Sunday, February 27, 2011

Averlorn Campaign: The Wizard’s Tower of Zingalis

Recap from 2/18/2011

The group awakened in the woods the next day battered and bruised from our encounter with the giant stag beetles.  After some discussion, we decided to fall back to the lake and try to signal a boat to pick us up and return us to Medea’s Gate to rest and heal up from our battle with the giant insects.  Asclepius memorized the Wizard’s Spell Fly and cast it on Arceus, being the least encumbered one of our group, and he flew out over the lake in order to try and flag down a ship to come pick us up.  He went up and looked around and managed to spot a merchant ship that was traveling nearby on the lake.  As he approached the deck, the crewmen weren’t sure what to think of the flying human and had their bows knocked in a defensive posture ready to take him down upon the captain's order.  Arceus pleaded with them not to fire and told them that there was a group stranded in the woods nearby greatly in need of their assistance.

So he managed to convince the boat to come pick us up and we fell back to Medea’s Gate once again to recover from our ordeal.  After healing up and re-supplying for another expedition we decided that the group needed a bit more muscle to deal with the rigors of exploring the wilderness of the Anvil which so far, had proven quite challenging.  So we put up flyers, hired a crier and threw some money around at the local taverns to try to find some quality applicants.  We were hoping to find a ranger to help us find our way in the woods and low and behold two rangers answered the adds in seek of work!  One was a human named Taleth Flavius (a 4th level Ranger) and the other was a human female named Renna Polgar (a 2nd level Ranger) and they were hired on the spot by Sicarius and Kaira.  The other applicant was a human fighter of the Anvil named Kelemeikos the Grim (a 4th level fighter) and he was hired by Asclepius to be his henchman.

Unfortunately, Asclepius and Kaira and their new found hirelings weren’t able to accompany us on our next foray due to unexpected circumstances (the two players had to leave) and so the remaining group was bolstered by Lucias’ hirelings Brummbar the Dwarven Cleric and Cyrcla the Elf and we set off for the tower.  Once again we took a boat and had them drop us off close to where we started before and made good time through the woods to the tower.  Our load had been lightened considerably since everyone had paired down their gear in order to move faster at the urging of the Rangers.

While moving through the woods, the group spotted two Chimera off in the distance that saw us as well and started flying towards us.  We decided to try a new tactic with them that we had worked out beforehand.  Teth-en-Aire would cast Slow on our opponents (the Haste spell reversed) while the fighter kept him covered as he cast his spell and the archers would fall back to pour withering fire on our enemies with their bows.

In this case it almost worked to perfection except that Brummbar decided to stand with the Elf and the fighter in order to bolster them with his Prayer spell.  The evil Chimeras both failed their spell save and were slowed to half speed and their number of attacks were cut in half as well.  Before they could even get to the three that hadn’t fallen back, the archers managed to hurt one of them badly with arrows while Brummbar cast his Prayer spell to bolster the three of them.  At this point the Elf decided to fall back and shoot while the fighter and cleric stood their ground against the two malevolent creatures.  Unfortunately for the dwarf, they both breathed fire and he failed his breath attack save verses both of their fiery breath weapons from the dragon head (they each had three heads) and he was nearly killed.  Lucias fared better since he made his saves and was wearing a Ring of Fire Resistance.

The Dwarf fell back the next round while the archers continued pouring on the fire against the two creatures, this time with the aid of Teth-en-Aire’s bow as well.  One of the creatures was killed by the arrows and the other one tried to attack Lucias and did little or no damage.  Lucias then managed to slay the hateful beast with his enchanted sword Hope Blighter.  The cleric healed himself up and Lucias took a healing potion to restore the damage he had taken from the fiery breath of the Chimeras.  Then the ranger attempted to follow their tracks to their lair in search of loot with the rest of the group behind him.  He succeeded in finding their lair but there was scant treasure to be found there – a mere 500 g.p.

So we continued our trek through the woods in search of the fabled Wizard’s Tower of Zingalis.  At one point we came across a Pegasus (a flying white horse) and tried to befriend it but it flew off seeming to have no interest in the group.  Eventually, we made it to a clearing and came upon what was obviously the Wizard’s Tower of Zingalis.  The tower itself was of an odd geometric shape and looked more like a giant obelisk than a tower and sat upon a raised hillock of sorts.  The tower was surrounded by a circular black basalt wall with at least one gate that we could see.  To the left of the tower and outer wall in the clearing was what appeared to be a large Temple of some sort.

Upon closer observation with the Eyes of the Eagle, the temple appeared to be a temple to the gods with statuary and a pool in front of the entrance.  The statues were of an archaic style and simply carved and one looked to be a wizard with ram horns holding tablets with three acolytes beneath him that appeared to be beholden to him and looking up from a prostrate position.  It was about this point that Arceus saw the Cyclops for the first time using the Eyes of the Eagle.  He appeared to be sitting off to one side of the tower within the outer wall next to a small pile of creek rocks and keeping a lookout in the direction of the temple.

We decided to get a closer look at the temple and tried to stay out of site of the Cyclops by staying in the woods and keeping the temple between us and the tower.  We crept up to the side of the temple and Arceus and Sicarius snuck around the corner to peak inside of the open doors.  They heard what sounded like multiple large creatures breathing and managed to glance into the structure and thought they saw a large lizard type creature of some sort.  They didn’t see any Cyclops tracks outside of the temple but did get a better look at the statues.  The ram horned wizard was undoubtedly Zingalis and the three prostrate figures below him appeared to be orcs that were beholden to him.

So the group snuck back to the edge of the woods and decided to try to get a closer look at the tower itself and the Cyclops.  We stayed well within the tree line and circled around to the right side of the tower where we spotted a group of twelve or so orcs that were keeping an eye on the tower and the Cyclops from the edge of the woods.  Three of their number appeared to be the larger “black” orcs which were undoubtedly Zingalis’ special breed.  Since we saw them before they saw us we had surprised them and Cyrcla cast a sleep spell on them which knocked all but one of the black orcs unconscious.  The rest of the group peppered the remaining conscious orc with arrows and swiftly killed him.  We went to their position where the elves and rangers showed the sleeping orcs no mercy with their blades and then we took what scant gold they had.

We saw another gate at the second cardinal point on this side of the circular outer wall that led into the complex as previously described by Ornascar.  The gate was barred by iron bars and appeared to go into the labyrinth beyond rather than into the open courtyard within the circular outer wall.  This meant that the courtyard itself where the tower was located was actually a terrace level that was above the level of the labyrinth below.  The wall appeared to be about 20’ tall and the Cyclops was about twice that high with the tower sitting on the raised mound of earth well above the height of both.

We continued circling around through the woods sending the rogues out at the third cardinal direction of the circular outer wall were they spotted yet another gate.  Since the Cyclops was sitting on the opposite side of the tower from us at this point, we decided to move towards the wall and gate to get a closer look.  As we approached the wall we noticed some levers on the gate and a metal platform in front of the gate made out of some odd and unknown type of metal.  We also noticed on the wall there was what appeared to be an eye like orb that was rotating around and following us as we moved.  Sicarius moved up to the wall and tried to climb it but failed his climbing role and fell back down taking a little bit of damage.  He said the wall had some kind of slick coating on it and was exceedingly difficult to climb.

So we followed the wall around to the fourth cardinal point and noticed that the fourth gate had been smashed in apparently by the Cyclops.  There was also a large tree next to the wall that the giant had been using as a stepping stone to get over the wall in and out of the terrace area inside.  So we decided to explore the labyrinth beyond the smashed gate.  Inside was a long hallway containing a large door at the end and another statue of Zingalis off to one side.  He was holding a tablet in his hands with a series of commandments from the gods on it.  To the right of the tablets there were three holes in the door that appeared to be key holes of some sort.  There was also another eye like orb with a slit in it that appeared to follow us as we moved around in the hallway.

