Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Carrion Crown - Part 1

A new week sees the start of a brand new game and campaign. After the AD&D campaign ended last week, I needed to get signed onto another game at the club. There was plenty on offer: Rogue Trader, another AD&D campaign, Conan d20, a couple of Vampire: Dark Age, and Pathfinder. I decided to go for another game I was familiar-ish with, so chose the Pathfinder table (I am familiar with the 3E ruleset, so this was just a small step up). Another great bunch of blokes made me feel really at ease when I joined their table and eased my way into their game. They were on their second session, but the previous week was more of a prologue than part of the actual adventure.

To make for a style difference between these write-ups and the previous AD&D ones, I am writing the adventure through the eyes of my character - there will be plenty of mistakes, misunderstandings and mishaps to begin with, but these are entirely down to my interpretation and no-one elses. I will correct future entries as my character learns more or has explained to him the errors of his ways.

Session 1: The Funeral (19th September 2012)

 The Cult of the Whispering Way weaves a wide-ranging conspiracy throughout the horror-tinged lands of Ustalav aimed at freeing the Lich King Tar-Baphon, better known as the Whispering Tyrant, from his eternal prison in the dungeon of Gallowspire. Their debased rites and malicious schemes set werewolf against vampire, ghost against terror from beyond time and space in a thrilling campaign that touches upon themes of classic horror and dark swords and sorcery!

(from the blurb on the Paizo website for The Haunting of Harrowstone)

The Pathfinders

Nicolai Alamrys – Human Rogue
Kazamir - Fighter
Ducat - Cleric
Moebius - ?
Zef - Ranger

I will update this list as I get to learn more about the characters I am playing alongside.

From the Diary of Nicolai Alamrys

Arrival in Harrowstone (Day 1 of my travels with the Pathfinders)

There is a lot of distrust in this world of ours. Why do people not wish to see goodness in others no matter their differences? Magic, in all of its various forms is frowned upon and seen as the work of evil, when I know it can be used for the powers of good.

I have been travelling from the coast for two days now. It is constantly pouring down, and I am wet through, hungry and footsore. The funeral of my long time acquaintance Professor Lorimar is to take place soon, but it is possible that my long sea journey means that I may have missed the event. The letter I hold in my hand talks of the urgent need for me to be there; his daughter has some important news to be relayed to me and his other close acquaintances.

On the muddy, rutted road leading to the village I bumped into a band of weary travellers, all intent upon attending the funeral too. We struck up a cheery banter that defied the inclement weather, and I feel we have forged the first links in a strong bond of friendship. We have all arrived with the same purpose, and all wish to see it through as we owe that, at least, to our former mentor, guardian and friend Professor Lorimar.

The shallow valley opened up after a short while to reveal the entrance to the village. A village in which the buildings appear gothic and the leering monuments seem to watch every step one takes. Looking ahead I tried to find a place to get out of the rain, but what caught my attention was the number of poles outside buildings with notices attached; now turned to mush in the incessant rain, they no doubt held exclamations of the utmost import to those that live here. At the far end of what can only be described as the village green a river flows, trying to sweep the small bridge that spans it away from its very foundations.

Two fellows stood guard before the bridge, and from their demeanour I could see they would brook no trouble and only allow those they knew to be trustworthy across the span. The taller of the two, Benjan I think his name was, did all the talking, and very belligerent he was too until we all showed our letters from the Professor’s daughter that granted our access to the further reaches of the village.

We passed across the bridge and headed towards the house of our late friend under the directions of the two guardians. We rapped upon the door and the portal was opened by Kendra, the late professor’s daughter. After introducing ourselves and showing her the letters we had received, she acknowledged us as friends of the professor, although for some reason she seemed to take my tale of acquaintance with a large grain of salt. After asking us our names, she informed us that the funeral was tomorrow at 10 o’clock, and that we should find ourselves some accommodation until then; The Laughing Demon being a good enough choice in these parts. She then promptly closed the door leaving us in the rain.

We looked around the rest of the village and found that the inn was not too far distant from the professor’s house, so we made our way there. All except Ducat, who decided to take a trip to the local temple. Unfortunately, Moebius’ mule had nowhere to go as the inn had no stable, so Moebius decided to go look for a stable for his noble steed whilst the rest of us strode towards warmth and food. A short distance from the inn, we espied a gaggle of young girls playing hop-scotch and singing the most happy of songs. This struck me as odd, but I could not put my finger on the weird feeling I had.

As we slipped in through the door, the owner of the establishment, one Zokar, strode up and in a loud, jovial voice greeted us. He did not allow us to get a word in edgewise but knew our wants and needs intimately. We were ushered to a table and before we knew it had our room booked and a hearty meal ordered. All of the dishes were titled after some grotesquery but they tasted superb, my Corpse Chowder being exquisite. The Ghost Beer, a glowing confection of no light weight, satisfied my thirst and opened a window of curiosity in my mind; a strange concoction that glowed and no-one knew its secret bar the inn keep.

Moebius returned from another inn in the village that had a stable, followed a little while later by Ducat. Moebius mentioned that he was able to stable his mule and the good wife, Soriana, that ran the establishment, tried to get him to change his mind on where we stayed. No doubt this was just a ploy to take Zokar’s custom and our money into the bargain. He said that he declined due to already having paid for our lodgings at The Demon, but was tempted to stay for a while as she had such a sweet singing voice.

