Using My Monsters

Friday, 29 June 2012

Coming Soon

I turn 38 next week, and instead of getting hammered, I am running a two day event for my friends. I have converted the original Tomb of Horrors into a 4thCore module, and will be running my friends through it. Those that score the most points (see below), will earn some niceness for their "real" characters in their normal games.

I intend to record these games, and will post links to them here, so, if you want to hear how they do, please download and have a listen. The games are running July 7th and 8th, and with luck, the recordings will be live  a few days after that.

Here are the game rules that will cover the session (from the Facebook group I set up)


* Extended Rests: You won't have time to take any extended rests. The Tomb is a toxic place of ancient, vile evil, and should your characters remain there any longer than 6 hours, they will die. 


* Scoring: Each area you complete without a character death gets you 10 points. If you manage to defeat Acecererak and escape the tomb in the real world and game world time strictures, you will earn a bonus of 500 points. The group with the most points by the end of the game wins nice things for their characters in the other, regular campaigns. 

* Death: It's going to happen, probably a lot. Each death subtracts 30 points from your total. A slain character is returned to life at the end of the encounter that slew them, at full health and ability (as if they had taken an Extended Rest)

* Suicide / Deliberate Death: I can hear your brains right now. "I'll blow my dailies and then get 'accidentally' killed" you think. A deliberate death will see ALL POINTS being lost, so be my guest! :D

* Real World Time Constraints: 5 hours should be long enough to somehow defeat the Lich. If you have not escaped the tomb by then, the game ends...and your characters are assumed to die a horrible and final death!

* Time Table: Obviously, it will be pretty important to make sure that everyone is ready to play on time, and that we have time to eat. So, let's try to be ready to start playing at 10AM on your respective day (feel free to get to ours by 09:00). We'll play until 13:00, eat, and try to start again at 15:00, with the end occuring (messily and with much screaming most likely) at 17:00. Then....if you are free....the Nags Head and beer awaits (though this is up to you of course)

* Snacks etc: Usual deal really. However, as this is my birthday celebration, I will prolly provide some (cheap) booze...Mmmmmm cheap....."


Also, here is a link to a pretty interesting article about the Drow and their origins. Enjoy!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Ormid et al - Intermission

We left Ormid, Llewellyn and the Veteran in the middle of a nasty little battle, so I won't be doing an update until it's over. Here, in the mean time are some photos of where we left it...






Monday, 18 June 2012

Ormid et Al - Session Report, June 10th, 2012


31/5/5; 09:00: There are three of them; three mages from a school of magic known as the House of Granite, a school that has just negotiated its place in the Unified Order. Two are male humans, who like all natives of Kadash, the “City of Aqueducts”, have deeply lined and bronzed skin, dark eyes, and shaved heads. The third is a curiously androgynous female, clearly of elemental descent. Her hair is short, spiked, and the colour of overcast skies, a constant mist seeming to hang around its soft points. Her face is angular, her skin so pale as to be almost translucent. But it is her eyes that command the most attention; wide almond shaped orbs of incredible pale-grey, with pupils the colour of lightning. Her name is Tssel, and she is happy to tell the group that she is a genasai; an air-born creature with the blood both of mortal humans, and aeolian spirits within her. Her companions are Ahvul Dozzare and Haj Jhen, and they all know of where the group can find a Blue Dracani.

They sit in Ormid's official offices in Lorehaven, the early summer sunlight glinting off the polished furniture and airborne dust motes, the party united in their eagerness to be off on another epic adventure together. Speaking haltingly at first, and taking it in turn to talk, the Kadashites explain that, Located on the Central Meridian Isles in what used to be Zaepheri'Criz (the Desert of Blades – now a region of table mountains and winding, desolate canyons, scoured continually by the sun and howling, abrasive winds) Kadash survived the upheavals of the Age of Loss, and flourished as a principle trade city in that inhospitable region. Wealthy and prosperous, it's fortunes have taken a serious turn for the worst over the last year however, due to a serious loss of trade inflicted by “The Blue Lord”; an ancient dracani that has taken up residence in the ruins of the once splendid city of Tammatuli.

Supported by a clan of Nahokir'Gigorim (Sand Giants), as well as by worshippers within Kadash and the desert, the Blue Lord demands a “tax” from anyone trying to use the (normally) safest routes through the canyons, either northwards towards the city of Braax, or south-westwards towards the oasis city of Tulan'Dezir. This has seen a cease of almost all trading between those cities (which are invaluable links to the wider world), and a massive drop in supplies within Kadash, as well as profit for its merchants.

There are a few alternative routes, but these lead through lands haunted by savage gnarrak tribes or the nameless “mantis people”. Still worse horrors along these routes are the spectres of those who lived in the ancient cities lost when the Age of Loss began; Scarridian ghosts, Tammatulian wraiths and other immaterial undead, who's threat is so severe that even the gnarrak fear them. However, despite all this, a brave few have managed to get through on these routes, and so, Kadash endures – just.

Efforts by the five great and ten lesser houses (the merchant rulers of the city) to root out those citizens working for the Blue Lord have had minimal results, and to make matters worse, a former high ranking ambassador for House Kythus (one of the five great houses), has become the principle spokesman for the Blue Lord; arriving with the “Watchers” (giants) to deliver the Lord's terms to the city. This man – Sariq Ahmed – has only survived the hate of the cities people thanks to the promise from the Blue Lord that should he be harmed, a thousand people of Kadash will be killed for each drop of blood he loses.

