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Geoff's Campaign Journal

by Geoff Gander

Since we're due to have our first session with all the players together (finally), and since I'll be sharing crunch as well as fluff, I'm moving my campaign journal here. Without further ado, here is the latest installment:

Dramatis Personae
Amalys, a quiet elf from Alfheim who wanted to get away
Hrothgar, a young, ambitious dwarf from Rockhome on a mission from his clan
Peregrine Braithwaite, a quiet young man from the Elstrich Vale who had to see the world (hasn't yet met the party)
Katarina von Igelfeld, a tough girl from Heldann who lost everything

Fresh from their victory, the party took stock of their situation. No alarm had been raised, and there were no signs that other kobolds were in the area. The way to the inn seemed clear. Amalys disguised herself with branches and leaves, and crept as silently as she could up the hill towards the inn. The building had two storeys, and lights burned out of a couple of them on the main floor. Someone had smashed in the front door. Harsh voices echoed in the evening’s stillness, but she could not understand what they were saying. She sneaked back to the others, and related what she saw.

“Wait! I’ve an idea,” said Hrothgar. “Amalys, why don’t you scale the side of the building, and place a blanket over the chimney? We can smoke them out, and finish them as they flee.”

“I climb trees, not buildings,” said Amalys dryly.

“Ah,” said Hrothgar, a little sheepishly. “Well, it would have worked, you know. Got to keep that one in mind.”

The three made their way up the hill and found shelter behind some shrubbery at the edge of the yard surrounding the inn. Next to the building was what looked like a small stone smokehouse, while one the other side was a corral and stable. Behind the inn was a large pit, which Amalys said was filled with bones. The three then turned their attention to the dilemma at hand: How to rescue the captives, if they still lived. All agreed that a frontal assault would probably be a poor idea.

Amalys then noticed that the window on the side of the building was broken, but there was no light coming from it, unlike the other windows. A closer inspection revealed that they were looking into a pantry, which connected to the noisy common room via a door. The party clambered inside as quietly as they could, and listened at the door. Hrothgar understood the kobolds, and related what they were saying.

“Four aces again! I swear you’re cheating, Hurg,” said one voice.

“Shaddup, you,” said another, “I play fair ‘n square, an’ if you don’t like it, you can-”

“Shut it, both of you. I’m off to take a leak,” growled a third voice, followed by the sound of a chair scraping against the wooden floor.

“I’ll deal with this one,” said Amalys. She slipped out of the window and padded away out of sight. Hrothgar and Katarina couldn’t be certain, but they thought they heard a “twang”, followed by a gurgling sound. Amalys returned moments later, with a blank expression on her face. She nodded.

Impatient to get the ball rolling, Hrothgar led the charge out of the pantry into the common room. The kobolds seated around the table were caught completely off-guard. The battle had been underway for less than a minute when the party heard a deep voice bellow from upstairs, followed by heavy footsteps. Hrothgar recognised the newcomer as a bugbear, a hairy goblin taller and wider than a grown man. His meaty hands gripped a large mace.

The party pressed their attack against the remaining kobolds with renewed vigour. None of them had fought so large an adversary before, and they suspected they would have their hands full dealing with him. The remaining kobold fell back as the bugbear joined the battle, and with a curt instruction from the lumbering creature to go “finish them”, he darted upstairs.

Suspecting the worst, Hrothgar pulled out a throwing hammer and hurled it at the fleeing kobold. Luck, or Kagyar, was on his side; the hammer slammed into the back of the kobold’s skull, and the creature fell forwards onto the stairs. There was little cause for celebration, however, as the party still had to contend with the bugbear. Amalys loosed several arrows at it, scoring three solid hits in a row [player rolled two 20s and a 19]. But what would have felled a grown man seemed only to irritate the monster. He delivered a solid blow to Katarina’s head with his mace, and she crumpled to the ground. All too aware of the danger, Hrothgar delivered a killing stroke with his axe – and not a moment too soon, as Katarina lay still on the ground, bleeding heavily.

While Hrothar saved the young woman from certain death, Amalys found a key on the bugbear’s belt, and went upstairs to find the people they had been looking for, who were locked in cages. After releasing them, she returned downstairs to finish settling things.

Next session will be Friday the 16th, but in the meantime I'll post some crunch about one of the treasures the party collected. Hrothgar's player studied a silver ring they found - this is what I told him:

"This silver ring is definitely of dwarven craftsmanship, but you’re not familiar with the master’s rune inscribed on the inside of the band. That means it was crafted before any of the modern, established masters in Rockhome were born (so, maybe 300-500 years old). You do recognise a few tiny craft runes on the inside of the band, which means that this ring was specifically made to receive enchantments.

In place of a gem, the head (the part that usually holds gems) is flat, bearing a stylised “D” with a crown above it."

The ring is a ring of quickness, and had been crafted around AC 700 for the king of Daelbar by the clanmaster of the small (and now-vanished) community of Daelbaran dwarves, as a gesture of thanks for allowing them to settle in the hills. I plan to use this as an additional campaign hook to draw the players westwards into old Daelbar, where they will explore a number of ruins and solve a few mysteries. This is probably culminate in their exploring the ruins of Mintarm ("the dwarven-crafted").

When worn with its companion ring (gold, with the same crowned "D" on the head - probably in a treasure hoard in Mintarm), the silver ring will gain one extra power. Still trying to work out what that might be.

