Saturday, June 25, 2011

Averlorn Campaign: Viking Zombie Warriors from the Great Beyond

Recap from 6/2/2011

After a brief period of rest we commenced with some trading to prepare for our return journey to the shrine of Zingalis to retrieve the last of our hard won loot that was stashed in the catacombs below the temple.  Rather than braving the Dormant Lady Lake and Lady’s Finger River via raft, we opted for the safer tried and true method of transporting our loot via baggage train overland.  We set about purchasing riding horses for each character, a spare horse to carry feed and four mules to carry the treasure back.  After purchasing horse feed and provisioning for the journey, we set out through the forest to the northeast of the city of Medea’s Gate towards the Tower and Shrine of Zingalis once again.  The trip through the woods to the tower was relatively uneventful, but that soon changed when we arrived.

As we approached the clearing of the shrine and tower, our ranger Taleth, held up his hand and motioned for us to halt and take cover.  He sensed something was amiss and crept up to the edge of the woods to have a look.  It was dusk and rapidly approaching evening, but in the clearing he saw a disturbing site.  There were eighteen Thugee warriors (basically Vikings) camped out in front of the shrine and the doors of the temple had been bashed in and were lying on either side of the temple entrance.  He also saw, far above in the sky, two Thugee airships (dirigibles) moored above the site as well.  He crept back to the group to report the surprising discovery and we debated our next course of action.

We unanimously agreed that we wouldn’t allow them to make off with our hard won loot and planned to attack them to make sure that they didn’t.  We weren’t sure how many more warriors there might be within the temple or in the two airships above, but didn’t think we would have a problem taking out the warriors in the camp.  By the time we decided on a course of action, it was fully dark and they had no idea what was about to hit them.  First off, Gradwin cast both invisibility and silence on our assassin hireling Evelyn (he was a multi-classed cleric/wizard) and then we sent her into their camp to do what she does best.  Our plan was to wait until the assassin had done her work and the alarm was raised, then she was supposed to flee and the two elves would then light ‘em up with fireballs.

So things went fairly smoothly, at least initially.  She slipped into their camp undetected and managed to assassinate their shaman (actually a wizard) without being detected, despite now being visible because of her attack.  She also managed to grab his backpack and then made her way to the one that appeared to be the leader as he slept.  She attempted the next assassination roll on him while he dozed but failed, and he awoke screaming in pain and alerted the camp.  She wounded him badly but also managed to poison him so he wasn’t going to live long anyway.  The leader and one of his sergeants attacked his would be killer, and managed to wound her, but she wisely disengaged from the melee and withdrew from the fray once she realized the jig was up.  The two elves who were waiting at the tree line, took the alarm as their signal and lit the camp up with a pair of fireballs.  The leader was dead anyway before this from the poison, though he didn’t know it at the time, but the fireballs finished him off along with all of the rest of the Thugee war band.

Amazingly, and luckily for the group, the two airships tethered above didn’t take notice of the brief conflagration below.  Gradwin, thinking on his feet, cast animate dead on a half dozen of the Thugee warriors and the newly created Viking zombies from the great beyond resumed their sentry duty without delay to allay suspicion from the Thugee in the ships above, in case they peered down into the camp below.  While our undead sentries paced back and forth through the camp visible in the dim firelight, the rest of the group stuck to the shadows of the campfire and loaded up the gold and silver stashed below the temple.  Not only was all of our loot still stashed in the catacombs below the giant statue of Hecate, but there was also additional loot piled up there as well that had been added by the Thugee warriors.  Gradwin cast speak with dead on one of the warriors to speak with his departed soul, and found out that they had defeated a large Orc war band previously which is where the additional loot came from.  We were fortunate to have arrived when we did, otherwise, they would have left the next day with all of the loot, including ours.

So we loaded up the horses and mules with the remaining silver and gold and made a forced march in the darkness to avoid any possible pursuit from the Thugee in the ships above.  Evelyn had found a spell book and a pair of scrolls in the backpack that she took from the camp’s wizard and we considered ourselves lucky to have retrieved it before the camp went up in flames.  We also found a magical broadsword and some magical Elven arrows on the leader’s body which survived the fireballs, so we ended up with quite a haul of loot from the encounter.  We then set off through the woods with our baggage train and Gradwin brought the six zombies along controlling them with his control undead ability as extra protection, even though this was a bit disturbing for the rest of the group.

