Thursday, October 16, 2008

Runelords D&D: Down Come The Rains

This series is a session-by-session recap of the Rise of the Runelords campaign over the course of the school year. The current party:

- Deanda, Elf Druid/Nature's Warrior
- Kiikii, Human Conjurer/Malconvoker
- Nakor, Human Transmuter/Knight Phantom
- Jaime, Human Cleric of Iomedae
- Kraca, Dwarf Monk/Ninja
- Slavla, Half Elf Barbarian/Fighter/Frenzied Berserker

You all are seated in Fort Rannick, some of you having just arrived back this morning. The fire burns brightly. All, at least for now, is at peace.

As our heroes had some time on their hands, they finally were relaxing -telling stories around the fire like they used to. Deanda, Nakor and Jaime shared some of their findings over the past two weeks. The adventurers were a little disturbed by Deanda's recounting of the Stone Giant assault, especially after Malfeshnakor's haunting warning.

Nakor made Lord Mayor Grobaras's information known, and only Jaime, he, and Slavla decided to take on the title of Lords and Ladies of Magnimar - pledging themselves to the defense of the city and it's holdings. To them fell the task of renaming the Fort, though in honor of the deceased Black Arrows they decided to not change the name yet.

The elves Deanda had met in the Mierani forest had come back with her, though the Fort was still very empty - despite the elves and their giant owl mounts.

And so, to a still and empty fort, our heroes retired to bed.

Dawn broke, and with it, disaster.

A frantic man, drenched in rain, and half-crazed had arrived at the keep an hour before dawn. Shrieking out in terror. Nakor and Slavla were quick to respond to the man's calls at the beckoning of an elf who had informed them of the man's arrival. He shouted his message through a veil of terror.

"They are drowning my Lords! The Skull River surges along its banks. Even the waters of Claybottom to the south invade the shore and spill across the land. Turtleback Ferry will be gone in a matter of hours! The people are doing their best to evacuate, but many are trapped in their attics watching the floodwaters rise. Father Shreed is holed up in the cathedrral with the sick, and they can't be moved easily, and what's worse, that old church could collapse an minute. You must help us!"

Within minutes, our heroes were hightailing it through the rains - most of them borne on the backs of Nakor's summoned shadow steeds.

When they arrived, the danger was clear an imminent. The floodwaters were rising, and a nearby ferry seemed about ready to overturn - filled with school children. Across the newly made pond, the church seemed poised to collaspe, though our heroes could still see movement within the upper stories.

Making for the boat, it wasn't long before a new threat presented itself. A nightbelly boa emerged from the water, and attacked little Tabitha Kramm - threatening to swallow her down - freckles, pigtails, and all.

Though our heroes fought hard, Tabitha was quickly swallowed up by the beast, as it wound itself around any who came close. Finally it fell, and with the help of summoned flying beasts, the adventurers were able to get the children and most of the sick to shore before... it came.

The creature which emerged from the waters was made from the stuff of legend and nightmares.

"A monsterous, undulating tangle of barbed tentacles explodes from the water. Its form spurns definable anatomy, a horror of prehistory atop a writhing mass of rubbery tentacles - some crowned with glaring infernal eyes. Its only recognizable feature is the black reptilian head rising above the morass of tentacles, a maw of flesh sheering teeth gaping wide before two piercing eyes, smouldering with alien intelligence."

This beast, Jaime announced, was a Mother of Oblivion. A servant of Lamashtu. Kiikii knew it better as Black Magga, a thought-to-be-mythical creature of the Storval Deep - a lake far to the north held at bay by Skull's Crossing - an ancient Thassilonian dam.

Suddenly, the tides had turned. Our heroes were mere playthings to Black Magga, who wrapped as many of them as she could in her barbed tentacles. A bite from her barbs drained Kraca's very essence along with Jaime's as she lashed out at Jaime, Slavla, and any others who dared to near her. When it looked as if Jaime had met his end, a puff of smoke and the smell of brimstone sealed his fate.

