Saturday, June 27, 2009

Session #4, Part 4

Alaric's wound was a result of an argument with the mercenaries. Interpreting Wahleed's command to "stay together" as a command to stop the mercenaries from moving the camp to the forest. When he protested, they shot him in the leg. The party returned and restored order among the hirelings, then noticed that Hren and Charles were gone - they had gone into the woods to find some game.

As Wahleed remonstrated the guards for attacking the magic-user, as well as allowing the group to separate, the rest of the party began to discuss the strange book they had found in the tomb. Now that they had a little more time, Hinda sat and studied the markings on the cover and spine of the strange volume. After a few moments of study, she began to find patterns in the strange spidery script that she remembered from her years abroad... something about the spider goddess...

In a flash,Hinda remembered where she had seen these markings before. It was the Book of The Dead, written by the goddess Shaku, goddess of death and mistress of spiders. The book was dictated to a coterie of mad clerics nearly 300 years ago. Each of the clerics made a single copy, sending them out into the world to spread the glory of their goddess to all the lands. Hinda informed the group that the book was an item of incalculable evil, a vile tome of a hideous god.

Meatwad saw opportunity in this find, believing that the item's rarity made it valuable. Sale of the book could give the party the funds they needed to set up the mining operation needed to get the platinum out of the mine. Alaric was in agreement, though he cautioned that finding a buyer would be difficult, since no one would want the public at large to know they were interested in such a find.

Wahleed carefully weighed the options, finally deciding that the item could not be safely left behind, nor could the group keep it in good conscience. They would need to hold on to it long enough to find a person who could destroy it.

As the discussion continued, Hinda took the book over to the cart and fished out the Bag of Holding that had belonged to Ielenia. Just as she was about to place book inside, the earth began to rumble, and creatures long-dead erupted from the ground, crawling toward the cart.

With a cry, Aleena leaped from the cart, tackling the closest animated skeleton to Wahleed. As she struck the foul creature feebly on its face, the rest of the party moved to engage the rest of the pack.

The fight was short - between the mercenaries, the party, and the surprisingly bold but futile actions of Aleena, the skeletons were overmatched. Wiping bone marrow and filth from their weapons, the party decided to double the guard for the evening, and decide what to do next.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Session #4, Part 3

As soon as the necrosis was purged from Wahleed, he was restored to health by means of a healing potion and some ministrations from the cleric. After jumping over the pit, the party made their way to the altar.

At that moment, a magical message relayed itself to the mind of Wahleed. It was from Alaric, stating that it had begun to rain, and that the mercenaries were pulling up stakes and attempting to build camp in the woods, rather than remain at their posts. Wahleed insisted that the party stay together.

The altar stood on a podium over fifteen feet from the ground, carved in relief as a pile of skulls. On the altar lay a book, open but unreadable at the party's present distance. Without hesitation, Meatwad sprang up the altar (with Meggan at his heels), and peered into the book, hoping to find a way to identify it. As his eyes scanned the pages, he felt something strange overtake him, and his mind was transported to another time in this same room...

In his mind, he was a cleric, standing atop this podium and looking out over a sea of hopeful faces. These faces were squires, men-at-arms, and lesser nobles - a sea of trusting faces here to give their honor to the fallen Teshy at what they believed was his burial chamber.

Only he, and the knights and clerics behind him, knew better.

As Meatwad's speech to the men reached its climax, he placed his hands upon the book in front of him, and spoke aloud the words of power that it had whispered into his mind.

"Ia! Ia! Talg'lesh kholm'in!
Dresh u'log sashin Shaku!
Shaku! Shaku! Ia! Ia!

As the crowd looked up at him in stunned incomprehension, countless swarms of spiders descended upon them from every conceivable dark corner of the tomb. The men fell, screaming as the poison coursed through them, darkening their faces as blood clotted in their veins, withering as necrosis seeped through them, or simply dying as the poisons stopped their hearts. Larger spiders - some as big as a cart - walked among the dying, wrapping some of the larger ones in webs for later eating. Meatwad stood as stone-faced as the rest as the men that he had fought with for six years were devoured, their screams of pain and cries for help falling on the deaf ears of those they had willingly followed.

When the feast had ended, and all that remained were the corpses of the crowd, Meatwad the cleric and his fellow nobles burned the accoutrements of battle, as well as the standards of Malikk they had displayed on the walls. The god would know of their treachery by now, and their path was clear...

