Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Tears of Vummor Session 57: Crossroads (7/26/15)

The end of the Keep?

-The party, alongside Lord Barenor, watched Sharablog walk back down the road to rejoin the army. Silence reigned for a full minute as everyone in the Keep contemplated the Bloodface's demands, but all at once the people seeking refuge there began speaking at once. Barenor stared at the army encampment for a while longer and asked the party to meet him in his private quarters to discuss the options that lay before them.

-The party joined Barenor some time later, where he sat going over maps and charts with his advisors, the elf Tatharon Sunleaf and St. Cuthbert cleric Murdock Frey, captain of the guard Richard Firgol, the wounded Heironeous cleric Roderick Graven, and Duncan Von der Linthe and his cronies. (Duncan wore simple leather armor and was without his powdered wig; this was the party's first time seeing him without his extravagant Gold Coast finery and were disappointed to find him mildly attractive without all the powder and velvet.)

-Lord Barenor asked the assembled group for their thoughts on the situation. He stated that Gurzuzzar Bloodface was known to abide by a code of honor, and that if he did meet him on the field of battle at midnight he believed the warlord would keep his word. Only, however, if the Tears of Vummor were surrendered.

-Murcock Frey thought it best for Lord Barenor to surrender the Tears and fight the orc; he knew Gurzuzzar was fierce in battle, but he had fought alongside Barenor enough to trust his companion's prowess.

-Tatharon Sunleaf and Roderick both agreed the Tears could not fall into the hands of Elizabeth's agents. Roderick and the party reiterated Elizabeth planned to use the Tears to bring about an age of undeath about on not just New Solinheim, but all possible worlds. Tatharon and Richard Firgol thought it best to let the competent guard do their job and defend the Keep, for it had been built to withstand such forces and had done so in the past many times. Besides, word was likely reaching nearby cities already; reinforcements were surely on their way.

-The Bloodface, however, were a tenacious and fearsome enemy. They would not stop until most of their number were broken on the walls, and should any of their number find their way into the Keep and escape with the Tears, Elizabeth would be one step closer to succeeding. The party wondered if there was some way they could smuggle the Tears out, just in case the Keep should fall. The effects of the Tears (their ability to reanimate any dead within 100' and the near-debilitating sense of grief and sorrow experienced by anyone handling them) would complicate matters, and Ingrid did not think her god would approve of raising the dead in such mass quantities across New Solinheim. Besides, where could they even take such a powerful artifact?

-Ymanie mentioned her mentor Dornius Gorthrew had been researching ways of destroying the Tears, claiming that mundane methods would only unleash their effects upon the world in the process. He mentioned investigating an ancient dwarven legend of The Anvil of the Freezing Moon, a magical tool the dwarves used to make cold iron while at war with the fairies long ago. Dornius hypothesized the powerful properties of the anvil could freeze the Tears, allowing them to be destroyed. Dornius had mentioned a frog god in the Black Mire swamp holding information about the Anvil. However, Ymanie hadn't been able to reach Dornius via her scroll of communication in several days and expressed concern.

-Ingrid decided to consult Jarl, as the sentient helmet's clairvoyant and precognitive abilities had proven useful in the past. She donned it (him?), slipping into a seizure-like state. 

-Jarl greeted her warmly, and Ingrid pretended he hadn't told her he loved her last time she spoke with him. She asked him if he could tell her the location of the Anvil of the Freezing Moon. He expended some effort, but saw them in a dwarven fortress at the source of the Ironflow River in the Kuln Mountains to the South. She then asked him if the Tears could be destroyed in the way they sought, and he saw that only a weapon of great power could destroy them if used with the Anvil. She asked him if he could locate such a weapon, but he stopped her, claiming that despite Ingrid's strong will, he risked hurting herself by using the helmet's power more. Before she took Jarl off, he told her he needed to speak with her soon about something important, but wouldn't explain further. When she came out of her trance her nose was bleeding.

-Tatharon said watching Ingrid use Jarl reminded him of Barenor (before he became Lord) and his experience with a certain necklace back in their adventuring days. When pressed, he merely smiled and said if the Keep survived the siege he would tell them another day.

