Friday, 3 October 2014

Faster GM! Faster!!

One of the primary things I am looking forwards to in 5e is faster combat. I LOVE 4e combat (and fully intend to bring elements of it into 5e, the base combat seeming a little bland for my tastes), but with both my groups heading towards the pinnacle of their stories, the battles are getting more massive, more complex - and, if I do say so myself - more awesome. However, the speed at which these battles happen is slowing right down.

This is, I think a combination of things, including the wider variety of powers available to the players, and the larger numbers of enemies they tend to face. Also, despite my player's character's have massive damage output, but the hit point total of the mundane monsters outpaces even their inflated (by base 4e's standards) killing ability. This doesn't bother me when we have boss / demi-boss (solo and elite) fights, as they are supposed to be long, painful affairs. However, when fighting the rank and file servants of these monsters, I don't really want a battle lasting three sessions (as the latest Ormid et al battle has).

So, what to do?

I don't want to continue to inflate player damage output, as that can get way out of hand, and present massive problems further down the line. Instead, I intend to halve the hit point total of "mundane" enemies, with a few tougher guys getting their full allocation (including all solos and elites). I'm hoping that this will allow the massive battles that are going to occur to unfold, without us getting bogged down in long, boring battles that loose their fun factor.

Also, as we don't use XP, there is no game impact beyond quicker fights!

I also use the amazing 4e Combat Manager,  which lets you adjust monster starting hpts with a single click. This is fabulous!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

New Condition - Numbed

"As the horror withdrew its tendril, so a strange numbness and warmth spread through me. The pain I expected was not there, and in its place was a glowing sense of relaxed nothingness. I actually smiled, and only avoided being decapitated when I stumbled over my companions body, and fell backwards out of the way."

- Andriss Vorge, Adventurer

4th Edition Version: A numbed character can no longer feel pain, and is infused with a slight state of dissociated calm, which stops them being able to understand the extent of their wounds and makes them less swift to react. In game terms, the player no longer tracks their character's hit points, the GM doing this (in secret) instead. They also suffer a -2 penalty (per tier of the effect inflicting the condition) to all Dexterity based checks.

5th Edition Version: GM tracks hit points as above, and target suffers disadvantage on all Dexterity checks and saving throws.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Sooooo....

My players have expressed an interest in 5e, and I must admit, after spending some time reading through the final rules, and thinking about my life at present (and how much prep time I don't get any more), we agreed that the next games may well use that system.

....Actually, that's not entirely true. The other group are actually looking at trying Pathfinder once Shnecke and the gang have finished their adventures,

Anyway, as well as 4e stuff on here, you can start expect to see 5e stuff too.

Hope this isn't a problem...I'm pretty sure we are all old enough to see past the whole "Edition War" stupidity!


Friday, 12 September 2014

Shnecke's Wolves - A Night In The Shattered Skull

The crowd are crammed in tightly, eager to see how this night's murder will go, for it has been too long since anyone able to challenge Udd'Fugg has come here. The air is thick with the stink of piss, tabac, wyrdroot and Jiid smoke, sweat, alcohol and testosterone. In here at least, the horrors of the island are forgotten, replaced by the savage hunger to see blood spilt and to make gold from the process. This is the Splintered Skull, an infamous fighting pit on Scarathane, that occupies the grim territories between the Porto di contadini , and the bare stone of the volcano's mid caldera. Famed for its brutal fights and savage combatants, its champion has been the horror known as Udd'Fugg for long and long – something that has caused a slight dip in profits, as the mob grow bored of its easy victories, and pray to Banturn that something more novel presents itself soon. And it seems that this night their prayers may be answered, for a band of adventurer's many have already taken note of have arrived....and they have killed their way to the Skull's champion.

The group arrived here late in the evening after being turned away from Niba's tower by a towering Cinderspawn, informed in its crackling, dead voice, that “The Lady is indisposed for some time, following her direct psychical contact with the entity known as the Scheggia. She will not respond to any summons until she has fully recovered”. Somewhat put out given the trouble they had on the way there, the group seek a distraction...and Shnecke suggests a good bar brawl. And so they found themselves in the sweaty and cramped heart of the Splintered Skull, surrounded by the worst of a bad lot, watching a battle between several pirates in a small, blood soaked pit. Soon after, the group sign up to fight...and a new legend is soon born.

The first battle is over almost before it starts, the group facing a huge Solifugid; a brutally swift arachnid that sports a huge pair of shredding jaws. Deadly it may be, but against the group, the beast stands not a chance, and it is slain within moments, the crowd going berserk.

Next, the group face a band of pirates. All have the olive complexions of Vaedecci, and demonstrate considerable skill and tenacity. The fight is nowhere near as easy as the one previously, and the air of the pit resonates with the cries and roars of the crowd as it swings back and forth in favour of one group, and then the other. However, the pirates are outclassed, and slowly but surely they go down. Eventually, the last of them surrenders; a canto or chanter, who's magic has caused the party more than a little pain during the course of the battle.

And so the group wait in the arena, the air booming with the unified chanting of the crowd around them;

“Thatari's Wolves! Thatari's Wolves!” (Shnecke is not happy, for as the chanting began, the warlock managed somehow to swing their chants to cry his name and not the Ulnyrr's). Money is changing hands at a furious rate above, as bets are placed on the outcomes of this battle, and the party can feel the charge in the air as the heavy gates leading to their enemies chambers begins to slowly inch upwards. From the dimness beyond issues a terrible roar; inhuman and thunderous.

“FUUUUUUUUD! UUUUUUUUG!”

And it steps into the arena, each footfall shaking the blood caked ground. Everyone in the group takes an unconscious step back, the arena suddenly feeling way too small, for Udd'Fugg is truly massive. The crowd also back away from the edge of the pit, their faces growing fearful, for the monster has, on more than a few occasions, grabbed a spectator and consumed them there and then.

“What in the sixty six nights is that?” Growls Shnecke, his hands tightening around the handle of his brutal axe as he cranes his neck to meet its eyes, “'Cos I'm going to carve it a new bum hole”.

“It” was clearly once a gigorim – almost certainly a Vulgorim. However, at some point, someone has enhanced it. Its muscles and skeleton have clearly been mutated and exaggerated to an unnatural extent, giving it a rolling, deformed gait, its tanned flesh grown thick and leathery like that of a Thodzuna. However, this grotesque mutation of its form isn't the thing that dominates its appearance, for it seems that whoever chose to “improve” it went one step further; replacing a good part of its chest, both its arms and its left leg with animated stone prosthetics. They also chose to reinforce its skull, implanting a fortifying exoskeleton of stone to support its grossly thickened skull, and worked dark wonders within it, replacing mortal organs with artifice. Glyphs that glow with a hellish light burn across the stone parts of the half-golem, and both the priest and shade realise that they are Draxian in nature, suggesting a possible origin for this nightmare – though how it came to be here is something they can only guess at.

Udd'Fugg stands before the group, his eyes shining with hunger and hatred. Either side of the area a low rattling heralds the arrival of two pillars from which spring lethal blades. Each clatters to a height of about 10' before slowly starting to spin, the air savage with the low swoop of the blades as they describe a vicious zone of slicing death around them.

The crowd begin to chant the group's names, and the announcer (who during the break between this fight and the last came to wish the group good luck, his heart hopeful that they will defeat their current, staid champion and usher in a new order within the arena), his voice magically amplified, announces the start of the battle, the crowd going insane as the group's name is called.

