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Players' Dwimmermount Hall of Portals Map

Includes Malketh's path out. Sections in red were done with no access to light. For the sections in orange, he had a torch, but still no access to the map. Ro remembered everything, down to how the secret doors were activated, without any prompts from anyone else.

View attachment 65073
That’s awesome. It’s always a great feeling when you thought the players were “paying attention,” but it turns out they were actually PAYING ATTENTION.
 

Session 30

8 April 2023

The Actual Session
  • De: Tannek the Guardian, Level 5 Lawful Paladin
    • Grook the Forester, Level 3 Neutral Explorer
    • Balrite the Defender, Level 3 Lawful Paladin
    • Pherrod the Warrior, Level 2 Neutral Fighter
    • Uthred the Warrior, Level 2 Lawful Destined Fighter
  • Tr: Gregor the Drunken Hero, Level 4 Neutral Fighter
    • Samuel the Seer, Level 2 Neutral Sylvan Witch
    • Barlim the Man-at-Arms, Level 1 Neutral Fighter
  • La: Arravis the Magician, Level 4 Lawful Mage
    • Mattius the Scrounger, Level 1 Neutral Freebooter-Expeditionary
    • Veruka the Maiden of the Sword, Level 1 Lawful Warmistress
  • Jo: Hoik the Undertrekker, Level 4 Lawful Dwarven Delver
    • Cornan the Man-at-Arms, Level 1 Lawful Fighter
  • Ro: Malketh the Magician-Hero, Level 4 Neutral Elven Spellsword
    • Dashiel the Arcanist, Level 1 Neutral Mage

Not long after Malketh had made his way back to Bergensdorf to let his companions know was alive and well, Tannek finds himself being summoned to present himself to the Duke. The paladin gathers his companions, and they are escorted to the palace, where they are offered food and drink, before his grace, the Duke of Bergensdorf joins them, and let’s the party know that they have come to his attention, for various reasons.

He then asks them to detail their explorations of Dwimmermount, and especially their encounters with the Red Elves. During their tale, mention is made of Mazen Kurz, and the fact that they spend enjoying the hospitality of Baron Nogorov. The Duke becomes especially attentive when he learns that the group believes they have access to Dwimmermount via Mazen Kurz, as the latter lies within his own demesne.

The Duke comments that it is unfortunate that the Baron Nogorov’s loyalties lie with the rabble-rousing eastern lords, and it is disappointing in general that the lords of the realm are fighting among themselves (he doesn’t specifically mention his daughter’s assassination) during these troubling times when other foes are rising – now to include the troubling news that the Eld are returning to the lands.

Malketh explains that the group does not currently know much about the Eld or what they are doing, although they have learned, based on the astrological markings they copied down and some study that was done on them, that a conjunction 18 months ago, which seems to have coincided with the Red Doors opening, also opened a portal between Dwimmermount and Areon.

The duke charges the group to gather as much information as they can about the Eld, and would like confirmation that the passage from Mazen Kurz is definitely taking the group to Dwimmermount, as having direct access to the ancient stronghold could be of great strategic significance.

Gregor rudely pipes up and asks how they are going to be rewarded for this work, and the Duke indicates that he plans to grant Tannek the Barony of Estereich, on the border of Sonderburg, which is currently being overseen by a regent, after it’s previous ruler was executed for his part in the plot against the Duke.

Tannek would be swearing fealty to the Viscount of Grunerpalast, a cowardly sort, who chose to take no sides in the recent conflict, but it is made clear that the Duke expects Tannek’s loyalty will be to him. It is also mentioned that if the Duke is pleased, Tannek may be elevated to Viscount of Zwegenfelsen, where he would have authority over Mazen Kurz.

Tannek agrees to all this without hesitation. Over the next few days, he is sworn in, and tours his new demesne, getting the sense that the locals are please to have him as their new lord. He also tries to recruit a cleric or priestess henchman, but fails.

* ** **** ** *​

The group sets back off to Mazen Kurz, intent on gathering more information on the Eld as requested by the Duke.

They start by heading for the place where they first encountered Eld and bugbears. Nearby, they find scenes of more combat, including bugbear corpses, killed by crossbows. They find a circular staircase ascending, which takes them up to a circular chamber, with two exits barred by heavy portcullises they are unable to shift.

Returning downstairs, they head for where the large group of eld were gathered, and discover a areonite door with a glass circle, half white and half black. Dashiel believes this is the astrological symbol for the moon, Ioun. Beyond the door is a round chamber, in the middle of which is a dais with an archway upon it. The arcane symbols carves into the arch suggest to Malketh that this is a place of teleportation or transit, and it may be from here that the Eld are entering our world. However, if it is a portal, it appears dormant now.

At this stage, the group decides to return to the painting room, and re-examine the painting that didn’t suck anyone in. Malketh believes it shows the world of Telluria (ie, the gameworld) floating with the astral void, and the group cuts the canvas out of the frame to take it with them.

The group finds more crystal pears, and harvests them on the way through to a room with tennis ball-sized worlds floating above seven pillars. These are the seven worlds (Telluria, Areon, Kythirea, Ioun, Kron, Dwo and the Sun). The planets appear to be physical objects, not projections; skilfully painted, cold to the touch and resistant to being moved, but with a slightly soft, delicate, metallic surfaces. The group decides to leave them alone.

They are ambushed by shadows, but Samuel’s protection from evil keeps them at bay. However, when the shadows withdraw, the group needs to leave the protection to destroy them, and a few members of the group suffer some strength loss at their chill touch.

Further exploration leads to the discovery of a map that apparently leads to a dwarven vault, and some stairs leading up. The group heads up mostly in an effort to find some kind of definitive confirmation they’re in Dwimmermount.

The group are, indeed, back on the Laboratory level of Dwimmermount, where the gnolls have taken over after the PCs slaughtered most of their orcish enemies for them. The party comes across a few groups of gnolls, also discovering a complex and wondrous orrery encased in a clear vitirium sphere.

They unlock some kind of control box at floor level, and Malketh pulls out a strange vitrium cylinder, mostly empty but with filmy markings on the inside of the glass.

Eventually, the find familiar territory, and are now certain they’re in Dwimmermount. They also end up engaged in a running battle with gnolls that initially plays out in a remarkably similar fashion to the first time they went through and faced orcs, including the initial rout of the enemy and then pursuing until they’re in a position to be surrounded and outflanked.

Samuel ends up taking an arrow to the neck, as they’re ambushed by gnolls lying wait, and his spine is severed.

The group withdraws, back to a locked hatch that they’ve been talking about revisiting for some time, and since they’re planning to leave, they use up and another spell slot to cast knock and find out what’s on the other side. They are disappointed to discover there is nothing within but an empty jail cell.

On the way back through Mazen Kurz, Malketh uses the conch of blasting to deal with some bugs, and in the process triggers an explosion of spores from the compost-smelling, viny growth growing out of a well near the entrance. They’ve been very careful of this coming and going, and now have some confirmation it is potentially dangerous. Malketh conjures a gust of wind to blow the spores away, and they make it out, battered and bruised.

Samuel is healed of his crippling injury, but the restoration of life and limb comes at a high cost this time, and he has his sight taken from him. As one might expect, he chooses to retire from adventuring.

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.
  • Gilbryn, Level 1 Mage henchman, leg injury leads to introspection and a decision to give up adventuring, session twenty one.
  • Bortal, Level 2 Thief henchman, turned to charcoal by mummy’s flamestrike, session twenty five.
  • Sircini, Level 2 Priestess henchman, arm turned to charred stump by mummy’s flamestrike, died of wounds, raised, chose to retire from adventuring and serve in the temple, session twenty five.
  • Waramayl, Level 4 Mystic, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Aldavel, Level 4 Nightblade, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Villa, Level 4 Cleric, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Cyril, Level 4 Cleric, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Kant, Level 5 Dwarven Fury, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Ledrick, Level 2 Freighter henchman, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Linzinia, Level 1 Warmistress henchman, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Tatiana, Level 1 Warmistress henchman, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Wurzel, Level 0 henchman, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Samuel, Level 2 Witch henchman, spine severed by gnoll arrow, healing cost him his sight, retired, session thirty.
 
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Love this. Subscribed.

ACK is very much my go-to D&D system now. I flirted with OSE, as its such a well put together version of B/X but it retains a lot of the elements I found annoying about the original versions. I much prefer Adventurer Conqueror King as its taken that feel and improved it. I also love the ACKnowledged shift in focus as PCs progress.
 
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Session 31

22 April 2023

The Actual Session
  • De: Tannek the Guardian, Level 5 Lawful Paladin
    • Grook the Forester, Level 3 Neutral Explorer
    • Balrite the Defender, Level 3 Lawful Paladin
    • Pherrod the Warrior, Level 2 Neutral Fighter
    • Uthred the Warrior, Level 2 Lawful Destined Fighter
  • Tr: Gregor the Drunken Hero, Level 4 Neutral Fighter
    • Barlim the Man-at-Arms, Level 1 Neutral Fighter
  • La: Arravis the Magician, Level 4 Lawful Mage
    • Mattius the Scrounger, Level 1 Neutral Freebooter-Expeditionary
    • Veruka the Maiden of the Sword, Level 1 Lawful Warmistress
  • Jo: Hoik the Undertrekker, Level 4 Lawful Dwarven Delver
    • Cornan the Man-at-Arms, Level 1 Lawful Fighter
  • Ro: Malketh the Magician-Hero, Level 4 Neutral Elven Spellsword
    • Dashiel the Arcanist, Level 1 Neutral Mage
While back in town, Malketh spends some time speaking to a sage, asking specifically about the warning uttered by the statue: “Depart those of impure blood, you are not welcome here. Those who linger will feed Nasga.” The sage advises that Nasga is a relatively well-known demon prince or Cthonic god and, while it is unlikely this statue can actually summon Nasga, the Eld were certainly known to consort with such entities.

In the course of the discussion, Malketh also learns that any parts of Dwimmermount below the third level will be the workings of the Ancients, and that the Eld and Thulians limited their expansions to the higher regions.

It was decided by the party to follow the lead provided by the treasure map found last session, as they had been able to determine that it pointed to a reasonably easy-to-access location just within the borders of Onderlach, and only a few days travel away.

I had known this was a possibility, but had considered it unlikely the group would head this way, so I wasn’t thoroughly prepped for this. However, between sessions I had eyeballed one of the modular maps from Stonehell (since it was fairly clear the group was unlikely to ever head to Stonehell itself) and had it ready in my back pocket. Fortunately, I noticed at the last moment that this particular section was keyed with extra-tough trolls that exceeded the danger level I was looking for, so I downgraded their threat level on-the-fly by simply dropping their hit dice and damage a little, and reskinning them as mutated, regenerating chaos ogres, instead of mutated chaos trolls as original written.

In the village of Haxenford, near the supposed vault on the map, the group speak to the local lord, who tells them about local tales of an old dwarven mine, cursed and sealed in the distant past. Within the last few years, an adventuring group headed that way to explore, and didn’t return. The locals stay away from the area, claiming evil lurks within and thereabouts.

The mine entrance, set into the side of a cliff, does indeed show signs of having been sealed, with dwarven warnings inscribed, suggesting that great evil was found here, and the wise should not allow greed to overcome their common sense. However, the door has already been broken down, and the group chooses not to heed the warnings.

There is a pungent stench emanating from within, a mix of wet, dirty fur and death. There are also signs of traffic in and out, clawed feet, somewhat reminiscent of the feet of trolls they’ve encountered in the past, albeit smaller.

Heading in, the strong odour of excrement joins the wonderful medley of scents. They soon find a muddy pond with a layer of scum. There are indications the clawed feet approach the pond, possibly to drink.

Deeper within, the group finds a group of juvenile mutant chaos ogres, twisted creatures about the size of bugbears, passing a cask around. The leap to their feet as the party enters. Malketh attempts to engage them in dialogue, but either they don’t understand or don’t care, and combat is joined. The creatures fall quickly.

Deeper into the mine, Hoik discovers a hidden doorway, that opens onto a vault with a large number of gold ingots. The group spends some time worrying that this all seems to easy (when, in fact, they just happen to have navigated directly to the location where I placed the treasure haul stipulated by the map). As the prevaricate, a group of larger mutant chaos ogres arrive, these ones a cobalt blue in colour. This battle is harder, and the creatures are regenerating their wounds, even when hacked to pieces or burned. With the help of summoned berserkers, the vault is cleared out, while other party members continue to hack away at the monsters to stop them rising back up.

The group decides to count a win as a win, and immediately heads back to civilisation with their haul; they do not want to press on deeper and risk ending up in a situation where they are fighting large numbers of these regenerating monstrosities that just won’t die. They take a monstrous hand with them for further investigation, hoping to find a way of combating the regenerative ability.

The hand turns out to regenerate significantly over the course of a day, and a permanent watch is arranged, including a party member to burn away regrown flesh at regular intervals overnight. The spend some time in Bergensdorf, where they hand the hand over to another mage for investigation; it turns out that it does not regenerate damage inflicted by silver; the group files this information away for possible later use.

* ** **** ** *​

Emboldened by the fact that the Eld statue threat seems a little over-the-top, and wondering if it might be all bark and little or no bite, the group decides to return to Mazen Kurz and investigate further.

Still, they’re not willing to just wander in and see what happens. After some brief deliberation, it’s decided to summon some berserkers, send them in with orders to fuck shit up, and quickly slam the door closed behind them.

This results in bloodthirsty battle cries rapidly turning to screams of pain. The door is cracked open far enough for the group to see the statues moving, and molten rock streaming from the fingers of one of them, to obliterate the head of the final berserker. The door is rapidly closed.

This sobering display does leave the group less convinced they can survive the room, but more convinced there’s something there worth having. Eventually, Hoik decides he’s going to sneak in, with help from one of Malketh’s invisibility spells.

The dwarven delver does manage to sneak around the statues without alerting them to his presence, and finds a small shrine at the far side of the room. Unfortunately, the haul is pitiful – a goblet worth around 100gp, and some coloured stones.

From there, the group heads back through the portal to Dwimmermount, continuing their exploration of the Hall of Portals (which I just now realise is actually the House of Portals). The party finds a room with a couple of large unlit braziers, and Gregor lights one. Shortly after he’s done so, three carrion crawlers wander in, and the party despatches them with ease.

I point out that this is the exact same encounter that resulted in a TPK. I feel somewhat validated the original TPK was far from inevitable, and that the group was clearly quite capable of handling the encounter; it was just a day where the dice gods were against them (in the TPK encounter they were surprised and lost initiative every round, apart from anything else that went wrong).

In any case, as the crawlers are in their death throes, a fire elemental appears in the middle of the room. Malketh tries to communicate with it in Eldritch, but it clearly intent on incinerating them. The party begins to withdraw, but it is clear the creature is faster than them, and their forced to fight. Fortunately, it falls fairly quickly to the group’s magic weapons, doing only limited damage.

Further along, as the group opens a door, they are challenged by a voice speaking strangely accented Thulian, “Who goes there?” Malketh prompts Tannek to respond in his lordly capacity, and Tannek advises that it is “Lord Tannke and his followers.”

“Lord Tannek? In service to the Empire?” the voice queries.

“In service to the Duchy,” Tannek advised.

The party is bade to approach, and they enter the room to find eight soldiers in somewhat strange armour and uniforms, defending a barricade of furniture. Malketh steps forward to speak, and suddenly they are brandishing crossbows and demanding he “HALT! ELD!”

Malketh, wearing captured Areonite panoply, gestures to his armour and says, “We are no friends of the Eld, but they make good armour.”

