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"Out of the Frying Pan"- Book III: Fanning the Embers


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”Out of the Frying Pan” – The Adventures of the Fearless Manticore Killers and the Necropolis of Doom!

Hey All! While this is a continuation of the various “Out of the Frying Pan” Aquerra campaign story hours – I have decided to include a little overview of the characters and a bit about what ha been going on in order to encourage folks to jump right in the middle so to speak – at the beginning of what turned out to be a rather long adventure when the party least expected it. The “old school” flavor of exploring the Necropolis, mixed with the usual “story-telling” style of the campaign worked out well – so well, in fact that I think one could jump in and start reading and basically get what is going on (Yes, it does link back to the main plot – but it is not totally necessary to know that stuff to enjoy the tale – and just might get people to go back and read that stuff anyway).

Note: I have retroactively gone back and re-named this thread as Book III: Fanning the Embers, being made up of two parts "The Fearless Manticore Killers & the Necropolis of Doom!!!" (which was the original name of this thread) and "The Fearless Manticore Killers & the Pit of Bones!"

WARNING! - The character and plot overviews hold A LOT of spoilers for the earlier threads. If you want to read from the beginning CLICK HERE.


The Ad:

{This is the ad I used to recruit players}

It is a hot summer, and war rages in the east. The most powerful kingdom in all of the known world fights against one of its own territories in what promises to be a long and bloody civil war.

But war is soldiers’ work – not adventurers’, not farmers, certainly not yours…

But that one frightening word is on the lips of recruiters, magistrates and town guards, “Conscription!” - There are a million ways to get out of the war, the trouble is finding a good one.

Verdun – the largest city in Aquerra, capitol of the war-torn Kingdom of Herman Land. Amid the towering spires, religious pilgrims, and ships of conscripts heading out to the Black Islands, the answer can be found. Some people will do anything to get out of the frying pan…

Out of the Frying Pan… is a 3E D&D campaign for 4 to 6 players set in Aquerra. The characters will begin at first level, and all characters must have some reason for wanting or having a conscription deferment.


The PCs

Kazrack Delver – This black dwarf (what mountain dwarves are called in Aquerra) was born in Derome-Delem, but traveled to the Kingdom of Herman Land with his family as child. There, he grew up in the dwarven quarter of the capitol, Verdun – also known as “The Heart of Aquerra”. He joined up with the would-be dragon-hunters to avoid fighting what he considered a “human’s war”, and for the chance to visit the land of his fathers. Often stubborn to the point of being myopic, Kazrack still is a loyal friend with a good-heart, who often struggles with dwarven tradition versus what he has learned in his life among humans in a dwarven ghetto. At this point in the story he is Fighter 3/Priest 3 – and refuses to wear armor as a sacrifice to Krauchaar. (dwarven god of battle) for his failings in previous confliects. Dwarven priests are called “Rune-Throwers”. (First Appearance: Session #1)

Beorth Sakhemet – This paladin dedicated to the jackal-headed deity, Anubis – Guardian of the Dead, seeks to comfort the living, and seek out injustice, but more than that to destroy the abominations of the walking dead. Born of a noble family of the Black Islands Barony, he signed on to escape house arrest, which was to be the fate of those of his ancestry living in Herman Land – even though he is orphaned. He decided that abroad in Derome-Delem he would be more likely to fulfill his god’s wishes, than trapped in a monastery in the largest city in the world. As a punishment for killing a pixie, he had his memory stolen from him. He only knows his own name because others have told him, and about his duties because while he has forgotten the details of his god’s lore, his god has not forgotten him, and instinctually he knows what is right. Always taciturn and sometimes capable of a sharp dry wit, he is highly respected by his companions. At this point in the story his is Paladin 5. (First Appearance: Session #1)