Shaku would be pleased....

Meatwad awoke, his head throbbing with the memory of this place and the horror that had occurred here. His mind seethed with the enormity of it, repelled at the evil he had just witnessed, yet unable to articulate anything but fear and disbelief. A scream tore itself from his lips, and he sank to his knees. Thinking that he must keep the book from him, he lashed out at it to dash it from the altar.

As his hand struck it, he was thrown from the platform, hurling through the air, landing on Wahleed, who had intercepted him. Meatwad relayed the horror he had witnessed, and it was decided that Hinda should be the one to carry the book, until it could be identified.

At that moment, a magical message relayed itself into the brain of Wahleed. Alaric needed help at once. The party took the book, and made their way back to the entrance, where the found Alaric in the entrance chamber, a crossbow bolt protruding from his leg.

Session #4: Part 2

The shaft that led from the statue's base descended 30 feet, and led to a corridor covered with bones and spiderwebs. After a few moments to get their bearings, the adventurers followed the hallway into a large hall, nearly 100 feet long, with the entire floor covered with bones. At the far end of the hall, facing the way they had just come, was an enormous brass statue on a green and black marble base. The statue was obviously of the same man as the statue above, but in this rendition he was wearing a great helm.

The party investigated the chamber, and found numerous archways and blocked passageways. Beyond the statue, a large hallway, also filled with bones, stretched on towards a large altar. Aware that the most likely place for a trap was in the hallway between the saute and the altar, the party decided to brave that passage first.

They were not disappointed. Halfway down the hall, the floor beneath them gave way. Hinda managed to leap aside in time, but Wahleed fell into a roughly excavated hole with sharp rocks and bones at the bottom. As soon as the trap was sprung, a horde of tomb spiders descended on the party, covering Wahleed and surrounding the rest of the party.

As the party battled the spiders surrounding the pit, the vile creatures within swarmed over Wahleed, covering him in bites that infused his body with a vile necrosis. Feebly, he struggled to escape from the pit, his hands scratching at the rough walls, his struggles made vain against the swarm of arachnids.

Above, the rest of the party was faring no better. Meatwad and Meggan suffered the worst from the bites, but even as they struck back, they found their bodies beginning to weaken. Finally, Meggan fell, overcome by the horde. Her breath became shallow, but Hinda sensed that all was not lost yet. If they could rally quickly, they may yet be able to save her.

Finally, in desperation, Wahleed summoned up what divine power his pact with the genies had afforded him, and attempted to heal himself. Only then was the true nature of the tomb spider's poison revealed. As the healing power surged through him, the necrosis in his veins rebelled, tearing his body apart even as it healed. With a shriek of warning, Wahleed collapsed to the ground. The spiders descended on him, seeing easy prey for their webs.

Above, Meatwad and Hinda had battled back the creatures, scattering the swarms and reaching Meggan. As the cleric tended to the fallen Satyxis, Meatwad slid down the wall of the hole, and scattered the remaining spiders, hauling Wahleed to safety.

Session #4: Part One

With the battle with the Shaft Wights concluded, the party retrieved the body of Ielenia from the water, and contemplated their options. Meatwad and Wahleed were still interested in the platinum vein the mining had uncovered, and asked Alaric what he could do about the water in their way. The magic-user told them that he could try to pump the water out of the area and build a sluice to drain the water from the mine, but it would take a few days to construct. All members of the group felt that security during the construction would be impossible, and that more men and supplies were needed.

The next problem was how to get the extra men and equipment the party needed. They were already low on money, and the kind of materials they would need to pump the amount of water needed to drain the chamber (to say nothing of clearing the area of any additional Shaft Wights) was out of their financial range. It was then that Wahleed proposed that the party investigate the hole they had previously uncovered. If there was anything of value in the chambers below, they could use it to finance the mining.

Security was still a problem - Shaft Wights were still in the water, and the outside held unknown terrors. The party's mercenaries and various hangers-on would have to be put to use. In the middle of the discussion, and new wrinkle appeared. Emerging from the woods came a six-foot tall woman with horns on her head. She identified herself as Meggan, a Satyxis from lands beyond the Cirric. Her people had sent her to a new land to look for mating stock, and she had happened across the party en route to Long Lake.

