Wednesday, 18 December 2013

An Adventure for Every Monster - Devil, Ice


Frequency   Uncommon
No. appearing 1 or 1-4
Armour class  -4
Move  11” 
Hit Dice  11
Percentage in lair 60%     
Treasure type Q, R
No. of attacks 4
Damage per attack  1-4/1-4/2-8/3-12    
Special attack  See below
Special defences  +2 or better weapon to hit
Magic Resistance 55%
Intelligence High
Alignment Lawful Evil
Size   L (10 ½ ‘ tall)
THAC0  10
XP value 4400 + 16/hp

The devil’s abilities include:

Fly
Wall of Ice
Detect Magic
Detect Invisible
Polymorph Self
Gate in 2 bone devils (70%) or another ice devil (30%) (60% chance of success)
Cause Ice Storm (once per day)
Charm Person
Suggestion
Illusion
Infravision
Teleportation (no error)
Know Alignment
Cause Fear
Animate Dead

The ice devils have been having a bit of trouble recently.  The city in which the adventure is set has recently come under the domination of a fire cult, whose clerics have been strengthening their power until they are on the verge of being able to wield fireball spells, a feat usually reserved for magic users. One particular cleric, a Priest Prince of the city, has been very effective at eliminating ice devils whenever they appear to try and restore the balance between fire and ice. This is also affecting the balance of power on the lower planes.

Hitherto, the ice devils have been using the manifest-fight-destroy model of operations but one particular ice devil, who is perhaps a little smarter than his fellows, has come up with a cunning plan that has resulted from a careful study of the opposition.

His plan revolves around the character of the Priest Prince, who is an arrogant and short-tempered man, handsome but violent. His shortcomings are tolerated because of his skills at devil slaying and his clerical powers. His looks have made him a hit with the ladies of the city, including one who has become perhaps slightly more obsessed with the Priest Prince than others might be. This is due in no short part to the efforts of the ice devil, who has used his Charm Person and Suggestion powers to convince the lady, through dreams, that she is destined to be the Priest Prince’s one true love. She is not particularly comely and, in reality, has no appeal for the Priest Prince. 

Now the ice devil has prepared his arrow, he merely needs to let it fly. The lady will begin to obsessively stalk the Priest Prince, who will brush her off brusquely, causing her to become even more determined. Eventually, he will lose his temper and either assault her or kill her to be rid of her. This will cause problems for him and the Fire Priests since the lady’s family is a powerful merchant clan who wield great influence in the city. Clashes between the spiritual and secular may well spill over into civil strife as there are many who resent the dominance of the Fire Priests.

The party will walk into this situation with little knowledge of the behind-the-scenes machinations.

There are several options for them to be dragged into this scenario.

1. They are hired by the Priest Prince to ‘deter’ the lady from making any further advances towards him. This can involve diverting her if one of the party has particularly high Charisma, ruining his image in her eyes by staging some sort of sham scandal, that sort of thing.

2. Maybe another party had tried option one before and had no luck. The Priest Prince does not need this sort of distraction at a time when he is due to lead a crusade against heretics in the northern wilds and so wants the lady out of the way – permanently. The party need to have her eliminated in a way that will not lead back to the Priest Prince and which will keep them out of prison as well.

3. The lady herself realises that on her own, she stands little chance of getting anywhere near the Priest Prince, so she approaches the party to see if their superior planning and intelligence can achieve what she has failed to do. The party need to come up with a way of getting the Priest Prince to see the lady’s obvious (to her) virtues and concluding a successful match.

4. The lady’s family are getting more than a little concerned about her infatuation and think that it’s for the best if she forgets about it. This is of course not going to happen whilst the ice devil is working his wicked plan. The party are hired to provide diversions aplenty (both social and personal) for the lady so that she has no chance to pine for her (clearly) unsuitable beau.

5. As with option four, but the family have already tried many different ways to break the lady’s infatuation and nothing has worked. Her father now suspects that something fishy is going on and wants the party to find out what. This will require the DM to devise the means by which the ice devil has managed to influence the lady’s mind. It will be no easy task to find and combat him, as he is a cunning and subtle fellow. 


If the ice devil thinks it has a chance, it may lure the party into the fire temple and somehow contrive for them to desecrate it (albeit unwittingly). This will enable the ice devil to gate in infernal support which will give the party a hard time.

Assuming they survive, the party may well become embroiled in the civil strife that follows any clash between the Fire Priests and the merchants. If the ice devils make a comeback following the weakening of the Fire Priests’ power, the party may well become a target for revenge attacks.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Team Adventure - The Ghosts and Christmas Presents.

Three ghosts down, one to go. The fearless phantom swept into the room and headed for Gullhar, who the party had pushed to the front, figuring that the age attack would affect him the least. Garry the Gnome stepped up to support the elf and Ferros came in from behind to joint the fray.

Ferros and Gullhar’s attacks missed, as did the ghost. Garry weighed in with his magic daggers and scored a hit. The ghost had been badly weakened by Elysia’s Sunburst and succumbed to the gnome’s attack, dissolving into a cloud of ectoplasm.

As the party gathered its forces, and Alurax went to pick up and bring back the ancient Elysia, Alagon’s paladin-sense began to tingle and he felt that there was certainly something worth checking out down the staircase in the middle of the room. Elysia cast Leomund’s Tiny Hut so that she could shelter therein, whilst the rest of the party headed down to see what they could find.

At the bottom of the stairs, Garry and Lydia went left, following the passage through an empty room. Whilst they were doing that, the rest of the party, ignoring Adventurer 101, went right and ended up in a room where there were two large stone heads carved into the north and west walls. As Ferros and Alagon stepped into the room, the northern head animated and told them that they must not, under any circumstances, waken the western head or they would be overwhelmed by doom. The cleric and the paladin crept very carefully out of the room, managing not to make any noise. However, Garry, who had been called back by the party managed to trip over his own feet and fall, clattering to the floor. At this point, the western head woke, opened its mouth and from it poured a sea of squirming, slithering and crawling insects, which headed straight for the luckless gnome. 



He hurled an oil bomb at them, which took out a fair few, but the rest just headed round the fire and continued to advance. He used more oil to lay a fire wall which held them up whilst the rest of the party scurried through the room and down the corridor on the far side.

At the end of the passageway, the party found a room in which an ochre jelly lived. It had been a long time since the jelly had eaten a square meal and so it headed straight for Alagon, who was first into the room. Garry rushed into the room and with a combination of arrows, swords and oil, they managed to drive the jelly back until it was against the far wall. Garry watched as it squeezed itself into small cracks in the wall. He deduced that there must be a secret door there and hammered at it until it began to open.

Beyond it was a narrow passage into another room, in which lay the corpse of a long-dead adventurer. While Ferros started to animate it, Garry noticed that there was a barred window on the far side of the room. Beyond the window was another chamber, in which could be seen two suits of armour, each holding a sword. Garry tried to bend the bars with his hammer, but failed miserably and suggested that perhaps Larsh might want to lend a paw. The polar bear lumbered up and ripped the bars from their fittings.

As the dust settled, Garry clambered through the hole and found that there were in fact four suits of armour, one at each corner of the room. A passageway led off both east and west; the eastern passage emitted a faint blue glow that interested the party. Meanwhile, Garry had decided to try throwing a stone at one of the suits of armour. This was greeted with dismay by the party but they were on the far side of the window and could not interfere.
What do I have to do?  Put a warning notice on it?
As soon as the stone hit the armour, it – and its three fellows – animated and advanced on the hapless gnome. Alagon clambered through to help his fellow party member, but the attackers had soon brought the gnome down, assisted by the fact that the wounds dealt by their swords continue to bleed after they had been inflicted. His increased dexterity following the incident with the iron throne helped Alagon to avoid the deadly swords but Lydia and Gullhar were less fortunate, although they did managed to whittle down the animated armour, with some key bowshots by Alurax to assist them.

