Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Session #41: Into the Dolmenwood, through the Wenchgate

Deposited cursed relics of Dekeon, refused to tithe the Church.
Refused to pay monetary tribute to the Duke, kicked out of Ironwood Motte.
Met Harne the Wild Man of the Wood on the Horse Eye Road.  Heard man tales of fungus, fairy fucking and mysterious stones, the Nag Lord, and other weirdness.  But he claimed to know the way to the Abbey of St Clewd.
Ignored smoke in a field.  Entered the Wenchgate by way of innocuous pleasantries.
Met a talking tabby cat with wings.  It asked for help freeing Treemother from spiders but the travelers marched on.
Arrival at the Refuge of St. Keye, a welcoming place.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Barrowmaze #39-40: Assault on the Pit of Chaos, Eye Tyrant Unleashed

TL;DR  The Bearers of the Font of Law closed the Pit of Chaos, then returned for the treasure of the Yellow King.

As the light of the Font of Law faded day by day, Clonin and his fellows determined to conquer their fear and head straight for the Pit of Chaos, the location of which they had discovered after the Yellow King had sent them to a far corner of the Barrowmaze.

Girding themselves for battle, the heroes of light entered through the mound of the forgotten throne and headed north, determined to avoid distraction.  However, in the pool room near the resting place of poor Sir Guy, the treasure seekers were tempted by the tilted tiles on the floor, topped by a gemstone.  They were soon surrounded by the groaning spirits of evil priests.  They coalesced and tried to choke the life out of Aliontus, Erik and the others but brave battling and magics swords broke the spirits.

The grand hall approaching the Pit of Chaos was littered with the corpses of strange and terrible creatures.  Things of tentacle and fur lay slumped against the walls.  A terrible green light from the massive double doors illuminated the abominations of nature.

A lone hero snuck in to take a peak.  He saw a massive chamber, vaulted ceiling held aloft by pillars made of the torment of captured souls.  Against the far wall a gigantic statue of Nergal, fat, complacent, naked loomed over the depression in the center of the room.  A pit from which seeped green luminescent wisps and crawled with strange creatures.  It was a crowded place.  A horde of shuffling, clattering undead milled about.  Looming over all floated an unreal creature of myth and nightmare, an eyeball some 6ft diameter, with a mouth and more eyestalks.  The thing cackled and muttered as it roamed, surely slavering at the thought of tomb robbers for a meal.

After urgent discussion, whispered planning and the casting of spells of blessings and protection, the heroes charged in.  Half broke left, half right.  The eyeball monsters spoke, its insane ravings that of a dimension and time lost maniacal intelligence, speaking of lands of undreamt of and centuries shackled to the defense of this chaotic pit.  It's eyes glowed with menace.  All magic in its field of vision ceased to function.

Clonin charged in, terrified and vulnerable despite the protections of his god.  Weaving between pillars he found his path to the Pit blocked by half living zombies.  The Font of Law was dim in his hand as it passed before the eyesight of the all seeing guardian.  How to fight such terrors in such numbers?  Perhaps he did not need to.

Clonin threw the Font.

The glowing ball arced up over the heads of the undead army, below the terrible visage of Ibyx-Idyll, and dropped into the pit!   A flash of green light washed over everything and turned white.  A deafening explosion rocked the place.  When their vision cleared, the heroes found the monsters fled, an Eye of Terror now lurking these darksome halls, but the Pit was dark, the statue of Nergal toppled and fallen in, the terrible silence of these tombs returned.  Gathering what treasure they could find, the group returned to Helix to carouse!

Addendum: Some weeks later the Company returned, defeated the Yellow King and stole his treasure but not his boat.  They are rich with coin.  The Barrowmaze is quieter, yet evil still lurks within.  Meanwhile, the aggressive logging and assertion of power by Duke Ironwood seems to have angered the denizens of the mysterious Dolmenwood.  Reports of loggers and woodsmen attacked by goatment and worse have increased in number.  Spurred by rumour of a Church let go to ruin piques the interest of ambitious clerics.  Perhaps a claim can be staked within the wood, or the mystery of the pink comet revealed...

Monday, May 14, 2018

Barrowmaze #38: At the Mercy of the Yellow King, and Escape

TL;DR  The viking ship king teleported the party to another part of the dungeon from which they escaped.  What will they do next?  Finally assault the Pit of Chaos?  Attempt to plunder the ship of the Yellow King?  Explore some random barrows?
The yellow king spoke of his origin;  "Once I lived in the Devoured Land,  a distant, unfathomed place. They say the cleft peaks are the uneaten half left torn when the first Cannibal God bit the world. Things there are as things were in the day before all days, when all that is now knew a common tongue and a young, smoother moon hung pearl-like in a black bed gestating the unborn stars. The ice is clearer, the wind sharper, every sound echoes, and all time unravels with a clear and open order.  The shadow falls across the rock, and the rock despises that. The oldest witch is here, the proudest stag, the most vicious wolf, the fattest hog and most lustful goat, the most avid crow, the most resentful of rats.  There are trees that grew in first rain, and horses that have never known a rider, stones cut by the hand of the first women and recut by thousands after, there are fortresses buried since the first battle. It’s said time started and will end in this place."*
"Why are you here?" asked the trembling intruders.

