13th Age storytime (updated 12-12-2014)

SteveC

Doing the best imitation of myself
Update (12-12-14): Session 5 is live.

As always, comments and questions are welcomed.!


Hi everyone,
I've been running a game of 13th Age at my FLGS (Pegasus Games in Madison Wisconsin, if you're curious) and I've been putting together a thread on my blog where I tell the story of the game and sometimes muse about the game system as well. I am running Shadows of Eldoran, which is from the fine folks at Pelegrane Press and you can get it here. If you're interested, talk to your FLGS about it, since I just received my print copy and so it is likely to be going into distribution shortly.

As of this writing, I have sessions one and two completed, and I'll be posting official updates every two weeks. Feel free to make comments and ask questions about the game or game system. I'll answer those in the mean time. Heck if you're in the area and interested in playing, talk to me about it as well. We have room for at least one more player.

This post is going to be about the characters in the game. The actual first session post will have more details about them, but I figured I would present them to you.

The characters are all first level, and will remain so for the first adventure. This is going to stress test the level one character viability of the system.

Currently they are:

  • Molechai Fogwizzle, a gnome Necromancer. Molechai walks the razor's edge between being a hero and a villain. I have no idea if he's going to fall off the edge. The Necromancer is from 13 True Ways and is a combination summoning/spellcasting character. How well will this balance? We'll see.
  • Auris, a forgeborn Commander. Auris has a very unusual background that involves the Underkraken. More about that in his proper introduction, though. So the Commander is the Warlord-esque character, also from 13 True Ways. I liked this class in theory, we'll see how it holds up in practice, especially at low levels.
  • Alarendel, a human Paladin. Okay, at last a normal character. Almost. Alarendel is struggling with a secret: he is actually a vampire. We're still working out how this is going to play out, so this character may change a lot as the game progresses. This is a character with a tortured past that's trying to do right and save themselves from the pit. If you're counting, that makes two of them in the game. I wonder if this game should be called Diabolist-bound.
  • Dragur, a human multiclassed Wizard | Occultist. So the last character is one of the most complicated you can play. The Occultist is a class that there can be only one of in the entire campaign world (and also from 13 True Ways), so of course the player wanted to multiclass with it to be even more complex. The Occultist is interesting in that they are based on acting off-turn using interrupts. We'll see how that works for them.

That's the group, so I'll have my next post be about the game's first session.

One of the things I use for the campaign is Sly Flourish's Icon Roll Benefits. You can look at that here.

Another thing: the stories of the campaign start out being written about in my blog. You can read one session ahead by looking at 20OnTheDie.

As part of what I do when I'm posting here, I parse the initial article for issues with grammar, formatting and accuracy, so there may be a little roughness to the blog posts, but you can keep ahead of things there.

Please let me know if you have comments or questions about the adventure or 13th Age in general
 
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SteveC

Doing the best imitation of myself
13 Age Game Notes: Session 1 -- Arrival at Endoran

Arrival
So here was our first session. A quick note: When I specifically talk mechanics, I'll format thingslike so.

The session started with the group telling me how the met and would get together. One of the things I really don't like about how a lot of RPGs start is that the group meets for the first time in a tavern, and so has no reason to stay together. Rather than make something up for them, I said "why do you know each other." With the exception of Dragur, who's player arrived later, we came up with something. I had something special planned for him in any case, so I knew how he would be introduced.

Eldolan

The game is set in the city of Eldolan, some 15 mile north of the Archmage’s capital of Horizon. The Archmage is the most powerful wizard in the world, and Horizon is home to the three biggest school’s of wizardry anywhere. It’s a sort of Hogwarts where the muggles know that magic exists.

Eldolan has all of the aspects of a university town that’s been around for centuries: the school effectively runs things, and if you’re not affiliated with it, or useful to it, you’re lower than dirt. That doesn't mean it’s not a nice place to live: advanced plumbing and sewage, well lit streets (lit by magical crystals that a guild of “useful” people operate), access to the best of everything from all over the world.

There are three primary schools of magic in town: the Eldritch Masters, a flashy and dramatic school filled with pretentious elves, Mithril, a school of enchanters and magic-tech gear heads, and the Arcanists of the Hidden Veil, the goth and emo casters who hope to see the truth beyond the illusory veil behind reality.

The adventure really didn't focus a lot on the schools, but once Dragur presented me his Occultist character, I knew I had to take advantage of his "shaping the hidden forces of the true reality" in terms of involvement with the school.

One of the things I like about this adventure is that it gives you a lot of detail that might or might not be useful. In this case, the Hidden Veil is going to be very important. And it's Headmaster is a gnome, which fit one of the characters backgrounds perfectly. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.


The Characters Meet
That’s the setting for our adventure in very broad terms. Let’s talk about our heroes protagonists.

First there is Molechai Fogwizzle, a gnome necromancer. (See: he's a gnome! Power to the red-caps).

Molechai grew up a poor urchin on the streets of Eldolan. He was going to have a very bad end and a short life when Jarin, headmaster of the Arcanists of the Hidden Veil and fellow gnome, discovered him. Jarin saw potential in the young gnome, and started to mentor him, before Molechai discovered a tome of dark magic in a long forgotten vault beneath the school’s library, and started to serve the Lich King. Soon afterwards, he left Eldoran to join the dark one-eyed master.

Molechai might have ended up as a villain in a low level adventure path, but for the fact that the Lich King’s servants look upon gnomes with utter disdain. A few years passed, and he started to see that the glass ceiling for gnomes was very low in the undead court, so low that his red cap wouldn't fit on his head under it.

Continuing to explore where he should not, Molechai found information about an ancient dwarfish vault from an earlier Age, and set about setting up a kingdom for himself, where gnomes were welcome to be the CEO, president, and Commander in Chief.

It did not go well. It seems that this ancient vault was considered the property of the King of the Dwarves. Funny thing that, but pretty much everything under the earth is considered his property, but this vault, once opened attracted immediate attention, as it had relics of the last great war with the Underkraken.

As a part of his investigations, Molechai was cautious and careful threw caution to the wind, and activated what he thought was a stone golem. He was wrong. The “fall of underkraken nemesis vault 18” as it would be known to the dwarves left only Molechai and his new friend Auric alive.

Auric does not know what he truly is. He is a mechanical construct, but also has living components. He can attack with a whirlwind of spiked tentacles, (!!!) but also strangely influence the minds of those around him. Mechanically he is a forgeborn Commander. His story is going to be a particularly strange one, and his activation according to some, may herald the beginning of the end of the Age.

Auric's player meant for his character to be a 'work in progress', meaning he would gradually come into greater power. He asked me to roll for stats, and I allowed it, telling him that if he rolled less than average (which he did) I'd gradually let him be repaired so as to be at his full function. Magic items and Auric are largely going to be upgrades or repairs to his body.

Auric's background involves the Underkraken, which are dark powers with a C'thulu like nature. So I guess they're going to be a part of the campaign. The group can thank Auric for this, I suppose. The thing is, the Underkraken and their minions are meant to be an Epic level threat, so it will be a long time before they show up. Unless their GM is a real bastard that is.


While lying as low as possible as a gnome and a nine foot tall golem creature can in Axis, the capitol of the Dragon Empire, when he received a message by squirrel. Squirrels are the typical magical messengers of gnomes in the way that Owls or Ravens are for wizards. The squirrel dropped of his message, grabbed a few nuts, and went off

I asked the group how gnome wizards communicated and was told by squirrel. So squirrels it is.

Molechai’s former master from years past had a vision of the city of Eldoran being menaced by dark, shambling forces. In his vision, he was looking through the eyes of some sort of creature who stalked through the streets, dimming the lights wherever they went. Finally, the vision turned a corner to reveal: Molechai. Jarin didn’t know what this vision ultimately meant, but he took the chance to reach out to his friend and asked him to come back and look into it. The two of them could surely determine what the slow, shuffling evil meant for the city and put a stop to it.

Having no immediate prospects, and wanting to put as much distance between himself and the Dwarf King, Molechai and Auric set out for Eldolan.

Along the way, the duo came upon a curious sight: a dark and brooding paladin. The two were about to get into trouble with some of the Crusader’s soldiers when Alarendel drove them off. The Crusaders men are evil, but even they respect a Paladin. Alarendel did not speak much, and seems to have a more than slightly sinister story behind him, what with the tiny bat wings and all.

Right now, Alarendel is one of the most straightforward characters: a paladin, but he has a dark secret: he's a vampire! Man, this group is getting dark. Alarendel's player told me this character is going to be having a story about redemption, so maybe we have a good guy after all. Maybe. Remember, this group is nicknamed "Diabolist Bound."

At present,
Alarendel is a work in progress. We're working on whether being a vampire is a Unique Thing, a Race or even a Class. As such, this character may change ... a lot.


When Molechai decided to talk about where they were going, Alarendel surprised them by offering to accompany the duo, which was starting to look like a trio at this point.

A Roadside Encounter
And so the group continued along the road, until they had an odd encounter..

A coach approached them, pulled by four coal black horses with one glowing red eye each. Their other eye had been gouged out … clearly the sign of the Lich King.

Serving as the coachman was a most unusual creature: dressed as a jester with rich court finery that sadly had seen better days, the skeletal figure beckoned Molechai forward.

Molechai’s guardian, a skeletal dog, growled, intent on protecting his master.

“That’s a good boy,” the skeleton quipped, and broke off a piece of his own arm, throwing it at the dog to catch.

Molechai’s dog slowly took it all in, trying to consider what to do. (He’s a skeleton, and none too bright).

“It’s okay, go get it boy!” Molechai patted him on the head and let him go get his new favorite thing in the world. While the dog was playing with his new prize, Molechai stepped up to the coach and regarded the coachman. Coming closer, Molechai noticed that the air temperature dropped at least ten degrees, giving a chill in the early autumn air. The horses breath could clearly be seen as they snorted at him.

“Smilin’ Jack, here m-boy! Have something for you.” And with a dramatic flourish, he presented Molechai with a wrapped present. Clearly at one time this had been a kingly gift, but the wrapping had suffered from years of abuse, and the bow that was tied on to it looked as if it would disintegrate when touched, which it promptly did. With the gift was a note, which Molechai examined. It read:

Hey short stuff! Long time no-see. All is forgiven. See you soon.
Hugs and Kisses,
--V

The gift inside was a strange book.