There was also what appeared to be a permanent sleep spell in the hallway.  The Ranger and Cyrcla both fell asleep repeatedly even after the others woke them up since they were both at or below 4th level and still susceptible to that spell.  The rest of the group backed up away from the door with the two unconscious henchmen and the two thieves started investigating the key holes on the door.  That’s when Sicarius set off the magic missile trap – he was hit with two missiles and even Arceus who was standing further back was hit with one.  So they were a little singed at this point and Arceus took a closer look at the door and realized that it was a fake door and nothing more than a magical trap that set off the magic missiles when tampered with.  They fell back a bit and searched the hallway along with the rest of the group and we found a secret door.  We decided that our scouting mission was complete at this point and began our trek back to Medea’s Gate since we barely had enough food to last us for the trip home.


Averlorn Campaign: Of Wizard's Towers and Giant Beetles

Recap from 2/11/2011

After several setbacks at the Maw of Torment, the adventuring group decided a change of scenery was in order.  After some discussion we decided to seek out the Wizard’s Tower of Zingalis near the headwaters of the Lady’s Finger River, a tributary of the Dormant Lady Lake to the northeast of Medea’s Gate.  We sought out the sagely wisdom of the Wizard Ornaskar the Intrepid in his tower on the outskirts of the town of Demeteros to see what additional information he could tell us about the tower of Zingalis.  We have discerned that poking around in old wizard's towers without any knowledge of the place could be a risky proposition as the original occupant could still be residing there and quite unhappy about this unless he is known to have died long ago.

So when we arrived at his tower, he offered us some wine of a fine vintage as was his custom.  It has become obvious that he is a heavy drinker as every time we met with him he appeared to be imbibing heavily.  His friend Obberon even called him "Ornaskar the thirsty" as a jest which is not far off the mark.  The first thing he said in casual conversation before we even asked him about the tower was to offer Lucias a large sum of gold for his enchanted sword Hope Blighter - over 20,000 gold pieces!  This was a very surprising offer and caught Lucias a bit off guard and immediately raised suspicions about Ornaskar's motivations and trustworthiness with information he was providing us with.

Lucias had previously approached the wizard about doing some research on the sword to see what other magical abilities might be re-activated on it if one were to find the right gem and replace the gem that was added later to it when the original gem was lost or removed (see recap entitled "Hope Blighter").  At the time, he said it was some "trivial" extra magical ability or abilities but that one would have to travel to Tarterus (where the Titans are imprisoned) to find the appropriate gem to activate it.  Once found, the gem would have to be affixed to the sword by an Elven smith of named level and the appropriate incantation would have to be recited to complete the enchantment.  At the time it seemed like an awful lot of trouble to go through to activate one or two "trivial" extra abilities so Lucias didn't think much more about it.  It now appears that Ornaskar wants the sword for himself after discovering what these potential abilities are through further research or he doesn't want Lucias to add the extra ability for some reason.  Or perhaps he wants to fix it up himself and sell it for profit.  Who knows what he wants and the motivations of wizards are always a mystery but  Lucias does not trust him anymore after this little bit of chicanery.

When asked about the "trivial abilities" that the sword could potentially re-acquire he was tight lipped about it and wouldn't divulge any more information despite the fact that he had been paid to give us this very information.  Lucias then asked him how much money he would require to tell him what the extra ability or abilities were and when he replied he named the same outrageous sum as had been mentioned before for purchasing the sword (like 22,000 g.p. or something).  It is now obvious that the group can't trust Ornaskar and his sagely advice as it appears he is putting his own interests ahead of those of the group by not being forthcoming with this information.  Wizards are notoriously competitive with other wizards and those with wizardly abilities such as Elves and this case appears to be no exception.

After this surprising and unexpected conversation, he did give us some information about the Wizard's Tower of Zingalis.  He told us that Zingalis was believed to be dead for a long time – at least 100 years or so.  He went on to say that he disappeared and was presumed dead when in his late 60’s or 70’s and was last seen by one or some of his students.  Zingalis was known to run his apprentices through a cruel and merciless gauntlet as part of their training and initiation and he was also noted for his sadistic sense of humor.  This rigorous and often deadly preparation for his student was born out of a desire for his apprentices to be of the highest capabilities and for them to be a cut above the mages of the Dominion.  He was also known to be a transmuter and creatures found within his labyrinthine halls were often a combination of several different creatures including his specially bred orcish house troops which were a more powerful breed than the common variety.

Ornaskar also said that getting into the tower was exceedingly difficult.  The defenses consisted of a circular outer wall with four entrances into the labyrinth beyond and past the wall was a dry moat with the main tower in the middle sitting upon a raised hillock.  In their younger adventuring days, Oberon Remik and Ornaskar and some others tried and failed to gain entry into the tower and things didn’t go well when they were attacked and driven off by a Wyvern.  More recently, we were told by an adventuring Monk in Medea’s Gate that there was a Cyclops that had taken up residence at the tower.

So the group bought supplies and equipment and set out to explore the mysterious wizard’s tower.  We took a boat a ways up the Lady’s Finger River to shorten the amount of overland travel required and they put us on the river bank so we could follow it to the tower without getting lost in the woods.  After traveling about four hours, the group entered an area containing a number of large stones.  Then inexplicably the stones started moving!  The group realized to our dismay that they were in fact not stones at all but nine giant stag beetles!  These things were huge and menacing but we thought we could handle them and a savage melee commenced.

The two thieves wisely climbed trees nearby to get out of the path of the giant insects and gain sniper perches for their bows.  Rekk and Lucias braced themselves for the charge with the others behind them.  Teth-en-Aire started off the fusillade with a fireball which burned a number of them badly and the other arrows from our archers killed three of them before they got to the rest of the group.  Three of the remaining six beetles attacked the human fighter Lucias and two attacked the stout dwarf Rekk and the other one that remained went after Asclepius and Kaira standing behind the two fighters.  In the ensuing melee, Lucias, Rekk, Asclepius and Kaira were wounded badly (two shields were splintered to fend off savage blows) but the group managed to slay the giant beetles especially with the aid of the two thieves who moved in silently for backstabs at the end of the combat.

Needless to say, we were pretty badly chewed up at this point and decided to fall back to heal up, rest and re-group.  Four members of the group were hurt badly and two had lost the use of their shields so we looked for a defensible location to spend the night.


Tomb of Abysthor: Epilogue

Recap from late 2005 to early 2006

During the parley with the Evil Elven Sorceress, she agreed to let us pass through her domains if we would help her to defeat her enemy, a rival litch wizard.  So after passing through her domains, we entered his realm and battled through a large group of stirges amongst other foes.  We eventually came across a large group of Priests of Orcus (around seven or so) that were obviously scouting out this area in an effort to strike a bargain with the wizard litch thing.  We had a Wood Elf Grugah warrior wizard with us at the time who cast a Web spell on the evil cultists (Holzabog was once again not present) and the group easily killed them.  Later, we entered a permanently darkened corridor and were attacked by a group of albino apes that hurt us pretty badly because we couldn't see them as they attacked us in the dark but we managed to persevere against them.  We never found the wizard litch thing but we did manage to get through his domains eventually and on to other areas of the tomb.

Later, the remaining knights of the Bitter Rose returned to the locked door on the second level of the Tomb to battle the remaining cultists but found the place eerily quiet and cleared of all of the bodies.  The only evidence of the previous battle was the blackened, scarred and burned walls and doors in the hallway from all of the fireballs.  They proceeded down to the end of the hall and entered a chamber that had several tapestries hanging on the walls.  Their numbers were few at this point - the paladin was in the process of being resurrected after having been killed in the previous battle.  The primary player character group had fallen back to Rahanna to recover from getting burned by the fireballs of the Sorceress previously so it was only a group of four knights and four of their henchmen (also knights or mercenaries).  In addition, the necklace of fireballs was exhausted at this point so they had no wizardly assistance whatsoever and the only spells they had at their disposal were of a clerical nature.

