TI4.09: The day of the descent

Characters for this session:

Fennec, level 3 wizard

Cauleigh, level 4 warrior

Jotunn, level 6 warrior

ably assisted by:

Crompton, level 3 rogue, as NPC this session

Mizva, level 4 human warrior

Whitey, level 4 half-elf rogue

We kick off catching Jotunn up with his membership in the warriors guild (yes) his payment for the magical folding-fan vambrace to be refitted (300gp) and general day to day living expenses (437gp). There’s also a flash-back to when he confirmed the order of a good cuirass with magical protection. 

In order to cover that cost Jotunn trades Crompton for his elf-tree cuirass, and trades that in for 4000gp. Crompton now owns a 16-point cuirass rather than an 8-point breastplate. But it is a simpler look, and it’s not green. For his part, Fennec sells the very costly gem Tadiko traded to him.

Final preliminaries: spells and smithies

Fennec briefs Jotunn on his research alongside Ernysi and how she seems to be able to get Neghed to behave civilly. He explains the offer of the Tower Shield of Zolman, and offers the thought that Mizva might be able to carry it. Finally Fennec and Cauleigh explain that we can’t bring Ernysi because Neghed would need to be there.

Cauleigh revisits Mettastos’ Arms and Armour as well. Eric Nordigar sells him on a breastplate that seems to do everything he needs; and he also asks after a coif, that can act as reserve soak and have Little Feets. Bravely he orders that as well, even though he has no funds in reserve – and in fact will be selling gear off to pay for the breastplate, unless the descent is rewarding. Eric has him sign a creditors docket, making Mettastos the secured creditor against Cauleigh’s estate – should the worst happen!

Fennec finds that his new spell, Blasting Power, has “set” quickly and buys Omni-Eye. Magister Max Oberhelm teaches him that himself, explaining that the guild uses a more powerful form of teaching charm.

 

Proceedings of the Committee for the Descent

It’s one week prior to Riverdeath, as the locals call the festival, and the smell of roast nuts enlivens the streets. Elections are the week after the festival, and it seems that only the Sheriff is sure of his post. When asked about lending a hand with the descent, priestess Bowdyn of the river temple apologises – she is very busy preparing for the ceremonies and will not be available for any other effort.

That self-same day, the Restorers file into the same hall in the Mercers guild compound. A number of people from various walks of life are gathered there. Aside from a number of guild valets and observers there are some five prospective delvers; the press is there; Sheriff von Diemar is there; one or two from each select guild are there; and two elves are there. Crompton waves to the elves and heads over there.

Taking his two comrades aside again, Cauleigh explains that with the reward at 30,000, and split evenly, they really need to limit the team to six or seven, tops. What he doesn’t say is that Eric Nordigar has offered to knock 1000gp off the cost of the armour, if he can make sure Guido Nordigar does not join the descent.

By that time the gathering is increased by heavy trundlers of special equipment; Neghed, who sneer-smirks but sits quietly in a corner picking his teeth; and Ernysi, who unsuccessfully tries to screen Neghed off from the Restorers. Fennec reminds Jotunn of the offer of the shield, and they accept it from Ernysi.

With the crowd beginning to spit nutshells around and getting thirsty, the Sheriff calls the gathering to order and offers an introductory speech in which he explains the reward deal (even shares of 30,000, each person to choose potions and philtres, and the cost of those to be deducted from the respective share); and explains the Restorers will have the say on who makes the descent.

Cauleigh, having expected all this since his interview with the Sheriff, has his response speech ready. He thanks the Sheriff, confirms that the Restorers will be making the expedition – there is a round of applause at this point – and prepares the gathering for disappointment concerning the selection: with so many fine choices the overall team’s needs come first. And mentions they already have a fifth adventurer in mind.

At this point, a messenger is dispatched to fetch Mizva, and as they wait, Cauleigh Jotunn and Fennec meet:

Guido Nordigar (warrior): Short young close-cropped dwarf, proud of house Nordigar.

Rduk (warrior): Mature male Hobgoblin, unkempt and very strong-looking.

Terful (rogue): Dandyish young Hobb.

K-fab (rogue): Very short unwashed older man with curly brown hair and long moustache.

Tueplio (wizard): Very short young man with below-collar red hair and trim red moustache.

Tueplio is carrying a rounded-crowned hat with a light fitting, in which unpleasant fae-pixie Triliton is embedded. One of the other wizards explains that by bringing Triliton, senior wizard Daisy Brightwater may be able to trace what happens to them.

 

The auld acquaintances arrive

It is not just Mizva, but Whitey, and with the Restorers permission, Mother Hobb, who now join the committee proceedings. Whitey explains he’s there to make sure Mizva gets there and Mother Hobb explains she’s just there to make sure “her lads” don’t do anything stupid.

With prospects already pricing out gear, Cauleigh brings his initial remarks to an informal conclusion. Crompton explains who the elves are – senator Renee Finaire, and Chani of the helfters and of the Park roster – and suggests that if they do get geared up, it may be worth re-approaching Borer of the rogues guild.

The Restorers confer: Cauleigh’s idea, which he sells the others, is to tank up by bringing both Rduk and Mizva. As they nod in agreement he makes a second speech: courteously dismissing all five save for Rduk. He frames Guido’s dismissal in terms of rallying support for a second party, should the worst occur.

With a new lease of life the young Tueplio waves over Renee Finaire, who explains that Janorra of the Glade and the elves that watch over her have come up with magical acorns to help the descent. When planted in some dirt, they will grow to break up the flow of mana that must be powering the undead floor from somewhere below. Tueplio hands them over and Jotunn tucks them away.

However! The prospects have already had a pick over the special gear, and Cauleigh’s preference Rduk has his eye on the most expensive item, dust of the radiant sun at 4000gp. When Cauleigh attempts to negotiate around this, the hobgoblin exactitude plays against the offer [I roll a fail] and Rduk is out too.

Mizva and Whitey can both accept a party of six, so Crompton’s idea of making a new approach to Borer falls through. The Committee for the Descent approves the party, the press hasten to get the copy passed in, and Mother Hobb takes a few orders for magical goodies, as the six now finalise the special gear:

Fennec: Dust of the radiant sun 4000gp, Skeletal dust 400gp, Oil of blessings x 6 600gp;

[Cauleigh guarantees 1000 out of his own funds so that Fennec has some money coming]

Cauleigh: Acid bomb 400, Yellow essence 300, Zamos hydro-creator x 2 200gp;

Jotunn: Dust of desiccation 400, Zamos hydro-creator x 3 300, Oil of blessings x 3 300gp;

Mizva: Green essence 500, Zamos hydro-creator x 3 300gp;

Whitey: Firebomb 400, Blue essence 200gp;

Crompton: Dust of widows 1000, Potion of verity 400gp.

Sheriff von Diemar approves the deal on the Committee’s behalf, noting that the city powers have first refusal on treasures brought up. Fennec stirs uneasily but decides not to break the deal at this point.

 

The dwarves spend a little more AP. Cauleigh raises WIZ to 19, Fennec raises CON to 27 and IQ to 35. Jotunn moves WIZ to 16.

 

The descent commences!

It is that very night when the six file down the stairwell below the Mausoleum of Barons, along the catacombs, and through the gap down into the rune-carved chamber. Daisy Brightwater is there already. The chamber’s eerie runes are masked off with what looks like crude clay swatches, and there’s a very obvious new stone slab blocking part of the wall. The entrances down to the chamber of the three horrid statues are still open. Daisy welcomes them:

“So, welcome! Y’all’re here – get set now!”

Daisy now warns them that while the wizards guild were hoping to help, Lady Bree found a defence mirror not far down, with an intelligence looking out of it!

Crompton, who for the initial descent will be minding baggage, organises firearms and heavy gear that will need to stay back. Whitey and Mizva make a contrast – as the half-elf joked, he has so many bits and pieces he’s running out of thongs to tie them to – Mizva has merely his arms and armour, his big magical lantern shield, and the couple of items off the gear table. Jotunn and Mizva discuss the shields, and Jotunn decides to try to keep using the Tower Shield.

The other two take a look at the statue chamber, where, Daisy explains, she couldn’t get the statues to move around for her. The summoning bowls require blood to make “something” work… the dwarves decide not to find out what that might be.

Returning back up, they find the other four now set. Daisy steps to the new stone block:

“Y’all better be ready – I aim ta do this but once tonight…”

And with a gesture, the stone block parts in the middle, revealing the entrance to the descent!

 

Party order: Jotunn and Mizva up front with shields where possible, but otherwise Cauleigh probing forward; then Fennec and Cauleigh (if available) in positions where they can snipe past the shields; then Whitey also ready to snipe; then (possibly a long way back) Crompton guarding the rope tie-off point and baggage.

They agree about light and noise management. It’s not going to be possible to move silently but longarms will be left with Crompton so that no-one fires one. Cauleigh does keep his two pistols in their scabbards. Fennec will manage the torch-cube. 

At this early stage, no-one applies oils or the like. An initial probe, is what they hope.

 

The first cavern glitters with mineral and offers a large pothole down, and a steel tether-point. A subterranean wind quietly breathes, down in the dark. Fennec uses OTIS just to make really sure that’s all there is.

After seeing a ledge under the pothole’s overhang, they elect Cauleigh to rope and swing to that first. Jotunn hitches a doubled rope at the tie-off, so that he can easily recover it. Crompton shifts the baggage into the glittering chamber.

Cauleigh makes the landing successfully, and resists a cobweb-like whisper from the portrait-sized steel mirror fused to the chamber wall. Smoky shapes seem to stir in it – but he resists looking at those, too.

With Fennec shining the torch beam directly down from above him, Cauleigh picks out slick crude steps below this ledge. But lying over the abyss, he also notices guano on the steps and a colony of bat-like creatures immediately under his ledge!

He draws Regdar, who sings of ice-blade, ice-grave, bones in the snow, as the FP ice effect sweeps the demon-bats away. Four survive and fly up to attack: Fennec uses his shiny new spell:

“Blasting Power!”

Demon-bat-cinders float down and away, the rope survives [charred a little – Jotunn makes a L3 LK check for it] and Cauleigh waits for some time for his vision to return.

“I can’t think why I didn’t pick this spell up earlier!” Fennec chortles.

Cauleigh clutches firmly on the rope and navigates the steps below, as far as he can. Opposite, affixed to an overhang, is a thick bronze chain, hanging down to another firm ledge. He explores.

Below the lip of this ledge is the abyss. Another heavy bronze chain depends under his ledge, allowing an agile adventurer to slide around under the ledge and clamber down. And – reminding him of a similar descent in Fingold – there seems to be broad natural crevices in the abyss walls.

With this advice, Fennec ropes down, ignores the mirror, and using another BP, burns the steps off enough that they will be adequate going. The stench of burnt demon-bat-guano fills the air.

The adventurers rope down to the secure ledge below the mirror, each managing to avoid engaging the mirror or slipping on the steps. The gear, and Crompton, are all accounted for.

Fennec trusts to Jotunn’s strength and sense of duty, and leans over the abyss. The chain he’s poised above lets down to a flat ledge, with steeply shelving roof. The gaps opposite, in separate directions, are easily big enough to be crawl-ways. Just to make sure, he floats a WoW around.  The 4-candlepower glimmer reveals that they are probably tunnels. The simplest way to reach them – aside from flying – is to swing off the bronze chain. Jotunn hitches the doubled rope end onto the chain.

Cauleigh is tied onto the other end of the doubled rope and assured he’s in no danger as he swivels over the abyss and starts down the chain! With a twist and tuck, he lands into the tunnel-mouth Fennec has picked out as broadest.

Stalactites crowd over his head, but the floor is reasonably level. By the time he loses all light, Cauleigh is reasonably sure there is worked stone ahead!

Those initially joining Cauleigh in the tunnel are just Fennec and Jotunn. With Cauleigh bracing his end of the rope, the traverse is made safely.

