Torchbearer AP (session 4)

Players:
Charlie – Lorne the Guide
Max D – Gerald the Burglar

Leaving Town Rolls:
Lorne – Resources 1 – Ob 2 – Wealth Spent 3d – Success
Gerald – Resources 0 – Ob 1 – Wealth Spend 2d – Success

Adventure Phase Rolls:
Turn 1 – Gerald – Scout 2 – Ob 3 – Success (Tapped Nature 6)
Turn 2 – Lorne – Sneak Nature 5 – Versus Giant Centipede (Nature 4) – Success
Turn 3 – Gerald – Scavenger 2 – Ob 1 – Success
Turn 4 – Gerald – Scholar (Beginner’s Luck) – Ob 1 – Success
Turn 5 – Lorne – Sneak Nature 5 – Versus Giant Centipede (Nature 4) – Failure
Turn 6 – Lorne – Laborer 2 – Ob 2 – Success

Adventure Recap:

  • Hjordis gave Lorne and Gerald the location of the Abandoned Armory, which she received from Svana Goldnose
  • Lorne and Gerald arrived at the Armory. The larger door was sealed from the outside, with a large iron bar and some paint in the shape of a rune or glyph. Another door swung in the wind, open.
  • Lorne and Gerald lit candles, and proceeded through the open door. They investigated a room that had a fire-pit and three bedrolls. T1 – Scout Test. Gerald successfully found a hidden satchel behind a wooden shelf. It contained a partial map of the dungeon and a leather-bound journal embossed with a blazing sun.
  • Partial Map (From Dyson Logos)
  • Lorne read the last page in the Journal, it said that:
    “…we are doing the good work of the lord, giving these men the burial rights now that they were denied in their day. All is well, except the workers keep insisting that something is watching them while they work. I told them it is just the rats, but they insist it is something else. I must keep vigilant.”
  • Lorne and Gerald explored the next room, it was an abandoned kitchen room with six large rats. The rats scurried out of sight from the candles.
  • They explored the adjoining room, it was a larder with eight human skeleton. Each skeleton was broken down into a pile of bones topped with the skull. Underneath each pile there were some chalk marks. The room also contained a small bag with chalk, incense, and candles.
  • They explored the next room, a long hallway filled with makeshift cots and abandoned skeletons. The dead looked as if they were sick and injured, and died from their wounds.
  • The party explored to the right, on the inside of the large exterior door, they saw 10 skeletons that looked as if they died while trying to get out through the main door. T2-Sneak Test. The party continued down the hall.
  • Further down the hall, the makeshift infirmary cots ended and rows of pews began. At the end of the hall, a bust of an old man oversaw the pews from atop a plinth. Around the bust stood six torchière, one had toppled over.
  • Gerald decided to take a rubbing of the inscription below the bust, as it was difficult to read and filled with soot and cobwebs. First, he needed to scavenge about for some charcoal or soot to blacken his paper. T3 – Scavenger Test
  • Gerald, with scavenged charcoal in hand, made quick work rubbing the inscription into a blank page in the journal he just found. T4- Scholar Test
  • Grind Advance
    The candles went out. Lorne lit his lantern. Both adventurers ate a ration.
  • The adventurers decided to sneak back out of the armory and report back to town with the journal, map, and etching. The made a bit too much noise however, and stumbled upon a giant centipede. T5 – Sneaking Test
  • Lorne and Gerald ran from the beast, busting into a room that they had not yet opened. Lorne looked about for means of barring the door, and saw a heavy wooden chest. He lugged the chest over just in time, hearing the giant centipede busting against the door in protest. T6 – Laborer Test
  • Catching their breathe, the two adventurers heard gibbling whispers behind them, somewhere out of sight. “…lightssss…. noissssse… breathsssss… yessss… ssssssomeone has come to vissssit…”

End of Session

CharacterBeliefGoalInstinctOther
GeraldPersonaTeamworker
LornePersonaMVP

Torchbearer AP (session 3)

Session Three (10/13/22)

Players:
Charlie – Lorne the Halfling Guide
Aaron – Ivy the Halfling Bounder
Max D – Gerald the Halfling Burglar
Joe – Varg the Magician

Plot Summary:

The adventurers began the session in the treasure room of the goblin tower, having just rescued Olrun from the three goblin raiders. They talked to Olrun and she told them that Krakki mentioned being paid to raid her steading, and that the reward was the location of an ancient armory from where the goblins would be able to raid the valley with impunity. She told the party that Krakki must have taken off to meet with whoever hired the goblins.

The party searched the room, finding two bags of copper and a very fine rug. They decided to try to take the rug back out the tower through the main door, instead of out through the collapsed tunnel.

Test One: Ivy – Laborer Ob 2 (beginner’s luck) – Lift the rug up the ladder (grind 4)
Result: Fail

None of the group had the laborer skill, but Ivy took the lead with a beginners luck test assisted by Lorne’s Peasant skill. Unfortunately, with the failed result their efforts took too long and were too loud. The four goblin guards that had been busy with the loosed animals returned to see the halflings stealing their treasure. Gerald decided to try to distract the goblins with a riddle.

Test Two: Gerald – Riddling Nature – versus test (Grind 5)
Result: Fail

The goblins initiated a fight, and the party decided to run for it.