Well, we had our first official session as a full group on Friday, and it was good. We didn't actually get started on the adventure itself; however, a lot of very good roleplaying took place, and the group is gelling as a team quite nicely. I'll post an official record for your reading pleasure later, but here's one highlight:

The "Meat Bag"

Peregrine, on reaching the Crossroads Inn, realised he had some leftover stewing meat from that nasty dive in Favaro that he had been thrown out of. He asked the man at the door if there was anyplace he could dispose of it, and the man scooped it into a small leather sack. Peregrine's player grew wide-eyed, and asked, "What's with the meat bag?" I didn't think anything else about this (big mistake), and continued running the session.

Towards the end, Peregrine's player decided to follow the doorman at the first available opportunity, to find out what happens to all that meat. Peregrine made enquiries when he returned to the Crossroads, and interrogated the new doorman (who had the night shift) about what he knew of his colleague's activities. A rough transcript follows:

Peregrine: "Where's the other man who was here?"

Doorman: "He's off. It's my turn on the night shift."

Peregrine: "OK. I gave him some leftover meat earlier, and he stuffed it into a bag." (pulls out some gold) "This is yours if you tell me what he does with it."

Doorman (puzzled): "What? I dunno...uh...maybe...(takes the money)...maybe he gives it to poor people. I haven't got a clue."

Peregrine (slapping two more gold on the table): "Have a clue."

Doorman (taking the money): "Ummm...He's on the night shift tomorrow. I don't know where he goes when he gets off, but you can follow him then."

So, once the players are finished Castle Caldwell I've got another adventure idea lined up. Still puzzling this one over, but I'm thinking the doorman is involved in some shady activities, and the meat and other scraps are being giving to a Glantrian mage on the run, who is using them to create golems, or something similar. These golems might be used as assassins, or for some other purpose. Still thinking. It takes a player to imagine something like this.

Ideas are welcome.

Moral: What may be inconsequential to the DM, can seem terribly important to the players.

We had Session 4 last night. The party has (finally) wandered off onto their first adventure as a full group. The esteemed merchant, Mr. Clifton Caldwell (the Fourth, if you please) accompanied by his gentleman Portefoy, approached the PCs while they were getting their affairs in order at the Crossroads (the adventurers' haunt in Corunglain). The prospect of getting 100 daros apiece, plus a share of whatever they found, was enough to convince them to help the poor, rich merchant.

Castle Caldwell wasn't much to look at ("What do you expect for a measly 80,000 daros?" said Portefoy just before dropping them off), and Hrothgar (the dwarf) immediately knew that it had no defensive value whatsoever ("What, no doors in the bloody towers to the parapet? These humans haven't a grain of sense, I tell you!")

One highlight was Peregrine very nearly being killed while trying to disarm the trapped chest in the castle's kitchen. He was kneeling on the ground, retching from the poison gas and his skin erupting in boils, when Amalys (the elf, who was retrieving her bow after dropping it) decided to put him into the pantry for his own protection. The corpse of a goblin lay inside, its arm swollen (from a snakebite, but the party didn't know that yet), and she actually considered (briefly) leaving Peregrine in there, because it was still safe.

"You can't just leave me here with a corpse!" shouted Peregrine.

"Oh. I suppose not," said Amalys.

According to the module, the trapped chest originally contained nothing. I thought this was too cruel to Peregrine's player, who had never played D&D before joining this group, so I moved unguarded treasure (a sack of silver coins and a few gems, just sitting under a table) from another room.

The snake in the pantry (a spitting cobra - what the hell is a spitting cobra doing outside of the tropics?? I love old-style modules ) spat at Hrothgar, but he made his save. Katarina stomped it into oblivion.

Total death toll: 1 snake and 4 goblins

Here are the full notes from the last session...

Dramatis Personae
Amalys, a quiet elf from Alfheim who wanted to get away
Hrothgar, a young, ambitious dwarf from Rockhome on a mission from his clan
Peregrine Braithwaite, a quiet young man from the Elstrich Vale who had to see the world (hasn't yet met the party)
Katarina von Igelfeld, a tough girl from Heldann who lost everything

Session 4

While Katarina and Hrothgar slept, Peregrine and Amalys decided that a little night-time revelry was in order. Still holding the full wineskin given to him by Bill the night watchman, Peregrine led his newfound friend into the sleeping streets of Corunglain. They drank, sang, drank some more, were threatened by an irritated constable, and had a pleasant conversation in a tree in Glen Park (the largest greenspace they could find). While Peregrine held his cups, Amalys was not so lucky. He guided her stumbling form back to the Crossroads, and poured her into bed.


As usual, Hrothgar awoke bright and early. The scent of frying eggs and bacon wafted up from the courtyard. Needing no further prompting, he went down. Despite the early hour there were quite a few people milling about – guests and hopeful clients.

Hrothgar sought out Duric and reported the party’s success – and shared what he learned about the strong possibility that similar groups could be operating elsewhere. Duric was happy to hear of the successful rescue of the prisoners, and advised Hrothgar that his group’s services would likely be needed again (since they did so well the first time). “But there’s a matter that’s a wee bit more pressing,” he said, gesturing to a middle-aged, well-dressed man with a starched frill around his neck, at whose shoulder stood a tall, thin man in a black topcoat. The two approached.

“Ah,” said the well-dressed man, “I take it this is the dwarf, then. Capital! I’m having a spot of bother at the moment, and I need someone to sort it out. You see, I bought myself a rather promising pile about a day or so out of the city. ‘Good bones,’ they told me.”

