Tomb of Undead Horrors

Session #8: July 6th, 1:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Prior to the beginning of the session, David’s wife Wendy announced that she would be introducing a character: Mr. Whiskers, a catfolk monk. We also clarified some rules, resolved to be more mindful of OOC conversation during combat, and determined a default marching order, which Andy pointed out was conducive to our party’s “tank and flank” strategy. After lunch, which consisted of chicken, bow-tie pasta with tomatoes, and sliced watermelon provided by David and Wendy, we were ready to continue our adventure.

The pooling darkness coalesced into four shadows and a swirl right next to the enclave entrance. Peter noticed a couple of lit torches – described as looking a little like tiki torches – protruding from the ground near the entrance, and Kvitte noticed a pothole off to the side. Ezzy shot one of the shadows with an arrow as Peter, Kvitte, and Albricht moved to engage them in melee, and Himani closed to attack the last one. Kvitte and Albricht struck their targets with claws and sword respectively, but Kvitte was weakened by the touches of two of the shadows. Ezzy quickly moved in and spent an action point to help him with restoration and cure light wounds, and the troll once again traded blows with a shadow. The swirling darkness began to concentrate, and Ezzy continued to heal the troll’s wounds. The sounds of the battle attracted the attention of Mr. Whiskers, who scrambled to the top of the enclave entrance and tried to pounce on one of the shadows. Unfortunately, he missed, but the shadows that attacked Ezzy and Himani and the two that attacked Albricht did not. Albricht was forced to heal himself, and Ezzy channeled energy to keep her allies in fighting condition as the swirling darkness continued to take shape. Peter, concerned for the safety of the troll and the paladin and frustrated by the ineffectiveness of his rapier, shouted a warning and lobbed his alchemist’s fire into the enemy ranks. The flames consumed one of the shadows and seriously wounded another, which prompted Albricht to pull one of the torches out of the ground and swing it at a shadow. His aim was not as true as that of his allies, and he and Mr. Whiskers both felt the shadows’ chilling touch. As the swirling clouds of darkness sprouted limbs, Himani pulled the other torch out of the ground and hurled it at one of the shadows, leaving it a prime position for Peter to grab it and singe a shadow. Mr. Whiskers finished the shadow with a swipe of his paw, and the last two shadows were absorbed by the coalescing darkness as it took on a large, manlike shape, which chilled Peter with its touch. Himani engaged the large shadow in melee while Albricht, inspired by Kvitte’s cries of “Book!” and “Fire!”, pulled the book of shadows out of his backpack and hurled it into the smoldering flames. Ezzy shot the large shadow with an arrow while Peter struck it with the torch and moved next to Himani, who wrapped a strip of cloth around one of her arrows. Ezzy cast bane on the large shadow, which extended tendrils of darkness in all directions and struck Mr. Whiskers and Kvitte. Peter, who managed to avoid the attack, lit Himani’s arrow on fire, though she did not manage to hit the shadow with it. Albricht recovered his sword and drank his potion of divine favor while Kvitte and Peter burned the shadow with the torches and Himani shot it, then closed in and smote the shadow out of existence.

Licking their wounds, the party recovered the book from the fire. It had not been consumed or even visibly damaged by the flames. Kvitte advocated leaving the book in the forest, returning to town, and forgetting about it – as evinced by his cry of “Town!” – but Albricht insisted that an item with such dark and dangerous power should not be left lying around. The troll did not seem convinced by this line of reasoning, leading to the following proposal by the players:

Andy: I can make a Diplomacy check…
David: …against my Intimidate check and we’ll see who wins.

Ultimately, Albricht was able to convince Kvitte that a world full of shadows would not be a world full of tasty food, and that finding out more about the book would help them stop more shadows from appearing in the world. The party then greeted and introduced themselves to their newest companion, who had been out hunting when he heard the commotion. He proved very amenable to petting and required little convincing to accompany the party on their quest to learn about the book and how to be rid of it. With a clear course of action in mind, the party made camp near the enclave entrance and rested while Albricht and Ezzy healed their wounds and restored their lost strength. Once everyone was in top shape again, the party returned to the enclave entrance and descended the stairs into a dark, narrow corridor with sarcophagi lined up along the walls. Albricht took point until he heard a click under his feet, and barely managed to leap out of the way as a stone panel opened to reveal a 30-foot-deep pit. Mr. Whiskers climbed into the pit and found the remains of more careless adventurers at the bottom, then climbed up the other side while the rest of the party bridged the gap with a sarcophagus. The monk and the two rogues went ahead to scout out a ring-shaped chamber at the end of the hallway, in which they saw several caskets lying on the floor near the center of the chamber or tucked away in alcoves. The rogues noticed doors in each of the side walls, and Peter saw a third one as he drew closer to the wall opposite the long hallway. He also heard a couple of growls, which issued from two dessicated corpses with burning eyes that were ambling toward him. The lids of several caskets near the center of the chamber slid open, and five skeletons emerged to do battle with the party.

Ezzy and Mr. Whiskers, being the most perceptive party members, noticed that there were four fountains in the corners of the room and the caskets were made of dry wood. The wights closed on Peter and attacked him before he could recover from his shock, clawing him once and bestowing him with a negative level. Two skeletal champions with swords and breastplates emerged from caskets in the far alcoves as Kvitte hacked the closest skeleton apart. Peter withdrew to his allies’ side, and Ezzy reduced four of the skeletons to dust by channeling energy. Mr. Whiskers lit some of the caskets on fire, and Albricht moved close to Peter and Kvitte to form a defensive line. As Kvitte and Albricht engaged the wights in melee, the party heard pounding on the doors and the skeletal champions drew nearer. Ezzy fired an arrow at one of them, prompting an amusing exchange:

Brittany: I’m shooting an arrow at that thing. (Points over the combat map in an indistinct direction.)
Andy: At the DM or the skeleton?

