Saturday, June 26, 2010

World Creation Notes and Musings 7

On the Birth of the City-States and the Rise of the First Immortals

Leaders from amongst the Magic-users and Clerics and legendary Fighters of the Dragon Age Wars conferred and decided to build and lead seven great City-States that would live and rule in harmony. Four of these were: Mebulon (ruled by the legendary Fighter Mebulos), Acteron (ruled by the Cleric Acter, Voice of the Creators), Karmaron (ruled by the warrior Karmar), Thurdis (ruled by Sharasha, the First Wizard). Together, the leaders of each City-State would raise one amongst them as emperor. It was a plan destined to fail from the start.

Many things occurred at the onset of the Rule of Man. The Seven Great Heroes of the Dragon Age Wars discovered the Paths of Immortality and wrote their names in the Book of Immortals, becoming “god-like”, and demanded worship, and received it from many who were used to worshipping Dragons and had little difficulty with the transition. An internal struggle between Clerics who followed the Three Paths of Alignment and those that worshipped the Immortals began. From the beginning the freshly minted human magic-users and clerics (of both the Paths of Alignment and the Paths of the Immortals points of view) did not see eye to eye. Seven great City-States were built.

Each City-State, led by an Immortal set to war upon each other.

Now only four remain, for although they tried to peacefully unite in empire, such was not to be the case. The Rule of Man began with a dream of utopia and quickly degenerated into further bloodshed as the City-States fought each other and the Wild Elf Confederacy (who also went to war with the dwarves during this time--the dwarf clans united to fight the WEC, the only time in recorded history they have done so). At the end of the Rule of Man, only the City-States of Acteron and Mebulon remained. The rest were razed by battles of iron and high magic.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Campaign Journal: Retainer Dogs Session 5 - The Roster

The Primaries
Hargreaves the Warrior - A Halfling warrior who grew up the son of a Pie Baker in the City-State of Mebulon. He recently left the Half-man ghettos of that city and now seeks his fortune.

Malic the Veteran Prestidigitator - a sometimes foolishly brave elf that is perhaps a touch megalomaniac. He is curious to the edge of recklessness.

Nancy the Footpad - The most recent addition to the group. Nancy is a human that recently left the City-State of Acteron in a hurry. Something about a case of resource re-allocation that went poorly. She's heard of a Hedge Mage that has a laboratory stocked full of potions. Supposedly, it isn't guarded all that well.

Osamu the Adept - A traveling Inquisitor-Knight of the Immortal Solomon. Osamu wishes to travel and face the foes of Solomon.

The Secondaries
Edwin Sparklestick- An infectiously jolly mage in slightly stained robes who was apprenticed to a gnome mage..

Gerrie the Veteran - A halfling warrior that traveled with Brigid (deceased) from Elmshire. They left the shire seeking a platinum flute that belongs to their clan.

Killshalt the Footpad - An elven adventurer who seems overconfident with a bow. Recently, he had a near death experience and is glad to be alive.

Tambi the Veteran - Tambi journeyed to Pendelton hoping to hire on with the Fortunate Fools, but arrived too late. She took a job, replacing the doomed mage Aethyl, guarding Tybrin The Vicious who was imprisoned in Pendelton.

Campaign Journal: Retainer Dogs Session 5 (Secondary Characters)

From the Journal of Edwin the Mage

Written by Bryan Clark

Oh, my, yes. Thank you. A crumpet would be lovely. Yes, that’s right, it’s Edwin, with an ‘E.’ Oh, yes, well I suppose that is a bit obvious, but I did once meet a fellow who actually spelled it with an ‘Ae.’ Yep, “Aedwin.” I thought so, too. He pronounced it just the same, mind you. Oh, I couldn’t say. I’m sure he didn’t do it just to be difficult.

Yes, the tea does steady my nerves. It might do even better with a wee drop of something stronger? Oh, bless you, yes, that does the trick. So, the report, yes.

Oh, it was quite a night, indeed. As you know, we were doing our shift there in the jail, keeping watch over that beastly Tybrin chap, to see that he didn’t dig the bars out of the window, or pick the lock with his toenails or some such. And, of course, that none of his unsavory associates should come and break him out to return to terrorizing the country and making the roads unsafe for common folk. I mean, banditry, as you know, makes it so much harder to get good flour, and by all the heavens, it’s hard enough to get a decent scone as it is. Oh, yes, these are lovely, thank you. A bit crusty, and the marmalade is a fine match, with just a touch of butter melted through it, and…

Mmm, goodness, where was I? Ah, yes, the unpleasantness. So that elven gentleman was watching the prisoner – Killshalt, that’s his name. Yes, the elf, not the prisoner. No, I don’t know what possessed his parents, either. Terribly violent, it sounds, doesn’t it? Almost like cursing the poor little fellow to a life of strife and misery. I can just imagine the poor, innocent little pointy-eared thing, fresh sprouted from mama’s trunk – why, I’d be inclined to name him something nice, something pleasant. Daisy-sniffer, perhaps? Petunia-prancer! Oh, there’s a name that’s got good fellowship written all over it. Can you picture introducing yourself in the tavern as Petunia? Oh, the smiles you’d get, with everyone thinking of a lovely flower! A name like Killshalt, everyone’s just going to frown, and…

Oh, there I’ve drifted off the topic again, haven’t I? Anyway, Petun- um, Killshalt, that is, was watching the prisoner, I was watching out the window through the shutters, Gerri, that little Halfling bloke, was polishing his weapons, and Tambi, that nice new young lady, well, I’m sure she was ready to just spring into action at any moment. Such a nice young lady, she was. Very presentable. It’s truly a shame. So she was sitting near the door, and there was this ruckus from without. Some thumping footsteps, a few screams – well, you know what it was like outside. Our ghastly visitors made quite an impression on their way into town, so I’m told.

