Fantasy Masks

Adventure 4: Atarin's Delve
You dirty rat...
Background:

Doria Elswhet was a courier with the Traveler’s Guild, on her way to Annwheat with some gifts from the Pria trade route intended for the Queen. While she was overnighting at the Ulbor Guildhouse, under the protection of the Guilder Council of Ulbor, bandits attacked. They knew when and where to hit for maximum effectiveness. They killed all the guards, the guilders onsite, and guests. Then they broke into the treasure house and made off with a considerable stash of coins and enchanted objects, as well as the jewels intended for the Queen.

Time is of the essence. They must not be allowed to spend their ill-gotten gains. The call went out, and as you responded (being closest) surviving guilders who were not at the guild house have investigated. They found a former servant at the guild house who was disaffected, planning to betray the guilders and escape with the bandits. But after his betrayal, they would have nothing to do with him; at loose ends, he was caught and questioned, and he bitterly gave up some information about the attackers before his death.

The leader is Atarin Darkhunter, surely not his real name. However, he is a ratshaper, and he has infected many of his bandits with the ratshape as well. That explains how they were able to sneak through the defenses and then best so many warriors in combat. They are hiding out in a cavern complex that abuts with an old dwarven tomb in the hills above Ulbor, about two hours walk beyond the town up in the rocks.

What’s worse, Atarin also took Elswhet alive, as a famed guilder. He no doubt plans to ransom her. He also captured the guilder council leader, Councilor Derbaen, an elderly warrior. Derbaen has six famously beautiful grand-daughters, ages 6 to 22, and their bodies were not found; it seems likely Atarin will use them to force Derbaen to divulge secrets of the guilder council. This must not happen.

If the invaders can attack at mid-day, the bandits will likely be more drowsy and less effective. Soon, they are sure to try to dispose of their loot, anticipating an attack like this one, so the strike must be swift and sure. There are three objectives.

1. Rescue surviving guilders, and Derbaen’s grand-daughters.
2. Retrieve the Guilder Council fortune. For this, adventurer’s get a 20% recovery fee and they may keep enchanted items. (Treasure demonstrably not from the guildhouse, they keep.)
3. Kill Atarin and as many of the bandits as possible. They issued a challenge. Answer it.

*

Mokthres 5, 1230

Belstaag Bob, Pansy, Tory, Rook, Quinn (delicate assassin), Hirsch (massive scout), and Xander (sword-wielding monk). A guild sympathizer led them to the hideout, then they struck. Using stealth, some of the invaders crept up and murdered the lookouts. They swarmed in silently, spotting a dozen bandits enjoying a meal of crab chowder; with a deadly barrage of ranged weapons complimented by a charge, they had ten down before the last two could break and run; no one escaped.

They questioned a not-quite-dead bandit about the layout, then sent him limping towards town with instructions to turn himself in to the law. The invaders shadowed through the halls, but they were heard by a ratshaper and another guard; after a brief pitched battle, most of the defenders were slain, and a surviving bandit raced to tell Atarin and his ratshaper bodyguards.

The invaders made their stand in the guard room, with Tory on a table firing his heavy crossbow over their heads as Xander, Rook, and Belstaag Bob took all comers from the hallway into the room. Pansy and Hirsch and Quinn kept a lookout for reinforcements as the pitched battle raged. Finally Tory pegged Atarin in the eyebrow with the crossbow, dazing him, and the rest of the invaders finished him off. They took his double-bitted serrated war axe, Deathsaw, and an iron ring from his finger.

And his war chest, from under his bed, of course. They also captured the tattling bandit, who ran out of room to retreat and decided he’d rather be helpful than dead. They sent a stealth party ahead, along the wooden walkway, and dispatched the lonely, bored guard at the prison. They freed the prisoners, and retreated to the exit; one of the prisoners took the Deathsaw and finished off the captive guard. Then the prisoners headed back to town, at a limping rate but still alive.

The invaders stashed the chest of coins they already found amid some boxes the bandits haphazardly piled near the entrance, and ambushed the leaders in their chambers. Taking them by surprise, they slew them quickly; only one of the ratshifters had time to change before they were all hewn down. High on adrenaline, the invaders swarmed through the hallway, slaughtering the rest of the leaders.

