Return to the Old School: How to kick ACKS (or die trying).

Best Selling RPGs - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

Sable Wyvern

Legendary Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2021
Messages
194
Reaction score
554
Player map of explored orcish territory on the Laboratory level.

wd5gxha6e868.png
 
Last edited:

Sable Wyvern

Legendary Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2021
Messages
194
Reaction score
554

Session 10​

Apr 9 2022

Pre-session discussion and random musings

There was no discussion of note between sessions this time around.

The Actual Session
  • Tr: Aldaval the Theurgist-Torturer, Level 3 Neutral Elven Nightblade
  • De: Tannek the Defender, Level 3 Lawful Paladin
    • Karl the Hunter, Level 1 Neutral Barbarian
    • Kant the Repriser, Level 3 Neutral Dwarven Fury
  • Ro: Malketh the Warrior-Seer, Level 2 Neutral Elven Spellsword
  • La: Villa the Catechist, Level 1 Lawful Cleric
While in Burgensdorf to sell loot, Tannek unsuccessfully went hunting for a henchman. Aldaval and Malketh went rumour-hunting, Aldaval in the seedier places, and Malketh among the mages of the Bastion of Knowledge. They discovered the following:
  • The Argoellean Family is the main crime syndicate in the city, and they also control the major operators in High Sonderberg.
  • The Princess has gone mad after her death and resurrection, and is apparently hiring assassins to strike at random, high-ranking targets.
  • The Duke of Hohnsfuren supposedly knows dark secrets about the Prince, and has used this information to maintain his position.
  • A group of adventurers entered the ancient red elven fortress of Mazen Kurz some time ago, and never returned. The reason for their failure was they went with an odd-numbered group; entering the stronghold without even numbers means terrible things will befall you (for some reason, the group suspects there is an (F) next to this rumour on my sheet).
  • The High Priest of Solinor in town is not allowing any to pay respects at the Tomb of the Night Captain, as the tomb has been desecrated (and this indicates he has failed to protect it).
  • There is a discussion of mages about Barrowmaze. One argues the dead in the Barrowmoor are not rising, and there is no treasure being found, it’s all over-exaggeration and tall tales. There may be froglings or frogmen causing trouble in the region, but not the dead. Another agrees that there hasn’t been huge amounts of treasure extracted, but that’s because most who enter don’t return. Malketh is intrigued, and does some more research, learning that:
    • The barrows were believed to belong to a people living in the area in the period of the fall of the Ancients and the rise of the Eld. Some people in the area are said to have practiced dark magics and worshipped foul gods.
    • Rumours have it that mutated people living with the burial mounds have been capturing and enslaving locals.
The group finds the whole Barrowmaze thing quite interesting, but decide that the swamp is too big and dank and unappealing at the present moment.

A potion of healing was purchased while in Burgensdorf, for 1,000gp.

The group heads back to Muntburg. On arrival, they soon hear word that some adventurers have recently returned from the Ostwood and are still in town. Salessa, the wife of Aldaval’s erstwhile business partner has also left a message asking to see him.

Malketh and Tannek seek out the returned adventurers, and find an elven and a human woman (Adaina and Eldavai) at the bar. The have an air of competence about them, and Adaina says they headed out into the Ostwood looking for werebears. (At this point, as werebears have now come up three times, I felt it necessary to point out to the group that I had randomly rolled for a hex on my wilderness map and, of the more than a hundred options, werebear territory came up. This was not a hamfisted way of me trying to tell them to take the hint.) Apparently the werebears respect strength and honour, and are easy enough to deal with. Adaina also confirmed they had seen the great red monument, and were planning to do some research on it.

Malketh asked if the group had any loot they were looking to offload, and Eldavai said they had a magic shield they would take 22,000gp for. Unfortunately, this was a bit out of the PC’s price range. Tannek, meanwhile, made some efforts to seduce either of the adventuring ladies, but was politely rebuffed.

The potions they had left with a local alchemist for identification were returned to them, and they were advised they were a potion of clairaudience, and a potion of heroism.

Aldaval headed out to meet Salessa, who pointed out that, in their last discussion, Aldaval had indicated that he wanted to ensure she had all that she needed, and wanted to know if he was sincere. The elf was a little skeptical as to where this was going, but agreed this was the case. Salessa then explained that, in a time before man, before the Great Ancients, before even the goblins ruled the world, many great, terrible and alien things existed. Among them was said to be a great mushroom god. It is her understanding that this god was found somewhere in the vicinity of Mazen Kurz, and she would be most interested in any fungus descended from the god, or information about it. Should Aldaval find such things for her, she would agree to serve him in any way he deemed fit. Aldaval was intrigued and interested.

The rest of the group wasn’t clear on exactly what Aldaval thought he had to gain in this deal, but Tr had not forgotten the rumours he’d initially heard, that many people thought Salessa was a witch.

There was some serious discussion about the possibility of heading to Mazen Kurz immediately, but it was decided to press on deeper into Dwimmermount first.

* ** **** ** *​

Back into Dwimmermount, and down to the Laboratory level. Rather than pushing further along their existing path of exploration, La wants to strike straight out into unexplored territory, and no one has any objections. A short way along, they encounter one of the small, regular ceiling cavities that still holds a metal piece surrounded by shards of glass, confirming the light fitting theory.

The soon find a room with a number of stoppered ceramic flasks on stained shelves, as well as the shards of others that were once held here. Villa unstoppers one, and faint whisps of bluish-purple smoke emerge. Sniffing cautiously, Villa reports an ancient, musty scent mixed with rotting meat. The dozen flasks would be somewhat bulky to carry, so it’s decided to grab them on the way out.

A little further along, they encounter a group of orcs, who quickly engage, and just as quickly realise their mistake and withdraw when two of their number go down. A third orc is cut down in the retreat, and about four get away. The group does a quick check of the room, grabbing a large sack that appears to be filled with copper coins, and moves on in reasonably cautious pursuit.

They pass through a smithy, with a forge and multiple firepits with copper exhaust hoods hanging down from the ceiling. The scent of smoke and charcoal lingers in the air, but the group shows little interest in investigating; this is possibly because they are hoping to catch up to the orcs and eliminate them before they can get reinforcements or cause trouble.

As they continue, constantly listening for signs of the orcs they are pursing, the group hears grunting and exertion, and the occasional clang of metal. Following the sound, they find themselves on a balcony, with tiered seating, looking down onto a room where an oversized hobgoblin is being attacked by a dozen-or-so rats (not giant rats, just normal rats). The rats are despatched relatively easily. The last two turn to flee, but are easy chased down and stomped into oblivion.

The group politely applauds, and tries to make small talk. The hobgoblin indicates that they are cheats and traitors, who have betrayed the king, and demands that they come down to face him. It is a sixteen-foot drop to the floor, and with no easy way down, the group politely declines the hobgoblin’s request. He informs them he is going to find them, and stalks away.

Inspecting the room below, there appears to be a large brass or copper chair, with many gears, cogs, levers and straps in the middle of the room, just below the upper viewing area. The group turns and heads the other way.

They find a room with six sturdy oak writing desks. Malketh begins a detailed and careful examination of one of the desks. After a while, Aldaval and Villa grow weary of this, and begin a cruder, faster check of the others. Eventually, a drawer is pulled out to reveal a sealed compartment at the back. The spring-loaded release (“click”) to open it causes a moment of mild terror, but nothing terrible happens, and a scroll is revealed. It appears to be written in dwarven, but Kant indicates the parts he can read are just nonsense words. It seems likely to be a magical scroll.

Further along, they find a door which has had a large, mahogany plaque affixed over the top of the standard areonite-bound-oak. It appears to show Turms Termax in profile, with an inscription on High Thulian reading, “All glory to Turms Termax the Thrice Great. Remember our Lord.”

It is decided to move on past the door. Further along, they come to a rubble strewn room, where they spot a couple of giant beetles munching on an orc corpse. The quickly shut the door and begin debating a course of action. They hear scratching at the door, and decide they are not going to be able to attack with surprise, but decide to attack anyway. Rushing in, they are able to take down the bugs in quick time. There is a third bug here, recently dead like the orc, and they surmise the orcs they’ve been following fought their way through the room.

There is a lot of rubble scattered about, which appears to be from collapsed archways above, and the group does not want to linger to search the room.

Heading west down a long corridor, they find an empty, dusty room. Something doesn’t feel right to Aldaval, and he insists on a through search. They find places where furniture was once bolted to the floor, and similar spots for former wall hangings, but nothing else of note.

Further along, they come across an adamantine hatch set into the wall, a wheel in it’s centre and a keyhole beside the wheel. There is some debate about how they might unlock it. Villa points out it might not be locked, and tries the wheel, but it does not turn. Brandishing the caduceus has no effect. The group decides to move on, and to come up with a way of breaching the door later.

A little further along are stairs south. Tr believes it’s likely his map is one square off, as this stair nearly lines up with another they encountered the previous session. Listening carefully, the group hears what are likely to be orcs further east. Having had orcs come up from below previously, the group doesn’t want to press on east and get surrounded, so they decide to double back.

Back in the rubble-strewn room, Malketh and Villa wants to search it thoroughly, but Aldaval still fears a collapsing ceiling. At this stage, Kant declares there to be little or no risk of further collapse, and the group spends twenty minutes carefully inspecting the debris, coming up with a handful of coppers and silvers for their efforts.

Continuing west, the encounter a pair of doors in the hallway, and head through the north one. Inside, a cluster of nesting giant rats untangle themselves and made threatening rat noises, but do not attack. Aldaval pulls out his crossbow and manages to take out two rats with a single shot; the rest scatter and group charges. There are number of crates in the room, and the rats are rushing behind them and climbing the walls to try and evade the bloodthirsty PCs, but eventually they are all put down. Questions are asked about how the rats got in here in the first place, and it’s pointed out that there is ventilation at ceiling level, which has been noticed before.

The crates are mostly filed with utterly ruined cloth, but in one they find a dozen silvery-black satin robes, which are stuffed into a couple of sacks.

Going to leave the room, they open the door, and find three gaunt, not-quite-alive-looking figures arrayed in the hallway before them. The door is quickly slammed shut again before the first creature can lunge in.

Aldaval casts Protection from Evil, then the door is opened again. The ghouls rush, but their teeth and claws are thwarted by Aldaval’s magic, and they are unable harm the PCs. Two of the ghouls are cut down. The third tries to flee, and is also struck down.

Based on the stench of death and rot, and the scattered bones, the room to the south appears to be the ghoul’s lair. Hanging on the walls are two silvery-grey suits, with strange boots and gloves, while shelves hold two fragile-looking ceramic helmets with glass or vitreum face shields. The group immediately assumes they’re HAZMAT suits. Too bulky to carry, they decide this is another case of “get it on the way out”.

Further east they reach some stairs leading down, and there is hesitation about going down. After some debate, it’s decided to head down, but they are surprised to learn the stairs only run for about thirty feet, and eventually place them probably about the same depth as the room where they watched the giant hobgoblin fighting rats. Now they’re worried that the hobgoblin is down here looking for them. It’s decided they can probably win a straight fight, but there’s absolutely no guarantee they do so without taking losses.

They are also intrigued by the wall full of clocks, in various sizes and of wildly differing types. All are stopped, and at different times.

At this point, Tr indicates he’d like to head back for Muntburg. Although the group hasn’t expended significant resources, he’d like to wrap the session up soonish. There is some discussion about whether they should end the session in the dungeon or make for town. The decided to head back. Before heading back upstairs, Tannek grabs a small clock from the wall.

