Sunday, 29 August 2010

Post War Natives - 22/8/2010

Sorry this took so long...
*    *    *

11:00 – 11:05 – By the time Varracuda, Grigori and Seren have reached the others, the captured rogue has soiled himself twice over and is begging for his life. His name is Robert (or Bob as the group insist on calling him), and he is convinced that the party are agents of the “Gutter Kings” - apparently a guild of wererats that are engaged in a shadowy war with the Rookery. Between begging the group not to kill him or bite him, he sings like a canary, telling the group all he knows about the guild and those currently in house.

He tells them that Corvus is currently “away” having gone into hiding when they heard about the madmen looking for him in the Kicked Dog. He informs them that several of the guild's captains remain behind, including one Ugillor – leader of the Gorashym mercenaries Corvus hired – who waits in the next chamber along with a cadre of his troops. He also tells them that Corvus and his closest allies are not human, but “bird people” - though from the description Jaeger and Grigori think they may be a species of humanoid known as Kenku; a race originally from the distant lands of Kai'Yassan.

Bob tells the group that he will help them if they promise not to infect him with “the vermin's way” and to prove his new found loyalty, disables a sleep gas trap on the door ahead.

Emmiven is keen to decapitate the rogue, as is Shnecke, but the rest of the party feel he has been cowed enough and is pragmatic enough to help them – at least until he sees an opportunity to get away – and appreciate how useful his crossbow, blade and insider knowledge of the Rookery lair could be to them.

The group ask Bob if there is any kind of code used to get the door to the next chamber (which is apparently wedged shut by Corvus' throne) opened without the monsters beyond growing suspicious. He tells them there was a knock, but that the only one who knew it was the illusionist. Seren – now more mutated than ever, her skin pale and flaking, scales clearly showing beneath, the horn buds above her eyes now erupting into full blown, back swept horns, her overall height now almost 7' – calmly informs the human that she will feast on his entrails whilst he lives if he has lied, her new sharp teeth and fearsome, lean bulk adding horrific credence to her words, and after he has stopped hyperventilating and making warding gestures, he reiterates his previous statement and pleads to be believed.

11:06 – 11:10 – So, aware that the chamber beyond is filled with deadly monsters, the group try to form a plan. They decide to only open the door enough so that it will give cover, and to force the monsters to fight them one at a time in the door.

They shove the door open with a warbling wail of metal and wood on stone...

...The plan lasts less than 6 seconds once the battle begins.

At once the bass roars of the Gorashym beyond fill the air. Varracuda steps out into the chamber and takes a quick headcount, feeling his stomach curl with horror.

The first thing he notices is a monster that can only be Ugillor; a squat giant of a gorgryn, with black fur, a wide tusked mouth, and red, luminous eyes. He is clad in thick black plate, and wields a huge club that is carved with throbbing primal runes and enhanced with the jawbones of great cats. Closer stands a gorashym dressed in battered and dented plate, who wields a massive maul; eager drool sliding in a long rope from his thick-lipped mouth. Other gorashym stand around the room, several lurking near the back, whilst others stand behind the four tall stacks of crates – strangely out of place in this chamber – that break up the open floor.

Before he can take in any more details however, the maul wielding monster has charged. Varaacuda raises his blade, but the brute ignores him, and instead, with a grunt and the sickening squeal of ripping metal, it tears the door to the parties room clean off its hinges, throwing the massive lump into the far corner with little effort.

With the foundation of their plan gone, the group have to adapt - fast. 

The battle swings wildly. At first Schnecke, Varracuda, Emmiven and Bob all pile in, hoping to form a defensive formation around the door. They mercilessly attack the maul wielding monster, ripping through the heavy hides it wears and drawing blood with their attacks. However, Ugillor piles in, and with a savage flurry of swings, he smashes all but Varracuda off their their feet and shoves them, sprawling back. The air seethes with power as Seren unleashes a potent incantation at the gorashym leader, but he dodges it with a sneer. Grigori unleashes luminous bursts of radiant power which simultaneously burn and hamper their foes and bolster his allies, whilst the shadowy form of Jaeger shifts from position to position, striking at the monsters through barriers that defeat all other attacks, and dealing lasting, fatal wounds.

Varracuda is seemingly impervious to damage for much of the fight, his armour and dexterity mitigating most of the horror flying at him. However, as the battle – a brutal skirmish between the leaning piles of crates – unfolds, his luck begins to wane, and he soon bleeds from numerous crush injuries.

Ugillor proves remarkably easy to take down, his physical presence no match for his perceived reputation, and soon the group are clearly gaining the upper hand. Schnecke possibly has the worst of it, as the maul wielding gorashym almost caves his skull in with a catastrophic blow whilst he lies dazed and prone – a moment before that same monster is taken apart by the party – though the Ulnyrr is soon healed and rejuvenated by the cleric's powerful healing prayers.

Two rookery rogues who were also in the chamber try to skirt the edge of the battle, moving in to strike at the group when they are engaged with the hulking gorashym. However, they are stalked by Jaeger as well as the sorceress, and soon they are fighting for their lives, each looking hopefully towards the only safe exit from the chamber - a door in the wall opposite the one the group came through.

And then that very door opens, bringing hope to those Rookery that are not bleeding out on the floor, and anxiety to the group. At first only darkness looms beyond the doorway, a slight breeze scented with cabbage and sewers wafting through. Then a human skull with extended eye-teeth and swirling milky eyes floats into the frame, propelled forth by a huge serpentine body – the skeletal body of some gigantic snake. It flows with a hypnotic, languid dance, the individual ribs of its long body seeming to flicker and pulse as it moves. It slides into the chamber with a whisper of bones, its front third raised off the ground, and begins to sway from side to side, the hypnotic effects of its movements causing almost everyone in the chamber to stop fighting briefly and to stand dumbstruck at it. Emmiven and Schnecke however are not affected by this, and can only scream with horror as they see the rest of the group – as well as several of the Rookery – become dazed and distracted by this thing (a monster later identified as a Necrophidius).

