Thursday, March 31, 2011

[Thundarrverse Episode 01] The Mad Mage of Madzone Part 2


Episode 01: The Mad Mage of Madzone

Part 2: The Road to Madness

Louisa, the Village Leader of Dunn, told the trio that the Mad Mage lived on the Isle of Insanity in the Lake of Lunacy at the heart of the Madzone. The only access to the island was through the Troll Bridge (a causeway, really), as the lake itself was inhabited by a terrible monster. No one had ever seen it whole, they had only ever seen the great and terrible pseudopods that rose up from the waters to grab anyone who came too close... grab them and drag them screaming into the lake, never to be seen again!

However, the beast never left the lake, and never bothered the Mad Mage or his minions, so long as they remained on the island and on the Troll Bridge. Anyone walking along the shore of the lake, though, was fair game. The marshy ruins next to the lake were not safe, either, as the thing spawned smaller versions of itself that hunted in the marshes and even far down the rivers that fed and debouched from the lake. Thus, the only safe passage was over the Troll Bridge... which was guarded by not one, but two fortresses.

The first was at the crossing of two ancient roads, built within four great circles of ancient stone...

"Ah, a cloverleaf!" Canthar exclaimed.

"Clover... leaf?" Rash asked.

"It's a... the Ancients they... never mind," Canther said. "Louisa, please continue!"

The second fortress was a pair of towers built right at the entry to the Troll Bridge. The road between the fortresses was walled on either side by Ancient walls, as was the Ancient road that crossed the other at the first fortress... it was part of a series of great Ancient roads that made a circuit around the heart of Madzone, known as the Madline. But the walls, being Ancient, were in poor repair... so one could perhaps sneak through them, through the ruins of Madzone, to the second fortress... but beyond that, and of the island, Louisa knew little to nothing...

The trio resolved to follow the Ancient road north, into sight of the first fortress, then determine how to proceed from there. They thanked Louisa and the people of Dunn for the meal, then turned to go. "And the next time you see us," Rash called to them as they mounted up, "I swear that the humans of Madzone will be free!"

"Bakra, Canthar, we ride!"

And off they rode. They passed north, through burned fields and orchards, to the southern Madline, which they followed east. They then turned onto a northerly Ancient road, which crossed with the road to the Troll Bridge.

"See Rash, this is a clover-leaf... more or less," Canther said as he waved at the incomprehensible mess of Ancient, shattered concrete and steel. "A true clover-leaf would look more like, well, like a clover-leaf. It was an interchange where the Ancient vehicles would cross over from one road to the next."

"Hah," muttered the Barbarian. "Why cross over from one road to another on road, when you could just ride your horse over the grasses and dirt?"

Canthar just shook his head and gave up trying to explain...

As they travelled north, luck was with them, and they caught no sight of the servants of the mad Mage, nor of anyone else. Traders did not come up in these parts any more, not since the Mad Mage settled in, anyway, and even rarely before then. They noticed that there were great tears in the walls around them; in some places Ancient vehicles lay in ruin, half through the Ancient walls. In others, tall buildings from the other side of the walls had collapsed on the walls, knocking them down. Through these gaps, from a tall hill that overlooked even the tallest walls, the trio got their first glance at the ruins at the heart of Madzone.

Aptly named it was, for it was a great jumble of ruined Ancient buildings, that looked like they had been picked up, spun about, and dropped by a mad giant. Between the ruins they could make out the fog-covered lake, and far in the center of the lake, upon the Isle of Insanity, the huge Citadel of the Mad Mage. A vast square of stone and steel, with towers, merlons, and crenellations. Above it, in the center of the Citadel, they could barely make out a shining gold dome, glittering through the thick gray fog.

They rode silently and slowly now, for surely they were coming close to a guard post, if not the first fortress itself. As they came to the crest of a small hill, they looked out, and there saw the first fortress. They jumped down from their steeds and walked back to the side of the road, into the shadow of one of the walls. The trio then crawled forward on their hands and knees to the crest of the hill. Canthar pulled out his spyglass. With it he was able to make out the details of the four towers of the fortress, one in each circle of the cloverleaf; in between each, a large double gate, wide enough to allow four wagons to pass. Each tower was made of a pile of Ancient vehicles, mortared together with bricks, wood, and other detritus from the ruins, the whole top built with a wooden walkway, merlons, and crenellations. The double gate was shod with the roofs of Ancient cars and hubcaps, each door large enough to require three trolls to open it!

"Well, we're not going through THAT!" Canthar exclaimed, as he passed the spyglass to Rash.

Rash looked out, and counted quietly. "Why not?" he asked. "I count only two Rattocks per tower... that's only eight. We could easily take eight!"

"True, but how many are inside the fortress? And what alarms do they have? Surely there are trolls within to open those huge gates... or well, maybe they have an Ancient engine to do that, I suppose. But still."

"Aye, but still... I suppose..." sighed the Barbarian.

"I'm sure there are plenty more Rattocks on the island," grinned the Puma Girl. "Not to mention a LOT of trolls. I'm sure we'll find a few good fights on the island!"

"Yes, the island. We shall pass this tiny little fortress and get to the real battle faster. To the island, then, sorcerer. How shall we get there?"

They decided to send their steeds back to Dunn... Arlith the feliquine could well understand Bakra's directions, and Firestorm and Arcaidia followed his lead implicitly. They then went back to the last large rent in the wall facing Madzone, and climbed over and through the rubble into the ruins.

It was like going into a cavern, as the twisted remnants of Ancient buildings met and merged above their heads. Light spattered through the great holes in the Ancient buildings above. The ground beneath their feet was uneven, covered in rubble, and dotted with trees, shrubs, and vines. Here and there they could make out the skeleton of an Ancient vehicle, or a pile of Ancient goods encased in hardened mud or even lava; there an anonymous pile of dirt out of which bone-like remnants poked, next to another Ancient vehicle that looked like it could have driven away, were the dust removed from its windows and detritus pried from within the wheel hubs.

"It is always so strange to go into these Ancient ruins," ruminated Rash out loud. "My people hold them to be taboo... and for good reason, as most are filled with terrible monsters! But to think that so many, many humans lived in these... "cities"... as they were called. It seems impossible."

Bakra reached out to the Ancient vehicle, and drew a smiley face in the dust on the windshield... thought again, grinned, then added fangs to the curved line of the mouth. "And so many of the things of these Ancient peoples can still be used! That's what I find hard to believe after, what, two-thousand years, is that how long ago it was?" she asked Canthar.

"Yes, two thousand years, or so the Wizards believe," the Sorcerer replied. "The Council of Wizards has many theories on why the things of the Ancients are so well preserved. I myself favor the theory that the very nature of the Great Catastrophe resulted in the preservation of the Ancient things. You see, according to the Rogue Planet theory, a planet from Outer Space entered the solar system and hurtled between the Earth and the Moon..."

"Outer... Space?" muttered Rash, as he picked his way carefully through the ruins.

They were now nearing the marshy portion of the ruins, a wide swath of Madzone that was part land, part lake, and he was wary lest the Spawn of the Lake Beast take them unawares... and was only half listening to Canthar as he droned on, as he was wont to do.

Unfortunately, Canthar was not, himself, as aware as he should have been; and his lecture apparently distracted his companions, for when, while considering the lectures he'd had on the Great Catastrophe, he stumbled into a watery inlet from the lake... and the inlet reached up and grabbed at him!

Or so it seemed, when a blue-green pseudopod slithered from the muddy waters and wrapped itself around his left arm. Canthar yelled, as much in pain as from shock, for the pseudopod was coated in a noxious acidici substance that burned and at the same time numbed his skin. He felt a shock course through his body, but resisted the lassitude that followed. Remembering his training, he reached out with his free hand and a broad bolt of magical energy flashed out and struck at the watery tentacle.

"Demon dogs!" cried Rash, as the vast, obscene, amorphous blob from which the pseudopod extended lurched forth from the muddy waters, half on to dry land, and reached out with more pseudopods that extended from its body without warning. The humm and whine of the Star Sword rang out as Rash leapt forward to the attack. But as fast as he was, Bakra was even quicker on the draw, as an arrow flashed through the air and neatly cut the pseudopod holding the Sorcerer in twain.

The thing burbled in anger and writhed in hate, and extended a mass of pseudopods toward the three, but Rash had already closed with the beast, and a searing fan of blue-white light flashed, and the Star Sword clove through the thing, its tentacles and obscene form melting back into gelatinous ooze that slowly dribbled its way back into the lake...

Bakra cocked her head; her face screwed up in concentration. They heard the wind in the reeds and the hiss from between Canthar's teeth as he rubbed the reddening, blistering skin on his arm.

"They heard him cry out... we were too close to the road to the causeway. I can hear the guards calling to each other. They are coming this way!" Quickly they ducked deeper into the ruins, Rash covering their tracks as best he could. They crawled into the dirt and muck filling an ancient building.

The glass windowed walls were long gone, and the faded yellow booths and tables were warped and cracked. Oddly, though, the strange tableau of statuary at the front remained intact and in excellent condition. Canthar's mind wandered briefly as he realized that he and his friends were hiding in one of the ancient and ubiquitous "Temples of the Golden Arches." The icons were surely among the best he'd ever seen outside of a Wizard's collection... the devil known as "The Hamburglar" grinned at him, as he had for the last two thousand years... With a jingle and the thud of heavy feet, he knew the minions of Mad Mage stood outside their hiding place...

To be continued...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

[Thundarrverse Episode 01] The Mad Mage of Madzone Part 1


Episode 1: The Mad Mage of Madzone

Part 1: The Battle of Dunn

Rash the Barbarian, Canthar the Sorcerer, and Bakra the Puma Girl were riding north, into the Madzone of Wiskasoon. They had heard rumors that a Wizard was active in the region, attacking local villages. They discovered quickly that the rumors were true, as they found a village under attack by a group of Rattocks (Rat Men). Led by a large Rattock wearing a red sash and Ancient army helmet, sporting a monocle, and directing with a riding crop in one hand from the safety of an Ancient military jeep, twelve Rattocks were attacking the village of Dunn, seeking to burn it down while taking the residents prisoner.

Against Canthar's better judgment, Rash and Bakra leapt into battle before getting an overview of the disposition of the enemy. They quickly discovered that, in addition to the nets and mancatchers they were using to trap the humans, the Rattocks had carbines and flame throwers! Diving through a hail of bullets and singed by a gout of flame from a flamethrower, Rash leapt from his warhorse, activated his Star Sword, and slashed two of the carbines clean in half. the two Rattocks squealed in terror and fled.

