Thursday, 30 August 2012

March into Darkness - Session 3

Session 3: Into the Mountains (29th August 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)

Incapacitated (Year 2 Day 51)

Upon arrival at the blasted lands, Korum had taken a day or two to recover from something he had eaten. What happened to the party during those hours has been recorded previously from an extract from Rioja’s diary. Rioja meanwhile remained at the previous town to look up some arcane writings he had found.

The Village (Day 52)
Storm clouds continued to grow on the mountain tops; an ominous black brooding that had been present on the roof of the world since they first arrived in the blasted lands. Now that they were getting closer to their destination, the party of adventurers yearned for more shelter from the sight ahead of them. They spotted a settlement in the distance and decided to head towards it for a bit of rest and hopefully to find some clues about their quest, even if it was only directions to the next settlement.

Upon arrival at the large timber-walled village they noticed that there were no guards posted at the gates and the walls were in a terrible state of repair. Once inside they saw that all the villagers were extremely poorly dressed and malnourished; their houses and communal buildings were in a state of very poor repair. They sought out a tavern but not one was in a good enough state of repair that matched even the shelter offered by their camping equipment. They looked around for a town leader but upon questioning a villager found out that there was no such person and that they just managed to scratch a living from a small communal plot of land outside the village. They tried to get some answers from the villager but he said he didn’t know anything other than that they had always been poor and the storm cloud had been above the mountains as long as anyone could remember. Asked if he knew of a guide to take them to the mountains he responded that some of the children might know a way through but it would be difficult to get them to accompany the party. Asked why they didn’t just move away, he replied that they didn’t know anywhere they could go that wasn’t blasted and they wouldn’t have enough food for the journey anyway.

The party decided to move on and make camp for the night away from the village just in case the poor tried to steal their goods whilst they slept.

An Encounter by Night

The party had travelled several miles from the village towards the foothills of the mountains when they decided to make camp. They set watch as usual and made a fire to keep warm and cook their food.

During second watch, just after midnight, by the light of the moon, Knil thought he spotted some movement between a pair of smaller mounds, about half a mile away. He called for the rest of the guards to take a look but they spotted nothing. He decided to rouse everyone anyway and set off to investigate. As the rest of the adventurers awoke, he spotted a few more furtive movements between the mounds and on one occasion a small head popped up just long enough to let him know that the party were being spied upon.

Korum quickly made his way through the shadows up to where Knil was stationed and had a look. He spotted track marks on the ground but could not identify them. He decided to follow them keeping to the shadows again. He espied the prowlers again very soon, but they were much closer this time; they were definitely humanoid.

Suddenly, a bright light appeared behind the humanoids bringing them into sharp focus (this turned out to be a light spell cast by Arken). The shapes resolved themselves into human children, perhaps twelve years old and filthily dressed. Korum called out to them to not be afraid, and enticed them back to camp with the promise of food and warmth from their camp fire.

After a hearty meal, Arken asked them what they were up to. They mentioned that they were from the village the party had just left, and that they were indeed spying on the party as they saw them as mighty heroes and wondered what they were up to. Upon being asked if there was a way through the mountains, the children said that there was but it was guarded by scary monsters. The children agreed to accompany the party to the pass through the mountains on the promise of food for their village, to which the party agreed.

The Guardians of the Gates in the Mountain (Day 53)

After a refreshing sleep and hearty breakfast, the party followed the children for a few hours before the pathways became too narrow and bumpy for the wagon to move any further forward. They decided to leave the wagon where it was and carry their supplies in their packs the rest of the way. They told the children that after they had shown them the passageway through the mountains they should return that way, take the wagon with them back to their village and if it was still in good condition when they arrived back they would be rewarded with lots of food. The children agreed but said that it did nothing for their empty stomachs until then. Arken cast a few spells and conjured up several weeks’ worth of food on the back of the wagon for the villagers to have until the party returned.

Another couple of hours trekking passed when the children motioned that they had at last come to the entrance to the mountain pass. Looking over the lip of a mound, Korum saw that there was an artificially flat area before a set of huge gates set into the mountainside. Before the gates was a set of what looked like statues of men in heavy armour. Korum threw a rock to one side to attract their attention but the statues made no movement to investigate. He threw a second rock directly at the lead statue using all the Giant Strength he could muster. The rock shattered on impact but left no trace of damage upon the statue. The statue, again, did not stir. The party approached cautiously after telling the children to go back to their village now. However, after approaching the statues and glancing over their shoulders they noticed that the children were there to watch what the party did next.

Korum headed for one of the rear statues for a closer look but Bardan, patience already fraying, stepped straight up to the lead one again and struck it a mighty blow with his magical great axe. The axe head bounced off the statue leaving not a trace of the impact.

Korum completed his investigation and reported back that the armour was really tightly fitted with absolutely no gaps except the eye sockets. When he looked inside he could not see anything in there, and he could not pry the face plate open for a better look. He searched the ground and statues for traces of a trap and found that from each statue to every other one was a slight furrow in the earth creating a criss-cross pattern between them. He decided that crossing the lines might activate the guardians, so he clambered over the one nearest the left hand side of the door avoiding crossing the lines. He made it to the door which was 15 feet high and made of solid metal. On each valve there were three locks. These he investigated, noticing that they were identical but could not be opened one at a time – the mechanism would require all six locks to be turned by six keys simultaneously. Now where would he find those keys? He clambered back to the rest of the party to give them his news and they decided that they needed to spring the trap to see what happened.

