Sunday, March 27, 2011

ICE MERP Illustrations from the Kin Strife Module

I drew a group of illustrations for ICE's Middle Earth Role Playing module for the Kin Strife back in 1995.  The Kin-strife presents the people, politics, and armies of Gondor under the repressive rule of Castamir the Usurper during the civil war of the Kin-strife in 1437 of the Third Age. The six largest cities of the South-kingdom - Pelargir, Umbar, Lond Ernil, Osgiliath, Minas Anor, and Minas Ithil - are described along with their administrative structures, military organization, and legal systems.

Map of the City of Osgiliath near Minas Tirith

The map of Osgiliath shown above was hand drawn on 11x17 vellum paper with technical pens and again, has no text because it is the pre-press version without the final page layout.  It was photographically shot down to fit on a single page for the module.  I was given a previous rendition of the map as a starting point that only had the lower half of the city shown and traced this to draw half of the map, including parts of the bridges.  I think that the map that half of this drawing was traced from was a color original and I created the other half in a similar style but in black and white.  This was fun because I got to design half of the city and some of its features like the street layout, the canals and some of the additional fortified manor houses.  The dotted lines in the river represent the chains used to keep enemy ships from entering the river that runs through the city.  This map also represents the city before it was later ruined in the civil war and conflicts with Sauron's forces even later.

Unfortunately, the original 11x17 drawing was lost when ICE closed its doors.  They gave me all of my original artwork at the time and I assumed it was in the package but when I went to look later all I found was an 11x17 copy and some 8 1/2 x 11 reductions which is what this scan was made from.  I may be able to track down a better quality scan but I have no idea who ended up with the original or if it even survives to this day.  It is my favorite of all of the city maps I did for them and I really wanted to frame the the original drawing but its gone at this point.  This scan is not that great of a quality because it is a scan of a photocopy reduction and is missing some of the fine lines of the river but is otherwise not too bad.  If I can obtain a better quality scan from some of the old crew or if the 11x17 copy I have is of better quality I may re-scan it and post a better quality image later.

The Tower Dome of Osgiliath Great Hall First Floor Plan

The Tower Dome of Osgiliath also known as the Dome of Stars was built on the bridge of Osgiliath after Gondor was founded in the year 3320 of the Second Age.  It was built to house one of the larger Palantir which was placed in the domed chamber of the stars at the top of the tower.  During the fighting of the Kin Strife when Osgiliath was captured by the rebel leader Castamir, the Dome of Stars was destroyed and the Stone of Osgiliath was lost in the waters of the Anduin river.  The front view of the tower can also be seen on the cover of the module (painted by another artist) right before it is about to fall into the river.

The layout above was drawn using AutoCAD and represents the lower great hall level below the tower itself.  The tower is situated above the throne room between the two square towers at the south end of the great hall and is accessed from the second floor and the stairway leading up to the door from the terrace level below.  You can see the complex on the large scale map of Osgiliath drawn on the bridge on the upper middle right hand side of the map.

The next two maps were drawn in a similar manner to the Osgiliath Map above but I used the original color maps for both cities from previous modules (which were both complete) to trace the black and white images onto the translucent vellum.  The first city is the city of Umbar, also known as the Gray Haven and Home of the Corsairs.

City of Umbar Map

The next map is of the City of Minas Ithil with its spiraling plan layout not unlike the layout of Minas Tirith.

City of Minas Ithil Map

The next layout shows the small shanty town that was built up outside of one of the gates as often happened in fortified medieval towns after their was no real estate left within the walls to build on.

Minas Ithil Shanty Town

The next layout is of the Sea Lord's Tower which is in the middle of the City of Pelargir.  This was drawn with AutoCAD as well.

The Sea Lord's Tower in the City of Pelargir

The final layout in this series of illustrations is a plan layout of Margalad's manor house in one of the cities in the module.  I'll post a better description when I have had a chance to take a look in the module.  My assumption is that Margalad is one of the nobles embroiled in the intrigue and struggle of the Kin Strife civil war.

First and Second Floor Plans for Margalad's manor house

These more formal building plans gave me a chance to draw upon my architectural design and history background for inspiration and I came up with all of the vaults, niches and cool plan features shown outside of the basic layout of the building provided to me by the writers.

For a brief background and introduction on my time working for ICE as a freelancer go here:
Game Art and ICE Illustration Background

Copyright notice:  All original artwork on this page is displayed for self promotion purposes only and is copyrighted by the original artist, Daniel Cruger.  This artwork may be downloaded and used for personal use only and may not be reproduced for commercial purposes in any way without the express written consent of the owner.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Averlorn Campaign: Of Baked Ham, Horned Devils and Chimeras

Recap from 3/11/2011

The next day after the encounter with the Otyughs, we decided to explore the labyrinth further and try to find out if any of the rooms we had been to previously contained traps.  As we opened the door from the Cyclops’ room to the hallway with the summoning circle, an odd spectacle awaited us.  There was a sheep walking down the hallway away from us past the summoning circle!  We thought this was very odd indeed for such a place but then Gradwyn had an “aha” moment.  He speculated that the summoning circle may actually polymorph its victims into sheep or other creatures and that the proximity of the rat tunnels to the circle could serve as a “monster generator” for the complex (or a sheep generator for food)!  He surmised this because we had learned that Zingalis was actually a transmuter of great renown.

Since the summoning circle had the word “TRAP” spelled out on the floor in one of the magical languages, we decided it would be prudent to search for traps in the hallway and some of the rooms we had visited before that were suspicious.  Kaira cast the cleric spell Detect Traps and looked down the hallway.  The summoning circle was clearly illuminated in a magical blue light by her godess Athena indicating that it was an obvious trap.  The section of floor to the left of the circle, however, was not trapped meaning it might be possible to walk around the trap.

While the spell was still running we returned to the area of the Labyrinth where the oubliette was located and Athena’s power showed us that the lever on the wall over the oubliette on the right side of the room was a trap.  We also had a feeling that we were once again being watched and Taleth the Ranger noticed that there was another one of the rotating eye surveillance devices cleverly hidden in one of the upper corners of the ceiling which was moving around and following our movements as we walked through the room.  While the spell was still running we returned to the room where we fought the Otyugh’s and she didn’t see any traps in there, so we went to the room with the locked doors and the hallway with the mosaics on the floor.  She didn’t see any traps at either location but Gradwyn cast detect magic on the doors and they detected as magical.

Since the hallway wasn’t trapped, we walked to the end of the hall and found a doorway with a circular room beyond that was empty.  The circular room had a few doors in it but we returned to the previous room with the locked double doors that detected as magical.  Asclepius cast knock on the doors and the magic detection abated and we smelled a familiar smell – it was the smell of a finely cooked meal of baked ham!  That was really strange but the doors opened from the Knock spell and low and behold there was a small dining chamber within with a round table, four chairs, silverware, four full wine glasses (two with red wine and two with white), and four plates with cooked carrots and freshly cooked and savory baked ham sitting on them that was still warm as if from the oven!  The group thought that this was surely a trap or the food and wine was poisoned but Gradwyn thought that maybe it was a reward for the students of the Laughing Mage for figuring out that in order to open the locked doors, the young wizards would have to cast a knock spell on them.  Everyone else was suspicious that it was trapped or poisoned though Kaira’s spell didn’t indicate a trap was present. 

Since Gradwyn was a dwarf and was highly resistant to poison he tried it out.  He choked as if he was stricken and said this is obviously poisoned and greedily ate a few mouthfuls of ham and carrots and washed it down with the red wine.  Teth-en-Aire sat down next to him and started eating as well and then the rest of the group devoured the rest.  Somewhwere the laughing mage was cackling with delight!  We had heard he had a sinister sense of humor but this was funny in a good way which was more than a bit odd.

