March 17-19, 2017 Campus Club, Princeton University Registration starts on-site at 3 PM First runs start at 5 PM Close parking in Lot 10, much more in Lot 21 Cost: $25, or $10 with college student ID, or free for Princeton students. Add $40 for a D&D 5th Edition Player’s Handbook if you don’t bring your own. The Simulation...
PrinceCon is a 46-hour role-playing marathon held on the Princeton University campus every Spring (since 1976). The character you create on Friday afternoon stays with you throughout the weekend, growing more powerful and accumulating potent magical items as you adventure in a single world with many different talented GMs. What’s the...
Princecon is organized and run entirely by volunteers, including both Princeton alumni and long-time Princecon devotees. Are you interested in taking your participation to the next level? Consider: Leading discussions in the Google and Facebook Groups. Playing in a playtest campaign (at Princeton or elsewhere) to iron out proposed system...
We’ll still keep some of our system tweaks — you won’t track gold pieces at the convention and you’ll pick from races suitable to the theme. But the core rules will be 5th edition, straight from the Player’s Handbook. Our playtest games have shown that we can still run the games we want to run, in the worlds we want to run in.
Some of the advantages of 5e include:
- Adopting a well-tested system eliminates many balance issues identified by players in recent cons. There will also be less to re-learn from con to con.
- The rule book you use at the con will be much more useful to you through the rest of the year.
- Many newer players are already familiar with 5th edition and thus will find less of a learning curve to get into playing in PrinceCon.
- Using a popular published system will open PrinceCon to more and younger attendees, expanding our base and giving us potential for future growth.
In other news, we’ll be adding a formal Code of Conduct for the convention, and we expect to be returning to Campus Club (the same location as last year). The on-site coffee maker was especially nice for those overnight games!
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The GMs are considering a change from our traditional system (which we converted to 3.5 OGL some years ago) to running 5th edition D&D pretty straight. For example, we might keep graft races and use our own pantheon, but we would adopt the D&D initiative system, magic system, and clerical system. As you might expect, GM opinion runs the gamut. Some of us prefer the original PrinceCon system’s approach to tone, style of GMing, and system issues, while others of us prefer the approach used by 5th edition. In addition, here are specific arguments for each side.
Update: Make yourself heard! Vote in our poll on Facebook!
GMs arguing for a switch to 5th edition give these reasons:
- Many newer players are already familiar with 5th edition and thus will find less of a learning curve to get into playing in PrinceCon.
- Using a published system that is somewhat fairly balanced eliminates many balance issues identified by players in recent cons.
- Using a popular published system will open PrinceCon to more and younger attendees, expanding our base and giving us potential for future growth.
GMs reluctant to change give these reasons:
- The PrinceCon system as currently constituted is well designed and optimized for just the kind of marathon shared-world roleplaying that we do at PrinceCon.
- Many of our GMs are unfamiliar with 5th edition and may not guarantee that they will run it well (at least for the first year) while we can run the current system in our sleep (and sometimes do).
- Change is hard, especially for us crotchety old folks (GMs and/or long-time players).
So, we are asking the player community what you think. If people are greatly in favor one way or the other, we will almost certainly go with that. If opinion is somewhere in the middle, we may need to let Leo decide and hold a formal combat between Bob and Aaron.
- Enthusiastically support a conversion to 5th edition
- Not care one way or the other, you just like going to PrinceCon
- You’ll pry my conbook out of my cold, dead hands
Your opinions one way or the other will greatly influence our final decision. And perhaps save the lives of one (or both) of Bob and Aaron.
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An email arrived a week before PrinceCon**, asking for help to be an ‘Emergency’ GM because a few of the regulars had to drop out with short notice. Turns out to have been a good thing, as attendance was up by a healthy margin this year. Nevertheless, I was hoping to contribute a simple sidebar to consist of two, or maybe three runs. Turned out to be five short (<4 hr) runs and a lot of fun. The basic setup is described in the first run.
** [Alex's note: it was, in fact 18 days -- plenty of time to come up with a scenario! ;-) but seriously, kudos galore to Chris and Hugh for emergency GM'ing. We lost a lot of GM power late in the game to various commitments and they delivered expeditions that had consequences in other scenarios and for world events]
Run #1: “A Three Hour Cruise”
Fri 06:30 PM – Fri 10:20 PM (duration: 3h 50m)
Elf Hero “Bushmills” (Eric Eisenbeis)
Fey Hero “Connemara” (John Cohl)
Elf Guardian “Elanthros” (Brian Rowntree)
Fey Gaia Cleric “Flitter” (David Rowntree)
Fey Mage “Jameson” (Mike Scales)
Hobbit Aru Cleric “Tullamore Drew” (Steve Brescia)
Pirates have been a problem, but this is different. Merchant ships from Nassau’s Freeport harbor, on the clockwise trade route through the Inner Sea, have had some of their cargo mysteriously disappear. No pirates, no boarders, just … gone! The apparent hijacking has been occurring somewhere on the Westerly run from Kjallaga to Bhind (yes, offshore of the North Shore, but sailing beyond sight of those lands), a voyage which takes around two weeks.
Queen’s Guard: you simply must take a cruise … and go out and see exotic lands, meet interesting people – - and when you find the ones stealing from us, kill them.
The party starts by going to the Freeport Harbormaster, to ask if there’s been any more information or pattern to this ‘disappearing cargo’. They’re told that some of lost cargo wasn’t insured by Floyd’s of London, which gets an eye-roll from party member David Rowntree, who says “Nice”. He explains to the group, “I was the Con Director for that year”. (GM’s note: and I reveal that I’m wearing “Floyd’s” T-Shirt from PrinceCon XI).
The party gets access to all of the shipping records, only to then realize that they don’t have the chops to conduct a multivariate regression analysis to wade through the data … fortunately, the high persuasion skill of Elanthros is able to convince the Harbormaster to assign a dozen clerks to go do the analytical number crunching to find the clues.
The party finds no correlation with any of the Merchant Captains or the senior crew, but does find that roughly a half dozen or so of the more hardworking second mates have been on many more runs with losses than would otherwise indicate. They work with the Harbormaster to arrange the manifest of a forthcoming Merchant ship to place three of these ‘suspicious’ 2nd Mates onboard their ship’s roster…to keep a close eye on them through their voyage. Similarly, they discover that the cargo stolen is usually the most valuable stuff onboard that voyage, and that it is always from the Port (landward) side … (GM’s note: that Port is always to landward was just a coincidence of navigation – not anything more significant than that).
They join their ship as a special guard and find it to be quite Spartan and that due to the tropical climate, everyone sleeps above decks while the cargo is below in the hot & stuffy hull. To keep an eye on things, Flitter befriends a few cats and rats onboard, which might spend more time hiding down below decks. The rats are convinced it’s an evil anti-vermin scheme to make them become easier prey for the cats.
The more pragmatic Heroes set up a lean-to style shelter to keep the sun off the party – - and also acquire a wood drill to covertly drill a hole through the deck (along with a cork, in case seas get rough), so that their Spellcasters can use the “Pebble’s Eye” cantrip to keep an eye on the cargo below decks without actually going below deck.
All goes well for the five days it takes to cross from Freeport to Kjallaga; they settle into a routine with three shifts keeping watch, glancing below with the pebble eye every few hours.
Four days out from Kjallaga, while heading west across the Gulf towards the North Shore, they notice one of their ‘suspicious’ 2nd Mates climb the mast and do something topside. They find it is some sort of voodoo/fetish doll, lashed in the topmasts. The next day, the headlands of the North Shore are sighted, and with navigation confirmed, the Ship’s Captain keeps their Westerly course well out to sea.
Finally, four nights later, the cargo theft occurs. It happens late on the 3rd shift, a few hours before dawn. All that is evident is a slight tilting to Starboard, which required a Awareness DC30 roll … and which the vigilant Elf Guardian Elanthros proceeds to make that roll (with a natural 20, no less) to definitively be suspicious and to immediately check with his Pebble Eye the cargo hold, thus raising the alarm. (GM’s note: if not for that roll, the theft wouldn’t have been detected until morning!)
Quickly, they gather then cast Waterbreathing & Darkvision on Connemara, who dives overboard to scan below their ship. He finds … sharks! And returns with a tale to tell: what looks like a giant whale shark has somehow swallowed the cargo and has headed off towards the south, swimming fast and deep such that he could just barely keep it in sight until his spells were ending, allowing its escape.
The Aru Cleric Tullamore Drew (run by Steve Brescia, whose past PrinceCon cartoons can be found at URL: http://www.keytoawin.com/steve/princcon/ ), couldn’t quite accept the Fey Hero’s mundane description, resulting in their Queen’s Guard Report back to Nassau being depicted in the adjoining illustration.
Needless to say, the veracity of this ‘eyewitness’ account will be examined in greater depth.
The Party also asked an NPC Janda Cleric to question the suspicious 2nd Mate … with the Janda concluding that he was a liar and probably an insider, but nothing quite clear enough to merit casting an Inquisition prayer … at least not until a bit more is learned.
Run #2: the inventively titled “Hugh Sat morning” (thanks Con Desk!)
Sat 10:13 AM – Sat 01:55 PM (duration: 3h 42m)
Fey Hero “Astraea” (Alison Kipe)
Human Hero “Cecil Wallis” (Mykl Sandusky)
Human Mavors Cleric “Damneron” (Michael Brokes)
Perrin Hero “Noelani” (Janine Rosales)
Human Hero “Stede Avery” (Tim DeCapio)
Fehy Gaia Cleric “Zip” (Spenser Kipe)
The party spends time doing research, tying to figure out what was going on with the cargo, such as:
Is the marking on the ship important?
Is there a reason that only land side cargo disappears?
Is there any pattern to what gets take?
(GM notes: Party hadn’t figured any of this out at this point, but: “yes, not really, yes”)
A lead from the first run was that some crew were always on a vessel when it was taken, and based on this, the Damneron, the Mavors Cleric grilled the prime suspect. The suspect, knowing that he couldn’t lie to a Mavors, answered truthfully but did so so sarcastically that the Party couldn’t quite figure out just what they were learning (GM notes: yes, he was 100% truthful!).