With that, Smilin’ Jack spurred the horses onward, and the coach thundered past the group and back towards Axis.

“What just happened?” asked Alarendel. WIth no easy answer, the Paladin wondered what he had gotten himself into, but at the same time, it seemed like the path he was walking was a part of his strange life.

smilin.gif

Not just for Savage Worlds anymore!

This was the use of an iconic influence. One character a session can use influence with an icon to get a magic item. Molechai has a conflicted relationship with the Lich King as he left his service. I used this to show that his old master is still interested in his future. And yes, Smilin' Jack made an appearance from Savage Worlds. I wanted an NPC the group would soundly dislike.

The group continued on to Eldoran.

Dragur's Shadow has a Night out
Where, the night before, Dragur was resting the sleep of the just in the Halls of the Hidden Veil. Dragur had a secret. Strictly speaking, actually, he had many secrets. The one that was relevant here was that, like many wizards, he had a familiar. Unlike any other wizard, however, that familiar was his own shadow. Sometimes talking to his own shadow made him fit right in with the other Veil Wizards. In fact, his secret knowledge of things man was not meant to know kept him in good stead with the Master of the Hidden Veil: Jarin.

Dragur is going to be a very complicated character in play, but I loved his One Unique Thing: as a multiclass wizard | occultist he can have a familiar. He wanted his familiar to be his own shadow, which as an Occultist he has powers over. Sounded good to me. Additionally, Dragur is going to tie into the group through Jarin. The module begins with the idea that the group is meeting a contact, and suggests one option being it's a PC. So we did it that way.

Sometimes his shadow got bored and went out for a night on the town while his master slept. When he does this, images and reflections of what he experienced are relayed to Dragur in the form of dreams. This night was one of those nights.

Moving through the city, Dragur received scattered images of the town: taverns, restaurants, the lady wizards’ school housing… the normal sorts of things his shadow enjoyed, but at a point it started to focus on a group moving through the Commons. The first thing to note was that it was dark, something not all that unusual for parts of the commons, but in these broad streets there should be light.

Eventually the group, dressed in dark robes (wizards robes?) made their way into a large public square. There were vendor carts and stalls, but this was not a night market: it was clearly shut for the night. In the center was a stairwell that went down to an outlet for the sewers. The figures went down the stairs, some shambling clumsily, and some minutes later two of them returned.

The figures went off, but the shadow continued to follow them. Dragur received bits and pieces which he couldn't quite piece together, but the men eventually went into a large building in the worst part of the Warrens. He didn't know it, but was absolutely certain he would recognize it if he saw it again.

With that, the shadow returned to it’s normal, playful night journeys.

Jarin sets a Meeting and Everyone is Dead Tired
The next morning Jarin approached Dustin and told him that an old associate was coming into town to meet with him about a disturbing vision he had some nights previous. Could he pick him up and bring him to the Halls? Access to the school grounds was restricted and warded, so it would make things much easier if he could escort them.

Dragur agreed and headed down to Hawk’s Square. As he approached, it became obvious that this was the very spot his shadow had shown him last night. “See,” it quipped, “I've always got your back.”

The square was full of people, bustling with activity with merchants buying and selling all manner of goods. Dragur looked around and saw a nine foot tall stone golem on the other side of the square. Given how the day was going, this was doubtless the group he was meeting.

Careful to skirt the stairwell, he approached the group, and there he saw that indeed, much as Jarin had told him, there was a gnome wearing a red cap, busily smoking a pipe. Dustin removed the pipe that Jarin gave him to make contact.

“Pardon me, sir, do you have any of the Old Toby?” The gnome puffed on his pipe and looked up at him.

“Never touch the stuff, it’ll rot your brain.”

And so, the greeting was confirmed. This was his contact. Quickly noting that the gnome had a skeletal dog with him, this was getting curiouser.

I asked the group to make up a greeting that gnomes would know and be able to use as a passphrase for meetings, and that’s what they came up with.

The group spoke about the normal pleasantries, with Dustin eyeing the skeletal dog, who still had Smilin’ Jack’s bone on him. Eventually he asked if the group had just arrived or had been in town last night, somewhat nervously eyeing the dog.

When Molechai told them that they had just arrived, Dragur was relieved. “Okay, then something’s about to happen here, I’m sure of it.”

As they had been talking, and Alarendel was finding that being polite to merchants in a bazaar makes on an immediate target, there was something a commotion from the other side of the square.

Two figures wearing pumpkin head costumes were shuffling into the square. A couple of young wizards took to laughing at their great costumes, but told them that the Autumn Spirit’s Ball wasn't for two weeks yet!

Slowly the figures closed on them, and they took to mocking them for being drunk at this hour of the day, when one of the figures punched a student to the ground, and then other viciously bit and tore at his neck!

Dragur warned them that more would be coming from the sewers as well. Combat was joined!

Highlights of the combat were:

  • Alarendel’s stopping to keep the two students alive despite their grave injuries (har!)
  • Auric's revealing he had a mass of tentacle arms (!!!) that he could whirl and attack with.
  • Dragur's nonchalant attitude for the entire battle. It seemed that anyone coming near him had simply the worst luck, and managed to injure themselves, sometimes fatally.
  • Molechai had the high point of the battle. After his dog was crushed by a fast zombie that lept from the sewer entrance, he took his beloved pup’s bone and threw it at the zombie saying “Smilin’ Jack sends his regards!” The zombie, confused by a shower of magical energy attacked it’s own comrades and eventually allowed itself to be put down.

The battle had ended, and the group wondered what they would do next.

The battle itself took about 90 minutes and lasted 7 rounds. I expect things to pick up significantly as the players become familiar with the engine.

Some of the group used Daily powers that they later regretted. They're a long way from being able to refresh them without giving my badguys a bonus.

I'd have to say that Molechai proved to be the most effective character in this battle: Alarendel largely spent the combat helping people, so he didn't get into the thick of things until later. Auric was in the middle of the fight but doesn't do strong damage at this point, something that we'll see again in the next session.

I really like how Dragur's powers as an Occultist work. He has a very quick turn where he gathers power, and then takes advantage of what happens on other characters turns. Nice. He didn't use a single wizard spell during the battle, and an objective outside view of things would say he didn't do anything.

Molechai had an ability (Control Undead) that changed the end of the battle to a "mop up phase" when he took over the large zombie and had it tear into the others. I ended the fight by fiat soon after.


One special item of note: Alarendel will receive a bonus silver stone for the next game for being a big-damn-hero in the game and helping out the innocent bystanders. Remember: I'm using the alternate Icon awards from Sly Flourish (see here) and this is part of it).

That's where we ended the session. Hope to see you next time.
 
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SteveC

Doing the best imitation of myself
Session 2: The Ratsmasher's Very Bad Day

Session 2: The Ratsmashers Very. Bad. Day.
... or “Watch out for the Purple Haze”

Note: this entry is going to be a long one, but we had a fun session, and I’d love to hear what you think about the direction of the game.

The second session picked up right where we left off: in the middle of Hawk’s Square. One of the survivors who had witnessed the fight, Elsa Whiterose, gave Alarendel quite a bit of information about what had happened. Elsa is a priestess of the Lady of Light, a member of the God’s of Light Pantheon, who runs the Lost Hope Mission in Eldolan’s Warrens or tenement district. Elsa thanked Alarendel for his quick work, as it had doubtless saved the two student’s lives who were initially attacked by the zombies. She also told Alarendel that the bite of a zombie might require attention from a priest of the light to avoid a terrible transformation into undeath and a fall into darkness.

Alarendel was greatly upset by this, and fled the area.

Alarendel was not there for this session, so we got him out of the way with a call to his dark condition.

Elsa Paints a Picture
This is what Elsa told the group:
During the initial attack, she was surprised to recognize two of the attacking undead as recent poor folk who had stayed at the mission: Tolvus Rhys, a middle-aged human man with a bad leg from his years fighting with the legions who had a hard time finding work; and Korack Stoneson, a dwarven drunk who often slept one off at the mission.

She had last seen Tolvus about ten days ago at the Mission. She thinks she remembers seeing Korack about a week ago on the streets. Both Tolvus and Korack lived in the Commons, and both worked (when they could) or begged near the mission.

The poor folk in the area have been talking about folks going missing for the last month, and she had noted a few common faces at the mission were no longer around. Although the mission has a transient population, she was worried enough to report it to the Silver Shields, but they made little effort to find those missing (likely because it didn't concern the schools, and Elsa couldn’t afford to make it worth their trouble). After a half day’s meager search, the Shields concluded that the missing people had "left town."

There was a rumor among the poor that a pair of (human) men had been seen carrying away one of the locals known as “Old Ralph”, even as he yelled and cursed, four days ago from an abandoned building, and that he wasn't the first. Elsa says that she only heard this second-hand, and that you would have to ask around among the poor folk, and especially those on the streets, to learn more.

The group looked around the area and did a little additional research.

In checking the cart with Pumpkins, Auric asked if they were in season. Dragur let them know that they were largely past season, but a lot of them were still being sold for the upcoming Autumn Spirit's Ball. The cart itself was branded with a magical icon that indicated who it’s original distributor was. The group made a note of that.

The cart being set up this way was to remind them how Eldolan uses magic to mimic what we would use technology for today.

Finally the group took a brief look at the sewer area. There was a magical ward that should prevent access to the area by anyone who isn't authorized by the Waterworks guild.

The group had to decide where to go next. Auric wanted to head into the Warrens to find the two men who were obviously behind the placement of the zombies, but both Dragur and Molechai were interested in seeing Jarin, who had set this meeting in motion.

This opening scene is one of the reasons that I really have enjoyed the module itself, since it goes out of the way to detail all sorts of leads that the group could investigate. My group is going to be sidetracked a little with the side mission to contact the Arcanists of the Hidden Veil, but I'm going to put some relevant information in that section, as well as remind some of the group how horrible they are.

Grounds for Discussion
Somewhat reluctantly the decision was made to go to the Grounds and visit the Halls of the Hidden Veil.

