Thursday, April 29, 2010
Even before they reached the gate, the party heard the sounds of music, laughter, and happy chatter floating through the air. One of the guardsmen halted them at the entrance and informed the adventurers that the Feast of Erion was underway in Rhuun and a therefore a feast tax and arms peace were in effect. After paying eight silver smerduks each to enter (plus five copper groats to cover Gladys the mule) and acquiescing to having their weapons bound, the party stepped through the gate and onto the crowded Street of Cobras.
Amongst the crowd of celebrants, snake charmers, dancing girls, acrobats, mummers, and the like were other itinerant adventurers, each of whom had recently arrived in Rhuun: the fighting brothers Xander and Lyrax Tonn, the novice sorcerer, Tigir, and Kallen Doomsong, another fighting man (and apparently, a gambler and thief).
Once within the town wall, the party wanted to head directly to Seno the Jeweler in order to see what the necklaces they recovered from the fungal dead were worth. Before they could attempt to push through the crowded streets, however, the cry of “The procession is coming!” rang through the air. The street before them cleared swiftly as the crowd moved to either side of the avenue.
From around the corner came an odd parade. Four men dressed solely in loincloths, sandals, and brazen, full-headed dog masks appeared carrying a litter. Atop this sedan rode a woman dressed in vibrant white, her features hidden by gauzy veils. Behind them came numerous other men and women, each dressed in white and wearing half-face masks that also depicted the face and muzzle of dogs. A pair of draft lizards, each adorned with ribbons and bells, and ridden by a pair of men brought up the rear.
The party was prepared to wait for the procession to pass before venturing forth to take care of pecuniary business, but they soon found themselves in the midst of a conflict. Two men stepped from the crowd and halted the procession in the middle of the street. These two men confronted the lead litter bearer and insults were exchanged between the men and the bearer. As the crowd went silent, the adventurers could overhear the names “Bashari” and “Sulaj” mixed amongst the insult. Insults turned to pushing and shoving, and the threat of physical blows loomed nigh. It might have spilled over into violence had not two more men, each wearing a red turban, emerged from the crowd to try and broker a peace. Their efforts were initially rebuffed by the two instigators with words that they needed no help from “an Etar when it comes to dealing with Bashari filth!” Bannath, a cleric of Yg and enemy of Tarim, (whose church Erion is associated with) stepped close to the confrontation and did his best to stir the pot, hoping to incite a riot in which he could strike a blow against the Tarimites. Xander Tonn, a charismatic soul, attempted to calm the situation before it grew out of hand.
With things teetering on the edge of a knife, a scream arose from near the rear of the procession. Looking in that direction, the adventurers (and everyone else) saw that one of the draft lizards was now riderless: his master and handler, a man in his early sixties, lay on the dusty street after having fallen from the saddle. Whether overcome by the heat, the excitement, or perhaps his aging heart, the man lay unmoving on the ground.
The now-uncontrolled draft lizard—a beast the size of a rhino and looking like a cross between that animal and a Komodo dragon—began grunting and bellowing, shifting about nervously as the crowd backed away. Then, with a bass rumble from deep in its throat, the normally placid lizard charged the crowd, tossing bodies about like drop-me-sticks. The crowd screamed and ran—with the exception of the adventuring types who held their ground against the rampaging beast. In the rush to clear the crowded street, the four litter bearers dropped their passenger to the ground.
Between a barrage of arrows, sling stones, spears, and magic missiles, the party was able to bring down the large lizard before too many were injured and killed. In the aftermath, they discovered that they had saved the life of Shasira Bashari, who was the woman in white that had been dropped in the rush. She is apparently the wife of some powerful individual and promised to seek out the party at Qytuul’s caravansary later to offer them a proper reward for their actions.
The party departed the scene (after learning that the lizard’s rider was indeed dead) and paid a visit to Seno. There, despite efforts to convince me otherwise, they learned that the necklaces were of minor value. Multiplied by twelve, however, and with the much more valuable torc thrown in, the party walked out with a lot of jingle in their coin pouches.
Which led to the predictable purchasing of oil and animals—the two great combat upgrades of low-level adventurers everywhere. A guard dog, a rat, and a Mhyrakian watch lizard were all purchased, as was a barrel of oil to pour down into a certain fungus-filled crypt. Some armor upgrades were done and the party hired their comrades-in-arms from the street fight to fill out their ranks. I was busy stating up the dog and lizard during the hiring phase, but let me say that the terms of employment sounded pretty lousy to me. Had I not chimed in, I’m thinking that the party would have taken 25% of the newcomers’ experience point rewards as well!