They also take time to search a previously raided ship thoroughly, including the hull underwater. This is where the perrin Noelani finds a very odd artifact: a portion of the hull has a round patch where there’s no barnacles nor anti-fouling paint: it is just bare wood which now has around a month’s worth of new growth and around 18” in diameter. The hole’s location is forward of the cargo, near the mast base, on the Port side (landward during the heists). Searching diligently at that location inside, they find that the wood grain doesn’t quite match and conclude (correctly) that some sort of magiking was used (GM notes: yes, patterning).
Finally, they set sail, figuring on setting a trap. Arriving in Kjallaga, the Party discovers that the cargo may have been given its final re-arrangement during off/on-loading at the port of Kjallaga. They discovered the key marker of a red label on a crate of quite valuable Allspice that happens to be first in one of the rows to landward. (GM notes: yes, that red label happened to be on the target designator for this run, but it wasn’t because it was a red label, but because spices are very valuable: all of the other first row boxes were much less valuable stuff).
Four days out of Kjallaga, the 2nd Mate attached the ‘good luck’ fetish to the ship’s mast again, as he always does (GM notes: I forget if it was the 2nd or 3rd run party, but one didn’t notice the action, but noticed the fetish being present later: when the 2nd Mate was questioned, he explained that the fetish was to keep their souls from being stolen – and that it had obviously worked).
The party decides on a trap: to be down in the cargo hold when it was likely to be taken. They divided up into shifts and spent a lot of time under dark very hot decks in tropical weather (GM: being heroes of the Queen’s Guard makes this easy to say).
Finally, on the fifth night after the crossing, what appears to be a kobold appears in the hold from the location of the hull hole: in the darkness of inside hull at night, the party first notices a scraping sound, of the Kobold depositing a box. As they all silently become alerted, a large opaque surface appears in front of the targeted cargo, the size of a door (a Dimension Door!).
Things get busy fast as the Party engages, such as a return volley of a half dozen hissing coconut grenades, which redirects two party members into a game of “Hot Potato”, grabbing & return throwing these Orb variants hopefully before they go off. In the meantime, the shimmering D-Door actually moves! (GM notes: well, it actually doesn’t move at all, as it has a Spell Modifier for its reference frame to remained fixed to the Earth, so it is the ship that’s moving past it). Thus, the D-Door begins ‘moving’ sternward, which is eating up boxes of cargo. Stede Avery jumps out of the way of the D-Door, preventing him from boarding the sub (probably a good thing).
And that kobold in the cargo hold who cast the D-Door gets jumped by two Heroes, Cecil Wallis & Stede Avery, who successfully grapple him. A coconut grenade goes off, causing NonLethal damage, and with the Party’s actions spent, the submariners still below close the hole (patterning), the first step in undocking their sub to escape.
Meanwhile topside, the off-watch shift of the party has also been roused. One had moved to the stern staircase down into the hold, and put an arrow through the D-Door, nicely alerting the submariner crew down in the sub that there was trouble.
And the Perrin Hero Noelani received spells for waterbreathing and darkvision to jump over the side to have a look – - and she found, up close and personal, a large wooden submarine docked under their ship’s hull which had been disguised to look like a giant whale shark. A hissing coconut pushed out of a small side hatch (which was how they were getting the returns cast overboard) motivated Noelani to retreat.
Again, the sub went deep, heading south towards the North Shore coast.
The Kobold D-Door caster did live, which passed along the Spell Modifier knowledge and magic items, which the party took and distributed. He was thrown in a damp cell back in Nassau and forgotten about (for awhile).
(GM note: the coconuts weren’t as plentiful, nor as effective as I was hoping for them to be: my original scenario plan was for a bigger inside-the-hold fight with more than just one kobold to have been able to come up through the access hole, to have resulted in massive amounts of the coconut bombs being thrown around. My hope was to achieve a Total Party Kill (TPK), but with all non-lethal damage – not that each Player would have known that as they’re sent from the room. Thus, the bad guys would escape, the Players would gain information, and because they would have been left tied-up … survived – - although robbed, of course. For a Friday first run party, they wouldn’t have any magic items to lose, so it would’ve merely been an embarrassment. But for a later run party who would have also had their magic items stolen – - by ‘mere’ kobolds – - it would have been a bit more humiliating).
Run 3: “You found … what??”
Sat 1:59 PM – Sat 3:59 PM (duration: 4h 00m)
Fey Mage “Alizar” (Ryan Ruzic)
Perrin Gaia Cleric “Bert” (Dave Ruzic)
Elf Hero “Karia” (Tom MaCabe)
Dwarf Hero “Lumbr, Jack” (Rich Eisenman)
A run which had to be concluded in real time by Sat 4pm so that everyone could attend Queen Nayla’s Costume ball … and yes, you read that timestamp correctly: this run started a mere four minutes after the prior run had just completed.
The group has a pretty good idea of how to go about finding a pirate submarine, and they’re pretty confident that they’re fighting “only” kobolds operating them. Their plan is to become part of the cargo to be hijacked from the hold so as to try to capture said vessel on the high seas, and return it to Nassau for the Queen.
They go about doing so, and have cleverly crafted a partial crate (its back and one side are absent) which is nearly the last (closest to the stern) box which they expect to be taken. As the submarine attack transpires and D-Door sweeps the cargo hold, they crouch inside … well, only the Elf Karia really had to crouch, as the rest of the party was short.
Appearing in the submarine’s hold, the party attacks, first with a snowball (GM notes: what, no sleep?) and a web, which immobilizes most – - thereby dodging a massive coconut orb attack…a stern steersman and two forward are still standing, who take their actions to open petcock valves to flood the sub’s interior. Why? Because these are Marine Kobolds with gills, so they can drown the air-breathing invaders. Needless to say, this wrinkle makes the Party a tad upset and even more motivated: they respond heroically, firing off a second web to immobilize the rear helmsman and a Hold Person forward, which successfully captures the last two … and the party can now secure the scene, quickly shutting off the petcocks to save themselves from drowning. In the meantime, the sub has been undocking and is getting underway by the Captain and Pilot – - who the crew now realize are not secured – - they’re in a separate compartment forward. They search for a door, only to discover that there isn’t any: they’re in an air compartment and that the wheelhouse is a wet compartment whose only access is via swimming in through the fake shark’s mouth. The Players make menacing threatening gestures for them to surface the sub, only to receive a decidedly negative reply of a single finger salute. But as they ponder their options, the helm stops the engines – - and ‘engines’ is a term used loosely, as it consists of eight undead kobolds on crank petals – - to then swim out the ‘sharks mouth’ to their escape.
Our party now has a stopped sub, which is slowly sinking in deep water, and no one at the helm. They find and man the pumps, and the sub surfaces: Bounty Secured! They search and recover some loot, including neutrally buoyant Chitonous Armor being worn by Kobold marines and figure out how to modify the helm to add an air-based compartment so that one doesn’t need gills (or waterbreathing) to drive. They question their prisoners and conclude that “Leo, Zell, Zell, and Zell” are in charge. Two weeks later – - and one minute before the Costume Ball is to begin – - they arrive in Freeport with their prize.
(GM notes: inter-GM scenario coordination called for a submarine to be captured before the Ball – - this was cutting it a bit close. One of the Suitors had been marked for assassination if a covert means was not found for then to leave Freeport after the Ball, and the sub was used to smuggle him back home).
Run 4.: “So ver iz dis ‘secret base’?”
Sat 5:26 PM – Sat 9:26 PM (duration: 4h 00m)
Human Mavors Cleric “Armond” (Bob Cook)
Human Mage “Dr. Odde IV” (Bob Peterson)
Human Hero “Harthguard” (Chris Schilling)
Human Hero “LT Frederick Von Berg” (Dave Shilling)
Human Hero “Krumbo Krumbo Krumbo” (Charlie Heller)
Perrin Mage “Len” (Colin Sandon)
Perrin Aru Cleric “Verrah Markann” (Camilla Greer)
The Party debates how to best go about finding the secret base, including if they should also attempt to capture another submarine. They settle on a plan of going out to retrieve the previously captured sub (now in a port along the North Shore), and follow behind an “innocent” merchant ship and upon it being robbed, then follow that sub without them knowing of their presence back to its base.
The retrieval task goes quite quickly and uneventfully (GM notes: since the sub was in a town in another GM’s scenario, I explained that in Meta-terms that if they try to do anything more than ‘get the sub’, we would all be flying blind. Fortunately, they made their real world Wisdom saves, and Rich Eissenman handed over the Item Card).
So, “Sub chase Sub” it will be. The Party cleverly salts the to-be-stolen cargo with Attuned objects to aid later “Locate Object” spell castings to keep track of where it may be taken. They shadow the merchant ship. They do successfully notice the night pilfering and begin to trail the raider sub in their captured sub. Oops, they discover that the patterning & rework that the prior party had done on helm modification for air-breathers leaks dangerously, so they cast patterning to fix leaks and strengthen, plus resist tempting fate by not diving any deeper. Fortunately, as dawn approaches, they have a Locate spell running at the right time, and they discover that they’ve nearly overtaken the raider sub, as it has slowed and is above them, rising to the surface. They go full stop … just before they could have run smack dab into a marine cliff, which rises from 900 feet deep to mere fathoms in but only a few dozen yards (GM notes: this is no fantasy, but actually a real place, namely the Three Fathom Wall area of the Bloody Bay Marine Park located on the northside of Little Cayman).
In dawn’s low light, they quietly surface and get some fresh air. They find that the surfaced enemy sub has proceeded, maneuvering into the shallows of an island that’s only 400 yards away. Nevertheless, because they’re still in ink blue deepwater and but only a few hundred yards away, some in the party mutter that they suspect that the shallows and the island may all just be a huge illusion.
