Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Storm King's Thunder Session 5: Secrets of the Harpers

The campaign is deep in the "North" of the Forgotten Realms. They have the map. They roam where they will. I was out to lunch this session, making encounter rolls and trying to keep up with the game.  The group was excited to join the Harpers and discover a way to jump around the map.  Not so excited that they couldn't bring their horses with them.  

The Company of the Raven made their way to Everlund, then the lovely city of Silverymoon. They made friends with an organization called the Harpers, a secret network (everywhere but the Silver Marches, a haven for just minded folk) that sought to share information and promote the ideal of the yeoman farmer throughout the Realms. Occasionally the Harpers even play music.

The Company was introduced to Krow Valharrow, an old wizard who shared the secret of the Circles of Instantaneous Transubstantiation, and the man thereof. He also shared his theory that rather than possible allies, he suspected a dragon, or dragons was actually behind the Breaking of the Ordering of Giants.

Finally, the warrior Apollo acquired the Iron Blade of GiantSlaying.

Barrowmaze Saga XIV: Revisiting Defiled Ground

A minor expedition. Little of note. Some treasure. An elven blade. No death. New life.

The wizard Mazzarian the Magnificant approached the Company of the Black Dragon as they lingered in their cups: “I have scried upon my damn drune rival Necron, he who owes me his life in forfeit for the picture he stole.  I saw him crawling through cramped tunnels beneath the southern Barrow Moor.  Go forth with this elf, Resper, and find him!  I will reward you handsomely.”  The Moor did not molest the venturers as they walked through cold spitting rain to the bog that held their dire misfortune.  They decided to enter through the “Well”, the western-most entrance.  Creeping through looted passageways with their yellow-eyed wardog, they discovered a fallen cleric of the dwarven All-Father.  Hungry rats were feasting on his face, but once beaten back he was found to be carrying treasures.  An elven sword “Goblin-Biter”, and a map of “Skull Mountain”.  After some more tepid exploration the fighter who had bitten bitten savagely by rats began vomiting violently.  Swiftly, the group returned to Helix to supplicate Brother Othar for healing once again.  
In the days that followed Aliontus the Cleric became betrothed to Sister Cella, Cleric of St. Ygg, who is pregnant.  Stirr and Dan spoke of a rich caravan headed to Helix.  Clonin became closer still with Merda the Barmaid and Brother Gamdar, the Orcish Friar of of the One True God.  He spoke of incompetence of the Duke Ironwood and of the heathen perils of the Dolmenwood to the West.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Barrowmaze Saga XIII: Escape the Maze!

A fun session here with two friends, each playing a fighter and a cleric, using my Uncommon rules.  As well, they brought two men-at-arms and a torchbearer.  They have gone through so many hirelings at this point the Guild of Ordinary Gentlemen is charging ten gold a day.  We had paused at the end of last session, so they were low on torches, food, spells, and hit points.  This style of game is a refreshing contrast to my D&DV campaign, which has reached giant slaying 9th level.

Of interest is that the first loop has been created in the dungeon map.  All previous sessions have extended out from one of three discovered entries.  In this session they were able to find an alternate route back to the stairs.  We use Roll20 to play online and I reveal the map as they explore it.  It made for a nice moment, and they were thankful for the map-gnome with perfect spatial sense.  

With retreat cut off by a lurking golem of flagstone, with the wizard dead, and a torchbearer lost to spider poison, the explorers stumbled through darkness, falling into pits, desperate for an exit.  They crept upon a nefarious battle. Acolytes of two dark gods, pentagrammatical Orcus and bone masked Set clashed in an echoing hall. Hiding from the victors, the chastened would-be heroes slunk southward, happening upon a familiar band of ne'er do wells who accepted a hefty bribe of nine golden scarabs to show the way to the fresh air above ground. "Vargas thanks ye for the gold!" they jeered as the survivors ascended.

The sun was setting then, and the bog itself came alive, grasping, a shambling mound of earth and moss possessed by evil intent nearly caught one bravely fleeing warrior, but he lived to tell the tail over flagons at the tavern, lusty lays of relief and life.  Merda the Barmaid listened intently, as did Brother Othar and Brother Gamdar, keenly interested in the stories of fallen knights, fonts of law and pits of chaos hinted at below the barrow moor.  The horse emblazoned shield and shining winged helm of Sir Guy du Veargne proved all.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Barrowmaze Saga: Reports 1-12

Here are the 1st dozen session reports, playing the Barrowmaze megadungeon with roll20 and my homebrew simple d&d system.  It has been ruthless and great.  Many character deaths.  One yellow mold massacre I almost feel guilty about.  They dungeon is slowly revealing itself, which is really great.  So is being able to run the thing virtually prep free, on the fly.  I'm surprised all the time.  Some subplots have developed, mostly based on carousing rolls in town.  There are two recurring villains, a bandit who keeps robbing the tomb robbers, and a necromancer named Necron.  Can't wait to find out what happens next.

