Saturday, November 28, 2015

Galaktacus Episode 22: I Am Nintendo

My buddies over at the Galaktacus podcast honored me by inviting me on for their latest episode to discuss the fine art and frustrations of dungeon mastering! If you're reading this blog you know the topic could fill an entire series of podcasts, but it was a great discussion. Galaktacus is a killer podcast dedicated to general nerdery run by some very smart and funny dudes and is highly recommended! (Also Kettner is the guy who got me back into D&D in my adult life, so he deserves extra accolades for that one!)

Check it out here!

Tears of Vummor Session 59: So, You're Into Hair Now?

-The party investigated the discarded halfling skin further; without the occluding bandages, they found ragged, open holes on its wrists, eaten as if by acid. They decided it would be best to continue on, so they left the skin behind on the side of the road.

-Since the Somberlain is almost always twilit (save encountering the open tombs and the night creepers), the party had no sense of when to make camp. They decided to sleep when a consensus was reached that they needed to do so. They set up watch and laid down for a period of fitful sleep. Each watch thought they heard something out in the fog at various points, but in the unrelenting silence it was hard to discern what was real and what was imagined.

-During the fourth watch Nimy woke up to something whispering her name. When she opened her eyes she found a black furred creature with a segmented body and eerily human eyes next to her. It smiled and then scampered off like a four-legged insect. She alerted the rest of the party, who stared out into the emptiness around them for the next hour as Ymanie memorized her spells and Ingrid and Roderick sat in their daily prayers. Just as they were about to break camp and set back out, Ymanie began rifling through her belongings. She was clearly panicked, didn't stop searching through her bags long enough to respond. She was frantic, but took a deep breath and regained her composure. She told them that one of the two Somberlain stones they used to gain access to the spectral road was missing. And without two stones, they had no hope of getting off the Somberlain. To quell their fears she let them know that it was not impossible to find more stones along the way. In her previous travels she had discovered several, and with a less than confident smile told them she was sure another would turn up.

-As the party continued their journey, they formulated a plan to enact when they next camped. Ingrid would cast a hold person spell through a glyph of warding. Nimy would sleep inside this protected area with the remaining Somberlain stone, which the rest of the party could access through a secret password (a password so secret they wouldn't even share it with their dungeon master.)

-After what they reckoned to be five or six hours of travel, the party stopped when they heard the unmistakable sounds of battle in the fog ahead of them. Dorcas untied herself from the safety line and crept ahead in silence, Zarn at her side. They crept close enough to witness four men, clearly adventurers, clashing with a group of four 8' tall white crab/beetle creatures. The creatures seemed to be protecting one of their own, and the men weren't committed to full combat, but seemed to be testing the creatures with the occasional probing attack.

-Dorcas relayed this scene to the party, and they agreed to move foreward as a force to both make their presence known and possibly lend a hand if there was trouble. The men--a cloaked magic user, a thief, a blond haired, blue eyed fighter, and a stern cleric wearing the spiked mace symbol of an unknown god--looked on warily as the party emerged from the fog behind them. The fighter and the thief stayed close to the crab beings, occasionally making feints, but the cleric addressed the party. He introduced his own group as The Way, and the party noticed they all bore the sigil of four arrows, emerging from one point, aimed forward in a singular direction. This cleric, who didn't give his name, said his party were traveling along and came across these creatures, which seemed hostile. This claim seemed dubious, as the creatures didn't seem to be the aggressors in this situation. Noticing that the creatures bore bagged cargo strapped to their sides (suggesting they were possibly intelligent), the Sparagmos-Fweedom Collective suggested that the Way back off to see if there was a chance to parlay with the creatures instead of fighting with them. The Way scoffed at this, and the fighter and thief fully engaged with one of the creatures, slashing at its outstretched claws. The cleric told the party that if they helped, The Way would gladly split any loot they pulled from the creatures' corpses.
Like this, but whiter and crabbier.
-This was enough for the party. Just as the thief struck the killing blow on the first creature, they began their attack on The Way. They targeted the cloaked magic user first, as he was clearly in the process of casting a spell. A blow to his head ripped his hood free and revealed he was some form of frog-man.

-The battle was difficult, despite Sparagmos' superior numbers. The Way were clearly hardened adventurers, with great skill in combat and several powerful magic items at their disposal. During the clash the creatures focused solely on The Way--further evidence that the party chose the correct side.

