Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Ormid et al - Session Report 21/12/2010

Sorry this is so late. I have been a little distracted and knackered with work lately (I didn't get time off over Christmas, the joys of doing what I do I guess), but today I finally got chance to write up the last game session. This entry bears a slightly modified (as in more ordered) version of what happened in the actual session as things were a little random and laid back thank to the "Christmas Cheer" (5.3%) and generally chilled mood we were all in - hardcore roleplaying was actually pretty tough that night.

Anyway, it's a short entry, which is good, as the Post War Natives are playing tonight! Enjoy...

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23/4/13268 K.C. (2nd Age)

10:33 - The air of the Time Dilation Chamber blazes with coruscating coils of warping reality, and the mage currently using it screams in abject terror, upsetting the carboys of components and braziers of ensorcelled incense he has set up as part of his arcane research. Sparks of blazing energy flame madly across the room, and a deafening thunderclap heralds the arrival of the group in a tangle of limbs and screaming.

10:35 - By the time the group have managed to stop the room spinning, four figures dressed in full length robes of shimmering colours, their faces hidden behind mirrored masks, are in the room, each bearing a sparking spear of raw magic. Behind them hulks a masked figure in white robes bearing the symbol of a pentacle within an upsidedown triangle – symbol of the Arcane Star - an ancient fraternity of loosely affiliated mages, spellcasters and priest magi, who lived in the mid to late Second Age.

A sparking sphere of force surrounds the party, which, when touched, delivers a powerfully painful but harmless jolt of energy, and as the party watch, the arcane star mage produces a small ziggurat of reddish clay and mumbles a spell, the air around him gleaming with briefly released magic. Then, in perfect Third Age Tradespeak he addresses the party.

“My name is Calsiphus Ardraenan, Arch-Mage of the Arcane Star and affiliate of the blessed Silver Guard. Your arrival has sparked quite the panic in these hallowed halls, and unless you agree to come in peace, I am afraid these fine men and women will possibly turn you inside out and then to ashes.”

But his words are lost on the group as the massive physical and psychic trauma of their journey through time hits home, and deep, crushing unconsciousness overwhelms them...

...8/5/13268 K.C. (Hot and hazy day, with rumbles of thunder in the humid evening)

08:45 – 09:00 – The tinny tintinnabulations of a small silvery bell are the first sound the group hear as sluggish consciousness thickly forces its way into their heads, and as they move towards wakefulness, the strong smell of sharp, antiseptic herbs stings their nostrils, and the gentle caress of a summer's breeze stirs their faces. Opening gummy eyes, the group feel their weariness fading, though the ringing of the bell continues, and the group find themselves in clean and well made beds within a large, open, airy stone hall, lined with beds and lit by misty beams of light which tumble through high, wide windows. Every surface within this place gleams with cleanliness, and several figures in full-length robes of pure white, their faces hidden behind white gauze masks move amongst the beds (many of which are occupied). Around their throats gleam the holy symbol of Oerdaine'Maelandra (or just, Oerdaine as she was called in the 2nd Age, before the world was re-joined with its lost half, Verdaniss); the healing hand, and the group quickly realise they are in a hospice.

The bell continues to madly ring...

The air at the foot of the group's beds begins to shimmer with power...

...And with a pop of displaced air, the same mage that spoke to them in the Time Dilation Chamber appears, a wide grin on his rotund face.

He makes a gesture and the bell stops ringing, and seeing the parties expressions merely shrugs and says (in a strangely accented voice) “The bell is part of a spell I wove, to let me know when you were awake. You've been here for a couple of weeks, and I wasn't sure, given the battering you took, if you would ever wake up.”

Met with only awkward silence, he continues a little self-consciously, his chubby hands waving around, a sweat beading on his brow.

“My name is Calsiphus. I am an arch-mage with the Arcane Star; a loose affiliation of mages, sorcerer's and other spell casters. I have agreed to be your sponsor in this place whilst you are with us, for there are some who...who... Well, let's just say that not everyone in this glorious city views such strange folks as yourselves as welcome when you arrive in such unusual circumstances.”

The group remain silent for a moment. Then; “My name is Ormid Thefler; Dragon Slayer and Time Traveller, and this is my band of heroic companions.”

Ormid introduces his band, and then asks, “When are we? I mean, we were in the present, but then we were in the future. I mean our present is your future, but where we were it was the past not the present, though at that time it was our present as well, you know, before we came to here, which is your present but our past.”

Calsiphus seems to be following the artificer's rambling, even though the others are bemused, and he merely smiles and nods as he listens. Then, with some gravity he informs the party that they are in the year 13268 according to the King's Calendar (which Ormid quickly calculates is roughly 300 years before the ancient dundorin king, Brundor Trull Slayer was born), and that there have been “presences detected at the edges of this reality” which seem to be showing more than a passing interest in the party. He states that it is felt that these things may be Quarut's; extradimensional beings who police the fundamental laws of the multiverse, and who specialise in disruption to the flow of time and the sanctity of the time lines. The group are naturally somewhat distressed at the idea of being hunted by such ageless, ancient things, but Calsiphus assures them that the “unique pressures of the cities multiple mythals hamper their ability to shift between worlds” and that they are “safer here than anywhere else”.


09:01 – 09:03 – At this point the entire party feel a crawling “sheet” of magic slither over them, accompanied by the sudden sense of being stripped naked and of being unpleasantly closely examined. All heads turn towards a small group of robed figures, each dressed in the kaleidoscopic gossamer robes and mirrored face masks of Merriel'Shaava's (or, as Ormid remembers with a jolt, just Merriel's in this time – something he realises the Veteran will know, but which he doubts the others will) clergy. All three are clearly female, and bear no inscriptions on their masks.

Calsiphus has gone quiet, though he quietly hisses out the corner of his mouth, “Ak! 'Tis Justina, high priestess of the House of Mysteries.”

It quickly transpires that Justina is the middle priestess, and from the arch tone of her voice and the colour Calsiphus turns as she speaks to him, it is clear that she is not entirely friendly. She and the mage exchange some curt words, which are not translated by Calsiphus' ritual, before she turns her hidden face towards the group, and in flawless Third Age Tradespeak informs them, “You are all being closely watched. Let not your actions cause any more chaos than they have already. We do not take kindly to those that out our universe at risk.”

She then nods towards Calsiphus, and with her two silent attendees flowing behind her, turns round and quickly leaves the hospital.

Clasiphus, his eyes darting unconsciously to the retreating figures of the priestesses, regards the group.

“grab your gear and prepare. I shall aport you to my home, and there we shall discuss what is to be done.”

10:30 – 17:00 - The group are settled within Calsiphus' magnificent tower, and are only just getting over the shock of seeing Laertraine for real as it was depicted in ancient tales of wonder and power, for it is the last vestige of the ancient might of the four guilds; a shimmering place of extravagant magic use unrivalled since the splendour of those ancient days of might. It is a small city when measured in normal terms, though it rivals some of the greater southern cities in size when its many extradimensional districts and pocket realms are taken into account, its physical and psychical boundaries guarded by layers upon layers of intertwined, living spells – mythals. These invisible but all encompassing magics are exemplified in the five huge rainbow arcs of brilliant energy that beam from the backs of the five titanic iron guardians who mark the five arcane cardinal directions at the cities physical limits, to meet in a blazing sphere of raw, scintillating power at the point of the highest spire of the High House of Mysteries; Merriel's grand temple - a towering, impossible structure of flashing crystal, solidified energy and alien materials that soars above the rest of the city like some deities crown. It is a place where the city guard consists of great golems, and where the meaner things (such as sewage management and the maintenance of city integrity) are taken care of by the layered mantles of magic woven within the mythals.

The group are shown to their chambers by invisible servants of force, and by mid morning are talking to Calsiphus about their adventures; the arrival of the Gennamene, the discovery of the ancient portal weapon, the journey through the extinct volcano, the time in the Fay dimensions, their adventures in the far future, and finally, their need, in this time, to locate a means of activating the portal weapon and returning to a time where they will get chance to use it effectively. Through all this the arch mage listens quietly, only interrupting to clarify any points he finds confusing, or to make notes on a small piece of vellum with a pale green quill.

Once they are done, he puts down his quill, summons a servant (who begins to bring in wine and food), before saying, “I feel that there is much we can do to help you, though we should be mindful of the mortal and immortal foes who would cause us great strife if allowed.
“Firstly, we need to locate a power source capable of working with a Ael'Shar weapon like the one you described. The continent you have described it resting upon does not exist in this time, so I must assume it is inaccessible at this time. However, such power sources have been found before, and I believe that I may be able to try and fathom where such an item is most likely to be found. I would warn you however, that such a place may not lie within the bounds of this universe – not that you seem entirely foreign to extradimensional travels.
“Then we have the problems of crafting a precisely aimed chronoportal. I have a friend who is fascinated by chronomancy, who would no doubt love to help us do such a thing, and I shall call upon his expertise to refine our efforts. However, off the bat, I would say that we need to look at obtaining some primal binding runes, in order to contain the ferocious energies of such a portal, and some resonant crystals of particularly excellent quality to amplify the powers without distorting them.
“I shall need some time to access the great libraries of this wondrous city, and shall need to contact my friend. In the mean time, I know where primal binding runes are kept, for they are guarded by the Star and its allies against those who would use them to usher evil into this world.”

Ormid holds up his hands and asks, “What are they exactly? I have seen them referred to in passing in some ancient treatise, but in no place are they described.”

Calsiphus smiles. “They are fragments of the primal language of magic forged in the Primal Wars. They hold almost impossible strength and can be used to bind Gods and daemon lords. Such runes are items of priceless value and potentially world sundering might, for should the likes of the Ebon Flame or the Draxian Empire get hold of them...well, it does not bear thinking about.
“Luckily, as an arch mage, I know where a set are held, watched over by an ally who owes me a serious favour. I shall send you to the Palace Lake on Calsor with a spell of introduction, and he shall give you access to them. You shall then use these,” he hands each adventurer a crystal carved with a smooth, curved rune, “to return here safely. Does that seem fair?”

The group agree it does.

Calsiphus smiles and nods, leaning back in his chair. Then, with business done, and an embryonic plan in place, the group allow themselves to simply enjoy their surroundings and their company; spending the rest of the evening swapping tales and drinking Calsiphus' fine wines.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Epic Christmas Cheer - Santanas Claws (Level 35 Solo Controller)

"You'd better watch out,
You'd better not cry,
He senses your fear, 
And then makes you die,
Satanas Claws is eating your town!"


For some reason the note got wiped. However, I can tell you that it says...

"Should you face this catastrophic being of pure malevolence and xmas cheer, you can only draw one conclusion - you didn't get your DM a nice present and / or forgot to wish them a happy christmas. You may have also defriended them recently from a popular social networking site and earned their insane wrath. Banished from many a table by the Gods of "come the f*ck on", this fell being may yet be out there, in the cosmic void, searching for universes to devour, civilizations to destroy and presents to give..."

