Fantasy Masks

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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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 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 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 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.

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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.

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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…

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Adventure 5: The Star Vault
A Diplomatic Expedition of Steel and Violence.

Background

Lord Helsweut thinks he rules Avadall Township. He can be excused the delusion, as Baron Folwyn granted him title and lands there. A number of other local rulers find themselves laboring under the delusion that the Baron’s land grants allow them to rule. And why not!

A shadowy figure, the Lord of the Star Vault (a he calls himself) has taken up residence in the area. More cunning than a bandit leader, he has informed four local communities that they must pay him a tribute, or suffer. No one has ever seen him, but he has claimed responsibility for the disappearances of two local nobles’ spouses, and he just captured Lord Helsweut’s favorite minstrel, Gelbritch Vance (rumored to be Helsweut’s bastard son.)

No one knows how he manages to kidnap nobility from their secure homes, but they have learned to fear him, and tribute is flowing. It looks bad for Baron Folwyn, who is annoyed at this threat.

The Baron assigned his not inconsiderable spy and scholar network to the task, and they unearthed a crisp and brittle map that indicates something called the “Star Vault” is an ancient dwarven temple to Lunestra in the Foskell Hills. That matches with what the Baron’s spies could find out about where local lords were to bring the tribute.

Well, he’s asking for it, this self-styled Lord of the Star Vault. Time to give it to him. The Baron asked the Guilder Council to send a diplomatic expedition to use steel and violence to teach this upstart his place—a grave. In exchange, he offers those who participate a fine steed by way of gratitude, and he forgoes the local salvage tax. However, he does want the goods that were given to the Lord of the Star Vault returned. The rest? Thanks for services rendered. As long as the Lord of the Star Vault dies…

*

Mokthres 20, 1230

Belstaag Bob, Tory, Pansy, Rothchilde, Landru, and Rook undertook this expedition on behalf of the Guilder Council.

After following a guide for hours over the rough terrain, they came to the place where tribute was left, maybe 100 meters from the arch carved into the cliff. Their guide left, and they approached the entry. Tory noted that someone in good boots stopped about 7 meters from the arch, for something, while everyone else noted what a fabulous spot for an ambush they had entered.

Grimly marching ahead to the unguarded door, they were not surprised when skeletons erupted from the loose soil. They dispatched the skeletons, holding the choke point of the entry to the Star Vault. Not only were they swarmed by skeletons of humans, they also broke an owlbear skeleton before it could dig all the way out.

Breathless but unharmed, surrounded by the litter of shattered bone, they trod into the Star Vault itself.They quickly ran afoul of strange pale boulders that Tory recognized as something he called “moon rocks.” These amorphous creatures mocked them in a strange language and flung stones until Rook slaughtered them. However, they were spotted from across the cave by more moon rocks, who jumped on puffballs that let out a shrieking whine and alerted everyone to their presence.

Dozens of moon rocks swarmed at them, but they were slowed by Rothchilde’s webbing and picked off by Pansy and Tory’s range weapons as Rook gleefully slit more of them open. When Rothchilde burned his own web off with squealing moon rocks inside, the rest retreated back down into their dark pit.

The invaders admired the chips of stone that glowed when exposed to sound, forming constellations overhead. They also admired the massive 3 meter tall statue of the dwarven aspect of Lunestra that dominated the room. Overwhelmed by the beauty, Landru swore his faithfulness to Lunestra from now on, leaving an offering of a single silver coin; a metal sacred to the moon.

Moving along in their search for the Lord of the Star Vault, they confronted a strange construct with 4 shields that spoke with them briefly until Tory leveled a heavy crossbow at it; motivated, it sprang into action only to be hewn down by Landru and Belstaag Bob.

Tramping over the remains, the invaders entered a last antechamber, with doors of clear dwarven make and artistry leading deeper. Wary, they investigated carefully, and found the lair of a Morglian Clubber. Rotchilde lit the room clearly with his golden sphere, and they spotted it hanging in ambush in the center of the ceiling; a crossbow quarrel, javelin, and sorcerous bolt settled the clubber before it could spring at them.