“Master Caldwell bought himself an old castle,” said the man in black.

Caldwell turned to his associate. “Quite right, Portefoy, quite right. Oh, the name’s Caldwell. Clifton Caldwell. The Fourth. Anyhow, what’s the point of being a good merchant if you can’t spend your readies on a nice estate, eh? So, where was I? Ah yes. Castle. Right. So I arrive at my home-to-be and do you know what I find? The place is fairly infested with brigands, monsters, and other unsavoury sorts! Quite unacceptable, I tell you!”

“The estate agent did say there were tenants, sir,” said Portefoy.

“True, very true, Portefoy. Good memory, my old crumpet! What would I have done without you?”

“Words fail me, sir.”

“Quite so. Anyhow, I need these undesirables cleared out, and the good Mr. Duric assures me you’re the dwarf to do it. One hundred daros to each member of your party, and consideration in any loot you find. What do you say?”

Hrothgar stroked his bread. “Well, that’s a most generous offer, sir. We’re only four people, and the risks could be great. We may need to use some of what we find at the castle to see us through.”

“Oh…very well, then,” said Caldwell. He turned to Portefoy. “Take this worthy dwarf and his men down to the estate once they are ready.”

Portefoy nodded. “As you wish, sir.” He turned to Hrothgar. “Master Caldwell’s coach is parked outside this inn. I will wait for you.”

Hrothgar remembered he had some business with Duric. He fished out the silver ring that had been part of the treasure at the ruined inn, and handed it to the elder dwarf. Duric squinted at it through a jeweller’s loupe, muttering under his breath, before handing it back to Hrothgar. “You’ve found yourself a rare treasure, lad. The crafter’s runes on the inside say that the ring was made to accept enchantments, and that it did receive them. There’s magic in there, make no mistake. See that “D” topped by the crown? That’s the crest of the House of Daelbar – that was a kingdom that existed not far from here. It fell well before the Republic was founded.

“The men of Daelbar were friends to our kind. Some of our clans lived among them, and their greatest craftsman – and Kaygar forgive me that his name is lost to me – was the one who designed Mintarm, their capital. A great city, it was. ‘The City Built by Dwarves’, men called it back then. There’s a painting of it somewhere – maybe I’ll remember later, and tell you. Another time. But it’s gone, now.” He shook his head sadly.

“But the ring,” he continued, brightening, “Now, that was a real masterpiece, too! The dwarves made two rings and a crown for the Daelbaran kings, and it was said that when worn together they could do wondrous things. But the last time they were ever seen was when the last king died defending Mintarm. For this to turn up makes me wonder if the other two pieces are still out there, waiting to be found. I think, once your business with young Master Caldwell and the highwaymen is settled, a trip to old Mintarm might be worth your while.”

Hrothgar excitedly told his companions about their new job. The hung-over Amalys, who found the bright sun to be far too noisy, was less than enthusiastic.


The four-hour coach ride passed through countryside that was at first densely farmed, but steadily gave way to wilderness. Soon, the coach ground to a halt next to a large thicket. Something large and oblong-shaped was just visible through the branches. “It’s on the other side of these trees,” said Portefoy.

Peregrine scouted ahead while Amalys deftly melted into the greenery.

Gott in Himmel, she goes so quickly! I should hate to be one of her foes,” said Katarina to Hrothgar.

Peregrine sidled up to the castle wall. Nothing moved, and all was silent. Like a tomb, said a voice in the back of his mind. Noticing that there were narrow windows high up on the walls, Peregrine climbed up to look inside. The closest one revealed what seemed to be a nondescript kitchen – with a large wooden chest sitting in the middle of the floor. The next window over revealed what seemed to be a pantry, with a pasty-skinned creature with a hideously swollen arm sprawled in the middle of the floor. He climbed higher up the wall; no guards manned the parapets. In the midst of the castle was a small courtyard, in which a pair of wolves paced.

Led by Amalys, Katarina and Hrothgar approached the front doors. Seeing his companions about to enter the castle, Peregrine scaled down the wall to join them. He listened at the door, and heard a faint argument underway, but he couldn’t make out any words.

At Hrothgar’s suggestion, he and Katarina led the way into the castle. The doors were unlocked, revealing a small entry hall with a door on each side, a few doors straight ahead, and passages to the left and right. The argument was definitely coming from behind the door to the right.

Peregrine dashed to the corridor ahead and turned left, heading towards door that he thought must lead to the kitchen (and the chest). He had just reached the door when an arrow sprouted from his right shoulder. The rest of the party caught up to him, only to see that the corridor they were in turned right, and at the other end was a group of four creatures armed with bows. “Goblins,” spat Hrothgar.

Katarina was already clanking down the corridor, followed by Amalys. Peregrine, not wishing to be hurt even more, entered the room in front of him – which turned out to be the kitchen, as he had hoped. Safe for the moment, he approached the chest.

Katarina and Amalys charged their opponents, and such was the ferocity of their attack that each of them killed their opponents with one solid blow. The goblins seemed to be made of sterner stuff, and pulled out short swords. Amalys, who had dropped her bow in order to engage the enemy directly, drew back to retrieve it – and give Hrothgar room to do battle. Within thirty seconds of Peregrine being hit, four dead goblins lay bleeding on the flagstones.

