Thursday, November 25, 2010

Watchfires & Thrones Session #29

The party returned to Blackpool, prisoner in tow, and headed straight to the keep to speak with Say’skel the Mottled. After unveiling their surprise guest for the high-browed mage, Say’skel instructed them to return to the Mad Manor as it would take a bit for him to prepare the proper incantations for interrogation.

For those of you playing along at home, Say'skel the Mottled looks a lot like that gentleman over there to the right. I'm a big V.P. fan.

Back at the adventurers’ boarding house, the party met the acquaintance of a new agent of fortune, a hobbit acquirer by the name of Kubik Silverpalm. Kubik recognized the fighting duo of Grumble and Krunk, remembering them from a bout they performed at his home village of Goodearth. After some flattery and negotiations, Kubik became the latest provisional member of the Society of Planewalkers.

The rest of the crew embarked on various side tasks: training, procuring new supplies, and seeing to the refurbishing of looted weapons long forgotten about. Before too much could be accomplished, though, a linkboy arrived at the Manor with word that Say’skel was prepared to meet with the adventurers. He had new intelligence to share.

Back at the keep, the party learned that their captured hobgoblin was but a foot soldier in the 6th Century, 9th Cohort of the Hobgoblin Occupational Army—a unit of roughly three dozen hobgoblins currently occupying part of the second level of Stonehell Dungeon. Led by Commander Kura, the hobgoblins were intent on turning the dungeon into a staging point for raids across the River Ahkyl and into the Principality of Dhrin. The hobgoblins were well-entrenched in the dungeon, having turned their portion of chambers and halls into a defended redoubt. In addition, they were expecting reinforcements that would double their numbers in a week’s time. If the hobgoblin threat of Stonehell was to be addressed, it needed to be done now. Say’skel then presented the party with a rough but expansive map of the hobgoblin fortress taken from the captive’s description of the place.

The party studied the map and decided that the best chance for infiltrating the redoubt was by way of a less guarded back door that lay towards the north end of the lair—although they did not know the route by which to reach this entrance. They speculated that, with a little searching of the surrounding dungeon areas, they may be able to deduce a path there. So, with that goal in mind, Aieglos, Anwar, Baragkus, Grumble, Krunk, Kubik, and Waren, joined once again by their semi-regular hireling, Rondo Fleagle, departed for the dungeon.

The band made their way towards the stairs to the second level, pausing only to engage in not-so-friendly banter with a trio of bugbears that stood watch at the site of the recent kobold massacre. Although Krunk wanted to fight, it was argued that that was a battle which could wait. It was more important to scope out the redoubt and to find a path to the rear entrance. The party headed down the stairs, their numbers and heavily armored members precluding any chance of arriving there unheralded.

They stepped onto the second level to find a seemingly empty room. They headed south to see if their own discoveries would align with their newly received map, but were interrupted by a quartet of hobgoblins springing out from hiding to attack. The melee was quick and the party was victorious, but combat so close to what the party’s map indicated was the entrance to the hobgoblin “killing field” was less than desirable. The party fled into the dungeon without so much as looting their foes (although Kubik did come away with a few stray coins).

The first hobgoblin encounterThe southern corridor led to a series of disused rooms. It was evident that this area had not seen much traffic, and other than various loathsome insects, the rooms were uninhabited. Two rooms of note were found, however. One door bore a recently added padlock, one which was beyond the skills of Kubik to pick. Another room, seemingly a forgotten living quarters, divulged a swarm of flesh-rending beetles when disturbed. In their efforts to stop the swarm, the party set the door to the room and outside floor alight, sending up a volume of black, acrid smoke. This room was close to one of the secondary entrances to the redoubt, leaving the party to wonder if there was any possible way the hobgoblins could have missed the conflagration.

Fleeing from the site of the blaze, the party took shelter in an abandoned sunken bath. Krunk, Baragkus, and Waren, all of whom had found themselves subjected to the biting attentions of the beetle swarm, took the opportunity to strip off their armor and inspect themselves for any still-living beetles or festering bites. Grumble and Kubik searched for hidden passages, while Anwar went to scout ahead, invisible.

