Not sure what happened to the last entry. Half of it got eaten somewhere. Anyway, the full entry is now live. Sorry about that!
Wednesday, 28 September 2011
21:00 – 23:20 – The two vampires and undead sorceress leave the rookery accompanied by two of the ju-jus, and begin to pick their way through the sewers. Their plan is to find someone for Razniir to feed on, and then to try and find someone worthy of a sacrifice to Jantherak, in order to curry some favour with the truculent necromancer.
23:21 – 23:30 – Torchlight glimmers off the fungus slimed walls, and the undead withdraw into the shadows as they hear human voices echoing from ahead. They wait to see who is coming, keeping as still and quiet as they can (though Razniir struggles with his hunger; twitching and growling to himself), and after a few more moments, the humans come into view. It appears to be a band of Irinite guards, apparently searching for a lost comrade.
Unable to resist, the group ambush them, gaining surprise. However, what they took to be an easy battle almost sees Emmiven slain, after one of the guards – a gunner with a musket and a deadly aim – shoots him in his heart, knocking him down and impairing his ability to regenerate. Fortunately for the warlord, the Ju-Ju's reach the troublesome mortal, and he eventually flees, only to be torn apart by the undead.
23:31 – 01:40 (12/6/1472) – The group leave the sewers and emerge into a thunderstorm, the sounds of battle from the northeast swallowed by its voice. Seren and Emmiven discuss their options, and decide to see if they can make contact with the vampires at the “Kicked Dog”; the slum pub where they got into a huge fight two months ago to the day (in this worlds' calendar). As they move northwards, the sheer scale of the fungal bridge linking this world with its own begins to settle in, and they realise it must be at least two miles across, and miles high. It is lit from below by fearsome fires, which belch great black clouds into the stormy night, though it also shines with its own putrid, greenish light; a rotting glow that most of the city now emanates. It is, they realise, a composite of millions of smaller ropey rhizomorphs of pallid fungal tissue, riddled with bracket like shelves and massive domed clusters of weird, otherworldly toadstools. As they watch, they see a reinforcing mass of reaching strands slide like worms down the main bridge, further adding to its bulk.
The pair realise that the fungus must have landed directly onto the High Hills district, and has spilled (or more likely grown) down into the northern Plaza District. Chances are it has also crushed a lot of the Northwood district too, and for a moment Seren finds herself thinking of Fren, and feels – momentarily – a pang of sadness for the dazed, lost artificer. They also realise that the bank where they deposited their money is almost certainly under the thing somewhere, and that for now, their wealth is lost to them.
The roughs are even more overgrown with the otherworldly rot than they were before, many buildings simply collapsing under its weight, or being completely consumed by it. Nothing, not even vermin, move in the ghastly, glowing streets, the grimy air thick with smoke, spores and dust.
“Irin is dying.” Muses Seren.
“Fuck Irin.” Comes the warlord's harsh response, “Let's just get the hell out of here, and find somewhere less doomed. Forget the inn. Forget the other cold ones, we don't need them.”
“So where would we go, oh great master?” Snarls Razniir (Razniir has clearly demonstrated utter hatred for his creator, and it seems that Emmiven delights in the fact that he hates him, but cannot harm him).
Emmiven shrugs. “The southern gate would be a ball ache to try and get through, and the walls there are heavily guarded. We could head north, see how well guarded that is?”
The group agree on the plan.
01:41 – 07:40 – The group stumble through the corpse of Irin, marvelling in horrified wonder at the massive mycological intrusion that has pierced the sky and smashed the guts of the ancient city. They pass within a mile or so of the battlefront at its base, and from a hill covered in empty and fungus riddled homes, watch as rows of Dundorin Thundersong and Unified Order Hellchanter Cannons unleash an apocalypse at the fungal trunk – apparently with little lasting effect, the fungus simply regrowing almost at once. They see massed troop formations charging; swords drawn, guns blazing, magic screaming overhead, into serried ranks of malformed fungous horrors, whilst in the distance, elephantine fungal brutes lumber towards the tiny soldiers, lashing out with sticky strands that draw the screaming men and women into a horrible, rotting death.
They see all this, and their minds are truly made up.
“We're getting out of here.”
The group make their way through the dark streets, until they come to the northwestern most districts. Here they begin to encounter large groups of soldiers, as well as hastily erected field hospitals (mostly overseen by the clergy of Oerdaine'Maelandra). At one point they spy a familiar face – though Gorthias appears much changed; even more grim and dour than before. They consider speaking to him, but decide to let sleeping dogs lie and instead, wishing to avoid any kind of contact, find a storm drain, rip the heavy cover open, and slide into the dripping dark.
These drains are clearly of dundorin construction; beautifully crafted from solid stone, and ornamented with stylized grimacing dundorin visages worked in fine-grained granite – holders for torches, though they are empty at present. Storm water roars through them in a white torrent, and all save Emmiven are heartened to see good honest vermin – rats and cockroaches – swarming in its depths. There are still signs of fungal infestation in this place – cobweb like patches of luminous mycelium, discoloured stonework where spores are starting to take root – but it is mild compared to the places deeper within the city.
Following the flow of the water, which the undead assume must be heading out towards the walls, they make good progress. A short while after entering the tunnels, the group spy misty light up ahead, and realise that it is a drain in the cities northern wall; 10' across and barred with steel. At first they are baffled as to why there are no guards watching over such an obvious weakness in the walls defences. However, as they get nearer, they see that the bars are wrought from Dunthane, and that the drain exits the walls some 30' above the ground.
Peering through the bars, the group can see the northern Argent Wood. It too is sickly with rusts and mildews, its summer greens replaced by autumnal oranges and browns, which, given it is mostly evergreen, is a seriously bad thing. More than a few gigantic alien mushrooms have sprouted there, and the soil is grey with oily mycelial strands. As they saw at the southern side of the city, there are people camped there – refugees hoping to find sanctuary with the ancient cities walls – though these seem more animate and less sickly. There are also a lot fewer of them, and the group assume that this may mean fewer guards watching the walls.
Emmiven spies that one of them is a merchant, and that they have a fine armoured wagon pulled by strong looking horses. He gives a sharp-toothed grin, and with a whisper begins to try and bend the Dunthane, his waxen flesh shifting as his supernatural strength flows through him. Razniir moves to help adding his own might, and Seren, towering above the pair, also joins in.
