Friday, 7th September, 2012, 03:31 PM #121
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
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Waghalter (Lvl 7)
A bit of background:
I intended this session to be tough for the players - and I mean tough. They weren't playing their regular characters, after all, and Lorcan Kell has a reputation that I felt needed justifying.
The first part of the encounter would be with Kell's 'animated horseless carriage' (a witchoil fuelled vehicle designed by the Ob) and outrider bodyguards. The party would assume Kell was in the carriage. When/if they opened it, it is rigged to explode. (Turns out Kurt Hawkins is a double agent and has warned Kell of their plan - ho ho!)
Part two of the encounter would feature the arrival of ogres, 'necrotized' like the flayed jaguars, and sent through from the Bleak Gate. (Indicating beyond all shadow of a doubt - if you'll forgive the pun - that Kell is now in league with the forces behind Macbannin.)
Part three of the session would be the arrival of Kell himself... A level 12 solo brute, based on a daggermaster brutal scoundrel.
The day of the session two of my players (Screwloose and Khoomrung) called at the last minute to say they couldn't make it. I duly removed a couple of foes from parts one and two, and added a new story element to account for the characters' absence. But I decided to go ahead with Kell as written (not wanting to mess about with a well-crafted solo monster).
The original plan of the hit squad was as follows:
Black Star Mining (unaware that Kell has already made contact with the Ob) has been pretending that they are the force behind Macbannin, in an attempt to lure Kell into a meeting. But Kell will only agree to meet on his own territory, and will send word of the meeting place just half an hour in advance. But through Kurt Hawkins (their supposed spy) they know where the meeting will be, and the route from Kell's HQ takes him just past a run-down clergy church. With the help of Bishop Antonescu, the hit squad arrives one-by-one over a couple of days, so as not to attract attention.
Their simple intention is to bring Kell's coach to a halt with a phantom chasm (courtesy of Fidalgo), and then gain access to the coach using three keys Hawkins has informed them are carried on the persons of his bodyguards.
Here's how the session went:
- Having been convinced that they are the real force behind Macbannin, Kell sends a message to Black Star Mining, agreeing to a meet.
- He stipulates a location and Valchek sends Khoomrung (with Screwloose acting as his bodyguard) to lure Kell out of hiding.
- The hit squad receive a sending from Kurt Hawkins telling them that Kell's carriage will pass right by the church they are holed up in.
- Alfonso heads out across the rooftops to provide cover for Louis and Khoomrung (should they need it).
- The rest of the squad take up their positions.
- Kell's carriage chugs into view, belching clouds of black smoke and flanked by two mounted outriders.
- The carriage seems to have a 'face' and runs on mechanical legs, not wheels.
- Fidalgo plunges the outriders into an illusory pit, while Gregor drives two ox carts behind the carriage, trapping it in the square before the church steps.
- Pak Cha and Blackthorn take out the drivers, only to discover that the carriage is in fact a kind of golem, and can keep running by itself.
- Fidalgo prevents the outriders from escaping, while noting that the carriage appears to be fueled by gloom oil.
- Alphonso arrives, warning of danger approaching through the streets.
- Gregor, Pak Cha and Blackthorn bring the carriage to a standstill and Fidalgo grabs the security keys Hawkins spoke of: they need all three to open carriage without Kell's consent.
- They reposition themselves and take a breather before the 'danger' Aphonso spoke of arrives:
- Four ogres, well-armed and seemingly swathed in shadow - as if they have recently stepped from the Bleak Gate - barrel into the square.
- The hit squad take them out effortlessly, and gather to open the carriage.
- They give Kell a chance to surrender, then Pak Cha uses all three keys.
- The carriage explodes!
- While the half-dead hit squad picks itself up, coughing and spluttering, a second carriage arrives and two figures disembark.
- One asks the other if it was a good idea to blow the carriage up.
- The second, Lorcan Kell himself, responds that 'if our new friends are as rich and powerful as they say they are, they'll give us a new one'.
