Wednesday, July 30, 2014

TJ2 Against the Spectre Queen

This is a continuation of the previous adventure "TJ1 The Barrow of the Dwarven Queen" that I DMed via Google Hangout. The adventure is loosely based on my Dungeon World adventure "Against the Spectre Queen".

Notes: The session used D&D Basic V0.1 and monsters from "The Lost Mines of Phandelver".

Cast of Characters:

  • Aelar, male high elf wizard (spy)
  • Grimbolt Doomhammer, male mountain dwarf fighter (folk hero?)
  • Maedric, male human cleric (soldier)
  • Tanris, male human rogue (criminal)
  • Tendrak Talis, male human fighter (soldier)

The characters are staying at the Silver Cat Walk Inn in Svarturvigi. Some (Tendrak, Maedric) have traveled together with Sorrenson the merchant and his beautiful daughter Ingdis from Solacebury to the fortress of the dwarven king Rafnar the Black. The others are guests at the inn. In the morning, Sorrenson finds that his daughter has disappeared (again). He asks the characters to help him find her and (again) offers a generous reward.

The city streets are patrolled by grim hill dwarfs in the service of Rafnar. Maedric first suspects Haddun, a fellow caravan guard of eloping with Ingdis and thus the group searches the gates and the harbor. But they do not find a trace of her, but manage to alienate the townguards (or at least Maedric manages that). Aelar even visits a brothel because a town guard insinuates that Ingdis might have gone there. Embarrassingly, it turns out to be a brothel for dwarfs, halflings and gnomes. So as mistress Roshildur informs him, the elf won't be served here - even though she finds him cute.

After trying the harbor, they investigate the old city cemetery that is protected by wards designed to keep something in as Aelar discovers. But apart from ancient tombs and catacombs dug into the mountain side of the actual black fortress they don't find anything there.

With empty hands the adventurers return to the inn. There, they decide to search Ingdis' room. Apart from a smashed mirror they don't find anything. But it dawns on them that she might be possessed. Tendrak asks a serving girl about Ingdis. And indeed the girl saw her leave in the early morning - alone, no with Haddun - for the temple of Nastruhal, deity of crafts and smithing.

The group goes there as well and finds massacred dwarven priests, and a break-in into a secret crypt beneath the altar. In the crypt they are confronted by skeletons and zombies. After defeating them, they discover that whoever was down here, stole a book that was chained to a lectern in the crypt.

As they leave the temple, they see a massive storm gathering over the city that is centered on the cemetery. They rush there to discover Ingdis inside chanting from an ancient book made out of stone. As the group attacks, the ritual is interrupted and a wraith leaves her body to attack the party. In the fight, Grimbolt is killed by her touch, before the combined might of the surviving heroes can defeat and banish the wraith. The storm breaks and the heroes return Ingdis safely to her father. Aelar takes the book with him. He later discovers that it is the Treatise of Stone, containing rituals and spells of the First Dwarfs, those who are now known as derro dwarfs.

Grimbolt Doomhammer is honored with a funeral pyre at the temple of Waradin, the deity of battle, to prevent his soul from returning as a wraith.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

WH2 The Ruined Village of the Goblin Lord

This is the second part of my home brew D&D 5e campaign. The last time the player characters found a troubling letter that previously belonged to a dancing devil "merchant" which they could not decipher.

Note: This session was based on D&D Basic and monsters from The Lost Mine of Phandelver.

Cast of Characters:

  • Grandor, male dwarf cleric (acolyte)
  • Karsal Kesh, male stout halfling rogue (acolyte)
  • Khelben, male human wizard (soldier)
  • Mab, female human fighter (soldier)

Two weeks earlier: Khelben meets with his superiors in the ducal capital of Mirena. He shows them the letter captured from the dancing devil (a species of Tiefling that can only procreate with human females) Malzurban. It turns out that the letter contains a treaty of cooperation from the Walyran bishop of Taronn to the goblin tribes of the Weathered Heath in case of an attack on the mining outposts of Thoran in the heath. It is addressed to someone named Archibaldus. Khelben is entrusted with the mission to find Archibaldus and stop him. Grandor is hired to accompany him and Mab joins them as a bodyguard. Together they travel to Griffon Rock, a keep in the borderlands.

Now: As the trio approaches Griffon Rock, the attract the attention of Karsal Kesh, a rogue travelling to the keep as well. With some difficulties the party enters into the keep, as Karsal seems to be bend on alienating the guards at the gate.

Khelben immediately seeks an audience with Baroness Deirdren of Griffon Rock, but is met only by her husband. Apparently, the baroness is in deep mourning ever since her two sons passed away in the war against Walyra. Khelben tells Baron Padraig in secret about his missions, and asks him what he knows about this Archibaldus. Apparently, he was the apprentice to the resident wizard Peredur.

