Tuesday 29 November 2011

An Adventure for Every Monster - Catoblepas

Frequency: Very rare
No. appearing: 1-3
Armour class: 7
Move: 6”
Hit Dice: 6+2
Percentage in lair: 60%
Treasure type: C
No. of attacks: 1
Damage per attack: 1-6 + stun
Special attack: Gaze causes death
Special defences: Nil
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Semi-
Alignment: Neutral
Size: L (6’ at shoulder)
THAC0: 13
XP value: 700 + 8/hp

This adventure takes place in a section of the dungeon that is basically a long twenty foot wide corridor with a heavy door at the far end, made of iron plates with brass fittings. This door also has an intricate locking mechanism attached, with several dials on it that almost beg to be tinkered with and turned round.

Along the side of the corridor are four large openings blocked by stone slabs, two on each side of the passage.

Behind each slab is a large chamber in which an area of boggy swamp has been set up, complete with marsh plants. In each chamber is a catoblepas, happily grazing on the vegetation.

The locking mechanism consists of a pair of brass rings, the outer one set with four markers in lapis lazuli, numbered 1 to 4 and the inner one with two markers in jet, numbered 1 and 2. There is also a quartz marker on the outside edge of the outer ring.

Aligning the markers will produce eight combinations.

1 & 1 = 1
1 & 2 = 2
1 & 3 = 3
1 & 4 = 4
2 & 1 = 5
2 & 2 = 6
2 & 3 = 7
2 & 4 = 8

The selected combination on the locking mechanism will do one of the following

1. Open the iron door
2. Open the iron door and bring down an iron portcullis at the opposite end of the corridor
3. Lock the iron door firmly and bring down the iron portcullis
4. Lock the iron door firmly, bring down the iron portcullis and open Slab One, allowing a catoblepas to poke its head through to see what’s going on.
5. Lock the iron door firmly, bring down the iron portcullis and open Slab Two, allowing a catoblepas to poke its head through to see what’s going on.
6. Lock the iron door firmly, bring down the iron portcullis and open Slab Three, allowing a catoblepas to poke its head through to see what’s going on.
7. Lock the iron door firmly, bring down the iron portcullis and open Slab Four, allowing a catoblepas to poke its head through to see what’s going on.
8. Lock the iron door firmly, bring down the iron portcullis and open all the slabs, allowing all four catoblepas to poke their heads through to see what’s going on.

Once a setting has been selected, the locking mechanism will not operated again for a full minute, indicated by the movement of the quartz marker.

The fact that the catoblepas heads will be at the same level as the party will increase the chance of their gaze being effective but it is up to the DM to decide by how much. Similarly, if the DM thinks that four catoblepas is an excessive allocation, they are at liberty to reduce the number.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Team Adventure - Snakes at an Auction

Ferros and Cafaror set off for the Master’s house with Elysia, Zanurax and Relic in their wake. At the house, they knocked on the door whilst Zanurax was flown up to the roof by Relic where a loose skylight looked like an easier way of getting in.

Having a six-inch high thief in the party is proving to be a great advantage - especially as they've now hit on the idea of having him fly on the back of a pseudo-dragon. Admittedly, he can't do things like open doors (unless he makes a Climb Walls roll) but if there's an open drain or a cat flap about...

Ferros and Cafaror were shown in and conducted into a dining room with three place settings. As they sat down, a tall and handsome man in black entered and sat down at the head of the table. Dinner was served but he ate nothing. Ferros and Cafaror however tucked in with great gusto.

Their host began by asking them why they were so interested in his doings. After all, they had come to his house the previous day and had asked him for an appointment. They responded by accusing him of spying on the tavern and behaving in a furtive way. He confessed that he had indeed been watching the tavern but it was rather presumptuous of them to assume that his interest was in them specifically. The tavern was a known haunt of adventurers and he was looking for brave individuals to carry out a mission he had.

That piqued their interest and they indicated that they were very interested in missions – what did he have in mind? Before long, he had got out of them the number of people in the party and their classes. All he yielded in return was his name – The Third.

I was not wholly surprised that the players had volunteered so much information so easily - they're still young and haven't learned that paranoia can keep you alive longer. Perhaps a few sessions of Call of Cthulhu might drive that lesson home?

