Using My Monsters

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Building a Better Dundiir - Dundorin Racial Feats

The stubborn, foul-mouthed Dundorin have always been one of my favourite races, and although the normal Dwarf race in 4th Edition captures some elements of what I loved about them, it fell a little short. So, I have put together a bunch of feats which will allow you to build a true Dundorin - stubborn, tough and often hateful. 

Enjoy!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Shnecke's Wolves - Session Report, November 20th, 2012

3/8/1472 – 04:20 – 06:00: The group make their way back to the first altar room, where they discover a pile of mangled bodies, and Skull, drenched in gore and bearing a number of wounds, stood amongst them. All but one of the corpses are cultists that have come to worship, and instead found the enraged Clay Golem. One however, impossibly, belongs to one of the Aurymites imprisoned by Shumeth near the lava pit. Clearly, they had made their way to this place, only to be unrecognised and then killed by the construct.

Varracuda is not happy.

The group are soon at the Ravager, where they are greeted by their crew. Tales are exchanged about the adventure the group have had, and a meeting is quickly set up in order to discuss the business of moving on.

Speaking for the entire crew is a scarred Aurymite named Caleph. Caleph raises a number of immediate concerns for the party – namely that the ship must have a recognised chain of commandto function efficiently (especially in battle), and that although they have enough crew (24 in total) to make it sail, it is not enough crew to see it move at full speed, to man it 24-hours, and definitely not enough to command the ship in a battle.

The group begin to try and decide who will be recognised as Captain of the vessel, and at once Shnecke suggests that he is the natural choice, citing his people's mastery of the longboat, and his own service on such raiding vessels. The rest of the party smile warmly, whilst shooting each other alarmed glances that suggest that there is no way in hell they are going to allow the undead barbarian to captain the vessel.

“If Shnecke is going to be Captain,” pipes up Jaeger suddenly, “Then I shall be First Mate. You know, so you can [hard meaningful stare at the group and Caleph] run things by me to double check for problems

Everyone gets his meaning, and soon it is agreed – Shencke will be given the impression that he is Captain of the ship, whilst the real decisions are made by the rest of the party, with Jaeger as the mouthpiece.

Next begins a long discussion on how to proceed. Caleph points out that simply taking the ship to a standard port is entirely out of the question, as the Ravager is a well known pirate vessel, which will be attacked on sight by most. The group decide firstly that the ship must be renamed. Various monikers are thrown about, with the Sea Wolf almost being adopted. However, Thatari makes a crude comment, and the group settle on a less urbane name – the Sea C**t,

They next discuss finding a way to the surface, in order to get the ingots to Takeshi. It is decided that they shall then invite him to assist them in hunting down the Drowned Bell and the Squall, leaving the SC here in the smuggler's port, with a view to using Santhiel's chest, and the amulets on the cultists slain by Skull, to return them safely. However, this the leads to an argument about the safety of leaving their new vessel in a place frequented by the worst class of people, and they decide to try and sail it out of here, with a view to hiding it somewhere off the coast of the Auric Isles whilst a new crew is found.

This then leads to discussion about the nature of the chambers they are in. Caleph states that it is almost certainly an ancient smuggler's den, probably used for thousands of years before Shumeth and his ilk moved in. He surmises that, being underground, it is almost certainly warded over by a lock, which, if not operated by Dohr'Khustan's is probably run by an independent group. This leads to even more discussion and argument over how to proceed. Eventually, it is decided that the party will take a lifeboat up the channel that leads from the port in order to see what lies ahead, leaving Lia on board the SC to oversee the crew, aided by Caleph.

06:01 – 07:30 – Yawning and wincing as their aching muscles complain, shivering in the chill subterranean air, the group get into the lifeboat. Shnecke and Varracuda take charge of rowing, and soon they are sliding along the glassy waters of the channel. For a good half hour there is nothing to see other than the high stone walls, small patches of phosphorescent mould, and the occasional scurrying rat or snorting osquip. After a while however, a slight breeze begins to pick up, carrying the distant sounds of high-pitched squeaks and the booming roar of falling water.

In the distance, the deep gloom of the tunnel can be seen to be lifting, and the group realise that there is a vast illuminated space far ahead. At this time, they also spot a number of bare, muddy shores, thinly plastered with grey, slippery mud, which run parallel to the channel. Hopping about on these are small, wiry humanoids; scaled and reptilian, with narrow crocodilian heads, and sharp, white horns.

Kydraxi!” Snarls Shnecke under his breath, his hands tightening around the handle of his axe.

