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.


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Two New Feats

We don't use XP any more, and Action Points, given their many uses nower days, are often a reward. As they are seen as a far more expendable resource in our games, these feats are both attractive and potentially quite useful. 

PARAGON OF ACTION
Prerequisite: Level 11+
Benefit: You start with 2 Action Points after an extended rest

EPIC ACTIONS
Prerequisite: Level 21+
Benefit: You start with 3 Action Points after an extended rest

Skrung - King of the East Mountains - Level 21 Solo Brute

I'll be posting the stats for all the BBEG from Ormid and the gang's latest adventure...let's start with the King himself; Skrung. Skrung is a morbidly obese Vulgorim (Hill Giant), made massive by the power he has stolen from the Gruniir - the Mountain's Heart Crown. Filthy as his kin, he is alive with vermin, covered in sores and is shrouded always with the grimy stink of his poor hygiene. He speaks in a thick, phlegmy voice, often wheezing and coughing out great gobs of infected mucus - especially when active for any length of time. 

A natural coward, he will only fight as long as he thinks he has the upper hand. Once bloodied, he becomes suddenly reluctant to engage further...and will, if allowed, flee.

Anyway, he is only the second nastiest thing that was in the battle...next however, we will look at his sons...



To get the total stat mods, add +10 to those listed.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

My 40th Birthday Cake

My beautiful wife may not be a gamer, but she understands what a massive part of my life and make up my gaming is. This is the cake she got me today for my 40th, and I was, to put it mildly, blown away!!!


How cool is that?

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Stone Soul Stance - Level 25 Boon

The final fight against Skrung and his servants is almost over (after three epic sessions of hellish combat), and, assuming things don't suddenly go horribly wrong (which, given the sheer power of the enemy, they still could), the group stand to get some potent rewards. One reward is a boon that they will be granted by the Morgog'Gigorim King Malogg; the ability, once every five days, to assume the Stone Soul Stance. 

When in this stance, the character becomes encased in heavy plates of solid stone. It slows them down and trashes their manual dexterity, but turns them into a tank. Obviously, for the less tankish in nature, there is an option to end the stance for a butt load of temporary hit points. 



Thursday, 26 June 2014

Umbral Blot (Blackball) - Level 27 Elite Controller

Sorry for the lack of material lately. I've been on a run of nights, and have not exactly been feeling quite myself. However, I'm back (for now), and have one of the oddest and most badass monsters from D&D's crazy history - the Umbral Blot. Originally the Blackball in "basic" D&D, this nasty beastie was revamped a number of times, the last one being in the 3.0 Epic Level Handbook. For those of you that don't know, this is basically an animated Sphere of Annihilation, that can seek you out rather than waiting to be pushed at you. 

Like I said, horrible. 

Umbral Blots - Easiest monster to draw ever!


Add +13 to all the ability mods shown to get their total value!


I don't own the copywrite on the art used, or the original monster converted by me!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Ascomoid - Level 7 Skirmisher

I'm heavily into mycology in the real world, and so, have a special affection for all fungoid monsters. The Ascomoid however, was always one that seemed kinda stupid; a mushroomy relative of the ball thing in Dark Star. However, 4e actually provides the tools to make these bounding, wobbling puffballs o' death half decent, and I thought I would convert them. I also intend to use them some time soon, so that's something for my players to look forwards to!

For my 4e Versions of the Nauseated and Sickened conditions, click HERE


 (Add +3 to the listed ability mods to get the total bonus. I do not own the rights on any of the illustrations used here).




Sunday, 1 June 2014

Meeting Niba, Hopes Famine, Mysterious Child, The Vault, Scheggia

21:00 – 01:30 (2/9/1472) : The group follow Niba into the flaming dome that crowns her tower; an unearthly room that immediately communicates to them just how powerful she is. Within moments of arriving, the swordmage realises that the blue flames that compose the dome are actually the spirit stuff of bound Cinderspawn; undead fire elementals, held in place by four slowly rotating pylons of silvery-black metal, inlaid with runes of shifting silver. The chamber is comfortably furnished, and Niba bids the group sit, bringing them refreshments herself.