- He then strides into the square, and asks, "Looking for me?" before throwing an object at Fidalgo's feet:
- It is Screwloose's severed head.
- "Cippiano ain't the only one can buy himself a turncoat," Kell gloats. "Now come on. Let's be having you."
- Then he throws off his top hat and cloak and draws his infamous knives...
We will draw a discreet veil over the bloody events that follow. Safe to say that Kell single-handedly turned the tables on the hit squad, killing them one by one.
A carriage arrived at Valchek's mansion later that day. Inside was the mangled, but still-breathing body of Khoomrung Morkanstall: sans tongue, sans hands, sans eyes.
In a pouch around his neck was a pair of crumpled pixie wings...
The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
Preamble to buffer adventure
As always, between Zeitgeist campaign modules, I run a buffer adventure. This one draws on unit leader Baldrey Korrigan's background story (again, inspired by accounts on these boards) and his troubled relationship with his beautiful wife Elizabeth.
She is heavily pregnant with their first child, and has begun to act very strangely. Unbeknownst to Korrigan, while he was serving in Yersol IV, Elizabeth made a pact with a powerful fey entity. In return for Korrigan's safe return from the war, it would claim the couple's first child. Elizabeth and Baldrey had tried for years to conceive to no avail, and so Elizabeth set little store in this desperate bargain.
Seven years after Korrigan's safe return (albeit physically altered by his brush with a schism on Axis Island) - the couple duly conceived. Baldrey was taken aback by Elizabeth's response, and her mental health has gradually deteriorated. She has baked salt into the bricks of their house, installed wrought iron windows and doors, even purchased a wrought iron cot! But at no point has she confided in her husband, for fear that knowledge of the truth would divert him from his duties.
Shortly after the events of Digging for Lies, Elizabeth's due date arrives...
This adventure also brings another backstory element into play. Those of you who have followed this campaign journal from the beginning may remember a location I added to the Island at the Axis of the World adventure: the hideout of Lavanya, an eladrin woman who had rescued Leon Veilleaux from his injuries during the Yerasol war. Here the unit found a huge golem that Lavanya was creating and to my surprise, made the effort to transport it through the jungle to a Risuri ship.
Typically, they then forgot all about it - although Uru kept its defunct wood and metal 'heart' around his neck like an amulet, constantly tinkering with it and trying to get it beating.
When party member Karl Krauss died during the battle with the Thing from Beyond, a wave of powerful magical energy was released. (He was an artificer, but unique in that he powered items from his own energy - an energy he derived from the manner in which the Deep Ones had altered his body.) This burst of energy 'kickstarted' the golem heart, and reignited the unit's interest in the golem into the bargain...
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
- As the dust settled following the attack on RHC HQ, the official story (and at least half the truth) was that an alien entity had been released from an ancient ruin and had only been prevented from destroying Central Flint by the actions of a unit of brave RHC officers.
- Korrigan was approached for the lowdown by Johan Grimm, but repeated the official line, making no mention of Lady Saxby's corruption.
- At a press conference, Stover Delft was promoted to Head of the RHC in Flint. He praised his officers, paid tribute to his late predecessor and made a secret arrangement to meet the unit aboard the Rusty Groghorn in three days' time.
- Uru revealed to the others that the death of Krauss had charged the golem heart he carried. Malthusius and Leon were able to identify it as the strange, magical lifeforce that Krauss had been able to bestow on all items he touched. Not his 'spirit', but his energy.
- Seeking to finish outstanding business Uru left the heart with Leon and headed south by train to Agate to retrieve milk spider eggs for his contact Searkil Shortankard. (His player was absent...)
- The unit tried to locate the golem, but found it had not been taken to RHC HQ, nor to the Battalion. With the help of Vice-admiral Phillip Roscoe (another contact), they learned that it had not even been signed off the ship they placed it on. There was no record of it at all.
- Leon set about trying to find out more, and also to discover why the Vekeshi had wanted Rock Rackus dead. Another meeting on a boat was arranged...
