John Play: Agent Of The Dark Lanterns - Play Hard

The following Storyhour is about a young man whom works for the Breland government during the last years of the war within the campaign world of Eberron. He is part James Bond, part Superhero and all mystery. I will be adding photos and drawings along the way of some of his most memoriable moments.

In the Rogues section I will give stats and brief histories (if I think it is required) of all supporting characters. These will be updated as required by leveling up, terrible event or major magically inclusion. Sometimes even when a bit a secret history is revealed. John Play has a lot of secrets. Some he is not even aware of himself.


So, I hope you enjoy it and come back regularly. I would love and appreciate comments and the sharing of any thoughts of this storyhour and the characters revealed within it.

and so without further delay..... I give you John Play in PLAY HARD as he battles Venom, Gnolls and of course- saves the day.
 

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JOHN PLAY: PLAY HARD
SEGMENT 001
“A Plot Discovered”

The young man dressed in black and red made nearly no sounds as he walked slowly through the connecting catacomb. He was from the surface world but was comfortable here in the dark catacombs of Under Sharn. Sometimes he explored the many layers that were the sub basement of the civilizations that were built where Sharn towers now. However, today he was here for a reason. He was working.

What is his job? To most, he is a playboy son of a war hero and magical arms designer. To a select few, he is a Breland government worker. And from this short list, he is known to be a Dark Lantern. A Dark Lantern is part Spy, Combatant and in some cases …. An assassin. A necessary evil for a country at war.

On this day, the 4th of Lharvion in the year of 993, a contact of his has tried to reach him. As any time they can not meet at the Last Call Tavern they try again in a safer environment for his contact. The young man doesn’t mind it at all. Even with the sewers, the wandering creatures and the occasional homeless but far from harmless vagrant he smiles under his magical mask. His father wore this mask when he worked for the government of Breland. It gives him the ability to see in the darkness. A good thing 100’s of feet below the cities lowest exposed level.

He is near the meeting place so he becomes more cautious of followers. He walks and hides and waits. After several minutes he continues on only to repeat himself several times. Finally he reaches the spot. A spot known by some as E- 113 Valve Cluster but others as “Home”. Jasper, his contact, showed him this place in good confidence (a few gold pieces) last year when John first ran into conflict with the group known as Venom. There are several gently glowing symbols carved into the walls here. The magic here negates any poison. Several rogues as a neutral and “safe” place to meet enjoy it. It is surrounded by a quiet stream of somewhat “pure” water which makes trailing someone unknown more difficult also though not impossible.

Standing by the six valves that once brought waste product from the towers above to here to be consumed by creatures that have a taste for excrement and other waste products John Play nods his head as if agreeing to something being said to him. Another ten minutes pass and he sighs deeply.

“Not very stealthy when you let out air like that kid.”

The disrupted shades of gray vision reveal a short goblin standing about 30ft away. He is wrapped in ragged clothes and a cape. He smiles at the rogue whom he may be pressured to agree is one of his few friends. His one lone oversized tooth shines pure white in John’s darkvision lenses.

“You need to take a bath someday Goblin. Hopefully this time in clean water. Scented and soapy would be best.”

Jasper knows he is smiling under his mask. Jasper knows the boy well. Jasper knows a lot. And knowledge is money…. Especially during wartime.

Jasper, the goblin snitch, waits for his reward. Play holds up the pouch with the gold Breland coins. “ten now….. ten more if its good.” The goblin seizes the pouch and carefully fumbles it between his scaly cracked fingers. He feels the weight and shape of each coin through the thin cloth. Satisfied, he pockets it within a hidden spot under his rags and hidden armor. “Ever hear of a Gnoll plotting to kill a Breland Noble? How about in public?

“Every third day at the Roc’s Roost and Restaurant. Details. My people will want more than general knowledge of boasting dogmen.”

Each play a cat and mouse game of bluff and calling one’s bluff as the nosey goblin tries to only give up as much information as he needs to while saving juicer pieces for more gold. He would make the Trust envious.

After fifteen minutes of this game Jasper leaves. John Play knows he needs to reach a deeper section of Under Sharn to listen in on a meeting of Gnolls and Venom agents. How he hates Venom and their assassins. Killers, many are monstrous humanoids from the west in a territory being referred to as Droaam, are enlisted. They have few morale concerns about uppity humans and love to test new poisons on them. As if the war was not horrible enough.