From offshore, they quietly watch as the raider crew proceeds to unload cargo to deck and begin sorting through and inspecting the goods. One individual is pointing out stuff, which the crew works on for a movement; the Party realizes that their attuned objects, hidden in the cargo, are systematically being found and removed. Within an hour, the cargo inspection is done and reloaded, and the raider sub begins to move slowly west through the shallows; some crewmembers go for a quick swim. The party follows their same path into and then along the shallows, keeping back to avoid being spotted. Rounding the island’s western point and out of the lee of the island, three rear guards of the raider sub spot them finally, and a brief combat takes place. The Marine Kobolds are dispatched by the Heroes, assisted by electric eels summoned by Dr Odde. One guard is brought back to the submarine and revived by Aru Cleric Verrah Markann – so that they can then be pumped for information – quite effectively, thanks to an ESP Medallion. Toby reveals that the secret base is at the East end of the next island over, five miles away. The party sails home to report their success.
Run 5. “Col Mustard in the Den with Fireballs”
Sun 10:30 AM – Sun 03:00 PM (duration: 4h 30m)
Fey Mage “Alizar” (Ryan Ruzic)
Perrin Gaia Cleric “Bert” (Dave Ruzic)
Fey Gaia Cleric “Barrett” (Kelly West)
Dwarf Hero “Lumbr, Jack” (Rich Eisenman)
Cat Hero “Ushan DeLucca” (Tim Sullivan)
The Sunday final run: ‘Destroy the Raider Submarine Base’. The party first goes and questions ‘Toby’ the marine kobold prisoner, who complains about his prison cell being too warm, sunny and dry: they arrange for him to have a dark damp cell dripping with slimy water…which makes Toby quite happy and cooperative. They learn that the base is inside a large bluff on the second island, at the base of sheer 140ft tall cliffs near where a few centuries earlier, a house-sized rock fell from the cliffs broke off, forming a small island next to the island, separated by mere yards.
They head out, once again in the captured submarine – this time so as to avoid any possible encounters en route which may jeopardize their mission. They also find that Dr Odde IV had spent some time on the prior run’s return voyage improving the design – there’s now patterned portholes to Port, Aft, Starboard, Above and Below to improve visibility in all directions. They know some basics of the island that they’re going to be heading towards, including that the Marine Kobolds don’t live on the island – merely inside it. Except for a manchild who is accompanied by a huge bipedal bear, the residents are anthropometric animal forms, such as a long armed hairy orange ‘bugbear’ of sorts, supposedly created by a ‘Doctor Scott Morrow’, plus there’s a very big & nasty feline who prowls the bluff lands, preying on the many chatty monkeys that talk too much the bush. The kobolds get a few of these occasionally, when they fall through one of their secret cave’s skylights while trying to escape the Tiger (GM: scrawny, but tasty – kind of like spam). The group thinks that it is reminiscent of characters from Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’ (GM: yup!).
Finding the prior landmark island, they proceed to sail East. As the island ends, just visible across a five mile wide straight is the island that they’re looking for. They search for a reef-protected anchorage and find one on its Southwest corner.
The group sinks their sub in the bay’s shallow waters to hide it, then proceeds East (up-island), towards the bluff highlands on a found path along the southern shore.
As they walk, the island’s interior to their left (North) slowly gains elevation; it is already twenty feet by the first fork in the path but a mile from where they started. They debate on if to cross to the highlands and march up through the jungle, or stay on the easier flat shore side path. They stay down on the path. Five miles later, the elevation is now a hundred feet and is separated from them by a cliff; the group starts to become concerned about how they will climb up – but they shortly find a fork in the path where the trail north goes through large, old cut in the cliffs (large enough for a horse-drawn cart) to climb up to the top of the bluff. How convenient.
The party bravely tromps up the hill without any scouting or concern of ambush.
Shortly thereafter, the party is ambushed.
Fortunately – or perhaps not – it was by a troop of the Bandar-log monkeys, a loud chattering gaggle of scatterbrained anarchy almost as dangerous as the Fox News echo chamber: “We are great. We are free. We are wonderful. We are the most wonderful people in all the jungle! We all say so, and so it must be true!” Now since the two Gaia clerics, Bert & Barrett automatically can talk & understand animals, it is particularly hazardous to them, as it is enough to literally drive a sane person mad. Fortunately, they both make WIS save vs. Insanity, which motivates them to leave this growing circus of attention behind, like immediately. That they disappear (Hide Among Plants) and go silent (15’r) which becomes yet another novelty for the monkeys, attracting even more, so the group makes haste to go invisible to sprint away, which since this was hastily done resulted in a daisy-chain of party members holding onto each other without a rope.
Fortunately, they all Zig’ed when they should have Zig’ed and stay together, avoiding a Zag that would have left half the party alone with a 21 HD tiger who had come to investigate the noise. Having thus escaped from the maddening crowd (literally & literally), they cross the last few miles along the top of the bluff, and start peering over its Northern edge to try to find the ‘little island’ landmark.
Once they do, they search for any of the ‘skylights’ that they had been told was large enough for a lost monkey to fall out of. They succeed in this task as well, finding a modestly sized sinkhole that has a tree growing up out of it. The fey Barrett, with the silence 15’ and dwarf Lumbr, Jack, who has a pick which can dig through stone, proceed down the hole in order to make the passage large enough for all of the partymembers to sneak in through this route … to discover immobilization in the form of magical web traps. This also signals the silent watch to attack the topside party, which consists of some 7HD skeletons, which were also using Hide Among Plants. About the same time that the tunnelers free themselves from the web, the party has dispatched the small undead ambush.
Digging proceeds and they all descend to a pocket where they all peer down into the subterranean submarine base .. and plan their attack.
Meanwhile, those traps (GM: and Auguries too) mean that the bosses inside aren’t clueless. An invisible Wizard Eye (with auditory modifier +1) is cast to join the party, unbeknownst to them, which proceeds to listen in on their whispered final planning session specifics.
The party decides that they’ll summon two elementals (Water, Earth), for which the Gaia clerics Bert & Barrett have appropriate gifts that they had previously prepared to help in soliciting their aid. As they do so, mage Alizar will cast a two-way D-Door right at the front door to the large ‘Boss’ building (right), for Heros Ushan DeLucca and Lumbr Jack, holding their actions will combat step through and charge in.
One, two, three … cast!
The Elementals are summoned, the D-Door appears, and our Heroes charge through its opaque surface.
… oh, and the light from the skylight (behind/above them) goes out
… oh, and the Heroes don’t appear in front of the door of the ‘Boss’ building.
A heroic shout is heard from below: “Zombies!”
The Heroes are found, offset a short distance but behind the bars of the zombie paddock, with lots of friends. And they also find that ‘their’ D-Door, which they had just exited, isn’t a two-way, but an opaque one-way exit only.
(GM’s notes: thanks to the eavesdropping, the opponents cast a Wall of Iron to block the skylight exit behind them, as well as also casting a second D-Door virtually right at their intended exit. Thus, the Heroes charged through not one, but two D-Doors … and this evil schemer chose to NOT buy the option for having his Door be a two-way).
1. Heroes fight zombies in the paddock.
2. Clerics parlay/soliloquy with their summoned elementals, with Fey Barrett flying from the skylight down to be near his Earth near the cook’s station (along the ‘bottom’ of the map). This was about when Bert realized that he was now: (a) alone, (b) the skylight exit was blocked, and (c) the D-Door was a highly unsuitable means to get to the main level.
3. Three blue furred perrin are seen on a balcony over the Zombie paddock, gesticulating.
4. One black furred perrin is spotted down near the cook’s station, also gesticulating.
5. And there’s some Marine Kobolds around too .. but they quickly will break morale and just scatter in chaos, hightailing it for various exits over the next few rounds.
A snowball bursts near the skylight, also making Bert feel even more vulnerable. Bert asks, and is told it is merely a 100ft dive from the skylight pocket into the water below .. although he will need to push out, as directly below its a shallow sandy beach, not particularly deep. As Bert’s water elemental rises up to accept his Gaia gifts, Bert decides to leap, and body-surf down the body of his water elemental to descend. Just in time, as a Dispel hits his water elemental, causing that raised column of water to collapse and crash down around Bert on the beach.
The Zombies and Heroes tangle. There’s a few missile shots made at the blue fur shamen, resulting in him disappearing (GM: a mirror image dispelled). In return, Ushan DeLucca is hit with a Fear, failing his roll. Ushan will desperately grab up the magical pick that Lumbr, Jack had dropped to missile, as the only real means of escape from the paddock is to use this item to cut through the metal bars of the prison, all whilst Zombies freely attack Ushan from behind.
On the other front, Barrett and his elemental close to engage the black furball … but gets interposed by another elemental! Hey, where did that come from? (GM: the second unseen caster, perhaps?). Not to be outdone, Alizar casts Monster Summoning, for three Hydra to enter the fray.
Another missile at a blue fur .. and another poof of a mirror image (GM: really!). In retaliation, a Finger of Death is thrown at Lumbr, Jack .. who fails his save and goes down. But because of a regeneration ring, he’s not quite dead yet.
As chaos reigns, a missile does finally connect with the last standing blue … which also disappears (GM: not quite: Alizar? saw a bat appear with an arrow in it). And the hydra takes down the black fur … but the Lich’s fallen body then disappears. Rocks start falling from the earth elemental duel … and the Party retreats for the dust to settle. When things quiet down, the discover what remains of the compound empty of all living things (and unliving too), some documents of an independent corporation with just two bosses, Leo (the Grey), an occult perrin shaman, and his undead partner Zelll (the Black lich), an undead perrin lich. There were also more incriminating notes, which lead back to Queen Mare as a silent partner, and finally, one undamaged submarine, which they proceed to take back to Nassau as a war prize for Queen Nayla.
GM Notes & Wrap-Up:
The Raider’s subs were made in Vosgod, a tie-in not exploited. The enterprise was an ‘independent corporation’ bankrolled by Queen Mare to undermine Queen Nayla.
The legends in the region included occult zombie lore: locals knew that such creatures of the night were not mere fiction, which meant that totems and fetishes that some of the Merchant crews carries were based in a belief that they could help keep evil spirits away. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen to prevent them from being Attuned, so as to help locate candidate Merchant ships. Thus, there was a clear correlation to a crewmember … although if they were really an ‘insider’ remains in question.