Still short the Guilder coffers, they explored down a dark corridor smelling of algae, and found pools flanking a statue of a dwarf. Tory was busily disarming the trap when a massive crab lurched out at him; as Tory, Xander, and Belstaag Bob finished the crab off, another sprang out of the water at their backs. Xander had a gift for bisecting the crabs, and Tory found a magnificent bounty—the Guilder coffers.

With Pansy hefting the enormous weight of the treasure, they headed back to the front door, and Tory found the other dwarf statue and disarmed the trap, retrieving the jewels intended for the queen. The party split, sending half back to bring horses and wagons, the rest guarding the massive score.

Quinn kept the Ring of the Hunter, Hirsch kept the Deathsaw, and the rest of the party split up the proceeds (including the weapons and gear from the raiders.) Victory!

A special thanks to Mark, who handled all the math for calculating and dividing loot.
Deepest appreciation to Dyson Logos, who drew the complex map and stocked it for D&D B/X, from Dodecahedron Volume 1, Issue 1. I highly recommend his stuff, but be forgetful; I’ll be using more of it…

Game Quotes!

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Adventure 3d: Invading Skybane Forge
"Let's see what's waiting up there."

Background

Pansy got pretty drunk last night. She was not used to so much adoring attention. She really got going on telling stories; you vaguely remember her getting a real laugh out of the story with the dead necromancer in the closet and speculation about what he was doing in there. How she never heard a dwarf squawk before. Speculation on why we don’t play football with brute heads. How stuffed fang pouncers would be great lawn darts. Rothchilde was—was he singing? Could that be right? If it was him he has a fine tenor. There was certainly… dancing. Yes. Lots of dancing. Anyway, it’s a little vague. For some, because they retired early and only heard muffled sounds. For others, because the drink left them hazy on the details.

The gate warden looks worried this morning as you head out with your wagons and troop. “Just thought you should know,” he says, uncomfortable. “About fifteen strangers left last night, through the gates, quiet as they could. Several had heavy backpacks. I didn’t like the look of them. But they headed towards the mountains.” He shifts uncomfortably. “Left about midnight. Thought you should know.” He looks at his feet. “They was armed. Armed to the teeth, they was.” He turns and goes back into his post and closes the door firmly.

The porters and guards exchange an uneasy glance. Then the horses pull the wagons forward.

Let’s see what’s waiting up there.

*

Lunthres 4, 1230.

Belstaag Bob, Tory, Rook, and Landru (a peasant armed with high quality sword and shield.)

They took 2 wagons, 4 men at arms, and 4 laborers with them to haul away their treasure. Upon seeing that the front gate was guarded, they waited until nightfall; the wait was punctuated by a brief fracas with a wandering hungry bear, mowed down in short order. Upon approaching the door under cover of darkness, Tory’s expertise got them through the barred dwarfgate without the guards seeing them enter.

Of course, when they started the melee with the brute zombies inside, that changed dramatically. After a brief brutal fight that started in the dark and ended with the invaders inside, the zombies down, and the door closed behind them, they had gained entry.

Tory found the secret door that led to the area overlooking the approach, and Bob drew fire as Rook hacked the guards down. They prodded for another secret door, finding their way back into a familiar area of the complex that way rather than risking the rope bridge over the chasm.

There was evidence corpses had been moved. And the guards wore holy symbols of Nuzagoth, god of the undead. So they were careful as they continued on, noting a distressing lack of corpses as they headed down the Grand Stair, back into the lower level.

Landru could read the dwarf script on the 3 occupied coffins in the crypt, and he helped Tory get into one of them before they continued on. They found the door to the dwarf forge had been chopped out of the rock by a work crew too unskilled to open it. Following, they found traps triggered by zombies, who were discarded in the corner. Finally, they approached the dwarf hall, discovering a zombie boggiebane, skeletal boggiebanes, zombie wolves…

Tory went for cover to the side, drawing out a pack of zombie dwarves. He ran for cover on the other side of the room, drawing out a pack of skeletal dwarves. Meanwhile the rest of the party met the boggiebanes and wolves of death, hacked them down, and aimed for Tory’s dwarven finds as leftovers. A heartstopper came out to face them, charging, and Bob chopped it down at once.

Breathless at the end of the fight, they followed a sound behind the throne, and found the necromancer and a guard. The result was rapid, if messy, and the invaders stood victorious again.

