Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Watchfires & Thrones Session #22

Or “When a spark of brilliance in the dark proves to be a bad thing”

The party returned to the Mad Manor with Mock atop his shield and began examining their options and funds to determine the best way to reinvigorate the slain half-orc. I had spent the previous day outlining four different scenarios that they could pursue since I only knew they would attempt to raise the barbarian, but not how they intended to go about this. As any referee could probably guess, they chose the method that utilized none of the prep work I had done.

Scraping together just enough case to pay Coinminder Orp, the priest of Chadem, the required 5,000 gold marks (plus a small fee for accepting trade stacks in lieu of actual cash), the party witnessed a display of wanton avarice in the yard behind the manor as the velvet and ermine-clad priest wrapped the slain half-orc in cloth-of-gold and intoned prayers for Chadem to intercede on the barbarian’s behalf. After all, a dead adventurer cannot enrich the coffers of the Lord of Cargoes. An hour later, Mock twitched, his resurrection roll was successful, and the barbarian returned to life, albeit with a single hit point and a two week period of recuperation ahead of him.

With Mock breathing again, the party reported to Say’skel the Mottled the following morning in order to report their findings in Modnar’s cellars and to see if the wizard could identify the slain robber’s head. Removing the grisly trophy from their bag of heads, the party saw recognition in the wizard’s eyes. After carefully interrogating them of all that occurred under the tower, Say’skel revealed that the head belonged to Norrim Gaz, an agent in a particularly loathsome organization called the Storm Crows. Despicable war profiteers, the Storm Crows make their living on the suffering of others, appearing anywhere that strife or armed conflict rages. They have an uncanny aptitude for arriving on the scene prior to open combat and they enjoy selling arms to either side and stirring the pot to ensure that war is inevitable. Once the war has begun, they sell half-rotted food to starving refugees, gouging them in the process, and make a tidy profit selling the displaced to slavers. The fact that one of these foul operatives was so near to Blackpool was an ill omen of things to come.

Knowing that the Storm Crows operate in secret prior to a conflict by using trios of agents, Say’skel speculated that Gaz had two allies at large in the area and tasked the party with returning to Modnar’s cellar to see if they could find more evidence of the identities or locations of these agents, even going so far as to offer a trio of healing potions and an elixir of fire resistance to sweeten the pot. Leave it to Society of Plane Walkers to hold out until a helmet was offered as additional payment.

Pausing only to collect a full cadre of members, the party of Hoover, Kaldar, Lyrax Tonn, Mars Markus, Borgo Hasslehoff, and Waren Loss, accompanied by their “mere retainer” Johan Whistlewind, headed directly to the ruined tower despite the dismal rain falling down upon them. Back at the tower, they returned to the wide-grinning statue they had previously discovered, which, despite their best attempts, continued to baffle them to its powers or function.

Turning to the unexplored northern portion of the cellars, the party successfully (but barely) avoided another patch of green slime and, after some humorous mapping errors, found an empty room that once imprisoned a creature of fearsome aspect (possibly with a breath weapon).

Their continued explorations lead them back to the room where Mock had met his doom and they retackled the puzzle of the room with the quicksilver ceiling. Brogo volunteered to climb up the wall and into the liquid ceiling, wherein he discovered a ladder rising up to the mouth of a well above him. Climbing out of the well, he discovered himself in the next room over, which contained the same well that the party had encountered but left unexamined. After some shenanigans that put the party on edge, Brogo climbed back down the well and passed again through the ceiling. As he did so, he found himself in the best health of his life for his Constitution has increased substantially upon exiting the mercury.

Informing the party of his discovery, the band adjourned to the well room. A thorough search uncovered no secret doors, and, with no one else daring to plumb the well’s depths, the party headed back to a four-way intersection they passed through with an eye on exploring more of the cellars. There they encountered and dispatched a small squad of skeletons with ease before continuing northward.

A long twisting corridor lead them to a 20’ square room with an ajar door. Inside they spied the broken remains of four chests, all of which had poured their contents of gold, silver, and electrum coins into a large heap in the center of the room. Hoover and Waren entered the room cautiously, suspecting a trap but hoping for the best. The pile seemed to have a strange cylindrical shape, which, when Hoover prodded it, erupted into a 10’ long, 3’ wide worm with scintillating scales of gleaming metallic color! Despite a few wounds and Hoover being knocked unconscious, the worm was defeated. With a heavy sigh, the party discovered that the worm’s scales were worthless natural (?) camouflage and that the chests were indeed empty.

After a short rest, the party continued on, now southbound according to their increasingly inaccurate map. Rounding a corner, they discovered that the passage split into two parallel channels: one continued on and turned south at the edge of their lanterns, while the other vanished straight into gloom. This second passage held one additional bit of detail: a black, dust-covered cord that trailed off into darkness. From my description of the mysterious cord, at least two of the players suspected it to be a fuse.

Which it was.

And one of them (Mars Markus!) lit it with his torch.

One would assume that they cover this sort of thing Day One in Dungeoneering School (”Never light anything if you don’t know what it’s attached to”), but I guess Mars missed the first day of class.