The talk of entertainment spurred me into action. I hadn’t tumbled or mummered for a while, so I made some entertainment for the patrons of the bar. It did not go down as well as I hoped, but the coppers thrown, more through disdain than appreciation methinks, more than paid for my meat and beer. Kazamir had rather a lot to drink, and on throwing out time, we had to help him stagger up to his cot. We all chose a bed that suited us, albeit all were just hay stuffed mattresses smelling of mildew. The communal room had enough beds for us all, and there was one tiny, patterned glass window that would not open that let in the only light available to us. Feeling a little unsafe, I bolted the door, and pushed my bed against it in case of night time intruders.

The Day of the Funeral (Day 2)

We all woke early, those of who had had a few drinks feeling a little worse for wear. During their travels to Harrowstone, the other party members had picked up some spare articles that they wished to be rid of; a byrnie of chain mail, a jacket of scale mail and a medium sized steel shield. These were of no use to our party as everyone who needed such implements already had similar or superior ones.

I headed out with Zef to find a blacksmith to whom we could sell said items. It only took a few moments to spot the tell-tale column of smoke and hear the ting, ting-ting of the blacksmith’s art. I casually strode up to the forge and was surprised by the appearance of a lady Dwarf. Putting on my most disarming smile and ramping up the charm, I managed to seal a deal with her that gained the party 75 gold pieces and me a dagger to boot. I can still feel the after-effects of the bone-crushing hand-shake that sealed the deal. I felt strangely drawn to this lady; she seemed to have a good heart.

After our short trading trip we realised we needed to get a move on to make our ten o’clock deadline. The rest of our companions had already walked up the hill and the coffin cart had now arrived. No other villagers were present, so it was down to us, the professor’s friends, to be his pall bearers; the sixth place, the one of honour, was taken by his daughter.

We proceeded along the cemetery path towards the grave, but before we got to the mausoleum beside the split in the path that would take us to the grave we were accosted by a large mob of angry villagers. They were proclaiming that it was not right that the professor was to be buried on consecrated ground and that another grave up the hill would be a more suitable location. Their spokesman ranted about necromancers deserved to be buried without ceremony and left to rot away from those more civilised; one never knows if they may wake from their eternal sleep and bring the rest of the graveyard with them to the land of the living.

Kendra obviously felt this was unjust and decried that she had paid for the plot and the professor deserved to be buried in the cemetery. Tempers flared and the leader of the mob approached us in a menacing manner, pitchfork raised to strike. Kendra and the rest of us quickly realised things were getting out of hand, so we gently lowered the coffin and prepared ourselves for a confrontation. The mob leader struck Zef with his pitchfork, causing a large bruise to be raised upon his chest, but Kazamir stopped further damage by tripping the mob leader with the long handle of his glaive. This caused the rest of the mob to rush forward in a menacing manner, but I made placating noises and tried to calm the situation. The leader of the mob saw the error of his ways and decided to leave us be, for the time being, threatening that we hadn’t heard the last of this. The angry mob quickly faded into the mists beyond the gravestones.

Father Grimburrow apologised to us on behalf of the mob when we got to the graveside; he had seen the whole event unfurl from his vantage point. The ceremony went without any further glitches, and we all said a piece. I was overcome with emotion and shed a few tears, but again this seemed to cause Kendra some level of mistrust in my motives. That aside, we were all invited back to the professor’s house for his wake.

Upon arrival, we were all given a bowl of thin broth and asked to wait around whilst the last will and testament of Professor Lorimar was read out. The local councillor and three of his helpers were present to make sure the will was read out in accordance with protocol. The will was produced but as the seal was broken, a key dropped from the scroll. I tried to pocket it but I was spotted, so I presented it to the councillor who just left it on the table whilst he read out the will. All of the professor’s property was to go to Kendra except for the contents of a small ironbound oaken box. The box was produced and, his job completed, the councillor left the premises.

I grabbed the key from the table and found that it fitted the lock on the box perfectly. Inside were four tomes and some additional parchment detailing that if we could stay with his daughter for the next month to help her settle, and then deliver the four tomes to the addressees we would each be rewarded with 100 platinum coins each – a small fortune! The rest of the book was taken up with several diary entries that were confusing and strange to say the least. I was more than happy to stay around for the month as my fortunes were running low and the promise of such a sum upon delivery of the four tomes in Lepistadt seemed too good to be true. I pinched myself and agreed when the rest of my companions nodded their assent to be bound by the last words of our benefactor.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

March into Darkness - the final session

Session 5: The Keep in the Storm Clouds (12th September 2012)

The cast of heroes

Arken (Half-Elf Cleric) – leader of the party
Bardan (Human Fighter) – the muscle
Knil (Elf Ranger) – the tracker
Korum Proudfoot (Halfling Thief) – the scout
Rioja Hyrule (Human Mage) – the wizard
Kima (Black Domestic Cat) – his familiar

Attack on the Plains - a drawing by Craig, the DM, coloured by me. I have used a mixture of styles to create the image - apologies to Craig if my experimental Photoshopping turned his picture into a bit of a mess.

The party face down the mounted hordes of the Dark Master.