Bakra returned fire with her M16, pointedly aiming at the arrogant Rattock leader, who ducked down behind the shattered windshield of the jeep the after being nicked by a bullet. Two more Rattocks fled after being struck by orbs of power cast from Canthar's open hands. More bullets flew, flame belched, and nets were cast wide, but only Canthar was worsted, caught by the snapping jaws of a mancatcher! Rash ran to save him, slashing apart a flamethrower en route. Fortunately, the Rattock failed to pull the sorcerer from his mount, and lost his grip on the mancatcher, sliding back only his tail in the dirt with a thump.

Bakra peppered the jeep with further rounds from her Ancient weapon, and the leader of the Rattocks turned and fled, driving the jeep blindly back deeper into the Madzone. Most of his warriors followed, including the Rattock who had (briefly) captured Canthar, their morale broken -- the rat men had thought to have an easy battle against simple villagers, not a crazy barbarian and sorcerer, let alone a cat person!

One Rattock, however, felt that honor had to be served, and leapt up on Bakra's felinique, having at her with a dagger from his belt. Holding the gun in one hand, she swept out her other, with claws extended, slaicing him and batting him off her steed. He too, turned and fled into the surrounding ruins.

Smiling and nodding to each other at a job well done, the three tended to their wounds as the people of the village came forth from hiding. One, a beautiful young woman who came out of the largest building in the village, introduced herself as Louisa, the Village Leader. She thanked the trio for their help, and told them that the people of Dunn were in their debt. She beckoned them into the Village Hall/Inn, where they were offered food and healing care.

During the meal Louisa told them of the growing threat of the Mad Mage, the Wizard of Madzone. He lives in a citadel on the Island of Insanity in the Lake of Lunacy, in the heart of Madzone, the ruins of the Ancient city of Madison. There he is served by Rattocks and Trolls. He had been only a minor danger to the villages on the outskirts of Madzone until recently, when he apparently discovered some ancient form of technology. In the last several months, he's been capturing humans from nearby villages to work in his factory. Escaped slaves say that they are forced to build flying robot warriors, and that once the Mad Mage has a complete army, he will strike against the other Wizards of Wiskasoon and conquer the entire land!

While the trio had little problem with Wizards killing each other off, they all detested the fact that the Mad Mage was enslaving humans to do his dirty work. With grim resolve they asked Louisa how they could get to the Isle of Insanity in the Lake of Lunacy...

End Part 1...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

[Mutant Future] Thundarr!

So my wife and I spent several days last week watching all the Thundarr episodes on the DVD we bought from Warners several months ago. This was our second time around on a (more or less) complete watch-through. Afterward, we both sighed sadly and talked about how we wished there were more episodes... Then I remembered Thundarr Thursdays on Savage Afterworld. Ding! Within minutes of our mutual whine fest, we decided to start up a Thundarr-based Mutant Future campaign. Some basic House Rules to more fully emulate the Thundarr experience:

  • There are the following races overall: Pure Human, Mutant ("Mutant Human"), Moks, Manimal, Mutant Animal, Mutant Plant, and Androids.

  • Pure Humans are as listed in MF, though they can be Barbarians, Sorcerers, or simply Adventurers (the core "Pure Human" class). Ability score bonuses are based on the class.

  • Mutants always have obvious physical differences; all Mutants from the same tribe/village have the same basic appearance differences: Body, Arms, Legs, Head, Face, Eyes, Ears, Nose, Skin, and Hair. Mutants do not necessarily have other "power" mutations; only Mutant Masters have standard MF mutations. A Mutant can be a Sorcerer, Mutant Master, or simply a Mutant (as per Pure Human class, though without any bonuses to ability scores).

  • Manimals are the various humanoid races evolved from animals; like Mutants, they do not have any "power" mutations unless they are Mutant Masters. Each Manimal tribe has its own common physical traits; one tribe descended from apes might not look anything like another tribe descended from apes. Manimals have technology (though usually low) and culture (if often savage). A Manimal can be a Mutant Master or simply a Manimal (as per Pure Human class, but with a different range of ability score bonuses based on the base species type, plus special animal abilities as gleaned from Gamma World 4th Edition).

  • Moks are not Manimals... they are something else altogether. Moks are always of the Mok class.

  • Each Mutant Animal and Mutant Plant is usually unique, though there might be a pack/flock/herd/grove/orchard of kin with similar mutations. The class is essentially unchanged, save that most Mutant Animals are still distinctly animals, rather than humanoid animals. They are, unlike Manimals, uncultured; not savage, but simply without most culture, and usually little or no understanding of technology.

  • While there is no real precedent for Android PCs in the Thundarrverse, I'm open to it, as there is definitely a tradition of robotics! I might actually work up a Robot class, for more primitive, Robby the Robot/Bender Bending Rodriguez type of PCs.

  • We are using the Barbarian and Sorcerer classes from Savage Afterworld. There is also the Mutant Master class (a modified Mutant Human class, open only to Mutants and Manimals, in which you can improve your mutations and even gain new beneficial ones), plus the Mutant Animal, Mutant Plant, and Android "racial classes."

  • Mutants with 13 or better in Intelligence and Willpower can be multi-classed Sorcerer/Mutant Masters!

  • I'm using Skills in this game; Skills essentially being "things you are good at" when rolling Ability Checks to do something. Apprentice/Basic level in a skill is +2, Journeyman/Advanced level is +4, Expert level is +6, Master level +8, and Grand Master level is +10.

  • All Barbarians begin play with three Tribal Skills, chosen from my Barbarians of the Wilderlands book, and gain or improve a Skill every odd level.

  • All Sorcerers begin play with three Lores, which are areas of study that they have more intently studied in the past; these can be as narrow or broad as chosen, but the broader the area, the shallower the knowledge. They gain or improve a Lore every odd level.

  • Other classes get up to three "general skills" at 1st level (chosen from the list included in the D&D Rules Cyclopedia), and gain or improve a Skill every odd level. The number of starting skills they get depends on the additional stuff they get based on class; common Mutants get three, most Manimals start with one, Mutant Animals and Plants usually none.

  • Every even level a character may choose a Speciality in an existing skill; this provides a +1 bonus when dealing with that particular skill in that particular area. They can instead take a +1 in any Skill they did not improve in the prior level.

  • Sorcerers cast spells using the Magic-user spell chart from Labyrinth Lord. They gain bonus spells from both high Intelligence AND Willpower. Plus, this is the number of spells they can cast per day; they have all their known spells available at their fingertips to cast as they have spell casting slots available. Finally, they can cast spells as Cantrips, not costing a spell casting slot, but must make a successful Intelligence check to do so, with the level of the spell as a penalty. Targets also get any saving throws as normal. They may cast Intelligence Score + Level cantrips per day before they run out of Cantrip energy. Yeah, this makes them kinda powerful... but they should be! When advancing in level, a result of 01-20 means they discover a new spell, rather than gian combat bonuses. Otherwise, usually the only way to get new spells is by finding them amidst the ruins of Wizard citadels! Too, I use the Corruption rule; every spell cast in an Evil way has a 5% (cumulative) chance of turning the Sorcerer to the side of Chaos, and thus a Wizard and NPC! I should note that all damage-causing spells can be cast to cause non-lethal rather than lethal damage...

  • Most flunkies are 0-level; they fight at half their normal HD and have only 1 hp per HD. They have to make a lot of Morale checks, too. This fits well with the Thundarrverse concepts, as the Bad Guys were usually running away, rather than standing around waiting to get slaughtered.

  • Villains and Heavies get full HD/HP options.

  • Saving throws versus Spells and Spell-Like Devices are as per Labyrinth Lord; Magic-user numbers for Sorcerers and Wizards, Fighter numbers for all others.

Jodi made three characters (all started at 3rd level, all Lawful):

Rash the Barbarian (Grizzly Bear Clan): Str 18, Dex 16; Wilderness Survival, Battle Cry, Fast Movement, and Wizard Slayer, with a "minor" in Blacksmithing (his father's trade) and +1 to Melee Damage. Wields a Star Sword (as the Sun Sword, but with a 180 charge limitation, charges being used with every successful attack). Lives up to his name a lot! Rides a war horse.

Canthar the Sorcerer (Pure Human): Int 15, Wil 14; Mutant Lore, Manimal Lore, Technomancy Lore, and Political Lore, with a "minor" in First Aid. Spells: Read Magic, Hypnotism, Floating Disk, Allure, Magic Missile, Shield, Feather Fall, Resist Cold & Fire, Feign Death, Ray of Enfeeblement, Pyrotechnics, ESP. Wields an automatic shotgun when he needs to sweep the streets. Rides a "riding horse" (stolen from his step-father Wizard, seems to have unusual qualities).

Bakra the Puma Girl (Manimal with very Cat Girl-like appearance): Str 16, Dex 19; Claw/Claw/Bite, Leap, Quadruped Speed, Heightened Hearing, Heightened Smell, Night Vision, Intimidation, Pilot Advanced Vehicle, with a specialization in Heightened Smell for "Differentiating Races." Wields an M-16, a short bow, and fights fang and claw in melee. Likes to wear jewelry. Rides a feliquine (lion-horse).

Next, recaps of the first two sessions. We will play every night when Jodi does not have to work the next morning...

Monday, March 28, 2011

[Chimera Campaign] Last Two Sessions in March

We've had two sessions of the Chimera Hobby Shop Labyrinth Lord Campaign in the last two weeks; no reports, though, as I haven't had the extra time to write anything up. Suffice to say that the party finally got through Mylock's Lair, bringing back enough loot such that each of the eight of them got almost 900 gp. Ed used his to buy a restoration for his lost level; the others mostly just geared up or banked it. No one was daring enough to use the loot to go carousing, feeling that the potential downsides far outweighed the potential XP gain. It was only after they got back to Haelyx that the magic-user realized that they hadn't found Mylock's spell books, library, or laboratory!

He was unable to convince the others to join him in seeking the wizard-wight's hidden vault, as they felt they already had gotten all the best loot (cash and gem-wise), and he had little enough to offer them to make up for the potential troubles. They had found a treasure map, purportedly showing the hiding place of the stolen Royal Jewels of the Kingdom of Haelyx (from back before it was a free city ruled by a council of notables). So they decided to seek the lost crown, scepter, and magical singing blade. Turns out that the map leads to the Dungeons of Blacklake Delve, in the southern section of the Great Goblin Grotto. This is the same dungeon where another party went seeking a lost archpriest and icon from the Temple of the Lords of Light some sessions back; they never found him, it, or his acolytes, but got some good treasures. Blacklake Delve is based on the Dyson's Delve map from Dyson Logos. I simply used the random dungeon generation system to populate the 1st level when the first party arrived. This second party, however, ended up finding the secondary entrance to the 7th level!