Malfeshnekor stood beside the grappled man. Lashing out with his sword however, Malfeshnekor struck down - not Jaime - but the Black Magga's tentacle. With one mighty sunder, the tentacle released it's grasp on Jaime. In response, the beast flung Malfeshnakor to the side, causing the man to fall to the ground - his infernal helmet falling to his side.

The infernal helmet however, was not an infernal helmet anymore. It was a tan, nondescript hat. A hat of disguise. Malfeshnakor was not a demon at all. The man's spined tail vanished, and for the first time, Jaime saw his true face. The man had beautiful features. Beautiful golden hair which shined in the sun, and amethyst eyes - matching Jaime's exactly. Malfeshnakor looked in every way like an older version of the young cleric. Malfeshnakor was Jaime's father.

The cleric could not believe his eyes. This was the man who had slain who he thought was his father those many years ago... Now lying at his feet. Not knowing what else to do, Jaime extended a hand to Malfeshnakor, trying to help the man up.

Malfeshnakor snarled. "No one kills my sons but me." And with that, he vanished.

As if the two were timed, The Black Magga - seemingly tired of these games, vanished beneath the water and fled. The rains had stopped, and the floodwaters were receding.

For now, at least, they had won.

The town of Turtleback Ferry cheered, and it was almost reminiscent of their days in the sleepy town of Saltmarsh. Once again, our adventurers were the heroes.

In their celebrations, Mayor Shreed offered the heroes a powerful restoration scroll from his treasury in exchange for one further favor.

"To the north lies Skull Crossing. It is the dam that holds back all of the Storval Deep. Even with these rainwaters, no flood like this should have ever happened, as the dam is equipped with floodgates to minimize the damage.

I'm not sure how the floodgates work, as the dam is also the home of a band of trolls. With these floodwaters arriving, and the appearance of Black Magga, a creature said to live in the Storval Deep north of this dam, it is clear that something must have happened at the dam.

It did not burst, for if it had, we would not have stood a chance. Something must be wrong with the floodgates though. Please, do us one last deed and head north to Skull's Crossing. Open the floodgates. Save our city from imminent destruction - I beg it of you noble heroes..."

What awaits our heroes next time... at Skull's Crossing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Runelords D&D: Twenty-Four Days

This series is a session-by-session recap of the Rise of the Runelords campaign over the course of the school year. The current party:

- Deanda, Elf Druid/Nature's Warrior
- Kiikii, Human Conjurer/Malconvoker
- Nakor, Human Transmuter/Knight Phantom
- Jaime, Human Cleric of Iomedae
- Kraca, Dwarf Monk/Ninja
- Slavla, Half Elf Barbarian/Fighter/Frenzied Berserker

DM Note: Our heroes had two weeks to do as they wished. I asked for player updates as to what they were doing during those two weeks. In response, for some of them I typed up information. I have reprinted that information here. PLAYERS - If you read this information, it is considered out-of-game. Do not metagame knowing information, unless they inform you of it in game.

Deanda visited the Mierani Forests to return the earrings. This is her story...

The cleaning of Fort Rannick went well, more or less. The stink of death still permeated the inner walls of Rannick, though the blood upon the outer fields had begun to wash away as the strange rains continued steadily. The outer walls of Rannick would need professional repairs to return to their former glory, and several of the inner rooms were now simply bare – as everything within them previously had been destroyed.

Taking to the skies, Deanda headed the Mierani forests. They were far, but as a hawk, the straight path was much quicker. Deanda felt a calming joy about her, as the wind whistled over her feathers high above the Varisian countryside. Down below the serene forests, winding rivers, and gently bustling towns of Varisia smiled back at her.

Finally, the forests of the Mierani Elves came into her vision. Deanda remembered the stories of them well, lush and green, pure and untouched by the civilizations of Man.

Surely, these were not the forests of her childhood.