-Ymanie suggested using the Somberlain to escape the Keep. She was practically an expert--not only had she read all of Greyfavell the Wanderer's tomes on the subject multiple times, she claimed six successful trips (five, if you counted the time her fellow student Jeremy was trapped there and aged by forty years, which she claimed was his own fault.) She was confident the Somberlain could be a relatively safe way to keep the Tears away from the Bloodface. She explained some of the properties to the group, even opening a portal with the Somberlain stones she kept in her bag. She stated that while the road was lined with tombs, she didn't think the Tears would cause many problems there because the tombs were permanently sealed (and she had tried EVERYTHING to crack one open, trust her). 

Basically, this.
-A plan was formulated: take the Tears and use the Somberlain to travel south. Ymanie clearly visualized a spot on the Berrywine River close to the village of Berryton; with this strong memory, she was confident should could lead the party to this spot using the otherworldly road. She calculated this would travel three days on the Somberlain but it would take only a few minutes in New Solinheim. They would be at least a day away from the Bloodface, and from there could find a boat to take them down the Berrywine. As for the undead creation issue, they came up with a plan. Party members would hold the Tears and use Shepard's boots of levitation to float while being pulled along with a rope. Like the saddest balloon ever.

-Thinking of the coming full moon and the fact that she would need the tongue of someone she killed unarmed in single combat in order to perform the ritual to contact Yeenoghu, Shepard asked Lord Barenor if they could take a few of the bounty hunters imprisoned in the dungeon along with them. He didn't like the sound of it, but the party convinced him after Tathatron Sunleaf argued in their favor. 

-The party headed to the storerooms to stock up on supplies, and then headed to the dungeon. They decided to put Jarl on the leathery female bounty hunter and let Ymanie charm the younger female bounty hunter. Jarl, speaking through the woman known as Kitty, said she was very strong willed and he could use her for several days before depleting her life force. The younger bounty hunter, mistrustful of the group but friendly towards Ymanie, asked what they had done to her mother. She explained that they, along with the Sam Elliot looking old guy in the cell, were a family and sought the reward offered on at least one member of the party to pay a healer to magically cure the affliction of their youngest, Samantha. The party then felt rrrrreally bad and nixed the whole thing, returning the prisoners to their cells and making arrangements with the captain of the guard for their release after the siege. 

[This was a short one; we played at a different time than usual, took a break mid-session so Jenn and Jane could pick up spicy noodles, and I've also been stupid depressed so it took me a while to shake the brain fog. That said, we spent almost the entire session just roleplaying and everyone seemed to have a pretty good time. I always take it as a good sign when my players are having a blast and we're not rolling any dice or killing any monsters.]

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Tears of Vummor Session 56: The Arrival of the Bloodface

-The session began with Shepard next to an unconscious Peter on the ground of the Inner Bailey and the rest of the party on the wall south of the main gate. The sounds of battle dwindled as the surviving Night Roaches and Wraithblood slipped back into the night. Shepard carried Peter to the guard tower and also sent for guards to help Roderick, who was still on the wall. The rest of the party began scouring the walls for anything resembling the cluster of crystals Dorcas saw a Night Roach attach to the wall above the main gate. They met up with Frank the guard (also Shepard's first employee in her burgeoning goatmilk empire), who was distraught at the loss of his close friend, another guard named Sauney Willets (who I totally didn't kill because I forgot who he was, I swear). Frank was briefed that the Night Roaches were planting magical bombs on the walls (if the prophecy of Ingrid's screaming mouth hand was to be believed), so he began spreading word amongst the other guards.

-Meanwhile, a commotion arose outside of the keep fortress. Terrified guards ran screaming into the courtyard, crying that a goblin and something else was inside the fortress. Shepard questioned a guard with his wits about him, who revealed that while in pursuit by the guards, the goblin spun around and threw a gem in their midst. Within a minute, several of the guards transformed into undead creatures with worms spilling from their eyes and mouths. These undead turned on the other guards, and the survivors were overwhelmed by fear and fled.

-At this point, the party entered the inner bailey in response to the guards' cries. Together, they entered the fortress. Inside they encountered guards who told them the goblin was carrying a large stone vessel topped with a wax seal. Recalling the prophecy revealed by Ingrid's hand mouth, they guessed the goblin was headed for the cistern to poison the Keep's water supply. The guards also revealed that an old woman had forced her way through the terrified guards; they let her through because she was "one of yours", (a guard said while pointing to Ingrid,) "a follower of Astarael." 

