Monday, 23 December 2013

Film Review - The Desolation of Smaug

I took my eldest two to the local cinema to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug yesterday afternoon. We all really enjoyed it and had lots to talk about on the car journey on the way home. I won't give away any spoilers here, but this is a brief review of the latest epic in the Lord of the Rings cycle...

I am not usually one for new fangled technology and watching a film at the cinema in anything other than vanilla 2d is something of a departure for me. I have seen other films in 3d but have not yet been impressed. Due to ticket availability yesterday (all the other showings were sold out for groupings larger than two) I could not get to see the film in 2d and had to settle for the super high def 3d version (and the extra entrance fee that entails). The 3d effect really popped, especially when titles and subtitles apeared on the screen. Most scenes were well rendered, but fast action scenes and scenes with lots of foreground clutter were quite blurry. That said, wearing the special glasses aside, I was actually quite engrossed by the film without the effects grating on me - a plus for the new 3d stuff in my eyes (no pun intended). Maybe I am a convert to 3d now? This was the special super high-def version though, so maybe the normal 3d version would be pants in comparison?

Onto the film. I am quite a Tolkien afficionado and like my Tolkien pure (like my RE Howard etc too) but I have made exceptions for this series of films. There are several breaks from the original storyline, but by and large they seem to work. There were only a couple of scenes that grated a bit (sexual inuendo in Tolkien - No, not or me) but the story on-the-whole seemed to gel well. The introduction of the non-canon female elf ranger Tauriel actually enhanced some things, but did take away a bit of the awesomeness of Legolas in my opinion - if all elves are this good then why was Legolas so special? My daughter really liked the new character though, so I think it is one for the womenfolk - Tolkien's works can be rather spartan when it comes to strong female characters.

The baddies also get a good showing, with another great orc hero involved in the plot, and the Gundabad orcs are very well done. The fight scenes involving the orcs had just the right amount of comedic lightness to make them fantasy violence rather than being too real and gruesome (which is better for the kids). We also get to see more of the Necromancer and of course the mighty Smaug. All done very well.

We were all disappointed (in a good way) with the ending, but that is only because we were left on a bit of a cliff-hanger and all wanted to know what happens next.

I thoroughly recommend the film. We all found it better than the previous outing, which was a good film too, and are now all looking forward to the final installment.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

A Trip to Games Workshop

Christmas shopping - don't you just love his time of year? Bluewater shopping centre on the last Saturday before Christmas is my idea of Hell on Earth. That said, I managed to get in and out again, ninja stylee, with all the required presents in just over an hour!

I was also able to pop into Games Workshop whilst there. I haven't bought anything for my hobby since the beginning of the year and I had a few quid burning a hole in my wallet, so I succumbed to a few new items.

I picked up the latest "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" supplement (I will do a write-up of it in the next few days as I am not going to actually read through it until I have seen the film with the kids tomorrow afternoon), a couple of paint brushes and some plastic glue.

Alex also had some spare pocket money, so he picked up a box set of the new Palace Guards. Seeing them in the flesh (along with the Elf Rangers and the latest characters in plastic) I was very impressed. The Games Workshop web-site photos do them absolutely no justice whatsoever. Hopefully I can get Alex to do a brief write-up of his new set sometime over the next week or two.

As I am about to have just over a week off for the Christmas break, I will try to get my painting mojo back in readiness for a fresh onslaught next year, with a quick look through what I still need to paint and glue.

Tomorrow I am taking the kids to see The Desolation of Smaug. I am not sure whether to see the 2d version (how I saw the first film), the standard 3d version, or the super-duper high definition 3d version. I am not one for wearing those glasses throughout a film, but I may be outvoted.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Doggerland Session 2:13 (The Village of Hommlet)

The Moathouse – Part Four (11th December 2013)

The Adventurers
Bow – Ranger
Hallan – Fighter (NPC’d)
Johan - Cleric
Paulix – Thief
Vox – Magic User

A Few Questions Answered - Thunorsday 18th Quattrober (Day 23) – afternoon

The constant drip of the rain thrumming through the lead guttering of the Tale Hanger’s Inn began to grate upon the nerves of the adventurers waiting for Vox to recover from his faint after casting the identification spell. He had given them plenty of valuable information but the cost had been quite high. Johan had still to recover all of his spells after healing Hallan, the fighter, so he retired to his room and began to pray to Balder for his next divinely allocated powers. The prayer session took a little longer this time as he found that his god had granted him an additional couple of spells for the day. Hallan, still sore from his resurrection ordeal decided that he would look in on the two magic users whilst the ranger and thief went out to investigate in The Wynde to try to pick up a few more clues as to how this town was run and how the underworld linked in with the village at Nulb.