They entered the audience chamber of the former temple to Lunestra, hushed in the presence of the luminous aspects of the god and the magnificent throne for the ruler of this place.

Continuing down a back hall, they attacked a massive guard wolf and swiftly murdered it before it could raise the alarm. Then as they explored, a robed figure sprinted out, looking to escape. Rook pursued, and flung her sword at its retreating back, bringing the escapee down. Belstaag Bob accommodated with the killing stroke as he pursued.

The Lord of the Star Vault was a Gelbrian Masker! Now a dead masker.

As they checked out the living quarters behind the audience chamber, they found a Kudjell Deep Slaver’s room, and the imprisoned minstrel. Freeing him, and noting the location of the tribute the locals paid to the masker, they investigated a bit further to find the masker’s office.

Tory expertly sprung the locks and enriched the group with the monster’s ill-gotten gains, and Rothchilde realized a Shadowplayer was plaguing his steps. His golden sphere sent it shrieking through the wall, and Tory gathered up the enchanted objects, coins, ledger of local extortion, and other treasures as the party retreated back to open air.

All that remained was dividing up the treasure, satisfying the Baron’s demands, and receiving their rewards. Each enjoyed a steed worth about 20 sina, trained light warhorses or ponies as appropriate from quality breeding stock.

The party celebrated their victory with delicious Clubber Wings harvested and prepared by the redoubtable boggie cook Pansy.

Special thanks to Mark for tracking and facilitating division of the loot.
Also, special thanks to Dyson Logos for another great map.


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Adventure 6: Prince Erin's Folly
The Guild doesn't need to know EVERYTHING.

Background

Magus Grylandar is not with the Tower Guild, not anymore. Hasn’t been for decades. But he has a reputation among treasure hunters as a canny employer who is more than fair to those who carry out missions on his behalf.

He approached Rothchilde with a most intriguing proposition. If Rothchilde will gather a group of adventurers who don’t mind a little something on the side, out of sight of the vigilant Guilds, then it could be extraordinarily profitable. For making the effort, travel expenses are paid, as well as a 50 sina bonus. (And the chance to purchase a wand and additional spells from non-Guilder sources at… reasonable rates.)

Prince Erin was a governor for one of the Dracolithic states in what is now the Freeholds. He was famed for his connections to the Gilver, back in the days before Necromekk. But not much before. No one knows where the Prince was buried, but they suspect his body was hidden by his Gilver allies. All that transpired around the time when Mekk was subverted to become Necromekk. When the god that granted energy to the unliving became the god who channeled the energies of undeath.

Prince Erin had a small fortress on an island off the coast of the mountains, extremely out of the way, known as Prince Erin’s Folly. In the troubled times as Mekk fell, perhaps an enclave of Gilver settled in there, or already had a temple in that area. Perhaps his fortress will have a clue.

The heraldry for Erin’s house was the Catalyst, a giant iron bull that breathed a petrifying gust upon its foes. Could it be? Could an isolated Gilver outpost be nearby, and could they have a surviving Catalyst of Mekk? If so, even news of finding such a thing is worth 1,000 sina to the Magus. If it could be subdued, it would be priceless, but he would offer 10,000 sina for it exclusively (as his information sends them on this trip.)

So the brave souls undertaking this ambiguous mission traveled to the coast, where a ship waited to take them to the island. Approaching the island, they see a narrow ship at anchor in the restless sea off the frozen coast. Their captain grimly informs them that reef crawler action has intensified this winter, and there is a 2 sina per head bounty on them. Maybe that’s why the other ship is here. Maybe.

Then the explorers hunched in the longboat, carried over the heaving sea, soaked with spume and tasting salt, approaching the cheerless spit of land that may hold priceless relics from thousands of years ago. Already, they can see the shattered silhouette of Prince Erin’s Folly dominating the low horizon.

*

Varthres 10, 2031

Rothchilde led the expedition, joined by Hirsch, Quinn, Euclid, and an escaped elven slave of the brutes who worships Khorus, Iskierka (called Kira for short.)

