Using My Monsters

Monday, 31 December 2012

Magnificent Mephits!

The classic elemental fiend, the Mephit, strangely, never got an official 4e resurrection, which is, in my opinion, a shame. So, as a New Years gift to you, here are all the Mephit's described in the 3.5 SRD, statted up for my favorite edition of D&D...

Mephits Mephits Mephits!

i didn't do the Water Mephit as it was basically the same as the Ooze Mephit. If you want them, just change the keyword of the creature to "Water"!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Happy (Belated) Yule and New Cycle

Just a quick "Happy Xmas", and an advanced "Happy New Year"...hopefully the new year will bring a little order and sanity to my world, and I can get back to some regular dice slinging and player crushing...I...err..mean GMing....

Anyway, I hope you all got plenty of magic items for Xmas (and that they were your level +3), and I hope that the new cycle is peaceful, profitable and safe for you all (rolls for random encounters).

I plan, some time soon, to produce a .pdf with all the house rules and stuff from 2012 in it and making it available for download. Time is my main enemy at the moment, but do it I shall...

Anyway, coming soon, more of Shnecke's Wolves, Ormid et Al, Some stuff from the Newbie game and the soon to be Spelljammer Campaign I'm gonna' be running. More monsters, items, spells, some new powers, more adjusted races, ship feats, my expanded ship combat rules (simple but - so far - effective), and a ton of other stuff....time....time is the enemy...

See ya!

Monday, 17 December 2012

New Game Ideas...

Real life has a nasty habit of getting in the way of things, and at the moment, the real life pressures of work for some of my players has seen the wonderful Ormid, Veteran and Llewellyn game grind to a near halt. It's still ongoing (no damn way I'm stopping so close to epic tier), but finding a night when we can all meet up is proving almost impossible most weeks.

So, to stop those of us left behind withering, a new "side game" is to be started, and I have been busy coming up with some ideas. I thought I would share them with you and ask, would you play in any of these?

HORROR RECOVERY SQUAD: when the Durance Occulta (Unified Order Maximum Security Prison) failed during the Sundering, thousands of utterly vile individuals, entities and sentient items escaped into the world, free to work their malevolent agendas once more. Some 10 years after the initial confusion and horror of the Sundering, a special squad of potent mages and their allies are assembled to hunt down and re-imprison (or destroy) these escapees...you are part of that squad.

GUILD WARS: The Golden Age of unity and brotherhood is over. Relationships between the four great guilds have soured, and recently, the Western Guild unleashed a devastating attack against the Southern Guild. Now a state of war exists between them, and they are both calling on the Eastern and Western guilds for aid. Alas, they have provoked the paranoia of the two warring guilds (and each other) by remaining silent. War is a certainty...who will you be allied with and what part will you, or won't you play?

VOID QUESTORS: You have scraped together a small crew, and a small ship, and set off as an independent in the void. Arbel'Verdaniss, Raajil, Chillosta and the other worlds of the Soluri systems are but stops as you ply your trade (whatever it is) amongst the stars and on the worlds of the void.

FOURTH AGE: At the end of the Third Age, the magos within the Tomb of the Dreaming God died, the magic dead reality shrouded by his dreams returned, and almost every major civilisation ceased to exist. Billions died. Diseases once cured with a prayer tore through nations and enemies long kept underfoot by potent magical defences rose in force to annihilate their old oppressors. The Gods, weakened by the loss of so many, retreated, and few if any of the old master races still exist; surviving in pockets of magic rich terrain spawned by falling Mythen Stones.
You play either a greenskin, now one of the dominant tribes, or members of one of the fearful, fallen races, desperately seeking some way to return to dominance in a world overrun by monstrous foes and almost devoid of magic.

STANDARD GAME, STANDARD PERIOD: Normal adventuring in one of the less turbulent periods of history. Your standard dungeoneering, village saving, cult destroying game...

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Gulguthydra - Level 15 Solo Brute

Originally from the 3.5 Monsters of Faerun, here is the Gulguthydra, statted out for your 4e game! As always, the stat mods do not include half the monster's level (so its Strength mod is actually +16, not +9)


Click to see without optical bleeding...

Thursday, 6 December 2012

State of Play - Shnecke's Wolves - November 26th, 2012

3/8/1472 – 09:00 – The SC makes the slow and frightening journey into the massive sea lock and up towards the surface, the pool of dingy blue light above seeming to take forever to embrace them. Almost an hour later, it reaches sea level, emerging in the middle of a huge lagoon in the middle of a coral atoll, surrounded by unfamiliar blue ocean. A single stone channel leads to a small port, crowded with an array of customised ships, many of which bear the marks of pirates or slavers, whilst the atoll itself is home to a ramshackle settlement of leaning stone and wood buildings, walkways, and hovels, which stinks of humanity and burnt meat.

By the time the SC arrives at the surface, the sun has been up for a while, and already the air shimmers and stinks, carrying the reek of the town towards the party, and the group get their first glimpse of the pirates, outcasts, vagabonds, slaves and slavers that make up the ever changing population of this place – the freeport of Dhenz'Vashal, a famous stopping point for all kinds of scum that lies some 300 miles to the southwest of the Auric Isles.

With a command from the assassin (relayed via “Captain” Shnecke), the SC limps towards the harbour, where the party pay to berth it for three days.

09:01 – 17:30 9/8/1472 – The group actually end up spending the next six days in the town, hiring a new crew, drinking (Shnecke finally finds a brew able to overcome even his cast iron constitution; a horrible spirit called “Festercrabs Brown Eye”), gambling, and in the case of the assassin and warlock, purchasing substances both lethal and intoxicating from a local Inn owner named Deezel. They stay at one of the tumbledown “inns” - a place called “The Fighters Gift” - who's sign is decorated with the lost teeth ripped free in the many fights that break out in its disorganised, stinking tap room, and conduct their interviews for new prospective crew members next to its sticky, fly haunted bar.

On the morning of the 9th, the party finally managed to secure enough men to sail the SC, as they obtain a large number of slaves from the captain of the Shackled Lord (a vast and powerful vessel with an armoured hull, potent weapons, and an elemental engine capable of giving it immense speed and manoeuvrability); one Tenubi Akrai. The men are all sailors, and as soon as they are taken on board the SC, are given a stark choice – “Serve on this vessel, work off the price we paid for you, and you will have your freedom. Foment mutiny, or try and shirk your duties, and you shall find death.”

Not a single man disagrees to serve on the group's ship, and despite being set free of their shackles, non try to escape...

...This saves all of their lives, for later that day the reality of the post-sundering world comes crashing down on Dhenz'Vashal with terrible, brutal force.

17:31 – 17:40 – The day has been long, hot and humid, so few have given any notice to the tropical storm brewing to the south. As the winds quicken, and the skies darken, people gives thanks to Tungart, for the breezes take away much of the oppressive stench and clammy heat of the township, and the rain that will soon fall will be a refreshing chance for all to clean themselves thoroughly of their accumulated filth. Inside the Gift, the party are celebrating their successes in the town, and are planning the next leg of their journey. As the first, fat drops of warm rain begin to hammer the roof, the air thrumming with the continual booming roar of thunder, they order drinks, and prepare to enjoy their last night on the isle, before heading off in search of Takeshi and the Moon.

Soon the storm arrives, and the tapping of rain becomes a constant din, itself barely audible over the bellowing thunder, the creaking of the inn's structure and the howling winds. Suddenly another sound – an indescribable shrieking that tears at the nerves and drives men to their knees with dread – cuts through the cacophony of the storm, accompanied by a blast of fiery light and a sudden wave of crushing heat. Horrible screams briefly flicker through the deafening morass of sounds, and the night outside is suddenly filled with dancing orange and red light, as hissing clouds of steam, whipped into spectral forms by the storm winds, leap past the windows.

