Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Storm King's Thunder #17: The Sons of Annam

Tonight the group delved further into the Temple.  A few characters hit 11th level tonight. They are much higher than the expected level so I replaced the barbarians with Stone Giants. This made more sense to me anyways. I used Stone Giant Dreamwalkers from Volo's Guide. They were religious zealots who had made a pilgrimage to the Oracle, not to consult it, but to keep others out. Harshnag explained it as another example of the misguided madness of his people without the Ordening. I've dropped the barbarian subplot completely. Having added a whole dragon conspiracy, the barbarian part seems unnecessary. Hopefully I'll some of all those locations in some later campaign.
Six stone giants was a challenging battle for a 9th and 10th level party, but it offered a lot of XP.  The players enjoyed the puzzle of the statue room.  They have a very good sense of the over arching plot, but they will still be shocked by what they discover at the site of the Oracle.  I'm looking forward to an interesting next few months wherein the players attempt to stop the giants without alienating them and losing the possibility of calling on their aid for the final confrontation with Tiamat.


The mighty battle shook the cavernous hall.  It was a near thing, but soon six stone giants lay defeated.  The company was beaten within an inch of their lives, but unbowed.  Their companion Harshnag pushed the huge double doors inward.  Within was a massive cathedral room covered in thick ice.  On the far wall glowed a misty archway, forty feet tall and just as wide.  Six gigantic statues were arrayed around a single towering robed figure of stone.  Each of the six bent in supplication, offering their weapon.  All except one, who's stoney hands were empty.
Harshnag spoke, naming the six sons of Annam the All-Father.
After some study of the runes surrounding the arch and experimenting with Harshnag's axe, the group determined that by touching the spear to the "Skye" rune, the light of the thing turned to an iridescent purple.  Touching the wrong weapon to the wrong rune could trigger a snow-pacalypse within the temple.
The group was missing one weapon, so they went exploring, eventually finding four doors hidden behind sheets of ice.  Moving northward, a hall flanked by resting cubicles was explored, until a crack was detected in one of the walls.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Barrowmaze Session #21: Escape from Skull Mountain

Glory and success!  A rescue mission complete!  The prince is found though he was nearly passed by.  The skull delvers woke a lava spewing living lizard statue which nearly burned Erik the Red to death, then ran passed it to explore burial catacombs, then descend further where they triggered a portcullis trap and the alarm was sounded.  Fleeing back up stairs and retraced steps, the company tumbled the living statue a second time, then peeked into a side room and found the Prince Himself, shackled, drugged, but alive.  Erik sensed a spy behind a tapestry, and stabbed right through, slaying one who guarded a laddered shaft down.  The body was wrapped in oil soaked tapestries and set alight to hinder pursuit.  Then, carefully avoiding returning bandits in the labyrinth, the company fled out the maw of Skull Mountain, eager to claim their reward from the Duke of Ironwood, but curious as to what fell secrets and great treasure still lurked in the depths of Skull Mountain.

Skull Mountain has been tested. A dangerous place. Where will they go next? Back to the Barrowmaze? Off to search for a pink comet in the Dolmenwood?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Storm King's Thunder Sessions #6-16: Glacial Pacing and Dragon Slaying


We have been deep in Chapter 3 "The Wandering of the North", but now finally begin the end game. The best thing I've done is pin a post map of the north (mine is from an old 3e era Dragon mag) and mark their explorations on with a red sharpie. It helps everyone keep track, especially as I've dropped all kinds of hooks and lore.  
I've used "Crashed Frozen Castle" from the DMs Guild, and "Dragon's Maw" a 5e module from Goodman Games.  Now the group is pursuing the next phase in the grand events.  At this point, the group is very powerful (levels 9-10), but increasingly aware of a threat greater even than a disorder of giants.  It all seems to be a smokescreen for a plot to reignite the ancient feud between dragon and giant, with the civilizations of smallfolk caught in the middle.
It's been a great campaign.  At high level the player characters are only really threatened by large groups of giants, and they have accumulated great wealth and a magical arsenal, but they now have choices at all times about where to go.  Still, it has been good to go back and forth between open world traveling and small dungeon delves, since it focuses the game.  We have 8-9 players at times, so focus is a real issue.