Fortunately for them, I decided that most of that level had already been cleared out by the missing Archpriest (in a notably pyrrhic victory, however), so all they really had to deal with was the guard post I placed between the hidden entrance and the actual dungeon. This guard post was bad enough as it was, though, as the thief completely missed the trap on the outer door that set off all the alarms, and the fighter ran on ahead to try the door to the guard post before the thief could check for traps... and of course, it was trapped with a pit. Down he went, and as everyone else panicked over how to get him out of the suddenly closing trap, they missed the murder holes opening above... with boiling oil and burning cinders being dropped on them from above, they all retreated in quick disorder. Nearly got the clerics on that one, too! Fortunately, after they retreated down the corridor, the half-orc guards were foolish enough to seek them out, and came through the door cfrossbow bolts flying. The archers responded and got the best of them, then rushed the open door before reinforcements could arrive. The battle in the lower guard room was quick and decisive in their favor, especially after the magic-user magic missiled the captain and used his session d30 roll (rolling a 28) for damage!

After recovering their lost companion and gaining four new allies (a pixie-fairy, pooka, half-giant, and their favorite hobbit, Siggy), they went on to the real dungeon... and there found mostly slaughter. Bodies of guards, evil priests, and the lost acolytes were found in nearly every room. They encountered a sleeping wounded albino ape (dispatched quickly and quietly by the sneaky thief) and four orc warriors holed up in their barracks (also quickly dealt with). And that's where the last session ended... Next week, no session for me, as I have a family dinner that day...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

[The Realm] What You Need To Know As a Cleric of Law

A cleric of Law is a crusader for the Gods of Law. You follow one of the three Great Ways of Law (or perhaps others; the Outcasts being representative of a minor cult of Law):

Great Good Gods: The Twelve and Many are the patron gods of Men. Koram is the High King of Heaven and the Creator of Men; Qnath is the Lord of Starry Wisdom and the Eldest of the Gods; Andara is the Lady of Fortune and the Queen of Heaven. The other Nine Great Good Gods each has his or her own place in the pantheon watching over a particular sphere of influence. The Great Good Gods are known by many names by disparate peoples; the incarnations known in the Heartlands are those most familiar to the Southlanders (thus resembling Greco-Roman styles). The Temple of the Great Good Gods is the most popular of the three Temples of Law in the Heartlands. The symbol of the Great Good Gods is a twelve-spoke wheel, superimposed by the individual symbol of the patron god of the cleric.

Great Gold Dragon: The Great Gold Dragon is Krakentiri, the Son of the Dragon Primeval. Born from the Golden Dragon Orb, Krakentiri converted some of his cousins, the Firstborn Dragons, to the Way of Law, and thus tipped the scales of balance in the favor of Law during the War of Angels and Dragons. While Krakentiri and his court are usually revered in the distant lands of the Dawnlanders, millennia ago, the Great Dragon Prophet Sicago brought worship of the Great Gold Dragon into the West. The temple he built there was founded on the lines of that of the Westlanders, complete with bishops and clerics, though they also have a strong mystic tradition transplanted from the strange ways of the East. Other than this slight cultural infusion, and a predilection for philosophizing over action, the Temple of the Great Gold Dragon is Western in all ways. The holy symbol of the Temple of the Great Gold Dragon is a six-pointed star, representing the six Dragon Orbs of Creation; usually this has superimposed upon it the face of Krakentiri, or is bordered by dragon wings, or circled by a coiling gold dragon, or some other draconic representation, depending on the preference of the local temple and/or individual cleric.

Lords of Light: The Lords of Light were once the angelic servants of all the Gods of Law. Following the War of Angels and Demons, when the Pantheons of Law formed, most of the Angels that did not cleave to one or another of the pantheons of gods reformed as an independent hierarchy dedicated to the purest ideals of Law, unfettered by the ideals of any one or another of the gods. While the Lords of Light are primarily worshiped by Men, other races sometimes follow these beings and their zealous regard for Pure Law and Good. The Lords of Light are primarily worshiped in the Westlands; while the various Temples of the Lords of Light in the Heartlands are independent of the Great Temple in the Westlands (and usually, each other) they all tip a point of precedence to the Grand Patriarch of the West. The Temple of the Lords of Light is the second-most popular of the major temples of Law in the Heartlands. The Lords of Light use an upright pentagram as their holy symbol, representing the five Elder Gods who created the World from the Cosmic Egg (Szkarnadle, Elthonell, Shendon, Osgdagor, and Koram); each cleric’s holy symbol contains in the center the sigil or symbol of his patron Lord, High Sentinel, or Saint.

The Outcasts: When the Gods of Law signed the Compact with the Demons of Infernus after the War of Angels and Demons, a portion of the Angels of Heaven resisted the Compact, and sought to continue the fight directly, against the will of the Gods and the assembled hierarchy of Angels. Led by Basiam the Battle-Axe, this circle of five Angels was eventually brought to heel by their brethren; and though they were forced by the Gods of Law to give up their direct confrontation, when the Lords of Light formed their Hierarchy, they remained aloof, turned their backs on the Gods of Law and the Lords of Light alike, and formed their own loose brotherhood. The Outcasts, as they call themselves, chose their own way to seek to battle Chaos in the World, through their own mortal followers. The Outcasts have no temples, only shrines; their clerics and followers are expected to ever be on the move, seeking to root out Chaos, especially the taint of Infernus, wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head. The symbol of the Outcasts is the Battle-Axe of Basiam, a double-headed labrys. Clerics of the Outcasts are the only Lawful clerics allowed to wield bladed weapons, though they may (nay, must) use only the double-bladed labrys! [The labrys is a heavy axe.] The Outcasts were never a part of the Unified Church that existed prior to the Wizard War; they were considered marginal then, and most other temples of Law consider them heretical today, even though every cleric of their faith must be Lawful or Lawful Good!

You use 6-sided dice for Hit Dice. You get one HD per level up to and including level 9; you add your Constitution modifier to each die roll. At level 10 and above, you only gain 2 hit points per level (Constitution modifier no longer applies).

You get +5% XP if your Wisdom score is 13 to 15; you get +10% if your Wisdom score is 16 to 19.

A cleric of the Gods of Law must be Lawful Good, Lawful, or Neutral.

Clerics of Lawful Good sort are dedicated to the utmost to the tenets of Law; they are humble, kind, merciful, and generous to all save those who are naturally of Chaos or who willfully follow the Gods of Chaos.

Lawful clerics are not quite so dedicated to universal weal, mercy, or generosity, being more concerned with the order and maintenance of the civilization of Mankind overall, but corruption is still beneath their ken.

Neutral clerics of Law are the least dedicated to the ways of Law; they do not pay it lip service, as the Gods are not fools, but as the gods are also not omniscient, they are far less zealous, often more selfish, and never as ardent in their beliefs as their Lawful brethren. Even so, Neutral clerics of Law cannot oppose any of the basic concepts or rules of Law and Good, though they may ignore them, bend them, or turn a blind eye, when such sins are not egregious. As a Neutral cleric of Law, you cannot advance as a cleric beyond 6th level! At that point, you must more fully dedicate yourself to the cause of Law, if you wish to further advance in its power… at this point, no few Neutral clerics of Law fall into apostasy, and turn from the way of Law to the ways of Chaos!

A cleric can wear any kind of armor, however, he is only skilled at wearing padded, leather, studded leather, ring mail, scale mail, mail shirt, chain mail hauberk, banded mail, and half-plate. Plate mail, three-quarter plate, full plate, field plate, and jousting plate provide one point less protection than normal when the cleric is wearing it, and causes him to suffer a -2 penalty to all attacks and saving throws while wearing the armor. A cleric can wear any kind of helm without penalty. He can use a small shield normally; he can use a large shield but then suffers a -1 penalty to attacks and saving throws.

As a cleric of the Gods of Law, you cannot use any weapon with a sharp edge or pointed end, such as daggers, swords, morningstars, bows, or crossbows. This comes from the earliest philosophies of the Gods of Law, which are that “The Just should correct the Unjust not with the sword, but with the rod,” indicating a preference against slaying the unjust over attempting to correct their behavior. Remember, the soul of a slain enemy cannot be saved from Chaos for Law! Of course, against recalcitrant and relentless creatures and followers of Chaos, more thorough measures are required, and thus the full brunt of the weight of the weapon may fall… but still not edged or pointed, only blunt weapons.

Light Weapons: d4
Medium Weapons: d6
Heavy Weapons: d8

At 1st level you possess the ability to turn undead. Whenever you encounter a group of undead, you must present your holy symbol (in hand, upon your shield or as an amulet openly on your chest, etc.) and call upon the power of Law to counter the entropic Chaos that empowers the undead creatures. You then roll 2d6 and add your Charisma modifier; the result is then cross-indexed on an Equivalent Hit Dice chart the LL possesses. If you turn the undead creatures, 2d6 EHD of undead are affected; they will flee from you if possible, or cower and hide if not. If you or anyone in your party attacks the turned creatures, they are no longer affected by your holy power, and may attack you back! Note that lower-hit dice undead are affected first. Once you fail to turn any undead in a group with the turning check roll, you can no longer try to turn that group; however, if you fail to turn all of them because of a low EHD affected roll, you may continue to try to turn that group of undead until you fail a turn check roll.

At 1st level you can cast one 1st level spell per day; you might have a bonus of one or two spells per day if you have a high Wisdom score. As you advance in level, you gain more spells, many of higher level.

If you are Lawful Good, you can cast your spells miraculously; that is, you do not have to memorize your spells in the morning, and can choose the spells you cast when you need them! You still need to pray for one hour in the morning after eight hours of sleep in order to regain the spell-casting slots you expended the previous day.

If you are Lawful, you must memorize your spells each morning, but you may choose any spell from the list of spells of Clerics of Law; you do not need to read from a Prayer Book to memorize these spells, merely pray for one hour in the morning after eight hours of sleep.

If you are Neutral, you must maintain a Prayer Book, which is given to you by your temple. Your Prayer Book has the rituals needed for a number of spells equal to the number of spells you can cast each day; no more, no less. Usually, the spells you receive are determined by your superiors in the Temple; often they are revealed in a specific order to every cleric in the same temple. You may possess multiple Prayer Books but possession of such is considered impious, or even blasphemous; if the spells thereof are not of approved or even non-Lawful sort, it is considered heresy if not apostasy! You must pray for one hour each morning, after eight hours of sleep, before you can memorize your spells. It then takes you 15 minutes per spell level to memorize a spell, after your prayers are complete. You must have your Prayer Book with you to memorize any spell you do not still have memorized; if you do not have the spell still memorized from the previous day, or have the proper Prayer/Ritual Book, you cannot memorize that spell. If you have a spell memorized that you want to memorize a second or further time, you do not need the Prayer Book, but you must still take the time required to prepare your mind and spirit to properly embed the ritual of each spell for later casting.