So we decided to return to the Shrine outside and see if we could learn some of the opening spells that were inscribed within on the walls since it would obviously make it easier to navigate the wizard’s gauntlet if we were armed with the right tools.  As we went through the oubliette room, we smelled the smell of fire and brimstone and were confronted by three Horned Devils!  Two charged us to attack and one stayed in the back by the exit and summoned forth a wall of fire right across both Lucias and Taleth!  Both were burned by the devilish sheet of flames but Lucias wasn’t burned as bad because he was wearing a ring of fire resistance.

The archers and the elf managed to kill the one that had summoned the wall of fire in the back with magic missiles and arrows from the archers that had magical arrows.  The others without spells or magic weapons couldn’t do very much but Kaira cast prayer to aid her allies.  The two combatants managed to kill one of the two remaining devils they were facing until Taleth was forced to withdraw due to his injuries but Lucias fought on despite his burns and wounds.  The last remaining devil teleported himself to the rear of the room right next to Taleth and Asclepius.  Asclepius withdrew because he had no magical weapons and Taleth fought on despite being wounded.  Lucias moved to engage the last devil and Gradwyn cast a cure light wounds spell on him which helped him recover somewhat from his wounds.  The remaining devil tried twice to summon another one of his number from Hades but was unsuccessful and the group finally managed to slay the evil creature.

After this encounter we returned to the Cyclops’ room and the clerics cast healing spells on both Taleth and Lucias.  We decided to rest up for the night rather than risk finding the lair of the Horned Devils to find their loot, since we were pretty badly chewed up at that point and needed to recover spells.  The next day, Gradwyn wanted to explore the shrine with its hidden secrets that he had heard so much about, so we left the labyrinth and returned to the shrine to deal with the Chimeras that had taken up residence there.  We formulated a bold plan – Lucias and Teth-en-Aire would get their attention at the shrine doors while Asclepius cast slow on the creatures, and we would try our skirmisher tactic once again to pelt them with arrows, magic missiles, and other ranged spells while the two at front fell back as necessary.

It seemed like a good plan at the time but immediately started to unravel as is often the case with plans – no good plan survives first contact with the enemy!  We thought there was one or possibly two Chimera in there but there turned out to be three, and only one of them was slowed by the spell since the other two made their saves.  To make matters worse, one of the ones that wasn’t slowed went after Teth-en-Aire, while the slowed one and another one went after Lucias.  Teth-en-Aire tried to withdraw but the creature followed sensing desperation and the dragon’s head breathed fire on the stricken elf.  Since he didn’t have his Frost Brand drawn at the time (I’m not sure why – it was part of why he was up there in the first place) he took full damage from the fiery breath weapon.

Meanwhile, Lucias managed to slay the non-slowed Chimera with the aid of the arrows and spells of the rest of the group but he got burned a bit when he was breathed on by the dragon head’s breath but was otherwise holding his own.  Teth-en-Aire wasn’t so lucky – as he tried to withdraw again, it again followed him and attacked with its five attacks (three bites and two claws).  He was hurt badly at this point and getting desperate.  Gradwyn wanted to cast lightning bolt on the evil creature but would have killed the elf so he and the others continued pelting it with magic missiles and arrows but it got another round of five attacks on the hapless elf and he went down before the group finally managed to kill it.  Lucias finally overcame the one he was fighting as well and was hurt but not too badly.

Teth-en-Aire was mortally wounded at this point however, but took a long time to die (50 minutes per the death and dismemberment table).  He said, “I… feel… so… c-c-cold” and then said “I see a light up ahead” and we told him to “walk away from the light”.  He then got delirious and passed out for a while.  Then he awoke again and kept saying "I... have... plans".  First, he told Lucias to take his spell book and sell it and have the Surgeon’s Guild raise him from the dead and if that wasn’t enough money he told him to sell his Frost Brand Sword for the transaction.  Later he said “I… c-c-can’t… feel… my… legs” and then he died.  It was overly dramatic as is usually the case with our young and aloof Elven ally but he went out in style and his comments were hilariously funny for such a sad moment.  We decided that the shrine could wait and that we had to return him to Medea’s Gate to have Raised before we ran out of time for the spell to work.  Asclepius cast Wizard Lock on the Shrine doors after we determined that the Chimera had no treasure, since they had only recently taken up residence there.

We returned to Medea’s Gate and contacted the Surgeon’s Guild and Marut once again came to see us.  He said that they could raise him for a price and that we would owe them another favor as well in return, unless Teth-en-Aire would join the guild.  Since we weren’t sure if he wanted to do this, Gradwyn cast Speak With Dead and asked him.  When he asked Teth-en-Aire’s spirit if he wanted to do this, he said in a ghostly voice “NO”.  Since Teth-en-Aire had been a reliable and faithful ally since we had been adventuring, we decided to use the loot we found form the orcs on the way to the tower to pay to have him raised. 

He was returned to life by the Surgeon’s of Hechate with no problem and very happy to be alive.  We celebrated by doing some carousing in Medea’s Gate while we were waiting for him to recover.  Nothing too bad happened as a result but Taleth got involved with some local woman who wanted him to marry her right away but he successfully rebuffed her entreaties.  Renna ended up getting in over her head with some gambling debts and Kaira had to help her out with her debts.  Everyone else who took part in the carousing did so without any mishaps from the carousing table.


Averlorn Campaign: Cities and Towns of Thebos

The country of Thebos is home to numerous cities and towns varying in size from large urban centers like Grand Oryx, Ptoleph and Medea's Gate down to the the many smaller cities and towns and even smaller hamlets.  The cities and towns described below are primarily located in the anvil but a few are on the outer fringes of the region.

Chapoi – This is a town south of Ptoleph on the main trade road which is near the Forger’s Runnel River.  To the west of Chapoi, a two days hike, the Wild Moon tribe of goblins hold sway.

Demeteros – A small village south of Ptoleph on the main trade road. Demeteros is one day to the north of Medea’s Gate.  It is also where one of the most powerful known wizards in all of the Anvil resides in his wizard’s tower outside of town – Ornaskar the Intrepid.

Herarii – This small town between Medea’s Gate and Limus Town is where one of the Oracles to the Theban gods is located.  It is near the pass at Hell’s Peak and the giant statue of Hephaestus is visible off in the distance from the town.  Hera is the patron goddess of Herarii and an ornate tower at the top of a hill at the edge of town is the location of the venerated Oracle of Herarii and is a site which is regularly visited by pilgrims seeking the wisdom of the Oracle. The Feral Daughter is the local Inn which is noted for its wild game dishes.  People regularly make the trip to Herarii in order to consult the Oracle and dine at this fine establishment.

Grand Oryx – Soot darkened Grand Oryx, the City of the Gods is the Capital of the City State of Thebos and the largest city to be found on the volcanic plateau.  Its inhabitants live under the dour countenance of its colossal image of Hephaestus, the smith god and patron of this the most advanced city in all the lands of Averlorn.  This is the Victorian London of the setting. She has public transport, indoor plumbing (especially baths), and several districts of town that have a local flair related to the race that dwells there. As grand as it sounds, it's actually a nasty place with filthy air, massive poverty, and other dystopian elements. A nice place to visit as they say and an even nicer place to have your purse lifted. You will never find a place more inundated with "scum and villainy." The senate is working hard though to clean the place up.

There are ten guilds in Grand Oryx which have over the years, proven themselves to be committed to the betterment of the Theban way of life and the common good. Thus, they have been given charters granting them considerable political power. They are very competitive with one another and vie for control over the eight boroughs of the great city. Since no guild may control more than one borough and there are only eight available, two guilds are left without a territory and will typically form a loose alliance.  The Oryxian guilds have over the years constructed massive sprawling fortified complexes containing their guild halls and living quarters within each borough under their control. Most of the Guild boroughs in Grand Oryx are well run, safe and very accommodating.

