Using My Monsters

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Ormid et al - 20/2/2012

8/1/50 – 07:00 - It has taken the group a couple of days to fully deal with the worst of what happened in Virian, their confidence somewhat shaken by the brutal might of the Count, the repulsive transformation of his brother, and most of all, the weird absence of Ferrous. During this time, the Glorious Brick has carried them deep beneath the surface of the sea, and begun to head southwest, towards the southern waters of Tritul's Reach.

Late on the same day that they leave Virian, Ramannum contacts the group, and tells them that she has found the rune sequence for a portal directly into the tower of the elusive Imbuers Collegiate. However, she is far from happy.

The mages of the collegiate are well known for their insular and avoidant natures. Normally it would be incredibly difficult to locate their tower, let alone to obtain a piece of sensitive information like this. Something must be wrong, and I urge you all to consider taking the longer route towards them. I can give you directions by which you can sail to their isle.”

And how long would that take?” Asks Ormid.

Rammanum is silent a moment.

By my reckoning, it would leave you only two days to complete your mission at the tower, and to return to the site of the ancient weapon.”

A deep intake of breath amongst the party members able to do so.

That doesn't sound like a good idea to me.” Grumbles Veteran.
Me either.” Agree the Helldazzler and shadeling together.

The air shimmers with the diviner's power, and after a moment she speaks again.

We have also determined that there is a severe disturbance within the Imbuer's tower, who's exact nature is unclear to us. This by itself speaks of terribly potent sorcery. Although we cannot be sure, as best as we can tell, there is either a being or are multiple beings of incredible power loose in there, a direct planar intrusion of some kind, or, a disruptive artefact of truly formidable might unfettered. We feel that it would be foolhardy in the extreme to simply plunge into the midst of whatever has been unleashed within the tower, without knowing exactly what you face, and would put it to you once more that you would be safer and more likely to succeed if you physically travel to the island and scout out the area first.”

A moments silence, apart from the groans and creaks of the submarines walls and the constant, subtle purring of its engines.

We can't risk missing the moment in which we need to fire the weapon.” Whispers Ormid. “If we don't take the risk and jump straight into the tower, we could easily put all the work we have done at risk.”

Not to mention,” chirps up the rogue, “the entire world if the Ziggurat is allowed to fully come into this plane.”

Everyone nods, and Ramannum sighs.

Very well.” she wearily transmits, “Please be careful.”

And so, two days later, the Artificer begins to enact the ritual needed to open a portal to the rune circle within the Imbuer's Collegiate's tower, a haunted look on his face. Everyone stands silently around him, pointedly trying not to think about their missing friend, and awaits the moment in which the gate opens.

07:10 – The portal snaps open, and at once the stench of blood, faeces and madness drifts through, curdling the air in the vessel. Everyone gasps as they peer through, seeing a vast, once splendid chamber, now defiled; it's grey and white swirled marble floor covered in gore and waste, the filthy mix used to depict over and over again a vaguely familiar symbol. At first they take it to be a crescent moon, broken by zig-zag lines. However, after a moment they realise what they are looking at – a stylised interpretation of an insanely grinning mouth – the symbol of Xix, God of madness and inspiration.

Each adventurer looks at each other before passing through the portal, their stomach's tightening at the stench coming from the beyond, the sharp, tainted breath of chaos infusing the heavy, bloody air.

07:01 – 07:03 – As one they leap through the gate...and arrive somewhere else...

The sky races with thin, high clouds, its dismal light a bruised blue-yellow. Gardens stretch away from the group over a gently rolling landscape, filled not with plants but with neatly set rows of forearms, hands raised to the skies, their fingers waggling in waves that silently mime the motion of wind passing through leaves. Other “plants” grow in these gardens too - “flowers” who's petals are tongues, and who's central structures are glistening eyeballs, madly twitching as they try to take everything in at once.

The group are standing on a crazed circle of nauseous green stone, the symbol of Xix depicted in a mosaic of purple and grey beneath their feet, its teeth edged in blood red. Three wide, meandering pathways lead from this area, each one filled with strange beings.

Two of them are host to vaporous, barely real things; skeletal, insect-like shadows with malformed heads, bulging compound eyes, and wide, fanged maws. Their slender, oddly jointed legs fade below the knee, giving the impression that they are floating. In all, each path holds about five of the things, and for now they merely hang there, silently, twitching now and then.

Between the group and the insect-shadows that clog one of the paths stands a woman dressed in stained and ripped robes of pale blue, edged in silver. Upon the robes is depicted a symbol – three silver circles, which overlap in the middle – the standard of the Imbuers Collegiate. Her features cannot be seen, for she wears a strange mask of bone and skin, crafted to resemble a naked eyeball. In one hand she carries an unsheathed dagger, covered in fresh blood. Drops of crimson dot the floor around her feet and stain the bottom of her robes, apparently having fallen from her arms.

More supplicants, come to sacrifice their sanity on the altar of our Lord Xix! Come my friends! Come give up your will and mind to the Gibbering Father! Come and praise him in madness!” (the air coils and pulses around her head like a transparent serpent as she speaks)

The group stir uneasily as a current of malevolence suddenly runs through the fabric of this world; the same dark pressure that dreams suddenly carry when they are turning inexorably towards nightmare. The insect-shadows murmur and whisper.

We are not here to worship good Lady, but seek the High Charismacist. Can you show us the way to him?” Asks Ormid.

The shadows begin to shudder like angry flies, a low buzzing filling the air, and the masked woman inclines her head to the left, giving the group the impression of a puppet who's head string has just been severed. After a moment, her head snaps back up, and she replies, the air growing heavier with burgeoning darkness.

(spikes briefly shimmer like heat haze about her head, a halo of of spines) “Hhhhheeeeeeeeessssssss not here any more. He would not worship, and so he had to go.”

Well, we don't want to worship either”, Growls the Veteran, his axe already in hand, its flames filmy and unreal in this realm, “so I guess we have an issue.” (Spikes of distortion thickly mantle the back and shoulders of the warforged as he speaks, whilst a helmet like distortion briefly envelops his head)

The party attack!

Moments later and the battle is over. The woman unleashed several spells designed to confuse or dominate before a punch from Ormid 's artifice arm stilled her, whilst the shadows simply leapt in, raking with claws loaded with psychic energy. None really stood a chance against the party, and all fell in quick order, the woman's body vanishing without any trace upon death.