"I was exiled by the Black Amazons of the Frozen North.  I was sent forth on my ship long before the founding of the kingdoms of men.  Now I rest here with the plunder of my lifetime.  But of late I rest no more, awakened by the persistent pulse of Chaos."

"What should we do?" asked the grizzled tomb robbers.

"I will send you forth."  

With that the small group was instantly transported to a place of stone, in fact a dungeon chamber with a treasure chest flanked by gargoyles.  The warriors approached the chest and were suddenly covered in green slime expelled from the static statues.  A suit of platemail and a magical hauberk of chain were destroyed before the slime could be burned away.  Moments later another walking dead approached but was summarily dispatched.  The chest itself was wizardly locked, but the torchbearer was happy to carry the heavy load.  

Low on spells, vigor and courage, the group searched for an exit to the foul place.  Finally they discovered a goatman cowering in a side chamber.  He spoke of blackmail against his Lord Malbleat in the Western Dolmenwood.  He also intimated the close proximity of the Pit of Chaos.  In exchange for a dram of wine and a bit of food the goatman, Billy, offered friendship and lead the group to an exit from the Maze, stopping along the way to swiftly Web a floating ball of eyeballs to the wall.  
Relieved and weary, the Company of the Raven collapsed in their beds, happy to have survived another foray, but concerned the light of the Fount of Law continues to dim.
*Words courtesy of Frostbitten and Mutilated by Zak S.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Barrowmaze #37: Death Ship of the Yellow King

As we began this session I was reminded that we had decided to play out the adventures of the lost party members.  I think the best way to describe this one is from the DM's perspective.
Grack the half-orc warrior had fallen into a magical pit along with a Blood Pudding.  They were teleported to another location in the dungeon.  Investigating, Erik the Red dangled a torch from a rope into the pit.  He and the rope all faded away. 

Discounting minor time discrepancies, Grack fought a round against the Pudding, stumbling into a corridor, his stone hammer ineffective against the pursuing blob.  Then Erik dropped out of the ceiling.  He attacked the thing with a magic sword while Grack ran away.  Erik followed and the bolted through a door and slammed it behind them.  They were in a large pillared chamber that had been previously explored, though not necessarily by these characters, and certainly the previous game year, so they did not recognize the place.  But they did choose the southwest door (although I wasn't giving them coordinates).  This decision more or less put them on a direct route to the original entrance in Room 1! 

The pair scraped around, looking and doors and resisting the urge to peek into side doors (except for one incident with a spring loaded crossbow) until they came to an intersection full of graffiti and markings.  Slowly it dawned on them.  They were near the entrance.  Scuttling west, the two warriors considered backtracking with their map and trying to find their friends.  Instead they climbed the rope and fell in with a party of tomb robbers heading home for the day from a day poking about the Barrow Mounds.

Just like this but without the windows.
Meanwhile, back in the dungeon... The remaining Company were facing a tomb full of Ravenous Dead.  Clonin the Cleric of Light held the zombies at bay with his holiness and the group retreated, using a Web spell to hold the door shut.  Further explorations revealed a massive tomb at the end of the hall.  After a desperate battle on two fronts against the Ravenous and a trio of Ghouls who slew a dwarven torchbearer, the group was able to investigate the grand tomb.

Within the vaulted many pillared chamber rested nothing less than a viking longship of blackened timber and tattered sail, it's deck piled high with mounds of glittering gold and silver.  As the Company clambered aboard the treasure ship they saw the Captain, a still silent form slouched in a lordly chair on the sternward deck of the vessel.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Barrowmaze #36: Of Pits, Perils and Blood Pudding

TL;DR Still thrashing around in the Haunted Tombs of Barrowmaze, searching for the Pit of Chaos and missing friends.

Our 36th session saw the adventuring pick up at the edge of a mysterious pit revealed when the reformed orcish band Grak fell through a trap door while battling a bloody slime creature and disappeared.  A dropped torch winked out before falling far.  A torch lowered on a rope faded out of present existence, along with the rope and the warrior Erik as well!  Now to two brave warriors were  missing.  Careful inspection of the perimeter of the pit revealed runes of transposition and dimensional doors.
The pair had fallen through some sort of teleport trap!
"Perhaps they are yet alive and nearby," speculated the zealot Aliontus. "But where?"
So the surviving band explored, first through hidden doors to the east, down elder halls until they came to a room of statues and chicken guano.
Spooked, the retreated, exploring west now, avoiding 10 holes in the floor, gathering gold from burial alcoves until discovered by Coffer Corpses, hungry dead who defied the lightning bolt of the Wizard Resper to nearly choke the life out of cleric and wizard.
Shaken, but desperate to find their friends and close the Pit of Chaos, the tomb raiders were stymied by a northern door, then chased south by a (returned?) Blood Pudding.  A Hold Portal spell covered the retreat.  Treasures were found, bronzed skulls and a golden bust of Nergal the Death God.  And a secret door concealing stairs down to the west.
Descending the stair, Danger Dan was very careful, measuring each step and studying the stonework of the floor.  And so he did not fall into the pit at the foot of the stairs and instead poured boiling oil on the Ravenous Dead below until the corridor was thick with smoke and the evil hunger quenched.
Beyond, octagonal crypts were explored, a sea-faring tomb depicting long boats rowed by horn helmed warriors, the frescos were of an ancient barbaric style.
Another crypt opened beneath the grinning deaths head visage of Nergal.  A richly preserved cloak tempted Dan within, but 7 Ravenous Corpses rose from their deathless slumber, eager to consume the living!
Image result for blood pudding