Having been oppressed by a dracani in the ancient past (legends hold that a yellow dracani once ruled it with an iron claw, until it was defeated by wandering heroes), the people of Kadash would pay handsomely anyone able to end the Blue Lord's threat, and indeed, until recently, more than a few have tried. However, most of these turned up burned and mangled in the cities central plaza, dropped from the skies by the Blue Lord himself, and so enthusiasm for the mission has understandably waned.

So, if the group could accomplish what no others have, they would not only gain the materials they needed (and the monster's legendary hoard), but would win the gratitude of an ancient and wealthy city.

The party listen intently to the three mages, and ask a number of questions about the Great Houses, the disposition of the people, and the nature of the Blue Lord and his allies. They quickly work out that this dracani is an ancient beast, at least (if the size descriptions are accurate) 700 years old. Ormid surmises that despite the group's victories over dracani in the past, that this monster may provide a much stiffer challenge, and that destroying it may prove one of the most difficult tasks they have undertaken. He also voices concerns that such a monster will be well prepared to deal with would be aggressors, and that given the clandestine support for its predations in the city, it will be almost impossible to keep their arrival secret.

For a moment the Kadashites are afraid that the group will refuse to help. However, they then see the hungry, eager glint in the vyrleen's eyes, the coiled readiness in the warforged's posture, and the scholarly interest on the old artificer's face, and know that they have succeeded, and persuaded the “City Killers” to aid their home.

So, how are we going to do this?” Wonders the Veteran out loud.

We are going to need some help from one of you.” Says Ormid to the three, “Someone familiar with the region, the language, the people and the local, err, fauna”.

Tssel nods, and states she would be honoured to help – the two men wearing their relief at not being chosen openly on their faces.

Do you think it possible that any of the houses are colluding with the monster, perhaps to gain some kind of dispensation from the attacks?”

An uneasy look passes between the mages. “We fear it may be so.” Admits Ahvul. “It seems no coincidence that one once allied to House Kythus should be favoured so highly by the Blue Lord, although Kythus denies any links to the monster.”

A moment of silence passes, and outside, a cloud moves in front of the sun, a sudden darkness gathering in the study.

We need to draw the traitors out first.” Mumbles the Veteran, “so the monster is blinded.”

But by doing that, we warn it of our approach.” Counters Llewellyn. “Although.”

He gives a grin that almost takes in his pointed ears, “We could use that to our advantage.”

Everyone looks at the vyrleen as if he has grown a second head, but he continues, undaunted. “Look, fifteen houses in total yes?”

The Kadashites nod.

Right, and how many inns do you have?”

They look at each other, and then shrug.

More than fifteen I'll wager, with your city being built on trade?”

They nod.

Right. Here's how we find out if one of the houses is a traitor. We send word of our coming to the general populace, and really big up our achievements, you know, really make out that we are,..”

City killers?” Asks Tssel with a smile, the idea that the group will need to “big up” their incredible achievements clearly amusing to her.

Exactly!” Shouts the rogue (completely missing her point). “We generate a fervour of hope, and make sure that everyone knows that we are coming, and when.”

Ormid shakes his head, but the Veteran begins to understand the direction of the vyrleen's thoughts. “You're suggesting we set up a filter of sorts no?”

Llewellyn jumps up and down in his seat, and nods manically, clicking his fingers and pointing at the warforged. “Yes! Yes, that's exactly what I propose. Before we arrive, we ensure that each house is leaked information about where we will be staying. However, we tell each house that we are staying at a different establishment.”

Ormid gets it, his head snapping up, his eyes bright. “So, when the inevitable attack comes in our sleep, we know who sent the assassins?”

Absolutely!” Laughs Llewellyn.

But how will you monitor so many rooms?” Asks Tssel.

Ormid waves a dismissive hand. “I can activate devices in each room which will alert me through the aether when they are breached.”

Also,” Interrupts Llewellyn, “I have some..err...students, at my adventuring school who would be able to hide near to each place and report back who visits.”

And then, with the enemies of Kadash identified, we could neutralise them, sending a clear message to the dracani's other allies, blinding him to the cities plans, and of course, shitting him, as the dundorin say, 'right up'. “ Finishes the warforged.

Another moment of pleased silence fills the room. Outside a heavy rain begins to fall, tapping at the glass of the window, the wind booming suddenly with the fury of a typical early summer squall.

1/6/51 – 10/6/51 – Word is sent to Kadash that a band of epic heroes, responsible for the destruction of an alien invasion, the deaths of several great wyrms, and the binding of a potent, evil god, are coming to liberate their city from the predations of the Blue Lord. The people are at first reluctant to allow themselves to believe that these northerners will be any more likely to succeed than any of their local heroes. However, Llewellyn's “adventurers” are sent into the city, to subtly manipulate public opinion, and by the time the group are due to arrive, a frenzy of support and expectation has descended over the city.

Unknown to the population, the group have actually visited Kadash a number of times, staying within the massive, granite edifice of the House of Granite's fortress-tower. There they have met with Khulan Shoadai, the leader of the school – a muscular man who bears a crackling staff, wreathed in stormlight, and who has grafted rune-carved plates of durium to his flesh, adding a layer of both physical and metaphysical protection to himself.

There they have discussed the dangers of Tammatuli's ruins (the spectres that haunt them at night, and wandering dead that hunt it by day are a major threat, though the dracani remains the principle danger), and how they might best approach the city (a former oasis sanctuary two days from Kadash, three days from Tammatuli, bears a functional rune-circle, though the site is home to a clan of corrupted gnarrak known locally as the Shad'Hourri, or Taint Drinkers. These monsters are supposedly far beyond the norm for their kind, having drunk from the tainted waters of the oasis, which became polluted during the collapse of Zaepheri'Criz), and the group are advised that even they may struggle to contend with them.