They landed on the island, soaked to the bone. As they approached Prince Erin’s Folly, a broken down watchtower presiding over some ruined buildings, they spotted some men guarding the ruin. Euclid used his stealth and tracking to check the back trail, estimating a dozen of them, with a heavy box. As Hirsch flanked the group using his uncanny stealth, Rothchilde opened negotiations.

The friendly rough men invited him in out of the cold, and he summoned the rest of the group to go with him. Once inside, they were chatting about reef crawler bounties when the men pounced on Euclid, not having much use for an unrestrained Midrianite in their midst. That triggered a general melee, or would have; Rothchilde drew himself up and radiated his supernatural power, terrifying them. As they fell back, or ran away, the adventurers gleefully set to with their weapons.

Those fleeing were intercepted by Hirsch and his mighty axe, and he slaughtered the first two escapees as Euclid calmly crippled another. Those who ran from their guard posts on the roof were chased down by Kira and pulped, with the occasional arrow arcing down from Euclid.

As Quinn undertook the distasteful task of finishing off the wounded, Rothchilde found a big chest the pirates brought ashore with them. Quinn tried her hand at picking the lock, and was pricked in turn by a sharp, discolored needle. Panic and poison flowed through her, and Euclid managed to negate the effects of the poison that clutched at her heart. They searched the pirates for a key; finding none, she tried the lock again and picked it. The chest was full of treasure!

The invaders searched the tower carefully, but found no clues about any nearby temple of Mekk. Their search expanded outside, and Euclid found reef crawler tracks that disappeared in some disrupted earth. They gathered around the trapdoor, and hauled it open.

As they descended into the dark, croaks of challenge rose from the reef crawlers. The battle became decidedly one-sided when Rothchilde knocked 4 of the 5 out with magic, and the party bowled over the last one. As Quinn again demonstrated her expertise in killing unconscious foes, they discovered this had been a wayside shrine to Mekk. They respectfully withdrew to the outer chamber and considered a door that was barricaded with furniture from the shrine, with something evil behind it.

After rolling in a stone that cast light, and shooting in an arrow that cast light, they suspected the creatures that kept devouring the light sources did not like light. The ever-impetuous Kira charged in and sparred with a pair of undead reef crawlers, then withdrew. They did not pursue. Quinn got a line of sight on them, and she looked tastier; they charged out, Hirsch engaged them, and Rothchilde webbed them up. They were summarily slain, and as the web burned off, the invaders withdrew to outside to escape the rancid smoke.

They noted the fog had thickened. That could be ominous. But it hid the column of smoke.

Back down into the darkness, and they found a spiral staircase heading down. Following it, they came out in a room lit by two everburning torches, so naturally they took them. Quinn scouted one hallway, not liking the look of some thirty meditating robed figures generating a hum.

They followed the other corridor, finding a room packed with fungus, as well as a couple nasty amorphous threats. Rothchilde froze a path to the far door with his Ice Thorn wand, and they discovered on the other side of the door a room full of deadly dust, with an iron throne radiating holy death energies. Quinn carefully collected some of the dust as Euclid sparred with the slime monster that seemed determine to taste some Midrianite. After slaying the slophunter (its acid mangled his favorite masterwork rapier), and smashing one of the jellyfleshers, they retreated back to the main room to rest and regain some of their spells and nerve.

Euclid put a silence in the hallway past the meditating figures, and they slipped past unnoticed. They found a temple to Mekk that had been subverted to Necromekk. Heading up a staircase, they were startled by a life-size statue of a Catalyst, well rendered. When their heartbeats returned to normal, they investigated a room full of statues. Finding little of interest, they crossed to another door, and Hirsh burst through to interrupt a conversation—

—and found about twenty skeletons and four priestesses! Battle was joined, desperate and clattering, as bones flew apart under mighty blows and hissing death monsters clawed at the hated living. The priestesses flung death energies at the invaders, rejuvenating their own dark powers with the blood energy of their attackers. Repeated blasts of cold from Rothchilde turned the tide, and Euclid shot their leader in the forehead, killing her instantly before the priestesses dropped him with their foul magics.

With the leaders down, Rothchilde webbed the skeletons in place, and the invaders withdrew a bit to catch their breath. Then, flame in the web finished the last skeletons off. The intruders stalked into the Necromekk holy place, noting the statue that had been repainted to Necromekk colors from its once benign Mekk representation.