Escape and Rescue (Year 2 Day 64)

Knowing that the locks just needed a little greasing, Korum asked Arken to conjure up some food and drink for him. Arken, knowing the Halfling was always hungry obliged, passing him the food through the bars. Korum ate his fill of the drier foods but used the oils and fats to create a loosening agent for the locks.

The guard changed as usual after their evening meal, so Korum set to work on getting the party out of their predicament. With the aid of the worked in grease he had prepared earlier, the small bones he had salvaged from the gruel allowed him to pop the cell door lock easily. The greased hinges made no noise as they swung open, allowing the Halfling to get to work on a few of the other doors. These he accomplished with ease, setting free first Bardan, and then Arken, but the bone tools snapped upon application to the lock on Knil’s cell door. Bardan, Arken and Korum took up positions awaiting the return of the guards.

Suddenly there came the sound of a massive explosion and then screams of pain rent the air. The distinct smell of fire and smoke wafted to the party from beneath the door to their holding block. They waited for a few more minutes before realising that the guards may not be coming back. Bardan and Arken moved towards Knil’s cell in the hope that their combined strength may force the door, but just as they moved, the door to their cell block swung open. Just as the warriors were about to strike the person entering the room they realised that it was their comrade Rioja come to rescue them.

Korum grabbed a few hat and brooch pins from the mage and easily popped open the lock on Knil’s cell door. Reunited and wondering what to do next, Knil reiterated the conversation he had heard between the guards a few days previous. The party decided to try to reclaim their belongings before they did anything else.

Retracing the steps that Rioja had taken, they saw the devastation that his fireball had done to the guards within the enclosed space of their guard room. Passing further along the corridor they came to the armoury wherein they found their equipment. They quickly donned their armour and weapons and explored the rest of the basement level. They found the second room of cells, quickly dispatched the guards and set free the three inhabitants; two women and a young man from one of the surrounding villages. Korum opened the main door and let them go.

The Ground and First floors of the Tower


Korum found a set of stairs leading upwards out of the basement. He climbed them deliberately, and poked his head out at the top of them. He could see two large ornate staircases in a seriously bad state of repair leading up to another level, a staircase similar to the one he had just climbed was set into the wall opposite him and a few doors were set into what seemed like walled off areas. Below the stairs opposite were two sleeping guards. The rest of the party quietly approached them, the guards awakening just as they drew near. Frightened by the sudden appearance of heavily armed opponents, the guards quickly surrendered. Bardan offered one of them his life if he would give the party the information that they were after. One of the guards, quicker than the other, drew his dagger and plunged it into his fellow’s heart. He did not have much to tell, so the party silenced him permanently too.

Meanwhile, Korum had checked the rest of the doors. They all revealed utility rooms that are the mainstay of every castle, but in one of the reception rooms he was able to steal himself a few bottles of fine spirits before locking all the doors behind him.

Advancing up the next flight of stairs (the party decided not to try the rickety grand staircases), Korum motioned for the party to halt as he could make out that there were four more guards posted in the room above them. Arken and Bardan crept past Korum and ran at the guards. Two were cut down instantaneously but the other two were able to get a few sword thrusts off, injuring Bardan before being cut down themselves. They gathered the corpses together and brought up some from below for Arken to use as zombies in case they required any arrow fodder later on. The floor was totally open plan with only another staircase in the wall opposite where they came up (directly above the other staircase on the floor below). Korum swiftly ran to the bottom of the stairs and glanced upwards, only to see a constant stream of water running down the steps from above. He took care ascending the stairs and quickly glanced around when he got to the top. In the position where the other staircase was below, Korum espied a spiral staircase leading upwards, around the bottom of which two large snakes slithered and curled. He signalled his findings to the party who decided they would hole up in a room below to gather their strength, prepare new spells and make ready to attack the snakes, the like of which they had encountered in the path under the mountain.

The Upper Reaches of the Dark Master’s Keep

After a short time, whilst the party made ready, Korum decided to investigate what might be above the level with the snakes. If the party could avoid them, it would be all the better for continuing on. He attached a rope around his waist and climbed out of a window and up onto the roof of the tower, where he found that it was hammering down with rain; thus the constant stream of water running down the stairs. There was not a lot up there except for a very dilapidated roof with holes all over it and the four large corner towers (which he couldn’t get to anyway as the central keep was separated from them and the curtain wall by about a fifteen foot gap). He could just about make out the top of the spiral staircase where the snakes were coiled below. Finding nothing of interest, he was about to make his way back to the party when he noticed a lever hidden in a niche within the floor of the flat roof top. He decided against caution and pulled it. There was a grinding sound and a drawbridge extended from the keep across the gap to the tower in the south east corner. The sound of the bridge extending attracted the attention of the snakes below and they rapidly ascended the spiral staircase to face Korum on the roof. He quickly ran and leapt over the side of the building, his Ring of Feather Falling saved him from slamming against the side of the keep at the end of the rope attached to his waist. He climbed back in through the window of the room that the party were in and told them of his findings.