Ssshh. Don't draw attention to us.” Growls the assassin darkly.

The boat slips by the snapping humanoids, coming close to several who are fishing in the channel's murky waters. The tiny humanoids clearly see the group, but show no concern or fear, simply continuing to talk to each other in their yapping, snarling tongue.

Soon, the details of the chamber ahead begin to crystallise, and all are slightly awed by what they see. The channel enters a vast cavern, some ¼ mile across, illuminated by thousands of lanterns, strung about from wooden walkways, ropes and other structures built in a seemingly random tangle within the inner curve of the caverns walls. Opposite the channel rises an incredible lock gate, at least 300' across and almost half again as high. From either side of this fall twin waterfalls, which smash in spectacular mounds of spray into the grotto beneath, raising ghostly rainbows in the flickering light of the massed lanterns.

From the gates rise colossal chains, which rise over their surface to wind into vast slots near their tops. Each link must weight many tons, and no one in the boat can fathom how anything could move such a massive, weighty mechanism.

The cavern is not unoccupied. Hundreds of kydraxi run hither and thither on various tasks, overseen, it appears by hooded figures dressed in tattered rags of leather and cloth, who stand unmoving at various points on the tangled walkways.

Those things reek of undeath.” Whispers Grigori.

So, who runs this place do you think?” Asks Varracuda, looking across at his companions pale faces, “Do we run in any attack, or do we try and bargain our way through?”

Another argument, which sees no agreement being made.

The ship is stopped, and it is decided that Grigori, using a ritual to allow him to speak their language, shall interrogate some of the Kydraxi in the hopes that they may be able to shine more light on who or what operates the lock, and as a result, how the group should proceed...

07:31 – 07:45 – At first the Kydraxi are a little surprised to see a half-vampire bearing a potent artifice sword emerge from the gloom (they are unaware that Jaeger lurks nearby, wearing the darkness like a shroud, his eyes able to see every move the treacherous little fiends make, his fingers resting ready on the trigger of his favourite crossbow), and they snarl and spit (whilst backing off). However, with a few kind and soothing words, Grigori is able to calm them, and soon they are talking brightly about the lock and its master.

The first thing they reveal is that the kydraxi willingly work there (the priest had hoped, had they been slaves, to orchestrate some kind of mass revolt against the lock keeper, thus enabling the party to kill him and take control – no such luck), in return for the protection of the lock keeper and his potent allies. They learn that the lock keeper is an unusual human, who's flesh, muscles and bones have been rendered invisible, leaving only his active internal organs visible. Named Skarzal, he is a representative of the group that finances the mighty lock that leads to the “Light World”.

It appears that Skarzal is watched over constantly by some kind of Taurag – possibly a Talakasian Taurgaryn from the description the little monsters give - and is allied with a human who by the sound of it worships the ancient fiend Orcus – an arch-daemon associated with undeath. This dark priest it seems has used their power to raise a number of gargantuan skeletons, who's unnatural strength is used to operate the hoary, dundiir mechanisms that operate the vast sea lock.

It is at this point that several kydraxi make the foolish decision to try and ambush Grigori. They die in a suffocating cloud of shadowy energy, which suddenly engulfs them from behind, courtesy of the assassin, their screams choked off as the air within their lungs curdles and rots in the darkness' embrace. This only makes the interrogated kydraxi more eager to tell Grigori everything they know, and soon they are talking about the “Scaled Ones” that haunt the natural caverns that burrow away from the locks periphery, of the caves behind the lock in which Skarzal keeps prisoners – and one of the tiny monsters lets it slip that one prisoner is an Eshurian diplomat (Thatari later identified that Eshur is a province of Draxia, that long ago turned its back on the worship of daemonkind, and embraced agriculture and the use of primal energies in its day to day way of life. Hated by those within the decaying empire of chaos, especially the cthonic powers in control of Pentas Daemonica, the City of Stained Stones, it flourishes somehow in spite of the constant attacks made by its foul neighbours).

With their usefulness as sources of information at an end, the tiny monsters' realise that they may soon be removed from existence by this frightening creature, and so it is with great relief that they agree to guide him to meet with Skarzal – though they fear betrayal when the rest of the group arrive, briefly snarling and bearing their dark fangs at them, before realising that they are hopelessly outmatched, and adopting a submissive, whimpering posture...

☨ I'm at a bit of a loss how to document this in future, and so shall refer to the ship as the SC....I think it will be easier to read that way. Still, a striking name no?

