Saturday, April 23, 2011

Averlorn Campaign: The Devils of Zingalis

Recap from 4/8/2011

After resting up in the Cyclops’ lair in the Labyrinth of Zingalis, we set off down the hall past the summoning circle in search of more loot.  The treasure finding potion that Lucias had quaffed during the previous session indicated there was more treasure to be found off in that direction somewhere.  At the end of the hall past the prison cell blocks was an empty room with one angled corner wall and an archway on the right wall that led into another rectangular room with tapestries on two of its walls.  This room, however, was not empty – staring at us with wicked smiles from the other side of the room were four Eryines!  The winged female Devils were somehow strangely attractive and yet had a cruel, alien and wickedly evil look to them at the same time.  They hissed obscenities at us, promising to return our souls to Hades, and then the melee commenced.

We weren’t surprised but unfortunately, they had the initiative and acted first.  Two of them teleported across the room using their Teleport Without Error ability and jumped the dwarven cleric Brummbar in the back left end of the group's line.  One of them managed to land a hit with her evil poisoned dagger but the dwarf made his save against the poison affects of the blade.  One of the others attacked Kaira to little effect with its dagger, as Kalaniekos and Asclepius came to her aid.  The other one stood where it was and used its enchanted Rope of Entanglement to try to ensnare its opponents, and managed to tie up Taleth the Ranger who was stuck and couldn’t move.  She snarled “I’ll turn you into a Lemure once we return to Hades!”

Then the group struck back and managed to kill the one holding Taleth with weapons, arrows and magic missiles and he was free once again.  Lucias came to the aid of Brummbar and between the two of them they managed to slay one of the ones attacking the dwarf.  It was looking like the combat was going well when suddenly things went horribly wrong.  The devil that was fighting Brummbar and Lucias used her rope of entanglement and managed to ensnare the fighter – he was helpless to act from that point on.  To make matters worse, the other one used her Cause Fear spell like ability and a number of the party members fled the room including Brummbar, Cyrcla, Taleth, and Asclepius. 

Things weren’t so easy with our primary fighter and four other characters effectively taken out of the melee and in the next round it only got worse.  The one holding Lucias in the rope also used her fear affect along with the other one and then Kaleneikos and Naas also fled screaming in terror from the room but not before they managed to kill the one in front of them.  This left the one devil holding Lucias in the rope, fighting against Kaira the cleric and Gradwin the Cleric/Mage.  Kaira tried in vain to cut the magical rope to no avail.  Gradwin picked up Brummbar’s magical short sword that had been dropped as he fled, and attacked the she devil doing a small amount of damage.  The lone Erinye tried to summon more of her kind to the fray unsuccessfully as she hissed obscenities at her attackers.  Both of the clerics now focused their full efforts on slaying the evil devil creature.  Before attacking her, Gradwin intoned to his deity “Oh mighty and powerful Hecate, grant me strength against this foul abomination to send her back to the hell from whence she came” and he struck her with a powerful blow (he invoked the d30 for his damage roll – once per session, any character can roll the d30 for a single roll for emergencies such as this).

She reeled and was hurt badly (he rolled 20 points of damage plus other bonuses) and was suddenly not so sure of her victory anymore.  She once again attempted to summon more of her “sisters” from hell but they did not answer her call fortunately (it would have been game over if they had).  Then Kaira managed to land the killing blow with her enchanted spear and the battle was over.  As the magical ropes disappeared and returned to hell, Lucias thanked the two priests for freeing him from the ropes and certain doom.  As the remaining characters in the room took stock of their surroundings, slowly the others started returning to the room as the fear affect wore off.  Fortunately, they didn’t encounter any wandering monsters in the labyrinth as they fled as that could have been disastrous for them.  They slowly filtered back into the room and picked up their discarded weapons littering the floor.  We had to go back to the hallway with the permanent sleep spell cast on it to retrieve the two fourth level characters that had succumbed to the sleep spell in their flight in order to revive them since they were asleep.