The City of Grand Oryx takes pride in its military prowess and has managed to conquer the surrounding regions and bring them into the fold of the kindom of Thebos.  The true military power of Grand Oryx arose with the invention of the Dragonship.  This technological development meant that they could deploy and supply an expeditionary force that could by dint of numbers, crumble the mighty hoplite formations of Thebos and even subjugate the far away lesser kingdoms of the trench, the Pangaeus and other realms within their empire. 

The Theban military makes good use of the condemned supplied to them by the Surgeons of Hecate.  These plate-wearing monsters are automatons of superior construction and are powerful, remorseless combatants.  They are used in the Grand Oryx navy as foot soldiers and as elite shock troops.  Most of the Oryxian Dragonships also have a pair of them and a handler, to work around the cooker in heat that would kill most mortals.  The cavalry of Grand Oryx is reputed to be the best in the land, drawing upon the horsemen and superb riding skills of the plainsmen of the Pangaus for the bulk of their numbers. They are not truly knights in the European sense though and are more akin to light cavalry armed with spears, shields, and their excellent short composite bows.

The Long Walk: Most criminals in Thebos receive the unthinkably cruel punishment of eternal servitude to the empire via the institution of The Reborn, a specialized sort of undead created by the Surgeons of Hecate. In the distant past, before the practice was perfected by the Guild, criminals would be gathered in Medea's Gate and there they would have a cross chained across their shoulders. Forced to make The Long Walk to Grand Oryx, those who collapsed beside the road where crucified where they fell. Today, the cross is much lighter, ceremonial even and there is far less whipping involved. The criminals are even given a degree of celebration and ceremony along The Grand Oryx Way as it is seen as a way of ensuring the favor of the Gods for their families and loved ones. Even so it is a powerful deterrent and crime is mostly well-controlled except in the more lawless regions such as the Gorgon's Trench and elsewhere.

Limus Town – A medium sized river mining town located to the south of Zademis and to the east of Herrari and Medea’s Gate on the outskirts of civilization.  The city sits astride the Kuoros River and the old trade road that runs east to west.    The largest corbitumite mines in all of Thebos are located near the Lykaedian backwater towns of Limus Town and Zedemis along with other vast deposits of other mineral wealth. As a result, Limus Town and Zedemis are becoming subtle nests of devious plots and espionage though only to those who go looking for it.

Poseidon is the Patron Deity of Limus Town due to its location on the Kuoros River and there is a temple to the deity in the temple district.  One can charter a boat from Media’s Gate to Limus Town on the river and Dormant Lady Lake due to the abundance of river traffic resulting from all of the commerce generated by the mining operations. The area across the river is called “The Hill” and is reputed to be the home of two powerful witches and a tribe of Hobgoblins.  It is about a two day hike from the town once across the river.  The old trade road continues to the east of Limus town accross the river into the lands of the Gorgon’s Trench but was built in better times and has long since been abandoned.

The worst part of town is the Tanner’s District which has a cemetery of the poor near it.  There are six competing groups of organized criminals in this bustling river mining town full of wickedness and sin.  As a result its a favorite location for carousing and revelry of all types having somewhat of a wild party atmosphere (think Mardi Gras).  The Lion’s Den is a prominent local tavern that is a favorite with travelers, adventurers and locals alike.  Mosaics is a club in Limus Town were one can find strong drink, escorts and even musical entertainment.  Bards and musical troupes often perform here.

Medea’s Gate – This is a city in the hill region south of Ptoleph on the main trade road and is one of the two largest cities in Thebos.  It is a large lakeside town with the Dormant Lady lake on the east side (the Dock District) and the Market District on the north side of town where the open ground and horse stables are located.  The city of Medea’s Gate is a low lying, sprawling affair where the buildings are typically not as tall as the temples.  It is a little larger than Ptoleph but has no major guild presence aside from a few local guilds and representatives of the larger guild houses of Grand Oryx.  

The Oryxian guilds here tend to keep a low profile due to competition from the local guilds and there are no guild house fortresses in evidence like the ones found in Ptoleph and Grand Oryx.  Instead, the guilds here have small shops instead of the sprawling fortified complexes found elsewhere.  There are also numerous monuments in the city’s squares dedicated to its heroes and noble families including the one dedicated to the Hero Landishar Demiri of the noteworthy Demeri Family, a once prominent but fallen family of nobles.

The Chessman Inn provides free room and board to anyone who can beat the proprietor in chess and is a reputable establishment.  The Scepter and the Rose is the finest eating establishment in Medea’s Gate.  Medea’s Gate had a royal charter once long ago and this establishment is a remnant of those better times for the city.

There are many elements of organized crime in the city which control different areas of town.  The Ophidian Hand is a thieves' guild that controls the Market District and there is another one that controls the dock district.  The Iron Urn Inn appears to be a nice establishment at a glance and is also a gambling hall as well as an inn and a tavern.  This place is notorious for its card sharks and con artists that prey on patrons that gamble here that aren’t among the “in” crowd.  It is frequented by people who are involved in the seedy underbelly of organized crime in Medea’s Gate and is rumored to be a front for one of the local thieves’ guilds.

Ptoleph – The City of Ptoleph is nestled among a rough stretch of hills in the northernmost portion of the Kurous Valley. The Kurous river flows through the city in a southeasterly direction to the lower lands below. The city sits astride the intersection of the great river and the Grand Oryx Way making it a prominent center of trade and commerce.  Grand Oryx lies to the north, about 150 miles through the hills and to the south of the great city is an area of dense woodlands. Traveling to Grand Oryx by dragon ship is a far easier affair and takes little more than a day and a half with good winds.

Most of the major Oryxian Guilds have a presence in Ptoleph due to its proximity to Grand Oryx and have constructed guild halls and quarters within elaborate sprawling fortified complexes, similar to those found in Grand Oryx but on a smaller scale.  Five of the great guild houses are actually fortified and crenelated.  The Emporium is an Inn in Ptoleph run by the retired adventurer Argus Norviadras.  He displays trophies from his adventuring days here, some of which are for sale.  The Stone Mason’s Inn is another fine local establishment located in Ptoleph.

Spirythol – A small town that is the capital of the Kingdom of Cephasos in the Gorgon’s trench.  This is the location of the dreaded Gravemoor swamp and can be reached by traveling overland from the old abandoned trade road across the river from Limus Town.  The area recently suffered a devastating civil war and the population has been thinned out considerably.  The Surgeon’s of Hechate have a small presence here and have local interests.  The Fallen Star Inn is a tavern run by the Surgeons of Hecate’s representative in Spirythol.

New Artemia – This is the village where the tomb of the burning priest is located.  It is located south of Ptoleph on the main trade road and east of Old Artemia which is now abandoned after it was determined that the temple and tomb below were haunted.

Silverton – This is a small hamlet beyond Shepoi where three silver mines are located.
The korbidimite was mined out here years ago but there is still silver to be found in the mines.  Hurin Oralease was a great warlord who held sway here three generations ago.  He was reputed to have been poisoned by the guilds on his stance over the reborn.  The ruins of his castle are located south of Silverton.

SlagfordA small Hamlet which sits in the shadow of the giant statue of Hephaestus on the Limus Town side of Hell’s Peak pass.  It is only a few hours hike to the ruins below the giant statue.  The Deer’s Perch Inn is the only Inn in this small farming community.

Winterholm – This small town is west of Medea’s gate and nestled in the Mountains. The town is the location of the venerated Oracle of Winterholm which is regularly visited by pilgrims seeking the wisdom of the Oracle.  There is also a ruin of some kind that is rumored to be located nearby.

