Wing Three


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  1. #1
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    Wing Three

    I've had several people suggest that I ought to do up a Story Hour of my D&D 3.5 campaign, and until recently I didn't think it was really doable. For one thing, my players' characters are as high as 16th-level right now (with one just on the cusp of hitting 17th), and I haven't kept scrupulous notes about the details of how each adventure went. Some of the best Story Hours I've read involve the DMs taping their game sessions so they can go back and accurately recount the actual dialogue, who attacked which monster in what manner, and so on. I've done none of that, and my memory isn't good enough to dredge up the events of campaign sessions from some six years back or more. So really, it would be pointless for me to try to go back and recapture all of that data - it's gone, and gone for good.

    Furthermore, while it's gotten to the point recently that I've been writing my own adventures for the campaign, when we first started out I relied heavily on published adventures, some from standalone products but the majority of them from the pages of Dungeon magazine. I wouldn't want to spoil those adventures for anyone who would be later running a PC through that adventure; that would just be mean.

    However, it recently occurred to me that all of the above really only means that there's no good way for me to create a standard Story Hour, one that tries to depict the events that occurred in each adventure in the campaign. It doesn't mean that I couldn't create a different type of Story Hour, one that was more behind-the-scenes and explored not so much what went on in each adventure but rather how and why we played the way we did. I think it might be interesting to see how our campaign has changed over the years, as it evolved from a simple hack-and-slash dungeon crawl to pass the game on to the next generation, and slowly became more focused on character development and ongoing storylines rather than just being a collection of (mostly) published adventures. (It will be interesting to me to look back on all of this, in any case; hopefully it will be of some interest to those of you who decide to give it a quick perusal.)

    So, since the first half of our campaign consisted almost entirely of published adventures and I won't be able to recall the specifics of what happened in each adventure, I'll just give a basic overview of the adventure itself, point out some highlights and any changes I made (and why), and give the status of the PCs at the end of the adventure. Later - and in the few instances earlier on where I made up the adventure myself specifically for the campaign - I can turn this more into a "traditional" Story Hour, where I recount the specifics of the adventure in a fictional account. (Be warned, though: the first time I'll write up a "traditional" Story Hour session won't be until our 21st adventure.)

    So, to begin: it was around 2006 or so when my co-worker Dan and I were discussing, at work, the fact that we had both played AD&D when we were kids. He had last played AD&D 1st Edition, whereas I had continued on with AD&D 2nd Edition, converted to 3.0 and 3.5, and had been running a campaign for my two sons, Stuart and Logan, that had been put on indefinite hiatus when Stuart went off to college. Dan had two sons as well: Jacob, then 8, and Joey, then a mere 2 years old. Dan was the one who came up with the idea that I should run a D&D campaign to get his oldest son involved in the game. I thought it was a great idea (in truth, I was jonesing for some D&D action since the campaign I'd been running was put on hold; we still got in an occasional session when Stuart returned home from college during vacations, but our gaming sessions were few and far between), and when I mentioned it to Logan he was in as well (he was jonesing as bad as I was; we had previously toyed with the idea of some one-on-one sessions, but the idea wasn't particularly appealing to either of us). So one Saturday afternoon Logan and I drove over to Dan's house and they rolled up some 3.5 characters.

    We showed Jacob his character options, and he, being a typical 8-year-old boy, went for a half-orc barbarian whom he named Slayer. Admittedly, it was a bit of a cliché, but he was eager as all get-out and I approved heartily at his enthusiasm. Dan opted for a human cleric of Kord and chose Strength and Luck as his two domains, realizing that every party needs some healing and that way his PC could ensure that Jacob's PC kept healthy and in the fight, which I thought was a commendable attitude. He named his PC Cal Trop. Okay, then, I could see this wasn't going to be a very serious campaign, but that was fine. Logan took the opportunity of a new 1st-level character to try an experiment he'd been wanting to perform: was it possible, he wondered, through rigorous feat and spell selection, to run an arcane spellcaster as a front-line fighter? He chose human for the extra feat so he could have Toughness to go with his Martial Weapon Proficiency; made sure he could cast both mage armor and shield since he wouldn't be wearing armor (and thus became a sorcerer rather than a wizard so he could cast more spells per day); and even went with a toad familiar because he desperately needed those extra 3 hit points (and this after he put his highest ability score into Constitution for the bonus hp). He named his PC Gareth, and when he couldn't come up with a good name for his toad I suggested Joanna (can anybody guess why?); he accepted the logic and we had our three PCs.

    (Incidentally, the PCs' stats were generated by rolling 4d6 six times, dropping the lowest die in each case, and assigning the six values into whichever stat the player wanted. I wanted Jacob to have the ability to run any character class he wanted to be, and I didn't want the decision paralysis that point buy might bring to an 8-year-old playing D&D for the first time in his life.)

    Dan brought out a dice bag full of some old, unpainted lead minis he had from his earlier gaming days, and he and Jacob each chose one for their PC. Logan used the plastic barbarian mini from our old HeroQuest board game, the gateway drug I had used to ease my boys into D&D back when they were 10 and 8. I presented Jacob with a new set of dice in a plastic case (a tradition I was just then starting for when I introduced new players to the game), explained the differences between them and when each one was used, and we were ready for some gaming.

    Incidentally, since this whole campaign was basically just going to be an introduction to D&D for Jacob, I didn't feel it necessary to try to make a unique game world. The 3.5 Greyhawk default world would work just fine for my purposes, so that Jacob wouldn't have to worry about anything that wasn't already there in the Player's Handbook - no new deities to worry about, for example; we'd just use Boccob, Kord, Moradin, and the standard pantheon. Furthermore, I resolved that this would be a "core only" game using only the three rulebooks. Again, this was for simplicity's sake - no need to overwhelm the poor kid with all of the complexities that a D&D game could eventually incorporate.

    Now I just needed to pick out a first adventure, and we'd be all set.
    Last edited by Richards; Tuesday, 15th January, 2013 at 03:41 AM.
    Check out some of my unpublished "Ecology" articles over on the Story Hour forum.
    Chuul | Destrachan | Elven Cat | Giant Beaver | Giant Water Spider | Grey Render | Grick | Gulguthydra | Kobold | Winter Wolf
    Death KissNew Monster Hunters story!

  2. #2
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    ADVENTURE 1: THE CRYPT OF ST. BETHESDA

    For the first adventure, I chose something simple: The Crypt of St. Bethesda by James MacDuff, a mini-adventure published by AEG. You may recall those: they were the size and shape of a standard 8-1/2" by 11" piece of paper folded in half lengthwise, and each was 16 "half-pages" long - short, simple, and perfectly suited for a couple of hours of adventure. This particular one had a carrion crawler on the front cover; even better, it was an "old school" carrion crawler, not the poorly redesigned version foisted on unsuspecting gamers in the 3E Monster Manual, now suddenly (and inexplicably) complete with teeth and eyestalks. The Crypt of St. Bethesda called for 5-8 PCs of levels 2-4, but I was able to scale it down fairly easily to make it suitable for three 1st-level PCs.

    Since this was apparently not going to be a very serious campaign, I didn't bother with a whole lot of backstory; Cal and Slayer had met up and decided to adventure together, and that was all the character history that was needed. I placed Gareth as a prisoner in a bandit's lair in the small dungeon complex that they were checking out; he had been captured by the bandits for snooping around their lair. (This kept Logan's PC out of the limelight for a while, so Slayer could pretty much run the two-man show and "get his feet wet" while Jacob learned the basics about combat and exploration.) When Cal and Slayer slew the bandits, we got a little roleplaying in as Gareth was questioned to ensure that his being tied up in their lair wasn't some sort of trick to infiltrate a bandit into their midst. After being rescued, Gareth joined the team and their adventuring party was now three in number (four, if you counted Joanna).