Korum nimbly crossed several of the lines to the gates, and as he crossed each line, the statues at either end of that line turned to face him and half-drew their swords. As nothing untoward happened thereafter, Arken did the same on the other side; the statues did the same for him. Korum realised that something was still missing from the puzzle, so he made his way to the centre of the configuration where most of the lines crossed. As soon as he stepped onto the central crossing point all of the statues drew their swords fully and advanced upon him, something rattling in their chests at every step. Fearing for his friend’s safety, Bardan struck at the statue nearest to him, half caving in the visor on the helmet – they could be damaged whilst there was a scapegoat in the centre of the trap. Korum was coming very close to being hit by all six advancing statues, so he jumped out of the area bounded by the furrows on the floor and all of the statues returned to their original positions. The party realised they may need to sacrifice someone to spring the trap long enough to damage all of the statues.

Arken volunteered to take the central spot and proceeded to cover himself in protective magicks. He was also one of the better armoured of the party and as a result could probably soak up more damage before having to get out of there. The rest of the party arranged themselves around the six statues, each adventurer taking one each and the infantry ganging up two to one on a statue each. Arken stepped back into the centre of the trap and the statues reanimated.

The initial few hits were all in the party’s favour as the statues were unaware of them all to begin with. The statues advanced on Arken ready to chop him into little pieces. Korum managed to cause one statue a large amount of damage, so it turned on him instead and gave him a grievous wound. The little thief took more and more damage as the battle went on, but the rents he made in the armour facing him began to get bigger and bigger. The other fighters all held their own, mostly avoiding damage but scoring hit after hit upon their foes. Arken in the middle of the conflict was well protected by his god’s magic. After several minutes of gruelling combat, Bardan finally struck a blow that caused the statue in front of him to crumple to the floor. This gave him time to go to the aid of one of the men-at-arms who was beginning to struggle with his foe. The soldier had already suffered a few sword cuts but was slowly losing his battle with the statue. Bardan swung his axe at the statue but mistimed the blow; just as the man-at-arms ducked away from the statue in front of him, Bardan’s axe caught him in his side. Korum’s persistence caused the statue in front of him to crumple, but not before the heavy infantryman, swaying from Bardan’s cruel cut crumpled to the floor with another gaping wound. Bardan’s mistake angered him and he took his fury out on the statue that had injured his hireling. A few more deft strokes of his axe caused it too to crumple. Three statues down meant that the adventurers could concentrate their attacks even more and the statues all eventually crumpled to the ground, the one Knil was fighting being the final one to fall. As this last one fell, the children on the mound behind them began to cheer wildly.

Arken immediately left the centre of the trap to heal the fallen man-at-arms, barely saving his life. He also healed as many of the rest of the party as needed it. The fight had taken quite a bit out of the party, so they decided to make camp and rest up over night; Arken regaining the spells he had expended during the fight and aftermath.

Descent into the Depths (Day 54)

The following morning, the small band of heroes packed up camp and sent the boys on their way back to their village. They searched the fallen statues and found that inside the chest cavity of each one was a large key. Korum gathered them all up carefully and approached the door again. He placed a key into each lock and had one party member per key turn them. The valves swung open silently on their hinges when Bardan pushed them. Lighting lanterns and torches, the party headed into the depths.

The corridor that faced them was as large as the door and stretched on for hundreds of yards ahead. It was a natural tunnel with no sign of anything artificial. After several hundred yards, the party began to spot the occasional bone lying on the floor; species indeterminate. Further on, they began to hear a slithering, scraping sound emanating from ahead. They proceeded further along the tunnel to find that it eventually opened out into a huge natural chamber with supporting pillars made from joined stalactites and stalagmites. The slithering, scraping sound was definitely louder in the chamber and Korum, who had scouted ahead, spotted the reason why. An enormous snake was curled up in the corner of the large chamber. Without hesitation, Bardan threw one of his fire bombs at it, but this only made it angry and rear up. It let out a huge hiss and then let fly a bolt of lightning that hit the fighter square in the chest bowling him over. Knil and the two archers let loose a few shafts at the abomination, Knil scoring direct hits, and the rest of the party charged into the fray whilst Bardan regained his feet and Korum hid until he could spot an opportunity to attack a weak point.

The battle only lasted a few minutes with the party hacking away from the front and Korum, having jumped on its back delivering blow after furious blow to its neck and head. Bardan was struck a few more times before he made a telling blow causing the snake to dip its head momentarily. Arken saw his opportunity and with his magical mace crushed its skull. The snake’s eyes glazed over and it fell to the ground stone dead.

Korum scanned the snake’s nest for anything of interest but only found a hole in the ceiling through which it must have passed to get into the chamber. The party could now either continue across the chamber to exit via the passageway opposite the one they came in from, or they could investigate the hole from which the snake had emerged.

Monday, 27 August 2012

A Week Away

Last week Mrs Odo and I took the brood away for a bit of RnR. We visited Ambleside in Cumbria again. We have been to the Lake District on several occasions now as we all love it there and it is good for our household budget (renting a cottage is a lot cheaper than staying in hotels).

We did all the usual stuff for the kids including the boat ride on Windemere, a train journey on the Haverthwaite steam railway and so on, but for entry onto the blog my little historical/archaeological days out are more appropriate.

Luckily Mrs Odo was 'into' the historical stuff more this time around and I got two days out to visit sites. On the first of these two days, we managed to visit Brougham Castle (see new blog photo), Mayburgh Henge and Arthur's Round Table. On the second day we visited Lanercost Priory, Banks Tower (on Hadrian's Wall) and Birdoswald.

Brougham Castle proved to be very popular with the children as they could run around and explore the remains of a well preserved castle. Originally built in the 12th Century, it served as a border castle well into the 17th Century. Just down the road from here were a couple of Neolithic sites that I had wanted to see for decades.