Whenever casting a spell, you must have your holy symbol either in your hand, or openly presented. You cannot move in the same round while casting a spell. You must be able to chant, pray, or otherwise speak aloud and freely move your hands in the proper ritual passes and signs. Some spells may require additional components, such as holy water or special materials (some quite valuable and rare).

The following list includes the spells commonly known to clerics of Law; each temple and most gods also have additional spells that they can grant to their clerics. These are usually reserved for their great heroes. Once a god has revealed a special spell to you, you add that spell to the list of spells you can cast. If you are a Neutral cleric, you add it to your Prayer Book (it usually appears miraculously, as though written by the hand of your god, but sometimes you are required to write it yourself and no little expense in special materials).

Level 1
Cure Light Wounds
Detect Evil
Detect Magic
Protection from Evil
Purify Food and Water
Remove Fear

Level 2
Delay Poison
Find Traps
Hold Person
Resist Cold
Resist Fire

Level 3
Continual Light
Cure Blindness/Deafness/Muteness
Cure Disease
Cure Serious Wounds
Remove Curse
Locate Object

Level 4
Create Food and Water
Neutralize Poison
Protection from Evil 10’ Radius

Level 5
Cure Critical Wounds
Dispel Evil
Divine Strike
Raise Dead

Level 6
Heavenly Bridge
Summon Angelic Protector
Wall of Light

Level 7
Holy Word
Righteous Wrath

Clerical spells can be scribed onto scrolls, to be cast later by the scribe or by whatever cleric comes across the scroll. As the divine power of the magic is charged within the scroll, any cleric who can read the scroll, regardless of alignment, can use the scroll, even if of completely opposing alignments (i.e., Lawful Good scribed scroll read and used by a Chaotic Evil cleric).

It is through these scrolls that Neutral clerics of Law can be led into apostasy, as Chaotic clerical magic can readily be scribed from a scroll into a Prayer Book! The Gods of Chaos made it so, in order to tempt Neutral clerics of Law to fall to Chaos. However, this does not work in reverse; while a cleric of Chaos can use a scroll with a spell of Law, and can even scribe it in his Grimoire and memorize it, unless cast from a scroll, the cleric can never directly call upon the power of the Gods of Law to cast the spell… well, at least, not the way the cleric hoped. He might well invoke the personal interest of a God of Law, who might send an angel or other servitor to see who falsely seeks access to the power of Law!

A cleric of any level can scribe a scroll of any spell he knows for future use, requiring one week of time and 100 gp in materials, each per spell level, to scribe the scroll.

All Lawful faiths have Saints, who are mortals who have risen to semi-divinity in the name of Law; they are most common in the Temple of the Lords of Light, but are found in all Lawful faiths. Only those of Lawful Good alignment can become saints. As a Lawful Good cleric, you might aspire to Sainthood!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

[The Realm] What You Need To Know As a Thief

A thief is a pickpocket, mugger, bully boy, rum cove, spy, beggar, buffoon, burglar, rogue, cheat, counterfeiter, second-storey man, cutpurse, footpad, forger, gambler, bard, highwayman, archer, bandit, horse thief, swashbuckler, litigation trickster, peasant hero, acrobat, mountebank, picklock, robber, pirate, sharper, shoplifter, smuggler, brigand, swindler, and often, vagabond. He’s the guy who goes in and searches for traps, disarms them, and steals the jewels out of the pile of silver and gold. He’s the guy who buys you a drink just before he stabs you in the back. He’s the guy who sneaks in and slits the orc captain’s throat while the rest of the party waits outside where it is mostly safe…

Cugel the Clever, Liane the Wayfarer, Conan, Taurus of Nemedia, Gray Mouser, Gord the Rogue, Ali Baba, Aladdin, Bilbo Baggins, Lazarillo de Tormes, Robin Hood, Will Scarlett, Zorro, Fagin, Artful Dodger, Moll Flanders, Huckleberry Finn, and Hanse Shadowspawn.

You use 4-sided dice for Hit Dice. You get one HD per level up to and including level 9; you add your Constitution modifier to each die roll. At level 10 and above, you only gain 1 hit point per level (Constitution modifier no longer applies).

You get +5% XP if your Dexterity score is 13 to 15; you get +10% if your Dexterity score is 16 to 19.

A thief can be of any alignment; most are Neutral. Few follow the Gods of Law, while many follow the Gods of Chaos. The choice to steal and commit other anti-social activities is poorly regarded by the Gods of Law, and well-regarded by most of the Gods of Chaos.

A thief can wear any kind of armor, however, he is only skilled at wearing padded, leather, and studded leather armor; any other armor types inhibit or prohibit the use of most of his skills. Also, any other armor provides one point less protection than normal when the thief is wearing it, and causes him to suffer a -2 penalty to all attacks and saving throws while wearing the armor. Similarly, a thief can wear a leather cap or light helm without penalty, but not a normal helm or great helm. He can use a small shield unskilled, but then suffers a further -1 penalty to attacks and saving throws.

The Parrying Dagger ability allows a thief to use a dagger, main gauche, sword-breaker, or similar item in your off-hand as either a weapon or a shield… but only if you choose that ability.

You can use any weapon you like. However, no weapon is better than any other in the hands of a thief!

Light Weapons: d6
Medium Weapons: d6
Heavy Weapons: d6

At 1st level you may backstab an opponent if they are unaware of your presence or your intent to attack. You might have to use stealth, hide in shadows, bluff, or similar abilities to sneak up or get the drop on the target. If you are successful, you receive an attack bonus of +4 to hit and add 1d6 to the damage dealt. At 5th level the added damage is 2d6, and 9th level 3d6, and at 13th level 4d6 (maximum damage bonus). Backstab damage is never modified due to critical hits!

At 1st level you choose eight Thieves Abilities (i.e., skills) from the following list: Acrobatics, Arson, Bluff, Climb, Decipher, Disguise, Entertain, Escape, Evaluate, Gambling, Hide in Shadows, Intimidate, Listen, Litigation Trickster, Locksmith, Parrying Dagger, Poisons, Puzzles, Sap, Scrutinize, Slight-of-Hand, Stealth, Trail, and Trapsmith. You place them in order, from best to worst, and get percentile scores in each that improve as you advance in level. You gain new abilities at levels 5, 9, 12, and 15. Additionally, at levels 2, 4, 10, 14, and 16 you may switch the ranking (and thus, score) in any two abilities that are next to each other in ranking; thus you can switch your 3rd and 4th ranked abilities, showing your further development of the 4th ranked skill at the cost of the original 3rd ranked skill.

At 1st level you start with 1 Luck Point, plus 1 Luck Point for each point of Dexterity bonus. Each level thereafter you gain a number of Luck Points equal to your new level plus your Dexterity bonus. You may use a Luck Point to re-roll any failed Thief Ability roll you just made, before the results are applied. You must accept the re-rolled result, even if it is worse. You never “regenerate” Luck Points.

Thieves Cant is a special dialect of Common used by thieves and lower-class types. It evolved from the patois of the lower classes in the big cities and towns, and spread as thieves and thugs mingled with migrants and refugees of wars and disasters. Essentially, you can speak with fellow coves (thieves) and not be understood by others, though you rarely speak such in public! It is an inelegant tongue, designed to speak of thievery; there is no Thieves Cant poetry, save for bawdy limericks. There also exists a series of symbols and runes used by thieves, again, such signifying ideas important to thievery and thieves.

Friday, March 18, 2011

[The Realm] What You Need To Know As a Fighter

Here's the Cheat Sheet I've worked up for Fighters in the Realm:

A fighter is a warrior, barbarian, thug, gladiator, knight, mercenary, soldier, bully, veteran, swordmaster, swashbuckler, brawler, myrmidon, and all-around hero with a sword (or axe, or hammer, etc.) He’s the guy who wears the best armor and wields the best weapons, goes in and fights hand-to-hand with the bad guys. Sometimes, he stands back and peppers them with arrows or crossbow bolts.

Conan, Bran Mac Morn, Cormac Mac Art, Kull, John Carter, Gimli, Legolas, Boromir, Faramir, Ash, Genghis Khan, Julius Caesar, Beowulf, Hengist and Horsa, Hercules, Perseus, Jason, Hector, Odysseus, and Achilles.

You use 8-sided dice for Hit Dice. You get one HD per level up to and including level 9; you add your Constitution modifier to each die roll. At level 10 and above, you only gain 3 hit points per level (Constitution modifier no longer applies).

You get +5% XP if your Strength score is 13 to 15; you get +10% if your Strength score is 16 to 19.

A fighter can be of any alignment; most are Neutral. Some follow the Gods of Law, others follow the Gods of Chaos. The ability to fight is well-regarded by both sides of the Cosmic Struggle, but you need not align yourself with either side to be a mighty warrior.

A fighter can wear any kind of armor. Heavier armor slows you down, and means you can carry less treasure, but it protects you better. You can also use a any form of shield and helmet.

You can use any weapon you like. You deal different damage with certain kinds of weapons:

Light Weapons: d6
Medium Weapons: d8
Heavy Weapons: d10

As a fighter, you are the only class that gets all the benefits of using magical swords, especially sentient magical swords, as they are unwilling to be used by namby-pamby thieves, magic-users, or clerics… they want a mighty-thewed warrior wielding them in battle! Just be careful of sentient swords with different alignments… they won’t like you even if you are a fighter!

At 1st level you must choose one weapon to specialize in. You get a bonus with this weapon of +1 to hit and to damage OR a +1 to your Armor Class. You must choose which bonus you wish to use before initiative is rolled each round. If you do not state your choice before the initiative roll, it is assumed you are using the bonus to hit and damage. The bonus increases to +2 at 3rd level, +3 at 6th level, +4 at 9th level, and +5 at 12th level (the maximum bonus).

When you reduce a melee opponent to 0 hit points and “drop” him, you may make another attack on a second opponent who is adjacent to both you and the opponent you dropped. You may continue to do so as long as you drop opponents and have another opponent adjacent to you and the dropped opponent.

You have the special ability to sacrifice your shield, helmet, weapon, or armor when you take damage. You may choose to do so after the damage has been rolled, but not after you have written the damage on your character sheet. If you do so, you take no damage, but your shield, helmet, or weapon is destroyed or damaged. A small shield, helmet, or non-magical weapon is automatically destroyed. A large shield is reduced to a +1 AC bonus on the first such “splintering,” and destroyed on the second such splintering. A magical weapon or shield loses a magical bonus PERMANENTLY when you use it this way, and when all bonuses are gone, it is reduced to a normal weapon or shield. Armor is reduced in value by one point per die of damage dealt by the attack. Thus if you are hit by a frost giant (4d6 damage) and you don’t want to take the 20 points of damage rolled, you can reduce the damage to zero by taking four points off the value of your armor. You can do this even if you have an armor type that only grants two or three points of protection. When armor AC value is effectively reduced to 9, it is destroyed. Otherwise, it can be repaired by an armorer (cost varies).