They stop at the ghoul lair to grab one HAZMAT suit and, as they are about to move on, are hailed by gnolls from back the way they came. Aldaval greets them as “It is I, Aldaval, and my army of orc killers!”

The gnolls warn the group off, saying that this territory is theirs. The gnolls are trying to explain that the entire level belongs to them and Verazes, but the group seems to think they’re just referring to the area beyond the rubble room. Aldaval asks about Verazes, who is apparently a powerful mage. Upon hearing this, La wonders if it was a wise decision to leave the amulet of magic missile protection in Onderlach city for sale.

In any event, as the group was heading out anyway, they agree to leave, and carry on. When they reach the rubble room, Malketh spikes the door behind the group, to keep the gnolls at bay in case they’re inclined to follow after.

Reaching the Termaxian plaque door, they decide to find out what’s behind it. The find a strangely shaped room, with highly detailed mosaics on the floor, showing Turms Termax at various key moments. There are also highly detailed alabaster statues of Turms and his lover Serana. Someone asks Aldaval, “Hey, isn’t that your witch friend’s name?” and he advises that no, her name is Salessa.

Aldaval has concluded that this room is a temple, and thus it contains temple treasure. He also really doesn’t like Turms Termax, and wants to destroy the statue. After a careful visual inspection, he reaches out to touch the statue, and suffers an electrical shock, taking a few hp damage. Now he really wants the statue destroyed, but is quite skittish.

Malketh loops a rope around the feet so he can try pulling it off. However, as soon as he goes to pull hard on it, blue electrical flame rushes down the rope and he also suffers some damage. He elects to release the rope when this happens, rather than continuing to pull.

(While using the rope, I ruled its half damage, save for none, but the players were not to know this, they just knew they were rolling saves and I was reading out damage numbers).

Aldaval was more convinced than ever that there was treasure to be found, and his hatred of Turms was only increasing. He carefully check the mosaics for hidden secrets, tapped around the walls, prised up some mosaic pieces. He found nothing.

The statues were set on stone pedestals that appeared to be part of the floor, and Malketh carefully inspected the rim of Turm’s pedestal. In doing so, he noticed that the stone appeared to have been carefully sanded down, removing some kind of script that had once been there. Very faint traces remained, not enough to possibly make any sense of it.

Between this and the plaque over the door, the group reached the correct conclusion that the room had not originally been built as a temple to Turms, and had been repurposed by the Termaxians. This is entirely irrelevant as anything other than background detail, but it definitely felt like it helped reinforce the idea that the dungeon doesn’t just exist as snapshot in time as the PCs encounter it, that it has a past, and is part of a changing and evolving world that is bigger than the PCs. It was a nice moment.

Aldaval wants to have another go pulling the statue of the plinth, but Malketh isn’t willing to risk more damage. Da is absent, but De is playing Kant, and is vacillating over whether or not to put another player’s character at risk in their absence. My rule is that if you allow your character to be played while you’re away, you get full XP, but you get no special consideration from me, and if the character dies while you’re not there, so be it. I told De to just make a decision. Knowing that Da would absolutely give it a go, he ended up saying yes.

This time, with both Kant and Aldaval pulling hard on the rope, and continuing to do so through the initial shock, the statue moved, then snapped around the ankles and came tumbling down, shattering in a cloud of dust and fragments.

Aldaval was able to remove the alabaster base from the plinth, revealing arcane, Eldritch-looking patterns of hepatizon underneath. The patterns appear perfectly flush with the stone, and Malketh is unable to take a rubbing, but they sketch what they see.

It is decided not to destroy the statue of Serana, as Aldaval is starting to worry about his hit points, and Malketh is convinced she was a good person who did not mean to create a monster in Turms.

The rest of the trip out is mostly uneventful. There are only seven ceramic flasks remaining when they pass through that room, four less than on first inspection, and they take what is there.

Back in Muntburg, Malketh casts detect magic, and they confirm the scroll and six of the ceramic flasks are magical.

Obituary
  • Malgath, Level 1 Elven Spellsword, slain by orcs, session two.
  • Hektor, Level 1 Paladin, slain by orcs, session two.
  • Balfur, Level 1 Dwarven Vaultguard, suffered orcish spear to the knee and retired, session three.
  • Grendel, Level 1 Fighter, slain by orcs, session three.
  • Obsidian Gemcutter, Level 1 Dwarven Craftpriest, consumed by green slime, session six.
  • Malok (aka Maldek) the Unencumbered, Level 2 Mage, poisoned and carotid severed by giant black widow, session nine.
 
Last edited:

Sable Wyvern

Legendary Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2021
Messages
194
Reaction score
554
How’s the campaign going? I’ve enjoyed the write ups so far.
There have been two more sessions, but I've been distracted with other things. I was actually thinking just the other day that no one was hassling me for updates, which might have pushed me to get another report out there.

Well, now I've been hassled, so I'll see about doing a summary of the last couple of sessions prior the next session this weekend.
 

Sable Wyvern

Legendary Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2021
Messages
194
Reaction score
554
Just a quick note to say work is being done on the backlog of reports. I was planning to do more of a brief summary just to catch up, but they're turning out to be more comprehensive and closer to the normal reports. Something should be up soonish.
 

Sable Wyvern

Legendary Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2021
Messages
194
Reaction score
554

Session 11​

Apr 23 2022

Pre-session discussion and random musings

Between sessions, the group needed to decide whether or not they would go hunting for mushrooms in and around Mazen Kurz, or spend more time at Dwimmermount. Tr was eager to go mushroom hunting, while most of the rest were fairly flexible. In the end, as they had just discovered an enticing looking door in Dwimmermount, it was decided they should take some steps to try and get through it, and then head for Mazen Kurz.

The Actual Session
  • Tr: Aldaval the Theurgist-Torturer, Level 3 Neutral Elven Nightblade
  • De: Tannek the Defender, Level 3 Lawful Paladin
    • Karl the Hunter, Level 1 Neutral Barbarian
  • Da: Kant the Repriser, Level 3 Neutral Dwarven Fury
  • Ro: Malketh the Warrior-Seer, Level 2 Neutral Elven Spellsword
  • La: Villa the Catechist, Level 1 Lawful Cleric
A large group – about twenty individuals, looking like an adventuring party with a large number of hirelings have arrived in Muntburg. Tannek approaches them, but they are rude and unfriendly, and he decides not to be pushy.

The next morning, the group sets back off for Dwimmermount, hearing that the newcomers left very early, also appearing to be heading for the mountain.

The PCs make their way to the Room of the Face to ask some questions.

Malketh describes the door they have found on the level below, and asks what lies beyond it. The face advised that there are many such doors below, and that what lies behind them is outside it’s knowledge.

The group decides not to bother trying to get past the new vault door but, since they’re already here, decide they might as well check out the kobold caves, and see if they can confirm the existence of a rear entrance.

Passing into the cave area they awaken about 10 kobolds, who try to act intimidating, but are quickly cut down. While searching the chamber, they are set upon by black iron skeletons, which are also despatched fairly easily.

As they continue their exploration, they find a strange key secreted in a crack in the wall, which they suspect is for the vault of spoils. Further along, they find a tunnel wreathed in silken webbing. While discussing their options and testing some flame against the web, some hungry centipedes approach from behind. While they are taken out fairly quickly, Kant is bitten and reduced to an ill state, unfit for further combat.

The group still wants to press on, and Aldavel summons some berserkers. They are sent down the web-lined passage to kill whatever they find, and the rest of the group follows. The group emerges into a large cavern, with a number of husky cocoons hanging from the ceiling. A grinding sound is heard to the south, and the berserkers yell war cries and head in that direction.

The group hurries after, trying to ensure that the berserkers aren’t stuck fighting in darkness, and finds them engaged with three giant crab spiders, with one berserker back from the fight, trapped in the webbing on the floor.

The group moves in to assist, but many characters end up stuck in the webs, and the berserkers do most of the work, with all of them being lost in the process of defeating the spiders. The group decides to do a thorough search of all the cocoons, and my wandering monster dice are on fire, with a group of orcs coming upon them in the process. They don’t have too many issues beating them off, but, at this point Kant is combat-ineffective, Aldavel has used his fight-winner spell, and hit points are being depleted across the board.

The group still wants to press on to the rear exit, and is willing to do some exploration on branching passages as well, which leads them to a chamber with a pool or spring filled with crystal-clear water. Malketh decides to drink, and reports that it takes pure and pristine. Then, he suddenly feels himself being infused with magical energy. Kant also has a drink, hoping the water will help with his centiped poison but, while drinking does make him feel a little better, the effect is brief, and perhaps only in his imagination.

After that, the group finds some shriekers, which they quickly retreat from to avoid ending up in another fight, and make their way to the rear entrance. Kant is able to see a staircase winding down the mountainside, but for the other (non-dwarves), they can see little more than the steps for a dozen yards ahead of themselves, before they seem to vanish into the rock.

Satisfied with their efforts, the group heads down the stairs, returning to town to recuperate before setting out for Mazen Kurz.

* ** **** ** *

It is going to take the group about two-and-a-half days to get to the hamlet of Linzorth, which in turn lies about half a day from Mazen Kurz. They head there via Burgendsorf, which gives them an opportunity to stock up on torches, rations and military oil.

On arriving into Linzorth, Villa strikes up a conversation with the local blacksmith, seeking to find out what he knows about the old eld stronghold. The blacksmith is able to point out that the mountain it’s built into is visible across a nearby valley. His understanding is that the red elves planned for Mazen Kurz to be bigger and grander than Dwimmermount, but that it never happened. Grimlocks now live there, and raid the road that runs through Linzorth, from Burgensdorf to the southern duchies. The blacksmith indicates Mazen Kurz goes very deep, that the eld made deals with powerful demonic beings, and some of them almost certainly still reside in the depths. Adventurers show up every now and again, but none have been by recently.

The blacksmith also mentions a reward for killing harpies, who are apparently being pests to the west (ie, in the same direction as Mazen Kurz). He confirms their songs are bewitching, and that no one takes their herds out in that direction any more. There is definitely concern among some players about the possibility of running into harpies.

Some soldiers then arrive from the fort and ask about the PC’s intentions in town. They explain they’re here to investigate Mazen Kurz, and are informed they have been invited up to dine with the Baron.

The group accepts, of course, and heads up to the baron;s fort. It is functional, but well appointed and the baron does not appear to be struggling financially. He is interested to know whether the group is in town to hunt harpies or to explore Mazen Kurz, and indicates that he is offering 65gp a head for harpies. He reiterates what the blacksmith has said, that the presence of the harpies has rendered a number of meadows off-limits to his people. He also indicates that it is possible the harpies reside within Mazen Kuraz.

When the baron asks about their specific interest in Mazen Kurz, Aldavel explains they are looking for information about ancient mushroom creatures and gods. The baron doesn’t know much about that, but does mention a dwarven machinist resided in the dungeon several generations ago, and some of their contraptions are said to still be present.

The group is fed well, and offered space in the great hall while they remain in the area. The next morning, despite some healthy concern about harpies (and a lengthy discussion about whether they should be trying to block their ears, which ends with no action taken) they set out for Mazen Kurz.

The trip is uneventful, and they’re soon at the entrance, which is a wide staircase leading down into the ground. Any doors are long gone. There are signs of some occasional traffic in the area, but nothing particularly distinctive.

The stairs lead down to an entrance hall with vaulted archways in each wall, with eldritch runes carved into them, not dissimilar to the eld iconography they have seen in Dwimmermount. A damaged statue of an eld warrior stands in the centre of the room, facing the entrance. A faint, compost-like smell emanates from the northern hallway. The group sets off to the south.