Mayburgh Henge has a very impressive bank but only a solitary standing stone left in the centre. It is wierd for not having any ditches associated with it. Henges are named so because of the bank and ditch systems; Stonehenge is not actually the rings of impressive standing stones but the ditch and bank around it - the stones are supplementary to rather than the actual henge monument. That said, common parlance says that the whole monument is the henge  - who am I to argue with such impressive structures and their designated nomenclature? I will be visiting Stonehenge soon as they are redesigning the whole site for a totally new experience. Anyway, back to Mayburgh Henge, here is a picture of the standing stone that also gives some idea of the bank's size in the background. Even more impressive considering it was made of pebbles from teh local river as opposed to being dug up from the surrounding earth.

Here is a photo of the blurb associated with the site. I am not sure if I am allowed to reproduce it here, but I am using it purely for eductaional purposes - more of you out there should go visit these wonderful sites. Hopefully some of my non-UK readers will find the data of interest too.

Just down the road from the castle and henge mentioned above is Arthur's Round Table. This is a henge in the true sense of the word - banks and ditches. I am not sure if the photo below does it any favours, but I found it a fantastic monument even though it is just a series of earthworks. The large circular flat area in the centre (left of picture) was assumed to be where King Arthur jousted with his fellow knights. All poppycock of course, but a wonderful story about how people try to explain unusual formations in the landscape or stories from their past.

Lanercost Priory on our second day's worth of visits proved to be popular with the kids again - lots of room to run around and explore. It was an interesting site in that so much of it was preserved following the devastation imposed on religious houses during the reign of Henry VIII, and the fact it had the local parish church still operating within its grounds. Continuity at this site is very impressive.

Leaving the priory behind, we drove a little further up the road and called off at one of the better preserved towers that are still extant along the length of Hadrian's Wall. Banks Tower is so called due to its close proximity to Banks village a few hundred yards down the road from it. It is very small, but would have provided a small contingent of troops to patrol the wall as well as being a possible site for a signal beacon to warn of the approach of potential enemies. From a mock up of a wall tower at Birdoswald, the height of the wall and tower would have provided a difficult challenge to any who tried to cross the border at this point.

Our final destination was Birdoswald - another Roman fortress situated along Hadrian's Wall. We have been here before (last time we went to The Lakes we saw a Border Reivers show put on by English Heritage and a re-enactment society - in fact one of my previous blog title photos was of a couple of the chaps from the society having a barney). I didn't take any photos this time around as I have plenty from the last time, and I only wanted to put up details of new places I had visited. Maybe I will run some galleries at a later date of my historical and archaeological travels.

We have stayed in Ambleside on three occasions now and every time we go I try to visit the Roman remains there. Each time I always seem to miss out on them. Perhaps if we stayed somewhere else next time we visit Cumbria I would find the opportunity to go visit - it seems that if something is on your doorstep, you are less inclined to visit it as you have "plenty of time" and it is "just around the corner". I can say the same for sites local to where I live too!

March into Darkness - Session 2

I was unable to attend the last session as I was on holiday - more on that later. As a result Russell, who plays Rioja the Mage, wrote the session.

Korum was feeling rather unwell and spent the next day or so recovering in the back of the wagon. This was most likely caused by all that Elven food playing havoc with his constitution - tree leaves, bark and water seemed to be all it consisted of. No wonder Elves were so po faced!

After he had recovered, Korum managed to sneak a look into Rioja's diary. The mage was very meticulous in recording the ins and outs of his daily life. The thief copied out the most important parts, leaving out thoughts on spells, the weather and some stuff written in a wierd kind of language that must be what mages uttered to cast their spells. Still, he was getting the hang of it and reckoned he could have a good go at reading out from any scrolls that were found - magic is not only the domain of wizards!

(Following entries written by Russell, Rioja the Mage)...

From the diary of Rioja Hyrule [the day we left the Elven City]:

We left the Elven city today, and proceeded towards the mountains. Our guide is becoming visibly afraid of something; claims it’s this “master” he keeps going on about. I remain unconvinced that any such “new rising dark power” actually exists, and this is just a ruse to lure us into some trap or play some huge joke on us now we have fame.

From the diary of Rioja Hyrule [the day we were attacked by half-men]:

I bloody knew it. It was just a trap! If only Arken were to see this reason though...

During the night we were attacked by some ghastly primitive beings. I didn’t get a good look at them, just took out their leader with my Magic Missile, aided by Knil. I must say since getting that Elven bow string he hasn’t misfired once, a welcome improvement! After their leader was down the rest fell pretty easily. Unfortunately we’d lost an archer and have a seriously wounded light infantryman from the initial attack. Bardan has had words with the guard’s commander about watch procedures...

Bardan also had words with our guide. After those words had burn his feet and one of his hands to stumps all we had to show for it was that his master wants to kill us. A slight change in story from “my master wants to talk” but still hogwash as far as I’m concerned: he just lured us into a trap.

Arken, however, is convinced that this master exists, and has taken it as a personal affront on Din that this “master” has dared attack us like this. He used a Command spell to try and get the guide to draw us a detailed map to his master’s lair. Not a great success: the map just shows us in the sand, “the place where fishes are” to the right, the mountains before us, and “master” beyond the mountains... 

Finally Arken did something I agreed with and snapped the guide’s neck. Unforutnately that’s as far as we agree: I wanted to head home for a nice cup of tea and get back to reading the books in my tower, Arken re-animated the guide’s corpse and plans to march it into his Master’s lair and show him what happens when you cross Din... 

[later entry from that evening]

Around midday we came across a wood-walled village. Enquires revealed that they were trapped in servitude to this Master our guide had spoken of. Maybe there is some evil lord around here... but I still say staying at home with a good book was a better idea! Anyway we liberated the town, and warned them that anyone found not liberated when we came back would be in big trouble.

We were attacked again shortly after leaving the village. This time half men / half scorpions emerged from the sand and killed one of our light infantry almost instantly with a poison tail attack. Once again once Team Aphyros open fire things were quickly under control, and all three man-scorpions went down pretty quickly. 