As they went about the grim business of making sure the fallen would not rise, Tory and Landru approached a big double door leading out of the hall. Landru read that it was Durgeddin’s Forge, Doom of the Sky People. Tory figured a quick look would not hurt. He stepped into the forge, glancing around, and exchanged words with something dark that did not come into the light; it was pleased the necromancer was dead, and let him live. He retreated gratefully.

Scant treasure in hand, and Bob carrying the defeated heartstopper, they wound their way back out of the mountain. Bob buried the remains, the party split up their meager take, and they headed back to civilization with wagon loads of basic caravan supplies from the brute halls.

The grateful guilder representative awarded them each 25 sina for defeating the necromancer (whose head they threw down the chasm with the rope bridge.) Again heroes, they can revel in their glory even as they bask in the rumination on the treasure that may yet be down there undiscovered.

Adapted from material in the Forge of Fury module.

Game Quotes!

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Adventure 3c: Invading Skybane Forge
"Oh. THERE they are."

Lunthres 3, 1230.

Belstaag Bob, Tory, Rothchilde, Rook, and Pansy. After a half an hour of rest, they explored further, discovering they had come into the brute area of the complex the back way. They pulled back, heading back down to the deeps and finding the nearly impenetrable barrier protecting the old forge. Tory breezed past it, and they avoided various traps to get into the dwarven territory.

The slaughter of truculent dwarves continued apace. The invaders took a turn to a haunted area and killed a succubus for variety, then returned to the dwarf-slaying. The dwarven leader confronted them with a hand-picked honor guard, and after Rothchilde webbed them down a bit they were summarily dispatched by the invaders, who retrieved the grudge knife and withdrew.

As they were celebrated by an awed populace of the town, having done in two days what the whole town could not have managed, Tory took Belstaag Bob aside.

After all… there was sure to be more treasure down there. Things they missed.

Adapted from material in the Forge of Fury module.

Game Quotes!

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Adventure 3b: Invading Skybane Forge
"There must be dwarves down here SOMEWHERE."

Lunthres 3, 1230.

Belstaag Bob, Tory, Rothchilde, Rook, and Pansy ventured in a second time. They could not use the chimney again, because the diffused column of smoke was no longer visible above the treeline. Instead, they used the century-old siege tunnel that the Duke used to break the fortification.

They had an unfortunate run-in with a bear and a couple reef crawlers with javelins, but survived (though Tory was almost killed.) Then they explored, going deep into the mountain, and surviving a reef crawler ambush featuring a giant lizard and shaman magic.

Limping but victorious, they fended off fang pouncers and headed up stairs to another part of the complex. After slaying a brute shaman, they rested a bit.

Adapted from material in the Forge of Fury module.

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Adventure 3a: Invading Skybane Forge
Brute force, indeed.

Now you are sitting in an airship, armed and armored and waiting, as the ship slowly passes back and forth over the flaring autumn colors of the forested slopes of the mountain below. How did you get here?

Your Involvement.

The Guilder Council in Annwheat received a request from Lord Mayor Achrialt, of the town of Borian. The Tracer Guild unearthed a threat to the town’s very existence, and now the town needs fast-moving, hard-hitting problem solvers to infiltrate a mountain fortress in a limited time frame. Up to 9 Guild appointed warriors could be sent, preferably fewer, to save some room for treasure. You were chosen, pleased to represent your Guild and serve the Council. And possibly the attention of the Tracer Guild. And, of course, a share of the loot.

The History.

Loremaster Rhubia shared a brief presentation as the travel arrangements were finalized the morning you left Annwheat.

About 200 years ago, 1030, Master Runesmith Urlik Durgeddin was part of Stoneholt, a dwarven settlement that swears fealty to the High King of the Freeholds. There was a dispute of some kind, and Durgeddin felt betrayed by humans. He broke off from Stoneholt and its king, and marched to Stone Tooth Mountain. He and his followers found natural caves, and over the next century they developed the caves and started work at their forges, churning out weapons and armor.

From about 1125 to 1128, Durgeddin and his growing dwarven army attacked human shipping and settlements, fading back into the forest to their hidden base. Finally, Duke Borian was compelled to deal with the problem. Massing an army, he tracked the dwarves to their lair and lay siege to it. Durgeddin was prepared for this, and it was a stalemate; the dwarves lacked the strength to attack, and the Duke didn’t want to spend the soldiers it would take to force his way in.