One thing that Ormid, Shadevia and Llewellyn all notice, are the strange distortions and warps that seem to flicker through the air whenever anyone – friend or foe – is about to make an attack, is wounded, or sees / hears something that upsets or pleases them, and the artificer quickly realises that the very fabric of this dimension is psychoreactive, and so, responds to focused will, or to strong emotions.

07:04 – 07:30 – As the monsters and the woman fell, so the landscape has changed. Dark clouds, alive with shadowy crow-like things have covered the bruised skies, flickering with odd indigo lightning, and a carrion wind has gusted over the fields of limbs, withering the alien things that grow there into piles of stinking rot and white, jagged bone. The only thing untouched by this decay is the path, which now seems to shine with an unhealthy lambency.

What now?” Asks Shadevia, her face clearly showing her disgust at the new landscape around her, the air shimmering with her emotions.

I suppose we should see where these paths lead.” Suggests the rogue, already moving along one.

And so the group begin to travel along the path, the landscape barely changing around them, the air filled with the warped, echoing cries of the cloud birds and the low, stinking moan of the rotting winds. They walk for some time, the starting point vanishing into the distance, and after about 20 minutes or so, spot something up ahead – another junction. Picking up their pace a little, the group move eagerly forwards, the air responding to their hopes with flickering bursts of colourless light. However, their joy turns to anger and disappointment (spikes, blades and strangely folded “holes” in space), as they realise that they have somehow gone around in a huge circle, and returned, once more, to the place in which they arrived.

Gods curse this place.” Spits Vladislav, his irritation flourishing as a barbed spiral around him, “How can we stop this madness if we can't escape this place?”

Llewellyn snaps his fingers, a burst of light seeming to leap from his eyes, “Got it! If this place is so responsive to our thoughts, can't we just force out way out by imagining a doorway?”

Ormid slaps his huge hand over his face, and Vladislav starts to chuckle. 
 
Of course we can.” Laughs the artificer, the air cascading with transparent lines of confetti like distortions around him, “It's really quite simple when you think about it...err, no pun intended.”

Okay then, we need to coordinate our concentration, in order to gather together enough mental energy to punch a hole in this reality. Really concentrate on the place we saw through the original portal, and imagine a doorway leading to it.”

Everyone begins to concentrate, and under the continued, unifying instructions of the artificer, the weight of their imaginings begin to physically affect the dimensional fabric, a tiny mote of shimmering colourless distortion suddenly appearing in mid air before them.

That's it everyone, keep it up! Really see yourselves stepping through the portal! Imagine not only how it looks, but how the air feels as you pass through it, how the breeze blowing through it smells as it comes into this world, and how you feel as you step from this realm, back into the tower...”

Nurtured like a flame under a gentle breeze, the mote quickly begins to grow in size, and soon an unstable, mercury like blob of agitated dimensional energy hangs before them.

Nearly there!”

Suddenly, with a low “WHOOM”, a portal appears, and the group can see the blood-soaked darkness of the tower beyond it, the body of the slain woman (now without the mask, her face covered in scratches, her eyes staring sightlessly into the dark), visible on the floor. Everyone leaps through, momentarily dazed by the shift from the unreality of whatever world they had just inhabited back into the stark, brutal truth of their own world.

07:31 – 07:45 - “Something terrible has been unleashed here.” Breathes Ormid as the dark, weighted atmosphere of the chamber sinks into his soul. Looking at the state of the place, no one can argue.

They stand in the middle of the rune circle through which the portal had originally been opened, which is carved in the middle of a vast, impressive chamber, worked from grey and white swirled marble, and gold-banded columns of serpentine. Four wide, arched corridors, bearing magnificent ornamentations, lead from the area in which they stand, and between them, in the “corners” of the circular space, loom four huge statues, depicting powerful looking men and women in long hooded robes, each one bearing the symbol of the Collegiate.

The stench of blood and bowels is thick on the air, and group know that although they have just evaded one danger, many others lurk in this place.

Only a being of incredible supernatural power, a truly potent ritual or an item of otherworldly might could cause the dimensional effects we have experienced.” breathes the artificer, annoyance suddenly flickering through him as he notices the dumbstruck expressions on his companions' faces, “And unless we can find its' source, we will never work out what's going on.”

Everyone nods their agreement, and Ormid rolls his eyes with irritation as they clearly look to him to come up with the answers. “Fine!” he snaps, “I'll try to sense where the energy is coming from, seeing as you all seem too damn busy to do anything yourselves!”

Frowns and shrugs as the rest of the party try to work out what has suddenly come over their ally (and truth be told, the shadeling, who has become – if possible – even more withdrawn since their return from the other realm). Ormid, ignoring the looks, closes his eyes, an almost at once a cold sweat begins to bead on his forehead, his massive hand flexing involuntarily as his opened senses begin to see the lines of energy that weave through this tainted place...

...The air writhes with looping lines of shimmering, chaotic energy; each bundle whipping back and forth like a maggot. Below him, the rancid coils of energy thicken and join, forming a black and crimson morass of painfully throbbing, corrupt power about 60' below the floor on which he stands. A tide of vertigo assaults him as he looks upon the festering mass of dizzying magics, and Ormid can suddenly taste copper...

The pain in his mouth snaps him out of the dangerous state before the chaotic energies draw him in and devour his sanity, and Ormid realises he has bitten his tongue. Taking a deep breath, both disappointment and anger fill him as he sees the rest of the group stupidly moving towards him, apparently overestimating the harm he has done himself.

We need to get to the lower levels of the tower!” He barks at them, “And soon.”

07:50 – 07:53 – Worried that once more the artificer's fragile mind has cracked, the group try not to wind him up any more than he already is. A few moments are taken working out which of the corridors to check out first, and it is quickly agreed that the one that seems to head north would be a fine starting point.

This corridor is accessed through a partially open pair of massive wooden doors, to which has been nailed an unfortunate mage. Beyond them looms total darkness. Never one to quail from the unknown or the deeply unpleasant, the rogue volunteers to go through the doors are explore a bit, though he quickly realises that he has a severe problem doing this – namely, he cannot see anything beyond the first few feet of corridor, although his sensitive ears pick up whispered conversation and muted chuckling from somewhere ahead.