Things do not get off to a good start. Varracuda charges in and slashes out, his blade throwing sparks as it rides along the layers of magical protection covering the monster. In response, Udd' grabs the swordmage and lifts him up in his massive fist, completely covering his upper half. He then grabs the unlucky adventurer's legs, and begins to twist him as if wringing out a wet cloth, sending waves of abject agony through his body. Varracuda tries to scream within the clammy, stinking darkness of the brute's closed fist. His spine feels as if it will snap, and his stomach as if it will burst open. He tries to wriggle free, lights dancing before his eyes, only doing so when Shnecke gives voice to a terrible roar; alive with the primal rage of the frost wolf, and lands a ripping blow across Udd's knee, knocking him back and forcing him to drop the dazed swordmage.

Shnecke is sent spinning away from the monster by a well placed kick from one of its oversized boots, the Ulnyrr smashing against the wall of the arena with a sickening crunch. Magic rakes at the monster as Grigori unleashes his spells against it, a blast of flame following as the warlock adds his ire. The air shimmers with violence, and money madly changes hands as the crowd become suddenly unsure who will prevail in this deadly battle...

Even to a crowd inured to acts of violence, the battle that takes place in the arena that night is a revelation. Udd'Fugg is a truly deadly enemy, and he wants to live to see another day. However, even he, in his magnificent lethality, is slowly but surely weakened and eventually brought low by the group, his form torn and blasted, frosted and dissolved. His artifice innards are ripped and burst, and his spirit crushed under layers and layers of divine magic, and elder hexcraft. He gives as good as he gets thought, and more than a few times it looks as if one of the group are doomed. Alas, he is simply not able to fend off the whole group, and as he weakens so they thrive; the magics of the priest, warlock and swordmage coming together with the deadly poisons and tricks of the assassin and raw brutality of the barbarian to bring him - with Shnecke's axe tearing a bloody swathe along the front of his throat and up through his jaws and into his face - down.

The group forge a new legend for themselves (and Shnecke's axe seems to grow more potent in that moment of glory, somehow seeming more deadly and alive than before), being the new champions of the pit – a title they must be careful to defend if they wish to keep it.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Updated Something

So, following the play tests, I have tweaked the "hit by" values for the "Hitting Harder by Rolling Higher" rules to take into account the impact of the Escalation Die. Although I wanted these powers to trip several times in a battle, I didn't want to see the top tier powers triggering multiple times.

I have also tidied up some of the descriptions!

Friday, 5 September 2014

Hitting Harder by Rolling Higher - Update

We tried these rules in the last Shnecke game, and made a few observations...

1) They were cool for the players, as they got to do some extra funky stuff

2) The fight was slightly quicker thanks to the extra damage and conditions

3) The fight was against a solo monster, so the boons granted by the high rolls stacked pretty viciously (especially as the group knew they were in for a solo fight, and went nova with their dailies, meaning that at once point, the enemy had a -6 penalty to their defences, which meant that hitting by 7+, especially once the escalation die had hit 4+ was pretty easy). It was felt that the potency of the abilities would be watered down quite a bit in a battle with multiple enemies.

4) Some of the wording needs to be made a bit clearer. For example, choice C isn't clear that if you hit by 5+, you shift up to half your speed instead of 1 square, not as well as!

5) The players worried that the rules might lead to an arms race between GM and player. We talked about how this isn't so much of an issue in 4e, with its more balanced maths, but acknowledged that this is a risk in any game where house rules came in.

In the end we agreed to try them again, and to see how we felt about them. When I get time, I will tidy up the wording on the abilities a bit too.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Hitting harder by Rolling Higher

Updated 10/9/2014: Player Bonuses with Exceptional Hits: Many monsters get to hit harder, the larger the margin by which they hit, and it only seems fair that players get to enjoy this kind of benefit too. So, to this end, here are some suggestions for effects that could occur when a character hits by a certain amount over what is needed.
Each category is cumulative. The player decides which benefit to apply, and can only choose one (A-I assuming they hit hard enough to have the option open to them). The effects are cumulative with a bigger hit. So if you pick benefit A) when you hit by 7+, you can inflict +2W (or +2d10) damage.
Hit by 5+
A) You inflict +1W or +1d10 damage with the attack
B) You push the target 1 square
C) You can shift 1 square
D) You gain 5 Temporary Hit Points
E) Target grants combat advantage until the start of its next turn
I) If the target possesses Fortification, this is reduced by your level percent until the end of the encounter.

Hit by 7+
A) You inflict an additional +1W or +1d10 damage with the attack
B) You push the target 1d4 squares and they must make a Dexterity (+Acrobatics) check equal to 10 + ½ you level + the attack's ability modifier or fall prone
C) You can shift up to half your speed (instead of shifting 1 square)
D) You gain 10 Temporary Hit Points
E) Target is dazed until the end of your next turn
F) You save against one effect a save can end
G) If you attack inflicts a condition a save can end, the save becomes a Hard Save
I) If the target possesses Fortification, this is reduced by twice your level percent until the end of the encounter.

Hit by 9+:

A) Target also suffers Ongoing Damage equal to your level (save ends)
B) +5 to the D.C. To prevent falling prone. If knocked prone, target is also dazed (save ends)
C) You also gain a +2 dodge bonus to your defences until the start of your next turn
D) You either gain 20 temporary hit points, or may spend a Healing Surge
E) Target is stunned until the end of your next turn
F) You save against one effect a save can end. Either decrease the difficulty of the save by one category or roll the save with advantage
G) On a failed save, the target suffers damage (the same as the triggering attack) equal to the powers level.
H) Make a basic attack as a free action. You can make a number of additional attacks this way in any round equal to the escalation die.
I) If the target possesses Fortification, this is reduced by three times your level percent until the end of the encounter.

Hit by 12+:
A) Hard Save Ends
B) +5 to the D.C. After Effect: The target is dazed (save ends)
C) You can shift up to your speed, and the dodge bonus increases to +5. If the escalation die is 6, enemies have disadvantage when attacking you until the end of your next turn.
D) You either gain 40 temporary hit points, or may spend 1 healing surge to heal your bloodied value hit points. If the escalation die is 6, you may also save against all effects a save can end.
E) After Effect: Target is dazed (save ends)
F) Save against all effects a save can end. All saves have their difficulty category reduced by 1
H) Gain a bonus to the additional attack(s) equal to the escalation die.
I) If the target possesses Fortification, this is reduced by four times your level percent until

NOTE (10/9/2014): Updated the “hit by” values to take into account the escalation die's impact on things following play testing.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Glyph of Warding - Level 12 Ritual

You inscribe mystical sigils onto the floor, whispering the words that will bind deadly energy to them, ready to strike at those that come uninvited.

Level: 12                                              Component Cost: 2,500 gps
Category: Warding                              Market Price: 8,500 gps
Time: 10 Minutes                                 Key Skill: Arcana or Religion
Duration: Permanent until triggered

You create an invisible glyph that wards a single 5' square. You can cast it on any solid surface, and at the time of casting can designate up to five individuals, or one condition that allows safe passage (for example, the presentation of a particular symbol, gesture or password). You are automatically immune to triggering the glyph. As you cast the glyph, choose one of the following energy types; Acid, Cold, Fire, Lighting, Necrotic, Thunder, Radiant. This is the damage type the glyph inflicts when triggered.

The glyph remains in place until it is crossed by an unauthorised individual, or until someone fails by 5+ to disable it. When triggered, the glyph makes the following attack in a close burst 2; Your Level +5 vs Reflex; Hit: 8d4 [Energy Type] damage (10d4 damage at level 17, 12d4 at level 22, and 14d4 at level 27); Miss: Half damage. Hit 4+: Target also suffers Ongoing damage equal to half the damage inflicted by the initial attack (save ends); Hit: 6+: hard save ends

When you cast this ritual, make either an Arcana or Religion check. This sets the D.C. Of the Disable roll needed to safely remove the glyph. This result +5 is the D.C. Needed to detect the glyph with either Arcana, Thievery or Religion.


