Monday, September 1, 2008

Runelords D&D: Six Months Later

This series is a session-by-session recap of the Rise of the Runelords campaign over the course of the school year. We've just begun the game again after summer break, and the heroes are picking up again at the beginning of book three. The current party:

- Deanda, Elf Druid
- Kiikii, Human Conjurer/Malconvoker
- Nakor, Human Transmuter
- Jaime, Human Cleric of Iomedae
- Kraca, Dwarf Monk
- Slavla, Half Elf Barbarian/Fighter

It had been a long winter in Varisia, but as it always does, winter turned to spring, and spring to summer. It wasn't until six months after their success against Xanesha that the young heroes Deanda, Kiikii, Nakor, Jaime, Kraca, and Slavla, were called on once again.

Over the past six months, the group of adventurers had found time to relax, replenish supplies, and outfit their small home in Sandpoint. In that time, their names had also begun to spread across the western coast of Varisia. After thwarting a goblin seige, slaying a servant of Lamashtu, killing several goblin heroes, stopping a serial killer, and saving the life of Magnimar's Lord Mayor... they had made quite a name for themselves.

It was the Lord Mayor himself who called for their aid. Apparently, a fort on the edge of Magnimar's holdings known as Fort Rannick had been out of contact with Magnimar for several weeks and the Council of Ushers was getting worried. Lord Mayor Grobaras decided that the heroes would be perfect for the job. The heroes quickly agreed, eager to get away from the slow and sleepy town-life, so after giving them each 300 gold for the journey, the heroes set to work gathering supplies.

That night, as the heroes gathered at a local Magnimarian tavern for supper, known as the Tarnished Tankard. As they ate, a familiar face approached them - the elven ranger Shalelu. She joined the group for dinner and expressed personal interest in traveling to Fort Rannick, as she'd heard that the party was going. The adventurers were curious however, and grilled the young elf as to why she was so interested. Shalelu eventually admitted that there was a man there who she needed some questions from. A black arrow that once she may have called 'father'... The group needed little more information and welcomed the ranger along. They left at first light.

The path east was well worn, even though no true roads had been laid out. They traveled along the Yondabakari river and had safe travels, as Kraca and Slavla had seen to it over the last several months to make sure that the last assembled goblin forces were either dispersed or dead.

A few nights before their arrival at Turtleback Ferry however, a village directly south of Fort Rannick, the travelers came across an interesting sight. They came upon a small train of covered-wagons seemingly run by Varisian gypsy's. Before approaching, the group argued about what would be the best way to approach such a gathering. Nakor and Jaime each offered what little information they had - Nakor from a geographical standpoint, and Jaime from a religious, but it was truly Deanda who was the most comfortable in their situation as she had traveled with gypsy's before. The druid knew that they favored gifts that outsiders brought, and offered the caravan guards the scarf of Iesha as a gift.

This brought puzzled looks from the guards, though the heroes were welcomed into the camp as the sounds of the Ch'in echoes out through the night, matched the movements of an exotic Varisian dancer. After spending only a short amount of time in the gypsy camp, the group was invited one-by-one to speak with the matriarch of the gypsy clan, the elder of their family.

As each adventurer entered the matriarch's small wagon, the found it filled with strange items - from haunting candles to nameless components in glass jars to strands of beads and bones. A glass crystal ball sat behind the woman who was seated before them, cloaked in silk and purple scarves. Her deep purple eyes gazed over the scarves as each individual entered.

She greeted each of them by name, as if she knew them, and the chair across from her at the small table she sat at slowly pulled itself out as it offered them a seat. She spoke a brief and cryptic message to each of them.

"Time is a path we walk all but blind, glimpsing only the ground at our feet. Looking back, we see shadowy traces of what has passed. Looking forward, there is naught but mist. Desna has granted me the power to shed light upon the path of time." She gestured to the stack of cards which sat silent on the table before her. "These are Harrow cards. They are stepping stones which we walk up and down upon to see what has been, what is, and what might be. These sights can weigh heavily on the soul of those who see them, but they also grant opportunities to change not only what might be, but what has been, and everything in between. If you wish, you may take a single card as your guide."