Zedemis – This is a large mining town along the Kouros river.  It is larger than nearby Limus Town and is a large trading center due to its location at the confluence of the Forger’s Runnel and Kouros Rivers.  The largest corbitumite mines in all of Thebos are located near the Lykaedian backwater towns of Limus Town and Zedemis along with vast deposits of other mineral wealth. As a result, Limus Town and Zedemis are becoming subtle nests of devious plots and espionage though only to those who go looking for it.

The Lands of Averlorn

Most major kingdoms found in the world of Averlorn sit on top of volcanic plateaus that rise above the level of the scourge which surrounds them.  The scourge was once a vast inland sea that was turned into a great lifeless and uninhabitable wasteland long ago during the wars between the gods and the titans much to the dismay of Poseidon.  This lifeless and barren land consists of vast salt flats that surround the lands of Thebos, Chalcyx, Manthinea, Ertris, and fallen Leutra in the distant Northern Reaches.

The World of Averlorn Map by Scadgrad - Work in Progress

Lykaedia - The Anvil of the GodsThe Anvil of the Gods is the higher plateau that sits upon the lower plateau of Thebos.  It includes mountains, hills, a valley and its largest cities are Ptoleph and Medea’s Gate.  There is rumored to be a mysterious tribe of xenophobic barbarian dwarves who live in the mountains west of Ptoleph but not much is know about them. 

The Archipelago - On the seas of the Archipelago, the Thugee often find themselves at odds with the sea elf culture and the Volkyr (human culture of the Archipelago). Currently, there is no state of war, but that's primarily because the Thugee are so disorganized and lack a central governing body.  Throw in the occasional pirate ship along with the vicious sea devils and you can see that the seas of the Archipelago are quite lawless.  The Thugee's chief antagonists are the sea elves, and occasionally, mountain elf raiders (sky wolves) who see themselves as the masters of the sky.

There are a few relatively large and xenophobic Elven communities in the Archipelago.  These realms are feudal and ruled by a monarchy chosen from one of the castes (they have a rotating monarchy not unlike what you see in Brusts' work). In that society, a Sun Elf would be seen as a soldier or perhaps a minor noble.

Chalcyx – The lands of this distant kingdom are surrounded by the Scourge.

Ertris – This City State is the principle rival of Grand Oryx.  Though considerably smaller in populace than Thebos, the Adroisian city state of Ertris wields surprising military might.  The superior natural resources of Ertris which exists in spite of her relatively small geographical area, allows the Ertrisians to field a formidable fleet of dragonships.  Tensions between the Ertris and Grand Oryx are always high and the occasional conflicts occur typically in the skies over the Scourge.

Fallen Leutra – This land is in the distant Northern Reaches and its primary inhabitants are the Thugee tribes of Leutra, the Northmen of Averlorn.  In the distant past, the Serpent Men Empire in Leutra stretched over much of the known world. Their greatest cities and temples were swallowed up by the vastness of the Scourge long ago but many ruins of their once great empire remain in the region of Leutra along with scattered populations of serpent men and lizard men.

Kingdom of Erythros in the Trench
The Gorgon’s Trench – The Trench is a low area of rough scrubby hills to the south of the settled lands of Thebos (off the campaign map to the south).  It is populated by the men of the trench or trenchmen (a small but hardy breed of humans), dwarves, some elves and many tribes of humandoids.

The Gorgon's Trench is roughly defined as that land that lies below the Anvil and Pangaeus, so not necessarily to the South. It is decidedly lower in altitude. The four ridges that run in a southwardly fashion and fall away into the Scourge are what most would consider the Trench. In the ancient past, it was divided into 3 kingdoms and those boundaries yet remain. Cephasos is a large landmass established by the Kuoros River to the west and the Maiden's Crossing in the North. There is an active king there now as you've seen, but it's not much of a kingdom really. The remaining two realms are Enea and Thonaxos neither of which have an acknowledged King as the Dukes in those regions are quite hostile to one another. Kephi lies in the realm known as Enea and the Duke is actually the Duke of Erythros, not The King of Enea as he claims to be, not yet anyways. 

The land around the rivers at the level of the Scourge is a series of deep canyons with terrain much like what we see in the American Southwest. There is life there, but no communities. The Scourge is all but lifeless as far as civilized life, or at least that is a commonly held belief. There are no doubt strange life forms that exist there. Think Death Valley.

The Great Banks – These savage jungle islands start east of the Archipelago.

ManthineaThis distant kingdom lies far to the west and borders on the Scourge.

The Pangaeus – The City of Grand Oryx lies on the southern fringes of what is known as the Pangaeus.  This region is far more civilized than the lands of the Anvil but possesses less quality land being mostly flat and open plains and grasslands but it is well suited for herding and agricultural pursuits.  The plainsmen of the Pangaeus were originally tribal nomadic people before their current civilizations arose and are noted for their equestrian traditions including riding and horse breeding.  The warriors of the plains of the Pangaeus are known for their light cavalry armed with spears, shields and their excellent short composite bows.  These warriors are the source and inspiration for the fine light cavalry fielded by Grand Oryx and Thebos and are reputed to be the best horse warriors in the land.

The Northern Reaches – The ancestral lands of the Thugee raiders who make up for their primitive ships through shear numbers and tenacity.  The Thugee (norse-like culture) are raiders, not invaders (which assumes that they make a camp and stay in a land grab a la the late vikings of our world). Their dragonships are not as advanced as the other races, though their naval power is quite potent, though not focused in any groups larger than a clan squadron.  There are other inhabitants in the Northern reaches besides the Thugee tribes including other humans and demi humans.

Thebos – Ancient Thebos is the country that sits on the volcanic plateau that rises above the scourge.  The Theban plateau includes the great City State of Grand Oryx and the planes of the Pangaeus to the north, and Lykaedia (the Anvil) and and the Gorgon's Trench to the south.

Friday, March 18, 2011

ICE MERP Towers from Dol Guldur Module

The tower layouts below were drawn for Iron Crown Enterprises for their Middle Earth Role Playing module of Dol Guldur back in 1995 using AutoCAD.  The mountain where the citadel is located is in southwestern Mirkwood and before Sauron's occupation it was called Amon Lanc or "Naked Hill".  After Sauron came to reside there, it became known as Dol Guldur or the "Hill of Sorcery".  Dol Guldur is first mentioned as "the dungeons of the Necromancer" in The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

This module was written for ICE by author David Woolpy who provided me with preliminary layouts to base these drawings on.  The layouts shown here are pre-press layouts and are missing some of the descriptive text including drawings titles which was added later, although the room numbers, north arrow text, and graphic scale text is present.  If you want to see what the final layouts looked like you will have to refer to the module.

The layouts below only represent the outer fortifications of the massive citadel - there are a whole slew of levels some of which I may end up posting later but the towers are the coolest drawings of the bunch.  The fortress citadel is honeycombed with seven levels cut through the volcanic mountain, three precipice levels cut through the upper opening of the volcano itself at the top of the mountain and five stratum levels descending down into the earth below the first level.  The level numbers go up in ascending order (they increase in number the higher up you go) and the first level is accessed from the front gate below.  The stratum levels go down in number from the first level into the earth below and are also accessed from the front gate.

Dol Guldur - The Front Gate

The second level is home to two Kragor Lug watchtowers cleverly hollowed out from rock outcrops on the side of the mountain by the orc guards of Dol Guldur.

Dol Guldur - 2nd Level with Kragor Lug watch towers

There are many outer works and towers surrounding the mountain istelf some of which are connected to the citadel by underground passages.  Most of these towers are guarded by orc or goblin guards and were built in order to keep an eye on the approaches to the citadel.  The first of the outer works is the Smalug watch tower.  I think there are supposed to be several of these around the mountain but again you'll have to refer to the original module if you want more info on that.

