unHack/Existentialism (**updated 27 Feb 2007**)





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    unHack/Existentialism (**updated 27 Feb 2007**)

    I recently started running a campaign for some of my coworkers, using a modified and converted version of Hackmaster's Temple of Existential Evil as a basis for a D20 game. Some of the names and situations may seem strangely familiar; others may just seem strange. Here is their story.

    The Players
    Enelym -- Elven Cleric of Boccob (F)
    Cat -- Half-Elven Rogue from Dingledireshire (F)
    Jollybell -- Gnome Wizard and Gourmand (F)
    Eiramenna -- Elven Ranger with a distaste for Goblinoids (F)
    Dave from Waterdeep -- Human Bard and Ladies' Man (M)
    Garon Ironfist -- Dwarven Fighter (M)


    Prologue
    or, Elves Never Sleep

    Our story begins in the bustling semi-metropolis of Verbobonc, where the cleric Enelym is deep in meditation in the Temple of Boccob. A vision very much like a human dream comes over her, showing that a snake to the south, long thought slain, is uncoiling from its slumber once more. Snapping from her trance, she realizes the terrible truth:

    The Temple of Existential Evil has returned!
    Last edited by Kafkonia; Wednesday, 28th February, 2007 at 04:16 AM.
    Kaf's Creation Index

    Anarchy! Chaos! Madness! Immorality! It's the return of the Temple of Existential Evil in unHack/Existentialism!

 

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    Chapter the First
    or, Never Trust a Drunken Dwarf

    Enelym calls upon some of her friends over the years to travel to the hamlet of Tharp with her, and thence to explore the ruins of the Temple. In addition, they hire on a dwarven fighter by the name of Jim, who soon proves to be more of a problem than a help.

    En route to the hamlet of Tharp, the party's keen hearing leads them to a trio of goblins menacing a young boy who has taken refuge in the limbs of a tree. The sextet dispatch the villains with little difficulty, although Jim spends more time knocking back drinks than knocking heads together.

    The young man informs our heroes (and Jim) that his name is Jan, and he and his sister Zayna were travelling to Tharp to visit their aunt and unclewhen they were waylaid by a band of goblins, and that while he managed to escape, his sister was taken captive. Eiramenna follows their tracks to a clearing, where she spies five goblins, a pot of boiling water, and a trussed-up young girl. Three of the goblins are indistinguishable from the three they have just slain, a fourth is slightly larger and better armoured, and a fifth is naked as the day he was born.

    Undeterred by the number of foes, the sextet spring into action to save the goblins'captive. Jollybell, upset that she hasn't gotten to eat her cookies because of all this trouble, casts a spell that instills fear in one of the goblins, causing him to flee from the party as quickly as he can; Jim, meanwhile, curses and throws a handful of stones ineffectively at the muscular goblin, who ignores him.

    The naked goblin abandons the trussed up girl and strides forward, muttering something in Goblin and gesturing wildly. Suddenly, a blast of flame bursts from of his hands, burning Cat and Eiramenna so badly they fall unconscious from the shock. Enelym, seeing her friends fall, rushes to their side to stabilize them, while Jollybell and Dave focus their attentions on the witch doctor, hoping to neutralize him before he can cause any more damage.

    Enelym manages to channel just enough divine energy into Cat to stop the bleeding, and enough to get Eiramenna back on her feet, but extremely weakened from the pain. Meanwhile, Dave and Jollybell keep the witch doctor occupied enough for Jim to have a moment of clarity and cleave him in twain with his dwarven waraxe.

    With the witch doctor slain and one of their number fled, the remaining goblins call for parley. They tell the adventurers that they were on their way to "the Temple" when they were overcome with hunger pangs, and the two children seemed such tempting morsels they couldn't resist, but that they will gladly free the girl in exchange for their own lives.