At the end of a cautious walk forward, Cauleigh finds an end to the worked stone tunnel, and a circular stair going steeply down. He smells more moisture than has been evident so far.

With a prospective new stage, it’s time to bring Crompton down and Mizva and Whitey into the tunnel. The latter make it OK but as Crompton begins the first chain descent he misses his hold and with a wail, bounces past the tunnel and down!

Crompton picks himself up, checking for lost gear and broken bones, finding he has landed upon another ledge – then screams as weird pseudopods extend out of the dark recesses and begin enveloping him!

“Shit! We have to go get him!”

“Whitey – get down there!”

– and so saying Whitey activates a sabre and dives out, spinning round the chain and landing safely. With a hoarse bellow – “Oh this is going to be gooood…” – Mizva launches himself out next, landing heavily opposite and above the horror:

“Let’s fuckin’ do this! Light ‘er up!”

– and his lantern shield shines bright. Jotunn is next, landing next to Mizva. Fennec lies flat and Cauleigh slides out his mace of stunting – mentally thanking his lucky stars he noticed the soft seating on the head and took it to Chani at the helfters with a day to spare – and clambers round Fennec to throw himself out, perform an elaborate maypole-swing around the chain and down, landing near Whitey. Fennec readies himself to follow up, and the session ends.

 

Woohoo! We finally get to the season finale! Much prep was involved but it’s beginning to feel worth the effort. 

Props: The finale is a grand mashup of three adventures, a mini-adventure, and a Wizardawn map, edited to connect certain elements. Rather than using a blank, useful-looking map and populating it from Wizardawn generators, for this one I’ve taken a Wizardawn map, and populated it from elements picked out of the adventures.

Aside from the Bishop’s Secret, which sets the whole concept up, I am using:

The Hyqueous Vaults, Dettmann, Fullerton et al;

The Lurker Beneath Red Larch, MT Black;

Echoes from Fomalhaut issue #01, Lux et al, EMDT; and 

a certain DCC mini-adventure I will name once the descent concludes, for better or worse…

Stay tuned!

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TI4.08: Should auld acquaintance be forgot

Characters for this session: 

Fennec, Level 3 wizard 

Crompton, Level 3 rogue 

Cauleigh, level 4 warrior

The situation: When Fennec disappears the other three Restorers call in help from a high-level wizard and trace their comrade to an “undead floor” below the Cathedral. It’s obvious there is more to it than random undead – for such a floor, capable of ‘generating’ undead, takes a  great deal of mana. With Fennec fit and well the four scout down repeatedly until, in a climactic confrontation, they slay revered Bishop Pausanias and slay or capture his acolytes. 

A grand jury convenes to consider the killing, and finds the Restorers acted righteously. The matter of what lies beneath the Cathedral calls for more investigation. As the Restorers wait for the final findings to be published and mana lock to be lifted, various parties explore the sewers, tunnels and chambers more thoroughly and establish how a reward may apply. 

 

Here’s the session’s achievements, in alphabetical order:

Cauleigh puts a certain amount of effort into learning what he can about “the descent” and becomes aware that factions, reputations, and obligations are all involved. He enjoys a good expository chat with Sheriff von Diemar where:

  • The reward amount (30,000);
  • The way it will be shared (even shares, advances on equipment taken out personally);
  • The Restorers controlling role (it’s going to be their call who goes down with them);
  • A date for the selection; and
  • Job prospects for the winter… just a rough plan at present…

Are all provided to him.

Jotunn introduces Cauleigh to Eric Nordigar out at Mettastos’ and Cauleigh gets the run-down on possible armour (see addendum below); and gets his measurements taken for a new cuirass.

He stumbles upon Mizva (one of the Fingold Survivors group) and while not actually recalling his name, sobers him up and advances quite a lot of money to get his gear back out of hock. Mizva has explored part of Sarn Athrad, and offers to sell Cauleigh a map. The two eventually make their way to the Warriors Guild and Cauleigh, at least, joins. Mizva has his good mace and armour, but little else. He’s a possibility for the descent, but Cauleigh has a plan in mind he has yet to fully elucidate…

 

Crompton makes an important contact with a slender red-haired female elf of the Park roster, named Chani. He makes a strong pull for the favour of the elves in the descent. (I must remember to award the remaining AP once the “elf-help” kicks in.)

Following up on thoughts about joining the rogues guild after all, Crompton makes his way to the warehouse, and meets both Borer of Broken Lands fame, and Whitey, another of the Survivors. Unfortunately it’s been several eventful months since he last saw Whitey, and he does not recall him at all. As for Borer, well, he looks kinda familiar… Luckily Borer takes no offence, sponsors Crompton for membership (which involves a thumbprint in blood, and gains Crompton a nifty calling card inscribed “Crompton the Archer”) and offers to maybe join the descent, subject to running an eye over how prepared Crompton might be.

With the knowledge that the rogues guild is actually the “Adventurers Guild” Crompton is able to prevent Cauleigh from committing a faux pas (though he dearly wants to prank his comrade).

Borer runs a veteran’s eye over Crompton’s gear, tells him he ought to gear up properly with useful bits and pieces of adventuring gear like potions and scrolls, and that he – Borer – won’t be joining, sorry.

Whitey does follow up his meeting with Crompton, and consults with at least he and Cauleigh about the descent, seeming quite keen. He seems to have done well on his own, and has plenty of gear. He also mentions job prospects west, out of a small city named Tarshal.

 

 

Fennec receives an invitation from Ernysi to meet her at the Bishop’s Palace. At first, he makes a caveat that his comrades will be needed. Eventually (once the mana lock is lifted) he feels strong enough to risk meeting shy fragile young Ernysi on his own. She shows him a magical key that the late bishop had hidden inside one of the sticks bundled at his waist. The two research what, among all of the antiquarian bishop’s documents, may relate to the descent and the undead floor.

While not coming up with a clear answer – the bishop’s mind was warped during an illness contracted in his own descent – they do establish that something below is indeed providing the mana, and is sufficiently evil that Pausanias and all his acolytes were infected.

During the research (which covers two days) Neghed the Templar does call in. Ernysi does not let the two quarrel. Later, she explains that if the Restorers want her to accompany them on the descent, Neghed will have to come with her: but since it’s obvious that they will never get along, it’s not going to work. Perhaps they could consult Bowdyn of the River Temple?

Fennec also receives the offer, from Ernysi, of a loan of a very large magical shield, sacred to Zolman, part of the palace’s regalia or official Bishop gear. He brings the offer back to the lads.

 

Fennec pursues one of his Sarnas goals: learning spells. He picks up the initial “imprint” of Blasting Power. By good fortune (DAROs up 45 to Lvl11), Fire-mage Faris (teaching him) knows a good deal of undead lore and provides insight on potential success of using TTYF on things like ghouls and (especially) ghasts.

 

 

Jotunn (player absent) has his second armour fitting at Mettastos, and agrees to the price for refitting the magical blue fold-out vambrace. Having been referred by Eric Nordigar to Tred Nordigar, Eric’s brother and an important member of both the Warriors Guild and the Palace Guard, he joins the warriors guild ahead of Cauleigh.

He checks back in with von Diemar, and brings word of the mana lock lifting back; and keeps up his acquaintance with the Tribune by treating Girol to cinnamon buns.

Aside from that, Jotunn enjoys festivities, such as Cuss Day (Day of Curses) where pranks and japes are the rule; and Breakinraft (raft brothers abeyance), marking the official end of rafting along the river, in which there is much open-air singing, dancing and drinking.

 

 

The Committee for the Descent

The thought of an even share of 30,000, less advances on special gear, brings a number of representatives of the three service guilds forward. It will be up to the Restorers to pick from these, or reject them. Once they are ready, the entrance to the descent will be open.

 

Warriors

Guido Nordigar: Short young close-cropped dwarf, proud of house Nordigar.
Gear: Hammer, climbing pitons, rope.
hand-and-a-half sword (4′), mail armor, dwarven spike shield.

“I guess we ain’t gonna get far – but a Nordigar oughta be thar.”

 

Rduk: Mature male Hobgoblin, unkempt and very strong-looking. He has curly, black hair with a short beard and moustache.
Gear: Poison antidote, pliers, spider venom, darts, double-bladed broad axe, ring-joined plate armor, heater shield.

“I am Rduk. I am two inches below the statistical Hobgoblin average. I am strong.”

 

Rogues

Terful: Dandyish young Hobb. He has curly white-blond hair with a thick blond moustache.
Gear: soft leather armor, weird double dagger (bich’wa), bolas.

“It’s a Hobb, he’ll use bolas they say. So, I use bolas.” <sigh>

 

K-fab: Very short unwashed older man with curly brown hair and long moustache.
Gear: insect repellant, sack, pickaxe,
Short sword, soft leather armor, buckler.

“Don’t like ta brag but ah’m th’ luckiest sumbitch ya ever done see.”

 

Wizards

Tueplio: Very short young man with below-collar red hair and trim red moustache.
Gear: acorns, strange strengthened hat, mallet and pegs, leather sack,
Heavy cloth armor, wand, sax.

“So the Magister asked, do we have a volunteer, heh heh, and my senior said wasn’t it a great chance to earn spells, heh heh, and so there I was, being tried on for this hat. I’m glad really, honestly, I’ve been wanting to prove myself since we got through from the Spire.”

 

Triliton: Fae-Pixie in the hat. A cone-like attachment with a mirror finish inside makes Triliton’s light shine in a cone.

“Th’ fuck do you want? I’m here in this fucking hat, on a little creep that smells of fear. Just so they can show willing. Eat shit and die, normie.”

 

From among the Restorers’ contacts:

Whitey: Pale optimistic half-elf rogue. Well equipped with bow, sabre, mail armour, and lots of bits and pieces from magic rings to a one-shot firebomb.

Mizva: Scruffy binge-drinking warrior. Magical mace and shield, good steel armour, virtually no other gear, save for a magic ring and a gas-protection oil.

Borer: Foul-mouthed genial Dwarf. His dark hair is shaved very short and in local fashion, his beard is close-trimmed. At this stage Borer believes the Restorers have a problem of Piss-Poor Preparation, and has opted out.

 

 

Potions Philtres and Toxins

Between alchemist Palealia, herbalist Ines, Bowdyn of the River Temple, the Rogues Guild, and the Wizards Guild, a number of unusual and powerful items are assembled for the volunteers (including the Restorers) to choose. Their cost will be an advance against the even share of 30,000 that the city has voted. Note the word “even.” Each person on the descent gets their share allotted. Then, they can choose to take gear as an advance, or not. There is no “common fund.”

The Elves (or at least the Park roster) pool some of their resources and provide the acorns that Tueplio currently has listed. They are to be planted “as appropriate.” Long-term, they will break up the mana channels that power the undead floor. Assuming something can be found to provide them with nutrients.

 

AP spends:

Cauleigh boosts CON up to 38

 

Addendum: Events of near concern to the Restorers

These events began before the inquest and continued over and after it right to the descent committee. I am largely repeating myself here.