She initially assumes that the group want her to do them some kind of job. However, they quickly explain why they are there, and at once, the archmage seems more than a little intrigued – more so when Grigori offers her some of the Cubed Water given to them by Ericanthros. She lets them finish, and then, with barely concealed glee, replies.

“You must understand, it would not do me any favours to have word get out that I have so easily given up the secrets of one of my custom vaults, for who would want to hire a mage to safeguard their precious things if they cannot be trusted? However, the Cani Mortali were not my original customer, and, I must admit, there is something residing in that vault that I desire.

“I would be willing to help you in return for that item, and for being allowed to scry your progress as you pit your wits against my tests, although, I would need some kind of assurance that you will not simply run off with the item I hope to gain. A deposit of 100,000 gold should be adequate.”

The group spend a moment soaking up what has been said, before, though the warlock's telepathy, holding a conversation about how to proceed. Niba it seems is aware of this, for her eyebrows rise in response to the start of the conversation, although it is impossible to say whether or not she can actually “hear” what is being said. After a few moments, the group are agreed. Grigori takes a sip of bitter tea, and then speaks.

“Lady Niba, what is this item you seek? It seems that as long as it will not place us in harm's way, it would be foolish not to get it for you...assuming you truly can get us into the vaults.”

Niba claps her hands in delight.

“Oh, I can get you in. I layered the guards and wards on that place myself, and left a hidden way in. The item I seek is the Sceptre of Kelestriel; the personal implement of a potent sorceress once allied to the Unified Order”.

Jaeger nods, recognising the name.

“The aeromancer?”

Niba smiles, “To be fair, she was interested in more than elemental magic associated with the air. She had a real flair for weather manipulation, as well as a thing for travelling the psychic plane's 'starways'

“Her sceptre is an incredibly powerful item. Physically it is a hexagonal prism, roughly a foot long, of an unknown blue crystal. Each facet is carved with rows of golden enchanted runes, and around the whole thing curls an exquisitely detailed vothniir carving of a golden dracane, who's eyes are made from chips of Ember Ore. I understand that when grasped by one able to focus arcane energy, it awakes and becomes wreathed in snapping sparks of electricity.”

The group say nothing, each imagining the epic item being described.

“I understand that it was given to old Jeddiker by an unnamed mage for some reason, and I want it. I have wanted it for a very long time. Bring it me, and I shall return to you the money you have left. Promise it me, and I shall open a way into the vault for you, right under the Cani's snivelling noses. So?”

No further conversation is needed. “We'll do it.” smiles Grigori, rising to kiss the mage's hand.

The deposit is paid using the Unified Order trade bars. Niba is somewhat interested in these, as, she says, they are “Calling out” to the Order, screaming that they have been stolen. “And yet, no one has been sent to recover them, or punish the thieves.” She speaks a word of magic, and a brief storm of hissing, unravelling magics flashes over the bars. “This adds weight to the rumours that the Order is no more. That its most potent mages either went insane or were consumed by their own power when the Sundering hit the universe. Interesting.”

With the main negotiations done, the group turn to other matters. Niba refuses to give them any information about what lies in the vault, not wishing to compromise her entertainment as she watches them go through it. However, she is willing to discuss the Splinter (or, as it is commonly called, the Scheggia) confirming that it is indeed a very unpleasant blade, and that it was once held within the Durance Occulta. She warns the group that to handle it is to put ones self in harms way, and rather vaguely makes mention of the fact that “The dagger itself is held within its arcane essence. Capture that, and you have it as surely as if you hold it.”

Grigori purchases a few divination rituals from the archmage, and it is agreed that when they have finished their preparations for the mission ahead, they will contact her and get under way.

“Don't take too long. I'm bored so often nower days, and this little mission could be most engaging.”

Leaving the tower, the group make their way back to the SC, being careful to avoid the many dark souls that wander the streets of the city, for once more, the psychic urgings of the Feyr can be felt thrumming through the aether. On getting back, the group try to fathom what Niba was talking about in relation to the Scheggia, but are unable to draw any conclusions. What they do agree, is that Grigori will head out first thing in the morning in search of a few more rituals he feels he may need, and that the group will then head back to the archmage, and into the Cani vaults.