“Nevertheless, you are an elf.” Turning to Tannek, the spokesman frowns, “You let an elf speak for you?”

Malketh, who either can’t take a hint, or doesn’t care, continues, “We hunt the Eld.”

In the ensuing conversation, with Sergeant Herxes, it is determined that these soldiers believe they represent the true Thulian Empire, one that continues in service to Law, and which was not corrupted by Termax and his witches. They have access to a portal from their land, which leads to Dwimmermount, and which only relatively recently reopened.

Tannek asks to see this portal, and the Sergeant has two of his soldiers escort the group to a nearby chamber, where there are another dozen soldiers, and they are introduced to Praetor Opilio of Volmar, in service to Mavors, and in command of the current expedition. Tannek introduces himself as Baron Tannek, in service to the Duke of Bergensdorf.

The Praetor is interested in what the group knows about the state of Dwimmermount, and the world beyond. The group explains that Dwimmermount was closed the Termaxians fell about 250 years ago, that the Thulian gods are no longer, and that now the people follow Solinor and Ishannah, gods of Law. The lands are now known as the Thousand Principalities, with many small independent nations and city states that have risen to replace the Termaxian empire. Tannek also advises that they are just a group of adventurers seeking to learn more about the Eld, and where they are coming from.

For his part, the Praetor is from Volmar, a land far to the south that was a Thulian colony, and then became the seat of power of the true Empire after the Termaxian coup. The Praetor advised the party that the ambitions of the Eld are clear and simple – they seek to regain control of Dwimmermount, and hence authority over all of the lands. As the Thulian Empire are the rightful owners of Dwimmermount, he encourages the group to align themselves with him if they are true servants of Law as they appear. He also makes it clear that the Empire does not need the permission of these local princes to resume their rule. The group have mentioned that they are seeking to capture an Eld and return them to the Duke for interrogation, and the Praetor makes it very clear that he does not trust anyone that seeks to interrogate the Eld – the only reason to do so would be in the hope of learning the secrets of their dark arts.

During the course of the discussion, it becomes clear that the Thulians do not trust any mages or elves, and Malketh regularly gets suspicious looks, is talked over, or Tannek is told to get his elf in line.

Seeking information about the area, the party learns that:
  • East and north is a door that the Volmarans believe leads to the reservoir (where Azoth is stored).
  • South of the reservoir door is a room with corpses on display.
  • East and south of the corpses is Eld territory.
It appears that there is something of a stalemate between the Eld and the Volmarans, with neither side able to exert dominance, and the Praetor’s superiors are not willing to commit overwhelming forces without a clear understanding of the situation.

In the hope of tipping the balance and driving the Eld out, the party agrees to join forces and conduct a shared assault into Eld territory. The Praetor, his mage and twelve soldiers will join the group in the attack, leaving the remaining Volmaran forces behind to defend their beachhead.

When the topic of loot share comes up, the Praetor makes it very clear that there is to be no looting of or damage to Dwimmermount, its architecture, machinery or furnishings, but he is happy for the PCs to take what they want from the Eld. He also makes it clear that when the fight begins, his lead must be followed, and that it is critical to seize and maintain momentum, driving the Eld before them, and hopefully all the way out, before they have a chance to regroup or reinforce themselves.

I am somewhat surprised that everyone is happy with the no-loot stipulation, even given that eld armour is able to net them quite a bit of gold and XP. The party is allying with an arrogant man in the Praetor, who clearly has little respect for some members of the group, and with no certainty of any reward, simply because they believe it is worth driving the Eld out. Not just surprised, I’m impressed.

* ** **** ** *​

The assault force first encounters a dozen-or-so bugbears guarding the Eld perimeter. Half of the bugbears are killed, the rest flee, and the attackers pursue. In the next chamber there are more bugbears, more of the obese, spindly-armed demons, and six Eld, who all commence casting spells.

One of the demons conjures are stinking cloud that disrupts the rear of the assault force, while a number of Volmarans fall to sleep spells. The eld are caught in a stinking cloud as well, and withdraw, courageously allowing the bugbears to cover their retreat.

A critically injured Volmaran is sent back to the base camp with a couple of other lesser casualties as escort, and the bulk of the force quickly reorganises and continues the pursuit.

The group has pushed some way into Eld territory by this stage. Unfortunately, they soon encounter ten more bugbears screening a dozen more Eld in a corridor. The Praetor realises there is no realistic chance of winning the fight, and orders a withdrawal.

Back in Volmaran territory, the Praetor is extremely grateful for the party’s potent and valourous assistance, but visibly distressed by yet another failure to secure the level. Tannek wonders why more forces aren’t being committed, and Opilio reiterates they’re reluctant to do so with a clear understanding of the dangers. Tannek presses him on the idea of sending just a half-dozen mages through to tip the odds, and the Praetor indicates that there is a very real concern that, so far from the authority of the Empire, there is a fear they would rebel (the group has already formed the understanding that Volmaran mages are essentially a slave caste).

The session closed with the group still in the dungeon in Volmaran territory.

* ** **** ** *​

Interestingly, when referencing the player notes to assist in this write-up, I spotted that Tr has added a very insightful note that the gnolls on the level above are apparently working for a mage, and this individual may well be an example of just the kind of rebellious Volmaran mage the Praetor was talking about. He is entirely correct, and it’s nice seeing these little details being noticed without having to draw attention to them. It’s certainly great for creating the sense of a coherent, active world.

I’m also pretty happy with the overall outcome of the big fight from a “GM workload” perspective. Having either the Volmarans of the Eld enjoy a clear victory would have disrupted the balance of power, and required me to deal with the new state of the level. However, in-game events have confirmed the existence of a stalemate, which allows me to not worry too much about it for now.
 

Session 32

6 May 2023

The Actual Session
  • De: Tannek the Guardian, Level 5 Lawful Paladin
    • Grook the Forester, Level 3 Neutral Explorer
    • Balrite the Defender, Level 3 Lawful Paladin
    • Pherrod the Warrior, Level 2 Neutral Fighter
    • Uthred the Warrior, Level 2 Lawful Destined Fighter
  • Tr: Gregor the Drunken Hero, Level 4 Neutral Fighter
    • Barlim the Man-at-Arms, Level 1 Neutral Fighter
  • Ag: Sircini the Sister, Level 4 Lawful Priestess
    • Soronia the Blade-Initiate, Level 1 Lawful Bladedancer
  • Ro: Malketh the Magician-Hero, Level 4 Neutral Elven Spellsword
    • Dashiel the Seer, Level 2 Neutral Mage
The session resumes with the group still in Dwimmermount (albeit, some PCs have mysteriously vanished, while others appear, and no one seems to notice anything unusual about it).

The party takes their leave of the their Volmaran allies and continue exploring. They party first finds a room in which they see some piles of ash. No one is willing to enter the chamber, so the door is close and they move on.

They find a long hall filled with the statues and murals of Thulian gods. Like many others, the heads were replaced with that of Turms Termax, but in this case someone has already removed all the Termaxian heads, and they lay haphazardly about.

After testing the statues for moving parts, a secret door is activated. The group is excited, but Tr’s map is a little off, and they are disappointed to learn the passageway just leads them back to the Thulian encampment. Had their mapping been accurate, the group interested in mounting a surprise attack, it would have been useful.

The group kills a carrion crawler and some ghouls, and then are engaged by a party of Eld. Malketh attempts to use the conch on them, but is dropped by a sleep spell. The rest of the group had been waiting out of sight in order to avoid being targeted by Eld magic, and Balrite has to rush out to drag the Malketh to safety. The rest of the group eventually advances to engage the Eld, and despatch them with relative ease. It is decided to carry one of the corpses back to civilisation, to try and have it raised and interrogated. Praetor Opilio would not be pleased, if he knew.

A battle with shadows on the way out sees Gregor drained of some strength, but the group escapes otherwise unscathed, and the fighter soon recovers.

* ** **** ** *​

Back in Bergendsorf, Tannek requests an audience with the Duke, letting it be known that he wants to hand the Eld prisoner over so that it can be raised and interrogated by the Duke’s men. The Duke’s chamberlain politely explains to Tannek that Tannek himself is “the Duke’s men”; that he may be best served dealing with this matter himself, using the extensive resources he already has at his disposal; and that the Duke would most likely not appreciate having Tannek try and foist the responsibility back on him with the job half done.

Tannek (or maybe De) is possibly feeling a little put out by being expected to report back with actual, actionable intelligence, but appears to appreciate the chamberlain trying to help him avoid a faux pas.

The group speaks with priests at the Temple of Solinor. There is a great deal of reluctance among the priesthood to resurrect one of the Eld, and questions about whether or not it is even possible – some of them believe the Eld have no souls, and thus resurrection would be impossible, even if not sacrilegious.

Eventually, Tannek convinces them to make the attempt, because the need to deal with a possible Eld invasion is critical enough to justify it. Unfortunately, it turns out that the “no soul” theory appears correct, and the attempt to raise the eld fails.

Tannek now seeks another audience with the Duke, and this time is admitted. The events in Dwimmermount are discussed, as well as the failed attempt to raise the red elf. The Duke suggests that at this point, the Eld plan seems fairly clear – they are attempting to seize Dwimmermount, just as these so-called Thulians are. The Duke suggests that the party may be best served in delving deeper and securing control of the machinery below, while the Eld and Volmarans hold each other at bay.

The Duke also makes a pointed comment that those in positions of power and authority should be using trusted and capable underlings to handle tasks for which they are personally not best suited. I don’t think De quite gets what I’m trying to get across here. He understands it relates to his attempts to dump the Eld corpse on the Duke’s hands, but immediately starts wondering which other member of the party would have been suitable to perform an interrogation. For some reason, despite the fact that he already hired an equerry some time ago, and was the driving force behind hiring a navigator for their wilderness expedition, the idea of employing an NPC interrogator, if one is required, hasn’t occurred to him.

* ** **** ** *​

The group heads back to Dwimmermount via Mazen Kurz, and Tr has convinced the party to head downstairs. Unfortunately, the known stairs don’t head down to a lower level, and instead leading a short way to a shrine to Anyastos, a theoretical entity of Law that the Thulians believed to exist above and beyond the gods. The altar is conspicuously dust-free. As the party begins to explore, the priests and paladins get the sense that any attempt to loot this place would be wrong, as the chamber is right and Lawful. None of them choose to pray or meditate, though, so no boons for you.

Further exploration leads to some fights with bugbears, with the group suffering a number of injuries in the second battle, where they are surprised; Dashiel comes to the rescue with an effective sleep spell that helps stop things ending up much worse.

Some ghouls are despatched handily thanks to protection from evil (I sometimes wonder if my generous reinterpretation is too generous, but if the group wants to gather close together and stand still, they’re going to suffer for it at times (hello mummy with flamestrike), so I let them continue to reap the benefits.

The party finds a room covered in frescoes depicting planets and stars. Beyond, they reach doors matching the description of ones they have been told lead to the Reservoir, and they head that way. No such doors or passage exist in the published material, but it makes no sense to me that the Eld would go to the effort of digging out the entire House of Portals, and not excavate another hundred feet of corridor to connect to the Reservoir level; otherwise, the only way to get from here down to level four is to go back up two levels, across, and back down.

Passing into the new zone, gone are the empty glow globe sockets and iron-bound oak doors; instead, there are grimy panels of frosted vitreum in the ceiling (which once provided light), and the doors are large adamantine hatches.

As they party moves cautiously through a large chamber, hobgoblin voices call out from the darkness. They want to know if the party has business with the King, and Malketh asks if they reside on the level above. He is informed that the King rules far and wide, but the party is kindly given permission to travel the halls seeking a way further down. The party is informed that one passage from the chamber leads to toad territory, while another leads to apparitions. (I had completely forgotten about that latter part, and so had the group, who encountered the apparitions in a fairly nasty fight in session 36 just a few days ago).

The hobgoblins let the party know that the toads are many, aggressive, and that their bites can cause paralysis. Unafraid of such things, the group heads off in that direction.

Surely enough, they soon encounter nearly a dozen bulbous, demonic, toad-men. Tannek tries to parley, offering them greetings. Surprisingly, one replies in broken common, “What you greet us with?”

“Uh … words?” Tannek offers.

“No words!” the toad-thing returns, and they croak, riddip and hop to the attack.

Malketh is quick with the conch of blasting, and almost all of them are cast aside in a tumble of battered and broken body parts. One survives, and lays into Gregor, who ends up hurt and paralysed, but the final toad is rapidly despatched, and a cure light wounds allows Gregor to move again.

In the aftermath of the fight, a hatch is heard opening, and more toadlike croaking comes from the darkness. Tannek calls out, “Halt!” and in response the sounds of movement recede and fade away.

In an old latrine nearby, Malketh finds a book of horrid and obscene images, which he hands to Tannek with a snicker. Unaware what he has been given, Tannek flips through, and is deeply horrified by what he sees. Failing a spell save, the shock of the perverse and evil folio drains him of 500xp. De is unimpressed.

The discovery of an epically unholy pornographic magazine seems like a fitting place to stop, so we call it a night there.
 
Players' Dwimmermount Map, Hall of Portals and the Reservoir

(Edit: It looks like this is actually an updated version which includes some stuff not explored until session 33).

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In an old latrine nearby, Malketh finds a book of horrid and obscene images, which he hands to Tannek with a snicker.
"Hey, look at this. Why do you think they kept this in the latrine, heh?"

The discovery of an epically unholy pornographic magazine seems like a fitting place to stop, so we call it a night there.
The Necron-Omi-Pron? No doubt...:grin:
 

Session 33

3 June 2023

The Actual Session
  • De: Tannek the Sentinel, Level 6 Lawful Paladin
    • Grook the Explorer, Level 4 Neutral Explorer
    • Balrite the Protector, Level 4 Lawful Paladin
    • Pherrod the Swordmaster, Level 3 Neutral Fighter
    • Uthred the Swordmaster, Level 3 Lawful Destined Fighter
  • Tr: Gregor the Drunken Exemplar, Level 5 Neutral Fighter
    • Barlim the Swordmaster, Level 3 Neutral Fighter
  • La: Arravis the Magician, Level 4 Lawful Mage
    • Mattius the Looter, Level 2 Neutral Freebooter-Expeditionary
La feels that Veruka the first level warmistress is sucking up XP without pulling her weight, and thus ends her employment.

The session begins mid-dungeon, with a relatively small group, and there is an extended discussion about the merits of pressing on, or heading somewhere a little safer.

In case my tongue-in-cheek comment at the start of the last report wasn’t clear, we just handwave away any changes in personnel between sessions. Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.

In the end, it’s decided to head for Mazen Kurz, but the more daring player (I think it was La) managed to convince the other two to return via a circuitous route that allows them to explore more territory.

The find a room with faded green and white curtains, and a statue that’s had its head replaced with a Terms head. The group spots a secret door in one wall, but are unsure how to open it. The statue is wearing robes with a grain motif on the hem. Both hands are held cupped, facing upwards before it, and one hand has a faint green stain. Tr surmises that this is some kind of agricultural god, and Gregor decides to places one of his crystal healing pears (which are delicious, which the party is frequently able to restock from the tree, and which Gregor consumes whenever he has an excuse to) in the green-stained hand.

This causes the secret door to open, causing much celebration. However, this turns to disappointment when the passage leads to an inert platform and archway in green stone with white marbling. They surmise that this is probably a portal to the green planet but, as there is no treasure, they aren’t greatly interested.

They find a hall of mirrors, where the floors, wall and ceiling are all reflective, but also distort everything they reflect, and cause some disorientation. The party cautiously enters and wanders about a little, but are unable to discern any purpose or function.