Once per battle, when your side has lost initiative against a foe, you may attempt to seize the initiative, provided your action is to make an attack (whether stand and fight, move and attack, or charge). You must first declare the target of your attack. If you then make a successful saving throw versus Death you and you alone may act before the opposing side gets to act for that one round; otherwise you must wait your turn as normal, and your attempt to seize initiative for that battle has been used. If your target is another fighter or monster that saves as a fighter of higher level or hit dice, your saving throw is penalized the difference between your level and their level or HD

Sunday, March 13, 2011

[Chimera Campaign] Raiders of Mylock's Lair

Today we had the largest Labyrinth Lord session ever at Chimera Hobby Shop Appleton. One Labyrinth Lord (yours truly), 10 players, 11 characters, two war dogs, and a war cat:

Grayleaf (female High Elf 3rd level Thief/2nd level Magic-user), with Shadow (female War Cat)
Edrick (male Human 3rd level (later 3nd level) Fighter)
Berefex (male High Elf 2nd level Warrior-Mage)
Andoriel (male Human 3rd level Cleric of the Lords of Light)
Madoc Goldworthy (male Harfoot Hobbit 2nd level Arsonist... I mean, Adventurer)
Alberon (male High Elf 3rd level Warrior-Mage) with Fluffy II (male War Dog)
Gilthas (male Human 2nd level Fighter/3rd level Thief)
Pevel Paladinson (male Human 2nd level Fighter; 17 Str, 17 Cha... 5 Wis)
Drogo (male Human 2nd level Cleric of Jamala) with Bogo (male War Dog)
Sigismond "Siggy" Smallburrow (male Tallfellow Hobbit 2nd level Adventurer)
Cadfrael Jorian (male Human 2nd level Cleric of Qnoth/1st level Magic-user)

This was actually the second session of Raiders of Mylock's Lair, which is an adaptation of an adventure presented in the Judges Guild classic, The Book of Ruins. In the first session, we had only the following adventurers:

Grayleaf (female High Elf 3rd level Thief/2nd level Magic-user), with Shadow (female War Cat)
Edrick (male Human 3rd level (later 3nd level) Fighter)
Berefex (male High Elf 2nd level Warrior-Mage)
Andoriel (male Human 3rd level Cleric of the Lords of Light)
Alberon (male High Elf 3rd level Warrior-Mage) with Fluffy I (male War Dog)
Gilthas (male Human 2nd level Fighter/3rd level Thief)

These six brave adventurers sought out the depths of the former lair of the wizard, Mylock, for it was said that they had become the home of a band of Black Orcs of the Vile Rune, who were raiding and pillaging in the local area. In the first session, the group:

  • Discovered a devious double arbalest trap the safe way, and disarmed it;

  • Slew three goblins, after putting them to sleep with a spell and slitting their throats;

  • Fought valiantly against a small horde of 10 orcs, slaying them all, but losing Fluffy I in the battle;

  • Slit the throat of an ogre after putting it to sleep with a spell;

  • Slew three more orcs in the forward guard post they happened to miss by taking a different path;

  • Found a false door and pit trap the hard way;

  • Found themselves trapped in a room after bursting through the doors, commando style, then looking back after the doors closed behind them to discover that the doors had disappeared! They found the "secret" doors, as they were, but did not discover any way of opening them... and so the only way back was forward!

Thus ended the first session...

In the second session (today), we had rather more people show up, so in classic adventure style, *poof*, they were there! Very leery after having the doors close and disappear behind them, the aprty now took to spiking open all doors they went through (well, at first). In the second room, which was all but identical to the first, they found a pit trap that opened when you pulled a lever... so they decided against pulling the lever. They then entered the third room, and there surprised an orc guard sitting at a table, contemplating what it had just pulled out of one nostril. Cadfrael hit it with a mage shot cantrip, then Alberon lept over the table and cut off its head; it never knew what hit it!

They searched the body, then went on to the next room, which was nearly their undoing, as Madoc and Gilthas took to arguing, a fight that nearly engulfed the whole party while a band of orcs snuck up behind them while the party leaders were trying to separate the two troublemakers. The battle against the five orcs and the orc captain was brutal. Madoc the Arsonist ended up burning the table, which the orcs had turned over as cover. After much hand-to-hand work, the orcs were finally undone when Bogo ripped out the throat of the captain on a critical hit! But the fire consumed the table, and spread to anything flammable in the room, as Madoc laughed and danced. The smoke kept the party from effectively looting the bodies, and everyone fled back into the further room, then burst through half-heartedly into the next room, which was, fortunately, empty. When all had finally made it into the room, includng Ed who was dragging along the last, unconscious orc as a prisoner, they jammed the orc's cloak under the doors to keep the smoke out.

They discovered a secret door to the north and found that the room to the east, too, was empty, though there was an untripped trap door right underneath the doors...

At this point, they split the party!

Ed, Pevel, and Madoc stayed behind to "question" the orc; the rest went on to the north, into the corridor beyond the secret door. When the awakened the orc by spilling a canteen on his face, the orc cursed them in Orcish... and then the three of them realized none of them spoke Orcish! The orc grinned and spit in Madoc's face; at that, Madoc thrust his lit torch into the face of the orc, who promptly screamed in pain!

Meanwhile, the others had discovered that the corridor turned after a long while, then ended in a short corridor with double doors on each side and double doors before them. Opening the doors to the left, they discovered a charnel pit, upon which were four ghouls. Though they were unafraid of attacking, wiser heads prevailed for the moment, and Brother Drogo turned the ghouls, which fled into the corners of the room...

Back in the other chamber, Madoc said, "Screw this guy," and decided to leave, taking the torch with! Ed fortunately had another one, so the two humans weren't left without light. But even as they lit the second torch, an ogre walked through the doors of the further chamber (beyond the closed pit), saw them, and gave a battle cry. They slammed the doors shut before them, crying out to the others (who did not hear) for help!

In a chaotic battle that followed, Pevel Paladinson earned the epithet Pevel Pissbreeks, as the moment the ogre burst through the doors he fled through the secret door into the dark corridor, leaving Ed alone to face the ogre! Ed and the ogre exchanged several mighty blows, back and forth, as Ed led the ogre back to the wall and turned him so that he faced away from the secret door, in case allies might come from behind and stab the ogre in the back. Finally, after screaming for help while feeling his way down the dark corridor, Grayleaf, Madoc, and Brother Drogo turned to help... while the others foolishly decided to attack the ghouls cowering in the corners!

... And now several days later, when I return to finish this post, I realize I've forgotten much of the minor details...

As I recall, the battle with the ghouls went better than expected by many, with the elves being immune to paralysis, and most attacks occuring from a distance. Either way, they finished off the ghouls, then looted the room. Completely randomly, I'd determined the treasure included a sword +1/+3 versus undead, and a scroll of ward of protection against undead! My dice just had that kind of sense of humor that day, I guess.

They found a secret door in the room, too, and went to explore the hall beyond. After everyone left, Madoc the Arsonist decided to use the last of his powerful spirits to burn the bodies... and once again, left behind them a roaring fire, with no idea if there was any exit in the direction of the secret door! Fortunately, they found a pair of corridors each ending in double doors... no traps were found, but Grayleaf didn't like it at all, nor did Gilthas. they went through the right-hand corridor, and found that both sets of double doors opened into a small 20' x 10' room beyond, with one odd-shaped corridor narrowing as it went off into the distance. "Oh yeah, trap," said Grayleaf.

They didn't discover it until several of them were already deep into the corridor... a giant ball of stone, right above the head of Gilthas, that would fall, smush anyone in its way, then block off the narrowing corridor. As they all retreated back into the original corridor, save for Siggy and Grayleaf, they heard a terrible, evil cackle... Siggy and Grayleaf ran down the narrow corridor, thinking it had come from there, to stop whatever it was that was about to trip the trap... then with a thud and roar, the stone fell and roared into place, blocking the corridor behind them and separating them from the party.

Fortunately for them, Mylock the Wizard-Wight was on the other side of the stone with the rest of the party, which suddenly was faced with a magic-using undead and six plate-armored, two-handed-sword-wielding zombies!

Four of the six zombies were quickly turned. Ed took a level in damage from the touch of the Wizard-Wight, but in turn Mylock was undone by the undead-bane blade. The fight against the zombies went badly for a bit, until they got in some lucky shots, with Madoc taking one out and incinerating it with his torch!

Meanwhile, Graleaf and Siggy were still running, trying to find whatever had caused the rock to fall. They followed the corridor for several twists and turns, until they came to a door... which turned out to be a secret one-way door back into the very first room, where the doors had closed behind them and disappeared! And now, it and the two rooms beyond (for they had spiked toe doors) were occupied by at least six orcs and an orc captain, who had recently put out the first fire started by the Hobbit!

The seven orcs, startled by the opening of the secret one-way door, looked to the pair. They blinked, looked back, and then Siggy said, "Man, I wish we were back with Ed and thge guys..." BAMPF! And so they were, one wish used on Siggy's ring of three wishes!

Fortunately for them, it happened moments after Mylock was dusted, so they got there in time to watch Ed wince in pain over his lost level and experience points...

And that's where we left off... with four zombies having fled through the (now obvious) illusory wall down an unknown corridor... and with all other avenues of escape cut off by fire or orcs!

Friday, March 11, 2011

[The Realm] Haelyx and the Great Goblin Grotto

Again, more work in progress...

Lands of Haelyx
The lands of Haelyx were once part of a prosperous but unremarkable petty kingdom in the centuries before the Wizard War. It was a quiet land of pastoral fields, stands of old growth forest, and sun-dappled meadows. The local humans were descended from a mix of Westlanders and Southlanders, devoted to the Gods of Law through the Unified Church, and friends of elves, dwarves, gnomes, and hobbits. Even the local goblins, resident in the now-ruined Great Goblin Grotto, lived in peace with the Upside World, and could be found living in peace in the cities and towns of the countryside.

That of course all came to an end with the Wizard War a thousand years ago. Locally, the most dangerous and powerful of the Wizard Kings that arose were a pair of brothers, Shelmorian and Daraztheon Vorl, once beloved siblings, servants to the King, and representatives to the Conclave, later usurpers of the royal power and mortal enemies. For centuries they battled back and forth across the land, seeking dominion over each other and their realms. Shelmorian’s vanity was their undoing, as he thought to summon and control one of the Dragon Queens to slay his brother, that he might be sole ruler of the realm. Summon her he did, and his brother was slain (or so he thought), but in the summoning he lost all, for though he could summon the dread goddess Kishar, he could not control her.