The fuse caught immediately and the flame raced off into the darkness only to be followed by a tremendous explosion a moment later. The blast rocked the corridor, causing loose stones to fall and the air to fill with dust. When the air cleared, Brogo Hasslehoff was dead, Johan and Kaldar were unconscious or in negative hit points, and the remainder of the party were missing their eyebrows. Only Waren escaped the brunt of the blast.

This encounter could have easily resulted in the death of the entire party. The fuse was connected to twenty rockets affixed to the bottom of a mage’s crazy space capsule, and lighting it detonated all the still-viable rockets at once with each inflicting a die of damage. However, there was only a 1 in 6 chance that each rocket was still combustible. Much to their (mostly) great fortune, my twenty dice rolls only turned up two detonating rockets.

After collecting themselves (and stuffing Brogo into a sack), the party ventured down the corridor that had contained the cord (the exact opposite order in which most people would have done things) and found a titanic barrel resting atop a metal framework. This frame held twenty cylinders of strange material, two of which showed the signs of detonation. The ceiling of the round room soared 30’ above and a chain and pulley system seemed to open a pair of half-circle doors set in the roof. A door-sized hatch pierced the side of the barrel, but the party, expecting more explosions, departed the area without attempting to open either hatch or ceiling doors.

With Brogo dead, Mars out of healing spells, and the majority of the party having received their daily restorative benefits of wine, a return to the surface was contemplated. But only after two more rooms were investigated. One proved empty, the other was filled with empty wine, ale, and water barrels—and a nest of centipedes that couldn’t inflict their noxious bites on the party before being dispatched. After losing one of their members and finding no treasure, the party returned to the surface and, despite their map showing unexplored sections, concluded that they had unearthed all the mysteries the cellars held. Whether this is indeed true or if their decision will come back to haunt them remains to be seen…

Next week: Will the Ghost Beggar issue be finally resolved? With less than a handful of gold coins remaining in the party treasury and rent due in a week, somebody’s going to die so the PCs get paid.

“Show me the money!”

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Video Record of Session #22

I'll have the text recap up in a few days, as all indications point at this week being a busy one for yours truly. Until then, here's the video highlights as put together by Rob.

Until next Sunday, have a pleasent week.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Watchfires and Thrones Session #21

Back in town, the Society of Plane Walkers took rest, with some member choosing to remain behind for the second expedition to Modnar’s Tower. Raijek and Lyrax Tonn were intent on returning. Mock, having completed training, joined up for this trip, as did Mars Markus who had finished scribing a scroll of cure light wounds. Kaldar, the half-even fighting mage rounded out the party.

The band returned to the tower the following morn and hustled to the Y-intersection they had discovered the day before. Picking the southeastern fork this time, it led but a short distance before coming to an X-shaped intersection. Both southern-bound corridors seemed to terminate in dead ends, while the unexplored northern passage turned out of sight. The band explored both southern passage ways and their careful searching unearthed a secret door in one of the walls.

Beyond the hidden entrance lay a long-forgotten oubliette haunted by the unquiet mortal remains of four former prisoners. When Mars Markus’ attempt to turn them failed, it was almost as if the Spider God had turned his back on his servant—a portent for things to come, perhaps. Nevertheless, the stout fighting men in the band made short work of the foul things, but were disappointed to find the chamber barren of loot. The party returned to the intersection and ventured north. A short jaunt down that corridor brought them to a door in the eastern wall.

The room beyond proved cavernous and strange. With black-painted walls flecked with mica and a softly glowing ceiling, the chamber presented an almost alien-landscape. The floor was covered in a thin layer of gritty, sand-like material, which, on closer inspection, was discovered to be a copious amount of iron filings. Protruding from this stuff, like forgotten temples sticking out of the desert dunes, were the shattered remains of articulated iron statues. Each seemed to have been destroyed by violence.

All this was overshadowed by the metal lever set in the far wall. With most of the party suspecting a trap, Mock and Raijek entered the room and pulled the lever after taking numerous precautions (probing the floor, spiking the door, searching for failing death blades, etc.). The rest of the band stood outside with weapons ready. The duo felt a moment of unsteadiness as the fulcrum was thrown and were astounded to find that the room’s gravity had suddenly undergone a dramatic reduction. In this alien atmosphere, the two found their strength greatly increased, but at the loss of coordination.

The two tested their new environment and were in the middle of kicking up slowly drifting clouds of iron filings when two partitions slid open in the walls. From niches beyond came drifting three metal orbs with a multitude of articulated arms attached to their undersides. Each of these arms bore a weapon or shield. The size of beach balls, the trio moved towards Raijek and Mock with decidedly unfriendly intentions. Mock grinned and grabbed the lever, anticipating watching the armed orbs crashing to the floor when he returned the room to its normal gravitational state. His grin quickly evaporated when he discovered the lever seemed locked in place.

The two sides clashed in a fierce melee and Mock barely escaped grievous wounds by bringing up his aegis against the floating foes. Throwing a “20” against their swinging weapons saved his life—and his shield—allowing Mars Markus the chance to revel in having an average strength in battle for once. It would prove to be Lyrax Tonn’s arrows that brought down the majority of the metal menaces.

Once demolished, the orbs were each found to contain a moonstone amongst their strange, mechanical innards. The party checked the alcoves the devices had emerged from and found that each contained a rack with four bays in it. Although only three orbs had been encountered, the dust on the remaining bays indicated that they had been empty for quite some time. Where could those other orbs be?