Meanwhile, Zanurax had gained entry through the skylight to an attic where various packing boxes were stored and, more significantly, four mirrors stacked against a wall. They were in frames, and had holes drilled in each corner, as if they might have been mounted on walls. Being able to go no further (the door handle was far too high for him to reach) Zanurax climbed up the packing cases and was hauled up out of the attic by Relic’s tail.

The two investigators joined Elysia in the courtyard, where they conferred. Elysia had been suspicious since first encountering the shadowy figure and her suspicions were further strengthened by the fact that the Master had set the appointment for the hours of darkness. Now, for her, the final pieces of the puzzle fell into place.

After an hour or so, Ferros and Cafaror emerged from the house to announce that they had arranged a meeting for the entire party the evening after the auction, which was set for the next day. As they made their way back to the tavern, Elysia revealed that they were dealing with no ordinary opponent; they were up against a vampire.

Rather than turn in, the party headed for the town archives, where Elysia used her connections to gain entry and go through the scrolls and librams, trying to find information on vampires. There was much to be found, but most of it was listed under folklore and legend, since encounters with the fanged undead were rare indeed.
Having armed themselves with that knowledge, the team headed back to the tavern and bed.

The next morning, the day of the auction, the party headed for the hotel where the sale was to take place. Meanwhile, at the town guard house, Alurax and Galzor were still in the cells. A member of the Town Council of Elders had turned up, owing to their connection with that august body and had announced that, for a fine of 250 gold pieces, they could be released. Amazingly enough, both refused to pay and were sent back to the cells again.

This came as a surprise to me, especially as I'd arranged it as a Get out of Jail (Relatively) Free card for them. Perhaps they thought they'd be safer behind bars. As it turned out, that might have been a wise assumption. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

As the party neared the hotel, they could hear something odd and unexpected – the sound of fighting. Arriving at the building, they found that a battle royale was going on outside – about twenty men engaged in a brawl, using fists, feet and what appeared to be nunchuks. Olaf the dwarf (yes, he has a name now) pitched in to try and help, without really being aware of what side he should be helping, whilst the rest of the party heard screams and calls for help coming from at least two windows, one upstairs and one on the ground floor. Olaf recognised the voice from upstairs as that of a dwarf and broke off from his involvement in the street fighting to race inside.

Two of the attacking party had managed to make it into the foyer but Elysia slept them both, then tied them up and locked them in a cupboard. Once that was done, the party split (yes, again!) with Elysia, Ferros and Cafaror heading towards the screams on the ground floor and Olaf heading upstairs to find out what was going on.

At the end of a corridor, Elysia’s band burst into a suite of rooms to find several people cowering in a corner as three large snakes slithered towards them.

Two people lay on the floor, apparently dead from bites. Magic missiles fired at the serpents and they broke off to attack the newcomers instead. Elysia cast Stinking Cloud on two of the snakes and was bitten by the third, collapsing into a poisoned coma. Ferros and Cafaror waited for the cloud to dissipate and then hacked the incapacitated snakes to death before they could recover.

Meanwhile, Olaf had followed the noise of fighting and burst in to an upstairs room to find a man with a sword and an axe-wielding dwarf (is there another kind?) grappling with two constricting snakes. As he leapt in to help, another snake came in through the window and started to attack him. There were several desperate moments, but eventually Olaf managed to kill his snake (a d30 roll came in handy at this point) and joined with his fellow dwarf to hack the other two. The swordsman was not so lucky and was barely alive when they managed to rescue him.

At this point, Galzor and Alurax turned up, having been persuaded of their error by Elador, who had arrived at the prison in high dudgeon with stern words and a persuasive manner (and some frosty looks from Mummy Grognard). They found the town guard all over the hotel, having put the attackers in the street to flight. Elysia was healed by Ferros and Galzor gave Olaf some healing magic.

The two men locked in a cupboard had tried to kick their way out but Elysia was on hand with her dagger and kept them under control until the town guard grabbed them and dragged them off. She had asked them who they were and what they were doing but all they told her was that they were trying to bring the tyrant to justice and punish him for oppressing the people.

The party staggered into the bar and ordered drinks. Olaf’s fellow dwarf turned out to be called Thorgrim and he worked for the man with the sword. He bought Olaf a huge tankard of dwarf ale and got into conversation with him.

Elysia, Ferros and Cafaror were not privy to the conversation as they had been called away to receive the gratitude of the man they had saved through the killing of the snakes – a man who they now learned was a Prince.

