Sunday, January 22, 2017

Gwinch Hunts the Black Flowers

Most all remnants of the Black Flowers gang have left Pasar but from their hideout in the surround hills the wicked men continue to make good people’s lives miserable, by attacking the merchant caravans that are the lifeblood of the town.  Gwinch, Beast, Saisho, and a group of sohei lay in wait at the place where the bandits are known to attack.  When a large caravan comes into view and the bandits do attack, Gwinch & co. put them to flight. The Black Flowers have fast horses but Gwinch is an expert tracker.
Gwinch follows the trail and discovers the remnants of an ancient road into he mountains, following the meanderings of a deep ravine.

Gwnch and his men are ambushed on a crumbling stone bridge by the Black Flowers firing a ballista from the cliff above.
Gwinch scales the cliff with astonishing courage and skill and throws the bandits into the ravine.  He helps his companion find the trail up and together they reach what they believe to be the Black Flowers’ hideout, a mysterious cave, where monumental statues of jackal-headed women stand guard.

After surveying the entrance chamber, Gwinch decides not to pass through the round archway and instead opens a humble wooden door. The heroic explorers follow a passage into a large bright high-ceilinged room, its light coming from a glowing staff that hangs from the ceiling on a thick chain.
Saisho climbs up the wall, across the ceiling, and down the chain.  When he touches the staff, all the metal in the room is pulled to the sides. Saisho’s dagger flies out of his hand. Those wearing armor are held pinned to the wall.

The monks who could not afford metal armor help their brothers (and Gwnch) escape from their prisons.
Giant bugs enter the room.  Their touch turns metal to rust, which the monsters eat greedily.  Wooden axe handles turn one of the monsters to a bloody pulp. The other runs away.

To Gwinch’s surprise, the remaining metal remains stuck to the wall.
Also, that chain remains attached to the glowing staff.

A dead giant rust bug has no effect on the chain.
Gwinch tracks the giant rust bug that ran away.  He finds it cowering in a small room that might have been a tomb or a treasury or both; it is strewn with emeralds.  Also three levers, always intriguing.  But Gwinch isn’t distracted.   Eying the giant rust bug, he gets out a strong rope.

But there is no need for rope.  The giant rust bug seems to understand what Gwnch has in mind.  It follows him happily.
Ok there is need for a rope.  The giant rust bug is hoisted by its tail into the air so that it can touch the chain. Gwinch catches the staff. Beast catches the rust bug. Saisho always lands on his feet.

Now it’s time to experiment with the levers. They control the magnets in the magnet room!
The monks retrieve their armor.  At last,  it’s time for everyone to return to Pasar.

Wolfbang and the Unexpected Prisoner

It was time for Wolfbang to get far away from Hommelet again. Burne’s men reported strange noises from the dungeon beneath the moathouse and stranger dreams when they spent the night there. Finding adventurer willing to explore was a lost cause. And there were reports of a young man traipsing through the woods followed by a menagerie of beasts. Jaroo’s seniority on the council of elders gave him an edge when debating with Burne and Rufuson the merits of calling on the Lords of Drentenbury for military assistance. But no for much longer. If Wolfbang took a little trip, maybe things would quiet down.

And there was something to do. Even without access to the pools, it seems that Burne was disseminating knowledge of elven magic to humans—with what the elves and Jaroo considered predictably unpredictable results. In the area of Gold Hill, the orcs were attacking human settlements, seemingly emboldened by their association with a wizard, seemingly human, who had the power to turn his enemies to stone. Jaroo confided to Wolfbang that he was especially concerned because Valu had not been seen for some time. While solitary contemplation in the forest was an essential part of the boy’s druidic training, the druid college would especially like to know his whereabouts now—to be certain that this malevolent wizard wasn’t searching for their chosen one. (Spoiler alert: Wolfbang immediately suggested that Valu himself was the renegade wizard.)

Following Jaroo’s instructions, Wolfgang travelled to Gold Hill, bypassing the Hill itself, the trding post, and the Sherriff, making his way instead for Trago Hall. Lord Trago would be expecting him.

And yet by the time Wolfbang reached Trago Hall, Lord Trago was already gone. As the steward explained, there was a signal fire at the watch tower three days ago. Lord Trago and three of his knights had gone to investigate. They found the place overrun by orcs and sent one f their number back to report that the others would pursue the orcs and destroy them, wizard or no wizard. They had not returned.