Himani sank an arrow into one of the wights, and another blow from Kvitte’s axe finished it. The skeletal champions missed Mr. Whiskers and Peter, who teamed up on the remaining wight with Himani and Albricht. Ezzy channeled energy a second time, and Mr. Whiskers landed a couple of solid blows on one of the skeletal champions. A bandage-wrapped arm punched through one of the doors as the skeletal champions struck Kvitte and Mr. Whiskers, and Kvitte retaliated with a savage bite. Peter finished off the wight by running it through with his rapier, and Ezzy defeated one of the skeletal champions with some timely healing. Himani and Albricht rushed over to help Mr. Whiskers fight the other champion, and saw another bandaged corpse tearing through the door. Kvitte sank his teeth into the skeleton while Ezzy blessed the party, and Peter and Mr. Whiskers tried to stop the mummies’ advance by setting one door on fire and blocking another with a burning casket. They were unable to reach the door on the far wall, however, before a mummy smashed it into splinters.

Pausing in mid-battle, the session ended and experience was distributed. No time was chosen for the next meeting, but we opted to discuss it and find one that would be convenient for everyone.

Of White Devils and Black Books

Session #7: June 29th, 2:15 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Prior to the beginning of the session, Adam brought David up to speed on the events of the campaign and announced that we would be implementing a new rule. Inspired by my tales of the d20 Star Wars RPG, he announced that he would have the players roll Perception checks for their characters at the beginning of each encounter. The character with the best result would notice some unusual details about the battlefield, and would be able to add 1d4 pieces of “window dressing” with which friends and foes alike could interact. We thought this seemed like an effective way to continue the collaborative storytelling that had characterized the campaign so far, and jumped right in after the recap and lunch.

Before deciding how to deal with the troll, Albricht and Ezzy used detect evil and detect magic. He did not detect as evil, but he did give off a magical signature. Albricht was the first to speak to the creature, referring to him as “neighbor” and asking what he was doing with the book. The troll cowered in the corner without responding, and Peter translated the paladin’s question into Elven, Sylvan, Dwarven, and thieves’ cant with equally inconclusive results. If the troll understood the question, he didn’t have the linguistic ability to answer, though he did say say “gnolls” when asked how he wound up in the room. “Hungry” seemed to be the only other word in his vocabulary, and he was all too happy to trade the black-bound book for a few pieces of meat and some water. Albricht stuffed the book in his backpack and surprised the troll by telling him he was free to go, but offered to bring him back to Westengard to “clean and save” him. The troll eagerly agreed upon hearing that there would be plenty of food involved, and introduced himself as Kvittefaen. He put together some padded armor and gnawed on a dead gnoll’s severed arm as the party left the fortress, which proved to Albricht that teaching his new companion how to integrate into the civilized world would be more challenging than he had expected. As the party walked, Peter asked Ezzy and Albricht about the source of their healing power, and responded to Kvittefaen’s inquiry of “Alcohol?” by promising to take him out for a drink when they reached Westengard.

The last few battles had left the party weakened and exhausted, so they stopped at Fort Horizon on their way back to town. Albricht convinced the militiamen to let Kvittefaen – or “Kvitte,” as Peter had taken to calling him – stay with them as well, though the commander warned the party that they would be held responsible for any damage the troll caused. He gorged himself at the mess hall and then fell asleep in one of the dormitories, which ensured that Albricht and Ezzy could lead the militiamen in their evening worship services without worry. Soon after, the party joined the troll in the dormitory and settled down for some much-needed rest.

In the dead of the night, Kvitte stirred from his bed. His rumbling stomach told him to find something to eat, but a voice in his head told him to open the book in Albricht’s backpack instead. Unable to ignore this mysterious voice, he took the book in his hands and undid the clasp, causing all of the candles in the room to go out. He dropped the book and scrambled to the door, letting out a cry of terror that awoke his companions. Albricht slammed the book shut, and Ezzy cast light on a coin to provide some visibility. Neither of their actions, however, made the darkness dissipate – if anything, they antagonized it, and the party was filled with a growing sense of dread as they watched it thicken. It seemed that the darkness was actively trying to smother the light. It also manifested four wispy humanoid shapes in the corners of the dormitory, which moved to attack the party.

Kvitte, despite being slow to react to the threat, noticed some cross timbers that supported the roof. Ezzy lit up a bed to provide the party with a large, persistent light source, and two shadows closed in on Albricht while the others advanced on Himani and Kvitte. The troll was struck once, and the chilling touch of the shadow sapped some of his strength. One of Himani’s knives got tangled in her bedsheets, and the troll took a bite out of the shadow that had struck him. Ezzy provided more illumination by casting light on Peter’s cloak, and Albricht and Kvitte each felt the strength-draining touch of a shadow. Peter both struck and was struck by a shadow as he tumbled into position to flank it, and Albricht raised his sword and struck the book with all his might. The slash did not so much as scratch the cover, but it sent a chill up the paladin’s arm and drew the attention of the shadows. Ezzy channeled energy to heal her companions, and the shadows single-mindedly moved to surround Albricht and the book. One of them struck the paladin, and Himani slashed another one with her knives. She and Peter landed some solid blows on the shadows, and Albricht healed himself and assumed a defensive stance. He successfully blocked or dodged all of the shadows’ attacks while Peter used one of the cross timbers to leap onto a bed, kicking one shadow off and stabbing another one. Albricht dealt a shadow a hard blow, and Kvitte shredded one with his claws and fangs. Himani sliced another shadow into vapor, and the troll tore into one of the remaining two with his claws. The shadow grabbed the book and began fleeing toward the door, but was sliced apart by Kvitte, Peter, and Himani before it could escape. The last shadow struck Ezzy, who had been slashing at it with her cold iron dagger, but was laid low by Himani’s knives and Kvitte’s claws.