From behind one of the tapestries came a Wraith, followed by a Mummy and then followed by a Banshee!  This was not good news for the under strength Knights of the Bitter Rose.  The four henchmen all failed their save verses fear from the mummy and fled and then several attempts to turn the undead failed as the desperate knights fought for their lives.  Jean Paul tried to cast his Silence spell on the Banshee but since it was incorporeal it ended up getting cast on the floor instead of on the creature.  The banshee's wail was delayed for but a round and the next round it moved out of the radius of the Silence spell and let out its horrible scream.  All four player character knights failed their save and were instantly killed on the spot including Harold, Jean Paul and Dirk Masters. We found out from the GM later that the head priest of Orcus was standing behind a secret door and peering through peep holes behind one of the tapestries and had summoned the undead to slay the knights.  That encounter was payback to the Knightly Order for exacting such a heavy toll on the cult in the previous battle using the necklace of fireballs.  The knights fell back to their order to lick their wounds and did not return to the Tomb after that.

In further adventures in the Tomb of Abysthor, the group kept pounding on the remaining priests and minions of the Temple of Orcus on the second level.  The first time the adventurers entered the primary Temple itself was an eerie experience.  There was a large cavernous area filled with undead of various types and a large statue of Orcus in the center of the cavern with the actual temple behind two heavy bronze doors off to one side.  The group made their way through the cavern to the Temple and entered through the doors and was immediately confronted by numerous cultists and minions including a very large demon.  A pitched battle ensued but we were forced to withdraw due to overwhelming odds.  It was a successful recon in force of the Temple though and we were better prepared the next time we entered.  On the next foray Brundel managed to send their pet demon back to its original plane of existence when he cast the cleric spell Dispel Evil on it.  Their numbers continued to dwindle and we had a feeling that we had finally tipped the balance after that encounter.

In the final battle in the Temple of Orcus the group went in with Holzabog the Wizard who cast Invisibility 10' Radius on the entire group to keep us concealed from our foes until we were ready to strike.  Once we opened the doors we had a fairly large combat where we managed to kill most of the remaining priests and minions of the cult.  Then the wizard finally slew the Head Priest of the Temple of Orcus who was still standing defiantly up on his alter with a couple of other lesser priests.  Before casting his Lightning Bolt spell to finish him off he said "this is for all the pain, suffering and hurt you have caused to the people of this world" and then the cult was finished.  Our moment of victory was finally at hand after a long and brutal war of attrition against the Cult of Orcus in the Tomb of Abysthor.

We continued exploring the complex and eventually found a passage hidden in an underground river area that led to a level we had never been to before that was crawling with giant frogs.  We found out later there was yet another cult there of frog men that were worshipers of the evil demon god Tsathoggua.  We skirted this cult for the most part not wanting to get embroiled in another war against yet another evil cult and eventually found the lower levels below.

In one of these areas we were teleported into a maze and trapped there and had to answer three riddles asked of us by the gate guardian which was a giant sphinx.  We answered the riddles successfully and it let us escape the maze through the magical portal.  On one of the deeper levels we discovered a cavern guarded by a couple of Xorn which allowed us to keep some of the gems and precious metals contained therein after we solved some riddles having to do with colors.  There was platinum and gold in abundance and a wealth of gems in the cavern.  After this we found the Earth Blood Chamber where Brundel was told by his god Kaz Grimmle, the elemental god of fire, to swim in the earth blood.  This gave him great strength for a time and he used the gift of his god later to restore the Temples of Pavaline and Oltherion on the surface above to their former glory.

Eventually, we made it to Abysthor's Tomb itself where we found the priest still alive but trapped in a giant crystal prison.  Apparently, he had sacrificed himself to stave off a great evil and keep it from entering our world but his spirit could not be freed and he was not strong enough to close the gate unless someone of his alignment was willing to sacrifice themselves by joining him in the crystal.  The only one of our group that was Lawful Good was Holzabog the Wizard and he was not willing to sacrifice himself for such a cause because he was a mighty and powerful wizard of the Order now so we left him in his tomb to guard against the evil and thus completed the adventure.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tomb of Abysthor: The Unseely Sorceress

Recap from 10/28/05

The session began with a discussion on where we wanted to explore in the Tomb of Abysthor next.  It was a truly massive complex and there were lots of areas we had been to but not fully explored and a few areas that were as yet untouched by the group.  Holzabog once again said that he wanted to return to the Order to get more spells and would certainly not miss the tomb if we never returned. We discussed tackling the cave morays, anhkhegs and  whatever was turning people to stone in that cavernous area of the dungeon and decided that it would be better to take that on when we had more muscle available since both Korhill and Patches were currently not with us.

After some debate we decided to try to take out the evil Elven sorceress in her lair once again.  The first time we tangled with her was the session where she hit us with one of her fireballs and most of the characters lost most of their hit points after we rejected her offer of parley but fortunately none of the player characters were killed.  We were all hanging on by a thread at that point and had to fall back and heal up so we were pretty bent on getting even with her after that.  Needless to say, we probably should have left her alone after the first time and did leave her alone after this session.

Brundel would have rather gone into the lair a little better prepared spell wise but both he and Holzabog still had a fair complement of spells to choose from.  We discussed a plan and came up with this one:  Brundel and Holzabog would hang back a little from the group (just at the edge of sight) while still invisible. The rest of the group would go in with a coin with silence on it and try to draw her out while the two spell casters covered the group's back.

Unfortunately, as always seems to happen with any plan we came up with it began to unravel almost immediately. Shortly after moving through the room at the bottom of the stairs Brundel noticed another tunnel in that room which had an invisible wall concealing it. He thought that maybe she could be hiding in there and decided to wait for a minute (six rounds) in case she came out instead of following immediately behind.

Meanwhile, the group went past the room with the mist, down the hallway and through a new illusory wall that looked like stone that led into the chamber where she previously had her wine and water. Everyone in the group at that point had to save verses paralyzation from a glyph placed above the door. Miles was the only one who made the save and Cairie was not affected because of her Ring of Free Action. She decided at that point to press on with Miles to the room with the chests and leave the two paralyzed characters behind (big mistake). The two of them proceeded into the room with the chests and both failed to save verses blindness from a glyph over that door - they were in the dark and in danger of knocking over the magical components and equipment in the room while fumbling around in it.

Meanwhile, Brundel and Holzabog got past the room with the fog with Brundel leading the wizard trough the darkness. Before proceeding down the hallway beyond the first invisible wall Brundel poked his head through it to see if the witch was hiding behind it. At this point he realized that the mist didn't affect his sight - his darkvision allowed him to penetrate the mist unlike the rest of the group. It was obviously some sort of darkness spell that she was hiding in.

About fifteen feet down the hallway and clinging to the ceiling was our unseely friend. She hadn't seen Brundel at this point because he was invisible so he cast produce flame and threw the flaming missile at the witch dealing out a small amount of damage. This caught her completely off guard since she didn't know we were there. She cast silence (a cleric spell?) on the spot where we were standing. Brundel grabbed Holzabog and pulled him into the mist below and behind her to get out of the range of the silence. Since he couldn't see anything Holzabog cast a light spell.

The next round she scurried on the ceiling away down the passage to the "T" intersection. Holzabog blindly tossed a 2 die sharks tooth fireball down the hallway since he couldn't see her to target her with a more powerful fireball or lightning bolt. Brundel tried to dispel her spider climb but failed the intelligence check to do so. She turned the corner and disappeared. Brundel gave chase and saw two zombies guarding the door to another chamber where he assumed she had retreated. We fell back to find the rest of the group.