- The unit went to Krauss' warehouse to find out if he had any next of kin. They uncovered a strange unidentifiable contraption beneath a tarpaulin, and documentation that said he had an ex-wife and a young daughter in Bole. They also discovered the full extent of his obsession with Matunaaga...
- Malthusius spoke with Stover Delft ahead of the others, and then set off for Slate, seeking the parents of Xambria Meredith.
- Korrigan met with Delft. He urged his superior to disband Carlao's unit. He was particularly scathing about Serena whose attempts to best Matunaaga had obviously been personally motivated. Carlao had also demonstrated a woeful lack of judgement. Only Dima - who had switched sides and helped to bring Saxby down - was singled out for praise.
- Delft revealed his plan. Though the pretense of the official line would not fool the Obscurati, they could at least pretend to be looking in the wrong direction. The objective over the next few months was to appear busy, while secretly planning to join the Avery Coast train on the date appointed by Caius Bergeron.
- Horse-trading followed. Korrigan was keen to advance and gain influence and power so that he could best protect his nation. To that end, Korrigan would be promoted to Chief Inspector for appearance's sake (while Dima would actually do the job - the donkeywork and the paperwork - behind the scenes). Leon would head the unit (with Malthusius as an official member for the purpose of the secret mission; though he would remain independent officially). Wheels within wheels...
- Korrigan returned home to dwell on these developments only to find his house and garden overun with enormous briars. His wife, Elizabeth, was nowhere to be found.
- He summoned his druidic contact (and one-time mentor of Elizabeth), the dishevelled old hippy Bernard of Glenwade, who determined that Elizabeth was inside the briars. Together they exhausted themselves trying to cut a path through the razor-sharp thorns.
- Bernard identified the briars as some sort of fey barrier. He departed to find out more.
- Defeated, Korrigan fell asleep, only to be awoken by the sound of breaking glass. A preturnatural darkness enveloped his home. Small, angular figures could be made out in the gloom. They attacked.
- Outnumbered, Korrigan found himself reinforced by Bernard, Matunaaga and Leon:
- Malthusius, free of the smog of Flint, had had a very specific Skyseer vision and - unable to contact Korrigan for some reason - had sent insistent warnings to the others that danger would befall their leader.
- They began to fight off the deep fey that infested Korrigan's house, only to find that a far more dangerous foe was also present, and having thrown itself in vain at the briar barrier, it now searched for victims on which to vent its frustration:
- This foul, froglike behemoth was a banderhobb - shadow fey and creature of myth, said to abduct children and the weak. It was a foe beyond the power of any of them.
- But the briars were sharp, and Leon was able to trick the creature into cutting itself upon them again and again, in the close confines of the house.
- Unaccustomed to such wounds, the banderhobb withdrew, leaving Korrigan to wonder what it had wanted with his wife...
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
Replying to RangerWickett's XP comment, here:
No, the banderhobb didn't manage to eat anyone! I was a bit disappointed, but as my players have been eaten by various creatures A LOT over the years (the Thing from Beyond; a bunch of giant frogs in our last buffer adventure; a purple worm in our underdark campaign; and a gargantuan demon lord of greed - played on the table by the old 80s Jabba the Hutt Star Wars figure) they were keen to avoid the same ignominious fate:
Bernard of Glenwade (a cameo character) is a shaman and used his spirit companion to distract the banderhobb, as did Leon (who has the shaman multiclass feats).
I was quite pleased with the encounter set-up: knowing that Leon's player had chosen a lot of powers that auto-slide meant he could move the banderhobb into the briars (for 10 damage each time). Coupled with the fact that the creature had already damaged itself by trying to get through the barrier, this meant that they could see off the banderhobb without having to hit it (a tough proposition, as it is level 18!)
In a nice twist of fate, Korrigan scored a crit in defence of his wife/home, in a final blow that saw the banderhobb retreat.
