This is a 4e version of the 3.0/3.5 flaming weapons, with a bit of extra punch. Enjoy!
Thursday, 31 May 2012
Friday, 25 May 2012
...DnD Next, is definitely not for me. Yes, it feels and looks an awful lot like earlier editions, but I'll be honest, I'm happy to not be playing those any more.
I can confirm, having read the playtest material, that if it represents the "forward" direction of D&D, I'll be digging in my heels, and fighting not to be dragged, screaming backwards...
Still, it means more and more 4e stuff here for you yet to come, and lots of freed up cash to spend on minis and other things.
It may also be the thing that finally brings many old school players back - just not me - and that's a good thing for the hobby. I LOVED AD&D 1st and 2nd ed, practically worshipped 3.0 and 3.5, played old school "basic" D&D (Shadow Elves FTW). However, I was swept away by 4.0, and it feels like the right fit for my high-magic, epic games.
I know the material provided is very much alpha, but it feels too much like 1st ed. It's killed my interest (what little I had) as quickly as my 5th level fighter (5/2 attacks), kills a 1HD Giant Centipede.
Sorry Wizards, but you will be losing this customer after 24 years of loyal, slavish devotion.
Tuesday, 22 May 2012
29/7/1472: 03:10 – 03:20: The group find more information in the journal, and discover that apparently, Kheshan had been obtaining the “green dust” from something he accessed through the “Chambers of the Great Maw”; an honorific, the priest realises for some high ranking member of the cult.
With some idea of where to go next, the group make to leave the room – and immediately run into three of Santheil's men.
“We gonna' have te' frisk ye.” Announces one of them.
“But you didn't frisk us on the way in.” Replies Jaeger, “So how can you know if we have taken anything? No offence but this feels like a set up.”
The Dohr'Khustan just glares, and his two allies move forwards, crossing their arms over their barrel chests.
“Santheil say we gotta' frisk ye, so there be no point in tryin' to get outta it...*aaak*”
Grigori unleashes a blast of radiant magic right into their faces, the stink of cooking flesh and burned hair, as well as the screams of the three men suddenly filling the air. Screams of fear and surprise ring out from the rooms that lead from the landing on which the group battle, and down in the main introduction area, more guards leap to their feet, whilst a few sleepy patrons and dozing prostitutes leap up in shock.
The battle that ensues is fought in a very tight area, and being used to fighting on board ships, the Dohr'Khustans have something of an advantage; using the fixed features of the balcony and steps to their advantage. However, although more and more guards begin to turn up, the group fight at their best, the argent forming a solid heart to their offensive, a flickering aura of quiet, bolstering, psionic power surrounding her.
For a moment the group fear a deadly foe may have joined the fray, for having heard the commotion, Santheil himself appears, along with three more of his kin folk. He unleashes some kind of dark spell against Grigori, surrounding him with a whirling column of slashing sharks teeth, which rip continually at him and prevent him from moving. However, as soon as the pimp sees the sheer carnage the group are sowing, he shouts “Keep them off me” to his men, before fleeing back towards his room (and, it is discovered later, out of a window).
The men manage to hold their nerve a little longer after the shock departure of their leader, and several are taken down, the swordmage seeming to come into his own, his deadly blades flickering like metallic lightning through their ranks; deflecting incoming attacks, and opening up deep wounds in their bodies. However, when the assassin calls upon his dark power to summon up four phantasmal entities who mere presence weakens the enemy and rots their flesh, their morale sinks into their boots, and those that are not cut down give up.
03:21 – 04:00: The group realise that their actions will probably be seen very differently by the cities security forces when they arrive, and so they take steps to get out of this place as quickly as possibly – though not until they get all the info they can. The guests are forced into the rooms, and the assassin maintains his summoned shadow things as gaolers, their tenebrous forms keeping the terrified men and women cowed and passive.
Lia and Grigori interrogate two of the surviving guards, the former using her diplomatic skills, the latter, his raw, unholy presence to intimidate. Reluctantly at first, but then with growing speed and volume, the guards confess that they had no idea that their boss had any ties to the Shadrakuul cults (Grigori feels they are being honest about this), and that he has a safe hidden under a rug in his office, where he keeps “All his important stuff”. They also tell the group that he has a locked footlocker at the end of his bed, which contains a trap who's poison he has to top up occasionally, though they have no idea what he keeps in there.
With these words, the two guards cease to be of use to the group, and Lia is sent away with Varracuda to “find a means of escape”, whilst they are executed, their blood warming the insides of the Ulnyrr and priest.
04:03 – 04:08: As he begins to drag furniture to the Gusset's front doors as a barricade, the swordmage hears the steady, measured approach of armoured feet outside. Up in Santheil's office, the assassin and priest also hear their approach, and move quickly to search the room.
It seems that some of the guests have also realised that the cities security forces are moving towards their position in force, and some begin to scream and shout for help from their rooms.
The safe is located and opened. Within are found gold bars (10,000 gps worth), an enchanted ring of ivory and gold (which is later given to Lia, its magic enabling her to shrug off death's touch with greater ease should she become mortally wounded), and a curious egg of cloudy crystal, which appears to have delicate lengths of silvery thread suspended within it.
The footlocker is simply thrown in Grigori's latest bag of holding, there being no time to try and disable its warding trap.
