Monday, December 26, 2011

Holiday Stuff

Following the general theme of listing one's well-earned holiday loot, here is what I got "under the tree," so to speak, though this year we did not put up a tree, not having the space for it in our new, smaller digs...

The Simpsons Season 14 DVD
The Three Stooges Collection Volume One: 1934-1936
Doctor Who Complete Series Five (admitedly, I bought this for my wife, but as I will enjoy it too, I guess it counts)

I Am A Barbarian by E.R. Burroughs
The Lost Continent by E.R. Burroughs
The Goths in Spain by E.A Thompson
Constantine Porphyrogenitus: De Administrando Imperio, Greek by Gyula Moravcsik, English by Romilly J.H. Jenkins
Charlemagne: Emperor of the Western World by Russell Chamberlin
A pile of 7 issue of The Simpsons, 6 issues of Bart Simpson, and one issue of SpongeBob Squarepants comic books (yes, I like SpongeBob, at least, the first three seasons... and the comic book is very well done)

The Simpsons 2012 Daily Desk Calendar
Antique Maps 2012 (another sign that one of these days I need to whip up a campaign based on the mythical island of Frisland

Plus, I'm going to buy myself something from DriveThuRPG... the Wishlist is getting long, and there are a LOT of good things that have come out recently... I'm torn between:

Isle of the Unknown
LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing Grindhouse Edition
Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
Weird Adventures

The new edition of Carcosa would be on the list, save that I already have the original Carcosa, so I want to go for something new and different first... any suggestions? Or perhaps, suggestions of something cool that I have missed otherwise?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

[Archduchy of Adventure] Characters as of the 15th of Thaumont 1000 AC

Lazarus von Schwarzenherz, Lord
Lugosi (NE male Glantrian [Thyatian/Alphatian] 2nd level Magic-user) is a distant cousin of Prinz Jaggar von Drachenfels and former student of Prince Morphail Gorevitch-Woszlany. An expatriate petty lord of Glantri, exiled for some unnamed but doubtless severe courtly faux pas, he is also the newly-appointed Lord of Lugos, a petty domain in Transylvania (the region between Achelos and the Radlebb Forest). Sent to Karameikos, the Glantrian ambassadress, Doña Marianita Lucia de Leon y Valdez, was able to use her influence to get him appointed as Lord of Lugos. Lugos had remained without a lord for several years due to political infighting; as the expat was party to none of the factions and undesired by pretty much all, the Archduke felt that he was a fair choice (the favors he gained thereby from the ambassadress more than balanced out any potential troubles). His first act as new lord of the territory was to root out the growing faction led by Father Martin, the local self-appointed domain priest of the Church of Karameikos. He is served by an Ochalean manservant, Kato, and an imp he summoned from Hell, Myxlplyx, and possesses an unusual “wand of magic missiles” his father recovered from an ancient ruin while on expedition with his cousin, Prinz Jaggar. [Hans]

Lurka (N female Vyalia Elf 2nd level Assassin) is descended from Vyalian royalty on her father’s side (a usurper, actually, whose descendents have formed a clan of assassins to seek to regain their power) and a long line of jewelers on her mother’s side. Due to exposure of her cell she was forced to flee the realm and made her way into Karameikos, where she took up with a pair of sisters of less-than-subtle evil in Specularum. The trio slowly made their way west to Luln, and thence to Lugos, where they became entangled in the destruction of the Church of Karameikos faction led by Father Martin. After turning on her erstwhile companions and slitting their throats as they slept, she is now happily the mercenary “invisible hand” of Lord Lugosi. Formerly of rather more chaotic and evil alignment, she suffered a spiritual enlightening when she tried to loot a cross off the altar of the Lugos church; her evil was so great, however, that even the divine grace that sought to purify her soul was unable to drag her into law and good, but simply thrust her into the nebulous realms of neutrality. Her latest victim: Severus “Fatty” Stolnik, the erstwhile seneschal of Lugos; though he could not prove that he was stealing from the coffers during his tenure as steward of the domain, Lord Lugosi felt it most expedient to have it appear as though Fatty died during an orc attack while his party was en route to Luln. [Zell]

Lazarus and Lurka are now en route to Luln, seeking to hire on more guards, an armorer, and a smith, find a new (and tractable) priest for the local parish of the Church of Karameikos, and purchase needful equipment unavailable in the rustic domain. They also hope to recruit more like-minded adventuring types to provide assistance in “overseeing” the peoples and combating the dangers of Lugos. They have also taken advantage of an orc attack to eliminate a troublesome pest; while their guards were dealing with the remaining orcs, Lurka assassinated the erstwhile seneschal of Lugos, Severus “Fatty” Stolnik, and pinned it on a stray orc arrow (that somehow stuck him in his prodigious gut twice). At the end of the last session, the lord and his entourage were approaching the gates of Luln after a three day journey…


Magnus Magnusson, aka “Mongo the Destroyer” (LE male Norse 1st level Fighter) is a Norse pit-fighter and circus performer. At a young age he discovered he loved hitting things with his axes… targets, trolls, people, you name it, he loved hitting it. Sadly, though he was quite proficient with his axes, his fellow Ostland Vikings were not quite as proficient, and on their first raid into Ylaruam, were nearly extirpated. Mongo was among the few survivors who fled into the hills; he eventually made his way south to Tel Akbir, in Thyatis, where to make some quick money he joined a travelling circus as a strong man and axe-thrower. He found he liked the circus life, and remained with them for some years throughout Thyatis. When the circus moved west into Karameikos, he met Elenor Grayleaf in Rugalov, where she joined them and they became fast friends. He saved her from the unwanted advances of her mentor, Boris, and the two became more than friends. Shortly after the circus reached Luln, Mongo disappeared; he had been kidnapped by slavers from the Black Eagle Barony, where he was sold to a pit-fighting establishment, his docility ensured through judicious application of charm person spells. Elenor was able to rescue him from duress vile, her presence breaking the charm, and the two fled back to Luln. There they sadly discovered that the owner of the circus had actually sold Mongo out to the slavers, and thus they had no safe place to hide. Hiding in a tenement in Orctown, the two are trying to figure a safe way out of Luln to a place where they can hide out from the slavers and their erstwhile employer… [Robbie]

Elenor Grayleaf (NE female Vyalia Elf 1st level Magic-user/1st level Thief) is a Vyalian expatriate of wealthy and influential if non-noble family; she fled her forest home when she refused to submit to being used as a bargaining chip by marrying her into a noble home to improve her family’s lot. She joined a travelling circus, first as a prestidigitator, then later as a knife-thrower, a talent (among others) that she learned from Boris Gudenov, the (now previous) knife-thrower. Unfortunately, for his training, Boris sought more than Elenor was willing to give, and when her screams attracted Mongo to her wagon, he thoroughly beat Boris to within an inch of his life. For the rest of her history, refer to Mongo, above… [Robbie]

Robert “Brother Bob” “The Red” Sorrel (LG male Kerendan 1st level Cleric of the Church of Karameikos) is a young acolyte freshly ordained in Luln. An orphan, he was raised in the Abbey of Saint Gnaeus and Saint Lucius just south of Luln, Bob knows little about the outside world. Being unassuming and apolitical, upon ordination he was sent forth into the world as a mendicant priest, to heal and console the peoples in the streets. He joined Aldaré, Gosgorgenos, and Talon on a brief excursion into the ruins of Koriszegy Castle (aka the Haunted Keep) to find the lost scion of a noble family at the behest of the Vicar of Luln, Vitale Fonzarelle. Though they discovered plenty monsters, they were unsuccessful in finding their lost charge, and got little in the way of treasure for their efforts. As the other adventurers saw little to be gained by following Brother Bob back into the dungeon, they left him in the streets of Luln, seeking new companions for his quixotic quest. [Robbie]

Aldaré Quellisar (NE female Vyalia Elf 1st level Houri [Courtesan/Assassin]) yet another expatriate elf from the eastern realm of Vyalia, little is known of Aldaré at this time, though she was a member of the party that explored the first level of the Haunted Keep (see Robert Sorrel, above, for details). [Brooke]

Gosgorgenos the Mighty (N male Luludjan 1st level Fighter) is a native of Luln. Scion of a politically influential family of moderate means, he has taken up adventuring to fill his purse with gold. He was a member of the party that explored the first level of the Haunted Keep (see Robert Sorrel, above, for details). [Zell]

Thorn the Gypsy (N male Darine 1st level Ranger) is a member of the wandering Darine peoples, the gypsy folk of the Known World and beyond. When he was a child his band was captured by slavers operating out of the Black Eagle Barony, and he was worked mercilessly for several years on the plantations of the Baron. He managed to affect his escape four years ago, and has since wandered the forests and hills of Luludja, taking vengeance on the foul humanoid servants of the Black Eagle Baron as opportunity permitted. He was a member of the party that explored the first level of the Haunted Keep (see Robert Sorrel, above, for details). [Jason]


Father Martin Teague (LG male Kerendan Cleric of the Church of Karameikos) sought to bring the Light of the Redeemer unto the benighted lands of Transylvania, and set up his church in Lugos, a petty domain at the heart of the region. After three years of proselytizing the native peoples, he had gained a sizeable following among the downtrodden Luludjans and Volagans, earning him the enmity of the Volszegy old guard and the resolutely pagan Voldavians. Things came to a head when he captured Zofiya, the Black Witch of Lugos, and a brace of anti-paladins sought to free her at the same time the newly appointed Lord of Lugos, an atheistic magician from Glantri, arrived in his new domain. Caught between the two vile forces – his brave acolytes slain by foul sorcery, he himself grievously wounded by blade and spell – Father Martin called upon the Source of All Things and was miraculously transported back to the church where he was first ordained, far away in Kerendas. He has in the last week recovered from his wounds and is gathering allies for a crusade against the rise of foul Chaos in the lands he had sought to convert… a fact that has been surmised by Lazarus, Lord of Lugosi, through communing with the foul masters of his imp familiar, Myxlplyx.

Béla Blaskó (male Volszegy) is the Hetman and Mayor of Lugos. He is the leader of the Volszegy and Volagan faction that opposed the rise of Father Martin in the vacuum left by the absence of a true noble lord of the domain.

István Szabó (male Volszegy) is the smith of the village of Lugos. Cousin of Béla Blaskó, a member of the Volszegy/Voldavian faction.

Werner Messerman (male Halagan) is the proprietor of the Dacoit Trading Company, the only general and import store in Lugos.

Zofiya, the Black Witch of Lugos (female Volszegy)

Baba Magda (female Voldavian) is the proprietress of the Shady Dragon Inn, the only inn and tavern outside the “walls” of the town of Luln. She assisted Lurka, Borsha, and Demonica in their kidnapping of Matilda Bronisen, and intimated to the anti-paladins that she was a fellow cultist.

Igor (male Voldavian) is the hunchbacked and wall-eyed stable-hand at the Shady Dragon Inn.


