Players in this game:
Rhun (Reivik Dalrak Dwarf Bard1/Barbarian2/Fighter4/War Chanter4)
Thanee (Latalya Elven Fighter1/Wizard6/SpellSword1/EldritchKnight3)
J. Alexander (George Anarion Elven Rogue11)
James Heard (Mavic Larigne Human Wizard11)
Scotley (Morley Human Ranger 11)
Bloodweaver1 (Anastasia Winterheart Human Fighter2/Paladin6/Cavalier3)
hafrogman (Gregor Human Druid 10/Warshaper1)
I am pressganging for a new medium-level mini-campaign set in the World of Greyhawk, specifically the March of Sterich. The time is CY 592, eight years after the invasion of the March and its neighbors by the humanoid and giant forces from the Crystalmists and Jotens. While the Grand Duchy of Geoff is still under non-human control, Sterich was able to drive off most of its occupiers four years ago, although much of the country still lies in ruin and it is a far from stable realm.
In order to muster support against the invading forces, King Skotti of Keoland promised titles and land to anyone who could provide soldiers to come to Sterich’s and Geoff’s defense. In the aftermath of the war, the March is now overrun by petty nobles, many of whom lay claim to the same land, and some whose titles are shaky at best.
Sterich’s capitol, Istivin, is at the center of their squabbling, but something else is amiss in the city. When the liberating forces first fought their way back there in CY 586 no trace remained of King Galmoor of the giants, or indeed of any destruction after the initial raids of 584. In striking contrast to other liberated towns, which had been destroyed, most buildings in Istivin remained in perfect repair. Though most of the returning citizens noticed few differences, the city’s buildings seemed to cast longer shadows than before the war. Men in taverns seemed more likely to raise a fist in anger. A rash of mysterious fires consumed the homes of several important clerics.
Nights now find the streets of Istivin nearly empty, even of city guards. Those brave souls who dare the darkness do so in great haste, running from place to place with weapons drawn. Many have disappeared in the city at night.
It is to this that the PCs now return.
Players will take the part of warriors (in the general and not the NPC-class-specific sense of the word) who have been battling the humanoid and giant forces through most of their adventuring careers. Having served the people of Sterich, Geoff, Keoland and the Yeomanry well and dutifully they now come to Istivin to claim their rewards at court. In order to tell this story, I will use the mini-campaign “Istivin: City of Shadows” from Dungeon magazines #117, 118, and 119 as a backdrop.
I am looking for 4-6 players who are interested in playing both an old-fashioned Greyhawk D&D game, and dealing with the challenge of clearing their newly-earned land, and establishing themselves as lords of it. There are still many dangers to be faced in Sterich, and any PCs who specialize in fighting the giant menace will find themselves in great demand during these adventures. In addition, PCs who have a connection to the drow (either being one, or being drow-hunters) will eventually find their skills useful (hint, hint.)
LEVEL: 11 (at 60,500 XP)
RACE: Any of the common races from the PHB 3.5, and in addition: Gray Elves, Wood Elves, Mountain Dwarves, Deep (Stout) Halflings, and Tallfellow Halflings. Non-standard races are allowed but discouraged, and there is so much animosity against many of them in the March that players will either have to be VERY good at disguise or be willing to do a lot of talking (mainly in the form of “Don’t kill me, I’m on your side!).
ATTRIBUTES: 32-pt. Point buy (plus don’t forget stat adjustments at 4th and 8th level).
CLASS/PRESTIGE CLASS: All Core classes and most from the “Races of” and “Complete” series (ask me). I’m also fond of Malhavoc and Green Ronin’s books, so if you want to use something from there I'll probably say yes, but run it by me first, please. The main point is that they make sense within the campaign setting of the “Reconquista.”
HIT POINTS: Max at first level, after that half your hit die, add one (if your HD is d4 or d6) or add two (if it’s d8 or above) and your Con modifier.
SKILLS AND FEATS: Any from the Core, “Races of”, and “Complete” series. In addition, you can use the Greyhawk Regional Feats presented in Dragon magazine issues #315, and #319. If you don’t have access to these, let me know, and I’ll tell you what is available to you, depending on your home region.
MONEY/EQUIPMENT: Standard amount for 11th level PCs from the DMG (66,000 gp)
HOME REGION: Everyone needs to be from somewhere, with citizens of the Sheldomar Valley preferred. You can be from other areas of the Flanaess, but it should be the exception, not the rule.
CAVEAT: I’m sure I’ve forgotten some aspect of character creation, so please feel free to ask.