Prince Assaris of Kharizal, a land far to the south-east, definitely somewhere warm and exotic by his raiment and colouration, thanked the three adventurers profusely and assured them that if they were ever to visit his country, they would be accorded the status of honoured guests. It was his bodyguards who were involved in the fighting in the street outside, defending him against what he called “dogs and vermin”. The party had already marked this down as ‘political’ and didn’t really want to pursue it any further. However, they did mention vampires to the Prince, who laughed and dismissed the subject as ‘fairy tales’. They also asked about powerful magicians, remembering that they needed one to restore Adthar to flesh so that his curse could be removed, but the Prince merely told them that such sorcerers were rare in his kingdom, secretive and not keen on strangers.

Olaf, in the meantime, had been asked by Thorgrim if he was looking for work that involved the wilderness, danger and killing animals. Olaf said he was and Thorgrim said he had such work and that Olaf should contact him.

Being aware of the fact that vampires tend to rest during the daylight hours, the party decided that their next port of call should be the Third’s house and the next morning, they headed there. Alurax and Olaf climbed the outside wall and made it to the skylight, where they soon gained entry. Beyond the attic door was a landing down which the two slowly made their way. It was only as they arrived at the ground floor that they heard a door opening and the sound of footsteps. Olaf waited until another door opened and closed, then scurried up to it and opened it, whilst Alurax headed for the front door to unlock it and let the rest of the party in.

Olaf was confronted by a dining room and a man in black heading for him with a carving knife. A brief scuffle ended with the man dead on the floor with an axe wound. Another man appeared at the far end of the hallway and was shot dead by Alurax and Galzor. As the party flooded into the house, a third man was seen darting through a doorway and Olaf and Ferros followed him down into a cellar. There, in the middle of the floor was a large metal-bound chest, easily the size of a man. It had several brass fittings but behind it stood the third servant, brandishing a sword. He was swiftly killed and the search of the house could begin.

Nothing of consequence was found elsewhere and the party gathered in the cellar to examine the chest. It bore the emblem of a triangle and had what appeared to be four heavy brass lock and bolt fittings which were clearly keeping it shut. Below the locks was a small dial which, as the party examined it, could be heard to be ticking slowly. It was counting down and it was pretty obvious what it was counting down toward.

The party searched the bodies of the three men that they had killed and around each neck was a single key on a chain. It was clear that the keys fitted three of the four locks but even as the party was wondering where the fourth key was, the door to the cellar slammed shut. There was the sound of a lock being turned and bolts being thrown. The party was trapped in the cellar with the coffin of a vampire – and a countdown to his emergence.

Another cracking session (the 20th, in fact) with me running with the plot as it emerged from the choices that the players made. Nobody had the faintest idea where we were going when the session started. In fact, as I remarked later, this whole plot thread resulted from the choice that Cafaror made at the Moat House to skin the giant lizard that Alurax had killed. I had very little pre-planned before the auction storyline started - only that it would take place and the bidders who had turned up to try and get their hands on the skin. Everything else that happened last session and this was improvised and flowed naturally with local colour and detail supplied when it was needed. The plot hooks that have been seeded in this session may bear fruit - or they may not. Depending on which way the party choose, we could be in for some interesting times in the weeks to come. That assumes they get out of the cellar, of course.

Thursday 24 November 2011

Geography Epic Fail

Courtesy of my local newspaper. Do I hear the sound of David Attenborough banging his head against a wall?

Review - Winterbirth by Brian Ruckley

I’ve recently read this one and I thought I’d just post a couple of reactions to it that chimed with my gamer side.

You’ve probably not heard of Ruckley – this is his first book, as far as I know, the first volume of a trilogy (why do fantasy novels come in threes?) and he’s just released a new one about the body snatchers of Edinburgh. Must check that one out as well

The setting for the Godless World trilogy is Dark Ages with impressive scenery – Ruckley can make me ‘see’ his landscapes in a way I’ve not experienced since LotR. The first book is set just as winter begins, hence the name, and whilst it’s got some brutal scenes in, with unexpected deaths and cynical betrayals, there seems to be no language NSFW, which is quite refreshing. Ruckley also knows when to cut away and not revel in the gore.