Unhappy with having the rogue split from the main group, the Veteran lights his axe, and swings the doors open, its flickering light stabbing into the gloom ahead. At once, the sound of rapidly retreating footfalls echoes from the same place the low voices had echoed moments before, and the rest of the party sweep in, ready for a battle. What they find instead is a wide corridor, flanked by six arched alcoves, each flanked by serpentine columns and holding a suit of powerfully enchanted armour, as well as a potent weapon – almost certainly examples of the Collegiate's artificer's skills.

Llewellyn's eyes glow as he recognises the power imbued into each item. However, he manages to hold back, for at the base of each alcove, neatly surrounding each suit of armour, is a carved runic inscription, their purpose almost immediately clear thanks to the dead mage by the second alcove on the right. The deceased lies across the runes, and appears to have been cut in two by the energies they released, the exposed entrails carbonised, the face (blackened and swollen with decomposition), still wearing a grimace of agony. A moment's examination of the runes, and the rogue realises that they are now inert, their not inconsiderable magics having “earthed” through the slain mage, and burned out.

This one's dead!” He beams, and Ormid, assuming he is talking about the mage tuts loudly, shaking his head. “I, err, meant the rune circle grumpy bollocks.”

07:54 – 08:06 - Ormid almost swipes at him, but instead stomps over, kicking the lower half of the dead man aside, and begins to examine the armour beyond the wards. For a brief moment the lines of anger on his face fade, and he murmurs softly to himself in appreciation of the expert craftsmanship before him. Meanwhile, the rogue has just retrieved a fabulously well crafted dagger of malachite from the slain mage, its edge shimmering with spectral colours as it cuts the light falling upon it. He also looks over the armour he wears, and realises at once that it, like the armour in the alcove, is of rare quality, being made from woven shadows. It is decided that Shadevia would benefit from wearing it, as its enchantments will greatly improve both her protection, and her ability to use stealth.

Meanwhile, Ormid has identified that the elaborate suit of full plate armour in the alcove is enchanted to not only give its wearer spectacular protection from physical blows, but can wrap them in protective fields of magic at times, shielding them reflexively from the most savage of blows. In the “grasp” of this armour, is a magnificent crimson-bladed flamberge greatsword, who's surface is covered in potent runes of enchantment – a blade that Ormid identifies as a Flame Tongue.

These items are simply spectacular,” he breathes, “simply amazing.”

The Warforged claims the blade, his hands tingling at its touch.

08:07 – 08:12 – A burst of ripping energy briefly fills the air around the next alcove with silver bulges of sonic energy, and dancing motes of blinding radiance, and Llewellyn is sent flying across the corridor, his skin alive with lingering, corrosive power. Somehow managing not to scream, he writhes on the ground as the energies continues to consume him, and is only saved when Ormid runs over and administers a counter spell, weakening the energies until they fade. Wounded, but not beaten, the rogue leaps to his feet, and a sly grin spreads across his face as he grabs the naked corpse, and begins to shove it towards the warding circle that just blasted him.

What are you doing you idiot?” Snarls Ormid, bristling.

Llewellyn ignores him, and simply shoves the legs of the cadaver over the warding line. At once the magic within the circle erupts; a dazzling blast of searing flame and choking acidic fluid. For several horrible moments the potent energies rip into the body, reducing it to a pugilistic carbonated statue, and filling the air with a throat grabbing reek of burned meat and bench acids. Then, with a sobbing wheeze, the warding line burns out, leaving the items beyond exposed – a suit of studded armour made from what Ormid recognises as Shift Cat hide, and a beautifully carved rod of some dead black stone, carved with hundreds of tiny open mouths and tipped with a large sphere of flawless jet – A Rod of Absorption.

Still grinning, the rogue makes a “ta-da” type gesture at the potent items, and bows mockingly at the artificer. He then moves over to the alcove across the corridor, and begins to try and disable the guardian circle there...

08:13 – 08:20 - ...failing miserably, and once again bearing the brunt of another burst of devastatingly potent evocatory magics.

However, this second activated circle, awoken within such a short period of time since the last, triggers another defensive mechanism woven into the corridor, and at once, the doors into the corridor (and two sets at the opposite end, which lead to a wide, curving way that circles the tower at this level), lock tight, and the air suddenly crawls with power.

Everyone turns from the screaming, blazing vyrleen, to watch as three points of luminosity bulge and gather half-way along the corridor; two roughly 8' above the ground, which shine with a fiery light, and a brownish-grey one that skips and circles on the floor between them.

Not good.” Growls the Veteran.

Err, no.” Agrees Shadevia, bringing her bow to bear.

The shrouding powers tearing at the rogue suddenly vanish, and he springs to his feet, trailing smoke and dripping blood, mace in hand. Ormid moves to stand by him, and Vladislav moves next to the warforged, his hands already covered in crackling power. The three points of energy suddenly blossom, each unleashing a monster.

The two floating motes each bring forth a blazing humanoid with scarlet, bronzed skin, daemonic features (including short horns, fangs and piercings), and where their legs should be, a whirling cyclone of flame. Each wields a huge curved blade of half-molten bronze, and are surrounded by howling gales of searing wind. The grounded mote sinks suddenly into the floor, and the flagstones heave upwards to a height of roughly 12'. For a moment, the mass simply stands there, before collapsing inwards, and creating a blocky, stocky humanoid, which continually sheds chunks of rock and sloughing curtains of dust.

Ifrit and earth elemental.” notes Ormid clinically, “This could be...”

Tricky.” Finishes the rogue, leaping forth, trailing smoke.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Count Vorgor and Siskeer

Here are the stats for the two men, who with two Flamers of Tzeentch (Who's stats I can't put up for fear of getting in trouble over IP), came incredibly close to killing Veteran and the gang (who are tough, 18th level characters). 

clicking will embiggen.

Count Vorgor Khebletzi


Siskeer Yenvanovich


Full descriptions of these two, and the fight that nearly killed the group are in THIS report.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Shnecke's Wolves - Session 13

5/7/1472 – 20:30 – Twelve days have passed since the battle in the marsh, and the party have moved steadily southwards, the terrain changing from marsh to domed, bamboo forested hills, and then to rocky, windswept grasslands. During this journey they have witnessed many strange and at times dangerous phenomena, as reality continues to writhe and shift in its torments. Strange vistas have opened before them, as often as not, vanishing in time. Alien entities, both beautiful and monstrous have manifested without warning, and even such fundamental things as light, gravity and distance have, at times, become warped and unreliable.