A mortal would have struggled to even dent the dundorin steel, but the three undead, their strength no longer tied to muscles that can rip and cause pain, or to weak, living systems, manage, after a minute or two, to cause one of the bars to bend a little. Keeping up the incredible pressure, they work the weakness until, with a deep groan, the bar bends aside, creating a gap wide enough for even the massive drakven to slide through.
“So then,” Asks Razniir, “does anyone have a rope?”
Monday, 26 September 2011
When Wizards first announced Fortune Cards, I got really angry, seeing it as the beginning of the end. I love CCG's , and Magic the Gathering is my fave, but damn it, I didn't want cards getting messed up with my D&D.
Of course, being a hopeless drone, I bought some cards, and at once began to think of how we could use them in our games. I hated (and still hate) the official rules, which favour those able to buy cards over those who cannot, and wanted to come up with a way in which they could get used, but which would benefit every player. I also didn't want them to create a new breed of super-PC, which, given some of the more potent card's benefits, could easily occur.
So, we experimented, and after some trials and tribulations have come up with some alternate rules for using the cards which we find both balanced, and at times, very useful. These are our house rules for Fortune Cards.
- The cards are sorted out into three separate decks; Attack cards, Defence cards and Tactics cards.
- At the start of each encounter, the group draw one card for each character (including intelligent NPC's) taking part.
- The group decide how many of each type of card to draw for their “party deck”. They can choose all cards of one type, or a mix.
- The cards are a pooled resource that any character can dip into when needed. They follow the usual rules for use.
- At the end of the encounter, all cards are put back in the decks and shuffled ready for the next battle.
- Some magical items or boons may allow for additional cards to be drawn for the party deck (see below).
And that's it. Works really well too. There is a nice pool of tricks for use if and when they are needed, but no single character gets all the power or gets stiffed. This has not caused any issues for me as GM either, so everyone wins - the players get a nice bit of extra umph, and I get to throw meaner things at them sometimes just to see what happens.
(Level 11 Uncommon Wondrous Item)
Sunday, 25 September 2011
I was a bit gutted that this classic horror was never converted to 4e, and simply took it upon myself to do the job! As always, the modifiers for the statistics do not include the +9 bonus that comes from adding half the monsters level (so its strength mod is actually +13 not +4).
Stat block made using THIS!
(Click for Bigness)
11:27 – 13:30 – The group are tended to by the mages of the Circle, all of whom appear more than a little amazed at their abilities. The Synd whom they first met, now introduced as Aerrynai Ssaerhaan, remains aloof; speaking about them as if it must be some kind of fluke or mistake that they survived. However, true to his word he sends a request to their governing order, and within the hour is informed that the group may speak with Master Vujan Rothian – a creature that Ormid was warned by Rammanum, must not be trusted.
13:50 – 17:00 – The group are teleported by Aerrynai to a huge hall of impressive and unnatural architecture. It is vast; its vaulted ceiling arcing easily 200' overhead, its far end too far away to be seen immediately. The ceiling is forged from some kind of glassy crystal that allows the alien vistas beyond to be clearly seen – a universe of flames; some dense and dull, others energetic and agitated, roiling and writhing away into infinity. Great pillars of black marble, swirled with gold and red line a central walkway, and beyond them rise curious “aquariums”, suspended spheres of water alive with otherworldly fish and crustaceans, “aeroriums” orbs of swirling air, filled with song birds, and “terrariums” dense geodes of earth alive with glittering elemental bugs.
Between the rows of pillars, like a faint blue cloud, hangs a dense line of slightly bitter smoke, which leads along and away from the group further into the chamber.
Aerrynai gestures towards the far end of the huge chamber, a vague look of horror on his fabulous face. “Don't think for a second I'm coming with you. Vujan gives me the cree- err, a headache.”
He makes a “go away” gesture, and withdraws back through the luminous pearl doors that lead into this place, the beautiful portal swinging silently shut behind him, leaving the group alone.
They spend a moment looking at each other, still a little giddy from the trials they have been through. Then, with a shrug, Veteran begins to walk forwards between the pillars and elemental spheres, following the smoke towards the end of the chamber.
It takes them a good while to reach their destination, and no one really needs Ormid to point out that the entire chamber must exists within a pocket dimension, though he tells them anyway. As they move along the smoke thickens, and soon they spy a group of strangely coloured palms up ahead; planted between the pillars in a wide circle around a sunken area from which comes the smoke.
Moving closer, they suddenly sense an altogether too familiar pressure - the unmistakable aura of a daemonic entity – and at once they Slow their pace, preparing for trouble. Edging closer to the palms, the artificer suddenly becomes distracted, for to his delight he realises that they are apparently machines of some kind, though he can see no obvious signs of manufacture. The same goes for the delicate whirring dragonfly like things that flit amongst their arcing coppery leaves – tiny, perfect and apparently living machines.
“Oh my!” he breathes, “Could these be...”
“Creatures from a machine reality, yes.” Comes a sneering voice from beyond the artifice plants, “Please don't stand there for much longer, you are making the place look untidy.”
The group jump a little, and carefully pick their way past the softly whirring palms, to stand at the edge of the area beyond – a circular, wide stepped recess filled with plush cushions. At its centre an ornate ivory table, carved with lurid depictions of daemons performing carnal acts, serves as the resting place for a huge and fabulously ornate hookah – the source of the smoke.
Using the hookah is a figure straight out of the ancient daemonomicons – a being that wears the form of a humanoid tiger, dressed in a luxurious smoking jacket and fez, who's hands appear to have been attached backwards, palm facing upwards, thumbs on the outside. His long, muscular tail twitches slightly, and as the group approaches he takes the pipe from between his white, sharp teeth, and places it on the table before him.
“A Rakshasa!” Breathes Ormid, his eyes wide, “A shapeshifting daemon renowned for their cunning and trickery.”
The Veteran gives a low growl, which is echoed by Ferrous. Vladislav takes a step back, twinned lines of arcane plasma suddenly crawling over his spiked gauntlets. Shadevia remains perfectly still, though the air around her grows dimmer as if agitated.