There’s very little magic in this one. We’ve got humans, elf equivalents and half-elves who seem to be equally despised and distrusted by both. The elves and half-elves have something called the Shared, which seems to be very like the Force (even to the point that one character refers to feeling a disturbance in the Shared) but anyone growing up since 1977 is going to find that sort of thing hard to shake off.

What is quite ground-breaking here is that the elves (and I’m using that term rather than the in-book name, which will mean nothing to anyone who hasn’t read it) are tribal in organisation and more or less hostile to each other, to the point at which they launch raids and attacks on each other’s camps and territories. Some are nice elves, some are rather nasty – I was minded of the inter-tribal hostility of the Indians in Last of the Mohicans when I read this. They are also enlisted by the humans as guides and allies during their campaigns (again, another North American reference) but take offence quickly and easily and drop those who they don’t get on with.

There’s also precious little in the way of religion here (or priests); the series title “The Godless World” refers to the fact that at a certain point in the past of the world, the gods abandoned the races they had created; part of the driving force behind the wars that course through the books like a dark heartbeat is the effort of one particular sect to convince the gods to return. There are five specific races in the books, only two of which (humans and elves) we really encounter in Book One. There’s reference to what might be a race of werewolves, attacked and wiped out by a human/elf alliance in years gone by, and that’s something I hope we learn more of in subsequent books.

The whole thing weighs in at 539 pages and whilst it could probably have been shorter, I didn’t feel that at any point I was skim-reading. There are maps (which I found I was glancing at quite regularly) and a list of characters (which, until you’ve got your bearings, you’ll probably be checking on too). I’ve got the second one lined up and ready to go after I finish Songs of the Earth (and I’ll give you a review on that one too).

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Anne McCaffrey 1926 - 2011

For anyone who's ever ridden a dragon in their dreams, this is sad news. I read some of the Pern series but it was a long time ago. Must revisit it soon.

An Adventure for Every Monster - Carrion Crawler

Carrion Crawler
Frequency Uncommon
No. appearing: 1-6 (but for this adventure, use as many as you feel will provide a good scenario)
Armour class: 3/7
Move: 12”
Hit Dice: 3+1
Percentage in lair: 50%
Treasure type: B
No. of attacks: 8
Damage per attack: Paralysis
Special attack: As above
Special defences: Nil
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Non-
Alignment: N
Size: L (9’ long)
THAC0: 16
XP value: 580 + 4/hp

The party have been called in to investigate the disappearance of a group of travellers in the mountains. Reports from the sole survivor indicate that they stopped to shelter from a storm in a large cave. The survivor went out to investigate a disturbance from the horses and when he returned, his fellow travellers were gone. All their equipment and weapons were undisturbed and the fire was still burning.

The survivor can guide the party to the cave in question, which is large and dry, sheltering under an overhang. He does not wish to go back in but will do so if pressed.

At the back of the cave is a large hole in the wall, circular in section and about ten feet wide. If the party take this route, they will find that it descends in a strange and random fashion, offering few clues as to its maker. However, after about a hundred feet or so, the party will encounter several side passages, fissures in the rock.

Following any one of these (for they interconnect, although the party will not know this) will lead them down into tunnels of ever-decreasing width until they arrive at holes that are perhaps eighteen inches to two feet wide.

Those holes are just wide enough for a character to crawl down, sans armour, equipment, etc. They are also just wide enough to accommodate a carrion crawler, which is what lives in the confusing labyrinth of tunnels and caves. Various side branches open onto every tunnel, which will enable carrion crawlers to attack from flanks and behind.

The original group of travellers were attacked, paralysed and dragged down into the labyrinth. Within the tunnel system are several small caves, perhaps ten feet high by the same width, in which the travellers were placed and eggs laid inside their bodies. The hatching process will begin shortly after the party begin their descent into the tunnels, with the accompanying sound of screaming as the travellers are slowly eaten alive from within.

The process takes 1d12 hours, with higher scores indicating that the crawler larvae have managed to avoid damaging vital organs in their feeding. If a parasitised host is found before they are wholly devoured, there is a chance that they can be saved; a Cure Disease is needed, which will cause the larva to flee the body. The victim will need to make a System Shock roll to survive the process as the larva literally bursts through the victim’s skin. Even then, they will need a Cure Critical to repair the damage caused by the larva.