As the dwarf probed the walls of the bath, his peripheral vision caught sight of fleeing movement. Turning to face the motion, he discovered a large pool of gray ooze rising to strike at him with a flailing pseudopod. Chaos ensued.

Gray ooze (played by ochre jelly) attack! Looking back on this encounter, I see that there was a lot of potential here for more hilarity and certain doom then occurred in actual play. As the ooze struck, I had to reacquaint myself with the special powers of the beast, so I cracked open my copy of Labyrinth Lord. Now, according to LL, the attack of the gray ooze does 2d8 points of damage to unarmored foes. “That’s great!” I thought. “I’ve got three of those standing in the room right now. They even stripped down to their skivvies by their own volition!” If a victim is hit by the gray ooze and he/she’s wearing armor, the creature destroys metal armor in 1 turn, regardless of whether the armor is magical or not. “Hmm,” I thought. That’s more of an equipment demolishing attack than a life-threatening one. It’s like a slow acting rust monster. There’s no way that things going to last ten rounds of combat so it can eat through armor and actually inflict damage.” Still, I decided to roll with that since I’ve seen stranger monster powers and durations in my time.

Getting back to the fight, Grumble swung his weapon at the ooze, but missed, while Aieglos managed to put an arrow in the beastie. I rolled abysmally for the ooze’s hit points and I knew it was going to be a short battle. Krunk tried to get his crossbow into play, but Waren and Baragkus, both still armorless, charged into the fight to back up their recently raised from the dead companion. Kubik got the hell away from the thing. Waren, torch in hand, thrust the burning brand into the ooze. There was a horrible smell, the sound of splashing liquid, and the room went pitch black as the torch was extinguished by the creature’s viscous form. I had the party roll for initiative and state their actions anyway to keep the suspense going on for one more round, but they eventually got another torch lit just in time to see what was left of the ooze’s dead form run down the bath’s drain.

What I missed in my hurried reading of the gray ooze’s description was the part about it being immune to fire-based attacks. Oh well. You can bet I’ll remember next time. Additionally, once I returned home, I double-checked that whole “1 turn” thing in both Moldvay Basic and the Monster Manual. Turns out it should eat through non-magical armor in a single round; only magic armor takes a turn to destroy. I’ll be making that amendment to the Labyrinth Lord description myself…

Anyway, back to the fun.

After binding their wounds, quaffing a draught of wine, and re-armoring themselves, the party exited the baths and continued on down the night-haunted halls of Stonehell Dungeon. Traveling roughly southwest, they discovered a T-intersection. To the south lay a large open area; to the west was a strange 3’ tall post standing in the center of the corridor. It was decided that the post was the more interesting of the two. It also lay in the direction the party believed a route to the backdoor could be found.

The party was approaching the strange item when two arrows (frog-crotched, as we learned in play) rocketed out of the darkness beyond, just missing the party. Krunk and Rondo charged into the blackness, sensing an open chamber at the very edge of the party’s torchlight. As Krunk, forswearing any attack to close the distance, crossed the chamber’s threshold, a hobgoblin slashed at him from the shadows with a wicked naginata, wounding the berserker. Rondo also encountered a hobgoblin in ambush, but was able to fend off his attacker with his war hammer. The rest of the party hustled towards the embattled fighters to support their comrades.

With their torches closer to the melee, the party was able to see that the room beyond the fight was decorated in a martial fashion. Bas-reliefs of armored figures lined the walls and the tiled floor was done in the pattern of a kite shield. Looking down upon their battle was a 20’ tall statue of a figured dressed in battered plate mail. The figure bore a wild beard and a mass of unruly hair. He gripped a two-handed sword and stared down blindly with crazed eyes. In fact, he looked a lot like this guy:
The priests in the band were able to identify the statue as that of Vaughn, the War Lord, God of Battles. As impressive as the statue was, it didn’t distract the party from the pair of hobgoblin archers that fired from cover at the effigy’s base.

