Saturday, December 15, 2012

Realm of the Technomancer Play Report Part I

yellow fork by Brayo
Burne’s apprentice Panyus rarely emerges from the tower of his master. One day he showed up in the common room of the Inn and quietly approached the table where Thimbur and Fezziwig were seated. He had a job for them. Burne was out of the village on important business and something strange had happened in the master’s laboratory. He needed some assistance in “cleaning up” the problem. Absolute discretion was required and due to the sensitivity of the problem, he needed their commitment before he could bring them into the tower. After some bargaining, the parties agreed on a price. The next morning, Thimbur and Fezziwig arrived at the tower together with two other adventurers (Deah and Thundar) and two local hirelings (Johnny Morose and Young Edward).

Panyus led the group up to Burne’s laboratory, a dusty, cramped room halfway up the tower. Moving aside a large oaken table, Panyus slid two large stone blocks out of the wall revealing a narrow chute illuminated by a soft amber glow. Panyus led them down the ladder to a larger laboratory underneath the tower. This room was large and bright, illuminated by unseen light sources. An assortment of oddly-shaped glassware sat on a steel table, several of the containers holding brightly colored fluids, bubbling over brightly colored flame. A soft warm breeze wafted through the room. Panyus did not allow the party to tarry, but opened a set of steel doors and led them into a small chamber. He closed the door, the room trembled slightly and another set of doors opened. “Here,” he said “is where things get weird.”

He showed them a map, illustrating their way to the engine room. They were to discover the source of the weirdness and correct it. The weirdness, he explained consisted of lots of mud, things being moved around, and weird creatures. No, he wouldn’t come with them, but would wait for them in the small chamber. They should signal their return with a special knock. And he would let them borrow his special glowing wand. The party stepped into the corridor and the doors closed behind them.

About thirty feet down the corridor, they began to notice the mud Panyus had told them about. It was black and slick, and a thin layer covered the smooth stone floor ahead of them. Cautiously, they walked onto it, and noticed no ill effects. Continuing, they saw a bright, pale light ahead of them. Approaching, they found a stone column, clouded in steam, and encircled by a pit. An iron bridge crossed the pit to the column. Ropes made of braided metal hung from the unseen ceiling. When Thundar stepped onto the iron bridge, a ferocious-looking creature covered in white fur dropped down and grabbed him. His companions pulled him to safety while Thimbur rushed at the weird beast—a bipedal combination of a bear and a man, but stronger and more agile than either. It grabbed Thimbur and threw him down the pit to land in hot mud. But having been shot by several arrows and stabbed with spears, the creature jumped across the pit to the far side and ran away. The party helped Thimbur out of the mud and continued their exploration.
steaming black iron by Brayo
They found that Panyus’s map did not resemble the reality they were experiencing. While he drew a straight corridor to the engine room, the party found themselves in rough-hewn, steeply-sloped and forking passages. They followed one of these passages into a room illuminated filled with giant mushrooms and glowing fungi. A pair of odd-looking blue men were there, harassed by foot-long centipedes. When the blue men saw the party, one of them threw a metal canister in their direction that erupted into a ball of flame as it hit the ground. All sustained minor injuries, but none were prevented from attacking the blue men. After the blue men were killed, the party searched them, but did not find any more of the powerful missiles.

The party decided to harvest some of the giant mushroom caps, turning one of them into a “sled,” for continuing down the sloping mud passage. They placed the dead blue men on the mushroom sled, and, let it slide down the passage before them, and then anchoring a rope to follow after it. Hearing the sounds of their mushroom sled meeting living—and alarmed—creatures, the party hurried back up the slope to find easier ground to fight on if necessary. The party caught only a glimpse of the humanoid forms that were climbing up their own rope after them before another one of the exploding cans landed among them, killing Johnny the Morose and injuring other party members severely.

Leaving Johnny’s body behind, the party fled, and took refuge in a nearby side passage. From there, they waited and watched. They saw five of the blue men who, seeing Johnny’s body, scrambled to examine it. The party seized this opportunity and attacked with a volley of arrows. In the ensuing melee, Young Edward lost his footing and slid down the slope. Thimbur, after ambushing and killing one of the blue men, slid down after him.

After the main party had killed the blue men, they followed after Edward and Thimbur, arriving on the shore of a vast mud lake just in time to see Thimbur kill the shaggy white-furred monster with his spear. Edward had been killed by the monster. Thimbur skinned the white furred monster while the rest of the party worked to carry Edward up the muddy slope. Together, they returned with both of their dead hirelings to the steel doors. They knocked and Panyus opened.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Monk Rage

The morning after Jiro was assassinated at the Monastery of the Two-Fold Path, The Founders’ Council announced that the Abbot was banished from the town of Pasar. The Council also banished the monk who made the initial attack. He did deserve execution not only because he did not harm Jiro, but also because he did not show a clear intent to do so, but was clearly manipulated by sorcery. Jiro death was the result not of one monk’s evil intent, but of the entire monastery’s mismanagement. The Abbot was responsible for the management of his monastery.

In protest, about half of the monks chose to banish themselves with the Abbot. As the monks prepared to leave the monastery they agreed that the Shining Path had caused them this dishonor. They should be punished. Gwinch and his sohei agreed to support them in breaking into and vandalizing the main temple of the Shining Path.

About 75 monks, marched through Pasar with long knives hidden beneath their robes and bows hidden in a cart of firewood. They convened near the Temple of the Shining Path and, finding the front gate hanging open and unguarded, charged into the courtyard with their weapons!

But the warrior monks of the Shining Path were ready and waiting. Archers shot them from the walls, and spearmen emerged from the temple, followed by about two dozen of the mercenaries commonly employed as Silk Merchant bodyguards.

The Two-Fold Path monks were less disciplined than those of Shining Path, and were guided by fury and revenge rather than well-conceived tactics. Many were shot with arrows, and when they broke ranks, killed by the well-organized Shining Path spearmen and battle-hardened mercenaries. Gwinch’s sohei, on the other hand, responded to the surprise attack with level-headed confidence. They escaped the courtyard into the Shining Path Temple. When the Shining-Path monk pursued them, Saisho suddenly appeared and with a magical blast of steam killed their leader and his lieutenants. At the death of their leader, many of the Shining Path monks and the mercenaries were put to flight. The remainder fought to the death.