Jeremy Northrop – This young warrior from the Kingdom of Neergaard only showed up in Herman Land seeking out his friend Malcolm MacDuligh, who had met during a hunting trip in the Archduchy of Wallbrook. Adventurous and often reckless, no one is quite sure what he is doing away from home except “to see things.” He took the death of his friend quite hard, but found himself roped into circumstances beyond his control and forced to stick with the others. He was killed by an otyugh, and four members of the party had to promise to undertake tasks for the god Osiris to secure his return from Anubis’ Realm. He promised to aid each of them in their tasks and to do what he can to safeguard their lives in return for this great gift. At this point in the story he is Fighter 6. (First Appearance: Session #2)

Ratchis of Nephthys – This half-orc of the Darksh tribe and former slave grew up in the wilds of Derome-Delem. Dedicated to Nephthys (the goddess of freedom and bravery) and a very capable woodsman, he joined up with the party while seeking to cleanse the woods of diseased wolves that he happened upon, while seeking out a plot to have the would-be dragon-hunters on their way to Gothanius enslaved. Ugly, short-tempered, often misunderstood, but quietly wise. At this point in the story he is Ranger 2 / Priest 4. (First Appearance: Session #5)

Martin the Green – An alumnus of the famed Academy of Wizardry, Martin did not join up with the group until after they actually arrived in the Kingdom of Gothanius. He traveled there with a different group of would-be dragon-hunters, and while ostensibly sent as a temporary replacement for his predecessor Tom the Silver, he was also sent to investigate his death. He is originally from Thricia, a magocracy in the western area of Aquerra. His familiar is red squirrel named Thomas. Martin the Green does not always come off as the most competent of wizards, having focused more on book-learning than elements of diplomacy and combat, he has found the party’s recent situations over-whelming. At the time of this adventure he is an illusionist 5. (First Appearance: Session #12)

Derek Jamison - This young red-headed woodsman came seeking out Martin the Green at the behest of another Academy Alumnus, Barnstable the Brown in place of his teacher, Red Arrow. Little is known of the mysterious young man, as he recently joined the group and taken in with little questioning and lots of trust. Ostensibly, .he was sent to help with the dragon, but does not claim to be any kind of dragon- expert. At this point in the story he is ranger 3 / rogue 2. (First Appearance: Session #37)

Fallen by the Wayside – (In order of their passing)

Malcolm MacDuligh – This skald from the Dubh Moors of the Archduchy of Wallbrook was killed by goblins soon after arriving ing Derome-Delem. He was an old friend of Jeremy’s, who took his death hard. He had a penchant for drinking, brawling, singing and walking around naked in the morning, He was a first level bard when he died. (First Appearance: Session #1 / Death: Session #4)

Chance (npc) – Fun-loving, kind-hearted, often brave, but never reckless, and more than just a little bit selfish, Chance has an air of mystery surround him, as he always kept his role as a priest of the luck god a secret from his companions. Always gambling, singing a song or telling a joke, his death really brought the party together. He was killed by the demon-gnome Mozek Steamwind as an example to the rest of the party what he was capable. Jana and Chance had recently become lovers. Chance was Priest 3 when he died. (First Appearance: Session #1 / Death: Session #17)

Jana of Westron – Jana’s place in the group was always in question. A mediocre witch, but a sharp-thinker and a masterful healer, the young girl’s agenda and priorities often came into question. She conspired with those who attempted to rob Castle Gothanius, and kept from the party the truth about her coming to Derome-Delem (fleeing a murder she had committed) until the fact that she was being sought by her former master could not be hidden any longer. One of the members of the party to make a promise to Osiris in return for Jeremy’s resurrection, she was still to “learn magics through the pure methods of Isis” before she died. The rest of the party had hoped that the fulfillment of this promise might lead to her redemption for her misdeeds. However, she was absorbed into a hideous amorphous alien creature before being able to do so. She was Witch 5 (a sorcerer variant) when she passed on. (First Appearance: Session #1 / Death: Session #35)

The NPCs

Belear Gritchkar – This black dwarf was the one who trained Kazrack in the ways of Rune-throwers, while he and the party were the “guests” of the Garvan gnomes. He recently returned with a group of eight dwarves to help defeat Mozek and his brothers, the even demon-gnomes. (First Appearance: Session #15)