Meggan took an immediate liking to Meatwad (much to Aleena's relief), and offered to join the group, in exchange for monetary compensation (and perhaps other forms of compensation as well). In light of the deaths of Tordek and Ielenia, the party felt that another warm body could not possibly hurt, and allowed her to join.

Enter Meggan, a satyxis from the Iles of Bergalad.

As the party made ready to enter the burial chambers, the group consisted of

Wahleed: A human diplomat and Sha'ir from the Brass Hills in Eastern Kadaq.

Hinda: A human cleric of Ghen from the lands beyond Chey.

Meatwad: A human fighter from parts unknown.

Meggan: A satyxis knight from the Iles of Bergalad.

Aleena: A human tavern wench and love-struck girlfriend of Wahleed.

Hren: A half-elven former slave and current ranger.

Alaric: A human engineer and magic-user from Silva.

Charles, Marko, and Kaine: Town guardsmen from Borderville hired to protect the party.

The final plan was laid out: Alaric and Marko were to guard the mine, and watch for the return of any Shaft Wights. Charles and Aleena were to remain with the wagon and supplies, to guard against animals and the like, while Hren and Kaine were to guard the entrance to the cave, ready to assist either group in needed. The remained of the group would descend into the pit beneath the staute of Teshy to see what (if anything) could be salvaged. They entered the pit a little after eleven o'clock, with a good seven hours of daylight left.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day Session

I was really pleasantly surprised by the all-day session of D&D for father's day that my wife and friends set up for me. We played off and on for nearly 10 hours (the longest time we have spent yet on a session in this campaign) and in between combats, we roleplayed the talking scenes while cooking ribs, drinking beer, and watching my daughter play in Ross' yard. It was an amazing day.

As a D&D player, I'm very lucky. I've had very few bad experiences with gamers at my table, and very few bad games. As a DM, I haven't had that many long campaigns, but every one of the games I've run has been memorable for the players that went through them. As a player I've travelled the planes investigating the Great Modron March, fought Against the Giants, battled Rary the Traitor (lost that one), freed a village from a strange sickness that made them drown from the inside, and bartered away nearly a million gold pieces in dragon's treasure for the possession of a demented magical Pepsi machine. I've used a staff of aging on a juvenile dragon (was eaten), used skirmish tactics to delay an orc column headed for the heart of a kingdom, and rode a beholder like a bronco at a rodeo.

Good times. And all of them shared by my many friends and fellow travellers. This hobby, this game, has had a transformative effect on my life - it kindled my interest in history, fueled my love of reading, sharpened my creative problem-solving skills, and taught me to think on my feet. It has improved my math skills, taught me teamwork and leadership, and helped me connect with many intelligent and interesting people. Could anyone say the same thing about any other hobby?

Over the years, I've seen people come and go from D&D (and from role playing in general) and move on to more "adult" forms of entertainment. They are able to brag about no longer playing the game (not much to brag about if you ask me), but they never seem fully satisfied with their choice. If the conversation turns to D&D, they always jump back into it with relish, enough that I wonder why they didn't just stick with it. "Growing up" does not mean abandoning all recreation - it means accepting the responsibilities of being older. You can be a responsible adult and play these type of games. You just need to balance your new responsibilities with your leisure. This would be just as true if you ran a poker night or played football with your buddies on the weekends. It's all about balance.

I'm 30. I've spent 22 years with this game, and I haven't slowed down yet. I'm married, I have a beautiful daughter, and am starting up a second career as a high school teacher. I'm also a roleplayer, a Dungeon Master, a gamer. I can be a responsible adult and still engage in the frivolities of my youth.

I'm proud of my family, my friends, and my gaming. I will make no apologies for any of them. Ever. And neither should you.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Story So Far... Part 3

During their first night at the Comeback Inn, Wahleed used his magic to entrance one of the serving girls, named Aleena. For the remainder of their stay in town, she followed him around at a distance, flirting and being coy.

The party spent the next week in town, during which they learned the following facts about Borderville:

The mayor of Borderville spends most of his time throwing parties for the social elite. The town guard run the day to day operations, including all illicit activities.

The proprietor of the Comeback Inn, as well as the employees of the moneychanger and the blacksmith are former members of the town guard.

The head of security at the moneychanger's vault is the brother of the captain of the east gate.