Further on, they encounter a pair of rotting figures in decaying robes, seated at a table. The chamber in which they reside reeks of putrescence and decay. One of the ghastly creatures turn to the party and asks, “Friend or food?” in High Thulian.

Tannek advises they are friends, for the moment. One ghast introduces himself as Mennus, his companion Pasara. He ascertains that the party have not come from the deeps, and are not associated with the false Thulian’s from Volmar, and Tannk confirms this.

Mennus advises he will share his knowledge of the area with the party, but he expects to be paid in food – either the living, or fresh corpses. The group decides that there are creatures existing on this level (such as bugbears and Eld) they’d be ok with these things eating, as long as the intelligence they gather is good, so they agree (Arravis would prefer to pay them in coin, but they are disinterested).

It seems Mennus is in a talkative mood, and the party is being quite polite, so they are able to gain a reasonable amount of information prior to any kind of payment:

  • The mirror room is used to focus arcane energy, and amplifies the power of spells cast within. However, it never functioned quite as intended, and while it does amplify spell power, it also creates a sonic feedback loop when doing so, and is very noisy.
  • He provides some details about Anyastos, whose shrine the group found last session, advising this being was believed by the early Thulians to be the ultimate expression of Law.
  • When Arravis asks where they party might find treasure, Mennus suggests the Room of Holes, where the group encountered buttons on a pillar, explaining that the buttons each cause an extradimensional space to open in the wall, and these were used for storage.
Pleased with this knowledge, and a potential source for more information in future, the party departs in peace, albeit discussing the fact that eventually they will probably need to destroy these horrid creatures. La asks if it’s possible for undead to be good, and I advise that the general world view (at least that espoused by the churches and forces of Law) is that contravening the natural cycle of life and death via necromancy is a vile and evil practice. Mennus also didn’t seem to fussy about what he ate.

The Room of Holes is on the way out anyway, so they stop by and clear out a decent volume of loot in well-preserved, mundane scrolls, a bit of cash, a new azoth-infused caduceus to replace the one lost in the TPK, and a magical scroll that purports to teach the reader logic exercises that will vastly improve their intelligence.

The loot is returned the local baron’s fort, and then the group heads back out to Mazen Kurz the next day, where La has a door he really wants to go investigate.

In Mazen Kurz, the group quickly ended up outside my keyed zone, and I had to whip up some room contents using Matt Finch’s Tome of Adventure Design. They found a series of rooms containing fountains, two of which were inactive, and one which was active, with a golden liquid that smelled of soy sauce and had the consistency of maple syrup. They did not try a taste test.

They also found a set of stairs heading down, but I let them know that what’s below was still in state of quantum uncertainty, so they decided not to descend (improvising rooms and contents is doable, but I didn’t even have a map for what lay below at this point).

Beyond, they found stairs leading up, which were fully keyed, and they headed up, where they found a door of red marble, with a six-pointed star engraved in it. There were sooty stains on the walls and floor in the vicinity of the door. Mattius does a rudimentary check for traps, and declares it clear. The door is pushed open and the area is filled with flame. Arravis rejoices in his ring of protection from fire, but Mattius, Uthred and Pherrod all go down. Uthred and Pherrod are stabilised, but Mattius dies.

In better news, there is a vast trove of treasure in the room beyond, including a sword whose blade is inscribed with Eldritch “Your vital essence shall curdle and serve you nought,” and a warhammer inscribed in Dwarven with the name Khazi’s Vengence.

The group carts their haul, and Mattius’s corpse, back to Burgensdorf.

* ** **** ** *​

Khazi’s vengeance is temporarily given into Barlim’s care while the party decides what to do with it. The next night, Barlim lets Gregor know that the weapon has let him know that it was made by dwarves to slay foul beastmen, and allows its wielder to detect beastmen, as well as to levitate. The hammer has also made it clear to Barlim that it wished to remain in his possession until a suitable dwarf wielder can be found.

Gregor asks to see the hammer, just to learn these things for himself, but assures Barlim he will return the hammer. Barlim is a little reluctant, but agrees. Khazi then lets it be known to Gregor that these things are true. However, the warhammer now sees that Gregor is a mightier warrior than Barlim, and has no wish to be returned to that much punier human.

This puts Gregor in a very awkward position, but he does very much like the thought of keeping the warhammer. The rest of the group aren’t sure they want to keep it at all, as they’re not sure how long it will want to remain with them, and they might be better off just selling it to gain the cash and commensurate XP bump. In the end, though Gregor ends up keeping it. Barlim gets the essence-curdling Eldritch sword instead, but he’s not happy about it.

Mattius is raised, but returns to life blind (I was wrong when I recalled this being what happened to Samuel … I think Samuel just chose to retire from adventuring, no blindness). Tannek offers Mattius a cushy job in his barony, as adventuring is no longer viable.

Gregor gains a new henchman, who demands a high wage, but is evidently a very competent, 2nd level mage by the name of Sivart.

Tannek finally manages to the recruit the cleric he’s been after, taking on Kerol, an impoverished wanderer who has decided it is time to get serious and go punch Chaos in the face.

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.
  • Gilbryn, Level 1 Mage henchman, leg injury leads to introspection and a decision to give up adventuring, session twenty one.
  • Bortal, Level 2 Thief henchman, turned to charcoal by mummy’s flamestrike, session twenty five.
  • Sircini, Level 2 Priestess henchman, arm turned to charred stump by mummy’s flamestrike, died of wounds, raised, chose to retire from adventuring and serve in the temple, session twenty five.
  • Waramayl, Level 4 Mystic, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Aldavel, Level 4 Nightblade, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Villa, Level 4 Cleric, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Cyril, Level 4 Cleric, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Kant, Level 5 Dwarven Fury, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Ledrick, Level 2 Freighter henchman, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Linzinia, Level 1 Warmistress henchman, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Tatiana, Level 1 Warmistress henchman, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Wurzel, Level 0 henchman, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Samuel, Level 2 Witch henchman, spine severed by gnoll arrow, healed, but chose to retire, session thirty
  • Mattius, Level 2 Freebooter henchmen, incinerated by flame trap, raised but left blind, retired in service to Baron Tannek, session thirty three.
 

Session 34

3 June 2023

The Actual Session
  • De: Tannek the Sentinel, Level 6 Lawful Paladin
    • Grook the Explorer, Level 4 Neutral Explorer
    • Balrite the Protector, Level 4 Lawful Paladin
    • Pherrod the Hero, Level 4 Neutral Fighter
    • Uthred the Hero, Level 4 Lawful Destined Fighter
    • Kerol the Acolyte, Level 2 Lawful Cleric
  • Tr: Gregor the Drunken Exemplar, Level 5 Neutral Fighter
    • Barlim the Swordmaster, Level 3 Neutral Fighter
    • Sivart the Seer, Level 2 Neutral Mage
  • La: Arravis the Thaumaturge, Level 5 Lawful Mage
    • Mattius the Looter, Level 2 Neutral Freebooter-Expeditionary
  • Ro: Malketh the Magician-Hero, Level 4 Neutral Elven Spellsword
    • Dashiel the Seer, Level 2 Neutral Mage
  • Jo: Hoik the Undertrekker, Level 4 Lawful Dwarven Delver
    • Cornan the Warrior, Level 2 Lawful Fighter
I have been forgetting to discuss what’s happening in Tannek’s barony, as the details aren’t generally recorded in the players’ main session logs. To date, it’s mostly been mainly minor administrative stuff, but De is still very happy, and has mentioned that having the barony goes a long way to mitigating the slow levelling rate.

He increases the amount of money being spent on gifts, feasts and holidays for his subjects, looking to ensure strong morale. He also invests in improving the quality of the roads, and begins training and arming additional militia. He making sure to both continue adventuring every month, and spend time overseeing the barony, so that there is a slow but steady stream if new peasants looking for opportunities under this generous and heroic new lord.

In addition to running the barony, Tannek also took the opportunity to use his newfound land to establish the horse breeding business he’d been planning to start for some time, investing 4,000gp initially, seeing some minor returns, and investing a further 1,000gp.

* ** **** ** *​

That party spends about a week in Bergensdorf. The scroll of logic exercises is given to Arravis, who begins studying it, while Tannek attends to his barony, goods are sold, and other minor administrative tasks are handled.

Arravis has also levelled up, and is able to select a new spell. La is thinking about Skinchange, which is the standard D&D shapechange spell, and La notes that it says the caster can transform into any animal. Scanning through the bestiary, he notices that a t-rex is apparently an animal, and he asks me if he’d be allowed to transform into one, fully expecting me to say no, and quite happy to accept that as a reasonable ruling.

My first inclination is indeed to say no, but I’m pleased to say that rather than jumping to the first answer that comes to mind, I took a moment to think about it. I wasn’t clear on the t-rex stats, but I had no doubt they’re ridiculously overpowered. However, several other factors came to mind:

  • He gets one third level spell. Even at higher levels, the number of spells of any given level are limited. Blowing his load on going all t-rex once per day isn’t likely to break the game.
  • The party spends quite a bit of time in dungeons. Often, there won’t be room to take on such a big form in the first place.
  • Is being a t-rex for a while really any more effective than any other third level spell being used to best effect? Sometimes it will be, but sometimes a fireball or a charm monster or dispel magic would be more useful.
  • Saying yes would make La happy.
So, “Fuck it”, I said, “You can transform into a t-rex.”

* ** **** ** *​

The group wants to explore more of Mazen Kurz. I forgot to mention in the last report that the treasure chamber they located also leads directly outside to the mountainside, so the group decided to continue their exploration from and around this area.

The party immediately head back to areas of the dungeon I still haven’t keyed, and the Tome of Adventure Design goes into action. This did result in a more funhouse style room than I would have typically placed in Mazen Kurz, but it served to entertain and distract the players for some time.

Finding a small, squat elephantine-demonic statue sitting on a stone table, the group is immediately wary. Dashiel summons an unseen servant, and has it carry a torch over to the statue. The unseen servant is able to lift the statue only a very small way, and the torch shakes rapidly for a moment as the statue is lifted.

The unseen servant lifts and lowers the statue a few times, the torch in it’s grasp shaking and trembling each time it does so. All very strange, and the party has no explanation.

Hoik boldly decides to have a go himself and, as the statue is lifted, the party sees him fly off into the air and disappear into the ceiling. The group surmises correctly that a gravity shift is at play.

Hoik hurtles through a small hatch that has opened, slams into a ceiling, then drops down to find himself trapped in darkness is a small compartment in the ceiling. Lighting a torch, he finds a small metal box in a niche. He inspects and opens this, finding some valuables, and then is able to locate a the hidden hatch and open it, dropping nimbly back down into the room, while his companions are still trying to work out what they should do.

In other room, the party encounters two pairs of skeletons engaged in a dance, which turn and attack when disturbed, but who are easily dealt with.

The party eventually makes its way back into areas of the dungeon where I already have a clear idea as to the contents, and I don’t have to rely on the Tome.

Heading down a short, wide staircase, the group feels the air grow chill. Goosebumps form and they sense something eerie. At the base of the stairs, they find a chamber with wide, square pillars supporting a series of vaulted archways carved with images of demonic revelry. Narrower, pillared passages run to either side and, in the distance, the chamber appears to open out wider, with glimmers of reddish light visible.

Some members of the group think they hear a faint whispering in the ear. The party stops while Tannek clears his mind and opens his senses, discovering (if it needed confirmation) that the area is awash with Evil.

The party advances slowly and very cautiously. As the chamber opens out, the ceiling rises to at least forty or fifty feet in height, with red flames around the walls, casting a faint light about the place. More rows of pillars support the ceiling, and there appear to be gargoyles carved high up. La expresses some concern about what they’re walking into, and feels this is some pretty explicit foreshadowing of serious danger.

Ahead of them the group sees a great demonic statue, showing a figure with a demonic face, two pairs of large wings, and a massive phallus. Beyond can be seen a wide altar, with many glittering, shiny objects upon it.

The group continues advancing, and the flames around the walls suddenly grow stronger and brighter, bathing the room in an ominous, bloody light. The ceiling is now eighty feet above them. Candlesticks on the altar have burst into bright red flame, a jewelled goblet sits there, along with scrolls, gems and other shiny, valuable-looking things. The eyes of the demonic statue appear to be large, green gemstones.

As the group takes in their surroundings, eager for wealth, all too aware that they’re not going to be able to just walk up and take it, Malketh (who fails his spell save) hears a voice in his head. He knows it to be the mighty demonic statue speaking to him, and he knows that the intelligence within the statue is his truest and greatest friend.

“Approach me,” the voice instructs him, “For only in doing so will you and your companions be spared from a great and terrible calamity.”

I allow Malketh to cast summon hero first, and the elf then heads towards the statue. Gregor doesn’t like this, and moves to try and restrain Malketh, who protests and insists that it is important that he get closer to the statue, which is in fact his bosom friend Pazuzu.

While this is happening, half-a-dozen goat-headed demonic creatures drop from perches on the walls to either side, four of the fat, spindly-limbed demons suddenly appear, and two more statues of demonic forms wielding two-handed swords, flanking the altar, change from stone to living, demonic creatures and advance.

Malketh kneels before Pazuzu, who also comes to life, his mighty snake-headed, prehensile penis waving about and attempting to envelop the elf. Gregor swings Khazi’s Revenge at the demon, but the blow is utterly ineffective. Gregor is shaken and appalled.

La, meanwhile, is gleeful to realise the group is in a vast, high-ceilinged chamber, and is already able to test out his new tyrannosaurus form.

Seeing that Pazuzu is attempting to engage in non-consensual acts with his snake-penis, Malketh shakes off the charm, and narrowly ducks aside.

Hoik and Balrim have also charged forward to help protect Malketh, but seeing how ineffective Gregor’s attack was, both Gregor and Tannek call from an immediate retreat.

Pazuzu levels blows at the fleeing rabble with axe and mighty bite, striking Hoik a blow, and then his terrible penis wraps around Balrim, lifting the poor henchman into the air, the snake tip about to do its worst. This is the last anyone sees of Balrim (on the bright side, Gregor no longer needs to deal with any fallout from the great dwarven warhammer betrayal).

Arravis the t-rex rips through one row for lesser demons, but others who are fleeing have to evade the goat-demons that close on the other side. Hoik suffers more blows, and falls, but Malketh and Gregor are able to grab him on the way past, and drag his unconscious form away. Arravis guards the rear, then transforms into a sabretooth tiger to leave the chamber. The remaining demons do not pursue beyond the temple. The group hole up nearby to treat Hoik’s wounds, and it appears he will survive without lasting injury, and then slink back to the civilisation to recuperate.

La noted again after the fight that there have been plenty of warnings of the danger they were risking. De believes the fight would be easily winnable, if not for Pazuzu himself. The group resolves to find more information about this creatures, and see if it has any weaknesses.

After recovering from their wounds, the group heads back into Mazen Kurz, this time exploring in a direction that is away from Pazuzu’s temple. They fight some wights and wraiths, who are the last remaining subjects of the flamestrike mummy who caused them grief a long time ago. They are extremely wary when they find the mummy’s tomb, with treasure scattered about, but the defenders have all been destroyed and there are no traps. They recover plenty of material wealth, along with a large, porcelain bowl inscribed in gnomish with the words:

The contract has been made to the rivers and brooks of the dell. I call out, now answer me oh spirits of the waterfalls. Serve and obey and show kindness to the spirit of your master.

This is later determined to be a bowl of conjuring water elementals, which is felt to be too fragile and difficult to employ while dungeoneering, but which could make for an excellent defensive measure when encamped.

They also find a divine scroll which contains a sleep spell and (of considerably more interest) a ritual of Cataclysm, which is able to lay waste to a region 24 miles across.