The cards fanned themselves out face-down along the table, and one-by-one our heroes took their cards.

DM Note: I do not own a Harrow Deck, but I wanted to use something nicer then playing cards, so I used a set of Rune Cards I owned.

Kraca drew the card Initiation. Kiikii drew the card The Self. Slava drew the Possessions card. Nakor drew the card Standstill. When Jaime entered, the elder offered him a card as well, though Jaime respectfully declined. He said that he wished the mysteries of his future to remain hidden, so that he would not be bound by the fear or expectations of things to come. The woman smiled and nodded, as the cleric left the wagon. When Deanda entered, the woman was quite silent, before finally speaking."

"What happened to Iesha?"

Deanda relayed the story of the gypsy girl whom Aldern had stolen the heart of, before killing brutally. She explained how they found her scarf in his mansion, and were able to kill the man that killed her, and freed her spirit from the strange enchantment which bound her there. They had laid her to rest...

The woman nodded, and spoke in slow even tones. "Iesha was my granddaughter."

Finally, the cards spread themselves once more, and the elder spoke again. "You may take two cards if you wish Deanda. One for you, and one for Iesha, who never had a chance to draw from this deck, and never will." Deanda drew the cards Gateway and Wholeness.

The party slept soundly that night, and when they awoke the camp was nowhere to be seen. The faintest gathering of ashes beneath what seemed to be newly-grown grass was the only indication that anyone had gathered here the night prior. From the look of the campsite though, it would appear that no one had camped here for several months.

In their hands as they awoke however, were their cards... The whole thing felt like a dream, but they all knew it was more. With the words of the Varisian Fortuneteller fresh in their minds, and the strange runic cards in their hands, the group set out once more for Turtleback Ferry.

Shortly after they left the Varisian camp, the rains came. For the next two and a half days, it rained almost non-stop, and when the reached the rain-drenched shores of Turtleback Ferry, the storm seemed to show no signs of letting up. Entering the small village they were met with little resistance. Nakor, Kraca and Deanda headed to the shrine of Erastil to speak with Father Shreed - the mayor and head priest of the town. Kiikii and Slavla went to Bottoms Up - the local tavern - for a drink, and Jaime went to pray.

From Father Shreed, the group learned that Turtleback Ferry had not heard from the Black Arrows of Fort Rannick (about 20 miles to the north) in a couple weeks - just about the same time that the rains began. Seven days ago, a small band of militiamen headed north to investigate, but they never returned. Also, hunters in the nearby woods had noticed a migration of boar, bear, and firepelt cougars, to the edges of the woods. This, Father Shreed thought, might have been a sign of activity from the Ogrekin and Ogres the called the Kreegwood their home.

Nakor knew little about the overall geography of the land north of Turtleback Ferry, though he did point out that the Kreegwood, and the northern mountain range, were home to various Ogre tribes and Ogrekin families - specifically centered around a mountain known as Hook Mountain. The Black Arrows were the first line of defense again these creatures, and have always been highly successful in their line of work.

Kraca had heard something of the Black Arrows and said what little he knew. The Black Arrows were highly trained archers and warrior who often had to go through an extensive training program before being allowed admittance. The organization actually drew a lot of ex-convicts as it took applicants of all backgrounds. By the end of the Black Arrow training, Kraca explained, it didn't matter where you came from. You became an Arrow.

The group set out at first light the next day, but on their way to the fort, Nakor heard something strange - like the low and pained growl of an animal. Investigating, the group found a bear that had been caught in an iron bear-trap. Deanda calmed the creature and found that it was highly intelligent - probably even the companion of a ranger or a druid. With some great effort, Slavla ripped open the trap, just in time too as a pack of hunting dogs burst through the trees.