"Butt worm" carriers, according to the party.
-Below the fortress, the party encountered an old, scarred woman wearing a flowing robe over platemail. Surrounding her were six Spawn of Kyuss; Ingrid noticed immediately that their fear aura was absent. In fact, the Spawn were standing still around the old woman, who was beating out a rhythm on a small drum slung around her neck. Crystals were strewn at her feet. Ingrid was amazed; since the priestesses of Astarael are rare and solitary wanderers, she had never actually encountered another of her faith, let alone seen one deal with their order's foes in such a way.

-The old priestess continued beating her drum, so the party got to work. They found that attacking the Spawn brought them out of their daze, so while some members fought the awakened undead other members began dousing the stunned ones with oil and lighting them on fire, recalling their regenerative abilities. 

-In the process of defending herself from a Spawn, several Kyuss worms landed on her arm. All but one were quickly brushed off; that one managed to slip below her armor and began burrowing its way into her arm.

-Noting this, the old woman stopped beating her drum and cast a spell on the halfling, which killed the worm in her arm. The worm fell out of the wound, looking like an old cat turd.

-The old priestess, wielding a two-handed hammer bearing the bell iconography of Astarael, then helped the party finish off the remaining Spawn of Kyuss.

-After the Spawn were defeated and their remains set ablaze, Ingrid immediately began asking the woman questions. The woman, clearly not accustomed to much conversation, revealed herself as Oso (played by our visiting friend, Kate!), and insisted that before she answered questions she needed to pick up her crystals. The party offered to help and she scolded them, for none but her should touch them or it would ruin their delicate energy.

-At this point the party remembered the cistern-bound goblin and decided they should probably chase him down instead of asking an old woman questions in a hallway heavy with wormy corpse smoke.

-Inside the cistern, the goblin had already descended half of the spiral stairway that led to the water 80' below. He was clearly slowed by the vessel he dragged; this is perhaps all that prevented him from getting to the water before the party could dispatch the Spawn of Kyuss.

-Dorcas fired a swift arrow at the goblin, critting and pinning his foot to the stone masonry. He stumbled and the jar began rolling down the stairs.

-Shepard grabbed Nimy and jumped, activating her boots of levitation just in time to stop level with the goblin. She threw Nimy across, but Nimy slipped and fell into the water below.

-The goblin, his eyes never leaving the stone vessel, ripped the arrow from his foot and limped away. Shepard tried to reach him while levitating, but he easily dodged her attack and grabbed the vessel. He jumped the rest of the way to the water below. Ingrid jumped all the way from above managing a graceful landing in the water; she tried to swim toward the goblin, who was struggling with the wax seal.

-Dorcas took a deep breath and fired off another shaft. Her aim was true. The arrow tore through the back of the goblin's head and came out of his mouth, passed straight through his right hand and actually punctured the wax seal. Nimy quickly pulled the goblin's twitching corpse out of the water and cut the shaft in two, removing it from the goblin but keeping the seal intact.

-They carried the jar above, where they met up with a bloody and haggard Lord Barenor, who thanked them for thwarting the Night Roach's mission to poison the cistern. He sent the vessel off to be examined by his elven advisor, Tatharon Sunleaf.

-Their work was not done, however. The party immediately spent the next few hours searching the walls for more bombs. The hand's prophecy claimed the Night Roaches would plant five bombs, and five they found. They threw them over the walls when they found them.

-Exhausted, the party headed back to their apartment to rest. They invited Oso, who begrudgingly accepted. 

-At the apartment, Ingrid asked if Oso would pray with her in the morning. Oso agreed, but then began asking questions of her own. She was very curious about Shepard, pointing out the many characteristics she shared with undead creatures. They tried explaining Shepard's curse, but when Ingrid revealed she had actually resurrected Shepard in the Tanglewood, fearing it would trigger an accelerated fruition of the fighter's curse, Oso was enraged, citing she had betrayed Astarael's most sacred covenant. When Ingrid revealed that Astarael appeared to her, and that she destroyed the rod of resurrection on an altar sacred to the god after destroying hundreds of the Deep Hive to atone for her sin, Oso became incredulous, suggesting that Astarael doesn't actually appear to her followers and that the younger priestess had probably been fooled by one of the god's many enemies. She informed Ingrid that she would not pray with her in the morning. The party then tried to rest.

-At dawn, the party woke to a great commotion outside. The guards revealed that the remainder of the army was not far behind the Night Roaches and Wraithblood. At about a mile away the army were assembled, forming a ring on all sides of the Keep. When the party ascended the wall, drums rose up from the army outside.
[Drums: I just played the first 14 minutes of this on repeat.]