At night, they have taken to seeking the shelter of a cave, or if none can be found, a shallow ditch, in order to avoid the deadly strikes of falling moonstone that often come; blasting craters in the ground, and turning immediately to mist any living thing they hit. They have also learned that these impacts regularly spawn chaotic displays of unleashed magic, which as often as not are as deadly as the strike itself.

However, they have made good progress, and on this balmy evening, find themselves looking across a strange field – the bedrock in regular places having torn free of the ground, and taken to floating, gently turning, between 5' and 20' above the ground – staring at a thin line of glittering golden lights on the near horizon.

“Looks like a town.” Murmurs Jaeger. “I could go for some proper food, and a warm bath right now.”

“Fooooood.” Whispers Grigori, his voice a hollow whisper, his eyes particularly large and bright.

Everyone shifts a little uncomfortably, for whilst they have eaten fairly well during their journey, the assassin proving a knowledgeable wildsman, able to secure fresh meat and edible roots even in these foreign climes, he has not been able to give the two undead the one thing they need to sate their appetites – blood. They have sucked the blood from several large mammals, but have both complained that the soulless broth has lacked the certain essence needed to stop the gnawing hunger in their bellies, and the shivering ache in their bones. Worse, their bodies have begun to show increasing signs of their true, predatory nature. Grigori is particularly pale and gaunt, his eyes shining day and night with a bloody light, his eye-teeth extended as often as not. Shnecke has the colour of a drained corpse, his own features shrunken and gaunt. His eyes burn with a fevered, rotting light, and like the priest, he seems to struggle to keep his dagger-like fangs sheathed. Both have started to smell of madness and death, and Lia in particular has kept an eye on them, liking not the way they stare whenever anyone (save the assassin) cranes their neck in such as way as to make veins bulge.

“Okay, so let's push on a bit longer than normal, and make our way there. We're going to need a plan though if we are going to get in without any trouble.”

21:10 – 21:35 – The group arrive at the edge of a large camp that sprawls from the walls of the town (though it seems that many sections of the walls have been built from bedrock, and are now missing, floating mockingly above). The main bulk of those living In the camp seem to be ordinary folks, each accompanied by wagons or bags filled with their earthly possessions.

Refugees.

Whilst Grigori and Shnecke stay back in the darkness, the rest of the group move towards the flickering light of the camp, pulling their hoods up to hide their Yissen features. As they approach, they suddenly find themselves stomping on a hideous mass of fat, slime covered slugs, the ground literally heaving with the vile things.

“What the..?” Spits Varracuda, his disgust plain to see.
“By the gods, these things are every damn where.” replies the warlock.
“This isn't natural.” muses the assassin, lifting his boot up, and frowning at the mushed up invertebrates that slime there.

The group move on, and as the details of the camp become clearer, they can see that the slugs are absolutely everywhere; coiling in sticky, slimy masses in the shadows, hanging in sickening, writhing ropes from some surfaces. The people seem to consider them merely a nuisance; scraping them up from their tents sides and throwing them onto their fires, but the group are less accepting.

Moving as naturally as they can, the group heads towards the shattered walls of the town, spotting at once that there are three armed and armoured men guarding the nearest gap. Reaching them, they try to move past, but find themselves looking at the sharp end of three polearms.

*in tradespeak* “You cannot enter Wu Shang! Turn around refugee! Turn around now!”

The group are about to argue when shouting from behind them, back in the camp catches their attention...
* * *
...Meanwhile, out in the darkness, the two undead pace like caged tigers, their hunger almost drowning out their resolve. To them, the smells and sounds of the camp are those of a meal being served, and their empty, hungering shells ache to be able to run amongst the people, to rip, tear and drink of their warmth. Then they hear the distant sounds of angry shouting, and screams of pain, and unable to hold back their curiosity, the two begin to lope towards the source of the sound, stomach's lurching with hunger, an animal mewling escaping their mouths.

In the camp, everyone's attention is focused on something taking place near the walls, and at once the two know their allies are the source of the commotion. They lope towards the scene, their hunger growing with every step, their features twisting into a bestial expression of it. People are running away from the epicentre of the disturbance, their faces alive with terror. Pushing past them, the pair find a scene of carnage.

Five Kai'Yassanians lie dead, each punctured by a cluster of smoking, shadowy bolts. Three still stand; one a grizzled warrior dressed in leather armour and bearing a finely crafted Jian, the other two wearing white silk kimonos and wielding daggers. All of the men wear white headbands, which bear the same line of text, which Varracuda – who, along with the rest of the group stands in the middle of the massacre, untouched – knows says “ Wai Ninja'Gau”, White Soul Gang. Blood covers everything, thickly jetting from the bodies of the slain, and pouring from several bolts embedded in the armoured warrior. To the undead, the air is thick with its intoxicating, coppery tang, and it unleashes the coiled monster inside them, their hunger erupting in a terrible, unstoppable frenzy.

One of the men is literally torn apart by Shnecke as he tries to run from the massacre. The barbarian, faster than the eye grabbing him by the throat and lifting him off his feet. The warrior, his face turning blue, kicks and tries to claw free from the undead Ulnyrr's ferocious grip, but stops when Shnecke grabs hold of his arm, and with casual strength, tugs it free from his body in a burst of gore, holding the sputtering, fat dripping stump to his mouth, and noisily drinking the gore that bursts forth.

The other kimono wearing man manages to escape as the rest of the party fall upon the sword wielder – the dhampir ending his life with a savage bite to the carotid artery that removes almost all the muscle and tissue on the left side of his neck, before clamping his mouth over the torn vessel and drinking deeply of his ebbing lifeblood.

For what seems to be an eternity the entire party – and indeed, the horror struck guards – simply stare at the two feeding monsters, unable to move. The other people in the camp are reduced to blurry, muffled, slow motion in the background, the two undead seeming to shine with an unholy light as the observers brains focus on the most immediate source of danger...

...And then the spell is broken. Shnecke drops the drained corpse to the ground, and Grigori pulls free, his face crimson with gore.

“W-we need to get out of here now!” Hisses Jaeger as the guards begin to run into the town, screaming for backup. Everyone agrees, though Varracuda seems dazed with horror, his angular features dark, highlighted by small sparks of lightning.