Unknown to Durgeddin, the Duke set up a team of sappers that dug a tunnel into the cave complex, behind the defenses. One morning, the Duke’s army poured in and made short work of the surprised defenders, slaughtering all that resisted. Those who surrendered were disarmed and released, escorted back out of the foothills and sent towards Stoneholt.

The fortress was in hostile territory, over a lake claimed by reef crawlers and in mountains with brute tribes roaming for treasure. Unwilling to draw undue attention to the dwarven fortress, or invest massive resources to occupy it, the Duke quickly sealed it and retreated after less than two months of fighting.

The Duke had troubles enough with rebels, and so did not map the location to the fortress, deciding it was better off forgotten. The grateful town changed its name to Borian.

The Threat.

Guildmaster Metchrin, head of the Annwheat Tracer Guild, briefed the expedition on the threat.

Nimira Durgeddin, daughter of the Master Runesmith, has returned to the fortress with a team of runesmiths and warriors. She plans to continue her father’s work. Sources in Stoneholt indicate she left there about a decade ago, and took her father’s Grudge Knife, a runic weapon intended to be used on those who wronged a family. It is both symbolic and dangerous, and something she would not willingly part with.

Now she has sent word home that for disaffected dwarves that would like to kill humans, she has a fortress ready for them beyond Stoneholt’s jurisdiction. A force of about 300 warrior dwarves and their support is marching north towards the fortress, led by Giltbeard Worl, a veteran of the Brute War of 1105.

Further, it appears Durgeddin has made an alliance with a brute tribe, about 200 warriors and entourage led by Six Fang Namath. They are marching south through the mountains to join an existing vanguard of brutes that are assisting the dwarves in fortifying the mountain, led by Old Yarrick.

If one or both of these forces settle into the mountain and fortify, they will be compelled to raid to support their numbers, and it will be very difficult to dig them out a second time. They must not be allowed to consolidate their forces, or Borian’s fate is sealed.

The Plan.

Guildmaster Metchrin shared the basic plan.

Borian has about 200 standing troops, basically volunteers and town guard with a handful (about 50) of veterans. With conscription, the force could rise to between 600 and 800. Compared to the huge battle-hardened brutes, or the well-equipped dwarven veterans, they would not stand a chance. Their ability to defend the town against these forces is in doubt, much less meet them in the field. Even with asymmetrical warfare, the odds are not good.

The town could pin its hopes on moving everyone to the mountain fortress and clearing it out and defending it, but then the town would be destroyed and they still might die, and they have no desire to live underground.

The best hope the Guilder Council managed was a ruse. If the Guilders can get Old Yarrick’s head, then a diplomat could convince the brutes that the fortress is occupied and no longer safe for them, sending them home.

Also, if the Guilders can get Durgeddin’s Grudge Knife, the dwarves would understand that Durgeddin’s forces were destroyed, the fortress was in enemy hands, and they faced an unknown military presence in the field. That would likely be enough to send them back to Stoneholt with the knife as a conciliatory gift.

The services of a pair of Tracers, Silamosan diplomat Eviasa, and a Simmian diplomat Rastlor, have been secured for these missions—as soon as they have the items in question. Your task is to get the items.
• Return with the head of Old Yarrick (brute leader).
• Return with the Grudge Dagger, a runic weapon owned by Nimira Durgeddin, the dwarf leader.

A Stroke of Luck.

The boggie merchant prince Andelusiar Hevrastlemach Pickwiggins IV owns an airship, and because of a series of mishaps, he owes community service. Transporting the invaders will be part of that service, so they can approach rapidly from the air.

The Strategy.

Timing.

It takes 3 days to cross the rugged, scrubby foothills between Borian and the secret fortress (about 90 kilometers). However, by airship, it only takes about two and a half hours depending on wind. Stone Fang Mountain is distinctive enough, and hopefully both the front entrance and the sapping tunnel will be easy to locate from the air.

The expedition must be finished in 20 days or less, or the armies from the north and the south will be too close, and they might call the bluff. Survivors should be minimal, so they don’t challenge the official story—at least, not until it is too late.

The Tracer Guild negotiated with a Zeenite enclave, who has agreed to settle in the fortress and keep threats from moving in. They can begin moving in after about 40 days—not fast enough to help Borian.