07:30 – 07:50: All are woken by the banging and hammering of the men upgrading the ship, and soon all the party are busy preparing themselves for the trials ahead. Whilst Grigori heads out to seek his rituals, Thatari continues his efforts to find out what lurks within Hopes Famine – and this time, he is successful, for suddenly the black heart of the thing briefly opens to him, a wave of hunger and amusement and mockery blasting his mind in a psychic backlash that sends him sprawling. Filled suddenly with dread, and realising that he may have opened a door he cannot easily close, the warlock throws the full weight of his mind at the thing that giggles and mocks within the writhing rod, grabbing it with metaphysical hands and squeezing, feeling it fighting to be free. In the physical room all seems peaceful as the warlock locks psyche's with the – female? – entity within the implement, though anyone sensitive to magic would immediately sense the shifting planar pressures that billow and writhe within the room. For a horrifying moment that seems to Thatari to go on forever, the entity within the Famine seems to be about to break free. However, calling upon his own dark masters, he sends his will thundering into it, forcing it back, cowing it...controlling it even...and with a shriek of pain and weariness, the warlock snaps out of his altered state, dropping the rod, which lies still (though very much still energised) before him. After spending a moment or two gathering his wits, he reaches out and picks it up, feeling it writhe at his touch; subdued and bound to him for now, although more powerful than before, a little more of its source now allowed to leak through from within.

“I am your master thing!” He spits. “And that shall never change!”

At the edge of his mind, mocking feminine laughter.

With a headache starting to blossom, Thatari gets dizzily to his feet and decides that there is something else he needs to attend to. After asking around, he quickly locates Caleph and Hannah, both of whom glare at him as he appears. Forcing a smile, the warlock asks if he can have a word with the little girl. Caleph reluctantly agrees, a warning tone clear in his voice, and Thatari squats down to talk to her. Cleaned up now, she is remarkably pale, her hair almost white rather than blonde. Her eyes however are a remarkable emerald green, and Thatari feels a strange itching between his shoulder blades, as if all that should mean something. Vague memories swim in his bruised mind, and suddenly he remembers a single word.

Nadruul.

The snow witches of the south. Powerful female spell casters from the Crescent Continent of Alnoi.

Dangerous.

Nausea claws at his stomach as his mind continues to try and settle after his mental battle with the entity in Hopes Famine. He somehow maintains his false smile, and knows instinctively that she has seen through it.

He speaks to her mind using his telepathy.

“I understand you lost your brother, and I want to help you find him again. Indeed, I promise that I will do this. Do you understand?”

She flinches a little when he first speaks to her mind, but holds her nerve far better than many, and Thatari is now sure that she is a child of the Nadruul. She does not reply. Caleph continues to glare at the warlock, moving protectively to bring the little girl to him. He briefly feels supremely irritated, and entertains a fantasy of imploding the sailor's ribcage with a word of primal wrongness. Instead he rises, nods, and wishes them a good day before leaving.

16:40 – 19:00: The group once more find themselves in Niba's tower. They stand ready to take on the vaults, watching the mage as she weaves a portal into them. After several minutes of chanting and mumbling, the air chiming with focused power, a portal shimmers into existence before them; a green disc of shivering light floating a foot or so above the ground.

“Remember,” Niba says as the group move to enter it, “I need the sceptre. No sceptre, no money back.”

Eveyone nods, and with grim determination, step into the portal...

...The usual moment of disorientation, and then...

They stand in a corridor of worked stone, a strange symbol beneath them. Behind them, stone stairs curve up into darkness. Ahead of them yawns a vast chamber who's floor is covered is glowing symbols of various colours. They seem to be randomly placed, with bare sections of floor between some; blue, red, yellow and green circles, triangles, squares, X's and +'s. At the far end of the chamber can be seen two exits.

And so begins a painful process, where the group begin to step onto various shapes, discovering that some are safe, and others deadly; channelling ripping waves of energy into whoever treads upon them. They try their best to fathom a pattern, but fail. However, over the course of almost an hour, they painfully, by trial and error, make their way across the chamber – never once realising that blue and yellow shapes, as well as triangles of any colour are safe, with one exception – blue and yellow triangles are particularly lethal. (I nicked and modified this puzzle from the Adventure Game).