Victorious, the Two-Fold Path monks began appropriating the Shining Path prayer banners, while Gwinch searched for evidence that they were responsible behind his own temple’s recent misfortunes. A letter on the body of the dead leader showed that someone had warned Shining Path that they were going to be attacked, and had offered both weapon and the mercenary support. But there was nothing to confirm that they had planned or caused the death of Jiro.

Demolition 5371 (exposed slats) by BrayoDemolition 5371 (exposed slats), a photo by Brayo on Flickr.
An old priest who lived at the temple castigated the Two-Fold Path monks for their violence and so they fled from the Shining Path temple and from the town of Pasar. Together with Gwinch and his own sohei, they rejoined the Abbot in the wilderness. The Abbott led them to a small, secret temple in the jungle which they began to expand and fortify. He told Gwinch that he should continue his quest to find Tempat Larang. Beyond fulfilling the Emperor’s orders to locate and apprehend Governor Goyat and General Kawabi, if Gwinch were to find the legendary lost capital-- from the time before the great divergence of the Paths to Enlightenment-- then he might begin to restore the honor of his monastery.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Monks & Merchants

Gwinch, Kishi, and Gunjar have spent the past year as guests of the Two-Path Monastery in the market town of Pasar. Pasar is a peaceful town, having benefited from the age-old wisdom of its Founding Families, who continue to direct its administrative affairs and staff the militia. The Founding Families aversion to both violence and commerce have made Pasar an ideal place for foreign merchants from all corners who know it as a place where they bring their goods to market without fear of criminals or corruption. Tariffs and duties are high, but it’s a small price to pay knowing that the businesses they build are well-protected.

The foreign merchants bring their foreign faiths with them and the most prominent temples are those dedicated to One Law and to Shining Path. Both have multiple temples and monasteries throughout the town. The Two-Fold path is one of several faiths whose place in the town is currently small but may be larger in the future.

The merchants also organize themselves along commercial lines and most belong to one of two merchant’s guild. The Silk Guild is the older of the two, but The Spice Guild may have more members today. Most Silk Guild members are dedicated (in varying degrees) to the Shining Path faith while most Spice Guild members have submitted (at least nominally) to One Law. That said, neither guild is restrictive as to membership. At the same time, both guilds expect loyalty of its members—especially with respect to what territory each member may buy and sell in and the prices charges for various goods.

In the past, when controversies have arisen among guild members or, more seriously between the two rival guilds, one of the temples of the Shining Path has offered its priests and facilities as a neutral meeting place for the resolution of differences. In response to complaints of bias, the merchants recently met at a One Law temple—but merchants from both guilds found the priests too intrusive and the atmosphere generally inhibiting. 

So, in response to the latest controversy, the Abbott of the Monastery of the Two-Fold Path offered to host negotiations, pointing out that the Two-Fold Path claimed few adherents from the merchant class. His offer was accepted, and a meeting scheduled. The Abbott asked Gwinch and his associates to delay their pursuit of Goyat and Kawabi until after the meeting so that they could help ensure everything ran smoothly. He was excited about this opportunity to raise the status of his monastery, but had strong concerns that something bad would happen. His long-time visitors agreed to repay his hospitality by preserving peace at the event.

With about a week to prepare, Gwinch, Gunjar, and Kishi decided they should get to know what they could about the most prominent invitees. Jiro, as the de facto leader of the Spice Guild was their first person of interest. With the help of Saisho’s magic, they made themselves invisible, and after a couple hours exploring the streets of Pasar and were able to find Jiro. They trailed him for the rest of the day, watching him interact with customers, share a lavish dinner with other members of the Spice Guild and, at the end of a long night, retire to an inn. They heard him refer to the upcoming negotiations in conversations with both customers and his associates, but did not hear say anything that suggested any underhanded plans.

When the day of the meeting arrived, the adventurers divided themselves into six patrols and circulated throughout the monastery grounds, giving special attention to the entry points and the rooms where the merchants were meeting. Jiro and the other Spice merchants had just finished a private meeting and were leaving it to rejoin the Silk Merchants in the larger room where negotiations were taking place when— one of the Two-Fold monks drew a sword from under his robes and charged Jiro. Gunjar’s patrol was passing nearby; the priest responded quickly, using his magic to apprehend the attacker. Unfortunately, Jiro’s bodyguards regarded Gunjar as a threat and drew their swords on them. Other monks joined the fight and for several minutes confusion and chaos reigned.
super monk by letgoandletsgo
super monk, a photo by letgoandletsgo on Flickr.
As Gwinch and Kishi reached the scene, they noticed an odd sight. While most of the servants who worked at the Monastery were fleeing from the brawl, one woman was standing and watching. This woman raised a blow gun to her lips; seconds later Jiro raised his hand to the back of his neck and then crumpled to the ground. Kishi attacked the mysterious servant with her magic, but the woman disappeared. Gwinch’s sohei helped to calm the general melee while Gwinch looked for the invisible assassin. 

Gwinch’s efforts were unsuccessful. The chaotic fight among the monks, the merchants, and their bodyguards ended without any deaths— except Jiro’s. The other Spice Merchants did their best to save their leader, rushing his unconscious body to the One Law temple. There the priests determined that he had been poisoned, probably by a dart, and administered their most powerful drugs. Despite their efforts, after a few hours, the priests of One Law announced that Jiro had died. Before dying, he expressed remorse for the dissipation, pride, and occasional deception that had marred his life, exhorting all people, and especially his fellow Spice Merchants to adhere more closely to One Law. The priests announced that they were organizing a procession to carry his body back to his home village for burial.

Meanwhile, at the Temple of the Two-Fold Path, the Silk Merchants expressed their outrage at the poor hospitality and despite the Abbott’s apologies, departed very soon after the Spice Merchants. Gwinch questioned the servants and learned that they had noticed a new laundress among them. He searched the servants’ quarters and found several scrolls inscribed with prayers characteristic of the Shining Path. The monk that attacked Jiro was also found to be carrying Shining Path prayer scrolls, although he claimed he had not seen them before. He was turned over to the City Guard. 

The Abbott was disappointed. But more than disappointed, he was absolutely furious.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hommelet thinks it's about time for you all to take your leave.