Now that they were restocked and replenished in numbers, the party, after finding it most difficult to get lodging for the night in the festival-jammed town, decided to head straight back to the Temple of the Goat. They left a note behind, which told their would-be benefactress to leave their reward with Anwar (who remained behind to crack the code of the Brazen Tablets of the Viscous Mother).
On the return trip to the Temple, they ran across the path of SOMETHING in the desert night, but wisely chose to keep their nose out of strange monsters’ business unless imperiled by it. By 4 PM the following day, they had returned to the complex and were ready to finally venture into the pyramid itself.
After a quick side trip to pour 55 gallons of oil down a certain well and set it alight, the party approached the portal that granted entrance into the walled courtyard which held the stepped pyramid. A grotesque face adorned the iron doors and no keyhole was visible. After a quick once-over, they produced the symbol of Ishnigarrab and waved it before the values—which swung open with a groan. Beyond them lay a bricked courtyard and a few smaller statues of the hermaphroditic god. After learning that the gates don’t stay open long, the whole party ventured into the courtyard. A door on the side of the pyramid faced the courtyard’s entrance, and two gargoyles looked down on them from the corners of the stepped temple’s second tier. A loosed arrow failed to spur the gargoyles into action so the party prepared to enter the vulva-shaped doorway before them
That when the dogs came creeping around the sides of the pyramid and a fight broke out.
Although they managed to overcome the Hounds of the Great Mother, the sorcerer Tigir was brought to the edge of death when he waded into combat—perhaps unwisely—and Xander Tonn was slain when one of the Hounds landed a particularly nasty critical hit on the young fighter (12 points of damage!). After taking a break to bandage their wounds, quaff some wine, and wake up Hicks—err, Tigir—the party looted their dead and headed into the temple…
Monday, April 26, 2010
Movement: 150’ (50’)
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 1+1
Hoard Class: None
Bred especially as guard animals in the land of Myhrak, these 6’ long brownish-grey lizards are both quick and tenacious. In combat, they bite with mouths filled with jagged, recurved fangs for 1d4+1 points of damage. Mhyrakian watch lizards are extremely smart, and most are trained not to attack people bearing a specific color or pattern. This trait allows guards and other approved people access to the areas protected by the reptile.
Movement: 120’ (40’)
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 2+2
Attacks: 1 or 2 (bite)
Damage: 1d6 and 2d4
Hoard Class: None
These dogs resemble lean Doberman Pinschers at first glance, but a closer inspection reveals that their hook-filled mouths open on four hinges and that they possess a lamprey-like secondary maw on their bellies which is ringed by dangling red cilia. Any Hound whose attack roll is 5 or more points higher than the total needed to hit or who rolls a “natural 20” has possibly knocked over its victim. The defender must make an STR check and, if is failed, the Hound overbears its target and automatically bites with its secondary mouth for 2d4 points of damage.
The party was wondering why there was dog crap inside the courtyard of the ancient pyramid today--the one which has been sealed for roughly a century...
These babies leaped to mind while I was watching In the Mouth of Madness the other week. There was a scene where Sutter Cane is standing by the door of the church with three Dobermans at his side and they struck me as looking particularly menacing in that shot. Give them a second set of jaws surrounded by crimson cilia and make their mouths hinged like the Predator and, voila, horrific hounds to chase you down in you nightmares.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Played by: Pete
DEX: 14 (-1 AC, +1 missile, +1 initiative)
WIS: 9 (+1 to save vs magic)
Hit Points: 20
Armor Class: 2 (1 with shield)
Special Traits/Abilities: Weapon adept (+1 damage with long bow)
Weapons: Masterwork longbow (+1 to damage), masterwork longsword (+1 to hit)
Armor: Plate mail & shield
Magic Items: magic arrow, potion of diminution,
Weapon proficiencies: Bow, long; axe, large, pole arm, crossbow
Objects of questionable value: yellow & black checkered bandana.