What we found in the room past the illusory stone wall were the charred corpse of Ian of Avondale and a very badly singed knight who was still barely conscious.  Brundel cast a heal spell on the knight and went back into the hallway to guard against the witch. Meanwhile, Holzabog and the knight went down to the lab room to see what happened to rest of the group.  He found the other two blindly fumbling around in the room. At that point the other knight began busting open chests and discovered a large quantity of loot consisting of five potions, bolts of expensive silk, expensive furs, a lot of coinage and some jewelry.

They proceeded to loot the room of its contents.  Meanwhile, back in the hallway Brundel saw two zombies in banded mail and curved swords approaching and heard a familiar voice. The little elf woman said "there is no doubt that your friends are stealing my belongings right now" or something to that affect. As she was attempting to parley Brundel turned her two zombie escorts. She said "that wasn't very nice" and Brundel ran back to the lab room to get Holzabog. We used the dust of disappearance to turn invisible again and scouted the hallway ahead - her two zombies were now guarding the "T" intersection down it a ways so we assumed she had retreated to her lair.

At this point, we looted the charred remains of the fallen Ian (Brundel wasn't concerned about him being reanimated because there was almost nothing left of him). We gathered up the loot and our blinded companions and once again fled the tomb and fell back to the shrines.

It is now apparent that the unseely sorceress is in fact not a witch at all but a priestess of Malabar and a sorceress. This gives her a potent combination of cleric spells and sorcerer spells including the ability to heal herself and control undead. The fireballs that she tossed at the two in the room were a pair of eight die fireballs - that means she is at least an eighth level sorcerer plus whatever her cleric level is. She is a formidable opponent and now that we have stolen her treasure Brundel thinks she is best to be avoided - she tried to parley with us twice and we rebuffed her. I don't think she will be as kind the next time. Not that toasting us with fireballs is kind or anything - she was clearly holding back and more than a little afraid of the Mage of the Order and the Scion of Kaz Grimmle despite the fact that we barely scratched her.  The fact that Brundle could see into her mist was probably a bit unsettling to her.

So ends the life of Ian of Avondale. We will miss his Bardic Knowledge rolls and the merry music that he used to entertain us with.  Despite the loss we came out of there with a considerable haul of loot and potions. Also, the quiver of Elhonna survived the fireballs along with Ian's Ring of Protection, the pattern welded broadsword and the dwarven chainmail.

Tomb of Abysthor: Assault on the Temple

Recap from 10/7/05 session

We started the session off with a direct frontal assault on the Temple of Orcus on the Second level of the Tomb of Abysthor.  The assault group consisted of the original player characters and the Knights of the Bitter Rose so it was a pretty formidable force although the wizard Holzbog was not present.  The plan was to go down through the locked door to the stairs leading to the second level and hit the cult hard with the combined force.  The plan immediately started to fall apart when the bard, Ian of Avondale, was blinded by a blindness glyph of warding placed near the door before we even descended the stairs.

We pressed on boldly and immediately ran into a group of skeletons and zombies and then the alarm was sounded and cultists and their minions started pouring out of the doors in the hallway below.  A savage melee commenced with both sides throwing spells at each other, engaging in melee combat and firing missiles as the group tried to turn some of the undead.  The cleric Harold had a necklace of fireballs and started throwing fireballs into the rear ranks of the cultists and their minions which either singed or took out some of their numbers.  We also had a coin with the spell silence cast on it and when the cultists started trying to cast spells, we threw it down the hall near where they were standing to shut them up and keep them from casting spells at us.

One of the players had to leave at this point and then we had three more cultists thrown at us which Harold toasted with one of the lesser fireballs (the six die one).  They promptly withdrew after being burned badly and then we were assailed by a large group of Ogres (six or seven) which fortunately couldn't all attack at once.  One of the four or six die fireballs cleared the hallway of all but one of them except the one wearing plate mail at the front.  Jean Paul managed to retrieve the silent coin as we advanced and he picked it up and threw it down the hallway past the ogre.

After that, the burned cultists returned along with four of the more powerful cultists in the back.  The burned guys moved into the area of the coin and couldn't cast spells for a little while because of the silence spell.  The clerics were accompanied by more undead of course including a shadow which one of the newly arrived more powerful clerics had summoned.  At one point the powerful priests cast some spells at the Paladin, Miles and Harold which effectively held them and did damage at the same time (some kind of signature spell).  John Paul managed to free Miles from the spell with a remove paralysis and Dirk went for the necklace of fireballs that was still on the held Harold.

Meanwhile the Paladin was getting pounded on by the zombies, the shadow and the ogre while he was defenseless.  Harold managed to turn the shadow and it fled.  By the time John Paul was able to get to the Paladin, he was at or below zero hits and when the cleric holding him was hit by another fireball, the spell was broken.  He was in bad shape though and John Paul started dragging him out of there so he could heal him without having him take any more damage.

Meanwhile, Dirk Masters was toasting the senior cultists in the back with the shark-tooth necklace of fireballs.  He hit them with an eight die fireball first doing 37 points of damage to those that were not fortunate enough to make a Dex save - this included two or three of their number.  The next fireball (a four or six die affair) killed a couple of them and took a few of the last ones hit points down by 45 or so (close to death – they were extra crispy).  Harold got free from the Hold spell when the evil cleric got toasted and he was back in action.  They just kept coming until we were down to the two die fireballs.  Dirk kept witling them down with the fireballs while the rest of the group held off the mob.  Harold landed his silence spell on the last senior cultist in the back who couldn't cast any more spells at that point. 

Unfortunately for the Paladin, Dirk rolled a one on the last two die fireball and dropped it right next to him.  The Paladin was killed so John Paul got his body out of there to prevent him from being reanimated later.  Meanwhile the rest of the group fought off the last of the cultists and undead (there were only three cultists left standing at this point) and defeated them in vicious hand to hand combat.  Fortunately they were out of spells at this point and fell in a savage fury of blows.  Towards the end Harold cast his prayer spell in the final melee to bolster his allies and deter our foes.

We managed to kill around twelve or so cultists total (I counted at least ten), around eight ogres and countless zombies and skeletons (around twenty to thirty).  If you add these cultists to the ones killed in the previous foray we are up to eighteen total killed while only losing one of our number (the Paladin).  I guess technically the score is eighteen to three if you count the loss of Syng'l, Hammersmith and the Paladin.  At this point the group is falling back to the shrines to get reinforcements and will be promptly returning to the tomb to finish the job and destroy the altars of the Temple of Orcus.

It was a hell of a fight - non-stop melee for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.  So much for the plan, it fell apart pretty quickly when Ian was taken out of the combat by the blindness glyph.  The silence coin did come in handy though at a key moment and the other silence spell effectively took the last powerful cleric's spell casting ability off of the table.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tomb of Abysthor: To Flee From Shadows

Recap from 10-2-05

Cairi started out exploring the tunnel beyond the wall beyond the Ankheg pit and single handedly took on four skeletons quickly dispatching them with Ian backing her up. The rest of the group remained in the cavern where the ankheg pit was and kept an eye out down the hallway for the cultists in case they should decide to pursue and on the ankheg pit lest the sorceress or something else should crawl out of it.

It appeared as though Cairi was bent on suicide. When she was searching the rat tunnels she continued fighting the rats and wanted to explore further but all she found was more rats to chew on her. Coupled with having contracted the bubonic plague or something the cleric was sure she would have found more of the same and convinced the over inquisitive little girl that perhaps there was more treasure down the main hallway than there was in the rat warren. She eventually agreed and went forward into the next room where she ran into a large group of shadows. Since she was first into the room they all pounced on her and almost succeeded in turning her into one of them draining her strength tremendously. She promptly disengaged from combat and withdrew as far as she could running for her life. The group tried to take them out as they passed and managed to kill a couple of them as they attempted to finish off their victim and add to their number. Fortunately, Holzabog hadn't used his last lightning bolt and dispatched them before they could finish their work while Cairi managed to dodge out of the way of the bolt for half damage. Had she failed that roll she would have been one with the dark side.

