Friday, December 12, 2008
The story goes that in ages past the old gods grew bored of their creation, which was the world and everyone in it, and begged the Smith god to create twelve swords of immeasurable power for sport. Each god would design a sword and infuse it with a small amount of their power. The swords would be set loose on the mortal world to sow chaos. The gods would watch it as sport from their abode in the heavens.
The Smith agreed and gathered ore from the farthest reaches of the universe, magic from the fonts of heaven, and curses from the depths of the nine hells. One by one the gods imbued the swords with their powers and one by one the swords fell to earth. This lead to the War of the Swords, which most historians believe to be mythical at best. They say in that war that the gods themselves were slain by their swords.
Every school child learns at least part of the story: The Song of the Swords.
Who holds Coinspinner knows good odds
Whichever move he make
But the Sword of Chance, to please the gods
Slips from him like a snake.
The Sword of Justice balances the pans
Of right and wrong, and foul and fair.
Eye for an eye, Doomgiver scans
The fate of all folk everywhere.
Dragonslicer, Dragonslicer, how d'you slay?
Reaching for the heart in behind the scales.
Dragonslicer, Dragonslicer, where do you stay?
In the belly of the giant that my blade impales.
Farslayer howls across the world
For thy heart, for thy heart, who hast wronged me!
Vengeance is his who casts the blade
Yet he will in the end no triumph see.
Whose flesh the Sword of Mercy hurts has drawn no breath;
Whose soul it heals has wandered in the night,
Has paid the summing of all debts in death
Has turned to see returning light.
The Mindsword spun in the dawn's gray light
And men and demons knelt down before.
The Mindsword flashed in the midday bright
Gods joined the dance, and the march to war.
It spun in the twilight dim as well
And gods and men marched off to hell.
I shatter Swords and splinter spears;
None stands to Shieldbreaker.
My point's the fount of orphans' tears
My edge the widowmaker.
The Sword of Stealth is given to
One lonely and despised.
Sightblinder's gifts: his eyes are keen
His nature is disguised.
The Tyrant's Blade no blood hath spilled
But doth the spirit carve
Soulcutter hath no body killed
But many left to starve.
The Sword of Siege struck a hammer's blow
With a crash, and a smash, and a tumbled wall.
Stonecutter laid a castle low
With a groan, and a roar, and a tower's fall.
Long roads the Sword of Fury makes
Hard walls it builds around the soft
The fighter who Townsaver takes
Can bid farewell to home and croft.
Who holds Wayfinder finds good roads
Its master's step is brisk.
The Sword of Wisdom lightens loads
But adds unto their risk.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
After Amadis' betrayal our heroes were trapped with the unknown horror of the Corpse Fields on one side, and a massive underground Orcish fortress on the other. Our heroes chose the known known over the known unknown and went to have a look at this fortress thing.
Outside the fortress was a guard with two berserk merchants wearing stylish clothes. Bloody handprints marked their faces. Our heroes killed them and stole their secret badges. They bloodied their own faces and snuck into the Orcish stronghold pretending to be converts. The orcs fell for it. Orcs always fall for it.
The fortress was old and in disrepair. It was actually the lowest level of Dana Briar's tower. Many races mixed in the stronghold--elves, dwarves, orcs, kobolds. Some bore the bloody marks of the berserk, but most were calmly and quickly preparing for war. The walls of the stronghold bore the mark of Vecna, God of Death and Power and Evil Magicks. This was odd, as all Orcs are worshippers of Gruumush the One-Eyed.
Our heroes sneaked through corridors and hallways and one enormous colloseum-like chamber moving towards the X on their map. Didion Graytongue had meant to come here to acquire something, and seeing as how they were trapped and all our heroes decided they should acquire it first.
At the X they found an old, securely locked door. Exploring the area they also found a jail cell with an Orcish priest of Avandra (goddess of travelers, trade, merchants and exploration) and an extraordinarily fat wizard, Volstagg the Voluminous. His name is not Disposable Steve. They were being attacked by a baby Carrion Crawler--sort of a huge, hungry caterpillar. Our heroes jumped in and defeated the crawler. There was much rejoicing.
Returning to the door, Orzul revealed that she had been given a key by Dana Briar, in a dream. When she awoke the key was in her hand. The key fit the lock and in the room was Dana Briar herself, sitting in a magic circle inscribed into the floor.