Last Update: 4/09/11
Played by: David
DEX: 15 (-1 AC, +1 missile, +1 initiative)
WIS: 10 (+1 to save vs magic)
Hit Points: 8
Armor Class: 3
Special Traits/Abilities: Windfall (+200 gp)
Weapons: Longbow, hand axe
Armor: Banded mail
Magic Items: None
Weapon proficiencies: Bow, long; axe, small, two more
Objects of questionable value:
Last Update: 5/1/10
Played by: Jud
STR: 7 (-1 to hit, damage, open doors)
CON: 14 (+1 hp)
INT: 15 (+2 languages, +1 to decipher tomes)
WIS: 15 (+1 to save vs magic)
CHA: 8 (+ to reaction, 3 retainers, 6 loyalty)
Hit Points: 4
Armor Class: 9
Special Traits/Abilities: none
Weapons: Staff, dagger, silver dagger
Magic Items: None
Spellbook: magic missile, shield, light, invisibility
Objects of questionable value:
Experience: 500 (+5%)
Last Update: 5/16/10
Monday, April 19, 2010
Mars was soon joined by Syl and El Ravener, and the trio cautiously began probing the fungus surrounding the platform with the party’s every-ready 10’ pole. In one particularly thick patch of fungus, something grasped the end of the pole and attempted to pull it from the Mars’ hands. When he pulled the pole back, a vile corpse, its body encrusted with pallid fungi, emerged from the dense growth of toadstools that covered the floor.
This creature was quickly put down, but in battle it proved to be unaffected by either Mars’ turning attempts or by Syl’s undead-slaying falchion. Pushing past these strange implications, the trio began further probing the room, headed towards the nearest of the stone boxes.
The rest of the party began making its way down the well, lured by shouts of “treasure chests!” and the clamor of battle. As the reconnoitering trio approached their object of investigation, more of the fungus-laden corpses began to emerge from the dense mushroom cover of the room and advance towards both those adventurers wading through the room and those perched atop the stone platform at the room’s ingress.
Wave after wave of the creatures appeared, but the party’s efforts were sufficient to maintain the upper hand in battle. Unfortunately, they suffered a grievous loss when Reddannon the cleric was slain, his head ripped from his shoulder’s by one of the mushroom zombies.
Amidst all the chaos and death, a strange event caught the party’s attention, although only Mars Markus was close enough to investigate. As the combat raged, two of the room’s stone boxes were suddenly illuminated by brief flashes of light which seemed to originate from under their grill-like covers. Mars peered into the strange container closest to him to discover a very confused –looking Old Blood sorcerer staring up at him. “Umm, some assistance, please?” the sorcerer asked.
After defeating the fungal menaces, the party took the time to police the fungus-coated zombies for any wealth and discovered each bore a simple, workman-like necklace of gold and silver beads. Reddannon’s remains were lifted from the room and Bannath, Mars, and Azerran gave him last rites. Mordakis the Silent, companion of the slain cleric, mourned in quietus and consumed the party’s sole healing draught to restore the vitality he lost in battle. However, that elixir’s potency seemed much reduced by the ages and his health was little improved.
Back in the pit, the rest of the party was introducing themselves to the newly-arrived Old Blood, [[:fanta Fanta]], and his companion, [[:domdull-stonejaw Domdull Stonejaw]] (who had been the source of the second flash of light but wasn’t freed from his imprisoning box until after the battle). This duo told a curious tale of exploring the massive dungeon complex known as “The Blackgut” when they ran afoul of a curious archway that must have teleported them to the Temple of the Goat.
Then, as the party was engrossed in conversation, the first of the slain fungal zombies rose to its feet, followed quickly by another and another.
In the chaos that followed, the party found themselves cut off from the chamber’s sole exit and swarmed by the suddenly revived corpses. In the melee, El Ravener, Yodahlla, and Azerran all perished in the mass of animated dead, and Domdull barely escaped with his life. Yodhalla’s body was the only one of their comrades’ mortal remains that was recoverable from the safety of the well’s opening and the rest of the dead were unfortunately left to the strange fungus zombies that haunt the Temple’s underbelly. This did not sit well with the survivors and many oaths were sworn to come back and soundly eradicate the fungus creatures, if not recover their comrades’ remains.
Even with more than a quarter of their number dead, the party pressed on. With but two outlying buildings remaining in the temple complex and still several hours remaining before nightfall, the party returned along the westernmost walkway to the first of the two remaining buildings. Inside, they discovered more of the obscene cravings which depicted the tree-monsters engaged in unspeakable acts with human victims, but nothing else of interest.
With one building remaining, they continued on the raised pathway towards it. There, after cautiously opening the seemingly long-sealed door, they discovered a water-filled building with a raised path that snaked through its interior. Four statues, three standing 10’ tall and depicting the same tentacle-faced monstrosity and a larger one of a four-faced woman, were placed about the path. A stone box sat in a slight cavity beneath the four-faced statue.