Taking a moment to think about the best-plotted course to reach the meeting place, John pauses then leaps into action. He never makes a sound while walking quickly away.
 
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JOHN PLAY: PLAY HARD
SEGMENT 002
“Gnolls in the Dark”

The Dark Lantern successfully sneaks up to the preset area the gnolls were said to be planning to meet. Normally he would not have paid the extra 10 gold pieces to Jasper but he mentioned Venom. Venom has been very quiet and everyone at the Citadel was expecting trouble as such. If he were the one to discover and stop it first…..

As he reached the stairway below the Chandler Warehouse where Jasper said the gnolls were meeting. The area was a long and exposed hallway. It would prove to be difficult to get close enough to listen in on the Gnolls. Several steps would need to be taken to pull this off. First, he drinks the potion he keeps for dealing with this very condition- Potion of Comprehend Language. The Gnolls had a terrible way of speaking their own language instead of common or at least something he knew. Next, he withdrew the potion of Spider Climb. The experience of drinking the language potion was always pleasant… especially so far underground. It always opened up his ears releasing any built up pressure including water or elevation. Spider Climb was… not so nice. It always left him dry mouthed as if he had swallowed some spider webs by accident. If he thought of it he may had drank the magical climbing potion first to wash away the taste with the second potion but he needed the ability to stay hidden more. Even as he began to scale the damp walls he willed his glamored leather armor to become a dusty ashen black to reduce glare. Most creatures here have Dark Vision but not all.

Now crawling along the ceiling between hidden small aqueducts that more rats used than running water, John Play the Breland Dark Lantern positioned himself by the marking he could just see carved on the floor below.

Fifteen minutes later there is the sound of a growl and then a snarl. Four tall and gaunt shaggy gnolls walk up to the symbol.

“This is the mark. We wait now.” The large female commands the other three.

“How long do we wait?” one mistakenly answers.

The bitch growls a low and menacing growl at him. “As long as it takes. Through this one we can reach fame within our pack and maybe even join the Venom pack.”

Growing tired and slightly concerned his potions will wear out; Play tries to find a few handholds. He just hopes the rats are now active.

Then come the sounds of toenails on the rock tiles that made up this section of the Undersharn catacombs. His dark vision goggles rob John of color but he sees a large gnoll approach them. It wears superior armor to the first pack of dogmen. It looks around and past the pack that follow her gaze.

“I have already spoken to your pack leader and an agreement has been reached. During the coming hunt the hunters become the hunted. Nobles and royalty alike will begin as hunters and die as the hunted. It begins with the “official” hunting grounds were we will set up a mock attack incase of any breach of our secrecy. But, the main party will be waiting for where the humans will be really hunting.”

Not watching anything but the five gnolls below him, John Play misses that some fresh water has been flushed down the tiny aqueduct. He notices it too late as it washes onto his hand and streams down his arm to his elbow. Here it collects then begins to drip. Directly onto a gnoll! The dirty creature flicks its ear in annoyance as a few drops strike its head and ear. Finally, as a creature now known for patience, it looks up to glare at the source. Its dark vision makes out the humanoid shape ten feet above. Even as it snarls and reaches for its weapon John Play has let go of the aqueduct and edges and has begun to curl up to fall by the creatures.

He lands and tumbles forward quickly. As he stands up right he strikes the closest gnoll. It stumbles back as its pack mates now draw weapons. “What kind of rat is this?!?” growls the female gnoll. “Stop him fools! Stop him or I will report you to the Madam!”

John Play is like a dervish fighter. He never pauses or stops as he slaps one gnoll with his magical club then pulls free his second club. He whispers something and the two clubs begin to glow gently. “Come and get me pups.” He says in Common. They do not understand the words but clearly do the meaning and four of the gnolls charge to get him even as the female begins to back away a ½ step at a time. She knows no adventurer, however stupid , would do this. This person is either crazy or extremely dangerous. Maybe very dangerous.

One gnoll swings a battleaxe and just scuffs his leather magical armor. The gnoll loses most of its upper teeth and robbed of its life two return hits later. The gnolls do a good job of keeping him back from pursuit of the retreating master.

Finally John clubs and hits his way through the four dogmen and begins to track the leader. It is hard in the dark tunnels where his only sight is his magical dark vision lens. He spots disruptions in the sandy wastes and silts left from past floods and begins to follow. So intent on following her and learning more he fails to listen and be cautious. He rushes along then suddenly notices the stone work is different here. He stops and can not see everything around him. He is on a bridge!