The air tastes suddenly of metal, and a strange pressure infuses the atmosphere with its alien power. Realising that more than a normal storm is raging outside, the group push past the other howling patrons, and throw open the doors, the screaming winds immediately slamming, scorchingly hot into them, their skin reddening at once in the forge like heat.

“WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?” Screams Varracuda, his eyes barely open against the drying bite of the storm winds.

“I have no idea!” Replies the priest, his hands reaching for a seeing stone he had recently remembered he possessed, “But I'll tell you this. It's way too powerful for us to tackle!”

“It” is a 30' high mass of animate magma and fiery gasses, possessed of some kind of rudimentary sentience. Vaguely anthropomorphic, it is a thing in constant motion, as its molten body hardens into stone where the storm touches it, before its inner heat melts the crust and returns it once more to glowing liquidity. Enough heats radiates from it, even through the storm, that anything within 20' of it spontaneously combusts – men, trees, animals and several buildings – and a number of fires rage around it, adding their smoke and sparks to the maelstrom of flame, lightning and noise ahead. It plods towards the Fighter's Gift, and the group are suddenly jostled as panicking men move to flee to the imagined safety of their ships. The horror seems oblivious to everyone, simply stumbling drunkenly through the heart of Dhenz'Vashal, obliterating everything unlucky enough to get too close.

Realising that even they would be unable to destroy this thing before it burned them to death, the group join the fleeing pirates and sailors, running towards the SC, where a number of ladders have already been thrown down, to allow them, and a number of other panicked Dhenzian's on board.

17:41 – 19:12: From the deck of the their ship, the group watch the Molten Monolith slowly destroy the town. They flinch as it rolls over the Fighter's Gift, and a huge ball of blue flame briefly erupts from it, the last bottles of Festercrabs erupting in the unnatural heat of the elemental's presence. They also flinch when a particularly stupid or self believing group of would be heroes attempt to engage the gigantic thing in combat – all of them dying within seconds as their armour, flesh and entrails are burned to charcoal by its blasting presence.

Eventually, with no precursor to give warning of its happening, with the township in flaming ruins about it, the massive elemental simply disappears in a deafening wash of sizzling noise, and a dull flash of fiery, golden light. Clouds of bitter smoke and the dancing of storm torn flames, are the only things that move within the blackened ruin, and from the few ships remaining that have not fled the stricken port, rise howls of loss and despair.

The group however, are hatching a plan...

20:30 – 20:50: Concealed by the smoke belching from the ruined town, the storm still howling about the island, the group leave the SC, and creep to shore. Cautiously, they make their way to the ruins of Deezel's inn, shrouded in a protective ritual cast by Grigori, which stops the intense heat still radiating from the melted stone from burning them. Deezel, stood as close as he can bear, spots them, and begins to point and shout, his words lost over the noise of the storm, for he has worked out exactly what they up to.

“So,” Whispers Thatari to the rest of the group, “the drugs are kept in a small, reinforced chamber in the basement. Deezel must make a fortune from selling them, as there was a stone golem watching over the place.”

“Do you think it will still be there?” Asks Shnecke with a feral grin.

“Very, very probably.” Replies the genasai with a wince.

Soon the group arrive at the ruin of Deezel's inn – now a mass of blackened masonry, shimmering heat and billowing smoke. With Shnecke taking the lead, the group begin to hammer at the heat softened rock of the floor, and soon it is flaking away, smoking as the winds catch the fragments, and carry them aloft. Still shouting in the distance, Deezel can only watch with joy as something goes wrong; a huge explosion of rock, dust and super-heated air enveloping the group, dropping all but Thatari into a smoke filled crater (actually the basement).

20:51 – 20:55: Agonised, the party find themselves prostrate, blasted, dazed and bleeding, half buried under searing chunks of rock, dropped into the basement of the inn by the sudden escape of trapped, super-heated air, liberated explosively by the first pick to break through the stone of the floor. To make matters worse, something huge lumbers towards them, its potent magics flashing in burst of multicoloured flame from the runes carved into its otherwise featureless face and chest. The Stone Golem, active and in a frenzy as its internal magics turn wild in the planar aftershock of the earlier dimensional breach, strides forth to crush those before it...

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Building a Better Dundiir - Dundorin Racial Feats

The stubborn, foul-mouthed Dundorin have always been one of my favourite races, and although the normal Dwarf race in 4th Edition captures some elements of what I loved about them, it fell a little short. So, I have put together a bunch of feats which will allow you to build a true Dundorin - stubborn, tough and often hateful. 

Enjoy!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Shnecke's Wolves - Session Report, November 20th, 2012

3/8/1472 – 04:20 – 06:00: The group make their way back to the first altar room, where they discover a pile of mangled bodies, and Skull, drenched in gore and bearing a number of wounds, stood amongst them. All but one of the corpses are cultists that have come to worship, and instead found the enraged Clay Golem. One however, impossibly, belongs to one of the Aurymites imprisoned by Shumeth near the lava pit. Clearly, they had made their way to this place, only to be unrecognised and then killed by the construct.

Varracuda is not happy.

The group are soon at the Ravager, where they are greeted by their crew. Tales are exchanged about the adventure the group have had, and a meeting is quickly set up in order to discuss the business of moving on.

Speaking for the entire crew is a scarred Aurymite named Caleph. Caleph raises a number of immediate concerns for the party – namely that the ship must have a recognised chain of commandto function efficiently (especially in battle), and that although they have enough crew (24 in total) to make it sail, it is not enough crew to see it move at full speed, to man it 24-hours, and definitely not enough to command the ship in a battle.

The group begin to try and decide who will be recognised as Captain of the vessel, and at once Shnecke suggests that he is the natural choice, citing his people's mastery of the longboat, and his own service on such raiding vessels. The rest of the party smile warmly, whilst shooting each other alarmed glances that suggest that there is no way in hell they are going to allow the undead barbarian to captain the vessel.

“If Shnecke is going to be Captain,” pipes up Jaeger suddenly, “Then I shall be First Mate. You know, so you can [hard meaningful stare at the group and Caleph] run things by me to double check for problems

Everyone gets his meaning, and soon it is agreed – Shencke will be given the impression that he is Captain of the ship, whilst the real decisions are made by the rest of the party, with Jaeger as the mouthpiece.

Next begins a long discussion on how to proceed. Caleph points out that simply taking the ship to a standard port is entirely out of the question, as the Ravager is a well known pirate vessel, which will be attacked on sight by most. The group decide firstly that the ship must be renamed. Various monikers are thrown about, with the Sea Wolf almost being adopted. However, Thatari makes a crude comment, and the group settle on a less urbane name – the Sea C**t,

They next discuss finding a way to the surface, in order to get the ingots to Takeshi. It is decided that they shall then invite him to assist them in hunting down the Drowned Bell and the Squall, leaving the SC here in the smuggler's port, with a view to using Santhiel's chest, and the amulets on the cultists slain by Skull, to return them safely. However, this the leads to an argument about the safety of leaving their new vessel in a place frequented by the worst class of people, and they decide to try and sail it out of here, with a view to hiding it somewhere off the coast of the Auric Isles whilst a new crew is found.