      • Investigation of the rune-carven chamber and idols: Done. Sheriff von Diemar and Fran Limnsman make a thorough search, removing 11 skulls to be returned to various despoiled remains; and locating a secret entrance to the Underdark.
      • Making the secret entrance ready: done. While the rune-carved chamber is still hostile territory, it has been neutralised as far as Daisy’s speciality allows.
      • Removal of the worse effects of the tunnels off the crypts: Done. Chaos magic still roils around the tunnels but Lady Bree dampens it to the point where it is unlikely to affect people clearing them. Daisy Brightwater restores the Seraph and tidies the desecrated memorials.
      • Clearing the sewers of undead: Done. The Rogues Guild uses its influence to supply volunteers for this. By doing so they take over Takrina’s old HQ, and earn the city’s gratitude. Borer leads the early running, then once the HQ is secure, other rogues are able to take over. This does not give Borer any special insight into the undead presence.
      • Janorra’s return to normal: Done. Once Pausanias dies, whatever big bad he is working up also dies down. However, there are knock-on consequences. The elf clique owes senator Isildore a favour, which makes the nobles senate faction very nervous, but there’s not a lot it can do without a full breach.
      • Pricing Wizards Guild membership: Done. Fennec’s membership is discussed by those who wish him well, and the Guild agrees he can join if he wants to. He does so, this episode. It will cost 300AP and a week out of campaign, to represent the investment of scroll-writing techniques. Thereafter Fennec would be entitled to a more sympathetic ear when he asks for potions, scrolls, and spell-teaching. 
      • Finding a source for Omni-Eye of loot: Palealia is able to do this, at 25 per item, or 40 for a one-off.
      • Pricing Mettastos armour: Done. Cauleigh can purchase on the following multipliers:

Triple the book price, then use the cumulative multipliers:

    • x2: Lighter. STR-3 (but min of 1 STR);
      x3: Slicker. DEX-3 (but min of 1 DEX);
      x2: Magical soak. The face value (NOT the warrior value), and of course prevents the piece from being broken by magical BB effect;
      x(n) where n is level of spell defence. Armour can be proofed against spells of a given level, just like it can be proofed against bows of a certain power. If you only want the armour to defend against one spell, divide by three. Eg proof vs DeathSpell#9, means a factor of three.
      Finally round down to the nearest hundred.
      The time needed to make the armour is one week plus (face value in days x the sum of multipliers.) Cauleigh must be available for initial measurement then final fitting.
  • Pasting in a specific spell: here are some basic norms:
    • Curatives or other defences for the body from toxin or IQ attacks, ½ spell level * 1000;
    • Poor Baby – uses Curative pricing but if it’s enhanced to be cheaper, double cost for each power up. For example powering to 1:1 WIZ:CON doubles the cost back up to 2000.
    • Combat properties such as Zapparmor, or Super-power spells such as Double-double, 2*spell level * 1000. For example Upsidaisy (L4) costs 8000.
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A response to TerminallyNerdy’s “Actual Play Podcasts/Streams – Perception vs Reality”

Some 18 months prior to this piece, TerminallyNerdy (TN) (@cbsa82) produced a YouTube video, with thoughts, in impassioned terms, of key differences between the Tabletop RPG games you see or hear produced by pros, and your own game with your own friends. Since then, he’s had another think about it and concluded that generally, posting games is good. But his original points (below and in full in the previous link) still stand. Anyway the original YT post got bumped up into my current (mid 2018) Twitter feed, and I liked it, and thought it deserved more effort than a brief comment or tweet.

If I can bulletpoint the differences TN espoused:

  • The pros are really good at what they do – they are pro entertainers
  • What they do generally involves waaay more coolness, by way of role-playing, than your average nerd group
  • And waaay more technical ability with all the tools needed, and/or access to technicians, than your average nerd group
  • So recalibrate your expectations, you average nerd, but enjoy your rpg for what it is
  • Because the excellence of pros should not be a barrier to entry to rpgs

I’d like to offer a view that proposes that in many but not all ways, what we see on those pro casts would be called sub-par by your average nerd group.

  • Pro voice actors and semi-pro casters are inclined to add what I think of as “curlicues” to characterisation. Flamboyancy is rewarded by extra minutes on screen.
  • This behaviour passes the point at which the character is fully realised and can cross into just being a dick player.
  • It does not help at all in outwitting or outfighting the challenges: in fact it sometimes acts against the party’s best interest.
  • Pro voice actors and semi-pro casters do generally, but not at all times, display great noise discipline and willingness to let each character shine. Not universal across every session, but widespread.
  • Your average nerd rpg group can take learnings from these flamboyant and noise-disciplined pros, but should not take on their worst behaviours.

Let me see if I can supply a fairly current example. This day of writing, I decided to listen to, not watch, Critical Role S2 E6, the Howling Mines. (This episode predates the group’s naming, it features a whole bunch of sub-par dice rolls that maybe suggested the name.) These following notes are taken from the actual kick-off:

Minute 1: Matt reminds the cast, the Mighty Nein (MN) they are waking upstairs in their inn, after a night of devastation.

Minute 11: Having exchanged much character-highlight (especially useful for Taliesin’s Mollymauk) the words “we go downstairs” are finally uttered.

Minutes 15-26: Some minor plot impetus is added from speaking at length to a shopkeeper-survivor.

Minute 30: Matt proposes the hook.

Minute 40: The MN take the job. It’s bounty-killing, plus possible rescue. They have previously met the patron, so are somewhat familiar with his level of potential information and reward.

Minute 45: They finish asking for detail from the patron.

Minutes 50-60: The party goes shopping, notionally for adventuring gear, but just as much to “just shop.” For them, this is a very quick shop.

Minutes 60-65: Plans are laid, loose enough to adapt once they see the ground. For these guys this is exceptional.

Minute 70: An extra mount acquired using soft skills, tracking begins.

Minute 80: A combination of plan plus track provides the action set-up at strategic level. Now for the tacticals!

Minute 85: Many 2nd-thoughts later a very patient Matt begins to get party order…

Scouting (yes, that has not been done) by the entire party locates enemy beasts at a mine-head. Now for the new tacticals! A distraction to draw them away.

Minute 90: Having distracted the beasts away, they attack them anyway. But at least the noise doesn’t echo directly down the mine.

Minute 95: All clear! Investigate the scene.

Minute 100: A concealed mine-shaft.

Minute 110: The scout-party is: a lone drunken goblin, who has deliberately nerfed herself. She’s set off the trap and mooched around for the guards, and now they arrive.

Minute 120: Area 1 is looted once the guards are dead and the scout finishes her excuses.

Minute 135: Descent to a major stage.

Minute 145: Matt has the major stage down. Now for the tacticals!

Minute 155: Stealth, then attacks.

Minute 155-195: Fight!

Minute 200: The loot is healer kits (and we discover no-one has the proficiency), and a greater heal potion.

Minute 210: Hint of a level boss, time to pull back? No! Heroic charge!

The remainder of the session, and all of the subsequent session, is combat.

So, I propose that there’s nothing here to make your typical nerd group ashamed of their own play standard. I was going to bring in the subject of rate of experience, but that’s too system-specific so I’ll leave that be. Let’s just focus on game-play.

In all likelihood your average nerd group’s game session is a little marred by noisy junkfood-packet-handling, and some or all of the players are irritated at some point by cross-talk and spotlight-hogging. They can probably stand to improve at letting each character shine, and about keeping noise levels from interfering with everyone’s experience. But to feel held back or deterred by excellence of the pros? No!

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TI4.07: Aftermath

The characters for this session:

Fennec, L3 wizard, combat and curative schools

Crompton, L3 rogue, roguery and Runebearer background

Cauleigh, L4 warrior, literate townsman background

Jotunn, L6 warrior, hunter background with tracking talent

Relatively unscathed, the four Restorers have survived a showdown with Bishop Pausanias and his followers, in a mysterious chamber below the Cathedral in Sarnas. Now, the wheels that have been set in motion by their actions revolve… bringing danger to those not attuned to fortune’s vagaries!

Taking stock

The Restorers catch their breath and take stock. Echoes of the fight barely diminish, as though the weirdly-marked chamber wishes to hold onto the chaos.

There are two descents west, and one at the south end of the L-shape chamber, east. The remains of Severin and one acolyte sprawl messily down from where Cauleigh was fighting, and at the south end  the trace remains of Takrina – really just her hardest pieces of equipment. The headless corpse of Pausanias lies near Cauleigh and Crompton, in a huge pool of blood.

Taking a head count there are five living acolytes, shocked out of resistance, either setting down their maces or waiting to be told what to do. Jotunn has been holding off three, and Fennec two more.

Of the Restorers only Crompton is physically battered, and he is suffering from poison effects as well. Cauleigh’s breastplate is ruined.

“Let’s take a little time, gather valuables, and herd these muppets out – there’ll need to be an accounting” Fennec declares. His mana is tapped out, for he lost control on the TTYF that blasted Takrina.

“There’s at least one ghoul,” Cauleigh reminds the others as Crompton swigs a dose of Mother Hobb’s TBT juice, “so let’s ask what the layout is here and what else lies below.”

Jotunn eases his weapons back and rubs his beard:

“Before we think ‘below’ – do we know the way back is clear? Have we dealt with what’s around? Maybe, sort out this mess then scout further…”

“Yeah, we’ve done a good job here. The assassin, the creepy priest, this fat guy… I don’t think fuzz-face the necromancer is in on this…” – he breaks off to check among the scared acolytes, but none of them are shape-changing back into anything. Jotunn nods:

“True, right now there’s a little bit more to be done, mostly tidy-up unless there’s more surprises…”

 

A sound from above – who could that be?

“We’re about to have one,” Fennec interrupts urgently: “a gate just got kicked in – upstairs – we’re about to have company!”

“Right you four – five – put down your weapons and shift these bodies,” Crompton orders.

The acolytes shuffle as though resistant to the notion, but then one pipes up:

“Yes! Yes… even the heads?”

“Yes, even the heads,” Cauleigh insists, settling Regdar back into its scabbard. “Well this could be good news,” he comments, a trifle grimly, unslinging his trusty caliver. He taps fine powder into the frizzen-pan and lights his match.

For his part, Crompton retrieves his big ancestor axe from where it fell, then readies his long arquebus on its stock. Fennec brandishes his staff, as though he has the power – a good bluff is sometimes all that’s needed! Jotunn moves to front-rank, close to the rough-tunneled entrance.

The acolytes seem anxious to avoid displeasing their captors but reluctant to move towards this new threat. One of them kneels in the blood and cradles Pausanias’ head, weeping.

“What’s wrong with his head?” Cauleigh demands unsympathetically.

“I’m mourning a good friend… he was a good man.”

“Until when?” Cauleigh returns, attempting to appear sympathetic. The acolyte explains that Pausanias fell ill, and as an antiquarian may have sought out something… then the details are lost as whatever it was Fennec heard above, curses from some closer chamber or tunnel.

A faint flickering or shimmer is visible beyond the entrance.

“Who goes there?” Crompton challenges.

 

That help you asked for

“I believe there’s someone down there, m’lady,” sounds a male voice off in the distance.

“Who goes there?” Crompton calls again.

“Stand back!” – a strong, woman’s voice. Jotunn and Crompton step back – but Crompton re-aims his arquebus!

Two figures emerge down into the chamber. The taller draws their eyes: she coruscates with weird purple and green patterns that cascade down her. In her left hand she holds, casually, a rapier; in her right she presents a rod, horizontally: it’s about the same dimensions as the lockup-key rod Jotunn carries. Behind the lights, she is armoured. And she’s an elf. Behind her, part-hidden by the light, comes Osusk the bushy-bearded necromancer: a pale purplish shielding light precedes him.

Cauleigh, standing roughly equal with Fennec behind the first pair, calls:

“We are the Restorers! Introduce yourself!”

 

Not always welcomed by adventurers

“Hold yourself bound under law! This area is under investigation!”

“Under whose authority?” Cauleigh retorts as levelly as he can.

He finds himself spinning, rammed up into the chamber roof, spinning along the roof into the wall, then down onto the stone flags! Pieces of gear pinwheel off him in his course, showering the chamber. Fennec notes that the elf gestured with the rod, to accomplish this. He raises an eyebrow: a flagrant display of power. (And no more than he’s come to expect, from elves.) Osusk scuttles to one side:

“Don’t look at the runes!”

“Yes we learned that,” Fennec agrees, as Cauleigh picks himself up, “I suspect that’s what rotted Pausanias’ mind.”

“What is this place?”

“It’s some sort of inner dungeon dug through into,” Cauleigh says, keeping his cool as best he can, “and it is accursed.”