Anyway, I couldn’t see anything from the window, being on the wrong side of the building, so Tambi throws open the door, and coming straight for us is the lumbering corpse of that selfsame ogre that caused all the fuss – the one that was working with Tybrin, so I understand. A few distinctly not alive looking kobolds were storming along beside it, with some ominous-looking chaps in hooded black robes bringing up the rear. I mean, looking at fellows like that, you could simply tell they were up to no good. I mean, from their mannerisms alone – the shuffling gait, hands clasped in front of them, with their hoods drawn over their eyes – I suppose when you add in the all-black outfits, and the rampaging through town in the middle of the night driving zombies in front of you it’s a bit of a giveaway. But anyway, what with one thing and another I knew right off that we weren’t going to get along.

Well, we surmised right off that they were after the prisoner, and we did rather prefer to get him out of there rather than fight it out. Tybrin obviously thought his salvation was at hand, as he crossed his arms and refused to go anywhere. I suggested we could subdue him from outside the cell with ranged weapons, and if he died in the process, at least he wouldn’t be freed. Petunia had other ideas, it seemed, and promptly flung the cell door open and rushed in with his sword drawn. Tybrin calmly dodged the sword, and rapped Petunia smartly on the jaw, whereupon he retreated once more from the cell and relocked it. Yes, the elf did. The prisoner was still inside. I told you, he said he wasn’t leaving, didn’t I?

What’s that? Oh, yes, I did mean Killshalt. So sorry. Just strike that out, there.

Anyway, while that was happening, Tambi had engaged the ogre at the door. She wasn’t having much luck with the sword, poor dear, and the ogre thrust its way inside. Killshalt took some time deciding whether to shoot the ogre or the prisoner, and I had just taken the opportunity to strike the ogre with a flask of blessed water I keep about for just such emergencies. What? Oh, at the bakery back home, far more often than you’d think. Skeletons, mostly – I think they’re drawn by the yeasty smells, somehow. Of course, the cinnamon buns were so delicious there were rumors the master baker had struck a bargain with some dark power or another, but you really can’t listen to rumors. We used to keep a few flasks of holy water just at the kitchen door. That’s really not important right now.

I also had taken the liberty of unshuttering the window, as the door was in use and the need for an exit seemed a distinct possibility. Gerri engaged the other zombies as they streamed in, and I took advantage of the chance to hop through the window, and peering through it, to add a little mystical vengeance to the zombie ogre’s problems. Between all of our attentions, the big thing went down, but Tambi fell in the bargain. Petunia was still a little loopy from the drubbing he took from Tybrin, and I saw him fall just as I turned to come round the building. Gerri, I think, was already being eaten by one of the other zombies.

As I came to the front, I saw the dark human figures just moving into the door, and one of them was gesturing as if to call upon dark powers. I took aim and stuck him with a fortunate throw from my dagger, and apparently broke his concentration. Yes, the blade is silvered – it seemed prudent. Couldn’t really tell what might be under those robes. Well it stuck in his side, and he bled right enough. Also got his attention, and he came running at me. He raised up a mace, and as he did his cloak fell back enough to see the armor he was wearing.

Now, I’m a professional student, you understand, and not much one for a brawl. I didn’t fancy matching weapons with an armed and armored warrior, so once I managed to sidestep the mace I just kept going and wrapped myself around the back of him. Bit of a hammer-lock I learned in school, you see? When you grow up roughhousing with Halfling children, you always tend to get hit in the same place, and you learn a few grips if you value your goolies, if you follow. So he thrashed a bit, but I hung on. The hold left me a hand free to take hold of my dagger, still stuck in his side, and give it a bit more of a push. This time it found his heart, and he dropped.

Hurrying to the doorway to see what had happened, I saw at least one of the undead still up, all of my comrades fallen, and the other initiate clubbing Tybrin in the head. I guess he was mistaken about the rescue. Since there was nothing left to salvage, I opted to contain the remaining threat by lighting a flask of oil and lighting a blaze by the door. The desk was there, and some other combustibles – it went up nicely enough. I saw the zombie I’d seen before rush for me through the flames and go down, and the other dark acolyte likewise tried to dash out with Tybrin (unconscious or dead, I couldn’t say at that point) and also succumbed to the fire. If any of the other dark creations were still standing, I suppose they met the same fate – the whole place went up, I understand.

And there you have it. That was when you came running up, and the bucket brigade got to work. Pity about the others.

What’s that? The elf, alive? Gracious, fancy that! After the merciless thumping he took, I thought he was a goner for sure! For what it’s worth, when I was reviewing the equipment salvaged from the dark acolytes (they had a little coin, their weapons and armor, and they each carried a curious red and black symbol I don’t recognize), I think I came across a couple of his teeth, if he still wants them.

Yes, most certainly I’d like another. You can leave out the tea this time, if you please. Then I think I’ll be off to bed for a while. Everything looks better in the morning’s light, after all.

Campaign Journal: Retainer Dogs Session 5

Session Report of Mighty Hargreave the Self-Interested

Written by Bryan Clark

Well that was pretty, wasn't it? I don't think I'll be needing another cave full of scorched, wriggly things today.

Where were we? I think we pick up right after I singlehandedly saved practically the entire group from certain death at the hands of an ugly bat-thing and a bunch of cave locusts. Okay, yes, we lost that mage, but honestly, what's one novice mage more or less?

So we looted out the cave – not much, for all that trouble, although I have to admit with a little drawn butter those locusts might... oh, never you mind that. Anyway, there was a quiver I think I'll be keeping, and a few silver arrowheads. Junk, mostly.

The other heroes in my oh-so-illustrious band got seven shades of shit beat out of them (by a bunch of bugs, I'll note), so we chose to make tracks back to the farmhouse. On the way back, what should we find but another wagon full of idiots, heading north.