Once the group was re-joined, we searched the room and found the Erinyes treasure hoard then decided to open the large bronze double doors in front of us.  These led into a long rectangular room with caryatid columns on either side that was otherwise empty.  At the end of the long hall like chamber it opened into a much larger chamber beyond with three elliptical steps leading down a few feet lower to the floor below.  At the other end of the room was a group of fourteen very odd creatures.  They looked to be yet another example of Zingalis’ crazy experiments.  They were some kind of abominable cross breed between humans or humanoids and devils but they had lobster like claws instead of hands.  The DM referred to them as "infernal mutants" but we had never encountered their like before.

They rushed at the group and we formed a line across the top of the stairs between the columns on either wall so that they couldn’t get into our rear ranks.  Behind the front line stood the spellcasters who hurled magic missiles and fired arrows into the crazy looking lobster devil things.  The front line consisted of Cyrcla on the left side, Lucias and Taleth in the middle and Teth-en-Aire on the right side.  Before they could come to grips with the adventurers, both Cyrcla and Teth-en-Aire cast mirror image so there were suddenly many more images of the elves to conceal their actual locations.  As the others stood in the back and cast spells and fired arrows, Kalaneikos stood behind the front line and attacked them with his spear to bolster the line as needed.  Brummbar and Kaira cast a combination of Prayer, Holy Chant and Bless simultaneously which not only bolstered the group’s offensive capabilities, but also bolstered their defensive capabilities as well with positive energy from their deities.

The characters in the front line slew the beasts as they came at them and suffered very little in the way of damage from their opponents while the characters in the back of the line helped to whittle them down as well.  In this manner, the group managed to slay all fourteen of the abhorrent creatures in a slow grinding battle that diminished their numbers until they were all dispatched.  These beasts were not true devils but were some kind of cross breeds between humans or humanoids and devil kind.  This fact was ascertained by the clerics, because they didn’t wink out and disappear to their home plane when destroyed like devils would have, rather, they bled and died like normal humanoids.  After the last creature was killed, we searched the room thoroughly and found their treasure piled in one corner.  Aside from more of the evil looking demonic caryatids lining the walls and a few other statues, the room had no other exits or hidden features that we could discern.

So, after two long grueling combats against the spawn of Hades and Zingalis’ crazy creations, we decided to call it a day and headed back to the Cyclops’ lair for a much needed rest. 


Monday, April 18, 2011

ICE MERP Layout Illustrations from the Lake Town Module

The layouts below were drawn for Iron Crown Enterprise's MERP 2nd Edition module of Laketown.  I drew over 40 illustrations for this module most of which were drawn using AutoCAD.  Most of these were building layouts and were unremarkable aside from the sheer volume of them.  Below is a small selection of some of the more interesting ones.  You will note that most of them are shown with a wood texture type of rendering and also show timber framing members in the walls.  This was per the original writer's rough designs since he wanted to stress the wooden nature of Lake Town which was to be its detriment when Smaug attacked the town in the events detailed in J.R.R. Tolkien's book the Hobbit.

The map for Lake Town is shown below.  It was drawn by hand using ink on vellum.

Map of Lake Town

The Citadel of the Maestas plans below were one of the few buildings in the module that wasn't made of wood and was built on the shore near the town.  The layouts were drawn using AutoCAD and were inspired by my architectural history background with all of the niches, vaults, windows and arches to looks somewhat like a set of European abbey plans.

Citadel of the Maestas First Floor Plan

Citadel of the Maestas Second Floor Plan

The layouts for Vodagar's Tavern below include four floor plans featuring the first floor, a balcony/mezzanine level, a floor for guest accommodations and Vodagar's widow's watch, office and quarters at the top.  It has the potential to provide a great backdrop for all kinds of dockside carousing, wenching, drinking, trouble-making, general role playing and tavern intrigue for a party of adventurers.  These drawings were drawn using AutoCAD and feature the wood structure and wood grain rendering for the furnishings as noted above.