Bow and Paulix hurried through the constant downpour back to the tavern that the ranger had visited a day or so previously. The Hidden Dirk seemed to be affected by the rain as its customer base consisted of just one patron until the duo of adventurers arrived.

The bar-keep did his best to not recognise Bow and asked what he could get the gentlemen. Bow ordered drinks for himself and his companion and then engaged the tavern keeper in conversation. The bar-keeper gave away little knowledge until he had been shown a handful of silver with the promise of more to come. He shooed the only other patron out of the door and barred it against further entry. When he was free of the potential eavesdropper he was able to tell Bow a little about Nulb and the set-up of the various factions there…

There was a bit of needle between the two major factions; the pirates and the brigands with the barge folk, fisher folk and farmers caught in between. He could tell them that Tolub ran the pirate operation and Silk, based in Castleford, ran the recruitment and dispersal of the bandit gangs that were shipped up river to an unknown contact and then possibly onto other places like the Moat house and Nulb. He mentioned that there were two pirate ships that patrolled the river between Nulb and Castleford, as well as carrying out raids on the River Abis to the north. The pirate crew possibly consisted of 40-50 men and their battle-scarred leaders. The bandits were no less tough but many of their leaders remained hidden.

Bow downed the rest of his ale, slipped a gold coin under his empty jack and with Paulix in tow let himself out of the tavern back onto the muddy streets of The Wynde. Paulix parted company with Bow there and headed back to the Tale Hanger’s to check upon his companions and to get dry. Bow had another short mission to run.

Magic Arrows – late afternoon

Bow made his way back to the Artisan’s Quarter looking for someone to buy one of his magical arrows as his funds were running extremely low. Unfortunately, the price of the item was a bit more than any of the artisans could afford to pay so it was suggested that he visited the Merchant’s Quarter, where they had more money and bigger markets at their disposal to purchase items of such quality. Bow made his way to the Merchant’s Quarter and rapped upon the familiar, well-fortified door of Robert’s town house. A few moments passed before the small peep hole in the door was opened and he was asked what he wanted. He requested an audience with Robert but he was told that the merchant was busy. He asked the porter if he knew of anywhere he could get some good quality weaponry priced up. The porter knew of a couple of respectable dealers and gave him directions to Statler’s (for armour) and Waldorf’s (for weaponry) manses. Bow thanked the porter for his time and headed to Waldorf’s place.

He rapped on the door and was again rewarded with a porter asking his business. Once he had told the porter what he had for sale, and waited the obligatory ten to fifteen minutes whilst the merchant was tracked down, he was shown to a sumptuous reception room and asked his business by a corpulent, bearded, well-dressed merchant and his tall, thin accomplice.

The merchant introduced himself as Waldorf and asked how he could help Bow. Bow showed him the magical arrow and wondered if it was something that he would consider purchasing. After a brief look at the arrow and a whispered conference with his associate, who waved his hand over the arrow to determine its legitimacy, the merchant offered Bow forty-five gold coins for it, but the ranger refused as he had been told by the artisans it was worth around a hundred. A bit of bargaining went on before the pair finally agreed upon a price and the gold was handed over. Bow retuned to the Tale Hanger’s with money in his pouch once more.

Back to Staneford - Freyasday 19th Quattrober (Day 24) – mid-day

The evening passed uneventfully for the adventurers as they sat quietly in a private booth within the Tale Hanger’s. All except Vox, who was still recovering from his casting ordeal, swapped their news and brought each other up-to-date with things. The discussion then turned to what they should do on the morrow, and it was decided unanimously that they would head back to the moat house to grab more treasure and to try to finally put a stop to the banditry that was occurring around the area.

At lunch time Vox made his way downstairs after his long sleep and tucked into a very large lunch. As soon as he had finished his last morsel, the rest of the party hauled him to his feet, grabbed their equipment and headed out into the wilderness on their way towards Staneford.

The rain still beat down incessantly, but the party were getting used to it by now, their newly crafted wolf-pelt cloaks kept their shoulders drier than they had been in a long time when outdoors.

Ambush – early afternoon

The wilderness proved to be a dangerous place as the party found out an hour or so after leaving the safety of the town walls of Castleford. The party headed along a game trail that Bow had picked up on when a couple of crossbow bolts darted through the air and hit Hallan, one causing a small wound to the fighter. Paulix, in cover and almost invisible due to his magical cloak spotted the enemy and warned the others of where they were. A brief melee broke out but the bandits were no match for the now-seasoned adventurers. The seven attackers were soon put to the sword and their pouches robbed. Unfortunately the bandits were smeared in grey ooze, so the party had to spend some time constructing a pyre to burn the bodies and their clothes, as well as inspecting Hallan’s wound for any signs of infection. Luckily there were none, and the companions were able to continue on their way after wiping their blades clean and burning the rags.