The next morning, Wolfbang and his animal companions set out for the watchtower. /as expected they found evidence of a battle. And they a path of destruction that presumably indicated which way the orcs had travelled—and Lord Trago had followed. Following this path, they found the typical hallmarks of orc activity—smoldering fires, uprooted saplings, dead bunnies.

And they found Valu. They heard him first, muttering to himself, and Wolfbang secreted himself in a thornbush. Valu seemed to be alone. When Wolfbang revealed himself, Valu was only half-surprised. “You need to help me,” he said, “the orcs have got me.”

There was no time to explain. There were voices, a large number of orc voices, drawing closer. “Valu! Valu! What are you doing little shit?”

“I’m over here, I think I found the leaves I need for the chief!” He scooped up a random handful of debris from the forest floor and told Wolfgang were to find them. A ruined temple, due north, easy to find. But don’ go up to he man entrance. There was a secret entrance to he left of the steps, hidden by a mulberry bush.

And then he ran to meet the orcs.

Having no human companions to consult with, Wolfbng pressed forward. Wary that he was being double- or triple- crossed, Wolfbang was relieved to find things as Valu had told him—a clear path to the temple and a secret entrance to the left of the steps.

The secret entrance brought Wolfbang into long, unlit tunnel dug out of the earth under the temple and ending in a small chamber with a rough staircase leading up to the ceiling. With a mixture of skill, strength, and luck he found a stone in the ceiling that could be lifted, permitting him access to the room above. This was a larder. Without inspecting too closely the meats stored there, Wolfbang explored elsewhere and soon found himself in the main hall of temple. The two orcs on guard there were surprised by his sudden and bold appearance and by bestial associates. They shouted a challenge but did not attack. Uncertain of how the druidic of benevolent neutrality covered situations like this one, Wolfbang simply ignored their challenge and advanced. Physical hostility erupted and soon both orcs were dead. Wolfbang surveyed the temple. It’s most striking feature was a trio of very realistic statues of fighting men in armor,

Wolfbang glanced out the main doors of the temple onto the large portico where, as the sun set, drowsy guards were beginning to rouse. Their limited attention was fixed on the surrounding forest, and Wolfbang escaped their notice.  He elected to explore the inside of the temple. Moving from room to room, he came upon a pair of sleeping monsters, both much bigger than the orcs, one exceptionally hirsute, the other most notable for his large yellow teeth. Wolfbang didn’t waver, but gave each monster a quiet death in its sleep.

In another room, Wolfbang found Valu. The boy jumped with a start, and seemed relieved at who had entered. Valu explained that he had found a wand capable of turning people to stone. The orc chief insisted on holding it most of the time and only gave it to Valu when he needed the boh to work its magic.

Valu agreed to take Wolfbang to the chief immediately. The great orc was awake, sitting up in bed and polishing his axe. He was civil, but haughty, dropping unsubtle insuts amidst every sentence he spoke to Wolfbang, like the other orcs, he referred to Valu as “little shit” even when, tired of his conversation with the animal lover, he thrust the wand into Valu’s hands. “Make me another statute for my throne room.”

Value didn’t hesitate for a moment before memorializing the orc chief in stone.

The immediate threat disposed of, Wolfbang and Valu began to argue. Wolfbng would have wanted the chief’s axe, but the impressive weapon was now an integral part of the statue. Wolfbang though that he take possession of the wand but Valu made t clear he had learned his lesson about the futility of trying to appease a bully. Their argument drew the attention of a group of orcs, more intrigud than alarmed by the sound of human consternation in their chief’s bedroom. The sight of their chief in his new state had a profound effect on them as did Bruno and Wolfie’s claws and fangs. They fled, but were pursued and killed.

It dawned on Wolfbang that he had accomplished everything that had been asked of him. He had foun the orcs’ stronghold, neutralized their most threatening features, and rescued the druids’ great hope. It was time to leave. Almost. Valu put on the orc chief’s armor. Nd that reminded Wolfbang, where do the orcs store their weapons?

Valu knew—it was next to the larder. #there was a good selection of weapons, most orc-made, but there were some notable exceptions. Wolfbang lookd over the swords, selected those forged by human smiths and tied them together with rope for easy carrying. Valu meanwhile tried out all the crossbows, testing whether any of them had magical properties.