Shaken from their encounter with creatures that no right-minded person believed in, the party discussed what to do with the book. As far as everyone except Kvitte knew, it had opened itself and spontaneously summoned shadows, and the troll would only say “Burn!” when the book was mentioned. The rest of the party wasn’t sure how effectively fire would damage a book that Albricht’s sword could not, but they decided that they needed to get rid of it somehow. Gathering the book and their belongings, they left for Westengard to ask the local clergy what to do with the dark artifact. They felt as though they were being watched the whole way back, but never saw anything or anyone suspicious when they looked over their shoulders.

Finally, the party reached the gates of Westengard. Peter and Himani used their knowledge of the area to lead Kvitte to The Rat Hole without alerting the city watch, and Albricht and Ezzy went to visit the Eldenari church. They were met by a skittish young priest, who told them that the book they carried had once belonged to a circle of cultists. They had an enclave in the Orcwood, which was located in the midst of some standing stones. The priest knew nothing else about the book or how to destroy it, but allowed Albricht to immerse it in a basin of holy water. The darkness within the book seeped out and blackened the water, sapping the paladin’s strength when he reached in to retrieve it. Ezzy was struck by inspiration and filled several flasks with shadow water, much to Albricht’s chagrin.

Meanwhile, the rogues questioned the other patrons of The Rat Hole about M and the book of shadows, taking care not to mention that he was dead. The patrons were reticent at first, but became more forthcoming after witnessing Kvitte ravenously tear into a slab of meat. One of them mentioned that M and Lord Rand had been meeting in private lately, which gave Peter and Himani an idea for luring the lord governor into a trap. They filed this information away for future reference, deciding that getting rid of the book was the party’s top priority at the moment.

After waking up, selling off the goods and equipment from Cragwatch, and providing the troll with an axe and better armor, the five adventurers left Westengard to find the cultists’ enclave. They hoped that they would be able to learn more about the book of shadows there, and perhaps discover a way to permanently destroy or dispose of it. Darkness pooled and deepened around them as they approached the Orcwood, becoming so thick by midday that they had to rely on the low-light vision of the half-elves and the darkvision of the troll to make their way through the forest. At last they came upon a circle of standing stones in a clearing, in the center of which was a large, flat stone with an opening in it. As they drew closer and prepared to enter the subterranean tunnels, the darkness around them began to take shape once more…

Experience was distributed, and Adam opted to give us action points rather than role-playing awards to avoid disputes about whose actions were most deserving of additional experience. We left without setting a firm date for the next session, though July 6th and July 20th both stood out as possibilities. As I left, two memorable quotes ran through my mind:

Adam: If you can carry potions, you can carry evil.

(Albricht has tried to discourage Ezzy from using shadow water against our enemies, insisting that this would be an “evil,” “reprehensible,” “abominable” act in the eyes of the All-Father. She disagrees.)
Ezzy: My religion is a little more fluid, if you will.

I look forward to seeing what comes of all of these delightful plot hooks.

The Clash at Cragwatch

Session #6: June 16th, 2:15 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Before the session began, Adam stated that he wanted to continue GMing for a while longer and invited our suggestions for ways to improve the campaign. He also informed us that David would not be joining until next session; he foresaw a challenging fight ahead, so he ruled that the party had found two potions of cure light wounds mixed in with the pelts in the flooded storeroom. Albricht and Peter each added one to their inventories, and Adam described our foes’ equipment. Faren wore studded leather armor, was armed with a longbow, and carried a longsword and a short spear; Bast wore a breastplate, was armed with a heavy crossbow, and carried a longsword and a heavy wooden shield; Thrask wore a chain shirt, was armed with a greataxe, and carried a short spear; and M wore studded leather armor and was armed with a rapier, a dagger, and a buckler. He also had a strange-looking bag clipped to his belt. We were given a few minutes to discuss tactics, then opted to forego the recap and leap right into the battle for the sake of dramatic tension.

Ezzy, who was the first to act, healed the wound that Peter had sustained in the battle with the dire wolf. Thrask charged Peter while Faren fired an arrow at him, but they both missed. Himani dodged a crossbow bolt as she moved to flank and attack Thrask, and was in turn flanked and stabbed by M. Albricht healed his wound from the previous fight and appealed to Eld for the power to smite evil, which he used to deal M a powerful blow. Ezzy channeled energy to heal the party’s wounds, Thrask gulped down a potion and chopped off a couple of his toes with a missed slash at Himani, and Bast drew his sword and shield to melee with the party. Peter and Himani finished Thrask off, and M threw his tanglefoot bag at Albricht’s feet, impeding the paladin’s movement with the sticky glue and getting smitten a second time for his efforts. Ezzy took an arrow from Faren, and Bast hurled a bag of alchemist’s fire that set Himani ablaze. Peter dizzied himself when he missed Bast with a spinning slash and got stabbed by M’s rapier, and Himani took a blow from the mastermind as she rolled around in an unsuccessful attempt to put out the fire. Albricht smote M a third time, and Ezzy extinguished the burning Himani with a well-timed casting of create water. Bast dizzied himself when he followed through a little too much on a missed slash, allowing Peter to stab M without distraction. Albricht smote him a fourth and final time, cleaving through his skull with an overhead slice.