Once their opposition had been overcome, the party moved down the passage towards the blue light. They had already discovered that Garry’s wounds could not be healed with magic, and so they left him behind, bandaged and semi-conscious. At the end of the passage, they were confronted with a figure, sitting on a crystal throne, a sword across its knees. It was bathed in a column of blue light.  Whilst they tried to work out how to get the sword without disturbing the light, Alurax edged around the outside of the room, finding that on the far side a gateway had appeared that had not been there when they originally entered the room. Fearing a trap, he returned to the party.

Nobody wanted to be the one to enter the blue light, so they used the zombie that Ferros had just animated. The zombie shambled forward into the light and picked up the sword. As it did so, the blue light flickered and went out. Simultaneously, a deep rumbling sounded from somewhere in the dungeon.  As if that were not bad enough, eight identical swords landed on top of the zombie, causing him to fall to the ground with the original.

Soon, water was pouring into the room, swirling around the knees of the party. Ferros ordered his zombie to throw the swords to him, one by one. As the water rose, the luckless zombie did just as instructed and Ferros passed the swords to Alagon to see if they were the Holy Avenger. The second sword turned out to be the right one and the party began to struggle their way back upstairs to Elysia. The water was rising all the while and once it had got to the chests of the gallant band, they decided to make use of Larsh to carry Garry and lead them to safety.

Making it back to the room where they had left Elysia, they found that the water was coming full force through one of the passages that led off the chamber. Leomund’s Tiny Hut was now a bubble of water-free space into which the party piled hurriedly. The torrent was roaring down the shaft up which they had come, and they realised that it would probably not stop until it had filled the entire dungeon. They only had about an hour or so before the spell failed and with that, they imagined that they would swiftly drown.

It was at this point that somebody remembered that the party had acquired the ability of water breathing during their encounter with the statues that sprayed golden dust, way down at the (now drowned) bottom of the dungeon.  With the urgency suddenly off, the party waited until the dungeon was completely filled with water, then moved the Hut to the influx point and swam through it into the bottom of the lake (you will remember – if I put it into that session’s write-up – that there was a lake behind the hill into which the dungeon was built.)  They managed to struggle ashore and lay there for a while, catching their breaths.

When they had recovered, they walked round the hill to find the old ruined temple, with their horses still waiting for them (and, presumably, Ferros’ zombies and skeletons). They pitched camp for the night and the next morning woke to find that Garry’s hearing had returned. His wounds were also slightly recovered.

Whilst they were getting breakfast ready, Elador returned. He had left Wolf at the town to see if the Council of Elders could do anything for him, and had now popped back to see how the party was getting on. Quite how he knew not to teleport into a flooded dungeon is anyone’s guess but he’s a high-level wizard; he knows a lot of things.  Shocked to find his sister an extremely elderly woman, he hit upon the plan of using Polymorph Other to turn her into an elven version of herself. She would then be a 113-year-old elf, which is the equivalent of a human teenager.

As this was taking place, a strange shimmering globe appeared, floating above the ground. It halted just outside the ruined temple and out stepped a very special visitor. It was the extremely high-level cleric from the Christmas-themed adventure.

This lovely little mini painted by Brian from Lead Legion.

He had come to visit them and bring them a special gift – an egg box. No, not an Xbox – a box with six crystal eggs inside it. He explained that there was one for each of them and that they were in fact crystallised time from another universe outside our own. If the members of the party were ever in a situation where they needed to reverse time, they could crush the egg and that time would be released into our universe, forcing the party back five minutes into the past. The party realised that this was a very effective present, and made a mental note to be frugal with the eggs.

As a special gift to the party, the cleric also invited them to visit his winter world for a day or so, to recuperate from their wounds and recover their strength. He then dropped them back at the ruined temple again. 

As the cleric was leaving, he suddenly remembered that he had a message for Lydia. He told her “the chrysalis is awakening”.  She suddenly appeared very alarmed indeed.  When the party asked her what it was all about, she explained that in her homeland, far to the south, there was a legend that an evil magic user had constructed a chrysalis to give himself immortality in his bid for power. Many had discounted the legend as mere fable but the paladins of which she is a member took it seriously and warned about the awakening. Now that day is close at hand and she needs to travel to her homeland and seek out the chrysalis so that it can be destroyed. Is Team Adventure up for it?  We shall have to wait and see.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Team Adventure - The Phantom Menace

The giant slug (for such it was) emerged into the room; Elysia fired a Fireball at it and although it damaged the monster, it didn’t stop it. Alagon swung into action, moving in to attack the slug as it got a volley of arrows from Alurax, Ferros, Gullhar and Garry. It tried to bite at Alagon but missed; the party then fired their second shots and Elysia let rip with a Magic Missile; at 9th level, she could deliver some powerful blasts of magical energy and those, combined with the arrows that had been fired, finished the horrible thing off for good.

The party now had to decide where to go next; after some indecision, Ferros took the initiative and led everybody off down the passageway from which the slug had emerged. He was accompanied by Alagon, Garry, Gullhar and Wolf, with the others bringing up the rear.

As they reached the corner of the corridor, Alagon suddenly sensed a strong feeling of evil from the darkness ahead.  Reluctant to enter, Alagon slowly edged round the corner, with the rest of the party providing back-up. Gullhar scanned the room with his infravision but could see nothing.

As the party stepped into the room, four sinister figures came out of the gloomy corners. They were almost transparent and radiated sheer malice. Nobody knew what they were but Ferros knew that they were undead and raised the holy symbol of Foik, which drove them back into the darkness again.
 
We'll be back!
Having cleared the room of opposition, Ferros spotted a dead body lying in one corner and before you could say ‘Foik’, said cadaver was part of the Undead Army. The party headed off down the passageway again, making sure that the sinister undead figures were not waiting for them.

At the end of the passageway, they came to a room where they saw two more bodies on the floor. Again, Ferros stepped in to animate them but this time, there was a nasty surprise waiting. As the two new zombies stumbled towards ‘Master’, Ferros and Alurax noticed that there were white worms writhing in the putrescent flesh. Ferros promptly turned them, which destroyed them and Alurax hurled an oil bomb in, roasting what was left of the bodies and the worms.

Ferros' new zombie henchmen were destined for a short unlife.
The team decided to exercise caution from thereon and checked the room out thoroughly. Alurax, who’d had experience of nasty things lurking on the ceiling, looked up and saw that there was a shaft opening directly above their heads. It was thick with cobwebs and darker objects moved within it. Alurax fired an arrow up into the webs and by chance, hit a spider which dropped down onto the floor, dead.  Alagon reached up and managed, by use of a torch, to burn the first few feet of cobwebs. 

Having explored the only other passage leading from this room, which took them back to the clay jar chamber, the party thought that they had run out of options and decided to do what they had done on the previous level – send Gullhar round to see if he could find any secret doors. The elf set off back up the passage but he had only gone a little way when he met the four sinister undead coming towards him. He shouted out and alerted Ferros, who ran down to join him. The cleric raised the symbol of Foik again but this time, either his faith was lacking or the undead had grown bolder. They were not stopped and Ferros decided that discretion was the better part of valour. The party beat a hasty retreat to the room with the spider shaft, where they decided to make a stand.
 
Told you so!
The party deployed for action, with Wolf, Alagon, Ferros and Garry in the front row. Elysia and Elador were thinking about using their Teleport spells to take the party out of danger but then realised that with the weight restriction of the spell, they could only take one person each.

As the undead came drifting into the room, Elador recognised them as spectres. Ferros tried to turn them again but he had no luck this time either.  Elysia readied her Wand of Illumination and cast Sunburst which damaged but did not destroy the spectres. They closed in on the front rank of the party and battle was joined.

The spectres failed to hit Garry and Alagon but poor Wolf was hit and drained. As his lifeless body hit the floor, an eerie mist rose from it and started to take on the shape of a spectral wolf. 