SPOILERS abound for ye old Barrowmaze.

Session #1: 90xp for Lalo the Elf Wizard, Cricket the Halfling Thief, Asaf the Fighter, Yazhu the Dwarf Rogue, Berg the Fighter, Hannibal the Cleric Loot: Helm, weak  skull shield, Runic Tablet of Insanity (-2 Wisdom, +4 HP, Full of Manic Vigour!  No sleep!)  Foes: Sapphire Skeletons (did not keep the gem fragments) 

Session #2: 160xp Barrow Mound #21, Silver Dagger, Three Scrolls, LOTS of digging and wandering monsters: Coffer Corpse, toads, stirges etc

Session #3: Asaf the Fighter died.  Magic shield found.  Much carousing. 2nd level.  Vargas the bandit camps in the Blackened Woods with 8 men.  The woods are infested with giant spiders and territorial boar.  He robs tomb robbers.

Session #4 Cricket the Halfling was slaughtered by skeletons. And there was much carousing in his honor.  Runic tablet found.

Session#5  2 Wizards, Warrior and Cleric with 6 hirelings found a Bag of Holding, fought and 5 Carnivorous Flies, 6 Huecuva, then much carousing wherein Wizard was told of Necron of Nergal the rival of Mazzarin who has the Blue Chantrel and cleric befriended the local priest.

Session #6-7 Cleric, Fighter, Wizard and hirelings entered the maze from the center of the Moor.  Encountered Necron.

Session #8 Encountered a lonely corpse on the road.  Hand like an iron vice. Severed hand and enlarged cleric escaped and saved a sore throat.  Then entered by the secret stair.  Found a mausoleum.  Battled a king who would not die.  Fled with a crown and jewels.  Went to Ironguard Motte to seek arcane armaments but ended up partying the time away as the long hot summer days sweltered, it felt as though the treasures of the barrow were real indeed.  The funereal pyre of the departed torchbearer belied that joy.

Session #9 Revels completed, Hannibal, Berg and Rashford were joined by an Elf Wizard, Elf Cleric and a broke Warrior, plus a handful of bowmen and torchbearers.  The first expedition was driven back by Sapphire Skeletons who slew many hirelings.  Cleric nearly lost his leg.  They returned weeks later, explored to the East into the “Haunted Tombs”.  Chased Beastmen through secret doors in the maze.  Confronted by Beastman Chief and Wizard who accused the explorers of serving the Necromancers of Set.  Both Elves and beast know how to play with fire!  Mutual Burning Hands explosions slew most of the employees and beastmen too!  Treasure was discovered, including a Magic Staff of Secrets and two KEYS: Pentagram and Book.  Escaped through a stairway into the hidden tomb of a warrior-priest.  In town much carousing occurred.  A fellow maze survivor gave one hero a golden skull to pay off a debt, shivering at the cursed runes of Set carved upon it.
Session #10 Into the Easter, newly discovered entrance, following mysterious booted footprints, re-visited the lair of the beastmen, fought risen shadows, carnivorous flies and succumbed to lung filling Yellow Mold, which claimed the lives of stout adventures Rashford, Berg and Hannibal as they collected trinkets from the ancient burial alcoves.   Wand of Wonder found.

Session #11 The second generation dares to delve.  Traveling to the easternmost barrow entrance they descended, flanked by two torch bearers and a war dog.  It was two fighter and two clerics.  Defeated fossilized skeletons, robbed some burial alcoves and gave a tax to Tomb Robbers of Vargas (Vargas’ Vanguard), and retreated in the face of a hulking golem made of glowing runic tablets.  Made it home alive, went drinking, and were summarily robbed again by the agents of Vargas the Vagabond.
Session #12 The elf died quickly.  The world was always unkind to him. He fell in a pit and ravenous dead ate his face.  The others recovered his treasures and burned the dead, filling barrow tunnels with smoke.  Trapezoidal alcoves were explored and looted.  Golden scarabs found.  More of the unliving dead came searching for flesh.  A warrior lost his ear.  The thief discovered a trap on a door.  A trip wire slammed a stone door down.  It would have separated the group as debris and flagstones gathered to form a fearsome manlike creature.  The warrior cried “SHAZAAM” and the thing vanished, only the ghost of its form lurking about as another burial crypt was looted and gold gathered while something lurked in the darkness beyond.  A hidden door to the north was found, and, as they searched the corridor beyond, the delvers heard the sound of the flagstone golem crushing some other unwary intruders.  Exploring further, stairs descended into dank dampness.  Beyond a mysterious door was a large massive crypt with a pool of water.  Giant leeches slain, burials looted, a hidden crypt was found where lay a crumpled knight, his winged helm still gleaming in the dark.  As the cleric reached for the holy helm, a ghost knight appeared.  He called himself Sir Guy the Betrayed, for he had been of a company of holy warriors tasked with destroying the Pit of Chaos (northwest) opened by the evil presence of Nergal.  Only he was betrayed by his companion Dhekeon, and the Font of Chaos was lost.  “Find the holy orb, or chosen ones, and prepare for a battle unlike any ever known in these unquiet tombs.”Leaving the holy ghost, the group hastened, for their torches were low, their prayers tired, but they knew golem lurked the way they had come, so they tread east, finding crypts whose doors had already been smashed by other robbers… then something dropped from the ceiling.Foes: 9 Ravenous dead, Flagstone Golem, 3 giant leeches, unknown lurkers.Treasure: Helm +1 of Sir Guy, Horse Shield +1, Scarab of Protection, much gold.  600+ xp each