    Back then, we were strictly a "map the dungeon out on graph paper as you explore it" operation, with the minis placed on the table merely to show orientation during combat. (As it turned out, the tablecloth in Dan's kitchen was made up of a plaid pattern with nearly inch-long squares, which made it easy to use as a stand-in combat grid.) For the monsters, I had a box of game tokens of various colors which I used when I didn't have anything more appropriate. (I did bring a handful of both plastic skeletons and plastic zombies from the HeroQuest game, for use as the skeletons and ghouls that were called for in the adventure. Likewise, I had a little plastic spider that saw use in that game as well.) Logan was the dedicated mapper of the group, a role he had pretty much taken on in all of our earlier campaigns as well.

    Even from this first adventure I used initiative cards, a habit I had gotten into since my sons and I first played 3.0 and were introduced to the concept of cyclical initiative. For the monsters, this was a simple deck of cards; for each battle, I'd assign each of the monsters a black card (so the skeletons might be represented by the Ace of Clubs, and if a spider joined the fight it might use the Eight of Spades). For this first game session, I assigned each of the PCs a red face card; they got to pick between the King or Jack of Hearts or Diamonds. At the end of the session, I gave each of the players a blank card - it was an index card upon which I had traced a playing card from my deck, then cut it out so it was the correct size and shape - and told them to draw their PC on the blank side. That way, in future games, I could use their cards with their PCs' likenesses to represent them. Using the initiative cards was easy: I jotted down the initiatives of each combatant (clumping all of the same type together, so all 5 skeletons acted on the same initiative count) on a piece of scratch paper, then organized my "initiative deck" so that I could call out whose turn it was, then place that card at the bottom of the deck after he made his move. Holding an action meant turning the card sideways so I could see that he still had an action to take before his next turn if he wanted to take it. And once a monster was killed (or all of the same type of monster was killed), his/their card was removed from the initiative deck.

    Overall assessment: well, we all had a good time, so that was the main thing. Jacob had a blast, and he had pretty much figured out the main rules by the end. (Dan and I had jointly decided that the best way to teach him the game was through instant immersion, rather than trying to explain everything ahead of time. It made this first adventure a bit slower-paced, as we explained how each game mechanic worked as it came up naturally in play, but he grasped each concept faster with a relevant example at hand to help him visualize what was going on.) We all agreed that this had been fun enough to continue on a regular basis, although at the time I just envisioned the campaign as a series of dungeon crawls with no real ongoing plot. But that was fine: I had a full run of Dungeon magazines chock-full of adventures, so I was sure I could keep the PCs in dungeon crawls for quite some time. Finally, I could see that Dan and I were going to have to get used to our respective playing styles; he had up until this point only played AD&D 1st Edition (and that some 20 years or more ago), but it was fairly easy to see that he was used to a more adversarial DMing style than I was using. His older campaigns from when he was a kid apparently involved NPCs constantly trying to stab the PCs in the back at every turn, and DM fiat must have been flung around with some regularity. (In fact, to project ahead in the campaign's future a bit, this would be a concern for some time; Dan proved to be a much more paranoid player than I had encountered in a long time. No NPC of mine was ever taken at face value, and Dan often tried to find the "hook" that I would surely use to screw with the PCs in any given adventure. Naturally, this made it rather difficult for me to run back-stabbing NPCs!)

    As for the rest of Dan's family, 2-year-old Joey would peek in from time to time to see what all the dice-rolling was all about, and I let him play with some of the plastic monsters I had brought when they weren't otherwise in use. He also sat on my lap from time to time and helped me roll dice. Dan's wife, Vicki, peeked in from time to time to see that Joey wasn't causing us any grief, but he was fine. (In fact, I shortly became Joey's favorite non-related adult visitor, according to Vicki.) She seemed to view the game as an interesting oddity, but nothing all that exciting. However, that would change over time....
    Check out some of my unpublished "Ecology" articles over on the Story Hour forum.
    Chuul | Destrachan | Elven Cat | Giant Beaver | Giant Water Spider | Grey Render | Grick | Gulguthydra | Kobold | Winter Wolf
    Death KissNew Monster Hunters story!

  3. #3
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    ADVENTURE 2 - IDYLLS OF THE RAT KING

    For the second adventure, I wanted something a little longer, so I went with the very first in Goodman Games' Dungeon Crawl Classics line, Idylls of the Rat King, by Jeffrey Quinn. This was a 32-page standalone module, taking place in a four-level silver mine. The maps were all pretty much rooms and corridors at right angles, perfect for use with the various Dungeon Tiles I'd picked up for my earlier campaign with my two sons, and the monsters were mostly creatures that could be used with the plastic figures that came with my old HeroQuest game, plus it was designed for character levels 1-3, so it seemed a perfect fit. In addition, the whole Dungeon Crawl Classics line was designed to feel "old school," so we'd be playing right in Dan's comfort zone. (Remember, although he had AD&D experience from several decades ago, he was learning the 3.5 rules along with his son.)

    This time, we played at my house, in our kitchen. I got to see everyone's initiative cards for the first time. Logan's was a drawing from the waist up of Gareth. For Cal's initiative card, Dan had simply drawn Kord's holy symbol from the Player's Handbook. Jacob had drawn an evilly grinning half-orc barbarian in typical 8-year-old boy fashion. Each was drawn in pencil. Oddly enough, Joanna had the best-looking card of the bunch, but that was only because Logan's PC in our previous campaign had also had a toad familiar (that campaign had started under the 3.0 rules, where a toad familiar didn't just give you 3 extra hit points but rather 2 extra points of Constitution, which made it arguably the optimal choice of the standard familiars available). All of the PCs in that campaign and their associated animals (including a bronze griffon figurine of wondrous power) had their own full-color initiative card in colored pencil, so Joanna kind of stood out there a bit, but oh well.

    As intended, this adventure took us three different sessions to plow through. The mines were filled with lots of goblins and some skeleton and zombie servitors. At one point, getting into the cinematic feel that a D&D game can bring about, Jacob had Slayer pull open a door, only to find a startled goblin standing there about to open the door himself from the other side. Just because it felt like a good idea, Jacob had Slayer punch the goblin in the face with his fist instead of running it through with his greatsword. He rolled, hit, did damage, and I described the goblin as flying backwards into the room, wetting himself in mid-arc before crashing to the floor. That elicited a cry of "I love this game!" from an enthusiastic Jacob, which would be music to the ears of any DM.

    The mines took several days for the PCs to get through in-game as well, so Jacob was introduced to the concept of finding a place to camp out in and fortify while the PCs rested up. In fact, we ended one session with the PCs doing just that, so I took the opportunity to add a little to the goblin strategies beyond those documented in the module. The goblins, by this time, were aware that there was an adventuring party down there in the mines with them, as they'd found ample evidence in the form of slain (and looted) goblin bodies. I figured it would be fairly easy for them to track where the PCs were holed up, and to make plans accordingly. So between sessions (we were playing about every other weekend at that time), I hunted up some scrap cardboard and made some simple crates of various sizes, all scaled to the PCs' minis. When they exited their out-of-the-way chamber the next morning, the PCs found that the goblins had built "walls" out of stacked crates blocking off a section of the tunnel, and stationed skeleton archers in front of the crates. Goblin archers stood on top of the crates, ready to duck down behind cover if the PCs gave too much of a defensive response. So basically, the PCs were in a dead end hallway being peppered by arrows, with no way out other than storming the crate wall and its defenders. That put a little fear back into Jacob, since by this point Slayer had not been particularly threatened by any of the goblins, skeletons, or zombies they'd encountered thus far. It was a good tactical lesson, too, and a demonstration that the game world doesn't just go "on hold" because the PCs have stopped adventuring for the day.