Knowing the power of the poison these creatures had we tried to harvest it for use on arrows and other weapons. Unfortunately this didn’t go well, and Arken managed to get himself poisoned. It appeared Din was not favouring Arken this day, as for the first day in months he had not learnt Cure Poison as a spell... He soon fell into a stupor, so we loaded him onto the cart and set off, hoping the poison would abate.

Around evening we came across another town, larger than the last. To me it looked as if the poison was wearing off on Arken, but the others still fearred for his life and stormed into town demanding to see their healer. Unfortunately their healer turned out to be a deaf of woman who clearly had no knowledge of either medicine or magicks. She brewed up some concoction, probably just a stimulant, and claimed it had cured him. I was reminded of Professor Malbec’s course on Magickal Methodology, and could imagine him smiling at this performance and muttering post hoc ergo propter hoc under his breath. 

However the rest of the party is convinced this woman saved his life, and made a big song and dance about wanting to thank her. When she refused money they went to the mayor of the town and made sure she would be well looked after. The major himself was a horrible man, a total bigot with a disgusting prejudice against Elves!

Bigot or not though, he did have a number of books about the town, and hinted that there was information in them about the dark power that has risen in this area. As I’m forced to now accept that there is some dark power in this area, I now want to find out as much about it as possible. So while Arken leads charge to find him on foot, I will remain for some time in this town studying. The party has left me the quickest horse, Epona, who will speed me back to the party as soon as I find anything of import.



Thursday, 16 August 2012

A New AD&D Campaign

Following directly on from the previous campaign, a new threat is arising in the land of our heroes. Here is the first session of this adventure...

Session 1: A New Power Rises (15th August 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

Interlude (Year 2 Day 1)

Now that the immediate dangers from the black dragon were over, the village returned to its normal rhythms of life. Damage to the walls and gates were repaired and all of the casualties were either healed or buried accordingly. The adventurers had been together a year now. Their journeys together had taken more than 300 days, but that did not include the first five or six weeks they had travelled with the initial caravan when they first met. Adding this to the few weeks that Arken and Bardan had been together prior to meeting with the rest of the party, a year had passed.

This was now an opportune moment for the party to ask their steward if he wished to consider his position as a permanent member of the village council. He agreed to work for a 1% cut of the gross revenue of the village with the occasional bonus depending upon circumstance, and full board and lodgings in a new exchequer the party were about to build for him. He was also allowed to select an aide who could deal with the more rural side of things. That taken care of, the party knew they could now leave on future quests without having to worry about the running of their fief.

It was now that everything had calmed down that Arken dropped the bomb-shell; the Hawk was still alive in the orb and needed to be got rid of if the threat of Nephyros was to be truly deemed over. They decided that Rioja should join forces with Laerus to work out how they could achieve destroying the final aspect of the dragon. So, they took a trip into the local town to visit the mayor and his attendant wizard. Upon arrival they were quickly ushered into the mayor’s presence and offered the usual hospitality to recover from their journey. It was only whilst idly chatting to the mayor that they were informed that Laerus was away on a quest and would not be back for a few days. They said their farewells and returned to the tower in Gerudos. Rioja pulled out his ancible and contacted Laerus but the wizard could only whisper about the danger he was in and that he would contact them on his return.

Now that his hangover was well and truly over, Bardan decided to exact revenge upon the two bouncers who had dumped him unceremoniously into the horse trough. Even after a thorough look around the town he could not find them, and his enquiries fell on deaf ears. The bouncers hadn’t been seen since the day he was dumped in the trough and his threats made.

Not long after his return to the tavern, Korum received a note from Cindy, one of his working girls: “Suspicious character at the tavern.” He called over the stable boy and told him what he required of him (using any means necessary), and to report back with his findings.

The Stranger (Day 5)

One evening, a few days later, the adventurers were in Rioja’s tower having a relaxing drink when there was a knock at the door. A note, written in Cant, was passed to Korum: “Incredibly average looking. Staying at the Twister [Korum’s Inn]. Spends the day browsing the market stalls. No suspicious activity. Cindy reports he is paying for girls but just speaking to them for a couple of hours”. He stepped outside and found that Cindy was there, waiting in the shadows. She explained what the small gang of thieves were up to whilst following the new arrival and told him that the stranger was holed up in one of the rooms at the inn. Korum gave her a small pouch of gold for the information and returned to the party in the tower.

After a brief discussion, Korum, Bardan and Knil decided to investigate who this person was, but Rioja felt this was below him and returned to his studies. Arken left for his temple to prepare and pray for a speedy resolution to the Hawk dilemma.

Upon arrival at the tavern, Cindy indicated through Cant that the stranger was in his room on the second floor at the back of the tavern. The three members of the party headed up to the room and knocked on the door. The stranger cordially invited them in and they sat down to talk. From their conversation the party worked out that he seemed to be on a personal fact finding mission; he was aware of their fame and wanted to just meet them and soak up the atmosphere post-Nephyros. The party were not 100% convinced by his story so brought in Arken to attempt to see through any subterfuge. The stranger resisted all magical attempts at getting any useful information out of him. Arken realised that a stronger type of magic may be required so he headed out to collect Rioja and get his thoughts on the situation. Whilst he was away, the party managed to get more information from the stranger: he was there under his master’s orders, his master came from the Marches to the north-west, he was warning them of a new power rising – a human one this time, and he was to take all the information that he had gathered directly back to his master. Upon his arrival, Rioja questioned the stranger but realised straight away that the story just did not add up – the stranger had changed his story to tell them that his master had heard of their successful battle against the dragon, but he had taken several weeks to get there. This caused the wizard to doubt anything the stranger said and he left for his studies again. The rest of the party decided to take him at his word and let him go; but not before Korum had one of his ruffians equip himself to follow him.