I will choose the first 4-6 who post a completed character sheet (stats, equipment, description/history) to this thread.
Before we start the first adventure, I’d like to try something a little different. Since we’re starting at a fairly advanced stage, there is probably a lot of shared history between the PCs. Well, actually, I’m saying that there is a lot of shared history, period.
In order to create this backstory, I am planning on posting 8 or 9 short adventure synopses, those adventures which brought the PCs (as a group) from 1st to their current level. After each synopsis, players can make short comments as to what they learned from that adventure, outstanding monsters or traps overcome, magic items they acquired/made, friends lost or found, mortal enemies made, new classes begun, etc; everything that normally happens during the course of an adventure. These descriptions don’t have to be long, a short paragraph will suffice. In addition, players can add more normal life events which occurred between adventures, such as marriages, births, deaths, training with a wise, old man, travel, enlightening experiences, etc.
The reason I think this will be interesting, is that not only will it create tons of material for role-playing (“This reminds me of the time you polymorphed me into at otyugh for three days!”), but it will ground the players within the setting, giving everything a context. That +2 keen kukri that the rogue owns will be the one that he nicked off the high priest of Vecna while they were battling the gnoll iconoclasts in the Vevse Forest.
If this is something that sounds interesting, please let me know. I’d like everyone to be able to post 2-3 times a week.
COPY OF ADVENTURE SYNOPSES
FIRST ADVENTURE SYNOPSIS
It was the 3rd of Fireseek, 585 CY and it was the beginning of the end. Fate, that most inscrutable of mistresses had brought you all to the village of Fitela, on the southern banks of the rushing Davish river.
Much of the March of Sterich was already in flames, put to the torch by large bands of marauding orcs and bugbears who slaughtered every living thing in their path. Sadly they were only the vanguard of the main assault. Once they had drawn out the brave Sterich halberdiers and the rightly famous light cavalry onto the field of battle, the giants of the mountains appeared out of nowhere. They drove a blinding snow in front of them, freezing unprotected men in their tracks. Thousands died in these assaults, and the brave men and women of the March’s forces, blinded and half-frozen, retreated in desperation to the capitol Istivin. This had been a week-and-a-half before.
The village of Fitella was in a panic. The village alderman, in consultation with the local priest of Allitur had decided to wait for further instruction from the Earl. They hoped that he and his forces would be able to stop the advancing forces at Istivin, safe behind the enormous, protective curtain walls which had withstood assaulting armies for centuries. At the moment, the battles back west seemed far away, although they were beginning to inch closer.
THE PLAYERS ASSEMBLE
Reivik had been in the easternmost Joten fort, doing general labour on the fortifications and collecting stories from the soldiers stationed there, until the invasion began.
In accordance with the evacuation order, he left southern Sterich. It seemed that the most sensible course open to him was to travel to the capital - he was neither militia nor general army, but if he wanted to do some good in the war, the army's mustering point seemed a likely place to start. Fitela lay on his route...
Mavic spent the last couple of weeks assembling his band of warriors and hiring unsavory mercenaries from the Sea Barons. It was obvious that his father wouldn't leave the manor, so with the help of his trusted lieutenant Gregos he determined that the risk was worth doing. Heady with pride and arrogance from his adventures, he was sure that with some effort his band of skirmishers would be able to infiltrate the giant lines and rescue his family from their own stubborness. Besides, if he didn't do it then no one would- his brothers were surely attached firmly to the backside of that coward Querchard and his armies. Rumors said that everything south of Mittleberg was lost, but his family had been in the area for generations and knew every hidden cave and hob den to hide in for miles around. They were alive, if only in Mavic's reckless mind.
Latalya was traveling in northern Keoland, when the news of the invasion raced across the kingdom and reached her and the other adventurers she was with at that time. They disbanded immediately. One of her traveling companions had family in Fitela, while the other two where headed for the western front for similar reasons. Latalya decided to accompany the first. On their way southwards, they passed several treks of farmers and other simple folk, who were fleeing away from the waves of attackers with all the belongings they could carry.
Your group found yourself huddled around an enormous fire which had been started in the barn-like town hall. Most of the townsfolk of the village and the outlying communities were gathered here for warmth and comfort. It was the middle of the night, yet fear kept everyone from finding sleep. All were waiting for word from the capitol, but none so far had come. Anxious faces looked around, or stared blankly into the fire, unable to fully grasp the enormity of what was happening.