    In any case, by the end of that adventure Jacob had mentioned offhand how cool it would be if Slayer had a pet dire wolf. I don't recall if this was a reaction to having seen the druid and ranger animal companion sections in the Player's Handbook or if it was based more on the "Lords of the Ring" movie trilogy. But, always eager to keep the game engaging for the 8-year-old whose introduction to D&D was the whole purpose of this campaign, I added a short encounter at the end of the adventure. Upon exiting the silver mine, the PCs heard the sounds of ferocious battle from the forest nearby. It turned out that an owlbear (because I happened to have a lead miniature of an owlbear from my earliest campaigns as a kid) had stumbled across a dire wolf cave and had been devouring the pups within while the mother was out hunting. Then the mother dire wolf got back and a fierce battle ensued. By the time the PCs arrived, the mother dire wolf had been slain, the owlbear was wounded, and after the PCs had managed to kill it, there was one wounded dire wolf pup still alive. Slayer rescued it, Cal healed it with spells, and we arbitarily decided that it would reach its full adult size when Slayer had attained 8th level. Jacob named the dire wolf pup Fang. (Of course he did!) And shortly thereafter, I found myself at my comic/gaming shop making my first ever purchase of a D&D Miniature: a $1.00 timber wolf, to represent Fang the dire wolf pup. The next time we played, I gave the wolf mini to Jacob in an old check box, upon which I had pasted a photo of a wolf and the following caption:
    RULES FOR THE PROPER CARE AND FEEDING OF YOUR DIRE WOLF PUP


    1. When feeding your dire wolf pup, never stand in between him and his meal...unless you want to become his next meal.

    2. If you decide to feed your dire wolf pup by hand, be sure to count all of your fingers afterwards. (If you’re a half-orc barbarian, see if one of your adventuring partners will count them for you – they’re more likely to be able to count that high!)

    3. Your dire wolf pup will respond positively to you if you give it lots of yummy snacks. When you visit him, it might not be a bad idea to toss him a tasty treat...like maybe a screaming goblin.

    4. Dire wolves respond best when you give them fierce, tough-sounding names. “Fang” is an excellent choice. “Mr. Poopsie-Woopsums”...not so much.
    We decided that the PCs would pay to have the dire wolf trained, so they hunted up a retired dwarven adventurer who agreed for a fee to train Fang. Cal went through Slayer's backpack and found his sweatiest article of clothing, which was used as part of Fang's bedding so that he'd associate the scent of "sweaty half-orc" in a positive light.

    Despite Idylls of the Rat King being designed to take PCs from 1st-level to 3rd, the fact that the PCs had already been through one adventure previously, plus the added encounters I threw in, plus the fact that most adventures are written with four PCs in mind while our little party had only three (and thus all XP was being split into only three pieces, not fourths), meant that the PCs had all attained 5th level by the end of this adventure. As it would turn out, we only had one more adventure ahead of us before our tiny little dungeon crawl campaign would take an unexpected turn that would completely reshape the way we played....
    Check out some of my unpublished "Ecology" articles over on the Story Hour forum.
    Chuul | Destrachan | Elven Cat | Giant Beaver | Giant Water Spider | Grey Render | Grick | Gulguthydra | Kobold | Winter Wolf
    Death KissNew Monster Hunters story!

  4. #4
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    ADVENTURE 3 - THE TOMB OF CHAOS

    For the third adventure, I wanted to get back to the shorter, finish-the-adventure-in-one-session format, so I went with The Tomb of Chaos, a "Cooperative Dungeon" I had discovered, of all places, right here on EN World. It was produced by Creative Mountain Games, and consisted of a single-level tomb with 21 encounter areas. So another dungeon crawl, perfectly suited for the type of campaign I was running at the time. The adventure was geared for 3rd-level PCs, but I had three 5th-level PCs - close enough, and easily adaptable.

    Right away, we determined that Fang was not going to be accompanying the PCs, as Jacob's real interest was in Slayer having a grown dire wolf when he hit 8th level, so he didn't want to take the risk of something happening to Fang as a pup that would preclude him from ever reaching full size as an adult. Fair enough, I thought, but I had apparently kind of wasted my time hunting up a timber wolf miniature to represent a "puppy Fang" who, it appeared, was not to be adventuring after all. (It all worked out, though, as a future PC ended up with a timber wolf animal companion, so the "puppy Fang" mini was eventually put to good use.)

    This time, we were back to playing at Dan's house, at his kitchen table, after having spent all three sessions of the previous adventure at the kitchen table at my house. That meant an inquisitive 2-year-old Joey wanting to get into our dice and minis, but this time I had come prepared. I had gathered up another old check box (those things are handy!), made a big label on it marked "JOEY," and filled it with 8 or 9 different plastic dinosaur and bug minis that I had accumulated. (By this time, I was actively looking for figures I could use in the game. I wasn't thrilled with the "blind buy" aspect of the D&D Miniatures line, so I was working on buying stuff I knew ahead of time I could use. Tubes of bugs and dinosaurs worked well, as green caterpillars made functional carrion crawlers, spiders and scorpions would always be useful in a D&D game, and even if I wouldn't be using dinosaurs all that frequently an ankylosaurus made a useful rust monster stand-in and a digester was easily represented by a velociraptor.) So Joey sat by me at the table happily playing with the ladybug, brontosaur, and dimetrodon while we went about our D&D business.

    And Dan's wife Vicki spent a bit of time watching us play as well. She had started to take an interest in this game that her husband and son were spending so much time playing. At the end of this adventure, the PCs were all at 6th level, and we came to a decision: starting next session, we'd have Vicki playing with us as well.

    By this time, Dan had purchased a 3.5 Player's Handbook for himself, so they had a copy at their house between gaming sessions. He felt he was comfortable enough with the rules to help Vicki make up a new character at home by the time that we played again. However, deciding that it would probably be best for her to start out as a 1st-level PC and learn the rules from the ground up, we came to a decision: we'd place these three PCs on hold, set them to the side, and start the campaign over again at 1st-level. Then, when they'd all advanced these second-wave PCs to 6th level, we'd have them meet up with the initial PCs, and from then on each player would choose between their two PCs as to who they wanted to run each session. (For Vicki, after she'd advanced her first PC to 6th level we'd just let her make up another 6th-level PC, so everyone would be on the same footing. There was no other real way to get her second PC "caught up" with the rest of the group.)