The Veteran laughs at this, and firmly states that come hell or high water, they are going to the oasis.

During these days Ormid spends a lot of time in the libraries at Lorehaven, learning all he can about Blue Dracani, and the ancient city of Tammatuli. He learns that it was apparently a principle rival and also supporter of Kadash, maintaining a healthy state of competition that pushed both cities to excel. He also learns that it had a well developed military force, had several schools of mages, and was a self appointed defender against the evils spilling from the sunken ruins of another nearby city, Scarridar (this has been largely unearthed during the deserts' collapse, and to this day is a dangerous, daemon-haunted place).

11/5/51 – 16:30 – 18:30: Finally the day where the group officially arrive in the city comes. A huge greeting ceremony is arranged for the late afternoon, after the fiercest heat has died down (the group have taken some time to adapt to the dry, almost forge-like heat of the region, and have really struggled on their few, clandestine visits to the city beyond the Houses' massive, insulating walls). It will be held in the cities central plaza, beneath the statue of the “Yellow Tyrant”; the dracani that once held the city back in the ancient Second Age.

Huge crowds turn out to welcome the group, the air reverberating with their calls and cheers. Escorted by a cadre of Granite House mages, and overseen by agents of another of the cities schools (also allied now to the Unified Order), the Brotherhood of Shadows, the party are carried triumphantly through the choking heat, towards the central plaza.

It takes them an hour to arrive there, and the crowds that greet them are incredible; the sound they make almost a physical thing. As they near the statue, beneath which has been raised a platform from which the group will address the crowds, the artificer realises with a jolt, the “Yellow Tyrant” must have been turned to stone, and that this “statue” is its petrified form – a possible danger should someone else realise this and decide to release it from its stony sleep.

Slowly, the group are borne towards the platforms, each thankful as they climb up onto it for the shade provided by the great head of the dracani “statue”, and the two ancient palm trees that flank them. Also flanking the stage are two large stone statues of two of the ancient heroes that supposedly slew the Tyrant; one named Derran Oth'Cellinthar and the other, “Stick” (a curiously mantid-like creature, that wears scant armour over its chitinous exoskeleton, and seems to be wielding some unusual shuriken like blades – an entity Ormid has seen referred to by a number of names, but which he knows as a Thri-Kreen or Skythid). Also on stage are Ferrous, and Tssel.

For a while the group simply stand there, almost overwhelmed by the sea of people cheering for them. In the distance to the east, beyond the statue, they can see a number of colossal, ornate structures rising above the sea of flat-roofed, white-washed buildings that form most of the cities architecture. These they know are the private residences of the fifteen merchant houses; the grandest being those of the five. And filling the roads between that district and the plaza, indistinct through the heat haze, is a slow moving procession of guards, banners and ornate palanquins - the majordomos of the fifteen houses en-route to meet the group and to give them their personal blessing. It is a spectacular sight, and even the Veteran feels something swell within his chest at the attention.

Then, they sense a strange tension in the air, and a whispering voice in their minds from one of the Brotherhood warns them that an attack is under way. Ormid quickly asks what is going on, and the nameless voice replies “We have engaged animator daemons in the shadow of the physical, and stopped other troops teleporting to your location. We shall deal with them here, but we sense that you may have problems of your own to contend with.”

And they do.

Over the cheering, the group suddenly become aware of screams of fear and pain coming from the ranks closest to the the platform. Sharp, painful bursts of harsh, snarling light crackle and flair amongst the press of bodies, and with horror, the party realise that twelve men and women, each clad in scaled armour, and bearing a copper-hued scimitar, wreathed in lightning, are hacking and stabbing their way towards them.

Get back!” Screams Llewellyn at the crowd.

Bastards!” Screams Tssel, the air around her suddenly growing dark and cold as she calls upon her magics.

Men, women and children die in the crowd; slashed and burned by the surging fanatics – Dracadians – as the Granite House mages call them, and the rest begin to panic, boiling away from the killers, leaving the dead and dying on the baking floor. Outraged, the group leap down from the platform to meet them, a desire to punish burning like hateful fire in their hearts.

The battle is almost pathetic in its shortness, the dracadians falling in mere seconds to the groups' attacks. Ormid summons a writhing area of bladed cables, which dismember those warriors within it, whilst Llewellyn unleashes flame from his boots, burning screaming fanatics to the floor. The Veteran unleashes a volley of corrosive arrows from Dracusvir, the imbued bow roaring with power as the black arrows are let loose, whilst Tssel impresses all with a display of deadly elemental magic; the sky darkening and disgorging a deadly rain of knife-like hail, which simply cuts the warriors caught within it (and one of the palms) to a sickening pulp. Ferrous puts his fangs to good use, biting the head from one warrior who comes too close.

Keep one alive!” Screams Ormid above the horrible din of the screaming crowds, and their own unleashed might.

A low, rolling moan fills the air as the crowd stand, shell-shocked, staring at the utter carnage unleashed around the stage. A few rush to help those wounded in the attacks, whilst other simply weep over the fallen. In the distance, the blare of horns and the thumping of drums heralds the near arrival of the Majordomos.