Our heroes had many quetsions, like: what's going on? And, shouldn't you have died of old age hundreds of years ago? And also, who is the master under the mountain and why is he so freaky? Dana tried to answer these.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Our heroes sleep was troubled that night. There were dreams of an ash-filled sky and murder. A bony hand offered a key. A robed figure betrayed everyone else. Amadis in particular dreamed about how he would rule the world once his teammates were dispatched. Abdul saw Vecna--the god of murder and evil and evil magic and evil murder--fill the sky and sear the land. Orzul had a different dream. She dreamed of a pleasant underground grotto and a kindly old woman who issued warnings and handed her something. When she awoke, the something was in her hand. Orzul did not share this last detail with anyone.
A brief meeting was held by the stakeholders in Windfall (i.e. everyone but Nahks) as to what the next goal should be. Amadis suggested that following Didion Graytongue's map may lead to treasure (helpful in rent-paying) and glory (helpful in securing more jobs) and since there were no other leads on hand, everyone agreed.
But first a trip back to Briarton was in order. Nahks decided to stay behind and hold funeral rites for his slain brethren.
In Briarton Abdul sat himself down in a cafe and poured over the ritual books they'd obtained, puzzling out their secrets. Taru visited the Magickal University (MU, school colors: pale witchfire, iridescent violet) to get her silvered arm looked at. She had a full range of motion, but their was a distant numbness and a certain uncanny character to the limb now. The guards tried to stop her, but between her acid-flecked exterior and her seven-foot glaive she convinced them to send someone out to hear her petition. Myrour ven Clivensoften, apprentice to the assistant in charge of healing draughts, emerged from the building and pronounced the arm unknowable without further study. We shall tastefully ignore his attempts to cut off Taru's finger.
Orzul hit the merchant district and laid in some new arrows. Amadis found a seedy cafe in a disreputable district and partook of the local narcotics. Then everyone opened a bank account, spoke with the local deputies and headed back to the collapsed tower of Dana Briar.
When our heroes returned to the tower they found that Nahks had carved a passage around the magic seal in the forge room, and our heroes descended into the depths under the tower. A spiraling passage lead to ancient flag-stone corridors, cracked with age and covered in mold. Further on the hallway widened and an underground stream crossed the path. The water was murky and filthy. Orzul did some quick mental Dwarven math and realized they were under the well. The well which when they glanced into it before they distantly saw writhing scaled huge things. All the heroes stepped back.
At the left edge of the pool was a path constructed of rickety planks of wood. Orzul, the acrobatic Dwarf, sprinted across these with ease before the enormous hydra sprang up from the water. It was ten tons and four heads of starving, sickly angry. Abdul sat down to go through Didion's journals, reading about the hydra. Amadis went back upstairs and fetched Deputy Rye's headless corpse out of the pit trap, and then fed it to the hydra. While it was feeding he tried to run past, but the hydra was a quick eater and scared him back.
As our heroes prepared to fight the behemoth, they noticed magical bands about its necks and chains leading from the collars into the water. The journal told of how Didion caught the hydra in a swamp elsewhere and installed it here with password-keyed magical bindings. A cryptic sentence said "Knowledge is the key to all." Our heroes tries many words and phrases and commands (Sit!) before speaking that phrase aloud causing the chains to tighten and drag the four-headed beastie under the mucky water.
Then stirges attacked from above. Stirges are essentially monkey bats with noses like daggers and a thirst for blood. These particular ones had been feeding off the hydra for weeks. Our heroes drove one off, killed another, and freed the hydra temporarily so she could feast on the third. The justice, she is poetic.
Past the hydra were three branching tunnels. One lead to Umber Hulks (bad news), one lead to the enslaved Kobold miners and the last lead to the Kobold's former master--and Nahks' boss--Scorch the black dragon. Scorch had been trapped behind a cave-in by Didion and knocks was worried for him. Our heroes took the center path.
200 Kobolds were chained and forced to mine while three Wyrmpriests stood watch over them. Our heroes easily killed the two priests and then Geon the Rogue picked the lock on the master chain holding a group of fifty Kobolds captive. Now freed, the Kobolds stomped the last priest to death. The collective might of the 200 Kobolds (plus Nahks) left to dig out their master, Scorch. Nahks promised a boon in the future, told them of the Orcish army and the Corpse Fields.