Another group of orcs arrived and attacked the inruder. With the help of Bro the Badger, most of these orcs were quickly dispatched, but the survivors raised the alarm and ran for the barracks. Wolfbang and his animals eagerly gave chase and Valu followed closely behind.

The orcs were many, but most had just wakened and were not well-prepared for battle. Wolbang chanted as his menagerie brought the forest’s vengeance down on its desecrators. Valu stood a safe distance away and, as Wolfbang commanded, transformed orcs into stone.

And then the party got lame. Valu’s wand fizzled. Several orcs crowded around Wolfbang and he had to end his chanting to keep them at bay. Bro the badge received a grievous wound and Wolfie was yelping. Wolfbang ordered a retreat. Valu ran to the trapdoor with most of the animals behind him while Wolfbang and Bro stood to guard their retreat. Wolfbang tried to pick up the badger and got a viscous bite for his trouble. The orcs pressed their advantage as Wolfbang backed away from them swinging his staff to deflet the worst of their spear thrusts. Valu shouted for Wolfbang to make a break for it. Bro made a last explosive attack and then followed Wolfbang down the hole. The orcs slammed the covering stone down over them.

The party ran down the corridor, out the secret door, and into the forest. The orcs fired arrows arrows from the safety of the temple but did not pursue.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Oh, THAT Magic Pool!

After their adventures in Renneton, Wolfgang and Gerrilynn rejoined Vulpio, the elves, and the caves below the moathouse.  Among the oddities retrieved from the mold caves, was a peculiar chime which, when struck caused previous locked doors or hidden doors to reveal themselves and open.  It proved to be equally effective on portcullises.
Opening the portcullis gave Wolfgang, Gerrilynn, and Vulpio access to several new strange rooms.  They rescued Johnny, who the prisoner of a fearsome-looking ogre.  They encountered and destroyed a dozen zombies.  And they found a trapdoor leading up to the moathouse garrisoned by Burne’s men.  This encounter could have been a disaster if Gerrilynn had not responded quickly to gently but firmly transfix the soldiers.  The party disappeared back down the trapdoor and prayed that the experience would serve to further discourage dungeon exploration by the Burne and the people of Hommelet.

Reviewing her map, Gerrilynn determined that they should return to the crypt that they had discovered earlier.  It was an expansive place, with rows and rows of vaults, many of them smashed open.  And there were ghouls.  After destroying the ghouls, Wolfbang noticed a trail of gold that led into a small hole in the wall, so small that it could be accessed only be crawling.  Smelling a rat, Wolfbang remembered what his friends had told him about their beautiful home deeper in the dungeon.  And so they crawled into the hole. . .
Gerrilynn could not make a map, but after crawling in circles for what felt like hours, the party came to a nearly vertical tunnel, slanting both up and down.  Based on everything they had heard, down seemed the right way to go.  The tunnel was long and seemed to get even narrower.  Torches were too dangerous, but Wolfgang still carried his magical light stone.  After another hour of crawling, they heard sounds—squeaking sounds.  And suddenly there were rats everywhere—scratching, nipping, squealing, but clearly running from something else.  The party let them pass by and waited for what was coming next—a greasy, stinking badger.  Wolfgang stunned it with a flash of light and then said a few words to soothe and distract it.  The badger told Wolfgang of the fantastic meal that he had just missed, but after persistent but gentle questioning answered that yes the tunnel widened further ahead and yes he would lead the way and yes he would like a treat that was even better than rats once Wolfgang had a chance to get it out of his sack.

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At last the human emerged from the twisting rodent warren into a large natural cavern.  A little exploration suggested that they had discovered an entire network of caverns, but they were most intrigued by the well-finished corridor that led about fifty feet to a twelve-sided room with a dodecahedronal-domed ceiling.  There were letters on the ceiling- elvish, but backwards.  And in the middle of the room there was a stone pedestal, over eight-feet high so that no one could see the top of it.  But they found a way up and found a large basin.  When water filled the basin, the water reflected the letters on the ceiling.  (Wolfgang thought that maybehe’d been there before.)  This was the magic pool that the elves (and Burne) were looking for.
Although logic suggested that there was a human-sized passage between these caverns and the dungeons of the moathouse, the leaders of the party felt they would prefer to go back the way they came and crawl through the dark, twisting rodent-infested tunnels.