Great was her wrath, and in her rage she destroyed the realm and most of the peoples in it. The ground shook, the earth quaked. The Great Goblin Grotto was shattered, and the goblins thereof all but extirpated. Lands fell and rose, cities and citadels crumbled, fields and forests burned, forming the Gray Wastes, the Flaming Highlands, the Great Rocky Plain, and the Wastes of Kishar. Sated with her great destruction, Kishar settled into her new home in the Wastes of Kishar, there over time to whelp her great brood of dragons. Shelmorian, surviving but by chance, hid in his shattered tower, there eventually to transform himself into the Dragon-Wizard. His brother, slain yet not dead, rose again as the Lich of the Blood Crown Hills. The peoples of the realm, scattered and scarred by centuries of war and infernal destruction, dug in to rebuild, now and again falling prey to latter-day Wizard Kings such as Xylarthen and his ilk.

The Great Goblin Grotto
Once upon a time, in the ages before the Wizard War, this wide, deep valley was a huge cavern, reputed to be home to a great goblin civilization. It was destroyed during one of the cataclysmic upheavals of the Wizard War, with virtually every inhabitant being buried under countless tons of rock and stone. During the rule of Xylarthen, the valley was inhabited by his goblin servants, who were said to revere the ghosts of their slain forefathers in hidden grottoes within the great piles of stone strewn throughout the valley. After the fall of Xylarthen, the peoples of Haelyx invaded the valley and slew or drove out the goblins, though they continued to call the valley the Great Goblin Grotto.

20 years ago, a force of goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears, orcs, gnolls, and ogres invaded the valley, driving out or killing the (mostly) human occupants. The large gnomish delve at the western end, Nesbin Frool, was the last redoubt to fall, and the gnomes were said to have been slaughtered to a man. Fortunately, the humanoids immediately fell to infighting over the loot, and failed to continue their drive to Haelyx, else the small city may have fallen. Since then, there have been few attempts to retake the lands, as the cities of Arcanos and Royalton both took advantage of the situation to further their claims of rule closer to Haelyx. The survivors of the debacle, without friends in Haelyx, fell into poverty, many ending up as beggars and whores in the streets.

The sole major, unofficial effort to reclaim the valley was disastrous. 15 years ago, a beggar named Couree, who had been a young man when he fled the Western Settlements, began preaching the “Way of Zamiel;” he claimed Zamiel was an angel who taught him the secrets of magic and war, and that he and his followers would free the Great Goblin Grotto from its monstrous occupants.

10 years ago, Couree and his followers, which had grown to include most of the beggars, whores, and street urchins of the town, as well as many other members of the underclass, marched into the Great Goblin Grotto as a small, ramshackle army. They thought they would liberate the lost lands and create a new paradise… they were never heard from again.

Adventurers in the region claim that today, survivors of the Beggar’s Crusade can be found in the dungeons of the region. Driven mad by their experience, they remain in the dungeons seeking to slaughter any they encounter, for now all are the enemy. As it turns out, “Zamiel” was merely a front for the Dungeon God, and now they are another segment of his followers. Some say that Couree, who was in on the whole thing, now rules a large temple complex deep in the ruins of Nesbin Frool.

The Great Goblin Grotto is flanked on north and south by tall escarpments, ranging from 100 to 300 feet in height. They are impassible for most of their length, but there are a few ramps and chimneys that allow relatively easy transit from the lands above to the valley floor. There are scores of small cave openings in the walls, at all heights; most are but shallow remnants of old caverns, but some continue into the depths for some distance, and are home to small bands of orcs, goblins, and gnolls. A few of these cavern complexes connect, through long and tortuous tunnels, with the tunnel complexes of Blackpool, Nesbin Frool, the ruins of Xylarthen’s Tower, and points further removed.

During the human occupation, the valley was rich, with many prosperous farms, orchards, and pastures; since the humanoid invasion, however, these have gone back to wild lands, though the old property lines, demarked by walls of stone, still stand, and here and there stand the sunken ruin of a farmhouse, tavern, or smithy. The River Hael runs through the length of the valley, from the northeast to the southwest, and returns underground at Nesbin Frool. Here and there, near old ruins, stand small jetties, quays, and docks, as the river was a major avenue of commerce between the western settlements and Haelyx.

The West Road, which ran from Haelyx to Nesbin Frool along the north bank of the Hael, is now little more than a trail. At the heart of the valley along the trail stands the ruins of the central village, Weston, which until recently had been the hold of Hegrash the Ogre Bandit and his crew of goblins. Today it is held by a small band of adventurers, operating under charter from the Royal Council of Haelyx. They seek to remove the humanoids from the valley, by hook or by crook, and reclaim it for the people of Haelyx.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

[House Rules] Player Character Morale

Players may always consider their characters to be death-dealing fearless machines; however, while the player may force the issue, and have the character dive into battle willy-nilly, the character himself may not always feel so very certain about the results! Thus, PC Morale is an important issue.

The table below determines the base Morale of the Player Character, based on the PC's Charisma Score:

Player Character Morale Table
Score ....... Base Morale
1 ...................... 3
2 ...................... 4
3 ...................... 5
4-5 .................. 6
6-8 .................. 7
9-12 ................ 8
13-15 .............. 9
16-17 ............. 10
18 ................... 11
19 ................... 12

A paladin adds his level to his base Morale; a knight adds half his level, rounded up, to his base Morale. A fighter, mystic, or ranger adds 1 to his base Morale every three levels (3rd, 6th, 9th, etc.) [Note: a ranger instead adds his full level to his base Morale when facing goblinoids and giants].

Any magical bonuses that apply to fear effects instead affect a character’s Morale (as does now the bless spell). Note that any character that is immune to fear need never make a morale check! If Morale, after any modifiers, remains at 12 or better, there is no need to check Morale, as the character's morale cannot break (but neither can he gain the benefit of becoming Resolute, see below).

Note: Any time the player responds to surprise or other such events by exclaiming, “I’m scared!” or “I piss myself!” it is an automatic Morale failure, save in the case when the character is a knight or paladin, in which case the player may make a Morale check unmodified by level (but certainly negatively modified if applicable) to not break Morale.

A player must check Morale for his character under the following circumstances:
  • Whenever he is surprised; if surprised by an obviously superior foe (numerically or supernaturally), he suffers a penalty to his Morale of -2 or half the difference in EHD/Levels between him and the most obviously powerful foe, whichever is greater;

  • Whenever encountering certain supernatural or potent and mighty creatures, such as dragons, giants, demons, and devils, or culturally terrifying legendary creatures (i.e., “boogie-men”), whether surprised or not;

  • If a non-spell caster, he must check Morale the first time in an encounter that an enemy spell caster uses obvious magic against the PC party (+2 bonus if his own party has a spell caster);

  • Whenever he is first struck in combat for Hit Point damage;

  • Whenever he falls to less than 1/2 his full Hit Points;

  • The first time a comrade-in-arms/party member is slain or flees in the current combat;

  • Whenever half or more of his party is slain or has fled.

A player character never need make more than three Morale checks in any one encounter; if he makes all three successfully, he is Resolute, and gains a +2 bonus to hit, to damage, to all saving throws, and to all ability checks (+10% to %-based skills) for the rest of the encounter.

The first time he fails a single Morale check, however, he is Shaken, and suffers a -2 penalty to hit, to damage, to saving throws, and to ability checks for the duration of the encounter (-10% to any %-based skills), and spell casters casting spells while shaken suffer a 10% chance of spell failure (base if normally no chance, or increases normal chances); if he successfully makes two subsequent Morale checks, he is no longer Shaken, but he is not Resolute.

If he fails a second Morale check in the same encounter, he is Frightened; he suffers double the penalties as per Shaken, above. If he succeeds at the third Morale check, he is merely Shaken and is no longer Frightened.

Finally, if the character fails his third Morale check in an encounter, he is Panicked; he must drop anything he holds and flee at top speed from the source of his fear, as well as any other dangers he encounters, along a random path. He can’t take any other actions. In addition, he suffers the penalties outlined in Shaken, above. If cornered, a panicked character acts confused, as per the spell confusion. A panicked character can use special abilities, including spells, to flee; indeed, the character must use such means if they are the only way to escape.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

[The Realm] Age of the Elf-Star, Age of the Fey Moon, Creation of the Dwarves

Centuries passed. The elves grew great and wise under the tutelage of Elthonell and his followers. Shendon and his divine family carved ever deeper and wider halls, foreseeing the day when they would be filled with their own people. Osgdagor wandered the wastes, growing ever more feral and lonely, and hateful of his former companions. Koram and Andara directed the work of the angels of Heaven, together with Krakentiri and the gold dragons seeing to their duties of protecting the World from the ravages of the dragons. Suliir grew tall and handsome; Flumon grew tall and beautiful, but cold and lonely, for though Suliir thought to woo her, she bethought him too much like her sister, whom she loved and envied at the same time.

Leihos and Annoc grew together, and ever did their love grow deeper. In time they were married, and from them descended the first Elf Kings, born of elven and divine blood. The elves spread across the forests and meadows of the world. From Elthonell they learned the way of the bow and sword; from Kilotara, Thoris, Timar, and Treac they learned the magic of Fire, Earth, Air, and Water. From Elthoniel they learned the secrets of astrology, and the power of the magic of the stars. From Leihos they learned the power of the fire in their hearts and minds; from her sister, Flumon, they learned nothing, for she chose to ignore her sister’s chosen people and wander the wilds at night with the Fey.

During these centuries, too, the Taur Elthon traveled across the World, to see to the various aspects of nature that was theirs to protect. In his explorations, Thoris discovered the Dragon Orbs; he saw their great elemental beauty, but also saw their terrible potential and power. But a spark was ignited in his mind and soul to create something so beautiful, and perhaps, as powerful…

Time passed, as it does. Thoris took it upon himself to create a Great Crystal, as a tool for Law opposed to the Dragon Orbs that personified Chaos. And so he sought out his brother and sisters, and they, too, lent their power to the Great Crystal. Thoris formed the matrix of the crystal out of purest Earth; Treac shaped it with purest Water; Timar infused it with purest Air; and Kilotara formed it in Thoris’ kiln with the hottest Fire. In the end, the Great Crystal was created, merging the natural elements of the World with the divine essence from Beyond, shaped with the will of the Taur Elthon… and corrupted by the thoughts of the Dragon Primeval…

For the very idea of creating the Great Crystal had been planted in the mind of Thoris by the spirit of the Dragon Primeval, which lived still in the Dragon Orbs. And thus the whole was tainted by even this smallest bit of Chaos. But the fruits of that small seed would take many years to germinate and be fruitful.