A New Mission (Day 6)

The following day there was a knock at Korum’s tavern door. It was the stranger again, looking dirty and dishevelled. He said that he had been waylaid on the journey back to his master and had a new message for Korum from him. However, he would need to shake Korum’s hand to relay that message. Thinking back to the way he had disposed of the Master Thief up in the northern city he decided to take precautions. He put on a glove, but upon shaking hands nothing happened. Thinking it through, Korum went off to wash his hands and paid a visit on Arken to prepare some anti-poison spells just in case. He also sent off a runner to find out what had happened to the ruffian he had sent to follow the stranger initially. He then returned to the tavern with Bardan and Knil as his backup and shook hands with the stranger. He felt a sharp pain upon initial contact, then his arm went numb, and then his head swam with visions of a blasted plain. Suddenly the vision took him flying across the plain and up into the mountains at the distant horizon. Within the mountains the flight ended at a black keep with a black robed figure standing in front of it. Upon the figure’s head was an ornate golden crown studded with many sparkling gems. The vision ended almost as quickly as it started, leaving Korum with a numb arm and many questions.

The stranger said that now his mission had ended he would like to retire to a room and rest for his return journey the following day. Korum assured him he could have a room but set a watch upon him that would detain him if he tried to escape.

Korum’s messenger returned a few hours later with the tracker who was initially sent off to follow the stranger. The tracker corroborated the stranger’s story: the tracker had followed the stranger until he stopped to make camp. Nothing happened for a few hours, but suddenly there was a flash like lightning and the stranger disappeared, not to return. The tracker said he then looked over the camp but could find nothing untoward and no treasure, so he slept and took a second look in the light of day. He was about to return when the messenger reached him.

The Hawk (Day 7)

The following day, Laerus called at Rioja’s tower. He had returned from his travels and came as soon as he could. Rioja mentioned the party’s concern about the Hawk, and he decided to help the party as best he could. The two wizards sat down to discuss their plans whilst the rest of the party made ready for their part in the process too.

The adventurers made their way to Arken’s Temple of Din, where he had prepared an area of sacred ground within the walls of the Temple gardens. Laerus prepared to create the magical holding sphere whilst Rioja started the release ritual. He removed the orb from the holding urn and watched as it started to glow red. As the ritual progressed, the orb grew brighter and brighter until a humanoid shape appeared within the glow. The face of the Hawk appeared and the aspect of Nephyros began to smile upon its release. The smile soon turned to a look of anguish and then severe pain as red flakes of its being started to float off and reduce the Hawk from top to bottom. The flakes flowed to the upper area of the protective sphere but would diminish no further. Rioja realised that they could not reduce the aspect of Nephyros any further, so he began the entrapment spell and pulled the glowing red matter into the holding urn.

Departure (Day 8)

The inability of the two wizards to finally destroy the last aspect of Nephyros nagged upon their minds. Rioja though put those thoughts aside and started to think about the new quest. Laerus, however, was able to keep his mind focused on the conundrum, so he returned to his tower in the local town to think further on the Hawk matter. The rest of the party gathered the supplies they would need for their journey to meet the stranger’s master. They decided that for extra security they would take a few of their men-at-arms; they would also be the main security for the stranger whilst they travelled.

The party set off early the next morning and made good time, stopping at all the major towns along the way. The journey should have taken several weeks, but that was only because the stranger had decided to scout around the lands of the elves. Upon arrival at the borders, Knil negotiated an audience with the council of elders, where he was greeted as something akin to a hero. He was thanked for his part in the final battle and offered a magical bowstring that should give him better service than his existing ones. After leaving the council, he visited the families of those elves that had died at the battle – he was thanked for his kindness. However, as with all things elven, the warmth of greeting soon turned to the coolness usually offered to strangers in their lands. They wanted the party gone as soon as possible. Knil gathered up his companions and they continued on with their journey.

Travelling through the elven lands saved them many days’ travelling, and just a few more days brought them within a few miles of the coast. The refreshing smell of the sea soon turned to one of death and decay, and the forests and rolling hills of grass gave way to a blasted wasteland smothered in a blanket of smoggy cloud full of noisome stenches. The mountains from Korum’s vision could be seen far to the south and the stranger mentioned that his master’s keep was on the far side.

However, the nearer the party got to the mountains, the more agitated and nervous the stranger became. Was this through fear of his master or something else entirely?

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Khorvaire the final session

Session 17: The Final Reckoning (8th August 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

Preparation (Day 296-301)

The requests for aid were responded to during the following week. Knil received a letter and a package from the Elves which contained a new magical grip for his bow that would make his shots truer, and a message stating that a small contingent of archers would be with them within a week. A wagon was drawn up and left just outside the main southern gates of the stronghold. Korum investigated and found that there was a letter pinned to it that was addressed to him. His thievish colleagues from various towns to the north had sent him a large shipment of weapons, some low level magical, and word that their delaying tactics were taking its toll on the approaching armies – there was a large one coming from the north and a slightly smaller one from the south. They would appear at the gates in around six or seven days time, at the same time as other uprisings would be occurring throughout the whole realm. Rioja received word that Thalleus and twenty low level mages would be joining him in a couple of days and Arken was informed that an Archpriest of Din would be arriving with a handful of clerics and a dozen or so paladins to help with the defences and the healing of any who get injured in the coming conflict. Bardan kept an eye on the training of the household troops, bringing them all up to scratch, just as he received word from Tim, their steward, that he had managed to procure the services of a well known mercenary band consisting of 150 veteran warriors, and that they would appear in the next couple of days.

Plans were discussed and the various leaders assigned to their duties; the merchants, guildhall and tavern staff would act as runners and stretcher bearers. The iron golem was instructed to destroy anyone that approached the tower by any route other than the main pathway. The gates at both entrances were locked and barred with entrance now only available by the smaller sally port doors. The guards at each watchtower and along the walls were bolstered and set to watch for the enemy’s approach, especially over the weaker points of the walls where the river flowed through and the minor gateway that led to the dungeon complex.