Rioja turned himself invisible using his arcane arts, and Arken prepared a new spell. Knil and Bardan charged the reptiles to distract their attention away from the spell casters. Korum headed onto the roof again to investigate further. A Fireball from the wizard and several arrows from Knil’s bow found their mark, causing the snakes to hesitate. Arken called upon mighty Din and reversing a spell he knew, turned one of the Snakes to Sticks. The mighty reptile slowly came to a halt and turned to wood before everyone’s eyes. Angered at seeing its mate so affected the second snake reared up, sucked in a deep breath, and with a huge hiss let forth a lightning bolt that staggered the cleric. The electricity from the bolt also impacted upon the water at the party’s feet and they all suffered a shock as a jolt of raw power surged up through their boots.

The large snake attempted to then bite Bardan, but he easily avoided its strike and returned one of his own. Rioja let forth a second Fireball, igniting the wooden snake, making sure that it would never be able to resort back to flesh again. Enraged, the remaining snake struck the cleric again but multiple blows from the fighter and cleric, and several arrows from Knil meant it would not rise again.

The Towers

Whilst all of this was happening, Korum had made his way across the drawbridge and had investigated the door in the tower. There were no traps on either, so he popped the door open. On the opposite side of the room, three large chests sat upon the floor. His eyes grew larger to take in the vision of potential treasure. He then scouted the edge of the floor of the tower towards the chests. He had got about half way around the curve of the wall when the door suddenly slammed shut and proceeded to move rapidly upwards towards the ceiling. The door stopped twenty feet up the wall, well out of his reach. Sighing at his predicament but not wanting to miss out on any treasure, he carried on towards the chests. As he lightly touched the first chest, it shimmered and disappeared. He did the same with the second before realising that he had been duped. He touched the third for good luck (it also promptly disappeared) and quickly thought how he would get out of there. He grabbed one of his crossbow bolts with rope attached and fired it at the door. It struck true and held fast. He began to climb the rope when suddenly he heard a knock on the door. Puzzled, he carried on climbing and took a peek through the key hole. He could see Knil on the other side. He shouted to Knil to open the door, which he did do, but the opening of the door caused Korum to swing wildly on the end of his rope. Once it had stopped swinging, he shimmied up the rope and clambered out of the trap.

Now that one of the towers had been explored, the party decided to see how they could get to the others. No other levers had been found, so they were stumped. On a whim, Knil pulled the existing lever. The drawbridge to the south east tower receded rapidly. He pulled it again and the party saw a similar drawbridge extend to the south west tower. Korum scouted ahead again with a rope attached to his middle, testing the bridge and door for traps. He found none, so opened the door and took a peek inside. He could see a solitary wooden crate in the middle of the floor. Fearing a similar trap and requesting that Bardan pull him back quickly if the floor or door began to move he tentatively stepped into the room. The floor started to grumble and stones started to collapse from the floor to the levels below. He risked all in a mad dash across the floor of the tower, stones dropped away with each step. He grabbed the crate and had almost made it to safety when the floor of the tower completely collapsed. He jumped into mid-air and the rope tied around his waist swung him to the central keep, where Bardan pulled him up the rest of the way. They opened the crate to find six vials within. Recognising them as potions of health, each of the party members drank one (gaining an addition to one of their basic stats). The left over vial was diced for and won by Bardan.

Knil pulled the lever again and noticed the drawbridge again receded. Another pull and the third drawbridge extended to the north western tower. Again, Korum scouted ahead. He opened the door a fraction to find four very heavily armed and armoured guards within. He quickly jumped back and then kicked the door open with his mighty Giant Strength whilst Bardan threw in one of his flammable oil bombs. The combination of being hit by a flying door and an incendiary device rendered two of the guards concussed. The other two advanced upon the party in tight formation. Arken called to his goddess and she threw down a Pillar of Fire that hit the two guards still within the room. Korum had spotted that the first two guards were advancing rapidly across the drawbridge, so he pulled the lever again, and sent them plunging to the courtyard below. A second Pillar of Fire was launched at the tower, incinerating the remaining guards within and causing the tower to crack, tremble and finally collapse into the sea.

The Dark Master

Only the north east tower had not been explored now. Knil pulled the lever again to get the drawbridge to extend and it did not disappoint. Korum carefully made his way across the drawbridge and checked the door for traps but there were none. He eased the door open only to be greeted with a booming voice that said “One must enter and face me before you can find the Dark Master”. Arken, losing patience now, realised his Pillar of Fire was very destructive, so he cast it against the final tower. The crenulations at the top of the tower were blown to pieces under the onslaught of divine power. The voice returned, saying “Send in your champion”. Without warning the door of the tower was smashed off of its hinges and a seven foot warrior, dressed in full plate armour and wielding a mighty two-handed sword strode onto the drawbridge. Korum pulled the lever again and the warrior plunged to the cobbles beneath. The fall did not kill the warrior, but a few more incendiaries from Bardan did the trick.

Arken had now expended most of his magical energy, so the party stood watch whilst he regained his strength. Knil and Korum happened to be looking at the top of the tower when they both espied a cowled figure staring down at them. The figure ducked back out of sight and a few moments later a large raven flew from the top of the tower. Arrows from Knil’s bow struck truly and the bird plunged towards the cobbles below. Korum, thinking quickly, leapt across the divide and caught the falling bird. He adjusted his grip and placed a Frost Giant’s strength upon its neck. He was hauled back onto the roof of the keep just as the bird started to change shape. Korum asked whether they should question the Dark Master but all replied kill him, which he did with a deft stroke of his razor sharp short sword. At that moment, the heavens erupted and storm clouds crashed against one another. The rain got heavier and lightning started to crash all around them.