Looking around he sees many chains hanging from the darkness above and they travel beyond the limits of his sight below. He vaguely remembers this area. These chains are weighted to go up and down to bring rocks and supply to different levels. Then he hears it- laughter before him and behind him. Gnolls. Lots of gnolls and he has no where to go!
 

JOHN PLAY: PLAY HARD
SEGMENT 003
“Trapped on the Chain Bridge”

“oops.”

John Play finds himself at the center of a 10ft wide bridge. Before him are about 6 gnolls and following him are another 10. He is surrounded. He sees movement in the shadows. Possible archers?!?

“Boost me Lendyes”

His muscles ripple and bulge as he suddenly turns and bull rushes the nearest gnoll. He drives it back a few feet but before he can attempt to push him over the edge he is attacked. Arrows come out of the darkness and most miss but a few finds a mark- in the form of Gnolls surrounding him. He takes a minor hit as he tries to get some space to fight.

“I know! I know!” yells Play as he begins to swing wildly striking three gnolls whom either crumble before him or are sent over the edge into the darkness.

The leader of the gnolls steps side to side in nervous energy. “Rapid…..”
“Heh-heh…. I know and I will tear him apart.” A gnoll with wet looking fur and leather straps snarls and watches Play fight. A cleric steps up to him and gives him strength to take down the human.

“ARRRrrrroooooOOOoooooooooo….” Rapid howls out. He can smell and almost taste the blood of the surface dweller.

Knowing he needs space, Play rolls out from under the swinging axes and raining arrows. The several minor cuts he has received seem to seal up as he comes to a stop. He looks to Rapid and understands the real threat this creature presents. “This isn’t working…..” he says to himself then suddenly drops his clubs into a hidden sleeve located on his thigh and looks to the chains. The gnolls rush him and another arrow strikes his arm. He leaps into the black and white darkness that his dark vision goggles give him. He grabs a chain and pulls himself in. “heh. Made it.”

The leader calls for them to pursue and Rapid is already rushing to the nearest chain he can reach by leaping.

The gnolls are nervous. They are not good jumpers or climbers. One jumps and appears to have the chain just below John but the snap of the chain as it whips from the additional weight throws it off. The gnolls wait and listen but never hear it hit. A few whimpers can be heard as a few more line up to jump. One more fails as it completely misses (nat 1) but another grabs the chain and holds on. It hugs the chain like a lifeline and looks down. It then looks up at Play and snarls.

Rapid leaps out and also loses his grip as the chain snaps back. By luck (Action Point) he falls back towards the chain and snares it. The creature laughs a quiet but insane laugh. It has cheated death once more. It begins to climb up to better place itself to jump to the next chain.

John Play didn’t expect them to follow him. With a deep unhappy sigh he climbs a few feet then jumps to the next chain. Several more arrows go his way but miss.

More gnolls pursue and several more fall to their deaths. The Leader begins to worry if these gnolls can do it. Can they kill this human?

One gnoll is keeping up with Play very well. He is now almost within grasp when he spots something startling. Two arrows pop out of Play’s body and the wounds seal up. So startled, he doesn’t see Play raise his boot until it is too late. With a resounding crunch, the gnoll’s teeth and neck are broken and it quietly seems to let go and fall.

Rapid leaps again and once more nearly falls to its death. (another Action Point). It looks nervously as it watches gnoll bodies fall into the darkness. It laughs insanely. All it can think is the sound of the human’s scream as he uses its poisoned blades on him. The human will die…at his hands.

Finally finding what he was looking for, Play leaps to one last chain. He climbs up to a thick and sturdy rope that looks strained as if holding a great weight. “It has been real doggies. But I really must be going.” He gives a universal sign of disrespect then grips the chain tightly and begins to cut the rope.

Rapid looks in dismay. He is within 15 feet now. He debates using a poisoned throwing dagger when sudden there is a loud snap sound as the cut rope breaks and John Play rockets into the darkness above. Rapid frowns then smirks and begins to laugh. “There will be another day human.”

The chain rattles loudly as Play holds on. These chains were part of a dig done about 15 years ago. The dig was stopped but the digging tools remained, including the weighted chains used to move earth and tools. Where this chain leads however is uncertain. It could be a pier, a solid wall or even nothing but new chains.

Willow Dessan is the daughter of a well to do merchant in Sharn. Their home was built in the lower levels of Sharn near the docks. She wanted to go out and adventure. Instead, she was home, bathing and bored. She wanted some excitement.