Oh, let's see if I can even remember the lot of them. There was a hotheaded young halfling among them – a shire halfling, mind, not a civilized one. Oh, he had stars in his eyes, this one! Turns out he was pining for that Brigid bird we buried back at the Fools' campsite, of all people. When I let on that I'd had a piece of that, and that I wasn't the first or the eighth, well, I had to dissuade the lad from doing anything rash. Twice. His jaw will heal, I think. Tough, farmer's jaw he had. Might have bruised my pinky a little, but the look on his face was so worth it.

A human warrior there was also, this one seeking Olef. Some old comrade in arms, I gather. What are the odds? We just need to find Aethyl's long-lost sister or something and we'll have the whole set. But I digress. We showed this fellow what became of Olef, and explained how it happened. He seemed to think that Olef's oath is binding on him, too, so I guess we've got a new blade hanging around. We'll just have to see how long this one lasts. Solvig, I think his name is. When he told us, there was this long pause, like a sound from the trees and the very air that I couldn't quite hear, as if to say that it was supposed to be funny somehow. I have no idea why.

Then there was a human woman, Nancy, looked like she just might be worth a damn. She had a look about her, a bit like my old mum. The kind of look mum got when she came home with unexplained jewelry. Quick eyes, nimble fingers – pity this Nancy's a human, but surely she’ll serve well enough for fleecing other humans, anyway.

Rounding out the group was a dwarf who acted like he was in charge. I didn't pay him so much attention, as he was moving on north and taking the hotheaded shire hick with him. They asked to sleep in the barn that night, which was fine by me. In hindsight, I reckon they might have paid a few bob for the privilege, but no sense crying over it now.

We determined there was a little village nearby, with a hedge-mage in residence. Since we preferred not to spend the week waiting for the walking wounded to recover, we thought we'd just pop in and see what he could do about our heroic elf's little boo-boos. Nancy’s ears perked up at the mention of the mage, and she elected to stick around with our little band. I didn’t argue – as I said, instinct told me she’d have some useful skills.

We pulled into the village, a small collection of huts, really, and found what passes for an inn. It wasn't too bad, actually – they had some decent stew, and some very serviceable beverages, but it was priced like eating quail's tongues at some fine restaurant in the city. Fortunately, the elf had the sense not to argue when I said he was buying my drinks – the dwarven spirits were excellent.

Moving on to meet the mage, we found he was even more proud of his product – perhaps the innkeep learned the attitude from him. I have no problem with skinning the punters of their cash, but I much prefer to do the skinning. If I'm honest, I was getting a bit bored with the whole affair until I glanced at our new human comrade, Nancy. I watched how her eyes were moving about, and once again the mannerisms were familiar. She was casing the place! I think she may indeed be worth having along.

Once the niceties were concluded, and the elf had spent what must have been his entire share of the gold plus his life's savings, most of the group decided to make their way back to the farmhouse for a nice bed of hay that stinks somewhat less of kobold than it does inside the house. Nancy said she'd prefer to stay in town; I could see that she had designs on the hedge-mage's stock, so I elected to join her.

Sadly, the outing was a bust. She couldn’t get through whatever special wards he had on the door and the window latch, and the old bugger wouldn’t come out to answer a call of distress. Not very civic-minded, that one. In the end, we had to call it a night and retire to our strikingly overpriced bedrolls in the inn’s common room. Honestly, this village is priced like a boom town without the boom.

Next day, we met up back at the farmhouse and went to take another look for that other cave entrance that’s supposed to be lurking somewhere near the ape cave. This time, we were to have a bit more luck, if you want to call it that

So like I said, it was next morning. Somehow, the first light of morning always has a way of bringing out the shit on your shoes. That’s why back home I sleep through it if I can. But we had finally managed to track down the other cave entrance we’d heard about, and it seemed there was money to be made. Money I’ll get up for. Nine times out of ten.

I took the lead so that the courageous tall folk behind me could cower with their bows, and we tapped our way in. Pretty sizeable passageways, it seemed. First intersection we came to there was a door ahead of us, a door to our right, and a passage to our left. Nancy allowed as how she had a pretty good ear, so she checked out the doors, and told us the one straight ahead had voices on the other side. She opened it just a crack to see what she could see, which wasn’t much, so in the end we just flung the door open and charged. The two guys inside were garbed in black cloaks and looked a bit like the riders we’d seen on the road a while back who were in such a damned hurry. Wasn’t much about them to be impressed with, though – they went down pretty easy. Mind you, they had about as much coin as they had skill, but I tried not to take it personally.

We rifled the room without finding much else. The acolytes had some kind of symbol, red and black, but it didn’t look like it was worth much, so I didn’t pay it much heed.

When we looked back in the hall, a group of shuffling zombies were heading toward us – alerted by the noise of fighting, I suppose. Osamu shouted at them, and three of them shuffled off. The rest quickly fell to fire and arrows.

Checking the other door, we saw a staircase spiraling down into the darkness. We opted to explore the rest of this level before returning to it.

We proceeded along a broad, curving cavern. A couple of doors came up on our right, and we had Nancy check out the first. Again, she detected voices, and cracking the door it appeared we were about to interrupt a poker game. Clothing Nancy and the elf in the acolytes’ cloaks, we sent them in to get closer before we sprung our interruption. The plan was fairly solid, but it fell to an unavoidable piece of rotten luck: the elf opened his mouth.

Alerted, the four dark priests leaped to their feet, but fortunately they were still standing in their places as they readied their weapons. I darted under the table, then quickly straightened and flung the table end over end on the two who had been sitting opposite. I kept on running over the flipped table to deal swiftly with the two I’d toppled, while the other members of the group dealt with the other two.