After some discussion, it is felt that the group is unlikely to have need for such a spell any time soon, and such powerful magics would be best served by being handed over to the Church of Solinor. As such, the group makes the journey to Onderlach city.

Once there, Tannek’s standing allows him and Kerel to arrange a meeting with the high priest of Solinor fairly quickly. The high priest congratulates Tannek on his foresight and wisdom, agreeing to take the scroll and ensure it is protected. He is also extremely impressed that he was asked for absolutely nothing in return and, as such, rewards the party with a staff of healing. The group is very pleased and excited by this, and it will certainly prove to be very useful.

While in town, Kerel also adopts a direwolf pup – De has noticed his cleric henchman has animal training and beast friendship proficiencies, which allows him to take on animals as henchmen. In general, I don’t want the henchmen pickup up henchmen who are going to adventure, but I’m certainly not going to deny a henchman the use of it’s special abilities, and a direwolf henchman could prove fun.

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.
  • Gilbryn, Level 1 Mage henchman, leg injury leads to introspection and a decision to give up adventuring, session twenty one.
  • Bortal, Level 2 Thief henchman, turned to charcoal by mummy’s flamestrike, session twenty five.
  • Sircini, Level 2 Priestess henchman, arm turned to charred stump by mummy’s flamestrike, died of wounds, raised, chose to retire from adventuring and serve in the temple, session twenty five.
  • Waramayl, Level 4 Mystic, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Aldavel, Level 4 Nightblade, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Villa, Level 4 Cleric, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Cyril, Level 4 Cleric, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Kant, Level 5 Dwarven Fury, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Ledrick, Level 2 Freighter henchman, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Linzinia, Level 1 Warmistress henchman, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Tatiana, Level 1 Warmistress henchman, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Wurzel, Level 0 henchman, eaten by carrion crawlers, session twenty six.
  • Samuel, Level 2 Witch henchman, spine severed by gnoll arrow, healed, but chose to retire, session thirty
  • Mattius, Level 2 Freebooter henchmen, incinerated by flame trap, raised but left blind, retired in service to Baron Tannek, session thirty three.
  • Barlim, Level 3 Fighter henchman, crushed and eaten by Pazuzu's penis, session thirty four.
 
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Session 35

15 July 2023

The Actual Session
  • De: Tannek the Sentinel, Level 6 Lawful Paladin
    • Grook the Explorer, Level 4 Neutral Explorer
    • Balrite the Protector, Level 4 Lawful Paladin
    • Pherrod the Hero, Level 4 Neutral Fighter
    • Uthred the Hero, Level 4 Lawful Destined Fighter
    • Kerol the Acolyte, Level 2 Lawful Cleric
  • Tr: Gregor the Drunken Exemplar, Level 5 Neutral Fighter
    • Sivart the Seer, Level 2 Neutral Mage
  • La: Arravis the Thaumaturge, Level 5 Lawful Mage
    • Renlick Tiddlestick the Hood, Level 2 Neutral Thief
  • Ro: Malketh the Thaumaturge-Exemplar, Level 5 Neutral Elven Spellsword
    • Dashiel the Theurgist, Level 3 Neutral Mage
  • Jo: Hoik the Spelunker, Level 5 Lawful Dwarven Delver
    • Cornan the Swordmaster, Level 3 Lawful Fighter
The group spends several weeks in Onderlach and then some time in Bergensdorf, studying new spells and carrying out administration. Arravis completes the regime of training and mental exercises indicated by his scroll, and gains a +1 to his Intelligence. Malketh is disappointed to learn that the magic has gone from the scroll.

Malketh determines that a brazier of summoning fire elementals would sell for around 25,000gp to the right buyer, and is interested in recovering the braziers from Dwimmermount where the fire elemental appeared.

On returning to Bergensdorf, Tannek learns that the Duke of Bergensdorf has appointed him has his Chamberlain, which comes with an amount of additional prestige, in return for a requirement to attend the Duke and carry out mundane administrative tasks from time-to-time.

He also discovers the news that his equine stud farm has suffered a calamity, with disease running rampant and killing off much of his stock. The Baron chooses to reinvest in replacement stock, and also chooses to run the business in a more cautious fashion moving forward, channelling a larger percentage of the profits into extra personnel to monitor health and wellbeing, quarantining even the best breeders at the first sign of ill-health, and the like.

* ** **** ** *​

Malketh is now able to dispel magic, and is eager to return to what the group believes to be a magically trapped door in Mazen Kurz, which they have so far left alone. Once there, he is able to remove the magic from the wards, and the groups moves inside. Unfortunately, there is nothing of value left to loot – a demonic statue with vacant eye sockets that may once have held gems, and the twisted and warped remains of bones, weapons and armour. It’s clear something nasty happened here at some stage.

I’m a little disappointed on the player’s behalf that a few of the things they’ve come back to (this door, the cell door in Dwimmermount, the room beyond the statues) ended up turning out to not offer them anything of great value. Fortunately, their very first major obstacle (the vault door) did come with a significant payoff, and they’re confident Pazuzu will as well if they ever find a way through or around him, so they’re not giving up on these sorts of things (and they didn’t seem particularly unhappy in this case either). However, I do need to keep this in mind, that I don’t want to be placing too many obvious obstacles that don’t result in a pay-off when they’re overcome. Some results like this are good, and serves to remind the players that the world doesn’t revolve around their characters, but too many will result in a sense of futility and arbitrariness, and an unwillingness to take risks.

Passing through more of Mazen Kurz on the way to Dwimmermount, the party encounters some toadmen – distinctly different from the ones they fought in Dwimmermount. An amicable conversation occurs, and the toads confirm that they know of Karamantis. Malketh remains interested in this mage, and the party did spend quite a while trying to find the Halls of the Toad King, so they’re pleased to get some directions, even if they don’t plan to head that way any time soon.

The group is advised that on the level below, the group needs to head north, either through the area protected by bugbears on one side, or the caves of the orcs on the other. The orcs may allow the party passage downstream along the river to the Halls.

I believe the toads may also have confirmed the presence of a fungoid ambassador and advisor to their king.

Back in Dwimmermount, the group encounters a mixed group of bugbears and Eld, and massacre them. The players are starting to not take the Eld particularly seriously; what they once saw as a serious threat are now a source of valuable armour. Even though it didn’t help on this occasion, the Eld forces definitely now have standing orders that they are not to be venturing around the dungeon without bugbear support. Even with bugbears, the conch of blasting is frequently capable of eliminating any Eld.

After the Eld are stripped of their armour, there is a discussion about the possibility of taking the corpses to the party’s ghast friends (who they are referring to as “the devourers”). De is the driving force here, and he points out that they already received quite a wealth of information at no cost, and they may learn quite a bit more if they show their gratitude. Everyone in the party, even those a little skeptical, agree they are just Eld and bugbears, and decide to go ahead with the plan.

La wants to check some new passages on the way, and see if these also connect to the Devourers’ lair. This is immediately vetoed, as no one else thinks it’s particularly smart to be exploring new territory while weighed down and hands are occupied carrying a bunch of corpses.

The Devourers are very pleased with the bounty they’ve been brought. The lady of the pair takes one of the bodies to the table and begins slicing thin strips of skin and flesh away with a rusty knife, humming discordantly to herself as she does so, licking up the blood and gobbling down the tasty treats.

Meanwhile, Mennus engaged the party in discussion. Malketh asked about the way down to the next level, and the ghast provided directions that take them a short way past the latrine on the Reservoir level. He explained that the next level down was known as the Halls of Lesser Secrets, where many great works of the Ancients were created. During the time of the Thulians, the area was turned into the seat of the Empire’s power, the throne room of the Emperor.

Malketh is very keen to know where the azoth can be found, and Mennus advises the actual reservoir is in the north eastern section of the level.

Mennus lets the party know that in the rooms beyond his bedroom are the lair of ghouls that serve him and is companion, but that they will be instructed to allow safe passage if they come across the party, and to not try to steal any snacks from them. Mennus can’t guarantee the ghouls won’t attack if provoked, and if the party is attacked without provocation, he has no problem with them defending themselves.

It is ascertained that Mennus and Pasara were servants of the Thulian Empire, who lived during the time of Terms Termax.

At this stage, Pasara has moved from licking up blood and savouring strips of flesh to opening an Eld’s abdomen and gleefully tearing out entrails, blood and gore splattering about the place as she plays with her food. Arravis was already very uncomfortable with the entire situation, and now even Tannek agrees it’s time to end the conversation and withdraw, so he makes his polite goodbyes and gets a closed door between himself and flying offal ASAP.

The group slaughters a few more carrion crawlers on the way back to the hobgoblin chamber, where Gregor has talked the groupd into eliminating the hobgoblins. Gregor is doing everything in his power to keep Khazi’s revenge happy by slaughtering beastmen; negotiation with any beastmen is no longer possible, as Gregor will hurl himself into battle as soon as he sees them. Khazi’s Revenge is most pleased by this. As a bonus, the warhammer provides him with a +3 AC while in combat with beastmen, making him a nearly invulnerable purveyor of death and slaughter when serving the warhammer’s purpose.

The hobgoblins turn out to be five throghrin – troll/hobgoblin/ghoul hybrids, who the group is able to slaughter without too much effort. It turns out the group was guarding a set of stairs that appear likely to ascend to the next level up.

While the group did have plans to find the way down, Malketh is very eager to get his hands on some azoth, and convinces the group to head that way first. They fight some ticks, one of which latches onto Grook’s leg at one point. De confirms no one in the party can cast cure disease, and indicates they’ll need to go get one cast on Grook later, just in case. I assume this is based on existing D&D knowledge, although it could just have been smart play based on the fact that ticks are a known disease vector in the real world (I don’t have a problem with it either way).

The group finds a room with a long control panel made of vitreum and alchemists resin, more complex and advanced than the pump room controls. Unable to work out how to activate it, Malketh takes the time to sketch the details in his notebook.

While this is being done, some demon-toads (ranine) show up and open the door. Gregor lunges at the first to step into the doorway, and the entire pack quickly hop away in terror.

The group later encounters an ochre jelly. Berserkers are summoned, but they achieve nothing other than causing it to break it into smaller but equally pieces. After the berserkers are dead, the group work out that they are able to outpace the jellies, and end up destroying them one-by-one with military oil.

In a room full of pipes and valves, they detect a secret door that leads to a chamber filled with various desks and monitoring stations, although their function is not entirely clear to the PCs. Malketh thinks he understands how to active the system, but something doesn’t work they way he’s expecting (because it requires power from an external source, that it is not currently receiving).

Exploring elsewhere, they find more hobgoblins guarding stairs (despatched swiftly), as well as a dry alabaster fountain covered in arcane symbols and protecting by a dome of vitreum. Malketh quickly recognises that the dome is to keep people safe from the azoth that flowed through the fountain when it was operating.

Around this time, Jo also mentions that whenever Hoik is checking at doors, he is very carefully looking for moisture, or any sign that there is water or azoth on the other side. It has occurred to him that all the adamantine hatches on this level may be pressure seals, and he’s deeply worried that opening the wrong one will see them flooded.

It’s decided to head up the stairs, and the group finds themselves in the chamber of the hobgoblin king who they treated with many months ago. The King tries surrendering when his guards have all been defeated, but Khazi’s Revenge is having none of it, and Gregor acquiesces to the hammer’s demands for blood.

More hobgoblins arrive to join the fight before the King goes down, but the party prevails, and finds a decent little haul.

It’s decided to leave, stopping on the way out to grab the two braziers. Rather than remaining with the local baron for a quick turnaround and back into the dungeon, the group heads back to Burgensdorf for Grook’s cure disease, and we call it a night.
 
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Session 36

29 July 2023

Pre-session discussion and random musings

Being back up to date, I can resume inserting preambles and other assorted rambling.

The last session covered a couple months of game time, so there were a number of random events to deal with regarding Tannek’s barony and business.

It turns out profits from the horse breeding are down due to an unexpected increase in the costs of specialist stockfeeds and equine aphrodisiacs. Some basic investigation led Tannek to discover this pricing increase was due to upstream suppliers needing to pay protection money to a criminal syndicate. De was surprisingly sanguine about this, and after an initial moment of frustration put it down to a cost of doing business. I dare say he would have been less willing to let it slide if the protection money was coming directly out of his pockets, but since he’s not being directly robbed it’s a different story.

He was required to raise additional troops and send them to his liege, creating additional (but not significant) costs for his estate. Then, he found out that he was being called to the viscount’s seat to serve and assist, which will rule out adventuring for the immediate future (unless he decides to refuse). This did cause some consternation.

It also caused some surprise for me; I had not looked closely through the favours and duties, and didn’t realise this duty existed. My initial thought was to disregard it, as disruptive to play, but I liked the fact that holding this power wasn’t just all bells and whistles, and came with real responsibility. However, I did choose to soften the blow a little by stating that Tannek was only expected to make his appearance at the beginning of the next month, just under a week away.

In the end, after I had a chance to put more thought into, I was extremely happy I went in the direction I did. I’ve been thinking recently that I’ve left the political situation in Onderlach fade into the background a little too much, and I’ve been teasing external threats (the Principality of Sorrelblight and the cultists from Caverns of Archaia) without delivering on any consequences. These two random domain events were the trigger for several decisions that are going to result in background events (which the players have been mostly ignoring) starting to force themselves into the forefront – where the PCs can still ignore them to some extent if they wish, but they can no longer do so without risking the consequences of inaction.

Between sessions, it was clarified that Tannek is fine to take day trips back to his barony to ensure things are running smoothly, but he definitely can’t go off adventuring and possibly get himself killed. The viscount is going to be away, and he’s actually expecting Tannek to maintain his domain in his absence – so, quite the honour. [As an aside, if this duty comes up in future, I won’t necessarily restrict the affected lord to not adventuring for the duration, although opportunities to do so will necessarily be at least somewhat curtailed.]

It’s pointed out that the group could take some time off as a whole, conducting research and the like, or Tannek could sit out for a bit while some or all of his henchmen continue to adventure.

Later on, I provided a bit more background about the goings on in the area over recent weeks:

The size and violence of border raids by the Prince of Sorrelblight are increasing, and it is apparent by now that the Duke of Burgensdorf is raising a significant force to reinforce the eastern border (hello troops Tannek has had to raise and send up the chain), and possibly mount counter-raids into Sorrelblight territory. The duchies of Aerik and Schlussen are also marshalling troops, and although their own border is not directly threatened, Sonderberg is believed to also be sending troops.

I have been mentioning the increasing number and size of raids from Sorrelblight on and off for a while, but this is a fairly significant escalation in the situation.

Meanwhile, the new Lord in Winterburg, who had originally sworn fealty to the Duke of Sonderberg, is said to be withholding tribute and claims that darker and greater threats lurk to the east. He has again called for brave adventurers, saying he has learned of an ancient city of evil in the east, ripe for plunder and also the site where cultists plan to summon a mighty demon.

I have dropped the Caverns of Archaia into my wilderness, and the PCs have encountered some of the beastmen cultists going about their dark schemes, so this is something else that needs to begin escalating if I’m not going to just ignore it and let it fade into the background for good. The Lord of Winterburg is also intended to serve as a bit of a clue to the players that their characters don’t necessarily have to conform to the established power structures.

Finally, foreshadowing things that will come to light in the near future, I added this note:

The Viscount of Grunerplast lets slip to Tannek the Duke has specifically forbidden Tannek from joining the army being raised to defend the eastern border, although he is not sure why Tannek has fallen into the duke's bad graces.