The entire setup screamed “danger” but Kliegeles, Mordakis, and Mars entered the building. Mordakis and Mars stood watch at the doorway while Kliegeles made his way along the path, probing carefully ahead with the sturdy wooden pole. Finding nothing amiss, he carefully approached the box beneath the statue, eyes peeled for danger. When nothing was detected, he risked opening the container…and the three smaller statues ground into action while the door to the building slammed shut!
As the Mordakis and Mars tried to pry the door open, two of the statues bore down upon them, and another strode towards Kliegeles. Before the Old Blood adventurer could flee, its rocky fists pummeled the life from his body and his unmoving form fell upon the walkway.
Outside the building, Fanta and Domdull worked to pry the stone door open, and with crowbars in hand, managed to get purchase on the heavy valve. As they struggled to free their trapped comrades, the first of the two remaining statues reached Mordakis. Its first blow struck the dwarf senseless and, before Mars could pull him to safety, its second blow sent the mute dwarf to the afterlife.
Moments before the grim statues could reach Mars, the party pried the door ajar enough to allow the Baman cleric to escape from the building which had become the tomb of two of his compatriots. As the party fled the scene, seeking safety in the surround hills that ringed the temple complex, the survivors of the day’s events decided that it was time to return to Rhuun in the hopes of recruiting replacement members before planning their next foray into the blasphemous Temple of the Black Goat…
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Played by: Thomas
STR: 14 (+1 to hit, damage, open doors)
DEX: 16 (-2 AC, +2 missile, +1 initiative)
CON: 15 (+1 hp)
Hit Points: 4
Armor Class: 7
Special Traits/Abilities: 90% immune to sleep/charm, detect secret doors 2 in 6, infravision 60'; I Know Something (Location and partial map of the Blackgut)
Weapons: Dagger (x2), longbow, staff
Magic Items: potion of healing (1 dose)
Weapon proficiencies: staves; bow, long
Spell book: light, magic missile, read magic, shield, invisibility, and knock
Objects of questionable value: none
Last Update: 10/18/10
Played by: Thomas
DEX: 7 (-1 to missile, +1 AC, -1 initiative)
CON: 16 (+2 hp)
INT: 6 (partially literate)
CHA: 13 (-1 reaction, 5 retainers, 8 loyalty)
Hit Points: 9
Armor Class: 5
Special Traits/Abilities: None
Weapons: Dagger, longsword
Armor: Splint mail & shield
Weapon proficiencies: Sword, long; sword, great; blunt; dagger
Objects of questionable value: none
Last Update: 7/04/10
Movement: 60’ (20’)
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 1+2
Attacks: 1 (bony claws)
Hoard Class: See below
The fungal dead are human corpses whose bodies have been overtaken by a virulent strain of unwholesome fungus. These alien spores animate their non-living hosts into a nightmarish semblance of life and seek to spread the colony into new, recently-deceased corpses. Luckily, this horrid fungus is only known to grow in places steeped in the unwholesome radiance of that bizarre fertility deity, Ishnigarrab.
Fungal dead tear at their opponents with ragged hands, raking their victims with sharp, splintered fingers. If a fungal dead is struck by a weapon, its body emits a cloud of foul-smelling, psychotropic spores. Anyone in melee combat with a fungal dead when struck must save vs. poison or become afflicted by horrific but short-lived hallucinations. Such characters suffer a -1 penalty to all attacks and saving throws for 1d4 turns. A successful save indicates that the character is immune to further exposure by these spores during that encounter.
Although fungal undead can be “slain” by normal attacks, the fungus that powers them reanimates the host corpse after two turns with full hit points. Only by completely destroying the fungus that affects the corpse, usually by using fire, acid, or similar destructive means, can a fungal dead by permanently slain. As they are not true undead, fungal dead are unaffected by turning attempts or holy water.
On some occasions, fungal dead are born from sacrificial victims that have been exposed to colonies of the loathsome fungus as part of the veneration of Ishnigarrab. These sacrificial victims are adorned with symbolic, low grade jewelry prior to being cast into vile pits filled with the fungus and some may still bear these tokens when discovered. Each group of fungal dead has a 40% chance of wearing these decorations when encountered, with the jewelry on each corpse worth 2d10x10 gp.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Since I am trying to capture a sword & sorcery feel to the campaign as opposed to the standard Tolkien-esque/pseudo-medieval vibe that so many D&D campaigns aspire to, I’ve allowed any class to use any weapon. However, I can see how this could get out of control if no guidelines are established. So, as promised, I’ll be introducing a (hopefully) quick and easy weapon proficiency system at the next meeting. Since I find it easier to explain longer concepts in writing, here’s a preview of what we’ll be doing on Sunday.