The Monster Manual does not give a specific duration for the paralysing effect of the tentacles, nor indeed a way in which the effect can be combated. The DM can rule on this one as their taste dictates. I would hazard a guess that if the save vs. Paralysation fails, then the victim is paralysed for perhaps anything from half an hour to two hours. (3d4 x 10 minutes.)

The treasure that the Carrion Crawlers have amassed is incidental to the victims on whom they have fed over the years.

Type B

2145cp; a clutch of twenty of these have small holes drilled through their centres where they were once hung on a necklace by a bunch of hobgoblins
887sp; five of these are different in shape and design and have on one side, the picture of a crouching sphinx and on the other what appears to be the head of a woman wearing a blindfold. The legend is in glyphs that are only decipherable with reference to a sage. It is up to the DM to decide to what this refers.
511gp. There is a small silk purse holding seventeen of these. If they are examined, they bear the head and legend of a heretic pretender during an ancient war and are worth perhaps ten times their assay value to the right collector.
1 x 25gp gem
1 x silver brooch pin with inset sapphires, worth 75gp. The silver is engraved with the legend “The Duchess stole my heart” (the DM can decide what this means, if anything)
+2 sword, the hilt of which is hollowed out; the pommel appears to be a large amber-coloured gem but is in fact fake and unscrews. Inside the hilt is a tightly-rolled scroll giving a hastily drawn sketch of a dungeon gateway with notes on the trap and a password to bypass it. The location of the gate is at the DM’s discretion, as is whether the dungeon in question has been cleared out or is still active.

I’ve tried to jazz the treasure up a little bit this time, along the lines of Ben Robbins’ dictum about having the treasure tell a story. Some hooks in the hoard there, perhaps.

Friday 18 November 2011

Deep Impact - now anyone can play

An asteroid or comet impacting Earth is going to cause a huge amount of devastation - but just how devastating depends on the size of the object hitting us. I recently found a site run by Imperial College, London which will allow you to estimate the regional environmental consequences of an impact on Earth.

Fascinating, if a little morbid and a great way to round off your week.

Monday 14 November 2011

Sunday 13 November 2011

Team Adventure - Law and Disorder

Adthar’s two ettin heads peered round the corner of the corridor. He saw a hooded figure approaching, muttering and talking to itself. Figuring that he was big enough now to take care of himself, he stepped out into the corridor and hailed the figure, which gave a hiss and threw back its hood. Suddenly, the rest of the party were not looking at an ettin but at the statue of one.

No sooner had the medusa (for such it was) petrified Adthar than Alurax, in lion form, sprang forward and attacked, managing to avert his eyes from the monster’s gaze. He pinned the medusa to the floor and began to bite and rend at it as its snakes tried to bite back. Several times they bit but the lion managed to shrug off the effects of the poison until at last the shaggy-maned beast succumbed. The medusa then moved towards Cafaror, who was desperately trying to polish up his helmet so that it would be reflective. Galzor moved in to support his friend but it was not long before both doughty adventurers fell to the poison bites, even though they had managed to remain unpetrified.

The medusa went back down the corridor, alternately cackling and weeping to itself. Elysia, Zanurax and Ferros followed, being unable to cast spells or attack it; they were all too aware of the medusa’s abilities and the fact that even in their ethereal state, they were vulnerable. They discovered that the medusa slept on a straw pallet in a room, one wall of which was a huge stone-carved version of the picture that they had found in the Shadow House. It was surrounded by ancient hieroglyphs.

The three remaining party members were stuck in their ethereal state and had to put their heads together to work out how to get out of this one. Elysia deduced, correctly, that the medusa was a victim of the polymorph result on the Disco Floor of Doom and that she might actually be good – they already had displays of her split personality to go on. Elysia despatched Relic to find Russet (pay attention, it gets complicated), whereupon both pseudo-dragons would fly off to the town to find Elador, communicate Elysia’s predicament through limited telepathy, get him to find a 5th level cleric who could do Remove Curse, get him to come back with them to the dungeon, then fly him across the Disco Floor of Doom using the pseudo-dragons, lay in wait for the Medusa, lure her into the room and then the cleric could cast his Remove Curse.

To cut a very long story short, this is exactly what happened (albeit after six days of waiting). The medusa reverted back into a human female. Ferros was brought back to material status and healed up the poisoned members of the party, then Elysia was de-etherealised and Alurax was restored to human form.