    So here's what we ended up with:
    • Vicki's first PC was a half-elven druid named Feron Dru. Vicki was definitely attracted to the spellcaster type of PC, and since nobody had run a druid yet in our campaign she wanted to give that a try. Although I was trying to keep house rules to a minimum, I gave her half-elven PC bonus Martial Weapon Proficiency in one bow and one sword of her choice. She chose the longbow and longsword. Feron's animal companion was an eagle named Nocturna.
    • Dan's new PC was a human rogue named Rale Bodkin. I was pleased to see that this wasn't a "joke" name like "Cal Trop" had been; maybe I could turn this campaign a little more serious over the months. However - again based on Dan's AD&D 1st Edition heritage - at first he tended to run Rale like an AD&D thief, with "stealing from the party" as a normal bit of the day's business whenever possible. Personality-wise, Rale was a bit of a coward, preferred to hang back in safety while the rest of the party leapt into combat, and occasionally talked like a drugged-out hippie. Plus, he took the opportunity to hit on his wife's character whenever possible; it was frankly pretty humorous seeing Vicki roleplay Feron Dru as not the least bit interested in Rale's advances.
    • Jacob decided on a half-elven ranger named Chalkan, who would be taking a wolf animal companion when the time came. He would be concentrating on the "archer" style of ranger. When I asked if there was any family relationship between the two new half-elf PCs, I got an emphatic "no" from both Vicki and Jacob. Okay then.
    • Logan's new PC was a human paladin named Akari Naruchi, although that last name didn't make it onto his character sheet and we pretty much never used it. Logan had been studying the Japanese language, and apparently "Naruchi" meant (according to his Japanese-English dictionary, in any case) "curse-blood." On his character sheet he put "red" for eye color, stating that there was some fiendish blood back in Akari's ancestry, far enough back that it would have no game impact. (In other words, Akari wasn't even close to being a tiefling.) I was surprised at this choice, and initially wasn't going to do anything with this information until I realized that of the seven PCs in this campaign thus far, this was the only bit of character backstory I had received. So I filed it away as an interesting fact for possible inclusion later in the campaign.
    I passed out new blank initiative cards for the players to draw their new PCs on and reveled in the fact that for the first time since 3E had come out, I was finally going to have a four-player group. That would make it so much easier to find appropriate-level adventures!
    Check out some of my unpublished "Ecology" articles over on the Story Hour forum.
    Chuul | Destrachan | Elven Cat | Giant Beaver | Giant Water Spider | Grey Render | Grick | Gulguthydra | Kobold | Winter Wolf
    Death KissNew Monster Hunters story!

  5. #5
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    ADVENTURE 4 - SCOURGE OF THE HOWLING HORDE

    PC Roster:
    Akari, human paladin of Hieroneous
    Chalkan, half-elf ranger
    Feron Dru, half-elf druid
    Rale Bodkin, human rogue

    It was time to start over with brand-new characters, and I decided to go with a Wizards of the Coast module this time, Scourge of the Howling Horde by Gwendolyn F. M. Kestrel.

    The new initiative cards were interesting: Logan drew Akari's head and did a bit of light pencil shading; Chalkan was represented by a drawing of an arrow, I believe; and Dan did a quick drawing of a simple figure stabbing another simple figure in the back. As for Feron Dru, Vicki had gotten on the Wizards of the Coast website and found a PC portrait of a long-eared elf and printed it out as her initiative card. The problem was, all of the other cards were the size of a standard playing card, and hers was easily a good 4" by 6", much bigger than the others and difficult to use for that reason. At the end of this session I hunted up the image she had used and printed out a scaled-down version, and this became the template for my initiative cards. From this point on, I'd capture a digital image, scale it to the right size, and print it out on normal paper. Then I'd get a playing card (I habitually used one of the jokers, since we never used them for card games, pretty much sticking to 500 Rummy and Knock Rummy) and trace the shape around the image. That would then get cut out and glued onto the blank side of a lined index card, then cut out again. I'd write the name of the creature (or PC) on the back of the card, then cover it with clear Con-Tact paper, and then cut it out a third time, this time leaving about a 1/8" border around the card. Jacob shortly found an image he wanted to use for Chalkan and another for Slayer, so I made up new initiative cards for them. Dan stuck with his existing initiative cards, as did Logan (for awhile at least). And I decided to start building a "monster deck," so from this point on I started making initiative cards for the monsters the PCs would encounter in each adventure. This had the advantage of allowing me to decide what my monsters would look like. Not liking the 3E ogre illustration, for example (he always reminded me of that full-body Muppet costume that wore rags and had a thick, protruding lower lip), I used an image from an adventure module I had picked up but never actually ran. Likewise, my carrion crawlers would look like the Tony DiTerlizzi illustration from the 2E Monstrous Manual (still my favorite monster tome of any edition).

    But getting back to Scourge of the Howling Horde: Vicki had a fairly good time of it, although we pretty much "threw her in the deep end and forced her to start swimming," having her ignore the game rules at first and just tell us what she'd like to have Feron do, then explain how that particular rule worked in the game and walked her through it. She was hesitant to have Feron attack anyone at first; I distinctly recall the PCs in a room after slaying some goblins and having a pair of female hobgoblins come rushing in. Vicki's PC was the first to react, and she didn't want to hurt the hobgoblins because she had no way of knowing for sure whether or not they were evil. Jacob, considering himself an old pro by now, was yelling at his mom, "Just kill them! They're hobgoblins! Hobgoblins are evil!" And sure enough, they were, and Feron helped kill them, although I think Vicki still wan't sure that was necessarily the best way to proceed. (Now, after years of gaming with us, she can be as bloodthirsty as the rest of my players.)

    Vicki got involved in the roleplaying fairly well, and started getting the grasp of the basic combat game mechanics, but her biggest hangup - one that would haunt her for her first dozen gaming sessions or so - was remembering which dice were which. I'd ask her to make a saving throw by rolling a d20, and she'd look in confusion at her pile of dice (I had bought her a set of dice, part of my new tradition) until Dan or Jacob would hand her the d20 from her dice pool. We also had to keep an eye out so she wouldn't accidentally make an attack roll using a d12.

    The end result, though, was that she had a good time with this first adventure. Dan had provided her with one of his old lead miniatures for her character, and she used that for several adventures until she went out and picked out a Feron Dru miniature from the local gaming store that better fit her PC (it was a female elf shooting a bow, which she uses to this day). We had a new gamer on our hands!
    Last edited by Richards; Monday, 30th December, 2013 at 12:46 AM.
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    ADVENTURE 5 - GORGOLDAND'S GAUNTLET

    PC Roster:
    Akari, human paladin of Hieroneous
    Chalkan, half-elf ranger
    Feron Dru, half-elf druid
    Rale Bodkin, human rogue

    For this adventure, we played on the dining room table at our house (our kitchen table was better suited for up to four people, and now we had four players and a DM), and had decided to try a combined D&D session/two-family dinner. So that meant that Joey played with our vast collection of Duplo and Tyco blocks (we still had a chest full of the things from back when our boys were little) in the family room under my wife Mary's supervision while we gamed in the dining room, and we gave her a 45-minute head's up when we thought we'd be winding down on the adventure. That concept worked better with an adventure I'd already run before, so I chose to send the PCs through "Gorgoldand's Gauntlet" from Dragon Annual #5. The advantage: I had written the adventure, and so I knew it in and out. The disadvantage: Logan had already been through that adventure with his older brother Stuart in our original 3.0 campaign, so he'd be going in with prior knowledge. Still, I figured it would be okay; I just swore him to secrecy and had him promise that he wouldn't help with solving the puzzles. (For those unfamiliar with the adventure, it's basically a series of puzzles with a few combat encounters sprinkled in; the Gauntlet is an old adventurers' training facility that has been more or less abandoned by the high-level wizard who ran it, and it's since been infested by jermlaine.)

    I needn't have worried; Vicki proved to be a puzzle-solving wizard in her own right. One of the puzzles involves a stairway with one word on each of the stairs. Vicki had the puzzle already figured out by the time I had placed my hand-drawn diagram on the table and read the accompanying boxed text. That earned her high-fives from Dan and the admiration of the group.

    Jacob had his first major problem with the game, though: a rust monster destroyed not only Chalkan's longsword but his armor to boot. Jacob went storming out of the room and over to the family room (ostensibly to check on his little brother, but really to hide the fact that there were tears of frustration leaking out of his eyes). Mary talked it over with him, though, pointing out that it was better to lose some replaceable equipment than have his PC get killed, and he eventually agreed and returned to the game shortly thereafter.

