Using My Monsters

Monday, 31 January 2011

Razor Shard (Razor Crystal) - Level 15 Hazard

This stuff has had a major impact on the group's ability to move about the battlefield in the Ormid et al game, and so I thought I would share. A point of note - a lower level version would inflict 1d6 damage per square, and epic version 3d6 (or even 4d6) per square. 


Ormid et al - 24/1/2011

Sorry this took so long. I won't lie to you, after finding myself unable to pay for DDO (due to a glitch their end, which they seemed bemusingly unwilling to solve) I re-subbed to WoW, and...well...I've played a lot....too much (it is evil). Anyway, here is the last game report. It's not looking too good for these guys either (I wonder why both groups are so very deep in the brown stuff lately?)

Anyway, here we go!

*    *    *

06:18 – 06:33 (04:46– 05:11 local time) – Swooping low over the impossible landscape beneath, the group soon discover that they need to get even lower, for the massive crystals have grown together in many places, forming a sharp-ridged roof over the terrain below, obscuring their view. At first this presents no real issues, for the avenues of glittering Duracite, chiming Tintinabulite, shining Relucite and sparkling Glimmerstone are wide and easy to fly down. The group quickly learn to keep away from any crystals that have grown too long, after the Veteran receives a deep cut to his body plate, courtesy of a thin, flat crystal that snares him as he hurtles past.

However, as they near the site of the ancient settlement where Edwin supposedly lives (finding their way within this reflective, confusing labyrinth of gleaming stone is a feat that Shadevia accomplishes using her ability to feel the angles of the universes shadows compared to the “real” world), the corridors get narrower as the crystals have had longer to grow. This forces the group nearer and nearer the ground, which itself bristles with sharp little clusters of Razor Shard and similar. Worse, the close proximity to the otherworldly crystals allows their strange vibrations to begin to affect each individual; ominous aches and throbbings thrumming through their bones and muscles. Not only that, but the air itself in these increasingly claustrophobic corridors shimmers with a fine mist of minuscule crystals, which begin to subtly shred the lungs of those that breathe (i.e everyone apart from Veteran), and after only a few minutes within the narrower corridors they find themselves struggling to breathe, the tang of blood strong on the backs of their tongues.

Eventually the group have to land and dismount, for Ormid realises that their mounts are increasingly at risk of being destroyed by the vitreous needles and hanging knives of crystal that jut from the leaning walls and thrust up from the jagged, cuspidate floor. Wincing as they feel the sharp crystals digging into their soles, they begin to move carefully towards their goal, inhaling deeply as they struggle to breathe in the petrifying atmosphere.

06:34 – 06:56 (05:11 – 05:33 local time) – By the time they have almost reached the ancient settlement, everyone is covered in a multitude of tiny painful cuts from the edges of the crystals, their clothes and hair glistening with minute fragments of the sharp, biting stuff. The corridors are now universally narrow, and are often blocked by criss-crossing growths of ghostly Transientum, fragile wands of some clear crystal they do not recognise, and massed mounds of scything Razor Shard, though now and then they suddenly open into vast geode like caverns, or high ravines open to the grey, drizzly sky.

Within the walls of crystal can be seen huge abstract shadows – the ancient structures of the lost township, now suspended and preserved within the crystalline walls – and the party know that at last, they have arrived. However, all is not well, for from somewhere ahead they can hear distant screams; reedy, male, and unmistakably filled with hopeless terror. They can also make out a dim metallic hammering, as if a multitude of miners are repeatedly and tirelessly slamming their tools into a heavy metallic surface. Slowing their pace, they ready their weapons and quietly focus their magics. They creep along towards the distant sounds, and ahead can make out a large open area, liberally studded with vicious hummocks of Razor Shard, though their view of the area is obscured by the walls of the jagged, uneven corridor they are in.

Ormid conjures a smooth bridge of arcane metal, and creates a clear path over the lethally sharp crystals that block the way forwards, and Veteran jogs forwards, his heavy feet clanking loudly off it. Shadevia raises her bow, sensing something familiar in the fabric of the thrumming air, and Ardwaine brings her hammer up, sparks crackling over its runed head.

As the Veteran moves forwards, Ferrous at his heels, the air about 50' ahead of him suddenly darkens, and an inky pool of shadows appears; a spreading smoky stain of utter blackness that exudes a wider aura of gloom. As he watches, the core of the mass takes on the shape of a huge dog – a heavy-set brute with a wide mouth and pale blue eyes of dim, crepuscular fire.

Glym Hound!” cries Shadevia, firing an arrow, “Deadly pack hunters. Be thankful there is only one.”

Ah, but he is not alone.

Veteran closes the distance between him and this strange otherworldly hound, and with a roar, cuts a deep wound in it, his blade bursting into glassy, rainbow flames a moment before it strikes – suddenly imbued with radiant power by the artificer's will. The Glym Hound gives a whispering shriek of agony as the enchanted metal slices into its shimmering form, and the radiant aura sheathing it assaults the very fabric of its being. It responds with a vicious bite, which Veteran parries deftly, smashing its heavy head to the side, using the split seconds this move buys him to look over to his right to see those that accompany the hound.

A large patch of Razor Shard forms a potentially crippling barrier between the warforged and the others; four men, all preparing various attacks. One stands the other side of a large hole in the ground – the place from which the terrible distant screams issue, as well as the muffled hammering – who wears long midnight blue robes of heavy satin. His face is dark skinned and shadowy tattoos cover his features. He is in the process of casting a spell, his voice rising and falling in the eerie intonation of a spell, his fingers twisting like serpents as he draws the power into himself.

Two of the men are soldiers. One stands the other side of the deadly ripping crystals, and launches a long-bladed throwing knife at the warforged, its course swatted aside by his axe, whilst the second charges, a longsword raised.

The last male stands to the north of the group, using a narrow crystalline corridors walls to guard his flank. He wields a massive bow, which is substantial enough that he has to set its spiked base into the rock and use his whole body to draw it. From this he launches a massive arrow, which sails high into the sky and crunches into the ground next to Ardwaine, who has just charged forwards, stopping dead as she spies the men.

All of these men bear the same symbol upon their breasts; a circle of black fire. Spotting this the dundorin yells a warning to her allies, and upon hearing her description of their standard, Ormid yells back, “I don't believe it! Inner Circle agents! Members of an international criminal cartel who only vanished from our world when the Belief Wars occurred. We could be in trouble here!”

Shadevia launches an arrow at the hound, striking it, and Llewellyn lobs a shimmering dagger from his bracers – reluctant to close with the strange beast. The blade misses, and a wave of darting magical missiles suddenly spring from the mage's hands, striking at the warforged, the Iron Defender, and the dundorin cleric.