This then leads to discussion about the nature of the chambers they are in. Caleph states that it is almost certainly an ancient smuggler's den, probably used for thousands of years before Shumeth and his ilk moved in. He surmises that, being underground, it is almost certainly warded over by a lock, which, if not operated by Dohr'Khustan's is probably run by an independent group. This leads to even more discussion and argument over how to proceed. Eventually, it is decided that the party will take a lifeboat up the channel that leads from the port in order to see what lies ahead, leaving Lia on board the SC to oversee the crew, aided by Caleph.

06:01 – 07:30 – Yawning and wincing as their aching muscles complain, shivering in the chill subterranean air, the group get into the lifeboat. Shnecke and Varracuda take charge of rowing, and soon they are sliding along the glassy waters of the channel. For a good half hour there is nothing to see other than the high stone walls, small patches of phosphorescent mould, and the occasional scurrying rat or snorting osquip. After a while however, a slight breeze begins to pick up, carrying the distant sounds of high-pitched squeaks and the booming roar of falling water.

In the distance, the deep gloom of the tunnel can be seen to be lifting, and the group realise that there is a vast illuminated space far ahead. At this time, they also spot a number of bare, muddy shores, thinly plastered with grey, slippery mud, which run parallel to the channel. Hopping about on these are small, wiry humanoids; scaled and reptilian, with narrow crocodilian heads, and sharp, white horns.

Kydraxi!” Snarls Shnecke under his breath, his hands tightening around the handle of his axe.

Ssshh. Don't draw attention to us.” Growls the assassin darkly.

The boat slips by the snapping humanoids, coming close to several who are fishing in the channel's murky waters. The tiny humanoids clearly see the group, but show no concern or fear, simply continuing to talk to each other in their yapping, snarling tongue.

Soon, the details of the chamber ahead begin to crystallise, and all are slightly awed by what they see. The channel enters a vast cavern, some ¼ mile across, illuminated by thousands of lanterns, strung about from wooden walkways, ropes and other structures built in a seemingly random tangle within the inner curve of the caverns walls. Opposite the channel rises an incredible lock gate, at least 300' across and almost half again as high. From either side of this fall twin waterfalls, which smash in spectacular mounds of spray into the grotto beneath, raising ghostly rainbows in the flickering light of the massed lanterns.

From the gates rise colossal chains, which rise over their surface to wind into vast slots near their tops. Each link must weight many tons, and no one in the boat can fathom how anything could move such a massive, weighty mechanism.

The cavern is not unoccupied. Hundreds of kydraxi run hither and thither on various tasks, overseen, it appears by hooded figures dressed in tattered rags of leather and cloth, who stand unmoving at various points on the tangled walkways.

Those things reek of undeath.” Whispers Grigori.

So, who runs this place do you think?” Asks Varracuda, looking across at his companions pale faces, “Do we run in any attack, or do we try and bargain our way through?”

Another argument, which sees no agreement being made.

The ship is stopped, and it is decided that Grigori, using a ritual to allow him to speak their language, shall interrogate some of the Kydraxi in the hopes that they may be able to shine more light on who or what operates the lock, and as a result, how the group should proceed...

07:31 – 07:45 – At first the Kydraxi are a little surprised to see a half-vampire bearing a potent artifice sword emerge from the gloom (they are unaware that Jaeger lurks nearby, wearing the darkness like a shroud, his eyes able to see every move the treacherous little fiends make, his fingers resting ready on the trigger of his favourite crossbow), and they snarl and spit (whilst backing off). However, with a few kind and soothing words, Grigori is able to calm them, and soon they are talking brightly about the lock and its master.

The first thing they reveal is that the kydraxi willingly work there (the priest had hoped, had they been slaves, to orchestrate some kind of mass revolt against the lock keeper, thus enabling the party to kill him and take control – no such luck), in return for the protection of the lock keeper and his potent allies. They learn that the lock keeper is an unusual human, who's flesh, muscles and bones have been rendered invisible, leaving only his active internal organs visible. Named Skarzal, he is a representative of the group that finances the mighty lock that leads to the “Light World”.

It appears that Skarzal is watched over constantly by some kind of Taurag – possibly a Talakasian Taurgaryn from the description the little monsters give - and is allied with a human who by the sound of it worships the ancient fiend Orcus – an arch-daemon associated with undeath. This dark priest it seems has used their power to raise a number of gargantuan skeletons, who's unnatural strength is used to operate the hoary, dundiir mechanisms that operate the vast sea lock.

It is at this point that several kydraxi make the foolish decision to try and ambush Grigori. They die in a suffocating cloud of shadowy energy, which suddenly engulfs them from behind, courtesy of the assassin, their screams choked off as the air within their lungs curdles and rots in the darkness' embrace. This only makes the interrogated kydraxi more eager to tell Grigori everything they know, and soon they are talking about the “Scaled Ones” that haunt the natural caverns that burrow away from the locks periphery, of the caves behind the lock in which Skarzal keeps prisoners – and one of the tiny monsters lets it slip that one prisoner is an Eshurian diplomat (Thatari later identified that Eshur is a province of Draxia, that long ago turned its back on the worship of daemonkind, and embraced agriculture and the use of primal energies in its day to day way of life. Hated by those within the decaying empire of chaos, especially the cthonic powers in control of Pentas Daemonica, the City of Stained Stones, it flourishes somehow in spite of the constant attacks made by its foul neighbours).

With their usefulness as sources of information at an end, the tiny monsters' realise that they may soon be removed from existence by this frightening creature, and so it is with great relief that they agree to guide him to meet with Skarzal – though they fear betrayal when the rest of the group arrive, briefly snarling and bearing their dark fangs at them, before realising that they are hopelessly outmatched, and adopting a submissive, whimpering posture...

☨ I'm at a bit of a loss how to document this in future, and so shall refer to the ship as the SC....I think it will be easier to read that way. Still, a striking name no?

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Shnecke's Wolves - State of Play Report - November 12th, 2012

1/8/1472 – 21:45 – 3/8/1472 – 01:30

The lava pit is easily crossed by Shnecke, who threads ropes along the burning stone walls to allow his allies to skip over to the tunnel from which issue the desperate cries. Thatari almost comes to a grisly end when he slips, and the rope holding him catches fire in the scorching air, but he is dragged over the edge, howling, before he can plummet to his doom.

Moving along the tunnel, who's walls bear the same grotesquely clashing swirls and spikes of colour as those before, the stench of sulphur and burning air is quickly replaced with the base stench of caged humanity. The air grows cloying with the reek of faeces and fear, and soon the group find themselves looking down into a shit smeared pit, 25' deep and 20' across, who's upper lip is spiked with downward set megalodon teeth.

Within this pit, squirming with dread and hope, are eight Aurymites; five men and three women. All are almost naked, and covered in their own filth. Several bear recent amputations, the wounds swollen and dripping with infection and inflammation, and all are lousy with lice. Several corpses, badly bloated with decomposition, and leaking putrid fluids from their swollen lips and eyes, their inflated arms raised as if ready to give a hug, lie in the chamber – prisoners for whom the pit was too much.

A rope is thrown to them, as the group decide to only rescue those able to leave the pit. This is explained in tradespeak, and at once a horrible scramble ensues as the desperate but weakened prisoners try to climb the rope. Only four make it, and the effort almost kills them.

One of those to make it out the pit is an amputee, his left leg missing from midway below his calf. Seeing it bloated with infection, Grigori moves to apply a poultice, and notices at once that the damage has been inflicted by human teeth.

“They've been eating each other.” He exclaims in horror.

The man confirms that this is true, weeping openly and shaking, stating that the monster never gave them anything to eat, and non of them could bring themselves to feed on the rotting corpses already in the pit. Sobbing, he begs the group for forgiveness, before devolving into a mass of weeping and babbling in his native auric.