Finally across the first room, the group find that they have two options for going on. One is a tunnel that leads down a flight of stone steps into a darkened chamber, whilst the other is a corridor filled with bursts of arcane flame, mostly unseen as its main bulk lies beyond a right-angled turning. After several moments of concentration, the group realise that the bursts (being spat from gargoyles cut into the walls) are timed in such a way that a very fast individual could pass along the corridor without being incinerated. Able to teleport, the assassin volunteers for the job, standing ready to leap into the hall and then, hopefully along it to (again, hopefully), whatever mechanism lies at the far end to stop the bursts.

The group stand ready, in case they have to move quickly at a moments notice. Breathing deeply, the shade spends a few moments counting the timing on the flame bursts, glad in the dry heat of the spells of elemental warding Grigori wove around the group before they left. After a short while, he is sure he has it, and with a thought teleports into the corridors middle, desperately seeking somewhere ahead to leap to again.

As he arrives, he feels his feet attach indelibly to the floor, as the Sovereign Glue spread there takes hold. He chuckles. Were he relying on mundane movement, he would likely be about to die; stuck fast to the floor whilst twin blasts of raw elemental flame wash repeatedly over him. He is also dimly aware of his allies surprised yelps, and feels the thunderous CRUMP as huge doors or reinforced Durium slam down either end of the corridor, sealing him in. However, he can see that the corridor turns sharply to the right ahead, and realises that he can leap there and out of the path of the flames. He activates his power, and appears to the side of one gargoyle as it spits another burning load of fire down the corridor with a roar.

Unfortunately, a quick search of the place where he appears reveals two things. Firstly, another door stubbornly blocks egress. Secondly, there are no mechanisms here for stopping the flames. He tries to communicate with Thatari through his telepathic link, but is unable to. Sweating in the furnace like heat (though still protected), he can only hope that the group realise that something is up, before the ritual expires, and he does the same shortly after.

Outside the corridor, the group are desperately trying to fathom what happened. They saw the assassin teleport in to the tunnel, but were immediately forced to leap back as a black door suddenly appeared before them, sealing off the fiery corridor. They wait a few moments, expecting the doors to suddenly vanish as the assassin activates some mechanism in the halls beyond. However, when this doesn't happen, they realise that something has gone wrong. It is decided that they will explore the other corridor, to see if they can find anything to help, and shortly afterwards they come across a strange sigil carved into the floor. On closer examination, Varracuda and Grigori realise it is some kind of switch, albeit, one that can only be activated through gentle magical manipulation. Working together with the warlock, they manage to safely awaken the glyph; causing it to turn in place 180°, and to begin to shine with pale light.

Back in the corridor, and the assassin is relieved when the flames suddenly cease, and the door vanishes. However, it is short lived, for he finds himself face to face with a nightmare – a Xareth'Chelde of some kind, floating beyond the portal; a veiny sphere of pulpy purple-grey flesh, with five stubby eyestalks, and a leechlike mouth. In the middle of its bulk, a huge golden central eye glares at the assassin, taking him in – though it makes no moves to attack.

The rest of the group arrive shortly after, and react with shock at sight of the floating eye tyrant. However, Varracuda quickly realises that it is not a Beholder, but a relative; strange dimensional beings sometimes bound to serve as guardians, known colloquially as Spectators. He reports this to everyone, warning them that it may try to communicate using one of its eye beams, and that they tend not to attack unless defending themselves or whatever they are bound to guard. After some discussion (and secretly hoping it attacks), the Ulnyrr tries to enter the vast dark chamber behind it to test the boundaries of its guardianship. However, as he nears it, it moves to block him, one of its eyes flashing with colourless energy. As the beam hits, so the barbarian hears a smooth, authoritative voice in his mind, telling him that to pass safely, he must speak the password.

Although tempted to swat the monster aside, Shnecke manages to hold back, and returns to his colleagues, telling them what it just said. This seems to delight the priest, who has spent money on several ritual scrolls, including one that is perfect for this situation. Bringing the scroll forth, he spends the next ten minutes intoning its words, the air in the vault shivering with whispered power. At the end of the casting, the scroll disintegrates into glowing green ash, which whirls around the group as if caught in a breeze, and coalesces into a vaguely humanoid cloud of shifting green motes and ashy vapours. At once the group become aware of a sense of great age and power entering the chamber, and with a bow to the summoned being, Grigori informs the party that it is an Oracle; a timeless being that knows almost everything.