2136 – 03:00 (6/7/1472) – After several hours of headlong flight from the town, the group find a natural defile and stop to rest. Anger and disbelief mingle with extreme weariness, and no one speaks in the atmosphere of quiet rage.

One thing they soon notice from their hiding place, is the distant glittering of lights to the south – another town, possibly, the port they have been looking for.

08:40 – 08:45 - The party, having slept a little, and taken a some food, arrive at the impressive northern gate of Wu Gung; a port town torn literally in half by the sundering, as its northern most districts followed the bulk of the land into the skies, leaving the southern districts and port districts behind at ground level. They pass easily through the gates, and are soon walking along the crowded, orderly streets towards the port, unaware at this time that the actual port lies far below their current level.

The group manage to pass by unchallenged until they reach the southern most edge of the town. Here they find that the buildings have mostly collapsed; the rubble piled high, smoke still rising from the fires that started almost a month ago when the land shattered. Hundreds of men labour here, apparently working to gather materials for some epic construction being erected along the middle of the new “port”; hanging over the sheer drop that yawns beyond the cracked and splintered streets, 300' of misty open air hanging dark with the lands shadow beyond, the rest of the town a crescent of glittering lights far below. Beyond the lower town, a huge greenish ocean stretches away – the Nawa'Sikei or “Mother Ocean” - its emerald waters almost hidden by low-hanging clouds and flocks of wheeling white birds.

As well as the men on the ground, there are about twenty or so skyships – ranging from hulking spelljammers to smaller, artifice engined craft – flying about, many of which disgorge clouds of black smoke or glittering arcane gasses as they work. These it seems are being used to haul materials, or to hold men as they work on the hanging portions of the nascent structure.

Our way off this rock and back home.” Notes Grigori staring at them. “I'm sure we can find someone who's greed outstrips their desire to help.”

Suddenly, the group spot several angry looking guards, dressed in Ashigaru armour, approaching them, each a waving silver-plumed polearm, and angrily shouting at them in tradespeak that they have no right to be in the “danger zone”. When the group ask what the problem is, they are told “Goblin Spiders. Now go!”

08:46 – 09:30 – The group leave the shattered edge district, and head into the main town. Once there, they spend a little time asking around about the “Goblin Spiders”, and soon learn that the tearing of the land exposed some deep tunnels, within which live malevolent shape-shifting spiders. These monsters have, apparently, been fighting to stop the people of Wu Gung from completing the “Great Sky Bridge” - a massive elevator that will connect the lower town to the upper town.

Seeing an opportunity to help, Varracuda asks if anyone is hiring mercenaries to hunt and eradicate the monsters. “Sure, sure. Find Captain Tosho Ugaroshi. He'll probably take you on.”

The genasai grins, eager to do at least some good whilst in this strange land. The rest of the group grin also, glad to have a way into the shattered area, and hopefully, access to someone who might be able to help them escape.

09:50 – 21:30 – Getting a licence as “monster hunters”, and subsequently, access to the danger zone is surprisingly easy; Tosho proving more than a little desperate to be rid of the Spider Goblin problem. However, both he and Varracuda are soon to be disappointed, as the party instead spend their time watching the comings and goings around the building site of the “Great Sky Bridge”, and chatting to the workers about who is who – and more importantly, who seems to be less than happy with their situation. During this time one name comes up several times, often accompanied by such words as “bastard” “drunk” “unhelpful” and “ass” - Takeshi Akam – Captain of the Moon of Fury, a small skyship junk.

Learning that the captain is fond of drinking sake and bemoaning his fate at an inn called the Drunken Bakemono, the group head there, and await their quarry.

He arrives as dusk is drawing in, the main taproom of the inn already filled with loudly talking and laughing men and women from the construction site. As he arrives, the group notice the ripple of disapproval that sweeps through the gathered people; eyes hastily moving away so as to avoid his gaze, conversation briefly lowering to an angry whisper. Apparently oblivious to the general negativity of those around him, Takeshi, a squat, rotund man with narrow eyes, thinning black hair, several impressive facial moles, and a down turned, angry mouth, shoves his way to the bar, and orders six cups of warmed sake.

Grigori allows the captain to finish half his cups (which he does in mere moments), before he moves over to address him with an offer.

Excuse me sir, Takeshi is it?”

The captain turns to glare at the priest out of the corner of his eye, his fourth cup raised halfway to his lips.

*Tradespeak* “Piss off, I'm drinking.”

Bristling inside, the dhampyr fights down the urge to rip the sweaty little man's throat out, and instead nods his head, and continues.

My friends and I are looking for passage out of Kai'Yassan, and we have heard that you may be open to employment other than that offered by the township.”

Takeshi knocks back his drink, and turns to face Grigori, his eyes widening as he takes in his dishevelled and gaunt form.

Yissen!” he spits, “I am employed and honour bound to serve, the good people of Wu Gung, and cannot possibly break this contract. If I did, word would spread, and I would...”

Grigori drops a heavy pouch filled with several choice gems onto the bar, open enough to allow the captain a glimpse of the treasures within. Takeshi stops talking, and just stares a moment at the glinting treasures.

You were saying?” smiles Grigori.

I was...saying...that I might be open to alternate job opportunities, assuming they paid enough.”

Takeshi's finger's stray towards the open bag, but are pulled rapidly back when the priests slams his hand with blurring speed down upon it.

Two Thousand Imperial Seals” He snarls.

Fine,” replies the priest, “though you pay for any fuel, and also cover any losses we sustain whilst passengers on your vessel. You also pay for all food and drink.”

The captain looks at Grigori as if he has just grown a second head.

Ah, I see now. You're a simpleton.” He snarls, “I'm sorry, I did not realise. I'm afraid I don't have the time or the patience to deal with the likes of you right now, so take your pretty stones and your ridiculous ideas and piss off. I'm drinking now, and don't have time for this stupidity.”

And with that he finishes his final cup of sake, stands up, and spitting at Grigori's feet, moves to another part of the bar.

For a moment red rage coils within the priest, and he has to exert some serious effort to keep his eye-teeth from emerging. However, he swallows it down, and with a curse, returns to the party.

