The characters for this session:
Fennec, L2 Wizard (Combat magic)
Cauleigh, L3 Warrior (Townsman)
Jotunn, L5 Warrior (Hunter, Tracking talent)
Crompton, L2 Rogue (Runebearer, Roguery talent)
At leisure to travel or delve
The path back from Edoras is easy, they have traveled it once already with the same sturdy ponies. At Upper Baraloba they wave a casual farewell to the laborers and guardsmen and head away up the main branch of the Golden River.
Landings or hamlets dotted up the Golden River make for an easy routine of lodging for the night, exchanging gossip with the barge brothers who bring the iron ore down and local laborers. These hamlets are open to travelers and illkin alike, as long as they aren’t looking for trouble. Their comprehension of the lands around and beyond Ironbridge grows. Iron is mined from the Atharva plateau, it’s a wild country, badlands lie beyond it. Ironbridge is so-named for its iron bridge, possibly Dwarf-forged: it used to be named Summerford. And the area is sometimes named Atharva’s Point or just Atharva.
Investigating the odd ruin
Perhaps restless or perhaps looking to build funds, the Dwarves listen out for yarns of ruins, caverns or delves. There seem any number of choices – this area was settled, raided, conquered, reconquered, and is slowly being resettled – but at length they pick one in an easy ride of the hamlet. The locals know it’s a ruin, with caverns under it, and describe the path there fairly precisely. So a short ride later, the ponies are corralled in a makeshift bush camp and the Dwarves explore a stream leading to this supposed ruin.
The ever-reliable scout Jotunn gets them to a point where they can decide whether to explore the shabby skeleton of a large house, check out the smell of flame-grilled fish, or make their way round to the low earthen escarpment behind the ruin. They choose the latter and scale a ramp to where they can spy on the cook-fire. Two smallish wood-wise illkin, is their guess. But they also find an escape tunnel in the escarpment and decide to use this handy back door.
They are made to feel unwelcome
Two trap disarms later Crompton has them down the tunnel and below ground level and they reset party order. Jotunn (with Cateyes) takes point, Crompton rearguard. They move cautiously to where they overwhelm a couple of small grey illkin – some vague resemblance to a Brownie – then have a choice of two doors. The right door leads to a room or passage, but the puzzle-looking frame opposite the door discourages them and they choose left door. At which point some walking corpses emerge from a hidden niche, attack, and are dealt with by these veterans of zombie-fighting.
The left door leads to a passage that dog-legs around to another chamber door. Voices behind, perhaps goblinoid. Kicking the door open Cauleigh uses his glass globe as a grenade while Crompton and Jotunn fire their arquebuses. At this range the bullets chop at least one small hobgoblin down each, and the glass globe smashes to become a caustic bomb, dealing horrific damage to one unlucky victim. The survivors panic helplessly back against vertical bars.
“You have balls, I’ll grant you! To beard me in my very lair! Well… time to die!”
This is the end of session mark, from the conclusion of Bride of the Black Manse. Players have a week to feel slightly guilty about attacking Hobgoblins, I have a week to decide what the treasure is. I do no further evil planning. To tell the truth, no planning of any kind apart from deciding the combat ‘gimmick.’
Fierce fighting seems called for
The Dwarves face a lesser demon, and to make it harder, can’t easily see it – the entrance it has spoken from is part-broken and it has an odd shape, being 4’ x 4’ with no head and speaking from a stomach-mouth. There’s a variety of SRs to either see it or get the hell back, the end result of which places Fennec pretty much front and centre, Cauleigh ready with his caliver, then Jotunn and then Crompton way back in rearguard.
From whence he is attacked by silent-footed, well-disciplined Hobgoblins with polearms. The demon has used his voice to distract the Dwarves, allow the younglings to escape, and size up his opposition.