To do so, the group had to travel through the Saddle, the home of the merchants and well to do craftsmen. The Saddle got its name because it is a low point between two sets of cliffs: the ones to the west housed the Governs, the seat of authority in the area, while those to the east held the Grounds which hold the three different schools of magic.

To enter the Saddle would normally require a modest amount of coin, but Dragur simply walked through the gates with the guardsmen there giving him scant glances. An amulet he wore glowed briefly as the group passed underneath the gates.

Dragur has an S-Pass, a magical amulet that’s loaded with currency that gets deducted as you travel through the various districts of the city.

The streets in the Saddle were broad, and if the lanterns that hung every block or so were an indication, would be well-lit and safe at night. Small groups of Silver Shields, the ludicrously attired town guards, patrolled through the district paying them little attention. Wizards and other curious folk were obviously an everyday occurrence here.

So the group asked the question "why don't the town guards take care of this." I wanted to play up the theme that wizards normally don't overly concern themselves with physical activities and look down upon those who do. As a result, the Silver Shields are a small group with uniforms that are incredibly impractical in actual combat, which enforced the notion that they're more than a little incompetent.

Is That Thing for Sale?
As they were heading up the road which snaked its way to the entrance to the Grounds, the group was stopped by a dwarf wearing the silver colors of the Mithril School of Magic.

“How much for this one?” He asked, poking Auric with his cane.

The rest of the group was somewhat taken aback. “More than you can afford, little man,” was Auric’s reply, looking down on the little man.

“Sorry, I don’t converse with the merchandise,” he said as he started poking and prodding at his form.

“Good sir, this is not a golem, and is not for sale,” began Molechai only to be interrupted.

“I know it’s not a GOLEM, are ye’ daft? This is a thing of beauty, a relic from an Age gone by … and YE ARE KEEPING IT IN TERRIBLE SHAPE!”

With that the dwarf twisted at a loose portion where Auric's hip connected to his torso, causing the construct’s eyes to briefly flare bright blue.

Auric took an involuntary step back. The adjustment had done something to him. As he looked around, he could see the forms of buildings as they had been long before superimposed over the current scene. It was as if he could see into the past as a living history. Auric quickly found a way to control the ability otherwise it would have been most disconcerting-- a sort of double vision. At the same time he felt a bit more sturdy and sure of himself now.

“SAINTS OF SAND AND STONE! Ye’ haf’ no idea of what ye’ haf’ here, you’ll bring ruin to us all, ye’ will.” And with that, the dwarf departed, looking at the rest of the group with disgust.

“This sort of thing happen around you often?” asked Dragur.

“Not until recently,” replied Molechai, thinking of his encounter with Smilin’ Jack.

Much as with Molechai’s experience last session, the group is able to call upon their relationship with the Icons on a limited basis, to acquire new magic items. Auric’s relationship with the Dwarf King was at work here. Auric is described as a very run-down construct, and the items he acquires in the campaign are going to largely be just reassembling himself.

The item he received is from the Book of Loot and I imagined it as working like the goggles Star Lord wears at the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy. This item should prove very useful over the course of the game, since it gives me the opportunity to directly show the tremendous age of the world of 13th Age.


AHEM... This Time Real Discussion, Real Grounds
And with that experience behind them, the group continued on to the Grounds.

The Grounds is entered through a large, obviously magical door. As the group approached, Molechai’s dog started to whine, afraid to pass underneath the powerful magic. Dragur noticed that and said to relax, “as long as you’re near us, there shouldn't be a problem getting through the door. Or so I think at least.”

With that modest confirmation, the group approached the door. Again, Dragur's amulet pulsed, as an unspecified amount of currency was deducted from his S-Pass. Molechai’s dog growled at first, but was able to step across into the Grounds…

The Grounds themselves were ... impressive. Magical lights stretched like neon lines around many of the otherwise ostentatious old buildings. The group, somewhat used to being the most unusual people around, found that they fit in with a strange assortment of magical oddities. Spirits flitted about the yard, on their way to deliver messages, students openly engaged in displays of fanciful conjurations, and strange races were walking openly.

Next to the gate, which Dragur told them was “Shazurl’s Door”, for the first Master of the school, there was a large business that was called Curious Goods. It had the symbol of the Archmage on it (the markings of a business that trafficked in magic) and a huge animated image of a chest with all manner of magical gear spilling out from it. This, obviously, was a store for magical goods. Auric looked at it, and saw in it’s place there was a tall and ancient looking building. Obviously, some sort of structure had stood there for a long time.

Considering their options and (lack of) funds, the group decided to simply go to the Halls of the Hidden Veil and speak with Jarin.

The Hidden Veil had a suitably ostentatious and impressive building for it’s Halls, but given how the Grounds was set up, it ended up being just another building in a sea of old buildings. The students who study in this school tended to be exactly the sorts of tortured souls that young, wealthy, over-educated academics can be. Dark colors were common, as was the smell of certain ... herbs.

Dragur brought the group directly to Jarin’s office on the third floor. The gnome had aged since Molechai had last seen him, but looked otherwise in good health.

Jarin’s look of delight at the sight of his old friend was tempered by his reaction to the skeletal dog that was accompanying Molechai.

“My word, Molechai, it’s been years now and look at you ... “ Jarin looked nervously at the skeletal dog curled up next to him “you certainly have been up to some interesting and unusual things to be sure...”

Molechai agreed that many things had happened to him, but he still felt he was the same kind of gnome that Jarin had helped years ago.

“Aye that, well, I must warn you: the road of the necromancer is a long and winding one, and if you’re not careful you can end up losing your soul in the process.”

“I’ll agree on the long and winding part, but not the rest.”

“Well, that may be so, but I wouldn't be honest if I dinna' tell you that there's a part in me tha' wishes I had left you on the street instead of bringing you into all of this.”

It seemed like the conversation was not going to settle anything, and neither gnome was going to change their opinions on the life Molechai had been living.

“Bless my soul! Where are my manners,” asked Jarin, abruptly changing the subject. Soon various distilled whiskeys and bourbons were shared, as well as some dark chocolate cakes that were evidently from The Diabolist’s Own Bakery. Food, drink and some good pipeweed were all consumed as talks went first to more pleasant topics, then to the course of what should happen next.

A lot of options were discussed, much of which the group had covered already, but Jarin brought up one point: the dead in Eldolan are all buried in the Vaults, in the Temple district, where a ceremony ensures that they can’t be later animated or brought back to life by foul means.

“It would be unthinkable,” was Jarin’s very considered opinion.

The group decided to follow up with their lead at the Lost Hope Mission, in the Warrens. They thought that would be the most direct path at this point, and they would explore other options if that didn't pan out.

“One last thing,” Jarin mentioned, “ Dragur knows this well, as should Molechai, but no matter what happens, don’t kill any wizards involved with this. Trafficking in the black arts is a crime, and any wizard who does so would be sentenced to the Archmage’s floating Sky Prison.

The Archmage, in fact, maintains a prison called Darkskye that floats among the clouds, where special prisoners are placed in a Demi-Plane similar to the Negative Zone (or Phantom Zone) where they can never escape. This is a bit of foreshadowing for the next adventure.

I mentioned the "don't kill wizards" rule to highlight how important they are in Eldoran. I imagine bad things and questionable research happens all the time in the schools, so of course the city would want to protect their own. No one kills a wizard but the Archmage's folks!

The group also was concerned with moving about the districts, so Jarin gave them a bracelet that would deduct from Dragur's S-Pass if it was needed.

Investigation is Warranted
Noting that they would have to carefully deal with any wizard bodies, the group left for the Warrens, passing back through the Saddle and into the Commons.

The Warrens is adjacent to the Commons, and is the part of the city where the indigent and less fortunate live, and sometimes wizard students go to drink at to “keep it real.”

The group reached the Mission of Lost Hope around four in the afternoon, and noting that the lanterns that had been everywhere in the other districts were not present here, thought they had about three hours before sunset.

The group found the Mission largely empty, but ran into a dwarf who was obviously down on his luck. Dragur spent some time talking with him, but he hadn't seen much in the Warrens. He told them he had come from the Docks area, where he'd had a run or bad luck, since he picked up a cursed coin.

Molechai was intrigued by this. The dwarf, who's name was Kuz'il told them that there were a lot of dwarves who did labor down there, and recently someone started paying a lot of them with old gold coins. The coins had an image of some sort of sea creature on them, and were heavy ... and very valuable. The problem was that whoever came in contact with the coins had bad luck, making Kuz'il eventually think they were cursed.

Auric would hear nothing of it, suggesting a counter argument that the man was just a stupid drunk. His pride injured, Kuz'il left.

This is not a Dagon reference. Not at all.

The group then spoke with Elsa, who was working with a large half orc named Morgan to prepare dinner. The Mission was mostly a soup kitchen, where the folk who hadn't any money could come to get a decent meal in exchange for hearing about the Lady of Light and the general idea of Hope. Lines for food were long, and Elsa acknowledged that as her sermon grew longer it wasn't going to be just people’s stomachs’ that grumbled.

She told them what she knew about the situation, and suggested that they talk to her flock to learn more about the two men she had seen before they had been turned to zombies. Elsa particularly suggested talking with Kalia, a young street urchin who would normally be there for the evening.

With that, the group assisted Elsa and Morgan in putting together dinner for the evening.

Yeah, my little group of monsters actually did something nice.

Kalia did show up for dinner.and seemed particularly disinterested in Elsa’s sermon. The group motioned to her, and she stepped over to the side to talk with them.

kalia.tif

Kalia's had a rough life

“I’ll talk with you, but I don’t go in for any of that freaky ... stuff” she said. Kalia was about fourteen, and a victim of the streets who hadn't given up yet. Molechai saw a little of himself as a young gnome in the human girl: angry, scared and unsure of everything, but still unbowed.

The group gave her some coins and asked about Korack and Tolvus. She said that she knew Tolvus, “not a bad guy, got a bum ride in the wars, but he smoked the leaf a little too much!”

He was a friend who had helped her more than a few times when the Ratsmashers (a local gang) got too fresh with her, or tried to hit her with some bricks. (“What kind of creep hits people with bricks?”) Tolvus stepped in and sent them running “he really could still handle himself, despite the leg,” she said.