They followed a corridor to a locked door, but all that seemed to be within was some giant sleeping weasels and a well, so they didn’t bother opening it. Retreating all the way back to the pillared temple with the spiral staircase, they decided to see what was upstairs.

Seeing a peculiar arch across the room, the one in first position, Hirsch, stepped forward to investigate. The more mundane arch into the room was enchanted, and he went to sleep. After various experimentation (including Rothchilde’s effort to suppress the enchantment), the rest of the group pulled him back in, and they retreated back to the pillared hall. Eventually he woke, and they followed the stairs down.

At the bottom of the stairs was another arch. This one animated, forming two Mekkguards. Rothchilde spoke to them in Dracoris, a language old enough for them to know it. They offered the invaders a choice; leave, or go through the interior door and answer the mystery before them. And not leave. Ever.

Rothchilde attacked the Mekkguards, and the end seemed to be upon the group. But Kira leaped at them with savage fury and in a matter of seconds had broken the core of both guards with her brutal fighting technique and mastercraft elven spiked knuckles (and the help of her stalwart allies).

With the guardians down, the group sent Kira in to scout. She saw mashed paper all over the floor, then a shape—

—a bull shape that charged her, smashing through the corner of the wall in its fury to reach and trample her fragile body to elf-paste! So she sprinted back, they slammed the door, and it banged into the door hard enough to dent it and ram two steely horns through.

They retreated back up to the pillared hall and consulted. Quinn scouted back down, cautiously, noting some “blood” substance leaked under the door. She collected it, and the party ruminated on what it could mean; did they have the proof they needed?

Eventually the meditating figures woke, and the party retreated up the staircase to hide and wait. Rothchilde again talked to the arch at the top of the stairs, like the arch at the bottom of the stairs; it formed a pair of Mekkguards as well. They did not know whether a catalyst lurked in the depths, but they were not about to let anyone leave.

Hearing a shrill scream as those who had been meditating found their clergy slain, guardians ruptured, and temple defiled, they figured discretion might be the better part of valor.

Racing out, they reached the surface around sunset. A scouting party from the pirate ship spotted them, and Rothchilde swept their consciousness away in a burst of inexorable magic. They entered the watchtower to collect the chest of coin, surprising another scouting party at point-blank range. Rothchilde knocked all but one out, and the other swiftly fell before the party’s ready violence.

Escaping with the chest, they made it to the coast, where Rothchilde released a fireball to signal the ship. The longboat picked them up, and as the Magus’s representative demanded an update, the ship captain heaved up the anchor and ran, as the pirate ship was closing on them.

Euclid gave them some souvenir arrows in the hull, then the ship was at full sail, and the pirates broke off pursuit.

The party talked the grudging representative into some coin for their troubles, and Euclid sold a map of the complex to him for additional funds, which were split among the party.

Behind them, deep in the darkness, a riddle or two remained. But they had emerged alive and victorious and a little wealthier, enriched by their experiences below the broken tower of Prince Erin’s Folly.

Thanks to Michael for handling loot distribution and Shaun for mapping.
Special thanks to Dyson Logos for another great adventure. (Issue 3.)
Funny game quotes recorded by Michael!

April 23, 2011

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Adventure 7: Crypt of Lord Rudia
"Deliver us from vampires..."

Port Selver is plagued by an infestation of evil. The quiet river town has been losing several young men and women a week who simply vanish; several more turn up dead in the alleys behind taverns or floating down the river. Monsters are striking without regard for consequence, smug in their sense of safety in the isolated, winter-locked borderland.

The people have been praying to St. Midrian and Alorn for deliverance. The town council contacted the Alorn temple in Annwheat with a plea for help.

Their tale is grim. A vampire has moved in and begun making more vampires, targeting the young women of the town. He has attracted to his service a necromancer, a werewolf, and possibly other evil creatures. His burning charisma may attract more at any time. The only silver lining is that they destroyed a bandit gang that was in the area, but now those bandits are undead servitors.