The journey to Staneford was long and arduous, but they managed to arrive about an hour or so before the Plough and Stars shut its doors for the night without any further troubles. They were greeted warmly by the ostler who saw that they must have gone up in the world as the weapons and armour they now possessed was much finer than what they left with only a few days ago. Bow noticed that his little collection of trophies had been taken down and either destroyed or passed onto someone who had a use for them.

The party grabbed a quick meal, got healed up and then had an early night.

Return to the Moat House - Godsday 20th Quattrober (Day 25)

The party rose early and tucked into the fine board prepared for them by Gundigoot. They wandered down to the trader’s establishment where they bought some more dungeoneering equipment. The trader eyed them warily, but was polite, if taciturn, in response to their eager questions about what items would be best in what situations. As soon as they had distributed their kit, the party set off towards the moat house.

Three hours into the journey, just before they arrived at the fortification in the fens, Paulix called the party to a halt and drew them off the pathway. A heavily guarded merchant caravan hove into view down the wooded pathway. Bow stepped out form his hiding place to be confronted with the sound of a dozen crossbows snapping to his direction. He held his hands up placatingly and said that he only wanted to talk to them. Wary but feeling safe due to the hardware aimed at the party the merchants told them about how they had taken a wrong turning further up the road and had ended up travelling down this little-used track way. They had passed the moat house about half a mile back but all seemed quiet in there. There was no sign of any inhabitants either natural or otherworldly. The merchants then asked if it was far to Staneford and the ranger responded that it would take them little more than three or four hours to get there. The merchants thanked them for their answer and proceeded cautiously along the road again. The party made their way to the last rise that they knew before the moat house hove into view.

Brigands – late morning

The sound of the whipper-whorls trilling to each other throughout the fen was the only sound that the party could hear as they approached the giant frog pool. Johan was especially nervous when he passed the point they were last attacked, but Bow sprinted with confidence over the fallen door that now covered the rotten drawbridge. The sound of his footsteps reverberated from the walls of the inner courtyard but there appeared to be no-one home. The rest of the party followed him in, with Paulix covering their entry with his drawn bow.

A mound of burnt decaying bodies lay where they had left it and there were few signs that there had been any other movement within the fortress. Vox crept over to the spider tower, but afraid to look inside, just listened instead; he heard nothing.

Bow advanced up the steps to the main door of the building and peered within. He saw nothing but did manage to hear a scampering sound in the distance, but he was not too sure where it came from. All was still until the twang of two light crossbows went off in unison winging their steely death towards him. He ducked into the main entrance hall only to hear a yell go up from within. He was confronted by two armed men who had sprung out of the old bandits’ lair towards him. Another voice from within shouted to others to stir their lazy butts and get out to repulse the attack.

The rest of the party, except for Paulix, sprinted to the doorway to help their companion. Paulix began a circuit of the outside of the fortification to try to catch the bandits in the rear through their roof top entranceway.

A terrible melee ensued with enemies attacking the party from two sides. Bow and Hallan attempted to block any further egress from the bandit room whilst Johan faced down the two crossbowmen that had now begun firing bolts into the melee. The leader within barked more orders and the rest of his men entered the fray to stop the adventurers.

It only took a few minutes for the superior skill at arms of the companions to tell as they beat down the opposition. The leader within the room cursed and could be seen to clamber up the rock fall as he once again admitted defeat at the hands of this determined bunch of individuals.

Outside, Paulix had got to within bow range and shot at the first head he saw poke above the parapets. The arrows sailed past the bandit which encouraged him down the outside of the rock fall at double pace, smoothly followed by a second fellow that looked to be the leader due to his superior chain armour.

The fight inside the hall quickly came to an end and the ranger sprinted up the fallen masonry to try to catch the leader of this bandit troop. Paulix’s arrows hampered the descent of the two bandit leaders as they picked their way down the fallen rubble. Arrow after arrow found its mark in the leader’s body, but his armour saved him from the worst of the attack.

In his desperation to catch the leader, Bow put everything into the chase and dispensed with scrabbling down the rubble by jumping down instead. He twisted his ankle slightly but not enough to slow him in his rage. After chasing through the marshes for a minute or two he caught the leader, but he was felled by the last of Paulix’s arrows that were still in range. The aide managed to get away as he was more lightly armed than his compatriot and knew the marshes better than the ranger.