Vodagar's Tavern First Floor Plan

Vodagar's Tavern Second Floor Plan

Vodagar's Tavern 3rd and 4th Floor Plans

The plan for Erranun's Dockside brothel is shown below.  It was drawn using AutoCAD.

Erranun's Brothel

The typical Lake Town merchant ship layout below was drawn by hand using ink on vellum.

Lake Town typical Merchant Vessel

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.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

ICE MERP Layouts from the Mirkwood Module

The illustrations below were drawn for ICE's Middle Earth Role Playing Second Edition book of Mirkwood in 1995.  I think this was the third book I did illustrations for and all of the illustrations shown here were drawn with ink on vellum using technical pens.  The black and white map of the southern half of the forest of Mirkwood was used to key locations found in the module.  Towns or villages are shown with three dots, towers are shown as spires and the locations with flags on them are fortresses.  This was the largest scale map I ever did for them.  I'm not sure why but there is no north arrow or graphic scale drawn on this illustration - they were probably added later by the ICE staff as was the rest of the text.

Map of Southern Mirkwood

The next map is the map of the ruins of Dale after it was destroyed by Smaug.  Note the location map in the upper right hand corner showing the Lonely Mountain.  That was drawn by referencing the map in the book "the Hobbit" that shows the Lonely Moutain.  I did another CAD map of Dale in better times when it wasn't a ruin but didn't show it here because it isn't as nice as this one.

Ruins of Dale Showing the Lonely Mountain

The next three drawings are of the Dwarven Halls of Erebor carved within the Lonely Moutain.  These were rendered to look like maps carved in stone in a similar style to the maps I did for Moria.  Note the dwarven runes.  Also note that on the first map, the river runs alongside the entry road as described in the book.

Erebor the Lonely Mountain First Delving

The next level is the Under Delving or Second Level where Smaug resided before and during the events described in the Hobbit.

Erebor the Lonely Mountain Under Delving

The next drawing is just a closeup of the previous one showing where Smaug resides.  It is the rectangular chamber roughly centered on the image below and was labeled as Room #47 in the module.

Erebor the Lonely Mountain Under Delving Chamber of Smaug

The final layout from the Lonely Mountain is the King's Delving of Erebor where the royal apartments of the King of Erebor are located.

Erebor the Lonely Mountain King's Delving

The next layout shows the plans of the tower of Sarn Goriwing.  The great black spire rises out of the center of the waterfall called Goriwing near the headwaters  of the enchanted river (S. Guildin).  Lachglin the Animist resides here.

Tower of Sarn Goriwing - Lachglin's Residence

The next layout is a plan of Rhosgobel, the enchanted home and refuge of Radagast the Brown.  It is located on the western edge of the narrows of Mirkwood and is a celebration of the the abundant forms of Endorian life.

Rhosgobel, the enchanted home of Radagast the Brown

The layout below is a plan layout of the Holy Carrock.  It is a large stone shrine sitting in the middle of the river that was hollowed out of a large natural rock formation.  It is a sacred site to the Beijabar who reside along the western edge of Mirkwood.  The manor house of the high shape changer of the Beijabar is also located nearby.

The Holy Carrock, a Sacred Beijabar Site

The following layout is of the hill fort of Ursh Lana also known as "the Defiant Hill".  It is the westernmost of the Asdraige Easterling outposts.

Ursh Lana or "Defiant Hill" - Easterling Hill Fort

The final layout of this series is of a typical outpost of Gondor, one of many built in the region.  They were primarily built and manned by the kingdom of Gondor in order to keep an eye on their Easterling neighbors.

Typical Outpost of Gondor

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.