The missiles inflict horrific damage, and as the swordsman nears (his feet bleeding where the Razor Shard punches through his armoured boots), Ferrous unleashes a steaming blast of acidic oils, coating the ground and sending the warrior sprawling, face down, into the slicing growths, his flesh burned by acid and bleeding from the deep cuts.

Llewellyn cartwheels closer to the Glym Hound, and lands a truly devastating blow on it, his buzzing mace chewing a massive, smoking wound in its semi-solid substance. It snaps at him, and he just manages to leap out of the way. Then it throws its head back, and unleashes a howl...

...It is a sound of absolute horror; an ululation that speaks of primal fear, of soul shattering horror and the instinctive panic a prey creature feels when the predator is close. It resonates like a black burst of nightmare power through the air, and fills all but Shadevia and Ormid with fear, forcing them to flee, screaming from the monster. It also marks a turning point in this fierce skirmish, for the group suddenly find themselves more than hard pressed by their foes, despite the fact that the hound is slain moments later by Shadevia, her arrow seeming to appear by magic in its shadowed, slavering throat.

The archer is slain by the Veteran, the warforged bleeding salty hemolymph from walking over the Razor Shards to reach him, though only after he inflicts horrific damage on Ormid and Shadevia with his deadly bow. His screams echo strangely in the crystalline space, and he drops to the ground a ruin of gurgling, spurting crimson.

The soldier who fell in the oil patch finds himself surrounded by four members of the party before he is hacked and shot apart, his death coming at the merciless jaws of the Defender. However, he fights with a fanatical zeal to the last, and manages to land several telling blows on the warforged, at least one of them twisting up into his innards, leaving serious, long-term damage. As he dies, he defiantly spits a glob of bloody spittle at Veteran, and gives a grim, insane grin.

The mage is taken down only after he uses his spells to teleport around the area, unleashing huge blasts of burning cold and corrosive bolts of acid at the group, leaving them disoriented and seared, their efforts to fight off the wounds leaving them exhausted and trembling. He meets his end with a gurgling scream, his face literally torn from his skull by the warforged's axe, flying like a leathery mask through the air, to become impaled like some sick pendant on the shards jutting from the wall.

However, as the mage screams, the final soldier, who by that time battles Llewellyn on the far side of the pit - the vyrleen cut off from the others, bleeding from a multitude of serious stab wounds and deep lacerations and surviving only by calling on his innate luck and the healing properties of a construct summoned by Ormid – calls down the pit for help (not that any of the group are able to understand a word he says). In response a great roar is heard, then the sound of approaching footsteps from below. The soldier, himself critically wounded gives a grim smile, for he knows that although he may soon die, he has called a great doom on his killers.

But he is still alive when the form of a huge gorgoth, his dark green flesh cut with glittering, crystalline tattoos, explodes from below with a deafening roar. Impossibly muscled, and clad only in a kilt of animal skins, he wields a huge war cleaver two handed, and all eyes focus on him at once, for he emanates a brutal menace that eclipses that of any of the humans the group just battles.

RRRRRRRAAARGH! FOR THE MASTERS!” he bellows in his brutal, snarling tongue, and the group, by now weakened almost beyond tolerance by the surprisingly vicious battle they have just fought in (and indeed, not yet finished), can only bite back their pain, and turn to face not only this new threat, but to finish off the one who called it.

Below them, down the pit, the distant screaming continues, but the hammering has stopped...

*    *    *
Here is the map as that last game ended. Pink is Ardwaine, Blue is Veteran, Bronze is Ferrous, Silver is Llewellyn, Yellow is Ormid and Gold is Shadevia.



Monday, 24 January 2011

(Spore) Blast From The Past - The Mu Spore

I purchased the two Pathfinder bestiaries yesterday, because, well, although I have a stats for almost all the monsters in them a million times already over a number of editions of the game, there were a few new ones in there, and hell, I love monster books! However, whilst browsing through its virtual pages I came across a rather splendid beastie that first appeared in the 3.0 Epic Level Handbook - The Mu Spore - a massive fungoid monster that could really ruin your lawn if it started growing up through it.

Inspired by its fabulous art, I decided to convert it to 4th Edition, making it a starting epic level critter - though as a solo brute, one capable of dealing enough damage to swat aside all but the most skilled and / or prepared bands of heroes.


Click for bigger.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

An Interesting Thread

At ENworld I came across this discussion about a TPK that occurred in the Scales of War adventure series. I found some of the poster's opinions about spending daily powers before a big boss fight to conserve Healing Surges really quite interesting. See what you think!


A New House Rule

A Long Time Ago I wrote about the house rules we use in our games (and that we use to this day). Well, another one is being playtested now; namely that a minion inflicts double damage on a critical hit.

The logic behind this is simple; minions are actually worth quite a lot of XP, even when you take into account the higher damage they do now, and the fact that they tend to (especially in my games) bring other properties to the battlefield, such as a degree of control or support type boons, and so they should represent a proportional threat. Now I appreciate that minions are the mooks that get cut down in swathes, and this in no way changes. They still work the same as usual, the only difference is, they can, from time to time, give the PC's a good wallop - which is something they should bear in mind, and which the characters themselves would probably bear in mind (they, after all, don't know that their foes are predestined to die with a single hit).

And that's it. I ran a game for my nephew today, and out of the 12 or so minions in it, one got a crit, and inflicted double damage. It made the character and the player wince, but didn't spell the doom of balance or send the group spiralling towards a TPK - it merely made sure they took the minions seriously, and dealt with them swifty.

We shall see how it goes. The next regular group game is on Monday (Ormid et al), and though I don't think there are any minions due to appear, you know how these things sometimes take on a life of their own, and the unexpected occurs.

I'll keep you informed.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Rip Lock and Shatter Maw - Customised Iron Defenders

Here are the stats for Balskus' customised guardians...


And, a bonus beastie that I just created for my nephew's game tomorrow...



Post War Natives - 18/1/2010

06:05 – 06:08 – With the titan drawing ever closer, its deep roaring pressing the air tight, the ground shuddering with increasing strength as it stamps closer, the group keep something akin to calm. Whilst Varracuda quickly shoves the bodies of the slain 'forged into the enchanted chest (all the while trying to ignore the horrified New Forge civilians who watch him; too scared to take action to stop him or to raise the alarm), and Schnecke and Emmiven stand guard, Jaeger, Grigori and Seren turn their attention to the forge.

