Using My Monsters

Saturday, 28 May 2011

More Ipokken

Craig and I are chatting about maybe resurrecting the Ipokken campaign in 4th Edition. This will be a solo game, and so will have two advantages.

1) We can play whenever we are both free
2) As there are no balance issues with other players, I can create the overpowered items the
    3.5 Ipokken had without causing any issues. This also means I can plan tougher encounters
    for just the monk and his side-kick

To get my creative and memorial juices flowing, I have been reading over the old 3.5 adventures I wrote. There are a LOT of them, and in one folder I came across some exchanges that took place on the now defunct older message boards. Here are a few of them...

*   *   *

“Sh*t” spits Aradeus as he notices the three masses of pond-slime like filth gathering up at the back of the chamber, “What the hell are those?”

He quickly works a spell around himself and backs off, allowing Calvoreth a clear run at the weird, oozing monsters. By this point they have taken on a parodical humanoid form; dripping and bubbling. They stink of the black mud from the bottom of a pond, and each constantly excretes frothy fluid from within its spongy, dark-green body.

Despite their fearsome appearance, the beasts are relatively weak. They succumb quickly to Ipokken’s blows, though Calvoreth has some problems, as the slicing edge of his scimitar seems to pass through them with little if any effect, and he is forced to wield his blade side on, which makes for awkward attacks.

Whilst Ipokken and Calvoreth hack at the mass of vines at the back of the chamber (which is some kind of door composed of densely knotted, spiny vines and stems), the Ghaerduun, muttering angrily at the voice only he can hear, searches the vile remains of the monsters. After several minutes of running his hands through the disgusting slop of their remains, he picks up an intricately carved pebble and gives a squeal of joy.

“A know stone! A know stone!”

All the group turn to look at him in shock. A moment more of joy passes before the wizard’s face drops.

“What is it?” asks Aradeus, his face pale with worry.
“Crap! It’s one for you priest. I cannot access the spell within.”

Mendle explains that Know Stones hold the secrets to using a spell. Though rare in many cultures, they were common in many ancient societies, and are still used extensively by the Ghaerduun and Dundiir.

“However,” he continues with a pout “that stone held nothing but a whisper for me. I suspect it holds a divine spell, a spell born of piety and faith not study and understanding.”

The Ghaerduun fails utterly to keep the contempt out of his voice.

Aradeus takes the stone, and a moment later his eyelids flicker, and he gasps raggedly.

“It spoke to me! It holds a spell that binds some sort of animal energy to recipient, boosting their physical attributes.” He looks with awe at the stone. “I think that with a little time I will be able to ask my God to grant me this spell. Thank you Mendle.”

The Ghaerduun ignores him.

Beyond the vine door a wide corridor turns sharply to the left (west). It is apparently a natural tunnel that has been widened by someone at some point. Every inch of it is studded with tiny flecks of luminous golden crystal, which glint and glimmer like minute aureate stars, casting a dim luminosity through the air (though not enough to see by).

“Could those be bits of those stones the ghost talked about” asks Aradeus, bending to get a closer look. Ipokken shrugs, as does Calvoreth.

“Maybe they are using the stones to enable the cultivation of horrors beneath the ground?” whispers the monk, running his calloused hands over the sharp little growths.

“Happy thoughts!” growls Calvoreth.

The group move along the corridor slowly, with Aradeus and Ipokken up front; the priest checking the way ahead for traps, the monk guarding him against ambush. Progress is slow, and it takes some time for them to make it round the bend, and to begin moving along a roughly 10’ wide, 8’ high tunnel that curls round to the south and then…

“Aw CRAP!” Screams Aradeus suddenly as the ground beneath him and Ipokken falls away, “Pit traaaaaaaaaap…!!!”

*crunch*

Both men drop into the cleverly concealed pit trap, falling a good 20’ before slamming into the hard stone far below. Both men are bruised and battered, but alive.