-First the frog wizard fell, then the thief (backstabbed by Dorcas), then the cleric, but the fighter would not go down. His blows always seemed to strike true, and any damage dealt to him also reflected back on the attacker. His insistence that the party fight him in close combat tipped them off to his weakness. Shepard kept him engaged, but the rest of the party attacked from a distance until he fell.

-One of the creatures approached the party after The Way's fighter was killed. It bowed foward, tipping its head to the ground, and then its back opened. A small,
Krak'nal Leader
crab-like humanoid creature emerged, clad in a strange uniform. It gestured to the party speaking in an unknown language. After some confusion, it pulled an small ampule from its belt and broke it. The party backed up as small bubbles floated around them, popping, and the creature began speaking again. They now understood what it was saying.

-The creature identified itself as the leader of a most sacred pilgrimage. His race, the Krak'nal, inhabited a dying world, the conditions of which no longer allowed them to spawn. As it was in the millenia before, the Krak'nal knew they must move to another world, leaving behind their civilization and starting anew. This group carried the future of their race tied in those sacks at their sides--hundreds of thousands of carefully preserved eggs, which the group were to bring to a world chosen by their sages. Their leader gave thanks to the party, telling them that their names would be forever sung by future generations of the Krak'nal, as it was they alone who snatched their race from the jaws of extinction. It offered them a small handful of gems, wishing it could do more for them. The party suggested that they could perhaps do more, and asked if they had any spare Somberlain stones. The Krak'nal pilgrims gladly offered them several spare stones, thanked them, and then were on their way.

-Shepard, running low on the rotting humanoid meat that sustained her, cut several selections from the corpses of The Way. She also took several locks of hair, which led the party to think she might be into eating that now, too.

-Ingrid stacked the corpses and said a blessing over them, commanding in Astarael's name that their trip to the Other Side remain one way.

-The party set off and walked for several hours. Through the fog, they caught occasional glimpses of a diminutive black creature keeping pace with them, but due to its speed and the danger they would face if they left the Somberlain, they could do nothing about it.

The Way wasn't based on these lads in any, err..way.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Session 9 - "Eberhardt's Always Been Good To Us" (9/13/15)

-After the strange events in the tower and the sudden loss of young Lowtrade the party stumbled through the darkness in a partial state of shock. At the blockhouse the news of the deaths of Preacher and the boy were met with a subdued lament and then a quiet stoicism amongst the other Gloomlight prisoners; this was yet another reminder that death lurked everywhere so far beneath the surface.

-The party rested for almost a full day. Time passed strangely in the darkness and few words were spoken. Until, that is, someone--or something--called to them from outside.

-In a high voice without inflection, something outside called for help. It demanded the prisoners let it in, and when questioned of its identity it claimed to be Lowtrade.

-The Cheat ran up to the second floor to get a better look at whatever was outside. The thing heard him, though, and floated up to the window. The Cheat saw the black eyespots of brain-like creature looking back at him, with its tentacles wrapped around the bars. 

Lowtrade 2.0
-The party questioned the creature for some time, but every answer it gave confirmed that either this was the boy they watched fall into the yawning cleft below the Broken Span or something that had access to everything he knew. When the creature produced a ring featuring the crest of the boy's noble family they were convinced that somehow this was Lowtrade. They let him in. (And thus Allen's next new character was introduced. Or reintroduced?)

-Lowtrade told them he remembered swinging across the chasm and then waking up feeling confused and very strange. His belongings were scattered about, so he picked them up. Only then did he realized somehow his form was different; he no longer had hands, but tentacles, and when he moved found he merely floated a few inches above the floor. He could now see a slight difference in the darkness between the stone walls of the cleft and the air around it, and with this newfound ability navigated his way back to the blockhouse.

-The party suggested traveling up into the cleft to see if they could tell what happened.

-After a treacherous climb into the cleft (with the exception of Lowtrade, who simply touched the wall with his tentacles and floated up), the party pushed on. They traveled for a little while, slowed down by the uneven terrain. Within time they found the spot where Lowtrade woke up. They found some discarded clothing and a pile of reeking, unrecognizable decomposed material, but nothing else.

-They explored further until they found a cave near the back wall of the cleft. The air inside was damp and cool. They moved inside further, the stone wet and slick beneath their feet. Hundreds of small holes lined the walls and floor, many dripping with water. As they rounded a curve, they saw several cave fish flopping around and gasping in the air. These were not the fish they fought previously, which were adapted to travel on land for short periods of time; these were standard fish, pale and blind, and for some reason they were on the floor of the cave.