Though M lay dead, Bast and Faren were too caught up in the thrill of battle to consider retreat or surrender. Bast’s breastplate and shield turned aside the rogues’ blades with ease – even when Ezzy used guidance to improve Peter’s odds of hitting – and Faren opted to draw his sword after having trouble with his bow and taking a blow from Albricht. He and Bast flanked Himani and staggered her with a couple of lucky strikes, but she was able to withdraw to Ezzy’s side and receive healing while Peter kept the thugs distracted. They flanked and critically wounded him, but Albricht laid Faren low with a slash of his longsword. Ezzy channeled energy before Bast knocked her to the ground with a frenzied slash, and Peter was sent back to death’s door when the thug saw him trying to surreptitiously quaff a healing potion. Albricht healed Ezzy, who crawled to Peter’s side and used rebuke death to save him, and Bast critically wounded Himani with two furious slashes. Albricht dealt him a fatal blow, then healed Peter while Ezzy tended to Himani’s wounds.

After downing a couple of healing potions, the party members were back on their feet and ready to search their fallen foes. They had several masterwork weapons and pieces of armor for the party to use; Peter procured M’s buckler and a bag of alchemist’s fire, Himani took M’s rapier, Albricht took the potions of divine favor and cure light wounds, and Ezzy claimed a cold iron dagger, a composite longbow, and a chain shirt as her own. M was still carrying the 375 gold pieces that the party had paid him for the map, and they distributed these and his thugs’ coins evenly between themselves and the party fund. They gathered up the rest of the masterwork equipment to sell it in town, and Peter pocketed a key that M had been carrying. It was roughly rod-shaped and had a button set in it. Albricht pushed the button as he examined the key, which caused some star-like projections to extend from the rod. Coincidentally, these projections matched the appearance of the lock on the door in the corner, and the key fit perfectly. The party pushed the door open and strode into a storeroom full of foodstuffs and equipment, in which they found a creature that resembled an albino troll. Its hands were clutching a black book with a lock on it – the same one that M had been so intent on procuring. They stared at the creature tensely, struggling to find words as they sized up the situation.

The session adjourned there, and the party earned enough experience to advance to 3rd level. We were instructed to finish leveling up our characters before the next session, which was scheduled for June 29th.

The Cleansing of Cragwatch

Session #5: June 9th, 1:15 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Before the session began, Adam invited anyone who was interested to don the GM’s mantle once the current story arc was resolved. He stressed that he would be equally willing to continue running the campaign or switch to being a player, but he at least wanted us to have the opportunity to try our hands at GMing. Andy proposed that we cycle through GMs after each story arc, which the rest of the group considered to be a suitable compromise, and I volunteered to assume the role of GM after the current story arc was resolved and our new party member joined.

After a brief recap of the events of the previous session, the four intrepid adventurers set out from Fort Horizon at dawn. They traversed a path through the Sun’s Cradle to reach Cragwatch, arriving at the main gate of the fortress after a few hours of uneventful marching. The gates hung open on rotting hinges, allowing the party to take cover behind a rocky outcropping and see two gnolls and a hyena standing guard by a well in the courtyard. The path and the gate were both framed by steep walls of rock, making a frontal approach the most feasible option, so Ezzy, Peter, and Himani opened fire on the gnolls. Much to Himani’s chagrin, her bow came unstrung, but Albricht threw some dried meat that distracted the hyena long enough for Ezzy to sink an arrow into its rump. Peter and Albricht closed in on the gates, and Albricht finished off the hyena with a well-placed slash. As the gnolls stepped forward to engage them, two more gnolls came charging out of the fortress. Peter and Himani both tumbled into position to flank the gnolls at the gates, and Peter wounded one of them. He received a wound of his own from a spear wielder who attacked him from behind, and promptly tumbled into position to receive healing from Ezzy. After some more acrobatic shifting, shooting, and swordplay, Albricht slew a second gnoll, and Peter skewered one that attacked Ezzy. The last gnoll tried to flee after a miserably failed attempt to stab Himani, but got sliced to pieces when it turned its back on the party.

Himani and Peter searched the gnolls’ corpses while Ezzy healed Albricht’s and her wounds. They had nothing of value that could easily be carried, so the rogues dragged the corpses into a corner to be looted on the way out. They then peered into the fortress’s main hallway and were horrified to see that it was strewn with impaled and dismembered human corpses in various states of decay. Such savagery turned the party’s stomachs, but did not dissuade the rogues from exploring one of the two doors on the left side of the hallway. They had a job to do, and they had no intention of leaving it unfinished.

The next obstacles they encountered were four more gnolls, one of which was waiting to ambush Himani and Peter as they peered into the fortress’s sleeping quarters. The rogues tumbled away from their enemies and fell back to the front doors of the fortress, drawing two gnolls after them as the other two pounded on the doors at the far end of the hallway. Peter and Albricht formed a defensive line to trap the gnolls in the hallway while Himani and Ezzy provided ranged support. Himani’s long knives made quick work of one gnoll, but two more gnolls, a hyena, and an axe-wielding gnoll chieftain soon emerged from the far chamber. They flooded into the hallway and closed on the party as Himani disemboweled two gnolls who attempted to bull rush their way past Albricht and Peter, and one of their wounded brethren slipped and impaled himself on his spear. The last two gnolls and the chieftain withdrew down the hallway with Albricht hot on their heels, and Peter seized the opportunity to strike down the hyena while its back was turned. He then fell back to retrieve his bow (which he had dropped by the main gate) while Albricht cut down a wounded gnoll and Himani and Ezzy opened fire as the chieftain advanced on them. Albricht and Peter hurried over to help the women, and after a great deal of stabbing, slashing, and narrowly avoiding being hit by a desperate whirlwind attack, Himani landed the finishing blow on the chieftain. Albricht cut the last gnoll’s legs out from under him, and Ezzy put him out of his misery with an arrow through the spine.