We just need it to tell us the password. Then we can ask it what else to do!”

The password is “Big Eye, Small Eyes”. As it is spoken, so the Spectator glows with a golden light and vanishes, leaving the way ahead clear. A quick exploration of the chamber beyond reveals it to be huge and circular, curled around a central cylindrical wall. At the cardinal points of the room are found four more switch sigils, similar to those used to deactivate the flame gouts and doors earlier. The Oracle is asked which order to activate them in, and tells them that “The order matters not.” Eager to get as far into the vault as possible before the Oracle leaves, the three spellcasters almost run around the chamber, channelling their eldritch power into the sigils, activating each in turn. These sigils are somewhat harder to awaken than the previous one, and several times, the three fail to immediately do so – each time, becoming aware of a gathering energy in the air; almost certainly some kind of alarm, waiting to be triggered by a pre-defined number of failed attempts.

As the last sigil is activated, so the group feel a sharp, dry crackle of power leap between them, as well as the distinctive itch between their shoulder blades of dimensional contact. Suddenly, above each sigil, blossoms a rose coloured portal, through which can be seen a circular vault piled high with an impossible amount of treasure.

WE DIDI IT!” Roars the Ulnyrr noisily, reaching out towards the portals.

Wait!” Hisses the assassin, holding up a hand, “Remember, we are here for two things only; the Scheggia, and the sceptre. Technically, we are breaking our agreement with the Feccia by taking the latter, but needs must.”

But...the treasure!” Whines Shnecke, looking crestfallen.

Is not for us.” Finishes Jaeger pointedly.

The group enter the inner vault (which is crammed, floor to ceiling with locked coffers and chests of exotic and strange designs, rune-struck armour, enchanted weaponry and implements, and all kinds of other items of power, as well as various works of art, jewellery and similar priceless treasures), and at once spy a column of perfectly clear crystal set ceiling to floor. Within this is suspended the main goal of their quest; a small, innocuous looking curved dagger of brown flint, with a carved bone handle bound in plaited hair. Kelestial's sceptre is also easy to spot, for it is exactly as Niba described it. Grigori rushes to it (after spending a moment trying to sense if any warding spells protect it), sweeping it up, his hand going numb with the power it contains.

Oracle,” he breathes, looking at the item of power he holds, “how can we get the Splinter?”

The summoned entity appears diminished in this place, possibly a side effects of the layers of warding magic placed upon it. However, it is able to speak a single, vague sentence before it sighs and fades forever.

Possession does not always mean to hold. To possess this thing, one must merely hold its vital essence”

Worryingly similar to what Niba told us” Comments Thatari scornfully. “Is there something we forgot?”

Everyone shrugs.

I have a plan.” Whispers Varracuda suddenly, his face pale, “Though I fear it is a dangerous one for me.”

Everyone turns to regards him.

I can bond with weapons.” He begins, “And once this is done, I can call them to my hand with a simple act of will. I believe I can probably bond with the Scheggia, which would let me bring it forth. However, I am worried that once I touch it...well, you know what it's supposed to do.”

His companions seem unsure what to say, realising that his plan is almost certainly their only hope of success.

I shall stand by you friend.” Offers Grigori, “And bolster your spirit with chants of logic and clarity.”

Varracuda nods his thanks, and with a deep breath sits in front of the column, raising his hand, and holding it, palm out, a millimetre away from its surface. He then closes his eyes, and begins to slow his breathing, allowing his mind to drift from his body and out, towards the dagger. After a few moments, the physical world falls away, and he opens his eyes into another realm; a place where the spirits of weapons dwell.

To his sight, this realm is a murky place of shifting grey and black mists, studded with the flashing, glowing souls of the weapons around him. He can feel them – mostly manageable things, like hunting animals; willing to follow a powerful master and to direct their innate viciousness at whoever they say. Some however are very different. For example, an axe that lies nearby writhes and shrieks, furious that it has not been unleashed on someone for long and long, whilst the Chansword that Grigori wields snarls with mechanical eagerness, straining to be unleashed at something, anything. However, these items are a class removed from the Scheggia.