    Finally, I had my first major problem with Logan in the campaign: while I had gotten a promise from him that he would let the other players solve the puzzles (a promise, I should point out, that he kept faithfully), I had neglected to extract a promise from him not to grab up the good loot since he knew ahead of time what it was, where it could be found, and what it could do. There's a "future plot hook potential" +1 longsword, Hoardmaster, to be found among the loot at the Gauntlet's end, and as soon as the PCs got to it Logan had Akari grab it up with a gleeful cry of "Dibs!" (Jacob had initiated the "Dibs!" rule several adventures ago, so the precedent had kind of been set.) I scowled at him for his unpaladinlike behavior, but I let it slide because this was, at this point, just a beer-and-pretzels type of game, nothing too serious.

    Akari the paladin earned his first nickname in this adventure. At one point, the PCs are crossing a water-filled chasm that houses a merrow (aquatic ogre). They had hammered in metal pitons at either end of the chasm (one PC had made it across on his own, probably Rale by climbing along the walls in typical "1st-Edition thief" fashion) and tied a rope from piton to piton. Akari tied a smaller rope around his waist, over the chasm-spanning rope, and around his waist again, not trusting his lack of Climb skill points and his hefty armor penalty. Everything was going well until he realized he hadn't accounted for his armored weight and the general slackness of the rope; by the halfway point his legs were dangling in the water (he had failed a Climb check and his legs had fallen off the rope he was traversing), attracting the merrow, who grabbed a leg and started tugging him into the water. Akari eventually survived and made it to the other side - I think they only drove the merrow off rather than killed it - but not before earning the name "Teabag."

    I did something for this adventure that I hadn't before, that turned out well enough that it also became my new standard. In previous adventures, I either just mapped out the rooms on a sheet of graph paper or else laid out Dungeon Tiles to show the areas the PCs were exploring. This time, with sufficient preparation time, I went ahead and made my own geomorphs of each room out of cardboard. I took a large piece of cardboard (the backing of an old desk calendar that I had saved for this very purpose), measured out 1" squares with a yardstick, drew the areas I needed, and cut them out. Once done, I stored them in a large manila envelope with the adventure's name written on the front; now, if I ever have an opportunity to run "Gorgoldand's Gauntlet" for another group, I have everything already at hand. (And we have my wife's 5-year-old nephew living with us; he was under a year old at the time we played this adventure, and in fact spent a chunk of it propped up in his car seat chair on the dining table, gurgling at us as we played. Still, I can envision running a D&D game for him and his friends another 4 or 5 years down the road....)

    Dinner, as I recall, went well, and we decided this would be a cool thing to do every once in a while.
    Last edited by Richards; Sunday, 9th December, 2012 at 05:46 AM.
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    ADVENTURE 41 - TRIBE OF THE BLOODY HAND

    PC Roster:
    Cal Trop, human cleric of Kord
    Feron Dru, half-elf druid
    Galrich Slayer, half-orc barbarian
    Telgrane, human conjurer

    The map and poem that Rale found in the previous adventure was the plot hook to "Ex Keraptis Cum Amore," a Dungeon adventure that I wanted to run. However, I wanted to do a series of adventures in a row with the same cast of characters, and I also wanted to run my players' PCs through another standalone adventure from Goodman Games' "Dungeon Crawl Classics" line, "The Vault of the Iron Overlord." So I thought I'd send the group on a map quest to the mountains to the north for the former adventure, and then have them hit the latter adventure on the way back. I didn't want them to just "bink" back after the first adventure was over, so I found a way to ensure they'd need to stop in the town where the latter adventure took place, so that was all set. (Piddilink Dundernoggin had a cousin who ran a potion shop in the capital city of Kordovia, and asked the PCs if they'd drop him off some supplies on the way to their adventure and pick up some potions from him on the way back.) But while I was at it, I wanted to do some filling in of Slayer's background.

    We had already determined that Slayer was born into an orc tribe and was now an adventurer, but there was very little else in his history to explain anything about him. Again, this wasn't unusual, given that this whole campaign hadn't started as much more than a series of unconnected dungeon crawls with little in the way of character history or development. I thought now would be a good time to try to change this a bit.

    By this time, we had been playing this campaign for about three years, which would put Jacob at around 11 years old. He was already regretting naming his character "Slayer," and asked if he could rename him "Galrich." I said sure, and suggested that "Galrich" (pronounced "GAL-rick," not "GAL-ritch," by the way) was the Orcish word for "Slayer," and that his human mother had died while giving birth to him, hence the name. So Jacob's half-orc barbarian was renamed Galrich Slayer, and he answered to either name.

    I told Jacob that I was working on an adventure or two that would feature some elements from Galrich's history, and asked him to come up with the following:
    • The name of the orc tribe Galrich had been born into.
    • The name of an orcish bully who had always tormented Galrich when they were growing up together.

    Jacob did exceptionally well, coming up not only with "The Tribe of the Bloody Hand" for the former and "Brogek" for the latter, but also a plausible explanation for why the tribe got that name: they leave the bloody hand prints of elven victims on trees to mark the bounds of their territory, and nail severed elven hands to trees to mark the locations of their campsites.

    So I created a little backstory for Galrich and emailed it to Jacob for his approval. I suggested that Galrich had been picked on during his whole life in the tribe for bearing the "taint" of human blood from his mother. The others called him "Half Human" and constantly ganged up on him, beating him to a bloody pulp in six-to-one fights, since he grew to be so much bigger and stronger than the others that they didn't dare fight him fairly, one against one.

    There was a manhood ritual in the tribe, wherein the teenaged orc candidates were sent out alone into the forest to survive on their own for a week. Those that returned alive were welcomed back into the tribe as full adults, and those who returned with the heads of elf victims were afforded great status as brave warriors. When it came time for the manhood ritual of Galrich, Brogek, and their peers, Galrich headed off in one direction by himself and never returned. Screw the manhood ritual; this was his chance to escape the tribe and see the world for himself. He discovered a human city, met up with a human named Cal Trop who accepted him as an equal, and they started adventuring together.

    Jacob approved of Galrich's new history, so I informed him that the map Rale had found led to a mountain chain to the north, and that to get there they'd have to pass through the Vesve Forest, where the seminomadic Tribe of the Bloody Hand had lived when Slayer had grown up amongst their number. If Feron was going to be going on this adventure and they met up with Galrich's old tribe, her life would be in serious danger. That was all it took; Jacob decided he'd be running Galrich Slayer through "Ex Keraptis Cum Amore," so he'd be in the group when I sprung a little mini-adventure on them while they were traveling to their adventure site.

    I won't write this up as a bit of fiction, since it's really just a single combat encounter on a forest road (using the foldout map from "Fields of Ruin" that I've mentioned I'm so fond of), and I have no recollection as to who specifically was fighting who. (If you've noticed, I'm usually pretty generic in my combat descriptions of adventures that I write up many years after I ran them.) But the gist of it is this: the group is traveling by horseback through the Vesve Forest when Galrich, on point, spots first a bloody hand print on a rock by the side of the trail, indicating they're in Bloody Hand territory, then the severed hand of an elf nailed to a tree, indicating that there's a Bloody Hand campsite nearby, hopefully of just a hunting party and not the whole tribe, which numbered around 80 orcs back in Galrich's day. As they round a bend in the trail, several arrows come streaking their way - it's an ambush by a Bloody Hand hunting party, led by none other than Brogek astride a dire boar. Four other orcs are with him, riding horses. When Brogek recognizes Galrich, he calls out to him disdainfully, belittling him for failing his manhood test, whereas Brogek has risen to importance within the tribe. He believes the boar to be his totem animal and demonstrates his powers by assuming a half-orc, half-boar shape. (Years ago he was bitten by a wereboar and survived; it's this affinity with boars that allows him to ride a dire boar as a willing mount.)