Following the attack on the farms south of the village, the council explained to the company that if they wished to remain in Hommelet a little longer, they could be quartered in the cellar of the church and in the barracks at Rufus and Burne’s tower.  They had been perceived as a threat and it was unfair to draw attacks of the undead onto defenseless widows.  The company complied, and while Angus recuperated from his wounds, Caber tried to find a buyer for the magical staff they’d recovered from the moathouse.  Meanwhile Godith tried to recover her dog which, after deserting her at the moathouse, had found its way back to the traders.  The traders, however denied it was the same and then argued that she had mistreated it.  Lem was able to communicate with the dog, and convinced Godith that she was better off without him.  After several days bedrest, Angus started licking the blue frog snad trying to put them in his mouth.  After watching him wretch and dry heave a few times, Steele declared that the patient seemed well enough for another trip to the moathouse.
Given the number of times they’d visited the foul place, the company reasoned that its thinking inhabitants was beginning to learn their movements and sought toapproach in a roundabout way, first heading south out of Hommelet along the main road and then cutting east through the forest.  It was tough going, especially with a mule and after a few hurs, they returned to Hommelet and followed the path, with the plan that in the last half mile or so, they would leave and make their own way through the thickets and brambles. 

anarchy by Brayo

As they were reaching this point, they heard a clanging and clanking coming from ahead of him.  Immediately they crashed into the underbrush, and tore through it, seeking to evade the source of the sound.  They nearly stumbled upon a man in a black cloak who, seemingly alerted and alarmed by their approach, sprung up and ran deeper into  woods on a narrow path.  Angus and Roark chased after him.  As Angus was catching up with the man in the black cloak, that man turned and shot Angus with a crossbow.  Angus tumbled to the ground and Roark fired his own bow, and felled their enemy.  Angus sprung up, clobbered his enemy and then, with Roark, limped back to join the rest of the company.

And meanwhile the others had been investigating the clanging noise in the road.  It was made by a man—or once-man, his jerky movements and stench gave away his present state— who was wearing various bells and chained to a stake in the road.  Arpad, who had assumed position of the magical staff brandished it at the zombie.  The zombie recoiled from the sight of the staff and, when touched, exploded in a blast of light as bright as the sun.

Arpad tended to Angus’s wound.  Roark searched the body of the hidden assailant and inspected the place where he had been hiding.  The crushed weeds suggested at least two men had been watching the road.  He had been carrying a few pieces of gold and silver and wore black livery with the sign of a burning eye. 

The company followed the trail on which the watched had been running.  After a few hundred yards, until it intersected, at a sharp angle, with another trail.  The company followed this new trail northeast (and seemingly forward) until, after about a hundred yards, it brought them into the boggy area around the moathouse.  They evaded the giant frogs by walking around to the breach by which they’d entered on previous expeditions.
So read the greeting painted on the wall outside the breach.  The company did not feel welcome, but uneasy, but after Roark had thoroughly checked the area for trip wires on other traps, they ventured inside.  Once inside, everything seemed much the same, but still they moved cautiously, Roark gliding along the wall and carefully inspecting the door that led into the next large hall. 

A flash of red light from down the south wing was oddly comforting.  “Oh, those giant bugs.”  The company decided they would delve into the lower level of the moathouse, and returned to the mouth of the pit from which they’d previously retreated.

Besides another message painted on the wall, there was a coil of rope, one end helpfully tied around a spike in the floor.  Godith lit a torch and Roark leaned out over the edge of the pit, surveying its contents.  The green slime had grown back to cover most of the floor, the shrieking mushrooms were silent, and hiding in one corner was the undead creature that lurked at the bottom.  It smiled.  After some debate, the company concluded that fire would likely solve at least one of their problems and retrieved from the mule 10 flasks of oil.  Roark dumped the oil on the slime and on tossed it on the mushrooms and tossed it in the general vicinity of the undead creature.  They used the “welcoming” rope as a wick and created a big fire.  While it burned, they retreated to the great hall.  They listened to the shrieking mushrooms and watched the black smoke.  When the shrieking it stopped, they planned an all-out assault.  They anchored their own rope well outside the room, and then charged in, Steele sliding down the rope into the pit while Arpad stood at the top calling up St. Bocrates to drive the unholy things back into the darkness.

They were not repelled.  As soon as the rope fell to the floor, two of the undead creatures leaped at it.  Steele evaded their skeletal claws and took a position in the middle of the room, making room for Angus to follow him.  Two more of the wights emerged from the shadows.  Roark shot silver arrows at their enemies and Lem flung silver pieces while the warriors engaged with their swords.  Arpad slid down the rope, brandishing the staff that had destroyed the zombie, and one of these undead creatures was similarly obliterated.

Here the tales of the survivors are unclear.  (No, not all survived.  But some did.)  Roark tossed a silver dagger to Steele the Paladin, but before the hero could reach, the terrible creature reached him.  And with a touch of its claw, Steele turned ashen white and fell in a heap.  Moments later, Angus was similarly slain.  Did Arpad destroy another of his assailants with the holy staff before he was killed?  Regardless, he was killed.  But as the wights began to drag away the bodies of the fallen heroes, those who had remained at the top of the pit shot them with more missiles.  And killed the undead horrors.  There is moral here, favoring guile over valor, but few in Hommelet are in a mood to hear it.

The bodies were retried from the pit.  And place on the mule.  And carried several miles away from the moathouse.  And buried in the forest.
entrance by Brayo
entrance, a photo by Brayo on Flickr.
It’s not the job of the living to take care of the dead so we should forgive them.  For in making their way back to Hommelet, hacking through the forest and driving their mule and its almost unbearable burden, they came upon a group of men in black cloaks, who were watching for their return along the main path.  The men had crossbows, but the company had magic.  At Lem’s command the undergrowth entangle the black-garbed men.  The men’s calls for help were silenced by Godith’s spell of magical slumber.
But not before they were heard by another group.  As the shots of these men were heard and their black cloaks were sighted through the thick screen of trees, Roark and Lem took off running.  But loyal Godith stayed with the mule, and the bodies of Steele and the other heroes.

As the blackguards reached their fallen comrades, they too were ensnared.  And Godith, patiently, slowly, drove the mule on her way.  She says she heard one of the men escape and come running after her.  She ducked into a hollow and allowed him to run past.