Bet you're wishing you'd taken me for more walks now, eh, FORMER master!
Just as one of the spectres loomed in with its claws to drain Ferros, Alurax fired a magic arrow from the back rank and the undead predator dissolved into the darkness, destroyed in a very lucky hit.

The next round, Alurax used the same tactic to destroy the spectre that had killed Wolf as it was moving in to attack Lydia. Elysia fired another Sunburst at the spectre that was trying to hit the very nimble Alagon and destroyed that.  The final spectre closed in on Garry and everyone thought the gnome was about to be drained but he managed to dodge the chilling grasp; Elysia tossed her wand to Elador who fired Sunburst again at the spectre and destroyed it. 

That left the problem of the spectral wolf – Elysia took back her wand whilst Elador grabbed the fallen body and teleported out with it. It was his aim to return to the town, many miles distant and see if the Council of Elders could do anything for the fallen familiar.  A final Sunburst took care of the spectral wolf. The party had triumphed but not without cost. 

Disturbed by the prospects of other monsters lurking on this level and waiting to attack, Elysia fired a fireball up the spider shaft, clearing it of cobwebs and other debris (including some human bones from less than fortunate previous adventurers), then cast Fly and carried the party up the thirty feet or so of shaft to a small room with a narrow walkway around the opening. A passage led off it and they followed this until it came out into a room in which there was a flight of descending stairs and two other passages. There were also three dead bodies in the middle of the room.  Ferros wondered who they were and decided to use Speak with Dead to find out. The corpses revealed that they were low-level adventurers and had been killed by the spiders from the shaft (Ferros had not really thought about the questions he was going to ask and only had two to use).  Satisfied that the bodies represented no threat, he decided to animate them. Unfortunately, not all threats are visible ones and as the bodies rose from the floor, their ghosts emerged from the mouldering bodies and advanced on the cleric who had the temerity to disturb them.


Ferros took one look at the advancing phantoms and shrieked, taking to his heels in terror – down one of the passageway that the party had not yet explored. He also aged ten years but that was the least of his worries. One of the ghosts followed him and the others homed in on Elysia and Lydia, who had assumed that their cleric would sort out this latest undead problem.  Elysia resorted to her usual tactic of Sunburst but unfortunately this did not destroy the ghosts fully. They struck at Lydia, turning her from an 18-year-old to a paladin in her mid-forties.  Elysia was touched by the second ghost and became 73.   She still had her wits about her because another Sunburst finished off the ghosts. 

Meanwhile, Ferros had fled into a room where the first ten feet of floor was black and glistening. He failed to jump it and ran through it instead. His boots started to char and corrode and as he ripped them off, he realised that he was in a dead end. His plight concentrated his mind and he recovered his wits, only to see one of the ghosts drifting down the corridor towards him.  He attempted once again to use the power of Foik, but said deity must have been busy elsewhere, because the ghost just kept on coming.

Just as Ferros thought his number was up, Elysia appeared in the room, having teleported in. She fired a Sunburst at the ghost, who appeared weakened, though not destroyed and used a Fly spell to pick up the cleric and soar past the ghost. As they did so, the ghost reached out and made a grab for them. He touched Elysia, who went from 73 to 113 in an instant. She crashed to the floor and Ferros ran into the main room to alert the party to their magic-user’s predicament.  Elysia, in her dotage, now lay on the floor whilst the ghost decided to attend to the rest of the party who were a greater threat; he could always come back and finish off the extremely elderly magic user for afters.

The party prepared to defend themselves against what they now recognised as some of the deadliest adversaries they had ever encountered.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Too funny not to share

This.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Legend by David Gemmell

 There’s late to the party and then there’s only reading this book this year. It was published in 1984, when I was just 19 and Joe Abercrombie was 10 (or possibly 9).  All this time, it’s been off my radar and only now, having read stuff that’s been compared to it did I decide to find out what all the fuss is (was) about.

So what is it all about?  Well, Legend can best be described as what might have happened if a 60-year-old Conan with a bad back and a gammy knee was drafted in to defend Helm’s Deep against the Mongols. If you feed that combination through the directorship of John Ford, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what to expect.

Of course, with a summary like that, and it being fantasy, you’ll probably be expecting action of the most military sort. To tell the truth, Legend has plenty of fighting but there isn’t an overwhelming amount of it. We get battle scenes in which named characters participate but the fighting isn’t where the real story takes place. That is reserved for the sections of the book where Gemmell peels back the outside of his characters and looks into their souls.

Having done this, he reveals that his characters are just as fallible and human as the rest of us. There are no larger-than-life heroes here, unless you count Druss, and even he has his shortcomings, although as a paragon, personifiying the virtues of nobility, sacrifice, duty and honour, he has few equals.

In essence, what Gemmell has done with this book is to humanise Tolkien, giving us people with whom it’s very easy to identify, rather than Kings and Princes with Destinies and magic swords.

There are flaws in the book, of course; Rek’s romance with Virae seems to progress very fast indeed whereas it might have been a better idea to have had them meet at Dros Delnoch and there find each other. The length of the book is perhaps not quite enough for us to witness the fates of various characters, some of whom are killed off-screen, as it were. But given that Gemmell is no longer with us, we’re unlikely to get a Director’s Cut of the book and so must be satisfied with what we have – and thankful for it.

Gemmell is lauded by those who came after him – less charitable souls than I might dub them epigones – and he has an annual fantasy awards ceremony named after him. There are many debates as to his legacy on fantasy with many claiming his standard and marching forward with it. 

I suppose that rather than the vanguard of gritty fantasy as it is now defined, Gemmell was in fact the rearguard of heroic moral fantasy, where there was something larger than the character to which they could give allegiance, be that a principle or a cause.  It seems odd that he has been beatified by a genre which seems, over recent years, to have drifted away from the underlying values which made him such a popular and enduring author.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Team Adventure - Gnome Comforts

Acting quickly – and unsure of how much longer the floor around Alurax would continue to support him - Gullhar (who had returned to the narrow corridor) pulled the doughty fighter out and onto firmer ground. Whilst he was busy doing this, Larsh detected somebody coming down the corridor behind him. It turned out to be a small figure armed with a short sword and wearing studded leather armour. He introduced himself as Gary the Gnome, a thief who had heard of a great treasure inside the dungeon and had come to investigate.

While Gullhar and Alurax were trying to work out what to make of the new arrival, he had skipped nimbly (but not as nimbly as Alagon now could) across the hazardous floor of the slime room, then bypassed Ferros and Alagon, who were still cleaning themselves up after the attack of the Shambling Mound.

On the far side of the Mound Room was another passage, down which the little thief now strode. The rest of the party followed on; Alurax and Gullhar managed to cross the slime room floor, disturbing more of the loose floor but not suffering any dire consequences.  Ferros’ two zombies which had only been created a few minutes earlier were dragged across on a rope, bits of them falling off as this happened, although nothing particularly important.

At the end of the passage, the party found a room with four statues on plinths at each point of a compass rose inlaid in the floor. In each plinth was a slot, about the size of a coin. Gary entered the room, approached the first plinth from behind, reached round and put a coin into the slot. The statue animated and sprayed out a golden dust onto the space in front of it. Gary touched and tasted the gold spray; it tingled when he touched it and didn’t taste of anything. Even as he watched it, the dust vanished like snow on a sunny day.

Ferros entered the room next and with Gary, tried to move one of the statues but it was very firmly fixed and neither of them could budge it.

Alurax’s idea was to get everybody to put a coin in each of the slots whilst one of Ferros’ zombies stood at the centre of the compass rose. This produced the same effect but as the zombie was not standing in front of any of the statues, the showers of gold had no effect.

The experimentation continued; the zombie was stood in front of each statue in turn so that he was showered with dust from each of them but there seemed to be no obvious effects on him.

By now, people were starting to get bored of the statues and their gold dust. They made plans to settle down for the night to regain spells and hit points, whilst Gary set traps at each door of the room to prevent unwanted incursions. Ferros deputed his zombies to stand sentry for a similar purpose.