04:12 – As the guard smash their way into the Gusset, the group slip into the tunnels Lia has found lie beneath a capped off drain in the cellar. Varracuda makes efforts to hide the fact that they have passed this way (the Ulnyrr having smashed the ceramic cap that prevented vapours and vermin from below drifting up into the wine cellar), and as the Aurymite forces swarm into the bar above, they begin to pick their way along the briny, basalt tunnels, splashing through what appears to be brackish water (this is clearly not a sewer per se, though the distant aroma of effluence suggests that at least some folks are using sections of it as such).
However, I still just don't see the need for a new game (for my group), and although I will be interested to read, and likely play, the playtest material, I just cannot see me bothering to go through another massive ruleset change as 4e does everything I need it to - including plenty of non-combat / roleplay stuff.
Meh. I am looking forwards to the new mini's however, and to having cash spare for increasing my collection of mini's, accesories and scenery bits and bobs!
Monday, 21 May 2012
28/7/1472 – 02:00: Fighting their way along the rubble choked tunnel that leads to the surface, the group try not to focus on the screams of pain and fear that sound over the deep rumble of massive fires and shifting reality.
02:03: They find the end of the tunnel missing, and that all the buildings beyond have been washed away in a massive wave of burning ejecta from the impact site of the falling star. Rubble is piled high, and flames dance into the night, their hellish glow illuminating the horrors taking place.
Emerging from the tunnel, the group can see the cooked and torn remains of many people amongst the wreckage. They can also see a group of people being murdered by a gathering of bizarre hybrid monster – humanoid things with the thick scales and sleek, toothy heads of crocodiles, wielding savagely hooked khopesh with brutal, butchers, skill. Grigori quickly realises that they are Lycanthropes of some kind, clearly aligned with a crocodilian bloodline.
02:04 – 02:06: The group throw themselves at the monsters, and a brutal and sweaty battle ensues at the mouth of the tunnel, which sees Lia almost taken down at one point as she becomes the focus for numerous, lethally placed blows from the enemies weapons. However, ultimately, the monster's are put down.
02:07 – 02:15 – Grigori tries to fathom why these monsters should have transformed, and why they believed it had anything to do with the Devouring God. A search of the bodies reveals that one of them (clearly a leader of some kind, who wielded effective divine magic before being hacked to pieces) carries a dark symbol of Adathraine (the “Screaming Skinned” sigil; a human face, pulled from its skull, stretched and “nailed” to the standard's field), and that its own weapon bears a moderate enchantment.
The group discuss tactics, and Varracuda (as much to his surprise as anyone else) convinces them to head towards the impact site of the falling stone, to see if they can lend help.
02:16 – 04:00 – As dawn's light fights against the massive clouds of steam and smoke that rise from the area, the group realise that they are helpless to do anything for anyone close to the impact sight. Weird, unnatural flames leap hundreds of feet into the air, and they see many strange phenomena, apparently spawned by a release of raw arcane energy when the falling star hit the ground – burning skeletons stumbling amongst the flames, incongruous patches of greenish ice, sparkling amidst searing heat, and gusty, billowing things of raw magic (living spell), leaping and shimmering amongst the carnage.
At one point they crest the massive wall of debris thrown out by the impact, and look down towards where the southeastern harbours had lain before, barely able to believe that now there is nothing but a massive crater of melted rock, roaring and boiling where the seas pour into contact with it, disgorging a massive, lightning wreathed column of steam into the early morn's skies.
One point of real interest for the group is the presence of a Unified Order Skyship, apparently headed towards the impact site...
05:30 – The group arrive at an inn, in a district close to the impact that is still standing, having fought their way along smoke filled streets, choked with panicking civilians, confused city guard, and a few visiting priests who want to help heal the wounded. They book rooms, and get some sleep.
10:30 – The rumble of thunder wakes the group, and peering outside they find it is pouring with dirty, grey rain, and that the streets are thick with a noxious smog – a result of the smoke and dust from the impact.
11:45 – having eaten, and discussed their next move, the group head out to try and find the alchemist and the Black Ingots needed to fuel the Moon. They agree however, that once they have got the ingots, they are heading over to the neighbouring district, to try and locate the Tear of the Ancients winery, and hopefully, the renegade mage, Vacris.
11:46 – 19:30 – The group make their way through the city, painfully aware of the looming column of smoke that rises to the southeast from the shattered district. They notice a strange lull has settled over the rest of the island, as the people try to fathom what this latest calamity means. By nightfall they are in the area where Ajendu keeps his shop, and they decide that rather than waste time sleeping in an inn, they shall push on and get the ingots tonight.
21:20 – The group finally find the place they have been searching for, and bang on its front door until a slightly wary Aurymite, with a grey beard and rheumy eyes answers. He is clearly afraid of the party, but admits quickly to being whom they seek.
21:25 – 22:30 – The group explain to Ajendu what they need, and to their dismay discover that not only does he not have any ingots in stock, but that at present, he is unable to make any more. This is due, he explains, to a sudden lack of one of their main components – the “green dust” - which he has always purchased from an adventuring vyrleen named Kheshan.
He tells the party that he has not seen Kheshan since “nature turned to madness”, and voices his opinion that the vyrleen has been killed in the confusion of the sundering. The group ask him if he knows where Kheshan stayed. He replies that it was something to do with “Gussets”, and not recognising the word, asks if it is some kind of fish. To the amusement of the warlock, Grigori tells him (with a smirk) that it “kind of is I suppose.”
22:40 – 01:45 (29/7/1472): Jaeger moves through the streets, speaking to any that can help him. It's dangerous work, but he soon learns that there is a whorehouse called The Exquisite Gusset, but a few streets from Ajendu's shop, run by an ex Dohr'Khustan pirate named Santheil Burr, who sends funds from the place to his people. Tired, grimy but determined to get on, the group move to it.