It is a thing of writhing, hungry blackness, shot through with tendrils of bloody light , constantly putting out thorns of seeking blackness. It spits and coils, hatred and endless hunger radiating for it. If the other weapons are bound hunting animals, this thing is a daemon; aware, vicious and waiting, aching for a chance to pursue its own destructive agenda. Hardening his mind, the swordmage recites mental katas intended to protect him from the worst that the dagger has to offer. He conjures psychic armour, and mantles his hands and arms in thick plates of serenity and ordered thinking. Then, with the grim determination of a man reaching for an angry serpent, he reaches out.

Back in the room, all seems to be calm. The swordmage is still, though his face has become knotted as if in deep concentration. Within the column of crystal, the dagger sits immobile, although each hero is vaguely aware of a subtle shifting in the aether...as if the air pressure is changing locally, and they realise that somewhere a terrible battle is taking place...

I'm losing” Despairs Varracuda, as Sheggia's soul fastens even more barbed tendrils on him, easily piercing his rapidly collapsing armour, and reaching into his soul.

CONSUUUUUME!” It drools, “DEVOOOOUUUURRRRR!”

Varracuda fights desperately against it, but his mind is ill prepared for the onslaught of the dagger's ego. With each tendril entering his soul, he feels a little of him being consumed, and with absolute horror, he realises what is going to happen.

HELP! NOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUAAAARRRRRGGHHHH........HUUUUUUNGEERRRRRRR!”

Several tiny cracks mar the crystal suddenly, radiating out from the dagger. A strange pressure enters the room; oppressive and despairing, and then, with a crack, the Scheggia, appears in Varracuda's hands, the pressure departing in the same instant. For a moment the swordmage says nothing. Then he opens his eyes, smiles grimly, and says, “Time to claim back what is ours”

19:10 – 20:00: Niba is called, and the portal in the vault warps briefly, the location beyond it becoming the archmage's tower. Beaming, the group step through – well, all save Varracuda, who seems oddly reluctant.

Come on lad!” Urges Shnecke, “time to, “ (he puts on a grim voice) “claim back what is ours!”

The swordmage gives the Ulnyrr a withering look, and grimly steps through the portal.

At once there is abject chaos!

As Varracuda enters the dome, so the air is filled with brilliant flashes of light, and deafening arcane alarms sound. Niba spins round, her eyes aflame with drizzling energy, and without hesitation she spits a word of power towards the source of the alerts – the swordmage. Scheggia recognises the threat the spell presents, but is clumsy, having only worn its current host for a few moments. Magic flares around it, smashing it backwards, and the swordmage falls to the ground, twitching, bound within several bands of tightly restraining runes.

Nasty little thing.” Growls Niba, ignoring the shocked faces of the group, “How long has he been possessed by the dagger?”

You what?” Gawps Grigori.

The dagger. It has crushed your friend's psyche and has control of him. I can hold it for a while, and indeed, with another spell force it into submission for a short while. However, to permanently extricate its tendrils from his soul, I would need some pretty specific items imbued with radiant power. With those I could enact a cleansing ritual.”

The group look at their struggling ally.

Where do we get them?” Asks Jaeger.

I know a place.” Replies Niba, “But know this. I do not work for free, and would require a service from your troupe if I help you with this.”

But you have the sceptre!” Yells Shnecke.

Which was my payment for helping you so much with accessing the vaults. This is another matter entirely.”

The group stand silent a moment, communicating through Thatari's mind link. Then, grimly, the priest asks.

Where do we need to go archmage?”

Niba smile, and behind the group, the portal crackles and shudders as its destination changes.

A place of legend where almost anything can be found or sold. A place trod by heroes and gods, where a wrong word can mean something far worse than mere death.”

Where is it?” Snarls Thatari, chafing at the melodrama.

The Crystal Villa.”

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Meanwhile...

I run an occasional game set in the later years of the 3rd Age, after the madness of the Sundering has become normal to those living in the world. The party currently consists of Shada (Changeling Rogue), Voght (Warforged Barbarian), Lamorak (Human Ranger), and two NPC's; Angur, priest of Banturn and Zin, Dwaer'Syth necromancer. I don't have time to keep anything other than paper notes most of the time. However, I have typed up the last couple of games, and thought I would share them with you, to give you an idea of what else is going on in the world.