“I’m guessing it’s on unconsecrated ground,” Crompton adds.

Osusk nods, trying to take in the scene while not reading the carven walls. The echoes of Cauleigh’s descent still reverberate. The necromancer humbly half-bows to the elf:

“I think, my lady, these are the dwarves that Daisy Brightwater sent us down to aid!”

“Yes, we’re the Restorers, Cauleigh reminds her edgily.

 

Bound under law

“I do not like what I see! I see the body of beloved Pausanias, naked, ruined… much has been done here that is ill! This will take the investigations of law: therefore, consider yourselves all bound under law!”

Her imperious gaze takes in everyone in the room. Cauleigh bites his tongue, and Jotunn chooses his time – and tone – well:

“It might interest you to know we haven’t checked everything and there may still be dangers here.”

The elf – who has still not bothered to introduce herself – notes to Osusk that they’ll need a legal team here, then turns to Jotunn:

“Well! You seem to have a civil tongue. Let’s descend, and see what’s at issue.”

Once she and Jotunn are out of sight Cauleigh finally recalls that he has seen the elf. She is senator Kalashtriel, senator Isildore’s bodyguard and described to him by Girol as “a killer.”

As though to excuse Kalashtriel’s breach of etiquette Osusk ruminates to Fennec:

“We came by way of the tombs of heroes: the sight of they had been desecrated – of course many of these fought alongside her – enraged the senator.”

 

Evil Idols

Jotunn meanwhile finds a single broad chamber below linking both stairs. Three idols loom in niches opposite: an armoured skeletal figure bearing a two-hand sword; a bat-winged minotaur-like creature; and a demoness-style idol. Before each, a bowl shows ichorous residue; and in a semi-circle are strewn half a dozen vials.

As Kalashtriel stalks alongside him her light, weird though it is, allows Jotunn to pick out three of them that seem to still have at least a dose left. He tucks them away.

Meanwhile, noting Osusk distracted and the acolytes eyes elsewhere, Cauleigh sneaks a number of “interesting” items away. They include a bundle of sticks, a ring, and a heavy warhammer. As he returns to reclaim the handaxe buried in a shattered skull, Jotunn and Kalashtriel walk up from below.

 

Takrina’s bequest

Osusk seems reluctant to touch anything himself, but finds his way south to where Takrina fell. He stoops, examining the remains. Fennec expounds on the effects of a high-level TTYF. Osusk samples a vial and pronounces it spider-venom.

“Always seemed like cheating,” Crompton jokes.

“Depends on your point of view, my friend,” Osusk observes.

Crompton focuses on the eerie darkness of the nearby exit. Almost certainly another descent. He spots a small dark object at the lip. Osusk trots over, seems leery of the darkness, but stoops and gathers a whip of thongs: an S&M implement. The thongs are still damp with Takrina’s blood. He adds it to his little collection.

 

Better check that evil darkness…

Kalashtriel sweeps back up, still visibly fuming, still shimmering purple and green. Osusk raises his voice from where he and Crompton stand:

“My lady – what lies below here is very bad – or so I sense.”

“Might need investigation to see if there’s something below, that might come back and haunt,” Crompton adds.

“Very well – you’re with me!”

Kalashtriel strides over and down the steps, casually throwing up the purplish-glowing shield over Crompton.

“Does anyone know who Crompton’s next-of-kin are?” Fennec calls after them.

A short time later, Crompton walks back up the stair from a vaguely star-shaped chamber below, having not touched anything and not found any foe.

“Pile of skulls… pretty much what you’d expect… and a throne.”

Meanwhile the acolytes veer closer and closer to the cover story the gullible Dwarves supplied them with. As Crompton emerges in front of Kalashtriel he hears “we were misled” from one of them, but Kalashtriel storms across the chamber and, menacing them with her superior height, informs them coldly that they will stand trial.

 

Aftermath of the raid

Over the next few days the Restorers find themselves in a strange halfway stage between being feted as the heroes who fought off undead around the south, and avoided as suspects in the killing of beloved Bishop Pausanias. Here’s a quick summary of events:

 

  • More clothes are purchased, Jotunn picks up and finishes paying for his vambrace, and Cauleigh shops for alternatives to his badly-damaged breastplate.
  • Fennec interviews Daisy, and learns, as he imagined, that a deadly-skilled senator and a reasonably-kosher necromancer was the best solution that Daisy could come up with to help, through Lady Bree’s influence.
  • Elisha is given a full update on the situation as Cauleigh found it.
  • The Masque of Death is still “on” and all the young folk of the city enjoy it to the full. Jotunn and Cauleigh, wearing their “demon pikeman” outfits, join in. They hear possible sedition, laughed off as a joke.
  • Dalton volunteers their lockup free of charge for the next month, as thanks for saving his family.
  • Jotunn manages to locate short, personable alchemist Palealia who runs the Jealous Hag near South Gate, and the potions are assayed. Crompton buys a road-charm from Palealia and Cauleigh buys an Ever-flint.

 

Around and among these events, some of more serious note are also taking place:

  • Dolem’s Spire is under siege! The enemy have at least one giant, and bridges are thrown across the river. The last few refugees make it out north.
  • These include a couple of junior wizards, who report refugees that did not have the benefit of Hidey Hole were rounded up by the orc bands.
  • Among the last out are two of the Holy Father order: Neghed, loathed Templar Dwarf and a young unassuming priestess, Ernysi. By virtue of the loss of the entire Abbey hierarch these two are now senior clergy in the city.
  • Ernysi is introduced to the River Temple, where Bowdyn, like Ernysi an unassuming priestess: but sturdier and precise-mannered: oversees the remnants of the old religion.
  • The Restorers meet tall battered veteran Sheriff von Diemar when he calls into the Porters Arms. His watchmen hand the Restorers their summons to appear as witnesses before a Grand Jury.
  • Before they go to appear, they are mana-locked by Neghed. He takes a great deal of pleasure in it.

 

The grand jury

It’s the day after the high day following the death of Pausanias, and the Tribune’s banner screams “TERROR LURKS BELOW!!!” The grand jury is convened in the Merchant Guild compound, just north of the Cathedral. In its meeting-hall the richly-carved wooden furniture is so comfortable you want to just keep sitting on it.

Sheriff von Diemar presents the matter, and Fran Limnsman, cranky medical investigator, is his chief technical assistant. While witnesses, the Restorers are quite clear that they are also persons of interest.

The press is represented by both Elisha (Tribune) and Clarrie (Clarion) and their runners Girol and Dixit are kept busy. Refreshment breaks are excellent as the food and drink are top quality.

The jury is of two parts, a burgher-elect jury of four peers:

  1. Dainty redhead Urie, representing service industries;
  2. Fairy Miraina, representing fine crafts;
  3. Svelte Cynlo, representing metal-smiths; and 
  4. Areta, representing gem-smiths.Then the non-elect panel of five:
  5. Regular watch captain Acusta;
  6. Garrison Sgt Musger;
  7. Dwarf Tred Nordigar of the Warriors Guild;
  8. Dwarf Borer of the Adventurers Guild; and 
  9. Magister wizard Max Oberhelm of the Wizards Guild.

 

Day one of grand jury proceedings

Max operates a recording scroll that records everything the Restorers mutter to one another: there’s no presumption of privacy. (At one point he actually holds it up for Fennec to notice: Fennec does not notice.)

Von Diemar seems interested in bringing out what really happened. Cauleigh’s evidence of how Pausanias appeared is not backed up by the acolytes, who are now sticking firmly to the “we wuz enthralled, it’s all a blank” story the Restorers cued them in to. The battered breastplate helps, but is not conclusive.

Pausanias’ ring is of undead control – which might be strong evidence – but of course, since Cauleigh removed it from the dead man, it’s of no use to suggest Pausanias once used it.

Things take a bad turn for the acolytes, during the afternoon session, when a Soiled Dove is produced. She has been tied up in Severin’s closet for days, waiting to be killed. And she says the other acolytes watched as Severin worked his wicked ways on her.

 

Day two of the grand jury

The grand jury elects to make certain findings at the end of the two day inquest: it thanks Kalashtriel and Osusk; and delivers a vote of thanks to the Restorers for their brave help in protecting the citizens from roaming undead. This, of course, leaves the grand jury still considering the matter of Pausanias! Their intention is to allow the Restorers and other witnesses to go about their lawful business.

The matter of “what lies beneath” is discussed at some length. It seems the grand jury has some discretion on the direction its inquest takes! The jury invites the Restorers’ experience of the undead floor in Fingold.

Cauleigh in particular summons his speaking skills, with some assistance on technical aspects from Fennec. The key point is that Fingold was able to use a very senior priest, specifically fetched for the purpose. Discussion follows of Dolem’s Spire and what help the Templars may be. Fennec tenders the notion that a rescue mission to Dolem’s Spire might be worth trying. But Max Oberhelm notes boundary issues and the Sheriff ropes and hog-ties the idea of expeditions before the grand jury commits Sarnas to something like war.

The second day finishes with a strong indication of favour to the Dwarves. On top of their earlier vote of thanks, the grand jury finds no reason that the Restorers can’t be recompensed by keeping the fair loot of their combat. (Although Fennec’s mutterings, duly recorded by the scroll, nearly change their minds.) These include two items Osusk picked up: a knife and bracer; and a Dis-Spell wand from Pausanias. Beyond that, the Restorers are released on their own recognizance. And still mana-locked.

 

Thoughts for where their path may lead

The city publishes a reasonable reward for adventurers to go below and deal with the source of the undead.

They while away the next few days having things assayed by Palealia and using the Sheriff’s note of thanks to get up onto Mettastos’ queue. Jotunn books a re-working of Takrina’s bracer.

But Cauleigh for one is unsure whether he ought to plough his hard-earned cash into excellent armour. It would fit into his plans to travel west, then back. But he resents having his hands tied – an adventurer is his own master! And he has served Sarnas well – even if he has helped himself as well, along the way. His comrades listen sympathetically to him as he addresses the tavern ceiling along these lines. Or, possibly not sympathetically.

“We could bum around and wait, or I could talk to the Sheriff,” Jotunn offers.

In Sarnas’ southern watch-house, Jotunn locates von Diemar working off the “bull-pen.”

“Pretty much through things,” von Diemar greets him with, “coffee?” 

Jotunn makes a plea for the mana lock to be removed. He now learns that the grand jury’s findings are soon to be released and will be good news. The Sheriff offers to “hustle things along” and “roust around.”

On the way back, Jotunn organises a decent coffee to be delivered to the Sheriff. The watch-house coffee is terrible!

 

Two of the Restorers spend some AP:

Fennec takes IQ to 34, WIZ to 33, LK to 27 and SPD to 25.

Crompton takes WIZ to 25, and LK to 33, STR to 27.

 

Props:

This time, I’ll give props to the Mythic GM-Emulator (GME). The Dwarves set some things in motion last session, and there are other events occurring elsewhere, so I simplified everything by posing a longish list of questions, and answering them with a d100. For NPCs, attitudes and power levels, I also give props to Universal NPC Emulator (UNE).

 

Addendum: Events of near concern to the Restorers

These events began before the inquest and continued over and after it. I may be giving the Restorers too much credit thinking they are organised enough to stay abreast of this, but so be it. My intention in listing the events is to move to the point where the most immediate preparations for the Underdark expedition begin.