Happy Christmas!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Post War Natives - 14/12/2010

8/5/1472 (Misty morning giving way to a bright day and crisp, chilly night)

05:40 – The group receive word from their guild; the Draxian is staying at “The White Raven”; a nice place located on the southern edge of the High Hills district, run by Irinite native Khazen Mistenway; a vyrleen. Locally renowned for its fine vyrleen “home style” cooking and cosy atmosphere, it is a favourite place for both the nobles of the High Hills, and the working folks of the Smokestacks and Plaza district. It is also a place that a lot of artistes and bard hang out, smoking vyrleen pipe weeds, drinking too much, and giving impromptu performances. Of late it has become the haunt of one Deshayne Vallara; a female human bard from the North Republic who is gaining a lot of attention both through her physical beauty, and the sheer magic of her voice and the pieces she plays on her acoustic guitar.

It is reported that Uzruel spends a lot of time in his chambers, his door guarded by two hooded men. These guards allegedly emanate a silent aura of menace palpable enough that the rooms adjacent to the Draxian's are unavailable to hire at present due to the disturbed nights and foul experiences of those staying in them. The only time he comes down is each evening, when he joins the thronging crowds to listen to the bard as she weaves her enchanting songs, and takes his only meal of the day.

05:50 – 07:00 - The group discuss how they will approach the Draxian. They consider a direct, aggressive approach, but quickly realise the pointlessness of trying to intimidate an individual raised in the nightmarish chaos of the collapsing Draxian Empire. They then discuss the possibility of Emmiven, based on the illusory image of the renegade they have seen at the Order's HQ, taking on Balskus' form; hopefully confusing the Draxian enough that he may, in his surprise tell them something useful, or even better, think him to be the true renegade and give them a wealth of information. This plan hits a snag when they realise that Balskus has created a homunculus; a small, batwinged humanoid with purple skin, black teeth and eyes, and features disturbingly similar to Balskus' own, and that without it, the ruse would fail. Luckily, the faerie drake offers to take the diminutive monster's form.

However, this plan is abandoned in place of a more sensible one. The group decide that Emmiven will take on a random form, and spend the day in the inn; chatting with the staff, eating and drinking, and keeping an eye out for the Draxian or for anyone suspicious. The rest of the group (bar Grigori who wishes to scribe just one more ritual, and who has not slept in nearly 24 hours by this point) will stay in a nearby inn, waiting for word from the assassin, who will lurk near the White Raven through the day, keeping an overall eye on everything. With the word given, the group will enter the inn, and then, with any information gathered, come up with a better informed plan on what to do to get the information they need from the Draxian.

The group get a little more sleep, save Emmiven, who leaves the Staff of Wands and weaves his way through the misty streets of the city, heading eastwards and a little to the north, to the place where the High Hills blend into the northwestern edge of the Smokestacks.

07:45 – 16:00 - Emmiven arrives as the White Raven; which is closed at this time, and mills about the area wearing various guises until the doors open, and he can enter.

The Raven is everything the warlord – with his dislike of the shorter races – was dreading; a “twee” place with low beams, fitted stone walls, and rush covered flagstone floors. Despite the gentle late spring warmth, a fire burns brightly in a hearth, and various trinkets – swords, shields, decorated slings, polished windstones and the specialised bit and bridle used by vyrleen for their riding dogs – hang from the walls.

Apart from two human mercenaries that watch the doors, the entire staff of the inn are vyrleen, and Emmiven notices that The bar has two distinct zones. The eastern side is normal sized, the bar behind being fixed with small platforms in order to allow the tiny bar staff to stand eye to eye with their patrons, whilst the western side is (to the warlord's mind) comically low; built to cater for vyrleen, ghaerduun and other races of shorter stature.

Despite his feelings, Emmiven manages to be not only polite to the barman (who happens to be the inns owner, Khazen), but to be positively pleasant, and he is surprised to find that Khazen is both witty and extremely likeable. The warlord is persuaded to purchase some of the inns fine fare, and soon he is ploughing through all kinds of vyrleen sweet meats, through thorn bread, honey cakes, sugar biscuits and crisp cider. Emmiven also hires a room across the way from Uzruel's, and learns that the rooms adjacent to the Draxian's are out of order due to “problems with the pipes.”

The day passes quickly for the warlord, helped along by the pints of bitter mead and the glasses of sweet vyrleen wine. The ebb and flow of customers is pretty normal – a quiet morning, followed by a crowded dinner rush (mostly factory workers, smeared in sweat, soot and oils), and a mellow afternoon. As the afternoon (a misty and warm one, alive with the first butterflies of the year and the distant chirruping of birds) draws on, so Emmiven watches as a table next to his own is cordoned off, and a small sign placed in the middle of it, next to a silver goblet inscribed with slightly disturbing, thorny runes and set with mottled rubies. The sign reads simply “RESERVED FOR - UZRUEL, DRAXIAN ENVOY”.

A plan forming in his slightly tipsy mind, the warlord swims up to the bar and catches the attention of the young vyrleen lass now serving there. He grins, and asks “Young lady, I was wondering if I too could reserve my seat like that table there is reserved” he waves vaguely in the direction of Uzruel's table, “only I understand it will get quite busy in here later, and I would hate to loose my prime seat.”

The lass fetches her father, who quickly appears and agrees to save the space for a nominal fee. Emmiven then informs him that a friend or two may call for him, and he would appreciate being made aware when this happens. With Khazen agreeing to his, he then staggers (slightly) up the stairs to the inns third floor, and to his room.

16:05 – 18:00 – Emmiven is in his room for only a short while before a tapping at its window draws his attention to the cloaked figure of the assassin. He moves over to him, and notes the sunburn reddening his usually pale features, and the grimy sweat standing out on his brow – a legacy of a hot day on the rooftops, exposed to the rays of the suns without shade.

Emmiven waves at him.

“Open the pissing window you twat.” hisses Jaeger, thumping the frame with irritation.

Soon Jaeger is in the welcome cool of the bedroom. Emmiven tells him of what has transpired, including the sheer luck of having a table next to the Draxian's own. Jaeger tells him that he shall let the others know, and they will enter the tavern, but remain separate from him.

Meanwhile, Grigori has managed to get a little sleep, and feeling groggy and thick headed, he leaves the Staff and heads through towards the White Raven.

Back at the inn, a slight lull falls over the lively chatter of the crowds as a figure dressed from head to toe in voluminous robes of blood red, edged in gold and scribed with thorn like runes, descends the stairs, an aura of oppressive malevolence radiating from them. Rings of bloody Draxian gold and Bloodmarble glint with dark power on their long fingers, complementing the black polish painted on their exquisitely manicured nails, and a vague dimness seems to surround them; a pall of unnatural gloom that darkens both the physical being of those it nears and which shades their souls. The figures face is lost in the hood, a masking spell concealing it in darkness.

The crowd parts as the figure drifts towards his table. He stops by the ropes surrounding it, and waits until one of the vyrleen, spotting him over the crowds, leaps down and moves it for him. The figure whispers something to them then, and hands them a triangular coin of tarnished electrum, the vyrleen handing him a tall, fluted bottle of brown glass, covered in thorny, Draxian runes, which he takes to his seat.

By the time the priest has arrived, the inn has begun to fill with younger folks; students of art and poetry, drawn by the promise of hearing one of Deshayne's performances, as well as other townsfolk who have come to either join them in their appreciation of the bard or to enjoy the establishment's fine foods. He notes that the barbarian and drakven are by the western bar, the genasai skulking forlornly a little way from them, and ignoring them pushes through the crowd, shuddering as he makes contact with their sweating, hot bodies. He forces his way to the bar, and after a short while catches the barmaid's attention. With disgust clearly etched in his voice, he informs her that he is here to see Emmiven (using the false name they have concocted), and is directed to the cordoned off table in the corner. Without a word of thanks, or buying any beverages, he pushes his way to the corner...

...Only to find that the reserved area is taken.

From their fine clothing, made in the latest styles, they are young nobles, a man and a woman. They are entwined, kissing deeply, their hands drifting all over one another, and although they must know they are sitting in a reserved area, they seem to have not a single care in the world.

“You are in my seat.” snarls Grigori quietly.

The couple continue to kiss, either ignoring the cleric, or unaware of his words in the midsts of their lust.

“You. Are. In. My. SEAT!” Snaps Grigori, finally getting the couple's attention.

Clearly not used to being questioned, the man immediately takes umbrage. He scowls at the priest, and with an arrogant, sneering voice, tells him to make himself scarce as his seat has been taken. His woman sits next to him, smiling suggestively at Grigori, her painted eyes hooded and dilated.

The noble turns back to his love, and is about to return to her embrace when Grigori grabs his shoulder and fixes him with an empty, terrible stare. Any furious or arrogant response the noble was about to give withers when he feels a wave of pure malice and alien dread sweep through him from the cleric's dead-eyed glare, and he instead soils himself. He gibbers and tries desperately to think of something, anything, he can say to get out of this situation with his soul, let alone his life, intact. He does not notice the mould darkening the pocket where the vial rests, or the slight expression of pain that lies beneath a terrible, pallid mask of Grigori's features, and openly weeping with unnameable dread, he grabs his suddenly wide-eyed partner, and leaves the inn, choking in fear.

Suddenly himself again, the cleric slumps forwards. He then senses eyes upon him, and looking up, he meets the dark gaze of the Draxian. For a moment he fears he has given the game away. However, Uzruel raises a glass to him and inclines his head; a gesture of apparent appreciation at what had just occurred – a sign that he recognises his own? Grigori smiles, and grimly whispers to him “They didn't have a sense of humour did they?”. He is surprised when the Draxian offers him a glass of his blue, spiced wine and strikes up a conversation; his voice thick with the accent of his homeland.

By the time the warlord has come downstairs, Grigori and Uzruel are engaged in a conversation about the weakness of the common folk, and the foibles of power. As he approaches the pair, he flashes his other allies a quick look, and meets their slightly worried, slightly confused gazes, before moving to his seat and waiting to be introduced. It takes the cleric a while to even acknowledge him, and the introduction is fleeting to say the least. Emmiven tries to join in their conversation but seems to irritate the dark mage – a fact that forces Grigori to carefully take over the conversation, increasingly blanking Emmiven's input with his own.

The Draxian has allowed the veil hiding his features to fade, revealing his dark features; tattooed and handsome in a subtly unnatural, disturbing manner. Despite the priest's attempts to keep then warlord quiet, Emmiven manages to raise Uzruel's hackles even more when he is caught in a lie regarding his business in the inn, and he realises that quite desperate measures are needed.

He interrupts Emmiven mid sentence and asks, sharply, “Sorry my friend, but would you mind very much FUCKING OFF?”

For a moment Emmiven is stunned into silence. Then he sees the subtle wink the priest gives him, and the penny drops. He forces his skin to darken as if in a blush, and with a mumbled apology, rises and leaves, still a little dazed at the anger he felt rising within him at being spoken to so rudely.

Uzruel, disturbingly enough is staring at Grigori intently, a knowing grin on his face. “I think,” he begins, “that we shall talk after the lady sings. I sense there is more to you, and to your friends” - he gestures towards the rest of the group where they try to blend in with the crowd - “than I first imagined. I sense there is business to be done, and that....ah!”

