters: Errukiz, Ezdrubal, Elomcwe. Treachery, Sloth and Foolishness according to Darnorth's translation. Curiously, the letters of the bottom word (Elomcewe) could be pressed into the wall. After some thought, the letters were pressed to spell the word "Welcome", at which point the wall pivoted open revealing another small alcove like the one in which they'd found the axe. Here, piled in the corner, was a stash of jewelry and gems. "I'll handle this" said Kern, and the thief reached towards the treasure. At this point, the ghostly figure of a dwarf appeared, and demanded to know by what right they claimed the treasure. The figure deemed it foolish that any would take the treasure were they not deserving of it. At which point Darnorth started the mock the long dead Blackhammer, enraging the spirit thing. It surged forward, but Lomar and Riley raised their holy symbols and the thing was kept at bay. Kern took this opportunity to reach for the treasure, but that was enough to interrupt the power of Salue and Habuu. The dwarf spirit reached out and touched the thief, who screamed as the cold chill of lost vitality seeped into his body.
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With treasure in hand, they all retreated and slammed the secret door shut. The spirit passed through the stone however, so Riley held it off with the power of Habuu as everyone fled and retreated out of the dungeon. Back in daylight, Janus' men again grumbled that the party hadn't brought back their leaders, although little of this could be heard over the sound of Kern weeping ...