  1. Investigation of the rune-carven chamber and idols: Done. Sheriff von Diemar and Fran Limnsman make a thorough search, removing 11 skulls to be returned to various despoiled remains; and locating a secret entrance to the Underdark.
  2. Removal of the worse effects of the tunnels off the crypts: Done. Chaos magic still roils around the tunnels but Lady Bree dampens it to the point where it is unlikely to affect people clearing them. Daisy Brightwater restores the Seraph and tidies the desecrated memorials.
  3. Clearing the sewers of undead: Done. The Rogues Guild uses its influence to supply volunteers for this. By doing so they take over Takrina’s old HQ, and earn the city’s gratitude. Borer leads the early running, then once the HQ is secure, other rogues are able to take over. This does not give Borer any special insight into the undead presence.
  4. Janorra’s return to normal: Done. Once Pausanias dies, whatever big bad he is working up also dies down. However, there are knock-on consequences. The elf clique owes senator Isildore a favour, which makes the nobles senate faction very nervous, but there’s not a lot it can do without a full breach.
  5. Pricing Wizards Guild membership: Done. Fennec’s membership is discussed by those who wish him well, and the Guild agrees he can join if he wants to. It will cost 300AP and a week out of campaign, to represent the investment of scroll-writing techniques. Thereafter Fennec would be entitled to a more sympathetic ear when he asks for potions, scrolls, and spell-teaching. Should Fennec wish to work for his keep over winter instead of attempting to travel, this is a sound investment.
  6. Pricing Mettastos armour: Done. Jotunn can purchase on the following multipliers:
    Triple the book price, then use the cumulative multipliers:
    x2: Lighter. STR-3 (but min of 1 STR);
    x3: Slicker. DEX-3 (but min of 1 DEX);
    x2: Magical soak. The face value (NOT the warrior value), and of course prevents the piece from being broken by magical BB effect;
    x(n) where n is level of spell defence. Armour can be proofed against spells of a given level, just like it can be proofed against bows of a certain power. If you only want the armour to defend against one spell, divide by three. Eg proof vs DeathSpell#9, means a factor of three.
    Finally round down to the nearest hundred.
    The time needed to make the armour is one week plus (face value in days x the sum of multipliers.) Jotunn must be available for initial measurement then final fitting.
  7. Finding a source for Omni-Eye of loot: Palealia is able to do this, at 25 per item, or 40 for a one-off.
  8. Searching the Bishop’s Palace and reading his antiquarian notes: Ernysi invites Fennec… which is where we pick up next session!
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TI4.06: The Bishop’s Secret

The characters for this session:

Fennec, L3 wizard, combat and curative schools

Crompton, L3 rogue, roguery and Runebearer background

Cauleigh, L4 warrior, literate townsman background

Jotunn (as NPC), L6 warrior, hunter background with tracking talent

Also featuring:

Elisha, intrepid girl reporter

Daisy, senior wizard

The dwarves Crompton Cauleigh and Jotunn, assisted by Elisha and Daisy, have spent the last ten minutes penetrating the Mausoleum of Heroes, in the grounds of Sarnas Abbey. The catacomb level below proves to hold defaced burial niches, and one of them conceals an entry to twisting, cramped and wet natural tunnels. The three dwarves approach the cavern where Fennec lies, paralysed by ghoul poison, and being slowly eaten from the bottom up.

Fennec’s player decides “from the bottom up” means from his bottom.

The senior wizard’s strategy

Party order in the tunnels: Cauleigh with torch, Crompton with Cateyes, Elisha Jotunn and Daisy. Cauleigh experiments with muting his light, coming up with a middling option of forming a sort of tube around it with the end of his cloak.

It’s wet and nasty afoot. The tunnel ahead curves left, and there’s a branch sharp right. Crompton sees a skeletal figure shambling through the shallow water in that tunnel!

At Crompton’s warning, Cauleigh falls back so that the right branch of the tunnels is in front of him, not behind. They shuffle around and Crompton is ready with his Runebearer anti-magic axe as the skeleton rushes him! He deals with it easily, though not before its clutching fingers rip his trouser leg.

With a whup of displaced air, Daisy disappears from her clutching-Jotunn position. Her voice in his head tells him she’s back upstairs – let her know when it’s safe!

“So she did have a buff,” Cauleigh remarks.

Rescue

More skeletal undead arrive, Crompton looks distinctly tattered and takes some scratches, but deals with the remaining four. Then Crompton’s axe is handed to Cauleigh, they restore the order of march, and swing left.

Peering past a stout rock pillar Cauleigh plays his light into a foul-smelling cavern at the rear and left of which the sprite hovers over a rock ledge. The floor of the cavern is not only wet, it is carpeted in dead bodies. Some of which are faintly moving.

A sunken-eyed bearded dwarf corpse wears Fennec’s clothing – much torn about – and at its groin, a ghoul-like creature feasts greedily.

Cauleigh leaps into action, his cork-heeled town shoes betray him, and he splashes down full-length into corpse-fouled water.

Crompton nimbly uses Cauleigh’s back as a springboard and leaps at the ghoul, stabbing with his zapped daggers. Jotunn unlocks Elisha’s fingers from his arm, and he too bounds forward, Cauleigh sploshes back up, and between the three of them the ghoul is dealt with. Only once its head is destroyed does it cease moving.

Wound Weld

Feeling that his Cateyes won’t last forever, Crompton begins dragging Fennec clear, as Cauleigh and Jotunn clamber, squelchily or crunchily (depending on the exact corpse underfoot) to the sprite-marked ledge.

There’s a pile of gear, some of which is recognisably Fennec’s. They bundle all into rags, and turn to retire. Ahead of them Crompton is trying not to vomit as he holds Fennec more or less together and ends up with the wizard’s legs under one arm and the rest under the other.

Jotunn calls for help to Daisy: Daisy’s voice comes back to them out of the sprite:

“Best get him up here!”

Laboriously threading back and up the spiral stair they rejoin Daisy in the Mausoleum of Heroes. Daisy’s waiting. She dismisses her sprite, and throws up a simple, but reasonably bright, Will-o-Wisp.

“I don’t wanna worry y’all, but th‘ door’s locked… that ain’t no problem getting’ out, but…” 

“Somebody knows we’re in here,” Cauleigh concludes, “I think if you could get us out and away, we’ll…” 

Ohhhh! Mah lord! He’s really in a bad way…” Daisy interrupts, taking in what Crompton is carrying. “Lady, lady, lady, lady… lays him down, lays him down…” 

The dwarves hold a defensive perimeter – Cauleigh unearths an axe from the bundle of random loot – Elisha chatters quietly to herself, updating her case notes – while Daisy assembles Fennec in the right order, whips a Too-Bad-Toxin into him, and works up a Wound Weld, a powerful spell of the Wizard War period.

It takes some concentration, and before it’s done, Fennec is enjoying the warm nostalgic taste of Mother Hobb’s honey-glazed donut. His own foodstuffs ruined: this is from Cauleigh’s supply. Crompton helps out by eating the other donut. 

With that, and having restored Fennec’s modesty as best his ruined clothing will allow, Daisy is ready to Detect Magic over the loot. The axe and a ring are magical while nice-looking jewelry is not. 

“Ah guess ya’ll owe me them nine bullets now,” she declares. 

“It’s a deal.” 

Fennec re-kits with all of his gear, and they are ready to go. Daisy says she will “discuss some things” at the guild, they tell her they’ll head away to the lockup. 

 

The relief of Dalton’s lockup

It’s a relatively short run to the lockup, but the city is fog-bound and undead are abroad! As they edge away from the cemetery, Elisha gasps and points: a pallid figure is glimpsed trying to hide around the Cathedral. 

“Careful, we might be getting lured here,” Fennec warns and they choose discretion.  

Elisha’s sense of direction helps them reach the upper harbour easily. The occasional muffled cry for help can be heard through the fog.  

“We could try, and get scattered, or load up and help properly – choice, boys?” Cauleigh prompts.  

It’s an easy choice, they push on to the lockup. As they near it, a desperate small and lithe figure slams right into Crompton. Jotunn hoists the lad around – it’s Sol – and reassures him. Crompton recovers from the groin-level collision and they hustle to help. 

Once at the lockup, enough light is splashed around that they can see Susie, clinging desperately as high as she can climb, to one of the lockups; a ghoul is right below her trying to reach her heel; the door to the building the family live in lies open. Cauleigh leaps to the rescue and whicks the ghoul’s head off. Crompton and Jotunn protect Elisha and Sol and watch the street.  

“They’re in the house!” Susie shrieks as she’s lifted down. 

Fennec points to the door: “Rescue first!” 

Cauleigh outdistances Crompton [and earns a boon] to where Dalton is forted up against two ghouls. Cauleigh is well ahead of the others: he’s scratched and tattered but easily hacks one down, and resists the poison [using his boon]. Jotunn and Crompton arrive and the remaining ghoul is dealt with. 

Cauleigh accepts a Jotunn donut. Then, careless of the foul scraps of clothing he’s left with, joins the others in gearing up.  

 

Reports of the emergency

It’s a tired group of Restorers that collects in the Porters Arms, some three hours before first light. They’ve spent the middle watches of the night in rescuing townsfolk, hurrying from flashpoint to flashpoint across the south. As for Elisha, she’s off filing her story.

The Porters Arms is a haven, crowded with menfolk of all walks of life, with a town watchman taking details under the captain of watch’s supervision.

“Accounts say these guys’re comin‘ up fr’m sewers all over,” the captain summarises.

Fennec confuses matters by referring the captain to a sergeant, but he agrees sheriff von Diemar will definitely be kept in the picture and will want to interview them. As for the garrison (it is Sgt. Musger Fennec is thinking of) that’s above his pay grade.

Crompton is angered by this hierarchical attitude and the captain warns him, Restorer or no, he may find himself cooling off in the pokey; Cauleigh smooths things over.

 

Leaving word, and bullets

Crack of dawn, and four fully-equipped dwarves venture forth to the common room. The fog shows signs of clearing a little. They chew trail ration and wash it down with good porter, and lay plans.

“I think we should use a Hidey Hole for the last leg,” Fennec suggests, then, “come to think of it should we let Elisha or Daisy know where we’re going?”

It’s a swirling mist that surrounds them as they up one of the main roads, to the Park and Palace area. The group decision is, to get to the palace gate and both deliver Daisy’s bullets and tell her they are raiding the mausoleum again. People keep well clear of them!

Their passage is challenged, at the old wall that part-encloses the Park and inner circle, by a mixed group of garrison soldiers, two Elves, and a town watchman.

“Ho! We are the Restorers!” Cauleigh identifies.

“It is them,” observes Shawndel, then blesses them for braving the situation. He/she explains that the whole park area is a danger, owing to Janorra being troubled.

The watchman volunteers to lead them around. His watch-lantern bobbles high, he knows the way, and they reach the palace gate without incident.

“Halt! You may not enter!”

Once recognised – and he looks very different to the well-robed wizard he has appeared as so far – Fennec sees about his mission. A courier – the very same one – is whistled up. Underwhelmed by their generosity, he accepts the 10 gold commission and lugubriously departs to deliver bullets and message.

The second descent

From the palace it’s a walk north down the processional to where the Abbey wall looms over them out of the mist. They turn clockwise and follow the wall, cut across behind the chapel and clergy-house, then Fennec throws up Hidey Hole: they cluster in and ease past less-known buildings.

The noise of normal housekeeping chips into the noise Cauleigh Jotunn and Crompton are making in their heavy gear. It underlines how quiet the area has been to this point.

The gate to the Mausoleum of Heroes stands open, the way they left it. Cauleigh thoughtfully pockets the hefty padlock. In they go!

Party order: Crompton, Cauleigh, Fennec, Jotunn.

Quite some time later the party has explored a number of defaced interment passageways that lie below the upper tombs. They strike no trouble until they work past halls of heroes, through halls of city fathers, to another stair. Like the spiral stair they came down, this rises through a similar vault, disappearing into solid stone. Then a ghoul launches itself off the stair at Crompton, and other ghouls race out of the darkness to flank Cauleigh!

Crompton is knocked down and paralysed before the others can deal with their opponents. Those are more easily dealt with than numbers would suggest – a couple are very weak. Cauleigh, too, feels the effect of ghoul toxin, but remains able to move.