-On the wall they found Lord Barenor, clearly exhausted but surveying the invading forces beyond his walls. He told them that they lost almost thirty guards in the surprise attack, but thanks to the party both the Keep's walls and water supply were intact. Messengers had been sent at first sign the Bloodface were coming, so Barenor expected reinforcements from Thargione, Enond, Wywood, Wayheath and possibly even from the Jewel Throne itself. There were enough supplies to last the Keep months if need be, and between the remaining guards and militia they had raised Barenor seemed confident they could withstand the coming siege until those reinforcements arrived.

-Below, the party surveyed the army. It was hard to tell at such a distance, but there were hundreds of human sized opponents below, many goblins, some creatures the size of ogres, and even a few giants. To the north the army was already felling the trees of the Morktweald. What looked like a command post was erected to the south, as well.

-After some time, the drumming abruptly stopped. A lone figure climbed the narrow road that led to the Keep. Lord Barenor told his archers to hold their fire; he knew enough of Gurzzuzar Bloodface to know he operated by a code of sorts, and typically gave opponents the opportunity to surrender. When the figure came near enough they saw a female half-orc, clad in chainmail and bearing the banners of both the Bloodface (a red flag emblazoned with a bloody orc skull) and Kyuss (a black flag bearing a worm-ridden skull). 

-The half-orc stopped just below the gate and planted both flags in the ground next to her. She withdrew a scroll from her belt, introduced herself as Gurzzuzar's half-sister and lieutenant, Sharablog Bloodface, and read her leader's terms: Barenor must surrender the Tears of Vummor and meet Gurzzuzar Bloodface alone on the road below the Keep, where they will engage in single combat. If Barenor can defeat Gurzzuzar (she scoffed at this), the Bloodface will take the Tears and leave the Keep. If Gurzzuzar wins, they will proceed in taking the Tears, razing the Keep, and killing or enslaving any survivors. Barenor has until midnight, when he must meet Gurzzuzar. 

-Sharablog put away the scrolls, picked up both banners, and made her way back to the army. The drums began anew. Barenor asked the party to meet him in his chambers to discuss what comes next.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Ways Magic Mike XXL is Kinda 60% of What I Want in a D&D Campaign:

-It's a road trip.
-So much friendship.
-Complications occur along the way that necessitate changes of plans.
-These changes involve meeting interesting people; new ones are encountered as well as people from the characters' pasts.
-These complications lead the party down new, unexpected pathways that allow the characters to reach their destination, albeit changed because of what they've learned along the way. 
-The story doesn't focus on the challenges presented to the characters, but instead showcases how the characters decide to deal with the challenges as they arise. 
-The relationships between the characters are built around shared experiences; it's like looking in on a campaign that's been going on for years, with callbacks to past encounters.
-Character growth! Self-discovery!
-The characters work as a team, there's sometimes intraparty conflict, but it's dealt with without mean-spiritedness.
-The party dynamic is inclusive, not based around power trips or antagonism.
-Everybody has their niche and a chance to shine, even the quiet guy who sits back most of the time.
-Goofiness levels are about as high as they can get in my games without things falling apart. 
-Everybody is having a great time. 

The missing 40%:

-There were obviously no examples of zombies puking out worms that are exploding in wet pops because the zombie is on fire.
-Moral dilemmas.
-High weirdness (the young lady headbutting everything in a motorcycle helmet is a start.)
-The serious parts where everybody gets quiet/freaked out.
-Donkeys and Fiend Folio monsters.  

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Tears of Vummor Session 55: The Snout is Out (Shepard's Bad Day)

-Starting in their apartment, the party decided to head down to the tavern to give Dorcas, who was still feeling strange after her mysterious encounter outside of the Keep, some time to rest. 
[At this point Jenn realized the Zarn, warrior-cat of New Ulthar, was actually just the size of a large housecat and not way bigger. Even though his size was mentioned regularly. This led to a very important ranking of the party by size, just so we all knew: Grolt (8'), Shepard (6'), Ingrid (5'11"), Sheila (5'9"), Dorcas (5'8"), Ymanie (5'8"), Calai (5'6"), Oardale (3' at shoulder), Nimy (2' 4"), Zarn (13" at shoulder), Razzi (8").]