Nothing disturbed the party during the night. However, in the morning (or so they believed, since they were deep below the surface of the earth), Ferros started to get telepathic messages, through Rufus, from Relic. Elysia, who had last been seen in the entrance to the dungeon, was contacting him to find out where they were.

The magic user had used her new spell, Teleport, to return to the Moat House in order to see if she could recruit additional firepower for the party in the form of Elador. However, she had not realised when doing so that she could only use the spell for one-way trips and so was stuck at the Moat House until she had rested up and relearned the spell. Now, she had teleported back to the last place that she had seen the party and needed to know where they were in order to rejoin them.

Thus guided, the two magic users made their way through the dungeon until they found the party, who were having a discussion about what to do next about the statues. Elysia was most interested in who Gary was, although his comments about searching for great treasure were met with a curt warning not to steal any of the party’s treasure.

Alurax had taken the initiative regarding testing the statues; he tried another gold piece in one of the statues, then decided to test Ferros' hypothesis that the plinth pulverised the coin and sprayed out the remnants. He tried to use a silver piece and the same gold spray came out, disproving that idea.

Finally, with no real idea of what the statues and their gold spray did, Alurax decided to use himself as a guinea-pig and stood in front of the eastern statue, placed a coin in the slot and waited. He was sprayed with the gold dust and somehow knew that he had acquired a particular power – the ability to put himself into a meditative trance and increase the efficacy of any healing magic cast upon him. Delighted by this, he then tried the other three statues and found that he had gained the ability to survive without harm at up to –20 below freezing, the ability to breathe underwater and the ability to summon a sandstorm in any desert and travel up to 30 miles in it.

When the rest of the party realised that far from having ill effects, the statues actually gave out good things, they all decided that they wanted a share as well.

Once they had all been sprayed by all four statues, they pressed on down the further corridor, which led to a small room with a single, iron-bound chest inside. Gary rushed in (no surprise, considering he was being run by Galadeus’ player) to check it out. He tried to break it open but it was so tough that he nearly broke his hammer. He turned his attention to the lock, which seemed very intricate, and got out his thieves’ tool kit. Unfortunately, whilst trying to pick the lock, he triggered a spray of gas against which he was able to save. With only slight irritation, he made a second attempt and this time, he heard the lock click open. He pulled the lid of the chest open and found inside a set of iron keys, each with a piece of coloured cloth attached.  The party was baffled by this discovery but they took the keys nevertheless, supposing that they had some significance and would come in handy later on.

They may be meaningless but the party's paranoia means they'll carry them around till the end of the campaign
The party had now explored every room and corridor and there seemed to be nothing further to find. If this was the case, it was a very small dungeon and they suspected that there was more to it than met the eye. Gullhar decided to see if he could find any secret doors or entrances that they might have passed by initially and moved through each room, checking and rechecking. Eventually, he found something in the narrow passageway that linked the slime room with the rat chamber.

Ferros, Gullhar and Gary gathered round the door and prised it open, finding beyond a room in which lay a dead body, a dagger in one hand. As Gary rushed towards it, another door opened in the far wall and through it came six shadows, heading straight for the hapless gnome. Ferros stepped forward and raised the holy symbol of Foik, which sent the sinister black floating shapes racing back through the doorway and off down the passageway beyond.  Alurax arrived and checked to see if Gary was all right; he also took the dagger from the corpse’s hand. The presence of a slash wound on the body’s arm showed that the knife had been used to end its owner’s life; perhaps he had no intention of becoming a shadow.

The party gathered and moved on down the passage, turning a couple of corners till the corridor virtually doubled back on itself. At the end of the passage, a flight of stairs headed upwards. Gary, in the lead, climbed them and at the top, was confronted by a passage running left and right. He took the left-hand one and it led him into a room where he found four clay jars sealed with pitch, in which were written intricate and mysterious hieroglyphs.

Clay jars - irresistible to gnomes.
 Ferros was soon on hand to read them, casting Comprehend Languages, and was able to announce that they were a warning not to open the jars. Gary ignored this and decided to throw one of his darts at the first jar. It clipped it and knocked it over; it smashed on the floor and out of it came a cloud of screaming phantoms who swirled around Gary’s head, howling into his ears. Only when they had disappeared into the darkness did Gary realise that he was now deaf. 

Inside the shattered jar was a bony snake-like creature with a human skull, which rose up and lunged at Gary. It bit him but he was able to resist the sinister power of the creature by dint of his gnomish resistance to all things magical. Alurax and Elysia stepped forward to deal with the creature – the combined effect of his trident and her Magic Missile blasted the thing into a mass of bony smithereens.

No, I am not undead, despite appearances to the contray, so turn on, cleric, turn on, hahaha!
The second jar held another set of keys with pieces of coloured cloth on them; the party filed these under E for Enigmatic. The third jar held 19 silver balls, each with a single hieroglyph on. Ferros’ Comprehend Languages was still running but all it revealed was that each hieroglyph was a single letter of an ancient alphabet.

That just left the fourth jar, which was broken open to reveal a small figurine of a scorpion. Gary decided that he wanted this and pocketed it; a bad move as no sooner had he done this than it started to grow, bursting out of his pocket and landing on the floor. It continued growing and attacked both Gary and Alurax, who had rushed in to help him. The two huge pincers missed the gnome but the sting caught Alurax, wounding him but failing to overcome him with its poison.

These guys are mean critters. I must use one on a low-level party one day.
Elysia flew in to pluck Gary out of the fray whilst the scorpion turned its full attention to Alurax, catching him with one of its pincers. Alurax returned the compliment and Ferros fired an arrow that finished off the huge monster.

The party started to clean up, Alurax chopping off the tail of the scorpion and trying to bottle its poison.

On the far side of the room was a solid stone door which Alurax started to investigate but could find no way of opening. Meanwhile, Gary started down another passage into a large chamber, in which was a flight of stairs going down, as well as a dead body surrounded by large purple fungi almost as tall as the gnome himself.  The rest of the party recognised them as shriekers and concluded that it was a good idea to send in somebody who couldn’t hear anyway and was therefore immune to the deafening sound they would make.  As Gary stepped into the room, a flagstone on the floor shifted under his feet and the stone door which Alurax had been checking out slid open. From the opening came four wraiths which headed for Elador, who was closest to them.  Ferros had been thinking about entering the shrieker room but when Gary had volunteered, he had stayed back. It was a lucky thing that he did so because he was perfectly placed to step forward and let the power of Foik and drove the wraiths back into their chamber again.

Wraiths show off this season's colours
Gary moved further into the room, setting off the shriekers and investigating the body. There was nothing particularly interesting about it and when Gary popped back through to report his findings, Alurax recommended that he destroy the shriekers, which he did with an oil bomb.

While the rest of the party remained in the room of the clay jars, Gary pressed on, finding another room on the far side of the shrieker chamber (he didn’t seem to be interested in the descending staircase). This had a passage leading off it and a mysterious trail of slime on the floor that led down the other corridor. In the far corner of the room was an open doorway and beside it, a lever mechanism which had six settings. Gary checked out the lever, pulling it up and down but nothing seemed to happen.  He also examined the slime but it appeared to have no obvious effect on him.

The rest of the party now came through the shrieker room and joined Gary; Alurax took a turn at moving the lever up and down but achieved no more success than had the gnome. The party decided that it might be worth setting up camp here and Gary started to get his traps out again. However, just as he was starting to do that, Elysia heard something further down the passageway down which the slime trail led. It was a sinister squelching and slithering and it was getting closer. Alurax fired an arrow but could not see where it had gone or even if it had hit something. He flung an oil bomb up the passage and its sudden blaze illuminated a huge bulk with what looked like antennae pushing its way down the corridor. 