Tolvus had a weakness for Dreamleaf, and drug that produces stupors and hallucinations. Lately his shakes had been bad since he had no coin to buy the leaf. Kalia had given Tolvus a few coppers she could spare, and he had said that he had found a new dreamleaf pusher calling himself “the Dream Master” who was selling at half the usual rate.

Kalia hasn't seen Tolvus since, and it’s been a week, so she supposes he’s probably dead.

The group said they were looking for a particular location (the one Dragur had seen in his visions from his familiar last night) and Kalia told them that the Dream Master runs his business out of an abandoned theater a few blocks away... that is a dead ringer for the spot they’re after.

She also said she’d seen him once, describing him as a middle-aged human man wearing some crazy outrageous colored clothing like an actor in a play, but rumpled and dingy. She says he’s new to the Commons and has been pushing for only a month or so.

She warned Molechai to be careful, since he’s known to gut little folk like him.

And with that, Kalia quietly left the Mission, hoping that she hadn't been seen with the group too much.

The group left quickly after, heading up to the theater to confront the Dream Master.

In case you're wondering, the drawing of Kalia is originally of Bullet, a character in The Killing who's very similar to to what I imagined Kalia is like. Hopefully Kalia will have a better fate.

The Ratsmashers at Last Have Their Very. Bad. Day.
Along the way, it soon became evident that the group was being watched, and that someone was getting ready to try and get the drop on them. Molechai’s years on the street were helpful as he could spot an ambush.

“Good,” Auric said, “something to deal with directly at last.”

When it happened the group found itself being penned in by groups of toughs on both sides. It looked as if there were at least a dozen of them.

A young man stepped out of the shadows.

capper.png

Capper and the Ratsmashers are about to have a bad day

“Greetings travelers. What a lovely band of misfits you are. I hate to trouble you, but off the beaten path as you are, well, you look like you have more than enough coins in those pouches to share. Throw me your purses now and we’ll stay the best of friends.”

“I have a counter proposal,” Auric readied himself for battle, “how about we just kill all of you and call it a day?”

It seemed battle would be joined.

At the last moment, Molechai saw two figures nearby on a roof ready to drop bricks on them. He remembered Kalia’s words “what kind of creep hits people on the head with bricks,” he thought that he was about to find out.

The battle was joined, and took us about 45 minutes to resolve. Highlights were:

  • Auric hurling Molechai’s skeletal dog at the brick-throwers. The dog fought well and left them with their only captives.
  • Molechai’s use of purple lightning and noxious clouds of purple energy sucked the very life out of the thugs. He showed the ability to quell the life force of those near death and use it to heal himself, or others.
  • That healing was sorely needed, as the group of armed thugs beat Auric, a nine foot tall construct within an inch of his life.
  • Dragur continued to watch much of what happened, after he initially struck Capper, the gang’s leader with an acid arrow that pretty much burned him to death.
  • Towards the end of the battle, Capper was seriously hurt (the Acid Arrow Dragur cast nearly did him in) and running away for his life, Molechai had the option to let the young gang leader go, or end his life. He ended it, sucking the last of his life force out to channel into Auric’s badly hidden form. Now Auric knew what the life force of another being tasted like: purple.

The battle took about half amount of time, but poor Auric really got wrecked by the thugs. They normally did 3 damage, but when another thug was nearby, they went up to 4, and on a natural 17+ they did "dirty tricks" causing an extra 2 damage. That means a critical hit did 12 damage!

My assessment is that mooks are a bit too tough at first level and will likely need some adjustments.

Also, to let you know: Dragur isn't really doing nothing in combat, he's an Occultist, who can channel Karma when his companions either hit or miss. Most of the time it looks like a particularly good hit, or something random happens to an opponent to hurt them, but he's doing it all.

Molechai has an excellent Necromancer ability called Death Knell, where he can quench the life of an enemy who is almost dead, and use it to heal himself or another nearby ally. It's worked out very well for him, and come in extremely handy. It also lets you know that Molechai is clearly walking the road to the Diabolist.

Molechai's player has put some work into describing his powers as being purple lighting and purple mists that do horrible things. He is definitely not a nice gnome.


In the wake of the battle, the two brick-smashers were left alive. Their battle with Molechai's dog was kind of a stand off, and they surrendered when they saw the rest of their gang brutally murdered. (Molechai is taking on some qualities of the Emperor from Star Wars with his purple lightning).

They interrogated the two of them before showing uncharacteristic mercy by letting them go. The bricksmashers, who it turns out were out of work masons, had been working with the Ratsmashers for the last couple months. Geoff, the spokeman for the two, said they had been helping to provide bodies for the Dream Master for the last month or so. The pay had been good (50 gold (!!!) for a body in good shape) so they hadn't really thought about the ethical situation ("needs must, when the Diabolist drives," the surprisingly educated Geoff said).

I took Geoff's name from my favorite country in old Greyhawk. Who knows what will happen to good old Geoff: I hope they have reason to see him again.

The group considered their options. They were definitely going to see the Dream Master, and they thought that using the fresh bodies would be an excellent way to get inside. They quickly made a deal with a peddler with a cart back in the commons and acquired his cart to carry the bodies.

The group stacked up the corpses, and discussion was split between how they could get in and extract a measure of vengeance and what they would do with the 600 gold pieces the corpses would fetch.

Dragur stopped for a moment and considered. He spoke with his shadow and ordered it to go and scout out the theater for him so that the group would know what they were up against. The shadow detached itself from his body and took off...

...only to return a few minutes later and give them a report. The theater itself was in bad shape. It had a second story that had obviously been seriously damaged by fire some time ago. There was an entrance area, with a cage where a halfling was selling the leaf to the unfortunate addicts. He had four rough-looking guards around him that were serving as muscle to keep the money and merchandise safe.

Beyond the entrance area was the stage and seating area. This room had once been well appointed and decorated, but had fallen into a state of disrepair. There was a large chandelier that had fallen into the middle of the room long ago, and a expansive stage area. Half a dozen lackeys were having a good time hanging out providing some measure of security in the seating area.

On the stage were two men dressed in wizards robes: one was in the blue robes of the Eldritch Masters, with another wearing robes of the Lamplighter's Guild.

Then there was the Dream Master. Dragur's shadow didn't give too much information about him, save that he was "wrong" somehow. The back if the stage was living quarters and a supply room.

The shadow didn't go into the basement, as it was somehow wrong, in the same was as the Dream Master was.

All in all, the shadow gave them a remarkable description of the layout.

Dragur's familiar has the scouting ability, which lets it perform a scouting mission to get the layout of a location once per long rest with an easy skill check. Dragur rolled a natural 20 on his check, so he got a lot of information out of it. In fact, I gave the players a copy of the map for the first floor of the theater.

As to what was "wrong" with the Dream Master and the basement area, the group would have to figure that out.

And with that we broke up the session.

Stay tuned for next week's episode: Dream Master, a Love Story.
 
Last edited:

SteveC

Doing the best imitation of myself
Just a quick update: rather than play last weekend I went and got older, so we all celebrated with cake and lots of boardgames. I'll put the next update up on October 28th, and then we'll only be one week out of sync. If you're curious and want to go ahead to session three before it's been completely edited, you can always check out my blog in the mean time. So check back next week in this thread!
 

SteveC

Doing the best imitation of myself
Session 3: Dream Master: A Love Story

Note: sadly, Teri Hatcher will not be appearing in this session.

The group, in possession of a cart, and twelve rapidly cooling bodies of the Ratsmashers considered how they were going to make their move against the Dream Master.

Dragur’s shadow had done a thorough reconnaissance of the theater and the group knew there were a dozen gang members inside, along with the mysterious Dream Master. A frontal assault seemed unlikely to succeed, especially considering how hurt they were at the moment.

It was at that moment that Alarendel calmly walked up to them “hey guys, wha’d I miss?” And then he saw the bodies. “a lot, apparently.”

“So where were you?” asked Dragur.

“Attending to an important ... ritual ... forgive me.”

Cut to a flashback!
And in fact, Alarendel was telling the truth. Upon hearing the risks of becoming one of the undead could be cleansed by the church, he went off with Else to do just that. At the temple he met with Odessa Rilantes, who performed a cleansing ritual, which sadly did not throw off the curse of the undead that was on him. It did something, on the other hand, which Alarendel didn't quite understand.

Elsa walked back to the Mission with him and spoke of the troubles that had been facing the city’s poor recently, including the disappearance of many of those under her charge. Alarendel said he and his friends would look into it.

On returning to the mission, Elsa asked Alarendel to attend her for a moment, and when she returned, she had a cloak with her. The cloak had originally belonged to Tarion Darkbreaker, a paladin of the Order of the Lady of Light. Tarion had gone off to fight against the rise of demons near the Great Rift, and suffered a sad death alone in the dark. The church returned the body along with it’s gear, which had been buried. Elsa kept the cloak as a reminder of her old friend and the loss of that friendship. She gave the cloak to Alarendel thinking he might make some use of it.

The cloak itself was teeming with the energy of lost and forgotten heroes. While he wore it, Alarendel could remember their sacrifice and draw upon that energy.

And Alarendel gets into the magic item icon-relationship angle. This means only Dragur doesn’t have a permanent magic item from Icon relationships. Alarendel is looking to rid himself of the vampire’s curse, but of course it couldn’t be shaken off that easily. The fact that he was able to interact with a priest of the light says something special about him, though.

Alarendel’s player wasn’t present for session two, so this allowed me to tie up what he had been doing, along with rewarding him with an item from his Icon relationship (the Great Gold Wyrm in this case). The item in question is from the Book of Loot, and gives the user the ability to call upon a fallen and forgotten hero to give them an extra boost. As Alarendel is trying to redeem himself, I thought this would be a good way to start that off: he has a channel to other heroes that he can call on. We’ll see how this plays out story-wise.

By the way, let's not think too much about how this fits in timing wise with the rest of the group, m'kay?


The group quickly got Alarendel up to speed on what had happened. The idea of using the bodies as an in with the Dream Master seemed to be a good one, so the group headed off to the theater.

It was almost showtime.