The Rakshasa Vujan simply sits there and answers the artificer's statement, in no way apparently intimidated by the formidable party.
“Indeed. You should be honoured that I am allowing you to see the splendidness that is my true form. Now then, did you want to discuss access to my esteemed Lords, or are you going to just stand there looking like you just caught your parents in the act of copulation?”
The group do eventually sit down, and all except for Vladislav (who grumpily refuses) are soon sharing in the hookah (all handle this well, save Shadevia, who finds the psychoactive smoke too much to bear, and spends the time feeling uncomfortably like she is falling backwards through her own body. In truth, the drug has no effect on the Veteran).
A little addled, the group arrange with Vujan to approach the mysterious ruling circle of the order, in order to petition their cause. Despite his caustic, superior nature, the rakshasa is actually quite helpful, and after leaving them alone to enjoy the drugs, he returns after a couple of hours with good news.
“The council will send a mage to help you aim this Settari weapon. We shall dispatch them as soon as you send word.”
Three down, two to go.
1/1/50 – LOREHAVEN (Unnaturally wintry weather continues).
The group spend the first day of the new year (for the second time) resting in Ormid's home. They decide that the next morning they shall visit the Disciples of Change - transmuters who dwell in a stronghold of shifting stone within the risen city of Virian; capital of the Western Isles.
07:00 – 07:40 – The group awaken, eat and prepare for another stressful day of trying to get the mages on board.
07:41 – 08:00 – Gathering in Ormid's subterranean lab, the party wait for the artificer to open the portal. By now the once wondrous ritual has become a rather mundane thing, so it is almost a pleasant surprise when it fails utterly. There is a low hum, a sudden papery crackling in the air, and the portal simply fails to open.
Ormid scratches his head, frowning.
“I swear that never normally happens.”
08:00 – 08:05 – A presence enters the chamber, and Ormid recognises it as a psychic sending from Rammanum. With an effort of will he lowers the wards preventing it from fully manifesting, and allows her in; the air shimmering as her thoughts boom into the chamber.
“My apologies master artificer, but it seems that the Disciple's have deactivated the portal who's coordinates I gave you, we sense, in reaction to the riots happening in the capital.”
“Riots!” Exclaims Llewellyn.
“Indeed. The people have risen up again the Conseil Gardien, a council ostensibly created to protect them, which has become corrupt and greedy. This has lead to widespread rioting and civil unrest, and we suspect that the mages have closed their doors whilst the trouble rages.”
“Scared leetle girls.” Growls Vladislav with a sniff.
“Or clever political animals.” Muses Shadevia, “Seeing who is coming out on top, waiting to offer them support when it is clear, and earning a place of authority by their side.”
“Whatever,” snaps Ormid, ”we need a rune sequence if we are going to get there before summer. Can you help Rammanum?”
Rammanum's response is purely psychic, and all feel her trepidation as she answers.
“I do. It is an ancient rune circle that once stood within sunken Crowns Port. However, it now lies beneath the waters under the land, and is surrounded by... alien presences... though even my spells have been unable to tell more.
“In the very least, I would ensure that those of you that need air to breathe have some means of surviving under water, for I sense you will be forced to spend a lot of time in the crushing black below Virian.”
Everyone save the Veteran and Ferrous looks uneasy.
“My thanks Rammanum.” Mumbles Ormid as the psychic connection ends.
08:06 – Rest of Day – The group stand down, save Ormid, who sets to work in creating some elixirs that will allow himself, Shadevia, Llewellyn and Vladislav to breathe under water.
3/1/50 – 07:00 – Prickly with anxiety and the thoughts of what they must do, the group drink the salty sparkling blue fluid Ormid has made, gagging as they feel its magic coursing through their lungs, making them feel unpleasantly greasy inside their chest; wet and frothy.
07:01 – 07:11 – Ormid enacts the ritual needed to open the portal, and all watch as the gate is coaxed into existence; a misty hole in the air that suddenly snaps wide, allowing the stink of rotten fish, seaweed, and decaying stone to pour into the labs.
The Veteran is handed another potion (a blood coloured brew that Ormid tells him will boost his incredible strength still further), and then they party step through...
07:12 – 07:17 – SOMEWHERE BENEATH VIRIAN (hopefully) – The group find themselves on a crumbling island of ancient, waterlogged masonry, within a dank cavern, dripping with luminous fungi and hanging strands of thick, clear mucus. Dirty, frothy water laps thickly at its edges, and the stench in this place is almost overwhelming – not that the party get much chance to take note of it.
The instant they enter the chamber, a silent thrill of alarm resonates like a dog whistles song through the aether, and those who fought Oozulg back on the slaver's ship recognise it as a psionic alert being issued. At the same time, the thick waters boil with activity, and to the parties shock they are suddenly faced by a number of opponents normally quite unsuited to such aquatic environments, who rise with eerie, piscine grace from below.
Six of them are emaciated, pallid humans – four men and two women – naked save for the thick “skin” of wobbling, clear mucus that engulfs them. Each bears a jagged dagger of stone, and gives a drowned snarl of anger as they spy the group. Towering above these, their fur mostly gone, their muscled flesh beneath withered and ghastly pale, stand two Taurag, their horns trailing long strands of the vile slime that also engulfs them. Rusting axes are their weapons, though in truth their horns and sharp teeth are probably more effective, and they roar – a muffled sound that invokes a feeling of choked suffocation in those that listen too long – as battle lust sweeps through their torpid nervous systems, the psychic restraints that normally hold their rage in check, temporarily removed.
Something else also stirs beneath the frothy waters, something that bears cold lights like deep sea fish, and which moves with grim purpose towards the group, but at first it is too deep below the slick water to see clearly.
“They stink!” Yells Vladislav, sheathing himself in a crackling mantle of lightning and fire.
“How can they breathe in that gunk?” Asks Llewellyn, mace in hand.
“I have a horrible feeling that they may be slaves of the so called 'Nameless Race'.” Replies Ormid, his face pale, “The Ab'ur'Leth to give them their Settari name.”
“And?” Snarls the Veteran, his axe igniting with fiery energy, the shadeling moving to stand by him quivering bow in hand.
“Psychic giants like the mind flayers. Slavers like the neogi. Not good. Not good at...”