Never ones to just sit around for the end, you decided that despite the near-whiteout conditions outside, you needed to venture forth. You had heard that even this far east growing bands of humanoids had been spotted in the high saddle east of Mount Holeen, only a six hour journey on foot in good conditions. This news, however was more than two days old and you feared that the enemy would not be content to remain there.
Just before sunrise you headed out. The wind had blessedly died down, and the falling of the snow seemed almost peaceful now. An hour out of town you spotted a group of at least 40 or 50 man-like creatures, approaching at quite a clip. Fearing the worst you set up and ambush, but quickly realized that these creatures were too small for giants, and did not have the gait of an orc or a bugbear. Thankfully they turned out to be dwarves from a Holeen mining camp. They were lead by Grinnur, “The Hammer of Moradin”, pulling improved stretchers laden with their wounded.
They reported that there was indeed a band of bugbears which had attacked their camp the day before. The dwarves, under the concise leadership of the Hammer had given them quite a bloody nose, retreating into their mine, and using the enclosed tunnels to their advantage against the much larger bugbears. This had worked until the cunning humanoids had started an enormous fire it entrance, using the logs of the buildings of the mining camp as fuel. Unwilling to be trapped like rats, the dwarves had fled using an old, abandoned shaft which led them to an exit much higher on the mountain. From that perspective they could see a huge force of orcs only a few miles away, headed their way. Realizing that they were not equipped or provisioned for a prolonged battle or siege, Grinnur decided to retreat to Fitela, and warn the people there.
After conveying these events to you as you traveled together back down the mountain, you spotted the larger humanoid force behind you coming over a ridge. Nervously you realized that the slower dwarves would be overrun before you reached the village.
A cunning plan was hatched, and a magical evacuation order was sent with all possible speed to warn Fitela. Your group stayed behind to slow down the approaching hoard.
Your plan worked and in addition to slowing down the bugbears and orcs, you were able to kill a great many of them, without being overrun yourself. In the end, however, their overwhelming numbers forced you to hasten the rest of the way down the mountain.
The delaying tactic had worked and had given the dwarves and the villagers enough time to begin shuttling people across the icy rush of the Davish. The miners had also begun laying various traps for the invading army around the village.
Although your continued actions and the dwarven traps picked off more of the attackers, eventually you were beaten back to the banks of the river. Less than 50 villagers remained there, waiting for the boats to return from the other side to pick them up.
On the pebbly banks of the Davish is where you made your final stand, back to back with Grinnur and a select group of his dwarven warriors in addition to a few of the militia men from Fitela. Grinnur’s flaming warhammer sang with the power of the Forger of Souls, and many an orc fell before him, but many of your brothers-in-arms died as well. Then, the biggest bugbear you had ever seen, covered in scars from countless battles made his way through their ranks, bellowing out a challenge for one of you to meet him in single combat. He boasted that to simply slaughter you would too easy and not earn him enough glory, and that if he were killed, he would let the rest of you go.
Grinnur was about to step forth and accept the challenge when you realized that he was far too tired and cut in too many places, and that he would not survive this encounter. Anastasia, still barely 20 years old, and vastly inexperienced, stepped up to the challenge before the dwarf could say something. "I will accept your challenge! I will defeat you, in the name of Mayaheine, for the people of Sterich! You will go NO FURTHER!" At this, the bugbear only smiled a gaptoothed grin and hefted his weapon unto his shoulder.
It was then that the rescue boats finally approached from the far bank and began loading the the villagers. As the last of the folk of Fitela pushed off, you realized that you might never see any of them again. Unwilling to abandon your champion, your group and the remaining dwarves were now surrounded by hundreds of orcs and bugbears, and there were barely two dozen of you left.
The one-on-one combat began well, with Anastasia landing a few decisive blows. She strode forward, completely without fear, and began her assault on him. Sadly this did not last long, as the bugbear chieftain had the strength and endurance of a bull Oliphant. A few mighty blows from his enormous battle maul later your champion lay on the ground, grasping for breath with her armor caved in. Her last thoughts before loosing consciousness were, "This cannot be. I cannot allow my weakness to cause my people to suffer! Never again!"
At that moment a missile weapon/spell came from another one of you and struck the bugbear through the eye/caused his head to implode/burst into flame (you get it, you get to pick) and he collapsed in a lifeless heap.
You figured that now the end had finally come, when one of the orc chieftains began to laugh. He applauded your group for their treachery, and belittled the dead bugbear champion for agreeing to such a stupid challenge. “Still,” he proclaimed, “we are not a people without honor and you defeated him. Therefore you may go.”