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Storm King's Thunder Session #4: Wandering the Libraries of Waterdeep and the Roads of the North

TL;DR  Stories of Giants, Dragons, and friends throughout the Sword Coast and the North.  A harrowing battle shows the folly of picking fights with the big guys.  The map is wide open.

In the aftermath of the fire giant attack, Harshnag and the Druid Saffron looked to the tower of Lord Protector Darathra to hold it up and protect those inside, but Ezra the Dark Sorceress felt her spell slipping from her mind like a fish and the last giant appeared amidst her companions, furiously laying waste about him.  In the melee, the bard was brought down and the giant fled, only to be frozen solid by Althea the Elfin.  The colossus tumbled and fell into the Pleasant Platter restaurant, crushing all the fine china.

In the days that followed Harshnag and the Company of the Raven helped to clean up the carnage of Triboar as the greyhanded frost giant told his tale.  In his rumbling voice he said that he had been in the court of the Storm Giant King when both King and Queen were assaulted, the queen slain, and King Hekaton lost in the deeps.  Now the “Ordning” is broken, and Hekaton’s rule of humble hermitage is undone and  the giants run amok, each lord thinking they can ascend to the Wyrmskull Throne and become the largest of giants.  Duke Zalto seeks to rebuild a warmachine to conquer the Realms, Queen Guh seeks to eat, starving the Waterdeep and the North.  The schemes of the frost giants in the frozen plains beyond the Spine of the North are unknown, as are the capricious desires of the Cloud Giants.  Harshnag seeks to protect the people of the north from the foolishness of giants.  He believes the time draws near when he should consult the Eye of the All Father in the Temple of Amman, far to the north, in the Spine of the World.  He invited company with him, for they are mighty heroes.  

The Company of the Raven had many interests.  They had been offered reward in the dwarven Citadel Adbar, contact with the wizard Krow Valharrow in Everlund, and they wished to return to the comforts of Waterdeep to explore the cloud castle that floated there.  The good giant gave the druid a gong and told her if ever she climbed to a mountain top and tolled the bell, he would hear.  

So the company traveled to Waterdeep, where they found the flying castle had pulled anchor and drifted north. They consulted the dragon sage Chaz, and traded their tale of the dragon Gnawbones for his research on the Black Dragon mask.  They learned it was one of a number of dragon masks used by the Cult of the Dragon, a secret society dedicated to serving dragons and increasing their power, serving Tiamat and creating the dreaded Dracoliches.  They bard, cleric and sorceress consulted the libraries of Waterdeep and found many tales of giants and dragons.  They earned the friendship of a gentleman scholar named Mintertem, who gave them the deed to his patrimony, a fabled giant slaying blade held in a tower northwest of Silverymoon.  

Finally, the group traveled north, beginning the month long trek to Everlund.  The journey was mostly without incident, only the bard ate Lady Seeds harvested by the druid at the edge of the High Forest and became a woman.  Then a squad of red bearded giants was seen out on the Evermoore (and a flying castle seen miles beyond).  Reckless and brave, the Company of the Raven Ambushed the giants, slaying four, though not without serious injury, and they were forced to camp near the moore, hoping not to be disturbed as they had accosted their foes.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Storm King's Thunder, Session #3: Terrible Trouble in Triboar

   A bit of banter on Triboar and an epic battle with giants and more.  The coming of Harshnag.