Godith rejoined Lem and Roark at the edge of the forest, at a place where they good see woodsmoke rising from the cooking fires of Hommelet. They buried the bodies.
The council listened to the survivors’ account of what happened.  And then explained that—it was in everyone’s best interest— the company should leave Hommelet.  Winter was coing and it was going to be a lean harvest.  They did not want to further aggravate forces of evil that seemed capable of fierce and terrible counter attacks.  And the Paladin was gone.
The council gave Caber the money that Angus had stored in the jeweler's bank.  They gave the frogs to Lem.  They offered a large sum for the holy staff.  They provided everyone with sausages and drinking water. 
“Stay in the tower tonight.  In the morning, you should be prepared to take your leave.”

Leaving Hommelet, the company saw the mammoth demon-pigs peacefully grazing in Squire Denton’s fields.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hommelet is in some sense impressed-- and yet . . .

Angus and Lem wanted a place where they could keep their brightly-colored frogs without bothering anyone or anyone bothering them.  About a mile south of Hommelet, they found a spotted a dilapidated barn and bargained with its owner, “Mama,” and her lodger/servant, “Mr. Penny” to rent the place for a month.  There were chickens but no large animals, and it was plenty wet enough for the frogs.   They made a wooden box, filled it with dirt and started catching crickets to feed them.
down to the shed by Brayo
Lem asked the frogs if they liked their new home.  The Blue ones did, especially the food.  The White ones liked it, except that they didn’t like being so near the Blue ones.  The Red one had nothing to say.  He was inside a Blue frog’s belly.  Lem made a barricade to separate the Blue and White frogs.  And then, feeling a bit out-of-sorts after sleeping under a leaky roof for three or four nights in a row, Lem went to spend to find a nice warm bed in the forest.  He was replaced by Arpad and Roark.  They didn’t care so much about the frogs as the cheap rent.
One night, the barn-dwellers were awakened by a traveling priest, the overnight guest of one of the neighboring homesteads.  His hosts were under attack!  The Wandering Dead were breaking down the front door!  (Some in Hommelet have wondered why the priest and only the priest managed to slip out the back, but that’s Hommelet for you.)
The three adventurers formed an instant alliance with the traveling priest.  Hearing screams at a second house that was under attack, Roark charged to investigate.  Already two zombies had broken in and killed the man of the house.  Roark shot one of the zombies with arrows and lured the other back outside, giving the children and their mother a chance to escape.  Meanwhile Angus intercepted two more zombies as they were breaking into Mama’s house and destroyed them.  Arpad and his fellow priest killed zombies wandering the yards between the houses. 
But then as Angus emerged from Mama’s house, he was set upon by a pair of the wandering dead.  For the first time, he saw his foes clearly—they were the frog men that they had killed in the forest, now reanimated with unholy magic.  Using both the same spiked clubs and their own limbs as weapons, they struck Angus down in the dooryard.  The priests rushed to his rescued in time to save his life, and Roark killed the last of the zombies.
When at last their foes were slain, they went to check on the first house, knowing what they would find.  The priests said a prayer for the slain family, and then all the bodies were burned, the innocents wrapped in shrouds, the undead in haphazard pile. 

A Christmas Tree on Fire by Jamison Wieser
a photo by Jamison Wieser on Flickr.
The next morning, a farmer wandering by was stopped by the widow who told her terrible tale and asked to be escorted into the village.  Roark and Arpad ran ahead of them, rousing Steele the Paladin (He does have a name.  It’s Steele.  We’re not sure how it’s spelled but we need to know so we can carve it on a tree.) and beseeching him to plead their case with the village council.

Everyone agreed what was going on.  The newcomers were a serious threat to an evil power that resided in the area.  And when that evil power fought back, innocents were going to die.  So the newcomers needed to finish what they started, and quickly.  They asked for and received more holy water and longbows.  And then Steele, Roark, and Arpad decided they should visit the moathouse again.  They had seen zombies there.  And the zombies who attacked the farm were re-animated frogmen, probably the bodies of the forgmen they had killed on the road to the moathouse.  That was where the evil lived.
Angus was too wounded to accompany them.  Lem had not come back from his visit to the forest.  And Godith had become thoroughly engaged in an local game involving balls and sticks that she was learning from the village youth.  And writing jolly good poems about it, too.  There was one Caber, another wanderer and resident at the Inn who promised that he was good with a bow and asked to join them.  And so he did.
The four heroes (five if you count the mule) made their way to the Moathouse.  At the scene of their battle with the wild frog men, the bodies of the vanquished were predictably missing.  As they came close to being in sight of the moathouse, they departed from the path and hacked and tramped through underbrush and march, taking a widdershins route around the moathouse, aiming for the northeast corner where they’d made their earlier entry.
Before they reached that point they came upon a faint but definite trail, seeming to lead from the moathouse or its vicinity to points further east.  After some debate, they crossed that path and reached the northeast corner where they crossed the sludge-filled moat and entered the moathouse.

Swamp Ruins by Drik7
Swamp Ruins, a photo by Drik7 on Flickr.
Soon after entering they saw a flash of red light from the end of a corridor.
They explored the great hall and both wings, surprising several solitary zombies standing guard, watching the courtyard through an arrow slit.  These zombies were destroyed.  They also found the source of the red light—very large )two feet long) beetles with glowing red glands.  The beetles fled from light and sound, but the party surprised several of them, killing them and harvesting their glands as a light source.