It was big, it was horrible and it was heading straight for them.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Four years old

This blog, that is.  28th October 2009 was my first post. Seems a long time ago now. Lots of water under the bridge and hopefully plenty more to come.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Good Guy Cthulhu 5


Wednesday, 23 October 2013

An Adventure for Every Monster - Devil, Horned



Frequency   Uncommon
No. appearing 1-2 or 2-5
Armour class  -5
Move  9”/18” 
Hit Dice  5+5
Percentage in lair 55%     
Treasure type I
No. of attacks 4 or 1 + weapon
Damage per attack  1-4/1-4/2-5/1-3 or 1-3 plus weapon    
Special attack  See below
Special defences  +1 or better weapon to hit
Magic Resistance 50%
Intelligence High
Alignment Lawful Evil
Size   L (9’ tall)
THAC0  13
XP value 1320 + 6/hp

This adventure is best saved for the time at which the party need to make a sea voyage. Perhaps they’ve upset somebody in their home town, or things are getting hot after their last mission.

The party have been hired to escort a merchant across the sea to a neighbouring port where he is going to conduct negotiations for a new trade deal. He is very keen to get it sorted out and has hinted that if things go well, the party could be in for a bonus.

However, once at sea, the party start to realise that they may have let themselves in for more than they bargained for. Somewhere on the ship, a horned devil is at large, masquerading as one of the passengers. Which one? Nobody knows. Why? To wreak havoc and turn the ship into a floating mausoleum. Who stands in its way? Why, the party of course!

The devil’s abilities include
  • Pyrotechnics
  • Produce flame
  • ESP
  • Detect Magic
  • Illusion
  • Summon another horned devil (50% chance of success)
  • Once a day, cast a Wall of Fire with triple normal strength
  • Charm Person
  • Suggestion
  • Illusion
  • Infravision
  • Teleportation
  • Know Alignment
  • Cause Fear
  • Animate Dead

The devil will try to eliminate anybody who might realise what it is. It will not try to confront its enemies directly but use its many magical abilities to manipulate, incriminate, sow discord and suspicion and generally stir the pot. Who are the most paranoid people on the boat? Why, the party, of course!

The closed environment of a ship is an excellent opportunity for the DM to put on their Call of Cthulhu Keeper’s hat. There are many nooks and crannies for an imaginative devil to hide and it can also take the place of passengers that it has killed in order to get closer to the party without them realising it.

Let us not forget that the ship’s crew have access to more or less every inch of the vessel and a quick Charm Person can turn them into the devil’s spies. Since he can only be hit by +1 weapons, a crew member could be charmed to have any magic weapons the party has on them mysteriously disappear.

The DM can stir things up more with the revelation, delivered by carrier pigeon a couple of days into the voyage, that the patron’s entire family have been brutally murdered back home. This may have nothing to do with the patron himself; he has business rivals who he has double-crossed in the past and this might be their revenge, thinking him home at the time. However with everything that’s happening on board ship, it’s another reason for the party to be very worried indeed.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Team Adventure - It's a tomb in a swamp but it's not THAT tomb in a swamp

Almost before the party knew what was happening, both corridors out of the chamber of the hydra had been closed off with walls of thick ice. Both Lydia and Alagon sensed a strong feeling of evil close by but nobody could see anything until Alurax looked up at the ceiling to see a sinister creature with clawed hands and feet and the head of a mantis looking down at him. Moments later, the creature had materialised next to him and struck before he could react. As he reeled from the damage that had been inflicted (and the shock that he had been hit at all), the creature dematerialised again and appeared next to Gullhar, giving him the same treatment.

Recovering the initiative, the party counter-attacked. Elysia let fly with Magic Missile, whilst Alagon tried to hit it with an oil bomb, but missed and caught Gullhar with it instead. From across the room, Lydia fired an arrow but just failed to hit it. Alurax launched his arrow and managed to hit the creature, dealing it a serious wound. 

The party managed to maintain the initiative but Alagon’s answer was another oil bomb, which missed again, catching poor Gullhar, who had not yet stopped burning from the last attack.  Elysia decided to use her remaining Fireball on the creature, but she found out when the flames had dissipated that it remained untouched by her spell. On the far side of the chamber, Ferros drew back his bow, determined to live up to his nickname and let fly with his arrow, scoring a direct hit and sending the creature crashing to the ground, where it dissolved into a mass of stinking, oily filth.

The remnants of the creature, now revealed to have been an ice devil, were examined by the still-smouldering Gullhar and Alagon -  they noticed that amongst the mess was a small shiny object. Neither of them fancied touching it but Alurax was not so squeamish and picked it up.

Nobody knew what the key might do, but they did notice that following the ice devil’s killing, the walls of ice that it had thrown up were starting to melt. Figuring that there was no time like the present, the party decided to bed down and recover their spells and hit points.

Eight hours later, they were ready to move on. The walls  of ice had completely melted by now and Lydia set off down the corridor from which the frost giants had appeared. The party had already found the giants’ treasure room but now a previously unexplored passageway led to a small chamber in which sat a chest of black wood. The key that Alurax had found fitted the lock exactly and Elysia used Unseen Servant to open it and remove its contents, which consisted of a hoard of gems, gold and platinum coins and three ornate pieces of jewellery. As well as these, there was the small figurine of a phoenix; Florin had been found but its owner was already dead and so it was decided to hold on to the figurine until they could think of what to do with it.

The party left the dungeon a man down, but with the knowledge that they needed to press on if they were to achieve their goal. This came closer by the end of the day when they reached the crest of the pass and looked down the western side of the mountains to the vast, grey-green swamplands that awaited them.

They camped at this point as darkness was falling and the next morning, set off down the slope towards the edge of the swamp. The date was 22nd September; barely a month had gone by since they had set off, bright-eyed and ready for anything from the Moat House. How much they had gone through since then and there was still much ahead of them to deal with.

It took them all day to reach the edge of the swamp; Elysia and Alurax sent Relic and Eris out to scout the terrain. Some time later, the hawk and pseudo-dragon returned to report that there seemed to be some sort of ruined temple far off into the marshes, and behind it a mound near a lake. Elysia decided that this sounded a likely prospect and the party resolved to set off in that direction the next day.

The day dawned grey and misty and the weather did not get any better as they pressed on into the swamp. After a while of travelling, they ran into marsh drizzle, a fine rain that drenched everything that they were carrying, including their leather, animals and food.  Once they had passed through that, they spotted some floating lights off into the gloomy mist but, having encountered the will-o-the-wisps before, they refused to be taken in by them.

Some time later, they spotted what appeared to be a figure in the mist; they cautiously approached it to find that it was a statue, larger than man-sized and covered in lichens and moss. It seemed to be standing on a pedestal but apart from that, there was nothing else that they could tell about it. Fearing that it might either animate or was a sign that medusae were operating in the area, the party moved on. However, not far away, they spotted two more statues, humanoid in form but with horns, claws and wings, perching on pedestals. The party rode by quickly but Gullhor, who was convinced that the statues were sinister in intent, glanced back and noticed that one had turned its head to watch the party go by.

"I'm getting sick and tired of being mistaken for Weeping Angels"
Dissatisfied with the progress that the party was making, Elysia used Fly to get to the mound and ruins that Relic and Eris had spotted earlier. By the time the rest of the party had arrived, she had already started to investigate the ruins. The others joined her to complete the investigation, finding that the bones of several donkeys and mules littered the area, some with the remains of rotted saddles and panniers on them.

The party had decided to camp down there and explore further in the morning (the sun having set on the far side of the mound by now) but Alurax managed to find a doorway in the side of the mound and beyond it a tunnel. He edged down it, the rest of the party following, bedding down forgotten about by now. 

The safety gate was put on to deter foolish parties of adventurers. Clearly didn't work very well.
 At the end of the tunnel was a room in the middle of which was a ten foot by ten foot shaft. The party ignored the passage on the far side of the room, believing the shaft to be by far the more important. Alurax hammered an iron spike into the floor and tied the last fifty feet of rope to it; Gullhar had already established, by doing a Pippin that the shaft was about fifty to sixty feet deep. Elysia used Fly to descend the shaft, whilst the rest of the party, with the exception of Ferros’ undead army, followed her down using the rope.