Saturday, 23 August 2014

Badass Flumph (Level 25 Elite Controller)

"Adventurers often smirk and joke about the so called 'Flumphs', regarding them as nothing but tavern talk or a joke for greenhorns to fear on their first quests. Alas, I know now that they are not only real, but that some grow old and powerful. We had been exploring the shifting corridors and endless chambers of one of Armun's sentient levels, when suddenly we found ourselves face to face with one of the strangest things I have ever (in a career severely packed with strange things) seen. It was a Flumph. However, it had somehow implanted shaped and articulated plates of Adamantium into its soft body, crafted glasteel lenses for its eyes, and mastered new and deadly powers. 
"Of course, it was also insane, having been trapped in its room for countless years, forced to battle endless waves of lost souls, and we too soon found ourselves fighting against it. I feel that ultimately we did the poor thing a favor, for we put pay to its endless torments and finally gave it some rest. However, it left poor Vlad insane and babbling, and poisoned Claus and Briefholdt so severely that both perished. 
"I never smile or chuckle when folks mock Flumphs, and would advise you to do the same. Too many times, legends and jokes turn out to have a deadly side in this messed up realm."

- Avandreis Hetteth, Adventuring Mage.


Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Flumph (Level 2 Controller)

The Flumph is a monster that has been at the centre of more than a little discussion over the years, with people either loving them, or hating them. Personally, I always thought they were cool, although I can't remember ever using them (Actually, I may have used them once in 2nd Ed....though I'm not sure). Anyway, This Tweet has got quite a few people excited, so I thought I would pool the AD&D, Pathfinder and newest versions together, to create a 4e Flumph worth using. Enjoy!



 meep! Wuv meeeee!




Saturday, 16 August 2014

Unsleeping Custodian (Level 22 Soldier)

Who doesn't love a gigantic mummy that can rot the flesh from your bones, curse you with ancient and terrible magics and smash you to gristle and juice? Your players, that's who!

Make sure you read the bit above about using my monsters!
The Nauseated and Sickened Conditions can be found in the House Rules (also above)
Disadvantage is the 5th Edition Mechanic.


peek a boo!

Well Done Roll20!!!

Roll20 won Gold for best software at the ENies, and as a regular and devoted user, I could not be happier for them. Well done you lot!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Exciting Times

It's funny, despite not intending to run the newest version of D&D (not unless my players suddenly demand to play it), I am looking forwards to getting my hands on the new books. Partly, this is because I am a huge D&D nerd, and have been since '87. Mostly however, it's because I am looking forwards to seeing what bits and bobs we can steal to use in our 4e games.

However, I am even more excited by the imminent arrival of the .pdf version of two Pathfinder books - the Advanced Class Guide and the Technology Guide. This is partly because I suspect, in a year to a year and a half, we will be seeing Ormid and the gang retiring to their places in history (although at present they are knee deep in vampires and other undead horrors, as they begin to realise that unifying the thieves guilds of the North is not going to be as straight forwards as they initially hoped), and I have put it to them that we might think of using Pathfinder for the next game (although I again suspect, and am 1000% happy with the fact, that we will almost certainly stick with our house ruled version of 4e). However, I am also looking forwards to seeing what new items, abilities and tricks these books bring to the game - again, with a view to pinching them for my 4e campaigns.

The truth of the matter is, I am a bit of an omnivore. I have rule books for many, many systems (especially bestiaries) and I actually make constant use of all them, taking ideas and converting them to 4e (which is very, very easy). My players are used now to facing Pathfnider monsters, things from video games, and horrors from a host of strange and unusual settings...as well as my own fevered brains.

Of all the changes in how we play though, the introduction of several ideas from 13th Age and believe it or not, the introduction of items more in line with those from 3.0/3.5/Pathfinder have been the biggest...and they have made the game more fun, no less balanced, and kept it infinitely interesting.

I guess the point of this post is to say that edition wars are fundamentally dumb things. Even if you don't like a system or intend to play it, there are likely some good ideas (or monsters, or items) that could enrich your chosen game.

To finish, here are the scratch notes for a Pathfinder to 4e conversion I did for one of the games I run. Nothing fancy, but potentially very cool for whoever uses it;

+4 Brilliant Energy Longsword (Level 20 Uncommon; Property: Inflicts radiant damage instead of slashing, and wielder may chose to target Reflex instead of AC with melee attacks made using it. Sheds light as a torch (cannot be ended. Must be placed in scabbard to hide); Power (Daily; Standard Action * Radiant) Close burst 3; Targets all creatures in burst; Blind creatures are immune; Attack: Wielders level +3 vs Reflex; Hit: Target is blinded until the end of the wielder's next turn; Hit 3+: Target is blinded (save ends); Hit 6+: Target is blinded (Hard save ends). 

HERE is the Pathfinder version. 

What are your thoughts?  

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Shnecke's Wolves - The Second Meeting, Bargains, Personal Projects, Feyr Factor

(03/09/1472) 05:00 – 10:30; The streets of Scarathane are all but deserted as the group wearily make their way back to the SC, the Splinter contained within a runestruck box of cold iron and silver (a gift from Niba – adding to the cost of her favour, when it comes). It seems that even the hardy denizens of this foul place have learned to fear the unseen horrors that bring madness each night, and have taken to hiding away where they think – wrongly of course – they cannot be hurt by them.

On returning to the ship, they only have time for a couple of hours sleep, to review the current situation, and for them to check on what has been going on. Then they must leave and head out to meet with the Feccia.

10:30 – 12:00: Iskarius is late, and the group begin to wonder if they have been scammed. Patience has worn thin by the time he and his faithful automaton arrive, the heavy tromp of “Mr Butcher's” footfalls shaking the small chandelier that hangs above the meeting table. He is accompanied by another man none of the party know. Like Iskarius, he is a swarthy, olive skinned man, clearly of Vaedecci descent. He has a neatly trimmed beard, short curly hair, and wears mustard coloured robes of fine cloth, stitched with silver runes and sigils. A quiet aura of power emanates from him, though nothing compared to that of Niba, or, to be honest, the adventurer's themselves, and all immediately know he is some kind of mage or artificer.

Iskarius, apparently either ignorant to the group's withering glares or unconcerned, claps his hands together, before rubbing them and saying.

“My friends! It seems you are still alive, and have something with you.”

He grins over to the other man, who smiles back, and with a spike of anger, Grigori realises that neither truly believe the group have done what they asked.

“This is Colvoton√© Giotto, one of our mages. He is here to confirm the validity of the item you have brought here.”

He grins again, apparently enjoying the group's mounting anger.

Here's your cursed blade!” Snarls Grigori, sliding the heavy box towards the men.

Iskarius looks down at the box, and then gestures towards it, looking at Colvotoné. The mage moves to open it, but then smiles, winks at the party, and spends a few moments with his eyes closed, holding his hand above the surface. All (save the Unlyrr) feel the quiet pressure in the air as he concentrates on the box, clearly trying to sense whether or not there are any nasty surprises waiting for him. After several moments, his eyes open, and, apparently happy it is safe to do so, he opens the lid.