Captain Adalar Barnath – Toting a great axe and also a rune-thrower, he leads the dwarven troupe, but defers to his elder, Belear. (First Appearance: Session #37)

Helrahd of the Riverbed – This red dwarf tracker and woodsman found the party while they hunted he alien beast, and lead them to Belear and the other dwarves. He is Kirla’s brother. (First Appearance: Session #35)

Kirla – Helrahd’s sister is a shield-maiden, a female dwarven warrior dedicated to Rivakanal (Dwarven Goddess of Motherhood and Protection). She is fiercely independent and seems to chafe against many of the gender customs of her people. (First Appearance: Session #37)

Golnar, Tolnar & Jolnar Tarnitch – These young blonde mountain dwarves are an extremely rare occurrence in dwarven culture, triplets. And while twins are considered a blessing, triplets are considered freakish. They are inexperienced and eager to prove themselves, but obey Captain Adalar unquestioningly. (First Appearance: Session #37)

Blodnath – This dwarf’s black hair is streaked with white. He has a weathered face, and does not speak much. He is the dwarves’ “gearsman” – specializing in traps, locks and sneaking around. (First Appearance: Session #37)

Baervard – This brown-haired and bearded handsome dwarf never speaks, and spends all his time with Blodnath. (First Appearance: Session #37)


The Story So Far:

This is a very brief overview of what has been happening in the threads that led up to this one. There are definite SPOILERS at the same time that some events are omitted for simplicity’s sake. You will need to actually go back and read the first two “books” to get the full story.

Book One: Gathering Wood – In this book, our heroes first signed up to avoid conscription and traveled to Derome-Delem with a large group of others seeking to avoid the war, and deal with the less immediate task of hunting a dragon, in return for a grant of land and citizenship in the Kingdom Gothanius. Along the way, friends, allies and enemies were made and others were lost. Book One ended with the group’s arrival at the city of Twelve Trolls, capitol of Gothanius. Book One spans from session #1 to session #11.

Book Two: Catching the Spark – This book spans from Session #12 to Session #39. Teaming up with Martin, the party forms one of dozens of groups of five sent out to hunt the dragon. However, they soon become embroiled in the unforeseen diplomatic crisis involving a nearby community of gnomes, their dislike of the humans and their inadvertent infiltration by half-fiend gnomes. Add to this, learning that the dark elves are returning to the surface world, a splinter group of monks see to be corrupting the teaching of Anubis and quests made in the name of Osiris in return for Jeremy being brought back to life, and soon it seemed impossible to unravel the tangled knot of dilemmas the party is trying to solve. And behind all of this is the quest for the enigmatic Hurgun’s Maze, an infamous geomancer’s lost stronghold that is some kind of planar focal point, and promises to give whomever discovers its secrets great power. Book Two ends with the party returning to Garvan to face the evil gnomes with their dwarven allies, to find that the humans of Gothanius have already battled the gnomes and the conditions for war are ripe. They have decided to follow the track of an escaped undead Gothanian soldier (a wight) who seemed to have been under the control of the evil gnomes and might lead the party directly to them.

I will be posting the first installment within the next couple of weeks. . . In the meantime, I welcome any questions. . .
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Moderator Emeritus
Black Bard said:

BTW, nemm... Are you ever going to make the Aquerra Player's Guide available?

It is not looking very likely. . . The amount of work required to get it ready for public consumption is prohibitive when you consider working full time and working on my music. . .

I have not worked on it in nearly a year. . .

I have most of the chapters writtten up - but it is a matter of editing and re-writing and collecting info for the more crunchy chapters. . . it is very daunting.

Black Bard

First Post

I understand...
And I know you've made it available at some past time, but then I wasn't able to listen to it... So could you link your music homepage again?


Moderator Emeritus
First Installment. . .

Session #40

Part One: In which the “dead land” is discovered.

Ratchis looked up at the sun, thinking that it might be nearly exactly one day since the undead creature had drawn his life force from him, making him feel a bit cold, and a bit jittery. He could feel the reverberations of the loss as if his very spirit were fighting off the infection of darkness. The friar of Nephthys knew that soon the battle would come to its climax and called for his goddess’ divine guidance to guide him through that difficult moment, and suddenly it was past, and he felt his strength and faith rise in him again (1).