A few of the bugbears began to object, but at the command of the orc leader, their objections were permanently silenced. It seemed that the head orc had been planning a takeover for a while.
“You think you live flatlanders,” the orc chieftain went on, “but in truth you and all your peoples are already dead. There is no point in killing you here.”
Realizing that it would be better to live and fight another day, yet with very heavy hearts and spirits, your group made their way downstream, the orc’s jeering laughter ringing in your ears. [/sblock]
COPY OF SECOND ADVENTURE SYNOPSIS
[SBLOCK]About two weeks after the defense of Fitela you find yourself at Godakin Keep (see regional map in post #223 (http://www.enworld.org/showpost.php?p=2245453&postcount=223), on the border between Sterich and Keoland. You could have spent the time in many different ways: recovering from the wounds sustained in battle, protecting the fleeing refugees from Fitela, gathering information about enemy troop movements, trying to rejoin the main body of the Sterich army, attempting to protect your home, etc.
Whatever you choose, you end up at Godakin. It is the lynchpin which secures the defense of the entire region, as it sits on the confluence of the Javan and Davish rivers, controlling water access to both Sterich and Geoff. In addition to providing an inroad into both of these countries, the Javan River also forms the natural western border of Keoland, and is vital to that realm’s defense. If any serious bid is to be made to retake the lost territories, Godakin must stand.
Since your defense of the villagers the war in Sterich has only gotten worse. The giant and humanoid armies have advanced much faster than expected, pushing Earl Querchard to declare a general evacuation of all of Sterich. He was convinced that this was the only viable option by the loss of Morrard, a small keep 45 miles northwest of Istivin. The lord of that manor believed that he could withstand a siege. The giants, however, were not interested in anything of the sort. With heart-wrenching ease they scaled the walls of the keep with simple grappling hooks, while orc shamans on a nearby hillside chanted foul spells of protection. In the end, the keep was burnt to the ground, although one survivor was allowed to flee the devastation in order to give account of what had occurred. The Earl feared that the giants would have similar success in Istivin, and withdrew.
Now the Earl’s court is traveling as fast as it can down the King’s Highway towards Flen. The regular army is being used to defend the fleeing population, while the Sterich cavalry, under the command of Marshall Karri Velthundle launches hit-and-run attacks against the pursuing armies’ flanks and rear.
Upon first arriving in Godakin Keep you undergo intense scrutiny by its defenders. Refugees have been pouring over the border from Sterich for weeks, setting up makeshift camps in the shadow of the castle. All crave the defense of the keep’s strong walls, yet few can fit inside Eventually someone who knows one of you vouches for you and you are let inside.
Within the keep you find everything in an uproar. Volunteers from all over Keoland have been pouring into this part of the country, wishing to volunteer to defend their neighbors. Sadly, the local baron is not the best at managing large groups of people, and many are beginning to get tired of just sitting around, waiting for orders.
Eventually you decide to take surveys of the local warriors, dividing them up by experience and specialty. Knowing that there is a large lack of good intelligence you organize and lead small scouting parties into enemy-controlled territory, and also make contact with small groups of sympathetic demi-humans and creatures who are willing to be of assistance.
Back at Godakin you start suspecting that the seneschal of the baron is more than he seems. After carefully monitoring his movements for a few weeks and using divination magic, you discover that he is secretly passing messages to a foreign power. Unable to get definite proof of this, and worried that the baron would not believe you (or worse, might be a co-conspirator) you follow the seneschal’s messages which eventually lead you to a seemingly abandoned house in a nearby boggy forest. Infiltrating the house you discover that it in fact houses a cell of agents working for the Despot Turrosh Mak, new lord of the Pomarj.
You eventually clear out this cell, discovering that the Pomarj had formed an alliance with King Galmoor of the giants, in addition to a quite nasty tribe of local goblins. The Pomarj agents were planning on taking and holding Keep Godakin from the inside, thereby cutting Sterich and Geoff from any outside assistance. In return, Galmoor was to promise certain mineral rights in the Jotens and Crystalmist mountains.
Armed with this evidence you return to the Keep, confronting the seneschal in front of the assembled court with his treachery (but not before a big battle erupts between you and those loyal to the overlord of the Pomarj.
THIRD ADVENTURE SYNOPSIS:
[SBLOCK]We now take a large leap forward in time from your adventures at Godakin Keep. The time is early Coldeven, 586 CY. The war for the liberation of Sterich and Geoff has been raging with many successes and failures for the last two years. The Confederacy for the Reclamation of the Occupied Territories (or just Confederacy) now holds the banks of the Javan River, and is beginning to make inroads into the heart of Sterich.