My two didn’t give me much trouble, but apparently the other two were a little much for everyone else in the party to distract, and I took a nasty gash from behind. Regardless, in a few moments they all lay dead, and we quickly stripped the bodies. They wore belts of woven copper that looked like they were worth some coin, and they had a little gold in their purses. Decent armor and weapons. All in all, not much to write home about. We also found some evil-looking books with shifting script – you know, the sort of thing dark cultists get off on. Not really the sort of thing you can readily move in the secondary market. Nancy got a bit excited about getting rid of them, and Osamu followed suit, so we fed them to the flames. It took me back – I haven’t seen a good bookburning in a while.

Once we felt we’d done enough damage to the literary establishment, and I’d had time to wrap up my new orifice so my guts would stay in, we proceeded. The next doorway was the second door to the same room, but a little further on, we found another little door, also on the right. Hearing nothing inside, we gently pushed it open and took a look.

When we opened it, we were glad we’d had the foresight to garb the tall folks in the dark priests’ clothes. Inside were ranks upon ranks of zombies and skeletons, probably near four dozen in all. They stirred for a moment, then seeing the garb of the dark priests, they fell still again.

We closed the door, then decided to scout what lay ahead in the large, open cavern before deciding what to do about the crowd of corpses in the storeroom. Ahead the already large hallway opened into a huge cavern, complete with wall hangings, wall sconces that burst into light as you walk by, a creepy ivory throne, and three, count them three sacrificial altars.

This place looked like a lot to commit to before making sure that a horde of undead wouldn’t be blocking our exit. We pooled our remaining lamp oil, and the tall ones in priest’s garb went back into the storeroom and doused the undead. The corpses still didn’t react, and once everyone was out, we lit the last flask and tossed it in, slamming the door after it. I jammed the door with a pair of maces taken from the priests, and we swiftly retreated to the priests’ chamber to see what reaction would come. If they all burned down, there might not be much – smoke tends to rise, so most of it will go back out the way we came. The burning itself won’t make much noise, so if the corpses didn’t thump around too much, anything deeper in this crypt might not have much notice anything happened. But there’s certainly a chance that something might be alerted, so best we’re on our guard.

I’ve got a foolproof plan ready if something overlarge does come, of course – all I have to do is slam my dagger through the elf’s boot and run like hell. As the old saying goes, I don’t have to outrun the unholy, soul-eating peril. I just have to outrun you.

ahem. Or was I oversharing just then…

Thursday, June 17, 2010

World Creation Notes and Musings 6

On Ages and Imperialism:

The most immediate threat to the City-States and for that matter, the Wild Elf Confederacy, is The Orc Tribes of the Imperial Rider, the only true empire left in the realm. The Wyrm Kingdoms were the last great empire, but collapsed after the Age of Wyrms and thus began the Rule of Man. The Wyrm Kingdoms were ruled by Dragons. The dragons selected elf champion riders and taught them the secrets of iron and magic. The dragons taught the humans to worship them as gods. Their most devout worshippers became Clerics (they were called Dragon-Priests) who were granted spells and special abilities above those of mere mortals by the dragons. The orcs were recognized by the dragons as the realms greatest warriors. From them, the dragons raised their great armies which were led by orc generals. The Elf Champion-Riders, the Dragon-Priests and the Orc Generals served the dragons, and ruled over the bulk of humans, orcs, halflings and dwarves (there are no records indicating that the Darkling Ways existed during this age). Their rule lasted for 8,000 years, then a civil war broke out amongst the kingdoms. The specifics are vague, but it seems that during the last 2,000 years of the Age of Dragons, a sub-age called the Age of Enlightened Alignment occurred first amongst the humans then later spread to the other species.

It was during this sub-age, that mankind and a number of elves, stopped worshipping their Dragon Lords, and discovered the Paths of Alignment. Human Philosopher-Theologians (who later called themselves Clerics) wrote the Paths of Alignment, and started the three ethos: Law, Chaos and Neutrality. At the same time as this renaissance, the Dragon Lords -- against the wishes of their Elf Riders, taught magic to the first humans, birthing the magic-users. These two things were the beginning of the end for the Dragon Lords.

The Dragons quickly saw the danger of the Philosopher-Theologians, and outlawed them, declaring that they all must be executed. This outraged their human subjects, who in turn looked to their own magic-users for help. A resistance was born, led by the magic-users and the Clerics of Alignment. It grew and snowballed until the dwarfs, halflings, and even rogue elves and orcs faught against their dragon masters. An internal strife was also started amongst the Elf Riders. Legend says that even the Vampyre Clans of the Desert Sands joined forces against the Kingdom of the Wyrms.

At the end of this bloody struggle, the great dragons were either slain or driven to the north. The Orc Generals were defeated, their vast armies broken and chased west. The Dragon-Priests were captured and died in flames, the same fate they had wrought upon the Clerics of Alignment. Near the end of the war, the Riders turned against each other and only one rider survived the onslaught: Balthar the Betrayer (in some way, Balthar started the struggle within the Riders, again the specifics are lost). At the end, only Balthar remained, he fled west and the age of The Rule of Man began.

Elf, dwarf and human went their separate ways. The elves quickly recovered and formed the Wild Elf Confederacy. They are a loosely tied confederacy that claim the forests for themselves and are isolationist to the extreme. The dwarves returned to their mountains and their respective clans, no change occurred for them. Halflings, as ever just sought to blend into human society, and/or remain isolated. The changes for humans were just beginning

World Creation Notes and Musings 5

On the Political Powers:

The human powers that be rest in the City-States of Acteron and Mebulon. The Darkling Forest does not belong to either city; however, both use the Tiogan River as a handy trade route, so patrols from both cities in the area are rare, but do occur. Acteron and Mebulon are allies against the Orc Tribes and when need be against the Wild Elf Confederacy, but are two distinct political entities. The dwarfs just want to be left alone, but will team up with either elf or human to crush orc and “underdark” skulls when needed. The only thing that keeps the City-States from going to war with the Wild Elf Confederacy, is twin immediate threats of the Orc Tribes of the Imperial Rider to the West, and the denizens of the Darkling Ways, not to mention the Ice Berserkers. Thank the Immortals that the Wyrm Lords of the Far North and the Vampyre Clans of the Desert Sands have not stirred in ages.