At once the air seems to grow thick with a subtle, dreadful energy, and everyone feels their bowels clenching and their nerves fraying as they recognise the hate of the essence within the flint dagger. Both Vaedecci feel it too, and the group take more than a little pleasure from watching them grow pale beneath their complexions. Looking suddenly unsure, the mage looks towards Iskarius, who, angrily it seems, nods towards the blade sharply. The mage looks at the party, no longer smiling, and repeats his examination. This time however it lasts mere seconds before he yelps, dragging his hand back as if burnt. Muttering rapidly in his native tongue, he swings the lid shut, stepping back as if the dagger is going to throw the box open and leap at him.

He speaks to Iskardius in Vaedecci, and the Feccia representative, looking quite peaky, looks at the party with a sudden degree of respect. The mage continues to babble, his fear apparently turning into anger, and Iskarius holds a placating hand up to him, nodding and waving for him to be quiet. However Colvotoné only shuts up when Mr Butcher, sensing his master's discomfort, suddenly emits a menacing growl and moves towards him, empty eyes flashing with power.

So,” mutters Iskarius then, his voice sounding sick, “it seems we entirely underestimated all of you. Honestly, we expected you to bring in a fake, or, if insane enough to actually try and do as we asked, for there to be some kind of furore as you inevitably messed things up and drew the Cani Mortali fire.

To say we are impressed at the successful completion of your, to be frank, purposely impossible mission, is...an understatement”.

you mean you were expecting us to die?” Asks Thatari angrily.

Varracuda slams his fist into the table, his shredded nerves demanding he make this fool pay for his stupidity. However, Iskarius holds up a warding hand.

Please, please. You must understand. Many adventurer's come to us with similar offers to yours, and they, like you, have things we would enjoy taking ownership of. In your case it was your ships. We send them on dangerous missions, in the hopes that they die and we can take their stuff, and if In the process they help our cause, well, so much the better.” He laughs, “It is, well, unheard of for a troupe to succeed, but...”

He gestures at the box.

What can I say, you have all impressed!”

He spends a moment apparently thinking, then.

Please, if you could wait here, I would like to bring one of the Captains to meet you. Indeed, it will be Giovanni himself. Can you wait? I will also need to take the Scheggia with me, to prove I am not insane.”

The swordmage moves as if to try and snatch back the box, but is stopped by a look from the priest (although both Shnecke and Thatari seem to be sharing Varracuda's thoughts). Iskarius sees this and pauses, gingerly grabbing the box when it is clear they are not going to do anything hasty.

12:00 – 13:40: Wine is brought to the room, but no one touches it, fearing that the Feccia might be trying to poison them. After an hour, they hear voices outside the room, and the door opens once more. Two soldiers, dressed in heavy plate armour, and bearing the standard of the Feccia stride in, taking up positions at either side of the table (the group move uneasily to their feet, ready to defend themselves if this proves to be an attack). Then, a third man – impossibly good looking and well groomed, his hair hidden beneath a modest powdered wig, his eyes bright and alert, his clothes of the finest make and quality – strides into the room, his eye sparkling with happiness and eagerness. Everyone notes the practised, athletic bounce in his steps, and the smooth flow of his movements. They also note the ornate sabre at his belt, and the rune-wrought pistol he carries on his hip.
He beams at the party, and with a bow introduces himself as Giovanne de Feccia, a noble Captain of that house. Noticing the wine, he pours himself a glass, and takes a huge mouthful, before sitting down and finishing the drink.

A please. Sit. Sit. We need to talk my friends!”

He pours himself more wine, asking the group if they will join him, and then makes the party an offer – membership, for a year and a day, with the Feccia. The terms are simple; the group will undertake high risk and difficult missions for the house, in return for status in the city, discounts with all merchants in the port, and free berth for their vessels. After the contracted period, both parties will meet to discuss whether or not the contract continues. Expecting only some free days in the port, the group are slightly flabbergasted by this offer, and ask to be allowed some time to discuss. Giovanni waves at them in a “go talk” manner, and sits back, savouring the wine, all the time watched over by his silent, armoured guardians.

After some deliberation and argument, the group agree to the pirate Lord's contract, and sign it. Giovanni is delighted, and thanks them for their wisdom.

We shall be in touch very soon with your first mission.” He beams, rising to his feet, and heading towards the door. “Please make sure you are available for when we call, as I feel you will be sent on some very important missions for the Feccia indeed.”

13:50 – 19:00: With the meeting over, the group return to their vessel, and are quite shocked to discover that it is already late afternoon. The assassin, swordmage and barbarian all get some rest, taking advantage of a rare chance to do nothing. Grigori heads into the city in search of an item of which he has read, that he feels would be most useful to the group, a Foe Stone. It takes him some time, but he is fortunate enough to locate a vendor who has one – though he ends up paying a significant amount for it.

Thatari, his mind once more plagued by sinister voices and pressures coming from beneath the monstrous bulk of the volcano, heads back to the docks, to the place where he purchased Hannah. Before doing this, he meets briefly with the Nadruul child, and discovers that she had been captured with five siblings – three brothers and two sisters. It is only then that he realises that she speaks of the other children in her circle; the group in which she was raised, and not necessarily blood relatives. He promises her that he will bring them back, but Hannah does not look hopeful. Then Caleph protectively moves in, and takes her away.

Downat the docks, Thatari discovers that most of the slavers that trade here have no stock left, the unnatural ice trapping them in the port stopping them from gaining additional cargo. However, the man from whom he purchased Hannah – one Captain Jager Halstruth; Captain of the “Freedom's Despair” - seems to still have a huge supply, and numerous folks clamour to buy his latest acquisitions. Thatari notices that the slaver is watched over by three repellent guardians, their stench and loathsome forms enough to keep everyone in order. They are zombies of some kind; the bloated and animated corpses of gigorim. Each is alive with maggots and flies and misshapen with blood filled blisters. Their eyes bulge like egg yolks lolling in the puffy recesses of their eye sockets, and the air around them thrums with the frenzied activity of a million carrion flies seeking a place to rest and feed. A particularly massive one squats, rivers of mucus and filth pouring from its slimy skin, its rot inflated intestines poking through a soft rip in its swollen belly, on the ship's deck, carrion birds feeding on its dead flesh as it glares emptily at him, and the warlock wonders who could have created such a potent monster.

Thatari has to wait quite some time to speak with the slaver, as he is busily haggling with many merchants and servants from the city. However, his patience bears fruit, and he eventually learns that the others like Hannah were purchased by a Zargorim named Zaad, apparently the primary procurer of slaves for the denizens of the Zargorim citadel. When asked what he uses them for, the pirate laughs.

T'aint any of my business what them giants use 'em for. As long as they pay me, they can do what they want with 'em.”

Thatari decides to let the slaver believe that he has found Hannah to be a particular steal, and advises him that he would appreciate being contacted if any more slaves of similar stock come into his possession (he intends to obtain all captured Nadruul with the aim of setting them free, and so is a little perturbed when Jager tells him he will order his servants to seek out more “palies” for him).

Thatari returns to the SC then, pleased with his work, and eager to seek out this slave master Zaad.

Whilst this has been going on, Shnecke has been working to affix the hammer head he recovered from the pirate treasure hoard to a handle, managing with surprising skill to do just that. Completed, the head suddenly flashes with power, the dundiir runes upon it glowing with deadly portent. However, it also becomes suddenly incredibly heavy and unevenly balanced, and with a roar of frustration, the barbarian realises that he currently lacks the manual dexterity to perfectly wield this ancient “Doom Singer”; a weapon crafted to slay the sons of the Adar, the Gigorim.

19:00 – 19:45: That evening, the group meet to discuss what to do next, and it is agreed that they will journey to ask Niba if she knows of any items that may allow Schnecke to wield the Doom Singer, and then, with the giant slaying hammer in hand, seek entry into the fiery citadel of the Zargorim with the aim of finding and rescuing the slaves.