The Mierani forests which once held her parent's home, now stood as blackened scars of former trees. Black tangled masses growing from a fertilizer of ashes now stood. A mark of death on the otherwise serene lushness of the Varisian countryside.

Searching through the shattered forest, Deanda was set upon by a small band of elves – nine in total. These elves may have once been the noble blooded of Mierani, but their hair was wild, and their eyes burned with anger. They easily saw Deanda’s true form through the guise she wore as a bird, and threatened to shoot if she did not present herself.

When Deanda did so, and presented the earrings, the elves fell to their knees. They apologized for their behavior and told Deanda the harrowing tale.

“They came at dawn. Thirty of them… Stone Giants all. They wished to pass to the shore, through our forests, but our Lord – your cousin – informed them that this was sacred land and they could not cross through it. Stone Giants are not evil creatures, and so our Lord approached the discussion as a kind one. But these Stone Giants were not good creatures. They… they slew him and swarmed our city. They were… too powerful. They uprooted entire trees. And they had… they had a dragon. The fires burned quickly. Your mother… your father and brother. They were visiting... They are all dead. I am sorry.”

“We were cowards, we fled at sight of the dragon’s flames. We nine are the last of the Mierani Elves. At least, so we thought. You are nobler in blood then all of us Lady Deanda. If you will have us, we wish to come with you. Our home is no more, and we have nowhere to go...” One of the older elves stepped forward. He bore a symbol on his tabard that none of the others did. “Lady Deanda, I am a member of the organization which you late family was. The Defenders of the Branch. If you can take us with you, I will gladly offer you membership. Though I am of low rank, I know of the initiation rituals, and am sure that your family’s spirits would be happy to see you join.” The elves looked to their new leader, waiting desperately for a reply…

Jaime officially pledged himself to the church of Iomedae, becoming a "blessed". He also joined the ranks of the Lightbringers. Jaime researched Iomedae. This is what he found...

Iomedae sees the world as a deadly place, filled with perpetual challenges and trials for those who battle for justice and defend the weak and innocent. Her followers should always act with honor and chivalry, and to uphold justice. Danger is to be faced head-on, with calm and resolve. Those who defeat evil are rewarded with Glory, while those who uphold the tenets of The Inheritor are rewarded with Virtue. The Inheritor's teachings are codified in a chivalric code known as the Iomedaean Code.

The Iomedaean Code
Duty to the People: This duty stresses courage, justice, mercy, valor, protection of the weak, and faithfulness to church superiors of officer of righteous law.
Duty to The Inheritor: This duty stresses obedience to Iomedae herself, devotion to the church, generosity, championing good against evil, putting the needs of the church and the faith above those of mortals.
Duty to a Lady: This duty pertains to the concept of courtly love, devotion to one's beloved, and respect toward all women in general.

A number of holy texts are venerated by the faith of Iomedae. The best-known work is likely The Book of the Code, a four-chapter work outlining the Iomedaean Code and providing examples of how one is expected to follow it. Another well-known work is the Book of Vows which details many of the vows taken by worshipers of Iomedae.

The faith of Iomedae is a very militaristic one, launching crusades against evil and championing causes. As one would expect, many soldiers, city watchmen, mercenaries, and others who make their living by the sword find themselves honoring The Inheritor.

Priests of Iomedae often travel the world on orders from their superiors to seek out and destroy evil. Older priests often work as strategists, military instructors, or judges. Their favored weapons are the longsword. Novices of Iomedae are known as the Blessed. Full priests are called the Glorious or, collectively, the Valorous Host. Other titles used by Iomedaean priests are Hero of the Third Rank, Hero of the Second Rank, Hero of the First Rank, Champion of Glory, Knight Gallant, Knight Courageous, Knight Valiant, and Knight Champion. Senior priests are called Paragons, while those who command armies are known as Paragon-Generals. These titles are separate from duty-titles such as postulant, novitiate, professed priest, cloistered cleric, affirmed priest, and templar. They are also separate from ranks within the temple hierarchy such as hierodeacon and abbot. In everyday use, senior priests are called Father or Mother, while lesser priests are known as Brother or Sister. There is also an elite order of priests known as the gloryswords. Priestly vestments include plate armor and red cloaks with silver trim.