Sessions #6-16

Reports were that two dragons, white and blue, crashed the castle in the Nether Mountains above Everlund.  The Company of the Raven trekked to the Nether glacier, passed the orc town and snuck into the frost giants' great hall, obscured by druid magic.  There they overheard the Jarl speaking to Blagothus, arguing over the correct course of action.  The Jarl said he thought Blag's plan to unite the giants against the dragons was a mistake, that he was waiting for Storvald to find the Ring of Winter.  Blagothus said he had been betrayed.  His sky castle crashed.  He blamed dragons.  There was one out there on the glacier.  The group withdrew and proposed to travel across the frozen wastes to find this crashed sky castle and see what treasures might be recovered.  They encountered the dangers of the icy plain: hunted by Remorazze (fiery ice worms) who nearly slew a hero or two.
Making friends with a dwarven enclave on the glacier, the heroes were given skis and taught to use them, thus making their travels swifter.  They visited a village of Yakmen, ruled by a crazed wizard whom the perhaps remembered from dark Barovia.  They slew more worms of ice and fire on their way to the crash site where they found the brooding cloud giant Blagothus staring at his ruined fortress.  He warned them not to enter the place, hinting darkly at greater forces at work in the realms.  Forces set in motion by the fall of the house of Hekaton and the Maelstrom Court.
Disregarding the doomsaying giant, the company crept toward the castle only to be set upon by a massive, white-scaled dragon, but these heroes are mighty in sword and spell.  They not only drove off the beast, they chased it down and finished it off.  
Within the crashed castle, the group traveled into the iceberg beneath the fortress, discovering a massive cavern, and within a sailing ship held aloft by a dragon scale air balloon, floating within the iceberg while purple cloaked men scurried to load the hold with the contents of the dragon's hoard left unguarded!   The heroes attacked, taking command of the ship and escaping even as they were bombarded by giants throwing rocks.   The ship ascended into the sky above the glacier to find an army of orcs and giants massing on the ice.  What their next move would be, they did not stay to find out.  The Company of the Raven set a course for Everlund.
In Everlund, the company made repairs on the damaged ship and trained a pair of local soldiers to help crew the ship.  It was decided to head south toward Waterdeep.  Tales of starvation were attributed to the gluttony of the Hill Giants in the Dessarin Valley.  Here was a chance to do some good!  
But traveling by airship can be difficult.  A storm blew them off course, over the vastness of the High Forest, where a broad winged green wyrm came winging up to do battle.  Again, the heroes rebuffed the beast, and chased it to it's lair, a series of caverns beneath the forest stream.  Tense battles against double headed serpents, the medusa daughter of the dragon and finally Chlorothra herself ended with the Company of the Raven claiming a hoard beyond their wildest dreams.  Wealth undreamt of.  
Now the company returned to Everlund again.  A change of plan had them heading west to meet the giant Harshnag, to go with him to seek the Oracle of Amman, in a place called the Eye of the All-Father.  With a brief stop outside of Mithril Hall, the company finally docked at Mirabar, arranging to pay a handsome fee to keep their ship safe as they traveled up the Khundun Valley, into the Spine of the World.  
On this trek signs of Fire Giants were seen, but avoided.  Finally, after traversing high mountain passes swaddled in polar bear hides, they came upon the soaring pillars of the Temple itself.  
There was no door.  Howling winds blew ice and snow deep into the massive hall, wide enough for a host to march a ten horse column, tall enough for long icicles to hang like lances from the ceiling without disturbing the grim head of Harshnag Giantkiller, the blue frost giant who had guided the Company all this way.  
Deep within mountain a sound burst forth, low and throbbing, the sound of massive vocal chords thrumming guttural prayers to the All Father that compelled the listener to bow down before his awesome power.  The singers were revealed: a half dozen gray pilgrims, 22 feet tall, their voices drowning the independent thoughts of all before them.  The warrior priest Apollo succumbed the ancient authority and was once again turned to stone.  His companions battled on without him...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Barrowmaze Saga #20: Beneath Skull Mountain


The campaign has taken a side trek to the not-so-megadungeon of Skull Mountain. Small dungeon levels make for quick progress. The party of 6 now contains characters of 4th and 5th level. My Uncommon Dungeon rules are soon to be stretched by this, but it has worked out so far. It will be interesting to see how higher level characters do in the sprawl of Barrowmaze (if they survive the depths of the Skull).