But having been hit by it once or twice (for 3d12+10 damage) they are suitably nervous about a rematch.
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
Did a couple of unusual things in this session:
1. Began with a solo adventure for one of my players who very much enjoys the spotlight, but started it an hour before the main game, so only those who arrived early (to eat and to chat) would catch it. It was a stealth mission with a lot of tension.
2. Introduced the most outlandish PC I've brought into a heroic tier game: a giant fey golem. (Karl Krauss' player needed a character, and this was it.)
It may be helpful to know that the next few sessions will be loosely based on Wrath of the River King by Wolfgang Baur.
Here's how the session went:
- Uru journeyed to Agate and tormented the man who had defrauded him with nightmarish apparitions and sinister visitations.
- He then followed two spider hunters out into the high bayou, where they stole into a milk spider nest.
- Hearing screams, Uru followed and saw as three dog-sized spiders parceled the hunters in silk. Uru took advantage of their distraction and crept to the centre of a massive nest where milk spider eggs could be seen in abundance.
- As he reached out to take one, the spiders spotted him and scuttled closer. Though Uru was poisoned, he quickly dispatched the creatures and made good his escape.
- His exit was blocked by the most enormous, bloated arachnid he could have imagined: a milky-white, alien monstrosity. He dropped to the floor of the chamber and hid.
- While the milk spider searched for him, he made a dash for the exit, and tumbled down the slope towards the boat, with the spider in rapid pursuit.
- It netted him with sticky webbing, and in desperation, Uru called upon Little Jack to hold the monster off.
- Strangely, the appearance of Little Jack appeared to bemuse the spider. As he scuttled away from it, it did not attack, but followed them down to the boat and watched as they departed, with something close to intelligence evident behind its multiple eyes.
- Meanwhile, back in Flint, Bernard of Glenwade was able to establish that the briar barrier was the work of an Unseen Courtier known as the Birch Queen. He had had some dealings with the Queen in the past and felt that the best and only way to circumvent the barrier would be to approach her and appeal to her for help.
- The only way to do that would be to enter the Dreaming via a fey crossing. Bernard volunteered to accompany Korrigan on this journey, as did Leon, Matunaaga and Uru.
- Matunaaga took his leave of the group and set off to meditate in the Cloudwood, and perhaps journey home. He would meet them wherever they needed him.
- Korrigan spoke with Delft, and took leave from the RHC, and took leave from the RHC, as did the rest of the group.
- Finding a crossing would be difficult, as the fey had been closing them of late, especially around Flint. They called on all their contacts - the followers of Nevard Sechim, Gale, Ayesha (Matunaaga's wife), and the Vekeshi - to try to find one.
- The only crossings Gale and Ayesha knew were closed, as Bernard has warned; though Gale sent a small wooden token that would help orient travelers in the Dreaming.
- Nevard's followers were hostile to the idea of crossing into the Dreaming against the wishes of the fey, but sympathised with Korrigan, having known Elizabeth during her druidic studies.
- Finally, Leon's meeting with the Vekeshi rolled around, and several matters got sorted out all at once:
- Lazuli the gnome came to lead Leon to the meeting, which was on board a nondescript ship in the harbour.
- The Old Stag was there and questioned Leon thoroughly on the whole Starke/Rackus affair. He denied ever ordering Rock's death (though he admitted that he regarded him as an offensive fool) and said that Starke was a dangerous loose cannon. But he was highly critical of Leon's inaction. Either Leon though the note was a genuine order, and refused it, or he thought it was false (a valid instinct in this case) and still did nothing about it. Neither interpretation was satisfactory. Leon's affiliation with the Vekeshi was on thin ice...
- To Leon's surprise, the Old Stag then confessed that they - the Vekeshi - had taken possession of the fey golem from Axis Island.
- He agreed to help Leon by telling him where to find a fey crossing if he handed over the golem heart.
- The unit agreed to this proposal and, on handing the golem heart over, were told that the nearest active crossing could be found three days' journey from Flint near the village of Riverbend.