Further down the hallway was an immense barred steel door. Our heroes unbarred it and went through, deeper into the undermountain. The opposite side of the door was dented and scarred from attempts to get through. None had been successful. A fork in the hallway perplexed our heroes. They consulted the map and discussed whether it would be safer to take the Orcs head on (the right passage) or attempt to find a back entrance through the catacombed halls of the Corpse Fields (the left passage).
Windfall decided to look at the Corpse Fields and then decide.
The Corpse Fields are a spectacular natural cavern under the mountain where creatures of different races drop their dead and their refuse so that mushrooms may grow and feed them all. They are graveyard and food court in one. Our heroes stood on a rocky outcropping, hundreds of feet above the floor. Frayed ropes trailed from the cliff. Across the expanse Drow could be seen, that is: Dark elves that worship a demonic spider, delight in torture and evil and spiders, and trust no top-sider. Our heroes decided it may be better to take the Orcs on face to face.
Down the other hallway they found a crevasse in the floor filled with a pseudo-intelligent corrosive slime monster known as an Ochre Jelly. But it was trapped in the pit and so Abdul and Amadis scorched it with supernatural magics until nothing was left. The resulting pit was full of bones and treasure. Yay treasure!
Beyond the jelly-filled crevasse our heroes encountered an Orc scouting party and an Orc berserker. They fought the closest fight of their careers, made even more close by Amadis' betrayal. He had been an agent of Vecna, whom these Orcs uncommonly worshiped. All Orcs--save these--worshiped Grumush, Orcish god of slaughter. This was a mystery.
After a knockdown drag-out fight our heroes were victorious against the orcs, but they were trapped under the mountain and Amadis had escaped to alert the rest of the Orcish army as to their presence.
Things looked bad.
After rescuing Nahks the Kobold Foreman from his cell, Windfall solutions proceeded down the hallways of the collapsed tower. Orzul the Dwarven Ranger crept forward silently and listened at an old oak door. Chanting could be heard loudly. Evil chanting. And if there is one thing Dwarves hate it's evil chanting behind old oak doors.
Orzul burst into the room and was surprised to find the sorceress Didion Greytongue caught mid-ritual floating in the middle of the room, an amorphous mercurial blob spinning wildly over her head. She was wearing her own symbol--a silvered skull--on her chest, was covered in ritual cuts and had shaved her head. Imagine an evil and skinny Janeane Garofalo perhaps. She was ensconced in a magic circle, performing a ritual--Abdul guessed--to create a magical item. The circle was made of magic and severed Orc hands.
Didion was flanked by Kobold Wyrmpriests and a half-dozen minions. Guarding the door that Orzul charged through were two chained fire beetles. Our heroes were outnumbered.
The battle was long fought. Abdul concentrated his dire energies on Didion, weakening her and driving her off. Amadis feared a fire beetle and then turned his lance of faith upon the enemies. Orzul filled every available enemy orifice with arrows. Taru stabbed everything with her glaive. Nahks helped where he could. Beyond some bruises, scorches, baths of flame and acid and a few spears to the gut our heroes emerged unscathed.
Curious Taru tested the mercurial blob that Greytongue was creating with her dagger. The results were unexpected. The silvery substance lifted Taru off the ground and flowed down to her shoulder, devouring her armor. Abdul leapt and caught on to Taru's legs, yanking her free of the grip of the substance but found his own arm coated to the elbow.
Placed about the room were four pillars that each held an extraordinarily powerful magic item. Past tense that is. The items--including the Duke's own Lordly Rod--had been devoured in the process.
Searching the room our heroes found a bag of holding with Graytongue's journal and a treasure map inside.
One Kobold escaped into the final room, but before our heroes chased after they took a few precious seconds for themselves and beheaded and behanded the Kobold corpses. One can never be too careful where zombies are concerned.
The final room was Didion's library and bedchamber. Two more acid-breathed Wyrmpriests and the coward Kobold hid within. The fight was short, brutal and again involved Priests vomiting acid. After this was done, our heroes tossed the room for valuables--finding books of magical rituals--and then napped.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
After a short rest, Abdul and the unnamed Rogue moved back to guard the front door (aka Colin and Kate couldn't make it) while Saya the Elven Wizard (aka Angela) showed up. From the forge room a short hallway lead to another wooden door. Everyone took turns listening, but heard nothing beyond their breathing.