When they actually got into the area, they could see that the theater was falling down, and considered--and discarded--the notion of accessing the second floor to sneak in. Watching the place for a few minutes, they noticed people coming and going, clients for the Dream Master’s leaf no doubt.

The group briefly considered burning the place down (!!!) but when it was brought up that there were likely innocent people living in the buildings around it, Alarendal disavowed that notion.

It was going to be the bodies. Just before they headed up to the entrance, Molechai thought about what the gang would think about being sold bodies of their friends and former allies.

Dragur pointed out that they were taking money for the dead and nearly dead, so they would likely have a certain moral flexibility. In any case, the ruse of the sale was all they really needed to get in the door.

As Auric looked at the theater, he saw it as it had been in it’s heyday: a beautiful building with elaborate carvings and engravings. The theater had originally been called The Truth of the World.

It was then that the group thought about Auric causing issues with his towering presence. Molechai told him he had just the thing: he could disguise Auric as a skeleton.

“Are there any drawbacks to this?”

“Not at all!”

With a flash, Molechai changed Auric into the form of a giant skeleton, and he hid himself as best he could with the bodies.

Auric soon found that there were some slight drawbacks: he was now incredibly slow moving and awkward (-5 to Dexterity). Perhaps this was balanced by a feeling of extra sturdiness (30 temporary hit points). Auric was not pleased with his situation, as he was not very agile to begin with.

The discussion that convinced Auric to let this happen was priceless! Molechai has been wanting to use this particular spell for the entire game. How a giant skeleton would be less conspicuous than a mechanical man would have been an interesting question, if the group didn’t already have a cart full of corpses for him to hide in. Ah my players...

A Night at the Theater
The group approached the theater, with Alarendel stepping out of the way behind the entrance doors so as to be able to get the jump on anyone who came out. Molechai and Dragur approached and banged on the door several times.

“Come in, come in,” was the caustic reply from inside after a few moments.

“Hey, we’re dropping off, not picking up!” shouted Dragur.

“We don’t take deliveries!”

“Well, that’s not what I heard, look, we have a dozen corpses out here, and we hear you’re paying top coin for them…”

The door opened, revealing one of the toughs Dragur’s shadow had told them about earlier.

“Oh, just tell the entire neighborhood about that, will you?” the wiry, shifty half-orc was clearly annoyed.

“Oh, you operate a drug house that everyone knows about and you’re concerned about a little thing like a cart of corpses? Don’t waste our time, let’s get with it, man!” Dragur clearly had experience ordering people around, causing the thug to take a look.

Dragur has an Aristocratic background and argued he’d be used to ordering people like this around. He was right!

“Hmmm, looks like they've got something for us...” he seemed ready to take the bait.

“Alright, come in and we’ll settle the price, then” came a voice from inside.

Dragur and Molechai went inside to see the seedy theater’s box-office for the first time.

Sometime, a long time ago, this had been a beautiful theater. This was not that time. A broad staircase rose to the second floor, but was obviously not in use to to the fire damage. A one-time beautiful rug, now tattered and worn, dominated the room. Scenes of famous plays from the Age were painted on the walls, sadly in disrepair.

In one corner of the room was the ticket office. A cigar chomping halfling was in the cage, and he clearly was in change of the transactions. Dragur noticed he had a crossbow nearby him.

There were three other toughs about the area, who obviously were one warning away from a fight.

“So, we've got twelve ... products for you. We hear that you’re paying 50 each for them, so that would be 600 gold...” Dragur began, thinking of what he’d do if there actually was that kind of money on hand.

“Not so fast,” the halfling shot back, “that price was a special thing. Price is back to normal, now. So 15.”

“Wait a minute, these are prime specimens, not old skeletons or something.”

“Sorry, no can do…”

“How about 20?”

“Alright, you've got a deal, but only if they’re really fresh. You there,” he pointed to his toughs, “get them inside where I can look at ‘em.”

Louie, our halfling, was modeled after Louie De Palma, Danny De Vito’s character from Taxi. I only wish he could stick around longer. I enjoy doing my cigar chomping accent.

louie_halfling.jpg

Wow! Louie De Palma was a Fifth Edition Halfling all along. Who knew?

With that the toughs went out of the theater to get their products. Things were going according to plan.

“Hey, I know this guy,” whoops! “oh, snap, he owed me money! Guess I’m not getting that back. Glad you’re dead, dude.” Things were going pretty well, until the thugs grabbed a pair of corpses and headed back to the theater … only to see Alarendel.

“Boss, we got trouble!”

“Yeah, you sure do, you stupid halfling,” said Molechai dryly. The combat was on!

Here were the highlights:

  • Things went quickly, since the group got their first Ambush round in the campaign.
  • The toughs were, much to Auric’s relief, not mooks. They were surprisingly durable, however.
  • Once two of them were down, the other two broke off and ran Alarendel simply let them go.
  • Molechai introduced a new fact about the game: halflings hate gnomes. They do?, I asked him. Yeah, definitely. Those Halflings are just so smug. So that’s a thing now.
  • Molechai’s ability to finish off opponents with 5 hit points or less is proving to be an excellent power. He can heal himself, or others with it. It turns out the Halfling had poisoned bolts, so he took quite the injury from the battle.
  • Dragur, once again, appeared to be doing nothing, but caused a run of bad luck for the badguys. To an outside observer, he’s cast a single spell (Acid Arrow) and had his familar scout for him, and that’s about it. In game terms, though, he’s been quite effective with his Karmic Rebuke.
  • Auric didn’t get beaten up too much in this fight. Turns out that if you aren’t a mook, he’s actually okay. The 30 temporary hit points didn’t hurt either.
  • Alarendel took the brunt of the fight, as a Paladin is supposed to. He showed mercy to the two toughs at the end, which has been uncharacteristic of this group.

It’s interesting how Ambush works in 13th Age. The group nominates a character as the chief ambusher. They and the character with the highest initiative score get a turn before combat starts. The group seemed to be okay with it, so it works for me as well.

One thing about the map for this encounter: it has the problem that lot of adventures do: you say an area is inaccessible (our second floor in this case) and then you remove all references from it from the map. I added a set of stairs up to the second floor, and was ready to improvise a viewing area with opera boxes, but the group went right into the theater.


The Show Starts Now
The group’s battle was largely outside, and the things that did happen in the lobby area were over quickly (poor Louie, we hardly knew ye). The group placed themselves at the entrance to the theater and bashed their way in! We were continuing the combat. So this “combat 1.5” was on right away!

Inside the theater there were half a dozen lackeys in the seating area. To either side were the two “wizards” the group had seen earlier, one of whom had a wicked crossbow.

Up on stage was the Dream Master himself. As the group burst into the room they saw him: an older man in clothes that at one time must have been radiant and colorful, but had now seen better days.

“Ah, we have visitors, well don’t just stand there: the show’s about to begin. They say that ‘All the World’s a Stage, and the men and women merely players. The time of your exit from the stage draws nigh!”

In case you’re wondering, the Dream Master looked like a worn down version of Tom Baker as the Doctor.

When Auric came into the room, he saw something quite extraordinary: the Dream Master appeared more solid and real than anything else in the room, more real than anything he had seen in a long time! Thinking it might be his new vision, he switched back and forth between the elegant theater as it had been, and this ruined drug house, but no matter what he did, the Dream Master was there, as if he had always been there. He knew that he had to die. Powers in his frame that had lain dormant for the entire Age started to come to life. We went back into combat.

This was our second combat of the session, and really the wrap up for this part of the adventure. It was a bit of a beast. Here are the highlights:

  • Alarendel used his new cloak in conjunction with his Hammer of Fate. He took on the appearance of a dread and powerful warrior (yay, team good guys!) and crushed the group’s foes. The lackeys and one of the “wizards” soon fell to his blows. Go team (anti)paladin!
  • Early in the battle, the Dream Master threw a pouch of some substance that exploded into many colors. Alarendel, Molechai and Dragur were all affected, but Dragur’s shadow jumped in front of him to protect his master. Good idea. The colors weakened those it touched, and Molechai proved unable to shake off it’s effects! He felt a strange force tear inside himself, and some of his power to control necromantic energy was ripped from him. Once that happened, he started to see the Dream Master in the same way as Auric did. Something really bad happened!
  • Dragur finally got into the thick of things, almost to a fatal result. The Dream Master pulled a hidden lever and a huge sand bag flashed by him, narrowly missing. The wizard with the crossbow fired two bolts into him, which were skeleton bones and drained his life force. Only Auric’s timely intervention where he slowed the entire combat down and gave everyone a breath saved him from death.
  • Auric quickly made it to the main stage and faced the Dream Master, who until that time had been trading quips with the group. The moment he found himself faced with Auric, he showed genuine fear! Taking a couple of heavy blows, he shrieked “show’s over!” and escaped through a trapdoor into the basement.
  • Alarendel charged the crossbow wielder, who it seemed had had his luck run out. He ran him straight through with his sword. “Death … is only the beginn…” he managed to croak out before dying before them.

So we had two combats in quick succession. Alarendel changed the look of his Hammer of Faith spell to be a dark and dreadul image, using his new cloak to boost its power

Auric really shined in this encounter, mostly because it was much harder than in the original adventure, all based on his background. Auric has a sort of favored enemy bonus against special opponents like this: +1 to hit per tier and +1d6 damage per level. He made quick work of the Dream Master, who fortunately had an escape route planned.

Dragur had his comeuppance at last in this session. He’s been skating by for the most part, not being attacked since he doesn’t really appear to do too much. Not this time. The crossbow wielding bad guy (who’s name is Paulos) had him dead to rights. Fortunately Auric has the ability to slow the tempo of combat, reducing the Escalation Die by one and allowing everyone to spend a Recovery.

But it was Molechai who was in really bad shape with this encounter. He lost one of his powers to the Dream Master. Auric’s player told him that if they didn’t kill the guy, he’d lose it for good! Not a happy camper at this point.


The group assessed the situation. It looked like they’d either have to break through the trapdoor or take the creepy stairway. Molechai voted to immediately pursue the Dream Master into the basement, as time was a wasting.

“Hold on a moment,” said Alarendel. “What was it with this ‘death is just the beginning’ thing that this one said... sounds like he might plan on coming back.”

