Thursday, 27 February 2014

Doggerland Session 3:21 (The Broch)

The Tower in the Forest (26th February 2014)

The Adventurers
Blaise – Druid
Bow – Ranger
Cormac - Fighter
Hallan – Fighter
Joan – Cleric (not present)
Johan – Cleric (NPC’d)
Maximillian – Thief
Ryze – Magic User (not present)
Ulf – Fighter (NPC’d)
Vox – Magic User

Leaving Abiswick - Godsday 27th Quattrober (Day 32) – early morning

The motley band of adventurers decided to split up for a short while. Ryze the magic user and Joan, the cleric of Freya, decided to stay put in Abiswick for to avoid the worst of the travelling conditions; they said that they would follow on later. The rest of the party, sans Maximillian continued to head on out of the town towards Castleford.

However, before they reached the outlying buildings of Abiswick Blaise was approached by Snapdragon, the local druid. He mentioned that the druid, Arcturus, in Castleford would like him to report in for a briefing update. Blaise promised that he would call in on his master when he arrived.

The Wishing Well on the Road to Abiswick – evening

After a long and tiring journey, the party of adventurers arrived at the Wishing Well Inn; the wayside inn built specifically by the Thuringians as an overnight stopping point for merchant caravans between the towns of Castleford and Abiswick.

The inn was lively but there were just enough rooms left for the party to book for the overnight stay. Whilst they were settling down to a hot meal and ale, Maximillian turned up. He joined them at the table but did not offer up any excuse for his lateness. The party were too tired to question him and let his absence go without comment. Towards the end of the evening, a merchant in rich robes sporting a grey beard and a large paunch asked the party whether they could be hired to accompany his caravan to Castleford seeing as he knew they were going that way and they had a lack of horses. The party agreed to an early start and the offer of a few silver coins made the deal a little sweeter. The bonus was that the caravan guards also gave them protection in return.

Arrival in Castleford – Sunday 28th Quattrober (Day 33) - late afternoon

The tortuous journey through the mud and surface water took its toll on the caravan as the time it took to reach its destination was long indeed. The merchant train was only able to stop once, and that was a forced interruption to their journey when a sounder of wild boar crossed the road just in front of the lead wagon. The beasts appeared to be running away from a danger unseen in the south east.

The caravan arrived at Castleford’s West Gate where the merchant paid the party for their work. The adventurers rapidly made their way into the town through the well-guarded gates and booked rooms in the Talehangers’ Inn. Upon arrival Bow checked for any messages but he was told there were none for him but there was one or Hallan. The fighter was shocked but accepted the parchment. Upon it was written a message from Paulix requesting that the party avoid the Wynde as it was very dangerous at the moment and to not to go looking for him as he was deep under cover.

As soon as Blaise had paid the silver required for his overnight stay he made his way directly to the grove in the Upper Quarter of the town. On his journey, he pondered the reasons that a druid of such high calibre would choose to live within the confines of a town’s stone walls, but when he got to the grove for his second visit he realised that the town had grown around the grove and it had been left to the great druid’s devices. Blaise was fully aware from his previous visit that Arcturus was well-guarded by a great beast within the confines of his tree filled compound and he was reminded again when he heard it snuffling around between the great oak and ash trees within the cover of the twilight shade presumably watching his every move. He was directed to Arcturus’ small wooden cabin by the druid’s two acolytes and served some herbal tea.

Over tea, Arcturus described what the Great Druid of the Gnarley and their allies had found out about what they were facing. He mentioned that the weather was being controlled from a place set a few leagues away from Castleford. It was within a wooded area above the last river terrace of the Abis. He then mentioned that as his task was to investigate this phenomenon, he would like Blaise to hire on a band of mercenaries to stop at source the magic that was interrupting the normal course of nature in the area. Blaise responded that he knew just the right motley crew to aid him in this task. Arcturus said that they would not be paid by the Order but he would have a word with the baron Tancred for a bursary upon completion of the task and proof thereof. Blaise accepted the blessings of his superior and wended his way back to the tavern in deep thought.

Meanwhile, Bow and Max had set out to do something with the wolf pelts they had harvested from the fight a few days ago. Bow made directly for the artisan who had helped him last time and he was greeted warmly. He asked whether he could help out in the workshop again in return for allowing him time to work on his own pelts. The artisan agreed to the deal and said that he would see him on the morrow bright and early. Just before the companions left the workshop they were warned not to go into the Wynde if they valued their lives. Something was afoot in there and the rival gangs were going a lot further than they previously had; rather than a few broken heads and arms, bodies were turning up more often than before. The town watch was also leaving the place well alone unless the guards went in mob handed.

Rumbles in the Night - Moonday 1st Quinquember (Day 34) - midnight

The party settled into their sleeping pallets after a hot bath, warm food and cold beer. They had had a very tiring journey and all needed a good night’s rest. The gate curfew also seemed to spread to the rest of the town, as there were very few people abroad after the twilight hours. The party saw this as a sign to not venture out during the night.