The half-orc was a ways away from the rest of the group, looking for tracks when this happened, as he wanted to be alone for the struggle. He noted the way the lieutenant-turned-wight’s track veered to the east. It did not seem to jive with the way he figured the hidden gnomish community must be (2), but it was possible that the demon-gnomes had a lair elsewhere that they could find and surprise their foes. However, the zombies that had been turned the day before seemed to go in a more northerly direction.

Ratchis came out of the brush, where the others waited. The dwarves all looked ever-vigilant, the memory of their first battle at this very site with evil gnomish necromancer fresh in their mind. The rest of the party stood encircled by the dwarves, not quite as vigilant.

“Martin,” Kazrack asked Martin, scratching his chin in contemplation of the what he was certain to be an up-coming battle with more half-demon gnomes. “If you knew someone was coming to attack you in your home, what magical preparations would you set? Uh, I mean, if your were, uh… you know, that powerful.”

Martin smirked. “I would snares and sentries of some kind, and traps…”

“Gnomes are said to be mechanically inclined,” Kazrack replied. “It is possible we may run into those kinds of things as well. We need a way to set them off ahead of us.”

No one had any suggestions, and nor did Kazrack seem to really need any to continue his audible inner dialogue, addressing others almost as if out of habit, as he bounced from topic to topic. “And we need to coordinate better in combat. We need to not just rush in, and go in opposite directions to go our own thing. We need to support each other. Glory is good, but…”

“Survival is better,” Martin finished for him.

“Cowardice is a sin,” Belear commented.

Ratchis interrupted by explaining how the tracks diverged.

“Do we follow the zombies or this thing you keep referring to as a wight?” Derek asked, leaning on his bow. His new battleaxe was strapped to his back, and its bright polished head, shone brightly in the dying light come through the canopy of budding trees. (3)

“I think the wight is more important,” Kazrack said.

It was agreed and the large party made their way down an earthen embankment to the west, led by Ratchis who remained a good eighty to one hundred feet ahead at all times. Before leaving, Kazrack cast Status on the half-orc tracker.

As they marched the first few miles, the trees grew scarcer and the forest floor became more thorny and brown, as the green gave way to budding golden heather that was gray in great splotches.

“We’re not going towards the gnome village anymore,” Thomas chittered in Martin’s head. The watch-mage reached up and scratched under his familiar’s fuzzy little chin. The squirrel’s red fur bristled with delight. He dug his claws into Martin’s green robe-covered shoulder.

“Can you talk to the animals here and find out if they’ve seen any gnomes or undead, or anything else funny?” Martin queried with his thoughts alone, projecting them to the tree-rodent.

“Actually, the animals aren’t the same here. These animals are dumb,” Thomas replied, and then moved to correct himself. “I mean, not as in smart, but as in they can’t talk.” (4)

Martin nodded in understanding, knowing that Thomas would simply sense his understanding without having to fully express it in thought. He and his familiar were bonded and what one felt the other felt. However, he was impressed by Thomas’ increasing vocabulary when he did have to express abstract ideas. As an expression of his own personality, Martin the Green was strangely proud of his squirrel companion. (5)

The landscape grew more fractured, as the party now marched up and down and around great scrub-covered swellings in the earth. They were not quite hills, but too large to step over and they rose on to a large plateau at the horizon. Coming over one of these, Jeremy paused and turned back to look at the line of 15 men and dwarves. He shielded his eyes with one hand, resting his left on the hilt of his long sword. He had to brush his growing blonde out of the way, the skin of his neck was caked with dirt from the road, but he still had a youthful handsomeness that shone through the golden stubble on his face.

Beorth walked past him and paused, and turned to see the descending sun as well.

Jeremy sighed, “Whatever you did, it really worked. That wight ran all day and night to get away from you.”

The Neergaardian turned back towards the direction they were marching and began again.