Borsha (CE female Thyatian 1st level Anti-Paladin) and her sister Demonica (CE female Thyatian 1st level Anti-Paladin) were first generation Thyatians of Specularum. Little was known about their background, save that they came from a moderately wealthy and, quite likely, indulgent or overly-strict family. They cut a swath of destruction and evil across western Karameikos, on the battlefield and in the boudoir, en route from Specularum to Luln. There they participated in the ritual slaying of several ne’er do-wells, urchins, and shepherds in the name of their patron, Glasya Queen of Hell. They also slew their former lover, Friedrich the Bastard, the Sergeant of Orctown in the Red Sashes, and participated in the kidnapping of Matilda Bronisen, the only daughter of a prominent Darokinian businessman in Luln.

Thereafter they, together with Lurka, went to Lugos, where they were tasked by their patron with the rescue of Zofiya, the Black Witch of Lugos, who had been captured by Father Martin and was to be burnt at the stake on the night of the full moon. When they arrived they quickly seduced the Hetman of the village, Béla Blaskó, and his cousin, the influential town smith, István Szabó. They planned on turning the forces of Béla’s faction (mostly Pagan or Church of Traladara Volszegy, including the bulk of the militia) against Father Martin and his followers (mostly Luludjan converts to the Church of Karameikos). Their plans were cut short by the arrival of the new Lord of Lugos; when Béla and Father Martin and most of the village went to the manor at Black Pool to greet the new lord, the three decided to push up their timetable and scout out the church. They slew three praying babushkas and otherwise desecrated/profaned the church in terrible ways. They then went into the catacombs, where Béla had told them that Father Martin was holding the witch. There they found eight halfling warriors, followers of Martin, and slew them. They also discovered that the witch was held in stasis within a divine field of power; there appeared to be three keys to open the field. They found two, one on the lead halfling’s body, the other guarded by an animated suit of armor. During the assault, the new Lord of Lugos sent Father Martin and his followers packing (being Glantrian he despised the church, and had no place for the unofficial and unapproved power gained by the priest). Lazarus secretly followed the priest and his acolytes back to the church, where all discovered the horrible desecration. Martin and the acolytes were eventually caught between the wizard and the anti-paladins; the acolytes were slain in the battle, while Martin called upon the Source of All Things to have mercy upon him as he was about to be slain… and he disappeared. Unsure of who was up to what, the victorious evil-doers ended up in a Chinese Standoff, as Lazarus had found the third key hidden in Martin’s hidden treasury. Being both untrusting and psychotic, the sisters decided to attack… and were easily bested by a sleep spell. Lurka, being far more open to negotiations (also having been converted from Chaotic Evil to Neutral through un-judicious touching of holy objects), Lazarus cut her a deal, and she slit the sister’s throats. Shortly thereafter, “awakening” on the shadowy Astral Plane, the pair were horrified to view the True Visage of their patron, in her most wrathful aspect at their failure, being promised an eternity of horrible torments… [Robbie and Jason]

Friedrich the Bastard (male Halagan) was the corrupt Sergeant of the Constabulary (the infamous “Red Sashes”), in charge of the Thieves’ Quarter. He was slain out of hand early in the morning of the 3rd of Thaumont by his lovers, Borsha and Demonica, when he failed to wake them in time for them to join Lurka during the kidnapping of Matilda Bronisen. His body was desecrated and defiled, and it and his flat were burned to cinders (though fortunately, the fire did not spread any further, otherwise half of the Thieves’ Quarter might be in ashes today)

Severus “Fatty” Stolnik (male Thyatian/Voldavian) was the Seneschal of Lugos, a fat and thieving fellow who cooked his books well. Unable to legally deal with him, Lord Lugosi dragged him along on the journey to Luln “to assist in the hiring of new guards and retainers.” He was assassinated by Lurka during an attack by orcs while en route. [NPC]

Thursday, December 8, 2011

[Archduchy of Adventure] Main Map

For those who have been wondering the map is for my Archduchy of Adventure campaign, a Labyrinth Lord campaign set in the world of Mystara.

I've changed the scale of the map somewhat. The original maps were 24 miles per hex, with each Gazetteer map broken down to 8 mile hexes. I've taken the 8 mile hexes from the Gazetteers and changed the scale to 15 miles per hex, then broken those down for this map to 5 miles per hex, as used in the classic Grand Tactical Scale from Judges Guild.

Here's the reference map I am using, an adaptation of the original by Thorfinn Tait; the section that has been blown up in the previous map is outlined in a black box...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

[New Campaign] New Campaign

Well, The Land ended up going absolutely nowhere... I modified and tinkered and developed myself right out of that one, I did. Sheesh! A few good ideas came out of it that might be brought back later, but for now, it's put to bed...

So I'm running two campaigns right now, though both on a highly-irregular basis. Here's a map for one of them. A No-Prize to the first who tells me where this is...

Click to embiggen...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

[The Land] A New Campaign Setting

So I've been fiddling around with something new lately, with the initial inspiration being a mashup of the Land of Oz, classical Fairy Tales via Andrew Lang's Fairy Books, and imagery further reinforced courtesy of The Enchanted World.

Here's the first half of the campaign setting cheat sheet.

The Land
Once upon a time, the Land was free, home to many merry elves, dour dwarves, naughty gnomes, and flighty fairies, all led by mighty, kind, and just men and wizards. Then came the time of the Great Invasion from the Outside Lands…

In the north, Elfland was invaded by the horrible Goblins of Gixx; they passed under the Impassible Desert through tunnels.

In the east, Gnomeland was invaded by the terrible Orcs of Orcland, who sailed across the Shifting Sands in magical galleons or flew over the sands upon the backs of their war parrots.

In the south, Dwarfland was invaded by the villainous Gnoles of the Laughing Land, who crossed the Great Sandy Wastes upon the backs of their hyenadon steeds or flew high above the sands in the arms of their gargoyle allies.

In the west, Fairyland was invaded by the Drow of the Nightmare Realm (found deep underground beneath the Kingdom of Evil) who sailed across the Deadly Desert in magical dragon-prowed ships or flew high above upon the backs of dragons.

In all the Land, only the shining City of Wonders at the heart of the Land remained free. There, protected by the High King and the most powerful wizards and mightiest heroes of the Land, countless refugees fled the depredations of the invaders. All seemed lost, even in the face of the great heroism of men, wizards, elves, dwarves, gnomes, fairies, and even halflings, until, as evil is often wont to do, it turned upon itself…

The formerly allied invaders turned on each other in their zeal to get at the City of Wonders and conquer all the Land for themselves. Their fragile alliance broken, they turned to invading each other’s conquered lands rather than pressing against the City of Wonders. In time, the newly-conquered lands fell into complete chaos, as goblins, orcs, gnoles, and drow all fought each other…

Today, 10 years later, the land remains in chaos, with the City of Wonders and the Royal Realm around it the only spot of peace and order.

Compass: Land: Color: Metal: Primary Culture*: Primary God and Goddess
North: Elfland: Green: Copper: Gaelic: Danaan and Lugh
East: Gnomeland: Blue: Tin: Dutch: Frey and Freya
South: Dwarfland: Red: Iron: German: Thor and Sif
West: Fairyland: Yellow: Bronze: French: Belenus and Belisama
Central: Royal Realm: Purple: Gold: Italian: Jove and Juno
Everywhere: Good Magic-users: White: Silver: Latin: (Merlin and Morgana)
Everywhere: Halflings: Any: Any: English**: (Rarely concerned with such matters)
Elsewhere: Evil Magic-users: Black: Brass: Secret Tongue: (Old Nick and Hecate)
North: Goblins: Furs: Iron: Slavic: Chernobog and Baba Yaga
East: Orcs: Riotous: Iron: Pirate: Leviathan and Kraken
South: Gnoles : Brown/Tan: Iron: Arabic: Gargoyle (m) and Corpse Tearer (f)
West: Drow: Black: Iron: Norse: Hel and Loki

* The culture that is native to that race. The listing is an Earth equivalent it is not the Earth culture by name. It is not “French” culture or the “French” language; it is the Fairy culture and the Fairy language.
** The Common Tongue

Player Character Cultural Origins

Elf: d100
Gaelic: 01-65
French: 66-85
Dutch: 86-96
German: 97-99
Other: 100

Fairy: d100
French: 01-65
Gaelic: 66-85
German: 86-96
Dutch: 97-99
Other: 100

Gnome: d100
Dutch: 01-65
German: 66-85
Gaelic: 86-96
French: 97-99
Other: 100

Dwarf: d100
German: 01-65
Dutch: 66-85
French: 86-96
Gaelic: 97-99
Other: 100

Halfling*: Racial Cousins: Culture
Hairfeet: Mostly Humans: English
Tallfellow: Mostly Elves: Gaelic
Broadgirdle: Mostly Gnomes: Dutch
Stout: Mostly Dwarves: German
Twinkle-Eye: Mostly Fairies: French

* 65% of the time, Halflings are of Hairfoot variety. The rest of the time, roll as per the native homeland race (Elfland, Gnomeland, Dwarfland, or Fairyland) to determine culture. If from the Royal Realm, there is a 96% chance of being a Hairfoot, otherwise, roll based on the nearest demihuman settlement.


Land: d100
Royal Realm: 01-60
Elfland: 61-70
Gnomeland: 71-80
Dwarfland: 81-90
Fairyland: 91-100

Note that there are no half-elves in the Land; any child begotten of a human and elf is a halfling (a Tallfellow, to be sure), just as any child begotten of a dwarf and gnome is a halfling (Broadgirdle or Stout), or for that matter, of any race with any other race, or of halflings with halflings, the result is a halfling. Thus, halflings are a plurality in the Land, and very nearly a majority!

Similarly, there are no half-breeds of the humanoid sort as the humanoid races do not reproduce normally:

Goblins reproduce by fission; when a goblin grows fat on loot and plunder, he feasts upon special mushrooms from the goblin warrens, goes into torpor, and puffs up like a puffball, then after 1d3 days splits into 2d6 goblins, each with partial memories of their “sire.” If the goblin also feasted on man-flesh before going into torpor, the fleshy puffball bursts to reveal 1d6 hobgoblins. If a hobgoblin reproduces by fission, it splits into 2d6 hobgoblins, but if it also feasted on the flesh of a powerful animal or monster of 3 HD before it went into torpor (such as, most commonly, a bear), the fleshy puffball bursts to reveal 1d6 bugbears.

Orcs reproduce by budding; when grown fat, an orc produces 2d4 buds that fall off after 1d3 days. These are placed in a spawning pool, or simply tossed into a nearby lagoon where the bud bursts open to reveal the orc larva or “maggot.” Provided there is enough food, orc maggots grow fast; they resemble nothing more or less than humanoid piranhas. The largest surviving 1d3 maggots grow to become a full orcs within 2d4+2 days; lesser maggots grow into smees (“petty orcs,” as per kobolds in size and abilities). Orcs spawned in a breeding pool that is regularly supplied with man flesh invariably all grow into full-fledged orcs, with the most 1d3 most successful maggots developing into high orcs, of greater intellect and abilities (as per half-orcs).