Funnily enough, De wasn’t concerned by this at all. Tannek (via De) is convinced that he is being kept out of combat by the Duke for his own safety, because the duke has grander plans for him.

The real reason will come to light soon enough.
 
The Actual Session
  • De: Tannek the Sentinel, Level 6 Lawful Paladin
    • Grook the Explorer, Level 4 Neutral Explorer
    • Balrite the Protector, Level 4 Lawful Paladin
    • Pherrod the Hero, Level 4 Neutral Fighter
    • Uthred the Hero, Level 4 Lawful Destined Fighter
    • Kerol the Acolyte, Level 2 Lawful Cleric
  • Tr: Gregor the Drunken Exemplar, Level 5 Neutral Fighter
    • Sivart the Theurgist, Level 3 Neutral Mage
  • La: Arravis the Thaumaturge, Level 5 Lawful Mage
    • Ranlick Tiddlestick the Hood, Leve 2 Neutral Thief
  • Ro: Malketh the Thaumaturge-Exemplar, Level 5 Neutral Elven Spellsword
    • Dashiel the Theurgist, Level 3 Neutral Mage
  • Jo: Hoik the Spelunker, Level 5 Lawful Dwarven Delver
    • Cornan the Swordmaster, Level 3 Lawful Fighter
De definitely doesn’t want to have Tannek sitting out while the party adventures without him, and Gregor doesn’t want to be spending an extended period of time not adventuring at all. As such, it was determined that, in the six days they have before Tannek is scheduled to report to his liege, they would get some solid dungeoneering in.

The initial objective is to find a way down to level four of Dwimmermount. Malketh offers a mild objection, as he still wants to find azoth. The group reaches a rather strange compromise, where they don’t head for the stairs, but they also don’t make a concerted effort to press northeast to where they’ve been told the reservoir proper is, instead just making an effort to fill in uncharted areas of the Reservoir-level map.

They find a room with bizarre and unnatural markings over the walls and ceilings in phosphorescent paint, and a crude wooden statue of a large demon-toad figure. As they cautiously explore, a number of characters (mostly henchmen) feel a sudden urge to approach the statue, prostrating themselves before it. When the ensorcelled individuals begin a strange, guttural chanting, Malketh hurries to cast dispel magic, ending the enchantment.

Finding a rubble-strewn room, some astute reasoning results in the players identifying similar features to the room where they last encountered giant ticks, and noting that their present location could well be connected reasonably directly to the previous tick chamber. Careful observation does indeed identify ticks among the debris and, so forewarned, they are able to despatch them with ease.

They then find a room holding hundreds of 12” metal discs on shelves. Inspecting the discs shows they are encoding with tiny dots and dashes. Dashiel casts read language, and although he is unable to read the specific details, a title indicates that the disc includes a complete catalogue of all the known rites and ceremonies associated with the Thulian goddess Asana. Another is an accounting of how the servitors assisted the ancients in driving their enemies back to the dark places, while yet another is a guide to various processes by which dyes and colours can be embedded in or added to pottery.

I am partly to blame here, and I don’t expect too much sympathy given I hadn’t read ahead and done any real prep-work, but I did find this room a bit frustrating to come across. Given Dwimmermount doesn’t use the minimalist approach of many OSR dungeons such as Stonehell and Barrowmaze, I generally expect a bit more help with this kind of thing (and, if it was in Stonehell, it would have been called out in the level summary text, so I’d know to prep it). Instead, I have a room filled with “hundreds” of “knowledge records” and the appendix entry on knowledge records just tells me they’re professional guidebooks inscribed on laser disc, with knowledge on a given topic equivalent to a sage. That said, it is a pretty cool feature, and the wealth of knowledge available is well balanced by the difficulty of retrieving the information (there are a handful of playback devices scattered around Dwimmermount).

In any case, the party gathers up the entire stash of discs, and heads back to the local baron’s keep to dump loot, rest, and return.

The next day, some goblins spot them just after they have entered Mazen Kurz. It’s been a long time since the party treated with the goblins, so I make a brand-new reaction roll. The party isn’t interested in a fight, but apparently these goblins are stupid and angry, because they charge when the PCs don’t go away as soon as the goblins demand them to move on. Ergo, dead goblins.

Back in Dwimmermount, the group continues their map-filling efforts, finding a room containing a variety of well-preserved weapons and armour, most of it caked in a layer of grease. Two sets of chainmail are believed by Malketh to be Thulian chain, infused with azoth to provide protection from magic, as well as improved protection and lighter weight. They also find a crossbow bolt with a tip of reddish-orange crystal that appears to have a flame burning inside it.

Further along they enter a large, empty chamber and, as they explore, nearly the entire group fails a save vs spells. Suddenly, the grimy vitreum panels in the ceiling of clean and giving off a crips light, there are bunks and other furniture, and nearly 20 armed guards about the room. These figures, and the rest of the scene, flickers in and out of reality, and can’t be seen at all by Tannek or Uthred, who passed their saves.

The phantasmal soldiers see foreign invaders, bellow warnings, and charge to attack. The ensuing battle is hard fought, with enemies on all sides and neither Tannek nor Uthred able to assist; in fact, they barely have any idea what is going on, although when Ranlick takes a heavy hit and goes down, Tannek is able to move to assist.

When the group finally eliminates the last soldier, the scene fades way and they are in an empty chamber again. However, it is noted that an exit from the room that was visible during the fight is now just a wall. Malketh is able to locate a secret door, and beyond they find a few chests, containing mostly a lot silver, but also some gold and a set of wind chimes that are later confirmed to be magical.

Having taken a lot of damage, and with Ranlick combat ineffective, the group returns to civilisation with their haul again.

The next day, Ranlick is left at the baron’s fort recuperating, while the rest decide to visit the hologram of the Eld arcanotech engineer. They ask it about the control room Malketh sketched. Based on Malketh’s description, the hologram advised it most likely requires power to be activated from some external source, and also requires an engineer’s control rod, which will look like a black metal baton, 31.25 inches in length, inscribed with engineer’s runes.

The hologram knowns nothing of the caduceuses the group has found, other than the fact the description indicates they’re made from azoth-infused metal (this is not news).

It is able to explain that the discs they found are known as knowledge records, and are inscribed in the language on arcane machinery. They can be read by devices known as knowlographs, which are described in a fashion that makes them visually similar to a record player.

Finally, they ask about the orrery on level two of Dwimmermount, but the engineer is not familiar with either the orrery itself or its power source.

The group then decides it’s finally time to try and make their way down to the Halls of Lesser Secrets.

Approaching the room where the ghasts; directions suggest they should find the stairs, the group hears sounds ahead; it seems likely there are demon-toads ahead. There is a lengthy discussion about how to approach the situation. Towards the end of the conversation, Tr surprised me by indicating he assumed the PCs weren’t taking all this time, and the tactical planning wasn’t occurring in the game world. I pointed out that I’m generally fairly generous in combat, and allow a bit of discussion that takes into account PC skill and tactical nouse, but outside of combat, not so much. Everyone else agreed that I had always been quite consistent that time spent planning is time spent planning. On reflection, my best guess is that Trav was a bit tired, and was thinking in the context of combat leeway.

I didn’t mention this at the time, but I wouldn’t count time seeking clarification from the me about character’s existing understanding or information (ie, conversations directly between player and referee). A planning conversation between players, though, is a discussion between characters.

Anyway, the final plan was quite simple – the group moves to the entrance, the front liners follow Gregor’s lead in immediately charging the enemy, and the remainder hold position. The plan works, more-or-less, but this group of ranine has a caster with them, who drops a silence spell on the rear group, causing Dashiel to lose the support spell he was casting. Most of the ranine go down quite quickly, but Pherrod takes some heavy damage and withdraws. This is actually fortunate, as two more ranine have hidden themselves among pillars near the entrance, and move to engage the squishies in the rear, and Pherrod is able to help out. The ranine caster puts up a bit of fight, but soon enough the toads are all down, and healing magic is being shared around.

The stairs are indeed here, and the group heads down, where they find another group of ranine. I was a little concerned at this stage, as the group was able to make short work of most of the ranine they met, and they are a major feature of level four. I was to find, however, the difficulty was ramping up nicely.

While the group sized up the situation, a ranine cleric again dropped silence on the party, making spellcasting impossible. At the same time, a hold person trapped Malketh on the stairs. The fighters charged in (sans Malketh), but Uthred went blind before reaching the toads, and came to an abrupt halt. A paralysed Malketh was being dragged off to the side by Grook and Kerol, out of the silence, so that Kerol could attempt to use the staff of healing to unparalyse him. Meanwhile, it was now clear to the group that they were up against two shamans this time. Balrite also ended up blinded, and then the two shamans tried to make a hasty retreat while their minions held the party at bay. However, Tannek was specifically attempting to engage them, and Dashiel had summoned berserkers, so the party was able to lock them down and prevent an easy to escape. If the outcome was in doubt, that soon changed, for Arravis has retreated back up the stairs until he was outside the silence, then cast skinchange, and came bounded into the room in sabretooth tiger form.

While there is enough healing in the group to ensure no one is near death, two blinded henchmen is a concern, and no one has a cure blindness spell. Some are skeptical that it will work, but Malketh decides he is going to use dispel magic on Balrite and Uthred, and everyone is pleased when the spell restores their sight. Ro is extremely chuffed with his choice of 3rd level spell, which has already come in handy several times.

I, also, am happy, that two ranine clerics in a demon-toad posse make for an excellent force multiplier, and I’m far less concerned about things suddenly becoming too easy.

With a few berserkers still alive, and Arravis still in tiger form, it’s decided to push on quickly before these spells expire. The group finds a room with shelves full of glassware – from small vials through flasks and beakers to large amphorae. They do not linger to give it a thorough search, moving onto a chamber full of mind-bending and unnatural geometric shapes and patterns. Mindful of the phosphorescent markings encountered in the demon-toad statue room, the group is very wary. However Malketh looks too closes, feels everything closing in on him for a moment – but passes his save, and is able to shake off the effect, so that the patterns, while they still feel wrong, are no longer so disturbing. Everyone else keeps their gaze pointedly at their feet, away from the shapes, while Malketh leads them through the chamber.

They find a damp, circular chamber, filled with a horrible stench of rot and decay. A narrow, slimy walkway runs around the outside, with a deep pit in the middle, and a sloshing sound can be heard from somewhere below.

Arravis considers changing into a flying creature to do some reconnaissance over the pit, and I remind him that I just recently warned him that his skinchange spell is probably close to expiring. He decides not to push his luck, and no one thinks that walking onto the slimy walkway to see what is below is a worthwhile risk. The door to the pit of rot is closed, and we call the session to a close shortly thereafter.
 
Not often we need a "yum" like button.

Really enjoyed the writeup as ever. I am surprised at how "sci-fantasy" Dwimmermount is. There is almost a Tekumel / Worlds Without Number vibe off it.
 
Not often we need a "yum" like button.

Really enjoyed the writeup as ever. I am surprised at how "sci-fantasy" Dwimmermount is. There is almost a Tekumel / Worlds Without Number vibe off it.
There's a lot about the setting that has a very pulpy, sword and planet vibe, albeit with a fairly vanilla fantasy world built on top the ruins of the old and the lost. It never really pushes into gonzo, but there is certainly a lot more, much more overt, sci fi still to come.
 
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Session 37

12 August 2023

Pre-session discussion and random musings

So, I wrote up this whole spiel about magic users in D&D, and various methods of spell selection and stuff. But after I’d done that, Tr raised a complaint about the surprise system and, since player complaints are a much more interesting topic of discussion, my self-indulgent, meandering thoughts on spell repertoires have been bumped back and will be added to a later report.

Anyway, I was a bit surprised (NPI) by the complaint, because I hadn’t noticed surprise having any dramatic impact on anything at all recently. I had a feeling this was actually related to the “planning time is game time” discussion we had last session, and this turned out to be the case.

I’m confident that part of the issue is also residual trauma from the carrion crawler TPK, and it combined with the misunderstanding by Tr about in-character planning to resulted in some frustration with the fact that surprise only seems to work against the group, and even when it is helpful, it doesn’t necessarily add anything fun to the game.

I took the opportunity to point out that the group never held surprise in the ranine fight that triggered the complaint. Tr had thought the party did have surprise, but whittled it away in discussion. In addition to making it clear surprise was not a factor in that situation at all, I again clarified that planning time is game time, and everyone else agreed I’ve been consistent about this. As mentioned, I suspect it’s TPK trauma still influencing the way Tr is looking at some aspects of the game. If I was to play home gaming psychiatrist for a moment, I think it will help if he forms a real attachment to Gregor. Rocking around with Khazi’s Revenge is helping with that a bit, but Gregor is still a bit listless and without any real purpose other than to kill shit. I think Tr needs more.

We also discussed ways in which the group can actually work to make it more likely that surprise works in their favour – using stealthy scouts, dousing light sources and the like. Jo is eager to make more use of Hoik as a forward scount.

One of Tr’s points was that monsters tend to know when they have surprise, but the PCs don’t necessarily. I have a tendency to describe a situation and expect the players to pick up on the cues. The general feedback I got on that is that it is actually fairly clear most of the time, but it is a fair point, and will make an effort to ensure there is no doubt when they’re in a position to make use of surprise if they want to.

I definitely do feel that the surprise mechanism is an important part of the game, especially while dungeoneering. It’s not necessarily intended to be a fun mechanic in-and-of-itself, but it’s one of those things where it is stacked against the PCs (who are crashing around the dungeon in a group of 15+, carrying light), and overcoming that is part of the challenge.

De commented on the arbitrary fact that all the monsters have infravision, and the gaminess of it – not as a complaint, just an observation. He was quite disgusted when I let him know that the original rule was that monsters lose their infravision any time they’re working for the PCs.

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that no one else has any problem with the surprise mechanic, not even De who hated it in AD&D where the unsurprised side can get multiple actions. I also think Tr is mostly ok with the clarifications I presented, and it’s doesn’t appear to be some kind of dealbreaker for him.

There was one very interesting thing I realised during this discussion, though. I was commenting that sometimes, when monsters gain surprise, they use the opportunity to slink back off into the darkness before the PCs ever know they were there. This brought into focus something I was already somewhat aware of, but hadn’t really thought explicitly about – to a certain extent, I have my own private solo-RPG I’m playing while the group adventures. I have creatures moving around the dungeon, reacting to the players, doing things, which often no one other then me ever learns about. The same is true with other things happening behind the scenes, with factions and NPCs going about their business, and I never have any idea if the players are going to uncover this stuff. Being a GM is kind of like having a bunch of little insect kingdoms you manage and maintain and play with, whether during sessions or between them, never knowing if the players will lift the rock covering one and stark poking things with sticks.

Which allows me to segue nicely into the prep work I’ve been doing recently to start bringing the political situation more to the forefront of the game. As I mentioned last report, I’ve been mostly letting things idle along; the players haven’t been prodding, and I’ve taken the path of least resistance to just let things ride. That, however, can’t continue, and I’m very glad Tannek’s domain events have pushed me towards ramping up the action.

I promised De some time ago I was going to provide a bit more information about his liege and fellow vassals, and I ended up writing up some background info on his two fellow barons, as well as all seven Burgensdorf Counts, and the other six viscounts sworn to Tannek’s liege’s liege. Of those NPCs, my favourite is Countess Seestadt, and I’m a bit sad that, unless the PCs are shockingly effective at disrupting the planned sequence of events, she will be dead by the end of the session without the party ever meeting her. However, Ag is expected to attend, and the Countess’s death will create plot hooks for Sircini.