Peregrine, blissfully unaware of the skirmish, inspected the chest for traps. Finding one, he tried to deactivate it. Unfortunately, his fingers failed him, and he was enveloped in a stinging green cloud of gas, which caused his lungs to burn and his exposed flesh to erupt in blisters. Amalys found him kneeling on the ground retching. She opened a narrow door – presumably leading to a pantry – where Peregrine could shelter until something could be done for him. However, the corpse of a goblin lying in the middle of the floor gave her pause.

“Surely you’re not going to put me in there,” said Peregrine between hacking coughs.

Hrothgar and Katarina rejoined the rest of the party. Unfortunately (for Hrothgar – not necessarily for Peregrine), the young thief’s condition was beyond the dwarf’s healing abilities. Peregrine was obviously in a bad way, but in no immediate danger of dying. Feeling somewhat better, the young man opened the chest, and found a tidy sum of silver coins and a handful of gems. Some recompense, then, for his troubles!

Katarina and Hrothgar checked the goblin body, and finding nothing inspected the sacks that lay scattered about the pantry. Hrothgar was surprised by a snake, but it was dispatched quickly into the next world.

Just im time for tonight's session, here are the notes for the previous session! Our story continues...

Dramatis Personae
Amalys, a quiet elf from Alfheim who wanted to get away
Hrothgar, a young, ambitious dwarf from Rockhome on a mission from his clan
Peregrine Braithwaite, a quiet young man from the Elstrich Vale who had to see the world (hasn't yet met the party)
Katarina von Igelfeld, a tough girl from Heldann who lost everything

While Peregrine recovered from his injuries, the rest of the party took stock of the situation. Despite the fighting, the argument in the chamber next to the entrance still seemed to be going strong.

The party had little time to relax, because a small band of kobolds rounded the corner at the far end of the corridor. They charged the intruders, but were crushed by the counterattack. While Katarina, still in a rage, kicked a kobold’s head down the corridor, another figure rounded the corner, but this was no kobold. It was a reptile who walked like a man, standing taller than Katarina. Its green, yellow, grey, and black scales shone dully in the torchlight. It held out its clawed hands out in a fighting stance, and whipped its tail back and forth.

Setek was confronted with a strange sight. A few dozen feet down the corridor, his kobold captors now lay sprawled on the blood-stained floor, no doubt killed by the small band of humans that stood before him. But it was that band that made him pause. He had seen humans before, and knew they came in a variety of shapes, but he never imagined he would see so many types, with so many different scents and tastes, in one place!

He flicked his tongue experimentally. So many differences! One was as small as a hatchling, but he had the characteristics, like facial hair, of a human male ready to mate. He smelled of earth, ashes, and iron. The other three were adult females, one of them with short yellow hair and as large as most of the human males he had met. The big one smelled of cabbages, blood, and ashes; while the slim one carrying a bow smelled strongly of leaves, flowers, and fresh soil after a rainfall. The last of the females was truly strange – not only did she smell like a human male; she also smelled like his own people! In that moment he realised that this last person must be one of the Good People, or The Men Who Smell Right – the tribe of humans who lived north of the swamps, who had always dealt fairly with his kind. Old Hurgesh said they were to be trusted.

“Greetingssss,” said Setek. “You have ssslain my enemiesss. I am in your debt. I am Sssetek.” He bowed low.

Hrothgar adjusted his helmet as he peered at the strange, burly creature. “Well met, Setek,” he said. “I must admit I’ve never met a creature such as yourself, but if you’re as good in battle as you seem, you’re welcome to stay with us if you wish.”

At Setek’s agreement, Hrothgar explained what he and his companions were doing in the castle. It seemed to the lizard man that these humans had similar interests to his own – or at least they meant him no immediate harm, which was good enough for now. The group explored the next room in the corridor, which turned out to be an old library, occupied by two of the largest beetles they had ever seen, who were busily devouring what remained of the carpet.

Ssskatassh,” muttered Setek. “They have good meat.” The beetles did not seem happy to be disturbed, and they attacked the intruders. The party made short work of them. Setek tore open one beetle’s carapace and ripped out a glowing, fleshy ball the size of his fist. “They glow for many daysss. Good torchesss when thingsss are wet.” He ripped out two more of the glowing glands from the carcass, and then turned his attention to the other. Hrothgar slipped one of them into his backpack, while Setek showed his newfound friends which parts of the animal were suitable for eating.

Setek and Katarina moved into the next room, which was being used as a nest by an irate giant shrew in the next room. Amalys and Hrothgar, however, stayed behind in the library to see what sorts of treasure they might find. Amalys found two books whose titles interested her: “Rock Gardening for Pleasure and Personal Gain”, and “On the Mating Habits of the Purple-Throated Warbler, with a Digression on Diverse Other Related Species”. She was often amused by what humans considered to be “expertise” where nature was concerned, but sometimes they could be full of surprises, as her uncle had often said. She had just dropped the two volumes into her pack when she noticed a third book – this one bound in clean black leather with gilded pages. She cracked it open, and noticed magical runes scribbled all over the pages – a spell book! It quickly joined the other two in her backpack.

The bibliophilic Hrothgar scanned the books on the shelves for some hidden treasure. Most of the books were heavily mildewed, with pages so black with unnameable growths as to be unreadable. He began to suspect that Amalys would be the only one to walk away with anything from this room when, beneath a mouldering copy of Eversham’s “Historical Inventory of Agricultural Implements – Vol. III” he spied a small, thick book whose green leather binding was intact. Stamped in gold leaf on the spine was a title that set his nerves tingling with excitement: “Dwarven Plumbing Systems: An Historical Overview – with Special Attention to Cisterns”. This was a book he would definitely peruse at the earliest opportunity.