Dol Guldur Smalug Watch Tower

The next watchtower type of the outer works is the Lugash.  These are very gothic looking with the buttresses and gargoyles perched atop the battlements and are my favorite of the bunch.  I actually drew the evilly smiling faces on the gargoyles if you zoom in real close to them in AutoCAD.  I'm not sure why I did this because you'll never see them in these layouts but I guess it was just a desire to fully detail the evil guardians or something.  I'll post a close up of the gargoyles later.

Dol Guldur Lugash Watchtower

The last of the watchtowers is the Lugdom which I think served as a fortified postern gate for the citadel (the back door).  Note the Cthuloid looking balcony support at the front of the upper tower.

Dol Guldur Lugdom Fortress

You've probably noticed that all of the towers have the word "Lug" in the name.  I can't say for sure but my guess is that this is the orcish word for "watch" as in watch tower.  This is the first of a series of blog posts that I plan to make in order to showcase the game art I did for ICE back in the day.  More to come...

For a brief background and introduction on my time working for ICE as a freelancer go here:
Game Art and ICE Illustration Background

Copyright notice:  All original artwork on this page is displayed for self promotion purposes only and is copyrighted by the original artist, Daniel Cruger.  This artwork may be downloaded and used for personal use only and may not be reproduced for commercial purposes in any way without the express written consent of the owner.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

19th Level Wizard from my early D&D days in the Monty Hall Dungeon

I found this character sheet while looking through the storage container that has all of my old D&D stuff in it.  There are also some old dungeons that I wrote back then in there that I'll probably post at some point and may even publish for real if it's a worthy project.  Anyway, this is my 19th level Wizard Elroy that I played in the Monty Hall game I was in back then when I was a teenager sometime around 1980 or before:

I elaborated on this a little in this post:

Re-discovering Old School D&D

A few things I have observed and recall about how we played back then from looking at the character sheet:

1.  I can't believe all of the magic items and treasure he's carrying around with him - its obvious that we didn't care about encumbrance back then.  I remember bags of holding getting a lot of use but Elroy didn't have one.  He also has what amounts to a dragon's hoard worth of gold and platinum pieces which one can only assume he has stashed away in his stronghold or something because he certainly isn't carrying it all.

2.  The amount of incredibly powerful magic items he has in his possession is staggering.  Several artifacts and several really powerful items can only be explained by the fact that it was a Monty Hall game and we went down into a 20 level deep dungeon and killed Demogorgon at the bottom where we found some of the artifacts and the 1,000,000 gold piece gems and crown.

3.  Yes, you heard that right, not one but two 1,000,000 g.p. gems each with a demon trapped inside and a crown worth 85,000 gold pieces!  This can only be explained by the Monty Hall nature of the dungeon and the fact that once you are that high of a level this is probably the only way you are going to level up - its certainly not going to happen by killing kobolds!  Keep in mind that these items were in Demogorgon's treasure horde so its not like we just found them laying around - we had to kill the Prince of Demons to get this stuff!  And behind door #1 Monty is this beautiful 85,000 g.p. crown!

4.  His AC is -5 mostly due to magic items but having a 17 Dex doesn't hurt.

5.  He has 73 hits!  I'm not sure how he got this many unless either we were using Basic D&D for the +1 CON bonus per level with a 14 CON and we didn't stick with hit point limitations for higher level characters (thru 9th Level per Rules Cyclopedia).  If he rolled 2.5 hits average each die +1 hit point per level for CON that comes out to 66.5 hits (average).  So if this is what we did then 73 hits is plausible and only a little above average.

If we were using 1st Edition AD&D he would have had to have rolled fours on just about every roll without hit dice limitations for higher level characters since there is no CON bonus to hit points in the AD&D PHB for a 14 CON.  So either I fudged the numbers or we were playing Basic D&D and weren't playing with reduced hit dice at higher levels. 

6.  No pre-generated character sheets here - we just used a piece of paper and rolled with it.  Remember this was somewhere around 1980 (maybe earlier) and there was no internet and you had to buy the character sheets just to Xerox them.  If you are a kid with a limited budget why bother...

7.  His stats are pretty darned good.  I'm not sure if they got bumped through play (wishes, tomes of whatever or other magical effects) or he got rolled up this way but I actually didn't roll this guy up, he was inherited at first level on the first level of the dungeon so I can't say for sure.

8.  Rather than selling all of the non coin treasure that we found and dividing up the total which is what we do now, we just handed out the spoils as fairly as we thought possible and didn't worry about it if one guy got more g.p. worth of stuff than the other.  This explains why he has all of the elaborate gems and jewelry written out on his sheet rather than just a pile of cash.  Again, one can assume that most of this stuff is piled up in his keep somewhere.  That's a dungeon that's just screaming to be written up at some point (Elroy's Tower) and I even started it back then but never finished it.

9.  I guess the two magical shields were just excess loot to give to my hirelings or something.

Not every game we played in back then was this Monty Hall but I do remember that there were magic items a plenty in most games and that plenty of characters died.  Elroy even died once on one of the upper to middle levels of the twenty level dungeon he was adventuring in when he foolishly put on a Necklace of Strangulation without casting Identify on it first.  The other party members boiled the flesh off of his bones in a massive cauldron located somewhere in the dungeon to remove the necklace and then had him resurrected and he returned to the land of the living to complete the massive dungeon crawl!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Averlorn Campaign: The Gauntlet of Zingalis

Recap from 3/4/2011

We left the tower of Zingalis and made it back to Medea’s Gate with no problems.  Since both of our thieves went missing in the last session and presumed dead, we had a need to add a trap finder to the group.  We asked around at some of the taverns and eventually met a Guild Dwarf named Gradwin who was both an arcane spell caster and a clerical spell caster.  He wasn’t really a thief but since he was a dwarf and had access to a large number of utility spells he could help us to deal with the many perils of the Laughing Mage’s gauntlet.  He agreed to join us on our next foray to the labyrinth below the Tower of Zingalis in exchange for a cut of the loot.  After that we did a little bit of trading and bought provisions and set off through the woods for the tower with the Ranger leading the way.

The first thing we came across was very odd.  We surprised a group of giant weevil looking creatures that appeared to be wearing saddles that had swords and shield strapped to the sides of them but their riders were nowhere to be found.  We decided to evade this encounter lest we run into their unseen riders and the group pressed on towards the tower.  As we were getting close, we ran into a group of eight orcs including two black orc leaders.  These orcs wore the same face paint and symbols of the household troops of Zingalis that we had encountered previously outside of the tower.  They quickly assaulted our single file line from all sides before the group could get off many bow shots and a savage melee commenced.

It didn’t take long for the group to kill them  and we found that they were carrying a large haul of loot much to our surprise.  We discussed this and came up with some ideas about where they got the loot from and where they may have been heading to but couldn’t really say for sure.  Then Gradwin had a little bit of a surprise for us.  Since he took ritual casting for some of his Cleric spells he was able to perform a ten minute ritual to cast Speak with Dead on one of the deceased orcs to ask its spirit some questions.  He asked it where they had found the large haul of loot that they were carrying and it replied in a ghostly voice “we killed a couple of hill giants back near the lake and though they slew some of our number, we prevailed and took their treasure”.  Then he asked it where they were going to and it said they were headed to their lair to the northwest of our current position which is about a half day’s hike northwest of the tower of Zingalis.  So we finally found out where the orc’s home base was and then the spirit returned to Hades or wherever orc sprits go when they die.

After that we made it to the tower after a bit more traveling through the woods and noticed a few things had changed.  We noticed that the sheep within the courtyard of the outer wall were fewer in number which was not much of a surprise given the hostile environment.  Also, the body of the Hydra was no longer next to the shrine and the body of the Cyclops was still there but looked like it had been partially eaten.  The ranger looked around for tracks and said that there appeared to be both lion and goat tracks near the body of the Cyclops.  Later, when he examined the tracks near the shrine he said he thought that maybe some Chimera had taken up residence in the shrine now that its former occupant was no more.