Jaime and Shalelu show arrows and bolts at the dogs while Slavla and Kraca closed the gap in order to use melee tactics. A blast of glitterdust from Kiikii sent two of the five dogs into a blind frenzy, while another was singed by gouts of flame from Deanda's fists. The bear fought along their side, drawing most of the dog's attacks, as it clawed back on it's own. Nakor's skin rippled as he took the form of a troglodyte - wading into battle himself as he swung his heavy earthbreaker at the nearest enemy. Soon, the dogs had all fallen, before the hunter even had arrived.

It wasn't long before the hunter himself, a deformed Ogrekin hillbilly came within sight. He shouted out a challenge to the heroes, who gladly took him up on it. With a running jump, Slavla brought his polearm down - neatly cleaving off the giant's left arm entirely. The giant merely laughed and readied his spear. Fortunately, the creature never had a chance to attack, as a second glitterdust turned him blind, arrows and bolts sunk deep into his rubbery flesh, and Nakor brought his earthbreaker down for the finishing blow.

The ogrekin's masterfully crafted spear was there, but apparently he wasn't alone. Thanks to Deanda's keen eye for nature, along with some help from the bear they rescued, a small pathway was found. As they walked out onto it, Deanda spoke with the bear and learned that it's master had been forced to "flee the keep" only to be "captured at the farm". Before they could begin to think about what this meant, an echoing voice from the clearing ahead reached their ears.

"Hey Mammy! When's Dinner?!"

- - -

DM Notes: (These are player-safe, no spoilers)

What the party seemed to enjoy

- These guys love a good fight. Though the dogs and ogrekin to some degree were "tools" according to Nakor, it never hurts to have a fight where the party just invokes the power of "major pwnage".

- The encounter with Varisian gypsies seemed to go well. I kept it short and sweet and tried not to bog down the first session back with too much storytelling. Get in, get cards, get out.

What I could have done better
- Knowing that the party was itching for a fight, I easily could have thrown in a random encounter on their way to Turtleback Ferry, but I have never been a fan of "Wandering Monsters" since they don't advance the plot, so I steered clear of this. If we'd had more time though, and weren't in a hurry to finish the game this year, I think adding in a battle (planned out so it would actually be fun and meaninful) would have been an improvement.

- Should have worked on my Varisian accent a little more before we began. It was supposed to be a Russian accent. Scottish for Shoanti, Russian for Varisians. My bad.

I think it's important every game to let one or two characters take the spotlight. Every session, I try to give someone a chance to shine. I try not to spread myself too thin, and try to focus on a different player or pair of players each session. All of the players have a chance to strut their stuff during each session in different ways though, even when they may not realize it.

- Deanda, coming from a past with gypsies, really took an important role during the gypsy encounter. Her past was tied in with the gypsies, and she had a chance to explain to the gypsy elder the story of Iesha - the elder's granddaughter who had died. Deanda was allowed to draw an extra card. Deanda also was able to calm the bear that they found and could identify it as a druid's animal companion.


Mark said...

Might as well get to Nakor's first entry for the year.

It has been six months since my group slayed Xanesha and crushed the perverse group of assassins operating within Magnimar. With no leads on Malfeshnakor, it has left my group with little actual adventuring to do. To be truthful, I believe this is exactly what I needed.

My father was a powerful warrior and taught me a few things about fighting, but I had always felt that he was as limited as my brother in his lack of magical powerful. I know too well that even the most powerful of champions can be laid to waste by a single spell. However, in the Storval Plateaus I personally witnessed such powerful wizards laid to ruin without even the chance of making a magical gesture. It was already obvious that fighters were limited, but I saw more and more that wizards were as well.

That was when I found the Thassilonian tome containing the lost secrets of the Knight Phantoms. At first I approached it out of academic curiousity but the more I've been learning Thassilonian from Brodert Fink the more I realize this is what I've been looking for; A mastery of both the martial and the arcane arts. Speed, strength, magic, and discipline... this tome shall lead me to exactly what I've been looking for.