Conflict One: Flee conflict
Conflict Captain: Ivy
Beginning Disposition: Party 7, Goblins 6
Ending Disposition: Party 2, Goblins 0

The party managed to escape the goblins, but lost the fine rug in the process. Varg and Ivy also got exhausted from the effort of dodging the goblins attacks. The party returned to Halla’s Steading, reuniting Olrun with her mother. The party were each paid with a silver pouch.

Camp at Olrun’s Steading

Check One: Recovery Roll – Ivy – Exhausted ob 3 – Fail
Check Two: Recovery Roll – Varg – Exhausted ob 3 – Fail
Instinct One: Hunting Roll – Lorne – ob 2 – succeed (caught a coney)
Instinct Two: Scavenger Roll – Gerald – ob 1 – succeed (gathered some barley grain)
Instinct Three: Cartographer Roll – Varg – ob 2 – succeed (Map the goblin tower)

Town Phase: Arrive at Sunnås

The random town event for Sunnås was a public execution, the execution was for Krakki and two of his goblin lieutenants. The high priestess Hjordis and Svana Goldnose were on the dais, Hjordis spoke of the evil acts the goblins had committed on the road, and praised Svana for bringing them to justice. Just before the gallows dropped them to their death, Krakki shouted “you betrayed us!”

The party followed Hjordis and Svana back to the temple of Freydis, where Varg confronted Svana and accused her of hiring the goblins to raid Halla’s Steading.

Test: Varg’s Demanding Nature vs. Svana Goldnose Manipulate 5
Result: Success

Svana rolled all wyrms, so Varg’s accusations caught her flat footed. She stumbled and didn’t know what to say. Halla and Olrun came into the temple, further accusing Svana of her malfeasance and Olrun claimed that Krakki said he was in league with Svana. Hjordis had Svana arrested on suspicious of treason. Hjordis thanked Varg and the party, giving them a free place to stay and telling them to come see her in the morning after she had a chance to question Svana.

Town Rolls

Recovery – Ivy automatically recovered from exhaustion from staying in Hjordis’ guest rooms

Ask Around – Circles ob 3 – Varg tried to identify the symbols on his bracelet, the last thing he had from being an orphan. At the temple, he asked a priest who told him that the symbols were from Gorm the Boneless, wizard of Svartårn. He said that was an unholy place and that Varg should get rid of the bracelet.

Find Someone – Circles ob 3 – Lorne looked for a fighting trainer, finding a fighter in the tavern. He trained with the fighter.

Something Else – Cooking ob 3 – Gerald cooked up a paella feast with the barley and fresh rabbit, preserving four fresh rations.

Tell Tales – Merrymaking ob 5 – Ivy tried to tell the story of home, finding the mayor dallying with the sherif, but she was laughed out of the room.

End of Session

CharacterBeliefGoalInstinctOther
VargFatePersonaFateMVP
GeraldFatePersonaTeamworker
LornePersonaFate
IvyPersonaFate

Torchbearer AP (sessions 1 & 2)

Session One (9/29/22)

Players:
Charlie – Lorne the Halfling Guide
Aaron – Ivy the Halfling Bounder
Max D – Gerald the Halfling Burglar

I began the group with pre-gens, and after two of the players texted me with interest in halfling characters we decided it would be fun to play an all halfling session. I assumed that this was a session zero, and we would roll new characters at the end of it, but everyone loved the pre-gens enough to keep playing their character. We are using the Middarmark setting so there are lots of norse words to maneuver around and misspell viciously.

Plot Summary:

We began the campaign at a huldufolk (halfling) moot, celebrating the disablot (spring solstice). Three huldufolk villages had gathered for the occasion, since each of the three characters had a different hometown. Each town selected a representative to carry an offering to the neighboring city of Sunnås, in tribute to Freydis, so that the lady of sowing and reaping would bless the fields for a bountiful planting season.

Lorne loaded the party onto a small halfling skiff, and began the onerous task of poling his way up a tributary of the Dreik River. Before long, they saw an abandoned skiff – filled with barrels and tied up to the side of the river. As they neared the vessel, they heard screaming in the woods and saw a merchant and his two guards running from assailants. Five goatmen chased the humans out of the wood, with vicious spears and snarling teeth.

The party considered setting off with the skiff, but quickly changed course and helped the merchant flee the goatmen. A flee conflict ensued, with Lorne making the skiff ready to set off, and the others haranguing the goatmen with loosed arrows and sling bullets. The party rolled well, and won the conglict with a minor compromise – some of the skiff cargo was lost in the haste. The merchant rewarded the party for their efforts – 1d silver each.

Next, the party looked for a safe place to camp. Lorne failed in this, the soggy character found a narrow sodden beach where it was impossible to start a fire.

End of Session:
MVP – Gerald the Burglar
Workhorse – Lorne the Guide

Session Two (10/6/22)

Players:
Charlie – Lorne the Halfling Guide
Aaron – Ivy the Halfling Bounder
Max D – Gerald the Halfling Burglar
Joe – Varg the Magician

We had one more player join, I asked him if he was willing to play a magic user and gave him a list of options: Theurg, Magician, Sorcerer, or Shaman. Despite the joy of having an all-halfling party, I decided against giving him a Halfling option (although I recently re-watched Willow so I seriously considered allowing Halflings to be sorcerers). He chose the Magician.