Meanwhile, the others go shopping at Shea's Warehouse, where Karsal again causes trouble as he really tries to rob the half-orc proprietress of the store. With some difficulty, Mab and Grandor get Karsal out of trouble.

Later on the party decides to spend the night at the Green Dragon Inn. There Mab has a run in with Geoffrey, the stable boy. They talk and Geoffrey promises her to go with them to Peredur in the morning. Apparently, Geoffrey knows the wizard from some favor he performed for Geoffrey.

In the morning the heroes seek out Geoffrey and after a short delay, because he has to fasten his belt, he leads them to Peredur. They get the old wizard to talk and he tells them of a ruined village and the former wizards' guild located there. Apparently, it was quite an illegal guild devoted to dark arts. The troubles with Archibaldus started, when the apprentice looted parts of the wizards' guild hidden knowledge. He turned down to a dark path and split with his former master. Peredur tells them the location of the ruined village.

Before the adventurers move out of Griffon Rock, Mab gets into a verbal fight with Geoffrey. She smacks him in the face for a perceived insult. That really seems to hurt Geoffrey, as he is really looking up to Mab as a female fighter. Apparently, women aren't allowed to practice the fighting arts in Griffon Rock. Mab doesn't understand at first, until Geoffrey shows her what he got from Peredur: a belt that changes her gender to male. Otherwise, (s)he would never have managed to become a stable boy. Mab is deeply moved by that revelation and promises Geoffrey to take him with her, when she leaves after the mission.

Then the party gets moving to the abandoned village. There, they get into various fights. Unfortunately, a chance encounter with twig blights gives them away to the goblins way too early. They get into an extended battle at the towers of the wizards' guild that they barely manage to survive. Then, they break into the tower and discover an excavation site in the cellar. A bugbear, a hobgoblin and two goblins try to break into an ancient sarcophagus. After defeating them, the heroes loot the sarcophagus themselves and find beautiful plate armor of the Order of the Dragon (Khelben's order). Khelben decides to allow Mab the use of arms and armor in order to complete the mission. Then the four adventurers barricade themselves into the tower for a long rest.

During the long rest, Mab dreams of past glory. She kneels before the first king of Thoran and his elven wife to receive arms, armor and a blessing. In a courtyard on the outside she sees a silver dragon rearing its head in triumph as she receives the arms from the king.

After the long rest, things get pretty serious. The evil mage Archibaldus knows that they are holed up in the tower and he has gathered his forces in the courtyard of the ruined castle overlooking the village. When Mab goes scouting, she is discovered by the mage and he sends her plummeting off the wall with a barrage of magic missiles. Thankfully, she survives the fall and Grandor heals her back to full health. Angered, Mab takes her bow and shoots an arrow into the courtyard over the wall. She aims for the position of the mage. He apparently hasn't bothered to move and is wounded. Angrily he orders the offense versus the heroes. A desperate battle ensues. The tide finally turns, when the heroes decide to flee, but Karsal is held by a spell. Mab turns around and attacks again, soon joined by Khelben and Grandor. In the end, the determination of the heroes proofs to be too much and the goblin forces are defeated, Archibaldus is taken prisoner and returned to Griffon Rock. Without their leader, the goblins go back to being disparate tribes again, instead of being a threat to Thoran.

To be continued...

Saturday, July 19, 2014

WH1 Trouble on the Great River

Today we started our regular D&D 5e campaign in my home brew campaign setting. We are usually playing on Saturdays, and the players are drawn from a pool. Usually, the first four players that have time do get to play in a session. The pool contains about a dozen players, some have more time on their hands than others, so they and their player characters will be appearing more often. The actual play posts will appear at the date of the game session. That way it's easier for me to track things.

Note: This session was played using D&D Basic and monsters from The Lost Mine of Phandelver.

Cast of Characters:

  • Grandor, male dwarf cleric (acolyte)
  • Khelben, male human wizard (soldier)
  • Milo, male halfling rogue (spy)
  • Valrian Liadon, male wood elf fighter (spy)

Play is taking place in the Weathered Heath, a border region of the kingdom of Thoran. The kingdom is ruled by a half-elven nobility that was founded over 1,200 years ago by the marriage between a human tribal chief and the elven queen who sought to preserve the elven heritage beyond the time of elves on the continent. Her court followed her into the human lands where she stayed for the better part of a century to oversee the establishment of a strong dynasty. Her heirs still rule the land. She and her court returned to elven woods, where she still rules today.