Gnoles reproduce in two ways. First, most gnoles are born of hyenadon females; each litter of 2 to 6 cubs is divided equally into normal hyenadons and gnoles. The gnole cubs grow quickly, able to fight as 1/2 HD monsters immediately, as 1 HD monsters at 1 year, and attaining 2 HD maturity within two years. Secondly, gnole witches and allied evil witches are able to create gnoles by supplying a potion to evil Men who seek power; the potion grants them the power they seek, but it also transforms them into gnoles (d20% cumulative chance per use of the potion).

Drow reproduce the normal way, as they are in truth merely dark elves, and so reproduce as do the elves. Drow-descended halflings are like other halflings in all respects, save that their skin, like that of the drow, is ebon black, and their hair is bone white; too, while they are much like their Goodly cousins, being rustic in nature, most dark halflings revel in Chaos and Evil, as their cousins find contentment in Law and Good.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review: Princess of the Lost Planet

Princess of the Lost Planet, a new module for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons by Gary Gygax takes characters to new heights of adventure - specifically, far orbital adventure, as the characters are flung across interstellar space to a fantasy version of Mars!

Inspired by the Mars/Barsoom works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Gygax's Lost Planet evokes the old sword and planet stories of the early days of science fantasy. It provides an esoteric and exotic adventure opportunity for a party of four to six adventurers of 9th to 12th level, though many players of more classical adventures written by the creator of AD&D might be shocked at the start of the adventure and disappointed at the end game...

First, the characters are unceremoniously dropped, quite literally, from the lowest level of their current dungeon adventure through a chute... a magical gateway that flings them across space to the world of Garsoom (described in the module as "the next planet further out from the sun in whichever campaign setting your campaign is based in.") Shockingly, the characters are deposited nude, sans adventuring gear and, horror of horrors, magical items, in the midst of the ruins of an ancient city.

Here begins the meat of the adventure, which is presented as a wide-open campaign with several possible end goals. First, most of the 48-page booklet is taken up with a gazetteer of the Gyxis region of Garsoom, where the red-skinned Rubine Lords of Gyxium rule a dwindling empire of magic and technology from their ancient city. They are menaced on several fronts by strange and arcane enemies:

* The Viridian Lords, a savage race of giant green-skinned nomads, possessed of barbaric honor, who seek to undo the ancient and, in many ways, decadent Rubine civilization;

* The Necrourge Kings, eldritch beings from an even earlier age, who seek to enslave all other races; and

* The Yarnen Horde, a band of white-skinned barbarian rhino riders who, like the Viridians, seek to bring down the ancient Rubine Empire... but to usurp it, not destroy it. the "Princess of the Lost Planet" depicted on the cover of the module is one of the leaders of the Yarnen Horde, though there is a rival princess of the Empire that the players might find more appealing as an ally.

The adventurers are, of course, caught in the middle of these three major factions, and their every action can weigh heavily on the future of the Lost Planet as easily as it does their own fate!

While the bulk of the main book deals with the gazetteer that details the enclosed 17" x 22" map, it also includes a full adventure in the ruined City of Al'Chee-Gaxx, which promises to provide the adventurers the power to save - or destroy - the Rubine Empire.

Finally, a small bestiary and equipment guide is provided. Most of the bestiary deals with converting standard monsters from the Monster Manual to the flora and fauna of the Lost Planet - general rule is to add two or four legs or arms, and either increase or decrease size and hit dice, though there are a few original monsters included. Most of the technology included is taken straight from "S3: Expedition to Barrier Peaks," though imagery is significantly altered, and only "radium guns" are included, rather than blasters or lasers (though the Necrourges use something similar to the needler, which drains levels and transforms the slain into zombies at their command).

The 18-page illustration booklet provides an excellent selection of views from various locations provided in the gazetteer, as well as specific useful scenes from the ruins of Al-Chee. It also marks the return of the art of Erol Otus, which helps define the alien landscape of Gyxis and Garsoom. The full-color center-page spread by Otus depicts the glory of Gyxium from a varth-bird eye view, while the reverse provides a panoramic view of being on the receiving end of a charge of a mixed band of Viridians and Yarnen!

Finally, it should be noted that adventurers who successfully complete the Al'Chee-Gaxx adventure and either help protect or establish a new Gyxium Empire are given a method of returning "home," should they not wish to remain on the Lost Planet as heroes... however, the way home is not without cost, as they return to their natal planet in exactly the same state as they arrived on Garsoom - nude, sans all won treasures - and if they fail a saving throw, back on the lowest level of the dungeon whence they came!

Altogether, Princess of the Lost Planet provides a solid campaign, though it might not be for everyone, due to the alien landscapes and the broader scope of adventure. It is certainly a departure from the norm for Mr. Gygax, though it also hearkens back to his storied adventures in Castle Greyhawk where one might fall through pit and wind up in China or on Barsoom...

5 out of 6 Pips
LP1: Princess of the Lost Planet
$13.50, 48 pp, 18pp, 17" x 22" tri-color map

NOTE: If you haven't figured it out by now, this module does not really exist, it is a "fake review" for a module cover posted by Zak...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

[Labyrinth Lord] Stonehell Dungeoneers: Seventh Expedition

Seventh Expedition (July 24, 2011)
The party returned from the Sixth Expedition with a total of 370 gp value in copper funerary items and gems. They spent several days resting and recuperating while preparing for the next expedition. Medium-Veteran Albert Fairbreeze and Veteran Rost the Dwarf were called away for other business, but Exior the Mysterious and Medium Jace du Rush were able to rejoin the party, while three new members were recruited, bringing the total party number up to an even dozen, plus two hirelings:

Bravo-Prestidigitator Exior the Mysterious (m elf 1st level Assassin/1st level Illusionist)
Medium-Veteran Smoke Cloud (f elf 1st level Warrior-Mage)
Scout Raylin the Outcast (m half-elf 3rd level Ranger) with his hound Cur
Acolyte Him, Cleric of Somebody Somewhere (m human 1st level Cleric)
Medium Jace du Rush (m elf 1st level Magic-user)
Acolyte Fin Thorbergr, Cleric of the Dwarf Gods (m dwarf 1st level Cleric)
Veteran Dane Gerous (m human 1st level Fighter)
Veteran Wulfgar the Stout (m dwarf 1st level Fighter)
Veteran Jalden of Iron Mountain (m human 1st level Fighter)
Apprentice Quickleaf (m halfling 1st level Thief)
Warrior Margit the Halfling (f halfling 2nd level Warrior) with her dogs Rufus and Blake
Medium-Veteran Ellan the Elf (f 1st elf level Warrior-Mage)
Galen the Link Boy
Latimer the Pack Boy

The party, together with 10 hired guards, arrived at Stonehell with no troubles. The guards were left topside to guard the horses and wagon, while the 12 adventurers and their hirelings went once again into the depths. Having poured over the maps in the previous week, it had been decided to explore the southern corridors of the catacombs, with the hope to find a further connection back into the central body of the dungeons, that there would be a second escape route to the stairs to the outer world…

Thus continuing south down the north-south catacomb corridor, the party discovered an effective “T” in the route; the one to the right was followed, and was quickly discovered to end in a pair of stone doors covered with writing in Kobold, “Kobold Neutral Ground.” When the doors were opened, it was discovered that the short corridor beyond ended in a small room, blocked off by a gate. Debris was strewn about the room, and further writing on the walls in Kobold spelled “Bad Juju;” whether it was this or the lack of interesting debris is unknown, but it was decided to return to the corridor and investigate the other branch of the T rather than enter the Bad Juju Room to check out the door on the eastern wall.

The other corridor led to a large room, wherein was seen a stone bridge crossing a deep pit filled with nasty, stagnant water; the water contained rotting bits of flesh. Quickleaf and Jalden quickly crossed the stone bridge, the thief having declared it free of traps; unfortunately, before the dwarves could move up and check the quality of the stone, Raylin crossed and discovered that it crumbled beneath him! Fortunately Cur was already past the bridge when it crumbled; down went the ranger. To his horror, he found that the water was filled with horrible grubs living in the rot; these quickly burrowed into his legs! Jalden pulled him up with a rope, and Quickleaf quickly applied the tried and true anti-grub weapon: burning fire, and lots of it! Fortunately, the fire killed the grubs before it killed the ranger.

After much debate, a rope bridge was built across which Him the Cleric crossed the pit; he healed the ranger of most of his burns. Only Ellan was brave enough to cross to join the portion of the party on the other side. It was decided, after consulting the maps, that the two groups would meet in the Grand Chamber of Flesh and Bone, for it was apparent that (ideally) the southern east-west corridor would eventually meet up with the exit south of the Grand Chamber.

The far-side group (Raylin, Quickleaf, Him, Ellan, and Jalden) quickly made their way down the corridor; they encountered many doors, and Quickleaf stopped at each to listen. In one he heard voices, and in another he heard stirrings. Their trip to the Grand Chamber was otherwise uneventful.

Unfortunately for the near-side group (Wulfgar, Dane, Margit, Jace, Fin, Exior, Smoke Cloud, Galen, and Latimer) when they neared the Ruined Temple they discovered that their stakes had been uprooted and the door closed; when opened, five skeletons attacked! However, Wulfgar and Dane were in the front and made quick work of the things. They continued on, once again staking open the doors behind them (fortunately, as it turned out), and made their way into the Grand Chamber. There they took up a defensive position in the corner, as they had in the previous expedition, and waited for their comrades to join them. They didn’t have long to wait, and the party was reunited (and it felt so good).

Filling the near-side party in on their discoveries of the many doors in the southern corridor, it was decided to go with a “Doing Dong Ditch” plan, wherein the party would ready themselves in a gauntlet oriented toward the southern entry and the fastest member of the party would kick down one of the doors and run through… drawing the monsters into the gauntlet of death!

The plan worked quite well the first two times, with three skeletons and then three ghouls being quickly and efficiently disposed of, with Quickleaf as the bait. Exior decided to be the bait on the third try, and as they say, the third time is the charm… as he readied himself to kick in the door on the southern side of the corridor, the door opposite on the northern side of the corridor opened and out stepped several black-robed men! Surprised, they grabbed him and stabbed him through the heart with their wavy daggers before he could even scream!

The sound of the scuffle carried, though, to the readied adventurers, but even as they rounded the corner to help their friend they heard his death rattle, his life-blood pooling around him. They saw the door close, and before the cultists were able to barricade it, Raylin and Wulfgar had burst it down and were engaged in hand-to-hand combat. The others piled in behind them, and three of the cultists were down in quick order, with Wulfgar laughing off the leader’s mystical cry for him to “Die!”