The room next door was darkened, so Saya cast a light spell on Amadis' holy symbol making him glow incredibly brightly. The room was a massive bunk room built to hold a kobold army. The little buggers scurried about in the shadows and leapt out to attack our heroes. Orzul smashed their heads with her hammers and ripped them to pieces with her arrows. Taru slashed at them with her glaive. Amadis burned them with holy faith. And Saya cast sleeping spells and then burned the kobolds alive while they slept.
In the room our heroes found boots of waterwalking. They also found a secret door which Orzul picked open. Inside they found a massive amount of gold, more than they could carry.
Down another hallway our heroes found preserved frescoes showing Dana Briar, Savior of the North, slaying armies of beasts and raising her tower. They also showed Dana dying, her tower collapsing. A third fresco was unclear. It shimmered and showed an ancient Dana handing a key to six hooded figures. As our heroes watched, the fresco faded to gray.
Further down the hallway Orzul narrowly avoided stepping on a trapped flagstone. She did a complicated Dwarven acrobatic leap over it and then stepped on another trap. A tile in the ceiling opened and dropped a swarm of starving rats and the remains of a devoured corpse onto her. Her hammers were no good against the swarm, so Saya stepped up and tried to burn the rats off. That also failed. Taru took the stinkpot she'd scavenged from the dead kobolds and pelted the Dwarf with it. This scared off the rats and made Saya vomit uncontrollably. Orzul wasn't bothered by the smell, she was used to worse.
The rats fled into an adjoining room that contained a makeshift prison. In the prison cells were a somber bespectacled kobold, and three zombies chained to the walls. The zombies had been prisoners who starved to death and returned to live as the undead. The starving rat swarm tore into the zombies but Amadis brought them fresh kobold meat to chew on.
The bespectacled kobold was named Nax, he used to be the leader of the kobold tribe before a wizard came in and enslaved them. He agreed to accompany Windfall Acquisitions and assist them in freeing his people.
"aka 'up the butt' "
"Is this the obscenity log?"
"Obscenity Log: Stardate . . . "
"Ahhhhhhh!" (regarding the name cards)
(After Orzul splattered a Kobold) "Good thing I brought my Windex"
"Dude, you're supposed to be asleep . . . Wizards."
"Who's the boom king?"
(A kobold reacting to Amadis rounding a corner) "Wha?"
"Can we drink ale now?"
" . . . and I don't sneeze."
"Each cookie represents a healing surge."
"Just poopy pants. But it's always good check."
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Bounder was an old, gruff Halfling with unkempt hair and a wickedly scarred face. He was known as a fair and honest man. He and his deputies were responsible for maintaining order in Briarton and the surrounding countryside. He had a proposition for our heroes.
It seems that over the past few months a rash of thefts had hid Briarton quite hard. At first it was shovels, wheelbarrows and timber. But quickly the thefts became more esoteric and troublesome. Magical herbs, potion ingredients, rare arcane gems had been lifted in great quantities from the Arcane University. No one knew who was behind it until just last night a cautious shopkeeper caught a Kobold ransacking his store. He alerted the sheriff who then tracked the humanoids back to their den. One of the sheriff's deputies, Nayla Rye, scouted into the den but did not return.
The sheriff asked our heroes if they could go into the den and stop the thieves. Also, he wants them to figure out what they are up to. Kobolds lack initiative and are often the hirelings of someone smarter. Who is behind them?
A deputy also approached our heroes, his eyes brimming with tears. Deputy Cooper asked our heroes to find what happened to deputy Rye. They had been engaged and he was dreadful worried about her. He also offered ten gold for every left paw of a Kobold the heroes brought back.
Sheriff Bounder lead the heroes ten miles out of town, into the wilderness. Down a winding path through a deep briar patch was the collapsed Tower of Dana. The Dana in question was Dana Briar, founder of Briarton and legendary wizard. Her tower had collapsed some three hundred years ago just after she went missing. It had long been an oddity, but a rather safe one. Some of the heroes had been there as children and scampered upon the rocks.
At the base of the collapsed tower a shaft had been roughly dug and propped with timber. It lead for fifty feet deep into the earth. Torches flickered in wall-mounts down its length. Sheriff Bounder took his leave of the heroes, wished them luck.