Others things enter the room. Hooded and cloaked, they are thought at first to be more men and women of the guild. However, as they near, short, stabbing blades raised, it is clear that these are neither human or gorgryn, but birds that walk and fight like humans. Bright black eyes shine behind short, straight beaks, their plumage black, though iridescent with purples and greens where they catch the light.

Kenku.

Whether by cruel fate or simple bad luck one of the new arrivals is almost immediately enspelled by the writhing of the necrophidius, and like the rest of its victims, it can only take distracted, halting actions. Another flits like a shadow into the room, and quickly vanishes amongst the shadows, whilst another moves to attack those dazed by the constructs eerie dance.

For those still free to act, the necrophidius is the primary target. Bones splinter and chip as it is attacked, and after only a very short while, it breaks apart in a flurry of sparks and bones shards. At once everyone held in its thrall shakes free, and carnage ensues.

Filled with a new desire to destroy their tormentors, the party attack with a renewed ferocity. The Kenku (of which there are now three; two warriors and the elusive sneak), are not the most skilled combatants. One of the warriors is quickly brought down, its hollow bones almost turning to paste under the savage blows it receives. The sneak manages to score a deadly blow against Emmiven, driving a slender dagger, shaped like a wing, into his throat. Gore splatters from the strike, but the warlord is merely annoyed. Exposed by his attack, the sneak realises that he is vulnerable, and casting his cold, black eyes over the cadavers bleeding out across the charnel house that was once Corvus' throne room, it comes to a quick decision...

...And flees...

One kenku warrior remains. It puts up a brave defence, its short blade flashing back and forth as it desperately tries to deflect the incoming attacks of the party. Grigori yells at it that it will be spared if it joins with them, but it is smashed to the floor by Emmiven a moment later, its bones popping as it falls, a piercing, bird cry of panic, like that of a startled black bird, filling the air.

“You've fucked with the wrong people Kingers!” it croaks in a scratchy, parrot voice.

“No, we've fucked with the dead people” replies Emmiven as Varracuda glides in towards the prone Kenku, and ends its life with a burst of lambent swordplay.

11:11 – 11:18 – The party quickly search the chamber, though the only thing of value they find is Ugillor's enchanted greatclub. Schnecke suggests searching Bob's mouth for golden teeth – but the group have grown to appreciate his prowess in battle, and he is spared.

Jaeger asks Bob about what lies beyond this chamber. He tells him that a wide corridor leads from here and to the main hall – a huge room that serves as the sleeping area, eating area and social area for the guild. Bob tells them that several side chambers leading from it serve various functions, but that it will likely be the main area of resistance in the guild. In short, the group have another tough battle ahead of them.

Bob also tells the group that next to the hall are the captains private chambers, and that somewhere in the locale is Corvus' hidden vault. He also mentions that there are prisons somewhere in the guild, though he is not aware of the exact location.

When asked about the guild's quota of troops, Bob states that he is unable to guess about the standard minions, as faces come and go constantly. With regards to captains, he states that to his knowledge there are only two left; Crav'Awk, a kenku of high standing with Corvus and the dundorin murderer Meerzek the “Scar Mask”.

11:19 – 11:22 – The group move along the corridor beyond the chamber, and spot a flight of steps. At the top of it a heavy door stands half open, and from beyond it, the gravelly voice of a dundorin rings out.

“Come on then ye pussy bastards. Come and find out what happens to rats that get ideas above their station”.

“Stunties!” shrieks Emmiven with obvious glee.

The group move towards the stairs.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Ormid et al - Session 19/8/2010

22:11 – 04:00 – The party move through the dismal gardens of the Rot Folk, and into the decaying tunnels beyond. Over the next few hours they clamber through the filthy labyrinth; sometimes swimming along rushing channels of stinking, slimy water, sometimes pushing through claustrophobic tunnels barely large enough to crawl through. Eventually they find themselves in a dank chamber of chewed stone, through which runs a vast stone pipe. Runes scratched into the pipe in chalk allow Ormid to calculate that this pipe leads to the outside world, that it is a drainage pipe.

With a word of muted power Evran cracks a section of the pipes curving top, forming a hole that any of them can fit through. Through this hole it is possible only to see surging, crashing water, blasting through under considerable pressure. There is clearly a vicious current in the pipe and no air pocket – a deadly combination. Evran recalls that the grates that lead to the outside world are usually spiked on the inside, so that large pieces of waste that somehow make it this far are shredded before being fired out into the outside world.

04:03 – 04:04 – Llewellyn, bored and eager to be out of the sewers suddenly grabs a length of rope and ties it around his waist. He then hands the other end to the Veteran, and with an impish grin (and to the rest of the groups' horror) dives into the pipe.

The rope immediately goes taut, and Ferrous and Ardwaine have to help the Veteran to pull the sputtering, half-dead vyrleen back out of the tearing waters, so strong is the current in the pipe. Llewellyn, when he is pulled free, is barely conscious. He vomits up thick gobs of mucus and sewer water, and lies shivering for a minute or two before he can speak in a reedy, gasping voice.

“S-s-s-tupid! R-real f-f-fuckin' s-stupid!”

04:05 – 04:10 – The group briefly discuss the sanity of the Veteran (who cannot drown and is physically powerful) entering the pipe and smashing the grid out so that they rest can jump in and ride the current out. This plan is abandoned when the group realise that they could still be quite high above ground level; the idea of being half-drowned and then splattered messily on the floor not appealing to them one jot.