    Recognizing that they are not in a position of strength themselves, the adventurers consent, and the goblins pick up their fallen leader and disappear into the forest to the south east. Enelym uses the remainder of her powers to bring Cat to consciousness, and the sextet and the two children decide to spend the night in the abandoned goblin encampment rather than risk travelling overnight when injured. Dave, being the only one not needing to regain spells or hit points, takes first watch. And second. And third. And fourth. Much to Jollybell's delight, it transpires that Zayna is a member of a group of young girls who often serve as guides to the general public, and that she is carrying with her a large supply of cookies -- which soon becomes a small supply of cookies.
    Kaf's Creation Index

    Anarchy! Chaos! Madness! Immorality! It's the return of the Temple of Existential Evil in unHack/Existentialism!

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    Chapter the Second
    or, Let Sleeping Bards Lie


    When dawn breaks, Enelym summons more of Boccob's power to restore her companions to full health, and they resume their travel to Tharp, arriving after only a couple of hours. Jan and Zayna lead them to the smithy, where their Uncle Dirk is working at the forge. There is a tearful reunion, and the party chats with Dirk about the town, learning that he distrusts the recent influx of gnomes to the hamlet. This does not sit well with Jollybell, but Dirk assures her that he's not prejudiced -- why, some of his best friends are on speaking terms with people who know gnomes! He gets back in her good books by giving them directions to the inn.

    Around this time, Jim wanders off on his own and is promptly forgotten about.

    The five adventurers head north to the centre of town to find lodging at the inn, and come across a smoldering pile of ash and timber. Wiping off a piece of the sign, they find that this was once the "Welcome Wench Inn." A young girl approaches and lays flowers at the edge of the ruin, and when questioned reveals that she is the sole survivor of the family that ran the inn, which was burned down by an adventurer named Elmo to stop an alleged "zombie plague." She swears she will never forgive him and walks off, tears streaking her face.

    Nonplussed, Our Heroes continue north, hoping that Dirk had meant another inn and had not simply neglected to mention that the only inn in town had burned down in a tragic premeditated accident. And indeed they come to the town hall, which has been converted to a temporary inn while the previous one is... indisposed.

    The temporary inn proves to be little more than a large room with impromptu cots set up around the walls, with a couple of tables in the centre for those brave enough to eat there. The group of heroes order stew, bread, and cheese -- the staples of adventurers eveywhere. The innkeeper disappears through the back door, and soon the sounds of someone failing a Dex check can be heard, leaving the party a little distressed when the innkeeper returns while surreptitiously trying to wipe dirt off of the bread.

    Dave from Waterdeep decides that the cots look comfortable, and passes out on one of them. The ladies prod the innkeeper for more information about the town, and learn that Dirk isn't the only one to have taken a dislike to the gnomes that have moved into town -- especially given that their devotion to Garl Glittergold has overwhelmed the human townsfolks' rather half-hearted worship of Pelor. They also inquire about "Elmo", and learn that he lives on a farm on the outside of town.

    Heading first to the farm, the heroines spy a young man of no more than twelve tending to the field, and are surprised to learn that he is the infamous Elmo. They are even more surprised when he takes a swig from a bottle in a brown bag and offers to share its quite alcoholic contents with them. Some conversation ascertains that Elmo is the younger brother of a missing adventurer named Otis, who left him with their parents after the inn fire, and that the fire was set at the urging of Ernst, a retired adventurer who lives in a tower across town. Elmo is quite certain that his actions stopped a plague of zombies from erupting, and the party is unsure of what to think.

    Curious, the four conscious adventurers rouse their bardic companion and drag him, only half-aware, to the Temple of Garl Glittergold to gather more information, and for Jollybell to pay her respects. A lay brother by the name of Gilgar is rather standoffish towards the party, particularly the non-gnomes, but the priest he fetches for them is quite a bit more friendly -- perhaps too friendly for Jollybell's liking. The priest graciously offers Gilgar's quarters for the adventurers to rest in overnight, should they choose to eschew the... questionable comforts of the inn; after all, Gilgar can sleep in one of the spartan cells in the basement. He neglects to ask for the lay brother's opinion on the matter.