With another combat concluded, the party braved the nauseating stench in the hallway to explore the throne room and sleeping quarters. Himani searched the dead gnolls and found a key around the chieftain’s neck, which she entrusted to Peter for safekeeping. A few minutes of exploration revealed a door in the sleeping quarters, which led to a storage room where water was pooling on the floor. Peter was the first to enter the room and was attacked by a giant lizard, which poisoned him with its bite. He leapt on top of a crate to strike at the lizard more effectively and allow Albricht to move into position to attack it while Ezzy channeled energy to heal the party. Himani tried to tumble into a flanking position, but was blocked by the lizard’s lashing tail and felt the sting of its poisonous fangs. The three melee fighters surrounded and hacked away at the lizard, and Ezzy ended the fight by putting an arrow through its brain. She called for a rest break after exhausting her healing spells, so Peter and Himani watched the door to the storage room while Ezzy and Albricht drifted off into a reverie atop the crates. Much to the rogues’ relief, both of their bodies fought off the poison while they waited.

Once Ezzy and Albricht were well-rested, they finished healing the wounded and explored the fortress’s mess hall, which was laden with plates of unidentifiable meat. The last door was locked, but the chieftain’s key opened it. Albricht, never one for subtlety, opted to kick the door open…and awoke a sleeping dire wolf that was chained to a post in the middle of the room when he did. The wolf greedily gobbled up some of the meat from the mess hall, but the party didn’t want to risk getting gobbled up by the beast when they tried to slip past it and decided to pick it off from the doorway. Peter, Himani, and Ezzy unleashed arrows on the wolf, and Peter sprained his wrist when his bow misfired. The wolf snapped its chain and charged Albricht, who moved to block the door and make the wolf’s head an easier target. Peter drew his rapier and lunged forward to attack the beast, but left himself dazed when he misjudged the angle of his thrust and slammed into the wall. The wolf bit him savagely, but Ezzy was quick to heal her dazed companion and shove him out of harm’s way. Another vicious bite from the wolf left Albricht unconscious and dying, but Ezzy healed him while Peter continued to pressure the beast with his blade. It returned the favor by leaving him unconscious and dying with a second bite, but Ezzy tended to him while Albricht hacked off one of the beast’s forelimbs and Himani dealt it a mighty blow. Soon, the dire wolf lay still, and the party pushed its carcass aside to explore the room.

A door set in the corner attracted the party’s attention. They heard footsteps behind them as they approached it, and turned to find M and three of his thugs blocking the entrance to the room. Though he commended the party for dispatching the gnolls, he said there was still some “cleaning up” to be done before he could lay claim to the fortress. His thugs drew steel and looked on the party with murder in their eyes.

The session ended on a cliffhanger, and June 16th was set as a date for the next session.

The "M" Is for "Mysterious"

Session #4: April 20th, 5:15 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Adam began the session by announcing that Aleric would no longer be a regular member of the party. He found it too difficult to be both a PC and a GM during combat without metagaming, and felt that we had proven capable and intelligent enough to survive without the ranger’s aid. In spite of some concerns about a sudden difficulty spike in upcoming encounters, the group understood his decision. Adam also announced that he would be controlling Ezzy until Brittany got home from work, and allowed me to set the stage by reading the last entry of the adventure log.

The party awoke from an uneventful night’s sleep in Fort Horizon, where they had stayed after rescuing the captured militiamen from the orcs. Peter used his personal finances and a small gift from Albricht to purchase a masterwork rapier, and the party discussed their available leads and the possibility of saving their gold to buy property or a plot of land near Westengard. As though they had voiced their desires to a genie, one of the militiamen told the party that the watch captain had a message for them. When they went to see him, he presented them with a sealed letter that had been delivered by a messenger from Westengard. The letter, which was signed with an M, advised the party to come to The Rat Hole if they were interested in a money-making opportunity.

Before the party left Fort Horizon, Aleric informed them that he would be staying behind to monitor orcish activity in the area and help the militiamen hold the fort. He graciously turned his gold over to his friends and bade them a fond farewell as they set off. They passed other rangers on the way to Westengard, which they noticed had a stronger militia presence than it did when they left. They were already starting to see the fruits of their labor.

Upon finding The Rat Hole, Himani and Peter knew that it wasn’t the sort of place where a paladin would find his welcome. Albricht and Ezzy waited outside while the two rogues entered the tavern, which was full of seedy-looking clientele. They didn’t see a bartender, so they sat down at an empty table and were approached by a friendly halfling who identified himself as Faralon and offered them drinks. The rogues, however, were thirstier for information, and Faralon was willing to slake that thirst once Peter showed him the letter from M. He led them into the cellar of The Rat Hole, where a cloaked man at a desk introduced himself as M. He greeted the visitors warmly, saying that the stories of their accomplishments had convinced him that they would be valuable allies. He wanted to help them prosper by sharing information about a plot of land, which he offered to sell them for 500 gold pieces – an investment that he assured them would pay for itself many times over.