Seren analyses the glyphs carved into it, and after a few moments finds that they operate on two levels – the most obvious one (enchanting items on the forge) and on a level apparently tied in with another function. Jager examines the anvil, and finds similar irregularities in the form of empowering runes cut into the inner surface of the Hardy Hole. Grigori notices that there are faint scratches on the floor; two oppositely curving semi-circles, that sweep outwards from the forge's vertical midline, and looking more closely at the forge itself he spots the faint suggestion of a sealed opening along its middle. Could the forge open out somehow? Seren continues to examine the magical symbols, and realises that the second layer of glyphs is tied to the ones carved into the anvil, and that there are other runes apparently linked to some kind of warding spell – a trap most likely. She calls to Jaeger, and the assassin joins her, running his thieves eyes over the scribings, aided by the drakven.

“I know how to open this.” he states suddenly, “We need the hardy hammer. It's the key.”

By this point the entire smithy is jumping with the thunderous footsteps of the approaching titan, and a moment before he slams the door shut and throws the bolts across, Varracuda sees it roll into view; a magnificent, monstrous nightmare of whirring artifice engines, gleaming deadly blades and drizzling, alchemical flame.

“We need that hammer!” Yells Jaeger, “And we need it now!”

Varracuda looks around the smithy, and at once spots the worn handle of a hammer almost hidden completely by a small pile of ashes close to the forge.

“There!” he yells pointing, his voice almost lost as the titan, now closer than ever, emits another thunderous bassy roar, the sound of it rattling tools from their resting places, and shaking each adventurer with its fury. Jaeger grabs the hammer and slams it into the hole on the anvil. At once a deep resonance, different from that generated by the approaching titan, thrums through the ground, and the forge swings open at the middle, revealing a semi-circular space beneath in which can be seen a flight of spiral stairs, plunging into the darkness.

06:09 – 06:13 - “Let's go!” Yells Grigori as Schnecke runs towards this exit, the warlord hot on his heels. “Barbarian, you first.”

“Gladly,” answers the Ulnyrr as he steps onto the stairs, “But don't forget I am about as observant as a brriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiick....”

*crunch*

The last part comes as the massive barbarian simply vanishes through the steps and into the space below, coming to an agonising and damaging halt some 50' beneath, the sound of his massive bulk striking the floor an echoing solid slap and pained whooshing of expelled air that draws sympathetic winces from everyone. Emmiven, about to follow him waves his arms almost comically as he desperately pulls back from the edge, and Grigori flows towards the space, his eyes boring into what he now recognises as an illusion of a stairwell covering a pit.

Outside, and a shadow now falls across the windows, lightened slightly by a flickering, rutilant glow. Ferrus Flamma has arrived.

Seren grabs rope out of her backpack, and with the help of Grigori secures it to the anvil. The rope is thrown down the pit, and whilst Schnecke clambers up it, the rest of the group head down, for Grigori's sharp eyes have spotted a corridor in the eastern wall of the shaft – dimly lit by a faint reddish glow.

Schnecke is first to enter that corridor, some 25' below the level of the smithy, and finds it runs straight ahead, coming to an abrupt stop some 30' down in a magical wall of blazing scarlet and violet flames. He can feel the heat coming from it from the end of the corridor, and beyond can make out the forms of several warforged and a couple of dog like constructs, similar to the one he battled outside the shop. He is joined soon after by the rest of the group, and they carefully move towards the wall of flame, noting the large increase in heat as they get closer. By the time they are close enough to see through its warping heart with enough clarity to make out details of the chamber beyond and its inhabitants, the front line warriors (the barbarian and warlord) are literally starting to singe slightly; the aroma of burning hair gathering in the dry, volcanic atmosphere.

Beyond the veil of fire is a large octagonal chamber, lit by the wall's radiance and the light of several spells set in its high ceiling. The walls are carved with impressive symbols of power, and a large, well crafted rune circle dominates the centre of the chamber. At the far end of the chamber stand two forging flame soldiers, their mauls resting against their armoured shoulders, their blank faces turned towards the middle of the circle. Directly across the circle from the group, stood just outside it facing in, is another warforged. It is dressed in ceremonial robes of brilliant vermilion, gold and orange, and has a shiny skullplate on its head. Its arms are outstretched towards the circle's centre, and It holds a hammer etched with glowing golden runes in its left hand, and an orb implement in the other. It seems to be engaging in some kind of ritual with the two other warforged who surround the circle, forming a perfect triangle with their arrangement. Moving clockwise from this 'forged, the next one taking part in the ritual is dressed in the robes and symbols of a forging flame adept. Like the other it is clearly working some kind of ritual with its two allies.

The third warforged directly involved in the ritual stands to the left of the corridor, at the bottom left hand side of the triangle formation. It is a very tall warforged that bears a strangely sculpted rod of steel, vothniir and Durium in its right hand, and what appears to be a bloody humanoid heart in its other – the former owner (who the group realise with numbing shock and horror is Balskus) lying dead and dissected within the circle. Its body plates are highly polished and every inch of them shimmers with delicately crafted runes and symbols of gold. Across its back rests a curious artifice weapon; a white metal bladed sword, with an edge of what seem to be viciously sharpened, floating shards of some metallic crystal. A symbol depicting a warforged's skull plate is stamped onto its blade, and it seems to be covered in fresh blood.

This impressive looking warforged is clearly deep into the ritual, and the group can feel as well as see the effect it is having, a growing distortion forming in the middle of the circle, above the empty shell of Balskus. “He's opening a portal” exclaims Grigori with a snarl, his voice carrying over the ritual moaning of the three warforged into the chamber beyond where the last two creatures in the room immediately hear it, turning to regard the group with unblinking, unfeeling eyes.

Each beast is a customised Iron Defender, clearly modified to suit their owners needs, and bearing evidence of inbuilt lethality through their appearance alone. To the right of the tall warforged stands a slender beast of bronze, copper, adamantium and Durium. The air around it shimmers with a heat haze, and a ruddy, molten light can be seen oozing from between its armoured exoskeleton. It regards the group with glowing orange eyes, and gives a liquid growl as warning to the others. The other defender is twice the size of its companion; a massive thing who's heavy armour can barely restrain its corded muscles and augmented skeleton. Its head is disproportionately large, due to the bear-trap like jaws it houses, and the modified musculature and skull needed to house and operate them. It has pale green eyes, which seem somewhat squeezed by its huge mouth, and it begins to snaps and drool oily fluid at sight of the group.

Seeing the defenders reactions, the two soldiers begin to move forwards, their mauls coming to the ready position, whilst the three spell casters continue undisturbed.

“Shit.” growls Emmiven, “They're on to us. You up for doing something stupid big fella?”, this last comment to Schnecke, who is already breathing hard as he allows his battle rage to fill him; the air turning cold around him as he channels once more the frozen fury of his homeland's spirits. Taking the Ulnyrr's pose and reaction as a “Yes” Emmiven gives a roar, and with his hammer held high, charges through the wall of flame, swiftly covering the distance between him and the smaller of the two Iron Defender's, and landing a solid, crushing blow against it. The barbarian is right with him, his battle cry thunderous as they both dive through the flames and he too lands a devastating blow on the same creature, smashing it to the ground.