As Crompton [L1 SPD SR] manages to not be killed outright and parries off voulge blades with his arquebus, Cauleigh fires, aiming under the shimmering shield-like barrier for the demon maw. The barrier shoots his bullet down.
“Is that all you’ve got? Well, you’re in a world of trouble”
Cauleigh ducks back as Fennec debuffs with a Dispell. The shield fails.
Jotunn and Cauleigh help Crompton but the Hobgoblins smartly allow them the upper hand, all the way back into the guard chamber where any number of voulges can be brought into play. The Dwarves (having suffered from Morlock tactics) fall back into the dogleg.
The demon stalks closer, pulling a scarlet tongue-like object from its maw, and tossing it down, from where it writhes towards Fennec. Seeing this the wizard clenches his buttocks, powers up his staff and delivers a L5 TTYF into the shieldless demon! [440 damage thank you very much] There’s an intense crimson blast and as his vision clears Fennec finds the snaky thing has gone and only smoking ashes remain where the demon was standing.
Plain dealing is common sense
Negotiations ensue. Aside from relatives of the dead youngsters, the Hobgoblins are willing to compromise. Their spokesperson, Speaker, and Jotunn (who has a few words of goblin-tongue in common with him) agree that treasure (that the demon had them searching for) can be recovered and split 50-50.
[Jotunn gains a +5 CHR temporarily with these Hobgoblins, while Crompton loses 5 CHR temporarily for not accepting an offered flask. Sometimes paranoia is healthy, sometimes not.]
Later it proves that more than one Hobgoblin knows a smattering of common, of the getting-by-in-a-tavern variety.
The Hobgoblins see themselves as soldiers, the youngsters are cadets of a sort. The demon had ‘volunteers’ down a shaft into a lower dungeon, but none have come back up.
[This information is not volunteered all of a sudden, there are a couple of increasingly chummy shared meals over the day to come. Jotunn carries the load with L1 CHR SRs]
The bereaved minority faction splits and arms a trap again behind everyone’s back, but natural Dwarf paranoia averts any disaster there.
Beyond the puzzle-trap chamber, the shaft chamber reeks of dead bodies. A crude wooden mine-head and gantry-lift have been rigged up over a square-cut shaft. Volunteers are called for! Cauleigh finds himself sharing the gantry with Axl: armed for close-quarters, a gold piece under his tongue to pay the ferryman and the blessings of his tribe hummed behind him.
I’ve gone with the dT&T rulebook a little more with this tribe. It felt right, on the south side of the river and closer to their Deathless Army roots. Harmonies are a thing.
About six fathoms down the gantry sets down on the remains of Hobgoblins the boss simply flung down. The chamber it rests in is covered with snakes. To Cauleigh, they look poisonous. They aren’t bothered by fire.
Snakes! Why did it have to be snakes!
After some thinking and experimentation and bargaining for labor the puzzle is solved with a bonfire which first clears away snakes from its immediate area, then is turned into a fire-walled path to the stone entry-slab across the chamber. (It’s not that the snakes particularly avoid the fire, but they will die if they physically wriggle through.) Rotting Hobgoblin remains scattered among the snakes make this a noxious experience, later mitigated a little with fungus nose-inserts. With sturdy boots Crompton has little fear, and studies the slab, deciding its runes look ominous and it is a tomb-seal block, not a door as such.
A leisurely meal later the fire is rebuilt and Fennec disarms the magic trap with a Dispell, and Crompton disarms the non-magic trap. Levers, anyone?
This minor puzzle is solved only after Hobgoblins return with various tools. Jotunn and Cauleigh use voulge-heads as makeshift crow-bars.
The tunnel beyond leads to another seal-door. The relief and color on this are in good order and suggest that a demon pretty similar to the boss is buried here.
After another leisurely meal and fire-rebuilding the Dispell is repeated, Crompton disarms the tunnel trap and the door, and the muscles force the door in by ramming it with pick-axes.
And the wraith attacks!