Himani and Peter excused themselves to confer with Albricht and Ezzy. The four companions discussed M’s motives, their leverage to bargain, their need for a base of operations, and the tightness of their pursestrings before coming to a conclusion. They decided to accept M’s offer on three conditions, which Albricht summarized as “autonomy, legality, [and] frugality.” They did not want to find themselves roped into service for a man whose intentions were unclear, nor did they want to acquire their land at the cost of innocent lives or the ire of the lord governor. They also wanted to obtain the information at a discount if possible, so they met with M together to negotiate their terms. Albricht convinced him to accept 75% payment up front and the other 25% after they saw the land, which M assured them they could claim legally. 375 gold pieces bought the party a map to Cragwatch, an abandoned fortress located past Fort Horizon and the Sun’s Cradle. M invited them to explore the fortress, then return to pay the rest of his fee. He said that they could keep or sell anything they found inside except for one item: a book from the fortress’s armory. He mentioned that it was locked and bound in black and offered a substantial reward for its recovery, but would not divulge any information about its contents. Finally, M informed the party that smoke had been seen rising from the fortress, so they might have to deal with some squatters before claiming it as their own. After the meeting, Albricht visited the local Eldenari church to ask a priest about Cragwatch, but was unable to uncover any useful information. The party set out for the fortress shortly thereafter, stopping at Fort Horizon to rest for the evening.

Brittany was exhausted after getting home from work, and Adam felt ill-prepared for the party to explore Cragwatch, so we ended the session prematurely and set May 12th as the date for the next session. By away of apology for the short session, Adam invited us to send him encounter ideas to incorporate into the sessions to come. I look forward to seeing whether the players or the GM prove to be more insidious.

Into the Orcwood

Session #3: March 30th, 5:15 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

Adam began by recapping the previous session’s events and suggesting that the adventure log be adopted as an official campaign record for players to consult between sessions. I accepted this responsibility with grateful humility, and promptly began taking notes.

While resting at the Setting Sun Inn after a hard day of helping the citizens of Westengard, the party decided to make Fort Horizon their next destination. Doing so would help raise their profile in the locals’ eyes, ensure regional stability, bring them a little closer to Lord Damien Rand, and possibly turn up some information about Lost Arathia.

“Why do we want to meet him again?” Himani asked when Lord Rand’s name was mentioned.

“Because I want to kill him,” Ezzy replied. His near-genocide of the Arani during the Crownwright War is not a crime that she will allow to go unpunished.

The next morning, the party gathered their supplies and left for Fort Horizon via the Windless Pass. They met a panicked, bloodied militiaman along the way, who told them that the fort had been assaulted by a horde of orcs. The militiamen had succeeded in repelling the attackers, but several of them were killed or captured in the conflict. The party continued at their original pace until they reached the fort, where they found the commander working diligently to care for the wounded and repair the damage done during the assault. While Ezzy helped the medics treat the injured militiamen, the commander told the rest of the party that the orcs had retreated into the Orcwood with their captives. He promised a reward for their safe return; Albricht said that no reward was necessary, but a “donation” would be greatly appreciated.

The party also ran into Aleric, who was now a full-fledged ranger and had reached Fort Horizon shortly before the party did. He didn’t know anything more about the assault than the commander did, but his tracking skills would prove invaluable for finding the captives, so the party decided to work with him again. Thus prepared, the five adventurers entered the Orcwood, a coniferous forest that was as dark and still as a midwinter night. The stillness was interrupted when a boar heard the party passing through a clearing and charged them, shrugging off one of Aleric’s arrows and savaging Himani’s leg with its powerful tusks. Albricht prepared to charge the boar while Ezzy healed her wounded companion, and Peter responded to a menacing roar from the boar by stabbing it with his rapier. Himani lost her grip on one knife and exhausted herself swinging the other, but Albricht ended the fight by skewering the boar with his charge.

After Aleric botched an attempt to remove the boar’s tusks, the party continued on their way. The ranger told Albricht about Lost Arathia as they walked, mentioning that the settlement stood for several decades before it was overrun by monsters. He also mentioned that the ruins were dangerous to approach, thanks in no small part to some highly aggressive gnoll tribes that lived in the surrounding area.

Himani spotted movement among the trees as the party closed in on the captives. The discussion of what to do about it was interrupted by a rain of arrows, two of which whizzed harmlessly by Himani and Peter. Aleric spotted and charged one of the orcs who fired them, and an orcish war hound charged the rest of the party. Peter moved to flank the war hound and dispatched it with his rapier, while Albricht closed the gap with an orc that Ezzy shot. A third orc leapt out from behind a tree and attacked him as he ran, and Himani closed in and cut the attacker with her knives. Ezzy shot the orc that Albricht was fighting a second time, and Peter dealt the orc that Aleric was fighting a mortal wound. One of the orcs landed a blow on Albricht with its falchion, after which Himani finished off the orc she had wounded. Ezzy sank a third arrow into the remaining orc, and Aleric dropped it with a sword strike.

Peter stripped the dying orcs of weapons, armor, and valuables, and the party decided to tie one of them up and revive it for questioning. Peter and Himani bound it tightly with silk rope, and Ezzy restored it to consciousness with her healing skills. Aleric was the only one in the party who could speak Orcish, so he was responsible for translating Albricht’s questions and the orc’s answers. The orc had no useful information to offer about the captives or their captors, though its answers suggested that the orcs were only trying to defend their homeland from the incursion of outsiders. The orc’s deep-seated sense of racial pride prevented it from accepting Albricht’s offer for a truce, and the paladin’s attempts to talk it down only angered it further, so Ezzy cast bleed on the orc and let him execute it.