“Surrender now and we’ll kill you quickly and mercifully!” Wulfgar shouted… and surprisingly, surrender they did! They were tied up, and the leader, obviously a cleric of some unpleasant deity, was gagged. Raylin questioned the other cultist, fruitlessly, as was apparently more afraid of his master than of the ranger; he was quickly gutted and dropped to the ground, dead.

They then carefully questioned the cleric, who told him that the cultists were in the dungeons looking for someone named “Malfrecles Nauld (?),” apparently a powerful being, seeking to get him to join their cult. He would say no more, and thus being a dwarf of his word, Wulfgar quickly and mercifully slit his throat.

In the cult’s lair they discovered an unfortunate fellow trussed up in a corner; this was Veteran-Prestidigitator Mijiltur the Elf (m Elf 1st level Fighter/1st level Illusionist), who claimed to have been the last remaining survivor of another party of adventurers who stumbled upon the cult. He was asked, “You remind us of our slain friend. Would you care to join us?” And he did.

At first underwhelmed by the cultist’s 32 electrum pieces, they were better rewarded by the discovery of two healing potions and, potentially, a magic item, when it was realized that the cult leader’s staff might be a snake staff! They also took the daggers, mace, unholy symbol, and the black robe of the leader, to perhaps use later in a disguise, if necessary.

After looting the cultists the party decided to try the “old way” on the door that Exior died trying to open; to their chagrin, they discovered it was the lair of 10 giant rats. After much grinding, slicing, and dicing (during which Jalden earned the epithets “Mr. Meat Snack” and “Tasty Bacon”), the rats were dead. It was decided to finally loot the three rooms; the rat room contained dead rats and rat feces, the skeleton room was empty, and the ghoul room had several sarcophagi, one of which was filled with 200 platinum pieces!

Wulfgar thought it was best to leave at this point; most were wounded, a few badly so, and most of the cure spells of the clerics were long used. 2000 gp in platinum was a worthy treasure! But no, it was decided to try at least one more door…

It’s ALWAYS that door too far, isn’t it?

The party fortunately went back to the Ding Dong Ditch tactic for the fourth room… when Mijiltur (“He of the 19 Dex”) kicked in this door and ran, something… very… bad… followed. A black cloud of clicking, buzzing beetles, a huge swarm of flesh-eating scarabs!

Everyone else was confused at the sound and the sight of the black cloud, but Wulfgar, who, prior to his days as an adventurer worked as a bear-baiter and animal trainer, knew a Bad Thing when he saw one. “RUN!” was all he cried as he bolted, dragging the torch boy and pack boy with him. And the party ran… though only most of them followed him. Raylin, Jalden, Quickleaf, Jace, and Fin ran to the north-western exit, while the others followed Wulfgar to the south-western exit closest to the known exits. He and the main party made a beeline for the Ruined Temple, where they pulled up the stake and slammed the door shut behind them…

The others had rather more trouble, as the swarm descended on them (karma, really, as they thought that being the smaller group, the bugs would follow the OTHER guys); droves of beetles ripped bits of flesh off of them, the unarmored Jace and Cur the Dog taking the worst of it. As they decided finally to follow Wulfgar’s lead, they turned down the corridor paralleling the Grand Chamber and out popped four zombies from secret alcoves! Desperate battle ensued. Fin turned three of the zombies; Jace and Raylin took the opportunity to flee further down the corridor after the zombies, while Quickleaf and Jalden were stuck fighting the fourth. The beetles followed the ranger and magic-user; Jace fell under the bites of countless beetles, and Raylin fled back into the Grand Chamber when he saw the door had been slammed shut!

The swarm followed Raylin; the rest of the party, in the Ruined Temple, counted heads and realized they were missing several companions! Said companions, minus Raylin, made their way to the Ruined Temple, and there again encountered the zombies cowering against the door; they made short work of these, then pounded on the door begging exit. Raylin fled into the Room of Dead Rats, slamming the door behind him just in time to cut off the swarm…

The rest of the party was allowed in the Ruined Temple, quickly, and then they waited a while to see if Raylin would follow. Soon he did, as he cautiously checked the door to see if the swarm had left, which it had. He then ran at speed to the Ruined Temple, and gained entrance, dragging the stripped bones of Jace behind him.

It was decided, finally, it was time to leave! The trip out of the dungeon and back to Shady Hollow was uneventful…

Monster Slain: 8 Rot Grubs, 8 Skeletons, 3 Ghouls, 5 Cultists, 10 Giant Rats, and 4 Zombies.
Treasures Won: 32 ep, 200 pp, two potions of healing, and a snake-headed staff that MIGHT be magical; also recovered 2100 gp in gems and 185 gp from Exior’s body and 76 gp from Jace’s body. Ellan paid the party 402 gp for Jace’s spell book, and Mijiltur paid the party 200 gp for Exior’s spell book. Total Value: 4,998 gp.
XP Gained: 2,668 total
Comrades Lost: Exior the Mysterious (Cut down by Cultists), Jace du Rush (Eaten Alive by Beetle Swarm).

Monday, July 18, 2011

[Wilderlands] Wilderlands World Tour

The Selisengard Campaign has been on hiatus for a while, as we've focused on the World Tour Campaign...

Session 4
The Wilderlands World Tour continued last Friday, with a stopover in the Dead City of Harkarim. Following the battle along the strand, Unferth the Thief rejoined the rest of the party and reported on his and Hadrian's encounter with the giant sub-chief at the lighthouse. The party decided that since Hadrian had not returned, something unpleasant likely befell him; as it was likely that there were fewer enemies at the lighthouse than in the ruins, they felt they might as well check into his situation at the ruined lighthouse...

There they discovered that the sub-chief was not the only occupant of the lighthouse, as four savages threw javelins at them from the ruined walls. A sleep spell from Zoe the Enchantress quickly took care of them, while battle was joined between the sub-chief, several other savages, and the party. In the end, the party triumphed again, and another of the saw-toothed blades was taken as booty by Jem the Warrior. Altogether with the treasure of the other savages from earlier, they had gathered two saw-toothed blades, many stone-tipped javelins, more than a dozen shell necklaces, and two gem-and-shell necklaces that the rogues guessed were worth upwards of 400 gp each.

After defeating the savage giants, they found Hadrian, much bruised, unconscious, and tied up, just about where Unferth had left him. They also found many rough-built wharves, and far out at sea, could see many fishing boats, with men (giants? men? could not tell at this distance) casting nets...

They bandaged his wounds and slapped him awake; as they did this, others of the party searched the ruined lighthouse, and discovered the four other sleeping savages; one had fallen into the collapsed portion of the lighthouse and died from the fall, while the other three had their throats unceremoniously slit by the careful adventurers. Rafael Wulfsson, Zoe's barbaric brother, discovered a secret door, long forgotten, at the base of the lighthouse near the wall...

Down into the secret stair the group went; down, and down, and down again, deep beneath the ground, until they came to a long-unused bronze-covered door. A careful search by the thieves found the simple stone-block mechanism that would have dropped upon less wary heads, and Hadrian stopped up the switch after carefully prying away the bronze cladding along the doorframe.

Within the unlocked, musty room they found an ancient armory, fit to equip 10 men with ancient Lenapashim-style bronze scale mail, shields, scimitars, and bows; the bows were long rotted away, but the weapons and armor had been well-treated by some miraculous oil that maintained their lustre and strength. Molding sacks at the foot of each kit revealed long rotted grains and rations, as well as a (former) pouch of 20 gp each. The gold coins, of ancient sort, might well be worth 10 times their value to the proper collector!

During their search of the room they discovered another secret door that opened into a long, narrow corridor that apparently ran under the long sea wall, back toward the ruins. Lighting more torches, they made haste through the long tunnel, hoping to come out deep within the ruin in secret, the better to loot whatever treasures the savages might have. After an indeterminate time, they felt a fresh breeze from above; torches revealed a narrow chimney that an unarmored man might climb...

Up went Hadrian and Unferth. Hadrian discovered that the chimney opened into a narrow hole in the wall, that he could just barely squeeze into; from this vantage he had an excellent view of the strand below, where he discovered that several patrols were now crossing in the growing twilight, likely due to the discovery of the slaughtered patrol and the lighthouse garrison! Also, coming from the direction of the lighthouse was a large group of normal-sized men, tied to coffles, being driven and led by three giants armed with javelins and whips...

Finding his hidden vantage point an excellent sniper's cot, Hadrian set to slaying the giant slavers with grins and glee. First one, then the other fell to his bolts; but at the second the third found him, and cast several javelins his way, which narrowly missed him and clattered into the chimney below... desirous not to join the thief in his madness, the rest of the party continued on the tunnel, and though at first Unferth joined them, he thought better of it, and returned, in penance for his abandoning Hadrian at the lighthouse before. The rest of the party then decided to wait...

The last giant slaver charged at Hadrian's spot; rattled at the savagery, his last bolts went wide of their mark, and he dove back into the chimney even as the giant reached into the hole to grab the thief. He flung his dagger at the frothing giant and took him right in the eye, killing him instantly... and plugging the hole with the giant's body! For several minutes he tried to push the body out of the way alone, until Unferth joined him in the cramped chimney. Together they were able to push back the giant's limp form, only to discover that a dozen or more giants had found their slain companions!

Sliding down the roped tied for such an eventuality, Hadrian and Unferth dove out of the way of the dozen javelins that suddenly filled the hole, many of which bounced down the chimney with the thieves as they rapelled down. The pair joined their companions, and the whole lot moved on with speed, the shouts of the giants behind them fading quickly, as the savages had no hope of fitting down the chimney.

After even longer, and nearly running out of torches, they came finally to the end of the tunnel at a large, bronze-shod door. The mighty Jem put his back into his labors, and together with Rafael was able to open the verdigris-covered portal. Beyond they saw a ruined pit, a basement of some sort, filled with broken stone and brick, and covered with ferns and flowers. The wide pit was framed above by thick forest, and in the breaks between boughs they saw stars beyond scudding moons-lit clouds.

Exhausted from their long day's endeavors, they closed the door again and slept in the tunnel...

The next morning they carefully opened the door again and climbed out of the pit. The found themselves amidst the ruined city, south of the great ziggurats, quite near one of the tall black towers. They decided to investigate the tower first, and carefully picked their way down a ruined boulevard, Unferth and Hadrian scouting ahead. The pair had discovered a vine-lined crossroad leading directly to the tower when suddenly and quietly Unferth dove into a nearbny ruined building; he had seen what Hadrian had missed, a patrol of savages coming down the boulevard... and they saw Hadrian at the same moment he saw them! Hadrian drew his crossbow as they shouted war cries and threw their javelins...

And thus ended the session...

Session 3
In the last session of the Wilderlands World Tour, the adventurers awoke on the Black Kali to thunder being created by a cadaverous, liche-like wizard... said wizard floating in midair between the two ships. Claiming to be the protector of the nymphs who were terrified by the attack on the merchants, the wizard demanded recompense... in blood or coin. To emphasize his demand, he burned the prize ship to the water line with a mere wave of his hand...