Then the Veteran remembers his girdle, and with a silent force of will commands its magic to activate. At once glinting adamantine claws grow from his hands, and turning to the solid rock of the wall adjacent to the pipe, he begins to rip chunks of it away, the noise deafening in the confines of the chamber. Within a few minutes he has burrowed deep into the rock, forming a wide tunnel, and with a dull crack his claws suddenly punch through the wall and out into clear, night air.

Filled with sudden joy, he widens the gap and opens a way, allowing the fresh air to flow into the tunnels – its smell one of the best things the group have experienced for an age.

04:11 – 04:26 - After the initial joy, the party gather to consider what to do next. Firstly, they try to get their bearings by looking at the land outside, which they manage despite the sweeping changes to the landscape that have occurred since they were last here. They note the weird distortions of the local area, rendered by over a thousand years of continued eldritch decay, and puzzle about the two black fortresses, struck with vast restraining runes that rise above the black canopy of the alien jungles to the southeast. They note the various strange things floating at different heights above the ruins, as well as the weird lights and ripples in the air. They note with some confusion a constant fiery glow coming from over the immediate horizon to the southwest, and take very little comfort when Evran explains about the black fortresses being Unified Order “Gate Houses” - capstones to aberrant portals randomly opening in the twisting fabric of the tortured local reality.

At the base of the cliff within which they currently stand is a vast swamp, fed by the long line of sewage spewing pipes that thrust out the rock face from the New Laertraine sewers. The party note the 100' drop from the pipes end, as well as the ferocity with which the frothing, whitish-green waters erupt from them, and thank Leorn that they have not had to take that route out of the subterranean. The swamps are threaded with mist which shines in the half light of Lunum's waning light, and the only solid ground appears to be various hummocks of slimy moss dotted in the greasy waters, and a few tiny islands that have formed around the roots of wretched looking willows. By the time they are ready to move, the first distant glimmers of dawn and lightening the southeastern sky, and the morning star – Pyre – has started its refulgent climb into the heavens.

04:27 – 04:45 – Moving carefully in order to avoid any unexpected falls, or breaching any dangerous chambers below, the group follow the Veteran as he scoops a stepped corridor down the inside of the cliff using his claws. It takes a little time, but eventually the group are standing at the edge of the wretched swamp, their view of the land ahead now obscured by the filmy mist and the clouds of biting insects that seem to materialize the second they arrive. It is at this point that Llewellyn realises that he is not feeling too great – almost certainly a side effect of inhaling the filthy sewer water earlier.

The group discuss tactics and agree on two things; that they need to head directly into the heart of the ruins, and that they should do so on the backs of Ormid's Spectral Steeds. To this end, the artificer brings out several jars of residuum, and prepares to start a casting...

04:46 – 04:50 – However...

The water of the bog suddenly explodes with deadly motion, and four rubbery tentacles, covered in teeth and suckers, lash out towards the party. Most of the group manage to leap out of their way or parry them. Poor Ormid however, busily sorting through his backpack, is grabbed by one and hoisted high into the air, the slashing teeth cutting crackling lines into his armour.

The group form up ready to face this latest horror, and watch as a vast, slimy bulk half rises from the swamp; a huge amphibian of some kind – a thing of whipping tentacles, wide mouth and grasping prehensile tongue. Its eye rest atop a flexible stalk on top of its flat head, and it moves with powerful kicks of its unseen legs.

Evran warns Ormid that he has a plan but that it will hurt, and belts out a chiming incantation that causes reality to warp around the Froghemoth and the artificer. Both yell as parts of their body are bent and ripped by the disturbance, but Evran manages to teleport the grabbed artificer to a position next to him, rescuing him from the monsters massively fanged mouth.

Ferrous is not so fortunate, for a moment later and the poor thing has been grabbed, bitten savagely and then swallowed whole. Trapped within the burning, crushing depths of the Forghemoth's guts, all it can do is claw and bite at the suffocating interior in the hopes of killing the thing, or making it feel rough enough that it vomits him back up.

And so a tough battle ensues. The party are repeatedly grabbed, bitten, slashed, crushed and battered by the giant mutant, and at once point several members of the group are sent reeling as the monster utters a deafening croak which resonates like a thunderclap within their brains. The huge thing initially seems utterly unconcerned by even the most savage blows, and quickly proves resistant to both flame and spark, though the former makes it back off in alarm and the latter seems to slow it somewhat.

However, the multiple wounds cumulatively begin to weaken the thing, and as its fishy, watery bloody begins to flow ever more freely, it begins to slow down and to strike with less and less power. Its end comes at the edge of the Veteran's axe, just as it is lifting the warforged into its cavernous mouth to try and swallow him; the warrior driving his axe into the monsters head with enough force to shatter its rubbery skull and turn its brains to slop.

With a final wail the huge monster surges upwards in the water, before crashing, dead, back into the stinking mire.

04:50 – 05:15 – The group regroup and discover within the monsters guts the remains of a less fortunate explorer. Several items of power (a protective amulet and a strange totemic charm) as well as some riches are also recovered.

The group then patch their wounds (Llewellyn is now looking pale and is sweating – signs of filth fever) and Ormid conjures his ghostly horses. Whilst they rest Evran warns the party that in many areas of the ruins magic behaves erratically, and that the random effects can be significant in many instances. He also points out that their best chance of entering the ruins heart is through such unstable zones, as the Unified Order have to rely on mundane rather than magical means of defence, which means they won't have to deal with the usual barrage of abjurations, constructs and deadly conjured monsters...in theory...

05:20 – With the sky lightening, the group ride the flickering mounts into the darkness of the alien jungle, and off towards the heart of the ruins.

Froghemoth - Level 14 Solo Brute

As you shall soon see, Ormid and his band encoutered one of the classic AD&D monsters - the Froghemoth. I used the original AD&D Monster Manual II version as my template, and managed to create a beast that absolutely behaved as it should, and proved to be a perfect solo. 

