Sunday, 16 December 2012

Team Adventure - Christmas Special 2012

Following their battle with the ettins, the party settled down for the night. They were tired and the fire was warm. The gentle breeze in the trees made an eerie, lulling sound that seemed to resemble a gentle, soporific lullaby. In fact, this was a bit too close to the truth, as the party fell asleep having left nobody on guard.

Some considerable time later, Alagon was woken by the insistent chirruping and shaking of Relic, and when the party roused itself they found that one of their members was missing. Whilst they had been sleeping, somebody – or something – had abducted Elysia.

Very soon, the entire party was readied for action. They sent Relic on ahead to try and find her but to no avail; she seemed to have vanished off the face of the earth!

However, Benbo quickly identified a trail that led away from the campsite further into the forest and the party followed it, soon noticing some interesting features about it – firstly that the prints were not human but hoofs and that secondly, the hoofs were smaller than horse-sized. Putting two and two together, both Benbo and Alurax concluded that the suspected abductors were likely to be fauns, otherwise known as satyrs.

The trail ended at a mysterious structure in the forest, made up of two upright staves and a crossbeam; it seemed to form a doorframe, although there was no door to go with it. Showing an eagerness to find out what had become of Elysia, Benbo stepped through it and promptly vanished from sight.  Alagon went through to find out what had become of the hobbit and he too vanished.

This caused consternation amongst the remainder of the party but they concluded that it was best to try and follow them in case they needed help; the memory of the tragic fate that had befallen Galadeus was clearly strong in their minds. Ferros was next through and that left Alurax and Gullhar. The elf had a rope tied round his waist and Alurax held its other end. Then Gullhar stepped through the gateway; to Alurax’s alarm, the rope went suddenly slack.

On the far side of the gate, the various party members had found themselves in a wintry landscape, wide acres of snow and before them, a strange object – a tall pole of iron with a lantern at its top. Dangling from the crossbar were several little bags that Benbo could not, unfortunately reach, but Alagon was able to pluck them down and found that they were full of oats and dried fruit. He stowed these about his person and they looked about to see what this new place was like.

Whilst they were exploring, the other members of the party arrived, one by one. Eventually even Alurax turned up, unwilling to remain on the other side of the gate alone. However, they found that the gate had disappeared when Alurax passed through; there seemed to be no way back.

Ahead, across the snow, the party could see three distant gates, similar to those that they had already passed through. They decided to explore each in turn. The left-hand gate led them into a realm of deep snow, where Benbo sank nearly out of sight. Alagon had to carry the hobbit until they reached another gate that took them out of the drifts and into easier going. In the distance, they could see a strange object, made of what looked like metal, but they decided to check out the other gate from the snowdrifts.

That led them into a more forested area where they soon heard the jingling of bells and the sound of hoofbeats. Expecting someone different, they were surprised when a mysterious, fur-clad woman in a sleigh pulled up. She got out a box and tried to tempt members of the party with something called Turkish Delight. Strangely enough, nobody in the party wanted to try this new-found substance and instead fired several arrows and crossbow bolts at her. Wounded and outraged, the woman beat a hasty retreat into the trees.

The party decided to return to investigate the mysterious object that they had already seen and found it to be some sort of machine, made of iron and brass. There was a little hatch in it and a pile of coal that sat by its side. Alurax decided to start piling the coal into the machine and get a fire going. Soon, the machine was starting to hum and judder and then, with a whoosh of steam, it produced a little jar of what appeared to be a dark red sweet confection. A couple of minutes later, another jar appeared, then another.

 (all illustrations by Junior Grognard)

The party stocked up on what was now revealed to be cranberry sauce. Not too far away from the sauce-making machine, they noticed a parcel in the snow which Alurax went over and examined. It was wrapped in colourful paper and ribbon. When he opened it, out fell a small figurine of a bear. He picked it up and noticed that it was growing warm; hastily putting it down, he stepped back and watched as it grew to the size of an adult polar bear, which bowed to the trident-wielder before following the party as they headed off towards one of the distant gateways.  The party named him Larsh.

Beyond that gate, the party noticed some figures approaching them through the snow; the figures were human-shaped but not human and they seemed oddly two-dimensional, or at the very least, rather thin. They were an orange-brown in colour and as they got closer, it could be seen that they were attempting to surround the party and herd them towards a nearby building whence came the strong smell of baking.