The party convened within the bandit lair and discovered that there was a tenth man lying on a pallet in a sweat; their little punji-stick trap hard worked! He was in no fit state to put up any resistance, so the party quickly stripped the bodies of anything of value, washed off any grey ooze they found on the items and checked themselves over for injuries. It was then that they counted the pallets and realised that perhaps one more man was unaccounted for.

Vermin – mid-day

Otherworld Rats - courtesy Oubliette Magazine

Knowing that the fens were a wild place and that any empty niche would not lie empty for long, the party realised that they might have to give the upper storey one final sweep to protect their escape route before they descended into the dungeon.

They set off into the west wing of the fortress and popped their heads into each door, one at a time. Each door opened in turn to reveal a scene similar to how they last left things, except the bodies of the critters they had killed had been moved again by someone else and a few more footprints showed in the dust of each room. All were empty except for the kitchen, where the tick was last encountered. Hallan kicked open the door and strode in to take a good look around, closely followed by Bow. A swarm of giant rats boiled out of the rotten sacks in search of fresh meat. The rats were no match for the party and were soon hacked down; one was even magically spoken to by Johan who warned it that giant cats would be coming to get them. This kept the king rat out of the way until it was easier to deal with on its own.

The few bites that were taken by the party caused little damage and the party continued with their search down to the south wing. Again, nothing was encountered until they stepped into the final end room that previously contained the snake.

The darkness, cut only by the feeble rays of the clouded over sun that ghosted into the room via the small arrow slots and holes in the roof, took a few moments to adjust to, but that was all the two giant ticks needed to attack their prey. The pair of grotesque insects launched themselves at the fighter and ranger who had point, closely followed by two of their offspring. A mound of rotting corpses, including that of the last of the bandits not so far accounted for, lay in a heap with several more tick eggs.

Bow, not wanting a repeat of what had happened to him the last time he encountered a critter of this ilk quickly stepped out of the way to allow Johan to help with the melee.

Hallan quickly brought down the larger of the two monsters, but the second one managed to get hold of Johan and pierce his flesh with its spear-like proboscis, sucking his life blood as each second ticked by.

The two younglings scampered towards Hallan, but he swiftly chopped them into pieces with his great sword whilst the rest of the party slowly, but surely, hacked to pieces the last remaining tick attached to Johan’s chest, showering the corridor with Johan’s blood.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Doggerland Session 2:12 (The Iron Ring)

Resurrection – (4th December 2013)

The Adventurers
Bow – Ranger
Hallan – Fighter (Raised from the Dead)
Johan - Cleric
Paulix – Thief
Vox – Magic User
Spugnoir – Magic User (NPC)

Last Orders - Tirsday 16th Quattrober (Day 21)

As the adventures quaffed fine ales from pewter goblets and tore chunks of the finest beef, pork and venison from the bone, a shadowy figure rose from one of the nearby mead benches and glided out into the night. The adventurers tried to follow where he might have gone, but what with their proximity to The Wynde and the dark, overcast sky dropping its contents in a steady stream, they were unable to see where the person went to. Again, this man seemed familiar, but no-one could put their finger on where they had seen him before.

Raised from the Dead - Wodensday 17th Quattrober (Day 22) – mid-day

Used without permission - WotC
The rain still fell the following morning bringing a gloom to the day that should have been one filled with happiness; they were to get their companion back from the other side.

Bow, the ranger, rose early and joined the tanner in the Artisan’s Quarter at work on the wolf pelts in the hope of getting them finished a little more quickly. Spugnoir had also risen early but no-one saw him go. The rest of the party killed time by idling in the Tale Hanger’s common room until they were due to leave to see about the resurrection of their companion Hallan.

Johan, Paulix and Vox headed up towards the great Temple of Sol Invictus and introduced themselves to the deacon on door duty. The cleric announced their arrival to the rest of the priests and showed them into the sanctuary where the final incantations of the ceremony were being extolled by the High Priest Ralph. Hallan’s body began to take on a better colour and his wounds closed as each word was spoken and finally his eyelids fluttered. Then everything stopped. A few moments went by until finally Hallan drew in a ragged breath; he had returned to life!

The High Priest warned that Hallan would be very weak for several days if not weeks and he needed to be cared for gently until he regained his strength. Paulix thanked the High Priest for all he had done but Vox and Johan merely mumbled a few niceties whilst muttering under their breath that Sol Invictus could have restored their companion to full health and that maybe if he was so powerful he might do something about the wretched weather. Hallan beamed his gratitude to the High Priest and promised to live a life in the light of Sol Invictus. He was loaded gently onto a cart and was driven by a few acolytes back to the inn.