Arken still needed to regain some of his strength, so Korum and Bardan decided to try to see if they could further investigate the last tower now that it was cleared of the warrior guard and its master. He gathered up Knil’s Bag of Holding, tied a rope around his middle and made his way over the drawbridge and up into the tower. It started to shake violently after being struck by several bolts of lightning and great hunks of stone flew off of the tower and into the sea below. Korum tied the rope more firmly around his middle just as a great tremor knocked half of the tower down and the rest started to lean towards the ocean. It was then he espied the great mound of treasure. He leapt across the divide and opened the Bag of Holding beneath the flow of coins, trinkets and silver ware that were now heading over the edge of the tower and into the sea below. He managed to catch most of it before the tower became too unsafe. Arken spotted this and flung one of his quick grow spiders across the divide with the Command to make a web below Korum in case he fell. Indeed, just a few scant moments later, Korum’s rope snapped and he plunged headlong towards the water below. Grasping thin air and cart wheeling through the void, he managed to become snagged on one of the sticky strands from the spider’s web. Bardan dropped him the end of their spare rope and he clambered up to safety.

The End of the Adventure (Year 2, Day 100)

The storm clouds above the mountains had finally cleared and the sun came out. Rioja, however, took advantage of all the water still flowing from the rain clouds to help magically ease the rest of the keep into the waters below. Arken animated a few of the corpses to go into the depths to retrieve as much of the Dark Master’s treasure as possible and then burned them with the rest of the bodies. They loaded the treasure onto many of the Dark Master’s cavalry horses and formed a baggage train to get it home. They picked up their dead men-at-arms from the battlefield, burned the rest of the corpses there and then returned via the village they had left their wagon. As it had not been touched, they rewarded the villagers with much food and drink. The few days that it took the party to get to the village had also seen growth return to the land – the people would be able to grow crops again. Knil spoke to his elders on the way back and told them of their deeds.

The party returned to their village after a slow and relatively uneventful journey home. Bardan returned to his barracks, Knil to his tree, Arken made plans for a new temple and Korum wondered what to do with all his new found wealth. Rioja retired to his tower to read a good book over a nice cup of tea. He was later visited by Laerus who gave him back the orb. Laerus had found out that the Dark Master would have gained untold power from capturing the orb, so it was a good job they had left it in his safe keeping whilst they were adventuring.


Here ends the tale of the final millennial fight against the darkness. The heroes had to undertake two quests; one against Nephyros and his three manifestations, and then a second against the Dark Master, a seeker after power in the aftermath of the fight between the two dragons of light and darkness.
Next week we will all be starting in new games. I am not sure which road this will take me down, but I will be writing up the adventures with my new playing companions no matter what I get involved with.

Interlude and a Reunion


Between gaming sessions, our DM Craig often sends us little snippets of information to prepare us for the next session. Here are two such snippets aimed at the players of Knil and Korum...

Written by Craig - the DM

For Knil

Knil looked around at his companions. Korum appeared to be studying his cell door, probably seeing if there was any way he could force the lock. Bardan was smiling as he stared at the scrawny guards outside the cells. Arken, as usual, appeared to be meditating, lost in thought, or perhaps speaking with an agent of his god.

There was an ache in Knils heart. He finally had a bow that suited him, that he had that real connection with. And it had been taken away from him. He hoped that whoever took it from him had stored it somewhere...and he hoped that person was nearby so Knil could exact some revenge...maybe take something precious of his....his head perhaps. Knil was using his extraordinary hearing to listen in on the guards conversations, and had managed to pick up several interesting titbits. Most of the guards were avid gamblers, and it was during one game of dice that he heard what he was waiting for. One of the guards had ran out of gold to bet, and his opponent was reluctant to lend him any. The first guard asked if the prisoners had any when they were brought in, and the other replied 'yeah, good idea, take theirs. They won't need it anytime soon. We dumped all their trash in the armoury, just through that door, all the way to then end, on the right'.

A smile played itself across Knils lips. Assuming Korum could get them out, and Bardan could deal with the guards, Knil would soon be reunited with his bow.

For Korum

Korum sits in his cell, toying with the small pieces of bone. Amatuer mistake by the guards really, if they had known anything about this particular group of adventurers, they would know that Korum could pick a lock with an overly long fingernail. And they had given him long thin bones!

Korum had spent the time since inspecting both the locks and the guards routine. The locks were rusty and in a terrible state. It would be touch and go - he wasn't completely sure the bones were strong enough to turn the locks, which looked as if they had never been oiled. Shabby maintenance, really.

Korum had noticed that the guards changed shift after serving the evening 'meal', and there was a delay of several minutes as the two shifts passed each other in the exterior corridor and stopped to catch up. Now if only he had a way to stop the locks squeaking...


Russell, the player who controls Rioja Hyrule, took a couple of weeks out to relax in sunnier climes. Upon his return, Craig took him aside during the main party's adventure to bring him up to speed. After their adventures, Korum snuck another quick look into the Diary of Rioja Hyrule, wizard extraordinaire...