From the base of the shaft, a corridor ran deeper into the dungeon. The party followed it and emerged into a large chamber, in which were several stone sarcophagi, all of which were filled with fragments of shattered bones.  Certain members of the party remembered a situation many months ago in which a passage had been concealed by a similar sarcophagus and so Alagon, Gullhar, Alurax and Larsh (who was now able to be animated once again) set to moving the heavy coffins. They were puffing and sweating by the time they found out that two of the sarcophagi were in fact extensions of the wall and concealed secret doors, which Gullhar, with his elven senses, had detected.

The bold elf opened one of the doors and was confronted by a hideous stench of decay and death as two ghouls reached through the gap and tried to rake him with their claws. They failed to do so, allowing Alurax to hurl in an oil bomb, killing one, whilst Gullhar finished off the second.  It became apparent that the room beyond was full of the undead horrors and so, at Ferros’ request, the party members fell back, drawing four more ghouls into the large chamber. Ferros raised his holy symbol and the power of his faith blasted the four ghouls to rotting smithereens. 

"Let's get him, lads...oh wait, it's an elf"
The rest of the ghouls fell back and Ferros moved into their room, accompanied by the rest of the party. As Ferros moved down the passageway, the ghouls fell back further still, cowed by the power of Foik, as Ferros had now named his deity.

At the end of the passageway, they found another chamber. In this room was a dais on which sat a throne of iron. Around the dais was the inscription  ‘those who sit upon the throne and wish to experience its power will be truly changed, perhaps for the better, perhaps for the worse.’

It might be thought that nobody would risk sitting on the throne but of course, this was Team Adventure and they were not going to be put off by a dusty and cobwebbed-covered throne promising to change those who sat upon it. Alagon walked onto the dais and sat down. At this point, the power of the throne was triggered; Alagon now found himself a lot less attractive but very nimble and dextrous indeed.

(The throne randomly selected two attributes and then swapped them over. Alagon had 9 DEX and 17 CHA, which were now 17 DEX and 9 CHA. I know that technically he was now no longer qualified to be a paladin but I decided that this would not apply; if he had been facially injured in, say, a black dragon attack, would he lose his paladinhood?  I think only a deliberate move to evil might remove the status, rather than a reduction in Charisma. Anyway, here endeth my justification)

Alurax decided that he too wanted to experience the power of the throne but alas for him, his intelligence and wisdom were exchanged and since they were only slightly different to begin with, there was little appreciable difference.

Nobody else wanted to hazard a turn of the throne so the party moved onto the next room, which was occupied by two corpses. Ferros at once decided to animate them and add them to his undead army but as the bodies stirred and began to rise, a swarm of giant rats came scurrying out of the rotting torsos and headed straight for the cleric who had disturbed their resting place.

"I've only got half a hit die and I've bitten a 7th level cleric. Go me!"
Ferros killed one, Larsh laid low three. The surviving rats swarmed at Ferros, one managing to bite him. He killed another one, Larsh killed two and Gullhar spitted another one with his sword. Nobody took any further damage from the rats and the surviving three were finished off in short order.

The passage out of this room was only five feet wide and it was a tight squeeze for Larsh but the rest of the party had no trouble, although they had to go single file. At the end of the passageway, they found a small room into which Ferros stepped, only to feel the flagstones shift and wobble under his feet. He pressed on and although the other flagstones on which he trod did move, they did not give way. He made it to the exit on the far side of the room and looked into the room beyond, only to hear something large moving towards him. The rest of the party was stuck on the far side of the room with the shifting stones – unless they dared risk it to join the cleric.

Gullhar managed to get a spear point under one of the flagstones and tossed a torch down to reveal a pool of green slime waiting for unfortunate travellers. Meanwhile Ferros had discovered what was about to attack him – a huge Shambling Mound, which swiped him with one of its massive arms, nearly knocking him flying.

And remember, killing one of these counts towards your 5 a day
Gullhar decided to risk the shifting floor and moved to aid his comrade. By now, the Shambling Mound had managed to hit Ferros twice and pulled him into the grasp of the stinking tendrils that issued from its chest. As Ferros was being smothered, Gullhar swung into action but took a hefty hit from the Mound’s fist.

Alagon, with his new dexterity, decided to get past the blocking members of the party, none of whom seemed to want to risk the green slime, and climbed up and over them, then around the slime room’s walls to get to Gullhar’s assistance. By now, the valiant elf was being hard pressed indeed to hold his own. By the time Alagon had arrived just behind him, Gullhar had been knocked to the floor, falling back into the paladin who fell likewise – but not back into the slime room. He managed to get to his feet and realised that he had moments to save Ferros from being suffocated in the heart of the Shambling Mound. 

Both Alagon and the Mound missed each other, and then Alagon remembered that he had a magic axe that he had not used for a while. This seemed like the best time to use it and so he swung it at the hideous monster. Although he damaged it, he did not manage to kill it.

Alurax had now decided to join the battle, seeing that Gullhar was down. He stepped into the slime room but the floor gave way beneath him. He managed to grab hold of a firmer section of floor and stop himself falling right through but was stuck for the moment.

Finally, Alagon, with his superior reactions, got the first blow in on the Mound and managed to kill it, just in time to save Ferros, who was hauled, stinking and gasping for air from the vegetable embrace of one of the toughest monsters that the party had fought for a long time.

They were now beginning to realise that this dungeon was going to challenge them in ways that they had not been tested before and that the penalty for failure was likely to be considerably higher than a few lost hit points. 

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Good Guy Cthulhu 4


Monday, 30 September 2013

Team Adventure - The Frost Giants' Slaughter

This was the first session after the long summer holiday and it certainly showed; it took some time for the players to regain their focus and to begin with, there were some very odd goings-on as Alurax climbed up the tower, Galadeus came down it and went into the main cave entrance (where Alurax had been standing a few minutes previously).

Galadeus heard strange snarling and growling noises from further up the tunnel. He tried to use his Ring of Mammal Control but to no avail. He threw a torch into the darkness and in the brief moments of flickering orange light, he spotted two side tunnels, two on the left and one on the right.

At this point, the rest of the party came back down the tower to see where their ranger had got to. They found him edging his way towards the first turning on the left. They followed on and Galadeus tossed an oil bomb through the entrance. As the burning oil died down, the party moved down the passageway to see a room beyond. Creeping carefully into the room, they were confronted by four trolls who had emerged from another room further beyond.
"Yeah, so now we're just orcs for high level parties."
Keeping a sensible distance, the party opened fire with arrows and then attacked with their weapons, Alurax managed to kill one of the trolls outright with a precise thrust of the trident. A second troll crumbled to overwhelming party attacks.  Alagon was horrified to see the third troll dodge Wolf’s attacks and rip the loyal creature half apart with its teeth and claws. The bloodstained wolf fell against one wall. Alagon launched his attack with a furious scream of rage. Elysia opened up with a magic missile and finishing off what Alagon had started. Alurax, Galadeus and Gullhar combined their efforts to bring down the final troll; in the meantime, Lydia had shown the presence of mind to set fire to the dead trolls to stop them regenerating.
The party then looted the trolls and their stash of treasure in the room beyond.

Alurax had noticed in the treasure room that there was a passage which led towards what appeared to be a faint light. He followed it for several yards and then found that it gave onto the roof of the left-hand tower where Florin had been snatched by the barbed devils. There was still a scorch mark there but no sign of the missing phoenix.

The party then went back through the troll rooms towards the main passageway while Galadeus decided to check out another side passage to which nobody else had paid attention – on his own.

As the voices of the party faded down the tunnel, he found that the passageway led to another room in which the smell of foul, festering corruption met his nose. A mound of rotten material lay on the floor, amidst which were several glinting objects. Enticed by the shiny things, Galadeus stepped forward to see what they were, at which point the roper, for such it was, rose up and launched its attack. Five of its six tentacles scored hits and the luckless ranger felt his strength ebbing away; the roper began to drag him towards its yawning mouth.