I believe the players are going to turn up with plans to ride out Tannek’s down-time, doing a bit of admin, research or whatever, then go back to dungeoneering. And, they’ll be able to do that, if it’s what they want. But, in the meanwhile, shit is about to hit the fan. I have an itinerary of events that are going to play out in the coming month, and things are going to escalate very quickly. I would love to see the PCs decide they’re not going to sit around while things start to burn, and decide to get involved, but I suspect they’re going to feel a bit out of their depth and unsure if there is really anything they can do. That’s ok, because this is just a teaser for what’s to come.

I’ve probably mentioned this before but, if I haven’t, the author of ACKS has a particular, standard way of having campaigns move into the Conqueror and then then King phases, and it basically involves placing the PCs in a crumbling society where it becomes clear that the PCs can take advantage of the chaos or step in to restore civilisation to its former glory but, either way, they can’t expect the existing power structure to do anything useful. I could be wrong, but I suspect he also makes it fairly explicit to his players that seizing power is something they’re going to be expected and able do.

I mentioned the phases of the game to my players, and I’ve made some idle comments about theoretical ways in which they can take power, but I think they’re mostly still thinking this is something for them to do much later in the game. I have no plans to make any more out-of-game suggestions about this kind of thing to them at all. In fact, if they steadfastly refuse to get involved with the upcoming events, there will be a bit of a natural lull for a while, and they will be able to naively assume everything is back to business as usual. But, before too long, I’m going to resume burning shit down, and see what (if anything) they want to do about it.
 
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The Actual Session
  • De: Tannek the Sentinel, Level 6 Lawful Paladin
    • Grook the Explorer, Level 4 Neutral Explorer
    • Balrite the Protector, Level 4 Lawful Paladin
    • Pherrod the Hero, Level 4 Neutral Fighter
    • Uthred the Hero, Level 4 Lawful Destined Fighter
    • Kerol the Acolyte, Level 2 Lawful Cleric
      • Diefenbacker the Wolf Pup, Level 1 Neutral Dire Wolf
  • Tr: Gregor the Drunken Exemplar, Level 5 Neutral Fighter
    • Sivart the Theurgist, Level 3 Neutral Mage
  • Ro: Malketh the Thaumaturge-Exemplar, Level 5 Neutral Elven Spellsword
    • Dashiel the Theurgist, Level 3 Neutral Mage
  • Ag: Sircini the Sister, Level 4 Lawful Priestess
    • Soronia the Bladesinger, Level 3 Lawful Bladedancer
First up, oops, I had forgotten we finished the previous session still in the dungeon. I was all prepped to start running through the various local events, until Tr is loading up the map on the TV and everyone is ready to continue. I had to take a moment to refocus.

Second, the jalapeno poppers were awesome. The salami ones were merely ok, the bacon ones were awesome. I will be doing another batch next week to bring some into work on my return (and to thank the marvellous lady that provided me the dip recipe). Seeing the size of the batch I made, I suggested prior to the session that if the others bring a few filling snacks in we will be able to forgo the pizza we normally get, so we ended up with a few breads, various dips, a couple types of olives and, of course, the jalapenos.

Anyway, rejoining our brave companions in the depths of Dwimmermount …

The group retraced their steps to the room of non-Euclidian geometry, Malketh leading the way while the others kept their eyes firmly on their foot. I was continually tempted to call for some kind of self-discipline based checks (whether keyed off a stat, save or just random) because I don’t think it would be that easy to keep your eyes at your feet the entire time. However, I feel that flies in the face of the player-based-skill concept. The players have taken reasonable steps to avoid the threat; it would seem petty to screw with them just because they haven’t gone even further and blindfolded themselves. Additionally, as I write this now, something I always try to keep in mind is the light from torches isn’t exactly awesome; a brief glance up in flickering, shadowy light isn’t the same as examining the walls when bathed in light.

Entering a new hall, the party sees a couple of floating, glass of crystal globes, about two feet in diameter, and giving of a soft blue glow. Dim light further into the hall suggests there are a couple more. About fifteen feet away from the group, just to this side of the nearest globes, a couple of ranine lie sprawled on the floor. They don’t have any obvious injuries, but are also not laying naturally (although who knows what positions frog and toad creatures find comfortable?).

Malketh takes a ten-foot pole from one of the henchmen and advances cautiously to try poking one of the toads. As he does, one of the globes begins floating towards him. He immediately backs quickly away, and the globe stops.

It is decided not to mess with the globes, and to look elsewhere instead.

Down a different hall, the group encounters a set of adamantine doors, with strange glyphs – not the same as the Eldritch marking they’ve found in some of the upper levels and in Mazen Kurz – inscribed around the lintel.

The doors are opened, and Gregor steps through, promptly vanishing as soon as he does. The fighter finds himself in complete darkness, seemingly alone. He cautiously begins to take a few paces backwards, but is not back in the hall with the rest of the group.

There is some discussion from the rest of the party, and it’s decided the best course of action is simply to follow. Unfortunately, they are not all teleported to the same place, instead appearing in a number of different locations around the level – mostly in twos and threes, although a couple individuals are alone.

I was dreading how this was going to play out. The party was split across at least five different locations and, as they began to explore, each time they entered one of the teleport rooms, any of them that had gathered together where again teleported, and groups that had formed split again.

De is the player most likely to find this kind of puzzle/trap nothing more than an exercise in frustration, his situation was further confused by the fact that he had half-a-dozen scattered henchmen that he had a personal interest in keeping track of. In the end, the latter may have been a good thing, because he decided the easiest course of action was to take a back seat, stop trying to get a clear idea in his head who was where, and let the other players make most of the decisions.

Overall, the whole thing ran surprisingly smoothly, although this was helped by the fact that despite the multiple groups trekking back and forth all over the place, none of my wandering monster checks indicated an encounter.

This kind of thing is actually one reason I don’t like wandering monster systems that slowly ramp up the possibility of an encounter, or have them occur automatically at fixed intervals. Having a flat chance of an encounter each period, or whenever the party does anything particular noisy, means that sometimes there will be long stretches without an encounter, while at other times the party will have to deal with a relentless series of them. That variance is more interesting to me than slowly increasing tension, knowing that an encounter is inevitable.

Eventually, one group of characters congregated around Malketh and Tannek, back near the room where it all started, while Gregor and Sircini were doing some more active exploring. Gregor was focusing on mapping out the main halls linking each of the teleport chambers (and would later do an excellent job of using a combination of instinct and deductive reasoning to join them all up correctly), while Sircini was making more of an effort to explore side passages.

The priestess, who was with Dashiel at the time, found a chamber with two alabaster and two basalt pillars in it. The pillars had discolorations in a narrow band and in arcs facing the centre of the room. These were actually left by touch, which was a clue that touching them did something, but it was taken instead as a sign that something might explode from the centre of the room.

To the north of this chamber was a passage that ended in a wall of darkness, similar to the vantablack room. Sircini cast light beyond the barrier, dispelling the darkness beyond and allowing herself and Dashiel to explore the room beyond, which had the High Thulian word “micma” inscribed in various fonts all about the walls.

This brings up something that is annoying me about Dwimmermount – there are at least a couple of puzzles that rely on the characters understanding High Thulian words, but the players don’t have the knowledge to put the pieces together.

The worst example is a series of pillars with random letters on them. Touching the pillars in the correct order forms a word in High Thulian, but it’s a complete nonsense word in English, so there is absolutely no basis for the players to make the connection. If the GM points out that the letters spell this word, then the puzzle is no longer a puzzle, and obscuring the correct answer in the first place seems pointless.

High Thulian is a Latin-analogue, so if these puzzles used reasonably common Latin words, I could see them as a very old school (but difficult kind of puzzle), but they’re just nonsense words.

Anyway, in this case, in one place in the text micma is referred to as a nonsense word, while in another it’s called out by the text as being ancient Thulian. What does it mean in ancient Thulian? The book doesn’t say, so I had to work that out myself.

I confirmed that Dashiel spoke High Thulian, and then advised the party that it means “grounded”. Ro quickly decided this might be a word that can bypass or deactivate the teleportation system. Ro advised that he wanted Dashiel to immediately return to the nearest teleportation chamber and test the theory. Sircini, however, was opposed to risking further teleportation and becoming separated, wanting instead to continue exploring side passages.

I made reaction roll, which indicated a very unfavourable response from Dashiel. He, quite rudely, made it clear he doesn’t take orders from Sircini, and stormed up to test his theory. With little choice, Sircini followed beyond and discovered no teleportation occurred when Dashiel said, “micma, micma, micma!” before stepping into the teleportation chamber.

By this stage, the rest of the party had managed to congregate together, with Gregor reporting that he had heard sounds of fighting from one location; but no one else had encountered anything of particular interest. Sircini and Dashiel managed to make their way to the group, and word was spread about how to move safely through the teleportation rooms.

The party was about to resume their exploration, as a group, when finally a wandering monster check came up positive. The next trick for me was to work out where this gaggle of monsters came from. I really didn’t want intelligent creatures showing up somewhere without an explanation as to how they got there and, specifically, how they avoided or nullified the teleportation system. Fortunately, there was a nearby side-hatch from them to emerge out of, just down the hall from where the party were discussing and sharing their recent experiences.

Six doppelgangers. Oh, I hadn’t realised there were doppelgangers on the wandering monster list on this level. I described them as wiry, dishevelled humans or near-humans, maybe a little feral, with some crude armour and assorted light weaponry, with my thought process being they had taken the form of wererats found elsewhere on this level.

While I hadn’t been expecting doppelgangers, I was aware of a scripted encounter elsewhere, involving doppelgangers who had arrived via a portal and were seeking a way out, so I decided to go with the story that they had arrived from another world (not one of the known worlds) and were looking for a way out. As the discussion continued for a while, another wondering monster check turned up something … five more doppelgangers! They wandered out from the same hatch.

The group had been negotiated joining up with them, gaining some additional manpower for the delve, and leading these strangers out when it was time to leave. Some of the players were a little less comfortable with the idea now that the numbers were even (and rightly so, because the party was well and truly being sized up for replacement).

Interestingly, what finally triggered real suspicion was the fact that the doppelgangers said they had only been in Dwimmermount for a few days. Malketh had decided they were most likely so skinny due to being stuck here for months with little to eat, and it didn’t sit right with him that they weren’t actually starving. He whispered to Tannek, asking him to sense evil, while surreptitiously getting his conch of blasting ready.

The conversation continued while Tannek sought the inner clarity necessary to sense evil, and then, in a moment of clarity, he saw the malice in these creatures, knowing that every one them meant him harm.

Giving a signal to Malketh, the elf blew the conch and the group leapt into action. The doppelgangers dropped their weapons, preferring to fight with grapples and bites. The group was never in any serious danger, although they were very worried about regeneration when I described the bodies that they dropped shuddering and contorting strangely.

After the fight, they saw that all of the creatures had turned to horrid, damp, skinless things with bulging yellow eyes, and they realised they had been faced with doppelgangers.

It is decided to find out where the doppelgangers came from, and the group heads that way. They find an armoury (oh look, this is where the doppelgangers got their weapons from). A search reveals an adamantine-bladed spear and an azoth infused caduceus (they’re still not sure what these things are for, and don’t even carry them with them while in the dungeon, despite being told they’re used to pass guardians and defences).

While searching, there is another random encounter, this time with shadows. Some damage is inflicted, but Sircini’s protection from evil renders the shadow’s attacks ineffective, and the final one flees across the ceiling in a ripple of darkness.

Further along, they discover sets of Thulian Chain and Thulian Plate. The chain fetches an excellent price, and the plate will be an upgrade for most of the fighters. It’s decided to change armour immediately. Another encounter, this time with a single shadow. I guess it’s the one that fled, back for another round.

After it’s despatched, now weighed down by three extra sets of chain along with some coin, it’s decided to head back to civilisation. Time for Baron Estereich (Tannek) to report to his liege).

However, the session is a long way from over.
 
Tannek heads to Grunerplast to report to the viscount and prepare to manage his liege’s estate while the viscount heads to war. The rest of the group situates themselves in Burgensdorf, only half-a-day away, at a relaxed pace. On the way back, they pass through the county seat of Sicherhafen, where troops are beginning to assemble before marching south. Gregor is a mildly annoyed the party isn’t heading that way too.

Tannek is continuing to attract new peasants to his barony and his domain morale is maxed out, although the final, lingering affects of disease mean his horse business loses a tiny amount of money for the month.

I’m pretty sure the group is expecting time to advance quickly, as it usually does while they’re doing admin, but it is not to be.

The word in town is that the Prince has also been raising troops, from the western lords, and plans to march to Burgensdorf. Meanwhile, the duke’s forces head south but, shortly after they do, word reaches Burgensdorf that a goodly number of barons and not a few viscounts were executed for treason before the army marched. Most shockingly, the Countess of Seestadt was also executed. Although she made no secret of the fact that she sympathised strongly with the eastern lords who wanted independence from the throne, it was widely thought that she was sufficiently powerful to be immune to repercussions, as long as she didn’t take action against the crown.

For the readers, in case the situation isn’t clear, Burgensdorf (the duchy where Mazen Kurz is situated, and where the party mostly hangs out) and Sonderburg (the duchy where Dwimmermount is located, and where the party started) are eastern, mountainous provinces, and much of the region borders on unexplored and dangerous wilderness. The land is significantly less bountiful than the western, lowland duchies, and the population has higher urban concentration.

The eastern lords chose to ally with the Prince’s house in the distant past, when the Principalities were still forming, but there has long been simmering discount about how they make less money, live harder lives, and guard the borders, while the western nobles just chill and enjoy life (it’s worth noting that the eastern aristocracy is still absurdly rich compared to the average peasant). There was a widespread rebellion about a generation ago, mostly along east-west lines, which was put down, and things then remained fairly calm until an attempted coup and the assassination of the duke’s daughter early in the campaign, about 18 months ago in game time.

I didn’t have any of this planned as such, it was a sequence of random events that resulted in the initial wedding assassination plot, and I’ve just been letting it play out since then.

Anyway, history lesson over, and moving along –

Soon after learning of the executions, a young bladedancer named Magdalena approaches Sircini and beseeches for aid. She is aware the Sircini is world-wise priestess who knows a number of powerful warrior, mages and aristocrats, and wants help recovering the body of Countess Seestadt before it is cremated.

From there, if Siricini is able to see the body transported to the temple of Ishanna in Mitteldurchgang (in Sonderburg Duchy), Reverend Mother Fritzi should be able to restore her to life.

Sircini, however is very resistant to the idea, in no small part because she knows that Tannek is loyal to the Duke. She asks Magdalena why she feels this is the correct course of action, and the bladedancer explains that the Duke had no right to murder the Countess, that she was a true friend to Ishanna, and that it is necessary to stand up to the Duke’s tyranny. Magdalena indicates that, even if they are unable to get the body to Mitteldurchgang in time for it to be raised, the Erste Bergherren (as the rebellious lords refer to themselves) will protect the corpse and use the Countess as a rallying symbol, while they seek a way to perform a ritual of resurrection.

Sircini is unmoved, and Magdalena throws herself prostrate before the priestess, hugging Sircini’s ankles, sobbing, beseeching desperately for sympathy and support in this matter.

Sircini remains unmoved, and Magdalena rises to her feet, sorrow replaced with angry. Sircini is told that she is as cowardly as Mother Cathrin, as the bladedancer departs. Sircini feels vindicated, now knowing that she is not the first priestess to have refused this mission.

Although I wanted the group to actually take up this mission, I also feel really vindicated. I went all out selling this as a good and necessary thing, from Magdalena’s perspective, and at no point did I get even the faintest hint of, “I think the GM wants us to do this, so we should probably do it,” from any of the players. Tr let it be known he’d be up for it, but no one else voiced an opinion, and Ag was quite comfortable refusing the giant, dangling, plot hook that was being pushed hard by the NPC. I now know that my players are very clear that they have agency. We also know Sircini can be an ice cold bitch, which surprised me.