Peregrine did not participate in the tomfoolery of his companions. Instead, still wincing in pain, he hobbled over to the maple tree that was growing in the partially-ruined tower. It measured a good 20 feet in height, and there were quite a few sturdy branches. He climbed up despite his injuries, and made a perch for himself. From his position, Peregrine’s view ran down the short corridor to the corner. Here, at least, I’ll be able to take down anyone who tries to approach from behind, he thought.

He had got himself into position just in time! He heard footsteps, which grew steadily louder until a band of four short, grey-skinned creatures appeared from the right. He recognised goblins when he saw them, and he knew that where one saw a few, there were always more nearby. Peregrine raised the blowgun to his lips and puffed. A split second later a goblin jerked up, startled, and pressed a hand against his neck. While he keeled over Peregrine fired a dart into the next goblin, and repeated the process a third time. The last goblin, realising where the shots were originating yet having no desire to remain, turned tail – but not before a returning Katarina cut him down.

Hrothgar ambled over and surveyed the scene. “Here, Amalys,” he said, tossing the elf a rope. “Why don’t you tie these living ones up? Mayhap we’ll get something useful out of them when they come to.”

Amalys gave the dwarf a blank look, sighed, and proceeded to tie the three living goblins up. Meanwhile, Setek came down the corridor, bearing weapons. “I’ve found my thingsss at lassst,” he said. “I alssso have thessse gifts for you.” He held out a small collection of packages bound in bloodied burlap. “It’sss meat! From the ssshrew!” he said to their blank faces. These humans know nothing of proper manners, he thought to himself. It’s a wonder they’ve lasted as long as they have.

“Ah!” said Hrothgar. ‘Thank you kindly! You know, you’re not half bad for a scaly brute!”

Setek gave him a cold glare, which wasn’t much of a stretch for him.

Peregrine, feeling somewhat restored, wandered back towards the entrance. The noisy room was now empty, and in there he found several bags of coins! He wasted little time hauling these to a safer place, and once finished he went down the other corridor leading from the foyer, which led to yet another corridor that was identical to the first one the party explored. Identical, that is, except for a number of smoking braziers stationed along the walls at the far end, the murmur of low chanting, and the faint ring of a gong. He informed the rest of the party of this development, and Katarina and Hrothgar ran over to investigate.

“Now then, Katarina, here’s what we’ll need to do,” began the dwarf. The sound of clattering armour and heavy footsteps announced that Katarina had already made her own plans, and they seemed to involve charging down the corridor towards an unknown enemy.

“Kagyar’s Codpiece!” said Hrothgar, as he ran off after her.

Hrothgar's player wrote the notes for the campaign journal this time (yay!) I only made a few very minor edits, but here it is:


Amalys sprinted off after the two bold warriors and managed to get in front of them and stop them. Katarina was still gripped by rage and lust to spill the blood of the wicked, but Amalys reasoned with her and began to uncloud her mind. Hrothgar was willing to entertain the idea that perhaps a bit of planning might not be entirely a waste of time.

Meanwhile, Peregrine tried to sneak past Amalys, but even as Amalys was trying to lead Katarina back from the brink, she managed to grab hold of Peregrine's dress. Peregrine insisted that she wanted to sneak up the hall for a bit of reconnaissance, and tried to wiggle free. Amalys held tight to both Peregrine and Katarina, pleading with both for a moment to reflect before taking action. Hrothgar, getting tired of waiting, offered that he thought Peregrine's plan sounded good, so everyone should just let her sneak up and take a quick look. However, Amalys kept insisting on the need to retreat and regroup.

Out of nowhere, Peregrine leapt upon Amalys and kissed her soundly, then tried to take advantage of the surprise to slip her grip and run off. Amalys held firm in spite of it though, and she tried reasoning with Peregrine once more. When Peregrine would not listen, Amalys kissed her back.

While this seemed to surprise Peregrine enough to give her pause, Hrothgar was dumbfounded by the scene. He shook Katarina's arm, and, gaining at least a fraction of her attention, he said, "Katarina, I've a favour to ask of you. Whatever happens, please don't start kissing anyone right now, OK?"

Katarina did not answer, but when Amalys returned her attention to the cleric and asked her to retreat for a moment once more, Katarina finally emerged from her mental fog to agree that a brief retreat to regroup and plan was a good idea. At this point, Peregrine also gave up her attempts, and the group walked back to the far corner of the keep.

Once there, and with much protestation over lack of plan clarity and time-wasting from Hrothgar, it was decided that Peregrine should go forward alone for reconnaissance, while the rest of the party split up to opposite corners of the keep’s halls to keep an eye on her from both angles to cover her.

Peregrine crept forward as stealthily and silently as she could to the entryway of the room from which the gong could be heard and the light of fire could be seen flickering. From the doorway, she could see many seated figures - at least six kobolds and three humans seated, and one human in armour and robes standing before an altar and addressing the group in some sort of sermon. The altar was a strange block of black stone, carved with curving lines suggesting writhing motion and dark flickering. It was somewhat sickening to behold. In spite of the strangeness of these sights, Peregrine took careful aim with her blowgun, and shot three darts at the three closest kobolds. Two silently, and very quickly, fell asleep as two darts found their marks.