Each character starts with an initial number of weapon proficiencies based on their class. Fighters begin knowing how to use four weapons competently; clerics can use three with skill, and magic-users are adept with only two. Dwarves are treated as fighters in this case, giving them four weapons of proficiency.
Any character attempting to use a weapon they aren’t adept with suffers a penalty to any and all attack rolls. Fighters using a weapon they aren’t trained in are -2 to hit; clerics are -3 to hit, and magic-users are -4 to their attack roll. As above, dwarves are treated as fighters and suffer a -2 penalty. For those of you who like charts, it breaks down like this:
Number of weapon proficiencies
Penalty to hit with a non-proficient weapon
Fighters (including dwarves)
As characters advance in level, they will gain addition weapon proficiencies based on their class. As each class reaches the levels listed below, they gain another weapon proficiency chosen from the list at the bottom of the page. Fighters gain a new weapon proficiency every two levels after the 1st; clerics gain one every three levels after the 1st, and magic-users gain one every four levels after the 1st. Again, in chart form, this looks like
I don’t want to get too crazy with this system so rather than make every single weapon cost its own proficiency, I’ve broken them down into categories, some broader than others. Being proficient in a category allows you to utilize any weapon in that class without penalty. These weapon categories are:
Ball & chain
Flail, morning star
Light and heavy crossbows
Pole arms of many assorted styles and flavors
Spear (both in melee and thrown), trident
Quarterstaff, magical staves
Two-handed sword, bastard (two-handed
Long sword, scimitar, falchion, bastard (one-handed)
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Entering the building, the party discovered a simple room whose floor sloped slightly downwards towards a 10’ diameter shaft in the floor. A bas-relief carving of one of the temple’s ubiquitous tree-monsters adorned the wall behind the open shaft and a vine grew from out of that channel’s depths to wrap around one of the carving’s protruding tentacles. The party cautiously edged forward and quickly learned that the “vine” was actually a moss-encrusted and rusty chain. At the far end of the chain, 30’ down the shaft, a canvas-wrapped rectangular shape hung. Even in the dim torchlight, the party could discern that this item’s dimensions suggested it was a chest, perhaps one filled with booty!
A torch was dropped into the shaft and it briefly illuminated a ledge which ringed the shaft’s throat some forty or fifty feet down. As the torch flickered past, the party caught a glimpse of something lying atop the ledge, unmoving. After about 100’, the torch flickered out, but whether from hitting bottom, falling into water, or some other cause was unknown.
The party, although anxious to recover the supposed chest, grew uneasy with the setup and decided to take precautions against danger—which would have mixed results. After retrieving Gladys from the House of Altars, the party looped a coil of silk rope around the dangling chain and attached the other end to their trusty mule. Using Gladys as a—well, mule—they slowly started dragging the chain up from below, causing the wrapped chest to bang against the shaft’s unyielding stone sides as it rose. Unfortunately, the wet environment and age had weakened the wooden chest. A sharp crack was heard as the side of the box collided with the wall, followed quickly by the unmistakable sound of coins, lots of them, spilling out of the broken chest and into the void below. Despite their attempts to prevent the loss, the party watched in horror as a fountain of silver coins hemorrhaged from the ancient chest, gasping aloud when a glass bottle tumbled from the split chest and into the shaft as well. By the time the chest was safely in their hands, an estimated half of the chest’s contents had been lost.
Meanwhile, back at Rhuun, Reddannon and Mordakis had finished their duties at the shrine of Uun the Unknowable and returned to Qytuul’s caravanserai. There they encountered a bored Ravener, who was rethinking his decision to remain in town. He had made the acquaintance of an Old Blood warrior named Kliegeles and, as the two swapped tales in the caravanserai’s common room, grew antsy for adventure. After boldly suggesting that the Old Blood fighter accompany them on their expedition to the Temple of the Goat, Ravener, Reddannon, Mordakis, and now Kliegeles left town three hours behind the main group and headed north towards the Temple.