Then even as she rose from her bubbly scented water she heard something. Something like a whirring sound. Suddenly, the wooden floor near her water room bursts. A dazed dark clad man is there. His arm badly damaged and several other wounds on his shoulders and leg, including one arrow.

“ahhhhhh…. See how nicely it all PLAYed out….?”

“Excuse me…. My name is Play, John Play.”
 

The chain Bridge-

Blue battle mat is open space. The off yellow cards are solid walls. The Tiles are hallway. The dots on the blue mat are the chains used to haul debris to the surface and in this case- John Play also.
 

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JOHN PLAY: PLAY HARD
SEGMENT 004
“Special Mission: John Play”

The morning of the 5th of Lharvion in the year of 993

Carmen DeVincent couldn’t help herself. She was nervous. After spending months as a translator in the Breland Army she finally was being asked to join the Dark Lanterns. She was finally going to make a huge difference in the war.

She entered the Andith Tower as she always did and climbed the stairs to the lowest level of the Citadel above the prison of Breland. She passed the Sharn Watch station and pass a few more closed off levels until she reached the upper levels of the tower. Many know that this area is off limits to the public and is important to the war effort. What they don’t know is area is also the most open meeting area for the Dark lanterns. Most of their offices are hidden either in Under Sharn or in some cases between levels of other towers.

She knows that there are hidden magical devices built into the walls designed to detect her presence and if she carries any possibly dangerous magical items on her. She can not help but to pause as she sees a door made of adamantine with a well-carved image of a bear and several draconic creatures on it. Standing on either side of it are two large statues also made of adamantine. These are no doubt golems and extremely dangerous. Also here is a Warforged with spikes and a large arm blade. His name is Barricade. He is the head guard for the entrance.

It doesn’t move nor the golems as the door silently opens up as she walks within 20 feet of the door. She still nods out of habit as she walks by the still warforged guardian.

It is dark and quiet within the room. The door closes behind her and she can not help but to hold her breath for a moment. Then there is a soft green light visible. She continues to the light and sees a man sitting there. He is writing on a scroll. As she nears he stops and the pen and scroll magically roll up and lift from the table. The invisible servant places the scroll onto a shelf and the man studies the translator as she stops about ten feet away.

The thin man looks up and leans back in his chair. He looks very old but Carmen knows he is not as old as he appears. His clothes are fine and well kept. He wears a necklace that is magical that provides mental defenses. His name is Maelak, Viorr Maelak.

“Sit Agent DeVincent. May I offer you a drink?” The gaunt man motions to a tray with two cups and a pitcher.

“No sir. I am set.”

The man says a word that seems to be of a foreign and ancient tongue, magical perhaps, and the pitcher carefully pours some water in one cup and floats to him. “You know who I am and what I represent. What you do not know is why I have asked you to join us and why. In my position, knowledge is power. I wish to know everything that happens within and without Breland. It is how I am best able to protect the king and the country.”

Carmen remains attentive and wonders if this is a part of a test in some way.

“Precaution is also a tool I wield carefully. Some may say it is paranoia but I like to call it- precaution. As such I like to know things about my country and its people. Do you understand Ms. DeVincent?”

“I believe so sir.”

“A simple yes or no will do. Sometimes I am required to do things that seem unnecessary or even wrong in some people’s eyes. Do you understand this?”

“Yes sir. I do.”

The man pauses as he studies her before continuing on. “Good. Before I explain myself any further do you accept the need to do this and anything else I ask of you?”

“Yes sir. I do.”

Another pause.

“Would you for the King and his country?”

“Yes sir.”

“Would you spy on other countries?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Would you spy on…. A fellow Brelander?”

“Sir?”

Moving a large book on the side of his desk, he reveals several scrolls. The handles have the name John Play inscribed on them. “I have an agent within our organization I need to know more about. I worry he has other reasons to be a Dark Lantern than to protect and defend the King and his country. As I said, knowledge is power. I need to know more about him.”

“You wish me to spy on him sir?”

“Report to me everything he says and does. His reports….are fanciful and defy logic at times. He is hiding something from the country and I require to know what. Within these three scrolls are details that we know of him and his past.”

“Sir… I know of the name. There was a man named Play that…” she is cut off abruptly.

“Yes. Yes I know all of that. But this is his son. Not the national hero. I need to know more.”

Silence.

“Do you accept?”
 


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