The group leave the ship, and enter the strangely empty streets of the city. Once again, few have ventured out, although the distant screams and yells that filter over the constant rumbling of the volcano demonstrate that their homes may not be as safe as they imagine them to be. Headed towards the eastern side of the island, and the wall that leads to the badlands where the archmage's tower stands, the group pass through a region of crowded, ash choked alleys, the air bitter with sulphur and gritty particles. Alert for danger, the group suddenly feel their spirits sinking; an alien sense of hopelessness and distress rising within them. Suppressing panic, they all realise that something unnatural is stalking them – something that suddenly, and with terrifying violence, manifests amongst them, biting out with multiple sets of underslung jaws.

A brief skirmish with the Feyr ensues, with the group spending a lot of time trying to work out where it is (for it becomes invisible for much of the battle, only appearing to savage a party member, or to unleash some kind of psionic attack). However, using area and burst attacks, the group negate any advantage it might have had against them, and they are able to drive it off relatively unharmed (although both Shnecke and Grigori spend a lot of the battle struggling to act, the monster controlling their emotions, making them feel utterly unconcerned and bored with their situation).

With the strange monster driven off, the group continue on their way...

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Xac-Yel Obliterator - Level 19 Controller

Shnecke and the gang are soon going to be knee deep in fiery enemies, so I have been statting up all sorts of things. I always quite liked the Energons from 3.0's Planar Handbook as they seemed a nice  extension of AD&D's Xag-Ya and Xeg-Yi. Wanting to get these weirdos into my games I decided to stat up a tough version of the Fire Energon, the Xac-Yel. 

I appreciate that this is a spoiler for my players, but hey, it's not often they have any idea what they face, and I trust them to play their characters properly in spite of prior knowledge.



Friday, 25 July 2014

Shamosk, Alien Swamps and Lifeforms, Facing the Soul of the Splinter

(For a description of the Crystal Villa, click HERE. Also, I know that fungi are not plants, but belong to their own kingdom. However, for the purposes of magic, they are considered plants - I'm fairly sure I'm the only one that cares about this lol)

(2/9/1472) 20:20 – 21:40: His name is Shamosk, and he is a Chattur – a humanoid raccoon like creature. He speaks in a high-pitched, rapid fire manner, communicating using the Gorgoth language (the closest thing to a universal language there is due to its immortal source). Although there are many merchants in the vast realm of the Villa that stock the materials the group needs, most either cannot communicate with them, cannot be perceived by them, or are in areas currently under quarantine due to an outbreak of “Warp Plague”, and Shamosk is the first that they can deal with.

He runs a strange little shop that seems to specialise in alchemical materials and formulae. Bottles, syringes and pouches of materials, both exotic and mundane hang from hooks in his tent, or stand clustered on shelves, and the air is thick with a mingled aroma of herbs, chemicals and ozone.

“IndeedIhavetheverythingsyouneed. Buthardtocomebytheyare. Ihavenoneedforyourgoldorgems, astheyareoflittleusetome. HoweverIneedsuppliesthatyoumaybeabletogetforme.”

Everyone stands dumbstruck, trying to filter through the hgh pitched barrage of speech. Then, once they have worked it out, they ask what Shamosk wants.

“Ahsoyouareinterested, goodgood. Ineed...”

“Slowly! Please.” Snarls the warlock, his irritation flaring. Shamosk probably looks annoyed or sorry (it's hard to tell), but fights hard to slow his speech down.

“I need Blood Stalks. They areakindof....a kind....of....toadstoolthatgrowsononly....on only a few worlds. Fortunately, my brother, Namoshk, is a gatecasterandhe....*nnng*....and....he....can....open a portal totheworldwhereitisfound!”

Shamosk gasps as if he has been casting a spell, clearly exhausted by the effort of slowing his speech.

“So, we go to this place, get you the toadstools, and you'll give us the radiant essences we need?”

Shamosk nods madly.

The group agree, and the chattur tells them more about the fungus' habitat. What the group learns makes them increasingly uneasy, for he tells them that they only grow on the scat of a certain species of giant beetle, something he calls an Aratha. When asked how big, the merchant waves a dismissive paw. “Biggish.”

Thatari growls, and Varracuda feels that sharpness within him stir angrily.

Soon, are stood in the claustrophobic interior of another tent, owned by another, almost identical Chattur. It seems that Namoshk will accept more mundane currency, and the group frown at the price of transport to the world where they will hopefully find these Blood Stalks.

“Out of interest,” Asks Grigori as the furry spell caster prepares to cast the portal ritual, “how many others have gone through to get these fungi and returned?”

Namoshk seems to wince a second, his head bobbing down as if he is trying to physically duck the question. However, he waves a clawed hand dismissively, as he answers “”Quiteafew, butyouknow, youlookbetterthantheywere.”

Everyone looks uneasily at each other.

Namoshk is as good as his brother said he is, and effortlessly opens a shimmering portal of misty greenish light before the group. The smell of hot swamp wafts into the tent, thick with the stink of rot and mould. He gestures towards it with a sharp-toothed smile.

21:41 – 22:30: The group walk through...

...And immediately find themselves sinking up to their thighs in warm, stinking swamp, their movement impeded by thick rafts of moss and slime. Dense fog shrouds the world they now find themselves in, the air resonant with the buzz of insects, the croaking of unseen amphibians and the distant thumping of primal drums. Toadstools cover almost everything. Many are of normal size, most emitting some kind of cold glow. Others however grow to various other heights. Some are 5', 15' or even taller, the largest being as huge (and possibly as ancient) as the Elderwoods of Arbel'Verdaniss, and the party quickly realise that all the ambient light is being shed by these massive fungi; a ghostly radiance that seems alive with shadow as it filters through the concealing fogs.

Visibility is actually a real issue, for no one can see more than a little distance before detail is lost in the thick gloom, and the party worry that they will not be able to find their way back to the portal (which is now in some kind of dormant state, ready to be activated when the group return). To prevent this, it is decided that Thatari will wait behind, so he can call to them should they get lost...although this assumes that they can find one of these Aratha within a short slog of the portal.

After bidding the warlock farewell, they begin to slog through the mire in a random direction, struggling and sweating in the thick, sucking bog. Thatari quickly vanishes into the green tinged fogs behind them, and the group try to identify any possible way markers in the environment. After only a short while a horrific insect stench, mixed with the reek of bruised mushrooms and a vague, unpleasant energy in the aether, hits the party, and they stop suddenly, all senses alert. Ahead, they can see a huge hill rising from the murk, covered in slime and moss, and can hear the rush of pouring water. With horror, they quickly realise that the hill is moving towards them, a sludgy pressure wave surging through the muck ahead of it.

“GET READY!!” Screams Jaeger, already seeking the safety of a tall fungus nearby.

The Aratha erupts from the fogs; a house sized beetle with crushing jaws and a nest of 20' long tentacles at its blunt head, each tipped with shivering blades of chitin, which rip the air around it constantly. Worse, it appears to wield psionic energy, its insect mind agitating the very fabric of Shnecke's armour, making it smoke and burn, his flesh reddening beneath. The group face the monstrosity, though the warriors quickly discover it's carapace is incredibly resilient, turning aside their blades as if made from solid rock. They also find that the flailing bladed tentacles cleave armour and flesh with equal ease, leaving them bleeding and staggering. Magic flickers out at the horror, blazing through its armour, and slowly, the warriors begin to pick out chinks in its surface where they can land a solid blow. For its part, its jaws chew through armour leaving it in near ruins, and more than a few times Grigori is forced to invoke potent spells of restoration just to keep his allies alive.