The Marine Kobolds were from a small colony that lives on a small islet off of the southside of the island that the 4th run party had found. They were hired with an interesting insurance policy: any who die would be reanimated as Zombies, allowing them to continue to serve and earn income for their families after death.
Finally, the reason why the final run had so many opponent spellcastings was because the lich Zelll had a Thrice Ring. One was running the Wizard Eye spying, another was directly in combat and the third had summoned & controlled the elemental. When the one spellcasting in combat fell, the jig was up: its body was teleported back to the others and with Leo already also fleeing in bat-form it was time to declare the company bankrupt. In diminished form, the two remaining in the triumvirate carries his own body away, out a submerged hidden exit by the islet rock.
All in all, it was a fun scenario to sketch out and run, particularly since I’ve not GM’ed since PrinceCon37 (2012). Having short notice was actually a blessing, as it forced keeping things simple and with less complicated theme interconnects to worry about. Plus I’m thankful for the Costume Ball on Saturday afternoon, as this forced breaks, and while I did do five runs (most ever?), they were also all short, which is much more fun and less draining than to grind through a marathon session. Finally, not having months to prepare also meant that I didn’t have time to invent locations, so I used the trick of using real locations. This meant that without having to invest time to write anything down, I had a ton of depth if a player asks, which could be done without pause in game play to look stuff up: the only map I had to make at all was of the submarine base.
Wounded, a dark gray bat flies up into the jungle canopy to land, rest and wait for nightfall. Miffed, and drained of his casting abilities for the day, he watches the Party emerge with – - his belongings! Their search found everything, although they unknowingly also desecrated the last of his mother’s lovely old totems. Well, that will teach them all, for the May Cow will now be loose and it will go find them.
Out in the blue, below the cliff, a cluster of black bodies stumbling across the sea bottom reaches the edge and tumbles off of a deep drop-off into the blackness below. At 40m, there’s a shelf on which the two stop. Holding the third between them, they combine back into but one. It then finds a large lionfish, which it grabs and absorbs, both its life force as well as its venomous poisons, which it makes its own. Sleep now, to plot revenge against those living Gaia’s; it closes its eyes and whispers “Duppies is…”
Run #1: Seeking Talian Shipwright
The party met with Lady Shipwright at her shabby estate near the docks. They were tasked to negotiate the safe return of her son, Lord Talian Shipwright, from the Royal Harem of Byrsa, the desert country to the north. Lord Talian had disappeared about 15 years earlier and was presumed dead. In their teenage years, Queen Nayla and Lord Talian were courting each other and, to many, were very much in love. The party’s mission to see Shia Zaik, the Mistress of Concubines, was a secret, so the party spread the misinformation that they were hunting wedding gifts for the Queen Nayla’s upcoming nuptials. At a great expense to Lady Shipwright, she had procured a set of two glass shards that could pass along the skill of the Byrsan language and another that allowed the skill of sand sailing if you cut yourself with them.
They sailed to the northeastern corner of Shiang and then walked over the mountain pass into Byrsa. As soon as they entered the country itself, they encountered the blowing winds and grinding sands of Byrsa. They hired some guides who rode on giant mirror-abdomened spiders for passage to the closest city of Jakutru.
At sunset they heard what was later described as the Thunder Gong emanating from the capital city of Thulak Kolom. As an undertone to they heard what was described as the voice of the Dido, the ruler of the country. In the announcement, he offered good tidings to the population and he named names of citizens and their associates that needed to be captured for ‘ill thoughts’. The gong and announcements happened everyday for the last three years at sundown and sunup and could be heard all over Byrsa.
At the inn in Jakutru the windows were mortared closed. But during the night a trained spider flipped a hidden latch which opened the window. Half the party was attacked by two members of a street gang. Each of their assailants was under the effect of a dust of silence and one of them was wielding a glass shard dagger with a spider silk grip. It was a weaponized version of their memory shards but delivered jumbled nightmares. (No one told the thieves to be wary of invisible wrestling anthropomorphic horses.) They ended up killing one assailant but spared the other whose name was Thraal. They promised him safe passage out of the city if he went with them right then and there. They left before the police force arrived and rented a glass sand ship for passage to Thulak Kolom.
When they arrived at the forest of stone and glass towers known as the capital city of Byrsa, a guide was waiting for them. They were taken to see the Mistress of Concubines, Shia Zaik. She was happy that they were ready to negotiate for the release of Talian Shipwright. Of course, all promises would be null and void if it was proven that it was not indeed Lord Talian Shipwright. In exchange for returning Talian, Shia Zaik would want the person that gave Talian to the harem fifteen years earlier. That person is a much more valuable companion to the Dido. This must remain a secret especially to Talian. That person was Mare, Queen of Jum. The Queensguard explained that they couldn’t agree to that person exchange. Shia Zaik was willing to give them Talian as a sign of good faith, knowing that if the royalty of Nassau intended to bring Mare to justice, that they would do whatever was in their power as Queensguard to guide Queen Mare into the Royal Harem of Byrsa. Some were against this, but once it was explained that the Byrsan royalty does not take single spouses like most of the world’s royalty but instead strengthens peace with other countries via acceptance into the Royal Harem.
The party verified the identity of Talian Shipwright by comparing him to his portrait over the Lady Shipwright’s fireplace, and quizzing him on the name of one of his childhood toys. Once satisfied, the party and Thraal departed via glass ship back west. Talian explained that he was never intimate with the Dido, or at least with anyone who was so perfect behind their mirrored mask as to be dazed. He theorized that they were just the royalty that wore mirrored masks like the Dido’s iconic mask.
A few hours outside Jakurtra, the party saw another ship forging an intercept path. The captain believed that they were not in any danger and that they would not meet up with them. Using the memory shard of sand sailing, one of the party members realized that the captain was either mistaken or lying. Upon closer inspection with telescopic vision, the other ship was readying for battle and had archers on deck. The Queensguard started preparing for battle. Even Lord Talian was getting excited for a little battle. They told him to get into the interior compartment. The party was getting ready to plan their own intercept course, when the mystery ship started to back off. The party theorized that they too had used telescopic vision and saw them preparing and possibly saw the captain give some sort of signal for them to cease their attack.
The party stayed in Jakurta just long enough to get Thraal’s younger brother out of the city. They took a glass sand ship back to the mountain pass and escaped Byrsa with Talian, Thraal and Thraal’s brother. They set up Thraal to be a privateer in the Nassau navy.
It was told by messenger that Queen was happy to know that Lord Talian was alive and excited to have him back in Nassau. And that they should only share the secret of Mare’s treachery with the members of the Queensguards. No other outside members should know or it would alert her enemy or her enemy’s agents.
Extra Information: The Dido knew the party was coming because of his air elemental spies. (See Run #2 for an explanation)
The captain on their return trip had been bribed by the Hesperian kidnapping team on the ship preparing to attack them. The fact that they had bows showed that they were not from Byrsa. The captain fed them signals that they could see with their telescopic vision spells.
Talian had a surprise waiting in his lung (See information contained in the Run #3 description.)
Run #2: Tunnels to the Sea
PCs: Albert Alexander, Krischi Drumpf, Liam Silverbeard, Shideem, Silas Silvertear, Tim
The party of Queensguard was asked to procure the use of giant tunneling machines from the Iron council of Vosgod. Byrsans have very maneuverable glass ships that travel on sand. But less than a century ago they also travelled on water until Hesperia cut off their only access to the sea. Once the tunnelers get to Byrsa they can tunnel downward into the mountains until they reach the central sea. The glass ships could provide much needed support to the Nassau fleet.
The party arrives in Talin in Vosgod and meets with a member of the Iron Council who is a short dwarf with a magnificent beard. They soon realize the Iron Council is all about making weapons for sale to all members of the upcoming war. They care less about the dwarven citizens and more about production. The citizens are being over worked. The ale is terrible and there are signs of a secret uprising. Graffiti saying “RUST THE IRON COUNCIL” have been seen around areas of sabotage.
In exchange for the use of the tunneling machines, the Iron Council wants the backing of Nassau to root out and crush the rebellion. But for now they will allow the Tunnellers to be taken and the crews to run them released to Byrsa. The party explains that they will need to get higher approval but they will take the diggers anyway as a sign of good faith.
They load the three tunnelers and 4 dwarves in digging armor onto the three ships located in the central sea. While on their way, one of the digger operators, a female dwarf, lets a cable dangle into the water and after an ‘accidental’ surge of electrical energy, a giant squid / electric eel hybrid attacks the ships. Because of mostly quick thinking and teamwork (and a well placed weakness spell), they prevail and did not lose a single tunneller. After they checked the ropes they saw that they had been partially cut through. When they confronted the digger operator she tried to fall overboard wearing a strange glass helmet screaming “RUST THE IRON COUNCIL!!!” But they caught the rebel by the ankles, beat her up and questioned her. Her name was Elga. She maintained that the Iron Council were goblins in disguise and did not have the best interest of the Vosgod dwarves in mind. They restrained her in the hold until they removed the tunnelers from the ships in Shiang.
The party crossed over the pass and into Byrsa and after an arduous journey ended up at the digging site just outside the prosperous tent city of Carthu. During the first night, about half of the party played in the city while others were awakened by the sounds of murder. There were invisible attackers in the large tent housing the tunnelers and they had just slit the throat of one of the machine operators. The mage on duty cast a faerie fire spell and was shocked by what was highlighted. Not only did it show the three attackers but it also illuminated the hundreds of small air elementals filling the tent! The attackers, who had Hesperian accents, seemed just as shocked. Elga saved the life of her digging partner by finding a healing potion in a designated chest pouch that she knew about. When two attackers were knocked down the last one fled outside the tent but was killed by one of the party members returning from the tent city. It seemed the Hesperians were there to sabotage the tunneling devices and to kill the operators.