Is it me or does this guy look a bit like Kodos and Kang?
The rest of the party were just coming out into the main passageway when they heard faint cries for help from the tunnel behind them. Realising that Galadeus was in trouble (but not really surprised) the party turned back to see what was happening. 

Elysia hurtled into the room using a Fly spell and swiftly assessed the situation. She tried to cast Fear on the roper but her spell seemed to have no effect. Her nimble flying skills meant that the remaining tentacle flailed through the air and failed to hit her. Ferros, who was hot on the magic user’s heels, tried to Command the creature to die but again, his magic seemed to have failed. Alagon hacked at the creature with his hand axe and the rest of the party readied their attacks.

Running out of options, Elysia webbed the roper’s mouth to ensure that it could not begin to eat Galadeus, who had been dragged to the ravening mouth of the creature. Meanwhile, the last tentacle hit Ferros and the cleric, never the strongest of the party to begin with, found that he could barely hold on to his weapons now as he was dragged off his feet and towards the roper. He did, however, have the idea of calling on his zombies and skeletons to ‘help Master’ and that is exactly what they did, heading towards him and ignoring Galadeus.

Alurax drew a bead on the eye of the roper and fired an arrow which sunk deep into the monster’s body, then flung a torch at it, which made the roper shy away from the flame. Finally, Alagon managed to get close enough to fling his second hand axe which sailed through the air and buried itself in the creature's eye. It shrieked and collapsed in a pile of festering corruption, on top of Galadeus.  The party only realised that the ranger was still alive when they saw his feet sticking out of the pile of rotting muck and dragged him to freedom. Once they were clear of the roper, both Galadeus and Ferros felt their strength slowly returning.

The party returned to the point at which they had heard Galadeus’ cries for help. This time, they were torn between pressing on up the main passageway or investigating the other side passages. As they were deliberating about which way to go, Alurax and Ferros, who were bringing up the rear, heard a strange growling noise from further up the main passageway. Alurax, in what was rapidly becoming a new trend, flung a torch up the tunnel to see if it illuminated what was making the noises. He could see nothing apart from a huge shadow, parts of which were writhing worryingly.  Elysia decided to use the Illuminate function of her wand and lit up the cave so that the source of the noise could be identified. It was an eleven-headed hydra; the wisest tactic for this monster was to attack en masse so that it could not concentrate its bites on just one party member and pick them off one by one. Galadeus eschewed such a simple plan and instead picked an even simpler one – full-scale, frontal attack by ranger. On his own.
But with many more heads. All the better to kill you with.
Whilst Alurax, Elysia and Lydia scrambled to cover the other exit from the hydra’s chamber, down which two dark shapes were already lumbering, Alagon, Gullhar and Ferros fired their bows at the polycephalic peril. Although they hit it several times, this was not enough to stop it grabbing Galadeus and ripping him into a tattered and bloodstained scrap of ranger. Flinging his body aside, it turned on Ferros for seconds – within a few moments, the cleric was also savaged and inches from death. Alagon, with his paladin’s ability to heal by laying on hands, realised that he could only heal one of his comrades – by the time he had done so, the other one would be dead.
"Galadeus! What took you so long?"
He chose Ferros and managed to get the cleric back on his feet, albeit shakily. Gullhar had advanced on the hydra to provide a distraction for the paladin but this meant that he was in range of the fearsome heads. He raced in, wielding his longsword but as he plunged it into the creature’s heart, the heads snapped and did their terrible work, leaving the elf as a torn pile of green and crimson. The hydra was dead but it had taken a terrible toll on the party.  Ferros cast healing magic on Gullhar to bring him back to consciousness.

Meanwhile, Alurax, Elysia and Lydia braced themselves for the arrival of the two huge figures which they had seen coming down the passageway towards them. They turned out to be frost giants. Elysia cast a Fireball which exploded and caught the giants in a sea of flame; while the giants were still recovering from that attack, they were caught by Magic Missile and arrows from Alurax, Gullhar and Alagon which finished them off.

"This bodes well for G2"
The party heaved a huge sigh of relief. They had overcome some very tough opposition and had lost only Galadeus (a situation with which they were becoming increasingly familiar). They started to loot the hydra and found a chamber further down the passageway in which the giants’ treasure was stored. But even as they were counting the treasure out, they heard a sinister laugh echoing around the walls of the dungeon. Something was there, watching them. What could it be and what was going to happen next?

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Good Guy Cthulhu 3


Saturday, 21 September 2013

An Adventure for Every Monster - Devil, Erinyes


Although I'm a big fan of Tramp, I'm not that keen on his illustration of the Erinyes in the Monster Manual so here are some other interpretations which I found whilst out on the net.



Righty-ho, let's get on with the adventure.


Erinyes

Frequency   Uncommon
No. appearing  1-3 or 4-16
Armour class  2
Move    6”/21”
Hit Dice  6+6
Percentage in lair 20%    
Treasure type R
No. of attacks 1
Damage per attack 2-8     
Special attack  See below
Special defences  See below
Magic Resistance 30%
Intelligence Average
Alignment  Lawful Evil
Size   M (6’ tall)
THAC0  13
XP value 875 + 8/hp

Magical dagger, when struck, save v poison or faint for 1-6 rounds
Rope of Entanglement
Cause Fear in all who look at them
Once per turn or melee round
Detect invisible
Locate Object
Invisibility
Polymorph self
Produce Flame
Summon another Erinyes (25% chance of success)

Other powers:

  • Charm person
  • Suggestion
  • Illusion
  • Teleportation
  • Know alignment
  • Cause fear
  • Animate dead

The Adventure itself

The party is given the job of hunting down and bringing back alive a fugitive from justice. The precise details can vary depending on either DM choice or a die roll.

Five options; 

1. The fugitive has killed his father in a vicious argument that got out of hand (well, that’s his story). In fact, his father found him forging documents to get his hands on the inheritance and a fight broke out which was rather one-sided as the father was elderly and infirm. However, his siblings will be rather cross about the whole thing since the authorities have refused to permit their father’s will to be read until the killer is brought to justice. Therefore, the siblings have hired their own gang of bounty hunters to bring him back alive and this is where the party comes in.

2. The fugitive is being pursued because of his evil murder of his step-children, who were standing in the way of him inheriting his wife’s fortune. His wife is being slowly poisoned by the fugitive but his choice of method for the infanticide raised suspicions amongst the city watch and he realised that it was time for him to leave town. The city watch’s jurisdiction extended only so far from the walls and so a posse was formed to hunt him down and bring him back for trial.  The party has been hired by relatives of the fugitive’s wife to hunt him down and bring him in.

3. The fugitive had been involved in atrocities committed during a war about five years ago and had been rewarded by his master, a duke who has now been deposed by a palace coup. Keen to start with a clean deck, the new regime has turned on the favourites of the old duke and that includes the fugitive who has now skipped town. As well as the party hunting him down, there are also the relatives of the victims who want the fugitive’s head.

4. The fugitive is a professional con-man, swindler and fraudster whose latest scam has deprived a charitable foundation of its main source of income, led to soup kitchens and shelters being closed down and the suicide of one of the trustees of the foundation. The party will have been hired by an irate member of the foundation who wants to keep the revenge mission quiet as the foundation itself is run by a religious body who, much against their better judgement have forgiven the fugitive (as their doctrine demands)

5. The fugitive is a former member of the Order of Dispater who has angered his master by transgressing the precepts of the order (possibly for personal gain) and is now a marked man. The party will be hired by a member of the Order, but he will keep his identity secret and just use the cover story that he has been cheated of a large amount of money/his brother has been murdered by the fugitive. He wants the head back in one piece if possible and will offer a bonus if that can be done.

The personal stats and capabilities of the fugitive are up to the DM to decide; he can be a match for the party or an easy capture but needs to be played convincingly and with conviction.