The survivors are told that they may accompany the group, but that they will have to make their way around the lava pit's walls by themselves, as the party have no way to apport them over. This leads to an argument in the party, as several members state that the prisoners will be nothing but a hindrance to them, and so, should be simply given rope and allowed to make their own way out. The rest of the party (lead by a vociferous Varracuda) argue that they have a duty to the prisoners to see them safely back home.

In the end, the first plan is the one that gets used, and the weeping survivors are left, shaking and wretched, with 100' of rope and instructions on how to find the Ravager.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party turn their attention to the chamber that lies directly across the lava pit from the gas spore room – bare apart from the garish decorations and a large, Xareth'Chelde sized hole in the ground, which shimmers and glows with shifting lights of various colours. Thatari invokes a dark power to become less than real, and slides like a shadow through the stone between the corridor and that far room. Emerging from the wall, he is joined moments later by the assassin, who teleports across in a burst of coiling darkness. Ropes are once again secured to the rocky walls of the lava pit, and the rest of the group carefully crawl across, trying to ignore the seething pond of molten rock several hundred feet below.

Jaeger gives the hole (the entrance to another vertical shaft) a close inspection for any mechanical traps, whilst Thatari and Varracuda scan for any dangerous dweomers or spell triggers. None are found, and soon the group are peering into the shaft.

It drops down about 35', before exiting into a cavern roughly 20' deep. Bright points of coloured light lance up from an unseen source (reflected by numerous polished pieces of metal and pyrites) creating brilliant patterns on the stony walls, their paths picked out by the clouds of opaque mist that belch from some unseen source, filling the lower half of the chamber. Jaeger sniffs the air, and states that he feels the mist to actually be some kind of spore, whilst Grigori surmises that the lights could be the product of certain unusual crystals reacting to local radiations, citing a number of uses for said crystals, should the group obtain them.

Shnecke (somewhat reluctantly) agrees to be lowered down the shaft, into the spore choked chamber, and soon the rest of the group are grunting as they slowly hoist him downwards. Within the room, the undead Ulnyrr spies a number of unusual objects.

Firstly, set into one wall, are a number of small wands of prismy crystal, each of which blazes with clear, coloured light, throwing out the straight beams that paint the walls with their shifting, delicate patterns. The “smoke” is indeed some kind of spore, belched continually from the pores of a huge, sack-like fungus that pulses wetly at one end of the chamber, its upper skin scarred and marked by constant abrasion (the group soon realise that it served Shumeth as a bed, and Jaeger identifies the fungus as a “Deep Cushion”, a species that is usually harmless, though varieties with soporific spores do exist in some corners of the deep earth).

As with the rest of the lower complex, the walls are covered in horribly clashing colours and sharply angled designs, all apparently painted to appeal to the deceased aberrations' alien tastes. However, the group (who, having been told by Shnecke that the room is safe, quickly join him), struggle at first to determine what the purpose of the dozen holes, bored directly down into the floor - 1' in diameter and about 15' deep - are for, at least, until Grigori shines his lamp's light down them, and reveals that each holds a treasure.

“This must be where he stored his treasures.” Muses the priest, “Using his telekinesis eye to remove them.”

Shnecke grunts and gasps as he tries to reach into one of the tiny holes, having spotted a potent looking hammer far below.

“Tooo.....*ugh*....bloody....narrow.”

“How the hell are we going to get them out?” Wonders Lia aloud.

“We could smash 'em out.” Growls the Ulnyrr, rubbing his bruised shoulder, his attempts to reach the treasure forgotten.
Everyone laughs, but Shnecke refuses to join in, instead leaping up and towering over Grigori. Eye teeth briefly flash as the barbarian grabs out, his meaty paws fastening around the handle of an enchanted pick Grigori retrieved from the hands of a dead enemy back in their early travels.

Ripping it free, he turns round, and begins to swing it at the stony floor, the room immediately resonating with the painful clang and ding of its enchanted head biting into the rock...

“You see?” He snarls, “We dig, and eventually, we get the treasures. I didn't come all this way to go home empty handed!”

...All in all, it takes just over 24-hours for the items to be rescued from the tubes, though the entire party feel the efforts worth it when they are examined, and their incredible power realised. Grigori uses ritual magic to make the crew of the Ravager aware that they are alive and well, but will not be back in the allotted time, and asks them to make the ship ready for immediate launch on their return. He also harvests the glowing crystals, giving Lia five, and keeping five for himself, recognising them as able to boost powers that utilise radiant energy.

The hammer is a thing of Dwaerdorin manufacture; forged from some kind of less than real metal, and imbued with the energy of death. First to be recovered, it's energies are transferred by the priest into a spare rapier carried by the assassin, and Jaeger becomes the proud owner of a rare Trueshadow weapon.

An amulet that bolsters its bearer against poisons is brought up next, followed by an ancient bastard sword, who's heavy metal blade bears a killing edge, undulled by its clearly great age. A fabled Ring of Protection is brought up next, and given to the genasai, its potent protective powers felt to be of benefit to him, whilst a tiny shard of pink, luminous crystal – a planar ioune stone, attuned to physical health and stamina – is brought up next. Rare beyond words, and far more potent than those sometimes found or awoken, it is soon orbiting the head of the Ulnyrr, granting him a great boon to his constitution as it resonates with his lifeforce (or unlife force in his case).

The last item to be brought forth is also an item of legend, though all – save Thatari – are a little nervous of it. Seemingly a thick, stoppered bottle of iron, its top carved with runes of binding, its stopper secured by drizzles of platinum and lead, it is identified as a prison of sorts, which can, in conjunction with the right ritual, be used to trap and hold an extradimensional being for eternity. Almost certainly pre-dating the start of the Second Age, it is a thing of terrible power, which the warlock muses, may hold a dread entity right now. More than a few feel a shudder run down their backs, as they reflect on how much it resembles the vial that held the soul shard of dread Jantherak...

It is retained by the priest, who states that the group may one day seek out the ritual needed to open and activate it.

3/8/1472 – 01:30 – 04:00: Having rested, and entirely unaware of the time on the surface, the group take their leave of the foul chambers that lie beyond the Cheldean altar, and make their way slowly back to the vast cavern, within which lies the black metal finger, and the way back out.

Before leaving, they decide to examine the finger a little more closely, and Varracuda quickly discerns that there is a hidden compartment within the nail of the massive digit. Whilst Shnecke strains to open this up, the swordmage does some quick calculations, and comes to the conclusion that if the statue that bears the finger is of human proportions, it must stand roughly 500' or more tall...a truly incredible construct.

With a grunt, the nail of the finger folds in half, a cloud of glittering green dust billowing out to coat the sputtering barbarian. Everyone rushes forth to peer within the hoary objects interior, and are disappointed to see it holds nothing more than several crusty piles of the dust.

However, worked into the underside of the folded nail are a series of strange, utterly alien sigils, which correspond to no language known that anyone can call to mind. Their curved, conjoined lines suggest an exotic and strange source, and with excitement, Grigori sets to work enacting a translation ritual...

...It is not a good idea.

The meaning of the words is burned with terrible force into his mind, his sanity snapping in an instant as the gravity of their portent slams into his psyche. Reeling, he tries to clutch at the images which flash like sputtering lightning across the screen of his mind, desperate to take something solid from their meaning. He fails, and drops to the floor in a fit, twitching and convulsing as the potent words arc through his mind.

When he comes round, he knows one thing – a series of coordinates which can be used in a Linked Portal ritual, which lead to...he has no idea.