As the elves grew in numbers and power, the devotions they gave unto Elthonell and the Taur Elthon proved to be mighty indeed, and each of the gods thus worshipped grew greatly in power. This Osgdagor knew, as well as the other gods, and his jealousy grew even further, for though he was fourth of the Elder Gods to find the Cosmic Egg, he knew that he was the least in power, less even than Koram, who knew more than he ever let on.

And so, five centuries after the creation of the elves, and shortly after the creation of the Great Crystal, Osgdagor secretly went to Qnath at his tower on the verge of the Beyond, and there begged that a Divine Council be called, that he could be given his chance to create his own race. Unimpressed by the groveling, whining, and raging Elder God, Qnath nonetheless granted the god's wish, that a council be called… much to Osgdagor’s everlasting anger.

And so the Divine Council was again called in the Vault of Heaven. This time the Council consisted of:

Qnath (As Eldest, he was the Chair)
Elthonell (Taur Elthon)
Shendon (Taur Duarg)
Kilotara (Taur Elthon)
Thon (Taur Elthon)
Thoris (Taur Elthon)
Treac (Taur Elthon)
Toreg (Taur Duarg)
Trastara (Taur Duarg)
Jorleg (Taur Duarg)
Ribiza (Taur Duarg)
Martlag (Taur Duarg)
Lishadi (Taur Duarg)
Sharmal (Taur Duarg)
Elthoniel (Taur Elthon)
Lithriana (Taur Duarg)
Leihos (Taur Elthon)
Flumon (Taur Elthon)
Varrik (Taur Duarg)
Madar (Taur Duarg)

Osgdagor was allowed to present his demands to the Council, and was flatly refused. It was believed that not enough time had yet passed to see to the full success of the elves; their growth, and the Taur Elthon’s growth in power, worried many of the gods, who felt it might be unbalancing. However, he was assured that when the time came, he would be given his chance to create his own race. As Shendon was next in line to create a race, Osgdagor expressed further frustration and rage, but was somewhat assuaged by Shendon’s promise that, when the time came, he would give his chance over to Osgdagor, for he was perfectly happy with the Taur Duarg.

It was a promise he would come to regret. Satisfied but little with this promise, Osgdagor once again fled the Council Chamber ere the ending of the Council.

And so the Council decided that the time would come when another race would be created… but it was not yet that time. One thing that was decided at the Council was the elevation of several angels to deific status, for great and worthy service to the gods.

The first to be so invested was Tyrm, a great warrior who enjoyed flying into storms. The second was Ilzara, who had acted as a messenger for the gods. Zaala, who had watched over the rivers and seas of the world, was third. Fourth ascended was Galendar, who had taught many elves magical protections against the dragons. Then followed Ilonda, the fifth to ascend, who, in the absence of the Taur Elthon during their creation of the Great Crystal, had led the chorus of angels in their singing. Sixth, the first of the Taur Dracos, Kabanlari the Gold Dragon, the Great Dragon Mother, who had led no few defenses of the Vault of Heaven against the dragons and the Dragon Queens.

The seventh and last to be granted ascension at this council was Annoc, beloved of Leihos, and the First King of the Elves; not properly an angel, nor quite merely a mortal, his ascension to godhood stunned a few of the Council, and struck Flumon deep into her heart like a dagger.

Following the ascension of the seven, the Taur Elthon unveiled the Great Crystal, to the wonder of all, save Qnath, who sat with an impassive look upon his face. When asked why he did not express wonder at the beauty of the crystal, he simply replied that beauty is ever in the eye of the beholder… and nothing more. He too was the only one who saw the glint of lust and madness spark in the eye of Flumon when she saw the crystal. Elthonell was too taken by the gift presented to him by his friends to even notice his daughter that day…

Several fateful developments occurred in the next centuries. First, Flumon, in her growing madness, in her growing hatred of Leihos and Annoc, in her growing lust of the Great Crystal, grew ever further apart from the rest of the Taur Elthon; she would be missed for decades at a time, though in time, few came to miss her.

Eventually, she returned to the lands of the elves, but not as herself; instead she bore a fey guise, as an elf maiden of unsurpassed beauty and charm. In this form she sought to seduce her father and by him get a son; she thought that he, together with the power of the Great Crystal, would be enough to avenge herself on her sweet, darling sister, her vile brother-in-law, and her inattentive father…

And so she seduced her father, and by him got a son, and as he slept after their coupling, stole the Great Crystal from his treasure house and fled the elven lands into the Wild. There, hidden through arts divine and fey, she gave birth to Morda, the Dark Elf. He she taught all manner of hate and spite, inculcated him with the darkest secrets of magic she had learned from the darkness between the stars and in the Beyond, where she wandered from time to time in her madness.

Over the centuries there she gathered the five Dragon Orbs, and with their power and the power of the Great Crystal, performed a great ritual, transformed Morda from a mere god into… something else, a tool, a vessel, a vehicle for all her spite, anger, and madness.

The five Dragon Orbs fled, their power used; tied to the Great Crystal in the ritual, the Great Crystal shattered into six great Shards: Earth, Water, Air, Fire, Light, and Darkness, with many smaller flakes and grains of crystal all about. Her madness spent in the creation of Morda, her mind clear for the first time in centuries, Flumon screamed in horror at the realization of what she had done, while Morda laughed and crowed, gathered up the Shard of Darkness, and left for parts unknown. Thus, in her madness, had Flumon wrought the seeds of the War of Light and Darkness.

Meanwhile, also out in the Wild, Osgdagor sought further the Secret of Creation, to no avail. However, his earlier contacts with the Dragon Queens bore vile fruit, as he sought them out once again and formed an alliance. Suddenly, and with great terror, the dragon attacks on the elven territories redoubled, with ever greater success… all due to the intelligence provided by Osgdagor.

Unfortunately for the elves, their greatest support, Elthonell and the Taur Elthon, were mostly absent at this time, seeking out the lost Great Crystal, the loss of which consumed their every waking moment. In response to the greater dragon attacks and the lack of divine support, Annoc and the elves sought ever greater defenses. Thus they turned to Shendon and the Taur Duarg, for they worked with stone, and they knew stone to be strong.

And so Shendon All-Maker taught the elves how to build with stone, though he did not teach them his deepest secrets, which he reserved to himself to teach to his children’s children. Rather than build within the mountains, the elves instead built atop the mountains, placing their cities in hidden valleys guarded by castle-girded passes; for defense against the dragons they built deep into the earth, but never too deep, and always taking advantage of natural caverns when possible… these were the first dungeons of the World, or so it was thought.

Martlag Longspeaker taught the elves how to forge steel into swords, assisted by the angel Vislak, foremost of the smiths of Heaven. Sharmal Ironfist and Tyrm Storm-Lord taught the elves how to use their swords. No longer able to hunt and gather in the forests and meadows, the angel Jamala taught them how to till fields and grow vegetables and grains. Galendar taught them how to tame horses; from this lesson, they learned how to domesticate cattle and dogs. Cats… well, they seem to have domesticated the elves, so to speak, as they settled in and took to guarding the granaries from the depredations of mice and rats.

And so for centuries, the war of elves and dragons continued. Every time the dragons developed new tactics, the elves responded, inspired and led by the various gods and angels, though rarely during this time did they ever even see their own gods, save for Elthoniel, who worried incessantly after her father and kin.

In the time since he had allied with the dragons, Osgdagor brought unto them something that they lacked: culture and civilization, of a rude sort. Though not the most knowledgeable god, and certainly not given to the finest things of civilization, Osgdagor knew well the basics. From their crude cavern lairs he taught them to build their own halls; rather than destroy the things they stole from the elves, he taught them to value them, and hoard them. He gave them the rudiments of a social hierarchy, and to an extent, he taught them to worship him… though only just, for they truly only revered their Queens.

He also taught them to capture, rather than slay, elves that they hunted. At first this was only to torture them for fun and for information; later, he taught the dragons to keep them as slaves rather than eat them. And so the great halls of the dragons were turned to great underground cities, filled with tormented elven slaves and the loot of centuries of war.

Three hundred years after the alliance with the dragons, in the greatest of the dragon cities, Dor Khaustis, Osgdagor ruled as a king and god, with dragon armies and elven slaves. Here, shortly after his ascension to untold power through the artifice of the Dragon Orbs and the Great Crystal, was Morda the Dark-Elf drawn like a moth to a flame. As he walked into Osgdagor’s throne room, all save the king on his throne turned to him and bowed, for all saved Osgdagor recognized him for what he was: the True Son of the Dragon.

Unmindful of the great danger he was in, Osgdagor, in his wrath at his minion’s devotions to the newcomer, challenged the Dark-Elf on the spot. Morda simply raised the Shard of Darkness, and black lightning struck the Elder God, casting him from his throne writhing in pain even as the Dark-Elf stepped up and sat upon the throne.

Weeping in his rage, Osgdagor cursed his rival and all elves; thanking him for the sentiment, Morda chose to let him live, rather than slay him. But he took from him what little pleasantness he possessed in his visage, scarring him forever with the Black Lightning, reducing him to an appearance little more than that of a beast, though still hauntingly recognizable. Hounded from his own city by the Black Lightning of the Shard of Darkness, Osgdagor fled into the Wild, once again to wander alone…

Morda immediately turned to his elven slaves, and from them he picked the best and most beautiful of the females, and he made them his wives. He got upon them a plentitude of sons and daughters, and from that dark line was born the Dark Elf race, the Drow, each possessing a drop of divine blood tainted by Chaos. For two centuries he molded them into an army, ever keeping them from the sight of their cousins, shielding them with the forces of the dragons at his command.

Meanwhile, his mother Flumon had fled into the Wild, driven by another kind of madness, abandoning the Shards upon the floor of her manor. Sometime during this period, still in her fey guise, she met and mated with a primordial Fey Lord; the result was Kestia the Lady of the Wild, whom for reasons unknown even to herself, she abandoned as a child to the Wild.

Finally, near the end of the age, Elthonell stumbled upon the remains of Flumon’s retreat; her spells had faded, and her protections failed, finally he had sensed the Great Crystal, or rather the Shards thereof. Great was his grief when he discovered the five Shards upon the floor; so great was his grief, he did not notice the greatest piece of the Great Crystal was missing, nor did he stop to think to search out the cause of the shattering, else he would have been more prepared for what came later. Instead, he scooped up the Shards and returned to his palace.

There he was amazed at the great changes that had swept the elven nation; he had not realized in his furious search to find the Great Crystal that centuries had passed! The groans of his people had gone unanswered for long centuries, and now he was almost a stranger in his own home. He summoned the four greatest of the Taur Elthon from their far-flung search, and the five gathered together in his throne room to seek a way to re-forge the Great Crystal.