The last exclamation comes as an expectant hush falls across the crowd, and a delicate, young human woman, pale of skin and blonde of hair, stands up on a small stage raised behind the bar, an acoustic guitar of polished song oak in her hands. She smiles at the crowd, her pale blue eyes glittering, and then begins to sing...

18:01 – 19:30 - Songs of magic and of legend. Songs of joy and of sorrow. Songs that weave true magic and conjure forth images of the heroes and villains they describe. Songs that momentarily take the crowd out of their mundane lives, and let them see the world as only stories can paint it.

Her voice is a thing of power; the tool of a true bard, and the performance, carried on the wings of her clear, perfect song and flawless musical skill, seems to take only moments - though by the time she is done, the light has faded to deep twilight outside. A moments awed silence after her performance, and then deafening applause. Uzruel remains silent, but a dreamy, far-away look is etched on his face and a genuine smile lights his face. After a moment he blinks rapidly, as if waking from the dream, and with a cough he turns to regard Grigori.

“To my room”, He growls.

19:31 – 20:00 – The group, gathered with urgent glances through the crowd, follow Uzruel to his chambers on the third floor. As they near the door, they feel a malevolent horror emanating from the figures that stand outside. Grigori catches a whiff of resinous oils and bitter herbs coming from them and under the hoods sees filthy, glyph inscribed bandages. They're mummies he realises; embalmed cadavers animated by ancient, evil spirits.

As Uzruel approaches, they shuffle stiffly aside with a faint moan and the crackle of stiff wrappings. He then raises his hands, mutters an incantation (the more sensitive members of the group feel hidden and most likely lethal magics powering down), and the door swings open revealing a lushly appointed bedroom, lit by a sullen reddish glow. Various exotic and disturbing items decorate the chamber; the huge, thick-boned skull of some multi-horned pachyderm, painted with twisting runes of vile power, a thin bladed, straight sword, apparently worked from obsidian, a collection of shrunken heads, which bear no signs of dehydration or mummification, but are perfect, tiny, silently screaming versions of their original forms, frozen in their moment of final agony by dark necromantic arts. Scrolls are piled on a desk, and a petrified scorpion sits as a paperweight on some documents bearing the inverted pentacle and daemon skull standard of Pentas Daemonica – the dread and legendary City of Stained Stones; heart of the disintegrating Draxian Empire.

Once inside, they are joined by Jaeger, and the party get down to business.

Uzruel is clearly fully cognizant that this band of unique individuals are allied with the Unified Order, and from this, he quickly works out that they are seeking his occasional contact Balskus. He clearly enjoys the groups' surprise at his ability to deduce all of this, and a smug smile shapes the sounds of his words. He informs the party that he knows exactly where the renegade is, and that if they are willing to help him, he shall tell them exactly how to find him. He warns them that without his help they stand absolutely no chance of getting close to him as “he dwells in a place particular to him”, and adds the caveat that his price will not be cheap.

Cautiously, the party agree to listen to the Draxian's offer – although before he starts Jaeger tries something, saying “From what you have said, I reckon Balskus is in Clanktown.” - noting with pleasure the unconscious response from Uzruel, which as good as screams “YES HE IS!!!”, although he merely shakes his head and looks a little irritated.

Having given the game away (though still unaware of this fact) Uzruel begins to discuss the task he wants the group to complete for his cooperation.

“In Draxia a particular narcotic incense is commonly used in meditation, ritual, and for relaxation. Named Yangir by my people, it is also known as White Poppy Wax on Fey and by the Dwaer'Syth as Maesh'Tcheterti; 'Dream Biter'.

“It is a crumbly brownish white material which smoulders readily if lit, emitting a strongly musky smoke which lulls those breathing it into a stupefied state, during which one may gain insights into problems or travel into the shadow planes.

“I was a particularly enthusiastic user of this material in my homeland, and I brought a large supply with me six moons ago when I first came to Irin. However, this supply is now almost completely gone, and the only place I has been able to divine holds any is currently out of my reach; within a sealed Darkold'Sebbathorimite chapel about a day and a half to the west of Irin.

“This is a particular concern to me as should I be forced to go without for too long I shall sicken and weaken until I fade away”.

Asked why the supply in the chapel is “out of reach”, the Draxian looks genuinely disgusted.

“Because a bunch of Solum'Tassadexites calling themselves the 'Knights of the Blazing Oriflamme' stand vigil over it, and because there is said to be some kind of evil spirit within. Powerful though I am, I do not flatter myself to think that I could best the entire troupe, and even I am not insane enough to try and tangle with the wraiths of long dead clerics, dedicated in their foul lives to Darkold'Sebbathor.”

“So then,” begins Jaeger slowly, as if mulling over the envoy's words, “You want us to take on these knights and undead instead? Is that it?”

Uzruel's eyes glitter.

“Of course.”

An uneasy tension passes through the party (save Schnecke who after several days of relative peace is itching to hit something with his latest acquisition), and with faux sincerity, Seren makes Uzruel aware that the group will “see what they can do”.

Both parties know that actually going through with any kind of attempt to rescue the drugs from the sealed temple would be a last ditch effort to find the renegade.

20:01 – 09:00 - (9/5/1472 – Fog slow to clear, leaving a cool but sunny day. Chilly night with clear skies) The group leave Uzruel and his foul room, and leave the White Raven. Returning to the Staff of Wands they ask their rogues to look into the availability of Yangir from sources other than sealed temples raised to the glory of the most wicked and vile of deities, and (ironically) Jaeger makes contact with the shadowy priesthood of the House of Killers to ask the same. During this time, the group's contacts let them know a simple fact – contrary to what Uzruel told them, Yangir is fairly easily obtained, and more than a few traders with a taste for danger or the truly exotic have stocks of it. It seems that the Draxian may have actually been more interested in getting the vile site cleared of enemies than in the drugs supposedly contained within it.

Annoyed at the envoy's attempts to manipulate them, the party consider a number of scenarios ranging from stark, bloody revenge, to knowing cooperation. However, they decide that if they accomplish their goals without any input at all from the Draxian, so much the better.

09:00 – 00:00 – This day is spent utilising the parties various underworld contacts and the official repositories of knowledge with the Unified Order, in order to try and track down any relatively unique vices the renegade may have. Jaeger is utterly convinced that Balskus resides in Clanktown – or New Forge as it's inhabitants call it - a small settlement thrown up by the warforged that rises 2 ½ miles to the northeast of Irin, and he feels that if the group can identify a rare item that only a mortal would crave, and locate a supplier taking it to the town, they may find a lead they can exploit.

By late morning, Balskus' love of a certain type of cigar, imported from a small kingdom in the Central Meridian Isles comes to light; a rare imported item that only a few traders supply. More time is spent trying to find the names and associations of those merchants, and by nightfall, one particular group of merchants – a cabal of warforged native to New Forge – are identified as the most obvious and likely candidates.

A few fingers are put out of their sockets, and a few threats made, and more information is gleaned by the group. Apparently on every 10th, 20th and 30th day of the month, a warforged named “Dent” visits a certain steel works in the Smokestacks. Whilst there he negotiates legitimate deals for steel trade between the factory and New Forge, as well as moving on less legitimate items. From what the group can learn, one of these dodgy cargoes is, from time to time, the renegade's special cigars!

With something akin to glee the party set about planning an ambush for this unfortunate living construct, for if what they have learned is correct, he will be making his visit to the eastern district at first light the very next morning.

(10/5/1472; Misty start, then bright, sunny day. Very warm. Cool and clear at night)

00:01 – 05:00 – The group steal a few hours sleep, before slipping out of their Inn, and heading through the misty streets towards the distant gloom of the Smokestacks district. Few are about at this time, fewer still willing to tangle with a group packing the likes of Seren, Schnecke, Varracuda and Jaeger, and they make excellent time.

05:01 – 05:35 - The Smokestacks is a district of monotonous red brick walls, which frame the straight, narrow cobbled streets, used mainly for deliveries, and enclose the huge factoriums and fabricatories themselves. A constant pall of smoke hangs over it, belched from the towering chimneys that give the area its name, and a thin, slippery coating of soot covers everything, making everything grimy and filthy. The air is sharp with the chemical bite of fumes, and when there is any kind of water vapour in the air, it is choked by stinging smogs that can choke those caught within them. Few animals or plants thrive in this area, apart from the cooing filthwings, and indefatigable wiregrass, and only the dundorin tend to feel at home in this polluted, dingy place.

The group navigate the streets, their eyes and throats smarting in the smoky atmosphere, and eventually they find the one they are looking for – a street with no name, just a number that designates its start and finish location in comparison to the adjacent streets. Like all the others it is narrow, cobbled, and closed on both sides by 40' high walls of mortared red brick. Here and there along this length of road, huge gates of steel, bearing the name of the factory beyond them break the monotony of the wall.

Several groups of workers are offloading supplies through some of these gates, their voices carrying along the narrow streets weirdly, and the party realise that finding a secluded spot from which to launch their attack may prove difficult in these functional thoroughfares. However, they then spot a lone warforged in the distance, bearing a huge backpack, moving along the street towards them from the east, a walking stick in his hand, a deep dent clearly visible in his head, and so are forced to improvise. Moving as a loose circle, the party move towards him; half passing him by, the others remaining in front of him. Then, all at once, the last group rush him, catching him by surprise, and carry him towards the relative seclusion of the streets easternmost end. There he is slammed to the ground by Schnecke and held there by the blades and crackling energies held to his throat.

“What? What did I do? Why are you doing this?”

“Shut up machine.” snarls Jaeger, “You have something we need, and you are going to give it to us. If we are happy with it, you may even get to leave here alive and unscathed.”

The warforged, looking pathetically like a cowering human as he scrambles to placate the group, quickly reveals that Balskus is indeed one of his cabal's customers and that he resides at the very heart of New Forge, in a fortified smithy. He tells the party that the renegade has become utterly beloved by the 'forged - especially those of the Forging Flame – for he heals the wounded and helps those still in service to the Order to shrug off their binding rituals and to become free. The 'forged see him as an emissary of peace and are incredibly protective of him – save those who follow the Ebon Eye, who think him just another meat puppet manipulating their people for their own unguessable ends – and he warns the party that any move against him would bring the entire town down upon their heads. He advises them to simply let him be, and hints that Balskus has made reference to a “great evil” perpetrated by his former peers, which he seeks to protect all the 'forged from. The group wonder if this is a reference to “Project Scythe”; whatever that is.

07:00 – By this time Dent has been arrested by the Order, and taken to await trial and almost certainly, execution. The group however are trying to work out how to extract a powerful mage from a fortified position, in the middle of an enemy stronghold, without getting themselves or him killed, or triggering a war between the clanks and the city of Irin.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Firearms and other Equipment

Anyone that has read more than a couple of entries will have noticed that my games include firearms of various types, as well as a few non-standard weapons. As they have been pretty well play tested now, and have not proved to be imbalanced in any way, I thought I would share a few of the more common ones with you. I will get round to detailing the Dundorin Shotgun and Upper Malgorothian "Duet" Shotgun at some point too, as well as some more exotic forms of ammunition. 