You really are a fucking idiot Grigori, you know that don't you?” Snarls Jaeger, “Do you appreciate the sheer magnitude of the journey we are asking him to make? Have you actually stopped and thought about the chance of arriving, all spick and span at Irin, with the ship intact?
Of course he won't do it for such a tiny sum, especially when you take into account the stigma these guys seem to have about breaking their word once given, and the sheer danger that travelling too far in this insane new world involves. Honestly Grigori, try thinking for once.”

No one else speaks, Lia and Varracuda brooding over the darkness that seems to have crept into their company since the bloodbath at the walls of Wu Shang, the priest too angry to do so without losing control of his unholy rage, the barbarian and warlock simply disinterested in the argument.

I'll approach him tomorrow,” continues the assassin, not caring that Grigori is clearly enraged by his words,”and with any luck, and with the offer of more money, he'll change his mind. Otherwise genius, you can think of another way to cross many thousands of miles in a world being slowly consumed by madness.”

7/7/1472 – 23:00 – The Moon of Fury – slips silently from its berth, its lights off as it tries to avoid being detected. On board, the party are getting to grips with the cramped and furnace like lower decks of the vessel, the assassin having made Takeshi an offer even he couldn't refuse; 4,000 Imperial Seals in fine gems, 1,000 of which is given as a down payment.

Also on board is a young and quite beautiful girl in her early twenties named Akemi Yu. It is quickly apparent that she sees Takeshi as a father, and he sees her a daughter, and it is equally clear that she is strictly off limits to any advances from the party. Sharp eyed, slender as a willow, and possessed of an easygoing, happy demeanour, she is a polar opposite of the grumpy and aggressive captain, her hair long and dark, her eyes the colour of finely polished wood. She greets the party with barely restrained excitement, though even her sunny disposition is dulled somewhat as she regards the pale skinned barbarian, the gaunt, blood-eyed priest and the shadowy, hooded assassin.

We need to stop at Cran'Aurym”, explains Takeshi to the assassin in a low voice, as he steers the rumbling vessel away from its aerial berth and backs it towards open sky, “to purchase some ingots for the engine.”

Ingots?”

Takeshi smiles. “I don't know what they are made of, or where the particular alchemist I get them from obtains them, but they are the only fuel this old girl's engines can use. The current one is close to disintegration, and without a replacement, we aint getting far at all.”

I see.” muses Jaeger, peering into the night, which is alive with strange, aurora like distortions of purple and pink, “Cran'Aurym, the City of Golden Skulls.”

Indeed.” replies Takeshi, gently pushing several levers by the helm, “Though it's not as glamorous as it sounds. Trust me on that.”

Above them the skies roil and dance with otherwordly lights, and oddly distorted peals of thunder whisper and sing into the night. Turning northwest, the Moon engages its engines, and with a coughing growl of artifice, and a plume of faintly glittering exhaust, it begins to fly towards the distant and ancient City of Golden Skulls.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Slash, Pierce, Bludgeon

One of the things I always missed in 4e from 3.5 were the physical damage types, and time and again I find myself wanting to use resistances to them when I am designing monsters. So, finally, I have decided that enough is enough. Here, for your delectation are how the weapon groups translate into physical damage types. Yes, this is a simplification, and I have created a few feats to address this to a degree.

Bludgeoning Damage: Hammers, Maces, Staffs, Unarmed
Piercing Damage: Bows, Crossbows, Firearms, Light Blades, Polearms, Slings, Spears
Slashing Damage: Axes, Heavy Blades

All of the above are still considered "Untyped" damage for the purposes of existing DR. 

HEROIC FEATS

Practised Wielder
Benefit: You may inflict any type of damage with a chosen weapon type (for example, "axes"), though you suffer a -2 penalty to your attack roll when doing so. Each time you take this feat, it applies to a specific weapon group. You may take it multiple times, each time choosing a different weapon group.

Critical Manipulation
Prerequisite: You must have taken the Practised Wielder feat for a weapon group to use this feat with them.
Benefit: You may choose to have all additional damage dealt by a critical hit to be either bludgeoning, piercing or slashing instead of the usual type.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Ormid et al - Two Sessions Report

08:00 – 08:20 - The temple squats amongst the blackened ruins of the nearby buildings, its once pristine walls scarred and ashen. Smoke rises from within its shattered central dome, and the gardens that once surrounded it lie torn and dead. The wide white-stone path that leads to the oaken double doors is lost beneath ash and rubble, the doors themselves hidden behind a barrier of crates and debris.

Realising that the front entrance is the worst way in, especially given what the diviner had told them about who is waiting beyond, the group decide to take a very different route. Moving a street away, they break into the sagging ruin of a warehouse, and after spending a moment getting their bearings, the warforged activates his belt, his arms becoming gloved in rock-chewing blades of force. Without hesitation, he begins to dig down into the ground, and soon the party are moving steadily along behind him as tunnels towards the sub-basement of the temple, and, with luck, the rogue Helldazzler.

08:40 – 08:50 – Having chewed through the foundations of several buildings, burst into the
unholy stench of the blood and filth choked sewers, and then adjusted their course, the group finally encounter the mortared brickwork of the temple's sub-basements. As they approach it however, all feel strange pressures moving across their spirits, and at once realise that more than just men wait beyond the wall.

After a moments whispered planning, the warforged strikes the stone, and with a deafening roar and snarl, the wall collapses inwards, revealing what appears to be a library. Several rows – end on to the group – of floor to ceiling hardwood shelves, stand in the medium sized chamber of stone, lit by the strange light of two floating, phantasmal nightmares, that drip and mewl either side of the chamber's other two inhabitants, all of whom stand at the opposite side of the chamber to the group.

The monsters are unlike anything anyone has seen before; billowy, ethereal things composed of pulsing, quivering tubes of pink, blue and purple flesh, mashed together to form a single, constantly writhing mass. At the end of the tubes open circular mouths, or pulsing orifices, from which shoot constant jets of silver, gold and purple fire. Others narrow down to form tentacles, each mottled with dark purple or blue spots.

Of the other two, it is immediately clear who is who. Siskeer is thin to the point of being skeletal; his flesh tight and sallow. He wears long, overly ornamented robes of dark blue and gold, the layered garment covered in fetishes, all of which seem to have a bird theme – feathers, claws, and ornithological skulls tied to length of sinew. Tattoos' cover his skin, depicting in golden ink symbols and words that each member of the group knows at an instinctive level are born of corruption and evil. Siskeer is sneering at the group, his pale blue eyes alive with madness.