And then one surprised them.  After climbing out of a pit and onto the walls and then ceiling, one dropped on Roark, and caught his neck between its mandibles.  Fleeing he shook off the terrible thing and his comrades destroyed it.  Arpad kicked the body into the pit and they a horrible once-human trying to climb up the sides.  Steele pour a vial of holy water onto and the creature—like a zombie, but more thoroughly imbued with undead energy, capable of movement as fast as a living man.  The company began to consider their options.  A loud piercing unmitigated shriek drowned out their voices and their thoughts.  Braving another glance into the pit, they saw that the glowing glands of the dead beetle were beginning to fade, consumed by the greenish sludge that covered the bottom of the pit.  They dumped a canister of oil, followed by a torch into the bit, the entire insect carcass caught on fire and in its light they better perceived the nature of the room beneath them.  At least forty feet by forty feet, it was covered with greenish slime except for where it had been burned away by the fire.  In the eastern end of the room, a half-dozen giant mushrooms seemed to emerge from the slime and these fungi seemed to be the source of the wailing.  The undead creature had returned, with a friend, and they were both smiling, especially when the company started shooting them with arrows.  The slime turned black under their feet.
Then Caber and Steele started shooting silver arrows.  The undead creatures fled again. 
Rather than chase them, the party decided to take a breath of fresh air outside in the courtyard.  But wait—Steele sensed the presence of evil there, coming from the sinkhole next to the crumbling curtain wall.   Surveying the pit from the safety of an arrow slit, they saw it was filled with refuse and foot-long centipedes—nothing obviously and categorically evil.  The company tore up some of the zombies they’d killed earlier and tossed hunks of carrion toward the edge of the pit, hoping to draw out some of the centipedes.  This proved effective and the company processed and distributed more and more chum to the centipedes.  When about a score had crawled out of the pit and no more seemed likely to follow, Steele ventured into the courtyard for a closer look.  The pit was at the base of the curtain wall and seemed the result of natural entrophy—rubble from beneath the curtain wall.  A scrap of cloak was visible, emerging from the raw earth about halfway down the 10-foot pit.  There were silver coins littered here and there along with bones, refuse, centipedes, and a dead man lying face down, his flesh nearly consumed by the centipedes.  After being prodded by Steele, he rose from the the pit, only to cleaved in two and sent to his final final rest.

A few centipedes, perhaps confused perhaps not hungry, perhaps enjoying their own private repasts in the pit presented a challenge to retrieving the pit’s more interesting contents.  So Roark and Caber shot those centipedes with arrows.  Next Roark secured himself with a rope and asking his companions to hold it, he climbed into the pit and begin pulling on the cloth.  More loosened rubble and clods of earth tumbled down, along with a skeleton that spilled out of its winding shroud.  And also a staff of long mace.  Roark grabbed the staff and got out of the pit.  The silver coins were buried but no matter.  The new staff—or maybe rod—was about 6 feet long, made of heavy wood with one end wider than the other and about two-thirds of its length embedded with metal studs.  A brass disk, engraved with a sunburst capped the wide end.
And so, burdened with their mysterious treasure rather than their wounded companions, the company returned to Hommelet.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A brief linguistic history of Alyan

Humans were living there.  Elves arrived.  The Elves taught the humans many things including a simplified version of their own language, now known as “Common.”
If human characters speak an additional language, it will probably be dialect of Common that’s spoken in their home area.
Pure elvish is the language of educated people, though most humans know a few words. 
Not all humans were so eager to welcome the elves and those who have continued to live aprt in the swamps, forests, and mountains, are known as Gray People.  They speak their own language, which includes many local variants.  As with elvish, everyone knows a few words.  Grayspeak is great for swearing.

The Hobbits’ language sounds like a dialect of common, though like other common dialects, its accent can be exaggerated to become nearly unintelligible to outsiders.  All hobbits understand each other when they speak this language, even if they come from areas very far apart form one another.
There’s little reason to know dwarfish or gnomish as most trade is conducted with members of these groups who speak perfect common.  Dwarvish is a very difficult language both to speak and to read/write.

Only people with very specialized knowledge will have made a point of learning Oanoise, the language of a group of settlers/invaders/guests who were driven out of Alyan a century ago.   Even those who “know” Oanoise might be able to do little more to recognize certain characters.  Pronunciation varies from one sage to another.

Orcish, goblin, hobgoblin, etc.  The monster languages are almost unknown.  Some sages argue that these creatures do not exist and that their languages have been artificially created by hoaxsters.
wyrm script by Brayo

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Protection from Evil

Weevil by kampang
Weevil, a photo by kampang on Flickr.

I’m running a game in which one of the PCs is a paladin, meaning that we have to figure out what that permanent protection form evil spell is all about.  We are using Labyrinth Lord rules with the Advanced Edition Companion.  According to those rules, Paladins “radiate protection from evil in a 10 foot radius at all times.”
Protection from evil refers to a 1st level cleric spell (also quoted from LL AEC):

“This spell wards a creature from attacks by “evil” creatures. It creates a magical barrier around the subject that moves with the subject. The subject gains a bonus to AC of –1 and a +1 bonus on saving throws. Both these bonuses apply against attacks made or effects created by evil creatures.

In addition, this spell prevents bodily contact by summoned or created creatures. This causes the natural weapon attacks of such creatures to fail, and the creatures recoil if such attacks require touching the warded creature. However, these creatures can attempt missile attacks. The protection against contact by summoned creatures ends if the warded creature makes an attack against or tries to force the barrier against the blocked creature.”

Despite the scare quotes and alignmental relativism, we could figure out the bit about “evil” creatures.  But what about “summoned or created creatures?”  If a creature is not “created” then what is it?  By one logical interpretation, a paladin and five of his closest friends are completely immune to undead touch attacks and a lone 1st level paladin could sit down and have a picnic whilst surrounded by mummies, wraiths, and spectres.
The 2e rules are nicely succinct and don’t make a mistake of referring to a spell without seeming to think through what that spell really says:

“A paladin is surrounded by an aura of protection with a 10-foot radius.  Within this radius, all summoned and specifically evil creatures suffer a -1 penalty to their attack rolls, regardless of whom they attack.  Creatures affected by this aura can spot its source easily, even if the paladin is disguised.”
I like the 2e rules, but I don’t mind granting a little extra protection in the case of “summoned” creatures as long as I can be sure what that means.  So, for the purposes of my game and maybe yours, here is what the paladin’s protection is:

·         All “evil creatures” (which includes bad people of all sorts and almost anyone or anything that would attack a paladin in earnest-- except for things like giant frogs, green slime, and crazy drunkards) get a -1 to hit the paladin and anyone else within the spell’s area of effect.

·         The paladin & co. get +1 to saving throws against attacks from such creatures even if the creatures are attacking (by missile or magic) from outside the area of effect.

·         Summoned creatures are those creatures that were called into battle by some unnatural means.  The bats summoned by a vampire and a demon summoned by an evil cleric would not be able to touch the paladin or his friends who were within the area of effect.  If the summoned creatures successfully goad the paladin into battle (perhaps by threatening to attack innocents outside the area of protection) then the protection is “waived” with regard to those summoned creatures that the paladin attacks.

·         Created creatures are golems.  Undead are not created, but reanimated.  I can’t think of anything besides golems that would be “created” in this sense.  Such creatures are subject to the exact same rules as summoned creatures.