Spies have recently reported that something strange is happening among the Occupation forces. After the betrayal of Hilden’s Grange last fall, where the orc chieftain Yagga One-Ear turned against the eldritch giant sorcerer Hawesti, there has been much infighting among the occupying forces. Reports of skirmishes between the giants and their erstwhile allies are heard with growing frequency.
Even stranger, there have been no reports of King Galmoor in Istivin since last Sunsebb. None of the magical or mundane spies of the Confederacy seem to know what happened to him; he simply seems to have disappeared.
Without a strong central leader, the giants are becoming sloppy, and lesser leaders are siphoning men and resources to benefit their own territories.
The forces of the newly titled Marquis Querchard, with the support of King Skotti, are taking advantage of this by striking hard and fast against the nonhumans. Still headquartered in the Keolandish town of Flen, they have just begun a new campaign whose ultimate goal is to retake Istivin.
Your group has been kept busy over the last two years. Currently you are under command of Valtgraf Jorgen Wallur, a famous gnome noble from the Stark mounds. Based in his secret, underground base about 50 miles north-north-west of the ruins of the village of Steryn, you have been conducting spying and hit-and-run operations against the local occupation forces headquartered at Oytpass Keep. You are also in contact with the wood elf forces of the nearby Oytwood, who are currently trying to keep the trail that leads to their sylvan home open. Most recently a small band of mountain dwarves under the leadership of Chief Kurgi Hammerhand have crossed back over the Javan and have joined your group. They are here to support the retaking of the Oytpass Keep, but ultimately wish to retake their lost communities in the western Stark Mounds.
For this adventure, I’m going to leave it up to you to decide on exactly what happens. The only thing that is essential is that at the end of the adventure the Oytpass Keep is held by you or allied forces. How exactly you achieve this is up to you.
Forces on your side:
1. Gnomes of the Stark Mounds under Jorgen Wallur
2. Mountain Dwarves under Kurgi Hammerhand
3. Wood Elves from the Oytwood
4. Some Human Forces (mainly light infantry and skirmishers) from Gorna
5. The young adult Copper dragon Maetus who lives in the Stark Mounds, who although he is selfish, has no great love for the giants and their allies.
6. The Sisters of Righteous Vengeance, a flock of harpies from the White Oyt River valley whose initial attempt to ally with the giants was rudely dismissed and who are now out for a bit of payback.
Forces against you:
1. The defenders of Oytpass Keep. A collection of hill and stone giants.
2. Bonespear and Bloodmoon tribes of gnolls and flinds from the Stark Mounds. They know the area exceptionally well and are good at many of the same tactics you are. They are led by a powerful flind blackguard.
3. The fallen of the battle of Gorna. Mainly wraiths, specters and wights who haunt the Stark Mounds at night. They are not allied with the giants, but present a constant danger to anyone traversing the Stark Mounds at night.
4. The Tuskbreakers, a small band of near-feral wereboars working for the giants who have difficulty following orders.
Locations which you might avail yourselves of:
1. Oytpass Keep: A small keep surrounded by a tall curtain wall. It sits an a steep-faced hill overlooking the road. Its defensive towers contain ballistae and catapults, and the gates are defended by numerous murder holes, boiling oil dispensers. The walls of the keep were reinforced magically and have heightened hardness and hit points. The main gate is magically warded and has the equivalent of SR 25. This effect can be dispelled, but this only lasts for 1d6+1 rounds.
2. Valley of Sorrow: Highly haunted area as a result of the Battle of Gorna in the 5th century CY. It is reputed to hold a magical weapon of some power.
3. Grey Wood: A small forest once connected to the Oytwood. Home of the Tuskbreakers who inhabit a complex on connected tunnels.
4. Ruins of Soraoh: Ancient Flan standing stones in the Stark Mounds. Used as a gathering place for the local gnoll and flind tribes.
5. Oytwood Trail: Connects Sterich to the Oytwood. Not maintained by anyone. Ancient path first used by the Flan people over a thousand years ago.