So once we made it a good distance away, we stopped at a suitable campsite and rested up for the early part of the day before resuming our march.  In the afternoon, once we were fully rested and had re-learned spells, we set off through the woods again.  We encountered a large group of about twenty gnomes who looked at us and our undead companions with disdain.  We said hello to them but they didn’t reply as they eyed us suspiciously, and we heard one of them mutter under his breath to another in Gnomish “I wonder what evil necromancer these guys work for?”  It was only then that we realized how bad having undead human zombies amongst our number made us look to others.

At first, the Elves were quite happy to have not only toasted their Thugee rivals (Elves hold a deep racial animosity towards Thugee and view them as murderous slavers in the World of Averlorn), but also to have seen Gradwin animate them as zombies and perhaps condemn their souls to purgatory rather than allowing them to ascend to Valhalla.  But once they realized how we looked to the gnomes, and even perhaps to the rest of the outside world, they were deeply embarrassed and felt ashamed for being a part of that whole affair.  Lucias and the rest of the group also felt embarrassed and deeply ashamed to be seen as working for or with a necromancer as well, and Lucias resolved to have a talk with Gradwin about the use of that spell later once we returned to town.  Despite, Gradwin’s assertions that he was not using zombies and skeletons to commit chaotic or evil acts which was generally true, he was in fact committing a chaotic act by animating them in the first place.  For a neutral character committing a chaotic act now and again is no big deal, but for the lawful characters in the group, and especially the two other lawful clerics, this particular chaotic act was deeply troubling and extremely problematic.

So we resumed our journey and eventually made camp for the night.  The following day, we resumed our march, and our toasted zombie friends were starting to smell really bad and attract flies, and we were really starting to wonder if using corpses like this was really necessary since they were so unpleasant to be around.  That’s when the two Chimera attacked, obviously drawn to the group by the stench of rotting cooked zombie flesh.  They surprised the group and attacked the two characters in the back of the line – both Lucias and Cyrcla.  They both breathed fire on the two characters from their dragon heads and killed the two horses that they were riding.  Cyrcla was also burned badly but Lucias wasn’t hurt so much in part because of his Ring of Fire Resistance.  They attacked again and pounced on the two characters before they could act.  With five attacks each (three bites and two claws) the first one only managed to land a few blows on Lucias due to his heavy field plate armor and wounded him lightly, but the other one seriously mauled Cyrcla due to her lighter armor.  To make matters worse, the dragon head also breathed fire on her again.  She was nearly dead and withdrew from the combat into the woods to get out of the trajectory of any future fiery breath attacks.

Lucias landed several strong blows on the Chimera that he was fighting but the other one breathed fire again on the rest of the group, and the zombies in the middle of the baggage train and two more of the horses were killed instantly.  The Ranger and Dwarven fighter in the front of the baggage train came to the rescue of the beleaguered characters in the back, and the rest of the group also attacked with weapons and magic missiles and managed to finally kill the two monsters.  We healed up the injured elf and resumed our journey to Medea’s Gate down four horses and the zombies, but no worse for the wear.  We finally made it back to the great city with our loot as dusk was approaching which was cause for celebration.

So the next day, we sold all of the remaining horses and pack animals and divvied up the loot and prepared for a much needed rest.  Lucias also had several heated discussions with Gradwin about his use of the spell Animate dead and Gradwin reluctantly agreed that it was probably not such a great idea to use that spell with regularity lest he be branded as an evil necromancer and give the group a bad reputation.  Having such a reputation could not only have ended badly for him (he could have been thrown in prison or even executed for practicing necromancy), but it could have had bad consequences for the reputation and well being of the group as well.  This was an image and trouble that we didn’t need especially with several characters approaching named level.

He was also creating chaotic monsters with negative energy that had a desire to kill all living things which didn’t help us rest easy at night, since the only one keeping them from attempting to kill us or others, such as innocent villagers, was Gradwin and the powers granted to him by his god Hecate.  Hecate is known to be a dark god who has a certain amount of power and control over the dead, but she is also widely feared by the local populace and is only really worshipped in secret, and for good reason.  Gradwin wisely chose to not continue to be tempted by such dark and chaotic powers that she offered lest he become one with the dark side.  He was tempted by such dark power once before in the shrine of Zingalis and it nearly drove him mad, but in that case it was the evil sorcery of the Elder gods rather than that of his own deity.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

d20 List of Lairs and Owlbear Iillustration at the Savage Sword of Scadgrad

Tony, a.k.a. Scadgrad and the GM for our current Averlorn Campaign, has posted a most excellent d20 list of typical lair descriptions for use in any sandbox or wilderness adventure campaign on his blog The Savage Sword of Scadgrad here:
Random d20 List of Lairs for the Wilderness Sandbox