Even after nearly dying and contracting the rat plague, she insisted on trying to open the door beyond the shadow lair. The group literally had to drag her out of the room to keep her from trying to go beyond the door because most of our spells were exhausted and we still had the body of the witch protector to return to Maeve.  The cleric thought that maybe she felt guilty about leaving her family the way she did and was bent on suicide by the way she was acting.

Back in Rahanna Brundel gave the gift of the dwarvish axe to the Duke to attempt to win his favor and be allowed to have access to their forge. Unfortunately, Niles Digby was there whispering into the Duke's ear obvious falsehoods about Brundel's motives as to his presence in the fortress. Ian the Bard helped out with most of the audience in explaining that we merely wanted to be able to visit the dwarves, help them tend their fire for the Duke and gain there services from time to time. Brundel eventually spoke and told them that the boon he asked for the gift was that he be allowed to serve the Duke by helping the dwarf craftsman out when possible (being a metallurgist) and to have access to their services when necessary. He also stated that he had no interests in the affairs of men and that he was not a spy for the king as he heard had been alleged.

Unfortunately, Niles Digby thought otherwise or somehow felt threatened by Brundel as a rival and continued to ply the Duke with scurrilous lies. The dwarf thinks that this Digby character is up to no good and possibly has evil motives. Ian found out from the bard at the Bag of Nails Inn (the high class courtesan establishment) that Digby was suspected of practicing sorcery and that when he goes out on the town he has unseen protectors watching over him sent by the Duke. Brundel thinks the Knights of the Bitter Rose may be interested in what he is up to - it may be worth it to have their Paladin see if he is in fact evil. He obviously has undue influence with the Duke possibly gained from his sorceress powers of persuasion. For all we know he could be allied with the cultists which would make him our mortal enemy...

Part 2 of 2 (written from the perspective of the Dwarven Cleric and Elementalist Brundel Kragenash)

Tomb of Abysthor: The Burial Crypts

Recap from 10-2-05 (written by Curtis)

We played team A (Brundle, Ian, etc), since we were still in the dungeon having fled from the cultist's hideout behind the big bronze door. The plan was to just play it by ear and see where things went. Our intent was to explore other parts of the dungeon that "didn't move the plot forward" so to speak.  We also decided that we would end up going back to Rahanna for rest and resupply afterward.

We went back to the Ogre's lair to retrieve some of the items in its cave that were left from our last visit. We took some mundane stuff and gave a two-handed sword to one of Maeve's fighters who lost his axe in the battle with the cultists. We found some dwarven chainmail that needed repair but otherwise was in good shape. We greyhawk'd the room and went back to the area of the ankheg pit to explore the cliff face that went up.

Cairi hopped up the ledge using her ring of jumping and tossed it down to Ian who followed behind. The cavern split into two and to the right the room ended in a small tomb with four wooden sarcophagi. When she entered the room four skeletons emerged and attacked. Ian joined her soon enough after he heard her engage in combat and together they dispatched them. She noticed some strange stone amulets with the symbol of Baazul on them around their necks. She couldn't break them with her hammer, and all four skeletons wore one so she took them all. There was nothing else in that room so the party proceeded up the left hand tunnel which catacombed a little bit and opened up into an area with narrow rat tunnels. Cairi searched the rat tunnels convinced the rats would have precious little baubles hidden away in them.  She crawled into the closest tunnel and found no rats in it but did find a swarm of rats in the one on the other side.  She fought and killed twelve rats but got chewed up pretty good in the face fighting in the narrow corridor. She wanted to clear the rats out to see what they might have in their nest, but the party grew bored with her shenanigans and made her come out of the hole. Brundle was certain that she'd probably contracted some kind of disease to boot.

The hallway ended with another cliff going down about 10 feet into a fairly large room with six sarcophagi like we found in the first room.  We were pretty certain that these would have skeletons in them and Cairie pulled out her weapons and hopped down into the room where she was promptly attacked by two shadows! She hopped back up and then seven shadows emerged - two man-sized shadows and five shaped like rats. Brundle attempted to turn them to no avail and they all attacked Cairi who was by this point becoming greatly concerned for her life. Holzbog, to his credit, kept throwing fireballs from his necklace but a couple of them were real duds. Cairi fled for her life with three strength and twelve hit points back down the hallway with all seven of the shadows in tow.

The shadows pursued through the rest of the party who took ample attacks against them as they fled past and managed to dispatch three of them.  Holzbog, quickly tried to assess her physical state by questioning Brundle to see how well she fared. Holzbog decided that Carrie would rather die than be a shadow and launched a lightning bolt down the hallway for twenty four points of damage. She made her save and ducked out of the way of most of the electricity and only took half damage from the magical bolt.  He managed to kill all the shadows with the bolt of electricity.

The party explored that room after the cleric managed to bring Cairi back to consciousness. They noticed a door on the far side which Cairi foolishly tried to open but it was locked. There was nothing else in the room. After this we left for Rahanna.

Part 1 of 2 (from the eyes of a little girl...)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Tomb of Abysthor: The Cult of Orcus

Recap from 9/23/05

We started off by talking to Maeve to do a little trading. We asked her if her sell sword friends could help us out with some muscle against the cultists.  Two fighters ended up joining the group. At one point Kerry asked if we should maybe go after the witch on the lower levels. They told us that they would not help us if we were to do so. We then explained that we thought she was an unseely sorcerer rather than a witch but they said that it could have been a witch's charm to make her look like an unseely sorcerer. We  also told them that she was trying to turn herself into a hag but they were vehemently opposed to going after her in her place of repose.

The newly formed group re-entered the tomb of Abysthor with the intention of assailing the cultists beyond the locked door. The Knights of the Bitter Rose had given us the key they took off of the cultist that they killed which worked to unlock the door. Brundel cast an augury spell off of a scroll before entering and asked the question "will it be good or bad for the group if we open the door". The answer from Kaz Grimmle was "both weal and woe". Upon receiving this answer we opened the door and pushed forward.

We were immediately confronted by a group of undead upon entering. Brundel managed to turn the skeletons but we had to fight the zombies which the fighters quickly dispatched. Ian began his bardic "exalt" ability by singing us on to greater deeds and Brundel cast a prayer spell off of a scroll. While the melee was going on two doors opened further down the hallway and a pair of cultists ran out and away sounding the  alarm. Holzabog thought about toasting them with a fireball but they were out of range.

At this point the fighters asked us what they should do and Ian said "after them" which turned out to be huge mistake. The fighters ran down the hallway and entered the room at the end only to come fact to face with a group of cultists. They were out of range of  Ian's exalt and quickly fell prey to the cultists hold person spells. The cultists sent more undead into the room to attack the helpless fighters while the rest of the group headed in that direction to try to rescue them. Kerry quaffed a potion of heroism and entered  the fray of the room to take on the undead.

We quickly found ourselves in a desperate situation. The room they were in filled up with four cultists and a number of undead which all but cut off our beleaguered fighter friends. The other room contained the leader and three sub commanders along with a few more undead who were holding back. Holzabog managed to cast a sleep spell and put two of the regular cultists to sleep which allowed us to pull the two held fighters out of there. As they were being retrieved they got hit a number of times by the undead facing them and the one that Brundel grabbed went unconscious.

At this point the three other cultists and the rest of the undead entered the first room and it was looking pretty grim for the group. Despite the fact that we knew we would be hit by it we called out "broken arrow" to Holzabog who toasted the room with his best fireball from his necklace of fireballs. This quickly cleared the room of undead and the lower level cultists but it also singed the group still in the hallway closest to the room and killed the unconscious fighter.

Soon after that Brundel cast a silence spell on the three remaining higher level cultists to cover our exit and Holzabog threw in a smaller fireball which hurt them but didn't kill them. Brundel retrieved the body of our fallen friend to keep it from being turned into an undead creature and we beat a hasty withdrawal. Before leaving, we glimpsed three ogres (one in plate mail), around twelve more cultists and a number of undead coming back into the second room to pursue us.