A large numbers of paladins in Varisia follow Iomedae, as she herself is one. Because of this, and her utter dedication to Law and Good, paladins of Iomedae can be among the most devout, albeit overbearing, people on the Material Plane.

Affiliated Orders
The church of Iomedae is supported by numerous religious-military orders. One such order is the Lightbringers, a group devoted to the death of undead and evil outsiders. From the Lightbringers, many organizations spring, such as the Knights of the Chalice, and Sacred Exorcists. To join any of these organizations, a cleric or paladin must become an official member of the Church of Iomedae, not simply a follower. This involves monthly tithes, and the occasional call to duty. A follower of the Inheritor may sign up for membership at any temple to Iomedae.

Places of Worship
Temples, chapels, and shrines to Iomedae can be found throughout Varisia. Iomedae' temples are decorated with red, gold and silver trappings.

The Tests of Valor
Before advancing in rank, priests of Iomedae must clearly demonstrate their bravery, honor, and sense of justice. The exact nature of these tests varies, but they are revealed through prayer and divinely-inspired visions. They can range from tests of fortitude that can be completed within the temple to crusades against the forces of evil.

- - -

Jaime also research the way of death in this world. This is what he found...

When someone dies, they ascend to the Boneyard – Pharasma’s realm. The Boneyard is situated atop a gigantic spire which pierces the Astral plane. The sides of this spire are pierced with an endless number of hooks.

When a soul comes before Pharasma, if that soul worshipped a God in life, the soul sees their deity before them, instead of Pharasma. If their deity of choice allows them, they are sent to that deitiy’s realm to live out their afterlife there.

If the soul worshiped Pharasma and pleased her, she will allow them to serve in her palace of death. If they angered her, they are buried in the boneyard. Finally, if they did not serve any God or angered theirs, a soul is affixed to the Wall of Souls (the sides of the spire) for eternity.

Many say though that since Pharasma is not an evil Goddess she actually allows these souls to live out their afterlife in some neutral fantasy – trapped in a moment from their mortal life to live out their afterlife in peace.

- - -

Finally, Jaime received a vision...

As Jaime slumbers, he dreams... A book is open on the table before him. An image is painted across both pages, a small man surrounded by twenty raised pedestals. The book closes. “The Call of the Gods” is written in beautiful text along it’s long faded cover.


Nakor sent letters to his mother, and brother requesting their help at the Keep. Nakor planned to raise a small army and wished their help with training. His brother, Caleb, arrived. His mother however, was busy with Korvosan business and sent a letter in response. Nakor also sent a letter to Lord Mayor Grobaras of Magnimar making their ownership of the keep official. The return letters from Grobaras and Nakor's mother are below.

Nakor Islani,

I would send an official of the Magnimarian Guard to meet with you, though with Fort Rannick’s great distance from Magnimar, this is simply an impossibility. Word of your doings have reached my ear through letters sent by Mayor Shreed of Turtleback Ferry, and I commend you and your companions on a job well done. Though it is of course quite sad that the Black Arrows, a noble group of warriors, have fallen, I am glad to hear that a group of fine adventurers have taken up the Fort as their own.

From what I heard of Mayor Shreed, the recapturing of Fort Rannick was an equal effort by all involved. For this purpose, I am approving his decision to grant the Fort to the five of you, in addition to naming you all official Lords and Ladies of Magnimar. The only stipulation to gaining this land and this title is that any who wish must pledge themselves to the defense of Magnimar. I don’t think I have to tell you that, since Fort Rannick has always been on the outskirts of Magnimarian territory, it is rare that we would actually call upon your services, but those who wish to take on this reward nonetheless must lay claim to it’s responsibilities.