Heading down one hallway, some dust billows up, and one of the lead characters realises they’ve kicked through a fine line of some kind of powder in a line across the corridor. The group discusses the possibility they have just broken some kind of ward; while they do, some very large, black wolves, nearly six feet tall at the shoulder and with eyes of flame appear down the corridor, loping towards them. When one of them breathes fire, La assumes hellhounds, and expects they will all die. However, their breath weapons on affect a single target at a time. One wolf goes down quickly, and the other, while it takes a bit to defeat, goes down without inflicting too much damage.

In another large chamber, three more such wolves are met. The group falls back to the entrance to form a defensive line, and them most of them are very surprised when, after one wolf is taken down, the other two withdraw. There is some discussion about whether or not an animal would retreat like that, and whether or not they are actually intelligent.

The group searches the room, finding a number of circular pools about the room. Each has a crusty, black material in it, looking something like dark, dried mud. Bookshelves line the walls, and under one they find three books still in reasonable condition. Written in Eldritch, they appear to be on the subject of crossbreeding. Aldavel is extremely excited at the thought of eventually creating an army of bat-monkeys, and wants to keep them, despite their sale value.

This is one of the things I really like about ACKS, especially the new magic research/creation system that’s been released via patreon – it has a very robust but still streamlined system to give these sorts of items (and other, traditional D&D items such as tomes of golem construction) clear values and defined benefits. These specific books can provide value to a generic magical library, or to a crossbreeding laboratory.

The group also finds a few thousand electrum in an old leather sack under a corpse.

The door they decide leave the room by turns out to be stuck, and at this point I realise I have made a mistake with my prep for the session.

Mazen Kurz is a dungeon of my own design, and while I have a pretty good idea what’s where, I haven’t fully keyed the entire first level. However, being an omnipotent and all-powerful referee, I can see the future, and am aware that this particular group of players, assuming all else is equal, always goes left. As such, I carefully plotted their left-turn path through the dungeon, and made sure every room along the route was fully fleshed out.

Except I forgot about the stuck door. If they decide to head elsewhere now, I will have to do a bit more winging it.

Fortunately, they will not let a stuck door deter them, and Kant puts his shoulder into it, busting the through door, scattering the furniture propped behind it. And finding himself face to face with bugbears.

One bugbear moves to block the door, and Kant is trapped in a private fight with the other, while the rest of the group tries to fight through to him.

Being the tough little bastard that he is, Kant prevails, but takes a heavy beating in the process. More electrum is found, and the group decides to head back to town. Their haul wasn’t massive, but came to about 6,000gp-worth in coin, plus the books, so wasn’t terrible. De is concerned that the dungeon overall might be too dangerous for them, as everything they’ve fought has been 2-3HD or more. He gets poo-pooed for being a coward.
 
Last edited:

Sable Wyvern

Legendary Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2021
Messages
194
Reaction score
554

Session 12​

May 21 2022

Pre-session discussion and random musings

I don’t recall much of anything happening between sessions. The initially planned session was cancelled due to multiple absences, hence the four-week break. Kant levelled up after session eleven, and has reached the lofty heights of 4th level.

The actual session
  • Tr: Aldaval the Theurgist-Torturer, Level 3 Neutral Elven Nightblade
  • De: Tannek the Defender, Level 3 Lawful Paladin
    • Karl the Hunter, Level 1 Neutral Barbarian
  • Da: Kant the Vindicator, Level 4 Neutral Dwarven Fury
  • Ro: Malketh the Warrior-Seer, Level 2 Neutral Elven Spellsword
  • La: Villa the Catechist, Level 1 Lawful Cleric
  • Ag: Waramayl the Initiate, Level 3 Lawful Mystic
    • Sircini The Novice, Level 1 Lawful Priestess
    • Ledrick the Man-at-Arms, Level 1 Neutral Fighter
Despite De’s mild concerns, everyone was happy to head back into Mazen Kurz. The group decided to head right from the entrance hall this time. I do not believe this related to my observations about session prep and party predictability, which did elicit some laughs when I brought it up.

The compost smell grows stronger, and the corridor opens out into a chamber, the centre of which is covered in vine-like growths. The plant completely covers a fountain in the centre of the room, and extends out in all directions, although there is plenty of room to move around the edges of the room without coming particularly close. The tendrils have purplish-black berries, and the composty smell is emanating from here. It’s hard to be sure, but tendrils appear to be moving ever so slightly. That could just be the effect of flickering torchlight and imagination, though …

There is some talk of interacting with the plant, but nothing is actually done. The group heads right again, arriving at a large room with a sunken, semi-circular amphitheatre with tiered seating. Heading down to the floor, the group finds a number of very old corpses, covered in an accretion of dirt, dust and general detritus. Picking through them reveals about 13,000 silver, nearly as much copper, plus some jewellery.

After bagging the silver, it’s decided to head back to the dungeon entrance and dump it there, in order to avoid having to carry it around. I’m not sure that’s a brilliant idea, but they aren’t all that far from the exit, and who am I to judge?

On the way out, back at the plant-and-fountain room, they enter the room just as a group of grimlocks are also doing so to the north of them. The group is surprised, with the exception of Kant, who calls everyone to order. Fortunately, the grimlocks aren’t intent on immediately charging. Instead they form up in an orderly fashion, ending up in four ranks of three, grunting, slapping themselves and their weapons (mostly a mix of axes and clubs) and advancing in an intimidating fashion.

The PCs withdraw towards the main entrance, while the grimlocks continue to advance. It is noted that the grimlocks make sure they don’t disturb the vines. During the withdrawal, Malketh grabs some military oil and throws it to the front of the party, then igniting it to give them some cover. The grimlocks don’t attempt to brave the flames, and the PCs are able to exit the dungeon.

After hiding their sacks of silver near the entrance, plans are made to head back down. Da is adamant that the grimlock behaviour indicates they were protecting something, and he wants to find out what it was. No one has any strong objections, so that becomes the plan.

The fire has well-and-truly burnt out by the time the group is back, and there is no sign of the grimlocks. Heading down the passage they emerged from, the group finds what might be an old kitchen and mess-hall, occupied by a variety of mundane rats, spiders and insects.

Beyond this is a room with a diais in the centre, and a strange conical, stone “umbrella” above it, hanging from the ceiling. The cone has a brass rim, and Aldaval stands on someone’s shoulders in order to take a look. The writing appears to be magical in nature, but he’s unable to determine it’s intended effect. No one ascends the diais.

The far side of the room has three archways leading to a wide hall running perpendicular to it. The opposite side of the hall appears to be a large cage or cell, with rusty iron bars. Large animal bones lie within, and it looks like there may be trough of some kind at the far side. No one enters to explore it more thoroughly.

The hall itself is twenty feet wide, with pairs of arches to the north and south. To the sides of each arch, set into the wall, are the statues of eld warriors facing inwards. Aldaval checks the first two statues carefully, then leads the group south, seeing another series of arches further along.

Beyond the next set, are further arches to the south, and a smaller doorway immediately to the west. The group heads west, entering what appears to be a former laboratory, where they discover three giant black widow spiders.

Although many of the characters are surprised, a few are able to act, and manage to engage the two spiders who come at the group before they are able to take down any flat-footed PCs.

Karl suffers a spider bite, and fails his poison save, but stays on his feet. Ledrick and Kant take down the spider on their side, while the fight on the other flank is still ongoing. The third spider is nervously maintaining position some distance away. However, as the flank fight continued, and the third spider kept eyeing him off, Kant had enough, and decided he was taking the fight to the spider. At the same time, the spider had decided to withdraw to the (hopeful) safety of the corner, but with Kant coming for it, was left with no option but to defend itself.

In the ensuing fight, the spider went down (as did the one on the flank), but not before Kant was bitten and then, needing only a four or five on 1d20 to pass his poison save, failed. Aldavel lost his shit at Ledrick for being a useless henchman who left Kant to defend the group alone, before discovering that Ledrick fought side by-side-with Kant and kept the flank safe, until Kant took it upon himself to charge forward.

Although their map placed them in the middle of nowhere, Aldaval suspected a mapping error, and that they were nearly back at the amphitheatre room. Leading them west, this was quickly confirmed, and the group headed out. Unfortunately, first Karl, and then Kant, succumbed to poison on the way out.

Now, despite that fact that I had found much amusement in the early sessions by not mentioning to the players that they might want to check the prices of armour and upgrade, in this case I felt obliged to speak up, and pointed out that official cost of restore life and limb was a mere 500gp. That feels ridiculously cheap, but I have made a decision to accept the underlying socio-economic assumptions that ACKS is built on, and see where it takes me, so this is just another aspect that I’m playing straight. There are, of course, still some limitations – you only have days to get a resurrection, and there are some potentially drastic (and fun) side-effects for tampering with mortality.

It was decided not to resurrect Karl (De had not really wanted a barbarian henchman, and and only hired him due to a dearth of preferred options), but it was a no-brainer to carry Kant back to Burgensdorf.

The restoration was successful, and the dwarf even had his missing finger repaired in the process. He needs a week's rest, and will now have troubled dreams that often disturb his sleep.

It was a pretty short session, and we finished up at that point.
 

Sable Wyvern

Legendary Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2021
Messages
194
Reaction score
554

Session 13​

June 4 2022

Pre-session discussion and random musings

Very little done between sessions. They pulled a potion out of Mazen Kurz, which was handed to an alchemist during Kant’s recovery time, and identified as a potion of protection from fire.

The actual session
  • De: Tannek the Defender, Level 3 Lawful Paladin
    • Da: Kant the Vindicator, Level 4 Neutral Dwarven Fury
    • La: Villa the Catechist, Level 1 Lawful Cleric
  • Ro: Malketh the Warrior-Seer, Level 2 Neutral Elven Spellsword
  • Ag: Waramayl the Initiate, Level 3 Lawful Mystic
    • Sircini The Novice, Level 1 Lawful Priestess
    • Ledrick the Man-at-Arms, Level 1 Neutral Fighter
So, it ended up being a very small group for this session, due to sickness and other commitments, but the session went ahead anyway.

I’m not sure if I’ve discussed this previously or not. If I have, then I’m repeating myself. If not, it’s worth mentioning. The rules we have in place are that any individual player can decide whether or not their character is available to be played when they’re absent (and can specify who may play them, if they wish). If someone chooses to run a character on behalf of an absent player, the character gets no special treatment from me; if they die they die, and I am not interested in anyone complaining they were put in danger unnecessarily etc … However, such characters earn full XP.

Alternatively, the character is not available to be played, is completely safe, and earns no XP (in theory, they could earn XP for downtime activities, once that starts being a thing).

I don’t get too worried about characters popping in and out of the action. I would rather have a sensible in-game explanation, and I try to encourage the players to finish sessions in places where it will be easy for characters to swap in and out, but if it just needs to be handwaved away as a game conceit, I’m ok with that.

On the topic, Tr doesn't trust anyone to play Aldaval, because he knows that no one should trust him with their character.

Tr is probably the most reliable player though, so absences for his character don’t come up often. In this case, his unexpected absence had a dramatic effect on the game, because he is the player most invested in the Mazen Kurz thing. Ag has absolutely no idea what the whole mushroom plot-line is about (most likely because he’s assuming more to it then there is), De isn’t overly excited by dungeoncrawling and is keen to explore new ground and the group was already back in Burgensdorf. Thus, the decision was made not to head back to Mazen Kurz, but instead to head into the wilderness and see if they can find the temple on the map that was pulled out of the vault.

I have been pretty keen to get some hexcrawling done, but this came out of the blue (to everyone, pretty much, as if Tr had been present as expected, I think they would have headed back to Mazen Kurz with little or no discussion).