In preparation for ascending into a Knight Phantom, I've been learning more and more under the tutelage of Brodert Fink while practicing my skills with martial weapons. After seeing the Shoanti in action, I took a fancy to one weapon in particular that they call an Earth Shatter. Having seen the deadly potential of this weapon for destroying the skull of an opponent first hand, I had weapon smiths in Magnimar custom build me one. This enormous weapon can truly be viewed as a weapon of the gods themselves, making the name Mjolnir seem to fit my hammer well.

I've remained in Sandpoint for the most part, meaning that I haven't seen my brother who is still working for the guard in Magnimar, or even much of the group for that matter. I've heard that Kraca and Slavla have been entertaining themselves with slaying goblins in the region, but other than that I've held little contact with the rest.

However, it appears our services are needed once more to investigate the absence of communication with the Black Arrows. That organization is a testament of how strong discipline can even turn criminals into powerful soldiers who fight for the law. I was eager to accept and get a chance to help such and meet such a fine group.

Shalelu wished to join us and seemed sincere, but Deanda was astute in noticing that she was holding information back. I know better to have uncontrolled forces on the battlefield, so I forced the truth out of her. It was regretful to harry an ally so, but safety ensures the life of my party.

The slow journey left me tempted to summon a steed of my own and prepare ahead of them, but such splitting is obviously tactically inadvisable. We noticed a Varisian band of gypsies along the way which Deanda insisted on approaching. I found no need to but I felt compelled to accompany the druidess for her protection. We lost her once and we need not have that happen again. However, we were able to gain from the visit with some general knowledge and even a cryptic telling of the future from the elder of the group. The magic contained within those cards was powerful and undeniable. This makes their meaning all the more concerning.

Some of the meanings already seem rather obvious. Kraca receiving Initiation indicates how he is still earning himself into our group and has yet to truly join our ranks. Kiikii drawing the Self is a clear revealing how he holds his self in too high regard, still refusing to acknowledge the gods despite our travels and despite Desna's clear involvement in his life. Slavla drawing Possessions is of little surprise considering how is capable of understanding little beyond what is before him. Wholeness for the spirit of Iesha is simply that she is freed and finally whole. Deanda drawing gateway can mean many things, though I hope it is not foreshadowing another passing from this world. Lastly, I drew Standstill. I was briefly turned to stone by Xanesha, so that leads me to wonder if it is merely a reference to the past, or at least hope so. Any other musings I have on that are particularly ominous.

The gypsies are skilled in leaving little trace behind as we awoke alone that morning. When we arrived in Turtleback Ferry, I learned from an incompetent mayor that a search part was sent to Fort Rannick a week ago and never returned. We will stay the night and advance forth ourselves in the morning. Our skilled troupe of adventurers should fare better than unskilled militia carrying little better than sticks into battle.

Storyteller said...

Great post Mark! Thanks for the contribution. I'll be in touch with XP bonuses.

Slavla, The Dragon Slayer said...

From the Pen of Slavla:
Slavla continue to very much have fun with all adventurerers. Get drunk very much and kill things. Keep wanting stronger and strongest bad guys to kill with pointy stick.
Slavla met the jipsees, they nice to slavla. One with purply eyes give slavla card, slavla friend kraca say it says "possessions" and says it means "things". Maybe it means slavla will get new stronger magical pointy stick.
slavla wants more ways to kill, learnding how to jump and kill with pointy stick very nice. no inbred rednecky ogre beat me. Slavla forgets what he do in battle sometime, go into rage but heard about something better. maybe learn to do that soon.
we soon get to fort where real ogres might be at and save black arrers. was at turdy back ferry place now, the turtys looked yummy...
more rednecky inbred ogres commin (and they say they gotz dinner), only mean more blood on pointy stick and food.