Aleric continued to lead the party along the captives’ trail until he saw wisps of smoke rising above the treeline. Himani and Peter sneaked ahead to investigate, finding a clearing with a lean-to set up against a cliff wall and three orcs gathered around a cooking fire. The rogues communicated their findings to each other with thieves’ cant and reported back to the party, who decided to lure the orcs away from the camp and give Peter a chance to investigate the lean-to. Unfortunately, the orcs spotted the party before they had a chance to put their plan into action, but they managed to flank and dispatch the orcs in a short but messy melee. The party didn’t find the captive militiamen in the lean-to, but they did find some hides that they decided to sell once they returned to civilization. They discussed sending a message to the orcs by burning the lean-to, but ultimately decided not to do something that could cost them the element of surprise.

After a brief intermission, Aleric picked up the captives’ trail once again. It led northeast, out of the clearing and into some rocky foothills where the party discovered another orc camp. Peter once again took point to scout the camp, but was spotted by three orcs who were guarding a cave entrance. While Aleric moved toward the ledge on which the orcs were situated, the rest of the party took cover behind rocks and fired arrows. The orcs responded in kind, and one of them struck Ezzy, who was unable to find cover in time. A massive creature equipped with a morning star, a shield, and a chain shirt emerged from the cave, and it charged at Peter as Aleric continued his advance. The rest of the party continued trading missiles with the orcs, one of whom cut himself severely on his bowstring. Albricht drew his sword and rushed to Peter’s side, and Aleric chopped up the wounded orc as the others continued to fire on the party. Aleric slew a second orc, and Albricht landed a blow on the bugbear’s shield arm. Peter attempted to somersault between the bugbear’s legs and flank it, but the creature’s reflexes were faster than he anticipated. He avoided its counterattack and landed a crippling blow on its shield arm. A blow from Himani fueled the bugbear’s growing rage, and it struck Albricht with a wild swing. Aleric killed the last of the orcs, Himani dealt the bugbear another hard blow, and Peter finished the creature with a critical hit that put a new hole in its brain.

Ezzy healed Albricht’s and her wounds and called for a rest break while Peter investigated the cave. He found ten captive militiamen inside; two were dead, three were critically wounded, and the other five were delirious, but in decent physical health. In spite of Ezzy’s best efforts to heal their wounds, two of the critically wounded militiamen passed away, and the party loaned the survivors some orcish weapons and armor to use on the trek back to Fort Horizon. Thankfully, they managed to avoid encountering any orc patrols during the return trip and arrived at the fort by dusk. The commander was grateful for the captives’ safe return, and the party divided his reward money and the profits from their salvaged goods evenly between themselves and the party treasury. Albricht purchased himself a breastplate and led the brave militiamen in prayer, and the party decided to rest at Fort Horizon for the night.

We earned enough experience from winning the battles and saving the captives to advance everyone to 2nd level. We were told to finish leveling up our characters before the next session, which was tentatively scheduled for April 20th.

Westengard Landing

Welcome, dear readers, to the adventure log for my group’s Pathfinder campaign! We are a small but dedicated bunch of graduate students and their significant others who are based out of Waco, and since we saw acting and cooperative storytelling as such a wonderful way to give us relief from the the rigors of research and academic writing projects, we decided to form this group. We saw great promise in the structure of both the world and our party, so we appointed a chronicler to record the group’s adventures for posterity. As such, I will strive to do justice to the likes of Devan Lochees and other great record keepers of actual and fantastical history, and I invite you all to follow along as my group’s tale unfolds.

Before I begin the chronicles, allow me to introduce the members of our group and their personae.

Adam: The diligent Game Master. Responsible for building the world, playing all of the NPCs, and creating the Westengard Wiki. His character is Aleric Thendt, a human ranger.
Brittany: One of the players. Her character is Esmerelda “Ezzy” Rumiel, a half-elven Arani cleric.
Andy: One of the players. His character is Albricht Welkheim, a half-elven paladin.
Rachel: One of the players. Her character is Himani Alanna Anorak, a human rogue.
Devin: One of the players and the designated chronicler of the campaign. His character is Peter Goldschmidt, a human rogue.

Session #1: February 9th, 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.

This session mainly consisted of discussing the logistics of the campaign and walking through character creation. Both GM and players had a hand in creating the world, with Andy’s suggestion that the campaign take place in the aftermath of a great war proving instrumental to many of the decisions that followed. We tentatively laid out our characters’ backgrounds: I would play a lowborn treasure hunter with aspirations of becoming a noble, Brittany would play a nomadic priestess who wanted to avenge the slaughter of her clan and spread the word of God, Andy would play a noble warrior who wanted to found his own country, and Rachel would play a noblewoman who learned thieving skills from her nanny and fled her home to escape an arranged marriage. The party would meet up aboard a ship to the New World, to which we were all drawn for gold, God, and glory. Some of the finer points of our backgrounds changed during character development, but the basic concepts were solid.