An Awesome Article

Chris Perkins talks about the end of one of his epic campaigns, and I think he perfectly corners one truth; the players don't have to survive in order for a game to be amazing...

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Ormid et al - Session Report, November 5th, 2012

REPORT ON THE DEATH OF TSSEL AGTHYR, MAGE OF THE HOUSE OF GRANITE

Compiled by Jazaar Vheln, 10/6/51.

Firstly, many apologies for the lateness of this report. Untangling what happened in that cursed ruin has been harder than you might have thought, especially given the momentous events that were to follow, and the effects on our city. However, as requested, I have managed to piece together a good idea of the events that lead to the honoured mage, Tssel Agthyr, not only losing her mortal life, but being converted into a corrupted shade. I have also been able to determine that, despite public opinion to the contrary, the “Heroes” of Lorehaven were not to blame, and that her loss was the result of a horrific encounter with a corrupted and potent enemy.

Events Leading To The Fatal Encounter

The street battle of the 15th day of Jhena, is now common knowledge throughout the city, and has become something of a local legend. The fact that the Lorehavian adventurer's were able to survive, let alone defeat the Vault Guard of House Kythus has elevated them to the status of demigods in many Kadashite eyes. However, this also forced House Kythus to organise a meeting with the group – a meeting to which His most Blessed and Wise Ladyship, Lord Ashana Na'Desha arrived, accompanied by her silent guard and her personal protector, the Half-Giant G'Taal. With the majordomo of the First House present, the northerners were questioned, and it seems that their logic for their violent conduct was only partly justified.

This only became more apparent when it came to light that the group had based their opinion of House Kythus (an opinion they had allowed to shape their actions) on an apparent lie told by the majordomo of House Zaul – a known rival of Kythus. This lead, it seems to an argument, in which the northerners failed to show the appropriate deference to his Ladyship, and as such, left, telling the heads of the houses that they could sort their own Dracane problem out.

This, I understand, lead to majorodomo Ashana approaching the group some time later with the rune sequence for an ancient (Pre Chaos) teleport circle, carved by an order of lost Tammatulian magi, but still active. This happened on the night of the 15th, and it is my understanding that the group used the sequence early the next day.

Tssel's Fall

Divinations would indicate that the opening ritual proceeded without issue. However, the mage stronghold to which the portal lead was suffused with the toxic radiations of an apparently conterminous shadow dimension, which had, for reasons that remain unclear, also began to resonate at the same planar harmonics as the physical prime. This saw the group, including the late Tssel, immediately put at risk of spiritual and physical corruption from exposure to these raw, tenebrous energies.

It appears that there was some kind of security system in place around the arrival chamber, which involved the activation of certain arcane switches, and the manipulation of fields of force energy to bypass. However, the party were stopped from trying to operate this system by the arrival of a number of powerful, shadow creatures – apparently the spiritual residue of the ancient mages that once dwelt in the compound, and some of their victims. One particularly potent creature – possibly a gestalt of fallen individuals – is also divined to have manifested, its mere presence deleterious to non-shadow lifeforms.

The group were forced to engage these elusive foes in what seems to have been one of the most testing battles of their long and brutal careers, and it seems that it was during this manic battle that Tssel fell, her soul tainted by the unnatural energies of shadow. It was this pollution of her soul that ultimately lead to her rising shortly after as an undead shade.

As for the group, we know they left the compound immediately after the battle to heal and plan. It seems they were more than a little taken aback by the sheer deadliness of their encounter, and that they wished to better arm themselves for any subsequent encounters with the shadowed undead.

It was at this time that we were informed of our sister's fall.

Conclusion

As I pen these words, we are unsure as to what happened once the northerners returned. We do know that terrible upheavals have shaken the ancient city, and that potent magics have been unleashed there. We too have felt the echoes of this power, and wonder what we have done to deserve such horror. 

We have no word at present as to their whereabouts, or whether or not they have been successful in slaying the Blue Lord. Divinations suggest that something more terrible than even that venerable Dracane have awoken within the shattered heart of ancient Tammatuli.

May Yana, Mistress of the Wastes protect us. May Shaava guide us. May Orandiel grant us good fortune. May Skren bless us with wealth.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Massive Damage in 4e

Massive Damage was a 3.0 / 3.5 mechanic that added an element of unpredictability to combat, and in my ongoing quest to bring a more edgy, deadly flavour to 4e, I have been thinking about how I can bring it into play, without completely screwing the players and their beloved characters.

So, what is massive damage and what does it do?

In 4e it is when a character suffers, from a single attack, damage equal to, or in excess of their surge value. When this happens, they must roll an immediate saving throw, a failure meaning that until their next short rest, they are considered to have already failed a Death Saving Throw.

If a character is hit by three or more lots of massive damage, and fails three saves, then the final save sees them instantly killed, as the trauma's add up and become too much to survive. Death takes them without them necessarily even falling unconscious.

And that's it. It brings the PC closer to death, without necessarily auto-murdering them, and yet, gives a definite feel that some attacks (which are probably going to be quite rare for most characters), are truly deadly in the sheer damage they inflict and their related harm.

Alternative Rules

  • The Vicious GM Version: Each instance of massive damage inflicts a cumulative -2 penalty to all saving throws against subsequent checks and death saves. This penalty is removed after the characters next short rest. A really nasty GM might also state that each instance of massive damage dazes the victim until the end of their next turn.
  • The Nice GM Version: The character is not considered to have failed a Death Save, but does suffer a cumulative -1 penalty per instance of massive damage they suffer to any Death Saves they have to make before the end of the encounter.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Belt of False Life (Level 5+ Waist Slot Item)

Of course, these items were found in 3.0 / 3.5, as well as DDO. However, they never appeared in 4e, probably due worries that they may unbalance the maths of the game. However, I see no real issue with them, especially as a rare item, and so, present to you, the Belt of False Life (though they are often referred to as Lesser, and Greater belts in the case of the Level 5, and Level 25 versions). 



Shnecke's Wolves - State of Play Report - October 22nd, 2012

1/8/1472 – 20:05 – 20:40: The vile remains are searched and three items that bear magical energies are rescued; two belts and a curious bezoar. The bezoar, it is quickly discovered holds a diminishing energy, which can, if it crushed, briefly shroud the user in a field of decaying, arcane protection.

The belts are both loathsome things, woven from living meat and flesh. The first is pulled from the within the stinking folds and loaves of rubbery meat that hang from the mutant's belt. Warm to the touch, it is clearly made from humanoid flesh, its pores and hairs clearly visible, whilst along its back a line of tiny, transparent teeth, needle sharp and perfectly positioned to sink into the flesh of whoever wears the belt are observed. This unpleasant artefact is identified as a Belt of False Life by the priest, and the assassin, being of the weakest physical power, accepts it gingerly, wincing as the tiny teeth bite into him before a sense of warmth and narcotised confidence fill him.

The second belt is a raw thing, dripping constantly with blood, taken from one of the slain acolytes. Made it seems from skinned animal tails, it is identified as enhancing the wearer's ability to recover as they grow more wounded. Thatari takes it scornfully, sneering as he ties it around his slender waist.

Fire is thrown into the chamber where the tentacles warp and sculpt two acolytes, their gurgles and sighs of insane ecstasy turning to bubbling screams of agony and anger as the alchemical flames roar over them and consume them. The flames burn incredibly hot, and the group back off, waiting until they have done their work, a drizzle of black, foul smelling smoke scorching along the roof from the low doorway.