The first to enter the plaza from the east are heavily armed and armoured guards allied to House Na'Desha, greatest of all the houses, their obsidian weapons and burnished breastplates glinting in the afternoon sun. They quickly form a cordon and begin to move civilians away, whilst word is sent to the rest of the procession to await further orders. At the same time, elements of Kadash' independent defence league arrive, lead by a young man bearing the rank of Captain named Khedan. He immediately demands a full report on what has just happened, and upon seeing that the group have captured one of the dracadian's orders he be taken to the Tower of Justice a few streets away. This leads to a small argument with the party (though Tssel who translates), but they soon back down, realising that there is a procedure to be followed, and that they are not helping by getting in its way.

You will come with me to the Tower too.” Orders Khedan darkly, “There you can interrogate this piece of filth as you see fit.”

Just as the group are about to leave with Khedan (the crowd regarding them with a mix of awe, fear and horror now), they are stopped by an emaciated looking man dressed in incredibly rich robes of purest silk. Jewels glitter from the cloth, and he wears metallic make up on his gaunt, sunken features, which only serves to give him a horrible, death-mask like appearance. He is surrounded by five cloaked and masked guards, dressed in layers of black robes, their features hidden behind black kufeya, all of whom stand protectively around him, greenish blades of coppery metal held outwards.

Wait!” He calls in tradespeak, rendered almost incomprehensible by his heavy accent, “I want to thank you!”

The group stare, uncomprehending, until they notice that Khedan and every other native is down on one knee, heads bowed towards the newcomer. Seeing their lack of comprehension, the man bows, and introduces himself.

Great Lords, my apologies. I am Omar Khem'Zaul, Majordomo of House Zaul, second amongst the five. It is my city you fight to protect from these scum, and so, you have my personal, and my houses great thanks for your endeavours.”

The group smile and mumble something they hope sounds heroic, before Omar is moved away, and they can begin their journey to the Tower.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

House Rule Movement Results So Far

So, a few games have used the new movement rules, though in one they didn't get used as there was no fighting!

So far, the following seems to hold true (though this may change with further playtesting).

* Over all, the players get more freedom, and can create better tactics on the battlefield. This actually makes combat move a little faster.

* The number of opportunity attacks increases quite a bit, which you might think would make combat longer, but actually, with the additional damage being dealt, shortened it.

* It is important that people have any interrupts or reactions to OA's ready, otherwise they could potentially bog things down!

* Skirmishers become a real nightmare! Already blessed with masses of movement, as well as many powers that grant them mobility, they can tear into battle and out with relative ease. You need either good defenders or a good controller to lock them down (or at least, someone with good ranged attacks), otherwise you are going to struggle (evil laughter).

* Strikers remain the best at moving about! One of the largest fears amongst my players was that the strikers would lose their "thing". However, truth be told, they remain able to move out of threatened squares without provoking opportunity attacks, and like skirmishers, often gain additional moves, which give the increased mobility when compared to other character types.

* Defenders have to make some tough decisions. Often, if they don't stay put, they do not fill their role. Also, they have to decide whether provoking an opportunity attack is worth it (and with some brutes, it really isn't).

* Combat ran faster! In truth, it did. This was partly because Opportunity Attacks whittled away the enemies hit points, and partly because characters could close with enemies (or move out the way of allies) more easily. Battles where the new rules have been used have been about 25% shorter than I would normally expect.

I'll give you more updates when we have used the rules a bit more!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Ormid et Al - EPILOGUE / PROLOGUE


There are incredible celebrations following the destruction of the alien ziggurat, which engulf many northern cities on Fey, and many southern settlements on Cryaria. Ormid Thefler and his crew, as well as the incredible collection of mages they gathered are officially recognised as great heroes in a lavish ceremony, held a week after the destruction of the ziggurat in Yorduil (though Shadevia has vanished by this point, slipping away in the whirl of celebrations). In this ceremony War Commander Ulthstaag (who no longer seems remotely awe inspiring to the group, their stature and personal power almost eclipsing his) dubs them “Saviours of the Northern Lands” and “City Killers”, awarding each a platinum medal stamped on one side with the standard of Yorduil (Three vertical spears against a crescent moon and a howling wolfs head), and on the other with a symbol the Unifying Order have come up with – A five pointed crown (representing the five founding schools of mages – despite the fact that the Helldazzlers have declined to join the order, and have returned to their normal, mercenary ways), surrounding the symbol of Merriel'Shaava (a pentacle – though the smaller pentacles that normally hang on each of its points have been moved to the points of the crown).

Following this, the group return to Lorehaven where they receive additional rewards. Ormid becomes a High Meister of the college, and is rewarded a tower within the grounds, as well as a high social status in the city. Llewellyn is granted permission by the Lorehaven Lore Masters to open a “School of Adventuring” in the college grounds – though his intentions are to train up rogues, and to found a guild based in the city – whilst the Veteran is given the deeds to an abandoned fortress that nestles to the south of the Glyr'Tokth vale, in the distant Streaked Mountains.

The Veteran also receives a gift from the Helldazzlers – Ferrous Mk II. It is not a subtle thing, being a construct of blades and heavy metal plates, but it seems to have the originals personality, and bears massively augmented weapons; flame and electricity wreathed fangs, a powerful deafening roar, and best of all, the ability to become many times larger in combat, gaining terrific strength and martial power. The Warforged is very grateful.

Late in the spring, enraged at his plans, the Northwards Procurer's Guild makes an assassination attempt on Llewellyn. This provokes a week of carnage, during which the rogue, the warforged, Ferrous and the recently returned Ardwaine and Brundorson (the former now pregnant, the latter clearly smitten with the priestess), wreak terrible, bloody vengeance upon the rogues.