That’s what they did.  The elves were grateful and entertained them for weeks or months.  When Wolfbang and Gerrilyn returned to the surface world, they found that the leaves had turned.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Review: Wheel of Evil by Faster Monkey

I know this module is over 6 years old and that the old-schoolrenaissance has been superseded by 5e or pokemon go or running for president but that just means Wheel of Evil is now a classic and that you should buy it and run it today.  Here’s why:
The “everyman quest” element.  I love adventure hooks that might realistically appeal to the kind of people I imagine low- to mid-level adventurers to be, not legendary heroes and not murder hoboes, but generally well-meaning rogues who never figured out how to make it normal society.  As prosaic as it sounds, saving the cheese equals saving the village.  And while there’s no extensive backstory or elaborate plot, the hook was extensive enough to affect the player’s choices throughout the adventure— Is doing this what we were hired to do?

The details.  There are many elements that add color and interest and can also make the players’ success much more likely.  Little pots of kobold urine sound like the most useless thing in the world.
Well-developed monsters.  For some time, I’ve been replacing humanoids with human “bad guys.”  But these kobolds are too other-worldly.  And I normally find molds and slimes and oozes kind of an undistinguishable mush.  But here, it’s more like a parfait.

It’s short.  This is so important to me.  I don’t get to play D&D every day lunch and recess (and that’s good, overall) so anything that can’t be played over a couple sessions will be half-forgotten by the players making it impossible for them to put the pieces together.  In general my campaign is more like an episodic TV show in which the most notable feature is the characters rather than plot, but this had the feeling of a good self-contained movie.
Things to think about before running this adventure:

Per the text, boiled urine has special properties.  This struck me as something so impossible to figure out by characters whose players didn’t already have this knowledge (assuming that this is borrowed from real-world chemistry), that I allowed unboiled urine the same effects.  I’m happy with this decision, but it made things easier for the PCs.
Most of the encounters are much easier than the final encounter with the BBEG.  I worried about this before I ran it, but this is a classic structure for a good reason—all the important characters live until the end and so even for those that die it feels dramatic and thrilling.  (He died so we could have cheese.)  The upshot of this is that the suggestion that this adventure is for 4-5 players levels 3-5 is about right.  The early encounters might feel easy, and the final one may kill multiple party members. 

The play report is here.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Wheel of Evil

Play Report: Wheel of Evil by Faster Monkey

It’s not often that I get to run a game for 4 PCs over a couple two-hour sessions so when I do, I like to pull out something special and Wheel of Evil did not disappoint.  Branded as a Dungeon Crawl for 4-6 characters of levels 3-5, I decided that with henchman, it was an appropriate challenge for lower-level characters:

Cinderblock, 1st level thief
                Cinderblock’s NPC henchman Dithaniel, 1st level fighter
Gruber, 2nd level fighter
                Gruber’s NPC henchman Falden, 1st level fighter

Wolfgang, 4th level druid
                Wolfgang’s menagerie (black bear, wolf, fox, hawk, rat)

Gerilynn, 4th level cleric
                Gerilynn’s henchman Ehlark, 1st level fighter/cleric
                Gerilynn’s henchman Caitlynn, 1st level ranger

Wolfgang and Gerrilynn decided they needed a little space from their elvish patrons.  Renneton, a town a few days ride away from Hommelet and famous for its fine cheeses, had advertised for heroes, and was willing to pay them in stock options—shares in the profits of the annual cheese sale.  The assignment, as explained by the local priest, Father Desmond, was straight forward, from a practical if not an ethical point of view.  The town of Renneton used a local cave for aging cheeses and been doing so for centuries.  Now strange little monsters, presumably from deeper in the earth had found their way up and been found to be stealing and destroying cheeses.  These creatures were only about three feet tall and cowardly in battle, but also thoroughly wicked and treacherous, “Kobolds” they were called locally.  And they needed to be dissuaded somehow from stealing the human’s cheeses.  Father Desmond brought the party to the caves and provided them a map, showing the upper caverns where cheese was prepared. He had gone missing in the caves overnight, pursuing the kobolds after a raid.  He also introduced them to Harzar, foreman of the cheese guild.  Before going below, the party to look around the cheese preparation areas and tool to the cheesers.
Cinderblock noticed that the other cheese workers seemed uneasy around Harzar, treating with not only the deference due a superior, but with veiled revulsion.  Although he didn’t like to talk about his experiences, he had become even more thoroughly dedicated to his job.   