When an extended search turned up nothing else, the party pressed on to the north, which took them on a round-about journey and through a quickly incinerated patch of green slime. Doubling back to check their map for errors, the party return to the cellar’s entrance hall and probed the eastern corridor that departed that room. This corridor agreed with their own mapping efforts by terminating in a dead end—one that held a life-sized statue of a human male sporting a much too large grin. One of the statue’s hands was extended as if it were waiting for something to be placed into it, but, despite their efforts, the party couldn’t deduce what was supposed to rest there or what might occur once it did. Leaving the statue for another day, they returned to the point they had doubled back from.

A bit further north from this point, the party found another door that led into a dilapidated library. Already bearing the signs of being ransacked, half of the party ventured into the room as the rest waited cautiously outside. And that's when things turned deadly.

Those standing outside the chamber watched helplessly as a portion of the ceiling moved, revealing a much-dreaded, chameleon-like crab spider, which dropped down—ironically—onto Mars Markus, the Spider Cleric. Its first strike failed to penetrate the cleric’s potent plate mail armor, but, after landing on the floor besides the priest’s less protected leg, the arachnid sank its fangs into Mars’ limb and began pumping its venom into its victim.

Time slowed down.

After Aieglos’ close call with a crab spider in the caves around Stonehell, the players were well-versed in the consequences of a poisonous bite. Jack, the player of Mars Markus and the only long-time player who has yet to lose a character began stacking the deck in his favor. Already enjoying a +2 bonus to the save against the crab spider’s weak venom, Mars also bears the holy symbol he was given upon being inducted into the mysteries of the Spider Sect. That symbol grants him a +1 bonus against spider toxins. Jack was also sitting on a player reward chit that allows him to substitute a d30 for one roll when a d20 is normally required. He chose to burn this chit for this saving throw. With a cleric’s already good saving throws, he needed only an 8 or better on a d30 to make his save and avoid dying from the spider’s bite. Throwing the die across the table, he turned and walked away, unwilling to watch the die come to rest. And it did:

Despite his best efforts, that “6” effectively killed him. It seems that Mog the Spider had indeed abandoned his servant in his time of need.

Everyone asked me if Mars was immediately slain, and I replied that he was as good as dead, but if Jack wanted to have Mars spout off some profound dying words or similar action, he had a minute or so before he quit the breathing habit permanently. That window of opportunity was all the party needed to spring into action to try and save their highest-level cleric. Mock bashed the spider to bits in a single blow and the rest of the band gathered about the soon-to-be expired holy man.

Remembering they had a potion which had yet to be identified, they decided to force that down the dying cleric’s throat to see if it would save him. However, moments before they did so, the party recalled the potion of sweet water they had in their possession. No one could remember exactly what it did, but they were pretty sure it did something to poisons. But would it be enough to save Mars? They poured the sweet water into the priest’s mouth and waited.

Checking the description of sweet water, I found that the potion normally turns salt water, acid, and poison into drinkable liquids. Although it wasn’t being used as intended in this case, its properties were on record as counteracting poison and I like to reward creative thinking. After a brief consideration, I ruled that the sweet water would grant Mars Markus another roll to try and make his saving throw. He would have to use a regular d20 but the normal modifiers for poison strength and his holy symbol would apply. Jack threw the die in one last all-or-nothing roll:

Sighs of relief went up around the big blue table at Brothers Grim that afternoon. Even the clerk had been watching us with interest. Jack continues to hold his title of “Most Likely to Survive the Adventure.” Another player would soon defend his title, however, much to his continuing dismay.

With Mars slumped against a wall and recovering, the remainder of the band turned the former library upside down, discovering but a quartet of still legible books. Under a fallen bookcase, they found the crushed remains of an adventurer. Although his purse had been cut away, his leather armor was still in good condition, which was surprising because his leather boots were rotted to pieces. Suspecting magic or quality workmanship, the armor was stuffed into one of the party’s many sacks and the band moved on.

The hallway terminated in a door a bit further down the corridor. Beyond the stuck portal was a decaying lounge with a thick rug. Atop the rug, at its center, was a chest. Becoming highly suspicious in nature, the party sent Mars and Raijek in to see if the chest was trapped. After poking and prodding the rug and the container, they finally inched forward to peer inside. Once the lid was open half-way, there was the sound of a squeaky pulley coming to life and the invisible cargo net that lay beneath the rug was swiftly hoisted up to the ceiling on equally invisible ropes and pulley, turning the monk and cleric into a rug piƱata.

Normally, the party would spring into action to rescue the duo, but the growling of their war dog turned their attention back down the corridor where they had come. Peering around a bend in the passage was another albino ape, who watched them uncertainly. Kaldar kept an eye on the ape while Lyrax stepped forward to cut down the entrapped two with his pole arm. When the last of the ropes was severed, the rug crashed to the floor with a loud racket, startling the ape into a murderous frenzy! Luckily, Kaldar had been preparing his sleep spell and the ape was quickly put into a slumber and dispatched.

With everyone now back on their own two feet, the party was disappointed to learn that the chest was empty and they had been lured into a trap intended to delay them and alert anyone nearby. They cautiously exited the small lounge through another door to the west, which led into what was obviously someone’s sleeping quarters. A collection of least-decrepit furnishing stood about the room and a cracked plate holding a half-eaten meal of trail rations was near a door in the southern wall. It seems that someone had heard them and chose to depart rather than confront them. Having heard from the kobolds that a “stupid man” lived in this part of the dungeon, they suspected that this was his den, even though he seemed less stupid than they were originally led to believe.