Once the party left the confines of the church, Johan said to Hallan that he would finish the job that the churchmen had failed to do and plied him with a couple of healing spells and orisons to make him feel better. As they walked down the Market Place they heard a shout of triumph from a young scoundrel. The party turned to see him run off into The Wynde carrying something in his hand. They all patted themselves down and it was then that Johan discovered his purse was missing. He wondered aloud why it was always him that was robbed. They returned to the Tale Hanger’s Inn to collect Hallan’s weaponry, muttered their thanks to the cart drivers, and then proceeded to the Artisan’s Quarter where they met with Bow who was just putting the final touches to five wolf-pelt mantles.

Tavern Crawl – afternoon

The party decided that they would like to find out what was going on in this town. They were aware that there was a shadowy figure tailing them, they wanted to find out more about the symbols on the wooden amulets, and also wished to contact young Tom’s associates who should recognise the iron ring Paulix had been given. As they were hungry, especially Hallan, they headed for an inn on the edge of The Wynde to ask around and make their presence felt.

The first inn they came to, “The Fox and Toad”, seemed as likely a place as any. The party entered the gloomy interior and spotted a few empty tables. Bow went to the bar and sat alone but the rest of the party took a table and watched the proceedings whilst Paulix tried to make his iron ring obvious. Johan, upset by the loss of his purse and the fact it was Sol Invictus that brought his friend back from the dead, drank himself into a stupor. The bar wenches were interested in Bow, but slapped his hand away when they realised he was carving a symbol onto the bar top. The wenches chatted to all and sundry within the bar, taking orders and making bawdy jests, and the rest of the tavern populace turned over at a fairly rapid rate; some looked at the party and made comments to their compatriots before leaving to go on elsewhere.

The adventurers realised they were getting nowhere in this tavern, but may have made an impression on some of the bar’s denizens so they decided to head back to their main base to freshen up before the evening’s entertainment. They would need to do something about Johan’s black mood too. Paulix though couldn’t shake off the feeling that he should have been contacted by Tom’s associates by now.

Ambush in the Alley – early evening

Fresh and clean, the party strode out of the Tale Hanger’s Inn and made their way towards the merchant Robert’s manse for their dinner date. Johan was still drunk, but was at least steady again on his feet. A short distance from the turning into the Merchant’s Quarter a shout went up from ahead. A young lad shook Johan’s purse and taunted him. Johan took after him at top speed and was led down a short dark alley with a couple of side turnings. Not thinking of anything but his silver, the cleric of Balder chased the scallywag down the twists and turns only to be confronted by three ruffians who struck him a blow. Bow was also quick off the mark however and joined his friend shortly only to find that four more ruffians closed the net around them.

A few quick blows from the ranger, a few shots from Paulix’s bow from the end of the alley, the sight of a hulking brute in metal armour, and a Holding spell from Johan quickly turned the tide of battle in the party’s favour and the two surviving ruffians ran off quickly. Four of the ruffians lay dead on the ground but the final one that was Held by Johan’s magic was questioned. The escapee ruffian who looked like he was in charge of the ambush, vaulted over several fences and scrambled over a rooftop with such nimbleness that both Paulix and Bow were impressed.

Paulix warned the captured ruffian about confronting them again and, showing him the iron ring, stressed that he was sure he should have been contacted by his fellow gang members by now. He gave him a final cuff around the ear and sent him on his way without his purse and weapons. The party quickly stripped the rest of the brigands of their wealth and noticed that each wore an iron ring on the index finger of their right hand. The party took the rings too and placed them upon their own fingers in the same fashion.

Robert’s Soiree - evening

When the party arrived at their host’s home they were ushered into a side room and asked by the porter to get cleaned up as they were in a bit of a mess after their foray. They explained that they had been attacked on the way over by a gang who were all wearing iron rings on their fingers. The porter was able to tell them that they had had a run in with The Iron Ring; a band of cut-throats, pick-pockets, vagabonds and ne’er-do-wells that ran The Wynde and all of the underworld activities in Castleford.

The adventurers were ushered into the merchant Robert’s reception room where they were greeted warmly by their host and his friend Ernest. Spugnoir was also there, as well as several other dignitaries who all wanted to hear the tales of derring-do from the guests’ own lips. Over several courses of sweetmeats and other dainties, washed down with the finest of wines, the conversation went on long into the night and the party discovered more about the mysteries of the attacked caravans from Robert and Ernest; who were now the only people to survive a caravan attack. They had been captured by men in black cloaks bearing the yellow symbol carved on the amulets that the party had seen and owned. These men were often accompanied by strange creatures; an ogre (whom the party had killed when they rescued the merchants), strange 9’ tall hairy beasts, other equally strange humanoids with heads like dogs and a man that could cast divine magiks dedicated to some demon from the Abyss. They mentioned that they had also told all of this to Sir Tancred, the castellan of Castleford Keep.