Whilst the horrors burn, the group turn their attention to the other chambers. The one to the north is clearly the sleeping area used by the mutant acolytes. Filthy piles of leather (quickly identified as humanoid skin) lie piled up, and upon moving them with his foot, the warlock uncovers several inch long, ivory coloured worms, which quickly burrow into the filthy depths of the skin. Upon spotting this Grigori grabs Thatari and pulls him back, his cold eyes shining with anxiety.

“Rot Grubs.” He spits, “Kill you quicker than a sword to the throat.”

The southern room holds a crude latrine; little more than a muck spattered hole bored into the stone, with two handles fixed either side. Then stench that comes from it is eye watering, and most of the party beat a hasty retreat. However, Varracuda seems to feel that the foul hole requires a closer look, and with Grigori gingerly following, he examines it.

It is quickly deduced that there is some kind of mushroom filled cavern below, the chute from the latrine being some 35' or so deep. Varracuda continues to express the desire to explore further, fearing that there could be some rare treasure down below that the group is missing.

The group tell him they are happy to go without it, and almost have to physically pull him away from the diseased chamber.

With the flames in the first room finally dying down, the group begin to discuss moving on. However, the genasai, still obsessed it seems with searching every last inch of this area, states that he wishes to enter the chamber that held the tentacles, and sift through the remains. Again, the group try to voice their dissent, but Varracuda pays them no heed, and, with a grim expression upon his face, enters the room...

...Almost at once he feels a change in the quality of the aether; a vague sense of weight and distorted distance, and he stumbles as he fails to adjust quickly enough. The stink of roasted flesh is overpowering, and he tries to breathe through his mouth – though he finds that the stink has a taste like badly burned beef fat, which makes his stomach heave. Grigori joins him, and slowly, they pick through the half-cooked organic mess that was once the tentacles and tortured acolytes. It takes time, but they find nothing of value on or within the bodies. However, they spot several areas of melted, silvery material on the floor along the far wall (where the tentacles emerged). Carefully, they clean away the soot and cooked flesh, and find what appear to the remains of several tiny rune circles.

Grigori and Thatari (who has now picked his way across the smouldering, bleeding mass to join them), analyse the runes, and quickly realise that each was a tiny, stable portal to a warped aberrant dimension...that the tentacles were probably some summoned extension of something terribly alien, insane and utterly abominable. Cold fingers of uncanny dread pick their way down their spines as the implications of such prolonged exposure of this dimension to the energies of such a plane hit home.

“We- we need to move on.” Snaps Grigori, his hands unconsciously “cleaning” away the tainted energies he imagines settling on him. “This room isn't safe.”

“Agreed!” Comes Shnecker's reply – the Ulnyrr knowing only that he is bored, and that there are likely more things to kill elsewhere in this foul place.

20:47 – 21:10 – The group stand in a large chamber, who's walls and floor are covered in eyeballs, grafted to pulsing stalks of living meat. They stare with idiot emptiness at the party; a dazzling variety of eyes taken clearly from a wide array of donors. All move slowly on their stalks, “watching” the group with instinctive rather than sentient purpose. In the middle of the chamber yawns a circular hole, which leads to a wide shaft (wide enough for a Xareth'Chelde), thickly lined with slowly pulsing blood vessels and gut like coils of pale meat.

Grigori has already slashed at several eye-stalks, and determined that they are not a part of some sickening organic alarm system, and the group have cleared a path to the edge of the pit. Staring downwards, they can see that the various pipes and vessels form a thin, wall where the shaft – about 35' down – briefly passes through an open space (one of which is sure to be the mushroom filled chamber below the latrine) before continuing for another 20' or so into darkness.

A small argument breaks out as Varracuda, still possessed by his urge to explore the lower end of the latrine, and clearly uncomfortable at leaving any other chambers that lie below unexplored, tries to convince the rest of the party that they should do just that. The group are however, unconvinced, and it is decided that they shall descend to the lowest level accessible by the shaft. Shnecke activates his precious Feather Fall ring, and the group step into the stinking void of the shaft...

...As they slowly drift downwards, the party peer into the darkness of the caverns that lie directly below them. One is clearly the mushroom chamber, and the acrid reek of massed ordure reaches sharply towards them from it. However, three other corridors snake away from the shaft. Two are choked with thick cobwebs, the tiny skeletons and mummified corpses of rats and other vermin clearly visible hanging within their smoky depths, whilst the third shows signs that Shumeth regularly passed along it, his chitinous scales polishing the stone to a smooth finish.

However, soon they have passed beyond that level, and find themselves in a small chamber, who's humid air reeks of rotting flesh, ripe mushrooms and sulphur. A definite increase in the ambient temperature has also been noted, and every living adventurer sweats in the cloying, stinking heat. The chamber sees an end to the perverse flesh art, and gives way to more traditional art – though it is displeasing to the eyes of the party, consisting of clashing streaks and lines of bright, aposematic colours. It opens directly into a much larger chamber, and from where they land the party can make out that its floor is several inches deep with some kind of organic mulch – the source of the overpowering ammonia stench in this place. Growing from this, in several clusters, are more Shriekers, and the group realise that stealth is about to become a moot issue.

A curiously fragile light can be seen shimmering like reflected moonlight from something hidden to the left of the exit tunnel, and Lia quickly senses the presence somewhere nearby of psionic creature – probably similar to the tentacled mutant the group battled in the chambers above.

21:11 – 21:15: As expected, the immusical screams of the Shriekers soon lead to combat, and as the ardent predicted, their foes are warped humanoids, bearing strong psionically charged tentacles and an array of purely psychic attacks. They charge with a bubbling wail, and attempt to stop the group's progress. However, these creatures are in no way as potent as the one they battled above, and soon they lie in a pool of their milky, sweet smelling gore, their psychic screams echoing into the aether as they expire. The Shriekers are quickly slain (though the assassin, at the request of Varracuda, who noted that their wails enhanced his attacks that relied upon sonic energy to inflict harm, obtains several samples of gleba, with the hope of raising their own sonic mushrooms at a later date).

21:16 – 21:26: With the horrors slain, the group can turn their attention to the source of the strange light; some kind of flickering field of quietly fizzing arcane energy, forming a translucent screen that blocks progress to the west. The party decide (possibly as much to see the genasai's face as for any other reason) to ignore the other corridors that lead from this area. Those schooled in the arcane arts spend some time examining the field of energy, and it is quickly deduced that it would be very dangerous for anyone to come into contact with it. However, they reason, using his central eye, the Xareth'Chelde could create a hole in the field, allowing himself through safely.

“So, it's a security door then?” Asks Jaeger, nodding in appreciation of the simple yet effective barrier.

“Indeed.” Replies the dhampyr. “Though I believe that we could overload it with energy, and bring it down. The repeated untangling of the fields energies has left several – um - fractures for want of the better word, within its 'structure'.”

“So,” Begins Thatari, “if I were to channel one of my more potent magics into the field, at the right point, I could bring it down?”

Grigori nods.

The rest of the group back off leaving Thatari stood next to the barrier. Before working his magic he tries to see through its shifting, spectral surface, and can just make out a large cavern beyond, its floor similarly caked in muck, its walls home to several more clumps of Shriekers. He can see that there is some kind of large light source located below the current level of the floor at the far end of it, and that there is some kind of damage to the ceiling.