The battle with the hobgoblins at the room’s entrance formed a bottle neck, and there was much jostling for position to strike back at the goblinoid soldiers. All the while, a barrage of arrows rained down upon the party…until Anwar was able to send those archers into an enchanted slumber. With the missile fire halted, it was but a short time before the two other hobgoblins were brought down. Grumble and Krunk paused to kneel before the War Lord; the rest of the party rifled the pockets of the dead and uncovered more than a score of gold mark. The speculation, “Do you think they all have this sort of cash on them?” was uttered as the party thought back to the quartet of hobgoblins left unsearched at the entrance to the level. It was resolved to loot slain opponents more carefully from now on.

The party, their foes defeated, carefully inspected the post they had glimpsed in the corridor’s center. This proved to be a long iron spike, atop which was perched an elven skull. Written across its brow, in Hobgoblin, was the phrase, “Patrolled Area Ahead—6th Century, 9th Cohort, Hobgoblin Occupational Army”. By its position, it seemed that the adventurers were leaving the hobgoblin controlled area of Stonehell. Whether this meant they were on the right track to find the elusive rear entrance to the redoubt or not remained to be seen. The party proceeded north from Vaughn’s Hall, deducing that the way to the rear entrance of the redoubt must lay in that direction. Passing by a pair of open archways that led to bare rooms, the party came upon another T-intersection. To the north, the corridor did an abrupt zigzag before continuing on. To the west, a small lump sat in the center of the passage. Some attempt was made to get the hobbit to check it out (unfortunately, no one uttered: “You’re a burglar. Go do your burgling.”), but it was ultimately left to Grumble to step up (yet again) and risk his bearded neck.

Carefully poking the bag, for that was what the lump proved to be, he gingerly opened it and discovered a wheel of hard cheese, a link of salami, and an earthenware flask within. Someone has misplaced their lunch. Then, they heard the noise…

Recaps resume in two weeks.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Kubik Silverpalm

Neutral Level 1 Hobbit Thief
Played by: Rob

STR: 13 (+1 to hit/dam/open doors)
DEX: 17 (+2 missile, -2 AC, +1 initiative)
CON: 15 (+1 hp)
INT: 9 (literate)
WIS: 14 (+1 to save vs. magic)
CHA: 15 (-1 reaction)

Hit Points: 2
Armor Class: 5 (7 if suprised; 3 against larger than man-sized)

Special Traits/Abilities: Pick locks 27%, F/R Traps 24%, Pick pockets 33%, Move silently 38%, Climb walls 77%, Hide in Shadows 28%, Hear noise 1-2; 90% chance hide outdoors; -2 vs. larger than man-sized opponents; +1 to missile attacks/initiative, weather prediction

Languages: Common, Underhill, Thieves' Cant

Weapons: Short sword, short bow, daggers (x2)
Armor: Studded leather
Magic Items: None

Objects of questionable value: none

Experience: 2,500 (+10%)
Last Update: 1/9/11

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Spell: Friends

Due to my rolling on a chart in the DMG, the 1st level magic-user spell, friends, has entered the campaign. Here’s the write-up for it for Labyrinth Lord:

Level: 1 (Magic-user & Elf spell)
Duration: 1 round per level
Range: 0

This spell causes the caster to gain a temporary increase of 2d4 points of Charisma—or temporarily lose 1-4 points of Charisma—depending on whether the creatures within the area of effect (a 10’ plus 10’ per level radius) make or fail their saving throw vs. spells. Those that fail their saving throws desire to become friends with the caster and render assistance. Those who make their save will be uneasy in the caster’s presence and find him irritating. The spell has no effect on creatures of animal or lower intelligence.

Expanded Reaction Modifier Table (if needed)

CHA 1: +3 to reaction rolls
CHA 2-3: +2 to reaction rolls
CHA 4-5: +1 to reaction rolls
CHA 6-8: +1 to reaction rolls
CHA 9-12: no modifier
CHA 13-15: -1 to reaction rolls
CHA 16-17: -1 to reaction rolls
CHA 18: -2 to reaction rolls
CHA 19-20: -2 to reaction rolls
CHA 21-23: -3 to reaction rolls
CHA 24-27: -3 to reaction rolls

Monday, November 15, 2010

Watchfires & Thrones Session #28

This session recap is abbreviated due to a largely exploratory expedition and the need to attend to other business this week.