-After rounding another curve and finding more fish and extremely wet rock, they started to piece together what was going on in the cave. Of course, the thing they were speculating about actually happened and the cave rapidly filled with water. The party was fortunate, though, and managed to swim back to the entrance.

-They stood outside and shivered as the cave completely filled and then emptied once more after twenty or so minutes. Realizing he wasn’t actually breathing, Lowtrade volunteered to enter the cave once more to see where it led while the other members hung back and gathered fish to bring back to the blockhouse.

-Lowtrade went past the second curve, encountered standing water, and swam downward. The cave funneled into a narrow tube. Lowtrade realized he could fit into this tube, but even without the water it would be a treacherous crawl for the rest of the party. He was just about to head back when he saw something wedged in the mouth of the tube. He swam down further and found something metallic. He pried it loose just as a jet of water issued forth. It slammed him into the wall at the closest bend, but he was able to maneuver in the rushing water and eventually make it back to the entrance.

-The party took a look at Lowtrade’s find; it was a black, metallic thing not unlike a spider. There was a metal ring on the underside of the thing, and they figured it was some kind of grappling hook, although the limbs were curled to tight to be used in most situations. In more light they saw a small retractable needle in the thing’s mouth. Ever curious, The Cheat pricked his skin with the needle. The needle began draining some of his blood and the legs of the grappling hook uncurled, moving slightly of their own accord. The Cheat tied a rope to the ring and threw it up as high as he could. The spider clung tenaciously to the sheer face of the cleft wall, and easily took his weight. By merely thinking of it, the spider let go and fell back to the ground.

-Glad their trip wasn’t completely in vain, the party decided to head back. Upon climbing out of the cleft they found Gloomlight lit up with a column of light—miles above, the sun was directly over the shaft that led to Lord Eberhardt’s estate. However, there was something in this column of light. A vast chain, just like they one they were lowered down on days before. They crept forward to investigate.

-On the Quay stood one of Eberhard’s guards. He wore the customary scale mail of the guard and bore one of the same hooks the prisoners used to hold onto the chain and only a short sword at his waist.

–The party called out to the guard under cover of darkness. He replied that he was sent here by Lord Eberhardt to check in on them. Sensing their reticence, the guard assured them that while he wore the guard uniform he was more sympathetic to their plight than it would seem. He asked them to come out so he could see them.

-Warbaby volunteered to speak with the man. They remained suspicious; Lowtrade floated just out of sight close to Warbaby,  The Cheat snuck through the dark to the south, and Lightfoot ducked into the arcades beneath the Quay.

-When Warbaby showed himself, the guard introduced himself as D’Jasper Probincrux III. He said he fell into ill favor with Lord Eberhardt after expressing concerns about the welfare of the prisoners of Gloomlight; he was summarily sent down below to check how they were doing with Eberhardt’s orders (reopen the mines as well as find magic items through either adventure or trading with the denizens of the beneath.) Probincrux looked genuinely upset when Warbaby told him only ten of the original thirty prisoners were still alive, but asked if they had found anything of value he could show to Eberhardt. He claimed any proof would result in a fresh delivery of supplies.

-Reluctant to let go of anything valuable where resources were so scarce, Warbaby asked how he could trust the guard’s words. Probincrux pointed out that they had almost no leverage to bargain—he was convinced his Lord would let them starve in the dark if he suspected they weren’t doing his bidding. However, he tried to reassure them that not all who served Eberhardt supported him. Many were merely biding their time as moves were made in secret to depose the cruel lord. Probincrux urged them to cooperate for now for he was confident that in time they would be rescued.

-From beneath the Quay, Lightfoot began shouting abuse at the guard. He questioned the truth of any of his statements and took personal offense at the notion that they needed to be rescued. Certainly his calling as a cleric of That Which Carves the Aeons clouded his judgement, and his companions were quick to point out to Probincrux that they would like to escape.

-In time Lowtrade revealed himself to the guard, which startled him a great deal. The group (save Lightfoot, who was still making negative comments from his hiding place beneath them) decided to give him something to take back to Eberhardt. After spending some time thinking it over, they realized the best item they could send up was their newfound spidery grappling hook. With a sigh, The Cheat handed it over.

-Probincrux told them he only had an hour before the chain went back up, so he wanted to wait by the quay. He told the group to stay safe and to expect something within the next few days.

-The party headed back to the blockhouse, where they encountered a startling sight. Standing by the entrance were three pale, spindly humanoids resembling eyeless cave salamanders. When the party got close enough the beings turned to them and one stepped forward. It said, in a distinctly feminine voice, “We seek the Warchild.”