Camp Phase:
During camp, Gerald scavenged around the camp for bait and Lorne used his check to go fishing.

Town Phase:
The group made their way up river with no further complications, arriving in the busy crossroads of Noke. Lorne asked a dock worker to keep his skiff safe for him, and Ivy asked around after her missing friend who was last seen with a group of dwarves. On trying to leave town, both character failed their resources rolls – Lorne was told that the docks couldn’t guarantee the safety of the skiff since he couldn’t afford the price of the warehouse and Ivy’s circles was reduced by one, since she couldn’t pay her bar tab after listening for rumors.

Rumors:

  • The town of Skogenby is full of stuck-up puritans, but the barrows are full of gold and will make a man rich enough to live comfortable.
  • On the road south of Sunnas, there was a rockslide that could’ve been the work of dwarves trying to excavate something.

Adventure Phase:
The party met Varg at the north exit of town, he offered his humble assistance as a magician for the road to Sunnås. The huldufolk accepted his company, warily. After a half-day journey, the party saw a signal fire shoot up from a steading beside the road. They discussed whether or not to help, and approach cautiously. From cover, they saw two helgeit depart from the steading – one with a kidnapped woman. They also saw two more helgeit in the livestock pen, leading a herd of animals roped together chaotically.

The party was too late to stop the assault, but approached the steading after hearing a woman’s cries of lament. They found a teenager slain (Bjorr), a father badly bludgeoned (Valbjorn), and a mother in morning (Halla). Ivy demanded Halla tell them what happened, and in the exchange Halla speculated that she believed the raiders came from the tower up the road, and further that the tax collected had been haranguing them for months. Halla swore she had coin buried and available to them, if the adventurers would only rescue her daughter (Olrun).

The party took off for the tower, seeking to rescue the girl. As they approached the tower stealthily, they saw Krakki and his retinue ride off from the tower. The party investigated the situation, seeing two guards in the ramparts and two guards in the animal pen. The magician used Aetheric Appendage to open the gate to the pen, and the animals seized upon the opportunity to flee. The guards followed, trying to herd them up – shouting for help from the ramparts.

The ramparts and guards chased the fleeing animals into the woods, terrified of Krakki’s wrath should they fail to recapture the stock. In the chaos, the party entered the tower and took stock of their surroundings. They heard the voices of three guards down below, and attempted to manipulate them into coming up the ladder to help recapture the animals. Unfortuntely, halflings can’t do a good job emulating the voice of a goblin – and the attempt raised the goblin’s suspicion. The goblins below grabbed Olrun and barricaded themselves in the treasure room.

Gerald and Ivy followed them with weapons drawn, barging in after the goblins and heartily slaying the three guards.

End of Session:
MVP – Gerald the Burglar
Workhorse – Ivy the Bounder

Area Map:

map of the area

To Think of the Life of a Man – One Page Prep

Pyle_Round_Table_30To Think of the Life of a Man (1967)
In a time that breaks
in cutting pieces all around,
when men, voiceless
against thing-ridden men,
set themselves on fire, it seems
too difficult and rare
to think of the life of a man
grown whole in the world,
at peace and in place.
But having thought of it
I am beyond the time
I might have sold my hands
or sold my voice and mind
to the arguments of power
that go blind against
what they would destroy.
I leave all that behind.

Poem by Wendell Berry
Illustration by Howard Pyle


FaeFarmFarmstead on the edge of the Fae
Every eave and beam is honed with craft and skill
– The larder is full of jams, honeys, and dried goods

Blood-Red Barn
Fresh paint spread evenly across well-sanded lumber
– A dappled roan whinnies, oiled plow-harness nearby 

The Timeless Oak
An idyllic post oak stands alone beside a cleared field
– The tree demands your worship and adoration
– The tree soothes your fears and dulls your mind

Fields of Gold and Barley
The smell of freshly cut hay wafts from shapely bales
– Farmer offers you shelter and food for your labors
– Fields are sown with bones and watered in sweat

Fairy Time:
Time passes more slowly in this realm, every day here is a mortal season.

Forget the World:
Every time a character eats, sleeps, or labors they risk forgetting their:

  1. Dreams
  2. Loves
  3. Friends
  4. Fears
  5. Foes
  6. Family
  7. Home
  8. Self

 

Adventure Prep PDF: Here
Hex Kit Map
For
Forest Hymn

Shoalmont_26_Fae_Farmstead

Session Nine: Delve in Oldson Mine

Session 9 was held on 8/29/19

The Rogue Marklech, Spider Cultist
The Wizard Falur Ryerson, Ordained Arcanist

Oldson Mine copyOctober 11th, First Watch

Marklech and Falur approached Arpad outside of the mine, the prospector offered the group 50sp per room to map the quicksilver mine. They accepted the offer, and requested the service of some of Apad’s guards. They negotiated briefly, and Arpad offered three men at the day rate of 10sp per man. Falur and Marklech agreed, each paying 15sp to hire the three guards for the day. Bronek, Marek, and Jurek each carried a shortsword, bundle of torches, and wore leather armor. Arpad had the storekeeper give each member of the expedition one ration.