Then, hungry for more exploration, Peregrine crept back to investigate the room next to where the congregation was being held. She found nothing of great interest after a few moments of searching, and re-emerged into the hall to find that the rest of the party had crept up to the doorway of the room she had just searched. Hrothgar quietly insisted that it was time for action, but before Peregrine could respond, the party was shocked to see the frustrated Amalys, the advocate for careful planning up until this time, run up to the entryway to the dark place of worship and begin firing arrows at the human leading the sermon.

Though Amalys' arrows failed to find their mark, the whiz and clatter of them flying by and striking stone caused all the seated figures to jump up in alarm (all but two, who some of their friends shook and cursed at in an effort to wake them). Hrothgar was pleased, and he cried "About time!" as he and Katarina ran by Amalys, smiling and nodding to her in approbation.

A pitched battle ensued. As Hrothgar and Katarina engaged the milling enemy at their end of the entry corridor, a great, twisted and evil figure lowered to the ground from where it had been hovering, high above the congregation. It was an unnatural creature, summoned from some twisted nether region beyond the natural world - with wings, clawed feet, a face full of tentacles and two arms wielding great swords. It was a fearsome sight to behold, and seemed to be the object of worship for this foul cult. The priest connected to it who had been delivering the sermon cast a spell at Hrothgar that froze his heart and made his blood run cold. His mind reeled, and he stumbled backward, and fled in mindless terror.

Katarina continued to hack and slash her way through the minions towards the cursed beast, while Amalys fired shot after shot into the crowd. Peregrine crept forwards and dove behind a bench in the room where the battle was taking place, firing darts into the fray. After long seconds of panicked flight Hrothgar finally recovered his mind and turned about. He roared in anger as he launched throwing hammers, then fell upon the enemies surrounding Katarina.

Though the cleric of Vanya fought valiantly and felled many foes, Katarina fell before Hrothgar could distract the unholy creature she was zealously fixated upon. She crumbled on the ground, but in revenge his war hammer crunched sickeningly into the face of the monstrosity, killing it and leaving the last surviving cultists in confusion.

The monster's priest and two other humans fled the room, with Hrothgar and Amalys at their heels intent on avenging their comrade. Peregrine, meanwhile, examined the room and its tapestries, which depicted a great and terrible rites and secrets of the cult's dark worship. Her search netted her only an empty chest though. She also looked over Katarina, and finding her alive but unconscious, she attempted to administer first aid to revive her. Here, her attempts also met with little success.

Together, Hrothgar and Amalys killed the enraged priest, though Amalys was laid low in the fray. The final two cultists escaped from the keep. Hrothgar turned his attentions to Amalys, and used his knowledge of the healing arts to revive her. Both then hurried back to Katarina and worked to revive her - but she did not respond to their efforts. Alarmed, Peregrine ran off at top speed to find the driver waiting to take them back to Corunglain while Hrothgar and Amalys slung her up into a bedroll and carried her out of the keep.

As luck would have it, their driver, Portefoy, was equipped for emergencies, and managed to stabilize Katarina so that she could be safely transported back to town for rest and healing. The remaining party quickly made a search of the remaining rooms of the keep to make sure no cultists remained in hiding. Though neither objects of value nor enemies were discovered, a door was found that could not be opened by strength or cunning. Even Hrothgar's axe glanced off the door without even scratching its wood. Leaving this enchanted mystery for another day, the three returned outside and Amalys resolved to track the fleeing cultists to make sure they weren't headed to find reinforcements.

DM Notes from the last session

The horrific creature the party encountered was a zhochal. The cult that took over the northeast corner of Castle Caldwell (followers of Yurrgh-Thal) are making deals with the nearest zhochal outpost to obtain supplies and other materials to strengthen their position. In return, the zhochal are demanding livestock (of all sorts) for their own experiments. The zhochal sent one of their own to the castle as a sort of ambassador (i.e., spy). Now that the Yurrgh-Thul cultists are basically out of business here (for now, at least), the zhochal will turn their attention elsewhere. If the two surviving cultists escape, they may try to exact revenge. They could be useful.

Note that the PCs don't have any idea what's really going on, and I may return to this mini-cult, or not. I threw in the mini-cult element to spice up the level and give it an epic encounter (which it was, though the battle was really quite comical at first because everyone but Amalys's player (myself included) was rolling "1"s and "2"s for several rounds). I also wanted to see how tough a lesser servitor-type creature would be for a party of 1st/2nd level PCs. If I hadn't rolled crap for most of the battle, the ending could have been very different. I had toyed with fudging the rolls, but decided in the end to let things go. I'm glad I did, because the players derived a real sense of accomplishment from that fight, and by knowing that I had made some bad rolls they understood very quickly how lucky they were.

In the end, the players had a tough ("epic" was tossed around quite a bit after that session) fight that very nearly killed two of them. But they didn't mind this at all. In fact, Amalys's player told me afterwards that she would have felt cheated if her character hadn't nearly died after a battle like that. A good sesson.

In anticipation of tonight's session, here is the log entry from the last one - very thankful for players who take on this kind of work:

Session 8: August 3, 2012

We return now to the tale our motley and ever-growing crew of adventurers!