Fortunately, I had lots of pre-campaign prep to draw on. I left the players to start sorting out their fit-out, and set about generating weather, printing out reference sheets, perusing my map for encounter sites and refreshing myself on my entirely untested hexcrawling rules.

The group hires the following:
  • 3 heavy infantry
  • 7 light infantry
  • 10 archers with short bows
  • A navigator/guide
  • A healer
  • Several animal handlers
Their riding horses are converted to pack animals, to carry food and supplies. Waramayl, always keen to expand his entourage, purchases his own mule and mule-handler.

Back in Muntburg, they seek any more information from the locals about what lies to the east. Their second wilderness map shows a feature known as the Fort of Fortune, and De had wanted to do some investagation into that ages ago, but never got around to it. They don’t learn anything new in Muntburg, but are advised there is an encampment of loggers, trappers and the like, about halfway to the ruins of Winterburg.

At some point, the group also notes the temperature is hovering around freezing most days, and they wonder if they should be doing this when the weather is better. It’s decided to press on, partly because I advise I’m not going to just say all their hirelings freeze to death overnight. They decide to do an inspection of the hirelings, and purchase new winter gear for anyone who looks like they need it. In general, De seems extremely eager to ensure the hirelings are happy and well called for, having learned some lessons playing AD&D with me (and, specifically, seeing various situations described from the hirelings’ perspectives after the campaign was over).

Once they set out from Muntburg, they make good progress, and reach the encampment mid-afternoon. They are welcomed, and directed to an area where they can set up their tents. Several of the locals gather around to share ale and food, and tell stories. The group learns the following things of interest:
  • There is a bandit encampment somewhere due east
  • East of Winterburg is a troglodyte lair.
  • There are places near Winterburg where, if you are looking into the eastern mounts at the right time, in the right light, you can see a castle floating on the clouds.
  • In addition to a rumour crystal monument, there is a giant statue of a warrior to the south of it.
  • There are strange people in grey uniforms coming and going from the Ostwood, and they appear to be working with the beastmen.
The rest of the trip to Winterburg takes longer than expected, as they make poor progress. I later realise I had a setting wrong in my pace calculating spreadsheet, and they probably covered the distance twice as fast, even with the poor progress factored in. I let the players know once I realised, just to make sure they had accurate expectations, but we didn’t retcon anything (maybe there were some teething issues with their first significant overland trip).

In any event, they found the ruins of Winterburg, a fort and town roughly the same size as Muntburg. Exploring the place revealed nothing of any great interest, other than numerous instances of buildings marked with Os and Xs in blue and yellow paint. It appeared that the Os were on some of the buildings in better repair than the norm, but they weren’t able to piece together any other clues about what the markings meant. The paint did seem to be fairly recent – not more than two months old.

They did encounter a large group of kobolds (nearly thirty of them), who advised they were just passing through, and demanded safe passage. The group agreed, and moved aside. The kobolds approached, then turned down a sidestreet, and were seen passing by further down, before continuing on their way to wherever they were going.

As the group continues east on the following days, they decide they want to find a position that gives them a good vantage point survey the lowlands they’re heading towards. Grook, their guide, suggests if the head south and climb, there is a good chance they will find such a position.

The PCs set off, leaving the hirelings back on the trail with the animals, and after a few hours do indeed find a good position to look east, although De was hoping to be able to see more to the north. They identify the following:
  • Foothills quickly descending to lowland forest in a wide expanse to the east.
  • A cluster of hills or distant mountains, due east, on the horizon beyond or withing the forest lowlands
  • South of those, something very tall and large, rising well above the canopy, but too blurry to make out.
  • A tall, rocky peak to the south-east, not more than 40 miles away.
  • Foothills stretching away north and north-north-east.
Grook leads them back north. They reach the trail, and the guide confidently leads them back west, where they find their hirelings patiently waiting. They’re fairly pleased that they’re able to supplement their food stocks by foraging. I am fairly please that the ACKS foraging rules are as easy to adjudicate as they first appeared to me.

After several further days of mostly uneventful travel, the party quickly passes through a region of foothills and, continuing to follow the old road, comes across a crumbling fort overlooking the road to the south. They assume this is the “Fort of Fortune”.

They clear the fort, which is empty and long abandoned. It has, however, clearly been used as a stopping over point by others, with plenty of graffiti. Other than pointless crudity and “Joz woz ‘ere” type markings, there were two legible messages of interest:
  • Follow the road to the end, then south-east to the great stone ring.
  • Hill giants to the south, near the river.
According to their map, the group should have encountered the “fingers of stone” on the foothills, and turned north there. It was decided that the PCs and henchfolk would head back west up the trail to explore more thoroughly, while the hirelings maintained camp at the fort. The hirelings were tasked with doing some hunting during the day, with two groups consisting of a number of archers and some of the light infantry going their separate ways.

Unfortunately, the PCs ran into a pair of trolls before they were able to do much in the way of exploring. One of the trolls attempted to parley: four stay to be eaten, and the rest are free to go.

The PCs were not enamoured of this generous offer, and the trolls were uninterested in any counter-offer, so combat ensued. Initially, the player’s weren’t too worried … its just two trolls after all. That attitude changed when the trolls were managing three attacks around, frequently getting results over 20. It changed even more when one of the bites hit for 10 points of damage. Tannek took a beating early, and stepped back while Malketh took his spot.

Waramayl had not choice but to get in on the action; he absolutely can’t soak up much damage, but he is still a good combatant, and could have a great damage output if want to output damage. Instead, he wants to use his whip to trip, but in this case doing so was quite effective – he not only toppled one troll, he managed to keep it on the ground, and I ruled that the troll only got off one arm sweep-claw while prone, instead of it’s full sequence of claw/claw/bite.

Meanwhile Sircini was grabbing and lighting a torch, but then had to render assistance when Malketh went down, hitting exactly 0hp. Fortunately, it wasn’t a lethal injury, and was treated promptly – he suffered damage to one eye, would need some more healing to ensure he remained stable, and then a week’s rest.

The group managed to get both trolls down, and keep them down with constant hacking and slashing while they finally got a torch to bear and started burning. Eventually, the corpses stopped visibly regenerating or jerking back to life.

I’m pretty sure, for those players involved, this was the scariest fight they’ve been in this campaign. It could have been a lot worse.

Licking their wounds, the group gave up on further exploration, and returned to base with the invalid Malketh, and a sack of coin found on one of the trolls (less than 200gp worth).

Meanwhile, the hunting parties managed to avoid being exterminated, and actually brought some game back. One party also came across the tracks of a lone horse. One member of the group was certain a lone horse in the forest must be magical, and they tried following the trail, without success.

Leaving Malketh back at camp, the PCs again head out to try and locate the fingers of stone.

They are successful this time, spotting a tall, rocky formation to the north that matches the image on their map. It’s decided to try and make their way to the formation itself, and see if anything interesting can be seen from there.

Along the way, they encounter a band of nearly 30 orcs, who immediately charge. Unfortunately for the orcs, they lose initiative, have no polearms and make poor use of their archers. Tannek and Kant proceed to blend the orcs as they come, while Waramayl, the whirling whipmaster, is quite chuffed (and impresses his compatriots) when he puts thre orcs on the ground and kills a fourth. One of the heavy infantry, seeing the massed orcish charge, simply says, “Fuck” again and again for the duration of the fight, while Tannek offers encouragement to stay strong and hold his position.

Losing a quarter of their number in an ineffective charge, the remaining orcs turn and flee willy-nilly back the way they came.

The leader was carrying a large topaz; the only other items of interest are a couple of bulging sacks, covered thickly in a slimy residue, smelling of faeces and rot. Kant uses an orcish weapon to carefully split one bag open, and utter filth spills out – offal, rotting meat, faeces and who knows what else. Why the orcs were carrying this is a mystery.

It is also noted that a number of the orcs are adorned with sideways chevrons, and the leader was wearing a wooden badge with the same symbol.

Continuing on, the group makes it to a position below the fingers, which offers a reasonable view of the terrain to the north. It does appear that there is something glinting in the distance, which may be a body of water, which would place their temple somewhere south of that spot. It’s probably less than 20 miles from their present position. Satisfied with their efforts, the group heads back to camp.

All told, quite a few days were spent coming and going from camp on the two exploratory treks, during which time the hunting parties somehow avoid encountering anything that can kill them, and nothing eats everyone left in the fort during the day while the hunters are out. The hunters do come across various fresh tracks, including some south of the fort they guess to be made giants, after which they are told to stay to the north side of the road. The Alexandrian hexcrawl encounter system, with lots of “track” results, is working very nicely IMO (at this point, I’m now reminded that they also encountered a few tracks on the way across the mountains – antelope on a couple of occasions, and what they (correctly) guessed to be ogres. They didn’t do anything with them on either occasion, but it’s nice flavour that could become adventure leads any time the players want them to).

In any case, as I was saying, the hunters survived, the camp survived, and the PCs had some decisions to make about what to do next. An appraisal of resources indicated that, between foraging and hunting, they still had more than enough food to wait for Aldaval to recover, then continue exploring further north to try and find the temple. It was, however, decided that they should avoid going directly past the fingers, as it’s possible there are more orcs in the area. Grook was asked if he thought he had enough information to head straight to the temple, or somewhere south of the lake, from where they are now. Grook, having no compass, accurate compass bearings, topographical maps or precise measurements of distance to work from, made it clear that no, he could not, with any degree of certainty.

Instead, then, it was decided that they had a rough idea how far south they currently are from the lake they glimpsed, so they will head north for a way, then turn west, and hopefully end up somewhere in the vicinity of where they’re trying to get to. Now, this is the shit I’m talking about, and exactly what I wanted from this hexcrawling system. I am pleased.

The night of the PCs return, we finally end up with an encounter and, during the final watch, some goblins infiltrate the fort. Fortunately, Tannek heard a disturbance among the horses, and spotted some movement in the vicinity. He quietly got the attention of others on watch and headed to check it out.

A volley of arrows fired down, missing or bouncing off armour, and small forms were seen darting along the ground for the main entrance. Friendly archers returned fire against figures on the wall, while one light infantryman went down with an arrow in the leg. He was tended quickly, and survived, but needs bed rest, and looks like he won’t be getting much use out of the injured leg in future.

Whatever it was, was scared off, and one of the archers was pretty sure they dropped a target on the wall. In the morning, there were signs of activity outside the fort, and a goblin corpse was found on the wall.

At that point, we finished up for the night.

* ** **** ** *​

Immediately after we wrapped up, with some trepidation, I sought feedback from the players. I’ve never, ever run a hexcrawl before, and I wasn’t sure how it came across from the player side. I was a bit worried it may have been a bit slow and awkward, especially early, or that the players may not have felt they had enough information to go on, lacked spatial awareness, were just generally bored or uninspired etc …

It turns out everyone seemed pretty happy. While De wasn’t necessarily exuberant in the way he expressed it, he did say that it was the best outdoor travel experience that he’s had in a game, and is hitting the kind of marks he’s wanted. He made it clear that he likes visiting new places in game (I kind of knew that), and also that he really likes the idea of experiencing the travel to new places (which I wasn’t really aware of), and that the session and system did that in a way he quite enjoyed, and made travel feel like travel. Which is pretty much what I wanted it to do.

All three players also pointed out that the speed of play was not at all an issue, as it’s much faster than dungeoneering.

All that being the case, and knowing that things will run even smoother as we all get the hang of it, I am extremely pleased. And I’m very much looking forward to seeing what happens when they leave the safety of the trail, and strike off into genuine wilderness.

Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention -- De expressed a bit of disappointment that they were not going to earn enough XP to get Villa a level. He only needed about 148, but their measly treasure haul wouldn't get them enough for that. I do like the game-appropriate attitude that treasure is what it's all about but, in this case, the trolls gave a healthy chunk of XP all on their own, and Villa did get his level, with Malketh less than a hundred short of making it to third.

Obituary
  • Malgath, Level 1 Elven Spellsword, slain by orcs, session two.
  • Hektor, Level 1 Paladin, slain by orcs, session two.
  • Balfur, Level 1 Dwarven Vaultguard, suffered orcish spear to the knee and retired, session three.
  • Grendel, Level 1 Fighter, slain by orcs, session three.
  • Obsidian Gemcutter, Level 1 Dwarven Craftpriest, consumed by green slime, session six.
  • Malok (aka Maldek) the Unencumbered, Level 2 Mage, poisoned and carotid severed by giant black widow, session nine.
  • Karl, Level 1 Barbarian henchman, poisoned by a giant crab spider, session twelve.
 

Sable Wyvern

Legendary Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2021
Messages
194
Reaction score
554
For ease of reference, here again is the map to the temple the group is trying to find:
20211107_134930-jpg.42053


And here is the other map also being used, which mentions the Fort of Fortune.
fhh9f3dmg3yf-png.43200
 

Bourbonjack

Treasure Type V & Y
Joined
Apr 12, 2019
Messages
215
Reaction score
416
Great update! I’m hoping the party push further in to Dwimmermount.

Right now, it seems like they are jumping from location to location. Any insight into the inter-party dynamics driving this?
 

Sable Wyvern

Legendary Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2021
Messages
194
Reaction score
554
Great update! I’m hoping the party push further in to Dwimmermount.

Right now, it seems like they are jumping from location to location. Any insight into the inter-party dynamics driving this?
I've been dropping hooks and rumours and leads for side quests pretty much constantly. Most of them have been for short-term digressions, but the first that they actually latched onto was to head to Mazen Kurz, which is a significant dungeon in it's own right. I suspect they went with that over Dwimmermount for two main reasons: as much as the group was enjoying and intrigued by Dwimmermount, no one feels deeply invested in it and the lead that sent them to Mazen Kurz wasn't just "here's something you've heard that you can do" but was presented to them by an NPC Tr had an existing investment with (his former business partner's wife).

The decision to head into the wilderness last session was entirely the result of Tr being absent, as he is the driving force behind the decision to visit Mazen Kurz. There were only three actual players last session -- De, who likes exploring new places, and greatly prefers overland adventure to extensive dungeoneering; Ag, who doesn't really understand why they're at Mazen Kurz in the first place (something about mushrooms?); and Ro who was quite content to just go with the flow when it was suggested they head elsewhere. If Tr had been present, I doubt it would even have come up, if for no reason other than it would have been a bit rude.

The group still has plenty of ties to Muntburg, so I expect we haven't seen the last of Dwimmermount. On the other hand, the possibilities are endless, and they may well get caught up in other things. One of the little catchphrases I picked up from Blades in the Dark which I quite like is, "We play to find out."
 

Sable Wyvern

Legendary Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2021
Messages
194
Reaction score
554

Session 14​

June 18 2022

Pre-session discussion and random musings
Basically nothing done between sessions.

The actual session
  • De: Tannek the Defender, Level 3 Lawful Paladin
  • Da: Kant the Vindicator, Level 4 Neutral Dwarven Fury
  • La: Villa the Acolyte, Level 2 Lawful Cleric
  • Ro: Malketh the Warrior-Seer, Level 2 Neutral Elven Spellsword
  • Ag: Waramayl the Initiate, Level 3 Lawful Mystic
    • Sircini The Novice, Level 1 Lawful Priestess
    • Ledrick the Man-at-Arms, Level 1 Neutral Fighter
  • Tr: Aldaval the Theurgist-Torturer, Level 3 Neutral Elven Nightblade
There was initially some confusion/forgetfulness about what the group had planned to do this session, and I ended up speaking up and reminding them what they had settled on – to head due north until they had gone as far north as the lake (or what they hoped was a lake) that they had seen glimpses of from the fingers, and then head west.

First, they still planned to wait a few days while Malketh recovered from his injury. Finally, things started to get more interesting with all their hunting and foraging parties. Aldaval found the tracks of some large, four-toed humanoid creatures (trolls), which he attempted to follow, but lost. Then, the following day, a hunting party failed to return. Finally, one member of the missing party stumbled back into camp after dark, talking about a giant black or dark green dragon and a billowing, yellowish vapour cloud that had enveloped his companions. As the dragon was seen to the north, it was decided future parties would head south (even though they believed there were giants that way).

The next day, another hireling hunting party did not return at all (these ones ran into a patrol of 35 goblins). Aldaval’s hunting party came across an area of forest with whisps of large webs, and he did a rapid about-face, wanting nothing to do with spidres. Fortunately, Malketh was nearly healed, because the group was starting to wonder about the wisdom of camping here, and was also rethinking the idea of sending out small parties of hirelings to hunt.

That night, a dryad snuck into camp and sought out a quiet conversation with one of the hirelings who was on watch at the time. It did not take a great deal of convincing before he agreed he would be better off with her than with the dwindling expedition. By the time Waramayl noticed someone was missing, the merc was long gone, having quietly gathered up his gear and snuck out of the fort.

There was now debate about whether the merc had deserted (the other hirelings considered that very unlikely, as even if he was unhappy with the situation, he wasn’t likely to consider himself safer alone) or been killed/kidnapped. Villa and Malketh checked the area for magic, and observed the NPCs with detect evil, as well as doing a check of the area for corpses. No explanation for the disappearance was found.

There was further debate about whether or not the group should head south looking for the missing hunting party, before heading north to continue the search for the temple. Waramayl and Aldavel were content to write of the missing mercenaries, but Malketh wasn’t happy with this. In the end, they didn’t go looking, but did delay their departure for a few hours just in case the missing characters made their way back.

In the end, they left the fort, suddenly down 8 hirelings over the course of just a few days.

The weather is getting wetter at this point, with light to moderate rain most days as the group heads out. Most of the players seem to get a sense of how unpleasant this would be, and are very glad they purchased tents, so that they can at least dry out a little overnight. The group makes fairly good progress north for a couple days, before turning west and heading back up into the foothills. They do not know it, but they narrowly avoided a hailstorm that rolls across the lowlands shortly after they’ve left for higher ground.

Thanks to Ro, the group does an excellent job tracking their progress, and although they don’t catch sight of the lake right away, he pinpoints the spot where they should slow their progress and start searching northwards, and they walk right to it. Given the number of guesstimates they’re working with, I was quite impressed.

Ag became very confused about the nature of the terrain and felt that what was being described made no sense. I didn’t understand the problem at the time, and he ended up letting it slide but, after the session we cleared it up. Essentially, the lowlands were to the east, and mountains to the west (with the ground rising between the two). As such, when the group was talking about looking for vantage points where they can see for any significant distance, I pointed out that this is easy to do if they want to look east (the ground is lower), but hard to do if they want to look west (the ground is rising). Ag had thought I was saying the mountains, specifically, were blocking the view, which made no sense because the lake they were looking for was on their side of the mountains, in the foothills somewhere. Once he understood it was just the next crest blocking the view at any given point, everything fell into place.

The layout of the lake didn’t really match the lake drawn on their map, which created some doubts, but they were mostly happy to assume the map-maker was just drawing a lake symbol, not trying to precisely replicate the shape of the actual lake. In any case, they decide to follow the shoreline to the easternmost edge and, along the way, spied a naked woman down a slope kneeling near a small creek fed from the lake.

The group decided to draw closer, and on noticing them, she leaps up and hid behind a tree, peering out cautiously. Tannek advises here they are seeking a temple/building of some kind, and she assumes they are referring to the village of the Cruel Ones. Tannek assumes that the Cruel Ones must be the inhabitants of the temple they’re looking for, and concurs. Anyway, the woman, who has introduced herself as Greshda, advises she will fetch more of her people, and jogs nimbly off towards the shore, disappearing into some thick underbrush and then, a few moments later, they see a seal sliding into the water.

About an hour later, three men, dressed in crude woven garments and shell-armour approach the group. It is established that the Cruel Ones have nothing to do with the temple, and humans who live in a village to the northwest. They kidnap the people of the lake from time to time, and are currently holding at least two. There are four who have been taken over the past few years; two men and two woman. They expect the woman still live, but are unsure about the men.

If the PCs are able to rescue them, and return them with their skins, the people of the lake advise they will show the PCs the temple, as well as rewarding them. They do point out that the characters could most likely find the temple themselves.

The “with their skins” comment leads the group to discovering that the were-seals (as the players have decided to consider them) leave their seal skins behind when they leave the water and take human form.

As an aside here, earlier in the week when I was fleshing out the “reclusive aquatic community” my early notes placed at this location, I thought, “selkies are an aquatic species I know of because I’ve seen them mentioned in D&D products, let’s find out what they are”. I knew next to nothing about them, had some idea that they were a type of aquatic elves in D&D, but was pretty sure they also had some basis is actual mythology. Rather than hunting down a Monster Manual entry, I just googled some of the actual myths. Men taking selkie wives who were trapped on land without their skins fit in perfectly with my plans to have a plot hook leading to a nearby village of savage and evil humans.

The group decided to at least check out this village and see what they find. The selkies advised it lay about a day to the north west, and if they reach the river they had gone too far.

Heading off the group finds the tracks of mountain lions, and then some signs that a narrow cleft in a cliff face may be home to some over-sized wolves. Unusually, it was Da who was opposed to investigating, as he didn’t see the point in stirring up some animals in their lair, but enough players were interested that the group pressed in anyway.

Four dire wolves engaged the group, but were taken down easily. Further in was a female, guarding a litter of pups. Kant spoke up and made it clear he would have nothing more to do with fighting these beasts, so the rest laid into it without him, Tannek suffering a nasty bite in the process.

There was no treasure to be found, but it was decided to skin the wolves and use the pelts as trade goods/gifts for the villagers they were seeking.

However, while this was happening, a group of hill giants introduced themselves to the members of the group who were still outside the lair, by hurling a rock into one of the hirelings and calling out a friendly “Halloo down there!”

Two giants remained in the heights, while three more advanced towards the lair. Tannek quickly offered them the wolves and some electrum. The giants accept this offering, along with the dead hireling, and left the party in peace.

The next day, as the group is carefully scouting the land for sign of the village, they spot some hippogriffs landing on a nearby ledge. Seeking cover (and making sure the horses are being held closely and out of sight), the group waits and observes, seeing three more hippogriffs land, and hearing a variety of eagle-like screeching from out of sight on the ledge. The hippogriffs seem to have no intention of moving on, and it’s surmised the cliff is their lair.

At this point, La suggests that it’s possible that the group has moved into a high-level area, and missed the signpost.

“Signs?” Tr replies. “How about dragons, trolls, giant tracks, actual giants, vanishing hunting parties … There has been no shortage of signs and I have no idea why we are still out here.”

Tr had been expressing his misgivings for some time, and I think he was happy for an opening to be a little more overt about it. He continued to be a voice for caution and heading back towards civilisation for the rest of the session, but no one seemed to be paying much attention.

Given the hippogriffs the widest feasible berth, the group continued northwest, reaching a small river and feeling a little frustrated it had taken them longer then expected and there was no sign of the village. There was talk about just returning to the lake and heading south to find the temple, but it was decided to first make an effort to find the village on the way back.

The next day, it didn’t take a great deal of time before they came across a village, larger than they were expecting, situated atop a steep hill. Based on the number of buildings they could see from their initial vantage, there would probably several hundred residents, not the hundred they had been expecting.