Ransacking the room uncovered a sack of silver coins that had been sewn to the underside of a divan. Cut threads beside it suggested that another sack had been secreted next to it, but that it had been abruptly cut free and carried off: Another sign that whoever had dwelled here was aware of their presence and not wishing to fight them. The party approached the southern door and listened intently. The sound of squeaking vermin was heard beyond.

The next room did indeed contain several giant rats that frolicked about a heap of trash and broken furniture. When the door to their lair opened, the rats moved towards the party aggressively, leaving Mock and Raijek to face them in melee from the doorway while Kaldar and Lyrax peppered the vermin with arrows. The battle was short and decisive, and the party smiled at the ease of their victory.

Mock stepped into the room first, only to die horribly as the short sword of the robber hiding next to the half-open door slid into the half-orc’s back. The shadow-hidden thief took everyone by surprise and poor Dave lost another character—his highest level one too! (Mock was his only character to make it out of 1st level). Shocked, then enraged by this sudden death, the party fell upon the now-revealed bandit without even pausing to parley or offer mercy. His severed head is now numbered amongst the band’s possessions.

With Mock dead and Mars a near miss, it was decided that the party should return to Blackpool immediately, but there were three other door leading out of the room. These had to be checked first, of course, whatever the consequences.

One door lead to the easternmost end of an east-west passage and was ignored. The door was even left ajar from the sheer contempt the party had for boring hallways. Another led to a plain stone room with a well set in the center of the floor. A ladder protruded from the well’s mouth, but the party didn’t so much as set foot in the chamber. The last door seemed to contain either a 30’ square room with a 10’ square locked room set in its center or a locked room completely surrounded by a 10’ wide corridor (depending on how you look at such things).

Although they knew they should be heading back, it was argued that if they didn’t get that door open, someone else would and carry off all the treasure which must lie in the room beyond. A thorough search of the junk room, the bandit, and his lair failed to turn up a key the door and Raijek’s ability to pick locks failed to coax open the tumbles, so the battle axe method of entrance was employed. A half-hour of chopping and a hell of a lot of noise later, the door stood open and the party saw an empty 10’ square room with a ceiling seemingly composed of shimmering mercury. Lyrax fired an arrow into the opaque liquid which vanished with a ripple. This was too weird to be considered at the moment and it was decided that the party had had enough exploring for the day.

As they opened the door leading back to the junk room, they were stunned to see that the room was now empty—of everything. The bandit’s body was gone; the rats’ corpses were gone; even the trash and smashed furniture was gone (luckily they had Mock’s body with them). So clear was the chamber that whispers of “gelatinous cube” began to run through the party. They closed the door without entering the junk room and began littering the floor with detritus to detect the nigh-invisible custodian of dungeons should it enter into their escape-less corner. When an hour passed without incident, they carefully left their hiding place and beat feet towards the cellar’s exit, pausing only to collect the invisible cargo net as they returned to Blackpool with Mock’s corpse weighing them down.

A new goal range through their minds and spurred them towards town: Raise the slain half-orc to life!

To be continued next week…

Compiled Session Recaps: #11-20

Unless I periodically compile the list of session recaps into a single location, they'll eventually end up overtaking the sidebar to the right. This is the second of those compilations. The first can be found here.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sleep Spell Area of Effect

In light of today's events, I thought about what size of an area a sleep spell affects and have decided on the following:

A sleep spell has an area of effect of a 15' radius from the point or person upon which it is cast (a 30' diameter in total--enough to affect a large dungeon room). As per the rules, a sleep spell affects 2d8 HD worth of creatures starting with the lowest HD monsters first.

I think this is both fair and in the spirit of other such magics with a 15' radius. Unless someone has a real problem with this, let it be written and let it be done.

Friday, September 17, 2010



No. Enc.: 3d4 (2d8)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120’ (40’) fly 180’ (60’)
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 1+1
Attacks: 1 (bite)
Damage: 1d4
Save: F1
Morale: 7
Hoard Class: None
XP: 21

These oversized bugs can resemble any manner of normal insect grown to dog-sized stature or larger and possessing carapaces with an iridescent sheen. Not to be confused with other giant insects such as beetles, flies, and locusts, buggus are the product of their underworld diet instead of a species unto themselves. Feeding on the strange fungi found beneath the earth’s surface, normal pests can grow to tremendous size, especially when their fungal diets have sprouted near rich vaedium deposits. The eerie radiations that give the buggus their size also grants them a 25% resistance to magic. Buggus attack in swarms, often overwhelming their prey with unending waves of their chittering and susurring bodies.

The same shopping trip that netted me the toy snail that became the bale snail also resulted in two tubes of plastic bugs marketed as educational tools. Having watched Peter Jackson's remake of King King KONG a few weeks before this game session, I decided that a swarm of oversized bugs was needed and promptly dropped them into the caves the party was exploring.

Bale Snail

The following is a repost from The Society of Torch, Pole and Rope, but presented here to keep all my homebrewed Wathcfires & Thrones monsters together for easy reference.