Then things took a turn to the more recent past. The merchants and their noble guests told them a little more about the Iron Ring and what they controlled (mostly all trade and commerce within The Wynde as well as some other parts of town less travelled by the city guard), and also about an even more ominous but altogether more secretive group called the Hemlock Glove that made people disappear in the night. Johan and Vox voiced their opinions that the Thuringians could not be all that high and mighty if they could not control law and order within their own town walls, but Paulix made excuses for them so as not to upset their hosts.

The evening ended on a high with some fine entertainers brought in from the city of Dyvers on the coast of The Silver Lake far away to the east, and the party were escorted to the inn by several of Robert’s guards to make sure they got home safely.

Another Spell for Vox - Thunorsday 18th Quattrober (Day 23) – morning

Bow and Vox were the first to rise in the morning. Johan nursed a heavy hang-over but he used his last orison to cure himself of the ill feeling. Paulix looked in on Hallan to make sure he was alright and the three of them went downstairs to sit in the common room to await the return of their companions. After a short while, they realised that their companions may be some time, so they headed out to buy some more weaponry and armour for Hallan, as well as a cloak with many internal pockets and hideaways for Paulix to keep his treasures in.

Bow returned to the edge of The Wynde and found another small tavern, “The Hidden Dirk”, where he started to ask a few more questions. The tavern was quite empty at that time of the day, so the bar-keep was more loose-tongued than he ordinarily would have been if the ale house was full of customers. The gold coin that Bow twirled through his fingers also meant that he had his full attention. Bow asked him about The Iron Ring and the nimble thief they had met the night before in the dark alley. The bar-keep told Bow that the man he was looking for was a rat-faced rapscallion called Gauk, who plied his trade from Castleford to High Beeches. He was always stirring up trouble for his mentor, Silk; a man who was itching to take over the running of the Iron Ring from the current leader Davron. Bow thanked him for the information and the bar-keep said he would deny all knowledge if questioned about this meeting – Bow agreed with a wry smile.

Meanwhile, Vox had wandered through the Artisan’s Quarter looking for another thaumaturge to learn another spell from; the silver in his pockets always burnt a hole in its bid to escape his clutches. He tracked down another mage called Nextor. He mentioned the type of spell he was looking for (the spell that he failed to learn back in Darenth, namely Identify) and was able to swap one of his own (Spider Climb) plus a hundred silver for Nextor’s time to teach him. Nextor warned him that he may feel a bit faint after casting it.

Around lunchtime, they all returned to the Tale Hanger’s Inn for some sustenance and told each other what they had purchased or found out. They retired to Vox’s room where he cast his spell to identify their magical items. They were already aware that the shield was better at protecting them and the arrows were most likely to fly more truly than others so they did not bother identifying those, but the two potions and the cloak were the main mysteries to solve. Vox rolled the incantation off of his tongue very smoothly and he was able to make out for certain that one of the potions would control beings that were undead and the cloak would allow somebody to pass through the wilderness and shadowy places as if they were not there. He was about to identify the final potion when he fell into a deep swoon.

The adventurers tucked him away into bed, locked his door and left him to sleep things off. They returned to the common room to plan their next moves. A short while later, Spugnoir returned to the inn to let his companions know that he would no longer be accompanying them. He had learned a few spells in their company and earned some treasure as a reward but he felt it was just too dangerous out in the world at the moment what with all the strange creatures, cultists and demons out there. He wished them all the best of luck and left them to their drinks.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Doggerland Session 2:11 (Castleford)

Castleford – (27th November 2013)

The Adventurers
Bow – Ranger
Hallan – Fighter (RIP)
Johan - Cleric
Paulix – Thief
Vox – Magic User
Spugnoir – Magic User (NPC)

Leaving Staneford - Sunday 14th Quattrober (Day 19)

Grey clouds scudded across the leaden skies whilst the heavens let loose a torrent of liquid torment upon all who travailed beneath. The companions collected the body of their friend from the druid Jaroo from beneath the trees that stood like sentinels within his grove. The rain quickly soaked through the linen covering the corpse as the party loaded Hallan’s body onto the warhorse. The herbs and liniments that Jaroo had pasted upon the fighter kept most of the stench of decay at bay, but the horse still shied a little when the load was settled upon his broad back.

The adventurers trudged for hours along the rutted road that was rapidly turning into a quagmire beneath their feet. The incessant rain bore down on their shoulders and sunk their spirits as each drop weighed ever more heavily upon their consciences.