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Shnecke's Wolves - State of Play Report - November 12th, 2012

1/8/1472 – 21:45 – 3/8/1472 – 01:30

The lava pit is easily crossed by Shnecke, who threads ropes along the burning stone walls to allow his allies to skip over to the tunnel from which issue the desperate cries. Thatari almost comes to a grisly end when he slips, and the rope holding him catches fire in the scorching air, but he is dragged over the edge, howling, before he can plummet to his doom.

Moving along the tunnel, who's walls bear the same grotesquely clashing swirls and spikes of colour as those before, the stench of sulphur and burning air is quickly replaced with the base stench of caged humanity. The air grows cloying with the reek of faeces and fear, and soon the group find themselves looking down into a shit smeared pit, 25' deep and 20' across, who's upper lip is spiked with downward set megalodon teeth.

Within this pit, squirming with dread and hope, are eight Aurymites; five men and three women. All are almost naked, and covered in their own filth. Several bear recent amputations, the wounds swollen and dripping with infection and inflammation, and all are lousy with lice. Several corpses, badly bloated with decomposition, and leaking putrid fluids from their swollen lips and eyes, their inflated arms raised as if ready to give a hug, lie in the chamber – prisoners for whom the pit was too much.

A rope is thrown to them, as the group decide to only rescue those able to leave the pit. This is explained in tradespeak, and at once a horrible scramble ensues as the desperate but weakened prisoners try to climb the rope. Only four make it, and the effort almost kills them.

One of those to make it out the pit is an amputee, his left leg missing from midway below his calf. Seeing it bloated with infection, Grigori moves to apply a poultice, and notices at once that the damage has been inflicted by human teeth.

“They've been eating each other.” He exclaims in horror.

The man confirms that this is true, weeping openly and shaking, stating that the monster never gave them anything to eat, and non of them could bring themselves to feed on the rotting corpses already in the pit. Sobbing, he begs the group for forgiveness, before devolving into a mass of weeping and babbling in his native auric.

The survivors are told that they may accompany the group, but that they will have to make their way around the lava pit's walls by themselves, as the party have no way to apport them over. This leads to an argument in the party, as several members state that the prisoners will be nothing but a hindrance to them, and so, should be simply given rope and allowed to make their own way out. The rest of the party (lead by a vociferous Varracuda) argue that they have a duty to the prisoners to see them safely back home.

In the end, the first plan is the one that gets used, and the weeping survivors are left, shaking and wretched, with 100' of rope and instructions on how to find the Ravager.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party turn their attention to the chamber that lies directly across the lava pit from the gas spore room – bare apart from the garish decorations and a large, Xareth'Chelde sized hole in the ground, which shimmers and glows with shifting lights of various colours. Thatari invokes a dark power to become less than real, and slides like a shadow through the stone between the corridor and that far room. Emerging from the wall, he is joined moments later by the assassin, who teleports across in a burst of coiling darkness. Ropes are once again secured to the rocky walls of the lava pit, and the rest of the group carefully crawl across, trying to ignore the seething pond of molten rock several hundred feet below.

Jaeger gives the hole (the entrance to another vertical shaft) a close inspection for any mechanical traps, whilst Thatari and Varracuda scan for any dangerous dweomers or spell triggers. None are found, and soon the group are peering into the shaft.

It drops down about 35', before exiting into a cavern roughly 20' deep. Bright points of coloured light lance up from an unseen source (reflected by numerous polished pieces of metal and pyrites) creating brilliant patterns on the stony walls, their paths picked out by the clouds of opaque mist that belch from some unseen source, filling the lower half of the chamber. Jaeger sniffs the air, and states that he feels the mist to actually be some kind of spore, whilst Grigori surmises that the lights could be the product of certain unusual crystals reacting to local radiations, citing a number of uses for said crystals, should the group obtain them.

Shnecke (somewhat reluctantly) agrees to be lowered down the shaft, into the spore choked chamber, and soon the rest of the group are grunting as they slowly hoist him downwards. Within the room, the undead Ulnyrr spies a number of unusual objects.

Firstly, set into one wall, are a number of small wands of prismy crystal, each of which blazes with clear, coloured light, throwing out the straight beams that paint the walls with their shifting, delicate patterns. The “smoke” is indeed some kind of spore, belched continually from the pores of a huge, sack-like fungus that pulses wetly at one end of the chamber, its upper skin scarred and marked by constant abrasion (the group soon realise that it served Shumeth as a bed, and Jaeger identifies the fungus as a “Deep Cushion”, a species that is usually harmless, though varieties with soporific spores do exist in some corners of the deep earth).