Roaring and bucking, the huge insect begins to slow, the group closing in on it with a vengeance. Hope blossoms in the party, and they press the advantage, riding the tides of battle to a fairly easy victory...

….Except....

...It's at this point that the other things attack.

They are staggering, leaping, skeletal things, made from bone and debris, held together and apparently animated by thick rhizomorphs. They leap and skitter almost silently, seeming to dance over the surface of the bog as if it was solid ground. Jager spots them first, charging from the parties right flank, thorn like claws extended and held low, ready to strike. He screams a warning as they leap to attack, their claws piercing armour and opening wounds in the swordmage, barbarian and cleric. Both Shnecke and Varracuda feel their wounds burning with an intense pain, and smell immediately the corruption within them.

Reacting to this new threat, the group are forced to move some of their firepower to these weird vegetable foes. The beetle lunges and nearly decapitates the barbarian, only a timely pulse of magic from the struggling swordmage helping him keep his head on his shoulders, and Shnecke repays the debt by using one of the many strange trinkets he has accumulated on his travels – a bone wand, carved with primal sigils he knows to make it the bane of all plants – to obliterate four of the skittering things; an invisible pulse of magic simply blasting them into fluid and whirling bits.

More foes emerge, the runners apparently the first wave of a new assault. They are bizarre fungous things. Each is as tall as a man, and could almost be called comical were it not for the deadly and grim purpose with which they advance. They are roughly anthropomorphic mushrooms; palid, bumbling things with bloated stalk bodies, stumpy waddling legs (that somehow cut through the slime and moss of the bog like knives, leaving them unhindered by its terrain), spongy limbs, and atop their forms, slimy, ragged caps. They move towards the group, each bearing thorny protrusions on their arms, and the party quickly realise that they are probably getting used to dealing with aliens invading their world, stealing what could be, in truth, their property.

The myconids close with the party, and prove far more resilient than the spore puppets (though more of those keep emerging from the fogs, their diseased talons sowing ruin amongst the party, and sickness in their bodies). Pressed, the group move to finish off the beetle, and manage, with desperate cuts, to sever something it needs to go on living, the massive thing suddenly stopping, poleaxed, crunching into the bog, sending great pressure waves through the slime and moss. However, as it dies, its tendrils flail madly, and several members of the party are suddenly wounded.

Hearing the group's cries of dismay, the warlock abandons his post, and strides to join them, Hopes Famine leaping with joy as it gets to strike at these unusual entities.

From the depths of the fog another soldier myconid emerges. This one however is huge; easily three times the size of the others, its slimy surface etched with bright lines of yellow energy. The spell casters quickly realise that this is a normal soldier, currently enhanced with magic, and that there must be some kind of mage out there, supporting this group. These suspicions are confirmed when a mass of magically summoned toxins erupt amongst the party – though it is a weak casting, which has no effect other than leaving a foul smell and a slight cough.

There are others out there as well, for soon the group are being hit by luminous masses of corrosive, toxic slime, spat by swaying, slender myconids that are perched atop the massive native toadstools. Varracuda collapses at one point as the filth covers him, burning his flesh and overwhelming, him. His luck become even worse as the battle moves on, the group slowly making headway against these berserk fungi, for, whilst closing in on one of the spitting fungi, he is blinded permanently by a sudden blast of light emitted by the things glowing flesh.

Fortunately, the battle, little by little, wound by wound, moment by agonising, exhausting moment, shifts slowly to favour the party. Though the spore puppets continue to come from their unseen source, the major players in this battle are slowly cut down, or, realising that they are over matched, turn to flee. Eventually, just seconds before the group are broken, the battle ends (with no one ever catching a glimpse of the unseen spell caster). But it has taken its toll on them. All are so tired that they can barely stumble back towards the Aratha lair in order to harvest the Blood Stalks (especially burdened by the infected and blinded swordmage), but they do, and soon they are trudging, dazedly, towards the portal.

22:31 – 03:00 (3/9/1472): Still stinking of the bog, wet, wounded and plastered in filth, the group seal the deal with Shamosk, and head back towards the portal that will take them back to Niba's tower. They have been given several poultices made from the fungi they recovered by the chattur, and carry the relucent materials needed for the arch-mage to extract the essence of the Scheggia from Varracuda....they hope...

On returning to the arch-mage, they are given a meal, healing potions (the swordmage's blindness, and the infections that have also taken root are removed), and then each is given a small vial of Nap Elixir; a flickering, shifting fluid that Niba tells them will grant them the effects of a good night's rest after only a couple of hours. Warned that they will sleep soon after drinking it, the group find comfortable beds in a chamber adjoining Niba's main meeting hall, before knocking back the strong liquorish tasting brew. As predicted, within a few minutes of drinking the stuff all are snoring, their wounds fading as their power restores.

After they wake Niba explains that there will be two rituals. The first will draw the possessing entity from Varracuda, and physically (though not metaphysically) restrain it within a binding circle. The dagger, a prison designed exactly to hold it, will be present, and the group will have to “disrupt” the manifested entity enough, that it will be forced back within it. At that point, it will be trapped, the dagger restored, and the nightmare, finally over. Niba warns them that the essence of the dagger is impossibly ancient and evil, and that it will be a deadly foe. She also reminds them that although it cannot physically cross the boundary she will conjure, it can attack them magically.

And so they enter the conjurary, and the ritual begins.

It is horrible.

The ritual needed to draw the essence out of Varracuda almost kills him, his flesh tearing as a swarm of tiny, shrieking blades of malevolent energy are pulled, like splinters, from his body. Gargling and shrieking, he arches backwards until the flesh on his belly bruises and his back almost snaps. Eyes rolled into his head, ichor splashing and fogging the air around him, he is unable to scream as Niba draws the horror from his soul like a poison, the tiny fragments being pulled towards the heart of the 50' diameter circle engraved within her conjurary; an incredibly well crafted rune circle designed for a variety of functions depending on what magic is worked around and within them. The group stand on the outside of the circle, watching in horror as the growing cloud of splinters begin to boil and seethe into something tangible. Protected by the bounds of the circle though they are, they all feel the horrific pressure of the entity gathering within its heart; pure malevolent evil, sharp as a knife, hungry for blood. Slowly, a 14' tall, slender, humanoid form begins to manifest, composed from shifting layers of razor like blades. Baleful eyes, glowing a sullen yellow, glare at the party, the air sharp with the susurrus of sliding blades, and as they watch, long, slender spikes begin to protrude all over its form; a deadly defence against those that must battle it. There is a thunderclap and a wave of ethereal pressure, and suddenly Varracuda begins to vomit, weakly rising to his feet, and rolling, coughing, away from the rune circle to join his allies. As this happens, so the thing bound within the circle gives a mind-slicing scream, raising a hand and unleashing deadly magic towards the group; a field of arcane blades immediately appearing, all but eviscerating all but the swordmage, and holding them within its deadly embrace. Indeed, the battle is almost lost in its opening seconds, as the group are overwhelmed by the entities magic, only the priests healing chants and the warlocks arcane skill (he shatters the zone with a sheer effort of will). Fortunately, they recover, and soon, they are on the offensive, desperately battling the horror whilst Niba strains and fights to keep it constrained.

Shnecke charges Scheggia, but to his horror is unable to hit it, his axe simply slipping off its hide. In response, Scheggia strikes back, laying the barbarian's back open to the bone.

“We can't fight this!” He screams, anger and despair vying for dominance.

Shadowy bolts shatter against its hide, a few finding purchase as the assassin launches an attack, and the warlock tries in vain to blast it with balefire. Varracuda is similarly unable to hurt the thing, his attacks simply missing it. Grigori calls upon his power, but also finds Scheggia beyond his ability to harm.