Bale Snail

No. Enc.: 1 (0)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 45’ (15’)
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 4+4
Attacks: 1 (bite, crush, or spittle)
Damage: 1d6+1/1d4/1d4+2
Save: F3
Morale: 7
Hoard Class: None
XP: 290

This fearsome mollusk averages 8’ in height at the apex of its gray-black shell. The creature gets its name from both its aggressive disposition and the naturally occurring pattern on its shell that resembles a stylized Death’s head similar to that found on some species of moths.

A bale snail attacks with either its rasp-like mouth or by spitting a gob of acidic mucus. This acidic spittle inflicts 1d4+2 points of damage and has a range of 60’. Anyone struck by the substance must save vs. breath attacks twice. If the first save is successful, the victim takes half damage from the attack. If the second roll is failed, the acid dissolves the victim’s armor or clothing (75% chance) or weapon (25%). Metal objects enjoy a +2 bonus to this saving throw. A bale snail may only make a spit attack once every other round.

This great mollusk may overbear its prey with its tremendous bulk. Provided the snail has enough movement to overrun it victim, it makes a normal attack roll to crush its opponent. The victim must make a save vs. petrification (modified by any STR or DEX adjustments the character has) or become pinned by the snail’s foot, taking 1d4 points of crushing damage each round. Victims pinned by the snail can free themselves with a successful STR check at a +3 penalty or be pulled free by a comrade making an unmodified STR check.

If a bale snail fails its morale check, it is 90% likely to withdraw into its shell until its attackers leave the area. While inside its shell, the bale snail has an armor class of -6.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Watchfires & Thrones Session #20

Wherein there are monkeys.

The party safely arrived in Blackpool and split up to take care of personal business. Lace and Mock had accumulated enough experience to train and, seeing how the cost to either pay full training fees or to join the Order of Adventurers, Explorers, and Treasure-Seekers and pay half for instruction would amount to the same, chose to enter their names in the Order’s rolls. After Mock borrowed a sizeable amount of coins from Raijek, that is. Mar Markus announced that the party’s explorations were taxing his limits on healing and that he would be spending time away from the field to scribe a scroll of cure light wounds. First, however, he would use the power of Mog to determine if any of the items the party had recovered from the caves were enchanted.

Calling upon the Spider God to reveal magical auras, the party was delighted to learn that the sword, rod, vial of gray liquid, and chainmail shirt each bore an enchantment. The case holding the mysterious blue-green metal rods, as well as the rods themselves, all proved to be mundane. Fanta cast a read magic upon the sword to decipher the runes found on the weapon’s strong and determined that they read “Froghammer” and “Trabraxi Me’ak,” the last being a phrase in an unknown (to the party) but mundane language. As the party was unwilling to part with the 200 gold marks to pay a sorcerer to identify an item, they decided to wait until they could get the spellbook of Ozwald the recently deceased mage decoded to see if he possessed a spell of identification.

The mystery of the rods was solved when the party took the case to the office of Shortshanks, the Order’s appraiser and assayer. He readily identified them as being Ohaceerean trade stacks—rolls of a hundred coins sealed inside and protected by a special metal (“Starts with an ‘S’ I think, but can’t be a certain..”), much like the way a coat of wax protects a wheel of cheese. This metal defeats all attempts to magically locate precious metals, making it the perfect method for merchants to transport large caches of coins in secret. Shortshanks informed the party that according to the markings on the stacks each contained a roll of 100 gold marks, meaning they had found 2,000 gold pieces in total. But there was bad news: Only an Ohaceerean agent possessed the correct reagents to dissolve the metallic coating on the coins, and the nearest one of those was either in Ohaceer (located deep inside the Kinan-M’Nath wilderness) or back to the east in the city of Ilrahtyr. He did know someone who would take them off their hands if they were desperate for cash, but warned there would be a large percentage taken for this swift service. The party chose to hold onto the coins for the nonce.

With their business at hand completed, the party began discussing their next venture. The switchback trail in Stonehell’s canyon remained to be explored with the hope that it would lead to the Ghost Beggars’ lair and it was this goal that they decided upon initially. To that end, the adventurers checked the Mad Manor’s common room for possible replacements and/or new recruits. Here they found three souls recently arrived in Blackpool and looking to make names for themselves: Hoober, a half-elven ranger looking to earn some “forest cred” to impress the Warden Rangers; Brogo Hasslehoff, a gnomish thief of ostentatious facial hair; and Waren Loss, a cleric of the Law God undergoing his devotional period. An offer of a trial membership in the Society of Plane walkers was extended to each.

Additional fighting strength also came in an unexpected guise. As the party was recruiting, a still hurting but in much improved health gnome formally introduced himself to the party, Baragkus in particular. This was Johan Whistlewind, the poor tortured gnome that the party had rescued from the orc’s clutches when they sacked their lair. Having been bedridden for several days, Johan was now recovered enough to again seek out adventure, and as he had lost all his coin and gear to the orcs, he was desperate for the opportunity to rebuild his wealth and repay the party for saving his life. Re-equipped from the Mad Manor’s lost & found, Johan took his place amongst the party.