The party encountered and avoided a pair of giant toads after the ferret fight, losing one of their dogs in the process, but eventually made it back to the sub-level inhabited by Klydessia. There, they discovered that the mysterious woman knew nothing of the hobgoblin, but was able to provide rough directions to both the stairs to the second level and the possible location of a replacement monster if they decided to make amends with the kobold chief, Trustee Sniv. Thanking the witch, the party exited the sub-level.
Some time was next spent exploring behind some bypassed doors and down untraveled corridors, allowing the adventurers to fill in some parts of their map. Their explorations finally led them back to the kobold-controlled section of the level, where they we stopped and questioned by some of the scaly dog-men. Krunk got it into his head that the kobolds must be slain and started a melee with the guards, only to discover that the little buggers can put up a good fight from time to time. Baragkus almost perished in the battle before a well-timed sleep spell put the guards down. They were immediately slain and efforts were undertaken to blame the massacre on the hobgoblins of Stonehell. However, the party’s presence in the area of the slaughter was noticed by a group of orcs on their way to the Kobold Market. Whether the party’s efforts to shift the blame are successful remains to be seen.
The party discovered the stairs leading below immediately adjacent to the kobold massacre and ventured down to the second level of the megadungeon. Upon arrival there, they not only discovered another set of stairs leading deeper into the dungeon, but two hobgoblin sentries who engaged them in battle. With the sentries woefully outnumbered, it was a quick fight which ended with one slain hobgoblin and the other captured. The party immediately decided to retreat to interrogate their prisoner before trying to infiltrate or attack the redoubt. They adjourned up the stairs, taking the slain hobgoblin to leave at the site of the kobold murders to further obscure the party’s role in that event.

Heading towards the exit, the party ran afoul of a pair of Stonehell’s degenerated berserkers. These cannibals were found to be carrying the body of a slain Ghost Beggar bandit, indicating that at least one of those outlaws escaped the party’s raid on their den, possibly by sneaking down the natural chimney and seeking sanctuary in the dungeons below. The long journey back to the dungeon entrance attracted a skeleton patrol, who were easily dispatched by the party’s clerics and fighting men. At the “H Room,” the party had to run a gauntlet of stirges who had taken occupancy in the chamber, but the fluttering mosquito bats were dispatched after a somewhat prolonged battle. The adventurers headed towards daylight with the intent to extract the desired intelligence from their captive one way or the other.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Clerics and Weapons

While I'm on a clerical kick, here's the official "Why can't clerics use pointy things?" explanation for the campaign world. This originally appeared on the Obsidian Portal wiki, but I never got around to reposting it here.

As stated in all the early editions of D&D, clerics are restricted to blunt weapons, leaving it up to the referee to enforce and/or explain this restriction. Here’s mine:

In the year 941, the nobles of both the Great Empire and Nan-Matal were concerned with the growing influence of the various sects within their borders. Looking to strip these priests of the ability to raise private armies, the nobles attempted to outlaw the carrying of weaponry by any servant of an established temple. The clergy was outraged at the proposal and threatened to withhold services, rites, and prayers from anyone of noble birth. The nobles counter-threaten to evict every clergyman from their borders. Ultimately, cooler heads stepped in to work a compromise, and at the Diet of Tides held during Starfall of that year, the clergy agreed to limit their arms to the mace, hammer, cudgel, staff, and sling. For more than six centuries, it has been illegal for any cleric to carry an edged weapon and any found doing so faces immediate arrest. This restriction does not apply to the so-called martial clergy of some non-human churches. Thus, fighter/clerics and the like are allowed to bear any weapon legally so long as they adhere to the normal laws of weapon possession in the Uncertain Lands.

Now, since there is currently one cleric running around the campaign who came from another world where the rules were a little different, what might this limitation mean to Mars Markus? Mars has been operating under the grandfather clause and is still allowed to use his edged weapons that he's trained in. The reason he escapes incarceration is that the cult of Mog is unknown in the Kinan-M'Nath and is therefore not covered by the Diet of Tides. Should our servant of the Spider ever decide to start pushing that old time Arachnid Religion (or establish a stronghold), he might attract the attention of ecclesiastical law and risk incarceration. But for now, Mars can get away with it.