They simply don't stand a chance.

Llewellyn takes over the guild as its Procurer Prime on the 13/3/50.

Ormid is completely engulfed in his dual roles – one as a Meister of the college, and the other, as arbiter and organiser of the rapidly growing Unifying Order of Mages (now usually called the Unified Order, or simply, The Order), and is seen very little by the group over the coming months. However, on the 21/3/50, late in the evening, he receives a visit from Sheol in his former home.

The godling is sitting in Ormid's favourite chairs by his fire, reading one of his “secret” publications, and smiles as he enters his home, the firelight glinting gold in his eyes, a single fang hanging over his lower lip.

Hello Ormid. How's it going?”

The artificer stops a moment, somewhat wrong footed by the appearance of the power, and simply nods a lot. Sheol laughs warmly.

Come in old man! I've been admiring the scantily clad women in this pamphlet. Most, errm, arousing.”

The artificer finally finds his voice, and warily asks, “What do you want Sheol? Have you come to request your favour already?”

Sheol's smile widens. “It is about that as it happens.” He leans forwards and pats the seat of a chair across from him. “Come in Ormid and sit down, you're giving me a cramp in my neck, and you wouldn't like me when I am grumpy.”

Ormid sits.

Well?”

It's already paid in full old man.”

A moment of hung silence as the godling's words sink into his mind.

Paid in full? But, how?”

Sheol hands Ormid a glass of fine, clear brandy (which has appeared from some place), and then sits back, steepling his fingers.

My ascension to godhood required a massive release of energy you know. The kind of release that you simply don't come across very often. It also required a ritual that took over 500 years to complete, and cost millions of gold in residuum and other rare components. Even now, I search for many of those components, aiding myself on my path to godhood.”

But,” stutters Ormid, frowning, “you're a god now? Otherwise, how did you help us?”

Sheol sits forwards, his eyes shining.

I would have thought you above most others could work that one out?”

Time travel?”

Sheol nods, “Exactly, though that isn't how you helped me.”

Ormid just stares, his head suddenly aching.

When you and your allies forced the aethran's chronoportal to deposit you in the past, it collapsed and unleashed a staggering amount of energy into the plane. Unfortunately, this triggered what will become known as “The Sundering”, an event that will forever change this and millions of other universes, cause countless billions of deaths and see the rise of many strange and alien nations on this world.
However, what it also did was unleash the energies I needed to ascend to godhood, which, channelled through my 500 year long ritual, enabled me to shed my mortal frame and to become the power you see before you.”

Ormid knocks his drink back in one, gasping as the fiery fluid torches his throat and chest with soothing numb heat.

So you then used your power to travel back in time to...”

To the middle of the Age of Loss, when I could consolidate my power without the other Gods and Goddesses getting in my face”

And waited for me to come along with my allies, to trigger the blast you needed to....I have to say, this all seems highly unlikely.”

Sheol laughs.

It does. But then again, I have always has a knack for getting my own way, and knowing what is around the corner. One thing I knew I definitely needed was for you and yours to found the Unified Order. Otherwise the aethran and his portal would never come to be, and my plan would be for naught. Hence, why I intervened when Nye'ddeth was murdering your troupe and helped you survive. Naughty really, but,” he shrugs, “Worth the risk.”

He finishes his own glass of brandy, and stands up.

Anyway Meister Thefler, I wanted to come and congratulate you on your victory, to tell you that you have already paid your debt to me, and to warn you. You are betrayed, and Ebon Eye does not seek what you think he does.”

Sheol bows slightly at his waist. Ormid simply stares up at him from his seat.

You're most welcome.” Smiles the godling. “I'll let myself out.”

The late summer and autumn of 50, sees Veteran, the two dundorin, Llewellyn, Ferrous and a recently returned Sadran (who remembered their pact, made in the frozen streets of Yorduil, about meeting back at the Summer Solstice), heading to the Streaked Mountains. There they battle the Vulgol'Gigorim that have claimed the keep left to the Veteran as their own. It is a tough campaign, but by the first dustings of snow, the keep is clear (though the self proclaimed “King of the Eastern Peaks”, one Skrung, has declared that he shall raise an army to take the keep back and to punish those that have murdered so many of his kin).

The winter sees each adventurer busying themselves with their personal projects, and sees the Unified Order go from strength to strength. Though still hugely involved in the running and organisation of the Order, Ormid has handed many of his roles over to the five most trusted mages in the order – his Pentacle Council – and has concentrated on researching the legends of the Eastern Guild, the Guild Wars, and the ancient forges that produced the first Warforged. He also spends a small fortune improving the enchantments on the weapons, armour and other items he and the group carry, even managing to awaken further power within the dracani bone bow Dracusvir.

Llewellyn begins to put his newly acquired guild to use, gaining dirt on many high ranking nobles in Lorehaven, Currusp and a number of other cities, whilst the Veteran finds more than a few folks seeking to man his keep, and to learn from him the skills of a warrior.

The Winter Solstice is celebrated together in Lorehaven, though everyone is disappointed when the shadeling does not meet with them.

The spring of 51 is a wet and cold affair, but the group begin to look forwards to their journey back to the Eastern Guild. Rammanum is asked to look into what Sheol could have meant, and confirms that Ebon Eye has been made aware of the location of the Eastern Guild by someone (Smite's absence is duly noted), and journeyed along the hidden paths late last summer.

New threats appear in the Northern Republic, as a number of large Gorgoth tribes invade the lands, sowing misery and death in their wake, but the group are focused entirely on their own journey.