01:46 – 02:15: The Gusset is a gaudy place, tailored to the tastes of visiting merchants and nobles; and for some it is a little much. Varracuda's discomfort is only compounded when Thatari silently commands a male prostitute to gyrate and grind against him, before growing angry when the genasai not only fails to respond positively, but seems embarrassed.
Monies are taken from the group kitty, and whilst the rest of the group eat and drink, Grigori takes a woman to a private room (where he quietly drains some of her blood, his request for “a woman who is in her monthly bleed” meaning he can do so without killing her), as does Thatari (who is more conventional in his use of the girl). The rest of the group drink and eat in the main greeting area downstairs, getting several of the girls drunk enough that they may talk more freely than they would otherwise. Jaeger stays sober, and carefully notes that there are a dozen or so large men with ebon skin, dreadlocked or tightly plaited hair woven with sharks' teeth, coral or gold, carrying keen scimitars of bright steel, sat about the place – Dohr'Khustan's.
One of the girls sitting with the group happily tells them about the missing vyrleen, saying that he has rooms at the Gusset, but that he has not been seen for a while. She suggests that the group speak with Santheil, as he was “good friends” with Kheshan, and may have some idea as to where he is. However, she says, he may not be willing to talk to them.
02:30 – 03:00 – The group persuade the girl to seek out Santheil and request an audience. She seems reluctant, but the group use all their charm, which, oiled with a little money, overcomes her fear. Shortly afterwards Santheil himself arrives – a handsome Dohr'Khustan in his 50's, who's black skin bears a number of pale scars and spiralling tattoos, and his smile as much gold as ivory. He smells of the exotic oils he uses in his dreadlocks, and when he speaks, it is with a calm sense of confidence.
Lia speaks for the party, and with her charm and natural empathy, is able to get Santheil to relax enough that he will talk of his diminutive friend. He states that he too is searching for Kheshan, as the vyrleen has run out on him without paying several months rent, and he is eager to find him to get his money. The priest detects that something is slightly off with the Dohr'Khustan's reply, and become increasingly hostile towards him, almost provoking a fight at one point, whilst several members of the group notice that he habitually grabs hold of a large shark tooth he has on a cord around his neck whenever they mention something unpleasant or Grigori makes a veiled threat to him. Luckily, the argent's honeyed words soothe the hurt feelings, and though the ex-pirate clearly detests Grigori (and Grigori, he and all his kind), he agrees – grudgingly – to let the group examine Kheshan's quarters, stating “If you find anything of value I missed when I went through it, it's mine you hear!”
Before they enter the room, Grigori spends a moment shifting his awareness into the arcane spectrum, suspicious that there could be hidden magical snares or devices in the room. He is therefore not entirely surprised when he finds, under the bed, a source of woven spectral energy, which he realises is born from illusory magic. Carefully entering the room (watched from the landing by several of Santheil's thugs), they see the the object radiating the magic is a small diary. Jaeger gives it a cursory examination, and reports no apparent wards or traps, the barbarian sweeping it up a moment later.
Examining the diary, it seems, to all mundane examinations, to be filled with nothing but dull observations, and a recipe for a fish dish. However, with a little force of will, the illusion covering the pages fades, and the group are shocked to find that the vyrleen was a member of a local cult dedicated to Shadrakuul – a little known God associated with sharks. Grigori suddenly feels a shiver run down his back as he recalls that the symbol of this deity is a sharks tooth upon which is carved a stylised eye, recalling Santheil's choice of neck decoration.
Suddenly fearing there may be more to the little one's disappearance, they conduct a more thorough examination of the room, and soon uncover a well hidden recess, lined with leaden materials designed to keep magical auras hidden. Within this lies a suit of scale armour, a shark's tooth amulet bearing the eye of Shadrakuul, and a small bone dagger who's blade is lined with more shark's teeth.
“And so,” muses Grigori, “we must ask ourselves where a hidden shark cult may be found in this place?”
Monday, 14 May 2012
So here are the statistics for the terrible, boiling mass of insanity that is Nye'ddeth; a sentient shard of the madness dimension, somehow awoken to sentience and unleashed in the physical plane.
Monday, 7 May 2012
The Veteran laughs as another deadly strike tears into Nye'ddeth, sending the shrieking, writhing thing flickering back through the air. Besides him, one of the “angels” Ormid summoned darts close to it, its blades of ice and darkness biting with supernatural effect into the alien dimensions' boiling form.
“Come on!” Screams Llewellyn, “We've nearly got him!”
Standing a little away from main melee, Ormid struggles to take it all in. Apart from the wounds Nye'ddeth had suffered, everything else has been “re-set”; his allies wounds healed, their vigour restored, their cumulative wounds – physical and mental – forgotten. More to the point, none of them except himself, seem to have the slightest inkling as to how badly things had been going before, each one swapping boasts and merry insults to the lethal entity they battle, mocking its “weakness” and praising their own “awesome skills.”
“So this is the power of a God?” He whispers to himself, before summoning his magic to help end the battle...
20:35 – The very substance of the chamber resonates with the discordant screams and manic thrashing of Nye'ddeth, as its physical form is finally torn apart by the combined might of the newly rejuvenated party; mewling and slumping into itself as it loses its dimensional cohesion and fades into nothingness.