Ian said...

The events of six months ago still linger in my mind, the fight against the Skinsaw murderers and their cursed leader Xanesha the least of what haunts me. Feeling helpless in the fight against the golem, watching my strikes against it have no effect, the thought of it still makes me shudder. I did what I could do, ran to get support for our team. But alas, I could find no one and ran back to the clock tower. Upon returning to the scene of the battle and even worse feeling came over me, seeing my new companion Deanda fallen on the floor. The fact that she was an elf never concerned me, I have never understood such biases of my race, as I have seen the kindness of all good races in my travels. Seeing my companion dead brought a sense of guilt with it, even though I know I did the only thing I could have done. I hope one day she can come to forgive me, or perhaps I can prove myself honorable in her and my comrades eyes.

But I digress, these past six months have been rather enjoyable. Most of the time I traveled with the poor half-elf Slavla. I feel somewhat bad for him, as he has so much physical prowess, and so little mental... Nonetheless, I have taken a liking to him, he is honest, and good, as well as the fact I know better than crossing him and facing his self-titled "pointy stick." I have seen that pointy stick obliterate far too many goblins over these past months to ignore its power in his hands. I also have been perfecting my technique, finding these goblins as good training bags and their traps as a wonderful way to hone my reflexes.

But all good things must come to an end, as we were summoned back to Magnimar by the Lord Mayor to journey out to Fort Rannick to see what has prevented the Black Arrows, an elite ranger group, from returning messages. So, after receiving 300 gold to purchase supplies, we set out to the east.

I should mention that an elf is also accompanying us. I have gathered that she is a skilled goblin hunter, and has traveled with the party before, probably giving her more of a connection with these people than I have yet established.

Also on that point, I have noticed the watchful eye of Nakor on me quite consistently, as well as a resentment from the druid, which I guess in part I understand. But I feel Nakor is judging me and appraising my worth as an adventurer. It is slightly unnerving, as I know my talents have been useful to the party, but still I wish to find favor in all of my companions eyes, as they are my partners on my personal path to perfect myself as a dwarf.

Alas, I am again off along some rabbit trail, and let me return to the matters at hand. We encountered a band of gypsies on our way to the fort, and questioned the idea of approaching them before acting. Deanda has past history with gypsies as I gathered she traveled with them sometime before joining with the others. There were a few tense moments before the guards parted and allowed us to join in the mellow festivities.

However, the mellowness did not last long for me, as the elder of the gypsies called us to her wagon one by one and offered us a glimpse into time. I balked at first from taking a card, but sensing no malice from the old woman I drew the card Initiation from her deck. Still now I think of what it could mean, but nothing is certain in my head regarding the card.

We awoke in the morning to find the camp empty, in fact it took several moments to remember there was a camp there just the night before. We all still had our cards in hand, so it was most certainly not a dream, but it did feel like one upon waking. We continued our journey towards the fort.

We approached the small town of Turtleback Ferry in a steady rain, which has been quite persistent lately, almost unnaturally so, but I am not alarmed, one cannot control or predict the weather. Myself, Deanda and Nakor visited with Father Shreed to discuss goings on about the fort. It seems like something is going on at Rannick, as a party sent to contact them has yet to return to Turtleback. The mayor seemed hesitant to assume the worse, but the look in his eyes told what he knew was the case. We departed and prepared for our journey to the fort.

This is where we are now, me writing in preparation of the adventure ahead. The others are already asleep, but I have had a lot on my mind, and felt it best to empty my head and heart onto a piece of paper. Best to battle with a clear mind, for I fear we will have many battles on the road ahead.

Kraca the Dwarf

Shanika said...

Deanda's Thoughts..

As to be expected our journey together has continued. Naught but six months following our previous adventures, we have been summoned by the Lord Mayor. This long, empty winter has put my mind into a strange state of repose and I am apprehensive about the adventure to come. I am out of practice.