“He's right!” screams the cleric, “This is hopeless!”

And then the copper drops.

“The dagger!” Bellow Varracuda and Thatari together, “It's the perfect weapon against Scheggia!”

Sensing the shift in their attitudes, the entity hurls another zone of shredding blades as them, and once more, only their iron will and the reflexive healing powers of Grigori (who is tiring already) stops them perishing. This time it is Varracuda who pits his will against Sheggia's casting, and shatters its substance, and whilst it is distracted by this, the assassin grabs the dagger and hurls it towards Shcnecke.

Grabbing it out of the air, the barbarian feels a shock of power surge along his arm and a burst, like icy pins and needles through his chest. In the presence of the entity it should be binding, the blade is alive with magic, almost jumping out of the Ulnyrr's grasp in its eagerness to strike and absorb the thing floating before them. With a bellow he charges, slowing somewhat as a blade of raw magic slices bloodily along his arm and shoulder, narrowly missing taking off his head. As more bolts crawling with shadow energy slam into Scheggia, aided by a wave of divine magic, he get in close and stabs, the blade pretty much guiding itself into the monster's form. A flash of chaotic light erupts around the chamber, and Scheggia emits an agonising metallic scream. Foul energy crackles and warps from the huge wound the tiny blade has struck, arcing into its very substance. Seeing this, Shnecke gives a whoop of joy, and realises that the blade now has a taste for its quarry, and is even more ready to strike.

A deadly serious game of “Pass the Blade” ensues, with the steadily empowering dagger being passed from one to the other to allow them to strike at Scheggia's essence. Each blow lands with a power and force far beyond the physical, and the entity soon begins to become less solid and formed; ragged at the edges like a painting sinking into water. This does not mean it goes down quietly, and the group bear the vicious brunt of its most deadly attacks. Shnecke's armour is all but destroyed by the horror's unnatural blades, and everyone is almost ready to drop from its attacks; their blood and ichor thickly spattering everything.

However, with the dagger, they find themselves, bit by bit, strike by strike, defeating Scheggia, and suddenly, in a blast of raw chaotic energy that sears its image into their vision like a snapshot of madness, the humanoid form is destroyed and drawn, still screaming with an ancient and primal rage beyond anything the group can tolerate, into the blade.

Suddenly there is silence, and, with the sudden shifting in metaphysical pressure caused by the entities departure from the physical plane, everyone drops to the ground, and lets the pain and weakness of their wounds take them into darkness...

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Gustor - Son of Skrung - Level 20 Elite Soldier



Two things to bear in mind (with all my monsters)
1) The defences assume you use the Escalation Die rules from 13th Age. If you don't, I would drop them by 3
2) You need to add half the monster's level to the ability mods to get the total score. So, Gustor's Strength mod is +23.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Zuggob, Son of Skrung - Level 20 Elite Controller



Zuggob, Skrung's daemon magic wielding youngest Son is here for you to see. Next, we will meet Gustor, his tiny brained, strong armed brother...they're the Raistlin and Caramon of Vulgorim!

(By the Way, Daemonstep was to be a reactive teleport power...for some reason I forgot to add it, and given how he totally avoided any direct combat, it was never noticed. It's an immediate interrupt when Zuggob would be hit by an attack. The Effect is that the triggering attack's damage is negated, and Zuggob teleports to a square within 12. Creatures adjacent to him when he leaves and re-appears suffer 8d4 fire and necrotic damage).