From the Diary of Rioja Hyrule - Reunion

Written by Russell (who plays Rioja)

I have given up on their book. After two weeks of studying the local texts I have learnt much of their local customs and folk law, almost none of it of any use against the rising dark lord. The stories confirm the working of the Dark Elves, but beyond that little of any use. Frankly I have learnt more about the repugnant habits of the mayor here than anything of use in right against the rising dark lord. A more thoroughly disgusting man by both taste and deed I have never met.

As soon as possible I set out after the party. I rode Epona as fast as she would carry me towards the mountains, looking for signs of the party's travels. Signs of their travels were obvious. The rising dark lord was clearly throwing all his minions at them, and I was able to follow them mainly by moving from pile of dead minions to the next! 

One battle site led me underground, through large caverns where the party had clearly slain multiple giant snakes, and the caverns eventually led out to a vast desolate plain.  In the middle of the plain was the largest scene of dead I have every seen. Scores upon scores of dead men and half-men strewn over the battlefield. The dead were clearly mostly the rising dark lord's forces, but I spotted many of our militia lying dead amongst them. However I didn't see any of my party, or any evidence of their belongings or defeat, so I assume they have continued into the castle to confront the rising dark lord himself. For myself I am tired after my journey and must rest before joining them.

[next day]
After resting and preparing my spells I set out for the castle. Despite the party's assault on it the main door may still be a dangerous entry point, so I elected to enter via side door I had noticed up a winding path in the mountains; with Epona as my steed the ascent was easy. Reaching the door I was unsurprised to find it locked,, but I had prepared for this and used a Dimension Door spell to avoid having to deal with the door in this dimension. 

Materializing on the other side of the door I was shocked to find myself stood between two guards. In my dazed state I began to run randomly down corridors to avoid them, loosing Magic Missiles behind me to try and waylay my perusers. It seems I was lucky with my missiles, as after just a couple of turns the guards both lay dead.

I continued into the castle only to hear more guards. Investigating I found the noise coming from what was obviously a guard room. I peered in through the keyhole to see a guard coming my way! In a panic I backed up and as the door opened I loosed a fireball into the room. This panicked action turned out to be rather effective! After some initial screaming the room became quiet as the guards met their fiery deaths. 

I proceeded deeper into the dungeon, opening a door close to the guard room, only to be charged by what I initially took to be a rather large guard come to investigate the screams of his companions. However as I cowered below the brute he stopped in his path... and I realized it was Barden! And so I am now reunited with the party once more! After explaining my story to them I asked how they had stormed the castle, and why Knil was locked in a prison cell. Apparently my appraisal of the battle outside was somewhat off the mark: despite killing scores of the rising dark lord's forces they were eventually overpowered and taken prisoner, and had only just escaped and were searching for their equipment and weapons. Rather worryingly this left me as the party's main form of defence until we found their equipment!


The party were now reunited and the tale continues in the next installment to be written up later on today.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

March into Darkness - Session 4

Session 4: Meeting the Dark Master (5th September 2012)

The cast of heroes

Arken (Half-Elf Cleric) – leader of the party
Bardan (Human Fighter) – the muscle
Knil (Elf Ranger) – the tracker
Korum Proudfoot (Halfling Thief) – the scout
Rioja Hyrule (Human Mage) – the wizard (on holiday)
Kima (Black Domestic Cat) – his familiar (on holiday)

Another Set of Doors (Year 2 Day 54)

The adventurers rested up before searching the rest of the cavern. There was nothing of interest held there; even the entrance the snake used was just an old dried-up waterway that revealed nothing when Korum was boosted up by Bardan to take a look. The party decided to see where the tunnel opposite led and found it was very similar to the first tunnel they had walked down. The tunnel twisted and turned and eventually ended at a large set of doors. Unfortunately there were no handles or keyholes on this side and the hinges were too big to break even with magically induced Giant strength. The party searched the floor and walls for signs of a secret latch but found nothing.

After about an hour of searching one of the lookout men-at-arms hushed them to silence; they all then heard the distinct sound of slithering. The party formed up into combat positions in readiness for what would come around the corner. An enormous snake, larger than the one they previously encountered slithered into view. It stopped and hissed as it spotted Knil aiming up on its snout with an arrow knocked in his bow.

Everything seemed to happen at once. Knil let loose with several shafts at the snake, along with the other archers in the party. Arken, who had been gathering creepy crawlies to try out a new spell, produced a millipede from his pouch and flung it at the snake whilst muttering prayers to his god. The millipede grew to enormous proportions as it flew through the air. Frightened and angered by the pain and noise of the sudden attack, the snake reared up and let loose a lightning bolt at Knil, singeing his armour.

Bardan, Korum and the millipede all attacked the snake simultaneously whilst Arken prepared another of his spells. The party felt strength surge through their veins and the snake seemed to lose a bit of its confidence. All of the fighters hacked away at the snake, with Korum’s attacks from behind its head causing it grievous wounds.

Suddenly, the snake pulled back and let loose another of its lightning bolts at Korum, hitting him square in the chest. This caused Bardan to miss his swing on the snake and crush the millipede beneath his magical axe, severing its head and several legs at the same time.

The snake redoubled its attacks on the combatant causing it the most pain, so Korum took another great wound from the snake’s teeth. This, however, opened up the snake to renewed attack from the rest of the party; all hit with their axes and swords, and every arrow found its mark.