Game Prop Images 5: The Mysterious Door in the Cellar

The mysterious door in the Root Cellar. Thus far, the characters have not been able to open it.

Game Prop Images 4: The Tiogan Valley

A view of the Tiogan Valley.

Game Prop Images 3: A path through the Darkling Forest

The Path through the Darkling Forest from Pendelton to Old Adel the Healer's Hut.

World Creation Notes and Musings 4

On Racial Bigotry:

The City-State of Acteron at one time enslaved kobolds, thinking they would be a great source of cheap labor, as they are easily captured. That was a mistake as they breed like rabbits. There are now kobold slums in both City-States. Every time the humans think they have come up with a final solution to the kobold population problem, they are wrong. It is not uncommon to stumble across kobold communities just about anywhere they can find a dark, preferably cold and damp, spot to hide in. The authorities recommend that such communities be eradicated, for it is only a matter of time before such “small” communities overpopulate and literally eat and destroy everything like a plague of locusts. Kobolds are a bane upon mankind and elves. Elfs HATE kobolds and eradicate them with great pleasure.

Some say that Halflings are little better then kobolds. Luckily, they breed far slower. Many think this is a racist point of view against Halflings (although most of this opinion do not share it towards kobolds -- kobolds are just smelly brutes); however, there are radical groups who see little difference between the species and treat both the same. This view is predominant amongst elves, who believe kobolds, halflings and humans are all three seen as pests to be destroyed; ironically, there are radical humans that think kobolds AND halflings are worthless, and halflings that feel kobolds AND humans are worthless. If there is one thing that many humans and halflings can agree upon, it is the thought that elves are snooty bigots. Again, kobolds are just screwed. They know it, and most try to run and hide whenever an elf, human or halfling is about. There are rumors of a kobold uprising occurring near the City-State of Acteron. Rumor has it, there is a kobold hero who is training his troops for action. Other rumors state that they are being trained and supplied by a sympathetic group of humans and halflings.

Dwarfs are at once the least and most bigoted of the races. They HATE orcs, they HATE the Underdarklings. They do not hate kobolds, but do recognize that they must be exterminated. This is out of a simple “us” or “them” attitude as the kobolds reputation for gobbling up and/or spoiling all resources is not unfounded. They tolerate humans and halflings. They have a begrudging respect for elves. This respect is mutual, and both races try not to offend the other. They did step on each others toes, a long time ago. It was not pretty for either side of the conflict. A truce was called, and they have both respected it.

The dwarves refer to the elves as “Tree Brothers” and the elves refer to dwarves as “Rock Brothers”. The truce between them states that if a Rock Brother or Tree Brother ever spills the other’s blood, then the truce is broken and war will resume.

World Creation Notes and Musings 3

On Static and Natural Dungeons, the Darkling Ways and The Lair of the Purple Worms:

Many dungeons are “static” or “natural” dungeons. This simply means they were built or designed by nature. For example, the dungeons beneath the Wizard Zebulon Whately’s Temple of High Magic, or the Pyramid Tombs of the Vampyre Clans of the Desert Sands to the south, or the Dragon Lairs of the Wyrm Lords of the Far North. There are of course numerous natural caverns and caves, such as the Kobold Caves of the Darkling Forests, and caves to less exotic owners, such as bears, carnivorous apes and great cats. However, there are two unique dungeon settings to the Realm. The first are the Darkling Ways.

The Darkling Ways are dungeon, but no one can say who ever made them. It seems too expansive, and new entrances are constantly being discovered that led to unexplored areas. It is believed that the Darkling Ways are chaotically magical in nature. It seems to grow organically, and not all the laws of physics apply within its corridors. This is the home of the Goblins and Hobgoblins who reign supreme over the other Underdark species: gnolls, bugbears, troglodytes, etc. Many of the races of the Underdark (a term used interchangeably with Darkling Ways by scholars), such as Goblins and Hobgoblins, do not spawn sexually; instead, they bubble forth from pits of dark ichors.

It should be noted that most scholars believe that the residents of the Darkling Ways are not native to the world at large. They did not appear until the Darkling Ways appeared.

It is not unheard of for entrances to magically appear to the Darkling Ways in Static or Natural Dungeons. The Darkling Ways are not the only unique dungeon setting. There are also the Lairs of the Purple Worms.

Purple Worms roam the realm, borrowing their lairs ever deeper and extensive. While it is true that their lairs would more logically fall into the category of Static or Natural Dungeons, they’re uniqueness qualifies them for further explanation. These beasts terrify the Frontiersmen of the Darkling Forest. There are campfire tales of entire farmsteads disappearing into the mouths of the beasts. As luck would have it, the worms seem to not bother the City-States and villages. They seem to prefer to hunt the frontier farmsteads. No one knows why. Perhaps it is a survival instinct of not taking on more then they can chew, pun intended. The worms themselves are rarely spotted; however, but it is not a rarity to find their lairs, seemingly abandoned; although no one can say if they are abandoned for good or not. These are yawning caverns, wide enough for the giant sized worms to borrow through, partially collapsed in places and prone to cave ins. Kobolds sometimes make their homes in them, along with other traditional haunters of dungeons and sometimes the worms tunnels even connect to the Darkling Ways.

It is a common misconception that kobolds are residents of the Darkling Ways. They are not. They are native to world at large and are typically cave dwellers.