Speaking of the main party, they were determined to make the best of a bad situation and salvage as much wealth as they could. This meant someone had to go down into the shaft to investigate the ledge and what lay atop it. Mars Markus took this opportunity to sample from the effervescent puce-colored liquid that the bottle held and was pleased to discover a shaving nick he had incurred early in the day was suddenly healed. With the newly-found potion in his possession, Syl bravely stepped forward and volunteered to be lowered into the shaft. As Azerran covered him with a crossbow overhead, Syl slowly made his way down to the ledge below. After steadying himself, he discovered that the object they had briefly glimpsed as a rag-clad skeleton. A careful inspection of the corpse revealed an electrum ring of intricate geometric design, which Syl quickly acquired.
As the fighter was looting the dead, however, the air currents that had been whistling through the shaft suddenly increased. Throwing himself against the shaft’s wall to prevent being swept away should this breeze grow gale-like, Syl dropped his torch down into the shaft. As the rest of the party watched, they saw the flickering flames illuminate a writhing mass of albino tentacles rising quickly up the vertical tunnel. The torch suddenly vanished as a large parrot-like beak snapped it in half and consumed the burning morsel. Urged on by Syl’s commands to “get him out of here!”, Gladys and the rest of the party hauled up the warrior just ahead of the rising, alabaster-hued monstrosity. The party fled from the building as the mass of tentacles erupted from the pit, slamming the door behind them.
While the party ran screaming from the building, the smaller group of adventurers arrived at the edge of the foul lake that ringed the temple complex. In the bright moonlight, they could see a group of figures accompanied by a vaguely mule-shaped form exit one of the buildings. Rightfully guessing that this group was their comrades, the smaller party began making their way towards the building by walking the network of raised stone walkways that served as the complex’s “streets.”
Not far into the complex, the party found their way barred by three of the fanged and clawed frogs that had confronted the party previously. In the melee that erupted, Reddannon was almost slain and Mordakis and Kliegeles both took wounds before dispatching the beasts. Even the fortifying effects of wine and the binding of wounds were insufficient to restore the health of the adventurers, so, after rejoining their companions, the party decided to retire until daybreak.
The following day, the now-rested and recouped party decided to attempt to enter the large building they had previously tried to explore but were prevented from doing so by a seemingly-jammed door. Making their way around to the opposite side of the building, they first had to pass through a smaller L-shaped structure. Within that building, they discovered a single room which bore a large statue of a tree-monster and numerous obscene frescoes. Despite their efforts to uncover any of the building’s secrets, none were to be found.
Continuing onwards, they finally entered the largest of the outlying buildings. Inside, they discovered that the building was divided into three chambers. Each room told part of the temple’s history. In one room, they encountered painted bas-relief carvings that depicted the construction of the temple complex. Humans and tree-monsters worked side-by-side to raise massive stone blocks, overseen by a pair of red eyes which hovered in the sky overhead. Another room’s carvings showed the temple at its height of worship. Numerous humans intermixed with larger, less-defined forms knelt in obedience on the central plaza before the pyramid. The last room showed a scene that looked familiar to the party: The complex seemed abandoned, looking very much like it did at this time. Unsettling, however, a writhing mass of black-green tentacles were erupting from the entrance of the pyramid while Nihil, the Rotting Moon, hung in the night sky overhead, its face depicted in a skull-like visage. Grim portents, indeed.
Since nothing of monetary value had been unearthed, the party again debated the wisdom of venturing directly towards the pyramid and leaving the rest of the complex’s building for their anticipated exiting of the temple. Again, the majority argued that leaving unknown enemies at one’s back was ill planning, so the search of the outlying constructions continued.
As the party crossed the raised walkways towards the complex’s western end, they gasped as an enormous toad-like beast rose from the rank water’s near the stone path. Tentacles replaced the creature’s forelimbs and a sticky tongue wiggled in its gaping maw. It could only be a specimen of the legendary Toadhemoth! Despite their initial fears, the party quickly discovered that not all legends are true when a shower of missiles quickly slew the abomination before it got within striking distance (a mere 15 hit points was all the beast had, proving the Fates were again in the players’ favor).
The party pressed on and, despite being surprised by a sucker- and mouth-covered spider with a single baleful crimson eye in one of the complex’s ancillary buildings, they almost completed their survey of the complex. In one building, they discovered a floor that held four concentric rings which slowly turned in opposite directions to one another. Covered in alien sigils, the party could only suppose this device was perhaps a calendar, timer, or combination lock. Whatever it was, the wall carvings surrounding it depicted an otherworldly city being consumed by a thick, monster-filled mist, so the adventurers chose to leave the spinning rings alone for the moment.