The past decade has been troublesome for the kingdom. In the south, a new aggressive power has arisen. A theocracy based on the lawful teachings of the chief deity Celos. In Walyra, law is emphasized above good, and the theocracy is aggressively acquiring territory. A standing army of Paladins turns them into a formidable opponent. Thoran has lost it's southern most duchy to the theocracy in a bitterly fought war five years ago. Tensions remain high and the half-elven kingdom is wary about renewed aggression.

Khelben, a captain in the Order of the Dragon, is sent by his superiors on a mission to spy on Walyra. He is placed in command of Milo and Valrian, two spies who are to insinuate themselves into the Walyran border town of Karollyn. In order to appear inconspicuous, they travel with a barge of lightfoot halflings from the northern river port of Aescford to their destination along the Njangdal river. Apart from them, a dancing devil (a species of Tieflings who can only procreate with human females) called Malzurban and his two concubine-slaves travel with the halflings, as well as a dwarven cleric of Nangaloss called Grandor. Nangaloss is a northern deity of craftsmanship, smithing, dwarves and dragons. He is brother to the two moon gods Elissar and Nitarro. Grandor is telling legends of his god to the halfling children during the day.

At nightfall, the barge stops and a camp is raised on the Thoran bank of the Njangdal. The halflings start dancing and celebrating. Milo joins in the celebration, when a comely halfling lass asks him to dance with her. Khelben keeps to himself, Grandor is eventually persuaded to dance, and Valrian keeps watch above the valley. That was a good idea as it turns out. A group of goblins led by hobgoblins attacks the barge folk. The heroes are victorious in repelling them, but a some halflings are kidnapped.

Khelben promises to free them, and Milo, Valrian and Grandor tag along. After a short rest, they pursue the goblins across the Weathered Heath until they arrive at a small cave. The goblins enter the cave and shortly thereafter leave without the captives. Our heroes stay behind and investigate the cave. It turns out that it is guarded by giant spiders. But apparently, they let the goblins pass. The heroes attack the spiders and in harrowed battle enter the cave. There, they discover that the captives have been placed on altar dedicated to the dark goddess Sardyna. The eight-armed goddess is a deity of death and disease, more feared than worshipped, except by the most dark-hearted folk.

The pitched battle with the giant spiders nearly turns out to be a complete disaster. First, Milo daringly attacks a spider and injures her gravely. Valrian is knocked unconscious (the player had to leave early). Then Grandor goes down and Milo is killed. Captain Khelben saves the day. The wizard lures the surviving spider out into the open and then destroys her with fire. He saves the halflings who help him to return the unconscious Grandor and the dead Milo to the barge. Valrian is gone, when Khelben returns to the cave.

Milo is given a touching funeral on the Njangdal in the style of his people. His body is placed on a small raft with twigs and tinder. Then pushed out on the river while the halflings shoot burning arrows at the craft.

The halflings travel onwards. Khelben's mission is basically ruined as one of his spies is dead and the other has vanished. Therefore he decides to travel back to headquarters to get new orders. Grandor decides to join him. They do not disembark at Karollyn, but instead go on to the ducal capital of Mirena.

But someone does disembark at Karollyn: the dancing devil Malzurban and his two concubine-slaves. After they are gone, the halfling lass that Milo was dancing and flirting with, goes to Khelben and reveals that she stole a letter from Malzurban written in dwarvish script. Grandor cannot read it, so it seems to be some other language that is using dwarvish script. Khelben decides to show that letter to his superiors.

To be continued...

Friday, July 11, 2014

KT1 The Secret of Ravenscar Abbey

This was a spontaneous test round for D&D 5e with some of my regular gaming buddies.

Notes: The session used D&D Basic V0.1 and the monsters from the latest play test package released by WotC back in September 2013.

Cast of Characters:

  • Aktaias, male human wizard (soldier)
  • Alethra Marsk, female human cleric (folk hero)
  • Imra Bersk, male human fighter (acolyte/folk hero)
  • Kayleigh, female human rogue (folk hero)

What happened before: Alethra had come to Ravenscar Abbey looking for shelter with fellow clerics of Celos, deity of the sun and wisdom. There she discovered that something was off about the nuns worshipping at the abbey. When she confronted the nuns, she had to flee from them, and she managed only to convince Imra, a young paladin in training of the falsehoods spread by the nuns. They had strayed far indeed from the faith. The two ran off the the nearby village of Sea Gull Cove.