Happy that there are no immediate threats, he allows his mind of search the coiling energies of the field before him; flowing like smoke into its ticking, ordered matrix. It feels like it takes him forever, but in truth, mere moments have passed by the time he locates several of metaphysical cogs that lack teeth, moving out of synch with the rest of the barrier's energy. Reaching into his being, Thatari feels the terrible yet reassuring connection within the place where his soul should be, as he makes contact with his sponsor. Perverse power floods him, and glyphs of malign portent flare within his mind. Reaching for them, he unlocks their potent might, and at once, the power floods through and out of him, manifesting briefly as a flare of fractal flame, before it is pushed into the barrier at the weak spot.

The barrier convulses silently, and dazzling light flares from its surface. A tinny, scream, as if a thousand panes of glass have been smashed, fills the chamber, and the magics within the barrier arc spectacularly from it; raking the tunnel in which is stands with whipping spikes of raw, chaotic power. Chunks of molten rock ricochet across the room, narrowly missing the warlock who has stood just far enough away from the barrier that he is not annihilated by the consuming energies of its collapse.

21:27 – 21:45: As soon as the barrier collapses, a wave of raw, sulphurous heat washes over the party from the chamber beyond, its acrid stench bringing tears to the eyes of the living, and a curl of derision to the faces of the unliving. The stench of the air is almost too much to bear, being a mix of fumarole sulphuric bite and mundane decay.

The “light source” is a pit, some 30' across, and the Gods know how deep, for it ends, far, far below, in a pool of seething magma. To the right of the pit a corridor winds away, desperate voices, crying out in Aurymite, echoing along its smoothed stone walls. Beyond the pit is a domed chamber, which bears another circular shaft entrance in its middle, whilst in the chamber itself, loom more Shriekers, more steaming filth, and the strangely damaged ceiling.

In the middle of the chamber is a wide carpet of what appears to be a particularly noisomely coloured carpet; bright mustard yellow.

Jaeger pads forwards to peer into the room, and freezes the second he spots the mushrooms, something in his brain screaming at him to be careful. He is also less than happy about the ceiling, for it is carved with a number of large circular shafts, big enough for a Xareth'Chelde to hide in, though he is confused, for they appear choked with fine cobwebby strands of mycelium, and drip threads of gluey, organic slime. As for the carpet, he immediately recognises it for what it is – a deadly subterranean fungus commonly referred to as Yellow Mould.

“Violet Fungi.” He says suddenly, noting the faint violet sheen, similar to the lustre of a beetle's shell, on the caps of the supposed Shriekers. He turns to look at the group, “It's a guard room. The 'carpet' is a deadly spore bearing mould, and the mushrooms are an ambulant, toxic species that can and will attack us. Grigori, you got any more of that Alchemist's Flame. We need to burn that mould out.”

The group prepare, and the flasks of flame are thrown. Grigori scores a direct hit on the middle of the mould, and it immediately goes up in flame, blackening and withering in an instant at the volatile chemical's touch. However, with the flames arrival, the fungi awaken; 6' long tendrils of pale violet, oozing flesh-eating poisons, unfurling from the orifices in their caps. As, they begin to shuffle forwards, the stench of spoiled mushrooms adding to the heat and stink of the room, the mycelial strands hanging from the pits begins to move, and with horror, the group watch as five bloated spheres, each bearing eye-stalks and a central eye, wetly drop from them, hovering with menace above the advancing toadstools.

“By Vletnir's Axe!” Howls Shnecke, “Five more Xareth'Chelde!”

“No!” Replies Jaeger, “Gas Spores. Fungi that resemble the Eye Tyrants. Careful everyone, they explode!”

The group form a defensive line in the doorway, and allow the fungi to come towards them. It is not an easy battle however, for their weird foes hit hard, and their toxins not only rot flesh in an instant, but inflict shivering fevers and painful reactions in those they touch. The Gas Spores are particularly troublesome, for each one dies in a blast of corrosive spores, which heal the Violet Fungi, but compost the flesh of the party, leaving horrific, stinking sores in their wake.

However, with Grigori and Lia focusing as much on healing as attacking, the party are bolstered, and manage to push the deadly plants back into the chamber, where they are hacked apart. It takes only minutes, but everyone is exhausted by the end of the battle, and no one has escaped without at least one suppurating wound.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Grey Styptics - New Monsters and Items

"Grey Styptics are common monstrous spiders found in most temperate regions. Tending to prefer thick forests, caverns, or the stillness of deep dungeons, they occasionally turn up in cellars, abandoned buildings or attics, often causing panic to those that find them."

Up for some new beasties and alchemical items for your 4e game? Of course you are. 

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Shnecke's Wolves - State of Play Report, October 9th, 2012

1/8/1472 – 19:00 – 19:40: The group, after a long rest, strike out across the vast cavern, and soon stand at the entrance to the Great Maw's lair; an ominous arch of ancient stone, studded with the teeth of huge sharks. Beyond a wide corridor stretches away into darkness, its walls thickly carved with eyes, tentacles and slavering mouths.

“There are less of the Shadrakuulite carvings here.” Notes Lia.

“And by the looks of it,” answers Varracuda, gingerly stroking one of them, “these were done by the Maw itself, using its disintegration eye”.

A sickly smell – cloyingly sweet like hyacinths, and yet, also rotten and fishy – drifts from the darkness beyond, and with weapons drawn and powers readied, the group enter the horrifically decorated tunnel.

It opens into a vast chamber, who's ceiling rises to some 35' above the ground. Every last inch of it is carved with grotesque images of eyes, fangs, slavering orifices and veined tentacles. The stench continues to build, and fairly soon, outlined in the unwavering light of the floating lantern, the group see its source.

For a few, frozen moments no one can even speak, for the thing before them is so utterly repellent and alien that they are simply unable to craft words. It is clearly an altar, raised to some vile and utterly monstrous being; a table like central mass some 10' across and 8' deep, from which rise curling ribs, which overhang the centre like the legs of a spider. However, it is crafted from living flesh; raw, slickly shiny and bleeding. Mouths set into the top of the altar's table – lipless and toothed – suck the putrid juices that drip from several maggot infested fish lain upon them, whilst the arcing “ribs” twitch and flinch in apparent recognition of the group's approach. Stretched, blankly staring faces – unmistakably human despite their grotesque deformity and mutation – emerge like buboes from the arched back of the altar (which seems to be made from living, meat wreathed spines), their tongues protruding to ghastly lengths as they try to reach the rotting meat set below them, their eyes almost coming free from their tortured sockets as they boggle and stare at their torment.

“Kill it.” Whispers Lia in a small voice. “Burn it.”
The two Dhampir stand motionless, their eye teeth unconsciously extending at the sight of the blood that pours from the altar, forming scummy, slimy puddles of sticky black around it.

“I wouldn't.” Murmurs Thatari in a sick voice, “This is an altar raised to Chelde, the Mother of Abominations. That blood is almost certainly tainted.”

They stare a moment longer, before finally winning over their instincts, and backing off.

The group search the rest of the chamber, trying to ignore the squeaking whispers that issue from the altar, and find nothing other than a few highly decorated pillars of rock, carved entirely into more foul forms by Shumeth's artistry. They then empty several flasks of lamp oil on the living altar, and Thatari sets it alight with a spear of volcanic flame.

The heat is fierce, and the group are forced to flee the chamber, whilst the altar wails and howls eerily, shivering and writing in the midst of the inferno. A horribly delicious smell, like burned bacon fills the air, and everyone struggles to contain their bile. All in all, the flames burn for about 15 minutes...

19:41 – 19:43: The altar's skeleton lies blackened and creaking in the middle of its charred meaty carcass, and soot and a thin layer of fat covers everything in the chamber, revealing, in a far wall, that there is a concealed doorway. The assassin, breathing through his mouth, gives the door a quick look over, and declares it safe, before Shnecke forces it open with a deep click of hidden latches and gummy runners.