The battle over, their attention turned to the now visible flying creatures made of air. They watched them react. One kind similar to an ephemeral piranha spied on them them from a distance and then flew outside the tent to be picked up by the heavy winds. One of the creatures that was similar to a small squid with a human mouth was seen lingering around Liam Silverbeard’s ear issuing subaudible whispers shortly before he gave all of Elga’s items back to her and set her free to do her job. And lastly, a small shark with immensely long catfish-like whiskers seemed to cause Albert Alexander to yawn and when he opened his mouth wide to draw a breath he drew in one of the tendrils into his lung. It moved within him briefly and almost tenderly, and then withdrew.
Once the three tunnel digging machines and the four armored dwarves began and the project was underway, the party left via Jakutrau and the Shiang pass.
Extra Information: The helmet that Elga wore would have allowed her to breathe underwater as she walked along the bottom of the central sea to shore. It was of Byrsan origin. If she had escaped, her companion digger would likely have died in the murder attempt in the tents of Carthu.
The creature in the mouth of Alexander was something called an Almumradat (nurses) and was tending what was dormant inside of him. (See information contained in the Run #3 description.)
The creatures with the large eyes are called the LuyunSid (Eyes of the Master) and were the government’s little invisible spies. They reported to the palace along the fast moving winds. This lead to the general belief among the population that the Dido could hear people’s thoughts. It was a rumor that developed over the centuries that the Byrsan government was happy to foster.
There were a series of intertwined runs involving these countries.
“To meet all the best people” [Lascaux]
Fri 05:14 PM — Sat 12:06 AM
Azareth, Catfolk Mage
Damneron, Human Cleric of Mavors
Dr. EV Tin, Hobbit Cleric of Aru
Dracik, Dwarf Hero
Fyerdenn Sil, Perrin Hero
Rhynnel Aren, Perrin Cleric of Gaia
Tim, Human Guardian
The players were briefed in Newcastle by the Lord Secretary, Uffen Mimsey. Their mission was to deliver to King Clovis of Lascaux an invitation to Queen Nayla’s Masquerade. Concurrently, they were to spy upon the Lascaux Court in order to see if dissent can be sown between Clovis and King Ferdinand of Hesperia, subtly slander Queen Mare in order to prevent her marriage to Prince Francis, and keep their eyes open to any opportunities or dangers.
Newcastle to Montalban
Sailing out of Newcastle under ambassadorial colors, the party made good time until they were attacked at night by pirates near Cadiz. Dracik, on
watch, woke the party, but by the time they made it abovedeck, pirates had boarded and several sailors were down. Dr. EV used a massable heal to stabilize the sailors, and Dracik went berserk and started cutting down pirates. When the pirates realized Queensguard were present, they tried to flee, but Tim and Rhynnel made it across the boarding plank before it could be pushed into the water. Dracik also attempted to cross, but under the effects of a Hallucination, misjudged the location of the plank and fell into the water; fortunately Damneron was ready and successfully tossed him a rope. Fyerdenn sent his own rope across to the pirate ship after they cut the ties, then tightrope-walked across to start attacking pirate archers from behind. The party recovered 3 chests of gold. Interrogating the captain, they learned:
The gold had been taken from a Hesperian galleon
The pirates made their base on an island near Brava (marked to report to the Queen)
Though it would slightly slow their progress to Montalban, the party chose to bring the captured pirate ship and prisoners with them.
The party was met at the docks by Sir Geoffrey, the Nassau courtier to Lascaux. Unfortunately, in Lascaux, one cannot simply announce one’s self and gain access to the King. Worse, Sir Geoffrey reported he had been unable even to present himself before the King in some weeks, much less speak to Clovis. Instead the Lascaux King had been closeted with the Hesperian ambassadors and Queen Mare of Jum. The party made several attempts to work their way into se
eing the King:
Since their prisoners had stolen from Hesperia, the party turned the pirates, and one chest of gold, over to the Hesperian ambassadors. The Hesperians replied by inviting them to breakfast the next morning… in the public square where the pirates were hung for their crimes.
Fyerdenn and Azareth sought “employment” within the castle and found a server who might have been able to get them in… until he was found murdered one morning. Questioning the dead body:
Didn’t know who had killed him
While serving in the rooms where Clovis, the Hesperians, and Mare were (oddly, Prince Francis was not often present), he saw they were looking at maps of the continent, and
In discussion Queen Mare was insistent that she should be Regent of Nassau
Dr. EV and others sought rumors in the Aru temple and throughout the city…
As Sylvania shrinks, Jum (Queen Mare’s country) has room to grow
The wedding between Mare and Francis would likely be in Lascaux, not Jum. This was against custom, but not scandalous
Mare and Francis were childhood friends
There were many disparate notions of relations between Lascaux, Jum and Hesperia (much of which was scandalous)
Tim, while carousing, got into a fight with the dangerous duelist Tomas, an expatriate of Hesperia (and unbeknownst to the party at the time, in the employ of Queen Mare).
Their efforts were noticed by the Queen Mother Catherine (Hesperian by birth, a distant cousin to Ferdinand), who sent them an invitation to her salon.
My dear delegation of Nassau, I have heard nothing but the most amusing stories about your adventures in this fair city. It would please me greatly if you would grace my salon with your presence, so long as your jester behaves himself.
Upon arrival, the Queen Mother asked the party for their contribution to the salon. Tim played the lute, and Azareth belly danced. The Queen Mother introduced the party to her grandson, Prince Francis, and they gifted him with the captured pirate ship in Nayla’s name. He was bemused by this, for he didn’t possess a ship of his own. Dracik then offered to arm wrestle the Prince, who was saved from responding by the dwarven courtier Ivan Sinalvit (and undiscovered by the party, the last of the royal house of Vosgod). Catherine was sufficiently charmed by the barbarians from Nassau that she arranged for an audience with King Clovis.
The following morning, Azareth and Dr. EV “accidentally” bumped into Prince Francis as he was inspecting his new ship, and they spoke winningly of Nayla’s wit and personality, and her interest in meeting Prince Francis.
At the audience with Clovis, the party delivered the invitation to the masquerade, and after a short time waiting in Sir Geoffrey’s apartments, learned that Prince Francis would sail back with them to Nassau on his own ship. Once in Nayla’s court, Francis became entranced with the Queen, and stayed near her person for the rest of the Con.
“The Most Dangerous Game” [Shiang]
(Note: this run was GM’d by John Kliminski)
Fri 8:00pm – Sat 6:00am
Alizar, fey mage
Bert, perrin cleric (Gaia)
Gadric Bitterstorm, epon guardian
Scalk Ferisone, cat mage
Sgt Dredge, perrin cleric (Gaia)
Zaroth, elf hero
The Queensguard were sent to deliver an invitation to Queen Nayla’s Grand Masquerade to the new Governor of Shiang. A Hesperian ambassadorial ship paralleled them and suggested that they sail together to reduce the risk of pirate attacks. The party warily agreed and the ships kept a cautious distance apart.
During the night half of the Nassau crewmen attempted to murder the Queensguard. The cutthroats confessed that they had been paid by a fey in Newcastle to hire aboard this ship and make sure that the ambassadors did not reach their destination. (That fey was one of the Kjallintar cultists, acting under the direction of Queen Mare of Jum who was trying to prevent Nayla from gaining allies.) The party decided to use magic wind and the cover of night to break away from the Hesperian ship.
The next day they saw a cargo ship to the south, heading in the same direction as they were. That ship suddenly exploded, blasted into splinters and debris. The party retrieved a lone survivor (a lookout who had been in the crow’s nest) and learned that the ship had been ready to set sail from the North Shore bound for Byrsa when it was suddenly commandeered by an ambassador from Lasceux to detour to Shiang. There was a typical load of goods and passengers aboard (which included goblin merchants from Vosgod carrying a concealed super-weapon – which accidentally caused the explosion – to offer to the ruler of Byrsa).
At the port in Shiang the Queensguard and the Hesperians’ paths converged again. Both groups were brought to the palace and introduced to the Governor. The party made a good impression for Nassau and politely badmouthed Hesperia. The new Governor seemed to be of interest to all the countries, as Byrsa and Sylvania had also recently sent envoys to make his acquaintence (Vosgod had simply sent goblin merchants to broker an arms deal). The Governor offered his guests to join in a hunt for the occassion. All four delegations were escorted to a forest preserve and positioned around the perimeter. The Governor informed them that they should hunt the other ambassadors, with the survivor demonstrating their fitness as an ally. In the forest the Queensguard decided to organize an alliance with the Byrsans and the Sylvanians to kill the Hesperians, and then exit together without any more bloodshed. As the suggestion to hunt their peers had actually been a test of character in the first place, the Nassau representatives proved themselves not only willing to refuse to kill for gain but also capable of reasoning with the other groups. Impressed, the Governor sent back his reply that he would attend the Masquerade.
“Art of the Deal” [Vosgod]
Sat 12:26 AM Sat 06:09 AM
Bushmills, Elf Hero of Carrunos
Connemara, Fey Hero of Carrunos
Jameson, Fey Mage of Hione
Krischi Drumpf, Perrin Hero of Ratri
Liam Silverbeard, Human Hero of Mavors
Shideem, Fey Mage of Gaia
Silas Silvertear, Fey Cleric of Aru
Tullamore Dew, Hobbit Cleric of Aru
Fun fact: Tullamore, with 13, had the highest strength in the party.
The players were briefed in Newcastle by the Lord Secretary, Uffen Mimsey. Their mission was to travel to Vosgod and investigate the offers of weapons coming out of that country, see if any other buyers were present, and report back. Vosgod had once been a monarchy, but the ruling Sinalvit family had been wiped out in a revolution some years ago. The Iron Council now led the country, but details on the individual members of the Council were few.
Commenting on the mission and the makeup of the party, Liam Silverbeard noted, “It’s too bad we have no Daglir worshipers. We’re short a lot of things. We’re short.”