    The other orcs continue shooting arrows at the group until the spells start flying, at which point they decide to close with the party. (Several of them call "Dibs!" on Feron once they see her elven heritage.) The PCs fight them off successfully, and Slayer kills not only Brogek but his dire boar as well, his silver greatsword aiding him greatly in the former endeavor. Then the PCs loot the bodies, leave them contemptuously where they fell, and continue on to the north, following Rale's map to the mountains.
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    ADVENTURE 42 - EX KERAPTIS CUM AMORE

    PC Roster:
    Cal Trop, human cleric of Kord
    Feron Dru, half-elf druid
    Galrich Slayer, half-orc barbarian
    Telgrane, human conjurer

    Binked in:
    Akari, elven paladin of Hieroneous

    "Ex Keraptis Cum Amore" is a sequel of sorts to the "White Plume Mountain" module of D&D's early days. It was written by Andy Miller and appeared in Dungeon #77. While written for AD&D, I found it relatively easy to convert to D&D 3.5, and I got to use some "original" creatures that I had greatly missed thus far in 3.0/3.5, like piercers. The plotline was simple: maps to the dungeon had been seeded all over to lure adventurers to gather the three pieces of a powerful artifact that would prove to be beneficial to an undead being calling himself the legendary Keraptis who dwelt on an extradimensional plane. A "good" undead lairs in the dungeon as well, guarding the pieces from being disturbed. I liked the adventure because it had numerous illustrations to be shown to the players as "this is what your PCs see" handouts, it had some interesting foes and a good selection of monsters, and it was a true old-school dungeon crawl of a type I hadn't run recently.

    One memorable incident was Telgrane's use of a line that has since been forbidden to utter by my group without immediate recrimination. Telgrane was a conjurer with the stated goal of eventually exploring the Elemental Plane of Fire, and thus had a wide selection of fire-based spells available (as well as Infernia, his Small fire elemental familiar). When faced with a pair of mummies he stepped forward, ahead of the group, and stated smugly, "I've got this," confident that the mummies' vulnerability to flames would prove to be their immediate undoing. Well, he was partially right: the wall of fire he cast in front of them did destroy them all; however, it also released the vampiric mists that had been magically held within the mummies. The mists were immune to fire, drained enough blood out of the smug conjurer that his Constitution score dropped to the low single digits, and he had to "bink" back to Headquarters to save his life. It turned out that Telgrane didn't "got this" after all. Akari "binked" to the group to replace Telgrane, and thus he finished this adventure in Telgrane's place.

    This was not a good adventure for Telgrane. Earlier, after carefully traversing past a deep pit with green slime in the bottom, Telgrane came afoul of a fear effect from one of the undead denizens of the dungeon and went fleeing back down the tunnel, falling straight into the green slime pit in his haste. He almost didn't make it out alive from there; only a quick rescue from the pit by the others and his familiar's ability to burn the slime from his body kept him from dying.

    The group found all three of the pieces to the artifact, but opted to keep them as separate items. Cal still has the gem of seeing, which he uses frequently. Feron has the stone of life, which she has yet to use to this day, but it's sitting in her Heward's handy haversack somewhere. And Telgrane has the wand of shooting stars. He's frustrated, because he desperately wanted the three pieces put together to form the artifact (which their map calls the "rod of the gods" and which Telgrane believes simply has to be more powerful than the crappy wand he got stuck with - it only works underground, for one thing; Telgrane disparagingly calls it his "sparkly wand" and only used it once before putting it away in disgust). Cal, ever the suspicious one, cast a divination spell on whether or not assembling the wand was a good idea, and did it between sessions so I could craft up a suitable rhyming prophetic verse about what they could expect if they assembled it, which further convinced everyone (except Telgrane, who's willing to take his chances) that assembling the rod of the gods is not an avenue they want to pursue. Which, in a way, is kind of a shame, because I've been carrying around a synopsis of what happens if they assemble it, along with the initiative cards of the monsters involved, and the miniatures of the monsters involved - two of which I purchased specifically for use with this adventure - for literally years now.

    This was our 42nd adventure. As I type this up, our most recent adventure was #63, and Logan finally had enough with this stupid wand of Telgrane's. For one thing, Telgrane just took his first level in archmage, and he'd like to buy a robe of the archmage but is a little short on funds. So in yesterday's game, he asked if the group was ever going to assemble the three pieces to the rod of the gods, because if they weren't, he was going to sell his piece. The rest of the group held their ground, so it looks like I'm never going to get to run the very tail end of this adventure after all.

    Oh well, I've already written another adventure that will make use of the two minis I bought for this adventure, that have yet to see the light of day in our campaign. But they won't get to see any campaign use until adventure #65, the adventure after the adventure I run next.

    In the meantime, the "good" undead was a baelnorn named Daestas, which I only mention because he'll make another appearance much later in the campaign. The PCs destroyed him, but as a lich variant, when they failed to destroy his phylactery they allowed him to eventually reform and start trying to track them down. (He'll show up again in adventure #61; it seems I have an unfortunate tendency to allow plot hooks to wait around in the wings for a good long time.)

    After successfully completing this adventure, the PCs started making their way back home, passing through the town in the small kingdom of Kordovia where Dundernoggin's cousin had a potion shop. They took a day to rest up there, which allowed Akari to "bink" back to Guild Headquarters so Telgrane could go through the next adventure; Logan was determined to increase Telgrane's levels, since at the time he was tied with Chalkan for the lowest-level PC in Wing Three.
    Last edited by Richards; Sunday, 21st July, 2013 at 10:16 PM.
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    ADVENTURE 43 - VAULT OF THE IRON OVERLORD

    PC Roster:
    Cal Trop, human cleric of Kord
    Feron Dru, half-elf druid
    Galrich Slayer, half-orc barbarian
    Telgrane, human conjurer

    "Vault of the Iron Overlord" was module #50 of Goodman Games' "Dungeon Crawl Classics" line. Written by Monte Cook and Søren Keis Thustrup, it had a cool dungeon feature: the Vault of Rings was made up of three concentric rings around a circular center, all of which could be moved by various methods from inside the dungeon. The whole thing was to have been a "training ground" on the proper running of the Kingdom for the next heir to the throne, but the king and queen are both slain without heirs, and the magic item, the scepter of succession - which will indicate who the next rightful ruler is to be - is stored at the center of the Vault of Rings. The PCs are hired to enter the Vault of Rings, fetch the scepter of succession, and return it to a grateful kingdom.

    I used the actual dungeon pretty much as-is, but I changed a lot of the background information. I didn't like the name of the kingdom, as I felt "Eslan" sounded too much like "Aslan," the eponymous lion from "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" - so I changed the kingdom to Kordovia. In the module, the king and queen are slain on the same night; for reasons that will become apparent later on, I changed that to the queen having died two decades before, and the king putting all of his efforts (and a great deal of the kingdom's treasury) into the completion of the Vault of Rings; he never remarried, has no heirs, and thus the need for a group to penetrate the Vault of Rings remains intact.

    Finally, the temporary regent, Lord Niel Hammersh, had a name that seemed incomplete, so I made it Lord Niel Hammershard. And I added another dignitary, Lord Targus Vandergrotten, as a schemer in the politics of the kingdom. I also wrote a quick section to the beginning of the module and another to the end. So this will be a weird little writeup, as I think I'll do the parts I added as fiction and leave the actual adventure pretty much undescribed, for the benefit of those who will eventually run through the module themselves. (It is a pretty cool adventure.)

    - - -

    Having successfully returned to the volcanic mountain range where the group left Old Clem, Fang, and the horses, it was a simple matter to retrace the path back to the small kingdom of Kordovia. Piddilink Dundernoggin’s cousin, Winkidew Dundernoggin, seemed pleased to inform the group that the elixirs of love that Piddilink commissioned were ready to go, and the little gnome handed them over to Feron carefully, each in a felt sleeve to help prevent breakage.