The group knew that followers of the Lich King normally continued their service after death, as powerful undead. On investigation, they found that this ‘wizard’s’ body was marked with the sign of the One-Eyed Lord on his chest. What to do?

Auric solved the problem by brutally dismembering the body. “Any other problems? Because if we don’t stop the ‘Dream Master’ he’s going to go beyond all of our reach.”

The group stopped me for a moment and we discussed whether they could just end things and take a long rest at this point. 13th Age has a rule where after four major battles, you can take a recovery and get all of your powers back.

I told them they could do this, but the result would be Molechai’s loss of his power. That was not something anyone wanted to deal with, so they went on.


Where do These Stairs go?
With that, Molechai bravely let Alarendel lead the way into the creepy basement.

Like all creepy basements, it was dark. There was a drip, drip, drip of water, and it smelled bad. Something had died down there, and something was doubtless still alive there. As if on cue, Alarendel heard a growl from the far side of the room.

Dragur stepped up and created a group of glowing sprites who illuminated the room. Alarendel saw that there were a lot of boxes and crates down there: storage from the theater days no doubt. He could see that the basement was divided into two large rooms, and the second room was still out of range of the light. He stepped down into the room.

And heard the growl again. Two vicious creatures lunged at the group out of the debris strewn about the room. They were jet black, and dog like, with huge fangs and claws.

Yes, I had them fight some minions of Gozor. Gozor was very big in the 12th Age.

gozor.png

Where is Bill Murray when you need him?

In the back of the room, the Dream Master stepped up behind the protection of his beasts. “Sorry folks, have to dash.”

With that, he started to fade out of existence. Strangely, Molechai and Auric saw him gradually becoming more and more real to them. Battle was joined.

Yes, this was a third battle this session. It was also a quick one. I put a die down on the table that was on a 3. The group did not wait to find out what would happen when it counted down. The fight didn't go long. Most of the group were able to maneuver around the dogs and get at the Dream Master. He didn't last long.

Alarendel cleaved mightily into the Dream Master, and he was dead. At his death, countless flashes of light and color emerged from his body, flaring into the air.

A purple stream of light struck Molechai and he was himself again: his power had been returned.

Hundreds of ribbons of multicolored light raced up the stairs and out of the theater. Somehow the group knew that they were parts of people’s souls, returning to their bodies.

Sadly, far too many of the ribbons paused in the air, and eventually exploded into multicolored fireworks. The group knew this meant that the person the energy had been drawn from was dead.

The Dream Master’s work in Eldoran was finished.

And that was where we ended the session.

Note: this showdown with the Dream Master represents a significant departure from the adventure as written. Blame Auric.

Was I really ready to strip poor Molechai of one of his powers? We’ll never know.

Molechai does have the extra benefit of rolling a D20 whenever he recovers his powers after a long rest. We’ll see what happens to him when he rolls a ‘1’.

I think this session went very well. We had a suitable climax to the Dream Master’s schemes, and the group was seriously taxed by the battles. They've earned a full rest now, and we’ll discuss what they’re up to next time. There was some information with the Dream Master, but we’ll let you learn about that for next time.
 

SteveC

Doing the best imitation of myself
13th Age Campaign Session IV: Shadows Over Eldolan

Editor's Note: Many of you have noted the use of puns in the session titles. Even though it may not look like it, this one is a pun as well. Take ye heed!

Last session the group had defeated the Dream Master. This session began with the spoils of that victory. In other words, there was loot.

The group pored over what they presumed was the Dream Master’s workshop. They found a ledger that went back just over two months. About a month ago, new line items for bodies both live and dead started to show up.

There were two names associated with it who were taking the supplies: Landon, with a notation about the Dead Vaults, and Aerto, a “broker” in the docks.

The group additionally found a large amount of coins (the Dream Master’s ill-gotten gains) and quite a bit of Dream Leaf. They quickly put everything together and left, planning a discussion on what to do next for tomorrow. The Dream Master had taxed them to their limits, and the only thing to do was get a night’s sleep.

As they left the building they were met by Kalia, the girl they had spoken with earlier in the day, and who had told them how to find the theater.

“Wicked! That was absolutely incredible, what did you do there?”
Kalia went on to tell them that the roof of the Truth of the World had exploded with light, and the light had a feeling for once of being right, for the lack of a better world.

“The Dream Master is out of business, kid.” Molechai told her.

She also told them that someone had left the theater immediately before them: it was humanoid in shape, but somehow wrong. The group thought that must be the follower of the Lich King who had told them as much as "I'll be back." The group looked at Molechai, who told them this wasn't in his expertise. They knew somehow that this wouldn't be the last they'd see of him.

“Wicked! So what’s next? I mean, I’m sort of part of the team now, right?”

And so Kalia was. The group told her that what was next was a night’s rest, and they would meet up with her in the morning.

At this point we did the first long rest of the game. 13th Age has a rule where you don’t restore powers on a daily basis, but rather after having a number of encounters, typically four. The group was badly beaten up, so they needed a rest.

The group made their way back to the Grounds and to the Halls of the Hidden Veil. The next morning, they gathered in Jarin’s office to discuss what had happened and what to do next.

Morning Breaks
Once again there was a breakfast that even a halfling would envy, and the group talked about what they had seen.

“What was the Dream Master, really … that was like nothing I have ever seen,” asked Molechai.

Auric told them it was a servant of the Underkraken, causing Jarin to cough awkwardly with surprise.

“These are dark tidings, indeed,” he said while taking up his pipe again.

The rest of the group needed some explanation, so Auric told them that the Underkraken was an immense creature, a Living Dungeon, from deep in the earth. The Underkraken slept, but had servants in the world, who stole things, but not common items like gold or even magic. The Underkraken’s minions stole memories; it stole the essence of who you are from you.

And when it has acquired the right combination of memories, it will awaken and return to the surface, and that might herald the end of the 13th Age.

It was a dangerous conversation to have, said Jarin. But why was the Underkraken sending agents into the world now, after slumbering for so long.

Molechai and Auric looked at each other and wondered: had Molechai started the end of the Age by waking Auric up?

“No matter. These are dangerous times. Dragur, my boy, you had best have a proper wand if you’re going into the darkness to investigate these things.” With that, Jarin presented Dragur with a black-iron wand that he quickly put away.

Dragur used an Icon result to acquire an item, making him the last one in the party to do so.

The question was what to do next? The group had two primary leads at the moment: the name of Landen at the Dead Vaults, and Aerto down at the docks.

From Jarin’s perspective, the notion that the Order of Light would have something to do with undead in the city was beyond absurd, and Alarendel agreed. The group was somewhat incredulous at their attitude, but after a good breakfast, it was decided they would investigate Aerto. But how?

The Docks were not like some other parts of Eldolan: unusual creatures like Auric (who, if you remember, is an eight foot tall golem-like creature) would be noticed, and problems would likely occur. How could the group get the information they needed, when they weren't subtle?

“I think we should use the girl,” suggested Auric. “After all, if something happens to her, it’s not one of us, and we can put a tail on her so that we’ll know where she ended up.”

Despite Alarendel’s objections that this would be dangerous and of questionable morality, the group agreed. Kalia would find out about who Aerto was, and what he was up to.

You Gotta Have a Montage
The group headed back to the Warrens and picked up Kalia from the Last Hope Mission. They explained what they wanted her to do, and paid her some coin for her troubles. Alarendel was still concerned at the danger, but Kalia seemed not to mind. “I got this!” And she was off.

The group established a procedure for meeting with her, and was able to tail her effectively as she searched for Aerto and tried to set up a meeting with him for the group.

With that, the group headed off to the Docks.

Dragur knew that the Docks were one of the most dangerous parts of Eldolan: many dark stories come out of the district, and though sailors tend to exaggerate, some were doubtless true. The transient nature of the population in the Docks makes it hard to prove or disprove the stories, and the Silver Shields (the town’s somewhat ineffective watch) had pulled back all night patrols due to the recent events, though they were still patrolling the main thoroughfares in force during the day.

Here is some basic information I gave the group about the Docks:

As a port town, Eldolan has three main piers where large ships and trading vessels can dock. There are also many shorter piers for the smaller ships, and the protected bay allows the fishermen to simply leave their craft anchored offshore around the bay’s edges a short swim away. There are many open stalls selling fresh seafood near the harbor, interspersed with other small tent vendors and similar folk selling all manner of goods to those arriving via ship.

A number of taverns and inns line the harbor, serving sailors, travelers, and locals alike. These establishments tend to be rowdy, though a few of the larger ones keep things civil enough to draw recently arrived travelers to them (at least on the first night).


Kalia set about her work, and quickly found she had a problem. The Silver Shields were out and about looking for troublemakers who didn't fit the surroundings, and that was Kalia to a ‘T’. She soon found herself taken into custody for asking questions and being a general nuisance.

Kalia was held in the Shield’s dock headquarters, which was right on the main pier: it was actually on the water.

The group considered what to do and decided to try and scare them out. Molechai and Dragur used their magic to create a sense of overwhelming dread, combined with a smell of … filth coming from the jail. The Shield guards almost immediately fled from the stench, allowing the group to quickly free Kalia and send her back along her way, with the stern admonition to not attract attention from the Shields.

Kalia continued her work trying to find Aerto and soon discovered who the real players on the Docks were: the Sharks.

The Sharks were Eldolan’s chief Dock gang, and had their hands in everything that went on there. In short order, they told her that they knew perfectly well who Aerto was, and would be happy to send her to meet him. And that’s what they did, kicking and screaming all the way.

And that was the scene when the group found itself heading to the Screaming Mermaid tavern.

So this entire scene was played out using the Montage rules that I saw used in conjunction with another 13th Age adventure. What are the Montage rules? Well, stick with me and I’ll write an article and tell you about them.

At the Sign of The Squirming Mermaid
The group saw Kalia being carried into the Squirming Mermaid and waited. They wanted to make sure this wasn't just another stop along the line. And, according to Auric, if Kalia was disposed of, they wouldn't have to pay her anything. Alarendel fumed.

Ten minutes passed. Alarendel was thoroughly fuming by this point, and decided to storm into the tavern. The Mermaid was on the dock area, with much of it physically over the water, and there were a number of boats docked along the back. Alarendel noted this.