As the party was about to depart for Stonehell, the idea of asking about to see if there were other adventuring opportunities in town arose. Although they had been in town for almost a month, they had done very little interacting with the locals or bothering to learn of events occurring outside of their ken. It was decided that this should be corrected (much to the joy of this referee who has been stocking the immediate area with adventuring sites and working on rumor lists that he thought would never see the light of day!). It was quickly learned that strange sightings had been reported in the Nkos Forest to the north and that Lord Warden Cryt was most interested in someone investigating that. All interested beings should seek out Say’skel the Mottled, the Lord Warden’s mage and seneschal, up at the keep. So, for the first time, the party ventured off to visit the local lord’s stronghold.

The keep was more of a fort than a castle, sitting atop a motte to the south of Blackpool. A wooden palisade formerly encircled the stone keep, but the thick tree trunks were being replaced by stonework and the site was a hive of busy masons and workers engaged in their trade. The party was almost certain that they caught sight of a giant at work on the far side of the palisade, but were hustled in to meet Say’skel before they could get a better look.

Inside the keep, they spoke with the Mottled Mage, a tall, thin man with widow’s peak and precise tones who explained that one of the many small and unnamed communities of charcoal-makers and foresters in Nkos Forest had glimpsed activity around the crumbling ruins of Modnar’s Tower. Modnar was a magic-user who perished more than two hundred years ago when his tower exploded in the dark of night. Since that time, the cellar beneath the ruined tower has been used on and off by all manner of evil. It appears that the place had again become home to unseemly things and Lord Warden Cryt would very much like that taken care of. The reward for such a task would be 75 gold marks each and the good will of the local lord. This was acceptable, the party decided, and, after some last minute shopping, headed into the forest north of Blackpool.

They swiftly found the woodcolliers and learned that unseemly humanoids and strange lights had been sighted near the tower’s remains. After some less-than-clear directions were given (“Turn right before you reach the big rock.”), the party, with Hoober the ranger’s keen eyes, made their way to the ruins. And then things got interesting.

With only rubble and a moss-covered flagstone floor with a trapdoor in its center still remaining, the party decided to see if anyone was coming and going to the tower on a regular basis. It was decided that the best way to do this was to leave three of their number hidden near the tower to watch it overnight while the rest of the party moved off a hundred yards or so to camp. It was also decided that the three watchers should be placed around the clearing far away from one another so that they couldn’t easily communicate. Apparently, splitting up the party wasn’t good enough. To further ensure that this would easily become a fiasco, they chose the two gnomes (including the thief with 1 hit point) and the monk to watch the tower, with the assumption that their small size and stealth would keep them undetected. How could this possibly go wrong? (“The plan’s fool-proof!” “Fool-something.”)

So, with the rest of the party six combat rounds away if trouble started, the trio set in to watch, tossing pine cones, pebbles, and rocks at one another to wake up the next night guard as the evening passed. Just prior to dawn, Brogo the thief watched in disbelief as the tower trap door was pushed open by a large, white-furred arm. Another limb followed as an imposing albino gorilla pulled itself up into the early morning air and began sniffing the breeze.

After thrown rocks woke up the other two, Brogo and Raijek decided to attempt to sneak back to camp (since there was never any plan made as to what to do if something actually did happen at the tower during the night), but both blew their move silently rolls and the ape detected movement and strange scents. Looking about the trees (still largely bare in the early spring month of The Bloom), it saw the tiny form of Brogo slinking away in the dawn shadows. As I usually do when dealing with monsters with some intelligence, I rolled on the reaction table to determine what the big ape thought of this strange little man. The dice came up “2” indicating a very friendly and helpful response. The ape became instantly enamored of the gnome, much like Koko with her kitten, and rushed towards him to make friends. Of course, poor Brogo knew nothing of the ape’s friendly intentions and ran away screaming “We’ve got a muhnkee!” in his thick Austrian accent.
As the ape outpaced everyone but the monk, Raijek fired his crossbow at the gorilla in an attempt to attract its attention towards him, successfully striking the ape. The albino ape, now enraged that its friendship was rebuffed, turned its attention on the monk who ran towards the party’s camp some distance away. With the trio of tower guards now dashing through the early morning woods, crying warnings that the ape was amok, the remainder of the party began preparing for battle. Except for Hoober, who charged directly into the woods without pausing to armor himself. After a few rounds of running, the ape couldn’t close the distance on the monk and was led into proximity of the charging ranger, resulting in its death by longsword. It was only then that I revealed to the players the results of the poor gorilla’s reaction roll and its intentions. There was some sorrow and guilt at learning this, but the prospect of learning what else lay in the cellar was enough to renew their spirits.

Now readied for action, the party descended down the stairs beneath the trapdoor and found themselves in an octagonal chamber with passageways leading off in all four cardinal directions. Heading south, they investigated the first door they discovered. Behind it lay a disused wizard’s laboratory complete with broken arcane tools and three tables fitted with metal restraints. A doorway in the rear of the chamber led to another room.

This room contained a three-quarters finished 10’ diameter steel ring held perpendicular to the floor by a rickety wooden frame. Astronomical symbols formed in silver filigree adorned the ring and it was speculated that the device served or was intended to serve as a gateway to other lands or planes, but was either never completed or partially dismantled. Raijek plundered some of the silver wire while the rest of the party investigated a door which led to yet another room. This turned out to be a storeroom containing mundane supplies, although five silver rods were discovered partially concealed by a rotted crate. With no further options visible, the party returned to the main corridor and continued south.