The menacing gingerbread men, for such they were, rubbed their ginger hands together and pressed closer to the party. Alurax concluded correctly that they were trying to turn the party into gingerbread men as well. At this point, Benbo snapped and started to attack their opponents, followed by Ferros, with Alurax and the polar bear weighing in. Ginger legs and ginger arms went flying in all directions and the gingerbread man that went up against the bear was reduced to crumbs in short order.

The party managed to break through the encircling foes and made a dash for safety. Ferros stumbled across another parcel and once they had put sufficient distance between themselves and the gingerbread men, who looked to be falling back on their lair, the cleric opened the parcel to find that it contained a tiny glass snow dome. Having never seen one of these before, he had a lot of fun shaking it vigorously and watching the resulting blizzard.

Passing through the nearest gate, the party found themselves on the shores of a frozen river. On the ice in the middle of the river, another parcel sat. Benbo was keen to get hold of it but correctly deduced that the ice was likely to crack if too much load was placed on it. He therefore stripped down to his underwear and crawled out onto the ice, reaching the parcel and pulling it slowly back to the shore.

Once the blue, shivering hobbit had been wrapped up and warmed again (albeit with the legacy of a stinking cold) he opened the parcel to see what was inside. A huge flurry of snow and ice sprang up, enveloping the party and when it subsided, they saw with a groan that they had arrived back at the lamp-post where they had started.

However, all was not lost as, coming towards them in the snow, was Elysia. She and Relic had a happy reunion and she told how she had been charmed and kidnapped by the satyrs who lurked in the woods where they had been camped. She thought that their leader might have fallen for her and wanted her to become a female satyr; however, she managed to escape during a snow storm and found her way back to the lamp-post where she had hoped the party would catch up to her.  So it had transpired.

Near the lamp-post, another parcel was spotted. Gullhar took it upon himself to open it and inside, found a long string of brightly glowing lights, whose illumination had no obvious source; clearly they had to be magic and they were secreted in the party’s belongings – Elysia had visions of using them to decorate the Moat House.

There was one other gate that they had not explored so far and as they passed through it, they found themselves in a confusing mass of tangled holly bushes. At once, they began to search for a path and eventually managed to find one. At the centre of the holly thicket, Alagon found another parcel and, on opening it, discovered that he had acquired another set of the mystical glowing lights. It would certainly be bright at the Moat House this coming winter.

Through the next gate, the party found that the terrain had become more open and that, a fair distance off, stood a large beast with proud antlers, a harness, bells and reins. The party approached it cautiously and then remembered the small bags of oats and fruit that they had found on the lamp-post. Using one of these, they tempted the reindeer. Ferros used his Speak with Animals ability but the strange influence of the wintry world in which they found themselves meant that his voice became deep and booming and his speech was frequently punctuated by outbursts of “Ho ho ho”. Nevertheless, the party managed to win its confidence and it told them that its name was Prancer and his home lay north of where they now stood. After opening the parcel that was to be found in this area and finding that within was a third set of the magical lights, they set off again.

Having passed into the next area, they were met by the sound of strange singing and the sight of a line of figures dancing a very odd dance. As they got closer, they saw to their amazement that they had come across a party of very drunk goblins dancing the conga. The party was invited to join in and Ferros, Benbo, Alurax and Alagon did so. Unfortunately, only Ferros and Benbo were left standing by the time the goblins got bored and wandered off, but not before having rewarded the duo with a flagon of goblin beer and a goblin goody-bag each.  The goblins left behind a parcel which, when opened, revealed a second polar bear figure. The party clearly had little to fear with their impressive and furry escort whom they named Micha.

The next gateway led them to another reindeer by the name of Dancer, which they swiftly befriended with another bag of food.

Alurax elected to open the accompanying parcel and found to his horror that he was trapped inside a cage of icicles. He could not smash his way out in case they came crashing down on his head. Elysia had the bright idea of casting Affect Normal Fires on his torch, causing it to blaze up and he used it as a blowtorch to cut through the ice before it finally sputtered out and failed. Alurax clambered through the hole that he had cut but unfortunately, he caught his foot on the icicles as he made his way out and brought the cage down on him, one of the barbs of ice slashing his leg as he rolled clear.