Because tensions were high with Hesperia, and concerns about the time to sail around the continent (and pirates), the party decided upon an overland route. They chose to skirt the eastern border of Jum and travel through the little-known land of Permyuton, which was largely populated by Catfolk emigres from Shiang (and points further west in the Empire of Cats). About a day into their overland travel, the party was approached by some Catfolk hunters, who did not speak Nassau. Silas Silvertear cast Comprehend Languages in order to act as interpreter for the party.
A representative of the Catfolk asked if the party would you like to join their hunt, and after discussion (during which all but two of the Catfolk began moving off), the party responded that they probably didn’t have time to distract from their mission. “Two days,” the Catfolk replied. Silas tried again to explain that they didn’t have two days to spare — “We will give you two days head start,” the Catfolk interrupted. The party now began discussing whether to try to kill the Catfolk *now*, or lead them into a trap, or just try to outrun them. The two remaining Catfolk started to move off, and Jameson began to prep Fireball. Hearing him begin to cast, one of the Catfolk hit him with an arrow, while the other warned Silas, “Two. Days.”
The party thus began a desperate, multi-day, cross-country chase where Liam Silverbeard exhorted them to try a number of tactics:
Alternately taking great care to cover their traces for a few miles, followed by traveling in a different direction so that they zig-zagged across the land,
Capturing some local fauna and tying some of their own scent-marked clothing to said fauna, leading to the following exchange when Connemara was confused about the details of the plan:
“No, we’re peeing on the clothes that we’re attaching to the pheasants, not on the pheasants.”
“What does a pheasant look like?”
“It looks like a wet chicken.”
As the party prepared for one last push, the Fey were sent off to light campfires in opposite directions, and then make a beeline for the safety(?) of the Sylvanian border.
The party made it under the canopy of the border forest just ahead of the pursuing Catfolk, who dared not hunt inside Sylvanian borders. The party wisely chose not to tread too deeply into the forest, and headed south to Vosgod. Eventually they came upon a dwarven logging camp that appeared to be harvesting entwood as well as regular wood. The loggers were protected by dwarvish soldiers in full plate and prepared for an attack from the Sylvanian patrols. The party debated whether to skirt the camp entirely, during which Silas Silvertear was pointedly asked, “Didn’t your nonviolence almost get us killed?” When it was decided that they would get directions and rumors from the dwarves here, Bushmills hid his ears as the party warily passed signs in the logging camp that declared: “IT’S A DISGRACE TO YOUR HERITAGE. MAKE WEAPONS. KEEP ANGRY AND CHOP AN ELF TO BITS.” (Clearly, the party deduced, Sylvania would not be buying from Vosgod.)
They made their way to the town of Tallin, and met with “The Don” of the Iron Council, noting that a Hesperian delegation was leaving as they were entering. The Don was the shortest dwarf the party had ever met, though to all appearances, he was a dwarf. He made no secret of the fact that everyone wanted to buy his weapons, which Vosgod was happy to provide, but he also wanted to assure the delegates from Nassau that his country had not abandoned all “peaceful crafts.” To this end, after showing the party rotating, rapid-firing ballistas that could be mounted on a ship, repeating crossbows, and a substance that looked like coal crushed to a fine powder and was highly flammable, the Don brought them to a shop where a dwarf was hard at work on a box-like time telling device they called a “clock.” The party marvelled at this, and Liam, who had Knowledge of Celestial Navigation, immediately understood that with these “clocks” on board, ships of Nassau could more accurately navigate the open seas. The Don, who had never been to sea, didn’t understand why the Nassauns were so excited, but he was happy to take the party’s assurances that Nassau would be very interested in putting these clocks in all their flagships; along with the ballistae, of course. In exchange for assurances that Vosgod would sell to Nassau before Hesperia, the party agreed to secure an invitation to the Queen’s Masquerade for a member of the Iron Council who would bring a gift for the Queen.
“The Clocks of Vosgod” [Vosgod]
Sat 09:50 AM Sat 12:28 PM
Alizar, Fey Mage of Leo
Bert, Perrin Cleric of Gaia
George of the TBone, Human Cleric of Carrunos
Lumbr, Jack, Dwarven Hero of Leo
Ozymandias, Fey Mage of Janda
Ushan DeLucca, Catfolk Hero
The players were briefed in Newcastle by the Lord Secretary, Uffen Mimsey. Their mission was to deliver the invitation to the Queen’s Masquerade to the Iron Council, secure the first shipment of weapons from Vosgod, and bring the chosen ambassador from the Iron Council safely to Nassau.
With the intelligence gleaned from the previous mission, the party chose to take a longer overland route that skirted the western border of Jum. Along the way, they met groups of dwarves building a road north from Vosgod to the coast of the Inner Sea, from where they could more easily ship their weapons wares. The party also heard rumors of continuing skirmishes between Vosgod and Sylvania.
The party is escorted into Talin with an honor guard, showing the friendship of the Iron Council and Nassau. In Talin, they noted that everyone is not happy — there is an undercurrent of discontent, and even some rotten vegetables thrown during the procession.
The Don of the Iron Council met with the party and discussed the trade deal. They inspected repeating crossbows, “clocks”, discs filled with the fine powder that explode when you step on them. The party also brokered “first rights” to the ship-based ballista in exchange for discovering the leaders of a local group of malcontents.
The party managed to contact a local cell. The leader of the cell claimed that the Iron Council is really a group of goblins! Worse, in the undercities of Vosgod, goblins had been slowly working to impoverish and enslave the dwarves. The counter-revolutionaries could not unite under a common local leader, but at the time of the revolution, a baby cousin to the royal line was smuggled into Lascaux. That baby was Ivan Sinalvit. The party promised he would be found and brought back to Vosgod to lead the counter-revolution.
Though, in the eyes of the Iron Council, the party was unable to solve the problem of the counter-revolutionaries, they were more concerned with getting their representative and gift to the Masquerade. They sailed back to Nassau under Vosgod colors with an initial shipment of clocks and prototype ballistae.
“Crashing the party” [Nassau]
(Note: this run was GM’d by John Kliminski)
Sat 1:30pm – 4:00pm
Johan Gombalsnorf, human mage;
Krumbo Krumbo Krumbo, human hero;
Ozymandias, fey mage;
Ushan DeLucca, cat hero;
Verrah Markann, perrin cleric (Aru)
On the day of the Grand Masquerade the Queensguard uncovered a plot to assassinate Queen Nayla during the party. They detemined that a number of fey (Kjallintar cultists) and eponai (agents of Queen Mare) had been replacing some of the regular workers in the ballroom and using their jobs as a cover to prepare for a ritual of vengeance in the attic above the main hall which would strike down Nayla below. When their plan was discovered the fey fought berserkly to the death for their cause and the eponai withdrew to report back to Mare for hers. The security breach led to the decision to relocate the Masquerade from Newcastle to a secret site in Blackpool.
The chain of islands which became the Kingdom of Nassau were originally inhabited entirely by fey. As pirates began to appropriate the islands for their own purposes, the indigenous fey were squeezed out. The fey embraced the worship of Kjallintar, the scourge of wrath and retribution. Throughout the rise of the Kingdom that sect continued in secret. When Queen Mare was seeking allies against Nassau she discovered the cult and worked with them. Among their efforts, her agents helped the cult to implement a plan to assassinate Queen Nayla at the Masquerade. The Queensguard became aware of the cult when they foiled that attempt. All the cult followers were then rooted out by the Nassau guards and the leaders were tracked down by the Queensguard.
“The Governor’s Gift” [Shiang]
Sat 01:20 PM Sat 04:04 PM
Azareth, Cat Mage of Ratri
Barrett, Fey Cleric of Gaia
Fyerdenn Sil, Perrin Hero
Gadric Bitterstorm, Epon Guardian of Gaia
Rhynnel Aren, Perrin Cleric of Gaia
Scalk Ferizone, Cat Mage of Gaia
Zaroth, Elf Hero of Mavors
The players were briefed in Newcastle by the Lord Secretary, Uffen Mimsey. Their mission was to escort the governor of Shiang, who had received death threats, back to Nassau for the Masquerade.
The party shipped out on a Nassau galleon newly equipped with Vosgod ballistae and clocks. They arrived in Bhind without difficulty and met the Governor at the far side of town. He claimed to have been receiving anonymous threats, but otherwise seemed unconcerned as they progressed through town.
As they neared the docks, Fyerdenn noticed a person on a rooftop, and went to investigate. It was a cloaked human (unbeknownst to the party, Queen Mare’s duelist Tomas) watching the party, and as he spoke into his hand, the Nassau galleon exploded outward, pieces of wood flying everywhere, fortunately without the party on it. Fyerdenn heard Tomas curse “Damn, too soon.” Fyerdenn then tried to steal the device used to communicate, but is discovered and gets into a running melee down to street level.
Meanwhile, the party commandeers the nearest “merchant vessel” flying a Nassau flag. Azareth Dimension Doors the party to get there without exposing the Governor to missile fire. Fyerdenn has to run for it, catches a rope, and is pulled aboard the sloop (“You just invented water skiing!”). Upon closer examination, the “merchant” and his crew appear to be little more than pirates or smugglers, leading to the following exchange.
Governor of Shiang: Can we trust them?
Fyerdenn Sil: We can trust them with your life, but not with your luggage — so it is a good thing we left your luggage.
The “merchant”, Captain Clam, was promised amnesty for his help, while Azareth sent Messages back and forth to Attuned mages in Nassau to arrange for an escort ship of the fleet. They were rerouted from Newcastle to Blackpool; apparently the Queen was in danger and the Masquerade was relocated to the Secret Court.
In the Secret Court, the Queen agrees to meet with the Shiang Governnor.
Governor: Would you consent to Nassau being the easternmost of the territories of the Empire of Cats? You would be showered with gifts and foremost amongst the rulers of this continent.
Queen Nayla: You had other questions?
Governor: If you would accept a proposal for marriage, what would you ask as a gift? The head of King Ferdinand? Money? Troops?
Queen Nayla: Troops.
The Governor plans to offer his grandmother’s ring to Queen Nayla at the Masquerade.