These monsters have grown so bold that a local tracker followed the blood trails and tracks back to a temple of Alorn that was destroyed back in the revolution and never rebuilt—which is why the people have come to the Temple of Alorn for help in dealing with this evil force.

Winter is peak season for dealing with the undead, and many of the temple’s resources are committed in assault, defense, and investigative tasks. The temple demanded that Port Selver commit to rebuilding and rededicating the temple in the wilderness; the representative of the town could not agree to those terms, as the temple is somewhat distant from the town and resources are scarce. So the temple delegated this task to a Midrianite, with the mandate to build a crew in consultation with the local Guilder Council and go sort it out.

*

Varthres 20, 1231

Euclid gathered a group composed of Tempest, Pansy, Tory, Rothchilde, and Landru. They rode out to Port Selver over the course of days. Rothchilde kept their imaginations fired by demonstrating the killing cold his wand could unleash, and his new favorite spell—fireball. It was important to Tempest that the group get a visual understanding of the radius and range issues of these spells, so they knew to get the hell out of the way when the time came. Rothchilde also enchanted a number of blades to pierce armor.

They spent the night in town, and then left their horses and slogged the brutal two hours across the snowbound landscape, into the forest and away from civilization. Their depressed guide mumbled prayers the whole way, and assumed they would lose; when he got them within visual range of their objective, he turned and trudged back.

He probably didn’t make it. Wolves descended on the party, and as most of them scrambled up trees, Landru and Tempest sorted them out. However, Tory noted half the wolves did not engage, but flanked the party, getting behind them. Between them and escape.

They pushed through the ruins of the shrine, to the doorway heading into darkness. They noted tracks went to the left, not the right, so they headed to the left. They found a pair of iron doors with ancient locks (the shrine was over 1,500 years old, after all.) Tory popped the lock with his usual expertise, and as Pansy whipped the door open, Tempest was ready for anything.

“Anything” turned out to be five wolves that leaped out at him and Tory. As they were hacking at the wolves, a bone-chilling screaming howl of raw supernatural rage shivered through everyone but Rothchilde, whose sorcery protected him from the worst of it. Struggling against fear as well as fangs, they escalated their efforts; Rothchilde knocked the wolves out with sorcery. Euclid offered the soothing reassurances of his god and Pansy slammed the door shut.

As they tried to catch their breath for a moment, reassured by Tempest’s leadership, the door was shoved open by supernatural fury, flinging Pansy into the wall; Euclid and Tempest mastered their fear and attacked the slavering werewolf, with Tempest cleaving through the monster and hurling it back with a mortal wound.

Dismayed by the wolf lair they found, with crude slaughter art slapped on the walls with viscera like sick finger-painting, they were undeterred from encouraging Tory’s expert treasure-hunting. He found a secret door, and they noted it as he continued searching.

Finding that the werewolf had nested in a broken-open crypt, using unmentionable bedding, Tory steeled his nerve and poked through it, finding nothing. Fortunately, the monster also had an iron box next to the nest with some treasure in it.

With backpacks loaded by more coin, they lined up and headed through the secret door. A vast staircase plunged into the darkness, and ahead, the only tracks were those of a woman; they followed the greater tracks, down into the endless dark.

As they continued down the steep, slick stairs, they shivered. Something—wrong. Then Tory noticed Pansy’s shadow winking at him. Shadowplayers! Rothchilde whipped out his golden orb and sent them screaming through the walls.

At the foot of the stairs, they heard a corpse wetly discarded. They cautiously looked into the room, finding themselves at the threshold of the deep crypt, belonging to Lord Rudia himself. Wolves charged at them, slavering, as simpering vampire spawn offered cover to the mighty thing that created them. The vampire was covered in chitinous armor, with scythe-like claws.

As Tempest and Landru once again flailed at flashing fangs, assaulted by wolves, Rothchilde shot fire at the vampires. The three women were crisped, but the ancient evil laughed in the face of his sorcery. Pansy helped out with the wolves, but would it be too late? The vampire raced across the room and tore Tempest down, nearly killing him with a single clawed hit.