So we went into the ruined gate at the tower once again and through the hallway with the sleep spell where our lower level henchmen kept passing out until we made it into the Cyclops’ lair beyond the secret door.  Once again, we saw the large fur that the Cyclops had been sleeping on and the three large casks of wine in the room.  Then we went through a door at the other end of the room to explore the tower’s labyrinth further.  We passed through a hallway that appeared to have several rat tunnels in the side walls and then the hall ended in a door.  Beyond the door was another hallway and an opening on the left.  The hallway beyond had a summoning circle inscribed on the floor and some runes on the floor in one of the languages of magic that said “Trap”.

Since we didn’t want to mess with the summoning circle and the possibility of a magical trap, we turned left through the open archway into a large room.  The room had two circular grates in the floor on the left and right both of which had levers next to them on the walls.  These appeared to be oubliettes of some sort (holes in the ground/floor where you throw prisoners to die) and the one on the left had a skeleton at the bottom.  We didn’t mess with the levers and opened up a door on the far side of the room to enter into another small chamber.  The room had a broken lantern in the far right corner but was otherwise empty.

There was an alcove on the left rear wall that contained a door straight ahead and another archway to the left so we went through the archway into an “L” shaped room.  There was a pair of doors on the far wall that were locked and a hallway beyond the door on the right that had some sort of tile pattern on the floor.  Since we feared these were trapped, we went back to the alcove and through the other door into an odd shaped room with a circular wall on one side and an angular wall on the other.  This room was also empty so we retraced our steps to the door to head back to the Cyclops’ room to rest up for the night.

As we opened the door we were confronted by two Oytough’s!  A desperate battle raged as one of the creatures attacked Talus the ranger and the other one attacked Cyrcla the elf while the others came to their aid by attacking the horrible carrion eaters.  Both characters were hurt badly and forced to withdraw while Teth-en-Aire cast mirror image and waded into the fray and Lucias started hacking on the one that had attacked his elf henchman.  Eventually, Teth-en-Aire managed to kill the one he was fighting while Talus fired at it with his bow and Cyrcla managed to cast Web on the one that had attacked her making it much easier for Lucias to slay the horrid beast.  Both Talus and Cyrcla had been bitten by their mouths though and contracted some sort of rotting disease!  So the dwarf cast some healing spells on the ranger (Cyrcla had quaffed a healing potion previously and was already healed up) and we decided to head back to the Cylops’ room to rest up for the evening.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Guilds, Religious Orders and other Nefarious Organizations in Thebos

Anywhere there is a city in Thebos you will find the presence of Oryxian guilds. They are an important aspect of the setting and players are more likely to curry favor with guilds rather than join them. Most guilds do not permit the wayfaring lifestyle of the typical adventurer with a few exceptions.  For more information on the Oryxian Guilds see the article entitled Ten Things About Lykaedia and the Anvil.  Six of the ten principle Oryxian Guild Houses that the player character are most likely to interact with in the Anvil are described below.

The Devoted Brothers of the White Caduceus – A priestly Order of Clerics
They are money lenders, couriers, and financiers. They do offer some clerical assistance (they worship Hermes), but of a limited scope.  They also offer some banking services but only in the larger cities of Thebos.  They may be able to help adventurers by casting high level clerical spells like Raise Dead or others but often require some service or quest to be completed in return in addition to appropriate compensation.

The Dominion – A Powerful Wizards Guild
The Dominion actively recruits PC and NPC arcane spell casters, but it is very competitive. Becoming a Mage of this group grants no small degree of power and prestige, but it is a path that is fraught with peril.  Due to the amount of competition within the wizards of this guild, there is often in-fighting which sometimes results in their members killing one another due to the serious nature of the rivalries.

The Fraternal Order of the Surgeons of Hecate – A Surgeons and Healers Guild
The Surgeons of Hecate are only rarely found away from Grand Oryx and are very skilled at all forms of healing. One would presume that the application of leaches is a favorite past time. Consider these fellows to be the healers of choice for those who don't want any messy questions or background checks. They also administers the after life punishment ordained by the state to create "the reborn" from condemned prisoners at “The Factory”. The reborn are some combination of zombie and simulacrum or golem.  Despite their power and high status within the state (or maybe because of it) people from the Anvil and in particular around Medea's Gate, Limus Town, Zedemis and the surrounding towns and mountains, simply hate the Surgeons of Hecate and generally view them as necromancers.  The appearance of the Surgeons of Hecate often takes on a gaunt and sickly visage, sometimes including open sores.  Their skin is usually pale, their facial features are usually drawn and they are seriously creepy in the way that only an undertaker is creepy.  They often hire Bleaker Goblins as assistants which does little to improve their image.

They run a borough in Grand Oryx that is well run, safe and very accommodating.  You'll never find a more peaceful, well-behaved and law-abiding citizenry than those poor wretches who live and toil in Ghoultowne. The borough is near the Northern edge of the city on a series of small hills and is dominated by three very disturbing temples to Hecate and of course, The Factory. That massive edifice perches on one of the hills and overlooks the rest of the borough. There are no beggars in the street, no hucksters, no whores, no street urchins. At night, when the Reborn come out to roam, patrolling the streets with the Skullguard, most that don't live there beat a hasty retreat to other more accommodating locales.

Following is an eye witness account described in detail by someone who has undertaken nefarious work there on occasion:  “Though most think it only a rumor, the Masters really do wander the inky black streets, inns and taverns of the borough after the sun has set. I'm not convinced that they're vampires as the simple folk insist, but they're certainly creepy as Hell, and unlikely to be human. Maybe they once were, I don't know. I do know that taxes are very low there, at least "monetary taxes". The rumors of the blood tax are true though, for I've seen it with my own eyes. I've done some work there and it's a creepy damn place, but this stuff about zombies and skeletons everywhere, I don't know, maybe in the temples, but not on the streets. Honestly, we try to avoid the buggers and I was a bit taken aback to find out how chummy you fellows are with them. That's your business though.”

The Grand Oryx Mining Guild – A Guild of Miners in the areas around Grand Oryx
The Grand Oryx Mining Guild has a presence in most mining towns in Thebos in order to manage their mining operations and holdings.  They control most of the mining operations of Thebos that are run by humans and compete primarily with local mining operations and those controlled by demi human earth dwellers such as dwarves and gnomes.  The largest corbitumite mines in all of Thebos are actually located near the Lykaedian backwater towns of Limus Town and Zedemis along with vast deposits of other mineral wealth and the guild has a large presence in both towns.  They also have a presence in many other smaller mining towns in the region such as Silverton among others.

The Monastic Order of the Three – A religious Order of Hospitallers
This religious order of monastic hospitallers is a well-respected organization and a fine group to associate oneself with.  They hold virtue and the rule of Law above all else.  From time to time, healing potions and clerical scrolls can be purchased here.  Also, they may be able to help adventurers by casting high level clerical spells but will often require some service or quest to be completed in return in addition to appropriate compensation.

The Promethean House – A very select Wizards Guild
Although very few of them are actually nobles, they simply see themselves as vastly superior to the great unwashed general population, largely due to their wealth, holdings and power. This is a frustrating group to be sure, but not one to trifle with.


The Confessors GuildA Holy Order that seeks to determine the truth in all matters
The Confessors of the Gods are a holy order of Confessors and Oracles (consisting of NPCs) that seek to determine the truth in all criminal matters.  They are both judge and jury but leave the executions to the law enforcement community of the state and locale.  The confessors venerate all gods in the primary Greek pantheon and are an integral part of the network of Oracles throughout the land like those found in Winterholm and Herrari.