So, here are my stats for the 4e Froghemoth. Enjoy!


Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Post War Natives - 16/8/2010

10:52 – 10:57 – They are lanky things; all lithe balletic grace and shredding corrosive claws, and they seem to almost dance across the rogues span towards the group. First blood is drawn by Grigori, who unleashes a blinding beam of chiming radiance at one of the daemons; searing its flesh and fixing himself as its first target. Jaeger (still under the bridge) also manages to land a blow, after sending one of this shadowy blades through a dismal portal and up into the legs of one of the fiends. Both daemons are raked by lightning, breathed by Seren's familiar, which still flitters over the bridge – though one manages to gracefully duck under the blast and avoid any harm.

In the blink of an eye the daemons are amongst the party...and then not.

Grigori experiences a rush of confusion and suddenly finds himself a little way behind Seren, on the opposite side of the arcane barrier. Slightly dizzy and disoriented, his view of the sorceress is suddenly blocked as the daemon apports next to him, and hits him with two vicious blows, which tear through the mantle of magic protecting him and shred the armour beneath.

A moment later, and Varracuda finds himself whisked away to the far side of the barrier by the second daemon. He is still wounded from the battles earlier, and finds himself in serious trouble when the monsters talons and vicious teeth tear into him and open deep, bleeding wounds.

Now trapped on the opposite side of the barrier from the battle, Shnecke and Emmiven can only watch as the horrors unleash their deadly attacks on the three adventurers with them. Jaeger however is able to manipulate the nearby shadows to open a portal through the wall. He appears amongst the carnage as Seren lashes out repeatedly at the daemons with her magic, finding that almost every attack is turned aside by their innate protections.

Grigori saves Varracuda's life as his wounds pile up, and the daemons – themselves burned and blasted by shadowed blade, arcane fire and divine radiance – begin to pour with acidic slime, the wounds they inflict burning with its touch long after the initial blow is struck.

The battle continues, and the first of the daemons is taking a sound beating despite Seren's apparent inability to land a solid blow. Its form is becoming less than solid; billowing strangely as if it is made from black smoke rather than chitin and bony flesh as the spells binding it physically to this world are undone by the cumulative damage. It tries to escape the carnage by stepping through the force field of the barrier, though this puts it next to the barbarian. Jaeger tries to stab it as it moves, warping space with a pool of shadows and sending his blade through the barrier, though the daemon swats this aside almost without looking. Unfortunately for it however, it is not able to avoid the descening razor edge of the Ulnyrr's axe, and the ensorcelled steel of its edge slices the vile spirit in half, its form instantly dissolving into a cloud of noxious, smarting, black smoke.

Whilst this has been occurring the other daemon has shifted slowly away from the arcane barrier and round the corner of the tunnel, hoping to gain some cover from putting its back to the solid stone. Varracuda has moved to attack it, his flaming blades slashing hissing wounds in its diminishing form. Alas, he discovers that the fiend has still another undisclosed trick up its sleeve, for as each blow lands, the thick slime it sweats sprays onto him, burning him painfully with its corrosive touch. Seren also gets sprayed by the burning slime as she stabs the monster with her daggers, channelling a spell through the blade (with no effect).

More silvery magic flows from Grigori like strands of some coruscating web, touching both Varracuda and the daemon. The swordmage is healed, the energy probing his wounds and repairing them, whilst the magic around the daemon solidifies into a blade-shaped rune of unravelling power, which plunges into the monsters form. The daemon screams as it feels its innate defences being weakened by the astral seal, its link to its home universe blunted by its interference, and Varracuda leaps in, landing a solid blow against it. As before, caustic slime burns the swordmage, only this time, more healing power, born from the seal, flows down the genasai's blades, further healing him.

Out by the bridge, and Shnecke and Emmiven decide that they will try to get to the other side, and to seek out any kind of mechanism that may bring the arcane barrier down. This is despite neither of them really knowing what to look for, or how to safely dismantle even the simplest of magical artifice. To this end, they throw themselves under the bridge, and begin to swing across, the bridge once more swaying alarmingly from side to side, threatening to catapult the pair out into the black air and to a lethal smash into the waters far below.

Seren gives a mental call to her familiar, who has been out over the bridge, constantly fighting near petrification as it has drawn fire from the basilisk stare trap, and the tiny creature wings its way to the arcane barrier. Jaeger uses the creature as a focus for a short range shadow step and apports to the far side of the barrier. Running, he leaps under the bridge and begins to swing expertly towards the two warriors, hoping to use his expertise to aid them in their search for a disarming rune. However, he changes his mind, and slashing the ropes he has been playing out behind him, he swings towards the far wall, smashing hard into it. Luckily, he manages to roll with the force of the impact, and sustains only superficial wounds. He then climbs back up and runs towards the barrier, opening another portal next to Grigori as he strikes the daemon with another seal of power .

Varracuda hacks the daemon again, scoring another hit, and Seren's run of bad luck continues as another one of her spells fails to harm the fiend. Then Jaegar, his blades seething with hungry darkness, stalks around the corner of the tunnel and launches towards the daemon. He seeds the monsters form with a kernel of darkness and stabs at it, landing a blow that strikes the very heart of both the monsters' form, and the spells holding it in this world. With a piercing scream of rage the daemon dissolves into nothingness, its cries echoing as if from the bottom of a deep well.

By this point the two warriors have swung across the bridge and pulled themselves up at the far end. They find that there is a 10' deep alcove set into the far wall, the way forwards blocked by a formidable door of steel. Schnecke shivers as the petrifaction trap sends a wave of fossilizing magic through him (though he shrugs this off), and both warriors quickly decide on what to do.

They charge the door!