As they wonder what to do next, it occurs to Fennec that if Mother Hobb is baking Fly Me and Fire-resist pastries, maybe she’s learned antitoxin potion-making. Prudently they decide not to find out where the second stairwell leads up to, and laboriously carry Crompton and all his gear back out the way they came in.

Jane’s Bakery has no queue

Perhaps miraculously, no-one ambushes them as Crompton is carried away due west through the misty streets to where the smell of delicious pastries signals Jane’s Bakery. But unlike every previous occasion, there’s no queue and they carry Crompton straight in.

Crompton’s limited field of vision fills with Betty’s face as she examines his eyes, then tests to see if they will stay closed, then amuses herself trying to cross them.

Mother Hobb shoos her niece away, assesses the patient, and bustles away. The shop is closed and customers encouraged to finish up. Soon, a meaty broth smell permeates the shop. Jane, the genuine original and mother to Betty, bustles out at one point to see things are under control, then away again.

Jotunn stands guard at the door, waving shoppers away. At length, Mother Hobb’s antidote is ready and Cauleigh tastes the stuff. It’s not all that pleasant – like juice from undercooked meat – but it does the trick. She carefully trickles it down Crompton’s throat and he is soon mobile.

They purchase all the broth brewed, a stoneware container with enough for 20 doses, promising 1,000 gold.

“I know you’re good for it,” Mother Hobb farewells them with.

The third descent

“Where shall we start our search boys, same place?” Cauleigh asks breezily.

“Let’s get ambushed the last place we got ambushed” Crompton retorts sarcastically but this seems as good an option as any.

The Restorers soon arrive at the scene of their last retreat. Somewhat surprisingly it is exactly as they left it.

They pick their way past the strewn, dismembered, skull-shattered bodies and around to a section of catacomb where an external corner has crumbled to reveal a fairly broad natural fissure.

Party order: Cauleigh, Crompton, Fennec (with the torch cube) and Jotunn

It leads down to the outer corner of a spacious L-shaped chamber, encrusted with weird designs. Fennec looks at them – then manages to wrench his gaze away [and the GM curses]! Fennec is holding the torch-cube and picks out two west-leading descents. As the lead pair head there, and catch movement from below, he picks out another exit, off bottom left.

And the enemy hit the party with Dis-Spell, and attack!

The Bishop’s Secret

Cauleigh heads straight west, to deal with Severin and an acolyte; Jotunn blocks the next descent west, preventing two acolytes from joining; but the fragile rearguard is exposed to two acolytes, an invisible assassin, and Pausanias himself!

The acolytes are quite weak, but fanatical. Severin is a real handful – in fact they are evenly matched – and Cauleigh has some trouble with him. He uses his sword Regdar’s Frostbrand effect to kill him. In the meantime:

  • Crompton defends Fennec against two acolytes then manages to spot a faint blood-trail racing towards Fennec – he fends off Takrina’s attempt with a mighty swipe of his ancestor-axe, then eats a meringue and takes to the air to gain some advantage. Fennec throws an OTIS over her.
  • Takrina, now brightly outlined, takes the fight with Crompton away to the top of the L, allowing Pausanias to race at Cauleigh! Her Spider Venom dagger weakens Crompton. But, he still holds his anti-magic axe!
  • Fennec refrains from calling tactics, but keeps the light up, and uses spells wisely: Glue You on anyone he can, and Little Feets to counter the venom effect, and when Crompton uses his axe to strip Takrina’s invisibility, finishes her off with an over-powered TTYF.

Cauleigh and Pausanias are very evenly matched, and only because he still has one more use of Frostbrand and one Blasting Power fire-breath. Then the Glue-You from Fennec evens things up. Pausanias smashes at Cauleigh’s armour with steely skin and massive strength and speed! It’s quite clear, now, who stabbed the soldiers through the heart with a finger…

In the nick of time, Jotunn tangles Pausanias with his bladed chain and Crompton knocks the magical buffs off him with his anti-magic axe. Cauleigh finishes off the fat cleric and the fight goes out of the four surviving acolytes!

 

Props: I guess it’s safe to credit the centre-piece of the season now! Although slightly less deadly than written (more ghouls, the STR-draining ghosts hand-waved off by assuming Crompton’s flight swept them clear), it’s pretty much straight off the module:

The Bishop’s Secret, by Mark L Chance, Spes Magna Games and available from drivethrurpg.com

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TI4.05: Befogged in Sarnas

The characters for this session:

Fennec, L3 wizard, combat and curative schools

Crompton, L3 rogue, roguery and Runebearer background

Jotunn, L6 warrior, hunter background and tracking talent

Cauleigh, L4 warrior, literate townsman background

The four Restorers have achieved one notable success: the famed Sarnas library has given them some significant guidance as to the whereabouts of Ikkutas! Now, an encounter with marauding skeletal undead, during which Crompton claims control of one, may provide a clue as to strange murders occurring in the Abbey’s vicinity.

The dead leading the blind

Lights bob closer through the fog as Fennec rejoins the other three; Crompton’s skeletal servant is already disappearing – not north towards the Abbey but east. The four, running, attempt to keep to some sort of order. Jotunn is rearguard and has no time to see who holds those lanterns.

A merry dance the skeleton leads them, slipping through the clammy grey curtain. The fog is of that sort that muffles sound. Passersby – and there are few – keep out of knife-range. Their hideous guide slips past buildings encountered as deep shadows more than solid walls. Their sense of direction tells them they have tracked almost due east.

At length the sound under their shoes changes from stone to wet leaves as Cauleigh realises that the grasping arms above him are tree branches. They pass under a mighty tree and beside a looming dark wall and shortly thereafter Crompton hears bony fingers groping at stone. [IQ+Roguery, L3] He believes he understands how his undead guide operates a stone flag or trap very near a ruin. It slips below and the trap closes.

 

Blind-fight and branches

The four have agreed that, in their city finery, they will pursue no further. Now to mark the spot! Crompton calls up Cateyes again but the confusing shadows of fog remain confusing. But it does let him catch a swirl of fog as something leaps out of the ruin at him! He hurls his two ‘ready’ blades! [Misses L4, fails forward] The thing parries the flung knives and leaps away. Cauleigh’s first instinct is to dash after it: but Fennec barks:

“It’s that fucking assassin – stay together!”

They choose prudence and return to marking the area. Smells of charred timber and good cooking are of little help. Jotunn puts a blaze on the tree, and boosts Cauleigh up to the lowest branch. A trick of the fog allows Fennec to hear Osusk and Silas discussing which way “it” went…

Clambering further up, Cauleigh notes the massive scale of the building the tree grows nearest to, and where the river must be; climbs down.

 

Dwarves, pubs, and idle callers

Slow-moving footsteps and calling of the hour suggest a town watch; a cheery down-Vale woman’s voice invites the watchmen to her grogshop. The Restorers debate finding the grogshop versus finding the trapdoor’s exact location. They check around the big building to see if it is the necromancer Osusk’s house: it is not. All they see, across a yard, is a miserable dog whining at the fog. They, like the dog, are feeling fogged-up. Turning to follow the smell of cooking they find themselves at the servant’s entrance of a handsome building. Around the front, and a delivery marker: ‘Zarkana’. Crompton catches the sound of Dwarven voices. He knocks, and a plainly-dressed servant asks him if he is expected, then directs him to the nearest main road, closes the door.

Here on the main road it’s a hop skip and jump to a very small grogshop, backed onto the much larger Old Kraken alehouse. They get their directions over a pint and stagger back to the Porters – passersby keeping well away – noting as they pass the Abbey that the amount of bunting has increased – glimpsing theatre-goers guided by linkmen – Cauleigh vowing to return to the chase in the morning!

Rumours over cards

The Porters Arms is crowded by folk in the same damp fix. Supper is being served, and a general air of unclothed bonhomie and wet wool prevails as the roaring fire does its part. The Dwarves are assured it’s the time of year for fogs, and they generally last a day or two.

Cauleigh is invited to take a hand at a game of chance, Crompton chips in. Fortune favours Crompton who wins 50 gold, or enough for 10 grogs. Over the game, they hear that you can be paid to register to vote, as long as you pledge to vote for the senator, and a little more about Takrina’s Cutthroats. It seems common knowledge that the Restorers slaughtered her Cutthroats. A smirking wiseacre implies Crompton knows exactly what’s going on. But another player reckons he once saw Takrina speaking to ‘one ‘a them priests’. Agrees that they are known as Acolytes, but professes to be a Freethinker and not to care. Severin, head of the Acolytes, worries about the morals of fallen women.

During the religious debate and game, Jotunn chats to the barkeep, declining a Sentry-post and opting for regular porter. The barkeep is inclined to blame Providence for events – and as for fog, business is good on a night like this.

[AP is spent. Crompton moves WIZ to 23, Cauleigh moves CON to 35 (its first shift up), Fennec moves LK to 26 (Adds are 50), and Jotunn moves SPD to 30 and STR to 38 (Adds are 80).]

Mother Hobb keeps her hand in

The hunt for breakfast begins early in the morning and Cauleigh flips off last night’s plan and heads to Jane’s Bakery. After that he plans to hit up the library to research the Scions of Kolbrannus, whence he must bring the bones of the long-dead Templar. Jotunn and Crompton courteously agree to help. Fennec has his long-awaited noon appointment with Lady Bree of the Wizard’s Guild, and dare not be tardy, so decides to go to the Wizard’s Guild right after breakfast.

I do step out, halt others talking, and get Crompton’s opinion here. The others think that the stone trapdoor would be crazy hard to find. He was the only one near it. He’s reluctant to expose the others to traps: they would have to stay near enough for everyone to cover everyone, which in turn might endanger them. And he’s not 100% sure of finding it, outside of a clear day.

Jane’s Bakery is just as busy as ever. Betty, nose shiny with hard work, takes a minute to ask Cauleigh if he’s going to the Masque of Death. Three nights from now! It’s where all the cool kids will be!

Begging a moment of her time away from the press of breakfasters, they learn that Mother Hobb now puts her expertise into magical pastries. They stock up with honey-glazed donuts (for healing) and a couple of meringues (for flying) and ginger-cakes (for fire resistance). The bakery allows diners to order in for grog and chocolate, so they do that as well.

Lighter in the wallet and tighter in the belt, and with a promise to report back on how the flying goes, they leave, making their way up out of the fog to the palace gates. This time Crompton and Jotunn get through unimpeded by questions. The company divides.

 

Reena Spidros, mistress of indexes

The research team walks through the now-familiar teleport into the library. Cauleigh approaches Reena, seated reading at her research desk.

When he relates the narrative that has led him to search for the Scions of Kolbrannus, Reena’s normal scowl lifts and she appears interested. Indeed, she knows of associations to the Scions by heart.

She moves off to a nearby stack, lifts out a volume that proves to be an index, and cross-references which part of the annals of the Carloman Principalities should be researched. Then, calling Cauleigh after her, she finds the exact stack she needs. There, under her hands, are the accounts of the Scions – most nearly associated with ancient Ravenscrag – and the principality that is recorded as coming after it. Its old name here is Tennebaum and it is a mere five days westering from here. It even comes with a sketch map suggesting that the Scions were based at a lone tower or obelisk, south of that.

And so in about an hour – even accounting for Cauleigh making a sketch map – they are out on the palace processional once more. Without a care in the world, Cauleigh decides he really ought to head north through the fog and pick up his vambraces and gauntlet; and hey, Jotunn could have a look at the armour as well.

Jotunn is at least keen for another go at magical shield-buying, and opts to go north too. Crompton throws in with them.

“We should stick together,” he points out, as they leave Fennec to fend for himself.

 

Lady Bree and the airy show of power

It seems to be a working day in the Wizards Guild. As a visitor Fennec has nowhere to go other than the common room. He whiles away the hours reading the Tribune, Courier (a palace journal) and Clarion. The Tribune reports the disturbance last night in terms of revenants and undead fiends but does not mention the Restorers or ‘unknown dwarves’ at all.