The party learned that a few kobold were being held prisoner in a storage room, and asked to meet them.  “Little good it will do you,” the cheesers said, “they can’t talk human or elvish, only their nasty monster talk.”  The kobolds expressions were plain enough—they looked miserable and bitter and glared at their captors and whispered among each other.  The cheesers explained that a week ago, a wandering magician had offered to translate the prisoner’s speech.  No useful information, only the highly dubious claim that the kobolds blamed the humans for ruining their food.  “If they like their food so much, why they stealing ours?”  Gerrilynn asked what the kobold’s ate and the cheesers shuddered and shook their heads.  “Don’t even want to think about it.  That would be a good question for Father Desmond, right Bert?  Why killing these monsters would be any different than killing a prowling wolf, I can’t see.  No offense, your woodiness.”  Gerrilynn shared some of her own food and the kobolds eat it hungrily—except the cheese which they flung back in her face as if it were an insult.
Gruber asked about what weapons of powers the kobolds had.  The men laughed.  “Spears and rocks and these.”  A clay flask.  “Smell it.  Careful, not too close.  We reckon they fill it with their own piss and if they can get a jump on a man they would smash it on his head.  Who knows what it might do?  Bless us, no one here has had to find out.”

Nosing around a little more, Cinderblock learned that some of the cheesers had a sideline business in moonshine.  And that the Cheesers Guild was preparing an extra-large cheese, a five-foot diameter wheel that would be shipped to the King of Alyan.
At last the party was ready to proceed. They lit torches and, as they proceed beyond the makeshift barrier the cheesers had assembled against the kobolds, Cinderblock assumed the job of continuing Father Desomond’s map.  Soon, the party came to a fork in the tunnel, and peered into what must have been a cheese storage room, now a jumble of broken shelving coated with dust.  The party decided to explore the room further and found a deep fissure.  Wolfgang asked his rat Alexis to climb down and report what he found.  As Alexis disappeared beyond the light of the torches, he squeaked that he had found a mass of blue and pink cheese.  Then there was a rat-scream and silence.  A cloud of blue and pink dust exploded from the fissure; Wolfgang, Gerrilynn, and Gruber fell into a deep slumber.  Caitlynn and Cinderblock found that they could barely rouse them enough to mumble a few words before falling back into sleep.  Caitlynn, despairing of how to explain what had happened to the rat when Gerrilynn and Wolfgang woke up, climbed down into the fissure holding a torch.  She saw the blue and pink gelatinous mold that the rat had described as cheese.  She slipped into it up past her knees and felt herself being sucked under.  Cinderblock climbed down and helped pull her out.  The party decided that the rat would fend for himself for now and that the sleeping humans should be carried to safety.

The heroes found their way back out of the caves and by the time they got back down the hill to town and to the inn, everyone was awake and walking under his or her own power.  Talking over their misadventures and laughing down the many jokes at their expense, the heroes supped in their room (“Yes, we’ll all get plenty of sleep tonight!”) and made a plan.  The plan involved urine, seven wineskins full of it, plus seven more wineskins full of raw material in case they needed more.  No one remembers who first suggested it, but everyone agreed the kobolds didn’t have any use for cheese and seemed to know something more about what they were really up against.
Sure enough, the horrible pink and blue mold that had swallowed Alexis the rat had a tougher time digesting urine.  It took four wineskins, plus the bladder contents of five humans and a wolf to the job, but the urine turned the mold into cool, sweet-smelling steam.

The deep dark hole inspired some debate as to whether they were forgetting their charge to eradicate kobolds, but a lit torch that found the bottom about 50 feet down settled it.  Rope and iron spike time.
Dithaniel was the first down and his scream, abruptly cut short brought Cinderblock down immediately after him.  A three-foot tall figure seemingly composed of mold had speared him with its skeletal claws.  In the ensuing battle, this mold man, and three others like it, proved to be skeletons completely grown over with mold.  The other three wineskins were used on these creatures before desperation intervened to prove that they could also be destroyed by normal weapons.  Horrified at what they had just experienced, there was some talk of climbing back up.  But the rope was lying on the ground.  At the top, Wolfgang’s wolf was howling and barking.  “What happened?”