Beorth followed. “It fears my god’s power.”

Jeremy shuddered, as if the shadow of the memory of his death passed over him momentarily. (6)


A few more hours past, and soon Ra’s Glory’s light was dying in burnt orange sunset behind them as they mounted a final embankment, a rough ridge like a split hill that obscured the land beyond. It seemed to run for miles both north and south across their path in the gathering gloom.

Ratchis was the first to see it, and he gasped. He reached down and helped up Kazrack, as Jeremy and Derek lithely clambered up.

“Osiris have mercy,” Beorth said when he saw what lay beyond, and the dwarves helped each other up to stare silently at the sight.

Before them was a black and barren land of ash and standing columns of stone. It seemed to go far as they could see. The ridge seemed to be the edge of a great rent in the ground, as if some huge and burning thing had slammed into the ground here. Beyond the ridge the earth was covered in a powder fine black ash, and the randomly interspersed were cylinders of black and gray rock, that varied in diameter from one foot to five feet, and some seemed to taper, but none was any shorter than seven feet high, but some reached fifteen or more feet up. The many columns created a labyrinth of shadowed alleyways that scattered in all directions.

Kazrack leaned over and whispered to Belear, “Could this be Dralmohir?” (7)

Belear shook his head, “We are far too westward for this to be that accursed place, and also if this were it I am afraid we would have already been beset by more of the walking dead than we could handle.”

“What is this foul place?” Golnar asked aloud.

“It looks like a place where undead might be found,” Tolnar said, with awe and a bit of fear in his voice.

“I can’t wait to get some payback on them,” Jolnar said, rubbing his shoulder with one hand where a zombie had slammed him.

The three dwarven brothers’ voices carried out across the dead land, as no other sound emanated from the place, not a bird chirp, not a insect buzz, not even the wind seemed to emerge.

Ratchis shushed them.

“Tolnar, keep your voice down,” Kazrack hissed at the dwarves who were not all that much younger than he.

“They could wake the dead,” Beorth quipped uncharacteristically. Jeremy gave him a quizzical look.

“Shall we make camp here on one of these little hills and tackle this place in the morning?” Martin asked.

“No, we should keep going. The undead creature has too much of a lead on us already and he has no need of rest,’ Beorth said, regaining his composure.

“But the sun is going down,” Derek said.

“We have no need of the sun,” Captain Adalar said. “Let us press on.”

Ratchis nodded, and Jeremy shrugged his shoulders.

“It’s decided,” Kazrack said, stepping down into the ashen land, a thick cloud of dust rose up obscuring the thin waxing moon.



(1) DM’s Note: I allowed an intelligence check against DC 18 to determine when the 24 hours have passed since the initial energy drain, allowing for helpful spells (such as Guidance, which I ruled will also help with level checks) to be cast in time to help. Energy Drain itself represents the siphoning off all or part of a person’s life-force and replacing it with a bit of material from the negative energy plane, causing the spirit to battle with this force for dominance; either healing the lost portion or giving in to the infecting darkness.

(2) The party was originally on their way to help free a gnomish community from the yoke of evil half-fiend gnomes. However, despite having live there for months at one time, they are not sure of its exact location.

(3) Derek was given the half-fiend gnome, Mokad’s, captured masterwork battleaxe to use.

(4) Thomas displayed the ability to converse with other small animals living near the gnomish community when the party was last here.

(5) In Aquerra, familiars are created from a physical manifestation of the spell-caster’s personality. A familiar, often expresses it in similar, but exaggerated ways as its master, and its developing intelligence mirrors that of the master as well.

(6) Jeremy was killed by a garbage monster (otyugh) in Session #12, and brought back from the dead in Session #23.

(7) Dralmohir is 4the name for a broken land in Derome-Delem overrun by the undead. It was once a prosperous mountain community of dwarves that was cursed, and the mountain torn asunder, exploding into furious volcano and collapsing.


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Preview. . .


The party stumbles upon the ominous black monolith marking in the entrance to… THE NECROPOLIS OF DOOM! , and find their troubles are just beginning. . .

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