His most excellent blog includes other illustrations recently completed for Pete Spahn's  The Chronicles of Amherth projects by Small Niche Games, some of his other illustrations, and the current house rules for our ongoing Averlorn campaign which includes the original table top game and even an online game group using Map Tools now as well and can be found here:
The Savage Sword of Scadgrad

He also drew up an illustration of our campaign adventure which shows the group's encounter with the Owl Bears as described in the recap that I wrote up for that session some time ago.  The original recap for that session can be found here:
Averlorn Campaign: Run Aground and Trouble in Medea's Gate

Scadgrad's Owl Bear Illustration from d20 List of Lairs post

At the end of the session we also made our first use of Jeff's Carousing table from Jeff's Gameblog with hysterical results:
Jeff's Game Blog Carousing Table

I have to say that that table has not only enhanced the experience points of all of the characters in the game, but has also been a hoot to use in our campaign and I strongly recommend its use in any swords and sorcery type of game.  It is not only a lot of fun to use but adds a serious Swords and Sorcery vibe to the game - after all, why would Conan or Fahfrd and the Gray Mouser have a reason to adventure at all if they hadn't blown on of their loot on wine, women and the gaming table in the first place?  They were usually penniless after having caroused the night away in the local tavern which gave them a strong incentive to go on further adventures in search of more loot!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Averlorn Campaign: Thar Be Dragons...

Recap from 5/27/2011

After we finalized our trading from the previous session, some members of the group decided to attempt to hire some additional muscle to aid us during our further adventures and to retrieve the remaining loot from the shrine of Zingalis.  So we paid to hire a crier and put up flyers announcing that we were looking for hirelings and spread some money around in the local taverns to further spread the word.  We were surprised at the response that we got – we had ten adventurers of various stripes respond to the ads!  This was probably a result of a few things.  Word of our success could have gotten out as witnesses saw us return to town from our last adventure with full bags of clinking coins and saw us head straight to the money changer’s shop.  The following day we returned to the woods to retrieve what we had stashed in the Stone Giant’s lair, and then returned once again to the city with even more money.

The other reason we got such a good response is that we have consistently treated our henchmen well and the group has a good reputation in this town for doing so.  We not only give them all a fair share of the loot, we also give them magic items from time to time to keep them happy and the healers take care of their wounds when they are injured.  We even went as far as to bring one of them, our female Elven warrior Cyrcla, back to life after she was frozen to death in the pass at Herrari by the frosty breath of a giant Ice Toad during the previous fall.  So Beorn ended up hiring a female cleric of Zeus by the name of Tienette Pagonas, Taleth hired a Sun Elf Swordsman (fighter) named Bellinorn and Gradwin hired a female “handler” (assassin) by the name of Evelyn.  So after equipping them further and purchasing provisions for the return trip to the tower, the group began to discuss how best to retrieve the remaining loot.

This was no small task – there were close to 31,000 coins stashed in the temple (7,400 G.P. and 23,250 S.P.) with a total combined weight of 3,100 pounds!  This was far more than could fit in the bag of holding even fully loaded so we had to devise another way of transporting it back to Medea’s Gate.  We decided that with a couple of successful trips, we would be able to transport it back to town on two 10’ x 20’ rafts navigated downstream along the shallow banks of the lake and Lady’s Finger branch and poled along the banks upstream on the way back.  So we purchased the rafts and set off.

The way to the headwaters of the Lady’s Finger was an easy and uneventful trip along the placid waters of the Lake and was made easier by the fact that we merely had to use the poles to navigate, and really didn’t have to fight the current.  We poled our way up the branch to a suitable landing spot in an area we recognized as having traversed before, and pulled the rafts up onto a sandy beach.  As we were doing so however, figures began to appear on the riverbank above us.  They were Crognar warriors (Neanderthals) who weren’t sure what to make of us or our rafts.  We had encountered their kind before during our frequent forays to the Hill at Limus Town (B5 Horror on the Hill) and knew that if we gave them simple gifts and showed no open hostility towards them, that they would probably leave us alone.

So Lucias walked toward them, held out his hand in a greeting and pulled out his sword and laid it on the ground to indicate that we meant them no harm.  They approached and gestured eagerly towards the sword Hope Blighter, indicating that they thought he was offering it to them.  Taleth the Ranger offered them a dagger and the dwarf Beorn gave them his spear instead (these weren’t magical) and they were happy with these offerings and excitedly left us to our tasks.  So we camouflaged the rafts with branches and leaves from the surrounding forest and set out towards the shrine.  We arrived uneventfully and began loading up the loot from the temple which we found exactly as we had left it, behind two wizard locked doors and hidden in the area of continual darkness in the catacombs below the temple.