While a comatose Katarina lay resting in our carriage, Amalys succeeded in picking up the track of the fleeing cultists. While there was some disagreement over what should be done next, it was eventually resolved that Peregrine would accompany Katerina back to Corunglain to assure her recovery while Amalys, Setek and Hrothgar chased down the cultists to exact revenge and put an end to their dark influence. Though wounded, Hrothgar so strongly felt the need to avenge the fall of his comrade that he quaffed one of the company’s new-found healing potions in a single gulp to recover his strength.

Peregrine’s journey back to Corunglain was long, but he did manage to find a temple of Vanya to bring Katarina to. As Katarina had fallen bravely battling the forces of evil, she was healed by her order without need for payment. After an awkward attempt to impress a clergyman with her exploits (which was not well received), he was eventually also healed free of charge for his support of Katarina by a more sympathetic priest, who quietly confided that loving those of one’s own gender was not wrong, so long as that love was genuine. Peregrine was on the point of saying that he was only dressed as a woman, but a look from the unfriendly clergymen, who had returned to the chamber, encouraged a hasty retreat.

Though Katarina was well again, Peregrine had errands he wanted to run in town. Peregrine sought an audience with Clifton Cladwell III, who had given us the job of cleaning out his future castle. He informed him of our progress, and of the door that would not open by ordinary means. Caldwell promised to provide the means necessary to finish our job, and assured him that his man Portefoy would take care of it. Peregrine also informed Caldwell of the strange altar placed in his future home by the cultists, and offered to manage the removal of it for him. Caldwell accepted, telling him that Portefoy would take care of the details.

On the heels of this encounter, Peregrine discovered a private men’s club, Scarsby’s by name, and (still dressed as a woman) decided to brazenly enter and investigate it. This caused quite a scene, which prompted Peregrine, in agitation, to ask for a Sir James (reasoning that there was little chance there would actually be someone there by that name, which would allow him to escape while they looked for the hopefully nonexistent Sir James). To his dismay, Peregrine was introduced to a crusty, albeit well-dressed, gentlemen who introduced himself as Sir James of Crowlerd. For the second time in almost as many minutes, Peregrine found himself boxed into a corner, and blurted out very loudly to everyone present at the club that the elderly nobleman was in fact her father and too ashamed of her to admit it. Predictably, Sir James erupted in anger. While Peregrine managed to escape this scene by surreptitiously jabbing Sir James with a paralytic dart (after a first, failed attempt that raised an alarm) and making off in the confusion, he bears a significant grudge against Sir James for not going along with his outrageous lie.

Seeing Portefoy afterwards, Peregrine was given 600 gold to handle the removal of the altar from the castle. On the advice of the bartender at the Crossroads, Peregrine then traveled to the seediest district of Corunglain (called “the Shades” by the locals), to a dive known as The Donkey’s Bucket, to procure labourers who wouldn't ask questions. There he made contact with Margaret, who offered to handle the hiring and logistics of the move for 800 gold to Darokin City (where it would be delivered as a gift to a collector friend of Peregrine’s). Peregrine told her his “sob story” of a father (Sir James) who spurned her and refuses to recognize her, stirring some sympathy in the otherwise tough businesswoman. The deal was not struck immediately, but Peregrine promised to return when she was ready to complete the transaction and start the work. He also bought some opium, though he did not really know what that was, to help him sleep.

Memorable quotations:
Peregrine: “I want something to help me sleep…and some strong men.”
Margaret: “Are you going on a long trip…or do you just want to forget?”
Peregrine: “How did you know I was going on a trip?!”

Peregrine and Katarina, having completed their tasks in Corunglain and eager to reunite with their friends, had Portefoy take them immediately back to Castle Caldwell. It was a long trip through the night, but Peregrine shared her opium pipe with Katarina and both slept soundly for the duration.

During this time, Hrothgar, Amalys and Setek had tracked the fleeing cultists through a great forest and over hills, through the late afternoon and deep into the hours of the night. Thanks to the keen senses and tracking skills of Amalys and Setek, the trail was followed all the way to a great tower of obsidian, standing like a great jagged black finger stabbing up from a bowl-like depression in the otherwise pristine and uninhabited lands surrounding it. While care was taken to scout around the tower, no signs of life within could be detected – though Setek did break off a corner of the black stone in his investigation.

Deciding to wait for reinforcements, the three withdrew. Amalys began the journey back to Castle Caldwell immediately so that she could collect Peregrine and Katarina upon their return and guide them back to the dark tower of the cultists. Hrothgar and Setek, meanwhile, established a small camp hidden from the tower behind a far hill, and took turns sleeping and standing watch over for any activity going to or from the tower.

Amalys reached Castle Caldwell with some few hours of darkness remaining, and took the opportunity to sleep a little. Early in the morning, she was awakened by Portefoy’s carriage and the arrival of Peregrine and Katarina. Amalys explained what events had unfolded in their absence, and they immediately began the journey back to reunite the party at the obsidian tower.

Their pace was swift and their journey was without event, and with the sun reaching towards its height the party finally reconvened at the makeshift camp of Setek and Hrothgar. Neither Setek nor Hrothgar had observed any activity from the tower, meaning that the cultists and whatever friends they had picked up were likely still inside and sitting tight. Ever concerned with the most practical matters, Hrothgar pressed food on everyone (though Setek continued to refuse Hrothgar’s attempts to feed him, mystifying the Dwarf who had no understanding of his reptilian biology), and after a hurried meal to restore everyone’s strength, the troop advanced cautiously towards the tower.