Not long after this, rumours (that quickly established themselves as fact) indicated the Duke’s army had not marched to the border, but had instead dispersed, besieging and, for the most part quickly capturing, a number of forts and domains held by various lesser lords who weren’t present in the army in order to be executed.

Meanwhile, with the Duke wreaking bloody vengeance across his own lands, word reaches Burgensdorf that a large force of beastmen under the banner of Sorrelblight have sacked and burned the county seat of Nuestal.

Gregor now starts being a little more vocal about wanting to head for the border and restore beastmen. Even Tannek voices some concerns about the Duke’s judgement. However, it’s all just idle talk, and nothing comes of it.

The Duke’s forces start heading back southeast to face the oncoming beastman horde. Many are afraid that a huge army of evil is marching on Burgensdorf, and it’s too late to stop it. Further word reaches the city that the vanguard of the Duke’s army has suffered a major defeat. Expecting the worst, some people are starting to flee the city, heading west. Included in the Prince’s force are a small number of bronze golems, which the group are able to ascertain were a test run for the colossus the Prince is planning to have constructed.

Fortunately, the Prince’s army has arrived in Bugensdorf and most of his forces head to reinforce the Duke. Gregor, the party treasurer, has been having trouble selling his Thulian chain and areonite cuirass in the open market, but has the bright idea to word up some of the nobles and heroes passing through on their way to war, and manages to sell off several sets, netting the group a pleasant XP bump.

Some days later, word reaches Burgensdorf that the combined forces of the Prince and Duke have won a decisive victory against Sorrelblight, routing the beastmen and driving them back across the border.

Tannek’s faith in the Duke is restored; he knew the Prince was coming, and wasn’t leaving the border undefended (for long).

It’s not over, though. A garrison is left in Nuestal, mostly consisting of forces sent down to assist from Sonderberg, and the Prince and Duke both march northeast into Sonderberg, seizing more domains with only basic garrisons, their troops and lords in the south.

A rebel army concentrates at High Sonderberg, but the Duke of Sonderberg, who is being held by the Prince, convinces the defenders to surrender, and they are allowed to disperse back to their homes. The Duke of Sonderberg is deposed, but not executed.

Soon after this, but after the bulk of the Princes and Duke Burgensdorf’s forces have returned west, it is learned that the Count of Muntburg has declared that, with his liege Duke Sonderberg gone, he no longer recognised any higher authority. He says that he has sent his troops into Dwimmermount and secured the first level, and he calls for heroes to assist in returning order to the land under a reformed and benevolent Thulian empire.

Finally, the Lord or Winterburg has sent heralds across the land. As soon as he heard this, De said something like, “Him again? He’s doing this every month without fail, and he’s starting to sound desperate and pathetic.”

That might just be the case.

The announcement being read is:
 
To the Nobles, Lords, Aristocrats, Clergy, Heroes and Elevated Scoundrels of Onderlach and her sister realms:

I, Viscount Elvridge, Lord of Winterburg, Guardian of the East Gate, piss upon you and your greed, your petty squabbles, your cowardice and your blind, wilful intransigence. You prove yourselves to be nothing more than a collection of ruttish, rump-fed ratsbones.

You see fit to fight and bicker among yourselves, even as evil is at your door, parading your paunches across your domains like you are nothing more than pottle-deep pignuts.

And that arrogant Prince of Beastmen in Sorrelblight, though your self-destructive cock-swinging contest allowed him to burn castles and villages, is not more than an annoyance. Be that as it may, if you continue scuttling about like rats in a roasting pot, your feckless stupidity will allow him to sap whatever small strength you might have left to muster in your limp members; whatever fragment of virility remains to you will be lost long before the End arrives.

The lords of the Church, too, show themselves to be nothing more than beslubbering, beef-witted bladders, while the whores of the Temple recline in corpulent luxury like the frothy, full-gorged flax-wenches they are. You are as complicit as the others; nay, moreso, for do you not have the audacity to claim to serve Law? Liars!

I denounce the Prince of Onderlach, his dukes and counts and all his petty lords, down to the most vulgar of barons, save those who heed my call. I denounce the priests and priestesses of Solinor and Ishanna, and those who call themselves paladins, save those who heed my call. I denounce the mages of the Royal Society, the Purple College, the Bastion of Knowledge and all other schools, save those who heed my call. I denounce all elves, dwarves and gnomes who hide in their fastnesses and those who reside among men, save those who heed my call. I denounce the Princes of Crime, lords of vice and villainy, save those who heed my call.

I have delved deep into the dark places of the earth and caught a glimpse of the horrors that reside there, eternally ravenous, eager to drag all good and honest men down to be consumed in a hellpit of unimaginable sorrow and torment.

I have spoken with those who came face to face with forces of Chaos and Evil so potent and antithetical to humankind they left indelible scars; scars that, though inscribed upon the hidden stuff of the soul, were plainly written in their eyes for all to see. Scars so terrible that I now carry with me a smallest part of their weight, simply because I came close enough to that self-same Evil to understand the depths of its malevolence when it was described to me.

Should such evil ever be allowed to rise, we will all, forever, grovel in pain and torment as its playthings, trapped in the mad hellscape it brings into being.

Not a one of you whom I address is worthy of my compassion or my valour, and I should throw myself to Chaos in despair, to be embraced and then rent asunder, but at least no longer to know the sickening frustration of pleading futilely for your eyes to open.

Yet, still, I beseech you, those among you who look inside yourselves and see shame. Those lords who seek to protect their people, those heroes who want to know that they truly are aligned with Law, those clerics and bladedancers who stand against Chaos, and even those who seek nothing more than vast riches, but who will not destroy all that they love to obtain them. I fall to my knees, wracked with relentless sobs, my shirt torn to rags and my flesh rent as I scour my own nails across my naked skin in fervent supplication. My tears are a river, their troubled and turbulent waters mingling with my lifesblood, and I can only pray that they wash away the stain of darkness that lies upon us all. Hear my cry for aid, and have mercy!

Evil rises in the east, and the lands will tremble before it. If you are worthy, present yourself to me. We will face the foes of Law, and forge a new realm and a new Order.
 
That went over pretty well with the group. Tr started pointing in accusing fashion at various other players as they were being called out, at which point I was unable to continue reading with a serious tone and straight face for a bit but, in the end, I got it all out.

* ** **** ** *​

So, that’s all the background stuff that happened, over the course of a game month. While this was going on, Gregor was selling things, various mages were learning spells. Gregor was agitating for action, but not with any vehemence.

Tannek used his time in the Viscount’s domain to speak to his liege’s somewhat strange daughter. Rumours circulate that she tortures animals (and possibly children). She wears unusual makeup, with dark eyes and pale skin, and looks like a dishevelled goth in her fifties. Tannek wanted to get feel for whether there was any truth to the rumours, but was unable to get particularly close to her. At one point, when she felt he was prying, she snarled at him. It seems that she has some legitimate social issues, but Tannek isn’t entirely convinced it’s not an act. He decided against going through her apartment while she was out.

He also spent some time speaking to one of the viscount’s grandsons. The viscount’s eldest son is well into his fifties, and long ago lost interest in taking over the viscounty one day; his grandson Liever is expected to be named heir. Liever left to go travelling in his late teens, and returned nearly a decade later, after spending much time living among the distant steppe nomads of Skysos (his randomly determined class was barbarian – another interesting wrinkle provided by the dice).

Liever is very interested in Tannek’s experiences; he is eager to absorb knowledge and alternative viewpoints, and is greatly impressed with the paladin’s prowess at arms and great heroism. Tannek, in turn, is very interested in talking horses, with Liever offering a very different perspective based on his time among the Skysostons who practically live their lives mounted. Somewhere down the track, Tannek would very much like to start important Skysoston steppe horses, although the logistics of such an endeavour would be daunting.

Towards the end of the month, conversation turns inevitably to war, and the reasons why the Erste Bergherren agitate for change. Tannek voices his opinion that the Duke is justified in his behaviour, given his daughter was murdered (albeit restored to life) and that it is necessary to maintain law and order. When Liever is asked for his thoughts, he is about to speak, pauses, and then agrees with Tannek.

The Viscount is known for his lack of any strong beliefs, his aversion to conflict and his unwillingness to commit to a cause if it can be helped. Liever does not display those qualities, but it quite evident that he does not feel safe sharing his true feelings with a clear Loyalist. Tannek, the eternal optimist, assumes he will gain Liever’s trust at a later date and can continue the conversation in future.

The party also has their sage doing research into the control room on the Reservoir level of Dwimmermount, and hired an expert on demonology to investigate the big toad demon, and the little toad demons, form Dwimmermount.

They learn that the big demon is most likely Tsath Dagon, Demon Prince of the Dark Waters. Evil cultists who worship this being tend to be unusually clean, for the immerse themselves in water regularly. The smaller creatures are ranine, and are not demons as such, but are believed to be beings created by Tsath Dagon and in its image. They dwell in dark, damp places beneath the earth, and hate the sunlight. The sage has no record of ranine in Dwimmermount.

The group confirm they have a paralytic bite, and the sources indicate the paralysis usually lasts around and hour. It is unknown how the ranine reproduce, and it some scholars have supposed that they carry off paralysed victims, conduct unspeakable rites, and turn them into their own kind. Ranine communities are usually ruled by a priesthood dedicated to Tsath Dagon.

* ** **** ** *​

Following all the events of the month, the party needs to decide what to do. Despite their initial scorn, the party mostly feel some empathy for Lord Winterburg. Malketh recalls him as a very driven man, perhaps slightly unhinged, yes, but one who is actively looking to make the world a better place and return dangerous wilderness to civilisation.

There is a bit of chatter about joining forces and starting their own domains, and Gregor definitely likes that idea, but in the end, no one is motivated to do anything about it.

It seems that Tannek really wants to believe in the Duke, because after having misgivings at one point, he now appears to be firmly Loyalist. I find that intriguing and not a little surprising. That said, it’s not necessarily wrong.

I don’t see many of the major NPCs involved in this conflict as evil. They’re mostly Lawful, or at least neutral-but-recognise-the-benefits-of-Law; they just also happen to display varying levels of selfishness and arrogance, and tend to be unable to see value in a path forward that doesn’t match their own particular vision. If the group had gone done the corpse-rescue path, I was looking forward to a number of NPC followers of both Solinor and Ishanna displaying mixed emotions and confusion about where their loyalties lie.

So, anyway, what’s the final decision?

Let’s head back to Dwimmermount and explore more of the Halls of Lesser Secrets.

The status quo returns, for now.

That delve was completed, but I’m in need a break, so I’ll be back to close out this rather lengthy report a bit later.
 
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Session 37, Part II

Returning to Dwimmermount, with the teleport system puzzled out, the group is eager to do some proper exploration. They find a number of ranine lounging about in a room with some open cisterns. The group wants to fight in the doorway, but the ranine aren’t playing nice, instead dropping silence on them and hanging back. The party eventually advances in, and is able to make relatively short work of the demon toads.

Further along, a gray ooze that wasn’t spotted lashes out at Tannek with a pseudopod, dealing heavy damage and clinging to him. The rest of the group manages to hack the ooze up, but numerous mundane weapons are destroyed in the process, and Tannek falls to the acidic damage. Fortunately, it turns out he was merely dazed and, after some healing, he is fit to continue.

In another chamber, the group is suddenly set upon by two huge spiders who appear from nowhere – not even Tannek with his ability to see invisibility had any idea they were there. Uthred collapses in a twitching heap, succumbing to the fast acting poison, and both spiders vanish. The group grabs the body and flees in panic, as the spiders appear again, dripping fangs seeking more victims. They slam the hatch shut behind themselves and start assessing their options. I listen them to discuss their plans and Uthred’s for a few moments. I’m about to take action when I note Tr making it clear that Gregor fully expects the spiders to show up again any second. And indeed, they do.

Gregor is the only one ready for their return, and lands a heavy blow on one spider as it flickers into view, lunges at someone and disappears again. The group get their act together, realising their only option is to stay and fight. They are able to defeat both spiders by standing ready to attack the instant one appears, but not before Malketh is bitten and dies.

The group is usually pretty anal about checking corpses, but they’re more interested in moving back to search the lair, so the overlook the silk treasure sack on of the phase spiders has attached under it’s abdomen.

With two corpses, it’s decided to leave. Ro comments how crazy it is they were able to wander around aimlessly and in small groups without incident, but now they’re suddenly getting hammered on all sides.

It could get worse – on the way out, I roll a random encounter with four rust monsters (I didn’t realise they were on the random encounter list for this level, either). It’s quite late and I’m tired; destroying a bunch of magic gear at this point is going to make people unhappy; and – most importantly – looking at the party’s location on the map, I’m not quite sure how these creatures could have “wandered” to where the party is at the time of the encounter. I’m don’t want to run any encounter, even less a “fuck you” encounter, if I can’t find a logical way of explaining how it could have eventuated, so I decide to ignore the result. Next time they’re down this way, I will have to start placing some rusty stains here and there, though.

Back in Burgensdorf, Uthred and Malketh are raised. Malketh comes back a little different though, and can’t stop muttering under his breath. Other than being highly annoying for anyone travelling with him, this counteracts the initiative bonus he has for spellcasting.

On that note, I quite like the balance we have on death and resurrection with ACKS. While the OSR is often presented as hardcore mode, this is really only true at the lower levels and, by mid-levels, there are a lot of ways to mitigate or reduce the risk of death, and even if you do die, some form of resurrection is generally reasonably easy to access. However, the Tampering With Mortality table in ACKS does mean that there is always a real chance that there is some kind of penalty associated with being raised, ensuring that the players should always be motivated to find a way to not die, rather than counting on a guaranteed, safe resurrection.

In any event, we called it a night at that point.

[Oh, and as an aside, this last delve was Diefenbacker the dire wolf's first adventure. He just chilled and hung out with Kerol for the XP.]
 
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Between Sessions

So, there's a long gap between sessions, but quite a bit is happening all of a sudden. I love it, because active players between sessions means people are invested, and helps keep them invested.

It all started because Gregor was a temporary recipient of one of the sets of Thulian plate but, after some discussion, it was decided the party was best served allocating it elsewhere. Tr was ok with that, but is getting a bit of armour-envy (even though, when fighting beastmen, Khazi’s Revenge combined with regular plate provides better defence than any set of armour the party has). Back when I ran AD&D, the group paid a lot of money to a sage trying to get a lead on a magic weapon for one of their fighters. I used this as an opportunity to write up a big backstory for a frost brand and send them off with a lead to a new dungeon. I had the sense they weren’t expecting to have to work quite so hard for it, but the whole thing went over very well. Remembering that, Tr asked to do a bit of a retcon, and spend some time (and all his spare cash) in the month of downtime they had last session, hunting for any leads he might be able to find on armour.

This worked nicely for me, as I’ve been hoping for some more hexcrawling, but the group has remained fixated on dungeoneering. Gregor wasted a reasonable amount of cash chasing dead-end leads (and most certainly now has a reputation in town as a gullible, wealthy fool), but ended up with a lead that seemed a little more believable than the rest.