Phew! The one fly in the ointment was that they were unable to restore Adthar who was still a statue, and an ettin statue to boot. After much debate, they decided to transport him across country to the Moat House, where they would install him in the courtyard as a feature while they set about trying to find a 12th level Magic User to restore him to flesh.

I had to explain to them that it was unlikely that a 12th level magic user would be just kicking around town waiting to be called on. Because I'm running the campaign as a sort of West Marches theme, the reason that the wilderness and its dungeons are unlooted and unexplored (more or less) is explained by the fact that the party are the pioneers, the trailblazers and amongst the highest levels in the area. If there were 12th levellers wandering about, they'd have cleared out all the dungeons already and there'd be nothing for the party to do.

Returning to town from the Moat House, they came across a herd of wild oxen grazing near the river, and later, saw what appeared to be a winged horse flying north-west. Elysia, who had long wanted a winged horse of her own, was delighted and vowed to locate it.

Another die roll that served up a very interesting result. I'd no idea that the Pegasus was due to appear - where it was going and what it was up to is another matter, one that may well unfold into a new adventure as the weeks roll on.

When they arrived in town, Cafaror (who had elected to stay an elf) was contacted by the tanner to whom he had taken the lizard skin. He had, you will recall, sent out messages inviting interested parties to an auction, hoping to sell off the skin and believed that he could get at least ten thousand gold pieces for it. Cafaror was delighted to hear this, but his delight was to be short-lived.

Meanwhile, Elysia was contacted by the town archivist, who had found another version of the legend of the Seven Pointed Star. This one was many hundreds of years old and told an even earlier version of the story (which I knocked up in an alliterative style to reflect Anglo-Saxon poetry)

Slumbering, sinister in their shadow souls
Demons dream, deep in the darkness
Evil enters, encountering everywhere
Foemen fleeing, fleet of foot, fearful
When wild and woeful war wracks the west
Carrying the clear clarion, comes cantering
Bold and bright, bearing blades burning
Fair of face, flamehaired, fierce her following
Swords sing the strong song of striking
And all around, adversaries advance
Mighty the magics, marching menacingly
But bold blows break no blazing burdens
Warriors wore woe and weariness the while
Strength lay with sorcery, spells and sigils
Not knights with need of neverfailing knives
Laid low in the lakes, the lady laughed not
But tears in tumbling tracks tainted her
Face and fires fiercely flared on flanks
Sought she safety from servitor soldiers
Their blades blazed not with bravery, back
Into dishonour they darted, deserting their dearest
Shamefaced and serious, sombre souls slinking
Homeward, not heroes, their hearts harrowed
Manacled by memories, men without manliness
Left their loved one to linger in the lakes
Not eager to embrace the error, eagle wielder
Perished in poverty, pernicious pride his prison
Cursed were his comrades, carrying their cowardice
Till time and a true traveller took the treasured hilt
And wielded what was wasted, winning the way
To set the sweet soul again springing skywards
From the fiery fastness and the forest fane

Ferros had his own message, from the Council of Clerics, who had heard tales of mysterious goings-on in the forests to the west. A party of hunters had come across some ancient burial mounds and those who had investigated had never returned. Ghostly moanings could be heard and as Ferros was supposedly a specialist on the undead, the Council thought that he might like to investigate.

As can be seen, hooks are being scattered about here; the more the merrier, although as an overworked DM, I do hope the party gives me a little warning about which one they want to investigate!

Some time after this, Cafaror was approached by a man who introduced himself as an artist who was keen to acquire the lizard skin for a public exhibition; he did not think it right that rich collectors should get their hands on such a rarity just because they had piles of gold. He offered two hundred and fifty gold pieces for the skin but Cafaror was reluctant to make a decision and said he would think about it.

Meanwhile, in the tavern, the party noticed two things – firstly, a strange man wearing what they at first thought was a snake-design torc (but then turned out to be a real snake) was drinking in their tavern. As he left, they spotted a short, bearded figure at a nearby table, a large battle axe by his side. They approached the dwarf, for such he was, asking if he was interested in joining their party. He suspiciously asked why, to which they offered gold and jewels. He was happy to take up their offer, but glared at Cafaror’s elvish looks.

This was Adthar's player's new character that I'd agreed he could run whilst Adthar himself was waiting to be returned to flesh. I'd not thought about demi-humans but Mummy Grognard clearly remembered a discussion we'd had some months ago about introducing demi-humans when the gang were ready for it and as Adthar's player is the oldest (13), it was decided that if he was okay with it, he could run the character as a dwarf.