   The travelers arrived in the trading post town of Triboar late in the day.  A crossroads town protected by a keep but no wall, it was a strange affair, full of dusty caravan campgrounds
but also a posh hotel and hobbit-elven cuisine restaurant.  The travelers settled down for a meal that only successful treasure hunters could afford and made a new friend, a sorceress drow elf who hailed from the hollow depths of the earth, the Underdark.  She told a harrowing tail of her home city Menzorberrenzen, a dark metropolis, overrun by hellish demons from beyond this dimension: "The lords of the the Nine Hells stalk the night below!"  After that it was left to divide up the bill.
   The next morning the group asked around, looking for word of one "Harshnag Grey-Handed".  The search lead them to the wizard tower of Kolstaag the Friendless.  After some tense mystical negotiations and the payment of a worthy diamond the wizard consulted his crystal ball, ranting a bit about a great tragedy, that Harshnag was a witness to it all, and that he was nearby.  Only then did all look out the window to see the approach of a trio of red bearded giants in black iron armor, lobbing boulders at the town while a phalanx of cavalry lopped ahead, armored orcs on massive featherless ostriches.  They charged into the town, setting houses afire, slaying livestock and townspeople.
   The heroes of Barovia did not shirk the challenge this time, as they had in Waterdeep.  They harnessed magic to fly all of them to confront the assault.  In the brutal battle that followed, one giant was banished from the world, one slain, and one driven off with the help of an unlooked for ally, a white-bearded frost giant, who called himself Harshnag.
   "What were they after?" queried the bard, as the druid brought rain to douse the many flames.
   "The Vodinod," answered the blue skinned titan, pulling a massive metal hoop from the ground.  "This is a piece of an ancient artifact of war, Duke Zalto seeks to rebuild.  Pure adamantine, indestructible."

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Uncommon Explorations of the Maze of the Blue Medusa

An exploration of the Maze of the Blue Medusa by four beginning characters played by two players using my "Uncommon" dungeon rpg hack.  

A friend was in town so three of us decided to play a quick pickup game.  I knew these guys would dig the surreal weirdness and social nature of this book.  I played an online game in the Maze once, right before it came out (game was run by Ken Baumann the publisher) and I've run one other session of the Maze using 5th edition D&D.  This time I suggested my DIY hack in order to focus attention more on the setting than the character sheet.  We used a couple of "before you were first level" rolls from the Dungeon Dozen book to jump start the scene.  It turned out the dramatis personae were a cleric recently converted from a den of iniquity, a rich wizard school graduate, a psychopathic fighter, and magpie-thief.  To which I responded thusly:

"You are all lying around on the veranda of your crumbling villa, looking out on a dead salted sea, above a decadent city, as the sun sets, still hung over from the aristo-wizard party from the night before.  It's blurry, but the thief vaguely remembers finding his way into a forgotten closet and lifting a framed painting because he liked the frame.  In any case, the day has been spent staring at the thing and making various comments.  The painting depicts a nude woman chained to a wall in a red room.  The sky darkens, the moon rises, and the woman in the painting turns beckons you hither..."
They gathered up their venturing packs and entered the painting.  The cleric was quick to from Ashen Chantrelle.  She claimed she could remember little, but had been chained a long time.  She said the "reparate" occasionally game to clean and maintain the lanterns, but otherwise she had had few visitors in the course of her uncounted days of imprisonment.  The cleric begged for the lady to be freed, and the thief obliged by picking the manacle locks.  Given a cloak and some food, Chantrelle spoke of the maze in vague platitudes and retreated through the moonlit painting.

The group broke down the door and encountered Lady Crucem Capelli, a demonic dragon lady who seemed a bit indecisive.  Learning that the thief was a bit of an art collector, she offered a deal.  They would collect histories of the creatures in the maze and she would pay them in coins.  The group accepted the deal and began exploring, peeking through all three doors before choosing to navigate the Escher Stairs.

Here I encountered a disconnect between text and map.  The map shows an archway to the Escher Stairs, but the description explains that the gravitational orientation of the stairs changes depending on which doors are open.  So I had to say, "Oh wait, there is a door there."

The group decided to secure a rope and rappelle down to the northern door.  The cleric failed and landed on the knot of stairs.  Just then a sneaking group on men in bird beak masks poked their heads trough the eastern door,  A handy Charm spell lowered the guard of the Oku, and they were soon lowered to their deaths.  

Beyond the stairs was a dark room.  A creature lurking within, some sort of upside down mollusk grabbed the fighter's bag of gold and attempted to flee.  It was angry when the commotion threatened to wake the baby.  Then the baby did wake.  The group all looked at each other, realizing they could regain their sanity if they killed each other.  Instead an arrow was sent through the screaming baby, and the mollusk hurled to its doom on the Escher Stairs.  

At that we were tired.  They sold the story of the Oku to Crucem Capelli, and I allowed the characters to leave.  In the meantime, Chantrelle had begun carousing in the decadent city.  The heroes joined in with the carousing.

Overall a fun session with a couple of very creative players.  I was really happy with the game system and with the dungeon.  I had not cracked the book in months before beginning play, and though I ad-libbed a bit, I was still able to play the characters quickly and run the dungeon easily.  

Would dungeon again.  I'd really like to get farther in to the dungeon next time.