·         Creatures affected by this spell do figure out the paladin is the source of the protection.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hommelet is not impressed. Hommelet is also not completely unimpressed.

There’s a new gang in town. They’ve made two trips to the moathouse and back, and so far not one of them has been killed. The people of Hommelet have started making a point of remembering their names.

Except for that paladin. That one’s too good for a name. (And obviously marked for death. Both times he returned from the moathouse with terrible wounds. Many tears have been wasted on the hero too good for a name.)

His confessor, Arpad, must have the easiest job in the world. Father Terjon says that he’s all right. Minds his own business and that never hurt anybody.

There’s one woman in the group. Her name is Godith. Based on her advanced reading skills, it seems likely that she’s had contact with the elves. The young men of Hommelet admire her from a safe distance.

Oh Lem, you sweet buffoon, the animals love you. He tried to start an argument with good ol’ Squire Denton about whether giant marauding demon pigs need their tusks. And he loves those colored frogs he brought back from the swamp.

Angus has also shown a keen in the frogs. Jaroo of the Grove says he all right, just very very inquisitive about certain things. Like the Weaver’s son. But now he’s moved out of the inn to live in an old widow’s barn.

That one guy, Roark, we don’t know about him. Yes, we do, he’s a reekish cur. We don’t want to look at him and we don’t want to let him out of our sight. But Father Terjon says that those frog belts he sold to Melubb, they may be ugly but there’s no evil in them that can’t be fixed by melting them down.

So, one day we were all sitting in the bar when there was the terrible garralumping of a trio of terrible too-tall, too-big demon pigs with tusks that were most hideously twirly and pointy, tentacles growing out of their faces, and flapping wings at the back their heads that-- in their smallness compared to bulk they would need to carry into the air—epitomized vestigial. The Paladin assisted Denton’s sons with the horses while Arpad slipped out the back door to do mind his own business. Godith did something elfish.

The stampeding juggernauts threw a dog into the air, smacked the horses with their tentacles and then passed out of the village, taking their terror to parts unknown. Squire Denton had a little fun with Lem and Roark, but could not goad them into a wild demon chase. Instead, after a brief (and unnecessarily private) conference, this new group, led by The Paladin, manifest their intention to follow the tracks of the horrible beasts and find out not where they were going but where they came from. A most shocking example of wisdom for these people. This wisdom was surpassed by the many other patrons of the Inn who chose instead to continue with their meals.

What follows is based mainly on accounts provided by those who enjoyed the honor of tending to The Paladin as he recovered from the wounds of his battles.

They followed the tracks of the terrible creatures that had stampeded through Hommelet. They followed them through the forest, toward the swamp and along the way they saw places where the creatures had battled with men, and among the evidence of these battles was the smashed body of one of those wild men. He was naked and tattooed and bald-headed and his teeth sharpened. Like the ones that burst into the Bekens’ kitchen and spoiled their dinner.

deer blur by BrayoSo this group, The Paladin and his companions, they followed the tracks some more and they came upon a pair of the wild men chasing a group of deer like they must have chased those other creatures.
And cowards that they are, when they saw the Paladin & co., they turned and ran. They ran and hid and with their wicked friends set a trap and waited in ambush along the trail. But The Paladin doesn’t seem to care so much for gold (though he got a good deal from Melubb for those ugly frog belts) so he warned his companions, no, wait stay close.

But Agnus maybe didn’t listen and he got too close to the coins on the road and so the whole lot of wild men, maybe six, maybe eight came crashing out of the forsest screaming like they do and waving their clubs. Lem spends a lot of time talking to the trees and so it’s good to know that he’s made some friends with them. So the trees entangled a good number and pulled them down to ground where they thrashed and screamed while their wicked brethren set upon Angus and upon the Paladin. Arpad is a priest of the old style and he joined his companions in their fight and with the Paladin was grievously wounded. Churlish, reekish Roark turned his reekish chulishness for good this once and we have heard killed several wild men with his arrows.

turquoise frog by moocatmoocatThe Paladin and his companions returned to Hommelet to celebrate their victory, to tend to their wounded (The Paladin’s pale brow!), to sell those ugly belts, and to ask Jaroo about some frogs they found. Beautiful colors of red white and blue, like the one the Bekens found in their kitchen the day after the wild men’s visit. But Angus, unlike the Bekens could not be convinced to give it to Jaroo, and instead bought a basket to carry the frogs with him everywhere he goes. (And then Lem follows him. Poor Lem. Poor Angus.)

After resting, upgrading their armor and in the process completely depleting the stock of Rannos and Gremag, The Company decided to visit the Moathouse itself. The deep tracks left by the enormous creatures were still evident, and the path itself, while overgrown was plain enough. Reaching the moathouse, they encountered the same disgustingly enormous frogs that have troubled other visitors. But bravely led by The Paladin, the Company slew or drove away the foul creatures and planned their entrance into the ruins.

Sensing an evil presence waiting for them in the courtyard, the Company circled or, if you will, button-hooked to the back of the moathouse where they found another breach and collapsed section of wall had resulted into a narrow, but viable entry point. Here, Godith’s dog ran away, and the mule balked at crossing the moat.

Despite these omens, the Company entered the ruins and soon found themselves in the great center hall of the weird people who had built the fortress so long ago. And as they entered, walking corpses emerged from the gloom and attacked the Company. As always The Paladin, encouraged by his dedication to the safety of his comrades, met his foes with unflinching valor, and destroyed them, perhaps single-handedly. (Roark says otherwise, but you know, that’s Roark. And Angus has gone to find a new place for his frogs.) Again the Paladin was most grievously wounded and again his comrades assisted his painful return to Hommelet so that his wounds could receive proper attention.

turquoise frog, a photo by moocatmoocat on Flickr.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hommlet Road

Over the past year or so, the long stretch of road that passes through Hommelet—and with it Hommelet itself— has been struck off the itineraries of most merchants and traders.  It’s not the usual banditry and brigandry that are just part of the cost of doing business.  When entire caravans simply disappear—that’s a risk not worth taking. 

The people of Hommelet are self-reliant and obstinate.  When they can’t make it themselves, they make do without.  Except for certain things, like bacon.