Averlorn Campaign: Beware the Tarp of Zingalis

Recap from 4/1/2011

Taleth the Ranger managed to successfully follow the werewolf tracks to their den and we gathered up some copper and silver pieces they had stashed in their lair.  Coupled with the loot from the Ketch’s lair it was a reasonable amount of coinage, but overall pretty disappointing since we had to turn back without even reaching the Labyrinth of Zingalis.  When we got back to Medea’s Gate, we dropped off Rena with a doctor and used the loot we had gathered to buy healing potions.  Then we went to the Dominion’s local guild house and traded Shadaar’s traveling spellbook that we found in the Barrow Mound of Gravemoor for some magic items.  It contained three 5th level and one 6th level wizard spells (mostly having to do with summoning and binding demons) so it was worth quite a bit of cash.  We never sold it thinking we could use it one day but realized it would be better to sell it to purchase more magic items for the group.  Taleth got a +2 longsword that was +3 against giants (handy for a ranger) and a matching set of +1 Banded Mail with a +3 shield.  This improved his AC quite a bit making him a much better front line fighter and the sword gave him quite a bit more punch in melee as well.  We also acquired a ring of Telekinesis (50 pounds) and gave it to Gradwyn, another magical sword that we gave to Naas the Elven Magic User/Thief and a few other potions that we handed out to the other party members.

Thus re-equipped we provisioned up and got ready to set off for the tower once again.  We asked Brummbar the Dwarven Cleric to accompany us because our other clerics weren’t feeling well.  We had no trouble making it to the tower this time and went back in through the smashed gate and the Cyclops’ old lair behind the secret door.  We went down the hallway past the summoning or transmuting circle on the floor and made a point to stay to the left of it, lest we get turned into goats or worse.  Since we were badly in need of loot at this point, having been to the tower many times before and come out almost empty handed, we decided to focus this expedition on finding the treasure that we knew had to be there.  Lucias had a potion of treasure finding and decided that now was a good a time as any to use it, since we knew that the Horned Devils we had fought on our previous visit had to have a lair and loot in the complex somewhere.  It showed the strongest reading straight ahead of us through one of the doors at the end of the hallway and a couple of other indications of treasure in a few other directions that weren’t as strong.

We opened the door and went in.  The room was empty except for what looked to be a manhole cover sized trap door on the rear of the floor of the room.  It was surrounded by three sets of arrows inscribed on the floor that were all pointing to the hatch and there were also Brimahri runes carved into the floor around it as well.  The spellcasters translated the runes to read “TARP”.  This was odd because their was a similar warning also written in Brimbahri on the floor next to the summoning circle in the hallway but that one said “TRAP”.  So we figured that either the laughing mage had a sense of humor or he was dyslexic and accidentally inscribed the wrong letters on the floor unless it was some sort of trick or even an anagram for trap.  Since the crazy wizard’s ham had given us a pleasant surprise on the last visit, we assumed it was some sort of whacky joke or something.  Taleth used the Chime of Opening to open the trap door and sure enough, there was a tarp inside the hold covering a mound of treasure!

 We gathered up the loot from the lair of the Horned Devils and kept exploring the complex.  We went back into the hallway and opened the next door which was next to the one we had just opened.  In this room was another oubliette in the floor with a grate over it and as we walked up to it to have a look, a giant snake like creature with a dragon’s head slithered out of a gap in the wall above the grate and attacked!  This was obviously one of Zingalis’ crazy abominable creations.  There was a brief combat and the group managed to slay the creature and found more treasure in its hidey hole over the grate.  There was also a statue of Zingalis in another corner of the room.  Upon further investigation, it appeared to have grooves in the floor where it had been previously moved.  Lucias grabbed a hold of it and pulled it sideways and it slid to one side revealing a small hidden compartment under it carved into the floor.  The compartment also held a small amount of treasure.  We gathered up the coinage and continued to search the room.

One of the adventurers found a secret door in one corner which led into a small room.  Inside the room was a chest and three barrels.  Naas started checking out the chest and the rest of the group went back into the other room in case it was trapped to explode or something.  As we were milling about shooting the breeze, we were surprised to hear Naas exclaim, "what the…" and then we heard a loud thud!  When we turned around and looked into the room, he was invoking a spell and cast a magic missile on the chest!  We were surprised by this and it took us a little while to realize that the chest wasn’t a chest at all but was a Mimic, and that one of his hands was stuck to the “chest” while he cast the spell on it with the other one.  The group belatedly came to his aid and attacked the sticky chest shaped monster and eventually, Lucias killed it with a fierce blow from his sword.  Right before it died it said “wait, I’m willing to negotiate” and then its guts were spattered all over the wall behind it in a gooey mess.