At the very end of one section of pathway, the party entered a building whose walls bore images of slavering mouthed tree-monsters in the process of devouring helpless human meals. In the center of the single chamber was a capped well, its mouth covered by a simple stone plug with an iron pull-ring. Being adventurers, the party simply had to uncap it. Mordakis and Syl pulled the plug free and a vile, noxious odor pour out of the black pit below them. A series of hand holds were carved into the side of the well. A dropped torch revealed a bare stone floor some 30’ down and three ancient bones visible in the guttering flames. After tying a rope around himself and securing it to the plug’s iron ring, Mars Markus slowly made his way into the well…
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Over time, the haughtiness and pride of the Arane Dhyn grew along with their accomplishments and they began to see themselves as superior to the young nations of men, whom they deemed lesser beings. The Arane Dhyn, with their strange magics and high science, waged war upon the nations that abutted the Weary Sea. Most succumbed to the legions of Bal-Sagoth and became vassal states, owing fealty to the Supernal Empire and its Imperatrix. Each spring, the great moon galleys of the Arane Dhyn would embark to collect tribute from the lands of men, taking coin, trade goods, and slaves, as well as certain individuals who proved themselves worthy of learning at the feet of the great Arane Dhyn scholars and sorcerers, back to Bal-Sagoth.
For ten millennia, the Arane Dhyn subjugated the nations of men and grew debauched on their island of white-walled cities and sapphire towers. Then, without warning, the Arane Dhyn faced an opponent whose sorceries and science outstripped their own.
This threat came not from the sea that surrounded the Arane Dhyn’s homeland, but from the night sky above. Strange stars fell from the heavens, bringing with them the creatures known only as the Silent Daemons. With unknowable purpose, the Silent Daemons waged war upon Bal-Sagoth, toppling its sapphire towers and razing its alabaster walls. The land itself was torn asunder and the sea rushed in to fill these chasms.
The end of Bal-Sagoth came in fire, but whose hand lit the flames is unknown. Some tales say that the Silent Daemons unleashed horrific magics against the island nation. Conflicting stories claim that it was the strange sciences of the Arane Dhyn which caused the conflagration. In either case, the inferno known as the Flame Deluge shattered the great island nation of Bal-Sagoth, sinking it beneath the green waves of the Weary Sea. All that remained behind were the mangled scraps of silver filigree from brooch or breastplates that lay upon the ocean sands or the tatters of checkered silk which floated on the waves.
Some of the Arane Dhyn survived the cataclysm, fleeing their sinking land on moon galleys or taking flight on magical wings. But those survivors were few and they found no refuge was to be had in the former vassal states of Men. With their civilization in ruins and their former servants now free and bearing great grudges, the Arane Dhyn scattered, seeking sanctuary in whatever isolated places they could. In dense jungles, atop forbidding mountains, and in harsh deserts, the Arane Dhyn built colonies and citadels where they could dream of their former glory, undisturbed.
Two thousand years have passed since Bal-Sagoth sank and the Supernal Empire was cast in ruin. Most of the Arane Dhyn remain sequestered in their hidden sanctuaries, but a few seek to recapture the glory of their race once again. Although still shunned by men and considered a cursed breed, this vainglorious minority takes up sword and spells in order to carve out a place in the world befitting their people’s former greatness.
Although the Arane Dhyn appear indistinguishable from Men, they are a separate, alien race. No aspect sets them apart from men more than their dual souls.
Each Arane Dhyn possess two souls which are engaged in a constant struggle for dominance of their physical form. Each daybreak, when the Arane Dhyn rises from slumber, his physical form might be under the control of either one of these twin souls. Although these twin souls are seldom evenly matched, each ultimately gains the upper hand in the struggle from time to time, eclipsing the skills of the other and causing various subtle (and not-so-subtle) changes to manifest. Most Arane Dhyn spend their entire lives attempting to unify their warring spirits into a single whole. This state is called Caat, and, while not an impossible goal, it is uncommon to encounter an Old Blood who was successfully reached spiritual equilibrium. Instead, most Arane Dhyn rely on meditation, sorcery, drugs, or other means to keep their internal struggle in a state they can cope with.
In game terms, this means is that each Old Blood character has essentially two classes whose abilities and progression are kept track of separately. An Old Blood PC is both a fighter and magic-user, but never at the same time. He has two character sheets: one for each of these classes.