Over the next few days, the promised aid started to arrive. They were also assigned their tasks for the defence of the village. The lower level mages were allocated to each of the ballistae to provide Mend spells and Magic Missile, whilst Rioja, the head mage and a couple of minor mages led a back-up support team. The mercenaries were assigned to the walls and towers alongside the village’s militia, and fifty were kept back as a reserve force in case of any breakthrough. The clerics were all assigned to the tower to aid in healing anyone injured, and the paladins formed a core support force for the eastern gate. The spare ballista was set up behind the main southern gate to provide a heavy weapon support in case that gate was breached. The elves were directed to provide a strong core of missile weapons, with a handful outside the boundary of the village to act as pickets and early warning.

The Battle of Gerudos Valley (Day 302)

As evening fell on the last day of preparation, the elves on picket duty reported that two large armies were approaching from the north and south. Around the same time, a band of dirty, bloodied men in light armour approached the main gates. They were a small unit of thieves tasked with slowing down the approaching enemies. They had taken many casualties, but their tricks, traps and ambushes had slowed the army down a bit. They were invited into the stronghold and sent to the inn to have their light wounds dressed and a warm meal. Just as night began to fall, the guards on the north wall called out that camp fires were being lit in the distance – the enemy had arrived.

Nothing happened during the night, but the following morning saw the approach of several siege engines and hordes of warriors towards both the eastern and southern gates. The siege army would take about two hours to arrive, but before the eastern gates appeared a small contingent from the hostile army under a flag of truce. The envoy requested the surrender of the town and all inside would be spared – all the party had to do was come outside the walls and all would be settled. The adventurers responded that they would not surrender, and did not trust the envoy. They sent out a goat as their representative to add further insult and said that the enemy would have to take the town as they would not give it up so easily.

About an hour or so later, war horns sounded and a large cry went up from the approaching enemy. The dragon cult warriors charged the stronghold carrying siege ladders, supported by a small force of archers, but then the ballistae and Elven archers opened fire. The enemy took a few casualties before they reached the gates but carried on regardless. However, they were surprised by the unexpected numbers of defenders behind the walls, and slowly they had to retreat. The siege engines closed in to make their attack, but as soon as they passed a certain point, Bardan ordered the fire arrows to target the pits of flaming oil. The fire managed to destroy several of the siege engines, and the low level mages in the ballista towers saw to the destruction of the firing mechanisms of the catapults. Only a few battering rams were now left, and these were quickly put to work on the main gates.

Fade to Black

The battle wore on with neither side gaining the upper hand or making a decisive blow. Evening approached but it seemed to be a little darker than it should ordinarily have been. The warriors outside the gates renewed their attacks and the defenders started to waiver when they saw a dark mass approaching – the Darkness had returned. Orders were barked out to start lighting fires and braziers to keep the Darkness at bay, but no sooner were they lit than they were extinguished.

An enormous gust of wind and the clap of gigantic leathery wings preceded a booming voice heard mainly in the head than by the ears, “Aspects of Aphyros come forth and meet me!” The adventurers saw that warriors on both sides of the conflict had cowered somewhat with the arrival of the dark dragon. The Darkness had reached the walls and was felling friend and foe alike, the fire in the hearts of the attacking horde soon turned to cold screams of fear and anger.

The party decided to ride out and meet the dragon at a place of their choosing outside the gates but away from the ongoing battle. They gave control of their forces over to the mage Thalleus, the Archpriest of Din and Tim, their steward. As the gates opened, the Darkness pulled back enough to let them through, but closed onto the walls again just as soon as they passed. The party headed to a clearing in the forest not half a mile away, with the Darkness dogging their heels but not attacking them.

They arrived at the glade at the same time as the great black dragon. With a final huge flap of its wings, Nephyros alighted on several large oak trees, crushing the upper boughs, and let out a mighty roar. He asked the party where he might find Aphyros skulking but the party replied that they did not know – they were more than a match for this jumped up lizard and didn’t need the good dragon’s help. This angered the proud dragon and he started to try to convince them that they were aspects of Aphyros that had to be destroyed in the same way that his aspects were destroyed by them. Arken tried to respond that they were not aspects of Aphyros but were acting under their own free will but he was struck dumb at the command of the powerful dragon lord. Nephyros leapt down from the trees to confront the upstart cleric but, angered by being struck silent, Arken swung his mace at him. He landed a solid blow, but his mace seemed to strike a solid wall of force before Arken himself was thrown back several paces by the magical recoil. Bardan had seen his companion move in to attack and he struck simultaneously, only to have the same thing occur to him. Korum, who had seen this all happen tried to hamstring the dragon, but his blow was also repulsed and he too was thrown back several paces. The dragon roared and leapt back into the trees just as the injured trio regained their feet.

Korum shouted that Nephyros was a coward and should face the party in a straight fight. At this moment, Knil launched a brace of his best magical arrows at Nephyros, but they just splintered to firewood upon impact with the magical barrier. In response, the dragon drew back his head and spewed forth a huge jet of darkness towards Arken. However, the dark breath did not reach him as it was blocked by a bright glowing barrier. Nephyros was surprised by this, but then grinned evilly as he heard the clap of another pair of enormous wings approaching the glade; Aphyros had arrived to fight the final battle. Nephyros launched himself into the air, the buffeting of his wings knocked over the adventurers, and headed directly towards the white dragon.

The adventurers realised they could play no more part in this aerial dog-fight so decided to return to the village to see if they could help out in the battle raging there. When they arrived before the southern gates, they noticed that the ground was littered with the dead and dying from the Dragon Cult horde, and the remnants of the army had started to retreat. The walls of the stockade had held up well to the onslaught of the enemy but had been damaged in a few places. However, there was still a small knot of enemy before the gates who had decided they would rather die in the service of the dark dragon lord than run away. Encouraging their horses to a gallop, the party smashed through this small knot of resistance, and headed towards the gates. The mage Thalleus ordered the gates opened and a large force of mercenaries exited and finished off the last of the evil horde.