We found a little bit more loot in one of the barrels and decided to rest up for the evening and that’s where we called the session.  We started out saying we were going to focus on finding loot and we managed to find a decent amount of it for a change including a magical broadsword that was under the “TARP”.  We still aren’t sure what to make of the laughing mage – his insidious traps killed two of our comrades but so far he does appear to have an odd sense of humor.  Between the baked ham reward for opening the double doors and the beware of “TARP” warning, we were starting to see why he was called the Laughing Mage.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

ICE MERP Layout Illustrations from the Moria Module

Several people have requested these illustrations so following are drawings I did for the MERP 2nd Edition module for the Mines of Moria back in 1994.  The first drawings are of the first level of the huge city.  I would have liked to have drawn these with a more realistic and detailed dungeon map type of presentation but that was really impossible due to the huge scale of the city.  Rather, the maps should be looked at as schematic "road maps" for the city with detailed layouts shown elsewhere in the module to augment them and show close up views of particular areas.  The street and tunnel layouts with their many halls, caverns and mines are pretty much the same as those found in the original 1st Edition module of Moria except that ICE wanted to give them a new "stone map" rendered look.  The art directors wanted them to appear to be maps chiseled into the walls of the giant city - sort of a "You Are Here" kind of road map if you will.

The maps shown below are both the left and right side of a two page spread of the First Level and Deep of the Dwarven Mines and City of Moria.  The "Say friend and enter" secret door is on one side of this level at the rock face of the mountain above.  I'm not sure which side its on but its probably described in more detail inside of the module.  I scanned this level rather than the other levels because the other ones shared the same border which was drawn once on a separate sheet of vellum and pasted onto the sheet for each subsequent level.  In other words, the same stone border was used for all subsequent levels but added to the map by the ICE staff when they did the final page layout, paste up and type setting.  I would have to do some copy and paste Photoshop work and create new image files to merge the seperate stone border with the other maps (or obtain copies of the original final images) in order to post those layouts here as they appeared in the original book.  The first level and deep was drawn with a unique stone border on the original map layout sheet which was not repeated on the other levels which is why its shown here.  Again, these are pre-press layouts so there is no text - this was added later by the ICE page layout staff.

Dwarven Mines and City of Moria First Level/Deep Left Side

Dwarven Mines and City of Moria First Level/Deep Right Side

The next drawing is of the deep mine known as the Mine of Khulakal.  This drawing shows an upper terrace level connected by bridges with a lower excavated area below the higher plateau.  The lower excavated area shows contours and ridges depicting the topography of the stone floor below.  Below this lower excavated area are the deep chasms shown in black that descend even lower into the depths of the earth.  This whole mine area may have originally been part of a natural cavern but was widened, deepened and expanded by the dwarves in their never ending pursuit of precious metals such as mithril, gold and silver and other valuable mineral deposits.

The Mines of Khulakal in the Mines of Moria

The next two drawings are of the Bell Hall and the Whispering Hall.  The bell hall is a means of sending signals and/or music throughout the complex and the whispering hall is an ingenious method of communicating throughout the massive stone city.

Mines of Moria Bell Hall

Mines of Moria Whispering Hall

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.

Averlorn Campaign: The Wild and Woolly Forests of the Anvil

Recap from 3/25/2011

The carousing which took place in the City of Medea’s Gate last session was a celebration of the return of Teth-en-Aire to the land of the living through the use of powerful magic by our friends from the Fraternal Order of the Surgeons of Hecate.  Afterward, we waited for him to fully recover, did some trading, bought provisions and once again set off through the wild and woolly forests of the Anvil to return to the Wizard’s Tower and labyrinth of Zingalis the Laughing Mage.  Taleth the ranger led the way and we eventually made it to the hill region of the forest and found a suitable camp site to bed down for the night.  We set up watches as usual with the spellcasters on the first and last watch so they could learn spells the next day, and with Lucias and Kalaneikos, the fighters, taking up the second watch.