    In the mood to Gather Information -- I mean, gather information -- the party continues on their tour of Tharp, visiting the tower wherein Ernst and his partner -- no, not that kind of partner... Anyway, after some stonewalling, the party gets to speak with Ernst, who confuses them by claiming that he has met them already, but they haven't met him before; "temporal mechanics, all very confusing." Ernst confirms that he did indeed tell Elmo to start the fire, after an adventuring party he had sent to the old moat house (and which included Elmo, Otis, and a pixie) returned with the pixie carrying the plague. The five adventurers leave Elmo to his domestic squabbles, and decide to investigate further, visiting the graveyard.

    Sadly, there are a number of fresh graves in the cemetery, courtesy of a certain conflagration. One of them is marked by a pixie-scaled tombstone, and has been defaced with human (and other creatures') defecation. Seeing no signs of disturbed graves, aside from the poo, and no recently disinterred ambulatory corpses, the party turn their attention to the alleged source of this alleged plague: the Moat House.

    But first, it's time for a cookie.
    Kaf's Creation Index

    Anarchy! Chaos! Madness! Immorality! It's the return of the Temple of Existential Evil in unHack/Existentialism!

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    Chapter the Third
    or, Good Thing We Brought a Spare

    When the Eye of Pelor (known to most people as the sun) rises the next day, we find the ladies of our party safely ensconced in Gilgar's quarters at the Temple of Garl Glittergold, while Dave from Waterdeep awakes on an uncomfortable cot at the inn.

    He bellies up to the bar for a morning libation and makes the acquaintance of a pair of dwarven twins, the impetuous Baron and the more cautious Garon Ironfist. Intrigued by tales of adventure in the offing, Baron decides to accompany the party; Garon, concerned about the possibility of mortal peril, decides instead to stay behind in the thorp of Tharp.

    Our Heroes meet up at the inn and debate how best to approach the Moat House. Only one of the adventurers has a horse of their own, and although the erstwhile innkeeper has offered to give them directions to the general store where they might purchase additional mounts, they decide instead to proceed on foot -- save Jollybell, who is permitted to ride Eiramenna's horse due to her poor cardiovascular health. And so, with their new and hopefully more reliable dwarf in tow, the group sets off in search of adventure and zombies at the Moat House.

    As the six venture overland to their destination, their surroundings gradually become more and more unpleasant. Tendril-like vines grasp at sickly trees, and the ground turns to muck beneath their feet, slowing their progress. Eiramenna is particularly upset, not because the unhealthy environment offends her sensibilities as a ranger, but because the mud is getting on her finely-crafted elven trousers. Amidst much complaining, the party at last comes upon the infamous Moat House that allegedly infected members of the last visiting group with zombiism.

    The building might once have been an imposing sight, built of solid stone and standing two storeys in height. Alas, the depredations of time and the Forces of Good have taken their toll on this former redoubt of villainy, and it has fallen into disrepair -- and the swamp. Entire sections of wall have crumbled to powder, and the second floor is naught but an architectural memory. Even the wooden drawbridge has seen better days, for the chains that once held it up have snapped and entire sections have rotted into nothingness. Not wanting to chance their one mount on the precarious footing of the drawbridge, Eiramenna ties her horse to a nearby tree, and the sextet travels cautiously across the bridge and into the keep.

    A quick tour of the courtyard reveals that its interior is in no better shape than its exterior, save for one door at the far end that has been recently repaired. Intrigued, Cat attempts to pry the hinges of the door loose and, after some difficulty, succeeds. Unfortunately, the ruckus caused by her unsolicited renovations alerts those on the far side of the door to her presence, and as our heroes burst into the room, they catch only a glimpse of someone fleeing through a hole in the wall and over the rubble that forms a makeshift set of stepping stones across the moat. Baron Ironfist gives chase, but his heavy armour and large greataxe through his balance off and he slips on one of the stones, plunging headlong into the moat.