Despite their speed, both warriors are burned as they charge through the inferno, though Emmiven's shield soaks up a good amount of punishment. The same cannot be said for Grigori or Varracuda, who both come through a moment later, each howling with pain as the flames sear them. Jaeger activates his boots and calls upon their magic to teleport into the chamber, whilst Seren, gritting her teeth against the agony, runs through the blistering barrier, emerging engulfed in fire, her yells of pain ringing through the air.

06:14 – 06:16 – Watery green flames, ghostly and fluid, erupt in a cone from the swordmage's blade, engulfing both the Iron Defenders, the tall warforged (who continues chanting despite the flames that flicker – apparently with little effect – over him), and one of the soldiers, followed a moment later by an invisible wave of power from the priest, who has taken up a position between Emmiven and the chamber's wall. The two soldiers plough into the group, and the larger defender fastens its hideous jaws around the priest's thigh, its scalpel like teeth sinking into the meat and grinding painfully on the bone. Grigori howls in shock and pain, and struggles to free himself, but is rewarded only with more pain when the hulking beast shakes its terrible head from side to side, further lacerating his leg; blood pouring like a steaming river from the wounds.

Seren works her spell that summons a brilliant field of blinding radiance, dizzying and disorienting those enemies caught within it. At the same time, the vermilion robed spell caster charges the assassin, hammer raised, magic crawling over its hand. However, suddenly he finds himself flying through the air towards the knot of creatures engaged with Schnecke, Emmiven, Varracuda and Grigori – including the tall warforged. Propelled by unnatural shadows, the robed 'forged smashes into the creatures and knocks them all over. Schnecke follows this with a roar of fury, which temporarily weakens the defences of those piled before him, rendering them vulnerable for a time to the group's attacks.

The smaller of the two defenders rises shakily to its feet, and is struck a massive blow by Emmiven which shatters its external armour and opens its burning guts to the air. Whilst this is reassuring in that it shows how badly wounded the beast is, it is also a problem, for its innards are a cauldron of elemental fury substantial enough that all within a spears reach of it are actually burned by its heat. The monster gives a piercing howl, like steam bursting from a burning log, and it attempts to launch a blast of fire at the tightly packed party. Unfortunately, something within it has been bent out of shape, and the blast erupts harmlessly from the monster's neck, engulfing its head, temporarily distracting it and making it an easy target for the group.

It is smashed to the floor a moment later by the warlord's hammer, its internal fires guttering and dying.

The first first maul wielding soldier meets a similar fate moments later, and the group begin to think this battle may be over sooner rather than later. Jaeger is smashed across the room by the maul of the other soldier, and Seren screams as she finds herself too close to the wall of fire, and begins to burn. She spits a blast of lightning which curves around Varracuda (who is now engaged with the second defender, who still dutifully chomps down on the screaming priest, whilst he works frantically to keep the rest of the party alive), but bites into the others – finally getting the attention of the tall warforged, who gives an outraged scream in a strangely human voice.

“DOGS OF THE UNIFIED ORDER! YOU SHALL PAY FOR THIS OUTRAGE IN BLOOD AND FIRE! YOU, WITH YOUR CLOSED MINDS AND FEAR OF ALL THAT IS NOT BOUND BY THE SUFFOCATING DOCTRINE OF THE ORDER! I PISS ON YOU!”

“Merriel's tits!” exclaims Jaeger, his blasphemy making the others flinch, “That's bloody Balskus!”

“Remember, we need him alive!” Yells Varracuda.

Balskus gives up on his ritual and at once the air slackens, a ghostly burst of eldritch corposant arcing over the rune circle as the energies discharge. He draws his strange sword from his back, and with a flick of a small rune on its handle, sets the floating, triangular blades to spinning around it at a terrible speed, the air resonating with a tooth-aching whine.

“None of you are leaving this place today.” he promises, before flicking his wrist and sending a whip-like strand of the sword's whirling teeth towards Schnecke, Grigori and Emmiven, the flashing line tearing through their armour and flesh as if it were paper. Blood, flesh, bone and meat explode into the air from their wounds in grim, pinkish puffs of tissue, and the weapons shriek drops several octaves as it goes about its bloody work.

The air around Balskus and his allies (everyone except the forging flame adept, who has stayed some 30' away, throwing magic at the group and his allies) is suddenly filled with a thrumming wave of darkness, within which can be heard their screams. Those members of the party within this sudden darkness are unharmed, for the source is the assassin, who has worked his shadow magic and created a swarm of bolts, envenomed and charged with his dark sorcery, which now thud into his foes, poisoning them and leaving deep, ragged wounds.

Balskus is temporarily stunned, the attercop venom blazing in a wave of painful, psychic effervescence through his nervous system, and things only get worse for him and his when Seren calls upon her magic and summons a whirling cyclone of frozen force, which rips through the armour of the remaining soldier, and decapitates the vermilion robed spell caster; a half frozen burst of hemolymph erupting in a melted column from his severed neck. The same spell also slices off the back of the hulking defender's skull, and Grigori yelps in shock and pain as its jaws retract, and the huge bulk of it crashes, lifeless, to the floor.

Schnecke leaps towards the remaining forging flame soldier and buries his terrible, massive axe in its face. The razor edge, hardened by magic and driven down with all the Ulnyrr's strength, spits its head open, carves a splattering path down through its thick neck, deflects to the left off its clavicle and ends its move embedded within the soldier's chest. The warforged is dead, and Schnecke is forced to kick the body off his axe, so deeply is its blade embedded in its guts. The barbarian, who is bleeding from a multitude of wounds, is suddenly enveloped in a golden mist of healing magic, send forth by Grigori as he leans, panting and shivering, against the far wall, blood still spurting from the horrible wounds left by the defender's bite. Grigori then chants another prayer of restoration, and sends a flickering beam of blessed light towards Seren, removing all her wounds and enveloping her in a protective aura of divine light. Finally, he unleashes a burst of flickering faith-fire towards Balskus, though this barely touches him, rolling like oil over his runic plates.

Varracuda charges Balskus, his blade twisting towards the artificer come warforged. He aims a lethal blow at his side, his sword edged in green fire, but is shocked when his target steps to the side swiftly and utters a thunderous word of planar distortion, sending him on a teleportive journey to the other side of the wall of fire, his body slammed by the dimensional pressures of his unwilling move. Spitting ichor, the swordmage has to lean against the wall a moment to catch his breath, before he realises what just happened.

“Sneaky bastard.” He growls, his head spinning, “I can do that too.” He spits an inky gob, and then nearly swoons as dizziness sweeps over him.