“The stinky one.”  The wolf explained to Wolfgang.  “He cut the rope.”

“The stinky one?”  Harzer. 

“I bite him and he run away.”

                Although Wolfie was encouraged to go get help, no one wanted to wait for it. Dithaniel was dead, but Gerrilynn tended to the others and, after a brief and solemn ritual, Dithaniel’s belonging were distributed among his companions.  The heroes drank their wine, filled all the empty wineskins, and pressed on.
The tunnels through which they walked was spongy, glowing, pulsing mass of mold.  They prodded ahead to avoid walking on anything the horrible mass that had consumed the rat, and breathed a sigh of relief when they came to a large pool of clear water with no sign of mold.  Eschewing the stepping stones, Gerrilynn tested the water with her toe and then waded in.  The others followed.

On the other side they found themselves a cavern of mold so nauseating in its shapes, textures, smells, and sounds that it made everything else they’d experienced look like white stilton.  There were more of the walking mold men.  There was something invisible that paralyzed Wolfgang.  And there was Harzer.
In the ensuing battle, there were several casualties.  The mold men were easy to kill.  Harzer turned out to be the husk of a man—when hit a larger mold man stepped out and was taken out by Caitlynn and Falden.  But the party was endangered by numbers.  And by the globs of black pudding that seemed to be falling from the ceiling.  Falden and Caitllynn were killed by moldmen.  Ehlark was killed by a black pudding.

Someone noticed that an invisible force was pushing the paralyzed Wolfgang toward a particular part of the cavern.  Cinderblock did some reconnaissance and located a particularly complex patch of mold that seemed to be responding to the battle.  Lots of urine and a little moonshine later and that patch had been turned to gray flakes.  The moldmen collapsed. 
The black pudding continued to quiver and slither toward the party.  Cinderblock charged with his short sword.  The blobby thing shrank from blow but then expanded, enveloping the brave and resourceful rogue.

His companions killed the blobs from a safe distance.  There was treasure.  There were stolen cheeses that the heroes decided should remain with their fallen comrades. 
On the way out of the caves, the party encountered a band of kobolds.  Both parties agreed, happily, and in their own languages, that the mold was retreating.  After a mimed non-aggression pact the kobolds went deeper into the caverns and the humans went up to report their success.

The heroes mourned their fallen comrades (“Cinderblock, we hardly knew ye.”) and after the cheese auctions, redeemed their shares.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Moathouse Grind

When Vulpio’s elven contacts learned that Burne, a human magician, was sending adventurers to explore below the moathouse, they summoned him and his friends Gerrilynn and Wolfgang with their own offer: don’t allow a long-buried evil return to the world.  Without being specific, Arethil, the elven priestess, told the party that she thought she thought there were darker powers involved, plotting and gathering strength deep below the earth.  The elves had a secret entrance to the dungeons beneath the moathouse.  They offered the party a safe base and asked them to explore.  If they could find the source of the power Burne was seeking, the elves would help them address it.  But if the enemy was who they thought it was, the elves didn’t want to alert their ancient foe to their presence; a gang of human explorers were unlikely to raise the same level of alarm. Speaking of humans, the elves warned Wolfgang & co. to avoid contact with Burne’s guards in the moathouse above, or for that matter any other humans.  If they could not be evaded, any humans should be dealt with diplomatically and brought to Arethil.  Gerrilynn thought this sounded ominous, but Arethil assured her, “If I wanted to kill them, I would leave that to you.”