On the 21/5/51, the group leave Lorehaven and teleport to Garras'Knar. Gaining access to the Thruk'Dun once more, they travel for a week along the tunnels leading from there to the Eastern Guild. What they find however, is absolute carnage, and at the end of their journey, having moved through territories once held by what appeared to be mutated Gorgryn (all of whom have been slashed apart or blasted by potent magic), they find, on the morning of the 28th, a Guild Portal – sabotaged “exquisitely and expertly” according to Illithayne, who is summoned to examine the ruined frame with Ormid.

Bugger.” muses the artificer, “I though that was the case, but was hoping that for once, I would be wrong.”

The portal is expertly analysed by Order artificers, and by the end of the 29th there is good and bad news.

We think the portal can be repaired,” smiles Illithayne, “the various components of the Order possessing many of the rare materials needed to do so. The only two problems we see are that none of us possess any blue dracani bone marrows or blood, and, there is one element that we...well, we have no idea what it is, other than it is a resonant crystal quite unlike anything we have seen before.”

So,” growls the Veteran a little too eagerly, “We need to find and kill a blue dracani?”

Yes.” Replies the aelwyn in a low voice, “And there are several mages in our Order who might know where you can find one.”

Fine. Nice work Illithayne.” Nods Ormid, “Can you and the boys try to identify the mystery material whilst we find us this dracani and kill it?”

That should be no problem...assuming we are successful of course.”

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

State of Play - Shnecke's Wolves - 4th June, 2012


29/7/1472 – 04:12 – 04:40 – The group navigate the tunnels, hoping that they are heading back in towards the heart of the island. The tunnels are a mish-mash of ancient carved ways, and sections of newer (though still old) construction.

Although the party do hear the city watch enter the tunnels, there is no pursuit – though they are not sure if this is a good sign.

After about 10 minutes, the assassin and priest become aware of a distant, bloodless sound; a chitinous susurrus that raises their hackles, and makes them more than a little eager to be gone from this place.

04:40 – 04:45 – The group are in a section of slimy, fitted stone, and the water that pours from above stinks of ammonia and other acrid chemicals. Great mats of floating fat and greasy chemicals froth and collect in a churning scum along the tunnels, and it is quickly deduced that some kind of leather industry – probably tanneries – operate above.

The assassin is scouting ahead of the main group, his black eyes able to see in total darkness. He has come to the edge of a vast cistern chamber, into which pour fierce columns of stinking water. In the middle of the room, a curious tangle of bone-white, thin, segmented cords coil in loose loops from a drain chute in the ceiling, and something about the mass of oddly organic lines sends a shiver down his back.

As the rest of the group arrives, he advises them to turn around and find some other route. The barbarian wants to know why, and when he finds out, declares that the party should do the very opposite. This finds agreement with Thatari, but the rest of the group decide that another fight, in their exhausted state, might be foolish, and agree with the assassin's plan.

As the group leave, the rattling whisper loudly sounds from the chamber, and looking back, Jaeger notices that the bone like cables have gone...

05:25 – The group have entered a region of tunnels being used as sewers. They try not to think about the ordure that lies in slowly oozing piles along their floors, or the cockroaches, maggots and rats that feed on it, and focus instead on trying to find an exit to the surface that won't get them into trouble for climbing up it (there have been hundreds of chutes leading to the realms above, but most have been sealed off – one by a neatly laid floor*). They have heard the rattling sound following them on several occasions, though the source has not revealed itself, and all are eager to get out of the tunnels and away from it, the cumulative effect of it wearing on their nerves.

05:26 – 05:40 - A long straight tunnel is found which bears a line of shit caked chutes heading upwards. Frowning, the assassin attempts to climb one of them, and after a sickening false start (his hands sinking into the encrusted muck and sliding down the stone, lubricated by it), he manages, his gorge rising, to get to the top.

He finds himself within a mucky, humid chamber, next door it seems, to some kind of large heated pool, and he quickly realises this is the toilet block of a public bath. Sliding free from the hole, he moves to the exit, and sees a vast chamber of gold-plated bones, which serves as the grandiose home for a large pool of strongly rose scented water. A single elderly Aurymite gentleman is the pools' only inhabitant at this early hour, though the assassin can hear some voices echoing from beyond a flight of stone steps across the way.

Using the noise of the swimmer as cover, and hoping the stench he emits won't give him away, the assassin quietly moves up the steps, and peers around their top. To his relief, the voices are coming from two more early risers, intent on using the baths, idly chatting. A single, open door leads into the smoggy streets, pale grey light filtering through several barred windows either side of it.

Returning to the group, Jaeger fills them in. They decide they will simply stride into the pool, spin a tale about being contracted by the islands' council to slay some monsters in the sewers, and “commandeer” it for their “official” use. Then they begin to climb up the chute...

...However, as the last couple of adventurer's are moving into the chute, they hear the rattling sound moving at speed towards them along the tunnel below. Adrenaline surges through those able to produce it, and icy calm through the rest, as a nightmare, surrounded by a nest of whipping, hooked tentacles (these were what the assassin had seen hanging from the pipes in the cistern chamber) suddenly appears around a corner and hurtles towards them; a vast, chitinous sphere, mouthless, but bearing a single, massive, blood-shot eye, which floats towards them, filling the tunnels with its rasping chorus.