As with the rest of the lower complex, the walls are covered in horribly clashing colours and sharply angled designs, all apparently painted to appeal to the deceased aberrations' alien tastes. However, the group (who, having been told by Shnecke that the room is safe, quickly join him), struggle at first to determine what the purpose of the dozen holes, bored directly down into the floor - 1' in diameter and about 15' deep - are for, at least, until Grigori shines his lamp's light down them, and reveals that each holds a treasure.

“This must be where he stored his treasures.” Muses the priest, “Using his telekinesis eye to remove them.”

Shnecke grunts and gasps as he tries to reach into one of the tiny holes, having spotted a potent looking hammer far below.

“Tooo.....*ugh*....bloody....narrow.”

“How the hell are we going to get them out?” Wonders Lia aloud.

“We could smash 'em out.” Growls the Ulnyrr, rubbing his bruised shoulder, his attempts to reach the treasure forgotten.
Everyone laughs, but Shnecke refuses to join in, instead leaping up and towering over Grigori. Eye teeth briefly flash as the barbarian grabs out, his meaty paws fastening around the handle of an enchanted pick Grigori retrieved from the hands of a dead enemy back in their early travels.

Ripping it free, he turns round, and begins to swing it at the stony floor, the room immediately resonating with the painful clang and ding of its enchanted head biting into the rock...

“You see?” He snarls, “We dig, and eventually, we get the treasures. I didn't come all this way to go home empty handed!”

...All in all, it takes just over 24-hours for the items to be rescued from the tubes, though the entire party feel the efforts worth it when they are examined, and their incredible power realised. Grigori uses ritual magic to make the crew of the Ravager aware that they are alive and well, but will not be back in the allotted time, and asks them to make the ship ready for immediate launch on their return. He also harvests the glowing crystals, giving Lia five, and keeping five for himself, recognising them as able to boost powers that utilise radiant energy.

The hammer is a thing of Dwaerdorin manufacture; forged from some kind of less than real metal, and imbued with the energy of death. First to be recovered, it's energies are transferred by the priest into a spare rapier carried by the assassin, and Jaeger becomes the proud owner of a rare Trueshadow weapon.

An amulet that bolsters its bearer against poisons is brought up next, followed by an ancient bastard sword, who's heavy metal blade bears a killing edge, undulled by its clearly great age. A fabled Ring of Protection is brought up next, and given to the genasai, its potent protective powers felt to be of benefit to him, whilst a tiny shard of pink, luminous crystal – a planar ioune stone, attuned to physical health and stamina – is brought up next. Rare beyond words, and far more potent than those sometimes found or awoken, it is soon orbiting the head of the Ulnyrr, granting him a great boon to his constitution as it resonates with his lifeforce (or unlife force in his case).

The last item to be brought forth is also an item of legend, though all – save Thatari – are a little nervous of it. Seemingly a thick, stoppered bottle of iron, its top carved with runes of binding, its stopper secured by drizzles of platinum and lead, it is identified as a prison of sorts, which can, in conjunction with the right ritual, be used to trap and hold an extradimensional being for eternity. Almost certainly pre-dating the start of the Second Age, it is a thing of terrible power, which the warlock muses, may hold a dread entity right now. More than a few feel a shudder run down their backs, as they reflect on how much it resembles the vial that held the soul shard of dread Jantherak...

It is retained by the priest, who states that the group may one day seek out the ritual needed to open and activate it.

3/8/1472 – 01:30 – 04:00: Having rested, and entirely unaware of the time on the surface, the group take their leave of the foul chambers that lie beyond the Cheldean altar, and make their way slowly back to the vast cavern, within which lies the black metal finger, and the way back out.

Before leaving, they decide to examine the finger a little more closely, and Varracuda quickly discerns that there is a hidden compartment within the nail of the massive digit. Whilst Shnecke strains to open this up, the swordmage does some quick calculations, and comes to the conclusion that if the statue that bears the finger is of human proportions, it must stand roughly 500' or more tall...a truly incredible construct.

With a grunt, the nail of the finger folds in half, a cloud of glittering green dust billowing out to coat the sputtering barbarian. Everyone rushes forth to peer within the hoary objects interior, and are disappointed to see it holds nothing more than several crusty piles of the dust.

However, worked into the underside of the folded nail are a series of strange, utterly alien sigils, which correspond to no language known that anyone can call to mind. Their curved, conjoined lines suggest an exotic and strange source, and with excitement, Grigori sets to work enacting a translation ritual...

...It is not a good idea.