-Given the recent influx of people ushered into the Keep in anticipation of the siege, the tavern was packed. The crowd seemed somewhat indifferent toward the party; their attention was focused on someone telling a story at the bar. As they got closer, they heard a man spinning a yarn about their adventure defeating the entire village of Underdark-bee reanimated zombies from Diggstown. It was George ("George isn't the NPC we need, but he's the NPC we deserve" -Jamie), and as always George was stoked to see the ladies of the Sparagmos-Fweedom Collective. They bought him a honey mead and caught up. Between the unreliability of lumber work at Malaga (due to the mysterious elf attacks on loggers in the Tanglewood) and the boredom inherent in a backwater like Old Bend, George decided to strike out North and check out the Keep in search of excitement. There was some discussion afterward of hiring George on as their hype man.

-Realizing they forgot to loot the tent of the bounty hunters they had arrested last session, the party went out to the crowded courtyard. Two teenagers were spotted leaving the tent with a few handfuls of items, but they dropped them and ran when confronted. Inside, the tent had been ransacked and picked over, but they found some gold and a small black box amongst the things the teens were carrying. The box appeared to be trapped, so it was decided Dorcas should examine it before someone got hurt. They headed home.

-The party met up with the Curate Roderick (and Acolyte Peter) outside of their apartment. Upstairs, Roderick questioned Dorcas about her encounter. She didn't reveal much information and refused to let him inspect her. She agreed to let him check for any magic or curses, however, and he found none. Shepard tried to wink at Peter, which confused him, and then Roderick left to resume preparations for the siege. The party questioned Dorcas after the cleric left, demanding answers. She revealed that something important was happening, but she couldn't talk about it for fear it would change the course of things in an unfavorable way. The party were not comfortable with this, but Grolt stood beside Dorcas and argued that she should be trusted. The party eventually came around, but several members remained wary.

-Dorcas easily bypassed the needle trap on the box and opened it, revealing eight blowdarts tipped with a paralysis poison. Grolt agreed to carve her a blowgun, but only if she vowed to use non-lethal darts with it.

-Shepard spent some time working out a plan for her new goatmilk business and ate some of the dwindling belly meat from the big pink bounty hunter she killed outside of Diggstown. She immediately felt weak, nauseous, and developed a terrible toothache, so she decided to lay down.

-There was a tap at the window, and Nimy looked up to see a flash of the strange halfling outside before he climbed away. On the windowsill outside was a note addressed to Nimy tied to a small jar. 

-Carefully opening the window and seeing that the halfling was gone, Dorcas cut the note from the jar and handed it to Nimy. It read "Your skin is dry. Use this. -An Admirer". 

-While the party looked over the note, Ymanie picked up the jar and opened it. She claimed it was just lotion. The party told her to put it down and she complied. While the party discussed what to do about Nimy's stalker, Ymanie picked it back up and applied some of the lotion to her skin. It smelled like honeysuckle, and seemed to be nothing more than skin lotion--a fine one at that.

Shepard: On her way.
-After a while, Dorcas noticed something strange about Shepard; not only did her corpse-scent double in intensity, but her face changed. She now had a short, almost canine snout, complete with sharp teeth. Yeenoghu's curse continued to grow worse. Shepard put a scarf around her face and ran down to the trader and purchased a black veil, which he claimed was imported all the way from far Yoon-Suin. Despite the awesomeness of the hat/veil combo, Shepard was distraught, and the party decided to head back to the tavern to get drunk.

-At the bar, Shepard decided to order a White Tarnisian (liquor and goat milk) in an attempt to drive up demand for goat milk at the bar. It didn't seem to work very well, and after buying a round for a few patrons the reception was mixed. 

-A hard-looking Northern woman sat next to Shepard at the bar and struck up a conversation, claiming how comforting it was to hear a Fafhrd accent this far across New Solinheim. She introduced herself as Otlaka, a mercenary who came to the Borderlands seeking fortune at the Caves of Chaos. Upon finding them plundered, she came to the Keep hearing Lord Barenor was paying well for sell-swords who could bolster the ranks once word got out the Blood Face was on their way. The two split a round of White Tarnsians, and Otlaka casually invited Shepard back to her tent for some privacy. Needing something to get her mind off the curse, Shepard agreed.

-Knowing better than to let their impulsive friend go off alone with a stranger, Dorcas and Nimy snuck out after her. While hiding in the shadows outside, the strange halfling appeared on the wall above Nimy and asked if she tried the lotion yet. He was gone before the two could do anything.