Spurred on by its appearance, and the last to climb, the Ulnyrr leaps into the chute, his feet barely clearing the tunnel below before six hooked appendages whip out to snag him. Pulling himself up the stinking, claustrophobic tube, he can hear the thing below groping for him, and as he emerges at the top – aided by his panicking companions – he risks a look down, and sees the chute filled below by the baleful staring eye of the thing.

“We should show his red eye our brown eye.” quips the assassin, a sick, exhausted smile on his face...

06:40 – 15:00 – The group manage to leave the public baths, bathed and smelling a little sweeter (to the outrage of the men when they see what they are covered in, and, more importantly, when they see that a woman has been brought into a male only baths), and soon find themselves rooms at the “Home from Home”; an expensive inn, specialising in foreign business persons.

They are exhausted by this time, having been on the go for almost 24-hours, and those that sleep are soon out cold, the others allowing a torpor of sorts to take them (all of them taking a bath first, of course)...

16:00 – Jaeger and Thatari head out to try and find out if anyone in the island's less reputable world knows about the hidden Shadrakuul cult. This is because Grigori has realised that the worship of Gods in the Aurym Isles is seen as a strange, foreign trait; the idea of trusting a powerful supernatural entity that is not “family” like the ancestors are, frightening and strange to them (this is despite the fact that in the late Second Age, before the ancient city of Cran Aurym mostly sank, there were a number of local deity like “super ancestors”, who enjoyed the same kind of adoration as Gods do). Because of this, the cult must be an underground order, hidden from the eyes of the general populace.

16:15 – 16:25 - With the rest of the group shadowing them, the pair move to a nearby market, and soon spot a group of young men, selling something they clearly don't want to be caught selling, from behind the innocent cover of a dried fish and fish paste stall. Initial attempts to get the lads to talk fail, with one of them – a gobby young fellow in his late teens, overconfident in his youth and position amongst his peers – telling the pair to disappear. However, their cockiness vanishes when the warlock warns them telepathically to stand down, and the assassin remains utterly unmoved by their threats, his deadly, cold manner exuding palpable menace.

They are clearly reluctant to talk, but eventually give the group a name of a local merchant known as Dadda Mdawa (this is pulled involuntarily from the leader's mind by Thatari, the boy's horror at having “ratted” out the crime Lord almost sending him into meltdown).

16:26 – 20:00 - Further asking about Mdawa reveals that despite his public face as a genteel philanthropist and fair trading merchant lord, he is the head of a powerful group of criminals called the “Hidden Men”, who specialise in smuggling slaves across the globe, fixing markets and a host of other criminal endeavours. The group are warned a number of times to leave the island, as many believe that Mdawa will come to hear of their questions, and will seek an “audience”.

20:01 – 07:00 (30/7/1472) -The group return to the Home from Home, and the assassin manages to disable the trap on Santhiel's chest. Opening the chest, it is found to be empty, though lined with a curious leaden black material. Along its bottom, a complex series of magical glyphs have been embroidered, and it is quickly realised that the chest is actually a portal – though it looks as if it must be placed in a specific area to be activated (Groans as they realise that the special “somewhere” is probably within the Exquisite Gusset).

The group rest, though they take steps to protect themselves – just in case Dadda Mdawa sends anyone to harm them...

07:01 – 07:45 – The group awaken and take some breakfast. Whilst doing this, they are approached by a middle-aged Auyrmite, who quickly explains that Dadda Mdawa would like to meet with them to “make them a business deal”. The group consider a number of actions at this point, but realising that they have, so far, merely asked about the crime Lord, they decide to meet with him and see what he wants.

The nameless servant appears more than a little relieved when the group agree to accompany him Grigori and Jaeger notice, and they are unsure as to what this might mean. Outside, four huge men flank a gaudy palanquin, which the group realise is barely large enough for half their number to ride in.

danger senses whirring, hands close to weapons, the group allow the nameless man to push back the drapes, revealing a finely wrought hoop of gem encrusted gold, within which shimmers a portal.

Please,” smiles the man, bowing and gesturing at the portal, “'dis will take ye to see me master.”

07:46 – 08:10 – The group enter the portal, and after a split-second of disorientation emerge into a large room of wood, which they quickly realise, is within a large ship, far out to sea.

The room is hung about with assorted trophies, and the skins of a number of powerful felid predators are spread over the floor. Unseen presences whir about the place, though none of the party sense them, and the air is thick with bitter, milky smoke.

Dadda Mdawa reclines on a number of silk beanbags, watched over by several hulking men wearing golden face paints, worked into the designs of skulls. Behind him a huge bay window looks out across empty miles of green-grey water, and the group realise without needing to look, that the portal is, for now, no longer active. Dadda smokes from a spectacular, 5' high hookah, carved from chiming crystals, and filled with coloured fluids that shimmer and gleam as he draws smoke through them.

Mdawa is an older man, with grey hair worn in a low afro, and a soul-patch style beard, which is mostly white. His eyes are stained brown with age, but are bright, hard and alert. He smiles at the group, revealing a lot of gold and ebony in his mouth.

Please,” he says in a rough, smoker's voice, “Come in and share me smoke. I bin hearin' dat ye be askin' about me, and am wonderin' what a bunch of strange folks like yerselves might be wantin' with me.”

They settle down and talk.

The group are honest with Mdawa, and he with them. It quickly comes to light that they share a common enemy – Santhiel Burr – though the reasons for this enmity are different. Mdawa couldn't care less about the Shadrakuul cults or a missing vyrleen, but is very unhappy about Santhiel's people smuggling ring, which he has established without “permission”, and without paying the Hidden Men their “rightful” tax.