Any who do not wish to swear themselves to Magnimar’s defense will thusly forfeit their sixth of the keep’s ownership and their title of Lord or Lady.

As we do need a military leader there (given that I assume you are planning to pledge your loyalty to Magnimar and it’s defense as well), I am placing you – under Military Ordinance 22-38, as acting military leader of Fort Rannick. This means that you are being allowed to raise an army, on Magnimar’s behalf. You will be an acting Lieutenant of Magnimar, and will be allocated a small amount of supplies because of this. Keep in mind that this is an army of Magnimar, though you are being given duty to recruit, train, organize, and oversee it.

Also, though I am naming you as military leader of the Keep, this does not necessarily give you any more control of the keep then your fellow adventurers, who still earn an equal portion of it for their duties. You will however be in charge of all military happenings at the keep. I encourage you to have your fellow adventurers help out in the development of this army.

Your primary objective, if stationed at Fort Rannick, is to protect the countryside from the ogres of Hook Mountain. Be forewarned that these beasts are dangerous. Also, it is to ensure that the ogres of Skull’s Crossing are kept in line.

Finally, as the Keep has changed ownership, the six of you may choose to rename it if you wish. Please send me a letter shortly with the new name, along with which of your fellow adventurers also have sworn themselves to Magnimar’s defense.

Be well Lieutenant Islani. Please share the information in this letter with your friends.

Lord Mayor Grobaras

- - -


My son, thank you for your letter.

I hope this reaches you well, for outgoing and incoming post are now being monitored very heavily.

I hate to be telling you this through a letter, but the King is dead. He was killed.

The city has gone mad. Riots plague the streets.

Korvosa has locked it’s doors to any coming or going. And the Acadamae has locked it’s as well. None are allowed to leave, so I am afraid I must stay and do what I can to stop the madness.

It is a joy to hear of your newfound prestige.

Do not visit, you will not be allowed in the city.

~Your Mother

From the Desk of Professor Miranda Cartel
Instructor of Transmutation

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Runelords D&D: Retaking Rannick

This series is a session-by-session recap of the Rise of the Runelords campaign over the course of the school year. The current party:

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

You awaken to the smell of brimstone.

After a night of rest in Lucrecia's chambers - the lamia matriarch defeated - they were greeted by an unfriendly visitor at dawn. The two ravens chirped lightheartedly in the corner, the signals that Malfeshnakor was there. Instantly, swords were drawn and Jaime called out a challenge to the demon that had slain his father those many years ago. They all had their predictions about who this mysteriously cloaked infernal creature was, but for now, he was simply a voice in the darkness.

Malfeshnakor laughed at their conquests, stating that he could really care less whether or not they retook the keep. He did offer them a warning however. "If you start stepping on the toes of Stone Giants, then... you will have to be dealt with." With a chilling laugh, the voice was gone.

Making their way topside, our heroes carved through the giant's resistance at Fort Rannick. Heading to the top floor, they slew Jaagrath Kreeg - the pappy of the Kreeg Ogres. With Jaagrath defeated, and his magical human-slaying ogre-hook in hand, the heroes seiged the rest of the fort. They made quick work of Dorella Kreeg, one of the ogre casters, and swept their way through the rest of the keep - killing a twisted ogre painter in the process.

In their travels, they came upon a hidden compartment in the room of the former Black Arrow captain, Lamatar. The secret catche contained several love letters and poems, as well as a lock of what Deanda identified as nymph hair. Putting the pieces together, Jakardros determined that Lamatar must have had a nymph mistress, which would explain the occasional retreats he would take away from the fort proper. Most likely over to Whisperwillow, the nearby forest which was said to house many fae creatures.

The adventurers came upon one room where a group of ogres were fighting over a horse skull. Using some magical trickery, Nakor was able to mage hand the skull into one of the ogre's sacks which brought forth a quick and angry battle, leaving all of the ogres quite pathetically incapacitated.