On the stairs on the way out Brundel and Kerry were caught by the undead since we were slowed down from carrying the body. While Kerry engaged them Brundel managed to turn the ghouls and then the skeletons and we exited through the door and locked it behind us.

That was a brutal encounter but we did manage to kill four cultists while losing one of the sell swords. In hindsight the order to have them pursue the cultists was a mistake as it took them out of range of the bard's exalt ability which would have given them a better chance at saving against the cultist's spells. The fight was more of a rescue mission from that point on with Holzabog saving the day with the fireballs. We also prevented them from turning the sell sword into an undead creature by retrieving his body which Brundel thought was important given our recent experiences with Syng'l and Hammersmith.

Enter the Knights of the Bitter Rose...

Tomb of Abysthor: The Shrine of Orcus

Recap from 9/10/05

We returned to the Tomb of Abysthor after a few forays into the place and run ins with more of the cultists and the dreaded red skeleton font.  While exploring the tomb we were ambushed by a rather large ogre in a hallway littered with fallen rocks. We eventually killed him and found some loot in his lair including a few magic items.

After that we followed the remaining passages and came to a room that had six sarcophagi in it. When we entered six armored skeletons came out of them wearing some kind of amulets. We started fighting them after two failed attempts at turning them.  While we were fighting them another creature came out of a doorway in the back of the room and cast a fear spell. Both Holzabog and Korhill fled the combat.  Lord Hammersmith rolled really well and managed to turn the wight which fled the room. We eventually managed to destroy the skeletons and Ian went back to retrieve the two characters that fled while Hammersmith and Brundel went after the wight while it was still turned.

When we entered the next room we noticed a statue and altar to Orcus along the rear wall and the wight was on the right side of the room having just recovered from being turned after ten rounds. Brundel cast produce flame and threw it at him but missed. He then tried to turn it but failed, no doubt because we were in a shrine of Orcus giving it a boost against turning.  We were engaged in melee shortly afterward and we found it was almost impossible to hit it due to its magical armor, which we later found out gave it the ability to cast the fear spell as a free action plus a high AC.

Brundel got hit and lost a level and withdrew to heal himself since he got hit pretty badly by the skeletons as well. He then cast a chant spell off of a scroll, quaffed a potion of Cat's Grace and re-entered the fray. By this time Hammersmith had done minimal damage to it and had lost a level. After both characters missed the wight several times it was apparent that we needed some help in getting past the armor. Brundel attempted to hit it with a cure serious wounds spell (positive energy) but rolled poorly on the touch attack and missed. It sucked another level off of Hammersmith. The next round Brundel cast his last cure serious and also missed (all I needed was a six and I rolled a four and a five on both spells) and I knew we were in trouble as it drained another level from Hammersmith.

Ian re-entered the fray with our two frightened companions in tow and moved up to fire at it with his bow. At this point the wight cast fear again and both Brundel and Hammersmith failed this time. By now Hammersmith was down to first level and as he fled he got hit again and fell. Brundel also got hit on the way out and lost another level bringing him down to third. Ian hit it once or twice with his bow and the last thing he saw before leaving the room was the body of Hammersmith rising to haunt the tomb as a wight!

There is no doubt that without that armor and the alter we could have defeated the wight.  Once again we fled for our lives from the tomb of Absythor!  Now we have two fallen comrades in that accursed tomb that have come back to haunt us.

Tomb of Abysthor: The Temple of Pavaline

Recap from 7-9-05

We started off by trying to get some info on the Tomb of Abysthor from Maeve and Hennesee the scribe.  We found out that Abysthor was the last priest of either Pavaline or Oltherion (or both?) and that there were no longer any active worshipers or priests of the religions even though some still revere the old faiths (like the witches).  We also learned that the rest of the priests were buried there as well.  Also, Thomas got some info on the inscriptions in the temple of Pavaline from a Monk so we went back there to try to get in.

Before we got to the temples we found the bodies of four adventurers, some gold and their weapons which we later sold after discovering that they had fought a manticore and were then killed by a young green dragon.  Brundel cast a couple of consecrate spells on the alter and the statue to clean up the desecration and then we tried to get in.  First we said the words and nothing happened.  However, when Holzboch said the same words it opened up so we figured it was keyed to alignment (he is lawful good).  We went down into a large room with tapestries depicting Pavaline's many great deeds on them.  Behind the tapestries were three secret doors which appeared to be keyed to glyphs that were shown on Pavaline's sword, shield and armor on the tapestries.  Since we couldn't decipher the glyphs we decided to collect our loot and head back to town after spending the night inside the shrine to stay safe.  In the morning, Brundel cast four consecrate spells on the temple managing to cleanse about half of the structure from the vile desecration. On the way back we ran into some Troll whelps and Brundel toasted them with fire spells and then the others finished them off.

When we went to see our friend Cooley in the market to sell the weapons, we noticed he seemed to be under a spell.  Then Brundel was hit with the same spell (some kind of powerful charm spell) from a group of nobles with elvish daggers who apparently robbed Cooley of some of his maps including the map to the white tower.  This of course meant that they copied the map as well.  We sold our loot and went back to the temple to try again after getting a translation of the glyphs in the Temple of Pavaline.

We went to the temple of Oltherion first where Brundel cast a couple of more consecrate spells to clean it up but we didn't know how to say the words on the statue correctly so we went back to the temple of Pavaline.  There we were greeted by seven worshipers of Orcus and eleven red skeletons.  Apparently, Brundel's attempt to clean up their mess upset them and they decided to greet us on our next visit.  That's where we left it - a true cliffhanger.  If we stick around and fight it should be a tough battle but we may be able to defeat them if all goes well.  If not, it may not turn out too well for the group of adventurers.

Tales of Braxus: The Tomb of Abysthor

The next series of recaps are retroactive from our older C&C campaign set in Scadgrad's World of Braxus back in 2005.  There are gaps in the story because some of the missing sessions were either never written up or I was unable to save copies of them.  I did at least manage to save copies of the ones posted here though.

A little bit of background first.  After the demise of Hraal the Reaver in our previous campaign set in Necrovidia, the group eventually completed the quest to find the sword of Kel in the Lost City of Barakus so we decided to start fresh with a new campaign and group of characters.  The new campaign was set in the kingdom of Abingdon in Southern Brinnismore in the western isles.  There we explored the infamous Tomb of Abysthor written by Necromancer Games where the group found much fame and fortune but were up against the dreaded priests of the cult of Orcus.  The group eventually managed to persevere through many trials and travails to complete the module.  This was also the campaign where we commenced with the transition from 3.5 D&D to Castles and Crusades by Troll Lord Games but still retained some elements of 3.5 D&D like like signature spells and a few other things which were included in the house rules.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ten Things About the Kingdom of Erythos and the Gorgon's Trench

1) A political mess: Erythos is quite prosperous for a realm located in the Gorgon's Trench. It lies about 250 miles southeast of Medea's Gate. It is part of a larger region of the Trench known as Enea. Many generations ago, there was a King of Enea who formed an alliance with Grand Oryx to combat the Lykos, a mutual enemy. Old hatreds die hard, and there are still bitter feelings between the three regions of Thebos. The present King of Erythos, King Rudgvin the Young Wolf aspires to unite Enea and then topple neighboring Cephasos, which is only now beginning to recover from a brutal civil war. However, the Duke of Thesapol is unlikely to stomach any change in the present political situation and his active corbitumite mine provides ample resources to stave off any advantage the "King" might manufacture.
secrets: The King is scarcely more than 14 years old and labors under the delusion that his knights can win the day... eventually.

2) Hostile to all spellcasting: Trenchfolk, or the Romarii as they call themselves, are superstitious and worship a dizzying number of Gods. They inherently fear magic and most kingdoms keep close watch on those who can cast spells.
secrets: The Trench is the home to several, Despotic Wizards, none of whom should be trifled with. It is very likely that this program was instituted long ago at their bequest.