The first room (1) was a long narrow chamber that descended towards a wide natural cavern mouth, there were two masoned doorways on either side of the room, leading to excavated and reinforced corridors.

The group entered the first doorway to their right. The corridor led to a natural room (3) where one wall featured a 25-foot climb up to a rocky balcony. The characters climbed up to the balcony (4) to find a rocky shelf broken-through by the heavy solid roots of an ancient tree. From within the center of the root ball, a glistening crystal shape reflected light. The characters peered into the crystal to see the skeleton of a Winter Elf with hands raised protectively above its head as if to ward off a blow. Marklech touched the crystal, a vague sensation of fire and combat washed over him but he resisted the pull of the experience and yanked his hand away. Jurek came up to the platform with them, but he did not seem to see the crystal. Marklech and Falur decided not to map the balcony, hoping to keep the discovery of the winter-elf-crystal a secret from Arpad until they could further investigate it privately.

After climbing down from the balcony, they proceeded down the corridor to find a locked door (5). After picking the lock, they saw that the room was lined with shelves of old mining equipment and some old supply crates. Amongst other artifacts, there were usable mining picks, leather aprons, gloves, boots, lanterns, and helmets. After some searching, Marklech found 13 small mirrors in a leather pouch. Marklech discovered that his new lantern could be converted into a hooded lantern using the mirror and some leather pieces. After some time, a cold breeze blew in and each person sensed miner-ghosts lurking in their peripheral vision. They took this as a sign to leave the room, the henchmen guards required some persuasion to keep them from fleeing towards the entrance.

Dark ghostly figure
Rafal Bujnowski – Curtain (2007)

October 11th, Second Watch

The next doorway led to a four-way intersection. Ingress to the intersection was partially obstructed by four masoned pillars. The pillars supported an unsteady-looking shale slab ceiling.

The group proceeded through the first doorway on their right, finding a large room with a seemingly-bottomless pit (7). Marklech and Falur thought they heard something calling for help in the depths of the pit. Falur seemed convinced that he needed to descend the pit to provide assistance, but he came to his senses before going over the edge.

They continued to the next room (8), finding three grain silos dug into the floor and a dry ditch that ran along the cave wall towards a deep ravine. A swollen door at the top of a small ascent sealed off the room. At the party’s direction, Bronek and Marek kicked the door in. A thick mildew smell of rot filled the room and a viscous black fluid began to seep down towards the ravine.

The group proceeded up the ascent into the next room to find a large dark pool of black sluice. As they tried to walk by the pool on a narrow stone walkway, a grey ooze attacked them from out of the black sluice. Falur was nearly slain when the ooze bludgeoned him with an acidic slap.

Dark void of browns and blacks - Abstract Art
Victor Hugo – Dark Planet

October 11th, Third Watch

After they mapped the room with the grain silos (8), the frozen apparitions appeared in the doorway. As the characters approached the doorway, an intense cold emanated from the apparitions. When the party tried to pass through the apparitions to leave, the apparitions sapped the air from their lungs as if plunged into an icy bath. They pushed through the airless zone, gasping for breathe on the far side.

Marklech and Falur returned to Arpad and each received 17gp 5sp in payment for mapping 7 rooms.

October 11th, Fourth Watch – Rest


GM Notes

Experience:
We have transitioned to using an XP system where 1xp is gained for each 1sp that is spent on repaying their bond-debt, paying taxes, buying goods, or hiring services. I believe that this has encouraged the players to drive the sandbox a bit more forcefully. The players have started emailing before the session to identify what the characters intend to do during the session, this has helped me to focus my prep. 

Bond-debt:
Each character starts the campaign with 3,000 gold of bond-debt to Lady Osis, this is why the characters are adventuring. A 100gp payment is due at the end of each calendar month (in-game time). The characters have enchanted tattoos which reflect the amount of their debt and the identity of the creditor. There are collection agents in any sufficiently large town to whom they can make early payments along the way, if they wish. While they have bond-debt, they cannot purchase property, and any assets they acquire can be seized if they default on their monthly payment. We talked for a while about how central debt is to the society, I am interested to see where that takes us.

Exploration:
For this session, I prepped by developing a few random tables so that we could generate the mine as we explored. I have about 12 set-piece rooms prepared, when the characters entered a room there was a chance of generating a set-piece room. I believe random tables are useful for some chaos and inspiration, but the GM should always feel free to place rooms by fiat if it would be more fun, thematic, or appropriate. Likewise, to determine room contents I would roll a d6, roughly using the following results: 1-3. Empty, 4. Monster, 5. Special, 6. Trap. We ended up with a good number of empty rooms, to the relief of the characters. 

Tracking Time:
I tracked the time using a print-out each session. The handout represents one week of time, with 24 hour segments per day, organized into four sections of six blocks. Each of these sections is referred to as a “watch.” To map a room, I would mark down 1 hr. I did not require any rolling for success here, I did roll to determine a random event each hour. Random events would occur on a roll of 1. Luck was with the party, no random events took place. At a few other points, the players would spend a decent amount of time deciding how to approach an obstacle. If they had taken too long without deciding, I would let them know that another hour had passed in game. The characters also knew that they needed to consume one ration per day, and that if they went four watches without resting then they would gain a level of exhaustion. 