“That Idiot Ivan” [Lascaux/Vosgod]
Sat 05:30 PM Sat 10:28 PM
Astraea, Fey Hero of Gaia
Barrett, Fey Cleric of Gaia
Cecil Wallis, Human Hero
Damneron, Human Cleric of Mavors
Noelani, Perrin Hero of Gaia
Stede Avery, Human Hero
Zip, Fey Cleric of Gaia
The players were briefed in Newcastle by the Lord Secretary, Uffen Mimsey. Queen Nayla had determined that Nassau’s interests might be best served with a destabilized Vosgod, so the party’s mission was to travel to Lascaux and retrieve Ivan Sinalvit, with the intention of returning him to lead the counter-revolution against the Iron Council (or, if he seemed completely unsuitable… eliminate him). According to the latest intelligence, Ivan was at the Queen Mother’s country home in the plains of Lascaux.
Prince Willard of Orcrange helped disguise the party as pilgrims to avoid Hesperian patrols as they made their way through the North Shore to the border of Sylvania. There, they asked the elven border patrols for (and received) permission to travel along the edge of Sylvanian lands, until the could come to Lascaux around the southern end of the mountains.
Using the powers of Gaia (Zip transformed as an eagle and providing aerial reconnaissance for the party), they easily avoided detection in the countryside and made it to the Queen Mother’s estate. Damneron, having been to see the Queen Mother before, talked their way past the Epon guards to the steward. They put on a show for the Queen Mother to get to talk to the Prince. He said that his claim to the throne needs to be proved by The Forge of the Underkings (or, more accurately, the hammer, chisel, and tongs of the Underkings), artifacts of the Sinalvit family that Ivan believed were destroyed in the revolution.
Damneron asked Ivan, if the artifacts could be found, would he seek the throne of Vosgod? Although he had never lived primarily among his own kind, Ivan felt that his time under the Queen Mother’s protection was limited, so he may try to retake the throne. He asks the Queen Mother for advice. Each of the clerics performed an Augury and the answers lead them to believe that the artifacts exist. Ivan returns to the party and declares he will seek the artifacts; for the Queen Mother has told him–
Suddenly the Queen Mother is attacked and killed by Tomas, Queen Mare’s duelist, who seems to also have a grudge against Stede Avery. Several of the Epon guards appear to be on his side, but the party defeats them. The party beat a hasty retreat, for fear of Nassau Queensguard being discovered with the Queen Mother of Lascaux and a number of her guards massacred.
– Ivan said that the Queen Mother told him to go to Count Frontenac in Terra Nova, and release Whitebeard.
(Note: this run was GM’d by Chris Cavendar)
Sat 10:33 PM Sun 01:30 AM
Astraea, Fey Hero of Gaia
Barrett, Fey Cleric of Gaia
Cecil Wallis, Human Hero
Damneron, Human Cleric of Mavors
Noelani, Perrin Hero of Gaia
Stede Avery, Human Hero
Tim, Human Guardian
Zip, Fey Cleric of Gaia
George, Human Cleric of Carrunos
[the following is a transcript of the player notes]
After taking Ivan back to Nassau, we head to Nova Lascaux and the lands governed by Count de Frontenac. Barrett uses Augury to find out that Whitebeard is in Nova Lascaux, and the Count de Frontenac knows how to find Whitebeard.
On the journey to Nova Lascaux we encounter storms and lose 2 sailors. As we head toward the Count’s territories, the lands look poor, crops are stunted. The land is too sick to support the life on it — probably a curse.
We find a road to a guarded gate with a block house attached to the gate. The yellow & black uniforms on the guards show they are troops for the Count.
George and Tom try to go through the gate, it becomes a huge screw up. We go back to the small town which is not far from the Count’s lands. We talk to people about the Count and we are told he is a monster and is not liked by people. We are also told he lives in a prison.
Some of the players turn into birds and explore the Count’s lands. They find that the lands get worse as you move toward the center. 34 miles in they find a volcano. The volcano has a lake in the center. The prison is built on the lake. The last thing they saw was a magnificent hallway that had a doorway that did not seem to go anywhere.
[note: players needed to break at this point; this is where we stopped]
[GM note: a later run recovered a map to the artifacts from Whitebeard]
“Mare, Queen of Hell” [Jum]
Sat 10:50 PM Sun 05:03 AM
Alizar, Fey Mage of Leo
Bert, Perrin Cleric of Gaia
Dr. Odde IV, Human Mage of Mavors
Lumbr, Jack, Dwarven Hero of Leo
Ozymandias, Fey Mage of Janda
Squidlli, Cthuloid Cleric of Aru
Ushan DeLucca, Catfolk Hero
The players were briefed in Newcastle by the Lord Secretary, Uffen Mimsey. Queen Nayla had determined that Mare, Queen of Jum, had become such a menace to the security of Nassau that it was time to bring her in. Their mission was to capture Mare and return her to Nassau.
The party that went to capture Mare included three mages and a Gaia cleric. The Nassau Intelligence Bureau informed them that Mare’s flagship had left Montalban and was heading home to Jum, so the players planned to use a submarine captured from some Kobold pirates to do a high seas D-Door snatch and grab. As the ship passed above them, Ozymandias cast Locate so they could cast the D-Door with pinpoint precision.
Me: “You do not Locate Mare.”
Alizar: “Maybe there’s a Veil on Mare. I cast Locate [in the hopes of winning the LvL battle].”
Me: “You do not Locate Mare.”
Bert: “Maybe this is a decoy. Augury — oh, Gaia, is Mare on that ship?”
Dr. Odde IV (who was loaded with Strong Magic): “Hm… Sometimes Auguries can go astray. You know what? I’m just not comfortable with dropping this line of investigation until I’ve tried. I cast Locate.”
Me: “You do not Locate Mare.”
PRINCECON, where ignoring the advice of the gods happens. Apparently it was a decoy that was seen boarding the ship.
They sail the submarine upriver and note pleasure barges and coaches on their way to Queen Mare’s Castle Weymiss. A bit of reconnaissance revealed there would be a ball that night.
“Even better, a masked ball.”
“Yeah, we look like things.”
The party accosted some lesser nobles, took their clothes and invitations, and successfully entered the castle. Lumbr put his name on Queen Mare’s dance card, for their plan at this point was to have Lumbr dance her into a D-Door, but as he took the first few turns, Lumbr realized that this was the decoy again! He stumbled and fell, risking the wrath of Mare’s guards, but otherwise keeping the mission safe.
Shortly thereafter, everyone began to go mad, part of a huge ritual spell being cast in the dungeons. The party found their way down and battled their way to interrupt the casting and capture Mare.
“Return of the Underkings” [Vosgod]
Sun 10:30 AM Sun 03:00 PM
Ademar Diaz, Human Guardian
Basil Sweetgrass, Epon Hero of Mavors
Cecil Wallis, Human Hero
Damneron, Human Cleric of Mavors
Stede Avery, Human Hero
Stormcloud, Cat Guardian of Leo
Thully Ravaw the One-Handed, Fey Mage of Ratri
The players were briefed in Newcastle by the Lord Secretary, Uffen Mimsey. Their mission was to help restore Prince Ivan Sinalvit to the throne of Vosgod. From Chris’s runs, they had a map to the Hammer, Chisel, and Tongs of the Underkings, which would prove Ivan’s claim. They were located in a tomb of a sorceress of Lapp.
The party went to get the artifacts first. In their words:
We take the same route that we took to o find the Prince the first time, until we need to turn south. We go to a fishing village and buy a small sloop + crew.
The trip to the location of the artifacts is uneventful *except* we see a Vosgod tunneling machine digging under the narrow straits between Vosgod and Lascaux to bring invading troops. [GM note: the party debated whether to investigate, especially considering that they might need to do some digging at the site of the artifacts, leading Basil to quip, “Pardon the interruption of your clandestine invasion. Could we borrow your transportation?”]
We travel to the tomb, casting Pathfinder (to find our way back). The artifacts appear to be buried almost 100’ below the ice, but we find some old tunnels that were used to excavate the tomb. They are in poor shape, so we start digging to widen them. Some ways down we encounter a magical unnatural cold. Dispel Magic does not rid it. Further down we find a hole with a 30’ drop to slush, where the magical unnatural cold appears to end.
Damneron casts Detect Traps and discovers there is a trap in the slush. Using a magic coin, we trigger the trap, which causes the cold to return and the slush to freeze solid. It appears that you would get stuck in the slush and the cold would kill you. Using flight, Basil explores the tunnel, flying above the slush. He finds a room with a sarcophagus and detects “Evil” within the room.
The party enters the tomb and battles some ice monsters. The ghostly undead sorceress inhabiting the tomb offers the artifacts (which “do not belong here”) if we will take them and leave.
We take the Prince and the artifacts back to Vosgod, where he is welcomed by counter-revolutionaries. Damneron gives Ivan a book on the History of the Nassau Isles (itself a gift from the Queen Mother), and the party returns to Nassau.
The Gentleperson’s Guide to Sylvania
The mysterious nation of Sylvania — once vast and influential — has retreated in recent years to its historical borders. There are many who would claim it was “beaten back” or “defeated” — yet a more prudent observer might wonder if this was intended all along by our wise and elegant neighbors, whose long lives give an entirely different meaning to the phrase “long term planning.”
Visitors to Sylvania may enter that forested kingdom only by invitation — and invitations are thin on the ground in these unsettled times. I myself have not passed the borders since I was a small girl — which, of course, has not been so very long ago.
King Istvan III of Sylvania is wise, learned, and, to be honest, gentle readers — even after centuries, still the most beautiful creature ever to grace this life. Sent into the outer lands as a concubine to Dido XXVI in his youth, he has since captivated and successfully wooed a long line of rulers. In his time, he has acted as Consort in Byrsa, Lascaux, Jum, Lapp, Hesperia, and Vosgod. He brought days of unprecedented power and influence to both Jum and Lapp, drove the Byrsans out of Hesperia, and was reforming Vosgod into an artisan civilisation worthy of respect when his spouse Queen Jelena was killed during the revolt that placed the Iron Council in power. (The neverending military aggressions between Sylvania and Vosgod date from this period.) Half the region owes its most elegant and honored traditions to his influence, and rumor in Lascaux now has him preparing to court Queen Nayla I of Nassau.