During the second watch, the camp was attacked by six Griffins!  Lucias and Kaleneikos moved to engage the giant bird like creatures and did their best to awaken the others who scrambled to arm themselves and grab their shields and what armor they could.  Aside from the two fighters, most of the group was not fully armored and were very vulnerable.  A fierce combat ensued and things were not looking good for the group due to the grievous wounds inflicted by the large beaks on the giant bird like heads of the creatures and their bird like claws.  Lucias finally managed to slay one of the creatures with his sword and both Cyrcla and Teth-en-Aire managed to cast Web spells and ensnare two of their number in the sticky magical webs produced by the spells.  The group then concentrated their sword strokes, missile fire and magic missiles on the ones that weren’t entangled and managed to dispatch them before the stuck ones could break free, and then focused their attention on those two.  At that point, it was over pretty quickly but the group was pretty badly hurt and the clerics cast what healing spells they could to help the party members recover from their wounds.

The next morning when we arose, the spellcasters learned their spells and the group decided to see if we could find the lair of the Griffins and their treasure which we thought could be nearby.  This was a difficult task for the ranger since Griffins will typically move on land and through the air leaving no tracks for anyone to follow while they are flying.  While he was circling around trying to pick up the lost trail again, we were attacked by a group of three Kech – giant white evil monkey like creatures.  We had encountered these before the first time we traveled through these woods, and they gave us a hard time then as well as this time.  They are highly intelligent and cunning opponents and set snares for the characters in front to try to trap them first when they sprang the ambush and then fell on the rear of the single file column of adventurers.

Kaleneikos and Renna were the last two in the line and were beset by the evil white monkey creatures.  Two of their number attacked Renna, the low level ranger hireling, and before the others could come to her aid, she had fallen with a grievous wound.  Lucias and Taleth quickly moved to the aid of the characters under attack after successfully avoiding the snare traps, and with the help of the rest of the group managed to kill the abhorrent evil creatures.  By the time Kaira got to Renna, she had been savagely mauled and was near death (she rolled poorly on the death and dismemberment table).  The cleric managed to save her life with a tourniquet but she had a debilitating wound that effectively ended her career as an adventurer.

This was bad news for the group indeed because we not only lost a trusted henchman, but had to turn around and return Renna to Medea’s Gate so that she could recover from her wounds.  Before leaving the scene of the gruesome combat though, the Ranger managed to find the tracks of the Kech and he led us back to their lair where we found their treasure.  We gathered up their loot and set out to return to Medea’s Gate afterward.

After some time while traveling through the woods, the ranger noticed that we were being followed by what appeared to be two or more packs of wolves but they were keeping their distance from the group for the most part.  We found a defensible location to make camp for the night but most of the players decided not to sleep because of the obvious threat, so they wouldn’t have to take their armor off.  Eventually, the wolves attacked and the group managed to slay most of their number without any problems.  Then the other group attacked and we discovered to our horror that they were not wolves at all but were actually three werewolves!

Both Teth-en-Aire and Cyrcla cast Mirror Image on themselves and there were suddenly many duplicate magical images of the two elves in the fray.  The demi humans were particularly cautious because instead of contracting lycanthropy they would have just died since only humans can contract the disease.  Subsequently, most of the elves and the dwarf opted to use their bows or magic missile spells rather than engage in hand to hand combat.  The group then engaged the werewolves and killed two of their number in a brief but fierce combat and wounded the third one badly without taking enough wounds to contract lycanthropy (none of the characters lost 50% or more of their hit points).  The third werewolf retreated and to our astonishment, the corpses of the other two slowly turned into the bodies of naked men laying on the ground before our eyes!

We surmised that the wolves and werewolves had followed the group because of Renna's recent wounds - they probably smelled the blood and were looking for an easy kill.  The ranger had no problem finding their tracks and we resolved to find their lair the next day (probably a wolves den) to see what treasure they may have been hoarding.  That’s where we ended the session.