Magic:
This was the first session with the wizard Falur since he found the enemy wizard’s spellbook in May. I explained the character’s absence from the last session that he had been working to decipher the spellbook. I made some house rules for spellbooks, wizards can prepare their daily spells out of any spellbook they are carrying, but each spellbook takes up one Stone of inventory. Also, a spell within spellbook can be used like a scroll, but this will remove the spell from the book. Spells can be copied from one spellbook to another, using 10gp worth of special ink and 1 hour of time. I am considering limiting the number of spells that can be written in one spellbook, either by limiting the sum total of spell levels, or just limiting the spell count.

Ice Floes of Stygia – One Page Prep

Map of the Harbor town of Izotz

The Keep of Izotz
Five frost-rimed towers pierce the lightning-filled sky
– Battle plans and quality salvage from the great war

The Gates of Memory
An icy bridge crosses the memory-killing River Styx
– Vigilant guards monitor infamous river of the dead

The Mausoleum of the Damned
Lost souls emerge soaked, regretting forgotten sins
– Ghoulish shambling husks, fodder for the great war

The Ice Harbor
Ice-breakers crewed by brine devils & drowned souls
– Unloading leviathan oil, giant squid, and shark fins

The Balefire Lighthouse
Blue flames circles the highest floor, a baleful glare
– Flames guide lost ships and lost souls to harbor

The Lord’s Monolith
Carved from black ice, a blinking blue eye at its peak
– Frozen Lord telepathically monitors his realm

The Obelisk of Doors
Obsidian stone, each side a portal to a distant plane
– Devils never let a soul depart intact and unsworn

The Memorial of Forgotten Lives
Etchings from travelers, damned souls, and the lost
– Names and deeds that have been forgotten by all

Threats in the Stygian Harbor of Izotz:
– Salt-frozen winds flay frostbitten skin and chill the bone
– Gangs of damned souls and frigid planars control streets
– Thick skinned neanderthal fishmongers filet sea monsters
– Baatezu monitor the portals, demand heavy toll to enter
– Barbed devils patrol imperiously as corrupt guards
– Frost giant mercenaries and shamans barter with devils
– Brutal white abishi and erudite blue abishi marshall forces
– Frozen Lord rules from his iceberg tomb beneath waves

By Max VanderheydenHex Kit Map – Play with Portal Rats


Download this Adventure Prep PDF

 

 

The Arctic Trail – One Page Prep

The Keep
Summer hunting fortress of a distant prideful lord.

  • Iron-barred gates, deep claw gouges in the wood
  • Rear wall was partially collapsed by a rock slide
  • Pristine trophies decorate the inner chambers
  • Hunting tapestries depict all manner of beasts

Prospector Camp
Spruce-pole longhouse near a mountain stream.

  • Frozen sluice box glimmers with bits of gold dust
  • Scattered remains of prospectors long decayed
  • Buried stashes, a dwarf might smell out the gold
  • Gold is haunted, unless burial rites are performed

The Tower
Biting winds howl through the broken battlements.

  • Diabolist dwells here to study the ancient portal
  • Eternal fires burn in volcanic hearths on each floor
  • Bound blue imp deters visitors, loathes
    Diabolist
  • Dozens of journals describe the Stygian realm

The Stones
Obsidian slabs stark against a snowy embankment.

  • Ancient hell portal rimed with icy Stygian runes
  • Frigid wind carries whispers from the fifth hell
  • Hoarfrost blights the hillock around the stones
  • Remnants of a recent blood ritual on an icy table

Dangers along the trail:
Yeti Stalker – lurking in the snow, looking to prey on the weak
Woolly Rhinoceros – digging for roughage below the snow
Icy Demon – trap those in cold, promise safety for a pittance
Blizzard – frozen sleet and hail batter those without shelter
Avalanche – pummel and suffocate everything in the path

Adventure Prep PDF: The Arctic Trail
Map made with: Hex Kit

Shoalmont_24_Arctic_Trail

Session Eight: Return to Camp Boar-Skull

Session 8 was held on 5/30/19

The Cleric Jannik, Priest of Prios
The Rogue Marklech, Spider Cultist

Painting of a tree next to a cliff in a valley
Landscape by Gustave Courbet (1873)

October 9th, First Watch

The party returned to the mining camp to inform Arpad of what had occurred at the Skull Cave. He seemed incredulous, doubting the existence of any demonic skull cave but was nevertheless concerned about barbarians. Arpad consented to accompany the party to see the site of the skull cave. When they arrived, the skulls were gone, and the cave led only to a solid rock wall. The characters felt an otherworldly sensation that they were being laughed at. They arrived at the barbarian camp to discover that the corpses of the barbarians, black cloaks, dogs, and wizard had all been decapitated.

Second Watch 

The expedition returned to the mining camp, and the characters began helping with mundane tasks. The bunkhouse roof lacked a proper beam to support it, the old one had rotted out and was beyond repair. The laborers reported that they had found no logs of sufficient length were within safe distance of the camp, so the laborers asked for the party to assist them to find and retrieve such a log. Without the barracks, the laborers could not begin excavating the mine entrance in earnest. The party led the three guards back towards the barbarian encampment to find a sufficiently large tree, remembering that there were some suitable specimens. 