Entering the tavern, he saw that it was a large main room, along with many smaller, private areas for covert meetings. Alarendel immediately got the sense that a lot of business was conducted here, and the multiple entrances and exits, including the water, made it obvious that the people who were here did not want to be caught.

Alarendel’s entrance was noted by the barkeep: an elven woman with striking red hair. She had the look of someone who expected trouble, and was prepared to do it. “Careful,” she said, spying the murder in Alarendel’s eyes, “or you’ll end up feeding the fish.” She said it not in a boastful manner, but so matter-of-factly that it gave him pause.

Looking around the room, Alarendel saw that everyone there was ready for some kind of violence, but the room was calm. It was the calm before a storm. He could sense that a little bit of aggression would be met with deadly response.

In looking around the room, Alarendel saw that one of the men (a “Shark”) that he had seen enter the tavern. He was talking with a smarmy little man who was odd looking, but not in any specific way. He was just odd.

Yes, Aerto was played by Steve Buscemi from Fargo

steveb.jpg

Aerto, don't-cha know

While Alarendel tried to be as non-descript as possible, batwings thoroughly in the hidden position, Dragur headed to the door and kept watch. The rest of the group was nearby.

The two men were laughing and having a good time, but when he saw Alarendel, the Shark bolted for the back of the tavern!

This was a failed observe what’s going on undetected check. Alarendel is not subtle, and so was the absolute wrong character for this. But … he was the one who cared enough to go in. Go team paladin!

Alarendel jumped up from the bar, bat wings flowing and ran after the Shark. The bar was about to enter into chaos and death. There were a lot of scores that were about to be settled.

That was when Auric entered the bar. The huge golem creature immediately put a stop to any violence that was about to go down.

Interestingly, Auric is not that intimidating, but his player can roll really well sometimes. There was a hefty bonus for his size and strangeness as well.

While Alarendel was off Shark chasing, the rest of the group descended on Aerto, who was looking cool as a cucumber at his table.

Dragur approached him. “You’re Aerto?”

“That’s what it says on my shorts” The group disliked him immediately.

“We know you’re dealing is bodies of the recently dead. We need to know what’s behind it and who you’re selling them to.”

“Whoa, hold on there now. I deal in many kinds of products, and all of my clients appreciate how discrete I can be. So there’ll be no discussion of who’s and what’s and where’s. It’s not professional.”

“That’s the wrong answer, little man.” Auric had entered the conversation.

“Wait a moment, let’s be reasonable and discuss things like the friends I’m sure we’re destined to be.”

It looked like this was going to be a tough sell.

In the back of the bar, Alarendel caught the fleeing Shark as he was trying to make a getaway on the docks. He grabbed the much smaller man and spun him around.

“The girl you came in with. Where is she?!” The Shark was trying to find something to say to stem the dark paladin’s hand. Nothing immediately came to mind.

“We gave her up to Aerto … it was his friends who took her. Honest!”

Alarendel grabbed the man and started back to the main room.

“...so you can see that there are a lot of factors at work here, and I’m just the middleman. Doesn't that all make sense?” Aerto was spinning quite a tale in the main room.

“You. Quiet. Where is the girl!” Alarendel is nothing, if not direct.

Alarendel’s player wasn't having any of it, and pulled off a nice check/\.

I always imagine Christian Bale as Batman when Alarendel says these kinds of things.

Aerto’s face became still. He was quiet.

“Look, I can see that you’re not going to take no for an answer. There are some people I work for. They have a warehouse on the docks where they take a lot of my … products. If she’s what I think she is, you’ll find her there. I’d go quickly if I were you.”

And so they left the Squirming Mermaid and headed over to the eastern side of the docks, near where the cliffs rose up to the Grounds above. Would they get there in time to save Kalia from whatever these ‘clients’ had in store for her? Alarendel at least was doing everything in his power to make sure of it.

The group had some fun roleplay here, with the players who have characters of … questionable morals contrasting with the blunt ones like Auric and Alarendel. This was a fun scene to pull off. Of course the timing was such that they reached the next scene, the warehouse, at night. Why is it always night, they asked me? Because it’s scarier that way.

Would you Like to Hear the Good News of Dagon?
The warehouse was two story and brick. It had a main entrance where carts could come and go (oooh, carts again!) and a door by the side of the building that was intended for workers to come and go. There were lanterns lit in the upper floor that flickered with light.

When Auric looked at the building (recall, he can see both what something looks like and what it used to look like) he saw the entrance to a large temple, with the symbol of an eye on the entrance.

dagon.jpg

The Shadow Over Eldolan?

When he described it, Alarendel recalled it as being a sign of the church of Dagon, one of the Diablolist’s favorite sects. This evil would sacrifice the innocent for the promise of gold and wealth from the sea. Long term worshippers of Dagon tended to take on a fishlike appearance and were reputed to be more at home at sea than on the land. Not good.

Alarendel decided that there was no time for discussion and started to barge in, only to find the doors barred from within. With a smash, Auric solved this problem,

koolaid.jpg

Auric says "oh yeah!"

Inside the warehouse seemed normal, except for the stairs descending into darkness on the far wall. Auric confirmed that these should go into the temple he had seen earlier.

Alarendel attempted to make quick work of searching the first floor: there was no time to waste. He ran around the floor until a huge form rose up next to him. It was a hideous crab demon, with razor sharp pincers that constantly went snap-snap. Yeah, I kept that up for the combat, which annoyed/amused everyone. Combat was joined.

Here were the highlights:
  • Alarendel took the brunt of the damage, as he was right on top of the creature. It was a beast!
  • When the creature was staggered (bloodied) it became invisible and teleported right next to Molechai and Dragur who were doing their best to stay away from it.
  • When the creature died, it showered the group with infernal bits of crab meat. No one had any to eat.

When the combat had finished, the group knew they were in the right place. They were discussing what to do next, when Alarendel just ran down the stairs. This was different from previous creepy staircases where he had to be persuaded to do that.

The Shadow Over Eldolan
Alarendel headed downstairs without much heed for possible danger. At the base of the stairs was an open entrance into what must at one time have been the temple. A powerful wave of magical energy swept over him, filling him with dread and causing him to kneel down. A dark voice boomed out.

Bow before the Truth! Kneel before the terrible Might of Dagon!

Alarendel saw flickering light ahead of him, accompanied by chanting and the smell of something foul from the sea. The passage ended in a long room, whose outer edges turned upward slightly meeting the walls a few feet above the height of the central floor. Hanging from hooks on chains throughout the chamber were humanoid limbs, heads, and chunks of torsos; the body parts seemed to be rotting away but were also coated with fresh blood. Designs drawn in blood and gore cover the floor in intricate patterns, and candles in polished blackened skulls burned from niches in the walls. At the far end of the cavern, a pair of iron double doors connects the chamber to another room.

More importantly, there were ten robed and hooded figures spread about the cavern chanting, and three more wait in the second cavern around a stone table upon which a slim form ... Kalia ... struggled to free herself.

Alarendel instinctively knew that the ritual seemed to be nearing completion as the cultists’ voices grew louder.

The iron door slammed shut. It was about to be on.

And this is where things turned really interesting. Alarendel had rolled a relationship result with the Diabolist (did I mention he has an interesting background?) and called on it here.

He got up and flared his bat wings, charged through the chamber and bust through the iron doors.

"Stop! This child is wanted by the Diabolist and under my protection. You can not have her!"

There was a moment of hesitation: the evil priest with his wicked looking sacrificial knife hesitated. Was this a servant of his dark mistress? Was he about to be punished for taking the wrong sacrifice?

With that hesitation, the rest of the group descended on the cult and combat was joined.

Here are the highlights:
  • Alarendel played up being on the bad guy's side for quite a while and was able to free Kalia from being sacrificed and actually get her out of there. Go team Paladin!
  • The chains and hooks in the temple area were animated and could strike at and grab people. The entire area had an aura of dark magic around it.
  • Fortunately, Dragur saw the aura of magic and was able to counter it with his own magic. His first natural 20 of the game put the chains and the building demonic power out of commission for three whole rounds.
  • The cultists themselves were actually not very impressive: they were sluggish and slow to move on land, but were surprisingly tough. Their sheer numbers however, threatened to overwhelm the group.
  • The cultist leaders, however, were tough. They could grant powerful attacks to their minions and also seemed to be able to control the dark magic that was in the room. Fortunately for the group, Dragur was able to largely keep it in check.
  • When Kalia was safely out of danger, Alarendel turned and started to battle the cult leader directly. He smote him down quickly... the dice were hot.

Just as the cult leader was about to fall, he turned to Alarendel and with crazed fervor in his eyes screamed:
You fools! Dagon will not be denied this night! She will not be denied!
And with that, he plunged his ensorcelled blade into his chest, becoming the sacrifice. Something was coming!

This was an absolutely insane battle. As you might imagine, the way things are supposed to work, the group has two battles here: first with the fish cultists and a couple leaders, and then with the cult leader himself. Nope, Alarendel wasn't having it, wanting to get Kalia to safety. Things actually worked out really well for the group due to his successful bluff (backed up by the Diabolist herself for some perverse purpose) and then Dragur's largely holding the dark forces at bay. It was a great battle, but things aren't over yet!
 

SteveC

Doing the best imitation of myself
Session 5

13th Age Campaign Session V: That is not Dead Which can Eternal lie
When we last left our heroes, a priest of Dagon had just plunged his ensorcelled blade deep into his chest.

You fools! Dagon will not be denied this night! She will not be denied!

Something was coming.

The group didn't have long to wait. With a horrible scream, a hideous demon burst from the priest’s chest. It was made up largely from his internal organs, and so had two tentacle arms made of his intestines. Everyone in the group was momentarily taken back, but it was worse for Dragur who could somehow see into the crack between the worlds where this creature had come from.

Yep, I based this creature on some of the nastier parts of the Re-animator. It's a shame that the group never really spoke with Herbert, the temple's high priest.

The group fell on it. It was a gruesome battle with lots of ichor, but in a short order it was dead. Dragur’s magic had held off the largest share of the chaotic energy, making the demon weaker than it would have been. The priest was also not the chosen one for the ritual, and so it was even weaker.