With the “death” of the sentient planar shard, the chamber in which they battle slowly reverts to its normal form; a scene of abject carnage replacing the distorted arena. The group find themselves in a vast hall, which was once some kind of construct manufactorum, complete with sunken bed within which artificers could work, vast cranes of complex construction, and reinforced benches and walls. Massive fragments of half-completed constructs lie scattered about the place, and in several areas, small alchemical fires sputter and fume, casting erratic shadows over the other inhabitants of this still, sickening place – the dead.
Twenty or more Imbuers lie in various states of undress and mutilation. Some are locked together as if they died during coitus, whilst others have clearly been the subjects of frenzied assaults. Still others have inflicted their fatal wounds upon themselves; throats gaping, eyes empty, their cold, rigid hands still gripping the tools with which they killed themselves.
A few are alive, though so traumatised and damaged mentally that they are unable to do anything other than sit, staring dazedly around them, smeared in excrement and blood.
However, one figure stands across from the group, panting in his pain, his hands severed. It is the Lir'Aelwyn. For a moment the group say nothing, wondering how he will react to them. However, he meets their gazes with calmness, and nods his thanks, his beautiful features darkened with pain.
“Y-you saved us.” He breathes suddenly, stumbling, “You. Saved. Us...”
For the last two days the group have helped Illithayne (the aelwyn and High Charismacist) establish contact with those Imbuers that fled when the Xixan intrusion began, and to tally and bury the dead. Many Imbuers have lost their minds during the intrusion, and will need constant care for the rest of their lives, but overall, at least a third of the school's mages have survived.
Illithayne has used a powerful scroll to restore his hands, though they are sore looking, raw things at present. He has also explained to the group how the intrusion occurred – telling them it was the result of tampering with a Xixian item sold to the Collegiate by agents of a Feyan group known as the Grey Philosophy (both Ormid and the Veteran scowl at this, remembering their own trials with that group of thieves and tomb robbers back in Laertaine's ruins, so many moons ago). He also explains that he tried to seal away the artefact by capping the rune circle that lead to the lab where it was being examined, and posting several guardians to prevent access – the Scaladar and Helmed Horror - though by the time he reached the lower labs, the opening ritual had been completed and Nye'ddeth had emerged into this dimension. Illithayne winces as he recalls his own battle with the planar shard, and almost breaks down as he recalls the constant assaults against his will by the “bridge glyphs”, breaking into a chuckle when he explains that in truth, the agony of having his hands cut off was like a balm compared to the constant, attempted violation of his mind by their sorcery.
Word has been sent by Rammanum to all the other schools, and it has been agreed that they shall all meet within the Imbuer's tower over the next week in order to plan how they will work together to activate the Settari Weapon – though there is already tension reported between several of the schools, the worst being between the gruff mages of the Helldazzlers and the mercurial casters of the Disciples of Change.
11/1/50 – 28/1/50 – Over the next couple of weeks a frenzy of activity envelops the tower, as groups of mages from the five schools arrive to learn of their part in the activation ritual. Initially this is a tumultuous time, with egos and philosophies clashing, and a simmering undercurrent of mistrust and arrogance bubbling away, ready to erupt into spectacular violence at the slightest spark. However, with Rammanum's help, Ormid manages to massage hurt feelings, and get the leaders of the various orders to concentrate on their similarities rather than their differences.
It's slow and at times frustrating work, but slowly and surely, the disparate schools begin to come together, eventually deciding for themselves that they can benefit from sharing at least some theories and plans. News has also got out that the most potent schools of magic are coming together to form a “Unifying Order”, and over the weeks a number of other schools of magic seek to gain “entry” into it – an idea that many feel may be worth exploring once the threat in the North has been ended.
Rammanum is a source of both endless gratitude from the group, and some discomfort, for “she” is not at all what anyone was expecting. Where she had given the impression of a human female when speaking in their minds, in the “flesh” she is something very different. When she first arrived, Ormid went to greet her personally, accompanied by the rest of the group (save Shadevia, who has become ever more isolative, and is seen less and less by everyone). He struggled however to keep his surprise hidden, when he discovered that Rammanum occupies an intricate artifice body, made from thousands of thin “bandages” of rune inscribed metal, and that even in person she speaks directly into his mind.
Time passes in a blur, and with all the great minds of the gathered mages poring over the divined plans of the weapon, they begin to understand both how it works, and how to fire it.
And then, suddenly, it's time to do just that.
29/1/50 – 14:50 – Within a great hall the collected mages of the five guilds assemble before the rune-struck horns of a portal pylon, whilst Anton Azvierre and several of his disciples begin the ritual to activate it. The air thrums with both potent magical energies, and a sense of epic expectation; the silent momentum of incredible events that will forever change the destiny of the world. Held aloft by potent rituals, the group look down on the serried ranks of mages, and hope that they are going to be able to work together as they have practised so often over the last few weeks, and fire the weapon successfully at its vast target thousands of miles to the North.
Crawling lines of coruscating energy snakes up the pylons, and arcs from the tips towards each other. As they meet, there is a loud, flat, bang, and a drop in the air pressure as a gateway is forged between the tower and the outskirts of Leskin Holdt's camp, a roar of shock echoing from within it, the alarmed voices of his students joining the chorus.
14:51 – 15:06 - Moving through with practised discipline the mages emerge into the steaming heat and oppressive humidity of Anathar's jungles, moving with confidence to their allotted posts. Leskin and his students rush out to meet them, their eyes widening in shock as they spy the multitudes of potent spell casters heading their ways.
“What the hell?”
Then he sees the group, floating above them, Llewellyn waving madly and giggling. For a moment Leskin doesn't recognise them (they have changed so much both physically and intangibly since he last saw them – which to him was only an hour or so ago). However, he then spots the warforged, and his anger melts away in a wave of sheer disbelief.