Insertion Decision

From the air, the expedition has identified three potential points of entry.
• A diffused column of smoke is rising lazily from the forest below, surely from a vent into the complex.
• The entry to the old sapping tunnel has been broken open and is in a clearing, visible from the air.
• The Mountain Door in a narrow defile is visible at the head of a trail full of switchbacks.

*

Lunthres 2, 1230

Belstaag Bob, Tory, Pansy, and Euclid (human woodsman willing servant of St. Midrian) invaded. They crawled down the chimney, stealthily killing the brutes they found. After releasing a pair of prisoners, they closed in on the leader of the brutes and killed him, claiming his head. Then they wiped out the barracks, and the boggiebane with his two pet wolves. They crept out as they had entered, leaving corpses and surprised defenders behind. One expedition down, and they had completed half the objectives!

Adapted from material in the Forge of Fury module.

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Adventure 2: Department of Deathnitre Studies
"What could possibly go wrong?"

The University of Annwheat, a fine and renowned institution of higher learning, has a Department of Deathnitre Studies located under its Alchemy Studies division. Considering deathnitre is capable of reanimating corpses and creating death-energy echoes of incorporeal madness and hate, that’s a very bold area of study.

The research is only allowed because it is conducted under the watchful eyes of a representative of the Alornite Order of Restful Repose (dedicated to the destruction of all undead), and because of the reputation of its brilliant head, Doctor Adellan Fosswither.

Security is tight, every precaution taken, and only responsible people allowed into the department under armed guard. So… what could possibly go wrong?

*

Simthres 28, 1230

Belstaag Bob, Tory, Rothchilde, Rook, and Pansy (a boggie strongwoman) undertook the challenge. They were lowered into the department to see a deathnitre bloom had wiped out all life down below, and as they cautiously explored they encountered babblers, shadowplayers, and starving orphan rats. Their steps were also shadowed by a young woman, who they attacked then released, who turned out to be something unexpected, murdering their contact and escaping. They discovered evidence of a Kudjell Deep Slaver down in the dark as well, connected to a secret corridor. After some initial exploration, they retreated.

Adapted from a random dungeon generated by the fine people at donjon.

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Adventure 1: Dolbay's Cellars
All is not as it seems.

In Dural Freehold, the small town of Egrebek is having some difficulty. The new lord of the town, Sir Adelon Fosswither, is only 24. He faces a crisis, an ancient evil revivified for modern times.

About five miles through tough scrubby badlands takes scouts to the edges of a ruin that used to be the Shrine of Dolbay, a black-walled fortress where the necromatic followers of Nuzagoth fended off efforts to dislodge them for nearly a century before a dedicated force of Midrianites thrashed them loose and knocked their walls and towers down.

Dolbay has been a ruin for almost three hundred years, and over that time nasty things have settled in and faced slaughter from determined warriors, time after time. Looks like they need yet another purge.

Three months ago, on the edge of winter thaw, a black-robed man came to the town and pronounced its doom under Sir Adelon’s leadership and the Fosswither line. He proclaimed himself Yurmalan, Lord of Murder, Scion of Nuzagoth. Since that time, he has been attracting local nuisances and uniting them to raid the town.

Two weeks ago, he strolled into town with over thirty sneakthief raiders and a boggiebane, and since that raid his thugs have kidnapped half a dozen boggies from the town—almost hafl the whole boggie population. So clearly, something must be done before he starts snatching upstanding citizens.

Sir Fosswither contacted the Tower Guild in Annwheat, and they held a council and chose some guilders to send to see what can be done. Also, they authorized a war chest, so some additional adventurers may be hired on if deemed necessary, as long as the venture turns a net profit.

*

Drakthres 25, 1230.

Belstaag Bob (a human warrior working for the Security Guild and Belstaag Tower), Tory (an elven trap specialist with the Traveler’s Guild), Juno (a brute warrior with the Security Guild), Rothchilde (a wizard with the Belstaag Tower Guild), and Rook (Other half of the Belstaag Tower Swordmage team with Rothchilde) undertook the challenge.

They killed a Kudjell Deep Slaver, a flexfang worm, a double handful of sneakthief raiders, and a boggiebane (the last with a spectacular lethal hit to the leg by Rook, accomplished murderess.) After some exploration, they determined it was unlikely the threat was undead focused, and they discovered disturbing evidence that another force might be behind the harassment. Then they withdrew, moderately successful and all still alive.

Adapted from a random dungeon generated by the fine people at donjon.

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