Balskus is healed somewhat by the adept (who still lingers away from the main melee), and Emmiven, his curious dice like artefact in hand, lands a denting blow against him, calling on the enchanted die to enhance his attack. Alas, as is the way with items devoted to Leorn'Aerbrin, God of Luck and Gamblers, fate can sometimes conspire against those trying to ride its currents, and although it sends a pulse of crackling lightning into the warforged, it also sends a wash of power back into the warlord's face, burning off what remains of his eyebrows, and raising welts on his shifting, amorphous flesh.

Spectral colours erupt from the drakven's clawed hands as she shapes a small ball of chaotic energies into a coherent missile, and launches it towards the spell caster, burning a tiny hole in his body plates. Jaeger, flowing like a living shadow at the edge of the main melee, suddenly appears next to Balskus, his blade punching deep into his body. Then, in a burst of darkness, he teleports back out of the melee to the side of the chamber.

A flickering seal of divine power appears above Balskus' head, called into existence by Grigori, its presence weakening him, and with a roar of fury, he leaps – not towards the priest, but towards the sorceress – his blade revving venomously. His blow strikes her at a critical location, biting hungrily into her long neck, ripping through the meaty pipes and sending a jet of gore spurting out, pulsing in time with her heart. Seren screams and staggers to the side, her mind a whirl as blood loss begins to immediately take its toll, whilst Balskus calls upon his own internal resolve to lock down some of his own bleeding and shock, and to regain strength.

For a moment it looks as if the sorceress may fall, until Emmiven, his voice dripping with scorn yells at her, “Come on your dozy bitch! I've had worse wounds than that when I've cut myself shaving! Stop being such a pussy and get on with it!”

His words have the desired effect, cutting through her haze of crushing pain and hopelessness, and filling her with blazing, invigorating fury. Her golden eyes, which were closing wearily snap open, and with a snarl she straightens her back and prepares to blast Balskus (and then, maybe, Emmiven) out of existence.

On the other side of the wall of fire, Varracuda desperately searches for some way to bring it down, reluctant to risk its deadly fury again. He locates several foci within the corridor's walls that are sustaining the blaze, but sees no immediate way to drop it – though further study will probably let him find this. However, he is able to teleport into the room moments later courtesy of marks of power he laid down within Balskus with his earlier attacks; using them as a focus for his own transdimensional travel; appearing next to him, his blade slashing into his plate.

All this time the warlord has been waiting for a perfect moment to strike. As Balskus' attention is on the drakven, he moves in, his hammer crushing into a crack he has seen in the artificer's runic body plate. With a battle cry he slams the heavy weapon down, and he is rewarded with a high pitched scream from Balskus as the crack widens and scalding hemolymph explodes out. However, Emmiven's cry of victory turns to pained confusion, as do those of his allies, when everything is drowned in painful blinding light, his mind suddenly alive with an echoing, snarling, malevolent yelling – Balskus' hatred flowing into him in painful, dizzying waves of psychic torment. Balskus, his body radiating both blinding magical light and his own hate, takes advantage, despite his own agony, of the distraction, and works his most potent spell. The air, which smells of charred flesh, burned hair, salty hemolymph and coppery blood, spent magic and musky aggression, suddenly stinks of ozone, and with a dread crepitation, a vast field of blazing electrical flame covers almost all the chamber; burning and dazing everyone within it. Only Grigori, Seren and Varracuda avoid its lashing power, the others burning in its fury, their limbs twitching spastically as the current plays painfully through them.

And now the battle enters its end game. Those caught within the lightning field's confines are severely punished by its magic, and Emmiven would have been killed were it not for a prayer of protection from Grigori that immediately restores him in a wave of colourless flame. Worse, the radiant and psychic energies pouring from the wounded Balskus blind those too close and curdle their minds with rupturing mental trauma, leaving the already seriously wounded and disoriented adventurer's even more vulnerable. However, far from making them give in, the adversity drives them on. They work together to pinpoint the artificer, and working as a team, surround and eventually finish him - Jaeger's enchanted crossbow sending two bolts splintering across his face, overwhelming his artifice systems and knocking him out cold (but alive, as was required by Saul).

The darkness, silence and lack of pain - both physical and psychical – that follows Balskus' defeat is almost overwhelming, and it takes the group a moment to realise that they are not finished yet.

Cowering now, the remaining adept tries to bargain for its life.

It fails.

06:17 – 06:22 – The group spend a few moments applying dressings, gathering their wits, catching their breaths, and accepting a little magical healing from the priest. Jaeger grabs the strange weapon Balskus used, testing its weight and finding it to his liking; revving its chain of teeth with barely disguised glee, whilst the rod implement he used is given to Grigori for safe keeping and later examination.

Seren and Emmiven take a teleport gem they were given by Saul, and place it upon the unconscious artificer, muttering the command phrase. At once both crystal and body vanish; whisked away to the Unified Order holding cells at the Durance Occulta. However the shard can only carry one, and back along the corridor leading from this place they can hear the echoing roaring of the titan, and the unmistakable sound of approaching warforged. A metallic rattling announces that there was a way to summon real stairs from above – a way the approaching 'forged apparently know – and the group realise that they have a lot more fighting yet to do, for there is only one way out, and their enemies block it.

The wall of fire lost when Balskus went down, there is nothing to slow the approaching 'forged, and grimly, the group raise their weapons and gather their influence, ready, if necessary, to kill anything and everything that comes between them and escape - a strange sense of peace and power flowing through them, invigorating them.

“Make them suffffffer....” Whispers a cold voice in Grigori's mind...

...”Here they come”, growls Schnecke.

The first wave charges...

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Balskus' Unique Items

I'll get the report done over the next couple of days hopefully. In the mean time, here are the two unique items the group recovered (after a very tough battle) from the renegade mage; his implement and his sword. 

And here is the "man" himself!


(Click for a larger version)

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

::SPOILER ALERT:: A Taste of Horrors to Come

Actually, I am not giving too much away with this, but I wanted to share a little taste of something coming with the Sundering event. This is actually a really big deal, and it will have ramifications beyond merely the immediate ones of "holy crap, our world is messed up!" - political ones that shape the future and which address a few loose ends I realised were suddenly developing. 

Obviously, for those details you are going to have to wait. However, for now, here is an alien disease that some of the players in the Post War Natives group may find themselves exposed to; Fungal Worms. 


Saturday, 15 January 2011

Ormid et al - Session Report - 11/01/2011

9/5/13268

05:00 – 05:15 – The group meet Calsiphus for breakfast in a huge chamber, illuminated by floating spheres of fire, that they are sure wasn't in the tower the day before. Whilst they munch on seasoned porridge and seed sprinkled toasts, Calsiphus tells them a little more about the area they are going to visit.