-Inside of the tent, Shepard cautiously explained that something was wrong with her face, but Otlaka said it didn't matter, lifted her veil and kissed her. That was the last thing she remembered, as a blow dart hit her in the neck and she was knocked unconscious.

-Dorcas crept close to the tent and heard Otlaka making plans with a man named Pico and a halfling woman on how to smuggle Shepard out of the Keep. She snuck back to Nimy, who watched from nearby, and they came up with a plan to rescue Shepard. Dorcas moved silently back to the tent and waited, Scalpel in hand. Nimy threw a rock at the tent and started yelling, which prompted Otlaka to open the tent flap. Nimy concocted a story about Otlaka stealing something from her at the bar, and that she needed to come out and deal with her. Otlaka, remembering Nimy as one of Shepard's companions, explained that what she and Shepard were doing was between them, and that if Nimy and Shepard had a thing going that was up to them to work out. She advised that Nimy move along, but Nimy refused. With a sigh, Otlaka grabbed her sword and stepped out of the tent. Dorcas struck from behind, driving her thin blade through the warrior's throat and killing her instantly. Inside, a woman's voice commanded Pico to engage the attackers. He stepped outside and was swiftly dispatched by Dorcas. After entering they found the halfling had escaped through a small gash at the back of the tent. She had slipped off into the temporary tent city lining the streets of the Keep.

-Nimy and Dorcas took the unconscious Shepard back to the apartment. Ingrid and Grolt alerted the guards. Shepard slowly regained her senses and was majorly bummed.

-Since it was close to midnight, the party decided to settle in and listen to the third prophecy the mouth in Ingrid's hand would reveal. She unwrapped it, and it released a foul torrent of nonsensical profanity, but then quieted down and whispered "When the Bloodface arrives The Hand of Peace shall bear a false smile." It began screaming curses again, and Ingrid quickly wrapped it back up. Grolt was distressed by this, as the enclave of mongrelfolk they met named him as Meriadar's prophesied Hand of Peace. He expressed concerns that the impending battle was awakening impulses inherent in his bugbear nature that the teachings of Meriadar had helped suppress, and that this prophecy somehow meant that his baser nature would lead to him betraying those he cared for. The party talked him down, suggesting that perhaps it merely suggested he could move freely amongst the Bloodface as a spy when they arrived.

-Cries erupted outside; the party investigated and heard a great deal of commotion on the Keep's outer walls. A passing group of guards said the Keep was under attack, so the party headed out to investigate. Shepard remained behind, still feeling groggy from the poisoned dart.

-On the walls, black-clad bugbears were clashing with the guards. The party engaged on the southeastern wall and soon realized the bugbears were fighting while goblins snuck around.

-Shepard saw what was happening and headed out, running through the inner bailey and ascending to the northeastern wall. She killed a bugbear, noting the silver-embossed ghost on his leather armor. She realized this was the Wraithblood, a part of the Bloodface's advance force. Soon Roderick and Peter joined her in fighting the other bugbears.

-To the south, the rest of the party watched as a goblin (they now knew this was one of the Night Roaches, the other part of the Bloodface's advance force) planted something resembling a cluster of crystals above the main gate. Remembering Ingrid's first mouth-hand prophecy ("The Night Roaches bear poison/five explosions set to delay"), they realized the Night Roaches were planting bombs while the Wraithblood kept the guards busy.

-To the north, the bugbears pressed hard, killing several guards and severely wounding Roderick. Shepard and Peter struggled with the Wraithblood. Still lightheaded from being drugged, Shepard missed, and the bugbear nearly knocked Peter off the wall. The next round, he did just that, and Shepard watched in horror as her once-slampiece fell to the ground. With a scream, she charged and cleaved the Wraithblood's head in two.

-To the south, the party pushed back the Wraithblood and engaged with the Night Roaches. They killed one and drove off another one, which wore a dark cloak and had the ability to spider climb. Clearing that part of the wall, they found the crystal device and threw it off outside the Keep's walls.

-Meanwhile, Shepard abandoned the battle and ran down to check on Peter. He was barely alive, coughing up blood. She gave him a health potion and he slipped into unconsciousness.  

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Tears of Vummor Campaign Background

Clockwise from top left: Shepard, Nimy, Dorcas, Ingrid (Illustration by Jenn!)