It won’t be long before the party realises that they are not the only ones on the fugitive’s trail. The Erinyes will make their presence known through subtle manifestations of their power, since they want to make their victim sweat before bringing him in. Thus, the party will know that the fugitive is being chased but not by whom. 

When the party catches up with him (and in all likelihood they will) then he will throw himself on their mercy and explain (assuming that the presence of the Erinyes is known) that he has somehow angered the infernal powers – all the time portraying himself as an innocent man – then explain that he needs to get to the abandoned temple to find the item that will enable him to escape his doom. 

The fugitive has worked out that if he can present the infernal lord with sufficient souls, he can escape the justice of the Erinyes. However, he has to get the party to the long-abandoned temple of Dispater so that when he sacrifices them, their souls will go straight to the second plane of Hell.  He promises the party full access to the treasure which is there as long as he can have that one magic item. Of course, the temple of Dispater is a full dungeon in itself, complete with lethal traps, crumbling architecture and unknown denizens, any one of which can cause real problems for the party.

Meanwhile, there is another individual on the case – Father Sholta, a cleric whose church is keen to have the Order of Dispater destroyed. He will be pursuing the fugitive himself but believes that the fugitive can lead him to the temple, so will not attack immediately, even if he has the fugitive and the party at him mercy.

However, there are three options for Father Sholta

  • He is a low-level cleric who has adopted his quest to prove his worth to his church hierarchy. Competent for his level, he is zealous, intelligent and determined – just not strong enough to take on a flock of Erinyes or the fugitive and his party in combat. He knows this and will use subtlety and cunning rather than outright confrontation. He realises that the party may in all likelihood have been tricked or deceived into helping the fugitive and may use indirect approaches to pull them back from their Faustian deal.
  • He is a mid-level cleric, who has a selection of powers and weapons at his disposal but operates alone, due to the distaste evidenced by his church for his methods (he’s a bit of a loose cannon when it comes to combating evil, but the church is happy to accept the results, just not the means). Collateral casualties are all in a day’s work for Father Sholta, who has seen those he befriended and cared about killed by evil cultists in the past. If the party have thrown in their lot with a disciple of Dispater, they deserve all that’s coming to them.
  •  He is a high-level cleric, with an arsenal of spiritual and magical weapons at his disposal as well as a collection of acolytes who follow him to learn his methods and gain spiritual credit in the eyes of the church. He has not got where he is today without learning a few tricks but has also acquired a degree of pragmatism, so may be more inclined to cut the party a deal if they realise that they have been stitched up by the fugitive.

As can be seen, this is a very adaptable adventure, which has a variety of possible outcomes. It might almost grow into a mini-campaign as there are off-shoots and side-quests suggested by the characters and situations.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

It be September 19th...


...and we all knows what that means, m'hearties. Yes, splice the mainbrace, swash your buckles (or the other way round) and hoist the Jolly Roger. Last one to Port Royal buys the grog!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Good Guy Cthulhu 2


Monday, 16 September 2013

An Adventure for Every Monster - Devil, Bone

Bone Devil

Frequency   Uncommon
No. appearing  1-2 or 2-8
Armour class  -1
Move  15” 
Hit Dice   9
Percentage in lair  55%   
Treasure type Nil
No. of attacks 1
Damage per attack  3-12   
Special attack  See below  
Special defences  See below
Magic Resistance 40%
Intelligence Very
Alignment Lawful Evil
Size  L (9’ tall)
THAC0  12
XP value 2800 + 12/hp

This adventure begins in what appears to be a perfectly unremarkable section of dungeon passageway. However, there is a nasty surprise waiting for the party; a pit trap of sufficient size that most, if not all of the characters are going to be caught in it.

They will be plunged down a shaft sufficiently steep that climbing back up would be difficult but not so deep that they would be incapacitated by the drop. At the bottom, they will find themselves in pitch blackness, not because the door to the pit trap has closed again (it has) but because the pit into which they have been dropped is under the influence of a Continual Darkness spell that has been made permanent.

The pit is merely one section of the Black Maze, a labyrinth of twisting, turning and sometimes dead-end passages, with a number of nasty features like doorways that open onto very deep shafts. Somewhere in the Black Maze there is the switch which will deactivate the Continual Darkness; all the party has to do is find either it or the exit (there is one) by fumbling along in the darkness, going by touch alone. Infravision or ultravision will work in the darkness, which is just as well because in the Black Maze are two Bone Devils, whose job it is to hunt down and despatch anyone who enters. They have infravision, ultravision, and they can also detect invisible.

They also have the powers of
Charm person
Suggestion
Illusion
Teleportation
Know alignment
Cause fear
Animate dead
Fly
Become invisible
Summon another bone devil (40%) – the DM could conceivably use this ability to restock the devils if the party gets lucky against one too quickly – not that a good DM would do such a dishonest thing!

Once a day, each devil can create a wall of ice, so they may well use that to block off sections of the maze to channel the party into a killing zone.

The DM can have a lot of fun with this one; remember that the remains of previous parties who didn’t find the exit in time will litter the labyrinth (which the DM can make as large as they wish). There are lots of opportunities for trips, bumps and nasty accidents – plenty of saves v DEX to be made here.  A good trick which the devils might try is to suspend the skeletons of their victims by wires from the ceiling of the maze so that the rattle of their bones might make the party think that a devil is in the area. Another nasty trick might be a patch of fungus or slime which is harmless in itself but marks the party member who blunders into it with a stain that is visible on the ultraviolet spectrum, meaning they’re even more visible to the Bone Devils.

It should also be remembered that infravision in particular may work well to see sources of heat but it’s much harder to spot things which are the same temperature as their surroundings. Like uneven slabs of stone on the dungeon floor.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Malice by John Gwynne



Another week, another big book (628 pages). Unlike Hawk Quest, this one takes a while to get going and I suppose that there are  readers who would have given up by the time the slow-burning plot really fires up. It’d be their loss because once it does get underway, the iron shackles of the quality writing grip and won’t let go. In tone, it’s similar to both Paul Kearney and Brian Ruckley; it’s also been compared favourably to David Gemmell but (and I know this is going to come as a shock) I’ve never read any Gemmell, so I can’t comment.

Gwynne has taken what appears to be the Dark Ages (always a plus in my book) and set his story there. The map seems to be based, in the North at least, on Europe – with the British Isles expanded slightly and attached to the mainland, similar to the way things were before the end of the last Ice Age. I’ve done something similar when designing a campaign map many moon ago, so I recognised it pretty quickly.

Into this familiar arena are pitched the protagonists; chief amongst these are Corban, a blacksmith’s son and Nathair, a prince with big ideas. Starting at almost opposite ends of the continent, they’re clearly on a collision course as kings, warriors and mysterious wise men are swept up in a frenzy of expectation at the imminent rising of champions of good and evil known as the Bright Star and Black Sun respectively. Add to that tribes of giants who haunt the huge forest at the heart of the continent and we’re set for hundreds of pages of good old-fashioned action – and there’s plenty of it to go round. One of Gwynne’s publicity shots has him sitting with two huge dogs (both of whom appear in the book) and a massive axe, so he clearly knows his stuff when describing the combat scenes. There’s blood in bucketloads and when he says, on the cover of the book ‘even the brave will fall’ he means it. There is, however – as far I could see – no foul language in the book so in this respect, it differs from other ‘gritty’ fantasy novels out there.

The book uses a single point of view per chapter, each headed with that character’s name. There are actually six individual point of view characters and that, to me at least, was perhaps too many. Gwynne could have pruned it down by two without losing any of the story’s strengths and a good case could be made for further pruning. Still, spending time with the characters means that what happens to them during the book does affect the reader more than if they had merely been referred to in the narrative of another. The structure does mean that on occasion, the reader has to wait a considerable number of pages before finding out what happened to a particular character, left dangling on a cliff-hanger.

If you’re prepared to put the effort in, Malice is a good read; I found myself making time to read on once the pace picked up and having been drawn in by Gwynne, I’m looking forward to the second book, Valour, due out in the UK early 2014.