And then the battle begins.
Gifted with the ability to breathe and swim through water like natives, the humanoids still present little problem to the seasoned adventurer's. Veteran in particular shows himself to be a true juggernaut; decapitating one of the taurag with two almost instantaneous blows, before striding over to the second, and doing the same again. The humans are in poor condition, and although they leave vicious wounds when they manage to land a blow, they are taken down easily and present little real threat.
The other entity however, when it arrives, is something else completely. Each adventurer spends a moment staring in shock when they see it – a crab armoured sphere, with glowing central eye, two eye-stalks, a wide segmented mouth, and massive armoured pincers – and Shadevia recognises it as an “Eye of the Deep”; a degenerate relative of the fearsome Xareth'Chelde, or Eye Tyrants. However, they are forced to move quickly to kill it when its eyes begin to fire sullen rays of light – their touch filling lungs with choking fluids that can drown even those under the effects of Ormid's elixir (this attack almost kills the vyrleen), or holding an individual rigid; muscles locked in place, mind racing to fight free.
The Eye attacks without mercy, and manages to impair the parties fighting prowess quite significantly. As well as almost drowning the rogue, it also manages at once point to blind him and the seeker by unleashing an incredibly bright cone of radiance from its staring central orb. However, it is outnumbered, and soon, with the 'Ur'Leth thralls slain, the entire might of the party is brought against it.
The Veteran unleashes Dracusvir's deadly acid at it, whilst Shadevia tries to pierce its shell with her arrows. Llewellyn hurls daggers from his bracers, as many being turned aside as strike true, whilst Ferrous belches corrosive oils and bites chunks from any appendage that comes within reach. Ormid, as always, takes on the role of healer, lobbing the odd enchantment towards his allies, enhancing their attacks.
Vladislav hauls it from the waters at once point with a crushing hand-like construct of pure force, and is the one who lands the killing blow against it a little later; the waters around it boiling to plasma as he unleashes a coruscating sphere of clashing, shrieking energy straight into its ragged-toothed maw, evaporating its entire back half, and sending it bubbling and blasted, into the crushing deeps.
By the time the short battle is over, the chamber's air is close with steam and the waters resemble a sickening stew of fish and raw meat, the slimy scum a putrid mantle that floats like vomit on top of the greasy, cold waters. The aether now veritably seethes with psionic energy, and the party know that every enemy within the immediate area will be aware that they are here, and will be ready to try and stop them escaping.
Monday, 19 September 2011
17:18 – 17:40 – The pair move through the stinking, fungus infested tunnels of the sewers. They are disturbed by the lack of vermin present, and the omnipresent alien growths. After some time they enter the vast chamber where they and their former allies previously fought Groth'Ergulg – though the chamber is now choked by large mats of bright yellow mould, and huge, deformed fungi.
17:41 – 17:47 – As the pair move around the edge of the filth and fungus choked sediment pond, heading towards the tunnel out, a leprous tentacle erupts from below it, and slashes a deep wound into the sorceress. It is a Groth'Ergulg, though one that has been infested by the alien fungus; its internal organs replaced by wheezing tumours of fungal flesh, its external flesh a corky mass of chitinous slime.
The undead both turn their full wrath upon the horror, and manage to take it down quickly. However, before it is slain, it wounds both of them seriously – though Emmiven is able to steal much of the thing's life force, using it to heal his injuries. It also inadvertently disturbs the yellow mould, which unleashes a deadly cloud of toxic spores, not only searing the adventurer's, but also blasting and weakening itself, hastening its demise.
17:48 – 18:50 – Arrive at the tunnels that lead to the bridge into the Rookery headquarters. They are disturbed to see that the fungus has invaded this deeply underground, and are even more disturbed to hear the sounds of battle – piping whistles, squishy roars and battle cries uttered in tradespeak – echoing from the direction of the Rookery's back door.
18:51 – 19:00 – As they move towards the bridge chamber, they spot two wretched, fungus infested humanoids ahead. One was clearly once a well built man – now bloated and lousy with tumorous fungi and swishing tendrils, its “fingers” elongated chitinous spines well designed to shred flesh and armour like paper. The other is a Gutter King – caught halfway between human and rat form, its ribcage burst open, a festoon of pallid, quivering mushrooms and smoking clubs nestling where its guts should be.
Both of the fungus monsters turn to face the pair, and without any preamble move to attack. They are put down with little trouble, though Emmiven is given a nasty wound by the first beast, the flesh puckering as if infected almost at once. Another thing – a shell of a person, staggering without apparent sentience, its body an uncoordinated mess of animate fungi and badly decayed bones – also joins the fray, but is immediately hacked down by the warlord's blade.
With the immediate foes destroyed, Seren and Emmiven move forwards, seeing at once that the trick bridge has been overgrown with greasy masses of fungi. Beyond they can see the fortified door into the guild halls is wide open, and that a furious battle is raging in the corridors beyond.
Emmiven, blessed with vampiric grace and unholy dexterity, almost dances across the fungal bridge. Seren is more cautious, for her feet slip alarmingly on the oily fungus, and the drop beyond is as deadly as it was the first time she was here. To ensure her safety she works a potent spell after a few steps, and summons an unnatural wind to carry her to the far side.
Closer now, the pair can see that about twelve more of the fungal horrors are trying to force their way into the guild halls. Stopping them are four desperate Rookery. Three lurk behind a well made barricade firing crossbows into the throng, whilst the fourth – who the pair recognise as Eldric, the enforcer they breached Corvus' treasure vault with – stands up front, taking the brunt of the monster's attacks, chopping down more than a couple with swift, jabbing thrusts of his short sword. He is clearly weakening however, his attacks and parries slowing noticeably with each second, more than a little of his blood spattering the ground around him.
Several of the monsters turn to face Emmiven who is charging down the corridor towards them, but these are evaporated by a blast of lightning spat by the drakven. Emmiven piles into another chopping it down, and receives a vicious bite from a shambling wererat who springs at him from the darkness of a side chamber. At sight of their new leaders, the rogues give a cheer, and renew their efforts to repel the shambling horrors, though poor Eldric, bleeding now from several more deep wounds, and barely able to lift his arms, is forced to stagger back away from the front line.