Updates to Clerical Spell Lists

With two PC clerics having reached 2nd level, I've modified the clerical spell lists by deity. The new lists have been added to the existing ones and they may be found here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Watchfires & Thrones Session #27

After successfully taking control of the Ghost Beggars’ main quarters and running off the bandit leaders, the party paused to take stock of their situation: should they flee with the monies and intelligence they accrued or see their raid through to the end, bitter or otherwise? “We stay,” they sighed wearily.

After hogtying their captured bandit securely, the party positioned themselves around the main cave and in the leader’s quarters to cover all the entrances while they ransacked the place. The footlockers in the main cave held worthless personal belongings, as the bandits seemed to mistrust their fellows and kept their wealth upon them. The leader’s quarters held a stout chest, albeit one whose lock lay upon the ground next to it as if it had been hurriedly opened and cast aside. Rondo volunteered to examine the chest and discovered disheveled clothes and a small sack containing gold and silver. It was obvious, however, that something had been removed from the container and carried off.

Hoover’s eyes scanned the floor of the leader’s den and he detected a single pair of footprints departing the cave to the east. That trail lead to a tall passage that could be easily navigated by the humans in the band. To the west lay a short tunnel, one standing but 4’ in height. It was possible one of the leaders fled that way, but the adventurers were unwilling to follow the cobra into its hole. They gathered up their loot and captive before heading east in search of whoever fled in that direction.

The passage led to an ancient kitchen, dust-covered and decayed. On a hook from the ceiling swayed a much out-of-place bird cage which seemed a recent addition. Peering inside, the party saw a dead cockatoo, its feet pointed towards the ceiling and a dagger sunk into its chest. Whoever fled this way had killed the bird in cold blood. What a fiend! The dusty floor attested to the cad’s path of flight, and sensing their quarry was gaining ground by the minute, the party stepped up their pursuit.

Passing through a few more caves with little time to take in their details, the party found themselves back in the bandit’s latrine cave. From there, they made a beeline to the stable cave only to find that two of the steeds that had been so recently saddled by Waren were now gone. From outside the cave, our heroes heard the sound of hooves in rapid flight and growing fainter by the moment. Hoover, Raijek, and Dardath leap upon the three remaining saddled horses and took off after the escaping outlaw, leaving Rondo, Waren, the invisible Anwar, and the sleeping bandit prisoner in the stables.

Outside, the party on horseback saw two steeds fleeing down the trail towards the nearby forest and drove their own mounts hard to close the distance. A frantic race erupted between the pursuers and the pursued, with the fleeing outlaw keeping just ahead of the party. The adventurers were able to close the distance enough to clearly see that they were chasing a bald and robed figure who rode one mount while leading a spare behind him. They had found the bandit sorcerer, but where was the leader?

Despite their efforts, the trio was only able to close the distance enough for Raijek to make a desperate shot at the magic-user with his crossbow. Despite the odds, the monk struck his target in the shoulder, but the fleeing mage stayed mounted. Dardath hurled a javelin in hopes of bringing down the bandit, but it sailed harmlessly into the trees. The sorcerer made it to the forest and, even with the blood trail and Hoovers’ best efforts, the three adventurers soon lost their quarry’s trail amidst the dim woods, dry stream beds, and numerous trails. Frustrated, they headed back to the bandit caves to inform their comrades. Little did they know their friends were facing problems of their own…

Back at the caves, Waren was in the process of saddling the remaining horse (with Anwar “supervising”) as Rondo kept watch on the cave’s entrance when the sound of clanking armor alert the trio they were not alone. Stepping from the gloom of the western tunnel was the bandit leader. Dressed in plate mail and bearing not only two swords, but a bulging purse on his belt, the outlaw looked at the now saddled horse and then grinned at the trio standing between him and freedom.

Rondo charged the bandit with the hope of bowling the outlaw over with his patented Dwarven Combat Roll—but ended up flat on his back and barely able to deflect the longsword aimed at his prone form. Waren produced his mace and shield and charged towards the embattled pair while Anwar snuck around to approach the bandit leader from the rear.