Reaching a Y-shaped intersection, Hoober detected more hobnailed boot prints heading southwest. Heading in this direction, the passage swiftly turned directly south and it was at this turn that the keen ears of Brogo detected the sound of kobold voices coming from directly behind a seemingly solid wall. Inspecting the stonework, both Brogo and Fanta identified it as a secret door. Knowing kobolds lurked behind it, the party knocked politely and offered up a silver coin if the scaly humanoids would open up.

Although initially reluctant to do so, saying “Go away! We paid already!”, the kobolds finally opened up their secret portal to give the party a glimpse at the Spartan den beyond. Interrogation of the kobolds allowed the party to learn that there was a “stupid Man” living in the cellars off in the northeastern corner and that the kobolds’ bugbear landlords lived just down the hall. The party parted with the promised silver coin and left the kobolds to their rat dinner, heading down the hall on the assumption that the bugbears were likely the unseemly humanoids sighted by the woodcolliers.

A wrong turn caused the party to backtrack, but they finally came upon two doors that seemed to be possible bugbear lairs. Both door proved to be equally silent, so the party attempted to pry open the right-hand one. The door, however, was stuck and their efforts around the most god-awful hooting and howling from beyond, sounding very much like another gorilla. The sound of the beast rose and fell as if it were making rounds around the room beyond, perhaps engaging in this sort of behavior:

The party finally pried the door open (with Fanta singing a jaunty tune to “soothe the beast”) and found that an albino ape was being used as a watch-gorilla. Through a half-opened door in the room’s eastern wall, the party sighted two bugbears with spiked clubs patiently waiting to see if the ape dispatched the intruders.

The melee with the ape was short, although it nearly proved fatal to Waren, who suffered the brunt of the gorilla’s flailing arms. Luckily, the cleric of Law survived thanks to a heaping dose of hit points and his player, who had just joined our group that afternoon and never played Labyrinth Lord before, was spared his first character death in his first session.

With the ape dispatched, Hoober charged at the bugbears in a rage only possible by a ranger confronting his goblinoid foes. Johan was hot on his heels, his short sword ready for battle. As each of the warriors charged across the threshold into the adjoining room, a six-sided die clattered on the opposite side of the referee’s screen, and the covered pit located beyond the door only sprung open as Johan crossed its lid, leaving Hoober to battle the bugbears alone.

In the fight that followed, Hoober fought one bugbear while the other did his best to keep the door closed and prevent the party from assisting their friends. Eventually, Raijek kicked it open and climbed down into the pit beyond, allowing several arrows to speed into the chamber and Fanta to launch a magic missile into the fray. Waren, still suffering from grievous wounds, composed himself enough to batter the door to pieces with his mace after the bugbear had closed it yet again. This gave the rest of the party an open sightline to the battle, at the cost of dropping a broken door on poor Raijek’s head (Johan jumped away safely to the far side of the pit’s bottom). In the end, the two bugbears lay dead and the party paused to rest.

After wine was drunk to little effect, a search of the bugbears unearthed a pair of large leather gloves stained with some dried yellow substance. A chest in the corner of the room was opened to reveal more than a thousand electrum coins, all covered by a sticky yellow paste. The party decided to finally ere on the side of caution and used the gloves while shoveling this hoard into their sacks. At this point, due to the lack of restorative effects from their wineskins, the party decided to return to Blackpool to recoup (and to make things easier on their poor referee who knew there would be some changes in the player roster next meeting and PCs would have to be swapped in and out)…

Out-of-Game Note: I’d like to acknowledge Pete for stepping up to the plate to handle mapping duties while Jack the Cartographer was absent this session. Pete not only did an excellent job of maintaining a record of where the party had been, but also brought his own notebook of quad-ruled paper to the table to do so. Excellent job (see below)! What with you now checking the ceilings of rooms, utilizing a 10’pole to prod at unknown things, and mapping, most old time players would never guess you started on 3.5 D&D!

One last thing: I love dungeon gorillas. I don’t even bother to provide a logical reason for there being killer apes in dungeons. Like green slime, they’re just another accepted dungeon hazard. I would expect to see these things again in your adventures if I were you.

Johan Whistlewind

? Level 1 Gnome Fighter

STR: 15 (+1 to attack, damage, and open doors)
DEX: 17 (-2 AC, +2 missile, +1 initiative)
CON: 13 (+1 hp)
INT: 8
WIS: 10
CHA: 7 (+1 reaction)

Hit Points: 5
Armor Class: 5

Special Traits/Abilities: Infravision 60', detect unsafe passages, depth, direction, and sloping passages underground 2 in 6

Languages: Common, dwarvish, goblin, gnome, Underhill, orc, and kobold

Weapons: Short sword, sling
Armor: Studded leather & shield
Magic Items: None

Objects of questionable value:

Experience: 1,928 (+5%)
Last Update: 10/03/10

Borgo Hasslehoff

Neutral Level 1 Gnome Thief
Played by: Dave

STR: 11
DEX: 15 (+1 missile, -1 AC, +1 initiative)
CON: 11
INT: 11 (literate)
WIS: 13 (+1 to save vs. magic)
CHA: 15 (-1 reaction)

Hit Points: 1
Armor Class: 6 (7 if surprised)

Special Traits/Abilities: Infravision 60', detect decrepit walls, direction, sloping passages & depth underground 2 in 6, pick locks 22%, F/R traps 21%, pick pockets* 33%, move silently 28%, climb walls* 62%, hide in shadows 18%, hear noise 2 in 6, backstab, swims like a fish.