World Creation Notes and Musings 2

On Danger in The Darkling Forest, mountains and valleys:

Dangers of the valley include predators: bear and wolves, with a few large cats. There are poisonous snakes and large predator spiders are not unheard of. Strangely, there are roaming packs of mountain apes that mostly keep to themselves in the mountains. (I like the old REH carnivorous apes found in Conan stories). Goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears, trolls and troglodytes are not unheard of in the forest, but rarely leak into the more populated valley. They generally stick to the Darkling Ways. Hill Giants are known to live in the upper reaches, and perhaps the rare mountain giant as well. Banditry along the Tiogan River by humans is a very common occurrence. The elves are not overly friendly and raids by elf hunting parties occasionally happen as well. Dwarfs are known to mine in the upper reaches of the hills and mountains. Orcs are rare, as they congregate to the west in the Orc Tribes of the Imperial Rider. They are constantly at war with the twin City-States of Acteron and Mebulon.

World Creation Notes and Musings

I've been making up the details of my campaign world as we play, most of it on the fly. I have also been taking notes, mostly consisting of chicken scratch, for the purpose of reminding myself. It is time I started expanding upon them. I consider these to be draft form, and may edit them habitually.

On the Immediate Area:

The general area is in, or near the Darkling Forest. The climate is temperate, very much similar to the north east American coast. Wooded areas consist of oak, maple, willow and spruce. Large game are deer, caribou and a few moose. There is an abundance of small game (rabbit, pheasant, you name it). There are several fresh water streams that are tributaries of the Tiogan River, running from the far off City-State of Mebulon to the North and heading south to the City-State of Acteron. Fish consisting of trout, perch and pike are plentiful. Agriculture is the main stay of the “common” folk. There are villages spotted throughout, most are little more then hamlets and barely qualify to that name sake. Much of the Darkling Forest is unexplored and is the province of the elves, who begrudgingly allow the other races to explore her, as long as they don’t cause too much trouble. This is not out of being friendly neighbors, it is born of reality: the humans and halflings outnumber the elves 10 to 1. There are only two major population centers in the immediate adventuring area: Elmshire (population ~120, 75% Halfling, 25% human) and Pendleton (population ~200, 90% human, 10% Halfling). As stated previously, there are several hamlets spotted throughout, but most of these are multi-family farms, of no recorded name and a proper census has not been taken. These are the frontiersmen.

Most of the immediate action at campaign start takes place in The Tiogan Valley between two mountain ranges. The mountains are climbable, snow lasts in the upper reaches only until early spring. There are two mountains that are tall enough for year around snow capped peaks. These are the realm of dwarves. There are rumors of gryphon and even dragons in the upper peaks.

Game Prop Images 2: The Hidden Shrine

The entrance to the Hidden Shrine the party is currently exploring, as of session 5.

Game Prop Images 1: The Carnivorous Apes' Cave

The entrance to the Carnivorous Apes' Cave.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Campaign Journal: Retainer Dogs Session 4

Play date: June 1, 2010
This is the last one of these I am writing. From now on, they will be written by my players.

Adventurer Roster
Aethyl the Prestidigitator (human Magic-user 1/Played by Christina.) Curious about everything and always ready for an experiment involving magic, I present for the last time, the poor doomed Aethyl.

Hargreaves the Veteran (Halfling Fighter 1/Player Bryan) a warrior who grew up the son of a Pie Baker in the City-State of Mebulon. He recently left the Half-man ghettos of that city and now seeks his fortune.

Malic the Veteran Prestidigitator (Elf F/M 1/Player-Roy) a sometimes foolishly brave soul that is perhaps a touch megalomaniac. He is curious to the edge of recklessness.

Osamu the Acolyte (Human Cleric 1/Player - Joe) A traveling Inquisitor-Knight of the Immortal Solomon. Osamu headed the call to travel this land and face the foes of Solomon.

Pre-Game Business Session 4:
Olef is guarding the Fortunate Fools Base Camp
Items in their possession at session start, but not sold:
Sword and 2 daggers (one of the daggers has a hollow pommel and contains a map to a hidden cave) from Tybrin

Brief Synopsis
(In game start time Day 6, 0600)
This was an entertaining session. One thing I can not convey with these synopsis are all the in game jokes we have, mostly to poor Roy’s expense. This is a great group of people to geek with. I find myself trying to fit all of the jokes and anecdotes into these session reports, but they are lost on the general reader and the end result is an overly long synopsis. So, instead, I will stick to high lighting that which I feel is important for my players to remember. The session went well. We had a bit of role-playing in the start at Pendleton, some head scratching experimentation which entertained me, first with a seemingly magical mace and then with a mysterious door. There was plenty of action too. First with a regenerating hobgoblin that ended in a clear victory for the players; however, they acquired an interesting morning star that seems to have hexed Malic the Elf with some sort of curse. They had another encounter at the Apes Caves that included a sleeping carnivorous ape, hundreds of normal bats, a giant bat that thought Hargreave looked like a tasty kobold, and a pack of twelve blind cave locusts. The cave locusts almost wiped out the entire party. In the end, none survived unscathed, Malic and Osamu both came VERY close to death, and poor Aethyl was doomed with her meager 4 hit points.

Expanded Synopsis:

The Return of the Foolishly Brave Elf to Pendleton
An exhausted babbling Malic arrives in Pendleton. He wakes Osamu the Cleric and tells him his wild tale of maps leading to hidden caves, wagon riding kobolds, creepy doors in root cellars and lusty, angry, she apes.

Osamu calms him and rouses Hargreave the Halfing from his drunken sleep and Aethyl the mage as well. The four of them go outside the inn to the wagon. Osamu sees to Gia and Heidi getting some breakfast for them at the inn. Aethyl goes back to her room to memorize her spell for the day.

Gia pulls Osamu to the side and appeals to him as a man of faith to secure her families fortune hidden in her farm house. She states that their life savings is kept in a clay jar, stuffed inside a sack of wheat. The jar, the four family horses and their two wagons are all she has. The farm itself has a lien on it, and with her husband dead, she has no claim to the farm itself. Only the wagons and the horses.