The party pressed on north, or so they hoped. An interesting development occurred when Elysia cast a Fly spell to reach the parcel in the next region, only to find that she turned into a Christmas Fairy, complete with wings, sequinned dress and tiara for the duration of the spell. The reindeer that they found here - Vixen - looked on with some curiosity as the box was opened to reveal a selection of crackers. Only Alurax and Gullhar saw fit to pull one between them; inside was a small metal object which, when pressed, shone a small beam of light. Gullhar, who had won the cracker pulling, seemed delighted with his new-found toy and secreted it about his person.

The next area the party entered was dominated by a large sculpture made of ice. As Alurax approached it to investigate, it started to bubble and gurgle, and from the top of it came a river of warm, liquid chocolate. The party was delighted and Alurax stuck his head under the fountain to drink it. As he did so, the wound on his leg healed up magically. Gullhar borrowed two empty potion bottles from Ferros to fill with the mystical brown elixir. Benbo tried to drink as well but as he was not injured, the draught had no effect.

Feeling greedy, Alurax drank again and unfortunately he and all his possessions turned to chocolate. He was still mobile and sentient however.  Behind the fountain, they found another parcel and sure enough inside was another polar bear figurine. They now had three of the great white creatures – Larsh, Micha and Greta. 

As they passed through the gateway into the next area, they found that one of the portals they could see was guarded by a large, tree-like figure, crowned with holly. This guardian required that they sang a Christmas song in order to try and persuade it to let them pass. The first attempt did not move the holly guardian but the second was done with enough aplomb that it moved aside and allowed them entry.

Beyond the gate, they found that there was a chimney sticking out of the ground. On further investigation, they discovered a parcel sitting behind it and when it was opened, they found it contained a bag of rock salt  ideal for traversing stretches of ice and snow. Elysia, Benbo, Alagon, Ferros, Gullhar and finally Chocolate Alurax went down the chimney and found at the bottom a little workshop and an old man in a green robe, drinking a cup of hot chocolate.

The old man explained that he was a cleric of unimaginably high power who had found the world a crowded and threatening place and now sought some peace and quiet in which to meditate and contemplate the finer things in life. Notwithstanding this, he was grateful for the return of three of his reindeer.  He allowed the party to say goodbye to their polar bear friends before the bears returned to figurine status and then asked what the party members would like as their Christmas wishes, with the proviso that said wishes should be within his power to grant.

Alurax asked for a hawk as a familiar, Alagon a white wolf. Benbo wanted a phoenix and Ferros a pseudo-dragon like Relic. Gullhar, who had clearly been taken with Larsh, Micha and Greta asked for a polar bear familiar, whilst Elysia asked if it were possible to return Galadeus to life as she had kept his hand (the sole salvage from the shark attack) and hoped that the cleric would be powerful enough to resurrect the ranger. He gestured to a large wrapped parcel in the corner of his workshop which, when unwrapped, contained the body of their departed comrade. It had one wrist ending in a stump and when Elysia joined the hand to it, the two merged and a soft glow enveloped the whole body, which then started breathing.

As they all gathered round to welcome Galadeus back to the land of the living, Elysia slid the ring of Mammal Control back onto Galadeus' finger and whispered "This is yours, old friend." Nobody noticed that the workshop and the old man gradually faded away to be replaced by the woodland where they had been camping. Had it all been a dream?  Demonstrably not!

DG note – a light-hearted Christmas session on which to end the year. Regular readers will recall that last year, we had an ordinary session at the last meeting before Christmas and this time, I wanted something a little wacky, goofy, often laugh out loud, which I think we managed to achieve. Now I have to go away and think of how I can create familiars that satisfy the desires of the party without unbalancing the game entirely.

In the year since the last Christmas session, we’ve seen a lot going on. Every member of the party has worked well to make the campaign an enjoyable experience. Alagon’s player joined us for that session and he’s fitted in seamlessly with the party (decapitating an ogre a couple of weeks later), as has Benbo/Galadeus’ player, whose determination, eagerness and excitement about play is a credit to him and an example to we grognards of the way we were – and still should be.

Next year will see the party occupying that sweet spot between the lower and higher levels; strong enough to avoid a TPK every session but not so strong that they can waltz through dungeons with nary a fear in the world. I will be bringing in more pre-pubs as well so the type of encounters and adventures that they will be facing are going to change, as may the treasure they garner. Threats and dangers will become more serious but the rewards will be commensurately richer too.  Who knows?  We may find our gallant band bearding Lolth in her own den this time next year.

1 comment:


    That was wonderful! These kids are quite lucky to have you doing all of this for them, especially this adventure.