Secret:  Long ago, the guild didn’t have such a lofty station as they do now and were known to deal in wizardry.  Since that time, the guild’s relationship with the republic has been elevated and they have risen above the petty squabbling of the other guilds.

The Fellowship of the Aegis – A Religious Order of Paladins
This religious order of paladins worship Athena and aspire and revere wisdom and skill in arms and battle or martial prowess above all else not unlike the samurai warriors of old.

The Hoplites Guild of AthenaAn Adventurer’s Guild
The Hoplites is a small select adventurer’s guild that is highly thought of on the Anvil.  The guild holds radical beliefs of a rebellious political nature that are not popular in Grand Oryx.  The guild has representatives in most major population centers.

Prophets of the SunA Zealous Order of Paladins
The Prophets of the Sun are a knightly order of Paladins who worship Apollo and aspire to seek out and destroy any and all evil doers and creatures when and where they are found.  The destruction of all that is evil is there reason for being.  They pursue these ideals with a feverish recklessness and single mindedness of purpose even at peril to life and limb for they are following the wishes of their god.


The Black Cloister – A Money Lender’s and Thieves’ Guild
The black Cloister has its tendrils of organized crime throughout Thebos and usually has a presence in most cities and larger towns in the region.  They are a money lenders guild and a good source of information about the more nefarious activities within many urban population centers if payment is forthcoming.  They are also involved in many rackets including protection and gambling.  Their symbol is a block tattoo script on the underside of the forearm.

Gatherers of the One True Text – An Evil Cult of Fanatics
After the Elder Gods were put down by Zeus, their religions were stamped out, persecuted and spread to the four winds.  The worshippers were forced to give up the open practice of their religions but many continued to worship in secret.  During the persecution, their primary religious tomes were destroyed by their enemies whenever they were found.  The surviving worshippers managed to save odd bits and pieces of these tomes although very few intact copies of these works are known to have survived the purge.

The Gatherers are a cult of fanatics who are actively seeking out these bits and pieces of what they call “The One True Text” in order to piece it back together in an attempt to bring back the Elder Gods (a.k.a. the Old Ones).  One of their symbols is a black onyx goat and their religion often involves unspeakable rites and human sacrifice.

Ivan’s 40 – A small criminal gang in Limus Town
Ivan’s Forty are one of about six small criminal enterprises in Limus Town.

The Lamp Lighters – A small criminal gang in Limus Town
The Lamp Lighters are one of about six small criminal enterprises in Limus Town.

The Ophidian Hand – One of the principle Thieves’ Guilds in Medea’s Gate
The Ophidian Hand is one of the two principal local thieves’ guilds in Medea’s Gate.  The group trains horses in the Market District which serves as a front for the Thieves' Guild.  They control the north side Market District of town where the open ground and stables are located.  They frequently buy and sell magic items among other illicit wares.  The competing thieves’ guild is located in the dock district.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Gods and Religion in Averlorn and Thebos

The world of Averlorn turns to Greek, Egyptian, and Norse Mythology for inspiration. True to those sources, the Gods are a scheming, active bunch here as you will no doubt notice at some point.  In Averlorn, as in ancient mythology, bold warriors are chosen by the Gods in their eternal game of heroes and villains.

Open hostilities between faiths are uncommon except along lines of Good vs Evil. On the whole, most of the folk in Averlorn are quite polytheistic, though they might poke fun at the strange views of those who differ from them. The Gods here are far too active to directly insult the faithful or their rituals.

In Thebos where the prevailing human culture is Ardrois (similar to both Greek and Roman), the Greek Gods are most common.  Few if any temples to the other Gods can be found with the exception of the demi-human deities which are somewhat less popular even among their own racial groups.  Elves being the exception in that they tend to cling to Corellon and other racial deities.  The Egyptian Gods hold sway in the Archipelago which lies far to the East.

The Egyptian gods are sometimes worshipped by the remaining populations of Lizard Men or Serpent Men as well, especially the Serpent God Set.  In the distant past, the Serpent Men Empire in Leutra stretched over much of the known world. Their greatest cities were swallowed up by the vastness of the Scourge long ago and their once great temples of Bahamut and Tiamat have long since fallen into ruin.  The remaining Serpent Men of old have also been known to worship the Elder Gods as well practicing their unspeakable rites often involving human sacrifice in return for the powerful knowledge of the dark and vile sorcery granted to them by the Old Ones.

The religion of the Thugee is based upon the Norse pantheon of old with Odin being the primary deity.  The Thugee hold a deep resentment for elves of all sorts and their hatred for giants is unrelenting. Both of these beliefs seem to stem from deeply held religious principles.

The Elder Gods, also known as the Old Ones, were once revered more widely throughout the lands but long ago, they warred with the Titans who defeated them and stamped out their open worship scattering their priests, shrines and worshippers to the four winds.  The Titans were in turn put down by Zeus and the rest of his pantheon in another great war that changed the face of Averlorn and created the Scourge and the other land masses that remain today.

Zeus also put down those of the Elder gods that survived the wars with the Titans although some of the remaining Titans and Elder Gods are still worshiped to this day.  There still remain some priests and worshippers of these dark gods who practice unspeakable rites and rituals in secret enacted in their hidden shrines.  These dark and mysterious cults and other pagan religions can be found in some urban areas, and their followers may worship more openly in distant and more remote rural communities that still follow the old pagan ways.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Averlorn Campaign: The Shrine of Zingalis

Recap from 2/25/2011

The group made its way back to Medea’s Gate uneventfully with the aid of our new found ranger henchman Taleth Flavius.  He suggested the direct route through the forest to the Southeast was the quickest and safest route.  Once in Medea’s Gate we met back up with the other adventurers who had to stay behind last time and immediately started planning our next foray to the Wizard’s Tower of Zingalis armed with the knowledge gleaned from our successful scouting mission.   We purchased ample provisions and healing potions and set off with the additional members and henchmen to the tower once again.

When we arrived at the tower we immediately noticed that the Cyclops was not at his usual perch next to tower on the inner terrace level inside the circular curtain wall.  Asclepius the Elf decided to do some scouting and first cast Invisibility on himself and then cast his Fly spell and took off to reconnoiter the area to see if he could locate the Cyclops or identify any other threats.  He flew within the radius of the outer walls of the castle and was careful not to get too close to the oddly shaped black basalt tower in the center in case there were defensive wards around it.  He saw no sign of the Cyclops below but did spot what looked like a trail of large footprints heading away from the tower into the woods.  He then got a closer look at the Temple or Shrine of Zingalis.  He flew inside the open doors to see if he could determine what its occupant was and saw a large Hydra sleeping inside.  He returned to report the news to the group.

We decided that since the Cyclops was away it was a good time to take out the Hydra in the temple and set about formulating a plan of attack.  We decided that Teth-en-Aire would walk up to the door with Lucias next to him for cover and would cast a magic missile at it in order to lure it out of the shrine.  Then the archers would hit it from the flank off to one side while Lucias engaged it in hand to hand combat and the thieves would have an opportunity to back stab it from behind the doors while it was focused on the others.  The plan went off without a hitch – the Hydra was burned badly by the first magic missile and was enraged enough to come storming out of the shrine.  At that point it knocked Arceus away from the door he was hiding behind thus revealing him but our archers peppered it with arrows from the side and Lucias managed to cut off one or two of its heads and was only being bitten once in return for some damage.  The Hydra was dead outside of the steps of the shrine in short order.

So we went through the great bronze doors through the portal into the temple to seek out its treasure within its lair.  Soon we gathered up the coins, gems and jewelry that were found inside where the creature was nesting.  A giant statue of the Goddess Hecate stood inside the temple at the far end holding a living blue flame torch in one of her large stone arms.  On the frieze above the many columns lining the walls was written a litany in the three languages of magic – Brimbahri (Demonic), Promethean (Angelic) and Elvish.  It was a prayer to the goddess Hecate the goddess of magic.  We found a secret door on one of the heels of the giant statue but couldn’t figure out how to open it.  When one of the elves read the prayer aloud in Elvish, the secret door mysteriously opened.