- They made preparations to leave, but on the day they were due to depart, the Vekeshi contacted them again.
- The golem, a sentient being known as Conquo, wanted to travel with them: it was grateful for the return of its heart; Leon was closely connected to its 'mother'; and it hoped it might find clues to her whereabouts in the Dreaming.
- The creature was enormous and intimidating, but it spoke with a modulated voice and seemed to be rather philosophical.
- With Conquo on board, the unit set off to Riverbend.
- As they neared the town they were set upon by fey goblins and bugbears.
- They defeated them and discovered they believed they had a right to hunt here under the auspices of their master the River King. Leon used his magic to learn that they directly served one 'Jenny Greenteeth' and had come through a crossing in the mill pond.
- The unit approached Riverbend, a place with little to recommend it. Leon received short shrift from two guards.
- The unit made their way to the mill pond, where they found the mill abandoned.
- Inside, Bernard encountered a brownie with bright blue eyes.
- It told them its name was Flax and said it was the son of the miller and his wife. His father and mother were gone, he said.
- Before they could question the brownie any further, representatives of Kolya, the local Reeve, arrived and demanded that they cease trespassing on property that had now reverted to the authorities, pending the trial of the Miller.
Wasn't able to end on my usual 'high-note' as the pub we game in closed early. I will continue to report these sessions for completeness' sake, though for a few more weeks they won't be of much help to those running the Zeitgeist campaign.
(I'm waiting to have adventure #5 in hand before I start adventure #4 ...)
Last edited by gideonpepys; Tuesday, 11th September, 2012 at 03:32 PM.
The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
The best I can say is that I'm working on it. I underestimated how long Admiral o' the High Seas would take, and #5 is big itself, but it's now my top priority.
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
Again, an update for completeness' sake: The unit heading into the Dreaming to free Korrigan's wife from the briar barrier that imprisons her. (All the encounters and sub-quests coming from Wrath of the River King.) These buffer adventures offer me the ideal opportunity to do three things:
- Expand on the campaign world.
- Explore the back-stories of the players in real detail.
- Provide an interlude between adventures that focus on a single central plot. (Rather obvious, this one, but quite important.)
They really have made the campaign feel like our very own. So while they may have been engendered by necessity, I would highly recommend anyone running the campaign to think about doing so.
- The unit discussed the predicament of the miller with Kolya the local Reeve. Fey incursion were mentioned, and Kolya blamed the Miller.
- The free mill would revert to the town if Froderick the miller was found guilty of murdering his wife.
- The townsfolk all said his wife Ellessandra was an elf maiden, an enchantress and a witch. The smith said he had seen the millstone rolled into the pond by a hag - Ellessandra in her true form!
- The miller himself - imprisoned in the granary - wept and said his wife no longer loved him. He begged the unit to help. He admitted that he had argued with his wife before she disappeared, denied that they had a child, and told them that the millstone was an enchanted gift from the River King - as was Ellessandra's hand in marriage...
- A report came from the lower village that satyrs had driven everyone out of the tavern.
- Kolya agreed to allow the unit to investigate if they dealt with the satyrs.
- Matunaaga joined the group as they approached the tavern.
- The satyrs, led by a bard named Dantes, and in the company of Redcoat - a ferocious talking bear - were a troublesome bunch, but Leon was able to sweet-talk them into leaving (with the help of some impressive back-flips and somersaults from Matunaaga and false talk of mead).
- Back at the mill, the millstone was found to be missing, and ledgers confirmed feudal tithes paid to the River King.
- The only way through to the Dreaming was to dive into the pond, now guarded by the 'Green Knight'. The unit duly sent him packing.
- Diving into the pond, it was discovered that one only need to touch the fallen millstone in order to be transported to the Dreaming. The unit made haste, as they had heard the crossing was due to close.
- They found themselves struggling in choppy waters, and having extracted themselves, learned that they were not out of danger yet, as eerie shreaks portended the arrival of a pack of eel hounds...
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