A crossbow bolt was carefully aimed at a seam in the armor of the monster’s head, pounding into the vampire’s skull. Rothchilde knocked the rest of the wolves out with his sorcery. The vampire considered the entire group, ready to focus its attentions on him alone.

It was a simple enough matter to shove past them and sprint up the stairs into darkness. Landru pursued briefly, but the monster had the speed of the damned. The invaders regrouped to deliberate on their next move.

In searching the crypt, even Tory found no secret exists. They respectfully arranged the mass of corpses the vampires had drained off for their pleasure and sustenance. Landru read the ancient Dracoris runes, noting the history of Lord Rudia. He had once stood against a tide of the undead. He and his followers were slain, but they saved countless innocents. The aspect of Alorn was reptilian, for the temple predated the revolution to shrug the Dracolithic imperial rule off the Freeholds. Euclid also discovered that the furious core of Lord Rudia’s influence was untouched by the vampiric taint that surrounded it. He also pondered the black statue of a mysterious robed woman—does Alorn have a divine daughter whose worship is lost in the Freeholds?

Also, Lord Rudia’s statue on the lid of his crypt seemed to have been holding a sword at one time—good to know. And it appeared the vampires tried to open the crypt, with painful results; some holy energy of Alorn still resided in this place.

After meditation, prayer, research, and gestures of respect to the dead, the invaders formed up and tracked the bloodstains of the fleeing vampire.Up the stairs, down the corridor, and out—into the sunlight? Grim, they followed, finding the casting of its stripped off armor. They continued, toiling up the hill, down the other side, out to the frozen over lake. They saw him ahead in the distance, almost jaunty as he escaped, inevitably headed back to town.

They couldn’t allow it. Under the lowering weight of the clouded afternoon sky, they gave chase. They outpaced the monster, who seemed to have difficulty under the open sky of the daytime. Launching a barrage of ranged attacks, they targeted his head with elf-make arrows, heavy crossbow bolts, and sorcery. The reeling vampire escaped into the brush, and wolves swept down at the pursuers.

Rothchilde saved them the bother of a fight by blasting the wolves with knockout sorcery, and as they tumbled down the hill suddenly unconscious, the implacable pursuers closed in on the vampire.

The blood trail then tracks only headed up through the brush, up the hillside, to a stony overhang. Tracks went in, but not out, on either side. Rothchilde sent an explosion of flame into the enclosed space, then after considerable deliberation, Tempest and Euclid climbed in to see what was left. They found the vampire’s remains.

Tory was then sent in to look for treasure, and true to his nature, he found it; a chalice and a sacrificial knife. Goods in tow, and sure of the vampire’s demise, they headed back to the crypt.

They rested for a while, after the grueling trek across the winter landscape, noting uneasily that it was now heading into late afternoon. After a brief discussion, they decided to press on.

Back in through the complex, they came to the top of the stairs down to the hellish crypt, and instead took the side corridor. Pushing through the secret door at the end, they found themselves in a room with the floor covered in cushions, drapes on the walls, and unspeakable acts a regular feature of the nest of pleasurable horror. Suspecting the vampire spawn of lairing here, they proceeded with caution; Tempest then found himself face to face with a slender woman wielding a brutal sword. As he clashed steel on steel, projectiles whipped around him, slamming into her; she was far tougher than she looked. Grim, he slammed his best hit into her, flinging her riven corpse back with its wings (?!?) fluttering.

Standing over the slain succubus, he made room so others could go into her lair. Landru wanted her enchanted blade, but the others didn’t trust its infernal enchantment. They did take a mystic candle, a death mask, and all her ill-gotten coinage.

Considering the overcast day, the daylight slipping away, and a two hour trek across unfamiliar snowbound terrain, the invaders decided to retreat for now. The vampire, its spawn, the werewolf, a pack of wolves, and a demon had been slain. Still, they did not know what horrors yet lurked in the shrine.

They had plenty of time to ruminate on what may still corrupt the darkness of that place as they trudged back towards the blighted town. Yes, they agreed. We must go back… Tomorrow.

Thanks to Mark for handling loot tracking and distribution.

I populated this map with monsters and treasure, but used a map from “Heroes of Horror.”

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