    Somehow he manages to swim to shore even when weighed down by his armour, and once on solid ground he does his best impression of a dog drying itself off, spraying his companions with moatwater and prompting Eiramenna to make a comment about the smell of wet dwarves. Meanwhile, their quarry vanishes into the woods.

    A quick survey of the room reveals little of interest, but Enelym's finely-honed Elven senses detect a secret door that seems to have gone unnoticed even by the room's previous residents. Baron Ironfist tries valiantly to batter down the door but succeeds only in bruising his shoulder and stubbing his toe; Cat's knack for locks, on the other hand, springs releases the hidden catch and reveals that the door is made of solid stone and swings into the room, not away from it. No wonder Baron is sore.

    The door reveals a stairwell, and our adventurers debate whether or not to descend until they hear pained cries coming from the basement level. "We'll save you!" Dave calls down the stairwell before being shusshed into silence by his compatriots.

    Once underground, they determine that the muffled screams are coming from an adjacent room, but the only door they can see is set at a right angle to the wall that separates the rooms. Without a thought for his own safety, Baron Ironfist flings open the door and charges into the room. And into a greatclub. A very nice greatclub. Held by a rather unfriendly ogre. Or rather, not so much "held" as "swung with great force." There isn't even enough left of him for his twin brother to recognize, were he there.

    Baron's newfound adventuring companions do the only sensible thing. They run. They run around the corner, up the stairs, and through the secret door, hoping the ogre will be unable to find it. The five brave heroes stop to catch their breath, and spy a familiar figure coming through the doorway. Why, could it be brave Baron Ironfist, returned from an early grave?

    Sadly, no. It's slightly-less-brave Garon Ironfist, who was following his brother at a safe distance out of filial concern.

    When filled in on the gory details of his twin's demise, Garon draws upon heretofore unknown reserves of courage and throws in his lot with the group that, indirectly, caused his brother's death. Back at full strength, and realizing that it would be quite hard for the ogre to squeeze through the human-sized door, the party decides to head underground once more, this time with the added benefit of a plan.

    This time the battle goes quite differently. Garon Ironfist takes a much less impressive blow than his brother did, and the rest of the party quickly brings the ogre down with a volley of spells and arrows, Cat finishing him off as he lies unconscious and bleeding at her feet.

    A second door from the ogre's room leads to the source of the muffled cries -- a pair of human merchants and a severely beaten gnome whom the ogre had set aside as snacks for later. The merchants thank the party profusely and go on their way, while the gnome explains to Jollybell that he is an agent of the Gnomish kingdoms to the North. He was investigating tales of mysterious mining going on near the Moat House when he was captured and taken prisoner. He describes his captor as a most hideous monstrosity, about the size of a goblin, with a deformed head and two large mouths. Giving the adventurers a plain-looking iron ring that will identify them as an ally to the Gnomish kingdoms, he accepts some small healing and takes his leave. Enelym suggests placing the ogre's body in his own pantry to prevent any other residents from noticing his fate, and with some concerted effort they manage to drag him over and bar the door once more.

    Concerned that they are over their heads, and puzzled that there has been no sign of the alleged zombie infestation they were expecting, Our Heroes decide to press on, and through diligent searching discover a second secret doorway, which leads to a set of stairs leading up and also -- according to Eiramenna's Elven senses -- a second door directly across from the first. After some debate, the decision is made to head upward rather than further into the underground chambers.

    At the top of the stairwell is a locked door which, when opened, leads to a well-stocked pantry, complete with food, beverages, and large rats, the latter of whom quickly set upon Cat and Garon. The beasts do little damage before being slain, but one of the bites leaves Cat feeling rather woozy. Discretion being the better part of valour, the sextet heads back to Tharp -- no one having thought to retrieve Baron's body or personal effects. How rude.
    Last edited by Kafkonia; Wednesday, 28th February, 2007 at 04:19 AM.
    Kaf's Creation Index

    Anarchy! Chaos! Madness! Immorality! It's the return of the Temple of Existential Evil in unHack/Existentialism!

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