Deeper They Delved

Foolhardy, the would be rescuers of the missing Prince of Ironwood Motte stepped through the incorporeal curtain of darkness into the Demon Maw, stumbling in silent darkness, then discovering a side passage and a ledge overhanging the great skull caldera. Molten lava bubbled below (and perhaps a crooked bridge of some sort).  A long hot descent, or a narrow stair?
Down the side passage, emerging from a secret door into a counting room, a vault of treasures, and an ambush!  Someone stabbed Erik the Fighter, then fled into darkness.  Chasing the assassin, the delvers soon found themselves in pitch battle with hulking man-lizards, and set upon by a mystical duelist as well, who escaped from the elf wizard's Web and struck the fey one down.  The lizardmen were dispatched by mighty blows from the fighting men; the shadowy assassin turned to stone by a fortuitous blast of the Wand of Wonder!
The signet ring of Prince Kay was found, but where was the captive himself?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Barrowmaze #19: Labyrinth of Skull Mountain

Lurking skulking skullduggers dug into the depths of Skull Mountain.  They discovered a labyrinth of hidden pits and trapped doors around every twist and turn.  Finally, a group of cultists was found and battled, then a secret passage and the Red Altar discovered in the room of the demon maw.  Aliontus stepped forward to desecrate the altar, but was himself made to feel the immensity of the mountain within who vastness he walked.  He stumbled, bowed down by the weight of Skull Mountain.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Barrowmaze #18: Journey to Skull Mountain

The Barrowmaze has been left behind for a spell. On to Skull Mountain! The Dolmenwood is slowly being introduced as well.

A prince was missing and an old foe to be dealt with.  The Company rode north along the east edge of the Dolmenwood as a pink comet crossed the sky westerly. On the second day Skull Mountain was sighted.  Itinerant peddlars gave some rumour of the place, as did the half orc turncoat Gruk.

The rescuers approach carefully, wary of the numbers of cultists and bandits celebrating fiery rituals at the mouth of the skull.  Leaving the horses with Friar Buck, they clambered around and scouted from above, discovering the “eyes” were barred caves housing look outs.  Descending, the group set an ambush on the trail, assailing a pair of bandits at the first grey light of morning.  The prince was “within”  Finally, the group ventured forth, rappelling from the dome of the skull to the mouth itself, sneaking inside quickly.  They found stairs and ascended, slaying to the two archers of the eyes.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Barrowmaze #17: Ambushers Ambushed and Prisoners Taken

Tall Tales Come All Too True
The most recent session's events were the result of player schemes, villains known and secret, and the innocuous firing of an animal handler. In short, four months of Carousing rolls finally created its own session. The Barrowmaze was not even approached. Indeed it may lie fallow for a time as the party is now headed to Skull Mountain. However, I do hope to return, for I've enjoyed this form of dungeoning immensely.

The Company of Crows donned hooded hairshirts in the damp drizzling dawn and hurried after the caravan departing from Ironguard Motte, destination Helix village.  Their cover story was that they were pilgrims of Ygg doing a penance walk for all those dead in the Barrowmaze this season.  Tall tales have a way of becoming all too true, and so it was that this caravan, a mere covered wagon lugged by mules and pushed by mud begrimed teamsters was also accompanied by two horsemen, a callow youth and a stout warrior of the Lord Ironguard’s retinue, Dangar.  It seemed that Kay, the youngest son of Lord Kell wished to visit his brother Korthos before the summer was ended, to learn how lordlings do their carousing.  Dangar recognized the “pilgrims” from late nights at the Leaky Barrel and he welcomed their strong sword arms.

Indeed those arms were needed soon enough, when the caravan, bogged down in a mud pit was ambushed by boglings, strangely silent and bilious when squashed, the ambulatory frogmen were a mere preamble to the true danger as the warhound Mr. Sinister, ordered forward by Eric who had fired the trainer, was inspired by its feasting on the frogling to grow into an enraged man beast, a werewolf, which required the mighty blows of Eric and Stur to slay,  but not before sending the mounts beneath Lordling Kay and his man servant galloping north across the fields.  

Even as that betrayal of man and dog unfolded, a group of ne'er do wells dismounted some distance behind.  A slim figure tossed a glittering cloud of lethe upon the panting victors, sending weary heads to rest in the muck.  Then hulking tower of brazen authority called out in guttural tones of command, “Give up your striving, take your fallen and retreat, or the Outriders of Uleck will make you suffer as never before.

The Company of Crows could hardly sustain such a blow to their reputation.  They fought tooth and nail.  Stur was horribly killed by the murderous Keelgo but eventually Gruk the Half-Orc surrendered and his companions fled.  The orc was brought to Helix as a prisoner, but soon converted to Aliontism.  Then came word that the Lordling Kay had been captured, “The bandit Vargas sends word that he holds the boy ransom in Skull Mountain.  Duke Korthos Ironguard offers 1000 gold for the return of his son, and another 1000 for the head of Vargas.”  Skull Mountain is two days' travel north, through the eastern boughs of the Dolmenwood.