Unable to rise under the bandit’s hail of blows, Rondo brought his knee up and caught his assailant in the codpiece, rolling a “20” in the process. The sound of crunching metal plating was heard and the bandit doubled over in pain, allowing Rondo to regain his feet and Waren to reach the melee. Anwar, invisible, got down on all fours behind the groaning bandit.

As the outlaw feebly defended himself from Rondo’s next attack, Waren, having planned this with Anwar, rushed the bandit with shield outstretched, blasting the still unsteady man with a mighty blow. He stumbled backwards only to encounter the snickering mage and was bowled over onto the ground. Rondo stepped down hard on the outlaw’s main hand, pinning his longsword to the floor. “Surrender yet?” the dwarf inquired.

The bandit king snarled and drew his short sword with his off hand, earning a blow in the process. Unfortunately for Rondo, despite his bad position, he was able to thrust his blade in between the dwarf’s armor and Rondo went down bleeding. Anwar, still behind the bandit, pulled out a shovel to bash in the bandit’s head, thought again and produced a flask of oil, looked about to see no lit torches, then put it way and drew his scimitar. While that was occurring, the bandit and Waren were locked in battle.

Anwar was able to score a hit on the bandit’s unprotected back and Waren bashed the outlaw fiercely, but the cleric of Donblas was struck hard in return and fell unconscious from the pain. Although heavily wounded, the bandit locked eyes with the now alone Anwar and gripped his weapons menacingly. Anwar lowered his scimitar and stepped away, giving the bandit free passage to the saddled horse.

The bandit king laughed, complemented the turbaned sorcerer on his intelligence, and leapt into the saddle before riding out of the cave as if a pack of hellhounds pursued him. Unfortunately for the bandit leader, he chose to ride down the trail towards the forest below, not knowing that Hoover, Dardath, and Raijek were headed back that way.

As the aforementioned trio reached the edge of the forest, they saw a mounted figure riding hell-bent down the trail. As it got closer, they were able to see it was not one of their comrades and paused to allow the rider to close the distance—the better to launch a volley of missiles. Dardath’s barbarian heritage got the best of him, however, and he broke cover to charge the fleeing bandit screaming. Hoover sighed and put an arrow through the bandit’s skull, dropping the outlaw to the ground dead. The Ghost Beggar bandits would no longer be a threat to the Kinan-M’Nath. After stripping the corpse of valuables, which included several gemstones and the keen-edged short sword, the three returned to the caves to find Anwar ministering to Rondo and Waren. Battered and triumphant, the Society of Planewalkers returned to Blackpool to claim their reward from Azix Tsam, the “gray-man” who first put them onto this task oh so long ago.

When the party arrived at the gate of the walled town, they found that the usual cadre of four guards had been doubled and that these men were looking much more alert than usual. The guardsmen stood down once they recognized the members and the watch serjeant informed them that Say’skel the Mottled had commanded the Society to attend him the moment that all their members were assembled in town. The weary adventurers rode up to the Mad Manor and began to unwind. Anwar took the gems that the band had acquired from the bandits down to Shortshanks the Appraiser’s office in the basement, only to discover that the halfling had no interest looking at the stones until the adventurers had visited Say’skel. “It doesn’t pay to keep people who throw balls of fire around waiting, you know,” he advised.

The adventurers gather all their mobile members (and a few assorted hangers-on) and headed to the Keep. There, they found themselves hurried inside, but not before getting a glimpse at the ongoing process of replacing the keep’s wooden palisade with stone walls. The workers had been busy for the walls were three-quarters finished. Inside the keep, the band met with Say’skel in a rustically decorated side hall and he informed them that developments had occurred since they last spoke.

After sending for a specialist from Ilrahtyr to speak with the spirit of Norrim Gaz, the Storm Crow agent the party had slain in Modnar’s cellar, a foreboding plan had been uncovered. The Storm Crows were in the area because they were selling weapons to the hobgoblins of the Kinan-M’Nath. It seems that a particularly charismatic and powerful hobgoblin has fired the flames of expansion amongst the goblinoid tribes and decreed that it was time for a new nation-state to arise in the Uncertain Lands, one with a hobgoblin aristocracy. To that end, the hobgoblins were planning on pushing across the border into the Principality of Dhrin to annex its cultivated lands and its citizens. The Storm Crows intended to grow wealthy in the coming conflict and were doing their best to meet the armament demands of the warmongering hobgoblins.