Quickly, the party decided to turn over their ill-gotten loot, though several less wise warrior types though to fight it out... until reminded that their swords fell short of the wizard's position, and none of them could fly or walk on water. So out spilled a pile of jewels, which the wizard took (along with the yet-to-be enslaved/ransomed merchants) through the expedience of a magical vortex. To add injury to insult, before he left, the wizard turned the captain of the Black Kali into a fish, which flopped about the deck, dying from lack of water, until he was thrown into sea.

"Tis pity," the wizard cackled ere he left, "The fish was of fresh-water sort..."

After this, the adventurers were given quite the evil eye by the remaining crew, who were busy rescuing their comrades who had fled the burning prize ship. They were ordered below while the crew decided on a new captain... and when they returned abovedeck, discovered that they were putting to along the Bitter Shore, where the adventurers were to be abandoned as being "too troublesome."

Given one week's rations, the adventurers were warned not to go south, "as ye value your lives," where they would find the ruins of the Dead City of Harkarim. They were told to go north to Nho, a town of ill-repute, but infinitely better than Harkarim...

Of course, they went south, the Harkarim. En route they had an encounter with a pack of giant weasels, which attepted to suck the blood from their bodies... end result, three fine giant weasel pelts, with the party little worse for wear. Eventually they came to the ruin of a tall wall, which stretched far out to sea; they climbed the tumbled-down ruin, and found to the east a vast city dominated by great pyramids, to the west a silted-in crescent harbor, the ruins of two great cyclopean lighthouses at the far end jutting out to sea. Upon the strand below they saw footprints, to and fro, though of a giant size as to make even the tallest of the adventurers seem small by comparison...

The thieves in the party decided to scout out the lighthouse to the west; they disappeared in the shadowed scree of the fallen wall, while the others took up hidden positions behind the wall to watch... even as the thieves rounded the corner of the lighthouse, a party of a dozen giant savages came into sight from the eastern ruins, running at speed, obviously having spotted the interlopers!

Combat was joined, as even as the party of savages came upon the party's position, the thieves nearly ran into the back of their own singular, though mighty savage, who wielded in a single hand a toothed blade a normal man would be hard-pressed to carry with both hands! One of the rogues thought better of the encounter, and fled, while the less wise fellow remained, thinking speed would outdo savagery...

Short work was made of the dozen savages along the strand, as Zoe the Enchantress confused them with her magical power, weakening the group enough that the remaining adventurers made short work of the lot, including another brute of the sort at the lighthouse, who accidentally took off the head of one of his own warriors! Unfortunately for the remaining rogue, however, his simple rapier was no match for the brute force of the sub-chieftain, who with a grim smile finished off the thief with the pommel of his blade, that he might be taken alive to be sacrificed to the Dark Gods of the Pyramids...

Session 2
Friday's "World Tour" game went very well. We had five players with six characters: Aelphen Fighter (Bastard Sword), Aelphen Fighter (Broad Sword) Aelphen Wizard, Common Viridian Rogue, Vandarian Rogue, and Tharbarres Fighter (Archer). They were onboard the Black Kali, a merchantman out of Lenap running between Targnol Port and Quitzit, when along the shore of Cape Salmo they saw another merchantman at anchor, with Amazon merchants trading jewelry with the orchard nymphs.

Together with the black-hearted captain and crew of the Black Kali, they decided to take the jewelry and the ship. The adventurers went ashore with the First Mate and some of the crew, while the rest of the crew came alongside the Amazon ship to board her. A long, fierce battle could have gone either way, but in the end the adventurers and the reiver crew tirumphed and won a lord's ransom in jewelry and Amazon panoply. The Amazon warriors were put to death (most felled by the wizard's sleep spells), though the merchants were taken, to be ransomed or enslaved as fate would have it...

Thereafter en route to Quitzit near Bitter Bay they encountered giant eagles from the Hoary Mountains (taken as a good omen, as they flew south), and just as they rounded Cape Nho they encountered a giant sea turtle, which was also deemed a good omen, as it was not, in fact, a terrible dragon turtle...

Monday, July 11, 2011

[Labyrinth Lord] Stonehell Dungeoneers Expeditions 1 to 6

I and several friends have had the good fortune over the last several months to have the opportunity to play Labyrinth Lord under the game mastery of Dan Proctor of Goblinoid Games. We meet every other Sunday at Chimera Hobby Shop Appleton. Dan has been running us through Stonehell Dungeon. Here is a recap of the major events of the first six expeditions into the dungeon, previously posted at the Goblinoid Games Forums...

First and Second Expeditions (May 29, 2011)
Five disparate, desperate adventurers ventured into Stonehell Dungeon...

Raylin the Outcast, Half Elf Ranger, nearly died when bitten by a giant rattlesnake, discovered that he was allergic to snake venom. Shot in the back while in melee with skeletons (which, being "not-snakes," he had no fear of). We ended up saving his life by getting him to the local higher-level cleric just in time, but it ended up costing us 1500 gold that we didn't yet have! Robbie: "I swear by the Gods, if anyone shoots a bow into melee again, I. Will. Kill. them." Ray: "Why is everyone looking at me? What?"

Exior the Mysterious, Elf Assassin/Illusionist, was fond of being first to claim that he was "right there" when any treasure may be present, but being "way over there" when bad things happened, such as when green gas suddenly poured forth from a fountain. But in the end, his illusion of a giant snake (quite realistic, having recently seen one), helped us quite nicely when we encountered too many orcs while with too few hit points remaining. Mason: "Me? I'm Exior... you needn't know more." Everyone Else: "Oh hell, an assassin, sheesh..."

Cormac MacNicol, Human Cleric of Crom and Saint Conan, took charge of the party because everyone seemed hell-bent on hanging out at the taverns rather than going into the dungeon. He also hired on Flynn the Torch boy, and took him under his wing to teach him the values of struggle and mighty combat. It was Cormac's mace that crushed the skull of the giant snake, and his exhortations that pushed the group to the fore into battle... except when he had to bolster the morale of Flynn when he was threatened with violence by a fellow party member (see Rey From Round the Bend, below). James: "A temple o' feertili-tee y' say? Le's see jus' 'ow feer-tile th' wee preest-esses be!" Dan: "Um, the temple is run by a priest, Father Huxley..." James: "Och, thet won' doo... wait, be he a fine, pretty preester lad?" Dan: "..." Mason: ::squicked::

Ray Rennel, From Round the Bend, Elf Thief, Sleeper in Trees, Leaper into Mid-Air, Spinner of the Wheel of Fortune, Summoner of the Skeletons of Doom, He How Happily Shoots Arrows Into Melee, the Dancer in the Dungeon, Tempter of Fate, He of Little Faith. 'Nuff Said! Ray: "I'm jumping out of the tree with my 18 Dexteroty! Wooo!" Dan: "You take 3 points of damage from the fall." Ray: "But... 18 Dex... awww!"

Winthrope the Even More Mysterious, Half-Orc Assassin... Mysteriously, likes to use his dagger rather than his sword. In battle. Really! Bailey: "..."

The first foray toward Stonehell ended up with us dragging Raylin back to town before we even got within sight of the ruins! The second ended very unprofitably, with only a handful of coins looted from orcs, and a bevy of smallswords taken from the skeletons and same said orcs. Exior also harvested some venom from the giant rattler, and we took the glow-orbs from the bodies of five fire beetles, but we are most certainly not remotely near paying back Father Huxley for the neutralize poison spell... we'll be hard-pressed next venture to pay for the torch boy and more torches and trail rations!

Such is the life of adventurers...

Monsters Slain: 1 Giant Rattler, 5 Fire Beetles, 8 Skeletons, and 5 Orcs.
Treasure Won: 5 Fire Beetle Glow Organs, 26 gp, and 24 gp from the sale of the orc blades.
Adventurers Lost: None!

Third Expedition (June 12, 2011)
Most of the records of the Third Expedition have been lost... as were Ray Rennel to a spiked trap and Winthrope the Mysterious to the bite of a cobra. Ray had apparently "acquired" some valuable gems during a "scouting" expedition ahead of the party; these were found secreted on his corpse after it was pulled out from the pit. It was decided that we would leave the body behind in the dungeon, but Exior decided to drag it out to give the thieving thief a proper burial. Winthrope, too, was buried outside of the dungeon, both on a hill nearby, overlooking the trail between Stonehell and Shady Hollow.

Monsters Slain: 5 Orcs, 7 Kobolds, and 3 Cobras
Treasure Won: 188 cp, 84 gp, and two gems each worth 4,000 gp!
Adventurers Lost: Ray Rennel (spiked pit) and Winthrope the Mysterious (snake bite)

Fourth Expedition (June 26, 2011)
Most of the Stonehell Dungeoneers - Cormac Cleric of Crom and St. Conan, Welton Stonebeard, Who the Druid, and Raylin the Ranger - returned to Stonehell Dungeon for a third time, this time joined by Margit the Halfling, Rugar the Dwarf, and Dent the Warrior. Also joining them was Trance the Cleric of Metallica, whom they had rescued from kobolds in their prior venture (wherein they lost two previous companions to the foul pits). Exior the Mysterious remained behind in the town, resting from his exertions in the prior adventure...

And for most of the Dungeoneers, it was a final delve... in the depths of the first level catacombs. For though they fought well against many foul undead, including a dozen zombies, nine skeletons, a ghoul, and a super-skeleton (not to mention a clutch of nine fire beetles), their greed was their undoing...

As they found little if any treasure during most of the adventure, the three great and two lesser jewels, thousands of silver pieces, and many stone's weight of fine copper funerary items found in the super-skeleton's tomb were felt to be great recompense for their efforts. Of course, so great a weight in silver and copper would take several trips in and out of the dungeon. Leaving Raylin the Ranger and Margit the Halfling with the horses and the hired horse-guards, the other six adventurers (and the linkboy, Flynn the Farmer) returned to the tomb a second time to gather more silver and copper...

En route they encountered a roving band of six ghouls in the large Cross-Chamber of Many Pillars, and there they met their final fate! Linkboy Flynn, Who the Druid, and Welton Stonebeard fell ere they knew what had struck them. Cormac and Trance called upon their gods to no avail, and the ghouls kept coming. Cormac cried out for a fighting retreat, but the three remaining companions either did not hear or heed... for all the good it did him, for a ghoul pursued him and sent him to Valhalla, even as Trance and Dent fell beneath the fiend's claws and fangs. Finally, fighting alone in the growing darkness, Rugar the Dwarf and the druid's wolf-like hound companions Bingo and Dingo fell, too, their resting place as ignominous as could be...