    "Hey, while you’re here," mentioned the gnome, "I heard tell that Lord Hammershard's looking for experienced adventurers. Piddilink speaks highly of you guys – maybe you should go check it out." Winkidew gave them directions to the castle and the group decided to check out the situation while they were there.

    Lord Niel Hammershard seemed a pleasant fellow. He informed the adventurers that their ruler, King Arsidan, died three days ago, after the group had left the kingdom to head up to the volcanic mountains to the north. As his wife, Queen Kathenta, had died many years earlier and there was no heir to the throne, there was currently no direct descendant to automatically assume control of the kingdom. Fortunately, he explained, Kordovia had a magical scepter of succession that would point out the next legitimate ruler of Kordovia. The scepter was a minor artifact said to show the will of the gods in the matter of the lawful rulership of the kingdom. In the meantime, Lord Hammershard was acting as Temporary Regent.

    Unfortunately, in the past several years, King Arsidan had become increasingly concerned about his eventual successor, and had a mighty Vault of Rings constructed, inside which the scepter of succession was placed. No one but the king and the artisans who constructed the Vault of Rings knew of the details of its construction, but it was said to be a series of concentric rings, with the scepter stored in the very center. Allegedly, the intended successor would learn much about the kingdom’s history and the lessons of good rulership while traveling through the Vault of Rings. In the past two days, three separate groups of adventurers had entered the Vault of Rings to retrieve the scepter of succession, and thus far none had returned.

    Lord Hammershard offered each adventurer 2,000 pieces of gold from the kingdom's treasury if they could enter the Vault of Rings and bring the scepter of succession back to him. In addition, they would be free to keep any items they found in the Vault of Rings that weren’t from the treasury itself, housed in the central section of the Vault. Cal agreed on behalf of the group and said they'd give it their best shot.

    As Lord Hammershard was explaining all of this to the group, a sour-faced wizard in black and purple robes entered the audience chamber and scowled at the adventurers. "So, these are the latest bumblers you’re sending into the Vault, Hammershard?" he sneered. "I doubt they’ll fare any better than our own home-grown, so-called 'adventurers,' especially if they count among their number a mongrel orc like this one! I say enough of this nonsense – I’m the logical choice to rule this nation. It would be best to just declare me the next king and be done with it!"

    Lord Hammershard, naturally, refused to go along with the wizard's plan, and made arrangements for the group to be taken to the Vault of Rings and have its sole entrance unlocked for them. Before they left, however, Vandergrotten took Cal aside, under the guise of wishing them luck. "Listen," he said in a hushed voice. "I know that old fool Hammershard has offered you, what, 2,000 gold apiece if you return with the scepter? Well, there’s an extra thousand in it for you if, when you return, you bring the scepter to me instead of to him. I don’t trust him; I'd like to be able to examine the scepter myself to make sure there’s nothing...untoward going on with it. Just have a page take you to Lord Torgus Vandergrotten upon your return, and you'll be well rewarded." Cal gave a noncommittal grunt that Vandergrotten seemed to take as an affirmation, for the wizard spun on his heels and exited the chamber.

    With that, the group was ushered over to the Vault of Rings, and a dwarven guard took a keyring from his belt and unlocked a door set into a small stone building in an out-of-the-way corner of the castle's courtyard. "Good luck to ye," he said, opening the door and waving them inside. "Just knock when ye get back; one of us is on station here at all times." Cal led the way through the doorway and down the stairs that led to the Vault, and the dwarven guard closed and locked the door behind them.

    - - -

    [The PCs make their way through the three rings of the Vault and into the central treasury, where they do indeed find the scepter of succession. They return to the entrance, pound on the door, and are greeted by another dwarven guardsman, pleased to see the group's success. He fetches a page to deliver the group - and the scepter - to Lord Hammershard.]

    - - -

    A large gathering crowded into the largest audience chamber of the castle, everyone eager to see who the kingdom’s next ruler would be. Lord Hammershard, the Temporary Regent of Kordovia, seemed just as eager to proceed, perhaps wanting to pass the responsibility of running the kingdom to its new legitimate king or queen. He motioned for silence, and the crowd’s murmurings ceased.

    "Fellow citizens of Kordovia," he intoned, "We are gathered here today to seek the will of the gods as to who the next rightful ruler of this small nation shall be. At this time, we acknowledge the kind assistance granted to us by these proud adventurers from the Kingdom of Greyhawk, many leagues to the south of us, who risked their very lives to retrieve the scepter of succession from the Vault of Rings, placed there by our own King Arsidan, may he rest in peace."

    "May he rest in peace," intoned the crowd in unison – although Cal noticed that Lord Vandergrotten failed to reply, his black scowl expressing his desire to just get on with it.

    "Gods of light, show us the next lawful ruler of Kordovia!" called out Lord Hammershard, then swung the scepter behind him and tossed it underhand up into the air. Every eye was upon it as it tumbled end over end on its way up, then it seemed to hover motionless in the air for a brief moment at the apex of its arc – and then, surprisingly, it made a beeline straight into Galrich's hands! The startled half-orc grabbed it, then looked over at Cal with a look of confusion on his face.

    "What treachery is this?" thundered Lord Vandergrotten. "How convenient that one of the low-born adventurers who retrieved the scepter is suddenly indicated as our next ruler? And a gods-be-damned orc at that? This will not stand, Hammershard! It’s obviously a feeble attempt to grab rulership of a nation by an unworthy – uh, what in the...?"

    Lord Vandergrotten’s rant was cut suddenly short as a ghostly figure materialized in the middle of the audience chamber. It was a slight woman, dressed in tattered rags of deerskin. "Please forgive the intrusion, my loyal subjects," she said, "But I will not take up too much of your time."

    "Your Majesty!” cried Lord Hammershard, quickly dropping to one knee. The rest of the crowd belatedly followed suit, amidst startled cries of "It's Queen Kathenta!" Lord Vandergrotten looked shocked – perhaps too shocked to genuflect as the others around him did.

    "I, who have been dead these many years, have been granted this boon by the Gods Above, to appear to you now in your hour of greatest need," continued Queen Kathenta. "I wish there to be no fighting amongst factions, and no doubting, for standing before you is indeed your future king...my son, Galrich." Galrich stared at the ghostly woman with a mouth hanging open in shock.

    "As most of you know, I went missing and was presumed dead when my carriage was attacked in the Vesve Forest on my way to visit my ailing mother these many years ago. I know King Arsidan spent many long months searching for me, and was eventually convinced of my death when so much time had passed and no ransom demands were ever sent.

    "My carriage was attacked by a band of orcs, and I was carried away as a trophy. I, who entered this life as a commoner and was elevated as a young woman to the level of Queen by the love of good King Arsidan, spent my last year of life as slave to a brute of an orc in a tribe of barbarians. Eventually, some twenty years ago, I died in childbirth, bringing my only son, Galrich, into this world."

    She turned to face the astonished half-orc, who at this point had his head lowered and was muttering to himself, "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry..." in a quiet voice. "Galrich, I deeply regret I was not there for you during the terrible days of your childhood, but rest assured I have watched you from the heavens above, and I could not be any prouder of the way you turned out. You have taken the strength and fierceness of the orc race and put it to good use. Twice already, you have held back the forces of evil that were ready to overcome this very world and remake it in their own twisted image.