With the bolts of the rogues finding their marks, the sorceress unleashing sudden destructive bursts of chaotic magic and Emmiven's unholy strength and speed, the remaining infected are quickly dealt with, their twitching, oozing forms forming a slick path along the corridor.
19:01 – 20:00 – Eldric and the other Rookery warmly welcome the pair (Emmiven has shifted his form to appear like his mortal self, and Seren is careful to wear her hood up – her full transformation into a true drakven enough to unnerve the men of the guild, let alone her clearly undead nature), and ask where the others are. Emmiven tells them that they are “unlikely to return”.
Some time is spent giving Seren and Emmiven an update as to what has gone on whilst they have been away. They are told that the Gutter Kings were massing for an orchestrated assault on the Rookery, and that in order to try and stop this they were getting ready to make a pre-emptive strike – though this never happened thanks to the Sundering occurring. They are told that fully one third of the guild has been confirmed as dead in the last few weeks – most succumbing to one of the vile infections that seem to have come with the invading fungi. Amongst these is Vuldir, the dundorin artificer. Another third of the guild are currently missing in action. This includes Bob, and the human artificer Tranker. The rest of the guild are either in the halls, or seeking supplies in the city above.
The two undead also tell the rogues of their own travels, and apart from their treachery in the belly of the titan, leave no details out. The rogues are awestruck at their story, and reiterate again and again how glad they are to have them back.
With regards to the small matter of who opened the heavily enchanted door to the guild halls, the rogues surmise that one of their number, almost certainly under the commands of a burgeoning fungal infestation, may have done so – though none know who it could be.
“Likely one of those we slew out there.” Is Eldric's opinion.
Emmiven tells the rogues to gather all the men, as he wishes to organise for the guild to move to safer quarters – perhaps a house that can be easily fortified and held by their small force in the city above. There are some mixed responses to this, with Eldric voicing his concerns that the plan is “short sighted”. However, the pair manage to convince enough of those gathered (which now includes an overjoyed McCloose), that there is little room for argument. They also ask to be shown where the guild's supply of poisons is, putting it to the rogues that they have exhausted their own supplies during their adventures, and wish to restock.
20:01 – 20:35 – Emmiven declares to the gathered rogues that as they will be leaving the halls on the 'morrow, they should spend their last night here in celebration – in honour of their new venture, for luck, and to remember those that are no longer with them. This proves quite a tough sell, for many of the rogues know that the beer they have is their only guaranteed untainted supply of fluid, and are reluctant to waste it, whilst many more are unhappy about fogging their minds with alcohol in such dangerous times. However, with a little help from the vampire's dominating mind, and Seren's silver tongue, they are talked round to the idea, and soon the drinks – now tainted with several vials of sleeping poison, slipped stealthily in by Emmiven whilst Seren put forth her arguments for the celebration – are flowing.
20:36 – 20:50 – The first men begin to show signs of poisoning, and panic quickly envelops the room as they fear that the fungal taint has got into the beer. However, several quickly recognise their symptoms for what they are, and with horror, they realise who must have spiked their drinks. Eldric tries to attack Emmiven, who is no longer hiding his true form, but is too badly inebriated to be a threat. As he drops, vomiting to the floor, his last vision is of Emmiven, eyes blazing like burning blood, eye-teeth extended, standing over him whispering “You shall soon join me my friend, and see the world as I do.”
21:10 – 02:30 (10/6/1472 – Unnaturally humid and warm weather over Irin, sweeping in through planar breach above it).
The last of the rogues, passes out. Several have almost choked on vomit, and at least one had a huge fit before succumbing. All live for now.
“I ssshalll neeed your body Emmmiveeeenn...” Whispers Jantherak, “And you, sorcccceresss....I shall need your help with the ritual.”
Emmiven is disgusted and thrilled at once by the thought of allowing the shadow of Jantherak to possess him. Seren is happy to help the dread necromancer, though she wonders if she will still be sane once the ritual – intended to turn the rogues into undead servants, and in the case of Eldric and the trapsmith Razniir Thade, into vampires – is completed.
The unconscious rogues are aligned as needed by the ritual, and whilst Seren prepares the hall for the ritual (daubing mind-rotting sigils of blasphemous purpose and dire magic on the walls and floor in blood and faeces), Emmiven hunts down and feeds upon the half dozen rogues chosen to stand guard whilst the rest partied.
With the chamber readied, the vampire allows the essence of the vial to flow into him, his mind reeling in revolted horror at the diabolical strength and cold hate that this brings. Seren notes that the blood red glow of the warlord's eyes is replaced with a cold, blue light, and that although he speaks with Emmiven's voice (his breath fogging with air with smoky shadows), and parrots his mannerisms, it is clearly another vile and terrible entity that now controls his form.
With everything in place, the pair (trio?) begin the Ritual of Animation.
It is horrific beyond the sorceresses' ability to accept, and it is only due to her strict mental discipline that she is not driven insane by it. The nightmarish power that is summoned to the hall rots the very stones, infusing the entire area with crawling, filthy magic. With dawning horror Seren realises two things; that she is no longer able to voluntarily stop her part in the terrible spell she is helping to cast, and that all this power is being harnessed and shaped by a mere echo of Jantherak's true power.
In the city above, the tortured dimensions fabric howls in response to the terrible might being brought to bear deep underground, and eerie lights and terrifying pressures sweep across the ruined blocks of the Roughs, freezing the blood and weakening the sanity of all unlucky enough to be around.
In the chamber, suffocating waves of shadow roar like a tornado around the edges of the ritual circle, and the stones shine with a brittle negative radiance, resonating with terrible, shrieking power. The unconscious rogues (save the two saved for vampirism, who are shielded with glowing red spheres of protection) are ravaged by the dark spiritual energies; their souls rotting within their withering corpses, their flesh mummifying and hardening, their hair becoming thin like cobwebs. Their minds, broken by the corruption pouring into their dying selves, become warped and feral, their trapped souls being bound at the same time to their magically altered bodies; married to them in the vile union of undeath. Eyes, long lost to accelerated decay have left black sockets, within which cold points of steady orange light begin to shine.
The sickening ritual nears its conclusion, the air in the chamber filthy with necrotic power, and with a word, the two spell casters bid their new servants to rise – fourteen grey zombies, imbued with a cunning intelligence, coiled-spring dexterity and unholy resilience.