The Palace Lake sits within the heart of an ancient caldera, and back in the day, it was a thriving township. It's waters were deep, rich and clear, and home to many kinds of edible weeds and fat, tasty fish, whilst its surrounds were rich in minerals and mines. People built a large settlement there, much of it stretching out over the waters on stilts, and for long and long, it was a commercial hub for those travelling across Calsor. Then, long ago, something started to change. The fish vanished and the mines dried up. People moved away, and much of the town was allowed to fall into ruin.
Next darker forces moved in. A large part of the town was levelled after a daemon launched a full scale attack on a band of local heroes, and a darker presence began to make itself known; hidden, but infusing everything with its evil. More people left, and the decaying township became a place of pilgrimage for foul cultists, and those who sought to seek out the buried malevolence. Ghosts and other unquiet spirits haunted its shores, and it soon became a cursed place, a shunned place; a place only the foolhardy or insane would willingly visit.
Then, around about 3298 K.C. According to the few surviving texts from that time, something happened that caused a serious breach between our universe and another. Theories suggest that someone tried to free whatever evil lay bound beneath the lake's shores, or that a foul ritual, drawing on the ambient power of the place went awry, tearing the veil between worlds. Whatever the cause, alien magics flooded the entire area, and the inner caldera became mixed with the ecology and energies of another, strange reality.
The lake vanished, and the region became covered with a thick forest of crystals and strange stones. The very air became infused with fossilising power, and bizarre lifeforms of living crystal and thinking stone found their way into the place, making permanent lairs there. The buried darkness remained however, and so, some areas became corrupted, the shimmering prisms and wands becoming stained and infused with bloody shadows. “People quickly realised that the region was now even more dangerous than before; for flesh slowly turned to stone within the bowl of the caldera, and the air, thickly woven with minute shards of razor sharp crystal, quickly tore lungs to bits, leading to permanent ailments that affected breathing, and yes, even death.
The creatures that rode the event through into this world were, and are, dangerous too. Whether driven by instinct or anger, malevolence or habit, they attack those that cross their paths with elemental magics and knife-like shards of slashing crystal. They thrum songs that burst bones, rupture organs or drive men to madness, and drag the unwary, alive and screaming, into the ground, there to remain, frozen in silence for all time.”

Calsiphus stops, seeing the shocked expressions on the parties face. He gives a sheepish grin, and waving his fork, changes his voice to a lighter tone, and continues.

Of course, there are advantages to the place. Many of the crystals that came through are normally incredibly rare and are valuable. A thriving tourist trade has also begun, the 'Palace lake Consortium' building a literal chain of inns, with balconies extended over the lip of the caldera, along the upper edge, from which the curious and rich can observe the chiming, luminous otherworldly landscape below in safety.
And of course, there is the simple fact that the deadly reputation of the area makes it ideal for keeping things safe; case in point, the primal binding runes.”

Calsiphus beams.

Ormid frowns, then asks. “So, if this place is so damn lethal, why is your friend there?”

The mage nods, seeing the sense in the question, and after chewing on a mouthful of food, he answers.

Edwin is a geomancer, a mage who taps into the energies of crystals and the planets own magic to power his spells. He was fascinated by the idea of an alien ecosystem being present in our world, and applied to be allowed to move his labs there in order to catalogue all the minerals that grow in the region, the creatures that live there, and to try and harness some of the local magics.
His request was granted, and with him, a powerful and trusted mage in situ, a warding vault was built and the binding runes placed within. Edwin has been the guardian ever since.”

So,” begins the Veteran slowly, “We go to him, he what, senses the spell you put on us?”

And the pass phrase I shall give you.”

Okay, and then he just hands over the glyphs? Just like that?”

Yes. Easy eh? Then he should be able to open a secure portal back here.”

Secure?” asks everyone at once.

Calsiphus looks momentarily confused, and then remembering that they are not from this time, elaborates.

Ah, yes. Well, you see, there are several hazards inherent in teleportive magics in this age. The first comes from an ancient site that stands on a desolate island a few miles to the southeast of Fey's southern coast, the so called Obsidian Dial. No one knows who built it, and attempts to destroy or deactivate it have failed, but it has a very real effect on the world – namely, emitting sub-dimensional waves of distortion that can, now and then, disrupt teleportation.”

Define 'disrupt'” growls Shadevia, her black eyes glimmering.

Well,” coughs Calsiphus, suddenly flustered, “most people just don't arrive where they should. They, kinda'....you know. Poof!”

Poof?”

They are spread across the universe, reduced to a vapour. Gone. Vanished. Dead.”

And the others?” asks Llewellyn, eyebrows raised.

Well, they either find themselves somewhere other than their intended destination, or sort of crushed by the power.”

Calsiphus gives a weak grin.

You said that was only one of the problems.” Prompts Shadevia suddenly, her voice cold and empty.

Well yes. With the nature of the items you will have with you, there is a chance that some individuals that hunger after them may try to hijack your journey, subverting your teleportation and redirecting you to a location of their choosing.”

The group look round at each other.

But your friend can stop these things happening?” Asks Veteran after a moment.

Oh yes. Well, he can craft a spell that has less chance of falling prey to these problems, which can't be bad can it?”

The group say nothing. The rest of the meal passes in silence. The group then collect their gear and prepare for the trials ahead.

05:25 – The group find themselves in Calsiphus' conjurary, stood within the bounds of a beautifully inscribed rune circle. They have already been enchanted with the Introduction ritual, and are waiting for the portal to Calsor to be opened. Calsiphus has told them that the portal will link to a rune circle kept in the room of an inn about twelve miles from the upper ridge of the Palace Lake caldera, explaining that all inns of the “Green Griffon” chain (a chain with its base in Shadok), all keep a spare room which holds a rune circle for use by members of the Arcane Star, granting the order's members access to a multitude of sites across the world.

As the mage enacts his spell, the air around the party begins to shiver with power, and the runes in the circle begin to ooze a dim, pallid radiance. Then a wave of dizziness sweeps over them, a vertigo that comes from suddenly moving thousands of miles without actually moving, and the group find themselves in almost total darkness.

05:26 – 05:36 – By the flickering light of Veteran's axe, the group can make out that they are in a small, windowless bedroom. A thin mantle of dust covers everything including the bed, and the only exit is a wooden door, bolted from this side. Ormid reaches out with his senses, and feels the presence of a simple spell in the air; an alarm ritual – no doubt to alert the innkeeper as to their arrival.

Sure enough, after a few moments, the sound of footsteps can be heard from the other side of the door, then several knocks on the door itself. The door is opened, and the party are met by a very tired looking, slightly grumpy man, dressed in nightclothes. He mutters something at them in a language none speak, and communication is only established when he uses base gorgoth - a language Shadevia speaks, and which, being divinely bestowed, has remained unchanged over the massive epochs of time. He asks them if they would like something to eat before they move on, and when the group reply they have just eaten, he shows them to the front door.