Raylin, Margit, and the horseguard waited... an hour, then more, then the whole of the night and morning, until they determined that their companions would not return with them. Heaving a terrible sigh of sadness as he departed, Raylin led the much-reduced troop back to town, where the two surviving adventurers sold off the jewelry for a baron's ransom, the better to equip themselves for their next adventure, to hopefully find some sign of their lost companions...

I should also note that the meticulously-kept map was in the possession of Cormac the Cleric when he fell... as much a loss to the remaining party members as their friends!

Monsters Slain: 8 Fire Beetles, 9 Skeletons, 12 Zombies, 1 Ghoul, 1 Super Skeleton
Treasure Won: 8 Fire Beetle Glands, 4,008 sp, 5 gp, 2 Brooches (30 gp each), and two Jeweled Necklaces (1,300 gp each)
Adventurers Lost: Cormac MacNicol, Trance the Cleric of Metallica, Welton Stonebeard the Cleric of the Dwarf Gods, Who the Druid (with Bingo and Dingo the Wolf-Hounds), Dent the Warrior, Rugar the Dwarf, and Flynn the Link Boy

Fifth Expedition (July 10, 2011)
After the debacle of the Fourth Expedition, only Strider Raylin the Ranger (m 2nd level Half-Elf Ranger) and Warrior Margit the Halfling (f 2nd level Halfling) survived to return to Shady Hollow. There they determined to rebuild the group and go in search of the fate of their lost companions. They recruited the following adventurers:

Medium-Veteran Ellan the Elf (f 1st level Elf Warrior-Mage)
Veteran Wulfgar the Stout (m 1st level Dwarf Fighter)
Veteran Dane Gerous (m 1st level Human Fighter)
Acolyte Fin Thorbergr, Cleric of the Dwarf Gods (m 1st level Dwarf Cleric)
Acolyte Him, Cleric of Somebody Somewhere (m 1st level Human Cleric)
Galen the Link Boy
Latimer the Pack Boy

Additionally, Raylin acquired a guard dog, whom he named Cormac after his lost companion, and Margit acquired two guard dogs, Rufus and Blake.

Together the seven went once again into the dungeons. Without the lost map, Margit and Raylin wracked their memories in the maze below to find the catacombs, but after some searching, the great Chamber of Many Pillars was found, and there they discovered the fate of many of their party. Amidst blood and gore, torn armor and ripped clothing, and the lost map(!) were found the bodies of Rugar and Welton, the dwarves. Whatever had slain them and (perhaps?) the other companions had no interest in treasure or equipment, so the party looted the remnants there found, including an extensive hoard of platinum coins that one of the former adventurers had apparently been holding.

Further into the catacombs, they found the first sign of what exactly had happened to the party... when they encountered the former warrior Dent, now a ravenous ghoul! The party quickly put him to rest, and shortly thereafter, sadly, too their former companions Cormac, Flynn, and Who, the last being a most effective ghoul, perhaps due to his ineffectiveness in life. Of Trance, the Cleric of Metallica, there was no sign... perhaps he had been consumed whole?

The party returned then to the surface, rode back to Shady Hollow, and had the bodies of their erstwhile companions cremated and buried in the town cemetary, as none wished to leave their bodies rotting in the dungeons deep.

Monsters Slain: 4 Ghouls (the former adventurers Dent, Cormac, Who, and Flynn)
Treasure Won: 26 sp, 78 gp, and 110 pp.
Adventurers Lost: None!

Sixth Expedition (July 10, 2011)
After some rest and recuperation, the party added two more members for the Sixth Expedition:

Medium-Veteran Albert Fairbreeze (m 1st level Elf Warrior-Mage)
Veteran Rost the Dwarf (m 1st level Dwarf Fighter)

Thus further reinforced, they went again into the dungeons and sought further treasure in the depths of the ill-fated catacombs. There they encountered:

A Giant Spider, which made short for Raylin and Cormac CuRaylin; a mere hadnful of copper was all that was gained from its lair;

7 Stirges, laired in the ruins of an ancient Temple of Evil; these would have drained Ellan the Elf to the last drop of her blood, had it not been for a timely healing spell cast by the dwarf cleric. A worthy gem of unknown value was found buried in the rubble of the altar and idol;

7 Skeletons wandered into said temple, as the party was searching it for treasure and secret doors; these had no treasure to speak of;

Finally, in a vast chamber (The Chamber of Rotting Flesh and Bone), they encountered a large force of 8 Skeletons and 10 Zombies! Quickly forming a battle line, many were grievously wounded, and Cormac CuRaylin was lost to a savage zombie, but in the end the party prevailed...

It was decided then that a return to the surface and their base in Shady Hollow was in order, to rest and recuperate. The party would loot as much of the remaining copper funerary items as they could in a single trip (lesson learned!), and return to town to fight again another day...

Monsters Slain: 1 Giant Spider, 7 Stirges, 15 Skeletons, and 10 Zombies.
Treasures Won: 21 cp, an as-yet unvalued gem, and an as-yet indeterminate amount of copper funerary items...
Adventurers Lost: Cormac CuRaylin

Thursday, June 23, 2011

[Any RPG] Bag of Convenience

In running quick-start games at the shop, speeding up character creation has been a necessity. Teaching people to created characters for Castles & Crusades and Labyrinth Lord is not that difficult; really, it is a 10 or 15 minute job if that. But when you are trying to get five or six guys to create characters all at once... yeah, that gets extended out a bit, and can really eat into playing time. Which is a bummer for guys who already had characters, anyway.

So one of the ways that I've found helps a little is cutting down on the shopping time per character. Obviously, each player wants to personalize armor, weapons, and a few things, but I've found that one way to cut down on the "fiddly bits" shopping is the use of the Bag of Convenience.

This is not a magical bag, it is simple a classic "Adventurer Kit" (a la B3 and B4) cut down to the very basics. Essentially, a character can invest as much gold into a Bag of Convenience as they desire. The bag is a shoulder bag or backpack, depending on the total invested (~20 to 30 for shoulder bag, ~40 to 60 for a backpack). The bag weighs as much in pounds as it costs in gold pieces.

Thereafter, whenever the character needs something he has not previously purchased, he can simply pull it from the Bag if it: 1) costs less than the value remaining in the Bag; 2) weighs less in pounds than the value remaining in the Bag, and 3) could actually fit in the Bag.

Each item taken out of the Bag of Convenience costs the Bag's running value, in weight and gold pieces, 1 gp/# per either gp cost or # weight, whichever is greater. Thus, a vial of ink, though negligible of weight, costs 8 gp/#. 50' silk rope, costing 10 gp and weighing 5#, would cost 10gp/# from the value of the Bag.

Once taken out of the value of the Bag, an item is then with the character as normal. At the end of an adventure, a character can simply 'cash out" the value of a Bag if needed ("hey, I have an extra gold piece! Woot!)

Many players have taken this option; it gives the characters more opportunities to ahve things needful, and cuts way down on the pick and peek through shopping lists...

Monday, May 16, 2011

[Wilderlands] Hyborian Gods of the Wilderlands

In the beginning, the gods, demi-gods, and heroes of the City State of the Invincible Overlord and the Wilderlands were taken directly from Dungeons & Dragons Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-Gods, & Heroes, by Robert Kuntz and James Ward. Judges were directed in pretty much every case to refer to GDGH in just about every reference to a deity in the Guide to the City State and the later Revised Edition of the City State of the Invincible Overlord.

In addition to the classical deities and demi-gods of history, that tome included the mythic creatures from several literary sources, including Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories. Several of the gods of Thuria (the name of the continent whereon all Conan’s adventures took place) naturally made their way into the Wilderlands. The Blood-Stained God of the Orcs of the Purple Claw was among the first gods mentioned. Boomer Bronk, the cleric of Haghill in Initial Guidelines Book K revered Yezud the Spider God. Elsewhere, the mighty nature of the barbarian races, the nature of the relationship between Mitra and Set in Dark Tower, and the inclusion of Tsathoggus in the Shield Maidens of Sea Rune, indicate a strong Howardian influence in Judges Guild products in general and in the Wilderlands in particular.

Thus, it is not at all inappropriate to return to the gods of “Robert E. Howard’s Hyborea” section of GDGH for inspiration for further gods for inclusion in the Wilderlands. I think I’ll be adding them to my current Selisengard campaign…

CROM - Neutral
Crom is a fine, grim god for the savage tribesmen of Barbarian Altanis, for whom he is their paramount (though non-exclusive) deity. Being inspired by a god of the Irish, and in line with many later Conan pastiches, his clerics are druids; as he is most certainly of Neutral aspect, this fits pretty well, as does his “survival of the fittest” philosophy. Only men may be druids of Crom, thus the women of Altanis turned to the development of psychic abilities and formed the Protector caste. Too, druids of Crom are not much for protection of the clan or tribe, so the Protectors fill in a needed niche in a harsh world. In the current campaign, he is of course revered by mercenary Altanians, though there are few such in the region. Perhaps a few Tharbrians revere him, as a distant, more martial cousin of their gods…

MITRA - Lawful Good
Mitra is used to good effect in the original Modron town book from Judges Guild; with the advent of the Necromancer Wilderlands, his worship spread far and wide (though interestingly has no major presence in the City State). The GDGH choice of a sword of cold is an odd one; I think I’ll go with the more traditional fire association as used in the Necromancer Wilderlands, as well as the far more martial aspect. In addition to the center of worship in Modron, I have him being the patron deity of the Tharbarres clans of the northern Endless Desert; I also have him as an ally of Mycr in my campaign, so this is not as odd as it might seem. Temples to Mitra are rare, however, in the Falling Empire, and usually hidden, due to his association with Mycr.

SET - Lawful Evil
The Egyptian gods are the gods of the Ghinorians in my campaign, and through long ages of Ghinorian migration, trade, and proselytization, they are found throughout the Wilderlands. He was long ago the patron of Bukera, the founder of the Quizats Haterak faith of the Lenapashim of the Endless Desert; since their falling out his worship in the region is mostly limited to a cult found in the port cities from Dagonsharp to Lenap.

ASURA - Lawful Neutral
Howard’s Asura is essentially an analogue of Varuna, who in Vedic belief, is the counterpart and ally/twinned god of the Vedic Mitra, Varuna being a lawful sky god of the sun at night (the Cosmic Ocean, perhaps the Milky Way), opposed to Mitra being lawful sky god of the daylight and the solar disc. In Howard’s “Hour of the Dragon,” he is a god of illusion and reality, of seeking the reality beneath the illusion… an esoteric cult, to be sure. In my Wilderlands, Asura is a former cleric ascended to godhood under the patronage of Varuna, a god of the Telanghans, a southern people found far to the east in the Kingdom of Karak. Asura sought new followers among the peoples of the Wilderlands proper; today his cult in the Falling Empire is hidden in plain sight, under the guise of another temple… of this I will say no more, lest players in my campaign happen to read this…

TSATHOGGUS - Chaotic Evil
Tsathoggua/Tsathoggus never featured directly in any true Howard Conan story; he was found, sorta kinda, in one of the De Camp/Carter pastiches, “Conan the Buccaneer.” But he’s made an even bigger splash in the Wilderlands, where he is everyone’s favorite Demon God. In GDGH it is mentioned that he takes any opportunity he can get to animate one of his stone idols; a feature certainly to be used if any PCs raid a temple of the cult! Tsathoggus fits in nicely as one of the “monstrous demonic mystery cults” of the High Viridians, and is sure to make an appearance in the campaign!