The Platinum Flute
While this is going on, Hargreave haggles with the inn keeper’s son for a fair price on the four casks of dwarven ale recovered by Malic. A price of 228 gp’s, plus a pence for the King and a pound for the Pauper is agreed upon. The inn keeper tips him to the fact that the local loan agent is a collector of fine things, and may have some interest in the Halfling pottery jars.

Hargreave pays a visit to the Loan Agent. The Loan Agent’s shelves are lined with curiosities, many obviously valuable, all of fine and/or unique make. The Loan Agent inspects the pottery. He is impressed, and tells Hargreave that a few weeks back, two Halflings from Elmshire had been in his store. They were in need of a loan and as collateral offered a platinum flute.

The flute was produced and shown to Hargreave. It was obviously of Halfling make. It was kept in a hand carved onyx box, lined with deep purple velvet. There were intricate runes inscribed upon the flute that Hargreave could not identify as any halfing clan markings known to him. The runes seemed to swim like ants when Hargreave concentrated upon them too much.

The Loan Agent then told Hargreave that the Halflings had offered to deliver to him a shipment of fine pottery. With the banditry as of late, by the now captured Tybrin the Vicious, he assumed they were raided and doomed along with his dreams of pottery. While the flute is beautiful to behold, and obviously of value, his interest is not in instruments, but he is interested in pottery.

The Loan Agent offered a trade. The flute for the pottery. Hargreave, believing this to be the flute that the Halflings Brigid and Gerri were looking for accepted. With Brigid dead, and having not spoken to Gerri for several days now, Hargreave pocketed the flute and has thus far said nothing to Gerri, or anyone else, about the flute.

The Not so Fortunate Fools
After a long discussion that devolved into an argument over either investigating the cave marked upon Tybrin’s map or going to find the Fortunate Fools at Zebulon Whately’s Dungeon; they finally decided upon taking the wagon with them and would stop by the camp to check on Olef the Red and the Fortunate Fools’ camp before continuing on to investigate the cave on Tybrin’s map.

When they arrived at the camp, they found Olef sharpening his ax; however, the camp was emptied. Olef explained that early that morning, Ven of the Silver-Mane (cousin to Joss the Yellow-Mane) and Gwen Truegard, Zebulon Whatley‘s senior apprentice and the newest member of the Fortunate Fools, had entered the camp in a nervous rush. They babbled about everyone else being dead, claiming “something” had killed the others. They paid money to Olef, 20 gp’s each, five times less then the group were initially offered. They then packed up camp and set out upon the south road towards Elmshire and far off Acteron. Our heroes were retainers no more.

Mr. Red Fang and the Bleeding Morningstar
Following the path marked upon the map, the group encountered another two horse wagon, very similar to their own. It held a kobold passenger and was driven by a creature that appeared to be a hobgoblin. Seeing them, it became enraged and charged their wagon with his. Aethyl cast her sleep spell. She centered it upon the hobgoblin creature; however, it had no effect upon it. She did enchant the two horses into a slumber. When the horses fell, one broke a front leg, and the wagon rolled to the passenger side, demolishing the front wheel on that side and damaging the rear wheel on the same side. The kobold tumbled out of the wagon, ensorcelled with the mage’s sleep spell.

Seemingly berserk, the hobgoblin creature screamed “Mr. Red Fang Kill!” raised a bloody morning star above his head and charged. The characters noticed that the morning star seemed to continually drip blood, as if bleeding. A short battle ensued.

The adventurers watched in curious amazement as the numerous blows they inflicted upon this Mr. Red Fang, healed only moments after the wounds were received. It did not end well for Mr. Red Fang, but before dying, he brought his bloody morning star down upon the face of Olef the Red, crushing the dwarf’s skull in a bloody pulp.

Getting in some good hits with missile attacks against Mr. Red Fang’s berserker strategy, he fell rather quickly. The adventurers assumed it was the morning star giving him the regeneration capabilities. They removed the weapon from him after he fell. He still retained his regenerative ability. They searched him for medallions and rings, finding none, and noting he was still regenerating, they removed his head. The regeneration stopped.

Curious. Malic held the morning star. He instantly heard a whisper in his voice begging for blood, and warning him that “the others will want me, you must guard me”. He began grumbling, “it’s Mine! You can’t have it!” and giving his fellows the evil eye. Osamu struck him with the flat of his blade. The others followed suit, rendering him unconscious.

They wrapped the morning star in his cloak, instantly soaking it with blood, bound him and tossed him in the wagon with Olef’s corpse. Noting the late hour, they decided to make for the abandoned Bandit Camp that Malic had pointed out to them upon Tybrin’s map.

A Stinky House and a Mysterious Door
Their investigation of the house revealed the mess that Malic had described to them from his earlier investigation. It was wrecked by the kobolds, who had obviously used the hearth as a privy instead of the detached outhouse. It was obvious that the hearth was the recipient of their daily constitutions, and that general relief was had wherever they might have been standing. Osamu recovered the families fortune described to him by Gia.

Finding the house distasteful, and perhaps diseased, they decided to sleep in the barn and leave the door in the root cellar for further exploration in the morning.

The door turned into a mystery. Try as they might, they could not find a way to open it. A plan was devised in which they would offer Olef’s body as sacrifice in order to see if the door would open. Their reasoning being that Heidi had told them that the bandits would drag bodies to the root cellar. They found several drag marks, and what could be blood stains on the earth floor, but there were no bodies found. Their theory is that something from the other side of the door takes the bodies, perhaps only during hours of darkness. A cloth sack of copper coins was found in the root cellar as well. It is a common practice to lay copper coins over the eyes of the dead to pay the taker of the underworld. They also remembered stories of a place called “the Darkling Ways”, a sort of never ending dungeon that grows and opens to the upper world through several doorways. These doorways are sometimes fixed, and sometimes chaotic in stasis.

An unwilling Malic was locked in the cellar to see if the door would open. He broke out, and was enraged. This joke repeated itself three times before Aethyl called for a stop to the non sense. They decided to spend the daylight hours investigating the cave, and would return to the house at night fall.