19:44 – 19:49: A loathsomely decorated corridor is found beyond, its walls filled with more of the Xareth'Chelde's insane carvings – though unmistakably living growths of meat, and gently pulsing blood vessels weave and wind around them; living sculptures crafted by the same demented evil as the altar.

“I just don't believe that the beholder could be behind the altar and all this.” Growls the assassin, looking at something that hangs wetly and shivers between two glaring stony eyes.

“In ancient Draxia,” begins the warlock, “There was an order of mages known as the 'Flesh Sculptors'. They were masters of manipulating living creatures and warping them into living works of supposed 'art', beasts of war or slaves. They specialised in implanting symbiotic organisms into their own bodies, and indeed, were supposedly hybrids themselves, having changed their own forms to better suit their purposes. This seems to be born of their crafts.”

“Didn't we meet a Draxian back in Irin that time?” Muses the Ulnyrr.

“Yeah.” Replies the priest, “But they are but a shadow of the nightmare they were in the Second Age and early Third.”

Thatari nods.

“What do we know about Chelde?” Asks Lia suddenly, her eyes huge and haunted as she takes in the horror of the living decorations.

Grigori clears his throat, and shakes his head as the details of the deity rise to the fore. “I believe that certain monstrous codices describe “her” as 'an infinite ocean of liquid flesh, reaching tentacles, slavering mouths, madly glaring eyes and birthing orifices from which she endlessly spawns .'
She is universally held as a source of many aberrant species and many of the more, um, unusual monsters in the world, and although most of her worshippers are utterly inhuman, certain cults and lodges dedicated to her as a fertility Goddess or bringer of change have cropped up with disappointing regularity throughout history.”

Everyone plods on, trying not to imagine the Seas of Chelde, or the kind of person who would willingly submit to worship her...

19:50 – 19:53: The corridor writhes through the earth back and forth, heading ever southwards, and the group soon become used to the quivering, staring, reaching, pulsing, dripping masses of clearly aware and tortured tissue that hang in whorls and lines amongst the increasingly vile carvings (which now seem to feature far more eyes and “birthing orifices” as the priest put it than maws). Soon the corridor widens, and its ceiling rises upwards to form a small antechamber of sorts; the main corridor continuing southwards, whilst another heads off to the east. Hanging from the middle of this room are several stalactite like structures made entirely from living tongues, melded together. Drool hangs down from them in long, sticky ropes, pooling thickly beneath, and as the group come closer, they begin to wave and twitch, their drooling increasing as they “taste” their arrival.

“Am I the only one that thinks we are inside some kind of great beast?” Murmurs the Ulnyrr, his jagged axe raised and ready.

“Ssshhh!” Growls Grigori suddenly, I can hear...laughing, coming from this side tunnel.”

He turns to face the others, his pale features even paler than usual.

“It's not the good kind of laughter though.”

19:54 – 20:05: They move along the side corridor, the air hot and humid, the walls here pulsing with fleshy sacs and quivering body parts that are normally not seen. Ahead a bloody, sanguined light bleeds wetly from a large cavern, and by now all the group can hear the sobbing, broken titters and thickly slurred prayers that ooze from ahead. Moving with surprising stealth for them, they manage to get near enough to see into the chamber without disturbing its occupants.

It is a large cavern, though almost every last inch of its walls, floor and ceiling are covered in flesh. Three membranous doors lead from it; one ahead to the east, one to the north and one to the south, each reminding the group of the hard fats that sometimes cling, sticky and fibrous, to cooked meats. The northern door is guarded by three canine beasts; skinny, slime skinned thing with narrow, pointed heads and four lidless eyes. Flies crawl over them constantly, feeding on their wet flesh, apparently drawn to them for some reason.

In the middle rises a column some 15' across, of what appears to be meat, a baroque mass of entrails, limbs, eyes, mouths, tongues and genitalia. Steam rises from this column, and the red glow that suffuses the heavy air seems to come mostly from it.

Kneeling around it, wearing robes that are apparently made from flesh and lank hair, are six humans. They are the source of the laughter and prayers, and seem to be engaged in some kind of worship; bowing towards the pillar and heaving up their clotted prayers.

The first of them dies in a blast of cleansing radiant fire, as Grigori sweeps inwards and unleashes his fury – though his entrance into the room triggers some kind of alarm glyph, a multitude of larynges that grow from the walls like weird fungi, suddenly emitting strident, mindless, piping screams. The rest of the group pile in, the barbarian splitting the chest of another before they can rise, the assassin running a third through. As they fall back, so the cultist's hoods drop away from their faces, and the adventurer's are suddenly confronted with visages straight out of a nightmare; their faces frozen, so it seems, midway between the features of a human, and something akin to a Xareth'Chelde. Tortured folds and bulbs of flesh bulge noisomely from their warped, melted faces, pulsing with slightly differing rhythms. Their mouths are twisted gashes, filled with human and monstrous teeth, whilst their eyes are either too close together, preparing it seems to fuse into one giant orb, or spaced at differing heights, weeping viscous fluids that reek of alchemical acids.

Now aware of the group, the canines launch themselves to attack, a gut ripping stench flooding before them, bringing tears to the eyes of all (save the two undead, who's breathless state renders them immune). At the same time, the eastern door suddenly thins and parts, revealing another monstrosity, quite unlike anything the group have seen so far.

It may once have been human, or may be some abomination that wears the bipedal form of one. There is no way to tell, for it is utterly wretched in form; a hunched, tumour covered thing with soft flesh the colour of wet clay. Its head seems to almost melt into its bulging, wobbling shoulders, and several 10' long tentacles, wet and spongy, are wrapped around its body, their origin impossible to tell. Its eyes are impossible to see, for they rest within deep holes that look almost scooped into its soft, rubbery face, giving it a lugubrious, almost pitiful expression. Its mouth is full-lipped and down turned, and tiny, sharp teeth are clearly visible within its wet, gabbling interior.

Despite its appearance, this horror moves with sure speed, and as it approaches Lia feels a steel hard cold reaching down her spine and into her soul.

“It's psionic!” She snarls, throwing a potent barrier of psi-energy around the group, shielding them from direct psychic attacks, and making the nightmare snarl with anger.

Beyond this thing, in a chamber lit more by varying shades of darkness that true light, the group get the impression of sturdy barbed feelers sprouting like strange, bloody ferns from the walls. And stretched upon their cruel ends, their bodies warped and bent into forms one would think impossible to allow life, whilst undeniably being both alive and aware of their horrible predicament, are several more cultists.

For terrible moments the cramped, stinking chamber is filled with ferocious combat. The canines are surprisingly durable enemies, who's savage bites send those they strike tumbling to the ground, whilst the tumorous horror proves to be a potent force of destruction, its tentacles and fists sending poor Varracuda and Lia tumbling to the ground, near death. However, hampered by the ardent's magnificent psionic shields, it is unable to effectively make use of its most potent psychic attacks, and the group are able to slowly beat their way past the surviving cultists and snapping Retch Hounds, to engage with it.

It fights like a daemon, but even as it knocks Lia unconscious, and prepares to blast the group with a wave of mind-shattering psionic power, it finds the barbarian's axe embedded in its chest, and with a despairing gurgling, psychic cry, collapses, flailing to the floor, its sweet-smelling blood pumping from its diseased heart sacks and smoking pipes.

With its mental goading gone, the surviving hounds beat a sudden retreat, taking their choking stink with them, and the group rush to heal Lia, and to secure this place of warped flesh and madness made manifest...