The Final Battle

Now that the horde had been defeated, all eyes turned to the skies above. Fear was etched on the faces of all those that watched, as Aphyros dropped to the forest floor with a wailing screech, closely followed by a triumphant looking Nephyros. The party now had to make a decision. Arken made haste to the Temple of Din, and requested her aid one final time to help the white dragon. She granted each member of the party a boon that would aid them in the coming fight. Arken and Rioja were granted extra spells, Bardan and Knil were granted extra combat qualities and Korum became undetectable.

The two dragons crashed to earth about a mile from the village, so the party saddled up once more and rode out to meet their foe. They could feel the almighty struggles rumbling through the earth as they approached the scene of the battle. They got to within fifty paces only to see that Nephyros had the upper hand. Aphyros was bleeding from several large wounds and his white light was slowly dimming.

Rioja let loose with a Fireball, just as two arrows hit the dark dragon. The rest of the party moved in to strike the dragon the best they could. Korum began by slashing at the dragon’s hamstrings, causing a roar of pain to erupt from him. Bardan and Arken struck with their magical axe and mace respectively. The dragon, able to deflect his attention away from Aphyron momentarily was able to strike at both armoured warriors causing them injury. Another Fireball and magical arrow also found their mark. It was noted by Rioja that the back-blast that would have hit other party members within the area of effect of the exploding fireball seemed to be directed away from them by a barrier of white light – Aphyros was protecting them.

Another hamstring being cut by Korum, and more Fireballs hitting his upper body led to Nephyros screeching in pain and anger which was all directed at the mage Rioja. A stream of darkness was aimed at the mage causing him some discomfort, before he sent back his last Fireball. In the confusion of the melee, Arken and Bardan were unable to strike their target and Knil’s shots went wide.

Climbing up onto the dragon’s back allowed Korum to strike at another vulnerable spot. The dragon could not detect where the source of the pain was coming from, so took his anger out on those before him. Magic missiles flew in causing the dragon momentary blindness, and two more magical arrows from Knil’s bow struck true. The warrior in front of him was the easiest target, so Bardan felt the full force of the dragon’s claws and bite. Arken stepped in to heal his friend just as Korum struck another critical blow diverting the dragon’s attention away from the injured warrior. A final flurry of Magic Missiles and magical arrows made Nephyros strike back one last time, missing with his teeth and claws, and his breath weapon was diverted by a strong barrier of white light.

Fearing that he may now lose this battle, the great black dragon launched himself into the air. The few minutes of respite the party had given Aphyros, was enough time to recover some of his powers, and he too leaped into the air to catch his fleeing enemy. He pulled him back towards the ground and with his mighty jaws ripped out the throat of his eons old enemy. With a final pulse of darkness, the black dragon crashed to the earth. The damage he had sustained in the battle was too great and he slowly turned to stone. The stone image of Nephyros then crumbled to dust where he lay. Aphyros let out a huge roar of triumph; his fight was finally over.

The party cautiously approached the venerable white dragon and asked if it was finally over and whether Nephyros was truly dead. Aphyros responded that that was indeed the case, and now he must leave them to live out the rest of his days in peace. Arken asked if the party would be able to call upon him in their hour of need as a reward for their aid, but the dragon responded only that he may consider it now that his job here was completed. Aphyros called out a final farewell and flew off towards the newly risen moon.


The adventurers returned to their village to find that the clean up had already begun. Bodies were being stripped in readiness for burial or cremation, their weapons and armour being requisitioned if in good condition. The enemy were heaped onto a huge pyre but the defenders were buried within one of the crypts within the dungeon complex with full honours. The paladins that were killed were entombed within the crypt beneath the Temple of Din. Overall, casualties had been quite light for the defenders, maybe only fifteen percent, but the enemy had suffered far more heavily.

Over the next few days, the mercenaries received their final payment and headed off to adventures new. The Elves, mages, and warriors of Din all returned from where they came, and most of the thieves had already made their way back to their home guilds.

Life slowly returned to the village, and a celebration was laid on at Korum’s tavern. All were welcome and all were thoroughly entertained. However, Bardan became a little unruly and had to be physically removed – a dumping in the horse water trough brought him back to his senses and he vowed he would get even with the Halfling.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Khorvaire Session 16 - 01/08/12

Session 16: The Cult of the Dark Dragon Lord (1st August 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

A Call to Arms (Day 287)

The party’s work never seemed to be done. The threat of the dragon Nephyros would mean a continent in turmoil; bandits, cultists and evil men abroad, harassing the farmers and townsfolk of Khorvaire. The band of adventurers realised that the scale of this war would escalate, and they needed more help than just the good nature of the local town and their immediate environs. They decided to visit the mayor and fill him in on the dire situation and request his aid in the forthcoming struggle.

The mayor mentioned that there was a cult that was growing in numbers over the last year, but he thought it was just one of those “End of the World” cults so chose not to take any notice of it. He said that they preached about the coming of the end and that the cult members would inherit the world in the aftermath of the conflagration. He also mentioned that members seemed to be strong and fit – just the right type of people for an armed struggle. The party requested any form of aid he could give them and he said he would send a small armed contingent and tents for refugees, but as he would also be looking to his own defences, that was all he could spare right now. The party were grateful for this.

Knil sent out word to his Elf kin, Arken requested aid from the Temple of Din, Rioja put out the word for help to other mages in the land and Korum spoke to the Thieves’ Guild for any rumours they had heard about the cult doing the rounds.