“Sorry ‘bout that.” Winces the priest, looking around the 10’ x 10’ space into which they have fallen, “Spotted it a bit too late I think.”

Calvoreth and Mendle’s faces appear over the eastern edge of the pit, and a rope is thrown down. Aradeus then takes the rope and like some kind of spider, scales the western side of the pit, before taking hold of one end of the rope and throwing it down to the monk.

But.

Aradeus’ face drops and he stares over at Calvoreth and Mendle on the other side with dread in his eyes.

“What?!?” Croaks the warrior.
“Somethings moving…no lots of somethings are moving further down the tunnel. Shit! Calvoreth get your ass over here, and Ipokken get up pronto!”

Aradeus throws the rope to Mendle who grabs it and grunts as the monk begins the first of many unsuccessful attempts to hurriedly scale it and assist his compantions.

Calvoreth clears the pit with a long jump and land in a crouch next to Aradeus. The priest is staring into the dimness ahead, beyond the alchemical yellow light of the Sunrod Calvoreth carries, trying to see what is making the dry, whispering sound that echoes from within it.

Calvoreth raises the light, and the way ahead is brightly litten, revealing a veritable sea of tiny thorn like monsters charging to attack – identical to the ones the group briefly encountered in the gulley.

“Ipokken, hurry up!” yell both men together as they read themselves for the attack, “We have a problem here!”

At least half the monsters are taken out by another charge of the wand the priest wields, each crumbling to ash at the touch of its invisible, herbicidal magic. The others however slam into the two men, scratching with thorn like claws, and scoring numerous hits.

Calvoreth is unhurt, his armour soaking up the damage from the monsters feeble attacks. The priest is not so lucky, and despite his leather armour and wild dodges, he is struck several times. One of the blows at least carries a toxin, and Aradeus yelps as his muscles begin to burn from its effects, weakening him.

The fight rages of, both men slowly backing towards the 20’ deep pit, desperately seeking a section of corridor where only two of the Twig Blights can attack. Within the pit, the monk desperately struggles to climb the rope. Alas, in his haste he repeatedly loses his grip, or slams into the sides with enough force to send him tumbling back into the darkness again. Tasked with holding the rope, Mendle is red-faced with exertion, and desperately fights to keep from being dragged down into the pit by the monk’s weight.

Bit by bit, hack by hack, the two men chop their way through the toddler sized monsters, leaving a pile of splinters and sap behind. Gasping with exertion and the effects of the adrenaline, they flop down by the side of the pit and await the arrival of the monk.

It takes time (and Mendle falls into he pit when he tries to jump it, sustaining some nasty bruises in the process), but eventually the four questors are beyond the pit.

They rest briefly, whilst Mendle prepares a few spells he neglected to memorise that morning, allowing the pain of their wounds to subside. Aradeus notes that he is feeling a bit dizzy, and uneasy glances pass between the other three as they think on the numerous mosquito bites they have all collected whilst out in the jungles.

Soon though, they are back on their way. The main corridor widens, and splits into three separate tunnels. After a check for traps, the group decide to head straight on, noting that the way is blocked by another vine door (and that the solar stones here are large enough to have formed small wands. They are curious; utterly black apart from along the angle of their facets, where brilliant silver-yellow light emerges. A closer look leads the Ghaerduun to conclude that they are not natural growths, but some kind of artificially cultivated mineral).

After a brief search for traps on the door, Ipokken and Calvoreth begin hacking the vine door apart. This takes little time, but as soon as they have smashed through, two vine-like tentacles burst through, grabbing the two surprised warriors around the throat and dragging them through the shattered portal.

Kampfults – Four of them to be exact; two lurking on the ceiling, and two writhing and twisting a little further on.

Without the vines to hide in, the group can see them for what they are. Most of their body is made up of the vine-like tentacles, which form a loose net of rubbery strands. Towards the middle of their noisome bulk is some sort of (slug-like?) body, guarded by a veritable mass of smaller, tough tentacles.