On the cusp of midnight, just as the new moon reached its zenith the ground began to tremble and shake quite violently. Objects fell from shelves and doors rattled on their hinges. The scale of the tremor woke everyone in town as it continued for nearly half a minute. This was followed by a loud booming sound and a light from down Nulb way blossomed and grew in intensity before it faded back to black.

The whole town was woken by this event and tongues wagged for several hours before everyone returned to their beds. The town watch tripled its patrols in readiness for any other unusual events that might affect the town directly, but no more was forthcoming that night.

Things to do in Castleford - Moonday 1st Quinquember

After the unusual events of the previous night, most of the town was abuzz with rumour the following morning. The party members had a few odd tasks that each of them wished to carry out before setting off on their new quest to find the source of the unusual weather.

Cormac spent most of his day polishing and sharpening his weapons whilst Maximillian headed out to buy some adventuring equipment that he thought might come in handy on their next quest.

Bow headed back towards the artisan’s quarter and worked on Maximillian’s wolf-pelt cloak. At lunch time he quickly popped out to meet with his contact in the Hidden Dirk. The ale house was quite full at this time, so Bow had to be careful how he approached the tavern keeper. He was told that Paulix had been in there a few days previously and had gathered all the information that he had to give. He then went on to explain that because of the current troubles it would be impossible for him to carry on as an informant as his tavern was being watched. He had one piece of advice though before Bow finished his soup and bread, and that was to hide the ring he wore on his finger before it was spotted by the wrong people. Bow reluctantly thanked him for his advice and left to return to his tasks in the workshop.

The magic user Vox was also busy throughout the day. He visited his wizardly contacts in town and was able to learn a new spell from them in return for one in his own repertoire. He looked into the likelihood of lycanthropy being a real condition of man’s evil nature and was rewarded by a good look in one of the mage’s grimoires where he was able to read about them for himself. The book was a dusty old tome but it did mention what the ancestors thought about what shapes skin-changers might adopt and what their nature was likely to be. He was pleased to find out that shape changers took many forms; wolves, bears, boars and rats to name but a few, but was unhappy to learn that only silvered or magical weapons could harm them.

As a result of his research, Vox visited a silver smith to get some of his coin hoard melted down to make a cap for his staff and then quickly set off back to the Talehangers’ tavern before it got dark.

Blaise meditated upon the source of the evil weather and stood guard over Vox whilst he used his Identify spell to work out what the potion was that the leader of the brigands had carried. He found out that it was a Potion of Invisibility just before he fell into a deep swoon. Blaise chuckled quietly to himself at his companion’s lack of fortitude.

Hallan spent his day by first visiting the prime church of Sol Invictus for Castleford where he changed up the two gems found on the lead brigand’s body after the fight a few days back. He divvied up the treasure for the rest of the party and then donated a large part of his share to the church.

At the close of the working day, the party sat around in the common room of the inn and talked about the forthcoming adventure when they remembered that they had a notice of commendation for training from the town’s well-to-do denizens. The fighters in the group promptly advanced upon the castle for a few hours in the tilting yard under the watchful eye of Sir Guy; the Baron Tancred’s lieutenant.

Whilst the warriors were out practicing their swordplay, the others remained safely ensconced within the common room of the Talehangers’ Inn. They sat around and relaxed or dozed in the warm atmosphere before they spotted Snapdragon the druid looking around for them urgently. He was quickly called over to their table where he sat down and began to pour out lots of information that he had just discovered.

Snapdragon kept his attention focussed upon Blaise as he recited the information that he had received from his master, the Grand Druid of the Gnarley Forest…

He told Blaise about the last time that the Temple rose, when their own master the Grand Druid, along with the viscount of Loidis, the baron Tancred, the lady Mathilde, the canoness Y’Dey and a knight called Otis, and a few other followers and their armies put down the threat and sealed the demoness within the razed confines of the Temple. Her followers were either destroyed or scattered but she could not quite be returned to the Abyss, so the League of Veluna entrapped her within her lair behind four massive portals; the sounds from the previous night suggested that the first portal had been sundered and ruined. These portals, it was reported, can be destroyed by using four amulets that have since been lost. However, these amulets had another use only known to a select few; if they could all be brought together and placed upon a certain golden orb in the shape of a skull and then that orb was destroyed using a particular magical sword then she would be banished from this world for 666 years. Unfortunately the whereabouts of the sword, the orb and the four amulets was unknown. Snapdragon described the items in detail so that the party would recognise them if they saw them. The party realised that one of the amulets had already slipped through their fingers in the not too distant past but did not let on that information to the druid.

When he concluded his tale, he asked Blaise if he had found a suitable band for the task of destroying the source of the bad weather. Blaise said that he had and that they would set off on their quest the following day; his companions were stocking up on adventuring items. Snapdragon smiled appreciatively and asked Blaise to give him his hand. He placed a small mouse onto his palm and said that when the quest was completed or the party needed extra help he could whisper a short message to the mouse and that message would be delivered swiftly to him. Blaise thanked him for his help and at that the old druid stood up and left the companions to their own devices.