Filled with adrenaline and pumped up with rage the two men crash into the door with terrific force. The steel door holds solid, but its hinges fail, and they manage to rip it off its frame and send it smashing deafeningly to the floor beyond. Now engaged in a search for any way to remove the barrier from their end, Varracuda, Seren and Grigori look at each others with clear apprehension as they hear the terrific boom, and peer across the gulf of the pit to try and see what is going on. This concern only deepens when they hear Emmiven yell, and see him stumble back, a crossbow quarrel embedded deeply in his shoulder – apparently fired by an unseen foe or device somewhere along the revealed corridor.

With a roar, Emmiven and Shnecke charge into the darkness. Jaeger, now back under the bridge swings up to stand behind them, but stays where he is, desperately searching for a control glyph to lower the arcane barrier. This, it turns out, is a very wise move, for a moment later and both the charging adventurers are surrounded by searing magical flame as they trip a hidden glyph of warding carved into the floor 15' from the doorway.

“Get fucking back!” hisses the assassin, hugging the walls of the corridor.

They stumble back, and all three of the adventurers scramble back under the bridge in order to try and formulate a plan out of range of the petrifaction trap (which in truth Seren's familiar is keeping busy) and of any further missile attacks. As they do this, something unusual occurs, for suddenly all the suspension ropes and cables of the bridge pull taut, and the rogues span is pulled into a rigid shape; the individual planks locking together to form a sturdy pathway.

Then they hear the voices. They are speaking some abominable tongue similar to gorgryn, and have a deep, roaring timbre. The three hear heavy footsteps, and the distinctive clank of heavy armour. Curious, Emmiven and Jaeger strain to peer over the lip of the bridge, and see, clumping down the corridor, two massively built humanoids, clad in thick, dark plate armour and wielding massive mauls. Each is some kind of gorgryn; though flat-faced, tusked and covered in short, bristly fur. They have wide yellow eyes, and flat, broad noses.

Jaeger recognises them as Gorashym (bugbears) – physically powerful brutes with a penchant for raw meat and an instinctive cunning – and they are approaching the bridge with speed.

Under the now solid bridge, the three adventurers look at each other, and seem to hatch a plan without words, an evil grin spreading across their faces.

Meanwhile...

“Aha” Yelps Grigori, “do you two think this may be a weakness in the barrier?”

The cleric points to a seemingly unremarkable section of the barrier. However, with a little effort, both the swordmage and the sorceress manage to shift their awareness to a less physical, more magical level, and both recognise a slight deformity in the intricate weave of energies forming the wall – an imperfection they may be able to use to shatter the barrier. Together, the three magic wielders draw on the ambient energies and their own internal powers and subtly manipulate the substance of the wall. As they pour energy into it, so it begins to shudder and weaken, and eventually, after what seems like an eternity – though in truth a mere heartbeat has passed – the barrier reaches a critical resonance, and shatters in a flash of silent, blue light.

Blinking the glare from their eyes, the three notice two huge, armoured forms running across the suddenly very solid looking bridge towards them. Realising immediately what they are, and understanding what formidable foes they are, they back off a little trying to form a plan for destroying them. Then they notice, at the far end of the bridge Jaeger, Schnecke and Emmiven emerging from under the bridge; the warlord scooping up the door he and the barbarian smashed in and hoisting it in front of him like a shield, blocking the corridor with it, whilst the assassin and hulking Ulnyrr setting about smashing one of the bridges supports with their weapons.

The two gorashym spot the three magic users before them, and give savage grins thinking their lightly armed and armoured foes easy targets. Behind them, the barbarian flies into a rage, striking the post with horribly powerful blows, aided by the tenebrous blade of the assassin, and with superhuman effort, they manage to cut through it, immediately unleashing the powerful tensions imbued into the bridge.

By the time the gorashym realise what is going on it's too late. The bridge literally tears itself apart, the ropes and cables lashing the air like the tentacles of an insane monster; slicing one of the monsters in half and stunning the other. The boards shatter and fly across the chamber, and with a shrieking boom, the entire structure smashes into the waters beneath, vanishing in a frothing mess of floating debris and churning foam. Both gorashym are lost.

Realising that they are now going to have to climb down into the waters, swim across and then climb up the other side, Varracuda, Grigori and Seren unfurl their rope and move towards the edge...

...Meanwhile, Schnecke joins Emmiven in his charge down the corridor towards the unseen crossbowmen, whilst Jaeger hangs back. With the door held in front of them, they charge blindly ahead screaming. Numerous crossbow quarrels slam into the door, bouncing harmlessly off, though one ricochets off the roof and snags in the meat of the barbarian's shoulder. Undeterred they continue their mad charge, fully intending to smash the life from whoever stands before them at the end of the corridor.

However, both suddenly realise that they are falling as a vast, bottomless chasm opens up beneath them, swallowing them, and all they do is scream and flail as they fall to their deaths...

Jaeger sees everything. He sees the two warriors charging ahead, sees them almost reach the end, and spots a robed figure stepping out before them, magic darting over her hands. He feels the prickle of sorcery, and watches in horror as the pair suddenly fall to the ground screaming and writhing; the spastic flailing of Schnecke being halted by one of the archers as they fire a quarrel, point blank, into his face, blood immediately washing over his features, clogging his beard and pooling thickly around his head. With the others still swimming across the chamber behind, the assassin realises that he needs to act fast. He charges ahead and leaps towards the Rookery illusionist slicing her across her throat whilst firing a poisoned bolt into one of the crossbowmen. He then spins back to the illusionist and swipes at her, warping the space around her with ribbons of shifting shadows. His blow lands and she is sent flying towards her allies, smashing into them and sending them all sprawling. Emmiven snaps out of his daze and as his eyes focus comes face to face with the draining form of Schnecke. Harnessing his powers he begins to scream at the barbarian, yelling at him to snap out of his malaise, and against all sanity it works. The Ulnyrr's eyes roll and open, and with a gasp he grabs the quarrel in his face and tugs it free, seeming to actually draw strength from the pain of it.