02:31 – 03:01 – With the first ritual complete, the stunned drakven and possessed warlord spend a little time resting. Seren is sick and dizzy with weariness, and is amazed to still be sane given the entirely corrupting and loathsome power she has helped to channel. With a small amount of quickly suppressed regret, she realises she has crossed a boundary that can never be returned from; that she is truly a “vile” creature in every sense of the word now.
Jatherak assures her, apparently aware of her thoughts, that the power she will gain will soon make the “sacrifices” she has made more than worth it.
03:10 – 03:40 – The ritual to vampirise Eldric and Razniir is surprisingly quick in comparison to the animating ritual, and only needs Emmiven/Jantherak's input. Each is drained of blood and life force unto the point of death, and then force fed Emmiven's corrupted blood.
Both men fit ferociously as the undead blood works its terrible magic on their mortal forms. For Eldric it is too much, and instead of attaining true vampiric power, he awakens almost at once as a debased and near mindless thing, consumed by his unholy hunger and the need to kill. Realising this, Emmiven/Jantherak grabs him by the throat with terrible speed and strength, and with a jerk, snaps his neck, ending him.
Razniir however “survives” the process.
Seren watches in numb horror, her mind edged by tittering and gibbering voices, as his flesh grows pale, and his rounded, chubby features become sculpted and feral. She watches as a sullen red glow begins to emanate from behind the veined lids of his closed eyes, and as the tips of his eye teeth begin to jut out a little over his lower lip.
She then watches as the warlord, with a sigh collapses. As he goes, Jantherak's voice hisses into her mind with something like panic “Be warned. Unfriendly eyes have seen the power we have brought to bear here! We must be away, and sooooooooon.....”
At that time, she is too shaken and tired to worry about his warnings.
03:41 – 19:00 – (11/6/1472) – Emmiven and Razniir sleep for over 24-hours. During this time Seren works with the newly created Ju-Ju's, gaining some understanding of their limits and power. All in all she is impressed, though their stink, deathly appearance and unnatural presence would never allow them to pass as living men.
When Razniir awakens, he is horrified at what he has become – though his obedience is quickly assured when Jantherak sends a lance of psychic horror into his mind. Ravenous with the hunger for blood, though sickened at the thought of eating it, the trapsmith is both relived and revolted when told that he shall be taken to feed soon. Before that is done however, Emmiven uses the vial to sense the location of the next one...
...And is clumsy in his efforts, his probing thoughts being detected by the filthy thing that possesses it; a Dwaer'Syth Lich, almost certainly residing within ancient Mrith'Arnth; the dark city of the Dwaer, located almost 1000 miles to the north.
Monday, 12 September 2011
This is a piece I wrote as some background to the next mission Ormid and the gang will be doing, and I thought I would share it with you all.
* * *
VIRIAN – CITY OF TURMOIL
Virian was supposed to be a phoenix rising from the ashes of the Belief Wars, and the fall of the High Theocracy. Built from the stones of ancient Crowns Port, Virian will one day become a centre of a great Meritocracy, home to the Parliament of Artisans. However, at this time, it is home to terrible political upheaval.
The High Theocracy were finally overthrown in the year 27 N.C. to huge joy and celebration. By this time, the ancient Basillica was burned to the ground, and the city – already ravaged when the landmass shifted during the Age of Loss – was all but destroyed, much of it plunging into the seas. Destitute and alone in the world, the city needed support, and indeed, it seemed to find it. Several of the most powerful noble houses in the region asked for permission from the people to establish a Conseil Guardian, a group that would invest money into the peoples and places of the Western Isles, and bring around a new golden age of prosperity. They would also help to elect a new government, and when they were ready, hand over power to them. For the first time since the mid 2nd Age, the people of this land would have a government they voted for!
For a time this worked.
The people were given loans to re-establish their businesses and endeavours, and the city of Virian (meaning “Risen”) was founded, its main structures using the salvaged dusky pink stones of Crowns Port. Trade began anew, and mercenaries were hired to clear the horrors from the surrounding lands that had crept forth during the age of loss. However, by 35 N.C. it was clear that the Conseil Gardien were no longer interested in handing over power to any new governing body, and were more interested in charging extortionate charges to those who had borrowed money from them, and to ensuring that every business' trade directly added to their own power and fortunes – often to the eventual detriment of the owner. People who could no longer afford the rates on their loans from the Conseil had their assets seized, and slowly, the “Guardian Council” eroded the will and hard won fortunes of the Isles peoples.
Then, in the spring of 49 N.C. the people finally had enough. Rebellion began – bloody and savage. The Conseil responded with their massed army of mercenaries and war machines, and so the Great Revolution (Revolution Grande), began.
Friday, 9 September 2011
I couldn't find a miniature for the Zovvut, so ended up buying a Balor mini. Here are a couple of photos from the game that night...
Ha! Puny mortals, your souls are MINE!!!!
Gu-buh wha? B-but, I'm.....Guuurgh...ugh
This is what the group faced during the Conjurer's Challenge. Bear in mind they were 17th (now 18th level), and did not have all their powers intact.
Like all daemons, there are those who manage to climb higher in the chaotic ecology of the pit than their mundane ilk. This monster is a normal Zovvut who's terrible cruelty and blasphemous strength has elevated it above the rank and file of its kind.
It is a hateful engine of endless destruction, and only the very powerful or foolish would attempt to conjure it and risk it escaping their control.
(Click to enlarge with rage)
Zovvuts are official D&D demons, found in 3.5 and 4e. Naturally, that means they are copyrite Wizards of the Coast (though this variant is my own creation). As always, you need to add half the monsters level to the modifiers by the statistics to make them accurate, and this stat block was created with THIS.
11:16 - ??? - Once the initial shock has passed, the group realise that they must somehow navigate the fiery crevasses and frozen wastes to reach the red tower. Unfortunately, the landscape is ever shifting, and without any fixed landmarks, and only maddening, alien constellations in the black sky, the group struggle to keep any sense of direction.