28/3/1715: 06:45: Seeking escape from the Dwaer necromancer's lair, the group enter a chamber inhabited by a Lesser Bone Golem and a number of decrepit skeletons. It is a hard battle, but they are successful.

Following this, the central rune circle is examined, and found to be a potent source of necrotic energy, and the rogue realises that undead within it would be constantly healed - whilst they would suffer horrific effects from being exposed to such concentrated death magic.

There are three heavily armoured doors leading from this chamber, all three bearing blatant symbols or warding. Each also has a line of red glowing runes carved around their frames.

The rogue surmises that the glyphs are loaded with necrotic energy, and advises the rest of the group to be careful. Voght obtains a skeletal limb from the remains of the golem, and uses it to try and force the western door open. Although the dead appendage does not trigger the sigil as soon as it makes contact with the door (which a living creature would have), the act of forcing the door (and failing to open it), ignites it - a blast of rotting purple radiance engulfing the warforged, sapping his resolve, strength and health.

Annoyed by his wounds, he powers on through the door (now the sigil is gone), shattering it. He crosses the line of runes with no thought (and fortunately, these are designed to act as a barrier to the undead, and pose no threat to the living), and finds himself in a storage chamber. This is searched, and found to mostly contain necromatic odds and ends. However, some spell components useful to the group are recovered, as are three potions - each able to protect an individual from the touch of necrotic energy.

07:00 - 08:00: The group continue to search the Dwaer labs, finding several other strange devices and chambers, apparently intended to accomplish unguessable feats of dark magic. However, things get nasty when they come a vast sepulchral chamber filled with the unearthed, and shattered burial shrouds and coffins of Irin's dead. It quickly becomes clear that this is where the raw materials of the Dwaer's work is stored before use, and the group grimly prepare to move through...however, the massed dead flesh and untapped marrow has drawn a pack of ghouls, lead by a foul ghast, and soon the party are fighting them.

It is another testing battle, but eventually, with several of the undead slain, the others flee, shrieking in fear, and the group are able to move on...

A thorough examination of the room reveals only more and more depressing sights; piles of discarded skeletons waiting to be animated, shattered headstones, bits of mouldering flesh, and broken grave goods - defiled, trampled and treated like spell components. It also reveals that there is no way out...a problem, as this had been the group's last hope of escape.

Remembering a well they had spotted in one side chamber earlier, the group return, hoping at least for some underground cisterns to check for an escape route. However, as they peer down they spot a most wretched sight - a bedraggled, shivering dwaer'syth, dressed in the robes of an apprentice necromancer....

He looks up, almost blinded by the light the group wields, and through shivering lips, in his own tongue (which the bard can partly understand), he begs for their help, offering his own in return.

The group quickly decide to take the dwaer up on his offer, reasoning that they can quickly overpower him if he tries to betray them. He is dragged, dripping, from the well, and after composing himself, introduces himself as Zin - a necromancer formerly in the employ of Arithane...now.....willing to work with anyone to ensure his continued survival.

Zin offers to show the group out, asking them if they know the "password to bypass the heads". He takes them back into the "storage crypts", and to a dusty section of wall. Searching with his pale red eyes, he sees something the group missed, and presses a section of wall. At once, a prickling release of energy is felt, and a section of wall 10' x 10' slides silently away, revealing a dimly lit flight of stairs heading upwards.

The group follow Zin, who raises his carved bone staff before him, and begins to pick his way forwards. As he goes, the dwaer'syth shivers, and it is hard to tell whether it is due to his wet robes and the chilled air, or something else.

As they near the top of the stairs, the group see a ghostly, flickering light, as of a pale candle burns ahead, and they can hear dusty, tittering voices growling and squabbling. As they reach the top, they see a small chamber, within which sits an active portal. Floating around it are three mummified heads, each of which emits a ghostly lambence. As the threshold to the room is crossed, they each hiss, and turn to attack. However, Zin holds up his hands and loudly proclaims "Isstavissari, Sevveth Y'ishaeryth", and the heads immediately retreat, mumbling and growling with anger. Zin looks at the group, bows, and points towards the portal, warning "a final watch point, manned by my kin and some of the Gorashym slaves lies beyond this gate. However, it lies within the area of Irin known to you as the roofs, and as such, is a way out."