15:07 – 15:17 – Whilst Leskin and his students stand dumbstruck, the mages move to their respective areas. The magi of the Binding Circle seek the glyphs of the outermost circle, the Disciples of the Change, the next circle in, and the Helldazzlers the innermost circle. The diviners of the Cabal of Ubiquitous Sight take up positions around the central mechanism, which is manned by artificers from the Imbuers Collegiate.
Above them float the group, and the leaders of the five schools, each ready to shout advice if and when it is needed.
From the volcano echoes distant rumbles, and the group smile, remembering their terrifying journey through its deadly guts, racing against time to find their goal before their protective spells wore off. Above them, the sky is covered in thickening cloud, and thunder growls with ominous portent from their depths.
“All right,” Breathes Rammanum's telepathic voice, “it is time. Brothers and sisters, begin your work.”
For a moment nothing seems to happen. Then, on the outer circle, the conjurers begin to enact rituals of summoning, the air crackling with energy as they open portals to the nearest elemental dimensions, their potent spells seeking out and dragging forth beings of primal, ferocious elemental might.
Flames of fabulous, impossible colours jet upwards with semi-sentient roars, and shrieking maelstroms of aeolian rage bubble and blister as the first spirits are drawn into this plane. Numerous cracks emanate from other glyphs as invisible but grotesquely powerful earth spirits are summoned, whilst eruptions of frost, acid and lava herald the arrival of other, equally potent entities. Thunder rumbles again above and below as nature responds to the epic magics being unleashed, and each binder fights hard to maintain their concentration and to correctly fulfil their part in this weapons firing.
Soon the entire outer circle is awash with a curtain of seething elemental spirits, barely held in check by the desperate and masterful castings of the Binding Circle magi, signifying that it is time for the Disciples and the Helldazzlers to do their parts.
Choreographed to perfection, both groups begin their chants, whilst the Imbuer's activate a number of sub-systems within the weapon, the vast stone circles starting to move around so the triangles within which the glyphs are carved move to align. Lightning flashes above, and the hell light of the volcano seems to grow in response. The smell of magic and torn earth fills the air, mingling with the reek of ozone and sulphur. It seems to take the triangles forever to slot into place, and several of the binder's seem on the brink of collapse; blood running from their eyes and ears as their bodies begin to tear apart under their castings awesome momentum. However, with a click the circles of stone move to their correct alignment, and at once there is a deep Whoom of power, felt in the bellies of every living thing within miles, as the energy of the bound elementals suddenly rushes through the mystic connections within the weapon, towards the waiting transmuters, lighting a fine filigree of runes and sigils previously hidden on buried spans of the overall structure with brilliant, razor-sharp light.
At once the transmuters are engulfed in searing waves of raw, chaotic, elemental power, and several are killed outright, their bodies consumed by its fury. However, enough survive and remain conscious to take on that terrible, killing energy and to harness it within the matrix of their own epic rituals; focusing and refining it into something that can be channelled into the weapon – something that the invokers can craft and direct with the needed control and precision.
More glyphs awaken between the middle and inner ring as the refined power surges towards the Helldazzlers, hitting them like a tidal wave. All of them accept the agony with a grim smile, and welcome the fury of its charge. With deep voices chanting in unison, they take hold of the focused power and begin to weave it into an even purer, destructive energy – a raw invocatory power that will, when directed towards the weapon, awaken its terrible, sleeping wrath.
It is at this point that the air above the weapon flickers and glows, the auroral light soon condensing into a vast sphere, within which floats a scene glimpsed by the group so long ago...
...The monstrous Ziggurat of the Gennamene, slowly emerging from the impossibly vast dimensional rift, atop its support disc of spiked, dark metal, surrounded by alien tempests of brutal, killing cold...
“Target sighted.” Sighs Rammanum into everyone's minds, “Portal boundaries clear and locked. Prepare to initiate firing phase.”
Beneath the group, the weapon looks like some fantastic firework – lit by the multi-coloured energies and crystalline fury of its activation rituals, whilst all around the storm gains strength as the fabric of reality buckles and stretches under the awesome weight of the magic blazing in this place.
“It's time.” Whispers Ormid, his eyes filled with tears.
“It's incredible.” Replies the vyrleen quietly.
And then reality is briefly torn apart.
With the target clearly in sight, courtesy of the diviners own epic castings, the weapon is brought to bear, and at last the Helldazzlers can give up their terrible, agonising burden. Lances of glassy, near colourless power thrust out from them and converge simultaneously upon the central mechanism, where the Imbuer's work their own spells of activation, taking the catastrophic might and focusing it through the weapons ancient systems.
In a heartbeat the weapon awakens, and sends an impossible amount of dimensional energy through the skin of reality. Far to the north, guided by the diviners and the imbuers skills, amidst the freezing hell of the war front (now evacuated thanks to warnings sent out by the group to the forces there – timed so's as not to alert their past selves to what is going on), the primal energies of creation are suddenly generated within the portal through which the Ziggurat emerges, as another portal is forged there by the weapon. Resonating, and gathering even more energy through Kelter's First Principle, the vast portal flashes suddenly with blinding, silent radiance, before it collapses in a terrible, devastating release of power hundreds of thousands of times more powerful than anything unleashed since the Primal Wars.
For a moment all sanity flees as a chaotic mass of mangled gravity, buckling dimensional boundaries and brute physical energy are unleashed in a blast hundreds of miles across.