Third Watch 

They found a tree with a large straight trunk, but a bear was leaning against the trunk reaching for a bee hive. The party attempted to scare the bear away, but the bear only retreated slightly. Lurking at the edge of the woods. The party attacked the bear, two of the guards were brought low by the brown bear’s heavy attacks but Jannik’s healing magic brought them back to their feet. After the bear was slain, the men felled the tree with heavy axes and carried the timber back down to camp. As they passed the stream, they noticed that more water was pouring down from the mine adit than before. The path was somewhat flooded. Marklech washed himself in the cold mountain water, and they continued on their way without investigating.

Fourth Watch – Rested

Portrait of young bearded man in simple shirt
Man’s Head by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1883)

October 10th, First Watch

Marklech spoke with Vine in a fragmented Thieves Cant. Vine indicated that he tried to steal the locket from Cantor because Cantor was somehow analogous to a poisonous bush in tainted soil. Vine has been kept in shackles since he was caught trying to steal Cantor’s locket in Session Five (October 7, II Watch)

Second Watch

The party spoke to Cantor, who reiterated that he was planning to work for Arpad for one month, but come the first of November he would head into Symbaroum forest to try to avenge his slain brother and kill the witch. He invited the party to join him, he was sure that there would be much treasure to be found.

Third Watch

Marklech and Jannik took a long walk in the woods discussing Marklech’s personal history. Marklech discussed his abduction and forced conversion as a youth. The two men agreed that they were both disturbed by the townsfolk of Bridge being able to flaunt tradition by worshiping gods other than Prios. Marklech is still not clear how transparent he can be with Jannik, likewise Jannik is not sure what to make of Marklech’s heretical magic abilities. 

Fourth Watch – Rested

Session Seven: Skulls and Barbarians

Session 7 was held on May 16th 2019 

The Cleric Jannik, Priest of Prios
The Rogue Marklech, Spider Cultist
The Wizard Falur Ryerson, Ordained Arcanist

October 8th – Third Watch  – Barbarian in the Skull Cave

still-life-with-skull-1898
Still Life with Skull by Paul Cezanne (1898)

The adventures looked around the skull cave. Falur read the inscriptions on the massive skulls, which were etched in Infernal script. 

Upon the skull of a hill giant was written:

He trod the land from stream to peak,
No foe could challenge his physique.
Refugees sought sanctum in his land,
Sanctum they found, by death at his hand.
In arrogance he believed himself strong, a well-shot arrow found him weak.

The skull of a snake-like humanoid

Slithering in the mire and murk,
Fools believed him a god gone berserk.
The coven’s worship tamed his heart,
A weapon he became through their black art.
Wrath fueled his efforts, a blessed blade ended his work.

The skull of an Abishi demon

From the deepest depths he tread,
Arranging and plotting the violence ahead.
The factions united and battles commenced,
Betrayal and deceit as allies turned against.
His greed left him blind, not seeing the daggers ‘til he bled.

The skull of a six-horned demon

Two horns he earned when he toppled the lords of old,
Another he grew after his great offering of gold.
Two horns he stole from the beast in the deep,
And he last he took from the maiden in her keep.
His demise was lust, seeking his seventh horn in the lost stronghold.

As Falur read the inscriptions aloud, Marklech dispatched his spider familiar to keep watch. As the spider crawled away, the black cloaks Jakab and Istvan accosted Marklech, accusing him of witchcraft and illicit magic use. Janik came to Marklech’s defense, claiming that the rogue was under his supervision. The black cloaks did not seem to agree, but reluctantly backed away. They muttered something to the extent of “we’ll see about this.”

Marklech’s familiar alerted him to an incoming threat, a barbarian carrying the severed head of a brown bear. The rogue warned the party, who all hid themselves in the shadows along the cavern wall. Immediately thereafter, the barbarian strode into the cave talking to himself. He muttered “those fools won’t notice that I’ve gone until it’s too late. I killed the bear, I deserve the rewards… I shouldn’t have to share the blessing with those weaklings…” He walked towards the black altar, but the party intercepted him. After a brief combat, the barbarian was slain. He also carried a small charm made from the bark of a birch tree.

After overhearing the conversation, the party surmised that the altar must reward those who come with offerings of severed heads. Falur asked the black cloaks about whether they had something that might destroy the evil altar. The black cloaks said that it would take powerful magic to destroy such a thing, and that it was out of their capabilities. Jakab added that destroying such an altar should be the responsibility of an ordained arcanist, indicating that Falur ought to take the lead. 

Jannik attempted to cast Detect Magic as a ritual. He chanted a Priosian religious word that meant “the light that reveals” while meditating. However, he struggled to maintain his concentration like he was a young acolyte sitting to his first prayer. As he chanted, a voice whispered in his head.

the light that reveals… the weakness of man,
the light that reveals… the hollowness within,
the light that reveals… the lie inherent,
the light that reveals… the facade of progress.

Jannik could not concentrate on his spell, Falur decided to expend a spell slot to cast Detect Magic instead. As he inspected the altar, he knew it to be an infernal artifact crafted by a magic more ancient than man. Falur approached the altar, and made out some of the infernal inscription etched in the dark stone. It read: “Master of Darkness, Keeper of Skulls, Revealer of Sins.”