As the approached, a large number of people, many of them armed, quickly gathered at the village’s edge to look down on the approaching party.

“Who comes bearing gifts for the Garavush?” a voice called down, and Tannek introduced the group in response.

They were invited up the switch-back path to the village proper, where around a hundred locals had gathered, about half of them armed. Most were wearing crude armour, with bone-tipped spears and flint axes, but some better gear could be seen as well. Some kind of shaman or witch doctor, covered in fetishes, was seen pushing to the front of the crowd, with an ogre just behind him, hovering at his shoulder, and the group expected this figure to address them, but it was another who stepped forward, this one in fine-looking chain armour, with a begemmed and fancy hilt showing from his scabbard.

This gentlemen introduced himself as Lumug the Unassailable, and was keen to learn what gifts had been brought. De started saying all the wrong things, trying to have a reasoned and sensible conversation about avoiding needless bloodshed. At one point, he actually said that the villagers could attack them to take their lives and all they carried, at which point a great roar went up from the crowd and they nearly surged forward, not interested at all in Tannek’s next lines about the price they would pay.

Fortunately, I rolled an exceptionally positive reaction roll, and Tannek has a much better grasp of how to deal with such a situation than De, so in the end Lumug agreed that the group would only have to pay a couple hundred gold plus two horses … so long as one of them defeats one of his champions.

De/Tannek was not at all happy with this notion, but agree reluctantly. In the end, with a 21 AC, Tannek breezed through the fight, laying out a warrior in chain armour, with a shield and steel sword.

Lumug commended him, then sent some of his underlings to grab a couple of horses, selecting those that appeared most heavily laden, and not giving the PCs a chance to unload them first (they lost some tents and trail rations as a result).

The chief then advised Tannek that he and his lieutenants were invited to feast with him, and we closed the session there.

Obituary
  • Malgath, Level 1 Elven Spellsword, slain by orcs, session two.
  • Hektor, Level 1 Paladin, slain by orcs, session two.
  • Balfur, Level 1 Dwarven Vaultguard, suffered orcish spear to the knee and retired, session three.
  • Grendel, Level 1 Fighter, slain by orcs, session three.
  • Obsidian Gemcutter, Level 1 Dwarven Craftpriest, consumed by green slime, session six.
  • Malok (aka Maldek) the Unencumbered, Level 2 Mage, poisoned and carotid severed by giant black widow, session nine.
  • Karl, Level 1 Barbarian henchman, poisoned by a giant crab spider, session twelve.
 
Last edited:

Simon Hogwood

Puritan Bearbearian
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Messages
1,297
Reaction score
3,279
Do the players (as opposed to the characters) know about the dryad, or is that a secret for them to investigate if the mood strikes them?
 

Sable Wyvern

Legendary Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2021
Messages
194
Reaction score
554
Do the players (as opposed to the characters) know about the dryad, or is that a secret for them to investigate if the mood strikes them?
Neither the players nor the characters have any idea.

It was actually a random encounter. If they happen to come across a dryad again the same general area, they might find out more, otherwise I think they'll be hard pressed to learn any more at this stage. Waramayl did have a couple of opportunities to notice that something was up at the time, but was oblivious.
 

Sable Wyvern

Legendary Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2021
Messages
194
Reaction score
554

Session 15​

July 9 2022

Pre-session discussion and random musings
Basically nothing done between sessions.

The actual session
  • De: Tannek the Defender, Level 3 Lawful Paladin
  • Da: Kant the Vindicator, Level 4 Neutral Dwarven Fury
  • La: Villa the Acolyte, Level 2 Lawful Cleric
  • Ro: Malketh the Warrior-Seer, Level 2 Neutral Elven Spellsword
NOTE: This post contains some spoilers for Forbidden Caverns of Archaia

When we finished up last session, Tannek had just been invited to bring along his lieutenants, to dine with Lumug the unassailable. Kant, Villa and Malketh joined him, and they were led through town to an old stone fort – not in the greatest repair, but more than adequate to defend against foes without siege engines.

Within the fort, they are led to the great hall, where Lumug calls for food, wine and beer to be brought out. There is already a huge pot of stew on the go, and servants begin laying out a feast as the group sits around a large table.

Lumug introduces his warlock, Drosh Magar, whose ogre companion is waiting patiently in the wings, Davung, his priest, Uguvenuk, another of his champions, and a half-dozen other warriors who he refers to as his Companions.

There is a seal skin cloak conspicuously on display on a raised frame against one wall, and one of the serving girls has a distinctive look about her that sets her apart from the other locals. Based on her interactions, they get the sense that she is Lumug’s wife, and is also interacting with some young children seated at a side table.

While everyone is drinking, the group notices that no one has yet begun to dig into their food, so they also wait to eat. Not long after everyone is seated and comfortable, people begin erecting some kind of wooden frames beyond the foot of the table, and the PCs watch with interest and not a little suspicion.

As this occurs, Lumug seeks to learn what brought the group to his village, and also suggests that they return later with weapons and armour, advising that they can pay for such things in coin, gems and women, and also that Drosh Magar could teach magic to any PC magicians. Tannek indicates that he is open to the idea.

At this point, an orc and a human, clearly injured and poorly treated, are brought into the hall, and are strung up spread-eagle on the crosses that have been assembled.

Davung rises, and moves down to stand before the captives, facing the table, while guards with spears stand to either side. Raising his arms, he declares, “At this great feast, in honour of the mighty warrior Tannek, we offer these foul beings as sacrifices to the unholy Druganushti, that his gaze be ever averted from us, and that their blood may enrich us all.”

While other members of the group squirm, Tannek elects to speak up, suggesting that he is not deserving of this honour and, perhaps the victims lives should be spared.

Davung advises him that they have conducted heinous crimes, deserve their deaths, have been promised to Druganushti, and that this act of propitiation is necessary to ensure the wellbeing of the village. Before Tannek can raise any further objections, both sacrifices are run through with spears.

The high priest proceeds to gather blood from the victims, smearing some on his face. When he turns, he is seen to be holding a bowl of blood in one hand while, in the other, he as a small branch he clearly intends to use as an aspergillum. Villa is distraught and silently panicking at the this stage, while the rest of the PCs are nearly as aghast.

Tannek decides he is not unfamiliar with being covered in blood, and isn’t too worried about it (he still has some fairly fresh blood on him from the duel he just fought) but intends to try and shield his trencher when the priest arrives.

Villa, however, feels compelled to speak up, as he cannot countenance being part of these foul rites. As diplomatically as he can manage, he advises Lumug and Davung that his beliefs prohibit him from being involved in these rites; Solinor would not allow it. Davung asks the cleric if he stands with Impurax, then. Villa makes it clear that he has no idea who that is, and does not stand with him, but does stand his ground and refuses to be splattered with the blood of ritual sacrifices. He is expelled from the table by the priest, and Kant and Malketh elect to join him.

Villa wants to cast detect evil and gaze back inside the hall, but before he can manage this, the doors have been closed on him. With no recourse to getting immediate answers by magic, the cleric spots a young girl carrying water, and offers to help. She doesn’t think much of the foreigner, but isn’t going to turn down some free labour to ease her load and, after dumping her bucket in a large receptacle, she instructs Villa to grab and additional bucket and follow her down to the creek.

Along the way, she explains that Druganushti is vindictive, capricious and hateful, and that the priest works to keep him from inflicting suffering on the people. She is not concerned by the murder of captives, as it is important that they “show we are strong.” She has heard of Solinor, and thinks of him as the good of the weak people to the west, who want things given to them, instead of taking them.

She is aware that the victims were from the Manflesh clan, who have turned to the service of Impurax. When Villa asks for more information about this, she explains that priests from the lands of Solinor have been travelling the Quiet Lands, speaking to the tribes, clans and peoples and trying to unite them under the banner of Impurax, their god of filth and decay. They gather waste and filth and have been carting it somewhere far to the east. (Ro remembers that the orcs the group fought previously were found to be carrying bags of offal, filth and faecal matter).

Meanwhile, while Malketh and Kant wait in the fort courtyard, the elf strikes up a conversation with a guard, and asks about Lumug’s wife, learning that Lumug apparently find her while out with a warparty one day. Vertek apparently also found such a woman. The guard has heard stories that such maidens can be found swimming the rivers and streams in the region, but has not found one himself, nor does he believe anyone else has.

Meanwhile, back in the hall, Tannek continues to discuss a possible trade agreement. Ro is crunching numbers, trying to work out what kind of profit they can make. De isn’t particularly interested, partly because he doesn’t especially like these people, partly because there is no XP in it, but I point out that they could potentially earn campaign XP for trading, just like they can for domain management, magic research and similar activities. While De still wasn’t enamoured of the idea in this particular circumstance, that did make it more palatable as an option to keep in mind, and I think the group as a whole was interested to learn that there are rewards for that sort of thing.

It seems that De has never really been exposed to the idea of gods that are worshipped to avert their anger, as opposed to worshipped in the hope of being blessed, and thus Tannek also seeks to understand the nature of Druganushti. Davung explains that if he takes an interest in you, bad things happen, and that the rites to avert his gaze were discovered or developed many generations ago, when Gragen the Wise quested in the mountains and confronted the god in his lair.

On the topic of Impurax, Lumlug says it is believe that the horrid gods followers are building a vast pile of foetid filth somewhere to the west, which the intend to use to summon the god into the world.

Tannek also seeks knowledge of places of interest nearby, and gets quite a bit of information:
  • Clan Manflesh can be found less than a day north-northwest of the village.
  • Due west are a tribe of goblins who call themselves the Grey Wolves.
  • A day or two northwest are the Wagaboo (Tannek doesn’t ask what this means).
  • On the old road to the southwest are the remains of a once mighty city (this is assumed to be a reference to Winterburg).
  • A number of days south-southeast is a wide clearing with a great circle of standing stones (Ro correctly surmises this is not far west of the fort the group camped at previously) and, beyond the stones are the ruins of an even greater city.
  • To the south, about half way to the road, there is a chained giant. Tannek seeks clarification, and is advised there is literally a living giant chained up, and he’s been there for as long as anyone remembers. He apparently claims to have been wrongly cast out of his home. He is clearly cursed in somewhere, but Lumug doesn’t believe anything it says.
Tannek takes an opportunity at one point, when Lumug’s wife is topping up his mug, to have a few quiet words with her. He asks where she is from, and when she says “from the forest,” he suggests she might have come from a lake, and has a knowing glance at the seal skin on display. He indicates that she should come see him during the coming night.

Eventually, Tannek excuses himself to attend to his men, and the PCs head back to where the rest of the party has left. They learn that a couple of men are missing, apparently off fraternising with some local ladies. The party moves to a vacant field not far from the fort, and set up camp.

As they are getting set up, one of the missing mercenaries returns, sans weapon and armour. He advises that his gear was stolen, as was his companions. When his friend attempted to get his stuff back, the fight rapidly escalated, and he was brutally murdered, his face smashed in with a rock.

Villa (sermonising) and Tannek (speaking common sense) both address the group, and advise everyone needs to keep things in their pants and leave the locals alone. However, another mercenary can’t resist the temptation, and is reported missing a bit later.

Malketh, Kant and Villa head of to rescue the disobedient fool, and are able to get directions to the correct house. Based on what La was saying, I was expecting some door-kicking and wild escalation, but common sense prevailed. The older gentleman who answered the door (pimp? father? husband?) was asked point blank by Villa what his soldier had paid to get laid. When he was informed the price was 3sp, he offered the man 10ep to have him thrown out to them immediately. The old due was more than happy to comply, and an embarrassed merc was turfed out, surprisingly enough with most of his gear still in hand.