The Sparagmos-Fweedom Collective* (i.e. The Players):

Dorcas Snell (Jamie)/level 5 thief - Dorcas hails from Wayheath, where she thrived under the tutelage of Mistress Kella at the Thieves' Guild. The troubles in Wayheath after Lord Eberhardt came to power, coupled with rumors of treasure ripe for the taking at the Caves of Chaos, led Dorcas to the Keep, where she joined forces with a group who had already made a few expeditions into the monster-infested terrain to the north. Dorcas is cautious, thoughtful, and often worried; her sneakiness and her wariness are invaluable to the group.

Ingrid (Jenny)/level 5 cleric - At a young age Ingrid's family was destroyed by a wandering band of undead; destitute and alone, she found both solace and the promise of vengeance in the teachings of Astarael, god of the boundary between life and death. Astarael's clerics, all female, travel New Solinheim alone seeking and destroying any undead they can find. Word of Kyuss worship led Ingrid to the Caves of Chaos, where she met the rest of the group and joined their cause. Ingrid is brave and loyal, but sometimes finds her pledge to Astarael stifling.

Nimy Stonyhill (Jane)/level 4 halfling - A halfling raised on the slopes of the Southwatch Mountains, Nimy fled the village of Oardale after inadvertently burning it to the ground in the process of exposing the replacement of the village elder with a nefarious fey from the Unseelie Court. Despite her neighbors' antipathy toward her, she remains confident she did the right thing. Mostly. Nimy traveled far across New Solinheim and met the party deep in the Tanglewood. She has recently been contacted by a group called The Irons, an organization who fight the Unseelie from the shadows and was gifted with a riding mastiff named Oardale by the group. The newest member of the party, Nimy's quick-thinking and unorthodox style of problem-solving has already earned her a permanent position on the team. 

Shepard (Jenn)/level 4 fighter - After accidentally killing her boyfriend in battle, Shepard left the northern coastal city of Fafhrd and found herself in the Borderlands. The promise of blood and gold led her to the Caves of Chaos, where she was imprisoned by bugbears and subsequently freed by the party. She is currently the victim of a ghoul curse for drinking from a chalice sacred to the gnoll god Yeenoghu. Brave, strong, and foolhardy, Shepard deals with trouble just as well as she creates it. 

Ymanie Dellacorte (NPC)/level 3 magic user - When Ymanie's curiosity and penchant for finding trouble wore thin with her wealthy Gold Coast trading family, she was offered two options: marry that powdered wig-wearing Von Der Linth boy (and thus merge two of the largest trading companies in the world) or go to the Mages' School and learn some discipline. Not the type to submit to an arranged marriage, the Mages' School it was. She was expelled within two years after an unauthorized trip to the Somberlain left a classmate aged by forty years. Dornius Gorthrew, one of her instructors, still saw promise in the young mage and agreed to take her under his wing in secret. At his request (and fleeing the marriage her parents arranged upon news of her expulsion), Ymanie traveled to the Borderlands to seek a very dangerous artifact known as the Tears of Vummor. Not very good at keeping secrets, she revealed the nature of her quest to the first group of adventurers she fell in with, and thus the Sparagmos-Fweedom Collective was born.

Grolt; paper mini from Darkfast Dungeons

Grolt (NPC)/ 4+1 HD bugbear - Raised in the northernmost outskirts of Morktweald Forest, Grolt found himself in the the Caves of Chaos when his clan relocated in support of the cleric of Kyuss, Malwold, and his haphazard campaign against the Keep. Grolt raised concerns about this move to his chief and was mocked. When he cited a vision sent by Meriadar, god of peace, craft and meditation, that came to him in a bowl of human-meat stew warning of his clan's destruction, Grolt was locked away. Imprisioned, Grolt swore off the flesh of sentient beings and learned to mediate, seeking answers from his new god. Deliverance came when the party freed him; with his clan gone he agreed to help the adventurers stop Malwold. Grolt's devotion to Meriadar helps him overcome the warlike nature of his people, but it is a struggle that often leaves him troubled. A chance encounter with a group of Mongrelfolk in the Tanglewood left him even more troubled when they named him the prophesied Hand of Peace, the warlike aspect Meriadar sometimes uses to create peace. Grolt has found a home amongst the adventurers and continues to fight alongside them while trying to follow Meriadar's path, acting as both their conscience and the one with a very big mace. He has a very close relationship with Dorcas, but insists that his devotion to Meriadar must remain his sole focus.