3) Folk here appear physically different from the men of the Anvil and Pangaeus: Warriors from the Trench are stout, strong of arm and value speed and endurance over discipline. The folk here are something like American Indians or the Gypsies of Eurasia. Individually, they are quite capable fighters, but as a military unit, they are limited. Names should be drawn from Eastern Europe or Gypsy names, with a few Greek & Roman names thrown in as well.
secrets: Trenchmen are no different really than their cousins to the north, it's just that the climate is warmer and the terrain is rough, with little arable land. Think Cimmeria... sort of.

4) Damn there are loads of Orcs and Gnolls here: If there is one thing that the Gorgon's Trench does produce, it's Orcs and in substantial numbers. Several of the aforementioned Despotic Wizards actively maintain a standing army of these brutes, sending patrols out simply to control their numbers. The rough, hilly terrain occasionally gives way to scrub plains which happen to be good territory for the various gnoll tribes.
secrets: Some of the Despotic Wizards are either dead, or have been absent for years uncounted, leaving their Orcs to simply fend for themselves. Not surprisingly, there are half-orcs literally everywhere.

5) Surely the Senate or House of Lords will do something about this mess: The government of Thebos is aware of the desperate situation of its citizens in the 3 realms collectively known as the Gorgon's Trench and every effort is being made to bring their standard of living up to other realms in the Empire. As recently as last year, the right honorable Senator from Medea's Gate made an impassioned plea for aid and though the bill is still stuck in committee, there is some hope of progress in the Summer Sessions.
secrets: This place is the cultural backwater of Thebos and SOMEONE plans to keep it that way. It is a cut throat region and no one in power should be trusted. Trust should only be placed in steel.

6) Who are all these arrogant pricks with the long hair, round shields, and long pointy spears: Those would be your cousins to the north, men of the Anvil (Lykaedia), Lykos. That's what the "lambda" on those shields stand for and yes, they are quite good with those six-footers and short swords. They are common mercs, sell swords and adventurers who come to the Trench looking for glory and the wealth of the regions numerous dungeons and ruins. Despotic Wizards often die, leaving behind megadungeons and the like, and well, someone has to liberate all that loot. Many of the local women swoon at their outrageously long hair, oiled biceps and ornately dressed beards.
secrets: Lykaedian society is still very much dominated by its warrior society and ethos, but in truth and on an individual basis, the Romarii fighters are quite capable. They were born fighting and most have several orc kills to their name before the average Lykos noble son has even killed anything other than a rabbit or two. The difference is primarily one of equipment and larger scale military tactics.

7) What is this Stonehell Dungeon place: To the east of Kephi, the capital city of Erythos, lies a very famous adventuring site, no doubt the product of one of those aforementioned Despotic Wizards. Adventurers from all over Thebos have sought in vain to recover its untold riches.
secrets: While there are still loads of goodies to be found, it's not like it's terribly difficult to find. A 2-day hike to the east of Kephi is the village of Kelguswood and any of the locals there could give you directions.

8.) The land is really poor here: Yes, yes it is. The prevailing terrain type is hills with very light forest, mostly coniferous, giving way to badlands and scrub plains. Foraging off of the land is quite difficult so care should be taken with supplies and rations. This is not horse country one should be prepared to pay a premium for a quality mount, and the feed to keep it healthy.
Scadgrad's Erythos Map showing Stonehell location
secrets: Though there is a shortage of arable land, there is wealth in minerals for those who can exploit it. Established mines are jealously guarded, their locations are often kept as a closely guarded secret to the extent that men and dwarves will kill over it.

9) Death and Taxes: One of the reasons for the lack of visible wealth is that the nobility keeps a strangle hold on the money supply. Outsiders are subject to downright confiscatory tax rates and few adventurers of means would winter here. Medea's Gate seems like a free city compared to Kephi, Lisaea, Spirythal, Thesapol, etc. Certain items carry a very high tax, weapons and armor are 20% higher to purchase, while horses are 200% more valuable. The open sale or trade of magic items is unheard of and must be acquired or traded via the blackmarket. This is a region of rugged individualism and trading partners and allies are exceedingly valuable. The Great Guilds of Grand Oryx have no presence here, or at least, no official presence.
secrets: While the cities are quite regulated, a few villages hold opportunities for the sorts of trade that adventurers would normally find in the large cities of the north. Away from the prying spies of the oppressive nobility, one might find a kindly wandering cleric or merchant with some magical tidbits to trade or sell.

10) So, no hoplite style, how do these guys fight: With swords, really big swords. The favored weapon is the broad sword (as a longsword) or great sword. You also won't see much in the way of plate armor as warriors here want to be able to move fast. In contrast to the Lykos, the local warriors have no qualms against missile weapons and are skilled with both sling and short bow. Cultural rules are coming at some point soon, so if you're a Romarii, you'd do well to weapon spec in one of these weapons.
secrets: Romarii steel is quite good and a resource that has frequently been exploited in the past. There are a number of legendary smiths who have created swords of unique quality, quite valuable to collectors and those who would make powerful enchanted weapons.

The Above text was written by Scadgrad, the GM and creator of the Averlorn Campaign Setting.  For more info go to:  The Savage Sword of Scadgrad

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Game Art and ICE MERP Layouts

I started working for ICE as a freelance layout artist sometime around 1994 right after Middle Earth Role Playing 2nd Edition came out. My timing was pretty good in that regard since I got to work on most of the 2nd edition series of modules that followed. The first module I did layout illustrations for was the Palantir Quest or Minas Tirith and I did layouts for most of the major site specific modules that followed like Moria, The Shire, Mirkwood, Laketown, Dol Guldur, Southern Gondor, the Kin Strife and the Northern Waste.  I also did space ship layouts for their Silent Death space combat miniatures game, trade dress for the Rolemaster Standard System rule books (stone spell runes), firearm pictures for Weapon Law, the castle layouts in Castles and Ruins (also Rolemaster) and some other promotional drawings as well.

I am available for commissions if the right opportunity presents itself. My specialty is buildings, city and town maps, dungeon maps, larger scale maps in black and white and all manner of fortresses and fortified cities. I can do either hand drawn illustrations in ink or CAD drawn illustrations both with an emphasis on crosshatching for greys and high contrast black and white.  I'm not really interested in doing color drawings at this point. I have a design degree in architecture and a minor degree in architectural history and my minor thesis was written about the development of the medieval tower keep in England.

You can contact me for inquiries about future layout illustrations at:
Castledrafts@ArktekLLC dot com

The Lugash watch tower
Part of the reason for starting this blog was to have a place to share some of my original artwork with others both as a portfolio page for self promotion and also for game masters that might find some of these drawings useful for their ongoing RPGs.  I have a boatload of drawings both hand drawn and in CAD format that were done over the years for quite a few MERP products that were published, some of which I will post here.  Anyway, I had fun drawing these and I hope they can be useful to someone but I only ask that you don't publish any of these images for copyright reasons without contacting me first.

Click on the game art page link above to see more illustrations.  I will add more illustrations here on a fairly regular basis so check back in every now and then to see more drawings.  I'll probably also post some images from the other ICE product lines I worked on and even some computer artwork I did for the Kesmai Corporation as well, although most of those drawings wouldn't be very useful for game masters with a few exceptions.

What is interesting about this is that I started off drawing dungeon plans as a kid when I was playing D&D, and eventually went to school to study architecture at UVA which is in Charlottesville.  Iron Crown Enterprises was also based in Charlottesville and given my gaming background it was only natural that I ended up working for them for a while, both since I have a great love for drawing dungeon and castle illustrations and because I was always a big fan of their Middle Earth products.  So you have to ask yourself - which came first, the architect or the dungeon designer and the real answer is of course, the dungeon designer!