Head of a Martyr by Odilon Redon (1877)The party explored the cave, keeping to the left wall for about an hour. They stumbled upon spring water that had worn a fissure through the cave floor, descending to a pool some 50ft below. They did not investigate, instead they turned around and returned the way they came. 

October 8th – Third Watch – Barbarian Camp

They intended to return to camp to let Arpad know about the skull cave, but as they left the cave they smelled smoke from a nearby campfire. They investigated, finding a small barbarian encampment. They were spotted while scouting and a difficult battle ensued, the barbarian wizard seemed to control a mix of natural and known magicks. The vines of the forest rose up against the adventurers. The barbarians also released two hunting dogs, and a giant man with a greataxe soon came bolting out of a tent. Both of the black cloaks were killed in the fray, and the party members were barely any better off.

The enemy wizard ran when he saw the tide turn against him. The party chased him  into a nearby cave, following him carefully to his lair. They killed him after he drank a potion. In the cave they found a bookshelf filled with texts and a chest with a +1 Shortsword and a Robe of Fire Resistance. The wizard left behind a spellbook written in a cryptic cypher.

As they inspected the wizards body, they found tattoos that indicated he had been in debt-bondage to the Lord of Ravenia (the same man to whom Arpad the mine-owner owes allegiance). However, the tattoos had been altered and twisted. Falur saw that the man had somehow blocked the tattoos effects, he had defaulted on his debt but somehow prevented the tattoos from enacting the debt-price.

The wizard wore a necklace with a stone amulet. Falur attempted to remove it, but his hand came away chilled as if plunged in a bath of ice. Falur inspected the amulet and saw that it had the sigils for “Stone, Bone, & Wood” etched in stone. Jannik went to the bed and removed a sheet, he used the sheet to remove the amulet from the wizard’s body, placing it into his bag still wrapped in cloth.

Session Six: Exploring Oldson Mine

Session 6 held on 5/2/19

The Cleric Jannik, Priest of Prios
The Rogue Marklech, Spider Cultist
The Fighter Stanislav, Monster Hunter
The Wizard Falur Ryerson, Ordained Arcanist

horse(1).jpg!Large
Horse by Eugene Delacroix

October 8, I Watch – Sleep, Arrival of Falur

The party awoke to the approaching sound of horse hooves coming up the road from Bridge. They emerged from their tents to see a crimson robed wizard with two Black Cloaks riding escort. The wizard Falur dismounted from his horse and informed the party that he had been dispatched by the Lady Osis to aid in the investigation of Bridge. Falur relayed that he and his companions had stopped in Bridge the prior evening, and had heard two rumors of witchcraft: 1) mottled salamanders were reported to have fallen from the sky; and 2) the butcher claimed to experience spectral pains in her limbs, as if being pierced by iron needles. Falur asked the party why they were not in Bridge pursuing the witch.

Jannik approached Falur and informed him that they had come to the mine because they suspect that Arpad Summerborn might be in league with the witch, who they suspect is Stella, the Priest’s Daughter. Further, they had heard rumors that the mines might harbor evil magicks of their own, and should be investigated.

Falur consented to aid the witchburners in their exploration of the mine and investigation of Arpad. The party saw that the Black Cloaks were actually of the special group called the Red Flails, an order tasked to escort ordained arcanists to ensure that they used their unnatural magical powers only in the service of Prios.

Falur’s robe is adorned with commendations of his service to Prios, showing that he is a trusted and capable agent of his order. The mark of the arcanists blazoned from Falur’s robe, a triangle with the sun of prios extending beyond its embrace. He had come a long way from his childhood, where he was forced to expose his arcane abilities in order to save the life of someone close to him. His town did not thank him for his act. Rather than stoning him in the street, they were moved to merely lock him up until the Black Cloaks came to collect him. Falur’s decades of study in the mountain town of Redina under the harsh discipline of the Red Flails led him to become a believer in the harsh law of Prios. Magic must be controlled, it threatens the world when left unchecked.

oil painting of two hills and a setting sun
Western Hills by Graham Sutherland (1941)

October 8, II Watch – Explore the area of the collapsed mine, underground lake, and cave of skulls

Jannik took the lead, escorting Falur to meet with Arpad Summerborn. Arpad stood a stonesthrow from the mine entrance, flanked by two guards. He appeared to be consulting with elder guard, but would occasionally turn to shout an order to the camp foreman. The foreman was overseeing laborers to repair the deserted mine buildings. Some laborers were reinforcing the old barracks, while others were patching holes in the supply warehouse.

Arpad saw the witchburners approaching, and his eyes widened when he saw the crimson robed wizard, Falur. “Ah Jannik, you have a new companion I see? It is not every day that one sees an Arcanist of Prios. What brings you to this encampment? It will be good to have another fellow about understands that the mysteries of the world can be solved through research and hard effort. These fellows of Bridge banter on about the foul magicks of these mines, but surely you understand that with the careful application of science and research we can tame the world and make it serve us! Don’t you agree?” Falur carefully assented, “Indeed, magic should be controlled or it is a threat to us all.”

Abandoned Oldson Mine

Arpad asked the companions to assist him by scouting the mine and area for threats while his laborers readied the camp. The party assented and began scouting the abandoned mine. They walked beneath an old dried wooden sign that read “Oldson” and continued for a span.