The illusionist is dead by this time, her life ended by Jaeger's blades, and he unleashes another deadly attack, his shadowed sword ripping at the three downed archers. One of them is hit in the neck and expires immediately. The other two are seriously wounded.

An ear-splitting roar and a thick cloud of acrid smoke as Emmiven, still prone, blows apart the head of one of the archers with his dundorin blunderbuss – more than enough for the last surviving Rookery rogue who immediately throws down his weapons and begs for his life.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Ruins of Laertraine - Circa. 1472

From my notes for the game with Ormid, Llewellyn and Veteran. No spoilers!

INTO THE RUINS HEART

Time has changed the ruins almost beyond belief, for what was naked stone and crumbling towers in their own time is now shimmering forest, fractured dimensional bounds and confused subterranean mazes. The fabric of reality has continued to shift and decay over the last one and a half thousand years, and the localised climate is an unnatural construct; shifting wildly from day to day, hour to hour. Further in, unnatural energies flicker and rip through the ruins, and magic drawn from divine, arcane, shadow or elemental sources behave erratically. Security is an issue in these areas, for it is within these wild zones that most of the Unified Order's usual defences fail, and more fallible, mundane measures of containment are in place.

All kinds of strange phenomena run rampant in the ruins, and large pieces of debris, shattered structures, and in one area, an entire mausoleum, float randomly above the ruins – sometimes staying in one place, sometimes crashing back to the ground after a while, and other times moving at random; sometimes disappearing only to return at a random location. Weird lights and unnatural pressures are the norm for the ruins, and very often distance and time are “wrong”, the very fabric of reality being warped and deformed.

Indeed, the ruins are a highly dangerous place – more so than when the group explored them in the past – for the continued decay of the ancient Mythal has caused substantial dimensional instability, allowing entire sections of the city to yo-yo between universes, often returning with stowaways and causing the localised unnatural weather. Some of the areas of instability have become permanent portals, and Unified Order Gate Houses (eight in all) have been built to guard over them. This has lead to many unbound elementals, fey and daemons entering the ruins; warping the local life and establishing pockets of influence.

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

At present a ninth Gate House is under construction along the southeastern edge of the ruins, as a dimensional breach is starting to stabilize into a portal to a currently uncharted dimension. This work has been hampered by the strong winds that are being created by the vacuum beyond this nascent portal, and there have been a number of mages and workers who have been affected by the screaming sound of the winds as they tear into the portal, who have developed psychosis and in many cases, become dangerously violent.

Within the western reaches of the ruins heart, the Unified Order have become aware that an alien stronghold has appeared; a thing of shimmering brass and spiked barricades. At present the Order are keeping an eye on it, and from the symbols and runes displayed on its flickering oriflammes suggest that the inhabitants are Ifrit.

The Unified Order have also recently uncovered a huge subterranean space, which appears to be the remnants of the ancient time distortion chambers used by ancient mages when they wished to conduct long term or dangerous rituals or magic construct synthesis, though the region in which this rests is particularly rife with dangerous and eldritch phenomena.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Post War Natives - 3/8/2010

24/4/1472 – 29/4/1472

The party spend a few days sorting a number of ongoing concerns out. One of the top priorities is selling the Theon's Bleu, and this is finally competed by Grigori and Seren; the entire crate being sold for 70,000 gold to a Dundorin wine collector in a smoky Dundorin bar out of sight of the forces of law and order. The money is shared out amongst the party, and all set up bank accounts with the Great House Consortium supported “August Society Depository” (Each character pays a 1.5% fee on every deposit made, but is able to access their funds, through the letters of ownership, of their funds in any branch of the depository anywhere on the planet), in which to store their funds.

The party also discuss developing a group identity, and over drinks in the smoke wreathed bar of the Staff of Wands, come up with a colour scheme that will mark their clothing; black and blood red, with a wolfs head motif. During these days several party members move to ensure their kit fits in with this new colour scheme, with Emmiven and Seren taking it the most seriously, each spending no small amount of money on permanently having their clothing altered.

Emmiven also pays Jurgen Throndor'Gulv to be allowed to examine some of the Gnarrak that have been captured for battle in the arena, in order to be able to wear their features as part of the “wolf's head motif” of the party...

On the morning of the 26th, a well dressed Irinite native named Raanulf Ar'Laeden approaches the party and presents a seal to them – the seal of the Irinite Constabulary – the permanent police force of the city. He explains that he has been sent to ask for their help with “some deeply disturbing crimes” that have been occurring over the last few weeks. The group explain that they already have much to be getting on with (that very morning Jaegar has been reminded of his sacred duty to remove the money lender Darius, and both he and Seren have been prompted by the Order about the need for them to hunt down the renegade mage Balskus Morvell), but state that if they had the details of the crimes, they may be able to help.

Clearly nervous and sickened by what he recounts, Raanulf explains that a number of horrific murders have occurred over the last few weeks. All have been pregnant women associated with rich families; ladies in waiting, maidservants, personal tutors and other similarly innocuous ladies, and each has been discovered in a seemingly random part of the city, with their womb sliced open and burned through – the damage suggesting a fierce conflagration had been sent within their bellies. A couple also bore foul symbols, partly consumed by the fires, which seemed to have been burned into their skin around the curve of their abdomens.

Even Shnecke seems horrified at these crimes, and the party agree that once they have dealt with their other tasks, if the murderer is still at large, they will look into it. Raanulf thanks them, and bids them good hunting.