Back at the weapon, the entire area is bathed in agonising heat as it overcharges and burns out, a hurricane of screaming tempest winds, madly jagging lightning and mind-shattering noise erupting from it in a burst, throwing everyone from their feet, blowing apart the weapon and levelling the camp and surrounding jungle for hundreds of feet in all directions. The view of the Ziggurat is lost in the maelstrom of unleashed power, though the last image that hangs there shows it fragmenting into a million melting shards under the ineffable deluge of primal, consuming energies released by the portals collapse.
Agonised and disoriented, the group are scattered by the local eruption, and for a moment all fear they have gone deaf and blind, their senses briefly overwhelmed by the brightness and volume of the power that has enveloped the weapon site. However, after a short while their senses return, and they hear the ragged cheering and slowly increasing laughter of the mages at the success of this wild, incredible mission.
Around them, with the massive release of magic over, nature exerts its own fury, and a massive thunderstorm breaks out, sheets of hot rain slamming into the battered and bloodied mages and cringing, terrified students of Leskin's camp.
Finally, after so many adventures, the group have succeeded. The weapon has been fired, the Ziggurat erased – and the first seeds of what will become the Unified Order sown.
But this, in truth, is only the start of their most challenging adventures...
Thursday, 3 May 2012
The office is rather small and dark, and Ormid struggles to remember when he got here. A sense of incredible age hangs upon the slightly spicy air, and he spends a moment looking closely at the hundreds of trophies that cover every inch of the walls and the dressers that line them; skulls, scales, implements of power, weapons, scrolls and a thousand other treasures that speak of several lifetimes of collecting and adventure.
The carpet beneath his feet is thick and muffles sound, and before him stands a large, heavy desk of dark-stained wood, upon which are piled even more relics, including a human skull which bears a number of sinister glyphs on its forehead, and has a large black candle melted to its skullcap.
Behind the desk sits a being that the artificer knows at once is a god of some kind. His seat is an amazing, high backed thing of Ebonwood, whose back has been carved to depict angels on its right hand side, clashing with daemons on its left. The arms of the chair are coiling dracani, who's heads face forwards, mouths open in a silent roar, and even from the other side of the table, Ormid can sense the potent magic thrumming through it.
Returning his attention to his host, he notes that he is currently wearing the form of a wolfishly handsome male human. His eyes are tawny and shine with playful confidence, and he wears his immaculately coiffured hair down to his shoulders. He is staring at the artificer, his face split by a wide, sharp-toothed smile.
“Hello Ormid. I'm assuming you know who I am?”
The artificer honestly doesn't, although he feels he should. His host immediately reads his discomfort and helps him out.
“Sheol. God of bargains, contracts and cunning?”
Ormid nods, feeling both hugely embarrassed for not recognising the deity, and massively intimidated by standing in his presence.
“You're in a pretty dire situation right now.” He continues, “Indeed, I would go as far as to say that you are about to die a horrible death, though to be honest, it's a better fate than that your warforged friend is about to suffer.”
“Oh.” Stutters the artificer.
“However, I have something of a vested interest in seeing you survive this encounter, as I need you to found the Unified Order. I mean, don't get me wrong, you have set its creation into motion, but the version of the Order I need for some – errm, future plans – won't come to be if you are not involved in its early development, and I really can't have that.”
“Alas, I also can't force you to accept my help, and even if you do, I cannot risk Xix's wrath by directly intervening. Xix is such a bore, and you never know what the mad little fucker if going to do next, so I try to keep him at arms length if I can.”
Ormid says nothing, unable to quite compute what is going on.
“I-I'm dying then?”
“Oh by the immortal skies yes! You and that little fellow are being devoured by your own nightmares, and are quite doomed. The Veteran is about to become a vessel for that sentient shard of Xixior, and the other two are as helpless as newborns against it without everyone else to support them. Yes, you, and all your allies, are in the process of dying, and unless you listen to and accept the offer I'm about to make you, there is nothing in the multiverse that can help you.”
Sheol allows his words to sink into the bruised mind of the artificer.
“So, what's you deal” He asks after a moment.
Sheol's grin widens, and he pushes a scroll across the desk towards Ormid.
“I send you and your allies help, fix you all up and reunite you. You stop Nye'ddeth from completing his ritual, save the collegiate, fire the weapon and found the Unified Order. Oh, and I will need a favour from your and yours at a future date.”
“What kind of favour?”
Sheol laughs; a rich, slightly mocking sound.
“Ormid, you know me better than that surely. Think of all the legends, all those times I helped the Wondrous, or those no good adventurer's who sent this handsome fellow to kill me” He taps the skull on his desk. “No, the nature of the return favour is mine to know and yours to find out. It sucks, but let's be honest, it can't be any worse than the alternative now, can it?”
Ormid shakes his head, and looks at the scroll – a contract, clearly outlining the arrangement and the expectations.
“What choice do I have?” He murmurs to himself, picking up a quill from a nearby inkwell. “Llewellyn would kill me if I let us all die.”
“Thank you Ormid. You've made the right decision. So, if you are ready, let's get you back to it...”
Behind him a portal opens, a thing of smoky black energy that coils and pulses in the gloom of the office. Looking over his shoulder towards the darkly handsome god, Ormid steps through, his thoughts clear for the first time in ages, his body restored completely.
“Good luck old man. Don't let me down.”