That said, this was a pretty rough battle for Alarendel. He had fallen into the role of keeping the rest of the group from harm, and so took the brunt of the battle.

After the battle, the group was covered in gore and body parts. It was gruesome work, being an adventurer!

Once again, the group had been stretched to their limits, but come through things alive. Although they didn't understand exactly what they had done, it was clear that a major plot in the city had been foiled. Kalia had been saved, and the Diabolist’s cult had been destroyed.

Still, this didn't seem to match up with the undead attack and the strange visions that had started everything. The group vowed to get to the bottom of what was going on with Landon and the Halls of the Dead.

Dead Tired
The group emerged from the warehouse to find that Kalia had run off, which bothered Alarendel but the group had decided they need to press on for the moment.

They continued to make use of Dragur’s S-Pass and headed through the Saddle and up to Temples. It was late at night at this point, but the Temple district was well lit and the group even ran into a patrol of the Silver Shields. There wasn't any conflict however, once Alarendel explained they were looking for healing at the temple (pretty convincing, since everyone was covered in blood) and word about Auric’s large form seemed to have gotten around at this point. Perhaps it was as much that the group didn't seemed to be in the mood to be messed with, or the desire to not get dirty that made the 'Shields let them go by.

The Halls of the Dead was an imposing structure, and had stood on this spot for hundreds of years. Impressive statues to each of the different gods in the pantheon of Light stood watch over the entrance, with smaller (but still unobjectionable) gods from lesser pantheons on display as well. It was obvious that this was a multi-denominational site, welcome to all who worshiped in the Light.

What was also immediately obvious was that the structure was warded against the undead. Molechai knew that his dog would be blasted to ash should he attempt to enter the premises, and Molechai himself was … unsure … what would happen to him.

“Not a problem! I’ll find another way in!” and with that, the gnome was off.

Molechai’s player wasn't present for this session, so I got rid of him this way. Don’t worry; he’ll be back for next session!

Even at a late hour, there were people coming and going from the Halls, and Alarenedel quickly found a young initiate he had seen previously standing watch.

“Thomas? Yes, that was your name. We have extremely important business, and even though the hour is late, we must see your lady, Odessa Rilantes tonight. The matter is urgent.”

Thomas was a young man who had just taken his vows. He was unsure of what to do, but Alarendel quickly persuaded him that, yes the matter was urgent, and yes, waiting on it would actually be worse than delaying the group until tomorrow morning.

Alarendel is in his element in the church, and Paladins are very persuasive. It also helped that Thomas had actually seen Alarendel with Odessa and saw that he was wearing the cloak of a hero of the Lady of Light. Good guys have to get some breaks sometimes.

Here’s how I envisioned Thomas by the way:
ladyhawk.jpg

No, I can't say that I know anything about a wolf or a hawk your lordship.

Odessa, on the other hand, was in her early 50s, but had an aura of determination about her that said she would not be fooled or intimidated easily. Auric, ever the diplomat, took the lead.

“One of your people, Landon, is raising the dead. He’s likely behind the recent attack by the zombies.” Auric is nothing if not direct.

The group lets Auric take the lead sometimes with these situations. I have no idea why.

Odessa was not impressed. “I find that immensely hard to believe. You have come here, looking like you have just come from a day working at the slaughterhouse, and tell me this? Alarendel, what is going on?”

“Lady, we have come from a terrible situation: there is (err, was) a temple to the Diabolist in the city and we have come directly from destroying it. We found evidence of trafficking in the undead there by one of your priests…”

“Priestess preserve us! Yet, child, the Diab … that person … traffics in lies, be careful that you are not deceived in your zeal…”

“Beg pardon, my lady, but this is the second time we have heard this man’s name: Landon, mentioned as being a servant of the One-eyed Lord.”

Odessa was obviously distressed by this news. “I know Landon, as all of my servants. I do not believe what you are saying, but we are servants of the Light, and it will shine in the dark places and tell us the truth of the situation.

Landen works in the lower levels of the crypts, and is on shift right at this moment. I will have my servant Thomas here fetch him and we shall see the truth of it.”

Thomas seemed worried. It was almost as if he knew that deep in the earth, there would be no help for him if Landon turned out to be a villain. He didn't know Alarendel, but did see that the man was covered. In. Gore. He was rethinking his career choice.

“My lady, we would gladly go with Thomas to sort this matter out, perhaps tomorrow morning?”

“So be it. The truth will be known with the coming of the sun, as always.”

Odessa said she would gladly provide them with rooms, and have their clothing cleaned (such as could be done) for them, and they could meet Thomas in the morning. The group agreed.

The beds in the Halls of the Dead were designed for function rather than comfort, but the group was tired enough that none of them cared. They fell asleep, with Auric watching over them.

At this point I had consulted with the group, and decided that it would be a good time to level them to second level. They had accomplished a lot, and it seemed right. The adventure is designed for first level characters, so I would have to adjust it a little bit for the rest of the session, but the combats in this later part of things are going to be pretty challenging anyway, so it didn’t seem like a bad idea.

So far in the adventure they had done a lot of Big Darn Hero stuff, so who was I to argue? The group spent some time finishing up their characters.


Dead Man Walking
Bright and early the next morning (a little too early for Dragur, actually) the group was woken by Thomas, who had a staff with light crystals in it that he said would help them navigate the depths of the Halls’ catacombs.

Man, have I mentioned those light crystals enough yet? Chekov would be mad at me if there isn't something behind them.

Thomas told them that these catacombs had been used to bury the city’s dead for over a thousand years, and were a maze of twisty passageways, especially down where Landon worked.

He also told them the reason Odessa was sure there were no undead to be found down there: the entire Halls had a series of magical wards that prevented undead from rising, and would burn them to ashes in short order. The group descended into the depths.

They found themselves traveling for several hours. The upper floors of the catacombs were large, broad passages, but they got smaller, and twistier as the group went. Thomas seemed to know the route pretty well, but referred to a map from time to time.

After a couple hours of walking, the group came to a storage area that served as a resting spot and rallying point for the priests. They encountered a group of Thomas’ fellow priests who were friendly and pointed out that there had been some shifting of the earth further down, and to take care.

When asked about it, Thomas said it had happened last year, and a team of dwarves had come in and done some work strengthening the structure. Thomas said they were nasty to deal with and were constantly grumbling about the poor quality of the human workmanship.

After another hour or so, the group came upon the area where the damage had been repaired. Dragur noticed that curiously enough, the wards inscribed in this section of the catacombs had been damaged by the accident, and strangely never repaired. Uh oh.

This made Thomas extremely nervous, who soon told them how that should absolutely have been done as a part of the work by the dwarves. He was almost concerned enough to turn around but Dragur and Auric convinced him that everything would be alright.

(Yeah, those two were telling him not to worry...)

After another half hour of travelling, the group came to an old section of the catacombs that had been used to lay to rest students from the Academy who died from a plague about a hundred years ago.

“Great,” said Dragur, “plague wizard skeletons.”

Thomas gulped.

The group continued on for another ten minutes or so when Dragur had them stop. He noticed a magical ward in front of them that would serve as an alarm. He was able to determine that this was an arcane ritual, something that he could do himself. It was odd that the ward was magical rather than divine in origin. After a short consultation, he was able to dismiss it without signaling whoever had placed it. The group continued on.

I'm not sure if you've picked up on it yet, but I love it when my players ask me about things like "what kind of magic is behind this?" Fortunately they are good at figuring this stuff out... I like it when I can tell them what's really going on.

Eventually they saw some faint lights ahead, and stopped to investigate. They were sure that if they continued, they would attract attention with their lantern. With some work, Alarendel managed to scout ahead and see what was in store for them.

Yes, the group has no scout, so it's the paladin's job. Imagine Bill Paxton's voice saying "yeah, man, Alarendel should do it."

A Bone to Pick
Up ahead were animated skeletons with glowing red eyes. It was this feature that the group had seen. They were in the process of removing bodies from a series of crypts, and some of those bodies had eyes that burned with blue light. Uh oh!

Alarendel turned to quietly head back to the group, but stepped on a loose rock. He stopped. Maybe the skeletons hadn’t noticed.

But they had. The eyes of the creatures blazed brightly. Death was in those eyes.

Maybe they didn't notice? Yeah, send the paladin ahead to scout.

The rest of the group hurried forward, with Dragur and Thomas in the rear. The group readied itself for a fight.

Suddenly, the skeletons all paused, and a man’s voice could be heard from behind them:

Fools! Always thinking you were so safe, and that your Priestess and her rituals would protect you. Well, the One-eyed Lord will have his day, and then you and your kind will bow before us.

The voice paused.

Well, not you, actually. It’s your time to die!

And with that, it was on!

We only had one battle in this session and this was it. Here are the highlights:

  • The mysterious voice, who the group quickly decided must be Landon, kept taunting them throughout the fight. When it did this, there was a dark magical energy channeled that kept the Escalation Die from advancing. Dragur, true to his role as a protector against dark magic, was able to reduce the effect with his own magic.
  • The wizard skeletons were everyone’s least favorite opponent, as they had the ability to raise the bodies of the fallen warriors with their magic, in addition to being wizards themselves. The group had horrible Diablo flashbacks.
  • Auric and Alarendel managed to shine a little more here, since moving to second level had greatly improved their combat abilities.
  • The group really stepped up and managed to keep Thomas alive. He served a very important purpose as the only person with light! I was surprised that for all of their anti-hero antics they seem to care about the people they come across.

After a fierce battle, the group heard the sound of footsteps running away. Landon was running! With a crash, the last skeleton fell to the ground, and the group took off after him.

And that was where we called it. This was a shorter session due in large part to dealing with leveling.

I soon found that level two is a bit of a sweet spot for low level 13th Age adventures, since fighting characters do twice as much damage with their attacks. The wizards got a modest bump (more spells) but it seemed like it was the martial types who enjoyed it the most.
 

SteveC

Doing the best imitation of myself
Just finished up Shadows of Eldolan with seven total play sessions. I hope to have it all typed up by the end of the year for you.

What a great adventure this was. The group had a good time with it, and I'd recommend it. The one thing I didn't like was the very ending, but I'll get to that in my wrap up for that session, which would be session 7.
 

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