Along the way, Marklech noticed a funnel shaped web that descended into a fissure in the stone. He spoke to the spider and learned that this tunnel had been long abandoned, the hunting was sparse and air too dry for the spider’s liking.

Before long, the party found where the tunnel had collapsed. Marklech sent his eight-legged familiar to investigate through a small crawl space. The familiar discovered that the collapse did not extend too far, and that the air on the other side of the tunnel was moist and filled with the scent of rot and mold.

The group returned to the mine entrance and told Arpad to dispatch some laborers to clear the mine collapse. He agreed to do it as soon as they had the buildings in habitable shape, “first things first.” At the same time, two spearmen descended from a mining trail holding filled waterskins. “Good news, there is a stream just beyond this rise. We won’t have to lower buckets into the river for fresh water as we had feared.” Falur spoke up, “Arpad, surely you know as well as I that quicksilver can be a poison for those who misuse its properties. We should investigate this stream to ensure that it is not tainted.” Arpad was reticent to call quicksilver a poison, but agreed that the stream should be investigated and asked the party to look into the matter.

Falur begged a moment of leave, and said that he wanted to investigate something briefly. He took Jakab and István with him back into the cave, Marklech followed as well. Falur went towards the collapse and performed a lengthy magic ritual, after which his eyes glowed with an inner light. Falur’s Detect Magic spell enabled him to notice that faint motes of magical energy existed within the Cinnabar ore residue left in the mine, and he also noticed that the flails carried by the Red Flail guards were enchanted, that Marklech’s debt tattoos were imbued with latent enchantments, and that Marklech’s spider companion was host to a fey spirit.

painting of a cavern leading out to sea
A Cavern, Evening by Joseph Wright (1774)

The Underground Lake

The party reassembled and began hiking into the hills to investigate the source of the stream. After some time, the trail they were following continued on away from the stream, while the stream ran down from a rocky ravine. The party waded up the stream, against its current into the ravine. A few of them lost their footing on the slick rocks, bruising their shins along the way.

Before long, they noticed that the majority of the water was coming from an adit that had been carved into the side of the ravine. Marklech volunteered to investigate the adit, the party assented and he entered the darkness alone. Marklech crawled through the narrow passage for half an hour before stumbling upon a large underground lake. His light source only illuminated about 60 ft, so he could not see across the lake to determine the vastness of the chamber or whether there was an opposite bank. Where he stood appeared to be a man made drainage tunnel, the cavern had stalactites hanging from the ceiling and a few stalagmites breached the surface of the lake.

Marklech returned and told the party what he had found, they returned to the trail and decided that they would explore a bit more before returning to camp. They continued up the trail away from the camp to explore what else there might be.

oil painting of human skull stacked in pyramid
Pyramid of skulls by Paul Cezanne (1900)

The Cave of Skulls

The party saw a natural cave nestled in the rocks ahead of them. Once they had approached within short distance from the cave mouth, they saw that the cave had a shelf carved into each wall. Each shelf held hundreds of stacked boar skulls, interspersed with the occasional human skull. The adventurers looked about for threats, but nothing seemed to happen. Falur heard the sound of some loose rubble falling from above and had the sensation that he was being watched. As Stanislav approached the cave, the human skulls each illuminated. Light flickered from the eye sockets of the skulls as if there were candles burning within. The witchburners noticed that the human skulls had etchings on their pate, but only Falur could read them as they were written in Infernal. Each skull appeared to have a list of sins written on it, Falur speculated that the sins might’ve been committed by the person to whom the skull once belonged.

Stanislav decided to crush in a skull with his maul, and barely dodged the resultant gout of flame. Marklech decided to scout ahead, and saw that around the corridor there were four monstrous skulls adorning the walls as prize trophies. Stanislav identified the monstrous skulls as belonging to: a hill giant, an unidentified jaw-less humanoid, a reptilian Abishi, and an unidentified brutish demon with six upright horns encircling the skull. Marklech called the party forth and they walked through the hallway carefully. They entered a large chamber and saw an altar before them that was unadorned except for a carved out bowl shaped to receive a skull as an offering.

fin.

New Named NPC’s

  • Jakab (Black Cloak – Red Flail)
  • István (Black Cloak – Red Flail)

 

GM Thoughts

I’m glad to be back at the table and to have a new player. It is fun to have some exploration that is more simple than the intrigue of Bridge. I put mostly natural obstacles in the session because it feels incongruous with the setting for the cave to be overrun with kobolds or some small threat.

The cave of skulls felt a bit incongruous with the narrative, but I am really curious to see where it goes.

We talked after the session and folks are still having fun, but are frustrated by so many sessions that only have social encounters. Ultimately, I think they want an easy answer. They want to know with certainty what the source of the unrest in Bridge is. I told them that in a sandbox world I am not trying to always provide clean answers. I want them to feel like it is a real lived in world with all the messiness that comes with that. However, I do understand that some variety would be welcome, and I can sympathize with the desire to have a definitive answer.

I will try to frame their options for them next session. They need to hang someone in Bridge who the town council believes is a witch. They can then do any number of things, investigate the army battalion that went missing in the harsh mountains to the east, investigate the forest of symbaroum, delve into the ruins they found during session one. I think that I am going to fiddle with my XP system a bit to encourage players to drive the plot. We will see how that goes.