6. Roothome: The underground base of Jorgen Wallur’s band of gnomes. Not a full gnome community, more of a bolt hole for raids and hunting. Well-stocked with supplies and weapons. Not sized for Medium or larger-sized folk.[/SBLOCK]FINAL ADVENTURE SYNOPSIS
[SBLOCK]FINAL ADVENTURE SYNOPSIS
In the fall of 590 CY the group is hired by the Dwarven Union for the Liberation of Occupied Holds and Other Sundry Communities (D.U.L.O.H.O.S.C.) to investigate and if possible liberate the dwarven hold of Eagle’s Nest. It is located within the peak of the Witch’s Hump, a mountain between the Dear and White Oyt rivers.
The Union’s sources have revealed that although the Eagle’s Nest has been held by a family clan of fire giants and their hobgoblin mercenary allies since around 585 CY, there may be some upheaval happening. The hold sits on a large mithral (or mithril for the Tolkien purists) vein, so the Union members feel that it is essential that it be retaken. The party is hired partially because of their reputation in the retaking of the Oytpass Keep during the war.
The Union has recently received confirmation that a number of dwarven slaves have been brought to this location to assist in the mining and smelting of the precious metal. The melting in particular is quite difficult, dangerous, and labor-intensive process, requiring dangerously high heat, and the dwarves’ reluctant expertise is greatly needed. The work is being overseen by a misshapen half-illithid derro who has been employing his psionic or magical powers to keep the miners and metallurgists in line. This information was provided by a dwarf miner named Nadolf Pickstrike who managed to escape less than a year ago.
The party travels through the Stark Mounds where they encounter a raiding party of dire badger-riding gnome rangers and druids, who have recently relocated there from the north-eastern regions of the Stark Mounds. They are tracking a large band of gnolls who have been despoiling the lands around Gorna. They are mainly interested in this task, and are only secondarily interested in fighting the larger humanoid and giant menace. They seem to know nothing of the Eagle’s Nest.
After arriving in the vicinity of the Witch’s Hump, initial scouting reveals that all of the mapped entrances to the hold, including the supposedly secret ones, have been made impassible or are heavily defended by traps and/or monsters.
The only seemingly undefended access to the Nest is through the ventilation shafts which descend over a quarter of a mile into the mountain to the foundries of the hold.
The party makes camp for the night in a well-hidden cave nearby. During the night they are partially surprised by a large drow raiding party. Rather than attacking, however, the dark elves indicate their desire to parlay, stating that fighting would only result in needless heavy losses on both sides. In addition, they state, your goals might be mutually compatible.
Whatever the party decides to do, one observant member of the party notices that the drow spokesman bears an unknown drow emblem which arouses his/her curiosity. If the party agrees to the parlay, the drow reveal that they have heard of the Eagle’s Nest but have avoided it due to the strength of its defenders. They are currently focusing their attentions elsewhere and agree to withdraw without incidence.
If you attack, the drow quickly retreat.
The next day you make your way to the top of the mountain, employing some stealth. Your carefulness pays off when you realize that an invisible, yet powerful air elemental guards the top of the shaft. You quickly dispatch it before it gets a chance to alarm its masters.
Following this encounter, you devise a way of lowering your party the quarter of a mile down the shaft. As you descend you notice that the gets colder and colder. Near the bottom you discover to your dismay that an enormous batch of brown mold has been planted here to provide some defense and aid in the circulation of air.
Once you devise a way around this obstacle you find yourself near the ceiling of a cathedral-like cavern. Dozens of forges line the floor, heated by geothermal forces. Scores of human-sized humanoids make their way between them, guarded by a handful of vigilant fire giants.
Through some subterfuge you eventually manage to defeat the surprised giant guards, including one who seems to be a wizard who paradoxically focuses on cold magic. Upon approaching the dwarven slaves, you find they have been horrifically transformed to better deal with the intense heat found here. Strange, heat-resistant scales have somehow been grafted onto their bodies, so that they barely resemble dwarves anymore. In addition, all seem to be under some form of mind control.
Through magical or mundane means you break one of transfigured dwarves’ control. At first he is overcome with grief at the sight of his new form, and begs to be killed. After being calmed down a bit, he realizes that he can still be of some use in freeing his companions.
With his help you track down the half-derro slave lord and defeat him in a pitched battle after first overcoming his enthralled umber hulk bodyguards. Before the party is completely over, the remaining fire giants return slightly bloodied from a raid, but soon flee before your onslaught.
Freed from their mind control the mutated dwarves liberate the rest of the slaves, but decide that they do not wish to return to their surface. Refusing further aid, they meet and tell you that they wish to travel further into the Underdark, and make a new home there, far way from everything they know.[/SBLOCK]
For reference purposes (and following Thanee's suggestion), here's the map of Sterich.