The group ask why the Hidden Men can't deal with the problem themselves, and Mdawa explains that he cannot be seen to be attacking the Dohr'Khustan's, as their ships would seek out his own, and very likely sink them with little effort (he is very clear about how deadly the corsair nation's ships are, and how finely they have perfected the art of nautical combat and ambush) – an action that would make life incredibly difficult for many of his “businesses”. So, in order to send his message, he must do so through a second party...although officially, he will deny having anything to do with their actions...

And so it is agreed that the group will smash the Dhor'Khustan's people smuggling operation on Zebora, sink the three ships they use (he can only give them the name of Santhiel's own vessel, The Ravager), and send a clear message to anyone else that would try to get away without paying the Hidden their dues, that this is not possible. As this will involve smashing the Shadrakuul cult, and hopefully finding out what happened to Kheshan, they agree.

08:11 – 08:15 – Dadda Mdawa offers the group some additional aid, and they are more than a little surprised when an obese man, dressed in green and gold robes decorated with polished serpent scales, and bearing the same golden skull face decoration as the guards, appears from nowhere, having been invisibly watching the exchange the whole time. He introduces himself as N'gau, “Spirit Binder”, and quickly explains that he will craft a “Clay Walker” to accompany the group in their endeavour.

Meet me at midnight tomorrow outside de Gusset. We'll see to it that the guards be forgettin' to stand watch that night. 'Den ye can go into de rooms, open yer chest, and find a way into tha' cult's heart. Also, I can bring ye da' Clay Man without raisin' too many eyebrows.”

The group agree, and head back through the reactivated portal to the streets outside the Home from Home.

10:00 – 21:00: The group do some questioning and discover that the other two vessels that sail with The Ravager, are the Sunken Bell, and the Squall, though they are unable to determine who captains them.

00:00 – 00:15 (1/8/1472): Good as his word, N'gau meets with the group outside the silent whorehouse, accompanied by a 12' tall golem made from wet, grey clay. It is a crude thing fashioned to be rudely humanoid, and it stinks of rotten water and wet graves. Its only feature is a vothniir plated human skull, carved with snaking necromantic runes, pushed into the blank “face” of the thing, and Shnecke quickly names the golem “Skull”.

The control rod – an etched femur – is given to Grigori, and the way to control the golem explained. They are also warned that the spirit that animates the golem is a hateful ghost, and that it may turn on the group if allowed to slip free of the binding spells.

If da bone grows cold, or it snaps, ye need to be getting' away from de golem, for it will be comin' for ye.”

Aelnaerys shines balefully above, more red than violet, the millions of mythen stones glimmering a sickly green around it. A vague wind whispers along the strangely empty street, and the group feel a prickle of fear pinching at their nerves as the necromancer steps into the shadows of a nearby building, and vanishes.

00:20 – 00:25 – With the golem thumping along with them, the group enter the stillness of the Gusset, and after a little experimenting find the spot within Santhiel's chambers, where the portal within the chest is activated.

With the gateway open, the air in the room becomes bitterly cold, and a layer of frost suddenly begins to cover everything within a few feet of the chest. Within, ominous darkness yawns, a flight of black steps, barely visible, descending into the throat of the portal. With a deep breath, the group steel themselves, and one by one, enter the gate, and whatever place lies beyond...

* Shnecke has, since it was decided that erupting through someone's floor would not be the most subtle means of leaving the tunnels, moaned constantly, angrily arguing that they could kill anyone that saw them. An exasperated Jaeger has told him time and again to forget the idea, backed by both Varracuda and Lia, but he remains annoyed at being denied his “awesome” exit from the realms below.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Death Kiss (Bleeder) - Level 13 Solo Controller

(Click to read without bleeding from your eyes)

The Death Kiss was a 1st ed, 2nd ed monster I always loved, and I decided to update it to 4e to throw at Shnecke and the gang. Alas, as you shall soon see, they didn't fight it. However, I'll put it up here so, should you want to unleash this horrible relative of the Beholder on your players, you have it!

Enjoy!

Friday, 1 June 2012

Some House Rules We Are Trying

One of things in the DnD Next playtest I did like was the return to a less strict move action. I must admit, at times in 4e, the inability of folks to move a bit, take another action and then finish their move has been a bit jarring, and I've been meaning to do something about it for a while. So, in the next few games (save the Shnecke's Wolves game, where a few players have made unhappy noises), I am going to be testing out the following rules. I'll let you know how they work out!

A move action allows a character to undertake all the actions described in the core rules, with one exception – a normal move may be broken down into several stages.

For Example: A fighter with a speed of 6 could move 3 squares towards an enemy, attack them, and then move 3 squares away. This would trigger an Opportunity Attack as usual (as the fighter had moved more than 1 square on his turn).

A move away from an enemy triggers an Opportunity Attack if the character has moved more than 1 square in their turn (unless other factors prevent it). So, if the fighter above had moved 5 squares before attacking, and then moved 1, he would still provoke the Opportunity Attack, as he had moved more than 1 square in his turn.

Shifting remains unchanged.

The above rules allow for some more flexibility in the battlefield, without treading on the toes of the strikers (who tend to be able to move away from enemies without triggering Opportunity Attacks). It is also unlikely to have too much impact on defenders, as they are designed to get in the faces of the enemy, and keep them locked down. The rules above allow groups to form fluid lines of attack and defence, which should – in theory – speed up battles. It also makes Skirmisher monster's that bit more lethal, as they tend to get a lot of free movement, which in combination with their total speeds, gives them unparalleled manoeuvrability on the battlefield.