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.


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
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
Know alignment
Cause fear
Animate dead
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. 

Monday 2 September 2013

Good guy Cthulhu