Kant took his turn addressing the group again. While the hirelings continued to grumble about not being allowed to have any fun, there was an undertone of embarrassment; it was clear they realised the PCs were right. Tannek promised everyone there would be rewards for everyone when they were out of this shithole and back in civilisation.

That night, Lumug’s wife does sneak out to rendezvous with Tennek, and confirms that she is Magrita. The group establishes that she would be more than happy to escape with them, and does not expect the group to get her children out with her. She confirms that Frikken is married to Vitek, and would also leave with them. Apparently, Frikken’s skin is kept by Vitek in a locked trunk.

Tannek wants to know if she has attempted to escape on previous occasions; Magrita explains she could not do so without her skin, and there are always people in the hall.

The group also learned that the two captured selkie men were traded to clan Manflesh in return for iron. I was surprised that no one said anything out loud about the hypocrisy suggested by that behaviour.

Villa wonders how hard and far Lumug is likely to pursue Magrita if she escapes, and she advises as hard and far as it takes, if it is possible to get her back. She actually says something along the lines of right up until the point she has returned to the water, and the group seem to take this to indicate he’ll forget about it once she’s back in the lake.

The group has not a single thief, no sneaky magic, and the only remotely sneaky character is Aldavel, who is not currently of any use as Tr is absent.

Da is becoming annoyed and frustrated with the session, because the obstacles seem insurmountable, and he hates failing to make forward progress over an extended period. He is leaning towards having the group cut their losses.

Ro decides to tally up the group’s resources and see what might come in handy. In doing so, it comes to his attention that they have three potions of gaseous form that they pulled out of Dwimmermount some time ago.

A plan begins to form.

First, the group is going to approach Vitek in the morning and propose to buy his wife from him. They can’t come up with any other way of rescuing Frikken; Tannek does tentatively suggest tricking him into drinking a potion of gaseous form and grabbing his wife while he is unable to do anything to them, but this is set aside as a possible desperation move.

Meanwhile, whether the manage to grab Frikken or not, Magrita will be given one of the potions. She will ply all the feasting and drinking warriors with as much alcohol as she can and, when they sleep, with grab her skin. First, however, she will pour the potion into a bowl, so that she can don the skin, return to seal form, drink the potion and drift down to the group.

No one is completely confident, but it seems like a workable plan, and they decide to proceed. Magrita sneaks back into the fort.

Early the next morning, the PCs head to Vitek to make an offer on his wife. The find him stoking a large, outdoor kiln, and surmise he is the local potter. When he turns to greet them, they see has two large, deep vertical scars on his face, starting just below his eyes and running down his cheeks. They have seen similar on some other locals, and guess that it might indicate membership in some special group or society. They are correct – Vitek is one of the berserkers.

Tannek gets straight to the point, offering a steel axe, a Thulian crossbow and 400gp for Frikken. Vitek isn’t impressed with Tannek at all, but it is a lot of money. He will accept the deal, but he also wants one of Tannek’s hands.

Tannek counters by offering an extra 100gp instead of his hand. Vitek contends that a hand is worth more than 100gp, but will accept the extra hundred plus a finger. Tannek is about to refuse, but Kant speaks up and offers his own finger. The dwarf is somewhat troubled by the fact that, after his incident with the spider (some claim he died, he’s confident he was just in a very deep sleep) he awoke with his finger regrown. Now that he thinks about it, maybe the reason he is having disturbed sleep is that his finger doesn’t belong there.

Vitek accepts but, since Tannek is the one buying Frikken, but not the one providing the finger, another 100gp is required. Tannek agrees, and the deal is struck.

I’m not sure why De waited until this moment to do so, but Tannek now mentions the seal skin and, naturally, Vitek advises it was not part of the sale.

Back to square one, bargaining for the skin. Vitek wants 100gp and one of Tannek’s hands. As negotiations continue, we did hear the classic lines, “everybody gets to keep their fingers” and, even better, “no fingers need to change hands.”

There is a bit of an impasse though, as Kant isn’t willing to give up any more digits. However, when Vitek says, “flesh must pay for flesh,” one of the players (I don’t recall who) has a moment of epiphany and offers a horse instead. Vitek accepts. In the end, the deal is Frikken and her skin for 800gp, a steel battle axe, a Thulian crossbow, one of Kant’s fingers and Tannek’s horse.

Kant goes to fetch the horse and, on returning, proffers his finger. Vitek is eager to remove it, and Kant somewhat upset that Vitek is using what used to be Kant’s own spare axe to do it. Surprisingly, can’t doesn’t express any fear that Vitek may “accidentally” take of his entire hand, but the blow is clean. Vitek admires the severed finger, and raises it to his lips, giving the bleeding end a kiss.

Then he wanders over to his new horse, asking Tannek to hold the reigns while had admires it and caringly strokes its neck. Then, there is a moment of shock and horror as Vitek steps back and takes a powerful overhead swing into the steed’s neck and continuing to hack wildly as the horse screams, rears and then topples. Tannek backs quickly away, lest the crazed blows strike him. Vitek is clearly loving the moment and, when the horse’s head has been severed, he raises his arms, looking up and shaking his axe at the sky, crying out in obvious ecstasy, “Look upon me Druganushti! I do not fear you!”

After the moment passes, Tannek politely reminds him about his side of the arrangement, and he sends Frikken out, as well as fetching her skin, which has some fresh, bloody handprints on it when it’s handed over.
 
Last edited:

Sable Wyvern

Legendary Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2021
Messages
194
Reaction score
554
It was a galvanising moment for the group, and I have to admit I was feeling pretty satisfied with myself as they spent the next ten minutes discussing how very much they hate and despise this entire town with it’s fucked up people and their fucked up behaviour and they are absolutely making it their mission to come back here one day, raze the place and build their own fucking castle on this spot.

As the group is back at their camp, making plans to move out that night, a man approaches, with his wife (experienced) and daughter (obedient and virginal), who has heard that these foreigners are willing to pay hell of a lot of money for wives. Tannek quite firmly advises the man that one wife is sufficient for him, and those under his command are not currently allowed to take wives for themselves. The man leaves, and is seen to be having an animated conversation someone else who looked like they may also have had the same idea. The group is relived that the second man turns around, and doesn’t also approach to make his pitch.

There is more idle grumbling from the men that they’re missing out on opportunities to buy themselves women. Tannek lets them know there will be hefty bonuses paid when they return to civilisation, and they will also go to High Sonderberg, where he will pay for them to be entertained by the Ishannic temple prostitutes. This caused some cheer.

Tannek gets called to the hall, where Lumug is again feasting and drinking with his chosen men. Clearly, it is good to be king. Lumug has seen Vitek’s Thulian crossbow, and is interested to know if Tannek can get them thirty. He is disappointed to learn this is not possible. Tannek informs Lumug they will be leaving on the morrow, and Lumug instructs Davung to prepare sacrifices. Tannek quickly assures everyone that this will not be necessary, and that no one else should die on his account. Davung assures Tannek there will only be animal sacrifices. Tannek still doesn’t like this, but doesn’t object too strongly, as they plan to disappear in the night anyway.

The party heads down from the hill during the day, and re-establishes their camp just outside town, ostensibly so they can be ready to move bright and early in the morning. Around midnight, they break camp and stand ready to depart; fortunately, the steady rain of the last few days has cleared up by this time and, though it’s freezing, at least they’re mostly dry. It has been decided that, after this expedition, they won’t be back in the wilderness until Spring.

At some stage in the morning, still long before down, a strange misty form appears among them. It had been decided to put Magrita in a sack to help the group at a brisker pace, but they had forgotten to ever mention this to her. I have no doubt Magrita was deeply troubled when she was told this was what they wanted, but it’s not if she had much choice at this point, so in the bag she went.

The group set of west to throw off pursuit, then turned south. Between the initial darkness and the hustling pace, their guide had them drifting eastward, and there was some concern when there was no sign of the lack by midday.

With Magrita out of the bag and back in human form, the group asked their selkies for advice and, though they hadn’t been out this way in years, they were able to suggest heading west, and the lake was soon found.

The ladies were overjoyed to don their cloaks and slip into the lake, where they playfully splashed around for a while before disappearing.

About half an hour later, a group of selkies in human form approach, praising and thanking the PCs for their noble efforts. One of them gestures the group to stand aside, then raises a conch shell to his lips and blows it. A great note issued forth, causing trees to sway and branches to snap and break, underbrush being cast about. Thus demonstrating it’s power, the magical conch (horn of blasting) was offered to the group as a reward, and they were not displeased.

I was a little iffy about going with a horn of blasting when first putting this little thing together, but I honestly didn’t expect the players to rescue both selkies, and decided that if they’re good enough to do it, they’ve earned something nice. Despite its power, the item isn’t exactly subtle, so they’re not going to be able to use it willy-nilly without consequences.

The session finished up there, with the selkies agreeing they would lead the group to the temple they were seeking.

* ** **** ** *​

One of my big takeaways from this session is that I now have a much better grasp on Da as a player. I have long known he has a tendency to get frustrated with extended planning and “talky sessions”. However, what I now understand is that it’s not the planning and long discussions with NPCs that annoys him, it’s doing all those things and then having nothing to show for it. Having rescued the girls, won a reward and developed a healthy antagonism and disgust with the town and its people, the session flipped for him from being one of frustration to one that was fun and highly memorable.

The group as a whole has gone through periods in the past where making decisions was difficult; I think they’re well and truly past that now and I suspect that if Da starts to realise that things are likely to keep progressing meaningfully forward more often than not, he will find a lot more enjoyment in things that have frustrated him in the past.

As mentioned, I’m also very happy with the visceral disgust and hatred emerging from the players. I didn’t really have a solid idea what the town was like before the PCs got there, I was just winging it with the knowledge that the residents were chaotic and violent. To some extent, I think it may have been a bit subconsciously jarring to the players that their characters were actually being treated fairly well; for the most part, no one was trying to intimidate or belittle them, Tannek was actually being feted, and the violence and backwards attitudes were predominantly carried out quite casually.

In twenty or thirty sessions, they may have other things of more interest to them, but I do love how invested the players have become in this current hatred.

It may also depend on whether or not Lumug catches up to them and escalates the animosity …


Obituary
  • Malgath, Level 1 Elven Spellsword, slain by orcs, session two.
  • Hektor, Level 1 Paladin, slain by orcs, session two.
  • Balfur, Level 1 Dwarven Vaultguard, suffered orcish spear to the knee and retired, session three.
  • Grendel, Level 1 Fighter, slain by orcs, session three.
  • Obsidian Gemcutter, Level 1 Dwarven Craftpriest, consumed by green slime, session six.
  • Malok (aka Maldek) the Unencumbered, Level 2 Mage, poisoned and carotid severed by giant black widow, session nine.
  • Karl, Level 1 Barbarian henchman, poisoned by a giant crab spider, session twelve.
 

Sable Wyvern

Legendary Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2021
Messages
194
Reaction score
554

Session 16​

July 23 2022

Pre-session discussion and random musings
Basically nothing done between sessions.

The actual session
  • De: Tannek the Defender, Level 3 Lawful Paladin
  • Da: Kant the Vindicator, Level 4 Neutral Dwarven Fury
  • La: Villa the Acolyte, Level 2 Lawful Cleric
  • Ro: Malketh the Warrior-Seer, Level 2 Neutral Elven Spellsword
Having been pushing hard all day in the hope of outdistancing any pursuit, the group decides to set up camp before the seal people lead guide them to the temple, about four or five miles away. Someone was smart enough to ask for advice from the selkies regarding a secure location to rest, and they’re shown to a secluded gully where low fires will be hidden from sight.