Friday, 11 July 2014

The Once King, Hidden Ways, Meeting the Usurper

00:28 – 00:50: Frowning, the group carefully limp towards the doorway, and peer down the huge steps that drop away beyond it. Below is a (relatively) small chamber, lit by a huge smoky brazier. The acrid stench of ammonia and faecal matter assails their nostrils, and they hear once more the plaintive plea, coming from the east of the steps. Cautiously, they descend, weapons at the ready, soon finding themselves stood before a gigantic cell, who's bars are as thick as tree trunks, the spaces between them wide enough for two men to pass through. However, it is immediately obvious that this cell was not built to hold men, for the monstrous thing that begs for aid can be seen, huge as a mountain, in the darkness beyond. It is another gigorim, though even more massive than the Vulgorim, its flesh stony and grey like granite. Hairless, it seems to be hewn from rock, though its impressive form is covered in sores and wounds, and seems diminished in its misery and infirmity.
“It's a Morgog'Gigorim,” whispers Ormid, eyes wide, “A stone giant.”
“Malogg.” Rumbles a voice, deep as stone, “Once King, now....th-this...”
The morgogorim's words trail off into a dribbling wail – though only Llewellyn understands what he says. With further questioning the group learn that this giant was once the King of this place. However, his clan was small, and when Skrung attacked, backed by a huge army as well as the dark magic of his youngest Son, they did not stand a chance. The morgogorim fought the Vulgorim as best they could, but ultimately, they were overwhelmed and Malogg taken prisoner – a play thing for the new “King” of the keep. He knows not the fate of the rest of his clan, or his wife and two children, though he was told that if he resisted his captors, they would be the ones to bear the brunt of Skrung's displeasure.
A Bargain is struck. The group agree to free Malogg, and in return, he will show them an ancient portal that leads directly to the throne room from a hidden section of the stronghold – that is, assuming that the Vulgorim and their allies have not already found it.
The first obstacle however is freeing the morgogorim King, for he is shackled with Tenebrium infused Cold Iron, which has been enchanted in such a way that any serious disturbance of its substance will result in a deadly jolt of necrotic energy passing through his body, wreaking terrible ruin (it also drains the giant's strength, removing his ability to break free). Removing it requires Ormid to apply every last bit of his skill as an artificer, alchemist and spell caster, and even then, he makes several mistakes which see Malogg scream and writhe as his flesh suddenly fills with corruption and blisters. Choking through the stench of the unnatural decay, the artificer is able, eventually, to unpick the magics within the bonds, and they fall away with a sigh and a rush of foetid ash.
00:51 – 00:15: It takes Malogg some time to get up, his limbs wasted and sore from being held in the same position for so long. The stink that comes from his wounds is incredible, and all fear he will not be able to last long. However, he seems to kindle his fires as he recalls the terrible fall of his keep, and the theft of Gruniir – the Mountain' Heart – a crown of old magic, and the taking of his Queen and children. Speaking through the rogue's translations, he guides the party along the death haunted corridors of the keep, smirking at every vulgorim corpse they pass, and eventually stops by a section of slime streaked wall. With a deep grunt, he gestures towards the wall, in an “off you go then” type way, and Orimd quickly realises that an illusion covers a hidden corridor. One by one, with Malogg in tow, the group pass through the glamer, and find themselves in a steeply sloping tunnel of ancient, crumbling stonework, the air strangely fogged by shadowy mists.
“What is this?” Wonders the warforged out loud, sensing the tenebrous energies around them.
“He says this area does not strictly exist within the physical plane, but in a shadow of it.” Replies Llewellyn after conferring with the crouching behemoth. “He says it is nothing to worry about. Just one of many such 'shadow paths' in the keep”.
The Veteran and Ormid shudder, memories of Black Hook and its horrors, as well as the mad shade Maelphazan rising unbidden.
As the group move deeper into the gloom, they become increasingly aware of the stink of oxidised metal and rot. Their growing suspicions are confirmed as they enter a series of massive chambers filled with grimy piles of rusty dung, and moments later, the ones who made it – Rust Monsters – arrive, attracted by the noise and the smell of fresh, refined metals.
There are quite a few of the wretched things, one of which has grown to truly monstrous size and learned a nasty trick; somehow able to briefly emit potent magnetic fields, drawing anyone carrying metal (all the group) towards it with brutal, disorienting speed. Fortunately no one loses any armour or weapons to the monsters, as they are ripped apart with magic and the morgogorim's stony fists, and soon the group stand before a massive portal, carved in Adaric glyphs, into the stone of the wall.
Malogg warns the group that the portal will take them directly to the throne room where Skrung will be waiting with his two sons. He tells them that one son – Zuggob – is daemon sworn, and wields foul magic born from the dark planes. The other, Gustor, is a young and aggressive lout, all muscle and no brain, who adores his father and has the raw power and skill to seriously ruin their day. He also warns them about Skrung's chosen warrior; a canny and deadly monster called Gulk. A veteran of many battles, this brute wears the armour of his slain foes, worked into a single massive suit of plate armour, and wields a great maul of stone and ebonwood. Indeed, although Skrung, especially with his stolen magic and sons, represent a deadly group, it is Gulk that worries Malogg the most.
01:15 – 01:30: Taking a few moments to centre themselves, the group enter the portal...
….The throne room is vast beyond reason, dominated at one end by a colossal throne carved from the heart of the mountain. Simply decorated, it bears runes in the Adaric alphabet that even Llewellyn does not understand, and bears the symbol of Morgorath; Adar of the Living Stone. Huge pillars, carved with the grim visages of Morgog'Gigorim hold a high vaulted ceiling aloft, the huge space litten by several huge braziers. The throne sits atop a high platform, and the portal exits between the foot of this, and the massive double doors that lead from the area, roughly 70' from each.
The room is thick with smoke from the braziers, and the stench of unwashed giant, rotting flesh and ordure. Several piles of tacky bones – unmistakably those of gigorim – rise in rough pyramids either side of the chamber, alive with gnawing rats and swarming roaches, and blood, both old and new, spatters many areas.
Skrung is sat on the throne; a truly massive vulgorim. He is morbidly obese, his leathery, filthy flesh folded into thick rolls under his chin, arms and belly. Sores and acne cover his skin, and the group can see that his thin, lank hair is alive with massive lice and swarming maggots. His eyes are watery and bloodshot, and when he bellows his shock at the group's appearance, it is in a surprisingly nasal, wheezing voice for one so huge. He wears floor length robes of once fine cloth, now filthy and tattered, over armour made from stitched together animals hides. Despite clearly being made for someone larger than him, they appear stretched as he pulls them protectively about his bloated form.
To his right and left stand two very different brutes.
To the left is a giant that can only be Zuggob. Small for his kind, he wears layers of animal pelts, dyed in shades of black and dark red. Skulls, daemonic talismans and fetishes hang around his form, and his brutish features are made more hideous by the scars and blood that cover him. His eyes glow with a malevolent light, and he seems to shimmer strangely, as if caught within a constant heat haze. His hair is long and slick with oil and gore, and all can clearly feel the raw evil emanating from him; the signature of one who is given utterly to (and likely possessed by) daemons. He carries a great staff of fused bones, upon which are carved elder glyphs of daemonic power. Just looking at them directly fills everyone with a deep rooted dread, and Ormid knows that prolonged exposure to them would likely instil permanent madness.
To Skrung's right roars a solid brick of a vulgorim. Gustor is much taller than his brother, and has the frame of a pit fighter, his muscles straining against the thick jerkin of drake hide he wears. He wields an impossibly huge triple-headed flail, each of its heads larger than a man, his massive arms sending it swirling with the vengeful howl of a tornado towards the party. Almost neckless, his head is shaved and tattooed with swirling designs. He has few teeth, and bears more than a few scars on his face.
Although they have been killing gigorim all day with nary a thought, the group feel suddenly very small in comparison to these monstrous foes, and feel their confidence drain somewhat. However, last through the portal, Malogg wastes no time worrying, and with a scream that almost flattens the group with its force, launches himself towards the usurper, his face a mask of simple hate. This breaks the spell on the group, and taking advantage of the brief window of surprise, they move to better positions, ready to attack.
The battle is long and arduous. Initially the group struggle, even with the aid of Malogg, for Skrung has mastered some of the Gruniir's magic and uses it to hamper their movement and to enhance both his physical strength and resilience. With their father backing them up, his sons are terrifying foes. Zuggob stands away from the main melee, hurling malevolent spells charged with daemonic evil. More than once he strikes the group with withering blasts of necrotic lightning, or spits hexes that impede them. Gustor wades into combat, his massive flail inflicting truly horrific wounds. Lesser beings would be crushed by the combined might of the vulgorim almost at once. However, bolstered by their own magic and their ascension closer and closer to living legends, they soak up everything the monsters throw at them, and give it back – though all, especially the Veteran, bear horrific wounds.
Things however become even more difficult when, as predicted, Gulk enters the fray. He initially stands back, hurling huge jars of alchemists fire into the battle, the entire room soon ablaze with oily flames. Poor Ormid is particularly hurt by these attacks; his body soaked in flaming chemicals, only his potent healing (enhanced by Tartheld's Rod) keeping him and the others alive. The only one unaffected by the flames is Llewellyn, the Flames Essence protecting him utterly against their bite – though he spends much of his time desperately avoiding the crushing strikes of Gustor's titanic flail.
Gustor is the first to fall however, his bowels torn out by the warforged, his screams of agony lighting the fires of fear in his sibling who, still hurling spells at the party, edges closer and closer to the exit, the rage filled cries of Gulk following him out.
Skrung is suddenly in trouble after nearly killing the enraged morgogorim, when the Veteran leaps up the architecture of the throne, and with a mighty bellow (and despite appearing to be almost physically crushed by several of Skrung's blows) tears the Gruniir free of his filthy head. The crown falls, and Malogg grabs it, seeming at once to draw power from its touch. Skrung seems to shrink, and the spells he cast immediately crumble. He screams in fear as he realises what is about to happen, despite his knight wading into combat, maul swinging, to aid him, and soils himself as Malogg, with trembling hands, places the crown on his own head, the opal set in its front immediately flaring with ancient power.
Usurper!” He growls in his rumbling language, his voice sounding like a thunderstorm to the group, “It is time to right what has been made wrong for so long. I will wash your sins away in your blood!”.
Suddenly healed, his stony flesh alive with deep orange runes of eldritch power, his strength magnified to impossible levels, the morgogorim King leaps to his feet and charges Skrung, smashing him several times with blows that make the very air shudder. Skrung hurls backwards, face caved in, abdomen ruptured, crashing into the throne, his head cracking wide on it. Desperately, agonised, he tries to defend himself, hoping to buy time until his captain can save him. Weeping, he swings wildly at the King. However, his life is ended when the Veteran sneaks behind him and splits his spine with a shattering blow, the once King of the East Mountains dying in a rush of blood and urine, a look of abject horror etched on his filthy, broken features.
Alone and enraged, Gulk continues to battle, roaring his despair and anger. However, he suddenly faces not only the entire group (though Ormid is preoccupied with trying to extinguish the chemical flames that still shroud him, his flesh blackened, his artifice parts melted and glowing), but two mountainous beings of living rock, summoned by Malogg with the Gruniir. He still manages to all but disable the Veteran, and actually smashes one of the elemental's to rubble. However, he is doomed, and eventually, with a cry of anger, he is cut down, his sternum split wide by the Annihilator, his lungs boiling and dissolving as it cuts through them, drowning, eyes fixed in hatred upon Malogg, in his own fluids.
Suddenly the battle is won – though Zuggob has escaped unharmed.