Opening the great doors and entering in eerie silence, our company discovered that the tower seemed not to be composed of floors of rooms, but is rather just a great staircase with landings every so often moving upwards towards the top. Peregrine opted to scale the tower from the outside rather than go up the interior, keeping track of the party’s movement by listening at the windows as he passed.

Halfway up the tower, the party was confronted by three large humanoid insects. The party would have been surprised when these beasts fell upon them, but Peregrine's vantage point from a nearby window allowed him time to call out a warning. They were strong and fearsome foes with natural armour and sharp claws, but after a protracted scuffle they were finally all put down. Setek and Hrothgar suffered the brunt of their attacks, with Hrothgar especially feeling winded and sore. As those within the tower paused to regroup, Peregrine nimbly scampered up to the highest windows, to find a surprising and chilling sight: the two cultists had another two of those formidable insect monsters to defend them, and, moreover, they had a second flying tentacled monstrosity with them at the top of the tower - just like the one that felled Katarina at Castle Caldwell.

What fate awaits our party at the top of the obsidian tower?
Will Katarina manage to survive a major battle without concussion or life-threatening injuries?
Will everyone else finally start regretting not training in First Aid if Hrothgar is incapacitated?
Will Setek finally eat something?
Will Amalys gain a level?

Answers to these questions and more in the next thrilling episode!

Heh heh. Those tower guardians were tough opponents for the party. I'll post some stats when I can. The party doesn't know this, but essentially they are the victims of zhochal experimentation - they were turned into living batteries. They place prisoners in special vats filled with hundreds of leech-like creatures, which attach themselves to the victim, bonding with their flesh and modifying internal organs. Once the transformation is complete a large, insectoid creature emerges from the vat, with no memory of its previous life. All that remains of the original person is part of their brain and their nervous system.

You know, it would make a lot of sense if the illithids were at least loosely allied with the OB. I would see them more as an independent race than servitors.

There is a method of control, which the zhochal use to control their insectoid "drones". However, since their technology is biologically-based an outsider would have a hard time identifying said device, since it mounts directly onto the zhochal's head. As with their weapons, the control unit "dies" if separated from a user or not placed in a special nutrient bath for a prolonged period of time (around 48 hours). The zhochal guide in the tower controlled the drones, unbeknownst to the human cultists. Each unit can control up to four drones simultanteously - which means the average zhochal can have four nasty brutes as backup. Fun.

If the control unit (or controller) is destroyed/killed, the drones are freed. Since their memories and original identities are effectively erased, all that remains is the feeling that something horrible was done to it, and it is angry. Then they go insane. Not a good thing. Fortunately for the party, they had to hack through the drones to get to the zhochal mastermind (killed by Peregrine - details to come); otherwise, they would have had some freed drones running around.

More stuff to come soon. The addition of a sixth player has really changed the dynamic - in a good way. One player has taken over mapping whenever the party is in the dungeon, which is very cool. I do find that my role as DM is moving very quickly from being about 60% referee/40% player (through the NPC) to 90-95% of my attention being focused on running the universe. It almost feels like running a game at a con, but without the frenzied effort to cram a whole module into a 4-hour slot.

Because the players are asking for detail, a map of Corunglain is taking shape, which I'll be happy to share. The city is definitely becoming a much richer setting.

Taymor is also going to figure into the campaign. It just evolved when I helped my newest player flesh out some backstory for her character through some solo gaming. More on that, too.

Heh heh. It'll be interesting!

Basically, the whole thing came up when I was putting together the solo adventure for my new player. Her character went to the Corunglain Magical Academy (a small institution with pretensions of being in the same league as the GSoM, but in reality it's pretty much the only place in northern Darokin where a person can get a real education), and part of the mini-adventure had her investigate some suspicious activity in the library. One thing led to another, and she ran off with a few items from the rare books room (which is normally locked at all times).

One of these item was a dagger, which soon turned out to be a dagger+1, but it has two secret features. One is that it is a returning dagger (she won't discover this until she throws it, of course), and the second feature is that it has a personality. The personality is a fragment of the soul of Jadikira, a Taymoran mage who was once the Queen of Tamoraz (c. BC 2000-1800). In her quest for immortality, she foresaw her death and the end of her nation, and placed parts of her essence in three items: her dagger, her staff, and her diadem. She cast a special enchantment on each, which would wake up her personality in each item if it was wielded by a female magic user. Once awakened, she will approach her new "friend" in dreams, offering help and knowledge (good for beginning players), as well as the odd ancient Taymoran spell or two. She will also promise even greater guidance and help...if only the wielder locates her other treasures (she will claim her other memories are stashed there - complete b.s., but she's counting on the new wielder being blinded by ambition).

Once all three items are reunited, Jadikira will be able to manifest on the Prime Plane in spiritual form...and possess the wielder! Once this is done, she will gain new life through her new body, and resume her quest for immortality (no desire to resurrect Taymor or anything like that - Jadikira is a selfish person). This lobbying and manipulation will take time, but then again, Jadikira is a very patient woman.

Right now I'm pondering one or two first- or second-level spells that would have been used in Taymor, but which are now forgotten. Nothing too powerful, but definitely something different from most starting mages' repertoires.

For your reading pleasure and hopeful benefit, here is the solo adventure I ran for my newest player. We were able to finish it during a single lunch hour. Please note that the format is more of an aide-memoire than a formal document, so it may look sketchy in places. Comments are welcome!

Solo adventure: The Great Academy Caper!

Map of the Academy