Korum was becoming weaker now through loss of blood but managed to find enough strength in his arms to deliver a further blow to the reptile. All the others managed to hit the weakened snake again just as it reared up to deliver the final blow to the little thief. Knil and the archers made their arrows tell, each striking the snake at a vulnerable point causing it to collapse. Korum, dazed and confused chopped its head off in a final act of fury before he collapsed exhausted.

Arken sped over to Korum and administered all of his remaining Healing spells on him, restoring him to reasonable health again, but he was still very sore and the wounds threatened to reopen at any time. At this juncture, the party decided it wise to rest up and allow Arken to recover his spells, whilst they ate a good meal and continued their searches for a secret lever or switch for the doors.

Fearing that what lay beyond the doors may be another set of statues, the party prepared for the worst before attempting to open the doors by brute strength. Arken and Bardan, aided by their Girdles of Giant Strength, began to batter on the doors until they started to open inch by inch.

The Other Side of the Mountains (Day 55)

Korum poked his head through when the gap was big enough to report back that there was only one statue on this side of the mountain but it was twice the size of the others they had previously encountered. Also, it was ready to strike the first person who stepped through the door.

Arken prepared another of the creepy crawlies in his pack for combat and the band of adventurers prepared themselves for another toe-to-toe contest.

The millipede, under volition from its master Arken, went straight into the attack followed by Bardan. Korum quickly scouted round the back of the statue to try to find a vulnerable area to attack and struck a mighty blow creating a great dent in its armour. Bardan also hit the statue, but the statue replied by crushing the giant bug with its enormous double-sized sword. This sword stroke frightened Korum a little as he was still suffering from his wounds when fighting the giant snake, so he leapt away from the combat ready to re-enter when the statue was on its last legs or his companions needed a diversion.

A flurry of arrows from Knil and the archers hit the statue causing it to miss Bardan who managed to get in a mighty blow of his axe. Now in a terrible state of repair, the party saw that the metal titan was badly damaged so hit it with another flurry of blows. This caused some confusion to the metallic guardian as it was not sure whether to strike the foes in front of it or the source of the annoying arrows that were unerringly hitting it on a regular basis. A few more attacks from the party weakened it further but it renewed its fight by striking the cleric and fighter in turn, Arken taking the full brunt of the guardian’s strength. Seeing his friend seriously wounded spurred Korum back into action and he struck it from behind in a vital spot causing it to turn around. Bardan and Arken seized their opportunity and struck the metal construct down with mighty blows from their axe and mace. It quickly crumpled and turned to a pile of rust coloured remains revealing a large gem stone where the keys were in the smaller constructs. Bardan picked up the gemstone and placed it into his pouch.

Recovering their breath, the party looked around whilst the men-at-arms began to make camp. Arken retired straight to his bedrolls to recover his spells. The others satisfied themselves with a warm meal and taking stock of their surroundings. Outside of the doors in the mountain was a large open area with foothills to either side. The open area widened onto a plain that stretched for many leagues before ending at a solitary mountain with what looked like a large keep on top of it. That would be the lair of the Dark Lord they surmised.

The party decided to rest up over night and continue their travels the next day. Korum, knowing that Rioja would need more than just a trail of destruction to follow, used his chalk to create messages written in a way that only Rioja would understand, giving details of what they had encountered and where they were headed.

The Messenger (Day 56)

The party travelled several miles that day and made camp again in the middle of the large plain. There was nothing of note to be seen except for the mountains behind them and the solitary one in front. They set watches through the night.

On the fourth watch, Arken and his archer companion spotted a lone rider silhouetted by the moon about one hundred feet away. They hailed him in a voice loud enough to wake the rest of the camp and he announced that he was a messenger from the Dark Master. He moved to within twenty feet but stopped before the party could get the chance to surprise attack him. He tried to get information out of them as to what their mission was but only got bravado and abuse back for his efforts. This annoyed the rider so he made to ride off, but Knil and the other archers shot his horse from under him. He gracefully avoided being thrown and stood facing the party as they approached. Arken struck him with his hammer, breaking his left leg thus stopping him running away to tell his master of their approach and any plans he may have discovered.

After a quick interrogation and an attempt to convert him to the side of good proved fruitless, Arken decided he no longer deserved to live, so broke his neck and proceeded to add him to the small retinue of zombies he was creating (made up of all who refused to stop their wicked ways and turn back to the side of good). Korum quickly searched his pockets only to find his orders which were: to find the party, see what they were up to and report back with any details.

The Cavalry (Day 57-58)

The next morning, party of adventurers continued on with their journey across the plain, the mountain and keep in the distance growing in size with every step they took towards it. However, it was still a good couple of days’ travel away, so they made camp as it started to get dark. An uneventful night and a hearty breakfast the following morning recuperated their energy so they set out again in the direction of the castle.

A few hours after sunrise, the keener eyed members of the party spotted a large dust cloud in the distance, and picked out a large body of mounted troops headed in their direction. As the distance between the two parties narrowed to just a hundred or so yards they all stopped and eyed each other up. The captain of the mounted troop spurred his horse forward to parley.

He stopped just a few yards away and told them his terms. The party were to accompany him and his troops to the Dark Master where they would be treated with respect. However, they must surrender all of their weapons and goods and travel under his command. Arken did not take too kindly to being ordered about by a mere soldier and told him what he thought of his idea. He also suggested that the captain and his men should switch sides and help destroy his master and all that was bad if he knew what was good for him. The captain just chuckled lightly and repeated his offer as escort. The party drew their weapons to show their intent so the captain returned to his troop, who all dismounted and readied their swords and shields.