    "Citizens of Kordovia, by the will of the gods, my son Galrich will be your next king. And he will be a good king, and a wise king...but only when the time is right for him to take on the mantle of king. My son, you have lived the life of an adventurer, and performed a great many deeds, but I must tell you now that the time has not come for you to retire to the Kingdom of Kordovia and live out the rest of your days as ruler. The gods have many more tasks for you in the days and years ahead, tasks in which you will serve much more than a mere kingdom, but rather this whole world itself. You will know when it is time for you to return to Kordovia and assume the crown. In the meantime, I would ask you, Lord Hammershard, to continue on as Regent, until such time as Galrich is ready to relieve you of your burden." Lord Hammershard nodded his agreement with tears in his eyes at the sight of his beloved queen.

    "Alas, my subjects, my time here among you is now spent. I return now to the heavens, where I am once again reunited with my dear husband, King Arsidan. Live your lives well, and peace be with you all. And you, my son," she said, reaching out to Galrich, "May you continue to make me proud. I will be watching...."

    And with those final words, the ghost of Queen Kathenta was gone.

    A complete and total silence covered the crowded audience chamber. Everyone turned and stared at Galrich, still holding the scepter of succession at his side and unsure what to do or say. Everyone was still on one knee, and it was slightly comical as the crowd scooted around on one knee to face their new half-orc liege. Everyone, that is, but Lord Vandergrotten, who stood there in silent fury, muttering under his breath.

    Then, just as suddenly as she had disappeared, the ghost of Queen Kathenta returned, only this time she looked furious. "Are you all serious?" she demanded. "That was a test of your worthiness – a test most of you have failed miserably! Do you really think the Kingdom of Kordovia should be ruled by a gods-be-damned orc, of all things? Lord Hammershard, I am disgusted by your apparent willingness to give a savage, subhuman beast the keys to our kingdom! You are summarily dismissed from this realm – be gone from its borders by midnight, never to return! Lord Targus Vandergrotten, by the decree of the Gods Above, you shall be our next king, effective immedi--"

    That was as far as she got, because Cal noticed Vandergrotten's lips moving during "Queen Kathenta's" second speech, and summarily punched the wizard in the gut with the full force of a cleric of Kord, God of Strength. Vandergrotten doubled over in pain, and his illusion spell froze up when he was unable to concentrate on it. The image of Queen Kathenta stood unmoving, then winked out in mid-sentence.

    "Nice try, Vandergrotten!" sneered Cal. Lord Hammershard called forth the dwarven guard, and had the wizard taken away in chains. He was to be placed in a special antimagic cell to prevent him from doing any further mischief until he could be sentenced for attempting to violate the will of the gods and assume the mantle of King of Kordovia for himself. He was unable to put up much of a fight, as he was still doubled over in pain from Cal's gut-punch. The assembled crowd threw boos and catcalls his way as he was dragged off in disgrace.

    With that unpleasantness finished, Lord Hammershard invited the group to spend as much time as they liked in the castle. He offered to tell Galrich (whom he referred to as "Your Majesty") everything he knew about his mother, the late Queen Kathenta. Furthermore, while his stated intention was to honor Queen Kathenta’s wishes and allow Galrich to return to his adventuring career, he insisted upon sending one of the elite dwarven castle guards with him as a personal bodyguard. Aerik Battershield stepped forward from the ranks and was assigned as Galrich’s personal bodyguard, entrusted with keeping Galrich safe until such time as he returned to Kordovia to assume the crown as king.

    - - -

    And that was pretty much the turning point in this campaign. I had turned a beer-and-pretzels series of unconnected dungeon crawls into a full-fledged campaign pretty much with this adventure. Everyone at the table was astonished ("gobsmacked" might be a better word) at the turn of events. Jacob, of course, was thrilled at the idea that he was getting a kingdom of his own to run, but I informed him that he would assume leadership of Kordovia exactly at the very end of this campaign, once everyone was at 20th level and we decided to retire it and start a new campaign up with 1st-level PCs. Vicki's reaction was funny; she was as shocked as everyone else at the revelation, but her first words to Galrich (as Feron, once the PCs were alone again) were, "Well, don't expect me to call you 'Your Majesty!'"

    Aerik became our first adventurer NPC (Old Clem was used frequently, but he always stayed with the horses), who accompanied Galrich on all of his adventures and whose main concern was for his liege's safety. We started out allowing Jacob to run both Galrich and Aerik. but he seldom wanted Aerik to put himself in harm's way to protect Galrich, so we eventually had Dan and Logan take turns running Aerik. Once Jacob saw the way of things, he took ownership of Aerik again and started running him true to the dwarf's character.
    Last edited by Richards; Monday, 26th May, 2014 at 03:02 AM.
    Check out some of my unpublished "Ecology" articles over on the Story Hour forum.
    Chuul | Destrachan | Elven Cat | Giant Beaver | Giant Water Spider | Grey Render | Grick | Gulguthydra | Kobold | Winter Wolf
    Death KissNew Monster Hunters story!

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    ADVENTURE 44 - REVENGE OF THE BLOODY HAND

    PC Roster:
    Cal Trop, human cleric of Kord
    Feron Dru, half-elf druid
    Galrich Slayer, half-orc barbarian
    Telgrane, human conjurer

    NPC Roster:
    Aerik Battershield, dwarven fighter

    This was a short follow-up to "Tribe of the Bloody Hand," where Galrich Slayer got to slay the orc who had picked on him the most when they were both growing up in the tribe. It used the same forest road map (the foldout that had come with "Fields of Ruin") in which the previous "Bloody Hand" adventure had taken place, and the main story was that while the PCs had been going through their last two adventures, the rest of the Tribe had found the slain orcs the PCs had left where they fell, and were looking for some revenge.

    When the PCs traveled back through the Vesve Forest on the way back to Greyhawk City, they heard drums beating. Galrich recognized them as orcish drums, a means by which messages could be sent great distances. It took a bit of effort on his part to recall what the drum-beats meant, but he finally pieced the message together to read: "Half-human monster, return to the location of your recent butchering and face the leader in combat." When the PCs showed up, they faced the current leader of the Bloody Hand, an enormous orc chieftain named Jorrak, plus three of his lieutenants and a troll ranger allied with the Tribe. The orcs were all mounted on stolen horses.

    It was basically just one big battle with four very high-level orc barbarians (and a troll ranger straight from the Monster Manual), and the end result was as expected: Galrich killed Jorrak, while the others took care of the troll and the other three orcs. (Infernia was very useful in fighting the troll, as might be expected.) During the battle, I had Jorrak say something to the effect that he should have killed Slayer when he was born and saved himself all this trouble, hinting that Jorrak was indeed Slayer's father (and thus responsible for the kidnapping, slavery, and eventual death of Queen Kathenta, Galrich's mother), but I'm not sure if Jacob picked up on that. But in any case, the battle went well, they looted the orc (and troll) bodies, and left them to rot at the side of the road just like they had with Brogek and his band. The Tribe of the Bloody Hand would likely end up in a civil war of sorts as its stronger members determined who the new ruler would be, but the PCs weren't interested in hunting down the rest of the Bloody Hand and exacting retribution any further, as those directly responsible for Slayer's miserable childhood and the death of his mother had been dealt with.

    I had Jacob roll a series of DC 12 Intelligence checks for Slayer to figure out the drum message; in each case I had a success give him a word or phrase of the message exactly as intended, and a failure meant he came up with the wrong word or phrase. He liked that part of it, and in fact I think he really enjoyed the fact that Galrich was in the spotlight (and in a good way) for the majority of the past few adventures.
    Check out some of my unpublished "Ecology" articles over on the Story Hour forum.
    Chuul | Destrachan | Elven Cat | Giant Beaver | Giant Water Spider | Grey Render | Grick | Gulguthydra | Kobold | Winter Wolf
    Death KissNew Monster Hunters story!

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