Also included are the stats for the dreaded Gorgoth War Cleaver - my shameless copy of the Warhammer world's Orc's Choppa'. Each card can be clicked on to get a full sized version, which you can download and print off for use in your own games should you wish. All the cards were made using the Magic Set Editor, and Ander's D&D Template

Anyway, I hope you like them. Enjoy!



Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Ormid et al - Session Report, 5/12/2010

11:21 – 11:35 – Trying not to dwell on the task of battling a monster the literal size of a tower, capable of working an epic ritual all by itself, the group desperately look for a way to bring the energy barrier surrounding it down. Seeing them, the Aethran makes a gesture, and in response the air becomes wracked by powerful blasts of focused wind, which smash into the party, sending each individual hurtling across the vast area of the ritual chamber's ruin. The strong winds also punch some holes in the billowing clouds surrounding the area, revealing that there is a drop of many thousands of feet beyond the unbound edges, and the group realise that being pushed over would lead to a horrible death after a long, fear-filled plummet to the ruins far, far below.

Trying to keep their feet in the screaming, unnatural tempest, Ormid, Llewellyn and Shadevia spy three areas of the maddening carvings which they believe are tied to maintaining the barrier. Cursing as they are thrown about by the gusting winds, Ormid tromps over to one of the areas, whilst Llewellyn cartwheels and leaps towards another accompanied by the shadowy form of the darkling. Ormid applies his magical knowledge to the problem, and silently marvels at the intricate work done to subvert the inlaid magics to a new, secondary purpose.
Llewellyn on the other hand looks at the “hack job” and sneers. Shaking his head, his long plaits whipping in the screaming winds, he mutters something about “amateurs” and sets to work reversing the alterations made, the seeker's sensitive eyes and magically attuned senses aiding him in his work.

Within a few seconds, two of the three areas have been undone, the glowing lines between them and the barrier dimming, the energy surrounding the massive humanoid weakening enough that the strongest winds push through it. Veteran, Ferrous and Ardwaine – still fighting the powerful gusts – take up ready positions along its boundary, ready to smash apart the first enemy which comes within reach once the barrier is down, and seeing this, the massive great cat begins to pace up and down between the warriors and its master, growling deep in its armoured chest.

Llewellyn and Shadevia are much nearer the final area, and they reach it long before Ormid, huffing and puffing, does. Llewellyn sets to work at once, his tiny fingers a blur as he ties small pieces of wire and drops misaligned shards of crystal over the carvings to scatter their magics and re-direct them. However, with a shriek he is picked up by a brutal gust of wind and carried some 20' towards the edge of the area, his face turning white as he feels death looming. Ignoring his plight, the darkling kneels down, and with a gesture, bathes the carvings outlined by the rogues work in pulsing darkness. Coils of almost angled smoky darkness rise from the carvings, and at once both the barrier and the tempest goes down, the vyrleen crashing to the floor a few feet from oblivion.

Veteran's axe strikes the great cat, Ferrous sinks his adamantine fangs into the beasts legs, and Ardwaine fires a bolt from her fine dundorin crossbow, all three attacks hitting with brutal force. A shadowy arrow arcs from Shadevia, missing its mark and vanishing into the agitated clouds beyond the areas' edge, and Llewellyn skips and jumps in, hurling an enchanted wedge of steel towards the massive Aethran.

The great cat is quickly put down, despite it raising a shield of flickering blue light about itself, which for a time prevents the weapons and spells of the party hitting it, each attack instead sending out a colourful burst of sparks and warping light. The Aethran however proves to be every bit the deadly, intelligent opponent the group feared it would be.

In their favour, the monster is already wounded from its battles with the Unified Order mages before, and it has used some of its powers against them, and sunk even more of its energy into powering the chrono-portal ritual. However, it still commands a deadly arsenal of spells; blasting the group with acidic shards of ice, psionically induced lightning, and summoning fields of death infused frost which hold onto those within, weakening and rotting them as long as they are unable to break free. With stark ease he swings his tree sized crystalline staff out at his enemies, each hit sowing carnage, each miss filling the air with a deafening crack and sending shockwaves through the ground.

The party though are far from defenceless. Ormid enchants the warforged's axe so that it weeps powerful acid, and Shadevia calls upon her dark hosts of spirits to aid her. Llewellyn quickly singles himself out as a target of the monster's ire, by repeatedly leaping within his arc of attack and concentrating unrelenting attcks on his left knee; climbing like a manic gazelle up the monsters cliff like calf and striking with horrific force at the tendons and softer tissues at the knees' back. The monster tries to smash him down, but the slow swings of the gigorim's attacks are unable to hit the nimble rogue, who bounces and tumbles about them like a flea avoiding the agitated picking of a huge tramp. Shadevia fires a few arrows at the monster, scoring a few hits, but then charges in, the air around her seething with a nimbus of shadows. Getting up close, she unleashes a burst of darkness, which whips out at the monsters legs, sending it sprawling towards the edge with a thunderous bellow. It manages to stop itself from falling to its death, but crashes down heavily, hanging over the edge of the platform, its face a mask of raw terror.

Sensing the possibility of a quick victory, the group try their best to weaken the gigorim's grip on the platform; charging at it full pelt, striking it with numbing blows and seething spells. Arrows infused with elemental spirits and prayers of divine strength also pepper it, but the monster manages, somehow, to keep hold. Several times the monster manages to pull itself up, and with a huge grunt of joy, it squashes Llewellyn flat, smashing him unconscious and sending his limp body, trailing steaming crimson, spinning across the battlefield. Shifting along the edge of the platform he finds himself marked by the warforged as a target, and he responds by sending a curse at the living construct, which ties their fates together – the Veteran suffering a half measure of all harm visited on the Aethran. A moment later and the gigorim is hanging over the edge again, courtesy of Ormid's thunderous artifice, and Llewellyn is up again, spitting teeth and wiping blood from his eyes, his mangled body partly restored by the artificer's healing infusions and the dundorin's restorative benedictions. He charges, slightly giddily, in towards the struggling behemoth, and launches himself high into air in a whirring forwards flip, using the momentum of his acrobatics to drive his seething adamantium mace into the brute's thick skull. Despite the vyrleen's diminutive size the blow is sickeningly powerful; a perfect storm of momentum, skill, luck and weighty enchantments. With a dull crack, the mace hits home. The monsters' skull is breached, a thick gob of brain matter and cerebrospinal fluids erupting in a smoking spume from the monster's head, and it shrieks in pain. Across the way, Veteran also screams, the curse relaying a measure of the harm to him, a crack suddenly appearing in his armoured head. Ormid bellows a warning, but the Veteran, incensed by the Aethran's temerity, and determined to punish it, strides in, his axe a mass of billowing flames and fuming acids, and leaping up, sinks his blazing, corrosive weapon into the creatures exposed brain.

The Aethran screams in panic and shock as the blow strikes a vital blood vessel. There is an explosive eruption of red mist and steam, and it spasms, managing somehow to pull itself up onto the platform in he process. Acid sizzles in the critical wound, further punishing the huge spell caster, but all is not well, for as his axe landed, so the Veteran fell victim to his own skill. Relayed to him through the Aethran's hex, the force of his own blow causes the back of his head to burst open in a shower of metal and stone shards, magical sparks and frothing oils. He jerks as if pulled by an invisible string, and staggers backwards, collapsing into a convulsing pile on the floor. Shadevia runs over to him, and at once begins to administer first aid as best she can, granting the doughty construct the support he needs to initiate his internal healing mechanisms, and then, as consciousness returns, to activate his potent healing cloak. Within a few seconds, the Veteran, now bearing a new scar, sits up, shaking the cobwebs away, whilst the downed gigorim struggles to get to his feet.

The party lay into the monster once more, determined to send it to its death.

Impossibly, the Aethran, bleeding heavily and clearly dizzy from his terrible head wounds, limping noticeably as he favours the less mangled leg, and bearing scores of other wounds from the parties efforts, his body pin-cushioned with blazing arrows, burns, sheets of thawing arcane frost and other signs of signficant abuse, stands up. His red-irised eyes glare insanely at the party, and the air around him seethes with agitation as he draws on yet more power. Ghostly fire erupts from his outstretched hands, blanketing almost all the party. It burns both physically and psychically, and all struck by it are disoriented and dizzied. Another burst of roaring sonic energy from the artificer, and the gigorim once more hangs over the edge. Its grip is weakened even more as Ferrous exhales a cloud of corrosive oil over it (and the group realise that the monster's hex must have failed, for the Veteran is not harmed by these attacks), and it begins to look desperate, its eyes widening, a look of panic clearly etched on its tattooed and bearded face.

For a moment Ormid considers trying to negotiate a peaceful end to the battle. However, he becomes aware suddenly of the chrono-portal, which, without guidance from the gigorim, is starting to become critically unstable; a billowing, flickering tear of black and green darkness, edged in negative light and limned in black corposant, dancing wildly like a flame in a strong breeze. He realises that there is no time, and so is relieved when the warforged, cold with the need to destroy his foe, leaps up and sinks his axe into the same wound that has born so many attacks, carving out a mass of brain tissue and fully ripping open the blood vessel within.

The Aethran gives a long, howling scream as his life flees him, and a massive burst of gore whips out from the head wound, pushing the group back, soaking them in blood and brain fluids. The air around the massive monster begins to writhe strangely, and as the Aethran's life slips away, and it begins to slide over the edge of the edifice, it becomes insubstantial, and then, with a blur of distortion, collapses inwards, leaving, briefly, a window into another universe.

It is a place of infinite stars and strange, impossible angles. A place of ethereal mists and echoing energies. Strange snatches of psychic conversations and chiming resonances flit through the star edged portal, and Ormid realises that the universe beyond is the so called Psychic Plane – the medium in which other dimensions float, which is simultaneously separate from them, and a part of them, suffused somehow into their fabric.

The portal snaps shut. The chrono-portal, utterly uncontrolled now, gives a scream.

Realising that unless they somehow take control of the rituals wildly unravelling magics they will all be killed, the party move to the touchstone and set about working together to channel the wildly bucking magics into something they can use. It takes every single ounce of control, ability and understanding, but with the rogue manning the physical side of the portal, and the artificer and seeker working on the magical side, they manage, impossibly, to stabilise the portal for just a second, and with Ormid sending a single thought into it...

...Before Brundor. In the time of Laertraine's golden age...

...The portal opens and draws the group in.

Side Note: 11:36; 24/5/1472 - A Reality Storm rages over the ruins of Laertraine, destroying the Unified Order base there and causing catastrophic planar breaches across the physical plane. The “Day of Sundered Worlds” is a world / dimension wide catastrophe that will have long term ramifications on the universe and all those that dwell within it. It will later be discovered that the source of the storm was the collapse of a Chrono-Portal within the ruins; the result of a treacherous Aethran'Gigorim's dark magics and an unknown factor.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Before I get the next writeup done...

Here are the stats for the monster the group faced in that final battle. 