Wednesday, 2 May 2012
...A vast space, alive with impossible colours and a maddening kaleidoscope of images, sounds and textured radiance appears before the group. Beneath their feet is stone, though it is daubed with runes and symbols pregnant with elder power and reason crushing meaning. The stone only extends so far, a vast pit of boiling madness falling away into impossible depths beyond its limits, and the group realise that a similar mass of stone hovers in the distance on the “other side” of the the pit. And floating above the middle of the pit is something that none can bear to look at for more than a moment; a fragment of madness made manifest – a vaporous, tentacled, pulsing, roiling, shrieking, shuddering, awful, beautiful, amazing mass of non-colours, warped images and sanity breaking angles that screams with a deafening choir of voices within each adventurer's mind.
“NYE'DDETH! NYE'DDETH! NYE'DDETH!”
It floats above another figure, who stands rigid, eyes closed, within a circle of glowing orange, liquid glyphs. He is a Lir'Aelwyn – slender, tall and even in this place of raw insanity, supernaturally beautiful. His robes are those of an Imbuer, and all realise that he is currently at the heart of some terrible ritual. The figure is motionless, though the air around it veritably boils with monstrous eldritch power, and the group quickly spot that he holds something in a vice like grip – something metallic that seems to writhe like a agitated slug...something that seems familiar to Ormid and the Warforged...
It takes most of the party a few moments to realise that they are missing one of their number – and Llewellyn is the first to spot poor Ormid, alone and confused on the far away mass of stone. Communication with him is impossible over the deafening voices in their heads and the cacophony of sounds that boom through the turbulent substance of this place.
The thing in the air – this Nye'ddeth – at first seems not to notice the arrival of the group, and instead stays floating above the Aelwyn; a sickening haze of chaotic power. However, with a jerky, almost reflexive lurch, it swoops in towards the main group, suddenly shimmering with impossible energies.
The voice is warped and garbled, its pain and fear crystal clear, and it is coming from the Aelwyn.
“Lets deal with this.” Snarls Llewellyn, bringing his heavy mace before him, and throwing himself towards the pit, the bizarre entity moving, extending fractal tentacles and shimmering mists, to meet him. The mace actually mewls as it makes contact with the entity, and a nightmarish scream, composed of a million other voices echoes through everyone's minds as it strikes with particular force, sending fractures of distorted light crackling through the horror's form. Ducking beneath the monster's mass, the vyrleen slashes upwards with a second attack, only catching it a glancing blow.
With a bellow, the Veteran also charges, every system within him alive with battle lust, his axe arcing out to cleave into the boiling morass of pure insanity. His blade hits something, and Nye'ddeth emits another scream of agony as a flaming wound briefly appears in its substance. However, it then retaliates; its form becoming smoky and thorned, a concentrated blast of mental energy lashing out towards the Veteran, infusing his mind with raw insanity. The Veteran arcs backwards in pain, a halo of psychic energy flickering like translucent flame around his head, his mind so ravaged that a portion of his fighting knowledge is lost, and for the first time ever he screams – an atonal, bloodless sound that the mental voices immediately begin to mock and mimic, adding to the terrible, confusing sonic morass that fills the place.
A black arrow bites into Nye'ddeth, vanishing into its form, and once again, the alien thing emits a mind shredding wail.
“Nothing this horrible could be real.” Whispers Llewellyn, tears burning down his cheeks, though he lacks the will to try and disbelieve it, in case it does not fade and proves, indeed, to be real.
A second arrow, crawling with primal energy arcs from Shadevia's bow, striking the alien thing. At once a network of spines erupt from it, as the energies render it vulnerable to further harm for a short time.
Orimd, his heart beating too fast, his bowels turning to liquid has to think fast. Moving to the edge of the platform, he peers into the flickering, dancing, dizzying maelstrom of the pit, and realises that he must somehow get to his allies. Closing his eyes, he calls upon his magic to activate a device he has built, a bridge manifesting over the pit linking the two sides. Normally, it would be a thing of black metal – all well engineered lines and mathematically calculated angles. However, caught in the winds of probability that gust from the pit, it warps and twists, and to the artificer's horror is seemingly made from mummified dogs who emit an overpowering scent of toast and honey. Fighting his rising gorge, he moves onto the bridge, looking ahead, steadfastly ignoring the infinite chaos beneath him.
“By the Goddess,” Snarls Vladislav, a line of drool slipping from his lips, “you are too ugly to exist!” He closes his eyes as he summons a burning mantle of lightning and flame around himself, before screaming a potent incantation, summoning a huge hand-like structure made of raw force. Fired forth on the wings of his will, the hand slams into Nye'ddeth and tries to crush it. Alas, the chaotic energies of the thing are stronger than the Heldazzler's spell, and the hand corrodes into whirls of harmless light where they touch it.
“You are fucking kidding me!”
Halfway across his bridge, Ormid is close enough to the writhing glyphs surrounding the aelwyn that he can examine them. It's painful work, for they represent a fundamental violation of this universes laws, and at first they make no sense to him. However, the part of his mind that has been damaged by his travels through the tower – the part that has seen him snapping at his allies and distracting them as much as the voices in all their minds have – recognises what they are and what they are for. With a sick wave of cold sweat, Ormid realises that the glyphs are meant to serve as a conduit for this Nye'ddeth, in order to allow it to possess a mortal form. He realises that Nye'ddeth is not a lifeform in the true sense of the word, but a sentient fragment of Xixior - the dimension of madness - and realises that it would take a powerful body, already used to holding and shaping incredible magical and potential energies to contain such a force without immediately disintegrating or mutating beyond use.
He also recognises the thing that the Aelwyn grips – having seen it depicted in the carvings on the seal he and the Veteran found in their first travels together, back in Laertraine's ruins, in the shattered Xixian temple.