Both Ipokken and Calvoreth have been grabbed by them, and dragged within their crushing, throttling embrace. They tussle briefly with the monsters, before ripping free and counter-attacking. Aradeus is wounded after running into to try and prize the fighter free of his captor, the third beast rolling in to whip him fully across the face, and Mendle summons magic with words and gestures, hurling small darts of shining magical force at the fiends (with little effect).

Blades slash and the blood of the questors spatters the walls with that of the Kampfults. Soon only one remains, and sensing that it will soon die too, it flees, tumbling like a mass of string in a gale away from the group. Furious and determined to bring the fiend down, Ipokken runs after it, catching it as it begins to round a turn to the south...

…And totally missing the trigger stone for another trap…

One minute the monk is chasing after the monster, his whole body singing with pain and adrenaline. The next, there is a bright flash of light, a loud (internal) snapping sound, a horrible explosion of confused agony and disorientation, and he is pinned briefly under a crushing pile of rock – the remnants of the heavy block that has just fallen from the ceiling and shattered on contact with the ground, killing the kampfult, and seriously wounding the monk.

Shaking the worst of the pain away, and staggering giddily to his feet, Ipokken is met by his companions as they stagger along to check he is okay. They spend some time cleaning up (most of Ipokken’s wounds are miraculously cosmetic), and then pick their way with even more caution along the corridor.

A cunning trap is disarmed a little further on (an apparently obvious trap whose disarmament triggers the real trap – a salvo of poisoned arrows), and soon the group have come to another vine door…

…Which is where the game ended…

*   *   *
The group carefully picked their way towards the ruins, each alert for anything potentially hostile, and soon they were within the ring of older trees (Ippoken realised that they were merely trees that had survived the original clearance of the hill by those inhabiting the former fort), carefully searching the tumbled, tangled stones of the northern ruin. As they searched, the wind continued to stiffen, and soon the first heavy drops of rain had given way to a full on, torrential downpour.

Cursing the premature darkness the storm had brought, a terse discussion was had about a plan of action, and it was decided that the group would return to the camp where the other two men had been. They would rest, heal, and return to explore the western and central ruins in the morning.

Having found nothing in the northern ruin, the group were soon moving as fast as they dared in the blinding monsoon in the direction of the camp. Soaked and tired, they never noticed the slimy ropes of the monsters until they attacked, springing up from the vines like vile, woody nooses. Before they could act, several members of the party had been entangled by the things, and dragged amongst the writhing, whipping masses of their tentacles.

The battle was a painful and frustrating affair. The monsters had a penchant for grabbing their foes and trying to throttle them, whilst whipping ripping tentacles (which seemed to make up the main portion of their sinewy, rope-like bodies) at anyone within reach. Luckily this need to remain aggressive to others meant that the monsters were somewhat distracted from their throttling, which meant that most party members could break free from the strangling grip before they passed out and died. Slimy and dextrous, the monsters proved elusive foes, though slowly but surely, the group hacked and tore at them, until they were no more.

More eager than ever to rest, the party returned to the camp, finding it deserted. Food was taken, and once more Aradeus worked his god’s magic, healing the worst of the bruises and cuts. Then, with the rain easing off, and a thick fog rising, the group sorted watches, and settled down for a long, cold, wet night.

Only…

In the darkness, a spectral light – algid and numinous – could be seen shining through the fog, casting long shadowy streamers from the trees and throwing everything into pallid relief. It seemed to be coming from the central ruins at the top of the hill. Tense discussions were made about the wisdom of seeking out the light’s source, and despite the risk posed by lurking plant monsters or rogue Sebbatti, it was decided that Ipokken, accompanied by Aradeus would sneak up and seek out the light’s source.