Korum and Bardan opened the proceedings with a couple of the fire bombs still in Bardan’s back pack. Several of the troopers went down screaming in agony as their flesh burned from their bones, which caused the mounted troops some consternation as there could be no possible way a man, let alone a Halfling, could throw anything that far so accurately and with such force. A few choice words from their commander set them back to their task though.

Arken grabbed another bug from his pouch, this time a tarantula spider, and cast it at the oncoming troops with the aid of his size changing spell. This also caused confusion and not a few deaths in the ranks of the enemy before it too was put down. The enemy troops reformed their ranks and began advancing again towards the adventurers.

Meanwhile, Knil and the other archers had poured arrow after arrow into the ranks of the oncoming cohorts and a final couple of fire bombs from Bardan and Korum finished the ranged attacks.

Many of the troopers had succumbed to these ferocious attacks, but the iron will of their commander kept them advancing towards the party, who they now had surrounded. The enemy closed ranks and charged into the small knot of brave heroes.

Over the course of the next half hour, a bloody, hotly contested battle was fought. The first ranks of the enemy were wiped out but stronger, better armed warriors joined the fight now that the cannon fodder had been used up. The continual grind of numbers eventually took their toll as one-by-one the party’s men-at-arms fell to the strokes of the enemy swordsmen. The adventurers themselves had started to take some grievous wounds but were continually healed by Arken as the battle wore on. Even though several dozen bodies littered the ground around the party, the enemy still advanced. On several occasions Arken called for their captain to surrender but he kept throwing more men into the fight; fear of the Dark Master obviously held more sway than fear of the adventurers in front of them.

Korum realised that the only way they could now win this fight would be to take out the leader. He gauged that as there was only the leader and his four bodyguards, he might be able to sneak in and assassinate him before he was spotted, especially if he drank his Potion of Invisibility to get closer. He called for Arken to throw him over the melee towards the captain, and drank his potion, disappearing from sight. Arken, protected by his spells, and using his Girdle’s strength easily threw Korum over the heads of the combatants. Korum landed softly with the aid of his Ring of Feather Falling a few yards from the captain. Using all his skill, he advanced to within striking distance and gave the captain a mighty blow which caused him great harm. Unfortunately, this action caused Korum to become visible straight away and even though the leader and his bodyguard were surprised, he was unable to strike again because he fumbled his sword thrust and dropped his sword. As he moved to retrieve it, the four bodyguards clubbed him into unconsciousness.

Seeing their little colleague collapse under the blows, Arken and Bardan smashed their way through the ranks of the remaining swordsmen using their Giants’ strength to try to heal him and take out the captain on their own, but this finally broke their solid ranks and led to Knil being severely wounded and dropping into unconsciousness. Arken stopped to try to help out Knil, but this left Bardan on his own and several troopers managed to wrestle him to the ground and club him too into darkness just as the final few blows of the melee took down Arken.

The Dark Master (Day 59)

Some time later, each of the adventurers awoke to swollen heads and several bruises. Each was locked in a small, dark cell with no windows and only a barred door to the front. The only light came from a small torch in a sconce several feet away on the wall opposite next to the only door into the block. All of their weapons, armour and equipment had been taken from them and they stood only in their everyday clothing.

Rattling the doors and looking for something to use as a weapon proved fruitless as the only items within the cells were dirty straw mattresses and a flimsy bucket for their waste.

A few minutes after they had stopped their commotion the door opened. In limped the captain of the troopers with a smug grin on his face. He told them that they were now in the dungeons of his Dark Master and would be met by his greatness shortly. If they did not agree to his master’s terms then he would have the pleasure of torturing an agreement out of them. The party all put on a show of bravado but knew their situation was grim. The captain left the chamber with a dry chuckle. They would need Rioja and their own troops to rescue them from this dire situation.

An hour or two later the keys to the outer door rattled again and a dark-cowled figure entered the room. In a coarse voice he praised the party for their bravery and fighting skills, mentioning that he could do with great fighters like them within his ranks. He offered Bardan the captaincy of his guard if he would just change his allegiance. Bardan spat at the robed figure as a response. He then turned to Koru and offered him all the riches he could ever dream of, but the little thief responded that he was already rich beyond anything that the Dark Master could offer him. He tried a similar trick with Arken and Knil but both refused his cooing voice and tempting offers. The Dark Master chuckled to himself and mentioned that they would soon see the error of their ways as their fellowship bonds could not be that strong because one of their party had already left for pastures new; Rioja obviously found their company too mundane to be around. Leaving that thought in their minds he glided back out of the room.

A few more hours passed and the rattle of keys was heard again. This time a gaoler entered the room. He asked them to pass their slops buckets out through the small grille at the bottom of each door, and then emptied them into a solitary one to take away later. Without washing his hands he then passed each of them a bowl of stew without any utensils through the same hole. He picked up the slops bucket and left again.

Chewing through the woody vegetables and gristly meat Korum’s teeth jarred on a small bone. He searched through the rest of his gruel and found that there were a couple more small sharp bones. A smile slowly spread across his face.