Outside it is still dark, this part of the world being further from the dawn than Fey, and heavy, pounding rain hisses down from the blackness. The group thanks the inn keep, and stepping out into the soaking dark, take in their surroundings.

The road on which the Inn rests is well paved, and is lit by small chunks of relucite, who's white glow gives everything a slightly unreal edge. The air smells of thunder and fresh water, and the group's breath fogs in the chill of the dawn storm. To be heard, they have to raise their voices, for thunder rumbles constantly above and around them, and the rain slaps the ground with a harsh, hissing song. Water runs a couple of inches deep along the road, a transient river born from the surging rains.

Across the way from the inn is a signpost that gives directions to several nearby cities and towns; Castelae to the northwest, Vibrex to the southwest, Lentriscoe to the southeast, and “Ye Olde Palace Lake” along a steep road to the east. A quick look around shows that the Green Griffon is halfway up the sides of a steep ridge of mountain that runs to the north and south, curling around the unseen sides of the Palace Lake caldera's supporting cone. In the distance and far below their current level, can be seen rolling hills and vast, open plains, studded through the misty rain with the odd patches of distantly winking lights. The muted flickering glow of sheet lightning gives the party a better view of the silhouette of the land before them – the mountains, and more importantly the formidable climb of the ancient cinder cone that they must transverse to reach the Palace Lake - and they realise that it could take all day to reach their destination if they travel by foot along the winding road that reaches from here to the upper ridge of the caldera.

05:37 – 05:47 (04:07 – 04:17 local time) – Ormid works his ritual that summons magical mounts, and soon they group are on the backs of these glassy, spectral things, floating some 50' above the ground.

“We'll make good time on these!” cackles the artificer as he sends his forth with a mental command.

05:48 – 06:06 (04:18 – 04:36 local time) – The group dart up the steep sides of the mountainous terrain, though they nearly smash into several stands of pines, and at one point almost crash into a tall, slender watch tower. They fight against the strong winds that blow down the sides of the ancient cinder cone, driving rain into their faces at speed, and were it not for the line of tiny lights – the relucite chunks that line the winding roads sides – would probably find themselves blown hopelessly off course.

It seems to take forever for them to reach the top, but suddenly the rain slows to a heavy drizzle and the winds, though still strong, ease off a little. However, their path towards the ridge is blocked as ahead they see a spectacular “wall” of towers and multi-storey buildings, all silhouetted by an eerie, golden light, quite unlike anything they have seen before – a glow apparently coming from the caldera itself. At first they consider trying to fly over the buildings, but quickly realise that their mounts can only fly so high, and that they would be forced to scramble over the rooftops of the massive buildings – clearly one of the tourist trap inns built by the Palace Lake Consortium.

The group decide that they should try and get permission to pass through the compound, reasoning that it will be easier in the long run than trying to sneak through, getting caught and having to explain / fight their way out of the situation...

...They are, of course, wrong.

06:07 – 06:12 (04:37 – 04:42 local time) – The party locate the front gate that leads into the complex, and can see that several men and a vyrleen stand guards around it; some leaning sleepily against the sides of the structure, others warming their hands on small piles of what seem to be glowing, burning crystals; the odd rain drop hissing and crackling off them in bursts of steam. Several large prisms of relucite have been set into the gates frame, casting a white-green glow over the whole area, picking out the lines of the symbol worked into the gate's surface; a golden ring encompassing a pale blue circle within which is bound a stylised sparkling gem. This symbol is echoed on the dark blue tabards worn by all the guards over their armour, and is clearly the standard of the collective.

The men are well armed, and despite their clear weariness and boredom, seem relatively alert.

Not wanting to alarm them, the party move a little way down the road, and then approach slowly (still flying 10' above the group), calling out to them as they approach. The guards jerk to attention and the vyrleen, accompanied by a huge human warrior – dressed in heavy mail his left eye hidden behind a patch – steps forth. If any of the men are surprised by the weird group or their strange mode of transport they do not show it. The vyrleen shouts out to them in the same language the inn keep used. After a few moments he realises no one understands him and switches to his native tongue, which despite being mostly very different to the dialect he speaks, Llewellyn understands enough to be able to serve as a translator. He spends a moment talking, and the group can tell from the tones of their voices that they are not getting on too well. The other guards, also apparently unable to understand what is being said, begin to ready themselves for trouble, trying to subtly bring their weapons to bear.

Llewellyn is clearly getting very frustrated, and suddenly he turns to the party and states, “He says unless we are paying guests booked in to stay here we need to fuck off.”

The Veteran gives a deep growl in his chest, and Shadevia seems to fold in on herself a little as she reaches out and finds the many spirits of the area, preparing to bind them to her will.

“Tell him,” begins Ormid, “that we want no trouble, but that we must get past.”

Llewellyn does, and apparently gets a less than positive response.

By now the tension in the air is palpable. In the distance, to the southeast, a thin line of dark blue-green shows that beyond the lowering clouds the sun is approaching the horizon, and that another day is rapidly approaching.

For these men, it is a day that several will not see.

The one eyed human growls something at the vyrleen guard, and with a smug grin, the diminutive humanoid says something to Llewellyn – something that by its tone, even without being able to understand the words is clearly “Last chance. Go or die.”

Llewellyn refuses to obey, and noticing that a man bearing a heavy crossbow has taken aim at him from the top of the barrier wall to the south of the gate, he gives the vyrleen a smug grin before screaming out a warning to his allies that “shits about to get real”, and jumping his horse over to the wall where, as part of an elaborate forward flip, he simultaneously dismounts and smashes his mace into the crossbowman's shoulder, ripping his armour and sending him sprawling.

Realising that he is in the front line of what could be a very unpleasant battle, the vyrleen guard suddenly enacts some power and vanishes in a burst of rippling distortion, leaving his allies to face the group.

06:13 – 06:14 (04:43 – 04:44 local time) – And that's that. With their ally attacked, the guards go to their work. However, they have never faced an enemy anything like the party, and soon over half of them are unconscious or curled up groaning in agony.

The crossbowman facing Llewellyn manages to nick a blood vessel, and the vyrleen is forced to stop a moment to staunch the flow of blood. Ormid sweeps in on his horse and blasts the enemy with an invisible shockwave of thunder, almost knocking him off the wall. However, he manages to hold on, dropping to the floor. Llewellyn rushes him, but receives a vicious slash across his face when the warrior presses a small latch, and a bayonet swings up and locks in place on the front of his crossbow, a moment before he thrusts out at Llewellyn.