A strange stillness had settled over the entire hill, and though the jungle sang and chattered in the distance, all was silent around the ruins, giving Aradeus and Ipokken the strange feeling that it was somehow removed from the natural world, existing in its own, eerie realm. Both men felt the nearness of the unnatural as they clambered with all stealth towards the shining heart of the ruins (which were themselves’ a black, broken silhouette, illuminated from within by this eerie, blue-white light), and the priest gripped his holy symbol tightly, quietly praying to Nimic’Nazzek for protection against the unnatural.

The air veritably resonated with and icy, prickling energy by the time they reached the exterior of the ruin proper, and both men tried hard to ignore the gooseflesh creeping along their arms and backs, and the overwhelming urge to run. Peering over the moss covered blocks of the ruins outer reaches, both men could see a large central area; an expanse of paved stone, covered in collapsed debris and rubble. Each noted how within the confines of the light, nothing grew – no moss, no vines, no plant of any kind (save a few repugnant fungi, who’s distorted fruiting bodies seemed to shine with especial brilliance within the ghastly ghost-light*) – and they wondered what this meant for them. Was it merely plants that could not stand the light, or would all living things cease to be once caressed by its bloodless glow?

To the right of the men (the east), within the ruins, could be seen a flight of decaying stairs, heading into the floor. It was from this that the light shone, now bright as a full moon.

Despite his fear, Aradeus clambered over the rocks, inching closer to the light, holy symbol in hand, a prayer on his lips. Unwilling to risk his flesh (or more exactly, his soul) Ipokken stayed ducked behind the exterior blocks, peering over to watch his foolhardy companion.

And it was then, as the priest approached the stairs, that there was a definite movement to the shining mists. The air became electric, and both men felt their bowels shrivel as the supernatural presence there focused completely upon them…

Aradeus reaches with nerveless fingers for his enchanted blade, his face so pale that his eyes appear to be twin pools of bruised shadow – a move that draws an amused, distorted chuckle from the mist.

A voice - all cobwebs and frost – whispers into the night.

Mortal man, put away thy symbol and thy blade. I mean thee no harm, for I too was once flesh and blood as thou art. Stay thy hand.”

And the mists come together, gathering and shifting to outline the smiling form of an older man; bald headed and bespectacled. He wears the clothes of a craftsman, and is clearly laughing to himself.

Always wanted to talk like that to someone. Seemed appropriate at that moment, hehehe!”

Suddenly the two mortal men go from terrified to confused.

It transpires that this spirit is all that remains of the former keeps resident architect and handyman, a human raised on Fey named Khembrynn Athas’tar. He died when the keep fell to disease and Sebbatti attack, and was so upset at the destruction of the keep he designed and maintained, that he felt obliged to stay, waiting to see if it would rise again. When asked, he explains that the original plans for the keep are likely lost – unless his journal has somehow survived the last five decades, and is lying somewhere about the place.

A pity,” he adds “because I simply can’t seem to get free of this place knowing that it might one day be built once more – something I would *ahem* die to see.”

When asked about the plants and their source, the spirit is most helpful. He reveals that there are two sets of tunnels; a smaller series accessed from the gully on the northern side of the hill (the one the soldiers had warned the group about), and a large complex that burrows deep under the hill, and uses the former tunnels of the keep as well as older, alien ruins, which is accessed through the southern tower ruin. It turns out that there are some “robed, magic using plant-guys” running the show, and that they use magic to make the huge tree filling that ruin move out of the way, which reveals an entrance.

The shade also speaks of Solar Stones; enchanted crystals tied to the lingering magic of the area, which shine with true sunlight when close to the hill (which predates the keep, and which, as already mentioned, was the site of ancient, alien structures who’s meaning and use is long forgotten). The intelligent plants have set these in numerous chamber underground, using them to raise the monstrous plants that scour the area. The ghost also hints at some kind of source plant, though he seems unsure of details.

The spirit then goes on to invite the troupe to rest within the ruins.