So, my old order has found me at last! Too late I am afraid to stop me from learning that which they hoped to keep from me. Brother? Show them the error of their ways whilst I beseech my Lord to aid our cause.”

As he says these, his voice a low shriek, he closes the cover of a large, steel bound tome set on a reading desk next to him, the Final Sun clearly visible in brass on the cover.

Our book!” Growls Vladislav, his hands already crackling with power.

Count Vorgor stands almost as tall as the Veteran, and is easily his match in bulk. He wears archaic plate armour of the highest quality, the fine black metal of it decorated over every inch with carvings of eagles, wolves and daemons. He wears no helm, and has pale, cold features; a strong brow, dark eyes that hold the icy emptiness of a frost bound lake, and long black hair that matches his tangled, plaited black beard.

On one arm a heavy shield of steel decorated with a grim standard. In the other hand, a finely crafted axe of steel and dark wood.

There is no room for negotiations, and within heartbeat the battle is on.

The Veteran charges, hoping to blast through the Count who has stepped forwards to block access to his half-brother. He throws everything into a deadly blow that he knows can kill most men a hundred times over, and so is not prepared when Vorgor's own weapon, faster than seems possible, is raised and deflects all but a tiny portion of the blows' momentum. Veteran tries to smash the warrior again, but manages only to chip the carvings on his pauldrons as the axe once more sweeps his attack aside. 
 
Llewellyn cartwheels into the chamber, and sends a silvery line of daggers blurring towards Vorgor, only to watch as, almost too fast to be real, the count raises his shield, and the magical weapons are scattered across the room.

Then, he strikes.

His axe weaves a blur, and the Veteran is not aware of how seriously wounded he is until all three blows have struck; his internal mechanisms exposed, his haemolymph pumping from exposed pipes of gristle and meat within him. Strength seems to leave him as he stumbles back under the blow, and he barely notices as the count strikes the Vyrleen with a blow that leaves him floored and bleeding.

Then the two weird monsters drift forwards, the temperature around the group quickly rising until it is agonising, even breathing becoming an exercise in torment. Despite the blistering temperatures, neither the books or the count seem inconvenienced, a cool skin of blue energy shielding them from the horror's fiery auras.

Both monsters drift like vapour towards the group, one on either side of the count, flickering and pulsing like strange, fleshy flames. Then, when they are some 15' away, they unleash paired blasts of dazzling, rainbow coloured fire at the party, the shock of it stealing breath, hair and hope as it strikes home. Screams of pain ring out, and the fumes of burning flesh and metal choke the air. Many continue to burn, the ghostly flames that cling to them feeding not only the corporeal fuel of their bodies and gear, but on their spiritual essences.

Pained and shocked, Ormid notices that the Veteran has been damaged beyond – or so he thinks – operation; his armour all but gone, turned to slag by the daemon fire, his inner flesh charred and boiling. However, he then notices that impossibly, the warforged still fights, and with expert practice, and despite his own agony, the master artificer weaves a spell to restore some of the warrior's body, as well as his own. He also awakens several enchantments upon Veteran's deadly blade, bringing its edge to an almost impossible sharpness, and imbuing it with dazzling, healing energies.

Arrows leap from Shadevia's bow, hurtling towards Vorgor. One finds its mark – lightly slicing the warlord's cheek, a thin line of blood knifing over its sharp angles – whilst the other ricochets harmlessly around the battle, embedding itself in a bookcase. Ferrous launches in to stand by his master, his form blurring as the fey runes in his armouring are awoken.

And then, once again, the world turns to agony. Siskeer has been working through the vile words of a most terrible sounding incantation, his body twitching and writhing with horrific, boneless gesticulations. Suddenly his spell is complete, and with a shriek, he throws a warping line of pinkish energy towards Vladislav. The Helldazzler is unable to get out of the way of the beam, and as it hits him, so his form begins to twists and shift, shrinking down into the form of something else...

...A bunny...

Screaming with mad laughter, Siskeer quickly works another spell, and the frontline fighters are enveloped in more punishing flames of purple and gold, the warped daemon sorcery blazing across them in a withering wave. The Veteran is also afflicted by another dark spell, the organic parts of him suddenly growing with fecund and unnatural ferocity, bursting through his armouring and crushing vital components within.

Almost beaten already, the group realise that they may be facing foes beyond them.

And so unfolds the single most desperate battle of the parties' lives. Life hangs by the thinnest threads, and for one member of the group, it snaps forever; poor Ferrous, despite his shroud of fey magic, being simply overwhelmed by the fiery daemonic power of the floating fiends, and the whirling blades of the warlord. Wounded to the point of collapse, there is nothing the group can do in their own desperation to survive, to stop him burning to death, and then, beyond the hope of reconstruction.

The Veteran, normally able to stride untouched through battle, and able to strike down the mightiest of foes, finds himself battling someone who outclasses him. He struggles to land a blow on the Count, and in return is surgically dissected by the warlord's almost too perfect strikes and cunning counters. Were it not for the artificer – himself, barely conscious through most of the battle, his hair lost to the unholy flames, his skin a mass of blisters and weeping sores – he would have fallen, and indeed, spends most of the battle in a strange state of near death; wounded to the point where he is only able to function a the loss of most of his flexibility and strength.

Llewellyn almost dies several times, his usual tricks and tactics simply failing to keep him from the seeking flames and warping attacks of Siskeer and his conjurations, whilst Vladislav – once he has returned to his true form – seems cursed, his attacks failing to strike as often as not (though he does manage to score a stunning strike against the renegade mage with an explosive burst of force-bound fire, sending him hurtling back against the walls, the dull crack of bone carrying over the terrible din of battle).

For long moments it truly seems the group will die in that place, and Llewellyn and Shadevia (who has managed to avoid harm until the end when Vorgor manages to get within striking range of her, the warforged hurled by sorcery to the far side of the chamber), both consider cutting and running. However, somehow, the party manage to survive, always at the very brink of annihilation, and with agonising slowness, they close on the mage, and make him pay.

It is the Veteran, brutalised and acting on hard-wired instinct rather than any conscious stratagem, who manages to corner the shrieking and cursing mage, and then to split his face wide with his axe. When it happens, Siskeer's fall is almost a surprise to the group, their senses numbed and dulled by their proximity to death, the agony that wracks each one threatening to overwhelm them at any moment.