The fighters got back from their training full of vim and vigour after learning a few tricks at the hands of their mentor. Blaise explained what their task was to be and brought them up to speed with the information about the Temple.

The Old Broch – Tirsday 2nd Quinquember (Day 35) – early morning

The following morning dawned bright and sunny. The rain had ceased and there was not a cloud to be seen within the sky. Bow joked that the weather had sorted itself out so they should go claim their reward but he was soon put back into place by Blaise who said that it was just a lull before things began to get bad again.

The journey to the forest was uneventful but was still a hard slog what with all the surface water and mud still around; it would take weeks before the deluge fully dried out, and that was not factoring in any new downpours. As the party climbed the last of the river terraces they had been guided towards by Snapdragon, they noticed that the trees in one particular area were more twisted and misshapen than the rest.

The adventurers pushed through the thickets and brambles and emerged in a small glade. In the centre of the glade was a large, squat broch from the times of the Cantwaran Confederation a thousand years ago. The vitrified stone rose thirty feet into the air and the tower was about forty or fifty feet in diameter. From the few slits in the upper storeys shone a dazzlingly bright electric blue light. All appeared calm, and the tower seemed to be uninhabited at first glance.

The adventurers realised that this must be the place from the descriptions that they had been given, so advanced cautiously upon the structure. The broch was surrounded by a moat that would have been dry in ordinary weather but was now a few feet deep in water and mud, but a wooden drawbridge in good repair extended across it and provided access to a newly constructed door at the base of the tower.

The door was closed so the party spread themselves out and advanced upon it cautiously. Maximillian and Hallan made it to the door first and began to look over it for locks. As they made their search a large rock fell between them, glanced off of their shoulders and caused them some injury. They ducked under the slightly overhanging parapet in the hope that another rock would not find them, but they spotted the murder holes in the underside of the extended stone work and saw movement that foretold of more pain.

The rest of the party could not see much movement from the parapet until the rocks began to rain down in earnest. As the human warriors on the broch battlements poured forth their torrent of stony death, the rest of the adventurers either rushed the door or let loose with sling stones and arrows of their own. Johan used the power of a Prayer spell to aid the warriors and debilitate their foes, and then opened up with a torrent of sling stones aimed at the guards on the tower battlements.

Maximillian decided that the best thing would be for him to climb the walls and try to attack the assailants on their level. Bow moved up to cover him and to be ready to grab the rope that the thief would lower upon achieving his goal. Hallan and Cormac stormed open the door and found themselves in a small vestibule with another door ahead and a small recess on either side from which spears jabbed at them.

Hallan quickly downed his opponent through the hole on his side with his own spear but Cormac had a more difficult task only using his sword. The firefight outside seemed to go the party’s way as one after another of the guards on the roof fell to the onslaught of missiles provided by Johan and Blaise.

Meanwhile, inside the castle hallway, the inner door burst open and three bugbears joined the fray with their two human opponents. This fight did not go well for Hallan and Cormac as the confined space did not allow them to get to full grips with their opponents. Hallan’s injuries mounted as the melee progressed and eventually he had to step back to be healed by Johan. Blaise stepped forward to heal Cormac and cast a Faerie Fire dweomer upon the bugbears which limned them against the darkness behind and thus outlined them making them easier to hit by the fighters. He then taunted the guards above as rock after rock missed its target.

Outside, Max had made it to the parapet but the vitrified nature of the walls proved too slippery and he fell. Bow was on hand to absorb some of the impetus but both picked up several large bruises. Bow realised that there would be no ingress to the tower that way so he returned to the front doors just in time to replace Hallan who had stepped back. Vox cast a Strength spell upon Bow just before he joined the fray.

The bugbears pushed into the space vacated by Hallan which gave the party a three-on-three fight now, with the added bonus that one of Vox’s thrown daggers found its target. This marked a turning point in the combat as one of the bugbears in the broch fell to the renewed attack by Bow who had pushed a path through their opponents with his enhanced strength. The last of the rock dropping guards above was felled by a missile from Johan below.

Once Hallan had re-joined the fight after being healed, the odds were more in the party’s favour and the bugbears were swiftly cut down.

Inside the main chamber of the broch the adventurers saw that there was a stone stairway that led up to another level and another that led down into darkness. A large table loaded with haunches of meat and large flagons of a strong brew took up most of the floor space. A quick search of the room revealed that each of the small side chambers held the bugbears’ sleeping arrangements and in the northern one a large, locked chest could be seen in amongst the old furs and blankets.

A quick note about brochs and vitrified forts...

Here is a link to a website about borchs etc. on Orkney. These are what I loosely based the brochs in Doggerland upon.

Here is a nice model of what a broch might have looked like in reality. However, if you imagine that the walls are vitrified too to make climbing them more difficult then it would be closer to what I imagine them to be for gaming purposes when magic can be used in the building process.


Here is a picture of the remians of a Scottish broch. I have imagined the sides of Doggerland brochs to be more vertical.

This last picture is of a Scottish vitrified fort.

Random image of a Scottish vitrified fortress from Google images

Part of the combat has been edited to include a few more details pointed out by the players.