Sometime early in the morning, noises are heard in the distance, and Malketh sneaks up to see what’s going on. He guesstimates about 20 – 30 people are making their way through the area by torchlight, but it doesn’t look like they are any chance of spotting the PCs. The group wisely decides to let them pass.

Lumug’s hunting party had actually lost the trail, but he had his anti-cleric with him, and a commune kept them going in the right general direction. Fortunately, the PCs had never mentioned the temple to Lumug or his people, so this was a close as Lumug ended up getting to them.

There is steady, light snow through the night, and light coating over the ground as the group heads south for the temple in the morning. The PCs seem glad to be nearing the end of their expedition as winter fast approaches.

Making good time, the selkies lead the group to an overgrown temple set against the side of the hill. Steps lead to a colonnaded platform about 250 feet across. One of my players took a photo of my quick whiteboard sketch, so I might as well add it in here:

YLooZ6G8FluqiGek-c4_G2N3xGp_4tnBZKD-5xKc_r37tnGvUVgswRUEyGLYRR4TfldOBlqdnsgxzB1f3zpAxVyDwyMPrc6LfzFITIZuueq3e6GC-xQOlx7RrD7Z3Jos39J-x8vPHSRJzhVyigAQ4iY


The main entrance appears to face east, but the group circles around to the south, leaving their hirelings to establish a camp in a nearby field while they approach. Climbing the stairs, they find an archway leading inside to the temple proper, with a single, large room seeming to take up a considerable amount of the interior. From what they can see, it is overgrown, filled with detritus, and debris.

The group has also spotted what appears to be a hole on the roof where the temple abuts the hill, accessible by a steep but manageable climb up the slope. Villa is eager to investigate, and climbs up. He throws a torch down, illuminating another rubble-strewn room. He then hears something that sounds like rock scraping rapidly back and forth over rock, and scrambles hastily down.

He arrives back with the group as a strange, cigar-shaped arachnoid creature (a giant rhagodessa) emerges from the hole in pursuit. The group is able to hold it at bay, and Kant chops it down with two great swings of his axe.

Villa heads back up, but when he hears the same grinding sound again as he approaches the hole, feels exposed and scared and rapidly heads back down.

Malketh decides this is a good time to try out the conch shell, and heads up. He, too, hears an occasional grinding sound, and he waits until about thirty seconds of silence passes, then blows the horn.

As it sounds, down into the hole, a great plume of dust and debris is ejected from the hole, into Malketh’s face. He stumbles back, but passes a save vs paralysis, and does not come tumbling down the hillside. Instead, he heads back down to form up with the group and see what happens. Shortly, four more angry rhagodessas, clearly somewhat worse for wear, and covered in dust, emerge, and end up charging down at the group. They are all cut down while the PCs barely break a sweat.

Heading into the temple proper via the main entrance, the group finds a couple of libraries. While most of the books within are decayed and useless, they find a number of philosophical treatises and scroll cases still in reasonable condition, and take them outside.

Further exploration of the main hall reveals a large statue of a winged angelic being, and also results in the bones scattered about the floor rising up as skeletons. Villa turns half of them, while the rest are despatched in melee. The group then waits for the turned skeletons to return … but they don’t.

At this point, the temple was clear of threats and, as the group was heading away from the treasure room, I let them know they were able to clear the whole thing, rather than walking through room by room for the next hour. In a couple of storage rooms were statuary, coins, gems and bulk valuables they estimated to be worth about 10,000gp.

There were also a handful of gems in the rhagodessa lair, which I was considering lost in the conch blast. However, the group had decided the grinding sounds were secret doors or some kind of contraption (they were actually rhagodessa noises), and spent some time and effort studying the room for secrets, so I had them find about half of them. The group then realised some gems may have been blown out the hole during the blast, so they made their way up to start scouring the hillside.

While doing so, a pair of ogres emerged from the trees and called out. The group was eager to keep testing the conch, so Kant immediately started insulting them and calling them out. The group was quite surprised when the ogres said they didn’t want any trouble, and headed back into the woods.

The group gave up the gem search, and hurried down to get their hirelings ready, in case the ogres came back with reinforcements, but they were not seen again. The entire group was moved into the protection of the temple to camp until the morrow.

Ro, who has been doing an absolutely brilliant job with the mapping and maintaining an excellent idea of the groups’ position relative to know landmarks, indicated they could try heading due west through the mountains, back to Winterburg, or head south to the old road and then follow it back. It was quickly decided that trying to strike out into uncharted mountains was unwise, so the next morning they headed south the road, their remaining horses loaded with spoils.

Along the way, the group came across some dire wolves, and they were again eager to put their conch shell to use. This fight wasn’t as easy as their last dire wolf slaughter, though. Marketh did employ the conch against two flankers effectively, but didn’t manage to kill them, and the wolves ended up on among the group. Tannek did a good job helping steel the resolve of the hirelings, who probably would have broke and run without his leadership; instead the infantry helped hold the line, even one of their number went down.

In the end, Villa was reduced to 0 hp, but prompt aid from Tannek and an excellent roll saw him survive relatively unscathed, and one mercenary suffered some serious injuries, but survived after either Tannek or Malketh insisted on using a healing potion to aid him (I have noted that De definitely took the lessons learned from my AD&D game to heart, and is extremely studious about caring for the hirelings).

Having seen the conch shell used in various situations, at this point I let the group know that it was doing 2d6 damage to all in the area of effect. I think some of them were a little disappointed, even after I pointed out to them that this is more than enough damage to easily kill almost all normal humans. I think they’ll get plenty of use out of it though, and will probably appreciate it more when they start to realise that even powerful monsters aren’t generally going to have huge sacks of hit points.

As the trek home continued, Grook the navigator got some poor rolls, and the drifted east, but this become obvious as they left the hills, and it was easy enough to adjust westward. Soon enough, they were back on the trail.

There were no further incidents on the way back to Winterburg, but as the approached the ruins, they saw the old walls manned by soldiers, and a blue and green flag flying. The guards hailed the group, welcoming them in and seeking tales of their adventures in the Ostwood.

It turned out a Sir Elvridge was in town, with over 100 soldiers and other retainers, seeking to rebuild the ruins and carve out a territory. The PCs tell him tales of their recent exploits, and Sir Elvridge asks if they know anything of the troglodytes not far to the east, advising that he wants their lair destroyed, and will pay a bounty of 20gp per troglodyte head (or pair of ears). The group is in no rush to head back east, but apparently Sir Elvridge is in no rush to clear it himself, so the offer may stand for a while.

As the group relaxes over dinner and some ale, Elvridge tells them he made his fortune in Stonehell, and spends some time recounting his experiences there. First, he fills them in on the history of the place, how an ancient ruler sent thousands of prisoners to be worked to the death digging for azoth-infused ore and that, when this lord was overthrown and others came to free the prisoners, they were found to be barely human any more, and it is said their descendants are still there, digging ever deeper, to this day.

Elvridge talks about delving as far down as the sixth or seventh level, finding dark and terrible things, and ominous, smothering sense of evil emanating from the depths. Still, he returned again and again, even though he felt his mind being eroded by the wrongness of the place, until one day he met a man who had been down into the furthest depths, and spoke of even more terrible and mind-shattering horrors that lurked below, of a vast, bottomless chasm in which dwells ultimate evil, a foul god that is anathema to Life. Hearing these things, Elvridge lost his appetite to continue delving deeper, and decided it was time instead to set himself to reclaiming his family lands (he apparently has some tenuous connection to a former lord or Winterburg).

During the discussion, the group learned about demon boars (corpulent, demonic wereboars fond of gluttony, sloth and all manner of vices). Someone mentioned “clearing” Stonehell, and Elvridge pointed out it is not a place that can be cleared; he doesn’t even believe you could conquer or clear it with an army. It can, at best, be contained, so that it’s evils do not spill forth into the world. When Malketh asked about powerful magic items suitable for a man of Elvridge’s stature, he showed off his sword, Trollkin, with a blade of steel so brilliantly polished that it looked nearly white. Made with the blood of trolls, and designed to slay all manner of giant-kind. Elvridge, at this point, mentioned having slain a fire giant while in Stonehell.

The group definitely found the discussion interesting, and while they may never actually head to Stonehell, I’ve got some nice flavour already percolating in their imagination if they do. Malketh did not get much sleep that night; instead, he spent his time paranoidly watchful, wondering about a man who talked about the way Stonehell ate away at his sanity, yet kept going back in again, and again.

When morning arrived without any bloody betrayals by mad lords, the group set off, and made it back to Muntburg without incident. The initial outlay for the expedition was about $1,000gp, and they came home with $16,000gp and a conch of blasting, so the endeavour is considered a grand success. They also found about another 13,000gp waiting for them in Muntburg, from the sale of the amulet of protection. Lots of level-ups follow. The group heads to High Sonderberg, the mercenaries all get a 100gp bonus, and Tannek arranges a bacchanalia for them at 50gp a head. Quite a few hirelings were lost, but the survivors won’t be speaking ill of the PCs.

De has been pretty keen to take on an explorer henchman, and convinced Grook to take the position.

I believe they will likely be back to Mazen Kurz next session, after some more recruiting and study.
 

Sable Wyvern

Legendary Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2021
Messages
194
Reaction score
554
Player map of the temple (just the main chamber and libraries, the rest wasn't mapped).
rBBHQTvLT4GalxdoajHol3UPu_V_9UcogpClFkDJ9Fu3BxuwTwFbpB963JfkDBb7Pn2wMK7VBefLp0QZ_QG8HnMGbTG7dsZinGIPtZfLm39ZBL_epDVRWN5uWnqPj6gnV2qbDi6RMzA1zIjKwBEZNgw


Players' final wilderness map
1659003084738.png
 

Sable Wyvern

Legendary Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2021
Messages
194
Reaction score
554
GM's Wilderness Map, With PC Route Marked
  1. Red: Initial route along old road to old fort
  2. Blue: Scouting party to find Fingers of Stone (out and back)
  3. Brown: Search for the lake, then for the village of the Cruel Ones, doubling back after reaching the river.
  4. Orange: Flight from the cruel ones to the lake, then to the temple and finally back to the road.

There is, self-evidently, lots of Wilderness left.

Wilderness Explored.jpg
 

Sable Wyvern

Legendary Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2021
Messages
194
Reaction score
554
I thought I should add some general thoughts on hexcrawling, with the first expedition done and dusted.

Overall, everything worked as well, or better, than I had hoped. I believe Ro enjoyed doing the real world mapping/navigation, and his skill at doing so made life a lot easier for the players than it might have been.

The group was able to follow a road for most of the way, but the segments where they were required to locate landmarks worked well as well. The Alexandrian system is built for 12 mile hexes, whereas I'm using 6 mile hexes, which means finding a specific landmark is harder, as the area in which you are able to find it is much smaller. However, that's probably not unrealistic, and thanks to Ro's expert orienteering, the group was able to make smart decisions about when to stop and search, or to change direction. I was leaning towards making some adjustments to make it easier to spot landmarks/location encounters, but a discussion on reddit has convinced me to let things ride for a while.

The group was lucky that the failed navigation checks only occurred were when they were on the home stretch, covering known territory, and it was easy enough to spot the error and adjust. With a skilled navigator, it's going to be rare to get lost, but it is going to happen from time to time if you're out long enough.

I was a little concerned that the group would be able to cross half of the above map in session or two, and a few days game time, but those fears have been averted. The relatively small area they covered took up four sessions and a month of game time.

The bottom line is, I'm very happy with the system, and I feel it really does go a long way to created a sense of exploration. So, a big kudos to Justin Alexander.
 
Cthulhu Mythos - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com
Top