Post War Natives - 23/11/2010

19:00 РThe group retire to their rooms after sewing chaos in the foyer of the Staff of Wands amongst the client̬le. However, outside of their room is a beautifully wrapped package, complete with a slightly soiled bow ribbon. Jaeger immediately cautions the group against getting excited, and moves to cast his eyes over it, checking for any tell tale signs that could indicate the presence of deadly spells or other deadly traps. He spies nothing and gives the nod for the others to open the package, quietly shifting away from it.

Inside the box are two strangled cats, the twine used to kill them still tightly wound around their scrawny necks. Beneath them is a curious thing; about twenty dead rats, who's tales are hopeless tangled in a smelly, mummified mass – a rat king.

Immediately everyone understands that this is a warning from the Gutter Kings. However, Grigori senses a deeper warning, for the Rat King is the symbol of a little known aspect of Sarrax'Thag'Nestra named Skeertesh; a verminous aspect associated with swarms, vermin and animal carried plagues.

Shnecke rumbles deep in his chest.

6/5/1472 (Bright and warm. light breeze which fades towards the evening leaving thick fog)

09:00 – 23:00 - The party groggily awaken, the cumulative wounds from the last couple of days serenading them with a silent song of pain and leaden stiffness. They thump their way downstairs and take a good breakfast (their aroma, bruises and wounds drawing arch glares from the other guests and attending staff) before preparing for the day of questioning ahead as they turn their attention towards locating the renegade mage Balskus Morvell.

The only member of the party that seems alert, upbeat and spry is Grigori, who seems possessed of a rare energy. Between mouthfuls of bacon, scrambled eggs and sopping spiced beans he gulps down copious quantities of black, tarry coffee, and announces that he intends to spend the next day or two translating and transcribing the rituals he found in the bloodstained pages of the tome he wrested from the vampires so long ago in the aelwyn ruins near Greenford. Realising that this new “happy” Grigori might actually be a bit of a pain when dealing with some of the folks they will have to interview, the group readily agree to allow him some time to himself.

After finishing their meal, allowing Grigori to remove the last of their lingering wounds with his prayers, the party enter Irin and spend a rather irritating day speaking with various petty low-level officials, record keepers and minor enforcers of the Order, seeking any information they can get about the missing mage. The day bears little fruit other than to confirm many details that the party already knew.

7/5/1472 (Bright and warm. light breeze which fades towards the evening leaving thick fog)

09:00 – 12:30 - After some careful consideration the party (sans Grigori who has returned to his studies) head towards Northwood, and the mazy home of Fren, hoping that she, as an artificer, may have some thoughts on where someone like Balskus could be, or may have some insight into Balskus himself.

The group arrive at Frens' home mid morning, and are granted entry by the muttering artificer. She seems to remember the party, and after a short while is happily telling them what little she knows of the missing mage, though she is unable to shed light on where he could be, other than to check out “the kind of places artificers hang out”.

According to her, Balskus was a member of “Section 5”; a team of artificers, anatomists and mages who were charged with spotting possible flaws in the newly created warforged's biology, psyches and behavioural patterns. They were also responsible for hunting down and “neutralising” “rogue” units. Their symbol was a warforged “skull” (a blank face plate), and they were closely tied, towards the end of the war – and possibly still – with “Section 1” - a secret section that Fren only knows of because of her previous work. She is unsure what became of him, though she seems to recall him leaving the section under a cloud. She also murmurs something about a “Project Scythe”...though she is unable (or unwilling) to say any more on this subject.

Fren seems to go into her memories at this point, staring at the floor and smiling as if engaged in a pleasant conversation, and the group let themselves out of her home, leaving her to her madness.

12:31 – 16:00 – The group head towards some of the busiest markets scattered around the southeastern edges of the plaza and “smokestacks” district; markets traditionally filled with all kinds of components, artifice gewgaws and other bits and pieces used in magical construction. It is a busy place of forges, bellowing salesmen and muttering artificers, and the group find themselves moving along the oily streets closely pressed with the many other shoppers, the stench of their bodies and perfumes mixing foully with the biting aroma of oil smoke, hot metal and burned magic.

Within a few minutes of arriving, Jaeger has realised that beneath the obvious surface trade going on is a deeper, hidden layer of silent communication and illicit sales. Furtive gestures, words spoken with double meanings and tones of voice that subtly convey an alternative meaning to that superficially implied all combine to help him realise that a thriving black market is operating here, “out in the open”, under the noses of the city officials. He relays this information to the rest of the group, who decide to let him do some snooping, whilst they make more general enquiries. It is hard work, for many of the vendors are suspicious of snooping strangers, but slowly and surely, they begin to gain more information about Balskus.

Much of the information is the same as they already know. However, it becomes apparent that he had, prior to dropping off the underworld's radar, ties to a Draxian diplomat named Uzruel. Apparently, incredibly, Uzruel is staying at the Staff of Wands – information met with a mixture of joy (at getting a solid lead) and horror (at having to have anything to do with a Draxian). Further questioning reveals that as well as being an ambassador, Uzruel has a side line going in the illicit sales of certain substances manufactured in the vats and labs of his dark homeland – substances that guarantee customer dependence and command a high price. Balskus' particular interest lay in soporific's apparently, and he was introduced to Uzruel by a drug dealer in the Roughs who was unable to help him out, but was willing to introduce him to the Draxian for a hefty “finders fee”.

17:50 – 18:20 – Back at their base of operations, the group do some snooping about; gaining access to the list of guests through stealth and misdirection, and finding out that Uzruel is staying in a suite but one floor removed from their own chambers. Those who are not familiar with the works and nature of the foul daemon worshipping empire of Draxia are given a potted history by Grigori – everything from the fall of ancient Pentasia and the founding of Pentas Daemonica (the City of Stained Stones), to the height of the dark empire, its wars with the Soum'Tassadexite church, and its recent decline and current state of explosive, war-filled death. They are warned that even a diplomat is going to be a servant of foul powers, and that in truth there will be little difference between them, and the filthy cultists they have battled in the past.

Then they go to meet with him.

However, after disabling the warding runes on his door and forcing entry, they find that the chamber is empty, and that it has apparently not been slept in for even a single night.

18:25 – The group instruct their guild to put word out that the whereabouts of the Draxian Uzruel are desired, and to do some investigating for them.

8/5/1472 (Misty morning giving way to a bright day and crisp, chilly night)

05:40 – The group receive word from their guild; the Draxian is staying at “The White Raven”; a nice place located on the southern edge of the High Hills district, run by Irinite native Khazen Mistenway; a vyrleen. Locally renowned for its fine vyrleen “home style” cooking and cosy atmosphere, it is a favourite place for both the nobles of the High Hills, and the working folks of the Smokestacks and Plaza district. It is also a place that a lot of artistes and bard hang out, smoking vyrleen pipe weeds, drinking too much, and giving impromptu performances. Of late it has become the haunt of one Deshayne Vallara; a female human bard from the North Republic who is gaining a lot of attention both through her physical beauty, and the sheer magic of her voice and the pieces she plays on her acoustic guitar.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

More Experiments....

My quest for apps to help me write up my games without depending on the increasingly useless official software / web apps from Wizards, I have been tinkering with Asmor's Monster Maker. This is an output file...


Oh, and feel free to use this nasty little bugger in your games if you so wish - a classic spell throwing skeleton. Enjoy!

(And it should read "Recharge when first bloodied" for the Entropic Singularity attack...

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Some Lovely News

A very talented member of the ENworld boards has come up with a fabulous template for the MSE which allows for monster cards to be made. I am very very happy about this!

Here are two I made earlier (and yes, one of them may end up being used in an upcoming game)


Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Aezmyth

I thought I would pop the stats up for Aezmyth. Unfortunately, they are a bit cramped as the last update for the Monster builder screwed a whole load of things up - I suspect to get as many people staying as subscribers for when the online Monster Builder arrives *sigh*

Anyway...







Ormid et al - 15/11/2010

11:01 – 11:05 – The mind shrivelling horror of what they face is suddenly lost as the magic missile swarms flash forwards through the billowing magical fogs, and blast those in the front ranks, pushing them back into the corridor, leaving a space through which the Xareth'Chelde can fire his deadly eye beams.

Rays of lethal magic dart through the doorway an instant later; a crackling black beam, edged in blood red luminosity striking the warforged, its foul energies corroding at his life force, and a pencil thin beam of dazzling emerald light, brighter than the midday sun, hitting Shadevia, her flesh immediately beginning to crumble to ash.

The seeker responds by unleashing a storm of tenebrous bats at the vague shadow of the Beholder, still wrapped up in the sparkling, billowing vapours of the Guards and Wards ritual, a grim smile lighting her face as she hears it bellow in outrage as it is battered by the swarming tenebrous conjurings. Llewellyn, reluctant to expose himself to the deadly eyes of the Xareth'Chelde, cartwheels past the door into the chamber, flinging a dagger at the monster as he goes, the blade bouncing harmlessly off its armour plated bulk, whilst the warforged desperately asks his colleagues if they have a plan that will allow him to get close enough to the floating enemy to hit it.

And this is how the battle opens; the party almost helpless, whilst the Beholder lashes them with an overwhelming array of deadly beams.

The Xareth'Chelde is forced closer to the doorway in order to avoid the cloud of bats conjured by the seeker (who screams and moans as its initial eye beam continues to eat away at her flesh, a fine ash falling constantly as her body is eroded away), and the party, reluctant to get too close, try to strike at him from a distance or focus on the nearest living spells, their blows hugely addled by the magical mists.

It rapidly becomes clear that the Beholder is every bit as terrible as the stories portray them. Its eyes unleash death in many flavours. Ardwaine is repeatedly put to sleep by one eye, the enchantment so strong that even a near punch from Ormid's artifice arm fails to rouse her. Blinding beams of agitated energy, wounding necrotic power and petrifying magic stab repeatedly from the monster's twitching eye-stalks, almost all finding their mark. And then it unleashes a wave of dispelling power from its central eye, preventing those caught in it from using anything other than their most basic, simplistic attacks.

For a while it seems that the group have met their match, especially as, despite attempts by Ormid to prevent it, the disintegrate beams effects continue to devour Shadevia. After the first minute, most of the living spells have been blasted out of existence, but the group have yet to even scratch the deadly aberration. Then the warforged, realising that he must do something, gives a bellow and charges into the chamber beyond, ducking under the Beholder's floating bulk. Once past, he leaps onto a pillar that rises from the edge of the pit, and scrambling up it, he launches himself, eye rays stabbing at him as he flies, onto the top of the Eye Tyrant, slap bang in the middle of its writhing eye-stalks. The Xareth'Chelde gives a bellow and drifts back over the dizzy drop of the pit, where it begins to shake like a wet dog, trying to dislodge the warforged. Veteran takes the opportunity to land several powerful strikes against the monster, ripping away plates of chitin and exposing the thick, stony flesh beneath. Several times he is forced to drop to his knees or to grab hold of a tentacled eye in order to prevent himself being shaken free, but he manages to stay firmly in place. This becomes more difficult however when he feels an invisible field of force surround him, trying to move him forcibly from the monsters “back” - a telekinesis ray! Panicking slightly, he manages to resist being thrown into the void, but his place is lost a moment later when another ray – this one charged with terror – fills him momentarily with an overriding irrational fear, forcing him to leap off and to run and hide behind a pillar.