Zarn (NPC)/warrior cat of New Ulthar - Zarn was captured by the witch Dunna while on patrol in the Black Goat Woods and subsequently freed by the party when they raided the witch's burrows. A proud and honorable soldier of the Warrior Cats of New Ulthar, Zarn feels he owes a debt to the party for rescuing him from the witch and has agreed to assist them on their quest for a time before returning to his duty in the east.
Zarn and Razzi, by Jane, from Nimy's character sheet.

Razzi (NPC)/ level 3 thief ragdoll - The carefree freelance thief Razzi traveled to the Tanglewood with plans to pilfer gold from the coffers of the wealthy elves of Thargione but instead found only the shadow-stealing shears of Dunna. With her soul transferred to one of the witch's ragdolls and her body left to die of exposure in the forest, Razzi was trapped in a containment pit until the party freed her. Ever the optimist, Razzi has embraced her strange new body and the new ways she can use it for thievery. In appreciation, she continues to travel with the party to help out when she can, usually bolstering morale with her sunny disposition (which is weird for somebody trapped in a doll body.)

Sheila (NPC)/ level 3 fighter/cursed donkeyperson - Another of Dunna's victims, Sheila ran afoul of the witch while passing through the Tanglewood looking for mercenary work. Dunna's experiments left the fighter transformed into a donkey, who the witch traded to villagers from Lyle in exchange for some supplies. Frustrated at her inability to communicate with the villagers, she violently lashed out at them. Deciding she couldn't be put to work, the people of Lyle decided to slaughter her for meat over the winter. When the party came to Lyle seeking Dunna, something about Sheila's demeanor led Shepard to believe there was more to the donkey than met the eye, so she purchased her. In Dunna's tent they found a magical donkey fetish; Ymanie was able to use it to partially transform Sheila into a donkey/human hybrid. Grateful to the party for their intervention, she lends them both her sword arm and her hooves. She is still really, really bummed to be a donkey lady, though.

What's happening?

I'll try to make this brief. The necromancer Elizabeth, from her stronghold in the Chaos Lands, has a grand scheme to pay tribute to Kyuss, god of undeath, by unleashing an undead apocalypse across the multiverse. To do this she needs the Tears of Vummor (write up coming sometime soon) and access to a long-dead machine called the Sonnenspire. 

The Tears are housed in a secret dungeon far below the Keep on the Borderlands (which was built by a secret sect of the church of Heironeous), so Elizabeth sent her follower Malwold and a number of cultists to the Borderlands, where they used magic and gold to rally various humanoids under her banner. They concurrently infiltrated the Keep to look for the Tears of Vummor and also test its defenses should they need to be taken by force.

Elizabeth needs the corpse of the original Pelor (not the current sun god Pelor, but the old one who used super science to bring a new sun to his dead world and went mad with power, repopulating New Solinheim as he saw fit for thousands of years until a coalition of lesser gods he stole from other worlds banded together to kill him), which hangs from the ghostly Gallows Tree. To overcome the curse placed on his corpse and revive Pelor so he can activate the Sonnenspire, Elizabeth needs the Noose of Ghoul, an artifact created long ago by Wrest, the corrupted son of the Ghoul King.

However, Dornius Gorthrew, a powerful wizard from the Mages' School in Fadun, caught wind of Elizabeth's plan and formed a coalition with Luthais Overmoon, the ancient elven sage of Vallonde, to thwart her by locating and protecting/getting to the Tears of Vummor, the Noose of Ghoul and Pelor's corpse. They have many agents across New Solinheim working on these tasks; one of which is Ymanie Dellacorte, who persuaded the party to help in the fight against Elizabeth.

So far the party rooted out Malwold from the Caves of Chaos (who escaped into the Underdark, presumably bound for the Chaos Lands) and broke the already uneasy coalition of humanoids gathered there. They also located the Tears of Vummor below the Keep, discovered the location of the Noose of Ghoul (which resides in the crypts of the long-dead Duvan'Ku cult atop Mt. Dolman) and obtained the last known enchanted map to the Gallows Tree. At present the party is set up at the Keep, ready to defend the Tears from a chaos army known as the Bloodface. 

*"Sparagmos" taken from this, and "Fweedom Collective" is the actual name of an actual weed store in Seattle. The Sparagmos-Fweedom Collective had the adventuring party officially incorporated by a fucking notary public they found when they had to sign a contract with Duncan Von Der Linthe, Ymanie's unwanted-but-still-legally-binding-husband-to-be, in order to get him to chill the fuck out and actually help them while they save the multiverse. It was a weird session.