The plants don’t like me. I don’t know if it’s the cold I emanate, or something to do with me being dead, but they seem to shrivel up if they stay here too long. I know it’s uncomfortable here, but if you wanted to rest, I could keep an eye over you – let you get some rest.”

The live men thank the shade, but decline his offer.

Armed with this knowledge the two men creep back to the camp on legs that shake, each rubbing his arms to try and drive the unnatural chill of the ghost away.

By the next morning a plan was made. The next morning the group would explore the gully and the smaller dungeon. Then, with that lesser dungeon (a false dungeon meant to deflect attention from the true source of the monsters) cleaned out and permanently destroyed, the group will return to Havenport, hire additional help (and maybe negotiate a better deal), and then return, better prepared, to cleanse the true source of the monstrous plants.

Only, by the end of the session, the group had only made it halfway along the gully, as they were attacked by more of the rope creatures, as well as a wave of tiny, thorned things (which shrivelled to dust under the magic of the wand given to them by the questors the day before).

The battle was hard fought, and left the group battered and exhausted. However, they seemed determined to continue along the vine choked gully, and into the gaping mouth of the cave at the far end.

Which is where the tabletop game session ended…and where the online game continues…

Sef’s Notes

* Fungi rock! Just because they frolic happily in the unnatural radiance of spectral beings does not make them bad. If anything it makes them all the better. We love fungi at Inferniss Industries, and anyone found not loving them will serve as a host for some particularly vicious spores we have on ice.


*   *   *
Trying not to feel too panicked, you move along the gulley, eyeing every vine and twig with utmost suspicion. More than a few times you all pause to prod at some leaf or twining stem, in the fear that it is the appendage of some vegetable horror.

Eventually, you come to the northern most end of the gully. Here a jagged edged, triangular cave yawns, the vines spilling from it like verdant vomit pouring from the mouth of some oversized beast. More vines, thicker than those covering the floor, grow in knotted tangles over the edge of the opening, each bearing long thorns as thick as knitting needles, and nearly as long. From these hang tubular flowers of dark crimson, and sprout small clusters of stalked, heart-shaped leaves.

“Let me check the entrance out” whispers Aradeus, absently rubbing the holy symbol round his neck, “there could well be traps or wards.”

Calvoreth nods, and the priest scuttles ahead towards the black cave’s mouth and the thorny vines. As he does so, you swear you see vague movement from within the cave, far enough back that the deep shadows obscure any clear line of sight – possibly 10’ or so back.

****

After some time searching, the priest nods to himself, and gestures that you should all come closer. Moving slowly over the slimy vines, you can see him skilfully pinning a length of dark brown twine, apparently made from lengths of the vine, to the surrounding vegetation. Without looking up from his work, Aradeus points towards the roof of the caves mouth.

“Simple but deadly.”

It takes you a moment to see what he is talking about, but then you spot it – a crude frame of branches, weighted with rocks and studded with long, splintered spikes of greenwood. A mental image of it swinging down into the front ranks of your party flashes briefly across your mind’s eye, and you thank the powers that Aradeus spotted and safely neutralised the “simple but deadly” trap.

You are now stood in the crepuscular mouth of the cave. From here you can see a smallish chamber, some 25’ across and 15’ deep, filled with a confusion of thorned vines and the ubiquitous, slimy ones. The air is heavy with the stench of crushed vegetation and pond slime, and chill dampness oozes like autumn fog from within, causing you to unconsciously scrape at your arms as if trying to remove some unseen taint from them.

You can vaguely make out an especially concentrated mass of vines along the back (northern) wall, and several low mounds of spongy looking organic filth…which even now are stirring and starting to take on vaguely humanoid form as they gather into 3’ high piles with sickening slopping sounds like a dog licking up vomit.

Your companions have also noticed the three gathering masses of algae like filth, and have drawn their blades.

What are you going to do?

*   *   *
After a careful examination of the door, you and Calvoreth hack it down, the “thunk thunk” of your blows echoing hollowly beyond.