Back in the other room Shadevia continues to fire arrow after arrow at the aberration; some finding their mark, most missing. She does this despite the spreading dismay of the disintegrating magic, which eats away at her flesh and bone like the glowing embers of a smouldering piece of parchment in a breeze, revealing glistening entrails and steaming loaves of internal meats. Pus and other foul corruptions also pour from her wounds – the legacy of one of the monster's rotting beams - her life drawing to a close, the seeker having long ago run out of her own resolve to ignore the deadly magics, and having exhausted Ormid's ability to heal her. Realising this Llewellyn, disgusted at his inability to hit the Beholder and eager to do something useful, runs over to the unconscious cleric and begins to look through her packs for a healing draft or anything that might help Shadevia. He moves as fast as he can, but unfortunately as he finds her backpack and flips it open, Shadevia gives a sigh and collapses unconscious, the dark magics continuing their insidious work on her remains.

“Go laddie!” screams Ormid, now focusing some of his powers upon the shadowy figures of the Xareth'Cheld, the warfoged, and Ferrous, the iron Defender now duelling with a particularly lucky living magic missile swarm to the left of the great pit, “Quickly, before she enters the Weeping Angel's domain!”

“I'm doing it!” he snarls, grabbing a stone vial from within the pack and leaping over to the slumping form of the seeker, her body now exhaling a noxious, damp miasma as it slumps and roils into nothingness. Praying quietly to Vaenya, Vyrleen goddess of good fortune, he pops the seal on the potion and begins to pour it onto the bubbling, rotting flesh of his ally. At once there is a reaction; a coiling and writhing of new flesh and corrosive spells working against each other. Energy surges through the unconscious adventurer, and suddenly she sits up, screaming in agony, her flesh still being eaten by the magic, but death, momentarily, held at bay.

“ARDWAINE!” screams both Ormid and Llewellyn, “IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT CRAWLS, WAKE UP!!!”

By a miracle she does, blinking owlishly and asking what time it is.

Meanwhile the Xareth'Chelde has drifted back over the pit, the cloud of bats having dissipated when Shadevia fell unconscious; an inaccessible position perfect from which it can launch its attacks with little chance of retaliation. Bellowing joyfully Its eye rays stab outwards repeatedly, blasting the warforged and confusing him enough that he mistakes Ferrous for an enemy just long enough to try and hack him. The Beholder feels almost invulnerable for although its armour is deeply scored and its stony flesh a little bruised, it has weathered some of the most savage attacks the warforged can deliver without blood being drawn, and even Veteran is starting to wonder how their party will survive this deadly encounter. Spitefully it sends another blast of magic at the warforged, forcing him to leap desperately out of the way, a bubbling laugh gurgling from its guts as it watches, its eyes catching movement in the corridor beyond – the dundorin healer!

Ardwaine climbs groggily to her feet. As she does, a beam of pale yellow light strikes her, paralysing her legs, preventing her from moving over to Shadevia and delivering her most potent healing spell. However, she is able to pronounce a powerful invocation of healing, sending a gleaming wave of power towards the stricken seeker, and at once several of her most terrible wounds are simply erased. Despite this, Shadevia continues to rot and fall apart, and Ardwaine, twisting at the hip, unleashes another potent spell, calling upon dimensional energies to power it. A moment later and frost and death magic lashes from her symbol, boiling the final living spell away to nothingness, and sending deeper cracks through the armour plating surrounding the Xareth'Cheldes body. At the same time, Ardwaine harnesses the life force that flees the monster as it is wounded, and sends it winging towards the archer, further healing her wounds, but still failing to stop the dire energies devouring her.

The Xareth'Chelde's laughter turns to a roar of fury.

Seeing all this, and realising that if the deadly aberration remains floating above the pit deep within the folds of concealing mists, he and most of the party will be unable to land a blow on it, Llewellyn takes action to change this. Scrambling forwards, and taking a blast from an eye-stalk in the process, the rogue activates the Cherished Ring he was given by Julius, captain of the Sky Dancer, sending an invisible wave of friendship towards the slavering nightmare. Desperation drives this, and somehow, despite the monster's formidable psyche, the ring's power takes hold; insane, illogical curiosity briefly filling the nightmare, forcing it to float towards the party. By doing this it not only leaves the safety of the yawning pit, but places itself in the doorway within easy reach of everyone. Even better, at this close range, the magical mists are too thin to grant it concealment.

Grinning, the rogue dodges to the wall to the right of the monster, preparing to leap at the beast as soon as he can. Shadevia, lands another arrow, this one rimed with spikes of frost, into the base of the Xareth'Chelde's central eye, a frozen tear welling up at once, whilst Ormid sends a shockwave of magic into it, smashing more scales but still failing to make it bleed. From behind, the warforged's axe, roaring with fire, bites into the things armoured scales, chipping several free, but dealing no real harm, whilst the Iron Defender rips more off with his adamantine, rune-carved fangs.

In response, it's mind clear once more, the enraged beholder unleashes a frenzy of beams at his tormentors, wounding, burning, and partly petrifying those they hit. However, it suddenly realises that it may have been over confident, and the first seeds of dread begin to take root in its heart.

Gritting his teeth against the searing bite of the wound he just received, the vyrleen prepares to hit the aberration with a lethal attack, having spotted a crack in its armour he feels he can use to deal a deadly blow to its innards. However, just as he prepares to attack, a deep, unnatural sleep fall upon him, courtesy of the Eye Tyrants sleep ray.

Another field of dispelling energy sweeps over all the group in the corridor, once more preventing them from using any attacks that draw on magic or need focus to accomplish. However, outside the reach of this attack, behind the monster's bulk, Veteran leaps into the air, and with a metallic roar, plunges the burning razor edge of his blade into one of the Xareth'Chelde's weakened areas, finally ripping through the heavy meats of its body, and drawing a thick spume of dark green gore and whistling, stinking gasses.

Deadly magic sizzles through the air as the monster registers the pain and shock of the wound, and with a rumbling roar it drifts back towards the pit, proclamations of death pouring from its slavering maw like tarry curses. However, its bellows are drowned out by the rage fuelled voice of Ormid, who strides fearlessly towards it, moustache wagging with anger. In a clear voice, layered subtly with magic, he addresses the monster, and in no uncertain terms points out that whilst it may almost certainly be the doom of a few of the party's members (his own body is stiffening with pullulating petrifaction as he states this), they would ultimately slay it, or, in the best case for it, wound it to the point where it has a long recuperation – possibly never regaining its full strength. He puts it to the monster, in mangled Tradespeak (as best as he can manage using his own antiquated common form of language anyway), that it is too potent and brilliant an individual to meet such an ignoble end, or to be condemned to such a grim future. And with this in mind he proposes a truce; the Beholder allowing the party to move on, the party making no further attempts to harm him.

Whilst Shadevia sobs (the magic weakening on her, but still eating away at her substance) and Ormid fights against the leaden creep of the petrifaction, the monster considers. Its massive central eye, bloodshot and oozing, rolls around as it takes in the hulking warforged and his agonising axe, the swift and sneaky vyrleen poised to leap, the resolute artificer, the yawning dundorin, adamant seeker and softly growling Iron Defender. It mumbles to itself in its borborygmic voice, and with a snarl suddenly drops into the pit and out of sight.

Rushing to the edge of the pit, a wave of vertigo assaulting him as he sees the vertiginous drop beneath it, the artificer watches as the defeated Xareth'Chelde – still more than a match for the entire party if the truth be told – squeezes its massive bulk into a hidden tunnel below the pits lowest end, leaving them to their fate...

...Impossibly, words succeeded where lethal force failed.

11:06 – 11:16 – The battle with the Xareth'Chelde may have only taken a couple of minutes, but it feels to the party like all they have ever done is dodge or suffer the effects of lancing eye rays and try to hit a vague, deadly foe through a cloak of conjured mists. With the monster slain, the first order is try and help Ormid and Shadevia to survive their current magical afflictions.

Llewellyn is woken, and Ardwaine uses her poultices and healing arts to halt the petrifaction of the artificer, and then the continued dissolution of the agonised and traumatised seeker. With that done the group spend a few moments simply enjoying being alive.

Once they have caught their breaths, bandaged (and re-bandaged) their wounds and mastered their pain, the group begin to search the chamber. The first thing that Ormid does is work out where the ritual shrouding it in blinding vapours is focused. He then disrupts its casting, and clears the mists away, allowing the party to see that this chamber is lined with ancient, empty bookshelves, and that its marble clad walls bear intricate bas-reliefs depicting earlier times in Laertraine.

On the wall opposite the one they came through Shadevia's sharp eyes spot a slight indentation. Looking closer, she discovers that a portal is described there in arcane glyphs carved into the stone – glyphs that Ormid is able to translate with a little time, discovering that the portal's glyphs mean the following (and are arranged in this manner)


(Ice)
  (Void)        (Blood)
       (Water)       (Radiance)
        (Spirit)       (Binding)    
        (Draining)       (Fire)                 
     (Death)       (Deception)

Ardwaine surmises that the symbol at the top (“ice”) is the key to working out which glyphs must be activated, and in what order. Ormid discovers that the glyphs can be activated by touching them and focusing magic into them – something that only he can do – and he realises that if they get the sequence wrong, any consequences will be directed solely at him.

He tries to glean any clues as to which way to go by focusing on the magical energies of the area, and after a few moments of meditation he once again sees the world as a complex, vital weave of energies. The portal (which he now knows is truly what these carvings are) gives nothing away. However, he senses magic elsewhere, and is not surprised when a secret compartment is found in one of the nearby pillars by the pit.
He allows his senses to return to normal, and watches as the compartment is breached, and the various treasures within – no doubt ancient items that have resided in this place for untold millennia – are brought forth.

One of these items is a book bound in green velvet, which holds several ritual incantations, and Ormid claims this, intrigued by the power these spells could grant him. A small carving of a wasp, beautifully worked from what seems to be flowing mercury that somehow keeps its shape when touched, is identified as some kind of wondrous figurine similar to the one Ormid keeps for summoning the dog spirit, whilst three thick potions are identified as regenerative elixirs; potent healing for those that imbibe them. Finally, a rather tacky ring of gold and silver, designed to look as if it made from numerous interlocking stylized bolts of lightning, is identified as a Stormcatcher; a useful item that can be used to turn an enemies lightning spells back on them.

These items are put aside for now, and the group turn their attention back to the portal; everyone except Ormid hiding behind the pillars and shelves, whilst the artificer stands in front of the carvings, ready to awaken them with a touch.

11:17 – 11:20 – By the time the group work out that they need to activate the “Water”, “Draining” and “Fire” glyphs in that order to awaken the portal, poor Ormid has been blasted by two bruising shock waves of magical force, the second loosening teeth and cracking his spectacles. However, as he awakens the “Fire” glyph, so a wave of dimensional magic awakens within the carvings frame, and the wall is replaced by an icy plane of blue-white light; the portal to who knows where.

“Everyone ready?” asks Ormid, his voice weary.