“Oh gods no.” He breathes, his head pounding with a splitting headache.
The Veteran finds himself violated, his mind suddenly overwhelmed with horrifying and at the same time, alluring images of death and torment, as a dripping, foaming, smoky tendril of Nye'ddeth's substance flickers out towards him and slides through his armour. Distracted, he lashes out with a heavy blow, but fails to connect with anything solid. Dizzy and shivering, struggling to fight at anything other than a basic level, he calls upon his might, and manages to savagely tear his blade into the monster's anarchic material, a peal of beautiful music incongruously blaring from the wound.
Seeing that the warforged has made an opening for him, the vyrleen cartwheels towards it, and lashes upwards, his adamantium weapon striking with incredible force at a spot currently vulnerable to harm. A million voices roar, sing, croak, scream, chant, choke and snarl in pain and joy at the blow, and a maddening bust of light and tactile hallucinations erupt from the planar entity as it reels from the strike. Chaotic power sparks and smokes from the wound, further weakening Nye'ddeth, and realising that he is in a perfect position to visit real harm to it, Llewellyn hits it again, scoring another burning hit, before leaping backwards, avoiding the things swishing tentacles, to stand by the artificer on his madness warped bridge.
More arrows slice into the thing, vanishing with bursts of colourless light into its writhing depths, and with a rumbling mewl, Nye'ddeth attacks.
Another horrific blast of mind dissolving power erupts from it and envelops the warforged, ripping into both his psychic and physical being, a burst of haemolymph spraying across the area as his mind is devolved even more. The dimensional thing then shifts a little, before vomiting forth a ripping wave of distilled nightmares; a burst of shifting, boiling, hissing power, which envelops Llewellyn, the Veteran and Ormid. All three adventurers are stunned by the abhorrent, terrifying images that overwhelm them, real wounds appearing on them in response to imagined attacks.
Ormid is no longer able to maintain its magic, and the bridge that keeps him and the rogue from falling into the pit vanishes, dropping both into the embrace of the raw madness below.
No longer threatened by the fighter, and eager to end the threat of the party, Nye'ddeth drifts towards Vladislav and Shadevia, who both back away from it, finding themselves suddenly backed against a wall of solid chaos.
Desperately, Shadevia fires off more shots, which allows Nye'ddeth to strike her with a reflexively flicked tendril of itself, her mind collapsing briefly under its assault. Blood runs freely from her nose as the mental assault takes its physical toll, and she too struggles over the screaming voices in her head, the half glimpsed phantasms that flicker around her, and the growing sense of isolation and fear within her, to fight with any skill or tactics. Despite her wounds, her arrow bites into the horror, and it howls again, a gale of coloured agony shifting from its chaotic form.
The Helldazzler has a similar experience as one of the Nye'ddeth's tentacles swipe across his face, dissolving through his mask and filling his mind with coiling horror. Gasping in agony, he falls back against the “wall”, and swipes ineffectively at his foe with a suddenly appearing axe of screaming, chaotic energies.
Across the way, the Veteran struggles to break above the surface of the ocean of nightmare in which he drowns, and, buoyed by his artifice body and his sheer bloody mindedness, he manages to shatter the hold the visions have over him, and whirs to life, a reddish glow returning to his eyes. Immediately realising the sheer hopelessness of the situation he raises his blade, looking around desperately for Ormid and Llewellyn, and realising that they are gone. Fury fills his mind as he sees their absence, and with a roar, he charges.
A sanity dissolving tendril brushes against him as he moves not towards, but away from Nye'ddeth, and he almost stumbles as the wave of psychic pain crawls through him. However, he fights through it, gaining momentum as he runs towards the pit. With a bellow, he throws himself into the void, aiming his bulk towards the ring of glyphs and the aelwyn. For a terrible moment, he fears he will not make it. However, he sails over the circle of glyphs (a horrific sensation of being embraced overwhelming him as he does), and lands in a crouch next to the screaming Imbuer.
Up close, the agony etched on the aelwyn's face is almost too much to bear. His screams are agonisingly loud, and tear at the warforged's mind like cracked fingernails. Dizzy with amazement at his continued existence, the Veteran considers a number of plans. However, his eyes focus on the thing that pulses and writhes in the aelwyn's grasp, and with a nod he knows what to do.
Blazing with arcane fire, the axe blade passes easily through the fragile bones of the Imbuer's wrists, the hands and artefact falling in a shower of thin blood to the floor. The colour drains from the Imbuer's face, and his screams take on a more natural timbre.
For a moment, the Veteran thinks he has managed to win the day.
He could not be more wrong.
A moment later, and the aelwyn has vanished. The glyphs pulse with chaotic power and the warforged immediately feels a colossal force gripping him; entering his mind and controlling him like a puppet. Violated almost beyond his capacity to compute, he is helpless to prevent himself being swept away on a wave of madness, and held rigid within the circle, the Xixian artefact now held in his own painfully gripping hands, his essence suddenly under attack by the deadly glyphs that surround him.
“HEEEELPL MEEEEEEEEEEE!” He screams, but in the distance only Vladislav and Shadevia can hear him, and they are too busy fighting to survive against Nye'ddeth to do anything about it.
The last Ormid game was the culmination of the entire "Settari Weapon" story arc (which we have been playing since March, 2010, and which has seen the characters advance from 11th to almost 20th level). A lot happened, and I want to do it justice. So, I shall be releasing the write up in little chunks, to help me get it done, and to make sure it reads well.
Hope this is okay!
Hope this is okay!