The party attended the auction, and bought both the slaves (one of whom - Hren - they allowed to travel with them) and the silver daggers. They rented a house on the Street of Two Dogs for a year and freed the slaves they purchased, putting them to work as housekeepers for pay. They requisitioned full plate armor for their cleric, reprovisioned, hired four mercenaries (recommended by the captain of the east gate as "guaranteed dependable") and made their way back to the tomb...

...Only to find it occupied.

The entrance to the tomb had a pack of mules, marked with strange arcane symbols, tethered at the entrance. In the second chamber, they found a dwarf that had been torn in half, and had crawled back to this area before dying. Following the blood trail, the adventurers found an unconscious spellcaster, and the body of a warrior whose flesh had been torn in strips from his body.

The spellcaster, once revived, identified himself as Alaric, and told the party that he and his companions had heard of platinum being found in this region, and had travelled here to set up a mining operation. They had not been prepared for the level of danger in the tomb, and most of them had been slaughtered. The mules outside carried provisions and mining equipment the group had planned to use.

Alaric was sent back with Hren to the provision carts, only to find that Aleena had followed Wahleed from town. Leaving the spellcaster with the serving girl and the guards, the party returned to the mining location where they had last battled the Shaft Wights.

The chamber beyond the mine's entrance was blocked by a cluster of stones that stood about waist deep. Ielenia ventured into the chamber (after some difficulty with the slick surface of the rocks). The chamber was flooded, with water rising up to waist deep. The floor dropped off after about ten feet, giving way to a deep pit filled with water that looked around twelve feet deep. As Ielenia turned to head back to the party, a cold dead hand reached up from beneath the water and pulled her under.

The Shaft Wights had returned.

As Ielenia activated her ability to breathe underwater, the Shaft Wight dragged her further from the surface, biting into her neck and coloring the water with thick, black rivulets of blood. The rest of the party leaped into action, as both Meatwad and Hren made for rocks. Wahleed sent his Gen over the rocks with a lantern in an attempt to locate the fallen comrade. The Gen peered into the pool, and had barely enough time to shout a warning before more Shaft Wights rose from the water and scrambled onto the floor close to the rock wall.

Meatwad attempted to scramble across the rocks, but couldn't cross, becoming bogged down in the slippery stones. Hren vaulted the wall without hesitation, pole-axing the closest Shaft Wight with her quarterstaff, and attempting to make her way toward Ielenia. For all her bravery, she was alone against creatures far beyond her ability. Seconds after vaulting the wall, she was pulled down beneath the water as well.

Hinda brought forth the symbol of the goddess Ghen, the holy light causing several of the creatures to shrink back beneath the water, and away to wherever they came from.

Beneath the water, Ielenia fought desperately with the foul creature at her throat, but was unable to get leverage on it. The Shaft Wight tore into her again, polluting the water with more half-elven blood. Finally, the creature's claws found her heart, ending her life.

Thus perished Ielenia Galanodel.

Desperate to save both women from the undead, Meatwad attempted again to vault the rocks, but stumbled and failed the leap, toppling back onto the floor. In desperation, the Gen struck one of the Shaft Wights with the lantern. Finally, Wahleed managed to get the last creature into his line of sight, and struck them down with his magic.

One the battle was over, Wahleed retrieved Hren from the water, and Hinda revived her in short order. She was frightened and half-drowned, and her wounds from the Shaft Wight's claws still festered, but she was alive. The same could not be said for others. Hren wept for the half-elf that had set her free, and vowed to avenge her death and honor her memory.

The party skimmed the bottom of the pool after the battle, and found some more platinum nuggets and a few uncut gemstones. Meatwad was at first upset, believing that there was no way forward to the platinum he felt lay in the rocks below, but then he remembered Alaric and the mining equipment...

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Story So Far... Part Two

All hopes of escaping unnoticed by the dragon are dashed when Meatwad fails to keep his footing on the slippery ledge. The dragon rises clumsily from the lake, prepared to kill the mortals for their impertinence, when Wahleed begs to parley with the creature. Confident of its superiority, the dragon agrees to listen until it gets bored. Wahleed offers to be of service to the creature, but the beast is uninterested. All it wants is to be left alone, free of interfering mortals and the living dead that harrass him. Wahleed offers to rid the beasts of the undead in exchange for thier lives. Not really believing the mortals will succeed in (or even attempt) this, the dragon allows them to leave, on the understanding that Meatwad never return to its lair.