However, even as the fiery blade of the warforged's killing blow sweeps towards his head, Siskeer gives a manic grin, his eyes alight with mad joy.

And so I become the gate!”

The fatal blow almost completely demolishes the apostate's head, and he slumps with a sigh against the walls of the chamber, arterial blood jetting thick and dark across the stonework.

Nooooo! My brother!” Howls Vorgor, his blade continuing its terrible, deadly motion, “I shall destroy you a....”

His words catch in his throat as a wave of utter wrongness sweeps through the chamber, the air curdling with the touch of alien energies. With Siskeer's death, the fiery daemon (for only one remains, the other finally beaten back to the immaterium), has vanished, as have the spells guarding the bookshelves, all of which now burn with a fierce, growing flame. Beams of smoky, pinkish light stab outwards from the slain mage's body, casting obscene and simply wrong shadows across the chamber, and before the horrified group's eyes, Siskeer's body begins to melt and sag, his flesh becoming a boiling, writhing pool, the bones and entrails seeming to bulge and writhe within their sticky mass.

Realising that something even worse than the live mage and the warlord is about to enter their world, the group leap into action. Vorgor, spins to hack at Shadevia, almost killing her with three horrific wounds across her shoulder and head, before being is pushed back by a wave of force emitted by Ormid's armour. Meanwhile, ignoring the growing nightmare in the corner of the room, Llewellyn cartwheel's past the warlord's seeking blades, and grabs the steel bound tome, its weight almost dragging him to his knees.

NOOOOO!” Howls Vorgor, his rage taking his sanity.

Where Siskeer's bubbling remains coil and tremble, something utterly vile is struggling into the physical plane, wearing his dissolved form like a womb. A pale talon, like that of a hunting bird, rips through the gelatinous filth, wreathed in tongues of gold and indigo flame, and a sickly sweet smell fills the room; dizzying and exotic, pregnant with death and terrible, wicked power. Llewellyn takes a serious wound to his shoulder as he tries to skip past Vorgor, and almost falls, skidding to his knees, before being dragged to his feet by the artificer, and shoved towards the tunnel's mouth. Vladislav grabs the book as the rogue passes him, and hurls a bolt of flame at the warlord, Vorgor deflecting it with ease.

The apostate is dead, and I have the book. Let's get the hell out of here!” He screams.

No one argues, though Veteran points his blade at Vorgor, and solemnly growls, “We have unfinished business you and I!”

Leaping past Ormid, who's armour prevents the Warlord from following them, the group scramble into the tunnel. Behind them, the mewling and shrieking is increasing in volume, and they can see Vorgor falling to his knees, clearly broken by the sight of whatever now grows from his brother's remains.

Ormid, his eyes shut against the nightmare in the corner, backs away from Vorgor, stumbling, almost spent, into the mouth of the tunnel. As he goes, so he sees a terrible, beautiful light fill the chamber beyond, and all feel a ghastly shock of alien energy pulsing like spoiled lightning through the fabric of the world. Vorgor seems to suddenly awaken from his fugue, and raises his weapon, his face a mask of sickened horror.

Brother? No! At what...?”

His words are lost as something that is somewhere between talon and tentacle swipes the tunnels' mouth, and brings the roof crashing down, plunging the party into darkness.

08:51 – 08:56 – They run with the stumbling, drunken gait of dead men, the sour sweat of terror and utter exhaustion thick upon them. Darkness hovers always at the edge of their vision as they go, and everyone knows that if they allow themselves to dwell on the severity of their wounds for an instant, Azrael will seek them out. For now, it is only the maddening, impossible fact that they have somehow survived that keeps them going, their steps shaky with adrenaline and complete and utter exhaustion.

Emerging into the warehouse, they can hear terrible, animal screams booming from the temple. Weird pink light plays through the high windows in beams, the shadows it casts filthy and warped. Stumbling out into the morning, none can help but look back at the temple, where they see Siskeer Hatewrought, Greater Daemon, emerge from the central dome in a shower of pulverised stone and glass – a huge humanoid vulture like thing, hung about with blasphemous pennants and icons of chaos, relucent with grotesque pink and violet flames. It shrieks into the skies, and lightning jags down around it, bathing it in coruscating lines of electrical fire. Then it spreads huge wings, smashing the temple around it to ruin, a cloud of dust and smoke rising to hide the nightmare from the party.

They do not tarry, and run for the harbour and the submarine.

09:08 – A trail of blood leads from the warehouse to the submarine, a trail left by the survivors of the battle that claimed Ferrous. As they approach their vessel, they pass a terrified band of would be thieves, who had sought to plunder its riches, but met with the ghaerduun spectre instead.

09:09 – Scrambling onto the riveted hull of the Glorious Brick, the group dare a look back towards the city, and spy, there, amongst the lowering smoke clouds and lightning flecked storm clouds, the Daemon flying upwards, a tail of unholy fire in its wake. And at the same time, a figure, still proud and full of strength despite his physical and mental wounds, stumbles towards the group from the shadowy streets, axe raised – Count Vorgor. For a moment it looks like Veteran may charge him, his hunger for revenge and for a cure to his wounded ego almost overwhelming his common sense. However, Ormid places a hand on his shoulder, and with a gasp whispers, “not now friend. Not now.”

09:11 – safely sealed within the Brick, the group run to the front screens. Vorgor has almost reached the edge of the docks, and it seems is going to jump onto the vessel, to tear open the hatch and slay all within. A shiver runs through the party as Yirlantir manifests amongst them, his face set in a wry smile.

You know,” he begins drily, “we still have one last Implosion round left. I mean, it could be considered a waste, but, this angry man is still within range of the weapons...”

He trails off, seeing the savage gleam in the Veteran's cracked and dirtied eye lenses.

09:30 – The Glorious Brick sinks into the soot and debris choked waters of the port, leaving a tiny, super dense speck of material on the docks – the mortal remains of one Count Vorgor Khebletzi, crushed by a ghaerduun test weapon into their new, minute form.

As they slip into the cold embrace of the sea, and before they let the fire of anger and adrenaline give way to the crushing pain and weakness of their wounds and loss, Veteran turns to Vladislav, and in a voice that leave no question as to his seriousness states, “Your order owe me a dog Hellldazzler.”