Their assault was expected however, and when they made their way into the Keep's courtyard, they were met with an army of ogres. The brutes numbered over ten in total, their leader waving a large ladle in anger. With a warcry, both sides charged, and battle was joined beneath the pounding rain.

Spells were cast, creatures were summoned, arrows were fired, and blows were exchanged. Vale fell in the fight, as some of our heroes threatened to do as well. However, finally the battle was won, and Fort Rannick was free.

Riding back to Turtleback Ferry, the group brought good tidings. Though the Black Arrows were dead, Fort Rannick had been reclaimed. In return for this great deed, Mayor Shreed announced that from hereforth, the keep would belong to them, and if they wished, they would become Lords and Ladies of Magnimar.

Finally, our heroes had earned a rest.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Dice Were Everywhere...

With a cough and a sputter, Storyteller stumbled his way out from the shadows - a dull gray mist fading from this features as he blinked slowly - his eyes adjusting to the change in light. His gaze focused on those who stood before him. He sighed and shook his head.

"I suppose I have some explaining to do...

I woke myself an hour past dawn, as always, in order to take a walk and clear my head. As my feet reached the cool floor however, it happened. I could hear it as I opened my door, and as I brushed my teeth. The distant, yet distinct sound of a die rolling. It followed me as the day stretched onward. The sounds. The dice..."

Storyteller's eyes were wide as his hands gripped each other tightly. "I thought it was nothing. Maybe I'd stayed up too late. But it didn't stop. I couldn't focus. I failed tests in my classes, couldn't sit for more then a few seconds at the keyboard... Always the roll of the dice. Taunting me with failure.

So I decided to do something about it.

Late one night, the roll of dice woke me from my sleep. It had come from the room above, or so I thought. I climbed the stairs to the fourth floor, but they seemed to go on forever. Ahead of me always, was that infernal rolling. The smell of Cheetos and Mountain Dew began to permeate the staircase - burning my nostrils and beckoning tears. Still, I carried onward.

I met a goat on the staircase after my third day of journeying. The goat was wise, and offered me a riddle. I ate the goat, and with my newfound strength continued onward.

Finally, I came upon a door to the roof. A door that should not have been. A door that defied all I knew of reality. Yet here it stood. I knocked. Once. Twice. It swung open beneath my touch.

Beyond, the rooftop stretched to infinity, with the stars of the heavens high above. The roll of dice echoed from the endless gaming tables. I was drawn through the crowds, the Sun Chips, and the geeky laughter. I came to my table. The table of my life.

And there I was - a small figurine, red hair and all. The gridmap was blank, just lines and squares. I looked up to the man who stood across the table from me - who held a single die in his hand. He was cloaked in black and smelled vaguely of Pert Plus shampoo and conditioner. I asked, my voice shaking, 'What is this place?' He replied simply, 'This is the Game.'

I told the cloaked man, 'I must return, for I must blog, and pass word of this place to the people of the internet. I must tell them the truth!' To which the man replied, 'Very well, but when you do, you must tell them of all that is here. You see, it is actually quite a nice place. We have waterslides, and booths for every food and drink imaginable. And the lines are actually quite short.'

As I gazed out over the stands of food and drink, I saw that the man spoke true. Suddenly, I realized that the wise goat had left me quite thirsty. That was when the craving hit me.

Fruit Punch.

With no avail, I looked out in desperation over the thousands of drink booths, my throat aching for relief, my body begging for nothing more then the sweet release of Fruit Punch! Dismayed, I asked the man across the table from me, 'Sir, please tell me fast, where do I wait in line for Fruit Punch, for the goat has left me parched, and I am in need of respite.'

The man sighed, replying in a tone that was almost aching with sadness.

'There is no punchline.'

The end."

Amusingly enough, this story also can be adapted and used excellently if your character missed an RPG session to explain their absence. Now, back to work.