Their first mistake is to listen to Ormid as he assures them that he “can feel” the flow of the planes' magic, and so can lead them to the tower without error. This sees the group almost burned to death after they follow the distracted artificer into a region of towering columns of screaming blue flame - the souls of damned travellers weeping and cursing within their infernal depths - and almost into a canyon who's glassy black walls radiate raw necrotic energy. There are some strong words amongst the group – especially from Vladislav (who is almost on the verge of tears) and the vyrleen (who simply wants to forge ahead through the valley to climb the blackly luminous cliffs in order to “get a better view” of the land), and It takes the level heads of those not affected by temporary insanity to get the group back on track.
It takes them a small eternity to move towards the tower. The ubiquitous flames burn with a cold, unnatural radiance, and everyone feels their life force being drained by this wretched, hungry dimension. Almost as bad, the massed screams of tormented anguish from the fiery spirits contained in the blue flames drain the resolve and the nerve of everyone, making thinking clearly almost impossible.
Ormid surmises that the plane as been “folded” into the fabric of the physical plane, and that although they are technically “within it” (where ever “it” is), they are also still resident in some space on the physical, “prime” plane. No one knows what he is talking about, or particularly cares – especially as he is muttering to himself like a ghaerduun on a bad day.
With Vladislav - motivated by his despair and overwhelming urge to be rid of this foul place - using his own arcane senses to guide the group, they begin to make headway. Slowly, painfully, their limbs heavy with drained fatigue, they plod across the treacherous hellscape, the slender spire of the tower slowly looming larger and larger before them. After what seems like an eternity of stumbling, cursing and wearily sleepwalking in this nightmare realm, they find themselves almost at the foot of the glassy, nighted cliffs upon which the tower stands. Joy sweeps through the group (save poor Vladislav, who whimpers with fear), and they move to begin scaling the cliff...
...Only to find a wall of planar static – an interference pattern where the two “folded” dimensions agitate one another – blocking their way. Running into it is like running into a wall of “pins and needles”; a shocking wave of prickling discomfort running through each of them, and sending them back on their heels. Worse, as they make contact with the wall, the terrible screams behind them suddenly rise in volume and pitch, taking on a furious, despairing note. Spinning round the group find that the dead within the flames have been set free – hundreds of them – drifting towards the group, blazing claws outstretched, tortured features warped by the unholy fires that devour them and their eternal torments.
“I can do this!” Exclaims Ormid brightly, apparently unaware of the deadly tsunami of flaming spectres drifting towards him, “This should be an absolute piece of cake!”
“We're doomed!” Wails the Helldazzler, soiling himself.
“Fuck that!” Replies Llewellyn, a feral smile, all sharp teeth and fey quickness, flashing across his face, “The only doomed ones are those undead bastards stupid enough to pick a fight with me!”
“Steady on.” Growls Veteran, “There are enough of them to end us if we make a slight mistake.”
Shadevia says nothing, an arrow of flickering elemental power manifesting like condensing smoke between her fingers as she draws he bow back and takes aim...
??? - ??? - The battle that takes place at the foot of the wall whilst Ormid - constantly distracted by the “amazing” ideas in his fractures mind, fails time and again to straighten out the planar interference - is almost beyond the group. The spectral undead come in waves and crash against the group, searing flesh and soul alike. Even the mighty Veteran is opened up to his internal mechanisms, only his artificial fortitude and powerful will preventing him from falling unconscious, and by the time Ormid (with the help of a panicking, and almost mortally wounded Vladislav) manages to lower the barrier, every member of the party is close to death; burned, frozen, drained and torn.
11:16 – 11:20 – The hellscape falls away from the party, leaving them shivering and swaying dizzily in the crisp, cold air of the Clouded Hills, at the foot of the Circle's tower.
“My goodness, they made it!” Exclaims a tall, slender, hooded figure, dressed in flowing robes of pale silk, their voice mellifluous even as it efficiently expresses utter disdain.
“W-Who...are....you?” Gasps the Veteran, his internal mechanisms steaming in the frigid air.
The figure reaches up and pushes back the hood revealing coldly beautiful features; alien and fey, unearthly in their luminously delicate perfection. Too perfect, too alien to ever be seen as “right” by humans or other “younger” races.
An Aelwyn – a Synd'Aelwyn.
He is male, and has large, luminous eyes of pale silver. His hair is long and appears to be woven from spun smoke and moonlight. A quiet aura of power surrounds him. A little behind him stands another robed and hooded figure. This one's face is hidden by a simple mask of pale bone, a circular sigil burned onto it where a nose slit would normally be. It is clearly human, and says nothing in response to the Synd's comments.
“We need to see your leader.” Whispers Shadevia, her black eyes fixed with vague hate upon the Synd.
“Do you?” He replies, his voice dripping with amused scorn, his delicate eyebrows almost flying off his head, “We thought you might. A little dicky-bird told us of your mission to seek us out.”
The group, almost on the verge of collapse look at each other with concern.
“Told you we were doomed.” Mumbles Vladislav.
“I suppose you could see our council's representative, if you were able to prove yourselves to be..ahem...an equal.”
The group stand there, glaring at the Synd, their blood dripping vividly into the snow, their breath and wounds steaming in the cold air.
“But first, I think you should have those nasty wounds seen to. Greith, attend to them would you.”
The silent figure moves towards the party, and without waiting for any further assent raises his gloved hands, and begins a droning, resonant chant. At once the air around the group shimmers with golden radiance, and they feel a great warmth and strength flowing into them. Small ghostly flames of healing light play about them as the ground begins to shine up onto them; as if it has become a window and a restorative sun shines on its other side. After a few moments all the groups wounds and weariness has fled.
“Much better. The trial that awaits is unfair enough for the likes of you. No sport in sending you in there half dead!”
Whilst the group have been enjoying the ministrations of the silent figure, the Synd has effortlessly woven a hovering triangle of sullen purple light into existence – a portal.
“Pass through the gate, and emerge from the other side alive, and you may speak with the council's voice.”
From his tone of voice it is clear the Synd does not expect the group to pass the test. He gestures impatiently towards the gate, and as the group pass him by, leans in towards Ormid, and says in a loud whisper. “You already know how to do this easily by the way.”
11:21 – 11:26 – They pass through the portal...
...Evil. Chaos. Raw and overpowering. The crushing horror of purest diabolical malevolence, given palpable, deadly form....a daemon major....a terrible, impossible foe.