08:01 - 08:10: As predicted, four Dwaer and a Gorashym wait on the other side of the portal. However, they are taken by surprise thanks to Zin's distraction (he strides through and begins to talk to them about mundane things. The last things they expect is to be fighting for their lives seconds later),and although the battle is hard fought, the group enjoy a convincing win, with no enemies surviving (despite three of them trying to flee as the fight turned against them).

Having defeated the dark aelwyn, the ground cautiously move along a decrepit tunnel leading up to the streets of the Roughs. Aware that there may be traps, the rogue stops suddenly as she senses a strange energy vaguely clouding the air of the corridor. Zin joins her, and shortly (with the aid of Milly) confirms that a black glyph - a necrotic ward - protects the corridor. Fortunately, Zin is well equipped to manage its removal, and with the bard's support, he makes short work of it, the stones on which it was scribed aging and rotting before them as its magic is dispersed safely into them.

10:40: The group scramble back into the stinking misery of the Roughs. It is sleeting, and the air is bitter with smoke and misery. Dragging Angur's body with them, the group decide, after a short conversation, to take him to the House of Annointed Veterans - the "new" temple fortress to Banturn'Vortax, raised on the ruins of the ancient temple site. They plan to try and get him returned to the lands of the living, although the dwaer'syth seems to think it is a forlorn hope.

"Do you understand quite how dangerous the rituals needed to bring the dead back to life are in this time? To accomplish that task you have to simultaneously open and hold shut to a degree wild metaphysical doors, which, given the shabby state of reality, is not easy even for accomplished spell casters."

The group move into progressively more affluent parts of the ancient city, drawing more than a few disapproving looks from the locals (Zin says he will meet with them once they are done, as he does not feel he would be welcomed in many places within the city). However, they make it unmolested to the fortified edifice of the Banturnite temple; a full blown citadel that rises above the surrounding districts on its own summit. Moving through its outer wall (and the fortress that guards the main entrance), they are soon climbing the slippery, frosty steps that lead to the massive temple proper. Either side rows and rows of defensive fortification form a deadly barrier, and the group can see signs that the steps themselves can be quickly changed into something less welcoming to an invading army - though what is a question they cannot answer. Rows of primed cannons are positioned on top of the temple's reinforced walls, manned by grim gunners, ready, at a moments notice to unleash hell.

Around them, the temple is alive with activity. Priests of various tenets within the main faith argue - sometimes verbally, often physically - over points of contention, whilst warriors of many stripes come and go, hoping to curry the favour of the "War Mantled God". The group drag their fallen into the main hall; a truly huge edifice lit by several massive braziers. Huge armoured columns, mantled in shattered weaponry and other trophies support the vaulted ceiling, whilst ahead, on a 15' high dais of steel and stone, rises the Grand Altar itself; a 20' high slab of stone carved with life sized reliefs of warriors and priests destroying a wide variety of enemies, over which towers a brutal statue of Banturn himself; a bear-like warrior, clad in battered plate armour. Flanking the altar are two cannons, with attendant gunners, and atop it can be seen piles of shattered weapons, scalps, broken suits of armour and other offerings to the war God.

Heavily armoured guards patrol this hall, though the altar itself is flanked by robed and plated priests, each wearing long vestment of blood red, onto which have been sewn numerous fragments of metal - pieces of vanquished foes weapons, each one carved with a prayer to their bloody handed deity.

The group approach one of the guards and make them aware that they seek to have their friend - a priest of Banturn - returned to life. The armoured giant looks from them to the corpse, and after a few moments, begins to laugh.

"This isn't the First Age! We can't just wave our hands and bring the dead back you know!"

The group look crestfallen. However, it appears that their appeals have been overheard by one of the clerics; a towering man with a shaved head and a huge metal plated hammer. He wears thick plate under his vestments, and despite the heavy arms and armour he bears, moves with practiced grace and fluidity. He regards the group with piercing blue eyes and then speaks in a voice turned rough by a sword thrust many years past.

"Leave him here. It is very unlikely that we will move to bring him back. However, as one of the brotherhood, it is possible. I will speak unto the High Pugilist and seek his advice.
"Return on the morrow. Either way, you will have you answer by then."