Towards the end of the month, you get one particularly interesting offer -- someone has a map they're willing to sell you for 3,000gp, which they claim shows the way to the Vault of the Immortals, along with the key to open the vault.
The map and key were acquired from an adventurer, who acquired them in turn from a long-dead corpse while exploring the ancient caverns in the mountains south east of Muntburg. Both the original seller and the current seller were confident that the corpse was in fact Rodenrick the Astute, a hero of some repute, who led a small force of bold warriors to slay the Ogre chieftain Tar Muk who was gathering local beastmen to his banner. There are records showing he mounted a number of expeditions into the Ostwood and regions thereabouts, and he disappeared on one such expedition.
The seller is able to provide references to obscure historical references, mainly fragments from the lost people of Archaia, that mention a Vault of the Immortals, an armoury guarded by a "still and silent warrior", that pre-dates their own rise, as well as other fragments from the early Thulian empire indicating that a secret project was undertaken to experiment with Eld and pre-Eld technology at a location to the east of Dwimmermount. This project was housed in an underground stronghold, over which was erected a great statue of the Thulian Emperor.
The primary contents of the vault are said to be the "Crysoclast Assembly" but it was (and surely still is?) also home to the Kahtakan Panoply, which was a set of armour intended for the Lord General of the entire Thulian army (although no other specific details are known by the seller).
Speaking to your own sage, and employing yet another sage for an additional 500gp allows you to confirm that:
  • Rodenrick does appear to have existed and the information provided about him matches known accounts closely enough.
  • The references to the Vault of Immortals seem legitimate, and are obscure enough they would be unlikely to be used in your average scam.
  • There have been numerous reports over the years of giant statue in the Ostwood -- probably about 75 to 100 miles southeast of Winterburg.
You have not been able to confirm the existence of a Kahtakan Panoply or a Crysoclast Assembly, or establish much of anything about what is or was actually in the Vault of the Immortals.
Gregor was already overbudget, but the party pool was overflowing with spare cash, and everyone was happy to put some of the group budget towards acquisition of the map.

On a related note, I am very happy to see Tr starting to get invested in Gregor. I’ve gone from feeling worried that he might still be feeling a bit directionless after Aldavel’s death, to hearing comments about the fact that he’s having fun playing a fighter, and now he’s back to having a clear purpose and driving the game forward with his plots and plans.

As to the map itself, I decided it was time to mix things up a bit. I have another map in Dwimmermount waiting to be found that I recently did on paper. I put more effort into that one than some of me earlier treasure maps, but I’m still limited by a lack of skill. For Gregor's Vault of the Immortals map, I decided to have a whirl at Inkarnate, and was quite happy with the result.

Vault of Immortals.jpg
 
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Initially, it looked like the group was going to head back to Dwimmermount while they put more thought into a wilderness excursion, but when I pointed out that it had recently turned autumn, and they only had maybe 5 – 6 weeks where they could be fairly confident of decent weather, it was decided the time to go was now. I was pleased to get the sense that I had made them feel cold and dreary and depressed with my descriptions of them trudging through rain, sleet and snow last time.

Anyway, planning for an expedition started going into full swing. De suggested that someone should look into recruiting a bard henchman, so they have someone to start recording and telling the tale of their mighty deeds, and Tr immediately put his hand up. I’m waiting on some decisions from Tr, but I’ve rolled some dice and don’t mind the way it looks like this is likely to turn out.

Recruing troops and mounts and buying food and the like is all straightforward enough. They’re trying to work out how much to spend on some healers, and then De said that Tannek and Kerol want to see if they can find a prelate (ie, a 7th level cleric) to come along so they have someone who can restore life and limb.

My first thought was that I don’t like this plan, and I pointed out that such a hireling would expect a monthly wage of at least 3,200gp, and if the group isn’t willing to pay that (or find some other incentive of similar value), Tannek would be aware it’s not really worth even putting out feelers.

However, the general consensus is that amount of money is chump change when it brings you back to life.

Ok, fine, let think about this I said to myself. Is there any chance a 7th level character is going to want to be hireling for the PCs? Not likely. However …

Tannek, Baron Estereich, Paladin Sentinel, Chamberlain of the Duke of Burgensdorf, is certainly not going to have any difficulties setting up and audience with the Bishop of Burgensdorf. Is the Bishop going to dismiss the idea outright? My dice tell me no, he is not.

Of course, he’s certainly not going to hire out one of his most powerful lieutenants to act as a healbot, either. But, what we have here is a chance to exert influence on and control over rising heroes and a baron known to be some kind of pet project for the Duke.

So, the bishop offers a prelate, with his entourage of servants, some lesser clerics and priests, some temple guards (very helpful, as the PCs were fairly limited as to how many mercenaries they’re able to hire in a couple weeks, unless Tannek wants to start calling up his militia), labourers, pack animals. All for an exorbitant (but genuinely fair) fee. What I expected to be the sticking point was the bishop making it clear that the prelate is to have a say in any important decision the expedition makes, but so far I’m not seeing any pushback on this.

There are also reasonably favourable terms on magic item distribution, if the prelate gets involved in any dungeoneering, which he can do at his discretion. I’m waiting to see how that plays out; of the group is unhappy, the bishop may make some concessions, in exchange for more giving the prelate and the Church yet more direct authority over the expedition.

Overall, Tr and De seem really excited about the possibility of forging close ties with the Church, and Ag is on board as well.

Ag did ask for some clarification on the relationship between Solinor and Ishanna, though. Which meant it was time for me to get on with doing something I already knew needed to be done, which was discussing the fallout from the death of Countess Seestadt, and the outcome of the mission Sircini refused to get involved with.

This is what I had to say on that:

Traditionally, while there are some sects within the Church of Solinor that don't like some sects within the Temple of Ishanna, this is not really any more pronounced than some of the schisms within each religion. Religious strife isn't really a thing, beyond some inevitable disagreements when there's no overarching, formal doctrine and anyone with some followers can claim to have discovered some revealed truth.
People mostly direct their ire at demon worshipping cults, witches and strange foreign religions and, for the most part, clerics and bladedancers get along.
However …
The body of the Countess Seestadt was being held in the Church of Solinor in Sicherhafen prior to her cremation. A group of rebels, led by some bladedancers, assaulted the temple, clearly intent on stealing the body, killed a number of templars, priests and clerics, and were themselves all killed before they were able to escape.
Some high-ranking priestesses and bladedancers have condemned those who made the attempt, the most notable of those being Mother Cathrin of Seesdadt, who was one of the Countess's closest friends. Others are furious that the Countess was executed in the first place, and then even moreso that her body has handed over the Church instead of the Temple. Some go so far as to claim Mother Cathrin has betrayed the Temple and the Goddess herself. The Reverend Mother Fritzi in Mitteldurchgang has spoken out loudly against the Church of Solinor for their role in all this, and while she hasn't condemned anyone for the deaths of the bladedancers, she claims they were right to make the the attempt.
People are wondering if the Prince or the Duke will make a move against the Reverend Mother, despite the fact that mere weeks ago it would have been unimaginable for the state to take violent action against a Temple of Ishanna.
As one might imagine, there are many clerics, priests and devout followers of Solinor enraged that bladedancers would assault a Church of Solinor. Some people are calling all Ishannic priestesses witches, or worse.
Kerol, Sircini and other members of the party with close ties to the various institutions would be aware that, despite the rage and anger, the rank and file are mostly confused and unsure how to feel about the whole thing. Most people don't really want things to escalate into a full-blown religious war, but no one is really sure how to prevent that, either.

At this stage, I’m still waiting for further feedback and thoughts from the group. No final decision (or counter-offer) has been made with respect to the bishop's offer.
 
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Session 38

2 September 2023

Pre-session discussion and random musings

So, I’ve been giving more thought to rust monsters. It is my understanding they were one of a number of creatures who specifically existed to help DMs deal with the problem of having too many magic items (Gygax was a nice guy like that). If I was running an easy-come, easy-go style of game, I could see them filling a useful role. However, in this game there is definitely no excess of magic items. Most of the primary fighters have a magic weapon (all front-lining PCs do) and a reasonable number of primary fighters have some magic armour. Nobody has a backup magic weapon, those less likely to get into a fight mostly don’t have one at all, and there is not a lot of magic armour about. Destroying what the party does have – especially as the result of random encounters – is neither necessary, nor fun.

I considered just changing rust monsters so they only damage non-magic gear, but that makes them mostly pointless. I’m going to keep them as-is, but they are only going to show up if I specifically decide they have a lair somewhere – making them a specific, localised challenge to be dealt with, rather than a wandering herd of random “fuck you.”

* ** **** ** *​

As to the trip into the wilderness, the group ended up agreeing to a paying a very hefty sum of money to the Church of Solinor, in return for a prelate, a number of lesser clerics, and about 30 various men-at-arms. All of those forces are under the control of the prelate, not the PCs. It’s relatively easy money for the church, plus an opportunity to gather intelligence (on the east, and on the PCs).

The PCs are hiring their own men-at-arms as well. Gregor agrees to try finding himself a bardic henchman, and ends up recruiting Cynog the gnomish warden, who also happens to be poet.

I also raised the question of who Tannek plans to leave in charge of his domain while he’s away for what might be a while. De seems a bit annoyed at the thought of leaving a henchman behind. Overall, De has some strange ideas about the domain side of that game. It’s part of the game he is really excited about but, even though he has a barony right now, it seems he still has the idea in his head that you need to be high level to play the domain game (hence he wasn’t in the right headspace to start leaving henchmen behind yet). At some point during the upcoming session, he makes a comment about how domain play starts at name level, and I will point out that the only thing that happens at that point is that you get some free followers, and that domain play starts when you do domain stuff.

I recently noticed that his existing barony has grown in size much more significantly than I had realised. When he first took over the barony, he was earning a small amount of monthly xp from it, but that stopped when he levelled up shortly thereafter. However, the influx of population from his stewardship and growing stature have seen him accruing xp again. He is the player most likely to make a comment about the pace of levelling, he is the player seeing first hand that domains provide xp (and more xp, the bigger they get), yet he’s not putting two-and-two together here, and asking himself, “How do I go and get a bigger domain, instead of waiting for it to happen at 9th level?”

The Actual Session
  • De: Tannek the Sentinel, Level 6 Lawful Paladin
    • Grook the Explorer, Level 4 Neutral Explorer
    • Balrite the Protector, Level 4 Lawful Paladin
    • Pherrod the Hero, Level 4 Neutral Fighter (watching over the barony)
    • Uthred the Hero, Level 4 Lawful Destined Fighter
    • Kerol the Acolyte, Level 2 Lawful Cleric
      • Diefenbacker the Wolf Pup, Level 1 Neutral Dire Wolf
  • Tr: Gregor the Drunken Myrmidon, Level 6 Neutral Fighter
    • Sivart the Theurgist, Level 3 Neutral Mage
    • Cynog Dyfri the Rover, Level 2 Neutral Gnomish Poet Warden
  • Ag: Sircini the Sister-Disciple, Level 5 Lawful Priestess
    • Soronia the Bladesinger, Level 3 Lawful Bladedancer

Sircini has decided that would like to have a word with the Duke and express her unhappiness with the way he handled the matter of the Countess’s body. Tannek is a little reluctant to facilitate a meeting between the two, but eventually agrees.

Tannek and Gregor are actually summoned to present themselves to the Duke, and Tannek uses this as an opportunity to request the Duke also provide Sircini with some of his time.

The Duke first speaks to Tannek without the paladin’s companions present. The Duke is interested in Tannek’s decision to head east on a major expedition, rather than focusing his efforts on seizing control of Dwimmermount, as he has been tasked. Tannek talks about the potential threats lurking in the east, as well as the hopes that what they find will assist them when they return to Dwimmermount. The Duke is not overly impressed with this argument, and he is especially nonplussed by the way Tannek defends the so-called Viscount of Winterburg. The Duke makes it clear that, as far as he is concerned, the viscount has already fallen to chaos, and the paladin would be wise to ensure he doesn’t let others know he feels differently.

Despite his concerns, the Duke sees fit to accept Tannek’s reasoning, and does not insist he cancels his plans.

Gregor and Sircini are then bade to enter. The Duke points out that, in the wake of the recent upheaval, there are many lands without lords, and that loyal friends of the Duke and the Prince will be rewarded. As such, Gregor is made Baron of Neurort, under Viscount Braunerhugel in the County of Seestadt.

Sircini is then given an opportunity to speak, and expresses her unhappiness at the way the matter of Countess Seestadt was handle. The Duke does a reasonable job of justifying his decision, pointing out that if a group of Ishannic bladedancers attempted to steal the corpse, clearly it was not safe to leave the body with the Temple of Ishanna. Sircini grudgingly accepts the Dukes logic, and in order to show the priestess that he feels no ill will towards Ishanna, Sircini is also granted a barony.

Everyone seems quite clear that this is a transparent bribe to appease the unhappy Sircini, and it seems to work. At one point Siricini admits to the fact that she was asked by her sisters to assist in the body snatch, and rather than expressing concern that she did not report this treason, the Duke simply congratulates her and points out that she clearly understands that the Ishannic rebels are in the wrong.

I remain surprised at the degree to which the players are just continuing to roll with the Duke’s behaviour. Every so often, as they see events unfolding, or actions they consider unreasonable or short-sighted, someone pipes up and suggests taking matters into their own hands, but nothing ever comes of it, and the moment is soon forgotten.

The group are all provided tokens of their support for the Prince, to wear proudly. Gregor does at least refuse to wear his (although he doesn’t make a fuss at the time it’s presented, and accepts it graciously).

* ** **** ** *​

The group gathers their forces, and the expedition heads east. As they pass through Muntburg, they are called to dinner with the Count, who is interested in their plans, and encourages them to throw their lot in with him, and to help him tame Dwimmermount.

Tannek and Sircini are circumspect, talking vaguely about threats in the east, but Gregor is happy to wax lyrical about the ancient armour they seek in the Vault of the Immortals.

The count is interested in their thoughts on the state of the Principality overall, and the group is again circumspect. The Count is clearly quite upset with the state of things, and also believes strongly in strict adherence to Law, feeling there is little room for compassion when judging those who sin. However, at least people know where they stand with him, and he is unhappy with the state of the wider world.

The next stop is Winterburg, where the viscount is pleased to see a well armed group of soldiers and heroes, led by a powerful cleric of Solinor, finally taking action. Gregor is offended by the suggestion that fighting demons in Mazen Kurz is not just as important and worthy. The viscount just doubles down, asking what armies Puzuzu has at his command, and pointing out that Impurax is raising a horde numbering thousands.

Tannek ensure he gets some time alone with the viscount. For some reason, he decides to play along with the viscounts misunderstanding that the Prelate is in command of the expedition, and goes on to explain that the prelate is merely heading out into the Ostwood looking for treasure, but Tannek hopes to use this as an opportunity to discover more about Impurax and the threat posed. The viscount is please to have found an ally in Tannek, and disappointed to learn of the Prelates more base objectives.

That evening, at dinner, the viscount is not shy about lambasting the prelate for his selfish and shortsighted intentions. The prelate is quite confused by all this, and explains that he is simply present as an observer, supporting the expedition that has been mounted under the command of Baron Estereich.

Rather than trying to work out who is lying to him and why, the viscount decides that, if Tannek is running the show and is true to his word, he will naturally be interested in rooting out followers of the Rotting Hand, and provides the group with quite a bit of intelligence about the various forces and strange features found in the Ostwood. Tannek is forced to admit that assaulting strongholds of the Rotting Hand is not his first priority (although it is very important to him), and first they have to go find treasure that Gregor is seeking.

The group then spends some time comparing the map they’ve been given to the Vault, the map provided by the viscount, and their existing notes on the Ostwood. As is going to be the case regularly over the rest of the session and the next, I’m extremely happy with how the Alexandrian hexcrawling rules work. It really feels as if the party are exploring and navigating poorly-charted wilderness.
 
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