Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Storm King Sessions 18-21

After a hiatus, we game again tomorrow.  I just posted this on our fb group:
When last the sages delved into the depths of historic time, the Company of the Raven had challenged the enormous Queen Guh on her broken ox-cart throne, driven back her hulking minions and set fire to the ramshackle hall that served as palace for her immensity, and as beaver dam holding up the tides of Lake Grudd.   
Sometime in the night the dam collapsed. A low sloughing roar could be heard from the lakeside camp where the heroes had hidden to rest. The camp was not lakeside in the morning.   The gluttony of Guh was no more. The people of the North no longer had to fear for their meager stores of grain as winter approached, they would starve in peace. Or would they? What would a hero do now? 
Remaining giant lords marched for other inscrutable ends. Massive blue captained ships sailed from the frozen north, raiding the coastlines in the name of Jarl Storvald. Armored myrmidons of Duke Zalto combed the fields and furrows for fragments of an ancient doomsday device. Cloud castles were seen drifting in blue skies, watching or waiting, or searching for something. Blagothus still lurked on his glacier, perhaps still nursing his mad plan of mutual annihilation. And the strangest of all, the inarticulate grey giants, alien and thin, loomed high over small villages east of the High Forest, methodically dismantling the works of the small folk from the landscape as if it never existed. Only the legendary giants of the storms had been silent, their lightening tridents held in reserve, their thunderous judgement with held, for what purpose? and why? Where?   
With much to ponder that frosty dawn in the Iceshield Hills above the drained lake, sharp eyes spotted a small bedraggled figure mucking slowly toward the shore...

In this campaign I've mixed the plot from the Tyranny of Dragons module into the Storm King's Thunder book (after completing the "Curse of Strahd").  It has become apparent that the disappearance of Hekaton is part of a larger plot to return Tiamat to the Realms.  This is because I have a high level party.
They just finished up at the Temple of Annam.  Much plot point was put together, but I dropped the "gathering of the relics" part for level and pacing reasons.  So, I had a dilemma.  Does Imryth blast in there? Would that make it weird if they then went straight to Maelstrom (they were considering taking the flying ship they stole from some cultists)?
I went with Klauth.  The ancient red stepped into the temple.  He had been tracking the party ever since they stole his airship filled with a hoard meant to be delivered to him (he is ambivalent about the plan to revive Tiamat).  Klauth stepped in, roared something about his stolen treasure and the false oracle of Annam.  Harshnag ran forward to strike the central pillar as the party ran for it, escaping as the temple collapsed.
The group returned to Mirabar where they had docked their airship to find the ship had already been stolen by Klauth (the dwarven guards were shamefaced at this).  The ship was last seen floating north west toward Klauthen Vale.
So the group had now lost their easy transport and a huge amount of treasure.  They decided to take Harper Circle Transport to Waterdeep to save the starving population by tracking down the lair of the Hill Giants.  They are not entirely sure how to find Maelstrom, but they do know they'll need the giants' help to stop Tiamat.
All are around 10th level, which means Guh should be not too hard (she wasn't)  I plan on supplementing the steading with an ambush courtesy of the Cult of the Dragon, attempting to retrieve a Black Dragon Mask carried by the wizard.
Another thought I have is that I haven't done much to foreshadow the Kraken Society.  I don't much like the idea of Hekaton on a ship.  Much better if he is chained to a dragon turtle floating in the Sea of Swords.  But how do the players discover this?  There is a clue in Maelstrom, the coin.  I set this up in the beginning when the players messed about on a gambling boat from Yartar while at a fancy Waterdeep party.  Perhaps the wizard of Pow Ming is the artificer of the chains.  They will remember him because they wanted to steal his bag of holding.  The only issue is that it is yet another Cult.  Perhaps it is better if I make Pow Ming a Dragon Cultist.
On a side note, one thing I've realized about high level type VI play from the DM side is that challenging the group in combat, while possible, sort of isn't worth it in terms of game time spent battling.  Hit points are so high, battling anything truly threatening will take over an hour to play out.  It has been better just to make monster attacks really touch so that maybe a character or two drops in the round or three the foe survives.  This makes things interesting but there is never really any whole party threat anymore.  Not sure if its really a problem, but I wont mind when the game concludes and we can play some low level adventures.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Barrowmaze #22: Back to the Barrowmounds

The successful rescue of young Sir Kay from the depths of Skull Mountain earned the venturers an official new sobriquet: "Company of the Skull" chartered by the Duke of Ironguard Motte to protect the realm, battle its enemies and loot the graves of heretics and apostates.  The heroes were feted, feasted and had bestowed upon them golden medallions certificating their status as well as ornate drinking horns made from the spires of strange rams.

Aliontus continued to ask around about the pink comet seen arcing across the Dolmenwood, and indeed heard tell a few things about the wood.  The nearest environs were nominally under fealty to the Lord of Ironwood Motte, but few of his soldiers ventured within the wood save tax collectors.  One village pays a reliable tax, Prigwort, know for it's unique ales and ciders.  Expert astrologists surmise the pink comet may have fallen in the environs of Drigbolton, a hamlet, on the northern edge of the wood.  To get there, one would inevitably pass through the domain of the Naglord, a mysterious figure feared though shrouded in legend.

The other prince of Duchy Aerik had other plans.  "I will accompany you an a season's last expedition into the Barrowmaze," said Korthos Ironwood. "It has been some weeks since my last journey and I yearn to uncover more of its secrets."
Reluctantly the Company agreed, returning to Helix for an evening at the Brazen Strumpet, then setting out to the Barrowmoor, where they fought bog zombies, then cracked a borrow stone door and descended into a crypt undisturbed for millenia.

Bats circled beneath a sunless sky.  A wolf howled.  Ornate tilework revealed this to be an ancient shrine to the elder god of Rot and Ruin, Impurax the Corpulent.  Exploring further, the explorers found a sealed library full of ancient scrolls and tomes of bound vellum.  In another room a sarcophagus was disturbed, earning the rather of the distinguished one interred there.  After an intense and mindbreaking battle, the company was victorious, Korthos himself striking the killer blow.  But were was the lookout, Porthos?

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?