So we were loaded down pretty heavily and made it back to the rafts with as much of the gold as we could carry.  There was still a considerable sum of gold but mostly silver that remained stashed in the temple which we would have to come back for later.  So we made it back to the rafts with no problem and loaded them up and set off upstream towards Medea’s Gate.  We poled along the banks for the rest of the day and eventually landed the rafts at a suitable camping spot along the bank of the lake where the branch emptied into the larger body of water.  We pulled the rafts up onto the shore and made a cold camp to spend the evening.  Gradwin took the added precaution of casting Invisibility 10’ Radius on the area where we were sleeping while we set up the watches.

About two hours into the first watch, we were awakened by a loud crashing sound.  We looked up and saw a huge green dragon sitting on the fractured remains of one of the rafts!  This was not just a normal adult green dragon – this was an ancient one and was absolutely enormous.  We stood dumbfounded and weren’t sure what to do because it appeared that it hadn’t seen us yet.  It was sniffing the air, however, and looking around towards the copse of trees where the group was camped out in and was obviously looking for the owners of the rafts that it thought were still nearby.  While we watched and waited and prayed that it would go away, it took to wing again and flew up into the night sky.  As it did so we hurriedly prepared ourselves as best as we could for battle and grabbed swords and shields and put on what armor we could (the odd breast plate really) for the fight we knew was probably coming.

Then suddenly there was another tremendous crash as the dragon swooped in again and landed squarely on the second raft shattering it into a thousand splintered wood fragments!  We decided that today was as good a day as any to die and the ranger and the three fighters let out a war cry and charged the giant beast waving their swords wildly.  As they did so, there were two sounds that sounded like the crack of thunder and the report of lightning hitting home as Gradwin and Teth-en-Aire let loose with two thunderous lightning bolts which hit the giant beast squarely only slightly singing a few of the fighters on the way in and making their hair smoke and stand on end as the acrid smell of burnt ozone filled the air.  Their sword strokes did little damage but the beast had had enough after having been attacked by foes that seemed to spring out of thin air.  It had been burned badly by two powerful lightning bolts and a magic missile and was facing four strong and fearless warriors that had both the courage and audacity to charge a huge and powerful ancient green dragon, so the giant reptilian beast took to wing and flew away.  Apparently, the gods were smiling on us that day and the dragon decided to flee the bold attack rather than risk being killed or captured by the courageous adventurers.  We were tremendously fortunate to have had the wherewithal to attack before it could unleash its chlorine gas breath weapon upon us, which would have probably killed half of the party (in other words, luckily we won the initiative roll).

So with that crisis averted, we now had a quandary.  We had a huge pile of gold and no way to get it back to civilization now that our mode of transportation had been destroyed.  We were also wary of the return of the giant green dragon but we were fortunate enough to have injured it to the point where it left us alone for the rest of the trip.  So the next day, we decided that we needed to find a ship to rescue us and help us return to town with our load of treasure.  It was really the only way we were going to make it back with our hard won loot.  So first, Gradwin cast fly and flew out over the lake looking for a river boat to flag down and pick us up but found none.  Our next plan was to send the ranger alone back to the city to find a rescue boat to hire to return with and pick us up.  We gave him two potions of invisibility so that he could make the trip back without being detected by adversaries.

Taleth was traveling light and was alone so he made the trip in two days and after a third day, finally a ship showed up along the shore to rescue us and we returned to Medea’s Gate with our shiny cargo.  We learned a few things from that trip.  The first thing we realized was that the dragon would have most likely never spotted our camp had we camouflaged the rafts during the second night like we did when we first arrived.  We also realized the perils associated with traveling the lake on rafts – dragons weren’t the only danger but were a tangible one.  We hadn’t even considered that there were pirates on the rivers and lakes in this region until the sailors mentioned it.  We would have made easy and tempting targets for them with two simple rafts loaded with silver and gold.  We also learned from the sailors that the boats generally stayed towards the center of the lake far away from the shore lines to avoid ambushes and to leave them room for maneuver when they encountered marauding pirates or flying attackers.  So with our recently returned loot we went to see the money changer and prepared to return to the shrine for the rest as soon as we were ready.  This time, however, we vowed to take a simple baggage train of horses and mules overland and leave the perils of waterborne travel to those who knew how to navigate Poseidon’s waters better than a group of simple and foolish adventurers.