Averlorn Campaign: Return to the Maw of Torment

Recap from 2/4/2011

We started off the session by leaving the Halls of the Blind and the ancient stone statues and ruins under the shadow of the giant statue of Hephaestus and headed towards the hamlet of Slagford.  After resting up at the Deer’s Perch Inn overnight we headed back to Limus Town to take care of some business.  There we met up with some of the adventurers from our previous forays.  We shared ale with the dwarven cleric Brummbar, the Halfling warrior Tok and our other Elven companion Cyrcla.  We took care of some business identifying the magical broadsword we found in the Harpy’s nest the session before (it was +1) and then decided to sell it to one of our contacts at the Black Cloister since the previous session had seen little to no other loot garnered (the Harpy’s nest only had a small sum of gold within).  We divvied up the loot with the group that had gone to the Halls of the Blind with us previously and each character received 171 g.p (add to your character sheet if you were there).

The following day, there was the matter of the cursed sword that Teth-en-Aire had picked up to attend to.  After a few objections, we finally convinced the Elf to let Brummbar cast a remove curse spell on him to rid him of the accursed blade.  Once the curse was lifted, we threw it into the Kuoros River.  After taking care of that and buying a few more healing potions we pondered our next move.

Since Rekk, Ascelepius and Kaira had other business to attend to in town, the remaining characters and recently met NPCs decided to head back to the secret entrance at the Maw of Torment to try to find some loot.  We headed out after we had purchased provisions and arrived at the hamlet of Slagford uneventfully.  After securing rooms for the night, we were set to return to the Maw in the morning.  The following day we ventured forth through the hills towards the maw and arrived at the edge of the woods outside of the area where all of the statues were located.  We decided to scout it out first with Arceus’ Eyes of the Eagle but were quickly set upon by three rather strange looking bug like creatures at the edge of the woods.

As they attacked, the dwarf identified them as Giant Rhagodessa - 6’ long nocturnal carnivorous arachnids that closely resemble spiders but have immense crushing mandibles.  They have shorter legs than spiders but are still good climbers.  They also have suction pits on their front legs to trap prey and pull it towards their mandibles and mouths to devour.  As we fought the giant arachnid creatures, they attempted to grab us with the suction pits on their fore legs to pull us closer to their mandibles and succeeded in grabbing both Brummbar and Lucias.  The rest of the group attacked the creatures and Lucias managed to kill the one that had him before it or one of the others could attack him while he was held.  After that the group managed to kill the one holding Brummbar and finally killed the last one which covered the dwarf with its gooey bug juice as it was destroyed (straight out of Starship Troopers!).

So, with our first opponents taken care of, Arceus scouted out the complex with his magical eyes and didn’t notice anything different than the last time we were there – everything was the way we had left it including the missing gargoyle statues where the Harpies had stood.  So we headed towards the crumbling dragon statue that’s mouth was laying face first next to the flagstone that concealed the hidden entrance and descended into the Maw of Torment once again.  We explored the right side of the complex this time and were surprised by the lack of any signs of life (or un-life).  We passed a skeleton that had been shackled to the wall and then went through an empty room with large gouges in the floor as if made by some large creature.

Then we found another small prayer chamber and searched it to find a secret door that concealed a decent amount of silver pieces.  The next room had an apparent cave in on one side and the bones of some unfortunate adventurer beneath the apparently sprung trap.  When we searched the room we found an invisible basket that contained a bit more unguarded silver when it was revealed by the Dust of Appearance that Arceus used to uncover it. 

The next room was empty except for short pieces of rope scattered all over the floor.  We found a secret door there though that was locked and when Lucias finally managed to break it down, he destroyed a scythe trap that was designed to attack someone opening it from the other side.  This room contained a bunch of discarded helmets all over the floor and another pile of rubble in one corner and another niche that contained a solitary chest.  The two thieves searched it for traps and Arceus found a magical trap of some sort on the chest but didn’t think he could disarm it.  We debated whether to use the knock spell that Teth-en-Aire had on a scroll to open it or Brummbar’s dispel magic spell to disarm it and decided on the knock spell to open it up from a distance.  Apparently, that was the wrong decision because it exploded in a cloud of smoke and lighting shot off in all directions to hit everyone even though we were a good distance away from it when we did this.  Despite this punishment, the chest was empty!

So we were pretty frazzled at this point and healed up as best we could with our hair standing on end.  When Arceus and Sicarius decided to spread out and find a good place to hide in the shadows of the room, Arceus fell into a pit trap, took even more damage and broke some of his potions.  So despite not finding much loot aside from some silver and having not fought anything within the complex we decided to retire since it was getting late and we were pretty chewed up at that point.  We started suspecting that maybe others had looted the place recently because it was noticeably devoid of creatures and loot and there was evidence of several traps having been set off as well and even a couple of sets of bones.

This is when Teth-en-Aire mentioned that maybe he and Tarus had spent some time with some of Milligro Conje’s female associates at Mosaics (from the evil cult of the Gatherers!) when they had been carousing in Limus Town over the winter.  This is when the rest of the group started suspecting that he or Tarus may have let slip that we had visited the secret entrance to the Maw of Torment where we knew the Gatherers had vistied back then (we suspect that they placed the evil glyph there – see previous recap for the Maw of Torment).  So we returned to the Inn in Slagford despite the late hour.  The innkeeper met us with grumblings about disturbing him so late at night but was quickly quieted when he was given a 25 g.p. gem for his troubles.

So despite our suspicions of the place having been previously cleaned out, we returned the next day to what we were jokingly referring to at that point as “the Maw of Borement” since our previous foray had been so uneventful.  As we descended the stairs and entered the first hallway, four eerie and evil looking shadows began moving towards us down the dark hallway.  At first we thought they were Shadows, lost shadowy spirit creatures, but then Brummbar said “oh no, they are wraiths!”  So at this point the boredom was over and the cleric and fighter in the front really started sweating as they confronted the level draining incorporeal undead creatures.  They attacked first and immediately hit and drained a level from Lucias – he was now fifth level!  The group then got to swing back and Brummbar managed to turn one of their number while the others in the rear fired magical arrows at the hateful undead creatures.  Lucias then hit one with a powerful blow from Hope Blighter and managed to kill it but then the dwarf was hit and also lost a level – he was now 5th level as well!

This was not boring by any stretch and was looking like a dire situation for the two characters up front and even the ones in the back.  Tok, being a mere second level hireling decided that discretion was the better part of valor and headed for the stairs.  Teth-en-Aire asked Lucias if this was a “Broken Arrow” situation and Lucias replied that it most certainly was (broken arrow is military terminology for bomb or shell your own positions because the enemy has just broken through your lines!).  So he let loose with a fireball on top of both the dwarf and the fighter.  Brummbar made his save for half damage but Lucias failed his but was aided by his ring of fire resistance so they both managed to survive.  The two remaining Wraiths didn’t fair very well either and were nearly dead (again) and were quickly dispatched by a magic missile from Cyrcla and another magical arrow from one of the thieves.

At this point, we were ready to cut our losses and get out of there while we were still alive so we bolted back up the stairs into the sweet sunshine outside.  We were really thinking that we needed to get out of there and ran smack into another group of four Giant Rhagodessa which nearly killed the fighter and dwarf since they were so badly hurt and hadn’t been healed yet.  We somehow managed to defeat them as well and decided that we had had enough of this place for the time being and would return to Slagford to recuperate.

After we returned to our rooms, Brummbar cast Restoration from the two scrolls he had been given by the Surgeon’s Guild before we traveled to Spyrithol and the Barrow Mound of Gravemoor thus restoring the two lost levels.  Thus the group narrowly managed to avert disaster once again at the Maw of Torment and had little to show for their efforts aside from lost experience points, some bruises and scrapes, a meager amount of silver and quite a few used or destroyed potions.

We were told that the Oracles of the Confessors Guild have said that the Maw of Torment is a fitting name for this evil place and now we know why!