Jaeger also takes the opportunity during this time to do some questioning on the streets as to the layout of the sewers under Irin – or more specifically, which areas are “high traffic” and which are taken as the territory of certain underworld groups – areas that should be avoided by the party. He also looks into where the group will find it easiest to enter the sewers beneath Irin without attracting too much attention from the local authorities, and finds that the ancient storm drains located in a public park in the Dawn Ward district of the city – a large South Eastern area of middle-class homes and businesses, many schools and temples - would be best.

30/4/1472 (grey, humid and warm. Thundery from mid-morning to late afternoon. Clear and cold night)

07:30 – 07:32 The group gather in the gloom of an overcast dawn behind the weather worn and graffiti covered statue of an ancient town official, and watch as Emmiven and Shnecke strain to rip the iron bars covering the entrance to the storm drains out.

The bars come free with a muted roar, and the group move into the darkness below.

07:33 – 08:45 – Drawing on their extensive study of recent and older city maps, the insider information gained by Jaeger, and historical treatise on the cities sanitation, the group move deeper and deeper into the ancient labyrinth of tunnels, moving from the dry and empty storm drains into older and more loathsome tunnels. The stonework becomes crumbling and slime covered, and the tunnels choked with flows of sickening ordure. Rats, cockroaches and strange life indigenous to the sewers dark become ubiquitous, and the stench, choking. A foul miasma, hot with the steam of decomposition masks vision beyond twenty or so feet, and the footing becomes treacherous.

Through the horrifying mephitis, the group can hear the constant spatter and spurting of various fluids and slimes as they drop, drip and gush from the numerous pipes, drains and gutters that lead into the tunnels they are in, matched only by the squeaking and hissing of the vermin.

The group move slowly and carefully through the stinking tunnels, each eyeing the boiling stew of filth that sluggishly flows along the central channels with suspicion. Emmiven in particular is torn between watching his footing in the slippery filth, dodging the falls of ordure spattering from the city above, and avoiding the rats which cluster in sleek, wretched knots all along the pitted, slime streaked walls.

08:45 – 08:55 After a long while, the group enter a series of wide chambers with arched ceilings, who's boundaries are blocked by corroded iron bars. Forcing their way into these, Varracuda explains that they are designed to allow sediment to settle from the main fluid mass of sewage, the weight of this eventually triggering hidden trapdoors beneath to open, allowing the mass of filth to plunge into deeper tunnels where it is broken apart and scattered.

It is within one of these chambers, that the party suddenly find themselves under attack. One minute they are picking their way along the edge of the central reservoir, trying not to focus on the 5' long larvae that squirm and foam within it, the next...

...Schnecke is savagely attacked, after dropping into the calf high filth of the main channel in order to approach the bars blocking the exit from the chamber.

A cavernous mouth, filled with faeces covered teeth, erupts from the midden and fastens onto the Ulnyrr's thigh, drawing a bright slick of blood from the wound and infusing the bite with the frothing waste. From all across the central midden monstrous, hunkered forms erupt; 15' long tentacles ending in a leathery tentacular clubs; some studded with downward curving lines of teeth, others bearing lidless, boggling, alien eyes, which cluster like weird, staring fruit and weep filthy tears as the sewage flows over their oily curves.

Filth explodes into the air, and the choking steam of the tunnels pulses with the deep, belching roars of the monsters – beasts like one the party faced once before in the Black Gob midden – Groth'Ergulg (Otyugh).

There are four of them in all; three are similar to the monstrous thing that attacked Grigori so long ago, whilst the fourth is slightly different, being larger, slightly paler in colour, and bearing unusual spiral markings, which are almost invisible against its flesh through the slimed ordure. The maggots, apparently agitated into some kind of blind frenzy by the sudden disruption of the midden begin to pulse towards the party, extending filthy stylets as they quest for food.

The initial plan for the party is to fall back into the narrower tunnels where the Groth'Ergulg will not be able to access them so easily, and to pick them off at range. Alas, like most plans, this quickly falls apart as Varracuda and Shnecke wade into the filth to deal with the monsters face to face, Jaeger shifts forwards in small shadow to shadow bursts of teleportation, and when Emmiven – who had been making a concerted effort to avoid getting any filthier than he already was – is grabbed by a tentacle, pulled in by one of the monsters, and then dragged into a region of chest high sewage far away from the relative safety of the walkways.

The maggots are a minor inconvenience, and most are mashed by the shockwaves of thunderous anger released by the barbarian's howling strikes, or by the fiery magic of Seren and Varracuda. However, the Groth'Ergulg prove to be resilient and to have a base cunning which sees them using their foul environment to the best advantage; bogging down the warriors in the slick, sucking shit, and dragging them about, ensuring that they are spread out and vulnerable to attack. Worse, at one point, they discover that the pale specimen bears an unusual ability, for when Grigori works one of his mighty restorative spells upon Emmiven (who by this point is stranded in clutching filth, has been wounded severely and is almost certainly host to any number of foul diseases), it seems to draw some of the energy from the magic, and wears it as a protective mantle which absorbs a great deal of punishment before it is dispelled.

However, the group do begin to wear the aberrant monsters down, and soon only the “life leecher” remains; it's thick tentacles swiping madly at anyone that comes too close, its massive mouth tearing chunks from those caught within its fearsome gape. Fighting against the restraining suck of the sewage and the concealing vapours in the air, the group set about the thing with brutal effect; the warriors surrounding it, the others launching ranged attacks from the walkways, and despite its best efforts, the Groth'Ergulg is finally slain, its innards erupting in the loathsome rush from within its muscular, ovoid body.

08:56 – 09:10 – Those wading in raw sewage slog their way, covered in filth, to the sides and collapse against the muck encrusted walls, too weary and pained to worry about the sodden rats and scurrying bugs there. Emmiven gulps down the air, smearing filth across his pale face as he wipes sweat away, and Shnecke quitely catches his breath, trying to block out the pain from his wounds, and the sick feeling that something isn't quite right.