Pigs are dirty animals and people didn’t used to keep them in Hommelet.  But a little ways down the road, two days journey if you push it, the town of Aeigh-o-waugh is famous for its bacon and for its pigs.  A few enterprising young men from Hommelet pooled their savings, made a little trip, and bought a boar and two sows.
The Swineherd by mandolux
The Swineherd, a photo by mandolux on Flickr.
  It was during their return trip that the new swineherds discovered what had been keeping the merchants away from Hommelet.

They reached a crossroads and were struggling with the seemingly simple task of making the pigs turn left.  Neither gentle prodding nor rough cursing had any effect.  Hearing the loud rustle in the trees, the men joked that if only they had a bow among them, they might shoot some deer and sell venison instead of bacon.  But then the “deer”— human bodies, mangled and decayed, obviously lifeless but still walking on their half-rotten legs— emerged from the forest, three of them at once surrounding poor Sebastian, who batted at his assailants with a swine-whip before the monsters  knocked him to the ground and stomped him to death.

“It all happened so quickly,” said Sebastian’s friends, “we could see there was nothing we could do for him.”  More of the walking dead approached from another direction.  They were accompanied by one or two natural, breathing men, both wearing helmets that covered their faces.  The swineherders fled, driving the pigs before them with panicked ferocity. 

“They were setting a trap for us, and if it weren’t for them pigs, we’d have walked right into it.”  Except for Sebastian, all the young men—plus the pigs— made it back to Hommelet alive.

Sebastian himself returned the next day, in a state that put to rest any wicked gossip about his friends’ weird story.  The soldiers from the tower had to be called to do the work that soldiers do.  It wasn’t really Sebastian anymore and his face bore no expression of fear or pain as first two and then three spears pierced his re-animated body.  After the body finally collapsed and lay still, the villagers told the soldiers to drag it to the boneyard on a long rope, and cover it with lime in a deep pit. 

The boys gave up their plans and slaughtered the pigs all at once.  Most of the meat went to sausages and most of the sausages went to the dogs and to the tinkers, too poor to afford fear, who still follow the road that passes through Hommelet.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Rescuing Golfo

A large party was organized for the mission to Xitaqa: Beatriss; Tetsukichi; Al-Fitar; Phi Phong; Kreppu-san and his three companions, rescued from the slavers’ stockade; Xīngqíliù and his six brothers. Their path followed a dry channel worn into the escarpment that rises on the north side of the Lam River. After an hour or so on the path, Xīngqíliù pointed out the top of the well-fortified tower that is the major landmark of Xitaqa. They saw dark shapes flying around the top of the tower and Kreppu-san recommended that rather than meet any enemies in the confines of the path, they would do well to seek higher ground. With ropes and the assistance of expert climbers, the entire party managed the climb up onto the higher ground.
IMG_1964 by Brayo

The ground was rocky and there was no defined path, but up out of the channel, they could all get a good at not only the tower but the little ghost town beneath it—a warren of twisting “streets” carved into the stone by the weather, and lined with small structures that were half-carved into the stone and built out with bricks of the same mottled red, pink, and yellow color.
On top of the escarpment, the party also attracted the attention of the flying creatures, which, as they drew nearer proved to be very large bats.  Several members of the party were very good shots with their bows, and they shot enough of the bats in their approach that the survivors circled back and flew away.  The party continued until they came to a place where unless they were willing to divert their course, they would need to “cross the street”—that is climb down one side of the gully and then back up the other side.  They found a relatively gentle slope with natural footholds where they could climb down, but climbing up was not so obviously easy.  One of Kreppu-san’s companions, a woman named Jintara, was a skilled climber and so they sent her up with a coil first of rope to help the others.  As soon as she reached the top Jintara, turned back and waved her hands in alarm.  The party took a defensive position and were well-prepared for a group of men, armed with spears and leading apes.  Tetsukichi warned the party not to attack the apes unless necessary, as he had knowledge of animal speech.  So when the spearmen order the apes to attack, the party’s archers shot at the spearmen while Tetsukichi warned the apes that they need not be enemies.  Several spearmen were shot and killed; the others, seeing the apes’ hesitation to follow their orders, retreated in panic, dragging their “pets” with them.  Two of the apes remained behind, and they told Tetsukichi that the area belonged to the apes and no humans were wanted.  The party made a show of cautiously retreated and the apes went there own way.

  With Jintara’s help, the party found a place to climb back up on top of the escarpment and continue their approach toward the tower.

Soon the group came to a point that overlooked a small plaza, surrounded with buildings of slightly larger stature than the others they had seen and, directly opposite them, tall doors leading into the tower itself.   One of the doors was slightly open, but the interior was unlit and no one could see anything inside.  wo of their local guides agreed to climb down ropes into the plaza while the rest of the party either held the ropes or covered their descent.  As the guides descended, men from inside the tower shot and killed them and then rushed out with their spears, only to be shot down by the party’s archers.  Two more volunteers, both more heavily armored, descend next, and reached the plaza floor without incident.  They confirmed that the sides were dead, that there was no obvious danger waiting for them and signaled the rest of the party to follow.
Entering the tower, they found a once grand foyer with a tiled mosaic floor and well-carved statues of wolf-headed people, plus the hammocks, eating utensils, and other personal belongings of the men who had attacked them in the plaza.  Pushing onward, they reached a large atrium with a dry fountain in the middle of it, where two wolves, each the size of a horse was waiting for them.  The wolves attacked viciously, but the many strong warriors held a defensive line to protect their weaker comapnions and together killed the beasts.  As ; Xīngqíliù tended the wounded, his brothers explored the room.  One of them prodded at a tapestry, and feeling his spear hit something behind it went for a closer look.  A very large man jumped out, brandishing his sword, and struck down ; Xīngqíliù’s brother.  The other party members reacted quickly and the man—who bore the markings tattoos Jintara recognized as those of the Bloodhead tribe and whose armor and headgear indicated he was likely its chief—was partially subdued ; Xīngqíliù found that his brother was grievously wounded but not dead and with the other brothers’ help, carried him aside to give him what aid they could.  Meanwhile the party questioned the chief.  They told him that they had killed Golthar and were looking for their friend Golfo.  The chief confirmed that there was a prisoner upstairs.  He did not know where the prisoner was held or even that he was still alive, but showed them where the stairs were and announced that if they wished the brave Golthar’s magical guardians, he would neither help nor hinder them.  During these discussions, X and the brothers assisted their brother in retreating from the tower, offering that would hope to meet the party later. 