It was further learned that a small force of hobgoblins had already gained a foothold in the region just across the border from Blackpool. An expeditionary force had occupied a portion of Stonehell Dungeon and was intent on turning more of that ancient prison into a hobgoblin fortress from which to launch sorties into Dhrin. The close proximity of this goblinoid redoubt was of overwhelming concern to Say’skel and Lord Warden Cryt. The Lord Warden would pay 100 gold marks apiece to anyone who could locate and dislodge this hobgoblin threat from the dungeon before it became too entrenched.

Another option was presented to help curtail the hobgoblin threat to Blackpool and the rest of the borderlands. The Storm Crow agent had revealed that their initial negations with the hobgoblins had occurred at a stronghold located beneath a large forested hill some two days upriver of Blackpool. Known as Hob’s Hill, this wooded mount stood on the western bank of the River Phol. The nearest “civilized” settlement to the hill was a rough-and-tumble outpost called Fort Wolfshead, a place frequented by prospectors, fishermen, trappers, and barbarians, most of whom avoided Hob’s Hill altogether.

Lord Warden Cryt surmised that, rather than lopping off the “sword-wielding arm” of the hobgoblin threat, striking its head clean off would prove more decisive. He was therefore willing to pay 250 gold marks each to anyone willing to travel upriver to locate, scout out, and, if possible, disrupt the hobgoblin stronghold beneath Hob’s Hill. Travel could be arranged, but the agents would need to provision themselves. Half their payment would be provided upfront to allow for this. In any event, time was of the essence and something had to be done soon.

Say’skel stepped from the room to allow the Society to discuss the Lord Warden’s proposals. There was some talk of tackling both missions at once by sending half their number north to Hob’s Hill while the rest assaulted the redoubt in Stonehell (which is precisely why I had Say’skel summon all the adventurers. Resource management is an important skill in these games and I was interested to see what the guys would do with their numbers). In the end, it was decided that a portion of their membership would travel to Stonehell to deal with the hobgoblin expeditionary force and possibly gain some intelligence regarding the stronghold under Hob’s Hill. They requested magical aid and received a potion of healing with three draughts in it. Their request for an official writ identifying them as agent of the Lord Warden was turned down, however, for the following reason:

The spirit of Norrim Gaz was able to identify one of the other two Storm Crow agents operating in the Kinan-M’Nath. That agent was a human magic-user who went by the name “Jaben Frost.” Frost was a young male with pale blond hair and a penchant for wearing ice-blue robes. He was active in and around Stonehell Dungeon, but his exact whereabouts were unknown. The third Storm Crow agent’s identity was unknown to Gaz, meaning that almost anyone might be working for that foul league. Since Lord Warden Cryt and Say’skel believed that the Crows were unaware of how much the forces of civilization in the Kinan-M’Nath had learned, they didn’t want to tip their hand by sending writ-bearing agents about who would be bound to raise the suspicions of the enemy.

As it turns out, the secrecy of these missions was already in jeopardy. Word had leaked out that a Storm Crow agent had been slain near Blackpool. This news caused a cloud of fear and paranoia to settle over the frontier town. Everyone in Blackpool knew that the presence of a Storm Crow was an omen of evil things to come. Suspicion of outsiders was rife, there was a run on arrows and weapons, and even guard dogs were hard to come by as the residents prepared to defend themselves. This accounted for the increased and more vigilant guards at the gate.

The party left the keep and began to prepare to return to Stonehell. Unfortunately, their departure was delayed by four days as they waited for certain members to complete their training. Whether this delay will have nasty consequences remains to be seen…

The party, composed of Aieglos, Anwar, Baragkus, Grumble, Kaldar, Krunk, and Waren, along with two recently hired linkmen, Dirk Sodbuster and Rolf Sheepminder, returned to the dungeon. Having procured a trio of hounds, the party intended to revisit the strange woman known as Klydessia of the Sisters of the Argent Moon to see what they might learn about the second level of Stonehell and the hobgoblins who laired there.