Everyone nods.

“Here we go then.”

11:21 – The group leap through the portal...

...And reach their goal – and possibly their doom – for the portal leads to the ruined time dilation chambers, which now occupy an open area at the top of the edifice, open to the skies and unbound at its edges by wall or magic. Tearing, icy winds cut across it, and luminous clouds swirl and flicker high above in a funnel, attracted by the potent magics being cast. The very air boils with gathering magic, and the group shiver with its metallic tang.

The first thing the party see is an immense gigorim, twice as large as anything they have met so far. It has flowing white hair and pale purple-blue flesh, every inch of which is tattooed with glowing brands and runes. Power envelopes him, and his deep voice rings out, chanting impossibly potent spells over the shrieking of the winds. He wears shimmering robes of some strange, luminous cloth, and wields a crackling staff covered in blazing symbols over which dances coruscating energy and corposant. The gigorim is clearly involved in some kind of ritual, watched over protectively by the hulking form of a huge warforged great cat – twice the size and quality of the one the group fought on their arrival.

The gigorim stands within a massively complex series of carved channels, which intersect at messy and seemingly random intervals to form a vast, sprawling pattern that must have some dire, elemental purpose. Before it, to the southeast of the area, stands a huge grey-green pillar of what appears to be some kind of metal; 12' high, and carved with incredibly alien hieroglyphs that burn with a sullen green fire. The pillar chimes with a discordant whine, and power ripples from the floor carvings and gigorim and back into the pillar. Above the pillar, the group can see some kind of weird distortion forming; a time portal the artificer realises. A shimmering dome of power; the perimeter of a warding circle, surrounds both monsters, focusing the power being drawn inwards towards the pillar, and forming a potent barrier to anyone trying to stop the brute.

Several blasted corpses lie scattered about the site, their charred features and raiment’s smoking in the tearing winds, and there are signs that horribly destructive spells have not long been unleashed here. Indeed, the gigorim and his pet seem to bear some wounds in keeping with those created by potent spells.

The group stand there a moment almost hypnotised by what they see. Ormid quickly deduces that the gigorim is actually opening the time portal, apparently using the touchstone – almost certainly a fragment from the original chambers – as a focus and amplifier for the epic casting. He also realises with a lurch of horror that the stone is badly weakened, and that the portal, which is a billowing and uncontrolled thing, will not stay open long, and will likely rip this entire structure apart when it shuts due to the backwash of reality distortion resulting from its collapse.

A quick look at the energies of the shimmering dome surrounding the gigorim and his pat, and it is clear that it would reflect any direct attacks, and that in order to bring it down, the magics supplying it must be negated, which would be far easier if the party were not on a time limit (for the portal is clearly gaining substance and stability and will very soon be open) and if not for the the winds, which blast the party constantly as the gigorim's casting cause nature itself to rebel.

Indeed, the only thing the party have going for them at the moment is that the gigorim – an Aethran gigorim – is too busy working his powerful ritual to notice them. At least, until they do what they must and begin to try to lower the protections he has raised about him...

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Magic Cards of Various Designs

I recently downloaded the Magic Set Editor in order to generate some item cards for the unique devices and items in my games. However, pretty quickly I found myself making MTG cards for various things in the universe, and I though I would share a couple with you now.







And now onto the "Magic" cards...






Thursday, 11 November 2010

Post War Natives - 09/11/2010 (Part 2)

12:19 – 12:22 – Fren stops in a small dank chamber somewhere in the bowels of the house. Like the others it is rank with greasy moisture, rotting papers and vermin, and the only light now comes from a shining stone that orbits the deranged artificer's head. The group wonder if she has got lost until she moves to one pile of dripping parchments and speaks a phrase of power which energises them, and sends them flying away to reveal a brilliantly illuminated corridor beyond. At the end of this corridor stands a great mirror of silvered glass – priceless in and of itself. However even from their current position the party can make out the spidery runes worked into its gilt frame, as well as the dimly glowing power crystals set amongst them.

“Use your key Istan and you will be in. You can look through before you pass through. Good luck!”

The artificer's words are dull and heavy, as if she is impossibly weary. Istan looks like he is on the verge of tears, but with a growl he turns his back on her and begins to march down the corridor. The group look towards Fren and notice that she is staring off into space, her lips moving slightly as if she is talking silently to someone. She looks suddenly over her shoulder and then, with lightning speed, jumps past the party to spin Istan round by his shoulder with surprising strength.

“What the-..”

“It's been calling to me lately you know. It's still hungry for the kill.”

Istan grows pale. “Where?”

Fren moves closer, almost as if she is going to kiss him, her face sick and drawn. However she instead puts her mouth right next to Istan's ear and in a loud, harsh whisper says, “Somewhere close by. Too close. It senses the many here. It is hungry to kill, to feel their blood slide from its claws.”

Istan looks at the party and back to Fren who has stepped away from him and stares at him with a savage, insane intensity. He shudders, and slowly speaks.

“If I survive this night, I shall come back and we shall find it and lay it to rest. It must be stopped, though how, I know not.”

And with that he gives her hands a kiss before heading towards the portal. “Come on then you lot!” he barks.

Fren stares a moment longer, then melts back into the darkness of the house, her lightstone winking out a moment before.

12:23 – 12:25 - “What the feck was that all about?” growls Schnecke, “She's insane!”

Istan briefly looks furious, but he masters his emotions and nods instead. “She has been driven insane by the things she saw during the wars. She was part of the crew responsible for maintaining the Mortifer, and as such, she had grown close to the machines spirit. When it went rogue and turned to evil, she felt a massive burden of guilt, as well as the loss of a friend of sorts.
“Her guilt corroded her sanity, until Xix's whispers began to fill her mind. The ghosts she sees and hears are, she thinks, the souls of those slain by the Mortifer. Worse, she claims she still has a connection with the machine, and says she can feel every kill it makes.”

He shudders.

“Poor woman needs help. She was...she was so full of life and beauty once.”

He shakes his head. “Come on. Let's see about one friend at a time. Darius needs us urgently. Let's go.”

12:26 – 12:31 – Up close the mirror is clearly a work of incredible artifice, and those versed in arcane lore are forced to admit that Fren, for all her madness, must be a talented weaver of enchantments to have crafted, or even to have modified it.

As the group gather Istan produces a small shard of crystal that begins to thrum with energy as it is brought towards the mirrors surface. He then touches two of the crystals in the frame, and at once, the mirrored surface swims with light and become clear, as if a sheet of transparent glass was in it.

Beyond is a beautifully appointed bedroom, dominated by a huge four poster bed and a huge marble clad fireplace. At the bottom of the bed is a huge footlocker and various expensive pieces of furniture stand around the chambers curtain shrouded walls. Rich carpets cover the floors, and bright light spills from a spectacular chandelier set in the ceiling made from individual crystals of quartz and clear jade.

By the fireplace stands a robed man in his late thirties. He has long, oiled hair the colour of midnight, and noble features. A large ruby ring glitters on his left hand, and an aura of warding spells shimmers around him like a ghostly halo. He is currently holding the hand of a slightly plump but undeniably beautiful woman who sits on a plush stool before him, her eyes locked with his, a look of purest adoration on her face. She wears the ornate robes of a cleric of Buidrerenon'Tobes, has reddish-blonde hair, large blue eyes and pale skin.

This, Istan whispers, is Yithia, Darius' lover. The man with the dark hair is the pretender.

Peering through, Grigori spots something unusual about the wall hanging curtains, and realises that behind them lurk three armoured forms – hidden bodyguards. A closer look reveal that the outlines are consistent with those of warforged.

“The girl is an innocent dupe in all this. Spare her if you can, but be aware that she is in thrall to the monster.”

The group agree, though Jaeger does so reluctantly, having little love for the greedy merchant priests of Tobes.

“I have a plan.” says Varracuda suddenly. “Why doesn't Emmiven take on the form of Darius as well? It could be that the confusion of seeing two Darius' is enough to shake the domination the doppelganger has over Yithia. It could win us an ally?”

The group stare at the genasai for a moment, and then grin, for it is a most excellent plan.

And so Emmiven allows his features to melt and shift into those of Darius – a process that none other than the sorceress are able to watch without baulking – becoming a perfect double in every way. He grins with the strangers face, and after everyone has controlled their feelings, Istan activates the mirror fully, opening a portal into the room beyond...

...”Yithia! This is a trick! He is a monster, a shapeshifter, for I am your love, come to rescue you and slay this fiend!”

It's a bit over the top, but Emmiven knows that in order to stand a chance of blasting through the mental restraints placed on her psyche he has to use a blunt instrument. His and Istan's arrival in the room has caught the pair off guard, and for an instant it looks as if the priestess might be able, in the throes of her shock and confusion at the strange and unexpected intrusion, to fight free of whatever holds her. However, as the rest of the party pile through, her eyes cloud over and she leaps to defend her “love”.

And so the battle to destroy the doppelganger begins. As predicted by Grigori three warforged, each showing signs of being lobotomised - the parts of their brains that allow them to think for themselves having been bored out and stoppered with grey, morphic flesh (that of the doppelganger) – begin to stride out from behind the wall curtains, heavy blades at the ready.

Spying the party, and clearly happy that Yithia is fully in his thrall, the doppelganger sheds the form of Darius. His flesh loses its human tone and becomes grey and formless, flowing like wet clay over the core of his being. He elongates and stretches, his eyes becoming flat discs of white, his mouth widening and filling with shark-like teeth. His arms lose any semblance of having a bone structure, waving with a rubbery looseness whilst his fingers grow long, claw-like nails. He howls with rage, an invisible aura of psychic “fog” oozing from his powerful mind, insidiously deadening the reactions and thought processes of those coming too close for too long.

One of the warforged launches in at Varracuda, who expertly parries the blow and returns a slash of his own fiery blade scoring a minor hit against the mindless construct. Istan, Emmiven and Schnecke all charge the shape-shifter; the warlord smashing him to the floor and the warrior cleaving several bloodless wounds, filled with wriggling nests of grey, doughy worms – his polymorphic flesh, working hard to restitch the wounds together. However, the most formidable blow of this opening attack comes from the Ulnyrr.

From the moment he entered the perfumed finery of the bedroom, Schnecke had changed. The sight of the powerful monster spoke to him, and his soul spoke to his homeland; its icy presence filling his spirit with bitter cold. Mercy, honour and fear all fly from him as the algid power of his people comes to flow through him, the air around him growing frosty, his breath pouring from him in great, steaming gouts. Ice flakes from his blue-tinged flesh and grows like daggers from his beard and plaits.

He charges the doppelganger, and strikes it with a blow capable of cutting a warhorse in two, his mighty blade literally tearing and warping the monsters form like a child tearing clay. The blow enters the beasts clavicle and ends in the middle of his belly, and the monster shrieks a scream so high pitched that no one hears it – though every glass thing in the bedroom shivers and cracks from it.

But Schnecke isn't even half finished yet.