We used the 4d6 method for determining ability scores, and were allowed to roll three different sets and choose our favorite. I went with my first set, which consisted of an 18, a 16, a 15, a 12, a 10, and an 8. The 18 went straight into Dexterity, and since the the rules we were using allowed humans to give themselves +2 to an ability score of their choice, I boosted the 16 to an 18 and assigned it to Intelligence. The 15 went to Wisdom, the 12 to Strength, the 10 to Charisma, and the 8 to Constitution. It didn’t take long to determine that Peter was not suited for the front lines, so I invested in a shortbow and a rapier and took Weapon Finesse and Dodge as my feats. Albricht became a heavily-armored warrior who used a sword and a shield, Himani carried two short swords (“long knives”) and a shortbow for ranged combat, and Esmerelda chose to rely on a longbow and her priestly powers.

While distributing skill points and choosing languages, Peter established himself as the party’s linguist. He and Himani both learned thieves’ cant, a mixture of slang and gestures that they could use to communicate discreetly among themselves and with other rogues. Brittany was excited to learn that Peter and Esmerelda were the only characters in the party who spoke Sylvan, which led to the passing of several notes and the exchange of many phrases that sounded like gibberish to our companions. I also won a favor for successfully completing a challenge from her, though she has yet to reveal when or how it will be repaid.

Our homework consisted of finishing our backgrounds, buying the rest of our equipment, familiarizing ourselves with the rules of Pathfinder, and finding miniatures to represent our characters. I started a trend by adding Peter’s bio to the wiki, and the rest of the group followed suit. Despite my best efforts, Peter’s gear amounted to a medium load for him, and I came up with the simple but inelegant solution of having him remove his backpack right before or at the beginning of combat. I bought two different miniatures before deciding which one to use, saving the other for possible use later in Peter’s character arc. Let it never be said that I’m not a planner.

Session #2: February 24th, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.

After asking last-minute questions, displaying our miniatures, and filling our bellies with lasagna, we officially started the campaign. As The Astral Gale sailed toward Arim, Adam recapped the events of the Crownwright War and the campaign against the orcs that set the stage for Damien Rand to become the governor of Westengard. The ship soon arrived at Westengard’s port, where a greeter furnished the party with maps that helped them devise a plan of action. While Esmerelda and Himani set out to find lodging, Albricht and Peter went to the White Keep to seek employment with Lord Rand. The women met with Rendar Bladehawk and reserved rooms at the Setting Sun Inn for 5 silver pieces per night. In spite of Albricht’s best diplomatic efforts, the men were unable to get an audience with Lord Rand, though an administrator told them that Fort Horizon was in need of able-bodied militiamen. The party reunited at the inn, where Rendar told them that the local militia had been unable to respond to requests for assistance from Farmer Harrow and the crew of a cargo ship. The party ate dinner and turned in early, resolving to investigate these problems the following day.

Early the next morning, the party headed to Harrow’s farm on the outskirts of the city. He told them that a swarm of bats had taken up residence in his barn and offered a reward if they could clear them out. Albricht insisted that doing a good deed was its own reward, but Peter and Himani were more than willing to accept payment from the old man. The party entered the barn cautiously and unleashed arrows on the bats, though only Esmerelda’s struck true. The swarm surrounded Albricht and inflicted a deep, bleeding wound on him, but Peter landed a blow with his rapier that distracted the bats long enough for the paladin to disperse the swarm. Esmerelda staunched the bleeding and healed Albricht’s wound as Himani investigated the corpses; although they were larger than normal bats, nothing about their diet or behavior seemed unusual.

Farmer Harrow was grateful for the party’s help and rewarded them generously with gold. He also mentioned that a wolf had been preying on the cattle from nearby farms. None of the party members were sufficiently skillful trackers to find the wolf’s den, so they visited the Rangers’ Guild of Westengard to hire someone who could help. Lord Ranger Jonneleth Cole told them that the novitiate Aleric Thendt would be well-suited for the task, and the young ranger was all too eager to complete his initiation and become a full member of the guild.

Aleric tracked the wolf into the foothills north of town, and Himani and Peter scouted its cave while the rest of the party waited outside. Finding it asleep, Peter beckoned for the others to enter, but a misstep by Aleric woke the wolf and cost the party the element of surprise. Himani narrowly avoided being bitten by the wolf as the rest of the party fired arrows at it or closed to melee range. None of the arrows hit, and Peter was particularly discouraged by his missed shot, but once the party had the beast surrounded, Himani lopped off its head with one well-placed slash. Aleric skinned the wolf, agreeing to let the others keep the profits from its pelt, and returned to the Rangers’ Guild to report his success. The party sold the wolf’s pelt, fangs, and claws, and gave Peter the role of party treasurer. Albricht spent the early afternoon spreading word of the party’s deeds among the townsfolk, who were already beginning to view the newcomers as more reliable than the city militia.

After a brief intermission to watch the 8-Bit Theater reenactment of an iconic Dead Alewives skit, the party returned to the port to aid the crew of the cargo ship. Its hold was infested with dire rats that attacked anyone who tried to unload the cargo, and the captain wanted the party to dispose of them. Albricht, Esmerelda, and Peter took the stairs into the hold while Himani prepared an ambush from above, and Peter took point and fired an arrow at one of the rats. He missed, as did his companions and all three of the rats, but he backed off and wounded one of them with another arrow. Himani leaped into the hold and killed one of the rats in a flurry of blades, and Esmerelda shot the tail off the wounded one. Peter drew his rapier and ran another rat through, and the remaining one disarmed Himani while Albricht bent his sword on a support beam with a powerful but poorly-aimed swing. Finally, Peter skewered the last rat, and the party collected and distributed their reward from the captain. Part of it paid for the repair of Albricht’s sword, and the captain told the party about an ancient settlement called Lost Arathia, which both Peter and Albricht took a keen interest in exploring.

Experience was distributed, and March 16th was set as a tentative date for the next session.


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