The situation that has arisen is one of a far less ominous nature than I had expected when recalling our previous encounters. We, nonetheless, have undertaken this chore. I find it strange that a group so noteworthy in combat as The Black Arrows could be in any sort of trouble requiring outside help, however, that seems to be exactly the current circumstances.

Following our departure from Magnimar, I had expected much more trouble from the bush. The woods were quiet. This was, as it turns, due to Slavla’s restless nature and Kraca’s friendship with the boy. These two louts had apparently been laying waste to goblin-kind across the Varisian coast. Such meaningless genocide is beyond me, but I feel as if any opposition I may have to such an act would be undeniably refuted by my comrades, hence I move on.

On our trek, we did, inevitably, come across other beings. Gypsies. Oh, how long it had been since I had last seen the vibrant colors, heard the wonderful songs, and enjoyed the company of gypsy-folk. I missed it. We discussed for some time how to go about approaching them. Jaime, the fool, refused to wait for proper instruction and continued on ahead, despite my efforts to have Slavla hold him. I took matters into my own hands; these men had never met nor knew how to interact with gypsies before, I couldn’t allow them to offend them. I took one of the numerous scarves I kept in with my possessions as an offering to the elder. I was not careful in choosing, however, and soon realized what my impulse had done. I had brought them Iesha’s garb. The moment they reacted to the gift I knew Iesha was theirs, and, for there to be such recognition in their faces, she must have been important. I told them I would tell the elder exactly how we came upon this scarf and, soon, the camaraderie commenced.

Meeting the elder was more of an honor than I could have ever asked for, but receiving a card from the Harrow Deck was a shock. We were outsiders, strangers to the clan, yet we were being offers something so precious. I have only twice before, in all my years traveling with gypsies, been offered a chance such as this. However, due to my devout belief that Pharasma will show me a path when the time is right, I have never before accepted such a gift.

I entered the elder’s chamber and sat. I knew what I had to say and simply waited for the elder to prompt me to speak. She listened to my story. I told her of Aldern and how Iesha was smitten with this man. I told her of how Aldern killed poor Iesha and made her soul restless. I told her of how my comrades and I came upon this tale and destroyed Aldern. I told her that Iesha was now at peace. This was when the elder told me what I was being granted: two cards, one for myself, one for Iesha. I could not bring myself to reject such an offer for, though Pharasma guides me and I am sure she will show me my path, Iesha was another story. Who was I to deny the gypsy’s soul her chance to claim an honor such as this? Iesha was never given this chance in life, I was not going to take it away from her. I drew the cards. Wholeness for Iesha. Gateway for myself. I have yet to decipher what these mean, however Iesha’s seems fairly straight-forward. I have no intention of delving into the meaning of my own Harrow card; Pharasma would not approve.

Upon rising the next day, the camp was cleared with little sign of ever having been used. We continued on our path. Who knows what will come of the gypsies and whether we will ever cross their paths again?

We made our way to Turtleback Ferry, where we investigated the Black Arrow situation further. Soon enough, we headed out to see first-hand what exactly was going on. These woods were not quite as still as those we had traversed the past few days. Cries could be heard through them; something was in pain. We found a black bear, the poor thing, caught in a trap. My first instinct was to calm him. Strangely enough, this wasn’t very hard; as I approached, he settled. He was obviously trained; he was someone’s companion. We all struggled for a bit, attempting to get him loose, and then we heard the dogs.

In a last ditch effort to get him loose, Slavla heaved apart the trap and the bear was free. It was just in time. The dogs were upon us and their master could be heard singing in the distance. No sooner had we dispatched the hounds than the gruesome ogrekin himself appeared before us. Shouting of promises of sparing our lives for the bear, this loathsome creature spoke in the crudest sense. I would bet even Slavla thought this creature unintelligent. We made quick work of him. There are more to come, I’m sure of it; I can already hear them in the distance