The door led to a narrow staircase leading down deep below the level of the shrine.  When we got to the bottom and went down the hallway there, it was completely shrouded in magical darkness after a little ways.  We tried lighting torches and pulling out glowing magical weapons to no avail – the darkness remained.  So we continued on feeling the walls to the right in the dark until the hallway entered into a room also shrouded in darkness.  We followed the wall of the new room a ways until it led into another hallway to the right which, after a ways, was not hidden by the magical darkness anymore.  This hallway eventually led into a large rectangular room with a smiling horned demon face sculpture surrounding what appeared to be a blackened portal of some sort.  On the frieze of the room above was written a set of runes this time in Brimbahri.

We continued our exploration and found that there were four such rooms of almost identical layout surrounding the central darkened room laid out in a symmetrical fashion.  In each was the same smiling demon face and portal but each held a different set of runes written on the frieze of the walls above.  The second one was written in Promethean, the third was written in Elvish but the fourth was written in some alien cruel language that none of the elves recognized.  This room was also slightly different in that it gave the occupants a very uncomfortable feeling.  We found something unusual on the walls of the fourth room as well.  It appeared that there was a mural on each side wall that was somehow hidden by an invisibility spell.  Arceus blew two doses of his dust of appearance on them and revealed a scene of mind bending horror of a cosmic nature on the first one and a scene of non Euclidean architecture on the second.  Also, both murals appeared to contain similar runes to the other alien runes found in this room.  This last hall in the shrine was apparently dedicated to the Elder or Outer Gods and the language was no doubt the kind of thing that the Cult of the Gatherers of the One True Text sought after.  When Asclepius first tried to read the text on the first mural he was stricken with a cosmic revelation of some sort but said nothing further of the matter – he didn’t sleep well later that night.

There were three Elves present in the group and they agreed that the words were magical in nature and that they would need to cast Read Magic to determine what spells were written there on the wall.  So we would have to wait until the next day when they learned that spell to decipher the runes.  The group continued searching the shrine, especially the central room that was concealed by the darkness spell.  In the center of the room, the rogue Sicarius found a sphere about 12” around that appeared to be above the level of the floor.  The odd thing was that when he touched it appeared to move.  When he touched it a second time it receded into the floor and then we heard a noise up above that sounded like a door closing.  We sent someone up the stairs to investigate and indeed the door above had closed – we were trapped within the shrine!

So we had nothing to do but wait for the Elves to re-learn their spells to try and figure out a way to get out of the shrine of Zingalis.  We rested up and the elves learned Read Magic in the morning and Asclepius learned Knock to try and open the door above.  When they cast read magic on the magical runes, they found that the Brimbhari runes spelled out a Hold Portal spell, the Promethean runes spelled out a Dimension Door spell, the Elvish runes spelled out a Knock spell and the Elder/Outer god runes contained an Arcane Lock spell.  We also determined that the first mural’s runes contained an Initiate Familiar spell – this was a very powerful and little known signature spell of great value to Elves and Wizards alike.  Unfortunately, we were out of read magic spells at that point so we couldn’t determine what was written on the second mural.

We were stuck there for another day and spent the night in the shrine uneventfully.  The following day, Asclepius learned knock and scribe to try and open up the door to the shrine and to record some of the spells written on the walls in his spell book.  After he wrote a few of the spells in his book we discussed our dilemma.  Cyrcla seemed to think that the only way to safely travel through the portals and part of the Wizard’s challenge was to learn and cast the spell written above the mouth on the frieze on the portal itself.  She also thought it could teleport the caster out of the shrine to some other destination or perhaps just open the way to a room beyond.  So rather than cast the knock spell on the secret door above, Aslepius cast it on the portal in the room with Knock written above it in Elvish and then Arceus stepped through the portal.  About five minutes later, we heard a grating noise and Arceus came back down the stairs from above informing us that it was him and he had opened the door from the outside.  He had been teleported next to the disciples of Zingalis outside the shrine and struck a pose as if he was worshiping him like the orc statues.  He was able to open the secret door above because he spoke one of the three languages that the prayer to Hecate was written in.

With a sigh of relief, the group was freed from what may have otherwise been its tomb.  We discussed the portals further and some of the others thought that maybe the portals were safe and casting the knock spell on them didn’t really make any difference.  So the Cleric Kaira decided to cast an Augury spell to see if Athena could offer any advice on the matter.  She cast her spell and asked the question: "If someone were to walk through this portal (in the room with Elvish runes) what would be the outcome?"  The goddess would usually answer “Weal” for good or “Woe” for bad but the spell is never really foolproof until the caster is of a very high level.  So her goddess answered “Weal”.  Sicarius thought this was good enough for him and decided to brave the portal without the aid of any magical castings.

Five minutes went by – then ten minutes and nothing happened.  Fearing the worst, Kaira once again cast Augury on the portal and asked the same question and once again her god answered “Weal” indicating a good result if someone were to go through.  Arceus was getting concerned for his fellow rogue at this point and asked the question “what if he is hurt or getting attacked and needs our help?”  The others didn’t know what to say but feared the worst.  So Arceus threw caution to the wind and stepped through the portal putting his trust in the word of Athena.  It would be his last act as a mortal for he entered Elysium at that point and found Sicarius also there.  They both remarked how peaceful it was and were happy at the amount of treasure that they found – it appeared to be everywhere!  The two thieves were in heaven having fallen to one of the Laughing Mage’s fiendish traps!

The group was horror struck – after about twenty or thirty minutes of waiting we determined that they were both probably dead and weren’t coming back.  So we headed back up the stairs and made our way to the woods near the shrine to see if we could see the Cyclops again.  It had returned at this point but we decided we were going to try and sneak into the smashed gate on the other side and see if we could find its loot in its lair without arousing its attention.  We snuck back around through the woods and approached the wall on the opposite side of the keep from where it was sitting and started circling around the wall to the open portal.  That’s when we noticed the Cyclops standing outside the wall beyond the gate and looking right at us with its giant eye!

We hadn’t planned for this encounter but knew it was a possibility.  The Cyclops appeared to be motioning us away as if telling us to leave his home turf with his giant arm.  Some of the others started talking about running and Lucias decided he needed to bolster the confidence of the group by being brave so he found his courage in a bottle.  He quaffed his potion of super heroism and thus fortified took off at a dead run right at the Cyclops.  He was effectively now a 10th level fighter and had little to fear from the Cyclops as long as the group had his back.  Teth-en-Aire started running behind him and then the archers followed.  When Teth-en-Aire was in range of his fireball spell he let it fly and it was a good one – it burned the Cyclops badly.  The archers started firing their longbows when they were in range and the Cyclops found itself being hurt before its attackers had even closed with it.  It pulled a large creek rock from its bag and threw it at the charging fighter and hit him but it really only took away some of his temporary hit points from the potion so he kept charging undeterred.  The second rock missed its target.

The group continued pelting it with arrows and a couple of magic missiles and the Cyclops was hurt badly at this point.  He realized his predicament now and started to run but Lucias caught up with him and slowed his retreat landing a powerful blow with Hope Blighter.  After another volley of arrows and magic missiles the giant beast fell to the ground with an earth shaking crash.  So with the Cyclops defeated we went through the smashed in portal and through the secret door and found the treasure it had hidden away in its lair.  We decided that this was a good note to end on after the deaths of two of our compatriots to the fiendish trap of Zingalis the Laughing Mage and started heading back to Medea’s Gate.  As we left we thought we heard laughter off in the distance…