The group almost stagger under the weight of malevolence that falls upon them on the other side of the portal. Vladislav wails with horror at sight of what waits there, and for once, no one can blame him.
It is a conjuration of epic power – a towering daemon of such raw horror that only a great and terrible sacrifice or the combined efforts of numerous arch-mages could hold it in the physical plane for long. Luminous with the billowy power of its conjuration, it is an 18' tall, muscular humanoid with skin the colour of spoiled milk. Rippling with muscles, its small head has no neck, and bears three blazing, pink eyes. Its wide mouth is filled with overly long tusk like teeth, and from its broad shoulders sprout feathered wings – reminiscent of those of an angel, though tarnished and oily, as if burned.
Its arms are massively muscled, and end in prodigious hooked claws, each of which is every bit as oversized and grotesque as the brutes fangs.
“Zovvut!” Breathes Ormid, all colour leaving his face.
The greater daemon is bound within a cage of runes, with five resonant crystals forming the outer frame. At once the artificer realises that they are how such a catastrophic being could be kept in this world for so long, and with a yell to the Helldazzler, his mind suddenly clear, he runs over to the nearest one and begins to try and pick apart its energies. However, before doing this, he pours every last ounce of his magic into the forged's axe, coating its deadly blade in a dazzling, snarling, vicious mantle of magics. He also calls upon his fey power, changing the materials in every allies weapons and implements, so that they resonate with the same dimensional frequency as cold iron – a material particularly good at dispelling the conjured forms of daemons.
It roars – a sound so massive that it displaces the air in the chamber, and seems to physically punch the adventurers – and then moves to attack, its speed impossible for a monster of such massive bulk. The vyrleen manages to hit it with a dagger, slightly scratching it before it attacks, but this only seems to enrage it further. With two blows too fast to see, their passage through the air leaving a shock wave in their wake, it sends Llewellyn sprawling back against the walls of the conjurary, his ribs shattered, a pink, tongue like lobe of lung hanging wetly through the almost deadly single wound that starts in between his shoulders and ends deep within his belly. The Veteran is almost cut in half by a similar attack, his heamolymph spilling in oily spatters at his feet. However, his axe flashes out almost as fast, and strikes the Zovvut in its armpit, the spell-laden blade cutting a huge wound, sizzling with corrosive magics, into the daemon's flesh.
If it noticed, it barely shows it.
An arrow sprouts suddenly from the brutes back, sinking up to its fletchings in unholy meat. Ferrous darts in and takes a bite at the daemon's ankle, allowing Vladislav to make his way to one of the resonant crystals, and to start his own work unpicking their power.
Through his fear, and the discomfort that his rebelling, nerve wracked stomach has unleashed with his robes, the Helldazzler manages to decipher the matrix of energies within the crystal, and with an effort of will, he undoes them, the shard immediately going dark. The daemon is immediately wracked by agony, and its screams are loud enough to tear the air apart. It doubles over, and at once, it seems to become less solid, the luminous mass of its spirit partially visible as a maddening kaleidoscope of pink and silver within its body.
Vladislav's bowels empty of their remaining content.
Ormid unravels another of the crystals, and again the daemon roars. Eerie pinkish light; tainted and corrupted, the natural luminosity of another, foul place, oozes from the daemon as its forms becomes less solid. More arrows strike it, and the vyrleen smashes his mace with crushing force into the fiend's ankle, deforming the bones there. The Veteran, Staggering from his wound, hefts his axe up into the monsters groin with terrific force. A small explosion seems to emanate as it bites and slices up into the conjuration's form, and once again the chamber shakes under the overwhelming screams of the enraged daemon. Spurred on by his fine blow, the warforged, manages to land another two vicious strikes into the monster.
The pink hazy radiance grows in brightness, and everyone tries not to look at the lights that coil and shift foully within the now smoky, gusting apparition of the daemon, for to see them too long is to be stricken mad and lost for all eternity.
Once again the claws lash out. Llewellyn is unconscious, his entrails spilling limply from his opened body. Shadevia is almost decapitated, the warforged managing to save her by getting in its way, taking some of the sting out of the otherwise fatal blow by – his own body split wide open, his head hanging on by pipes and gristle, consciousness held on to through sheer bloody mindedness only. Ormid finds himself looking up at the ceiling, unsure of what just happened, his spine exposed, his back opened like the shell of a cracked lychee.
Black lines of draining power lash from the monsters eyes, stealing health and rotting flesh. Ferrous activates his shielding glamer, but is thrown the length of the chamber, his internal machinery spilling with a plink to the ground, and Vladislav, too panicked to be able to focus on the next crystal, is sent spinning like a blood spurting top across the chamber, his heavy armour almost torn from his body by the hooked claws.
Barely able to move let alone fight, Veteran shifts to stand before the daemon, desperate to distract it from the artificer, who has crawled, slowly and painfully, a trail of gore slick behind him, to the foot of one of the active crystals. Confusion races through him as his internal systems desperately fight to repair the damage he has sustained, and as his mind tries to fathom how best to use his almost destroyed body. He raises his axe, and the swirling, roaring daemon turns to regard him with all the hatred of the universe. Realising that the warforged will be shattered beyond repair, the artificer first stabilises the rogue with an alchemical dust, before turning his wheeling mind to the crystal before him. He shrieks as the daemon sends a crackling line of shadowy power towards him, its touch raising pus filled sores and a terrible fever, but focuses on the job at hand, allowing his vision to slip into that realm where magic becomes visible...
...He sees the spells nexus within the crystal and reaches out towards it...
...The Veteran swings his axe, darkness rushing up to take him....
….Llewellyn feebly clambers to his feet....
….Shadevia, in her agony misses with a vermin infested arrow...
...Vladislav fights to summon the state of mind needed to unleash his deadly spells...
...Ferrous pants, stumbling like a broken toy, his fey magic swirling like glassy smoke around him...
….The crystal deactivates....
...The daemon screams, long, loud and with an increasing volume that becomes so loud it becomes not sound....
….The air boils with collapsing magic. The chamber is wracked by a miniature planar storm...
...and with a curiously warped pop, the Zovvut is sent back to its infernal home.
Although all are close to death, each adventurer lives.
They have passed the test.