The unnamed Rogue (aka Kate) crept silently down the shaft and found a guardroom with two bored Kobolds standing about on a filthy grass mat. She returned to the heroes and reported back what she had seen. Many plans were discussed as to how to deal with guards. Was poison gas available? Should the Rogue run into and out of the room so as to lure them topside? Could Abdul Alhazred (aka Colin) dress like a female Kobold to tempt them Bugs-Bunny-style away from their post? Taru the Warrior (aka Riley) decided that numbers were with them and recommended a quick charge.
The heroes charged into the room and made quick work of the two guards. Orzul (aka Emma) and the Rogue peppered them with arrows. Abdul and Amadis (aka Tom) scorched them with magical energies while Taru stabbed them mightily with her glaive. The Kobolds were dressed oddly for their kind in uniforms showing a silvered skull. They had no money or personal objects on their persons.
Exploring the room, our heroes found three doors leading away and a hidden pit under the filthy grass mat. Taru climbed into the pit and found three headless corpses, including the late deputy Rye. Taru also found a magical hammer and dagger.
A strange green light pulsed through the room accompanied by a low hum. One of the Kobold corpses lurched to his feet. He was now a zombie. He was quickly beheaded and dumped into the pit.
Through the Northernmost door our heroes found a forking hallway. Down the left fork was a disused hallway leading to a well. Peering down into the well our heroes saw something serpentine writhing, felt a breeze on their faces. Amadis suggested dumping one of the headless corpses into the well to see what would happen. No one took him up on the offer.
Down the right fork was a roughly-hung door. While trying to listen at it Orzul sneezed and alerted the occupants to their presence. On the other side of the door was an ersatz armory and smithy. Three tables stood heaped with freshly made spear tips and Kobold-sized helmets. In the corner of the room was a roughly mined hallway blocked by a magical seal. Two Kobold guards with in this room, along with a Kobold blacksmith and his pet fire beetle.
The heroes faced more of a challenge this time, especially with the beetle who repeatedly belched flame across everyone. The blacksmith proved deft with a sling and had a variety of trick canisters he lobbed at our heroes gluing Taru to the floor and setting Abdul on fire. Again our heroes peppered the tiny humanoids with arrows, stabbed them with a glaive and roasted them with arcane energies. Amadis also called forth his god's favor and healed a nearly-dead Rogue and Fighter.
When the battle was over left paws were collected, bodies were beheaded, and a magical bracelet was found on the smith.
After the battle the heroes put their heads together and elected the Cleric to lead. They also chose the name "Windfall" for their enterprise.
Also, players should feel free to make their own posts and comments about their characters, goals, ideas, whatever.
Taru Cleveland the Human Warrior (Riley) -- good with a glaive. Rolls 20s.
Orzul the Dwarven Ranger (Emma) -- favors her longbow. Aims for the throat.
Abdul Alhazred the Elven Warlock (Colin) -- was set on fire by a Kobold. Enjoys blasting enemies with eldritch energies.
Amadis the Human Cleric (Tom) -- the leader. His faith lances enemies with blinding light.
? the Elven Rogue (Kate) -- sneaky, perceptive, highly skilled.
Saya the Elven Wizard (Angela) -- wizards are never early or late, they are always precisely on time.
The capitol of the Thule province is Briarton, a sleepy burg with only a few thousand residents. It is a lone shining point in the wilderness and attracts all sorts from miles around. The nearest city with a population of more than four hundred is the fishing village of Racinda. Racinda is three weeks journey by horse.
Thule is dangerous, but rich in resources. The forestry is great. The trapping is wonderful. The mining, oh man, the mining is the best in the empire. In fact, settlers come from all over to try their hand at mining. They form corporations and make pacts. Clear out a few acres and set up their own village under the radar of the empire's tax collectors. Sometimes these mining settlements take root, become towns in their own right. More often they disappear within weeks. Traveling merchants later come upon the smoldering remains of an inn, perhaps a field of skeletons picked clean by unseen mouths. Sometimes there is nothing left but trees.
Our heroes grew up in these hardscrabble villages. Maybe they defended the city from bandits? Perhaps they curried favor with a god or dark power to aide their kinfolk? Or just maybe they made such a nuisance of themselves that they were no longer welcome in their home town. The heroes haven't said much yet.
The heroes made their way from all corners of the Thule province to Briarton, county seat. Briarton is the home of the Arcane University, the Duke's estate, and of dozens of merchants and traders making a fortune off the land. Imagine the Wild West, or Deadwood and you wouldn't be far off.
Our heroes have formed a company, Windfall, and have set out to forge a reputation for themselves.