With the last vines hacked away, you are confronted by a vast cavern, which stretches off beyond the light of the Sunrod. A small shelf of stone leads from the doorway, which sinks into a dark pool of still, icy water. The tiny solar stone flecks are everywhere here, studding the vaults darkness with their light, flickering weirdly where they are reflected (and those beneath it refracted) by the water, which appears to be about 5’ deep initially, save in the middle of the lake, where it gets deeper.

On the far side, where the light is shadowy and objects hard to discern, you can see that there is a stone shore, and that massive toadstools the colour of corpse-flesh, fully 12’ tall, sprout from a thick mantle of what looks like pond slime and black moss.

The chambers ceiling varies in height, but in most places is 15’ above ground level. It is quite cold in here, and there is a strong smell of algae and wet, rotting rock.

I have drawn a MAP for you.

There would seem to be some bubble rising from the bottom of the lake in areas M5, M8, L7, L4, K7 and F8. Your positions are shown on the map by the letters.

What do you do?


*   *   *
The rock (there are plenty lying around in this cave complex) sails through the air, and lands with a satisfying Splurnk right where you aim.

The effect it has is almost instantaneous…

In each of the areas where bubbles were seen, the fetid forms of the algae monsters you battled in the first cavern rise, half wading, half floating through the water, each emitting a murky, muddy stain as it rises.

“Oh bollocks”, whispers Calvoreth.

Roll Initiatives!!!!!!!


*   *   *

You move forwards eyes scanning the misshapen forms as they stagger and pulse wetly forwards, adopting an easy battle stance, waiting to strike at the first monster to come into reach. Behind you Mendle closes his eyes, muttering to himself as he quietens the voices in his head, and seeks the core of his magic and his power.

And so they approach, moving with speed through the waters. One puts all its efforts into moving, sliding to the groups left flank, whilst several others come straight in – two leaping in to slash at Calvoreth with their dripping slimy appendages, the other frothing up to slash at you.

As soon as the monsters come into range, Calvoreth hacks out with the flat of the blade

Calvoreth hits AC 15 (taking a -4 to use his weapon as a club, and another -4 for +4 Power Attack)

Hit!

Calvoreth inflicts 13 points of damage, and kills it, the monster exploding in a repulsive burst of stinking slime and mud.

Your go…


*   *   *
Okay, you are the only one with a monster in range, and now, having avoided any damage from your blows, it lurches to attack.

Oh. My. Goodness.

Lesser Algoid rolls a natural 20!

Confirmation Roll hits AC 10

The monster's body shudders, and a liquescent tendril burst unexpectedly from within its disgusting form, whipping out with a drowned slurp. So unexpected is the direction of this attack that it almost catches Ipokken in a vulnerable spot. Luckily, you react just in time, though the attack still connects.

The Monster hits you for 6 points of damage (after damage reduction 2/- is removed).

A burst of shooting scarlet and gold light accompanies the blow, and your whole world blurs as the vicious appendage whips you across the face, loosening several teeth and tearing your cheek and lip open. Blood instantly pools and spatters over your chest, mixing with the black and green pond slime the blow left behind.

Aradeus goes next.

The priest, despite still feeling weak from the Twig Blight’s venom, strides forwards, drawing his short sword. He stands next to you, and strikes at the monster before you.

Aradeus (taking the -1 penalty to hit from lowered strength) hits AC 5.

Unfortunately, the monster shifts smoothly, and avoids the blow.

And that’s the first round finished. 

*   *   *
And that's all I had for that battle. It has made me smile how easily we ran a game usind the message boards back then, and I must wonder, how viable such a game would be now on the newer boards? Thoughts, as always would be appreciated.

You may also remember that Ipokken was, when we last left him, in the throes of two powerful personalties - his own, and Moiety, a chaotic, diabolic personality, which was his true persona (he found out that he was a sleeper agent for the Adathrainites). To keep this in 4th Ed, I have created the following rule...


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