A Sleeping Ape, Bats, a bigger bat, cave locusts and another dead companion
At the Ape Cave, they discovered that the wreckage of the cargo Malic described to them had been hauled away. It looked as if it were dragged into a nearby bog. Careful investigation inside found a sleeping ape. A stealthy Hargreave dispensed the lone ape.

The party crept further into the cavern depths with Malic taking the lead with his dark vision. The squeaking of many bats could be heard, and the deeper they went, the stronger the scent of the guano became.

They found a room of sorts, its floor littered with carcasses and debris. Some of the carcasses were obviously humanoid, perhaps kobold. Suddenly, Malic was attacked by several giant, albino, blind locusts with large “feeler” antenna. They shrieked loudly, deafening him then four of them leapt at him, striking him repeatedly. The shrieking disturbed hundreds of bats which swarmed the characters, confusing all but Hargreave.

A giant bat attacked Hargreave. Perhaps because he was the smallest in the party. A confused battle against swarming bats and shrieking locusts left everyone injured and Aethyl dead. Using fire to drive the bats away and burning oil to defeat the locusts. The party searched the debris in the room. They discovered some loose coin, six silver arrow heads (fletched to broken arrows), a battered but usable quiver, and three intact arrows amongst many broken ones. A single arrow had a complex rune inscribed upon its broad head.

They carried the dead Aethyl out of the cave and stopped at the entrance to decide their next move.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Collection Showcase: Tunnels & Trolls

I love rummaging through my gaming collection. My wife would say that I have a large collection, I would disagree. The bulk of my collection is contained in 5 long white magazine boxes (the type you would use for comic books, except fitted for magazine sized periodicals). These boxes work out nicely for my RPGs, to include most of the box sets that I own. I thought it would be fun to show case some of my favorite games. I will start with Tunnels and Trolls by Flying Buffalo.

My collection is small, but I plan on growing it. Pictured here are: 5th (?) Edition Corgi Rule Book; two Solo Adventures: City of Terrors (Solo Adventure 9, Corgi edition), Caravan to Tiern(Solo Adventure 22), two GM Adventures: Castle Ward and Isle of Darksmoke; and I have one issue of Sorcerer's Apprentice #17. All of the listed items came in my box set that I bought directly from Flying Buffalo about eight years ago now. The box set also included Mages Blood and Old Bones, a collection of T&T fiction. I no longer have it, as it was destroyed by our family dog. I Also have Trollzine issues 1 and 2.

I plan on giving a more in depth review of my Tunnels and Trolls items, but that is not the intent of this post. My intent here is to give my history with T&T.

I heard of Tunnels and Trolls early in my fledgling gaming days (about age 10), but did not know much about it. I don't remember having an overall impression of the game at the time, as I was largely ignorant of it. I knew it existed, but not much else. I believe I largely wrote it off as just another D&D pretender. I thought of several games in this light, for instance RuneQuest was given the same treatment by me. RQ is a game I am to this day still largely ignorant about.

I did, a few years later (around age 13), have a passing interest in the game, as I was very much into Metagaming's MicroQuests. I played MQ utilizing loose leafed photocopies of Melee andWizard (both would later become The Fantasy Trip, another small part of my collection I am sure I will high light here at some point).

At the time, I was only aware of T&T through adds in gaming magazines and through these adds I learned that Tunnels & Trolls could be utilized for solo play. Near that time, I was one of very few in my small Pennsylvania town that still gamed, so I was having a hard time finding players for D&D and AD&D. I had largely turned to solo gaming.

My solo gaming started with hours of creating D&D characters and running them through the Monster Manual, Hit Die by Hit Die. Luckily, I discovered MicroQuests at Brass T-Shirts, a local store that sold a modest amount of games. MQ along with "Choose Your Own Adventure" books and a few odd Atari games, were my only gaming outlet. So learning of another Solo system with T&T excited me.

I would have liked at the time to have gained a copy of T&T and did try to, but was unable. About the same time I was seeking T&T, Brass T-Shirts closed, and a dark period of gaming began for me. However, that is a tale for another day. With the closing of Brass T, I did not give T&T another thought until many moons later.

Sixteen years after I wanted to play the game, I finally did so. Shortly after moving to Alaska, I began gaming with a fellow up here that was a T&T fanatic. I never played the game with him, but his enthusiasm for the game rekindled my curiosity enough that eventually I purchased a box set. So despite my wishes, Tunnels & Trolls is a game I did not try until about eight years ago, and I still have not played it much.

My only experience with the game is I ran a couple sessions. In both cases, I had my players roll up 1st level characters and I ran them through dungeons on the fly. I had plans to start up a T&T campaign, but it just hasn't happened.

Why do I like the game? It is easy to learn, I like the simplistic class options (Warrior, Wizard, Rogue - my favorite class, a very Fritz Leiber influenced class, and the rare Warrior-Wizard). There are no Clerics or Thieves, which I like. Clerics ,outside of D&D, always seemed forced to me, and would not make sense in T&T. Thieves are not needed unless a skill based system is being utilized. Most of all, I enjoy the inherent humor of the game. It never seems as if Ken St. Andre is taking things too seriously.

I think it is the humor/oddness of the game that now attracts me. It would work well for a humorous high fantasy dungeon romp. Someday I will run a T&T campaign. I think it would be a hit with my current players. I had one player before that refused to play T&T, and I will not knock him for it. He played it in the past, and had a bad experience. It happens.

Oddly, I still have not used Tunnels & Trolls for the reason I was initially interested: Solo play. I have decided to rectify that and plan on writing about my solo experiences.

However, I currently only own two Solo Adventures, so I must grow my collection. Gee darn, I must buy gaming products.

(By the way, I know there are several free solo's available on the web, but do me a favor and don't tell me wife that).