As the skies darkened further into evening the lights of an inn shone through the gloom. A warm fire, a wholesome meal, and a dry mead bench welcomed them to a restful night’s stay. The inn was as full as the weather was dreadful, but no trouble brewed within the ale house that night as all the patrons kept to their own.

Fleeced in Nulb - Moonday 15th Quattrober (Day 20)

The following morning dawned dark and dreary again. The fellowship gathered their belongings and loaded the now very pungent body of their companion onto the warhorse.

The short journey to the village of Nulb took only a few hours so the party decided that they would pass straight through and try to gain Castleford that same day. The sight of greasy smoke rising from the chimneys of dilapidated ramshackle buildings reinforced their view that they should hurry on through this veritable den of ne’er-do-wells.

As they approached the river crossing, the small hovel at the side of the bridge showed signs of life. Two guardsmen sauntered out of the hut and asked their business in Nulb. The party replied that they were just passing through to deliver their companion into the care of the gods. The guards sneered and said that they would need to pay the toll on any goods they were to carry through the village. The party looked confused until the warhorse was pointed out to them by the men-at-arms with avaricious eyes. As the party started to argue that the horse belonged to their dead companion the guards summoned the rest of their band from within the hovel.

The argument carried on with the guardsmen demanding twenty gold pieces for the party to pass or they could try their luck with the bandits in the wilderness; bridges cost a lot to maintain you know?

Bow was just beginning to get angry and itching for a fight when the guards rang the warning bell to summon their commander from within the village. A few moments later, a battle-scarred veteran and twenty ill-visaged companions approached the party from a large building within the village. The captain demanded to know what was happening and he was told that the party did not want to pay the toll until they were told the proper cost. The captain weighed up the party and said that the toll would be ten gold pieces. The party were about to argue that the original guards wanted twenty gold coins when Johan handed over a pouch of coins and said to his companions to just leave the trouble behind. The captain let them pass across the bridge but followed the party at a short distance until they had left the confines of the village to the east. Then he laughed at his good fortune in being able to fleece rich travellers so easily.

Wolf Attack – late afternoon

As the party approached to within an hour’s journey of Castleford, Bow’s ranger senses warned him of danger. He had picked up the sounds of pursuit from a mile or so back and warned the party to be ready for an attack. The wolves, driven by hunger and attracted by the smell of Hallan’s corpse, burst from the undergrowth and made straight for the warhorse.

The companions readied their weapons and chose their targets, but other than Bow, the wolves were faster. The alpha male and two others made for the warhorse and its burden whilst the rest leapt upon the other members of the party.

One of the wolves and the alpha male were injured in the first few moments of the foray, but several other members of the pack managed to pull Hallan’s corpse from the back of the horse. They pulled the linen covered cadaver a few yards away from the warhorse as it shied away in fear, but they were stopped in their tracks by the Sleep spells cast by Spugnoir. The rest of the adventurers managed to kill one of the remaining un-Slept wolves and the final one ran away.

The party quickly dispatched the sleeping wolves and Bow skinned them for later use. They recovered Hallan’s corpse and re-wrapped it in the linen shroud before they continued on their journey.

Arrival in Castleford – early evening

Castleford - First Draft

As the party broke through the final confines of The Gnarley they espied a great wonder; great grey stone walls surrounded the largest inhabitation they had ever seen (with the exception of Spugnoir who came from this town). Blue-grey smoke rose from scores of stone chimneys and the rain-soaked slate and wood roof tiles glistened in the early evening light. Several stone towers stood sentinel over great iron-bound wooden gates, and siege engines manned by dozens of well-armed warriors bristled above the crenellations. In the distance they also espied a huge stone fortress that brooded over the whole town.

As the party passed through the town gates, they were halted and briefly questioned as to their business in Castleford. After they had told the guards the nature of their visit and showed them the letters of commendation from Lord Burne the guards quickly waved them through, only for Bow to briefly stop and ask for the best place to get wolf-pelts cured and the best inn in town.

The party took the advice of the guards and booked themselves into some very fine rooms in the largest building they had ever visited; The Tale Hanger’s Inn.

After the brief exchange of coin for the rooms and stabling for the war horse, the party split up to carry out their tasks. Bow headed into the Artisans’ Quarter to see if he could get the wolf-pelts made into warm cloaks to keep the incessant rain out, whilst Spugnoir relaxed in his newly booked room. Vox, Paulix and Johan led the war horse and its burden up the steep incline towards the great golden-domed tower of the largest temple devoted to Sol Invictus they had seen on their travels. They passed by The Wynde when they travelled along the Market Place, and were followed by a small gang of young scallywags until they came within sight of the tower guards who scowled at the youths. Johan threw them a handful of coins and the children fought amongst themselves for the treasure.