Languages: Common, gnome, dwarvish, Underhill, Thieves' Cant, orc, gobblety, and kobold

Weapons: Short bow, 2 daggers
Armor: Studded leather
Magic Items: None

Objects of questionable value: Brass lantern filled with glow worms, chapbook of famous beard styles throughout history.

Experience: 313 (+5%)
Last Update: 9/13/10

Waren Loss

Lawful Level 2 Cleric of Donblas the Law Lord
Played by: Joey

STR: 14 (+1 to attack, damage, and open doors)
DEX: 12
CON: 14 (+1 hp)
INT: 9
WIS: 15 (+1 save vs. spells)
CHA: 7 (+1 reaction)

Hit Points: 9
Armor Class: 2 (3 w/o shield)

Special Traits/Abilities: Turn undead

Languages: Common, High Veridaz (Lawful)

Weapons: Mace
Armor: Plate mail & shield
Magic Items: None

Objects of questionable value: Letter if credit (1,500 gp value)
Spells: 1/-

Experience: 6,641 (+5%)
Last Update: 1/27/11

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Neutral Level 2 Ranger
Played by: Jud

STR: 16 (+2 to attack, damage, and open doors)
DEX: 11
CON: 16 (+2 hp)
INT: 14 (+1 language)
WIS: 16 (+2 save vs. spells)
CHA: 11

Hit Points: 12
Armor Class: 3 (4 w/o shield)

Special Traits/Abilities: +2 dam vs. goblinoids & giants, suprised on a 1 in 6 and suprise on a 3 in 6 if alone or with other quiet folk, tracking (80% in wild, 65% underground--with stipulations), infravision 60', find secrets 2 in 6, +4 to save vs. ghoul paralysis

Languages: Common, elvish, gnoll, hobgoblin, and orc.

Weapons: Longsword, longbow
Armor: Banded mail & shield
Magic Items: None

Objects of questionable value: none

Experience: 9,136 (+5%)
Last Update: 1/27/11

Overview of the Kinan-M'Nath

Now that summer is over (in the unofficial "it's after Labor Day" sort of way), I'm gleefully awaiting the coming of autumn with all its chill air and changing leaves. This time of year affects my senses and truly gets me in the proper mindset for playing D&D. The cold wind, a crackling fire, and the rustling of fallen leaves always makes me think of high adventure.

In particularly, the change in the weather will also be closely resembling the environment found in the Kinan-M'Nath (although you're currently exploring it in the early spring, not the start of fall). I found the following in my campaign notes folder. It formally appeared on the Obsidian Portal wiki, but with that shut down, I'm reposting it here so that you get a better idea of just what is outside the window of the Mad Manor, and what type of environment your characters are operating in.

The following are general notes about the geography, climate, and people of the Kinan-M’Nath.

  • Much of the Kinan-M’Nath is rich in raw, rough pastoral and sylvan beauty. Winters are long in the Kinan-M’Nath, with snow sometimes falling into the late spring. Areas of deep green woodlands are punctuated by jagged granite mountain peaks capped with snow and ice. In deep crevasses in the shadowy mountains, ice remains year round. Glittering streams trickle down from the peaks, winding through beautiful meadow valleys and thick stands of aspen, fir, and pine trees. In the spring, apple trees erupt in showers of pink and white blossoms. Waterfalls are common in the high peaks, throwing rainbows of color against exposed granite cliff faces in the bright afternoon sun. Many caves dot the hills and mountains of the Kinan-M’Nath.

  • Common animals found in the Kinan-M’Nath include deer, rabbits, wolves, moose, panthers, black bears, owls, hawks, ravens, songbirds, boars, stags, and sturgeon.

  • The human populace is largely descended from the Scalva, a nomadic tribe of barbarians who traveled along rivers on massive houseboat-like rafts. The Scalva eventually became an agrarian society and settled on the lands bordering the major rivers in the Kinan-M’Nath. Despite centuries of settled existence, the people of the Kinan-M’Nath still bear traces of their barbaric ancestry. Black and brown hair is common; dark-eyed blondes less so. Young, unmarried men wear the hair long and grow beards, only to trim both once they marry. Women wear their hair long and loose, although young girls often braid their tresses. The most common professions amongst these people are fishermen, herdsmen, farmers, lumberers, and miners.

  • Homes are usually timber and plaster affairs standing 2 to 3 stories in height. Many are whitewashed every other spring, with yellow and red commonly used to paint the trim. Window boxes filled with flowers are a common decoration.

  • Staple crops include potatoes, turnips, and cabbage. Berries grow in abundance during the summer. Goat cheese and sheep’s blood pudding are local delicacies.

  • Weddings among the people of the Kinan-M’Nath are joyous, colorful, and boisterous events that usually include a procession through the village. In the spring, families with girls of marriageable age often adorn their doors with wreaths of wild flowers to attract potential suitors.

  • During the winter, heavy snow makes travel by snowshoe and sleigh most desirable for those who must be about.