An interview of the ‘necromanteer’ Osusk is included. He is quoted as saying that “a diurnial presence not be missed” is indicated.

“He’s making shit up,” Fennec concludes.

Fetched at length by a palace courier, and guided through at least one teleport, Fennec arrives at a room high in the citadel itself, offering a broad view of the fog-bound river and city. Lady Bree arrives, and extends her hand. He stoops over it.

Lady Bree’s purpose is to learn of conditions south of the river. Her manner is pleasant and open, and, dropping a few words of dwarven into the conversation soon has Fennec at his ease. She effortlessly – unconsciously perhaps – demonstrates a very high level of Conveyance magic, plucking her notebook and pen out of thin air.

Although Crompton hasn’t passed on Borer’s detailed information, Fennec has listened to Wanda, and with his own experiences, it’s a long lunch. [CHR then IQ, Fennec scores L3 and L5 respectively] Lady Bree seems impressed. She asks Fennec his opinion on whether Dolem’s Spire can withstand a siege, and of the siege at Fingold, and of fighting giants.

The talk turns to unearthing lost wands in Sarn Athrad. She’s cross at Daisy for telling Fennec about something that was passed on in confidence! There are two wands and a staff. Should they be interested she can supply a sketch map of the original, pre-destruction area they ought to be in. Fennec fences, hinting that the dwarves lack funds, but leaving it at an indefinite maybe.

 

Armour for Cauleigh and a fitting for Jotunn

The three dwarves make their way directly into the fog and, delayed hardly at all by an altercation between mercenaries and watchmen, over Temple bridge. The watch officer – the first law officer they’ve met – thanks them. It seems the mercenaries have a contract to Dolem’s Spire.

Temple Bridge, even fogbound, sports a few urchins fishing. Making their way past the shops and such, they find themselves closer to the North gate than any other landmark, and Jotunn ventures towards Mettastos’ workshop.

“Yoo-ee!”

It’s Elisha. And she’s put two and two together as to their involvement in the skeletal attack! She links her arm to Jotunn’s.

“If ya wanna guide…”

But at Mettastos Arms & Armor the burly blond-bearded young smith shakes his head when he learns Jotunn has secured no paper or writ.

“Like I say… without some authority’s say-so, ain’t no way forrard.”

They steer around back of the theatre and to the two armourers Cauleigh has work booked with. The armour fits well, and with some final strap adjustment, Cauleigh’s throw-knife also slides in well under his left forearm.

The armourers, and Cauleigh’s pleasure with the armour,  convince Jotunn to buy vambraces too. He pays a deposit, with pick-up and final pay on the morrow.

 

The house of Irian

Elisha navigates them to Cauleigh’s next destination, the house of Irian. This is the address he got from the editor.

While they walk, Cauleigh makes up a wild tale about Pausanias and Takrina being connected to see if Elisha believes it. She does not, but she does write it up.

Elisha can tell them that the house of Irian is elven, and connected to the Warriors Guild. The door is opened by a solemn – almost funereal – footman. He admits only Cauleigh.

“No press.”

 

Masque of Death explained

It’s around midday – though the fog makes it seem later – and damp and disconcerted, the others find their way to a cheap pub catering partly to the north gate guards. Elisha fills them in on the Masque of Death, a celebration not too far removed from Esgaroth’s High Day sacred to Urheru Sun-Swallower and the Death Cycle. Processions around the Abbey are the thing. Young people enjoy revels. Costumes are the important thing! Elisha can recommend them to one, not far away.

 

Vasily of the Guild

In the house of Irian, after kicking his heels for a time, Cauleigh is joined by a powerfully-built dark-haired man, mustachioed, with a strong hint of goatee.

This is Vasily of the Guild, merchant of power and the means of acquiring it. He savors war and the chaos it brings.

[I have a ball playing Vasily. Maybe I’ve heard Barovia mentioned once too often. I go full Strahd.]

He, too, is interested in the Restorers exploring Sarn Athrad. And interested in getting an introduction to Lady Bree Greystand. Cauleigh neither agrees nor disagrees, conceals his distaste and leaves.

 

Lunch, late lunch, and costumes

It’s an easy guess as to where the lads are, and Cauleigh joins them for his lunch. By the time he finishes, and Jotunn finishes helping him, it’s well into the afternoon.

The fog shows no sign of lessening.

To while away the time, Cauleigh gets Elisha’s scanty knowledge of Irian, and her thoughts on how the Guild may link with Bernhart the Beneficent. She has no views on the Guild itself since this is news to her, but thanks him for passing on the information. Elisha does fill in the picture of Lady Bree, attributing a lot of Sarnas’ survival of the Wizard Wars to her power.

The fog shows no signs of lessening.

They read over the Tribune, wondering about murders. Other than their own incident, there’s been only one yesterday, over to the warehouse district.

Elisha encourages Jotunn to go in for a costume, and leads them to her recommended costumier. Cauleigh is delighted to find they’ll do a demon-pikeman-facemask that goes great with breastplate, and they all buy that.

 

Befogged in Sarnas… Fennec rolls a 3

On parting, Fennec finds himself teleported straight back to the common room. Daisy is there, speaking to Max, the magister. He stops, rests, and chats with her but has nothing further to bring up – once again he’s not brought those bullets, or has forgotten that he has them – and after about half an hour of chatting Daisy has business to attend to, and heads away.

Based purely on stomach, it’s probably halfway through the afternoon. Fennec decides to head back to the Porters Arms. Mentally, he sorts through options. Decides to keep to the main roads: Down the processional to the Abbey then past it and parallel to the waterfront.

But [fail on LK] the fog tricks him, and what should have been a left turn near the bridge proves to be a left turn to the old, walled-in east porch of the Cathedral. Fennec pauses, uncertain which way to go. It strikes him that he’s taken the same course that led, the other night, to the ambush at the Porch. People passing through the fog are mere shadows, veering out of knife-range; and sounds echo in ear-tricky ways. He throws up Little Feets as a precaution.

 

A creepy cleric and a crimson choice

The nearest active building seems to be some sort of seamstress or clothier. [L6 IQ] As he considers it doubtfully, a priest, or acolyte, emerges, carrying an embroidered cloth. He stops, surprised.

“A dwarf! Are you lost, perhaps?”

Persuasively, the acolyte encourages Fennec to visit the Cathedral. He clutches Fennec’s shoulder in a vise-like grip… but Fennec has a better centre of gravity and leverage and shrugs him off.

“I’m sure I’ll be seeing you again…” the clerical type says.

Now, having passed between a mason and the Cathedral, Fennec has his bearings. There’s an open but cluttered area, then the Porch left and the cemetery ahead. The man’s footsteps remain close behind…

“I’m simply going the same way as you,” the man assures him, grimly amused.

It seems to be time to use the extra speed! Fennec scuttles away, across the cemetery and across a robbed wall’s ditch. Then in the clear! For he is in a wide, fog-filled area with not a building in sight.

[3 on LK again]

Three shapes rise around him, desperately close! [I draw for range, and get melee range]

Reverting to instinct Fennec chooses a L4 TTYF at the one most blocking him: the crimson flash and thunder roil through the fog! Then the figures close in and he knows no more!

 

Wonder where Fennec is? Oh well…

Well satisfied with their arrangements for the Masque, the three Dwarves head back over the bridge, Elisha still on Jotunn’s arm.

“Where do you suppose Fennec is?” Jotunn asks.

“He’s off with that Lady Bree he was sweating over for three days,” Cauleigh assures him.

Back at the Porters Arms – Elisha’s local knowledge proving invaluable – they enter what seems a glowing haven out of the fog. Under their fog-beaded cloaks, they are reasonably warm and dry. Changing shoes and stockings, they are all set for pre-dinner nibbles and drink.

 

A bit paralysed – is that better than a bit tied up?

Fennec wakens, slowly [L4 CON] finding himself mostly numb, mostly paralysed, naked, and lying beside dead bodies.

“Undead roaming the streets under nothing more than cover of fog! What the hell kind of city is this!?!”

He can wriggle fingers, slowly. The only light comes from phosphorescence on the wall of what seems to be a mostly natural cavern. The atmosphere [good WIZ roll of 19 on current WIZ, gets L4] reminds him strongly of the undead floor, under Fingold. And one of the dead bodies beside him begins twitching.

 

Dinner and no Fennec? Where to look?

With Fennec not turning up as dinner is served, the three Dwarves conclude that he is missing. Crompton suggests a visit to the Wizards Guild, or using Elisha to get there. She laughs that off but agrees they could send a messenger.

So before too long they approach the palace gate, finding, as they supposed, the shift has changed. A note is sent, Elisha bigging it up about being a reporter. [Joint CHR help from the other three] About ten minutes later, the courier returns with the information that no, Fennec is no longer in the Wizards Guild. He left perhaps three to four hours ago, no word on where he was going.

Concerned now, they ask that a second message be sent, asking specifically for Daisy. The courier looks glumly at the tip – enough for a cheap coffee and donut. But, egged on by Elisha, sets off. About five minutes later there’s a crack of displaced air and Daisy appears at the gate.

 

Daisy’s spritely guidance

Daisy Brightwater is an able, perhaps high-level, wizard, short and curvaceous, of uncertain years. She listens to their description and, moving her wand in a spiral pattern, summons a Will-o-Wisp kind of light that grows into a fairy-size sprite. Cradling it between her palms she whispers to it – to the Dwarves’ ears it sounds like a description of Fennec’s magic – and they watch as it circles up, and then to an open, fog-bound spot near the bridge.

Daisy is neither built nor shod for quick pursuit. She and Elisha are both on Jotunn’s arm as they arrive. The adventurers make more suggestions about gear Fennec might be using. [Fennec makes L4 LK] The sprite weaves its way towards the cemetery, and to the Mausoleum of Heroes.

[Fennec gets only L3 CON, and remains unable to move]

 

Into the Mausoleum of Heroes

Protected by the fog, and the ill weather in general, Crompton focuses on the lock. His eyes cope well enough with the gloom, and as he works on it, he finds the lock was gimmicked all along.

Elisha produces a tiny lamp, but Cauleigh’s torch is produced, and the gates thrust open.

Party order: Crompton, Cauleigh, Jotunn with the two women

The mausoleum is kept tidy, but it has not been swept recently and Jotunn picks out enough of a track in the dusk to point Crompton to one tomb in particular. Daisy snaps off an OTIS. As he slides it aside carefully (it has been reworked so as to do so easily) Cauleigh explains what buffs are, and asks Daisy if she has any. She seems puzzled.

Steps lead down, then into a steep spiral stair. The cavity below is a stretched octagon, deeply shadowed. The sprite’s light helps Crompton, a little.

As Cauleigh lights the area up, four great sarcophagi can be seen arranged around the room against the longer angles. The sprite flutters to one end, and through an arch.

Beyond, Crompton finds a rectangular chamber, longer left-right, niched, each niche with its stone panel a memorial of ancient dead. The sprite heads to one panel, in particular. Its light glimmers on a disfigured seraph statue at the chamber’s end.

“It’s a false panel,” Crompton announces, opening it to reveal a gaping hole into damp tunnel!

 

From the bottom, it eats you

Light grows in Fennec’s chamber: by it he becomes aware that he is being slowly eaten: by one of his undead friends: from the bottom up!

 

Props
Jane’s Bakery comes from Concept Cards’ Urban Locations (Ste Coffey and Loz Hensel) – of course, the involvement of Betty and Mother Hobb is my idea. 

Festivals and high days are simply tweaks of my own Esgaroth calendar. The Death Cycle High Day has become the Masque of Death here, suiting the atmosphere I’ve created.

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TI4.04 part two: Rewards and research in Sarnas

The dwarves have had the chance for a short night’s sleep since they survived – by a small margin – a confrontation with a street gang. Now, they have a chance to get on to the central mission: researching Ikkutas.