09:10 – 10:00 – The group move on, and it soon becomes apparent that the Ulnyrr is suffering with some kind of ague. He is sweaty and pale, and yet seems to be shivering in the stinking stream of the sewers.

The party wind their way through the bewildering web of tunnels, moving from active sewage tunnels into deeper, older tunnels, which are chill and filled with the stench of rotting water and stone. These tunnels drip with cold moisture, and brittle stalactites and stalagmites crowd their lumen, though after the stifling stench and humidity of the upper sewers they are an almost pleasant change.

10:01 – 10:05 – Jaeger, Varracuda, Seren and Grigori all agree that despite the confusing maziness of the passages and tunnels they transverse, they are heading in the right direction – towards the sunken, unmaintained, abandoned sewers beneath the Roughs, and ultimately, the “secret” back door to the Rookery guild house. However, this also brings them close to the ancient Darkold'Sebbathorimite temple complex that the group briefly entered during their battles with the death loved butcher and his undead servants, and all begin to feel the subtle tremors of psychic dread that begin to resonate blackly through the algid air.

And then they spot something ahead through a section of collapsed tunnel; a large slimed door of onyx and obsidian, covered in painful runes that silently portray the blasphemy they represent without the need of true cognition. An unnatural wind, more psychic than physical, that stinks of ancient decay and wrongness, blows steadily from the coiling darkness beyond the grim portal, and the parties breath suddenly fumes in the air.

“We need to find another way” whispers Jaeger, his eyes bright with dread.

“I agree” murmurs Grigori.

The rest of the party also agree, and turn to move away from the dark place. Jaegar sensing a gathering evil looks over his shoulder back at the yawning portal, and for an instant sees a smoky, pale, luminous form gather within it; spherical, studded with eyestalks and fitted with a wide fanged mouth and rot-lighted central eye...

...He turns back and urges the party to pick up the pace...

10:06 – 10:21 – Shaking with cold now, the party backtrack and clamber through the darkness until they locate a section of collapsing corridor which they feel runs parallel to the region of tunnels leading to the Rookery lair back door. Shnecke gives the wall a good shove, and it collapses in with a dull crash.

A clean, well maintained tunnel showing signs of recent repair stands beyond.

This looks like the place.

10:22 – 10:42 – Fearing traps or guards, the party move slowly along the wide tunnels. However, they prove to be safe and silent – that is, until the sound of pounding water is heard from ahead, around a sharp, right-angled corridor turn.

10:43 – 10:48 – Justifiably paranoid, the group move slowly forwards, each one alert for anything that could suggest an ambush, hidden trap or alarm. The corridor beyond the corner extends for about 20' before ending abruptly. The only way forwards beyond it is along a very rickety looking suspension bridge of wire and wood, which extends beyond the radius of the groups light and into unknown darkness. Either side of the bridge is open black air, the floor falling away beyond the end of the corridor. The ceiling beyond the corridors bounds is also lost, for it is considerably higher than that of the tunnel the group currently occupy.

Seren sends her familiar ahead to check out the bridge, and Grigori cranes his neck like some kind of strange bird, trying to make out details. Swooping ahead, the tiny dracani circles at the boundary of the corridors end and the bridge beyond, and its keen eyes detect the lines of a complex symbol etched in the fitted stone of the roof some 30' above the swaying span of the bridge. Armed with this information Jaeger, wearing the gloom like a cloak moves ahead, discovering that the water sounds are coming from the two falls of sewer water than explode from pipes set in the wall created by the end of the corridor, which tumble into frothing darkness far below. Mouth dry, he edges towards the bridge, noting that it is a typical rogues span – designed to be safe only for the most fleet or foot or acrobatic, and to send all others careening over its sides.

Peering up into the darkness of the roof, he analyses the subtle lines of the symbol, and with a withering feeling within, realises that its a basilisk rune – a complex and expensive magical trap that can turn living creatures to stone.

The rest of the group edge forwards, with Seren staying back a little, and they discuss tactics. Grigori suggests a pulleycentric solution, drawing amused and irritated looks from his companions, whilst Jaeger suggests a more mundane solution – namely that he will weave his way along the cables beneath the bridge, out of the detector range of the basilisk rune, playing out and securing ropes that the rest of the party can use to safely follow him.

The group (including a scowling Grigori as he packs his complex, self-made pulley and winch device away) agree to this plan.

10:49 – 10:51 – With heavy rope coiled about him, the assassin nimbly climbs beneath the bridge and begins to work his way along its underside. Despite his expert movements, the delicately balanced bridge swings alarmingly, and he is forced to swing against its motion in order to prevent its oscillations getting worse, and to stop him being catapulted into the dark waters below.

He makes incredible progress, and is almost two thirds of the way along when his sixth sense suddenly begins to scream at him that he is in imminent danger. A moment later, and an icy sense of wickedness crawls along his spine – a tainted and draining presence of utter wrongness that he remembers from the battle with Maelazieria and her daemonic brood. He also feels the prickle of triggered magic, and knows that some unseen defence has been activated.

The rest of the group also feel the presence of evil, and note with horror the shadowy forms unfurling like foul blossoms from smoky portals either side of the bridge. It is Seren however who panics most, for a shimmering wall of magical energy has suddenly appeared between her and the rest of the group, blocking escape for them from the bridge chamber, blocking their support and protection of her.

10:52 – As Jaeger tries to steady himself, two awful forms – skeletal humanoid seemingly covered in form-fitting leather, oozing a thick crimson slime and bearing a single horn from the backs of their malformed skulls – suddenly manifest in the darkness and move to attack.

Daemons.

Babau Daemons...

The screaming begins in earnest...

Next entry on the way...meanwhile...

Here are some links to some nice pictures of Groth'Ergulg (Otyughs). Enjoy!