Lost in the icy rage, his axe has come free and dived in again before anyone can register the sickening impact of his first blow, carving another hideous wound in the plastic things body, causing it to stretch upwards weirdly, his body elongated and sculpted like a piece of aelwyn art. Eyes now glowing with blue light, mist weeping from them like tears, his beard and hair now pure ice, the frost-souled barbarian manages to land one more blow, almost decapitating the fiend, his axe not just moaning at this point, but shrieking with daemonic glee.

“NOOOOOOO!”

It is Yithia. She leaps forth power seething from her holy symbol as she calls upon her god to smite those that seek to kill her love. The icy cold of the barbarian's rage is suddenly washed away in a deafening blast of incandescent energy as she calls a column of blue and black fire down upon the warriors attacking her love, and the assassin who has crept forwards, crossbow at the ready.

The flames are incredibly powerful, and small fires start all over the bedchamber as their heat washes out, the air growing thin and smoky almost at once. Those caught in the blast suffer horribly as the enchanted flames bathe them in agony, even the barbarian, wrapped up in the skin aurumvorax and his own fury.

But she too is not yet done. “My love!” she sobs, her symbol glowing once more, this time with a soft, golden light. “I shall save you!”

Auric energy leaps from her hands and settles on the doppelganger, immediately closing the wounds he has suffered where it touches them. The fiend roars his approval, and then, in Darius' cultured voice, thanks Yithia; the voice horribly incongruous with his alien, warped form. Another warforged enters the fray fully, missing the barbarian with a blow designed to open his belly up...and then the monster attacks...

The horror, an elder doppelganger that calls itself Aezmyth, is angry with itself for being caught by surprise, and is shocked at how badly these rampaging adventurers have hurt him in a few scant seconds. His pain is incredible and his mind scattered. However, with the initial shock fading, and his unnatural flesh on the mend, he focusing his powerful mind and at once tries to dominate the nightmarish barbarian. He sends hooked waves of mental power towards him, but finds, to his surprise, a surprisingly resilient personality in there – too strong for him to control. Fury boils up within him, and he takes this, shapes it, and uses it to unleash another purely psychic attack; an attack that he is positive will lay his enemies low.

As the third warforged strides into battle, an invisible cone of nightmare energy erupts from the reforming doppelganger's forehead, washing over the three warriors toe-to-toe with him, as well as the assassin. Those touched by it are suddenly plunged into their worst nightmares, the real world a faint image superimposed on the sanity shattering reality they suddenly inhabit. To those beyond the powers' reach, the four adventurers suddenly stop dead, their guards dropping, their faces suddenly contorting into masks of abject horror. Silent screams issue from them as they are briefly overwhelmed by the attack, though they seem, somehow, to be able to continue to fight – albeit at a substantial disadvantage.

Grigori's voice, powerful and clear rings out over the cacophony of the battle, and Schnecke is immediately woken from his waking nightmare, his boreal fury returning in a hearbeat. He then weaves a potent healing spell and send it over towards the assassin, who is burning brightly after Yithia's flame strike and is mewling within his psionically invoked personal hell. And it is a good job that he does, for the assassin, within his crisped and sticking armour, is more seriously hurt that even he realises, his entrails only held in by his armours press, his flesh charred through its entire thickness. The cooling, restorative energy pours over him; a luminous balm that restores him to full health; new flesh ballooning like a weird pink fungus from within his body, filling the cuts and blisters with healthy new tissue.

And then everything is thrown into sharp relief. Seren, who has stayed close to the portal (which this side is framed within the belly of a great chronometer), has been forming a barely stable sphere of clashing, spitting, spinning energies; a mad maelstrom of potential destruction bound within the small ball, held in place only by force of her will and her art, within her clawed hands. Now, with a wash of power, she launches it the length of the room towards Aezmyth, striking him with incredible accuracy and power.

The missile disintegrates and a blast of eldritch cold erupts from it, flash freezing the monster, blowing it into chunks with a thunderous report.

It's over!


As fast as that, and the powerful foes is slain!

The group (those not babbling and screaming anyway), can barely allow themselves to believe it – the doppelganger, powerful enough to dominate a household and keep its foes guessing, is undone in but a few seconds....this is....this is...

….not the case...

The group blink in horror as the frozen pieces begin to seethe and boil like wax on a fire, each piece suddenly erupting into a lashing mass of grey, whipping feelers, which connect with those of their neighbouring shards, slowly bringing the mass together in a frenzy of regeneration and polymophic rebirth. So rampant is the growth that any attacks are immediately undone, their damage lost in the crazy morass of cellular multiplication.

And so, whilst Aezmyth rebuilds himself into an increasingly bulky and loathsome form, the
party turn their attention to the others. Seren quickly summons radiant energy around the priestess and the two warforged that stand by her, dazzling them and forcing them to squint in the painful glare, whilst Jaeger, still distracted and blinded by his visions of horror, almost reflexively sends a wave of bladed darkness towards one of the warforged. By sheer luck, the bolt strikes the monster in its headwound, striking with terrific force, and as it falls backwards from the blow, so a fuming portal of absolute darkness yawns behind it, ready to swallow it whole. The warforged pitches into the darkness, and with a grunt, the assassin opens another portal next to Yithia, the warforged hurtling out from it to smash into her and the other living construct, all three of them slamming into the ground.

Varracuda continues to slash and poke at the first of the warforged to emerge, halfway between Grigori and Seren and the rest of the group, whilst Jaeger, now free of his horrors, unleashes another shadow-tinged cone of tenebrous bolts towards the downed enemies, poisoning them with stunning attercop venom and filling them with biting toxins.

Seeing their chance the warriors launch at the downed enemies, scoring a number of telling blows. Yithia, previously senseless from the venoms in her blood, is drenched in gore, her hair plastered to her sweating face. Despite this she rises shakily to her feet, and with a word of magic heals herself of the worst of it, before commanding the barbarian to drop to his knees, her utterance laced with magic.

But Schnecke seems not to hear her.

She screams and convulses as the assassin's venom surges painfully through her.

And suddenly Aezmyth is back in the battle, his new form a grotesque amalgam of several ferocious monsters. His bulk is that of a great bear, his flesh warty and scaled. From his posterior wags a wyvern's sting, from his powerful arms curl the claws of a primal lizard hunter, and in his face yawns the ferocious maw of a gigantic amphibian predator – the Froghemoth. His roar eclipses all other sounds in the chamber, and Yithia suddenly seems uncertain, the domination no longer so easily reinforced. She seems suddenly distracted, and although she continues to fight, her movements are now mechanical and clunky, as if against her will.

And there is fear in her eyes now – the doomed fear of one helpless against their grim fate.

Grigori pronounces a holy curse on the doppelganger, and his words strike at the beasts spiritual resonance, weakening him physically and psychically for an instant. The rest of the party concentrate on the priestess and the two warforged by her, all three of them being removed from the battle by flying blades of thunder and frost summoned by the drakven.

And then something truly horrible occurs.

The chest at the bottom of the bed suddenly bursts open, a stench so foul as to be overwhelming filling the room. A cold wind, clotted with the reek of advanced decay howls through the chamber, the small fires started earlier burning deathly blue as it touches them, and a ghastly thing – a corpse effervescent with putrefaction, dressed in rusted armour, a pitted and decayed longsword gripped in its fluid hands – erupts from the chest like a nightmarish jack-in-the-box. The zombie is animated by scores of pale grey worms, which Emmiven realises are small pieces of Aezmyth's own flesh, and when Istan gives a bestial, broken scream, the group realise who's remains stand before them, making them dizzy and sick with its stench – Darius Valde; Moneylender, lifelong friend of Istan and murdered victim of a conniving doppelganger.

Istan is stunned, his eyes locked on the dripping mass of black filth and writhing worms that used to be his best friend.

The group intensify their efforts to end this as soon as possible.

The battle, thought to be almost over with the first fall of Aezmyth proves to be far from over yet. The new form the monster has taken is a horror of lashing poisoned stings, disembowelling claws and devouring fangs. It leaps to and fro in the room; smashing furniture to kindling and laying about the party with brutal efficiency – though his attacks would be far worse were it not for the warlord's repeated distractions somehow penetrating his rage to make him pause and glare when he could be striking out.

Ultimately however it is the doppelganger's own rage that defeats him.

Having moved the entire length of the room he finds himself surrounded by the party, the swordmage cursing him with a hex that leaves him vulnerable to fire. Lashing out at random, the brute is still a deadly foe, though his regenerating flesh is hanging open in a score of places, the internal worms madly dancing to try and close the injuries up. However, he makes a fatal mistake, for seeing Seren before him, he strikes at her, and at once is surrounded by a nimbus of fiery magic – a defence the sorceress had called up around her scant moments before. Channelled by Varracuda's magic into the very core of his being, the fiery magic that leaps in a shimmering sheet from Seren's golden scales blazes within him with a fierce, unnatural intensity, withering the worms of flesh and striking at the very essence of the monster, burning the life from him.

As the killing blow falls against Aezmyth, so a horrific scream goes up, ripping the air. The greater doppelganger froths and boils, his physical form seething with uncontrolled change as consciousness flees it. Tentacles of raw flesh blast outwards from its suddenly greying and sagging mass, smashing furniture and smashing the party to their feet. Then a horrific column of melting flesh, bearing a nightmare visage like that of Darius erupts from the stinking morass of its collapsing form. It gives a phlegmy, bubbling wail, and then wilts like a mushroom in time lapse, collapsing back into the churning, burning mess that was the doppelganger's last form.

Soon there is nothing but a putrid, oily mess of unholy filth where the greater doppelganger once stood.

It's over!

12:32 – 18:30 – The group gather their wits and begin to feel their wounds. Grigori tends to them, noting with concern that the barbarian has been bitten by Darius' corpse (which was cut down just before Aezmyth was taken out), the punctures already showing signs of advanced decay. Istan rushes to Yithia's side, and sobs with joy when he sees that though gravely wounded, she lives. He gives her a healing potion with shaking hands, smiling down at her as her eyes flicker open.

Once she is comfortable (though she is dazed as grief and shock begin to work their foul spells on her) Istan returns to the party. He is grim and pale, but he shakes each person's hands with a fierce strength.

“It's over my friends, and I have a huge debt of gratitude to you. My friend, alas, is no more, though I can at least ensure he is laid to rest. As for Yithia, she will be in need of a lot of care, and will be needed to manage the estates, for she is named as the successor to Darius' empire.”

Istan then shrugs, looking lost,

“As for me, I shall stay long enough to ensure that all the affairs are put in order, and then I have my promise to Fren to fulfil. Seek me out if you fancy hunting the largest prey you have ever imagined.”

He then looks around the devastated bedroom, and moves to a part of one of the walls. After a moment he presses a secret panel, and a previously hidden chamber is revealed, its interior filled with various bits of enchanted equipment, all of them glinting in a disembodied blue-grey glow.

“Through there is a secret stash of equipment and items. Help yourself, you have more than earned it.” He then gives a sad little grin, and adds, “I call you friends now, and shall be here for you when I am able.”

The group are given food and drink by the houses terrified staff, most of whom barely dare believe that Istan has come back and saved them, and as the sun begins to set, they make to leave the splendour of Darius' estate, before being told that a carriage awaits, ready to take them back to the Staff of Wands.