Beatriss led the way up the narrow spiral stairs to the next floor.  As she reached a closed door, she heard a shout from below.  It was Al-Fitar, the rearguard, who had been attacked by the Bloodhead chief.  Al-Fitar dodged the main force of the blow, and threw himself back against his attacker, knocking the chief back into the room and giving several other party members room to get back down the stairs and assist their friend.  Overpowered and outnumbered, the chief fought with valor, but was killed.  The party looted the chief’s body and Al-Fitar claimed his great sword, which bore the mark of a renowned smith.

Once again the party ascended the stairs and opened the door into a barracks.  Besides beds for 10 men, spare weapons, and typical personal effects, they found manacles and other accoutrements of kidnappers and slavers.  And they found another spiral staircase that led them still higher in the tower.

On the next floor, they found what appeared to be a bare room with a cell one side of it.  A man, naked and bruised lay on the floor of the cell and some creature seemed to be trying to batter its way inside.   Beatriss charged into the room—and disappeared!  They could still hear her footsteps—and then her voice, calling out that she was still there, but no one could see her.  But the unseen creature could see her and attacked.  Taking a defensive position, she took select strategic slashes at her invisible foe, while warning the rest of the party to stay back and out of her way.  The creature followed maintained its attack, but Beatriss deflected most of its powerful blows, while her own struck again and again, not only harming the creature, but also giving her a better sense of its great size, general shape, and fighting style.  When she began to tire, she lured it toward the entrance so that her companions could try to strike it without hitting her by accident.  By this ploy, they killed the beast, and dragging it out of the room found it to be a anthropomorphic bull, wielding a powerful sword.  (Jinatara claimed the sword.)
Rose with sword by jmolives
Rose with sword, a photo by jmolives on Flickr.
(It suits her.)   Phi Phong and Beatriss rushed to the cell and confirmed that it was indeed Golfo.  He was alive but in very bad shape.  The party despaired of how to get into the cell.  Neither Phi Phong nor Jintara could pick the lock.  And the strongest of them was smart enough to realize that if anyone could break in, it would have been the bull-monster.  Then Tetsukichi remember the bag he had looted from Golthar back in Menkan,  sure enough it contained several keys and one of them opened the door to the cell.  Golfo and Phi Phong reunited in a way that was at first touching and very soon uncomfortable for everyone else, and then Beatrsiss loaned him some clothes and suggested they should get to safety.  Golfo protested that he wanted to find his armor and that Golthar’s room upstairs must contain a hoard of treasure, but wiser heads prevailed.  They descended the tower. 

Xīngqíliù and his brothers were holed up in one of the smaller building off the plaza.  The injured brother could walk with support and the reunited party agreed to leave Xitaqa together, following the surface streets this time due to the difficulty in trying to get the injured people up on top of the escarpment.  They encountered no one and made it all the way down to the beach.  There they were ambushed by group of slavers on horseback.  It was a fierce fight.  Although the party killed most of the slavers and drove off the one or two survivors, one of X’s brothers was killed and several more were wounded.  The party captured the horses and used them to pull litters for the dead and most seriously wounded.  But once they reached the boat, they decided not to try to bring them aboard and instead boarded it themselves and sailed down the Lam toward civilization.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Smashing the wolf-people's idol

Beatriss and Tetsukichi, along with their companions and guides, sailed down on the western branch of the Lam River and then up the eastern branch, as guided by Xīngqíliù.  Along the way, they passed near Quitokai and picked up Afu the Priest and Kreppu-San, a warrior from Zipang who claimed to have been travelling with Gwinch and to accompanied him in his attack on the slaver’s stockade.  Indeed as they traveled up the eastern branch of the Lam, Kreppu-San was able to point out the peaks behind which—according to him—the stockade was situated.

And, according to Xīngqíliù, they were also nearing Xitaqa.  But before he would reveal the exact location of the tower that was Golthar’s former home and the likely prison Golfo, he would demand, as he had warned them, a favor.  His demand was in fact both a request for a favor and a loyalty test.  Xitaqa was a wicked place, built by wicked people of a former age, and a beacon to their sucessors in wickedness.  And what better way for the party to prove that they were not among the wicked than to destroy an idol of wickedness?
Xīngqíliù indicated a path, faintly visible from their boat that, he explained, led to a cave inhabited by a family of wolf-people.  They had built a wolf idol for themselves and worshipped it in the cave until they were rewarded and cursed with the power to turn into wolves and to command natural wolves.  If the party would enter the cave and retrieve the idol so that he could destroy it, he would reward them with the information they sought.

Tetsukichi, Beatriss, and Kreppu-San debated Xīngqíliù’s offer.  What was their quarrel against the wolf people?  What if these were just natural wolves?  But they weren’t being asked to murder but only to steal.  And if they were natural wolves, they would have no interest in an idol.  If they were wolf-people, then they shouldn’t be eating people-people, as Xīngqíliù claimed that they did.
They made a plan to attack at night when most of the pack would be out hunting.  Neither Xīngqíliù and his brothers nor Afu would enter the wolf cave, but the priests did give the party some assistance—one glowing stone to provide them with light and a second to mask the sound of their footsteps. 

The party disembarked and followed the path up the river to the path that Xīngqíliù had pointed out.  They followed it to the cave, obviously the noisome den of a pack of wolves.   
IMG_4964 by Brayo
Al-Fitar was posted outside to watch for the pack’s return while the others entered.  The short entry tunnel led to a central chamber with several smaller caves radiating off of it.  Climbing up to a ledge, they found a small alcove and inside it, the idol—a clay statuette with gemstone eyes.  While discussing (silently) how to retrieve it, the natural wolves inhabiting the lair detected their presence and began to emerge from the other rooms.  The party fought the wolves and killed them and then swiftly retrieved the idol and ran out.  Al-Fitar reported no sign of danger, but the party didn’t linger. 
They returned to the boat. Xīngqíliù congratulated them and took the idol.  His brothers guarded it while the party spent a few hours in restless sleep, awakened near dawn by the sound of piteous howling.  They pushed up from the shore and remained anchored in the middle of the river until daybreak.  When the sun was up, Xīngqíliù asked for he and himself to be put down on shore where, after a short ritual, they smashed up the idol.  (And, it seemed, pocketed the gemstone eyes.)  Xīngqíliù was well-pleased with the party and agreed not only to show them the path to Xitaqa, but to accompany them there.