The party came across a number of strange sights. A natural pool inspired curiosity, but bones on the bank warned them away.  The crypt, though quiet, seemed to offer nothing but dread and danger. They explored other tunnels.
Opening a door onto a blind wall seemed to trigger some type of alarm.  They encountered two groups of beast-men who attacked on sight.  These were fierce warriors, but between Gerrilynn’s divine powers, Wolfgang’s animal companions and Vulpio’s war hammer, the monsters were destroyed.  The party took a prisoner-- a hairy, shambling creature with claws and fangs. Gerilynn wanted to turn him over to the elves, while Wolfgang wanted to lead him to the wilderness outside and let him “run free.” Wolfgang won the argument, but Gerilynn won the dispute; on their way to the exit, the elves met them, congratulated them on their success—and took custody of the prisoner, throwing s net over his head and arms.  Wolfgang took this as proof that the elves would do the bugbear harm and that they should have done more to get him out.  But he turned over the prisoner.
The elves were grateful to have a prisoner, but most of all hoped to find the source of Burne’s new power.  So the party continued to explore.  Gerrilynn had made a comprehensive map and found they were confronted with a number of imperfect options.  There was the pool of dark water, in which something was lurking.  There was the crypt, which Wolfgang refused to explore.  And there was a portcullis barring the way down an otherwise safe looking passage.  The party reasoned that they were responsible for the portcullis being down—that the clanging sound they’d heard when opening a door the day before had been the sound of iron crashing down on the stone floor.  But they couldn’t figure out how to open it up again.  Wolfgang made friends with a group of rats who were eager to show him their home and the way down—if he could fit into the six-inch diameter hole in the wall.  They could not.


Friday, September 30, 2016

The Death of Vlad

Vlad was eager to pursue Burne’s quest with or without his associates.  Ed and Kirito, two wanderers who were passing through Hommlet on their way to nonwhere in particular were persuaded to join him.  Chrono the druid, whom he’dknown since Gold Hill agreed to join the party.
Burne escorted the group to the moathouse himself and introduced them to his guards.  These guards, in the interest of full transparency, admitted to the adventurers that while they considered themselves braver and stronger than most men, they absolutely refused to explore the dungeon below them and were only willing to garrison the moathouse itself because Burne paid well.  It wasn’t death that they were afraid of.  Death, they laughed, was not the worst alternative.

Burne explained once more what he was looking for—pools of water.  Not natural cave pools, but artfully constructed.  With writing on the walls.  They would know them when they found them.
The guards dutifully moved aside the assorted debris they had piled on top of the trapdoor that led into the dungeon.  Vlad led the way and the adventurers started down the rough wooden stairs.  About halfway down, a glob of bright green slime fell from ceiling onto Vlad, gliding off his mantle and landing on his leather gauntlet and his sword.  Vlad flung away his sword and.  More slime fell from the ceiling, this time landing on the stairs. Chrono scraped at it with his staff.  To his chagrin, the slime burned away his staff.  The slime was corrosive to both leather and metal and other weapons were lost before Ed scorched it with his torch. The slime smoldered and sparked and then burst into flame, quickly burning to a black smudge.

At the bottom of the stairs was a large room with two locked closets.  Ed picked the locks and found storerooms filled with weapons and other supplies.  Vlad chose a replacement sword, and the urged his companions to explore further.  Charging down a pillared corridor, Vlad was surprised by a shuffling undead man that beat him over the head with its rotting limbs.  Vlad spun on his heel shouting his war cry and destroyed the zombie with two solid strokes of his sword.  As his companions rushed to his aid, more zombies poured out of the row of dungeon cells that lined the corridor.

The zombies seemed drawn to Vlad and Vlad gleefully strode into their midst, swinging his sword in mighty, reckless arcs, cleaving bones and flesh, dropping enemies in a pile around him and  hardly noticing the rain of blows that fell on his head and shoulders.  Kirito could see that Vlad was nearly overwhelmed and fought through the horde of zombies to assist his companion.  But Vlad, in a blind battle rage, did not distinguish friend from foe; Kirito barely dodged what could have been a lethal blow.  Ed and Chrono flanked the zombies but did not dare engage them in melee.  Only when Vlad fell and dropped his sword did Kirito find an opportunity to plunge into the thick of the battle.  He killed two of the zombies and called on Ed and Chrono to help pull Vlad to safety.  Chrono tried to heal Vlad, but it was too late.  Kirito held the zombies at bay while Ed and Chrono carried Vlad’s body toward the stairs.
Kirito suffered a serious wound and retreated.  The zombies pursued, but slowly and without coordination; they were further hampered by arrows from Ed’s bow.  Chrono reached the stairs and called for help from the guards.  Two of them, forgetting their oaths of cowardice, rushed down to help carry Vlad’s body.  Ed tossed his torch at the zombies and was the last one up.
All the guards helped pile stones and firewood and furniture on top of the trapdoors as the zombies came clomping off the stairs.  For hours the zombies pounded mindlessly on the other side of the trapdoor.

Vlad was buried in Hommlet, in his armor, and without his hard-won mantle.  It was gone.