Not to be confused with the Hindu (and Telanghan) god Hanuman, Hanuman the Accursed is a demonic being who has taken the name of the ancient and honored god in mockery of all that he represents. Born the son of a vanara ape-woman and a rakshasa king in distant Telanghata, Hanuman the Accursed eventually attained godhood around the same time as Asura, who was among his greatest enemies. Thus, wherever Asura sends his followers, Hanuman the Accursed seeks to send his own. This demonic god makes for another excellent “monstrous demonic mystery cult” of the High Viridians, and also fits in nicely as a cult among the Lenapashim.

YEZUD - Chaotic Evil
In the Conan tales, Yezud was actually the name of the city that worshipped the Spider-God (or Goddess); in the Conan comics, he/she/it was first named Omm, then later Zath after the name used in a De Camp pastiche. With Yezud of the Wilderlands, I’m going to say that today, the name Yezud is simply applied to the cult, rather than to the “god” itself, the exact Spider-God entity today being the largest, most ancient spider in the world. Another Wilderlands classic, the cult of Yezud was once upon a time far more widespread, until the Spider God allied with Set during a war between various deities and somehow managed to piss off Nephtlys. She and her followers soundly trounced the Spider God and almost permanently destroyed it. Today, its spirit lives on only through the expediency of inhabiting the largest, oldest male giant spider in the world; as sometimes this spider is not strong enough to hold all the deific power, other giant spiders of lesser though still great size often hold a portion of the deific power, and thus split the cult in many schisms based on the different avatars. Nephtlys has effectively locked the Spider-God out of the Spider-Goddess business, and thus taken over the most generative portion of the deific “portfolio.”

It should be noted that since the days when the Spider-God and Set were allies, they had a great falling out (as Set turned on the Spider-God, which led to his downfall), and so today, the Spider-God and his followers are among the greatest enemies of Set and his temple!

The clerics of Yezud are notable in that they have several special powers:

1) They can, at 1st level, memorize and cast the special 1st level summon spider spell; this spell creates a small black pearl-like object that can be kept until used, though it dissipates if not used within 24 hours. When thrown, or when handled by anyone other than a cleric or devotee of Yezud, the pearl opens up into the form of a giant spider, with 1 HD per level of the caster. If the spell is cast on a gem of at least 100 gp value per level of the spider, the pearl remains permanent, and can be used and reused until the spider is slain, after which nothing remains except black goo. Note that clerics of Nephtlys also have this spell, though only gain it as a 2nd level spell.

2) In addition to the 1st level summon spider spell, they also gain access to the following druid and wizard spells as cleric spells of the noted level: 2nd = spider climb; 3rd = web; 4th = envenom (reversed neutralize poison); 5th = animal growth (spiders only); 6th = insect plague; 7th = creeping doom; 8th = animal shapes (spider only); 9th = shapechange (spider only).

3) At 3rd level they gain a small giant spider as a familiar, as per the spell summon familiar. The cleric gains the ability to spider climb, as per the spell, once per day per three levels (once at 3rd, twice at 6th, etc) as per the spell cast by a wizard of the same level. The spider grows in size, one HD per level the cleric gains (though the cleric does not gain any hit points after the initial gaining of the familiar). If the spider dies, he cannot get another familiar for a year and a day, and when he does, the spider starts out again at 1st level. If the spider familiar ever gets to 11 HD, it becomes an avatar of Yezud, and thus requires the cleric to build for it an appropriate temple above a great cavern where it can raise its spawn.

4) Clerics and true devotees (i.e., those who can handle spider pearls safely) all adhere to a strict regimen of abstinence from alcohol and fornication; this is especially true of the temple virgins, who dance for the god on holy days!

5) Clerics of Yezud can use daggers.

Some say that a cult of Yezud is found in the Dankbark Forest, where they are led by man-like spiders…

The Blood Stained God is worshipped by many, not just the orcs of the Purple Claw! He/she/it takes many forms, though always some sort of metal idol of vile and martial nature, invariably covered in the blood of sacrifices. There’s not much to the faith other than sacrificing people to it in return for power; anything else considered important to each cult is pretty much at the whim of the current Evil High Priest, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of sacrifices. The Blood Stained God is perfectly happy for two of its own cults to fight… it has no preference for any type of blood, whether that of the innocent or that of its own followers. Often, the idol used as the center of cult worship is a defiled, debased idol of some goodly, lawful deity.

YAMA THE DAMNED - Chaotic Evil
Yama the Damned is another being not to be accused with the Indian (and Telanghan) god Yama, the Judge of the Dead, Yama the Damned is a mysterious demon god who seeks to further his worship through seeding the world with his own children. These Sons of Yama godlings are the Evil High Priests of their temples. Each such usually rules a temple-city or even kingdom, whether found hidden in a high mountain valley, a deep earth cavern, a jungle-cloaked island, or even a secret in the midst of the ancient dungeon ruins under a modern city. His children and their closest followers are granted clerical spells; his ruling child can actually animate the great stone idol of the demon god that stands at the heart of the temple-city. The size and power of the idol depends on the secular power of the ruling Evil High Priest. While most often found in the Kingdom of Karak, his children and followers are of many races, and can be found nearly anywhere… there is said to be a tribe of cavemen in the Pinnacle Mountains, who are said to live in the ruins of an ancient city, and are ruled by their godling Evil high Priest.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

[Wilderlands] Selisengard Campaign Session #1

Session 1: May 13, 2011
The Battle of Pyrgoslofos (Castle Hill)

János Gaál, LE male Smyrian 2nd Level Wizard [Alan]
János is the son of József, a wizard of Smyrsis Province. Third of five children, he possessed Talent enough that his father taught him the ways of wizardry, but had little enough intellect to understand the deeper mysteries. Unhappy at the rate of his learning, and believing that his father did not trust him (with good reason), of a day János absconded from his father’s tower with his father’s wand and a scroll, and lit out for the further lands, where he would seek his own wealth and power, out from under his father’s thumb. Since then he has encountered nomads, werewolves, orcs, bugbears, hobgoblins, and once, from a distance, spotted a small roc. Having discovered in some ancient tomes references to the wealth of magic once at the beck and call of the lords of Selisengard, he made his way there by long and circuitous rout, choosing to bypass the wagon trails that pass far too close to the Missing Memory Marshes. Instead, taking on the guise of a wandering pilgrim, he followed the Western Road all the way to Millo Fortress, thence to Ezrahaddon, and then north to Saimon, this last leg of the journey purchasing a place in a grain caravan, riding on one of the great wains of grain headed north…

Telemakhos son of Theon, LN male Common Viridian 3rd level Fighter [Evan]
Telemakhos is the son of Theon, last scion of a disowned cadet branch of a minor noble house. His father was a wandering mercenary adventurer, much of his fame earned through the might of the last family heirloom, Kobosefetes, “Slicer,” an ancient vorpal blade. Raised among the mercenary followers, Telemakhos never knew his mother, who had died in childbirth. Raised on looted beef and plundered wine, Telemakhos grew tall and strong, with a great barrel chest (Str 18, Con 17). His father was slain in defense of a castle when he was 16; he inherited from him his blade, his armor, and his wandering ways. Since them he’s been wandering, serving as a guard here, a full-on mercenary there, and now and again doing a bit of adventuring in old ruins. He’s had unpleasant run-ins with dwarves, hill giants, giant scorpions, cavemen, oozes, giant rats, pirates, nomads, ogres, harpies, and dissension among the ranks of an adventuring party. Sometimes he wins a great treasure, other times he’s fortunate to get out of a debacle with his blade and the armor on his back, most of the time he’s been glad just to have enough in his purse to afford some decent wine and a wanton wench. Such is the life of a wandering mercenary adventurer who worships at the altar of the Lady of Luck, Nephtlys. Most recently he was hired as a guard for a grain caravan between Ezrahaddon and Saimon…

The caravan was passing through the verge of the western plain that spilled east of the Saffrin Groves, a half-day out from the pissant “town” of Smaragdipoli (an up-jumped village, at best), when without warning, battle cries and screams of hatred erupted on both sides! Down over the rolling hills to the west sped a large party of horse nomads from the Berserker Wilds, blue-skinned Shardan savages wearing war paint waving their lances. Out of the tall grasses to the east a pack of maddened red-cap gnomes, barbarians from the Bestial Barrens riding war-lizards, bellowed and leapt at the guards and oxen.

János hopped off the back of the wagon and whipped a dart from beneath his robes; it spun straight and fast into the right eye of the lead gnome, knocking him cleanly off his steed, though his two companions kept running straight for him. On the other side of the caravan Telemakhos drew his blade, which sang from its scabbard ready to drink rich blood. One nomad, a stripling, screamed in fury as he tumbled past on his steed into the milling oxen tied to the wagons; the lance of the other glanced off the breastplate of the old Viridian panoply, and for his effort the young warrior earned a split skull and fell from his horse, dead ere he hit the ground.

He turned as the warrior that ran past him returned, swinging his lance wide; he, too, felt the bite of ancient Viridian steel and fell to the ground, spattering his life-blood across the tall grass. János was in greater peril, as the other two ran up and slashed with their short scimitars; one tore through the thick robes and scored a nasty red cut across his chest. He swung his iron-shod staff and stove the gnome’s blood-red cap and skull clean down to his shoulders. A snarl crossed the last gnome’s file-toothed carved grin, but ere he could act, the wizard grasped his staff in one hand and with the other reached out and cast a bolt of power straight into his face… his eyes went wide, as did the flash of his scimitar, and for the first time in his life, the red-cap gnome knew fear.

Looking up and down the line, Telemakhos was pleased to see that his fellow guards had dealt with the rabble professionally; in a glance at his opponents, he could see that these were merely stripling warriors, from the lack of full paint, not even blooded, and so though born to saddle and lance, no match for more than two dozen hard-bitten experienced mercenaries. Cursing sulfurously, he nudged his horse on toward one of the savages, an older warrior who was engaged with a nearby guard; he rued the day he lost his last warhorse in a game of knucklebones, as the simple hackney he rode, though sturdy enough, had no fire for battle.

Blood mad and spitting in fear, the last of the gnomes leapt toward János with a scream; he died with a whimper as a bolt of pure magic burst his belly wide, and fell to the ground with a plop, like an overripe melon. Likewise, the stripling warrior jabbed furiously with his lance at the gore-spattered Viridian; his lance tip slid harmlessly away, glancing off the plate, and he ended his life hewn in twain, together with his shield and lamellar leather breastplate.