Meanwhile Kayleigh had stood up to the tax collector sent by the abbey. She snuck into his waggon and stole the tax money back for the people of Sea Gull Cove. She was also suspecting that something wasn't quite alright in this backward corner of the kingdom of Thoran, in the middle of the Karak Tarn Forest. The taxes were just a bit too high and the tax collector a bit too cruel. [1]

Now: Alethra and Imra sought refuge at the only inn in Sea Gull Cove before looking for the captain of the guard. While they were still looking, a fighter from the Abbey confronted them. They took him to their room, and killed him when he tried to attack them. Then they went to get Aktaias, the captain of the guard at Sea Gull Cove. Kayleigh was also getting curious and overheard their conversation. The four of them decided to check out what was going on at Ravenscar Abbey on the next morning, after taking a long rest.

On their way to the abbey, they made a plan to enter through the back entrance of the walled compound. That entrance turned out to be trapped. Though Kayleigh managed to open the lock on the backdoor, she set of a fire trap that burned Aktaias badly.

They snuck into the abbey and Kayleigh was scouting ahead. She found a grisly altar dedicated to Sardyna, the eight-armed goddess of death and disease in the cellar. Meanwhile, the other three heroes where discovered. They killed Sister Cellarer in the kitchen, after discovering that she did not venerate Celos, but rather Sardyna. Then the alarm was raised. The nuns and fighters of the abbey attacked the group on the meadow behind the temple. In the ensuing combat, Aktaias managed to injure the Mother Superior gravely before being killed by her magic. In the end, the heroes were victorious. They returned to Sea Gull Cove with the corpse of Aktaias. He was laid out in state, and the mayor informed the surviving heroes that Aktaias was to be transferred back to the chapter house of the Order of the Dragon in Thaugros, a coastal city at the Gulf of Thoran.

To be continued...

[1] Back story provided courtesy of the players of Alethra and Imra.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

TJ1 The Barrow of the Dwarven Queen

This is the very first adventured I DMed for D&D 5e, two days after D&D Basic V0.1 was published. Since I didn't really have time for preparation, I reused the Dungeon World adventure "The Barrow of the Dwarven Queen" from two years ago.

Note: The game was based on D&D Basic V0.1 and the monsters of the last playtest package by WotC (back from September 2013).

Cast of Characters:

  • Brim Smallcare, male halfling fighter (folk hero)
  • Haddun, male human rogue (criminal)
  • Maedric, human male cleric (soldier)
  • Tendrak Talis, human male fighter (soldier)
The adventure basically followed the plot of the Dungeon World game. The characters are on their way from Solacebury to Svarturvigi, the fortress of the dwarven king Rafnar the Black. They are guarding the caravan of Sorrenson, a merchant from Solacebury. He is as always accompanied by his beautiful daughter Ingdis. The main stretch of the journey takes them through the dangerous boreal forest of Skogurhörmullegur. Haddun is scouting about 450 feet ahead, while the other three adventurers stay with the main caravan. 

As expected, they are attacked by gnolls. It is a tough fight for Brim, Maedric and Tendrak. Only Maedric's healing words save them from certain death. Meanwhile, Haddun confronts a lone gnoll scout ahead of the others. They have a rather dynamic, somewhat ridiculous fight that doesn't end well for Haddun. Fortunately, he stabilizes by himself. The others would have found him too late otherwise.

When they return to the caravan, Sorrenson tells them that his daughter has been abducted by the vile gnolls. At first, Maedric is somewhat reluctant about saving her, seeing the larger danger to the caravan. But Sorresenson pleads with them and offers gold and healing potions. Mercenary as they are, they set out after a short rest to find the gnolls.

Brim successfully leads them to a barrow in the middle of the woods. The top of the barrow is guarded by two gnolls that are taken out by some smart tactical fighting on part of the group. Then they enter the barrow. The group remembers that this might be a barrow of a cursed queen of the first dwarves who were infamous for consorting with demons. Later, the mountain dwarves and hill dwarves rose up against their successors and defeated them. The queens were imprisoned in barrows such as this.

In the lower level of the barrow, the group finds itself confronted by the ghosts of two hill dwarves that were guarding the tomb. They rise up as their remains are disturbed. After a short battle, the adventurers the ghosts are defeated. Tendrak exchanges his armor against the plate mail worn by one of the dwarven guardians. It seems to be a fine set of armor indeed (plate mail +1).

Then they break into the inner sanctum of the barrow where they interrupt a dark ceremony of a gnoll priest. Apparently, he tries to use Ingdis for some nefarious purpose with the spirit of the dwarven queen. The adventurers attack and defeat the priest. Then they proceed to loot the tomb. Brim graps the chain shirt of the dwarven queen's remains. Maedric revives Ingdis, but fails to note something very important about her.

Then the group reports back to Sorrenson to collect their reward and finally see the caravan safely to Svarturvigi.

Note: The player of Tendrak Talis has posted a play report/review on his web site in German.