But after much study, they determined that such would be impossible. Instead, upon the advice of Shendon All-Maker, they chose to create for the Shards a great crown for the elven All-Father, a crown with five tines, each to hold a separate Shard, the centermost tine, host to the Shard of Light, shaped into a dragon with its wings spread wide. For the four greatest of the Taur Elthon, the minor flakes and bits of crystal dust were re-forged into four great gems, each set into a mithral band.

Even as Shendon and many of the Taur Duarg had been busy assisting the elves, Toreg, the first of the Younger Gods of the Taur Duarg, was not idle. The great halls he decorated with statues, as he busied himself with preparing the halls for the eventual arrival of the race to be created by Shendon. Over the centuries he slowly carved out a virtual army from stone, in the form of the Taur Duarg: stout and solid, long of nose and beard, muscled and thick of limb, handsome in a fierce way but certainly not beautiful like the elves. He gave them names, each of them, and spoke to them as might a gardener to his plants. The other Taur Duarg smiled as they saw him about his duties, knowing that he among them all was most eager to help the chosen people of their father.

Events rapidly came to a head. Elthonell was crowned in his great palace, with the great Crown of Shards. Even as he was crowned and his people acknowledged his return with a great cheer, a foul wind blew open the doors, and brimstone and ice showered the gathered crowd. Through the doors entered the Dark-Elf, Morda, upon the back of a great dragon. Behind him were arrayed his ranks of Dark Elves upon great wyvern steeds; the powers he commanded through the Shard of Darkness had veiled their march even into the palace of his father.

Knowing that he could not defeat his father in his own palace, with the Taur Elthon and the elves all gathered, and the hosts of Heaven near at hand, he sought to infuriate him, to challenge him to open battle in the borders between the elven lands and the Wild. He proclaimed to all present his bastardry and parentage, told them of the origins of the Shard of Darkness, and of his desire the wreak revenge upon his father and the whole World. He then challenged his father to battle upon Phar Duin, the Border Meadow, which stood between the furthest elven settlements and the Wild. Horrified by his son’s very existence, and challenged in his own palace, Elthonell accepted the challenge.

Morda left, with his army trailing him, and their stench was never gotten out of the palace or the city around it, and so in short time Aelfindor, the First Elven City, was abandoned and fell into ruin. Before Morda was even out of sight of the city walls, Elthonell and the Taur Elthon were on their way to the Vault of Heaven, where they called the Third Divine Council.

But even as they made their way to the Vault of Heaven, so too was Osgdagor returning thence from his long wanderings alone in the World…

News of the impending battle spread like the wind, even without the efforts of Ilzara, who was great with child, her and Tyrm’s first-born. The Council was called; the following gods were in attendance (at first):

Qnath (As Eldest, he was the Chair)
*Elthonell (Taur Elthon)
Shendon (Taur Duarg)
Krakentiri (Taur Dracos)
*Kilotara (Taur Elthon)
*Thon (Taur Elthon)
*Thoris (Taur Elthon)
*Treac (Taur Elthon)
Toreg (Taur Duarg)
Trastara (Taur Duarg)
Jorleg (Taur Duarg)
Ribiza (Taur Duarg)
Martlag (Taur Duarg)
Lishadi (Taur Duarg)
Sharmal (Taur Duarg)
Lithriana (Taur Duarg)
*Leihos (Taur Elthon)
Varrik (Taur Duarg)
Madar (Taur Duarg)
Kabanlari (Taur Dracos)
* These gods left midway through the Council to prepare for war against Morda

The rest of the Taur Elthon were busy readying the defenses of the elves and warning the outlying settlements against the new, strange threat, while Osgdagor was still making his way to the Vault of Heaven. He was not found by the messengers sent by Qnath, as he still had kept up the various wards and protections that he had created against his discovery, which had kept his part in the dragon war unknown to this time.

Even absent these deities, the Council had more than enough for a quorum. Once the Council met, it was quickly decided that all the gods would work together against this strange, unforeseen threat. It was decided that in order to bolster the number of defenders that the Second Race would be created. Once this decision was made, Elthonell and the remaining Taur Elthon returned to the elven realm, to better prepare their defense and to prepare for the coming of the Second Race.

Meanwhile, the remaining Council was caught in a stalemate. Shendon had promised Osgdagor that he could create the Second Rate, but he was nowhere to be found! And then, too, they had no idea of what his current state of mind and power was, for none could recall having seen him for centuries.

Finally, at the suggestion of Qnath, Shendon resolved to forgo his promise to his fellow Elder God, but still he would not create the race himself, saying that if his promise he could not keep, he would not so completely and fully break it. Then Lishadi the Harmonizer spoke up, and mentioned to all that there already was an army available, were it but given life: the statues that Toreg Rockcarver had created over the long centuries of preparation. Rather than being representations of the Third Race, could they not, she asked, be transformed into the Second Race?

And so it was decided, that Toreg Rockcarver would be given the task of bringing his creations to life. Unprepared for the task, and not knowing in full the Secret of Creation, Toreg was readied by the remaining Elder Gods and Taur Duarg:

Shendon All-Maker gave Toreg his own breath, that he might breathe it into the mouths of his creations, in order that each would have its own spirit;

Toreg, Trastara, Jorleg, and Ribiza each gave them of their blood, that the divine spark might course through their veins; and through them their bodies of living stone were given life, balance, fertility, and health;

Martlag, Sharmal, and Varrik gave Toreg a measure of their own sweat, that their minds might be fused with iron, steel, and a thirst for knowledge and wisdom;

Lishadi, Lithriana, and Madar gave Toreg a measure of their tears, that their spirits might be tempered with love, justice, and a delight in seeking out wealth;

Koram gave Toreg lightning to place in their eyes, in order that they may ever see even in the dark;

Krakentiri gave Toreg the courage of his own heart, that they may face all tasks with pride and honor;

Andara gave Toreg the good fortune of the gods, for as long as they stuck to their task with honor;

And finally Qnath gave Toreg the Wisdom of the Elder Gods, that they might ever know Good from Evil, and discern Law from Chaos. Too, he whispered into Toreg’s ears knowledge that until then only he and Elthonell had known, including such parts of the Secret of Creation that even Shendon knew not, and by this he was greatly empowered;

Finally, the other gathered gods of the Divine Council gave Toreg only their best wishes and hopes, for they wished not to overly burden him with their own thoughts and natures, in order that Toreg’s people would cleave more strongly unto him and the Taur Duarg.

And so Toreg returned to the halls, there to give life to his creations. The other gods remained in Council, to plan further the defense of the elven realm and the Vault of Heaven against the Dark-Elf and his minions.

Thus it was that when the Seven Dwarf-Fathers, the first of the Dwarves awoke to life, though they felt innately the love and hopes of the other gods, they saw and knew only Toreg Rockcarver, for he alone was there with them, and they were alone together in the halls of the Taur Duarg.

Unfortunately, as Toreg was busy about bringing his people to life, Osgdagor passed by the halls of the Taur Duarg, and heard and felt the Creation going on within. Angrily, he burst through the doors of the hall and saw that Toreg was busy at the creation of the Second Race, though he himself had been promised the honor by Shendon and the other gods!

With cries and wails of treachery and treason, he rushed Toreg and demanded he stop. Toreg of course, refused, saying that he had the permission and blessing of the Divine Council. Upon hearing this, Osgdagor grew most wroth and attacked Toreg, who was stunned by this turn of events. Though he was an Elder God, Osgdagor had been much weakened by the assault by Morda, and had still not recovered; still he would have been strong enough to whelm Toreg, had not the Seven Dwarf-Fathers interceded on behalf of their maker. Together they were able to overcome the wrathful Elder God, and he fled, making haste to the Vault of Heaven to challenge the decision of the Council.

After Osgdagor fled, Toreg returned to his creation of the dwarves, but to his great sadness he saw that, even ere they had been turned from stone to living flesh, the dwarves, the smiles of joy that he had carved upon their faces were turned to frowns of anger and vengeance. And ever since have the dwarves been suspicious of strangers, and they have ever loathed Osgdagor and his later creations, the Orcs.

Osgdagor, mad with fury, made his way with great haste to the Council Chamber in the Vault of Heaven. There he burst in, shouting and screaming, ranting and raving, demanding an explanation for why Toreg had usurped his right to create the Second Race. At first the Council sought to placate Osgdagor, but then when he was silent when asked where he had been the last centuries, and why they had been unable to find him when he was so obviously near at hand, they were less apt to deal with him kindly.

Then an angel, sent by Toreg, arrived, and told the Council of how Osgdagor had attacked Toreg in his very own halls, during the very act of the creation of the Second Race! Horrified and enraged by this effrontery, at which even Qnath evinced no little anger, the Council not only did not hear his further demands, they decided that he was to be banned from the Council Chamber, and even the Vault of Heaven, until he had apologized to Toreg and his fellow gods, and accepted such penance as the Divine Council required of him.

Insane with fury, Osgdagor refused to even listen to the Council’s judgment, and cursed and reviled the Council until the bailiffs, led by Amdosias the Mighty, First of the Angels, had dragged him screaming from the Council Chamber and thrown him bodily over the walls of the Vault of Heaven. After he tumbled down the Celestial Mount and into the shadows at the base, he swore eternal vengeance upon the Divine Council and Toreg; ever after, this valley has been known as Vor Dhullen, the Valley Accursed.

Having noted that Elthonell was not present at the Council, he dusted himself off and ran to the palace of the Taur Elthon, where he knew he would find the elven All-Father. Using the mightiest of his powers, he put upon himself the best guise possible, such that he appeared as goodly and kind of form as he had not since he and the other Elder Gods had discovered the Cosmic Egg. Thus when he discovered Elthonell in his palace, the All-Father had no reason to suspect him.

Osgdagor convinced Elthonell that it was he whom the Council had, naturally granted the right to creation of the Second Race. And so with great happiness, for he knew that he and the elves were sore pressed, Elthonell related unto Osgdagor the Secret of Creation. Unfortunately, time was short, and in the long centuries since, even a god’s memory can fail him, so the information related by Elthonell to Osgdagor was incomplete. But both thought it was full and true, and when Elthonell told Osgdagor that he had given him all of the Secret of Creation, Osgdagor smiled horribly, and turned on Elthonell in his insane rage, and sought to choke the very life from him.

Shocked, as stunned by this turn of events as he had been by the appearance of Morda, the Elf God was unable to resist, and fell to his knees at the feet of the mad god. Fortunately, Leihos walked into her father’s chamber at that time, seeking to gird him with his armor. When she saw a loathsome creature attacking her father, for such did Osgdagor now fully resemble, as all his illusions had failed as he gathered his strength to slay Elthonell, she struck at it with a mighty bolt of Sunfire. Any mortal creature, and no few mighty creatures of divine sort, would have died instantly, but Osgdagor was still an Elder God, and so survived, though all the last vestige of goodliness and beauty was burned from him that day...