The adventurers explore the remainder of the tunnels, noticing that these appear to be man-made, and more recent that the burial chambers they entered earlier. Following the sound of activity from within the tunnels, the group finds a large group of strange creatures - Shaft Wights, the lost souls of miners that have died in cave-ins. The party dispatches the first group they encounter only after a difficult fight that leaves most of them horribly wounded. As they search the chamber where the Shaft Wights were mining, they find that a vein of platinum has been uncovered, and that the creatures were mining it for some unknown purpose.

Loading up what ore could be found, the party returns to the town of Borderville to recover from their wounds and resupply. Upon their arrival, they discover that a party of adventurers had started a violent fight in the town and were executed. The captian of the East Gate informs them that new laws against violence have been inacted, making armed combat within town punishable by death.

The adventurers exchange their ore for spendable silver at the moneychanger's establishment, and allow the majority of it to be banked there. The moneychanger mentions that items possesed by the recently executed criminals will be put up for sale at the end of the week. Interested in the items, the party bribes the moneychanger into letting them see the merchandise early. After making a note of the items that interest them (including two braces of silver daggers and four half-elven slaves), the party spends thier first night in town at the Comeback Inn.

The Story So Far... Part One

(click to view enlarged map)

The party is located in the eastern countryside of Silva, on the Cruwin River just west of the Silverlode Mountains, four days south of Long Lake. Previous adventures into the Silverlode have uncovered the remains of an ancient burial site, possibly belonging to a civilization long forgotten by modern man. A party of adventurers has assembled to investigate the ruins and see if there is any profit to be made.

The party originally consisted of

Wahleed: A human diplomat and Sha'ir from the Brass Hills in Eastern Kadaq.

Ielenia Galanodel: A half-elven ranger from parts unknown.

Hinda: A human cleric of Ghen from the lands beyond Chey.

Tordek: A dwarven fighter from the Bloodwall Tunnels.

The initial expedition seemed poorly fated from the outset. The entrance was safe enough, but a little ways into the second chamber, and the party found itself under attack from strange creatures that Hinda identified as Wights. As the group dispatched the first batch, Tordek headed to the southern end of the chamber to scout for other entrances and keep guard. As the minutes passed, he became bored and began to relieve himself on a nearby statue.

It was then that the next wave of horrors struck.

The second wave of Wights struck from two different locations, their very timing and precision speaking of a foul and unholy cunning. The first group struck at the wounded party, while the second made for the pack animals the party had grouped near the entrance to the tomb. As the adventures attempted to rally, Tordek broke ranks in an attempt to save the pack animals. Unfortunately, he was not enough to stem the undead tide, and was slain.

Thus perished Tordek.

The rest of the party managed to kill off the offending creatures, but were horribly wounded, and needed time for rest and recuperation. They carefully bivouacked just beyond the entrance to the tomb, not wanting to face whatever else the tomb might have while sleeping. The following morning, far more rested, the group ventures in again. This time, they attempt to enter the westernmost chamber, where the second wave of Wights had attacked from the previous day.

The chamber is covered in spider webs and egg sacks, and displays a solitary statue, proclaiming this area the burial chamber of those who died serving the great warrior Teshy of Kleed. After a few minutes of investigation, the adventurers manage to discover a secret entrance beneath the statue that leads into the burial chambers. The ancient ladder leading down has long since rotted away, so Ielenia is sent to investigate using a rope. During the exploration, the egg sacks above the party begin to hatch.

The party manages to fight off a swarm of spiders, and a large mother with a poison stinger. Dazed and wounded (again), they fall back to the entrance while Hinda tends to their injuries. It is at this time that they are greeted by a traveller who offers to help them in thier explorations in exchange for a percentage of whatever they acquire. Feeling the need for another swordarm (and believing that the newcomer is not likely to survive long enough to collect his share anyway), the party agrees.

Enter Meatwad, a human fighter from unknown regions.

After a few hours of rest and re-equipping, the party attempts to follow the path of the second chamber, which leads them to a series of tunnels and a cave entrance guarded by two small bands of skeletons. The cave entrance brings them to a ledge above a pile of treasure and bones partially immersed in water from a nearby underground lake. Just as the party is about to descend to the lower level and loot the area, they spy a large leathery beast surfacing from the lake. The treasure is a dragon's lair, and the dragon has come home.