There’s a nasty little combat as the disturbed demonic wraith becomes more tangible and Crompton is part-poisoned by its vapour and Jotunn’s magic shield is crushed. Magic weapons (including Crompton’s arquebus) work though, and a Glue-You from Fennec decides the combat. After he performs an acrobatic and palm-burning rope descent! [L2 DEX SR]
[This wraith is more of a progressive damage gimmick but has a lot of undead CON so overkill is called for.]
The deal is fifty-fifty and once six burly volunteers lift the sarcophagus lid the next puzzle is: where’s the treasure?
The mummified demon remains have a silver spike right through them; its belly-mouth has a jaw that features two enormous gold-and-gem-crusted teeth; four bronze holy relics guard its remains; and a holy circlet-chain with richly inset crystal is tucked in the winding-cloth.
Negotiations decide that the silver spike is left, the Hobgoblins get the bronzes, the Dwarves get the circlet, and each side takes one fang.
Bidding farewell to their temporary comrades the Dwarves collect their corralled ponies and head on upriver. Jotunn mourns his shield. He kept the spikes, and they might be useful. The others urge him to look forward to finding a town with a master smith.
Props for the dungeon: Dyson’s Compendium 2015, The Ruins of Ettin Manor for the ruin+caverns, with traps marked. Wizardawn’s area generator for the population and monster generator for the boss.
A Hobb named Terry is town boss
Progressively the river-landings have gotten tougher and pit-fighting has become more evident. On this particular occasion, some three days from Ironbridge, the Dwarves walk their ponies into the village environs and stop to chat to guards.
It’s not their first intimation of raiders but now, there’s some shape and form to the story. Bounty-killers might get work here, because raiders have been attacking outlying homesteads. Maybe raiders off the plateau? Maybe dog-head or wolf-head raiders?
The town has a fighting pit and there’s warning that the fighting is fist to fist, body to body.
But more interested in news of the area than fighting the four tether outside the tavern and head inside. Local barkeep, town Marshall and sometime Justiciar Terry the Hobb treats them to poor grog and a little news. But for news of raiders he refers them to his Sheriff.
The Sheriff is a human, or maybe half-Elf, of middle years, salt and pepper bearded, poised and confident. His anti-magic talisman sets Fennec’s teeth on edge, but he Cauleigh and Jotunn sit down with the Sheriff. Over good wine he fills in some detail for them.
Fennec recognizes the description as a creature foreign to these parts until the Deathless Army brought them: Gnolls, brutal and blood-hungry. One eye-witness, though unreliable, describes a silvery snake coiling around one’s neck.
They hit the road to Ironbridge
But the Sheriff plays down the idea of bounties, for how would any proof be valid? He passes on a yarn of another time and place that now throws a shadow over this region. It seems the white-armored Urukun may aspire to reclaim his lost falchion with the army he reportedly raises. It’s Cauleigh’s turn to clench his buttocks as he tries to keep dead-pan (that’s the falchion he restored, he keeps it in his saddle-bags).
Crompton attempts to interest the Sheriff in learning a spell or two but he is too oblique, or the Sheriff too much of a warrior. He gathers that Ironbridge has a rogue’s guild.
With a better description of Ironbridge’s necromancer (a pleasant woman resident at the Olfoot manor) ruler (Lord Fabious Orctooth) and chief law officer (Sir Titus Lytera) the four Runaway Restorers set their mounts noses upriver for Ironbridge. And by dint of declining to intervene at sad Jacob’s Spur and pushing on past haunted Fort Tenras they arrive at dawn the following day as the session ends.
Props for the area: inspired very much by Dyson’s Compendia 2014 and 2015, linking Atharva Plateau in the one and Baraloba and Environs in the other, and Village Backdrop: Summerford for the backbone of how Ironbridge affects the economy, and therefore what the local villages are like. I pulled Terry’s town out of my own head: I’ve watched a lot of Westerns.