Things were going well for the adventurers and they were closing in on their destination when they reached the crossroads that led to both the former orc lair and the cricket caves. It was then that Kaldar’s ears detected the soft padding of feet coming from the direction of the caves. The party prepared to defend themselves, gripping their weapons and raising their shields. That’s when the first ferret of enormous proportions peered its cure fuzzy head around the corner and blinked at them with its adorable albeit beady little eyes.

Then came another ferret. And another. Each bounded into the intersection like a fuzzy coil of springs and before the party knew it, they stood facing eight of the 3’ long weasels. (I’ve decided that a pack of giant ferrets is officially known as a “tussle.” I don’t care what science might say.) The fuzzies started chittering as they got a whiff of the three dogs that accompanied the band, their lean flanks suggesting it had been awhile since the weasels had eaten. This agitation was enough to send Krunk over the edge and he charged the tussle with weapon held high. Baragkus followed in his wake.

A pitched melee broke out between the two fighting men and the ferrets, with one of the spring-loaded fuzzy wuzzies landing a critical hit on Krunk. The thought of being slain by a bunch of oversized house pets send the berserker into his first frenzy and he began hacking at the cute widdle nookums. Waren and Grumble, situated in the party’s second rank, took out the occasional ferret that dodged between the warriors to try and get at the hounds.

Aieglos, looking to get a shot in at those ferrets not locked in combat at the rear of the tussle, had Dirk and Rolf set the 10’ ladder they were carrying against the wall of the corridor and began to scale its rungs. That, my friends, was a tactic I did not expect to see, but I suspect it won’t be the last time that I see it. Fortunately, Krunk’s berserker madness defeated the last of the fuzzy threats before the ladder offensive could see actual combat.

As the berserker cooled down, wounds were dressed and the barbarian quaffed a hearty draught of wine. But, just as the band was preparing to move on, they caught the sound of something else headed their way…

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Useful Advice for Exploring and Surviving the Megadungeon

This is primarily for the Stonehell Dungeon players, but I recommend the series to anyone looking for a basic primer on how to successfully tackle a megadungeon and come out alive.

Lord Gwydion of the What a horrible night to have a curse blog is writing a multi-part series that focuses on successful techniques to use when exploring a megadungeon setting. Since the focus of the Watchfires & Thrones campaign has been on Stonehell lately, I thought this might make informative reading for those of you looking to either increase the wealth you walk out with or to bump up the chances of making it out in one piece. I’ll be updating the links as they come so check back here regularly.

Tackling the Megadungeon: Intro
Scouting Missions
Fact-finding Missions
Combat Missions
Rescue Missions
Acquisition Missions
“Special” Missions

Monday, November 8, 2010

Dirk Sodbuster, Hireling

Dirk spent his whole life as a simple farmer. Now, wracked by disease and sensing his end approaches, Dirk seeks to have one glorious adventure after seventy-seven years of tilling the soil. Even in his fading years, Dirk remains perceptive of falsehoods, white lies, and has a knack for spotting overlooked details.

Rolf Sheepminder, Hireling

This laconic shepherd lost his flock to wolves. With no money to replace them and limited options, he's taken to hiring himself out as a torch-bearer and pack mule to adventurers. Rolf saves his wages and avoids strong drink.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Storm Crows

This cabal of war profiteers earns its fortunes off of human suffering. Wherever the potential for strife exists, the Storm Crows operate. Whether it’s selling arms to both sides of a conflict, price gouging war-torn settlements for food and supplies, or enslaving refugees and selling them off, these amoral businessmen and women are the lowest of civilized creatures.

The Storm Crows method is to send a trio of agents into a prospective marketplace to gather intelligence, fan the fires of conflict, and sow the seeds of chaos. These initial agents operate in secrecy until conflict becomes unavoidable. Only then do they reveal themselves and begin ushering the first of the Storm Crows' armored caravans into the war zone. Their banner is a black crow on a field of crimson, gripping a trio of silver arrows in its left foot.