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Play Report: Operation Unfathomable

I ran Operation Unfathomable and it fell a bit flat.

The other night our regular DM was out of town so we had some friends over to play my homebrew game instead of type VI D&D.  I decided to run Operation Unfathomable.  I backed the kickstarter and have the preview pdf (I actually went in for the combo OU and Odious Uplands which I think is going to take awhile).  I did an hour or so of prep, making bullet points of some of the early descriptions, printing out the intro, the map and Oothu the henchman's stats.  Giving them the list of items to choose.  It all started well.  Having the illustrations to show was great.  But the play itself devolved into a routine of, "Well, we just go forward again."  They ignored side-passages, slew the Mind Bats, and encountered a segmented giant who confiscated the Battle Axe of Spell Cleaving.   Finally they spoke to a Null Priest about the party being held for the Worm Sultan.
I certainly didn't have the whole thing in my head as well as I would have liked and working from a PDF didn't help, but I think there was also a bit a situation where the gonzo-ness was layered on so thick the players weren't sure how to react.  I meant to run a dungeon crawl, but it ended up feeling a bit like the Tomb of Annihilation jungle crawl we've been playing, where it's hard to feel like you are making a meaningful decision because each one leads you so far astray.
I can see Operation Unfathomable working as a really fun romp with the right group of people, it has amazing potential, but I think I would have done better in this case to offer a more traditional style dungeon like Barrowmaze or some such.
I wonder what other peoples' experiences have been like with Operation Unfathomable.  Has anyone else besides the creator DM'd it yet?

Friday, March 30, 2018

Barrowmaze #33-35: Doom of a Death Knight, to Rescue a Barmaid, and the Search for the Pit of Chaos

Nearly lost in the mists of time, a bleary-eyed hobbit recounts the Raven Company's recent weeks of adventure.

#33:  Doom of a Death Knight
A second foray into the flooded tunnel beneath the mysterious black pool behind the bronze door of Nergal in the northern edge of the Barrowmounds saw the wet and bedraggled group exploring the crypts and burial alcoves of the Deserted Dormitory.
The light of the Fount of Law seemed to be dimmed somewhat, but focused more than ever, it's light turning always to the north and east, so they explored that direction, ransacking the bones and treasures as they went.
They were haunted by the echo of booted footsteps.  Whispers of the dead told of the Death Knight Dhekeon the Betrayer searched the halls to return the Fount of Law to it's hidden place.  After some hide and seek the company engaged the Death Knight and his skeletal minions in battle.  In desperation they fled through the chamber of the Water Weird, hoping to turn the two upon each other.  It worked!  Combined with an inspiring potion of heroism, Dhekeon the Betrayer was defeated!

#34: Rescue the Barmaid!
Back in the village of Helix, there was much activity.  Word had gone far and wide that the dead were walking beyond the mounds, leaving treasures unguarded within.  The Duke's son and marshall at arms were organizing the construction of a wooden palisade around the village.  Loggers struggled to pull felled trees from the fringes of the Dolmenwood.
The barmaid Merde had in recent weeks confessed to her involvement in the Cult of Orcus, due to the secret machinations of the false priest Gamdar.  Gamdar had some sort of hold over her soul and compelled her to travel to a glade within the Dolmenwood each month to participate in a ritual of bloodletting.  The Company resolved to accompany her on her journey.  There they laid in ambush, assaulting the Acolyte of Orcus and his goatheaded minions, rescuing the barmaid and taking Gamdar prisoner.
Gamdar told tales of the Acolytes of Orcus searching the Barrowmaze for the lost spark of Nergal, challenging the competing interests of the Necromancers of Set, who he suspected of having their own secret entrance into the maze.
Further, it was rumored that a great and powerful evil lurked in the eastern reaches of the maze, far beyond what had so far been explored.  An evil said to guard the Tablets of Chaos, the hidden word of Nergal Himself.

#35: Search for the Pit of Chaos
Returning to the dungeon, driven by the fading light of the Fount of Law, the Company chose to enter via the mound of the Forgotten King.  Below they encountered a Necromancer of Set with his retinue, who spoke of the power of his superiors but warily backed away from conflict. 
Surging north, the Company edged around a few previously discovered pits, battled blood thirsty spiders and carnivorous flies, and discovered a secret door into a long hall going north.  Torchlight revealed a red blob quivering and smelling of a butcher shop.  Grack ran forward to attack and fell into a bottomless pit... or is it?