The battle was over as suddenly as it began. All told, 32 Shardans and 15 gnome lay dead, with merely three dead and a handful of wounded on the part of the caravan. Per their contract, the guards were allowed to “keep what they killed,” and after they tended to their wounded and dead, and made sure that all the dead enemies were, in fact, dead, through the simple expedience of stabbing each in the gut with a spear, they looted the bodies as only professionals can. But a poor bit of looting it was, for each youth and gnome had but a pittance of silver and a sprinkling of gold, as well as mediocre weaponry; only the older, more experienced warrior slain by Telemakhos had any real treasure, a handful of gold sequins riveted to his leather shirt. János took from the lead gnome a small cape of giant weasel fur. The few plains horses that had not run off were simply added to the caravan’s remuda.

János ended up getting the best of all, perhaps, for after he’d finished bandaging his wound, he’d discovered much to his surprise that one of the war lizards, obviously carnivorous, had decided to stick around and was nibbling on the entrails of the gnome whose belly had burst at the wizard’s magic words and passes. Grinning with devilish glee, he took out a ring he had been saving toward such a possible prize, a ring he had prized from the finger of the dead hedge wizard who knew not its value. Placing it on his finger he twisted it three times, then spoke the magic charm at the toothy beast; the lizard’s eyes glittered for a moment, then it turned its bloody maw toward the wizard and nuzzled up against him like an affectionate cat. “Excellent…” thought the wizard…

Leaving the bodies where they lay to rot by the side of the track, the caravan continued on to the north, though with scouts posted further to the van, sides, and rear. On the further end of the long, warm, Spring afternoon, the vanguard came riding back, reporting a great pillar of smoke rising from beyond the hills several miles away, about where the caravan planned to spend the night at Pyrgoslofos, a small village the local Aelphen called Castle Hill. Sergios, the Maldevarian-Viridian half-breed bastard captain of the guard, shook his head sadly and cursed, for he had worried about just such an occurrence. He gathered together a few of his better scouts and deadlier warriors, including Telemakhos; together with János, who invited himself and the lizard along (with the promise that the lizard would well behave itself), they headed out through the tall grasses west of the track.

Slowly, carefully, and quietly in the gathering twilight, the small party of scouts made their way over the hills and through the shallow valleys, across scrub-dappled plains. They passed carefully over the last ridge, sliding forward on their bellies, lest their silhouettes be made out across the dusky horizon. They made their way toward the southernmost of the last small hills before the stream, where on the other side of a wide, shallow ford stood the village of Castle Hill. The steeper northern hill, they could see in the dwindling light, was covered with ancient ruins of a castle, little more now than the foundation stones and piles of ancient weathered rubble, after which the village had been named.

Or rather, the former village or so all gathered, as they peered out from the cover of the tall grass and brush atop the small hill. For the village below burned, sending out billowing gouts of flame and smoke. From here they could hear the screams of the living villagers, being tortured and raped by the raiders. Pulling out his spyglass, Sergios carefully counted the remaining raiders, and cursed. It was worse than he had thought, by far, for it was not mere coincidence that the caravan had been attacked simultaneously by the Shardan savages and gnome barbarians; they were cooperating in the village, as well, a nigh-unheard of occurrence, as neither peoples was apt toward alliance with any others, let alone across racial boundaries! He counted all told more than 30 raiders, with as many as two dozen men and women staked down in the midst of the village green, amidst burning buildings. “Of course,” he muttered sadly with a sigh, “This had to happen on my last ride, as I intend to retire when we reach Saimon…”

Such numbers of warriors were not nearly enough to have taken out the village militia, let alone the lord and his soldiers who had been stationed at the small tower above the ford… so obviously, the bulk of the raiding party had moved on elsewhere. And most of the villagers were missing, for Sergios counted only two score or slightly more bodies in the streets. These last stragglers were simply hanging about enjoying the torture and rapine of the remaining villagers. Mostly youths, from what they could tell, though two of the Shardans were sub-chiefs, or blooded warriors at least, for they wore stolen Tharbrian hauberks of mail, and one wore a Tharbrian scimitar at his belt. Sergios sent his two best scouts to check out the area around the village on the other side. Meanwhile, he discussed possible actions with his remaining guards.

They basically had three choices; they could attack, hold up in the encircled wagon train and hope the raiders pass them by; or head back to Ezrahaddon. After some discussion, it was decided that they should attack, as going forward was the best of the three options, as none liked just waiting things out, and they were two days out from Saimon and four out from Ezrahaddon. Plus, the warriors all seemed young and inexperienced, and no nomad born had ever learned the methods of defensive battle in an urban setting, let alone one in which they had burned all the buildings of any use! The scouts returned at that point, and reported that all appeared as it seemed, though in addition to two guards of each race at the entries to the village on either side of the track, they also noted that there were wandering guards posted to either side of the village on the other side of the stream.

After ascertaining that János had no enchantments capable of causing the guards to fall asleep, or being useful in other ways, Sergios decided to split up the guards and make an assault several hours after nightfall; 25 guards would attack across the ford, while five, plus János and Telemakhos, would swing around to the other side of the village and attack from the rear once the melee had begun…

Fortunately, the small party made it across the stream with no difficulty; similarly, either the wandering guard had wandered away or passed out from imbibing looted wine, as they found no sight of him on the other side of the stream. They made their way stealthily through the verge of the tall grasses on the edge of the planted gardens, and hid in a small copse of trees on the other side of the village. It was not long before they heard war cries, whoops, and screams of pain and anger across the small vale. The four guards at the entry to the village looked at each other briefly, then the two Shardans ran with great war-cries and one of the gnomes sped away with a scream into the village. The last remaining guard gnome didn’t even have a chance to notice the warriors, covered in black soot, rush from the copse, as one of the guards placed an arrow directly between his eyes. He fell with a thud.

The attackers raced through the village streets, slick with the blood of villagers, weaving through the piled dead and fallen and burned buildings. Telemakhos cursed as he slipped and slid in a pool of blood, and the others sped on without him. They closed in on the rear of the mass of shouting, whooping savage warriors, who milled about on the other end of the village at the ford, fighting and foot with the attacking caravan guards. Caught off their plains steeds, the nomads and gnomes alike wielding unwieldy lances afoot and slicing drunkenly with scimitars, the raiders were still giving as well as they got, and were holding the ford.

Then the second group of caravan guards crashed unexpectedly into their rear, and all hell broke loose!

János closed with a Shardan, and smacked him upside the head with his staff; his lizard friend leapt on the back of another and ripped one big claw down and through his spine, felling him in an instant. Another Shardan turned to face the pair; as the first turned, he again was drubbed by the wizard’s staff. The other guards tore into the massed nomads and gnomes with spear and sword. Blood flowed, and screams of joy turned to screams of terror. The rear wall of the savage warriors fell beneath the professional blades of the men-at-arms, and Telemakhos, finally caught up with the rest, leapt joyfully into the hole rent in the line… and came face to face with the tall, mailed leader of the Shardans!

They traded blows, saber to long sword! A long slash of the saber found a hole in the mercenary’s armor big enough to draw blood and a curse; the mercenary’s blade crashed down through the mail hauberk, shattering bone and slicing muscle. Further back, the lizard leapt from the back of his victim to strike at another Shardan; his great claw caught in the leather coat of his victim, and down he went, face in the mud, a writhing, hissing pile of flesh and fangs tangled in beaded leather straps. János finished off his opponent with a last thrust to the gut, and he went down with a whoosh and a thud.

The Shardan stripling stood above the lizard, ready to gut it with his lance; a crackling burst of magic struck him square in the face, his eyes burst out their sockets, and smoke curled forth from his ears. Down he went. With a sneer across his purplish lips, the Shardan leader drew back his saber to strike again, which was all the opportunity Telemakhos and Kobosefetes needed; snicker-snack went the ancient blade, and the Shardan leader’s head went galumphing away though the remaining nomads. They gave a great cry of terror, and fled in all directions, as the mercenaries slaughtered all in their path up from the ford. One crossed under Telemakhos’ blade; it fell as without thought, and the warrior fell, split shoulder to sternum. Another passed by János, and was well thumped for his foolishness, though all he earned was a goose egg, rather than death. All told, three Shardans fled from the battle alive, while the last three gnomes stood; naked as the day they were born save for their red caps, drenched in the blood of their tortured victims and their companions, at the center of the circling mercenaries.

Thinking to perhaps question the gnomes, Telemakhos offered them mercy, but they simply spat blood (some their own, perhaps some their victims) into his face. A flash of magic from János, and one fell dead; the central gnome, with the tallest, finest blood-drenched cap, rushed Telemakhos. Their blades flashed once, twice; Telemakhos was unscathed, and the leader of the gnomes lay dead. The other mercenaries closed on the last warrior, and left little more than a red ruin of flesh and bone.

And the Battle of Pyrgoslofos was ended.

The mercenaries, always practical and self-interested, first checked to make sure that the remaining Shardans were truly fled, and then tended to their own wounds. Only then did they check after the folk of Castle Hill. They found 22 men and women staked down in the green, mostly grievously wounded in body, if not in mind, from the horrors visited on them by the raiders. They discovered another 52, all wounded, many poorly used and abused, locked away in the village hall and temple… built of solid stone, neither burned well, so the nomads used them to hold their victims.

All were merely peasants or serfs; they related how the previous day a small band of warriors had come raiding the further cottages, and the lord and his soldiers bravely and foolishly rode forth to meet the “small band of savages,” never expecting and having no sign of the much larger force laying in wait, no less than three hundred Shardans and scores of blood-mad barbarian gnomes! They were slaughtered to a man, and then this morning the force rode in and slaughtered the disorganized and leaderless militia. Most of the villagers, more than six score, had been taken away by the main force of savages and gnomes; those that remained were the uglier women and older men, left for the rear-guard to toy with as they wished…

The mercenaries breathed a collective sigh of relief when they were told the nomad force had lit out for the plains to the west, rather than deeper into farming country to the north. Several headed back to the wagons to bring them thither, as even a burnt-out village was better protection than none at all! Meanwhile, Telemakhos and János gathered together their loot. Telemakhos made out quite well; the hauberk of the leader was worth a pretty penny on its own, and the saber he had wielded was a Tharbrian blade of expert make, but the real value lay in the purses filled with gems. Three of these he found, one on each leader, the third on the youth he slew as he fled. Altogether ten gems, including three cabochon-cut green nephrites! The Shardan leader, too, wore a fine gold medallion, which János averred was enchanted; he warned Telemakhos against wearing it until he had a chance to determine the nature of the enchantment, which he promised he would do when they reached Saimon (for a nominal fee, of course).

János, for his part, only netted a handful of gold and silver. Of course, once the caravan reached their destination, they would each be able to pull a few horses from the remuda, which grew by another 20 of the hardy plains ponies.

And there the session ended…