The evening prayer session was in full flow at the temple of Sol Invictus when they arrived, but not wanting to enter a church whilst a service was being performed, the party decided to wait until it had ended before they approached the High Priest Ralph. They presented him with the letter of commendation from Lord Burne and he read it with interest. He then said that he could perform the service they required but it would cost them just a little less than 6,000 silver pieces. The party said that they just needed to exchange some goods and would pay him when the service had been conducted. The High Priest scratched his chin and said that it would take a lot of preparation to conduct the ceremony so he would like some kind of surety as to their trustworthiness. Paulix offered up the jewel hilted dagger found in the snake room of the moat house and the High Priests eyes shone with avarice. Yes, that would do nicely as surety. He suggested that they were to return at noon the day after tomorrow when he would carry out the incantations, but they would need to leave the body so that it could be prepared. He mentioned that the spell was not always successful; the longer the body has been left, then the further on its journey to the afterlife it will have travelled. They returned to the inn where they stabled the horse and cleaned themselves up for the evening’s entertainment.

Bow meanwhile had found a trustworthy tanner and furrier who would help him carry out the work on the pelts the next day for a reasonable fee. The ranger knew that he would have an hour or so left before his companions finished their business at the Temple, so he drank his way through several small taverns on his way back to the Tale Hanger’s Inn. On his journey he discovered that there were five or six temples dedicated to Sol Invictus (including the great one on the hill in the Upper Quarter which his companions had gone to), a couple dedicated to the Old Faith (one each to Thunor and Woden), and one to a foreign deity called Ishtar. He also found out where the Merchant’s Quarter was as well as a little on how the town worked.

Bert and Ernie - Tirsday 16th Quattrober (Day 21)

After a night of unabashed luxury, intoxication and entertainment the party rose to a fine and hearty breakfast. Bow made his way to the Artisan’s Quarter to begin working on the pelts whilst the rest of the party headed out to sell the war horse in order to raise the money for Hallan to be brought back from the land of the dead.

A few copper coins placed in the palms of a couple of small scallies from The Wynde that dogged their every step got them delivered to the door of one of the merchants that they had rescued from the Moat House. Robert welcomed them into his elegant home and bade them be seated whilst he plied the party with fine wines and dainties. He also handed over a pouch containing one hundred silver coins and again offered his heartfelt thanks for his rescue. The party asked what type of business he was in and he mentioned that he dealt in fine linens and cloths. They then asked if he knew of anyone who dealt in fine horses, and they were pleased to hear that the other merchant that they had rescued, Ernest, was a dealer in fine horse flesh. Robert asked whether they would like to join him tomorrow evening for a proper feast in their honour and they accepted with glee.

They were ushered out of Robert’s mansion at just the right point of politeness and given directions to Ernest’s abode. The party knocked on the gates of an even more opulent house than Robert’s. The companions were again greeted very warmly and offered all the dainties and fine wines they cared to sample. They were given a second pouch containing one hundred silver coins as reward and asked if they would join him for a proper meal to celebrate. They mentioned Robert’s invite and they all agreed to meet at his mansion for the celebratory meal.

The conversation then turned to business and Paulix asked if he could take a look at their war horse and whether he would consider purchasing it. He said that he would send a few of his men down to the inn around lunch time to check the horse over.

At lunchtime, three men approached the party in the main common room of the Tale Hanger’s Inn. They asked to see the war horse for sale, so the companions showed Ernest’s men the beast and allowed them to take it for a run outside the East Gate. The three horsemen came back and said that they would give their honest opinions to their master.

An hour later, a page approached the party in their snug at the inn. They were invited up to Ernest’s mansion to hear what kind of deal he could offer them. They were again welcomed into the opulent reception room and Ernest came straight to the point. He said the fine war horse was worth 7,000 silver coins but he would offer them 6,000 as he would need to make a little profit on the destrier as well as pay for it to be ‘finished’ in readiness for sale. The party agreed to the price but said they would prefer not to have to carry it all in coin. They settled on a note of credit made payable to the Temple to the value of the incantation and the rest in gold coins. Ernest agreed to this and got the document drafted.

The party bade their host farewell and promised to see him the following night at Robert’s manse. They then made their way towards the Tale Hanger’s to meet with Bow and Spugnoir.

There were still a couple of hours to kill before they decided to turn in for the night, so Vox and Spugnoir decided to head out to the Artisan’s Quarter to see if they could pay for some magical tuition. They made a few enquiries and eventually found a willing Thaumaturge who would teach them a new spell for a small fee. They asked what spells were available and they both settled upon an incantation that would protect them from evil beings. Happy with their evening’s tuition they reported back to the inn just as Bow finished his long day’s toil in the tanner’s yard.