The ability scores are the same for each class but hit points fluctuate depending on whether the Old Blood is currently adventuring as a fighter or a magic-user, and it is the subtle physiological changes that occur when each soul is in control that causes the character’s ability to survive bodily harm to change. Likewise, his ability to use spells and his acumen in battle are also dependent on which soul is currently in command.
When his martial soul is in power, the Arane Dhyn is a fighter with all that class’ abilities, saving throws, and weapon proficiencies. They do not, however, gain the ability to “Chop When They Drop” that pure fighters do.
When their mystical soul is at the forefront, the Arane Dhyn functions as a magic-user and has all that class’ saving throws, “to hit” probabilities, and spell-casting ability. They may not wear armor and cast spells, and they are limited to only two weapon proficiencies, which must be chosen from the four they possess in their fighter guise.
It is said that the Arane Dhyn race is the product of their ancient deity, Gol-goroth. Eons ago, long before history was recorded or Men walked upon the earth, Gol-goroth created twin daughters, A-ala and Dyru Ro, to delight him and to take as brides when they came of age. In almost every way, these two girls were opposites. Dyru Ro was dark and beautiful, while A-ala was pale and of fierce visage. A-ala was blessed with the gift of sorcery and Dyru Ro was a warrioress without equal. Rivals from the very first, each constantly strove to outdo the other in the eyes of Gol-goroth.
It was A-ala who brought about the tumultuous inner struggle that afflicts all Arane Dhyn. Having observed her twin’s practice of eating the hearts of slain foes to absorb their strength and prowess, A-ala set a snare of magic for Dyru Ro, then lured her into its jaws. Once imprisoned, A-ala consumed the soul of her twin with the intent of both assuming her martial prowess and permanently removing her rival.
When Gol-goroth next called his brides-to-be into his presence, he found only one answered his summons. He questioned A-ala, inquiring where her sister might be found, a query to which A-ala denied having any knowledge. But the spirit of Dyru Ro was not so easily consumed and Gol-goroth saw its fire burning behind the eyes of A-ala. The sorceress could not hide her crime from her creator and Gol-goroth banished her from his presence, sending her to live in the harsh lands to the west.
There, amongst the low creatures that would eventually become Men, A-ala found refuge and ultimately a mate. When the first of her children were born, A-ala discovered that Gol-goroth had punished her offspring for her crime. Each was born with two warring souls: one of sorcery inherited from their mother, the other martial and bearing the traits of their aunt. The Arane Dhyn race has suffered for their founder’s crime ever since.
Because of their twin souls, Old Blood characters are extremely resistant to both charm and sleep magics, and avoid succumbing to these enchantments 90% of the time. They possess a keen sense of sight that allows them to detect the flame auras given off by all living creatures up to 60’ away (as infravision) and can notice the slight imperfections that indicate concealed doorways, hidden niches, secret doors, and the like 2 times out of 6.
Although the physical appearance of the Arane Dhyn is just as varied as that of Men, there does exist two general types. These two broad physical stereotypes usually indicate which of the two conflicting souls is dominant most often in a Arane Dhyn, but this is not always the case.
The following two examples are taken from Earth literature as they coincidentally resemble the two most common physical appearances of those of the Old Blood race. The first is an example of one whose martial soul is more dominant; the second, one whose sorcerous souls is most active. (Thanks to my regular player, Jack, for reminding me of the Kull description.)
“He was built much like the Vikings, at once massive and lithe—tigerish. But his features were not as theirs, and his square-cut, lion-like mane of hair was as black as Bran’s own. Under heavy brows glittered eyes gray as steel and cold as ice. His bronzed face, strong and inscrutable, was clean-shaven, and the broad forehead betokened a high intelligence, just as the firm jaw and thin lips showed will-power and courage.”
-- Kings of the Night by Robert E. Howard
“They were old eyes in a fine featured, youthful face…He nodded condescendingly to the other four and walked with lithe grace towards the fire… [He] was tall, broad-shouldered and slim-hipped. He wore his long hair bunched and pinned at the nape of his neck and…affected the dress of a southern barbarian…His bizarre dress was tasteless and gaudy, and did not match his sensitive face and long-fingered, almost delicate hands, yet he flaunted it since it emphasized the fact that he did not belong in any company—that he was an outsider and an outcast.”
-- The Stealer of Souls by Michael Moorcock