Meanwhile, the party noticed that their tavern was being watched. A hooded figure lurked at the top of the street. Elysia donned the Cloak of Elvenkind and slipped out into the night to follow the watcher, who headed off through the streets, eventually disappearing down an alleyway in a very shady part of town. Elysia was not too keen on following the figure any further without back up and returned to the tavern where she briefed the others on what had been going on.

The next day, the party headed off to the dingy alleyway, where they followed it down to a courtyard in which was a dusty dry fountain, surrounded by several shifty looking types. On offering gold for information, the party were directed down an arched passage to a heavy set of doors. Elysia cast a Jump Spell and was soon on the first floor windowsill. Her view was blocked by heavy black curtains. Down below, the party tried to force the doors but had no luck; their banging was answered by a strange looking manservant who informed them that they could not see The Master, but that if they wanted, they could make an appointment. They gave their names and the address of the tavern where they were staying and left, taking Elysia with them.

When they returned to the tavern, the town guard were waiting for Cafaror. They asked him about his visitor of yesterday and then revealed that there had been a murder, that they suspected he was connected and warned him not to leave town. The party had been mulling over setting off on either the winged horse quest or to investigate the burial mounds but put both on hold to investigate who might be trying to set up Cafaror.

Fortunately, the visitor had left his address with Cafaror and so they (minus Ferros and Cafaror who were waiting for their appointment with the Master) hurried down to the place, which turned out to be a guest house, guarded by two members of the watch. There was clearly no gaining entry that way, so they repaired to an eaterie a few doors down and sat listening to the chatter and gossip of the customers and the wenches. They soon found out that horrible screaming had been heard from the building the previous night and that the town guard had been called. They had taken away several boxes of evidence but nobody had seen a body being removed.

The party decided to make good use of Zanurax’s six-inch high status and slipped him in through a cellar window to nose around. Whilst scouting around outside, Alurax came across a shattered terracotta tile and the party realised that it must have been knocked off the roof above. Did it have anything to do with the murder? There was only one way to find out.

Elysia, using Jump and Alurax and Galzor using the drainpipe, shimmied up the outside of the building. They tried to get a first floor window open and succeeded, only to find that the room was occupied by an irate guest who asked them who on earth they were and what were they doing breaking into his room. Alurax pretended to be a town watch crime scene investigator, gave a false name and carried on climbing. The angry guest told them he would report them to the watchmen outside.

A classic scene; I was running it in real-time, playing the irate guest and putting Junior Grognard on the spot to come up with an explanation. He produced one and we ran with that; the consequences of his improvisation will become apparent soon.

Realising that they had little time, they completed the climb and found themselves outside a second floor window, which had been forced open. They climbed in and began to examine the room. There was a pool of blood on the floor, through which something had been dragged, and some blood on the bed itself. Under a cupboard, they found a wooden holy symbol that had been broken in two.

All the clues were relevant and I'm wondering how long it'll be before they put them together and work out what's been going on.

Before they could find out what it all meant, there was the noise of footsteps from the corridor outside. Alurax and Galzor made a hasty retreat, whilst Elysia hid in the cupboard using her Cloak of Elvenkind. Unfortunately, more guards were waiting for Alurax and Galzor at the foot of the rope and arrested them when they reached the ground. Elysia slipped out of the cupboard when the guards had gone and managed to get out of the building unnoticed.

Meanwhile, back at the tavern, a servant of the Master had arrived, with details of the appointment. Ferros and Cafaror were to visit the house at eight o’clock that evening. They were warned to bring no-one else, a warning that Elysia had no intention of following.

A fun and unpredictable session - well, it was for me, watching the party following a series of events that arose one from the other. To be honest, there were a couple of points at which the party (or certain members of it) were getting bored - when Elysia, Zanurax and Ferros were stuck in their ethereal state, and later when they realised that they were not going to kill any more monsters that day but instead found themselves involved in a murder investigation. Things livened up when events became personal for the party and it may well get even more personal next time.

Monday 7 November 2011

Wednesday 2 November 2011

You know you're a gaming family when...

You tell your son to watch out for something hazardous in the house, then check to see if he's understood your warning and he replies "Yes, I know, I rolled under my Intelligence"

"INT 18 smart enough for you, Dad?"