Over the next couple of days offers of support and aid started to come in. The elves would be sending a small force to bolster the defences of Gerudos (they would arrive in about two months), and the Temple of Din promised a few clerics and paladins would arrive prepared for war. The fame of the adventurers also brought in more recruits to swell the ranks of their small militia.

Rioja started to Miracle Grow food for storage in case a long drawn out siege or war was to affect the local population – he thought two years of supplies hidden away in their dungeon complex would feed the locals in their time of need. He also grew cash crops to sell so that the heroes could hire on a small mercenary army to bolster their own small force.

Korum’s request for rumours paid dividends. The local thieves had their ears close to the ground and told him that the Cult of the Dragon, based in the woods near Darguun half a day’s travel away, was fortifying and building fortresses. He arranged for his stable boy (also a member of the local Thieves Guild) to join and attempt to infiltrate the cult. They arranged certain ways of communicating with each other that only Thieves would know about.

The Cult of the Dragon (Day 292)

Preparations seemed to be going to plan until a few days later when Korum received a request for aid from the stable boy who had infiltrated the cult. His cover had been blown and he needed rescuing – but under cover rather than a full blown military operation. The coded message also mentioned that the cult had spread throughout Khorvaire, they had accumulated vast armouries and were about to mobilise. The local cult numbered around four dozen and had occupied a few stone fortresses within the Darguun Forest. The stone fortresses were well defended both physically and magically. It appeared that the cult was also well aware of the adventurers but spoke of them with fear. Korum knew just the person to affect this rescue mission.

Bardan, in disguise, along with a couple of the local thieves joined the cult by offering their fighting abilities. They were given the same contact instructions by Korum and set off into the woods to attend one of the strongholds. Korum and Knil followed at a discreet distance and began to scout out the area over the next few days, whist Bardan and the two thieves settled in. Bardan immediately attracted attention due to his fighting prowess and was able to meet the cult’s local leader, Chamdar. Chamdar was always accompanied by three heavies, but Bardan did not see them as a threat. He would create a diversion so that the two thieves could rescue their comrade, the stable boy, and escape with as much information as possible.

The fighter managed to pull one of the cultists to one side between rituals and prayer sessions and began to interrogate him. He found out that they were due to strike Gerudos within the next couple of weeks after a long period of preparation. At the same time, other cult cells would attack other local power centres, destroying them in the process and thus paving the way for domination and the coming of the Dark Dragon Lord. In true Bardan fashion, he knocked out the follower and stashed him outside the stronghold where Knil and Korum would find him. He grabbed his robes and further disguised himself as a brother of the cult. He then returned to the stronghold in order to look for Chamdar.

It did not take him long to make his way to Chamdar’s chamber. The three heavies were standing guard outside the door. Bardan pulled back the hood of the robe to reveal who he was. One of the guards immediately cowered in fear and scuttled to the nearest corner but the other two drew their swords. In two strokes of his axe, the fight was over. He sauntered over to the third guard, knocked him cold and tied him up.

The commotion brought Chamdar to the door of his room and he stuck his head out to see what was happening. Bardan head-butted Chamdar, which knocked him out, and tied the cult leader up securely. Bardan searched the room beyond the door and grabbed a few scrolls that he thought looked important. He also found a small pouch containing 500 gold pieces. In true Bardan fashion, he set light to the chamber, picked up the leader and exited through another door in the chamber opposite the one he had entered through. This led through a maze of tunnels that exited the keep outside of its protective walls on a cliff above the sea.

Interrogation (Day 295)

The commotion caused by Bardan gave the two thieves the chance to track down the stable boy and rescue him. The flames set by Bardan spread quickly and the smoke rising from the fortress was seen by Knil and Korum. They made their way to the agreed rendezvous point and met with Bardan, who took a short while to get there due to the distance involved getting from the secret exit. They had two prisoners to interrogate, so they could now gather more information about this dreaded cult.

They took the bound and blindfolded prisoners to their dungeon complex for questioning. Normal interrogation did not seem to work upon Chamdar. He felt the pain but would not reveal any secrets of the cult. It was then that Arken released him from the spell he was under by Commanding his cooperation. This did the trick and although the party did not learn anything new everything that they had learned thus far was confirmed. Bardan was tasked with putting Chamdar out of his misery and the underling was set free to return to his cult and spread the word about how they were right to fear the adventurers and the return of Aphyros.

Everybody returned to making preparations for the forthcoming battle. The palisade surrounding the village was coming along nicely and would be finished in a few days. Korum and Bardan oversaw the final construction whilst Knil began training archers. Korum was pleased to see his stable boy was back where he belonged and the two thieves reported back to their Guild.

The party now had a fairly hefty defensive force…

An earth and wood palisade now surrounded the entire village
4 towers contained ballistae at strategic points and the main gates also had 2 ballistae
6 Ballistae with full crews were now in active service
25 drilled and trained light infantry (spear, sword, ring mail and shield)
30 competent light infantry (ditto above)
20 basically trained light infantry (ditto above)
12 well trained heavy infantry (from local town)

More patrols were set up and those on guard duty were doubled in number. They were now just awaiting the arrival of Knil’s elven kin, the paladins and clerics from the Temple of Din, the magic users who said they would aid Rioja and for Bardan to begin recruiting suitable mercenaries to aid in their defence.

The village had enough stores in the dungeon complex to feed the entire population for 2 years. Rioja had also sold enough grain for the local town to hold out for a while too. Tim, the steward, was very busy making sure that their war chest was kept topped up and the books balanced. The entire party donated all of their wealth to the project, meaning Tim had 20-30,000 gold pieces with which to make final preparations. The underground tunnel complex was also completed at last, linking Rioja’s Tower, the Temple of Din, Korum’s Tavern, Knil’s tree and the dungeon complex. The only ones who knew about this complex of tunnels were the party themselves.

The adventurers now waited for the storm to begin.