The meaning of the words is burned with terrible force into his mind, his sanity snapping in an instant as the gravity of their portent slams into his psyche. Reeling, he tries to clutch at the images which flash like sputtering lightning across the screen of his mind, desperate to take something solid from their meaning. He fails, and drops to the floor in a fit, twitching and convulsing as the potent words arc through his mind.

When he comes round, he knows one thing – a series of coordinates which can be used in a Linked Portal ritual, which lead to...he has no idea.

An Awesome Article

Chris Perkins talks about the end of one of his epic campaigns, and I think he perfectly corners one truth; the players don't have to survive in order for a game to be amazing...

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Ormid et al - Session Report, November 5th, 2012

REPORT ON THE DEATH OF TSSEL AGTHYR, MAGE OF THE HOUSE OF GRANITE

Compiled by Jazaar Vheln, 10/6/51.

Firstly, many apologies for the lateness of this report. Untangling what happened in that cursed ruin has been harder than you might have thought, especially given the momentous events that were to follow, and the effects on our city. However, as requested, I have managed to piece together a good idea of the events that lead to the honoured mage, Tssel Agthyr, not only losing her mortal life, but being converted into a corrupted shade. I have also been able to determine that, despite public opinion to the contrary, the “Heroes” of Lorehaven were not to blame, and that her loss was the result of a horrific encounter with a corrupted and potent enemy.

Events Leading To The Fatal Encounter

The street battle of the 15th day of Jhena, is now common knowledge throughout the city, and has become something of a local legend. The fact that the Lorehavian adventurer's were able to survive, let alone defeat the Vault Guard of House Kythus has elevated them to the status of demigods in many Kadashite eyes. However, this also forced House Kythus to organise a meeting with the group – a meeting to which His most Blessed and Wise Ladyship, Lord Ashana Na'Desha arrived, accompanied by her silent guard and her personal protector, the Half-Giant G'Taal. With the majordomo of the First House present, the northerners were questioned, and it seems that their logic for their violent conduct was only partly justified.

This only became more apparent when it came to light that the group had based their opinion of House Kythus (an opinion they had allowed to shape their actions) on an apparent lie told by the majordomo of House Zaul – a known rival of Kythus. This lead, it seems to an argument, in which the northerners failed to show the appropriate deference to his Ladyship, and as such, left, telling the heads of the houses that they could sort their own Dracane problem out.

This, I understand, lead to majorodomo Ashana approaching the group some time later with the rune sequence for an ancient (Pre Chaos) teleport circle, carved by an order of lost Tammatulian magi, but still active. This happened on the night of the 15th, and it is my understanding that the group used the sequence early the next day.

Tssel's Fall

Divinations would indicate that the opening ritual proceeded without issue. However, the mage stronghold to which the portal lead was suffused with the toxic radiations of an apparently conterminous shadow dimension, which had, for reasons that remain unclear, also began to resonate at the same planar harmonics as the physical prime. This saw the group, including the late Tssel, immediately put at risk of spiritual and physical corruption from exposure to these raw, tenebrous energies.

It appears that there was some kind of security system in place around the arrival chamber, which involved the activation of certain arcane switches, and the manipulation of fields of force energy to bypass. However, the party were stopped from trying to operate this system by the arrival of a number of powerful, shadow creatures – apparently the spiritual residue of the ancient mages that once dwelt in the compound, and some of their victims. One particularly potent creature – possibly a gestalt of fallen individuals – is also divined to have manifested, its mere presence deleterious to non-shadow lifeforms.

The group were forced to engage these elusive foes in what seems to have been one of the most testing battles of their long and brutal careers, and it seems that it was during this manic battle that Tssel fell, her soul tainted by the unnatural energies of shadow. It was this pollution of her soul that ultimately lead to her rising shortly after as an undead shade.

As for the group, we know they left the compound immediately after the battle to heal and plan. It seems they were more than a little taken aback by the sheer deadliness of their encounter, and that they wished to better arm themselves for any subsequent encounters with the shadowed undead.

It was at this time that we were informed of our sister's fall.

Conclusion

As I pen these words, we are unsure as to what happened once the northerners returned. We do know that terrible upheavals have shaken the ancient city, and that potent magics have been unleashed there. We too have felt the echoes of this power, and wonder what we have done to deserve such horror. 

We have no word at present as to their whereabouts, or whether or not they have been successful in slaying the Blue Lord. Divinations suggest that something more terrible than even that venerable Dracane have awoken within the shattered heart of ancient Tammatuli.

May Yana, Mistress of the Wastes protect us. May Shaava guide us. May Orandiel grant us good fortune. May Skren bless us with wealth.