Jane’s Bakery and an old friend

Jotunn awakens first, and though Cauleigh did mention that he wants to head out early, they all look very peaceful and breakfast is a priority. On the second round of rehashed leftovers he sends a pot-boy to wake them.

“I don’t suppose I could hit you up for more healing?” Cauleigh asks Fennec, glancing out at what looks like another chilly day. Fennec obliges and all three dwarves are fully fit and well-dressed as they head to lock-up, switch gear around again, and head for the fabled ‘aunty’s bakery’ Betty ought to be working at.

The delicious smell guides them across what may once have been a common or even an ornamental lawn, now partly built over, to a queue of waiting diners, and they wait patiently. At length they enter Jane’s Bakery, and find that serving them is Mother Hobb.

“Mother Hobb?!”

“Lovely to see you!”

“And you, boys!”

“So you’re Betty’s auntie?”

“I am. Betty!”

Betty is working hard under her aunt’s eye, but in between serving them and other customers Mother Hobb and Betty explain that the Survivors broke up, Mother Hobb has come here to help her older sister, Betty’s mother, who would like to retire. It’s time Betty gave up on her dreams of being an entertainer, and settled to a solid career. They also learn that Betty’s father was human, and died when Betty was only 19.

As for the Survivors, Mother Hobb believes Mizva drifted, while Burnley and Whitey, the two half-elves, decided to head south to join the war. The Lefties left Fingold heading east, but as far as she knows the Heavy Hitters stayed on as mentors of the Guild.

Mother Hobb suggests they probably don’t want the meringue: Jane’s Bakery sells delicious honey-glazed donuts. The drinks served are light herbal teas, not a perfect fit.

Cauleigh chases Betty up for what she recalls of T for Trouble, the mystery woman of yesterday evening. She’s recalled that they’re a bunch of thugs that hang out near the waterfront, and are known as something like Tamara’s Cutthroats. The big-shouldered one is Zug.

Heads dizzy with the sweet (and costly) delicacies, but surprisingly fortified, the four head back out.

“Have you made any contacts with the Rogues Guild yet Crompton?” Fennec asks. Crompton makes a non-committal noise. “Because I would think they would know about this lot,” Fennec elaborates. Crompton mentions that he’s heard of a gang of ruffians outside the gates. Then their train of thought is interrupted.

[L5 LK from Crompton]

They see a cloaked woman, as much in the middle of the old common as possible, head up, standing as though she’s really enjoying the morning air. She’s probably an elf.

“Come to think of it an elf messenger was supposed to contact me at the Porters Arms,” Cauleigh remarks. They head over and stand in very obvious range of her. She looks at them, half-recognising them:

“Excuse me for asking, would you be the Restorers? …Well this is accidental but serendipitous. My name is Wanda. We have a mutual friend.”

“Who might that be?” Fennec asks.

“Shawndel…” the she-elf looks among them to see who this applies to.

“That’s me,” Cauleigh asserts.

Wanda is here to pick up the scimitar and discuss a reward. Satisfied with her credentials, they all return to the lockup. Cauleigh accepts two large black pearls.

Wanda explains her own knowledge of the southern menace, leaving them with an amusing character sketch of Gorgun’s diplomacy and her own impression or opinion that while Dolem’s Spire is safe smaller towns like Ironbridge, or even as far afield as Edoras, will be attacked, as the uruk horde raids along rivers. But, she opines, weather will stall the advance. Wanda, scimitar concealed beneath her cloak, takes her leave and the dwarves return to the plan: research!

Cauleigh gains +1 CHR for achieving this long-term goal. Counting only from the point he learned of the scimitar’s deadly quality, it has been two seasons.

 

Sarnas Library

The four Restorers arrive at the palace gate, an imposing structure, well guarded. Fennec and Cauleigh present their credentials.

[Jotunn and Crompton succeed in L2 LK and get through as well, on the ‘we’re with them’ strategy.]

They’re directed to second circle, right. The three that have not visited before undergo the shock of seeing the old-fashioned castle change to modern, dragon-proof citadel. Taking the second circle right they walk between lines of graceful but strong columns, at least a quarter-circle along, and come to an arch, that reads:

Sarnas Library

As they pass on through there’s a voip kind of feeling or sound and with a slight sense of dislocation they find themselves in a library. It’s of traditional architecture, but there are no windows. Immediately ahead of them lies a reception or reference desk, at which sits a woman, looking at a book. She appears to be an elf.

This is Reena Spidros, prideful and somewhat acidulous reference librarian. As she reads Cauleigh’s note from Shawndel her face registers surprise and interest. She tells them that with this, they will be permitted to access the ‘stacks’ themselves.

Cauleigh [L4 CHR] explains their task, and asks that Reena not share the outcome of their labour with other researchers. This is a familiar refrain, but Reena agrees provided it is not against the Commonwealth’s interests.

Session one: This extends into early afternoon. Crompton Jotunn and Cauleigh assist Fennec, using LK, and Fennec uses IQ. Joint research, level 9.

Their first bout concentrates on the stacks Reena indicates are most nearly concerned with geography and trade. They learn that once, a trade route connected Ikkutas somewhere west of a valley system known as Aunor, and from there south to Sarn Athrad. All trade from Aunor was swept away in the Wizard Wars, and trade out of Ikkutas ended generations earlier. The only itinerary-map they find is river focused and not useful for distances.

The Restorers restore themselves out a small side door, through a spidery-meandering kind of corridor or tunnel and off in a small, not-very-good kind of coffee house. It’s a reasonably popular limbo-point for Senate couriers and pages shirking their work or dodging their senators.

Session two: This extends to evening. CON SRs for maintaining concentration, Jotunn DAROs to L14. Everyone else is OK too. This time joint research tallies to level 8.

Aunor became the hub of the northern barbarians’ invasion. All of the old information about Aunor, except for the basic geography, is irrelevant. They do confirm that dwarf metal manufactures came from Ikkutas.

Between the two sessions, they also know that either through Aunor or west along the Vale will get them to the mountain ranges where Ikkutas is hidden.

They also gain one actual Ikkutas clue.

 

Who T for Trouble is

Strategising how to get to the Porters Arms safely, they teleport back from library to second circle, and walk around to the gates. Fennec has a boosted-up OTIS prepped.

The palace processional is adequately lit down to the official arch that ends it.

[Crompton DAROs to 21 on LK, I ask him who he would like to run into]

As they near the arch, Crompton sees Sedge walking towards them, dressed in her finery, and alone. He hails her, she pauses, making a pleased kind of sound.

From Sedge, they learn the correct name of the dockside gang, Takrina’s Cutthroats.

“You were lucky – she is deadly,” Sedge comments. “Well, I’ll be going, all the best… do let us know if you want to join…”

[L4 CHR SR from Cauleigh]

Sedge heads away but turns back:

“You might look towards the east waterfront.”

 

Supper and sensation

Hubbub and singing may be heard further towards the bridge. Choosing not to mingle they decide to swing west. But before they can, they all briefly glow!

[Fennec makes a WIZ SR and concludes it is some type of investigatory spell]

They make haste back to the Porters Arms where Fennec has them all strip and uses DetM to check that the only magic items they have are their own. Then back to the common room and a late supper.

“Sentry’s me name,” a portly brewer introduces himself to Jotunn, “I wuz wonderin’ if yez’ll taste me new brew… think’ o’ callin’ it suthin’ like ‘Sentry-post.'”

To Jotunn’s palate it’s a little more hopped than he’s used to, hops being quite unusual, with a more pick-me-up kind of effect than ale. He acknowledges it. Sentry asks that he endorse it, signing the paper he happens to have written, and gains a signed endorsement off Crompton as well.

Cauleigh discovers that the Porters Arms features the Voice of the People, the Tribune, and reads – among quotes from the senator and strange inserted accounts of useful products:

Cathedral Massacre!!!

Apparently a number of late-working glaziers were horrified to find blood sprayed upon the very lintels of their door and high upon their windows! Bishop Pausanias proclaimed himself shocked at the mayhem pertaining to the very Processional of the Cathedral.

Cauleigh reads on. Assailants made off, but Sheriff Johann van Diemer (or von Diemar, spelling seems optional) is quoted as saying “the men are known bad elements…”

(Wonder Wort! You Can’t Age… interrupts a strange article)

The sheriff also says that “good citizens rest easier when bad men fall out.”

“We’re not bad… just indiscriminate,” Crompton protests.

“You know lads, I’m beginning to suspect someone in this town does not wish us well,” Cauleigh remarks.

 

The third research session

It’s the day before Fennec’s appointment with Lady Bree. Cauleigh leads the others to Jane’s Bakery and buys donuts for breakfast and bagged donuts for lunch.

Bunting is being tied around the Cathedral. They keep clear and walk up to the palace gates again. Again they draw curious glances and are let in [this time with merely L1 SR from Jotunn and Crompton]

Session three: A joint level 9 effort.

They push on to near lunch, and find nothing further in the maps and charts. The best they’ve gained from itineraries is a genuine copy of Travels Through the Vale, in which, at the very westernmost point, the floridly verbose and irritating author describes a dwarf cup presented as being of Ikkutas manufacture.

Reena seems to think she knows a lot about where they should be looking, but doesn’t. She points them to a band of stacks as possible. Cauleigh asks to refine the search around Ikmal. Reena immediately provides his alternative names:

“Ikmal Iron-bringer, also known as Aule Stone-father. See also Yavanna, or Iavan, his wife.”

Their widened search among these relevant stacks, lasting the afternoon and into early evening, comes up with possibilities. The culture of the far Vale obscures things, for here they are dealing with the Carloman Principalities and even ancient Ravenscrag. Oldest records suggest that here and there, shrines will be found to those gods.

So in conclusion (for further research will simply be at random) the dwarves have learnt that Ikkutas is located in a large mountainous area at the far end of the Vale and – equally – at the western end of Aunor Valley, which itself lies north of Sarn Athrad ruin. It is such an undefined area that they are none the wiser which direction would be more efficacious.

A cry for help

It’s a deep mist abroad. Lights glow, rather than shine. A heavier mist or fog seems to be growing north over the river. Choosing to take a slightly different route, the Restorers steer their path counter-clockwise round the palace wall, and scuttle into cover so that Fennec can hide them. They are more or less circling the park, behind Central Perk. Merry cries can be heard, but muffled. Under a long-duration Hidey Hole they hustle past a decayed park wall and into the main lane.

There’s a scrabbling sound from the right and a girl’s cry of distress. Lantern lights bobble dimly down in the dense fog ahead.

The Restorers come to a decision and run towards the sounds!

 

Skeleton marauders!

Skeletal shapes are tearing at a lone female figure, prone under their claws: her clothes are torn and blood runs free. But as they smell the oncoming dwarves the skeletal shapes turn on them!

Their battle experience tells them, too skeletal to be a zombie. Fennec scans the mist for a controlling necromancer [WIZ SR] while Cauleigh runs at the nearest and aims his kukri at a joint [DEX SR]. Its knee is sheared through and it falls; but its bony hand grabs Cauleigh’s boot-top. Jotunn braces against the other five to protect Cauleigh [CON SR, Cauleigh gets overflow damage of 11] and Crompton jigs round behind them as they batter at Jotunn’s sturdy form. With his off hand Crompton wields his ring of undead command:  “Fight for me!”

The skeleton does so, and Crompton attacks the other three not occupied. As Crompton’s Antimagic axe strikes them their bones shatter apart, the mystic necromancy that kept their sinews intact gone in that instant!

Cauleigh finishes his skeleton and he and Jotunn deal with the non-controlled survivor. Crompton focuses on his minion:

“Go back to the ground.”

It heads away.

“Follow it!” Cauleigh prompts them. Fennec nods:

“They’re being controlled from beneath… remember the floor of undead below Fingold?”

He carries the young lady to Central Perk, commends her to their care, and races back to his fellows – as the chase begins!

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