Another crossbow wielding soldier, crouched on the ground across the way from the other , fires a modified bolt filled with acid, and soaks several members of the party with the nasty stuff; a cloud of stinging, choking smoke enveloping them briefly. He is blasted by a crackling cone of electrical fire, spat from the sizzling jaws of Ferrous, courtesy of the organ taken from the Defender they faced in the belly of the skyship above Laertraine, recently implanted by Ormid. The lightning is almost liquid, erupting with a sharp shriek and extending in smoky bolts to strike at its targets. He screams but avoids the worst of the damage, getting several more shots off at Shadevia, several of which strike hard, drawing spurting lines of shadowy, smoking blood from her.

The huge one eyed man finds himself facing both Veteran and Ferrous, and takes the full brunt of the Iron Defender's lightning breath, his skin reddening under its power, his beard smoking and flaming. Despite this, he proves to be a deadly opponent, using every dirty trick at his disposal; throwing mud into Veteran's eyes temporarily blinding him, using sucker punches to daze and disorient him, and placing kicks that on a flesh and blood opponent would have a seriously debilitating effects due to their location. In addition to this he is remarkably skilled, able to send his heavy sword out in an arc, striking at both the warforged and his pet with each blow. One such blow however ends the life of one of his allies as Veteran grabs him and throws him in front of the deadly swing; the blade neatly severing the unfortunate soldier's head from his shoulders.

As the battle wears on the one eyed man lands blow after blow against the two defenders, his heavy swings working deep wounds into both adventurers. He is suddenly illuminated by a blinding arrow, infused with radiant spirits, shot by the shadeling, and his allies scream in shock as the glassy beams of light dazzle them.

Mage!” screams one soldier, “Help!”

Ardwaine has waded into the thick of several soldiers, her snarling hammer smashing one to the ground. However, she is unable to score any hits against two others who move to flank her. Suddenly she is hit in the shoulder by an arrow wreathed in unnatural flame. She yelps as it bites in, burning her, and then roars in anger as she realises that the missile came from Shadevia. “Traitor!” she bellows, taking a stab from the polearm of one of the flanking warriors, “Wait till I get me' hands around your...”

Her words fail her as the arrow suddenly flares, and a tiny fire spirit leaps from it, exploding in the face of the warrior that just stabbed her, incinerating his head in a sickening burst of agonising heat, and she grudgingly yells “Thanks I guess” as she smashes her hammer into the shocked face of the other warrior, snapping his head back with a dull crack, killing him.

A burst of light on top of the wall to the north of the gate heralds the arrival of a mage. He immediately shouts out a harsh incantation, and sends a rose coloured serpent of lightning crackling towards Ormid, who dodges it and immediately swoops round to meet him with a mighty punch from his artifice arm....which also misses.

The crossbowman on the wall is knocked unconscious after surrendering - his repeated blows neither slowing the vyrleen or deterring him - whilst the other is driven to flee when Shadevia unleashes a cloud of arrows, which, despite missing him, make him realise how badly outmatched he and his allies are. The one eyed warrior however, still going strong, is also hit by a number of these, his armour being torn and ripped by their barbed heads, exposing the upper half of a tattoo on his chest depicting a black dragon breathing a spume of flame to its left – the standard of the dread Black Legionnaires. Veteran smashes his axe into him again and again, his blows landing with increasing frequency as the warrior weakens, and as he struggles to move due to his armour being pinned to him by the seeker's arrows. He is also still suffering from the after effects of Ferrous' lightning breath, his muscles twitching involuntarily, and is struggling to land blows without his treacherous limbs jerking his weapon away.

Llewellyn surges over to attack the mage, flanking him with Ormid, and is caught in the area of a spectacular spell he casts, which unleashes a silvery shockwave of silent sonic energy. This blast also slams against Veteran and Shadevia, though all three of them are miraculously untouched by it, the power seeming to veer around them without effect. Ormid responds with his own sonic attack, sending a lance of focused sound into the mage, smashing him to the floor. Seeing him vulnerable, the rogue moves in and strikes him with his mace, cracking his head wide open, a pinky-orange froth boiling from the critical wound. This is still not enough to kill him, though his voice is slurred and thick with agony, and he manages somehow to stagger drunkenly to his feet – only to be blasted to the floor by another thunder lance from Ormid.

Llewellyn takes the opening offered to him, and lands a blow that smashes his head open completely. The mage collapses without a sound, plunged into a coma that will end, 9 weeks from now in his death.

Suddenly alone and surrounded, the one eyed warrior manages to hold out for a few more seconds. Then, blinded by swarming insects summoned by a rune carved arrow fired from Shadevia, he is struck a final blow by Ferrous; the Defender leaping at him and landing a vice like bite on the back of his neck, his weight dragging the gasping warrior to the floor. The struggling warrior gives a strangled shriek, and all hear a juicy pop as his cervical vertebrae are crushed by the homunculus' savage teeth, and his life ended.

The battle, only 30 seconds long is over, the area around the gates smeared with blood, guts, the contents of bowel and bladder, and shattered weapons. Beyond the outer walls, alarms wail in the inns belly, alerting more guards to the carnage, and the group realise they need to move fast if they are to avoid more combat.

06:15 – 06:17 (04:45– 04:47 local time) - Leaping onto their mounts, the party fly over the outer wall at full speed, crossing a wide courtyard. From the far ends they can see more soldiers running towards the gates, and all can feel the thrill of magical power being gathered by a potent spellcaster, though where they are is not apparent.

Unable to get the height needed to fly over the main building the group desperately seek a way through it. Spotting a gate that leads to a corridor linked to the gardens and viewing platforms that overlook the caldera, the party swoop towards it, carefully adjusting their speed and altitude to be able to safely surge along the narrow way. It's terrifying, but they manage to dart through unscathed, scaring an early rising guest half to death as they burst into the back gardens.

And before them they get their first view of the caldera through a mantle of morning fog and unnatural dusts; a vast bowl of shimmering, glittering, crystals of a million glassy colours, brilliantly gleaming below like the inside of some huge, impossible geode. The caldera is more vast than they imagined, vanishing into the distance, and it takes them a moment to gather their wits enough to realise that they are not in the clear yet.

Behind them, above the red-tiled roofs of the inn, two brilliantly luminous forms begin to coalesce; otherworldly creatures being conjured from the voids beyond by the unseen mage. They initially appear as blobs of lightning bright light, but soon begin to develop bat like wings and reaching limbs ending in long-clawed hands.

The party don't hang around long enough to take in any more details.

Flying towards the edge of the caldera, the group avoid a few hastily fired crossbow bolts, and with a whoop of mixed terror and joy, they steer their horses down into the glowing maw of the caldera, and the beautiful, alien, deadly realms below.

*    *    *
And for those of you that want it, here is the Introduction ritual.