King Istvan speaks charmingly of the vitality brought to his nation from outside influences, and dazzles all visitors with his stunning treetop palaces and carefully designed treescapes. At his last visit to the royal court of Lascaux, he declared his intention to visit the invigorating islands of Nassau. When asked why he wished to visit the barely civilized isles, he smiled charmingly and quipped, “Fresh blood,” to the laughter of the entire court. The question is only if wisdom and grace can charm such a young and headstrong queen.
Every Elf PC this year was given a “Certificate of Death,” providing the future date of their death due to natural causes. This, courtesy of Sylvania. Of course, they might preempt the given date with an unnatural demise, but their lifespan could not be extended. It seems that every Elf in the world receives such a letter upon reaching their age of majority.
THE REAL STORY, PART 1
King Istvan enjoyed his first several centuries of life, but over time, enjoyed life a little too much, coming to be increasingly obsessed with his own mortality. He was well-known for going on treasure hunts, Indiana Jones-style. But what was not known was that he was not simply searching for treasure, but rather for the secrets of immortality.
Matters came to a head roughly two decades ago, when Istvan discovered a temple of Samwise, an ancient predecessor to the modern Aru religion.
SYLVANIA EXPEDITION 1: CLOSED BORDERS
It was common knowledge that King Istvan intended to propose himself as a consort to Queen Nayla, bringing his wisdom and experience to the island of Nassau. However, the Queen was somewhat concerned by the rumors that the borders of Sylvania have closed to outsiders nearly entirely. That didn’t seem consistent with the open and friendly face Istvan was putting forth. She therefore dispatched a team of Queensguard to investigate Sylvania, and report back before the Masquerade Ball.
The team crossed the North Shore and first hired a wagon to bring them into Sylvania by road. Upon reaching the edge of the forest, however, the “road” degenerated rapidly into a grooved and rutted mess, making ongoing wheeled travel impossible. The group proceeded on horseback, only to find that one or two turns later the road disappeared entirely. The forest closed in as well, with such a mass of thorny undergrowth that forward progress was nearly impossible.
Opting for a new approach, the party left the forest and made haste for a village alongside a river streaming out of Sylvania. They rented a small fishing canoe, and headed upstream. Several days of travel brought simply “more of the same” — woods on the shore and nothing particularly exciting on the river. Growing suspicious, they invoked the power to Detect North, and found it to be spinning about them. At this point they docked the boat, and attuned to a penny they left in the boat for future navigational purposes. They took off overland, and soon lost themselves in the forest. Even flying up past the treetops revealed only an endless carpet of indistinguishable treetops. At that point they Located the penny to return to the canoe, only to find that it was still at their feet.
Finally growing tired of this, they called out to whoever might be monitoring this little show. To their surprise, they received a response. Eventually they were able to talk their way into the treetop home of Lord Walnut, one of the nobles who guard the border of Sylvania. From the party’s notes:
Lord Walnut had much to discuss, though reluctant to do so. It seems relations amongst the elven Nobility had chilled, with little communication between the capital and outlying domains. Additionally, Sylvania has been suffering a few border invasions of late, that they identify as coming from Lascoux
His daughter, Elm showed us to our rooms, but seemed sad, drained. We asked, and she burst into tears. It seems for 20 some years King Istvan has had a team of advanced magicians utilizing novel magic to foretell the exact date of the natural death of all elves, informing them of this information at their age of maturity. Elm’s death was foretold as the very next day. We offered what consolement we could, then Elm returned to the company of her father.
A great cry awoke us in the night, we ran to find Walnut in violent grief over his daughter’s death. After giving him a moment’s solitude, his grief became rage. He cursed King Istvan loudly, again and again.
A disagreement ensued over these Death Certificates. The party seemed convinced they were bad, perhaps even evil. But Walnut was not completely convinced. He had, after all, been able to spend his daughter’s entire last week with her. If he had not known, he might have been out traveling, and then what? If Istvan had the power to determine these dates for all Elves, was it within his rights to withhold that knowledge? Even so, he cursed Istvan for uncovering that knowledge to begin with.
The party returned with a report that at a minimum, Istvan deserved a good bit of suspicion. Many theories were put forth as to the nature and reason behind the Death Certificates, but nothing could be substantiated without additional investigation. Walnut left the party with a magic token to enable future communication, agreed to assist them in their future investigations, and sent them back in time for the Masquerade.
SYLVANIA EXPEDITION 2: TEA WITH THE QUEEN
(This was the 5-10yo kids’ run)
As a special honor, Queen Nayla invited her Junior Queensguard to Tea with herself and her courtiers, the afternoon preceding the Masquerade Ball. During the Tea, her Steward brought a special treat: Chocolate Glazed Doughnut Holes prepared specially for the evening’s Masquerade Ball. (Perhaps you can tell there were props for this expedition…)
One of Queen Nayla’s yokel courtiers grabbed the first Doughnut Hole before even the Queen could have a bite. He was rewarded with a monstrous fit of sneezing, and promptly began to break out in violent read and green warts. (See? Always be polite and wait for the Queen to go first…)
Clearly someone was up to no good for the Masquerade Ball!
The Junior Queensguard first accused the Steward, but he had simply carried the tray from the kitchens. Then the proceeded to the kitchens where they cornered Cook, investigated the preparation area, and the space in general. They discovered several things: Cook also proclaimed his innocence, there was a (very) little green man watching from a crack in the wall, and there were traces of red and green Magic Mushrooms in the Chocolate Glazed Doughnut Hole dough and the vegetable soup.
The little green man disappeared upon being noticed, but the Junior Wizard was able to Size Change the Junior Fey to the point that she could follow. The crack led to another corridor, and she circled back to lead the rest of the party to it the regular way. This led to dusty and unused corridors under the palace, but the group was able to follow the footprints to the hideout of the Goblin King and his crew, who were busy laughing about the inadvertent trial run of the Chocolate Glazed Magic Mushroom Doughnut Holes.
The Junior Queensguard lit into them, and after a short battle, the Goblin King was defeated. He had a bag of gold and an unsigned letter on him, offering the gold as payment for creating a distraction at the Masquerade Ball.
Now under time pressure, the Junior Queensguard split up to check the Archives and the castle Post Office for matching samples. Archives: none. Inbound mail: none. Outbound Mail: the handwriting matched a letter from the Ambassador of Sylvania.
They circled back to the kitchen, whereupon Cook informed them that the Ambassador was liable to demand nuts of varying types at any and all hours of the day and night. They took several handfuls and went to confront him. The Ents at the door nearly stopped them, but were bribed with enough of the nuts to allow the group to proceed.
The Ambassador readily answered the door for a delivery of nuts, at which point the Junior Queensguard confronted him with the goblin’s letter and his own in matching hand. He denied, denied, denied, until the Junior Fey used her Faerie Dust to force him to speak only the truth. At that point, to his horror, a full confession rolled immediately off his tongue.
King Istvan had demanded that his ambassador create a distraction at the Masquerade Ball, sufficient that he could carry out his own (unspecified) plan rather than simply proposing marriage as everyone else seemed likely to do.
The Junior Queensguard shackled the ambassador and presented him and his loose tongue to the Queen, who rewarded them richly. They then agreed to watch Istvan extremely closely at the Masquerade Ball, in order to prevent him from carrying out any malicious plan even without the distraction he was expecting.
All this, of course, accounted for Istvan’s foul mood at the Ball.
SYLVANIA EXPEDITION 3: DEATH CERTIFICATES
After the Masquerade Ball, Lord Walnut contacted the Queensguard with more information on the Death Certificates. He had discovered that they were prepared in batches, and the next batch was due to begin in 10 days. He had a specific location on the edge of the Sylvanian forest (equivalently, on the border of Sylvania) where the process was to begin in the late afternoon. He had no further information.
The party made haste to that location at that time, arriving several hours early to stake out location from within the forest.
They first discovered a pair of horsemen approaching from the North Shore, bearing a sack. It soon became clear that it was a squirming sack. The sack was unceremoniously dumped on the ground near the woods, and the horsemen departed. At the same time, the woods-wise Cleric of Gaia got a vague inkling of movement approaching their position through the woods.
Then, as they say, all heck broke loose. A team of unarmed Cat ninjas knocked out the one PC they noticed, and there was a bit of confusion as various members of both sides did or did not notice the members of the other side. Eventually a proper combat broke out, with Webs, Hydras, and a Jabberwock. The surviving Cat Ninjas attempted to flee with the sack, but the party Webbed it to the ground. Only one Ninja escaped, chased by the faster and meaner Jabberwock. The Hydras meanwhile devoured the rest of the ninjas, to the frustration of the party who needed a captive.
Fortunately, the PCs were also able to chase down the last ninja, and keep him tenuously alive until the Jabberwock departed from whence it came.
The subsequent interrogation revealed that he was a simple mercenary, hired to deliver the sack from Point A to Point B. He was quite willing to cooperate for gold, and had no intention of either returning to Point B to report his failure or of attempting to backstab the PCs after they released him. His grand plan was to take his life and his gold and get the heck out of Dodge. He did offer that they were to be met in a clearing in the woods that evening by three wizards who would receive the sack, and drew a hasty map to the location.
The PCs sped off to that location, arriving shortly before the meeting. They determined that the far side of the clearing was concealed by an Illusion. Breaking the Illusion revealed a pit in the ground, sort of like a whirlpool and made of wood, with the rough appearance of natural growth and rings suggesting great age. At night, they couldn’t see much farther than the 10′ wide maw somewhat below, and retreated to stake out the clearing.
Shortly thereafter the three wizards emerged. “Hey, what happened to our Illusion?” Cue Declaration Phase…
The party magically sealed the exit to the pit and made short work of two of the wizards, while the third rocketed off into the air and disappeared into the deep woods. At that point they took one of the downed wizards captive (allowing the other to, er, expire) and retreated to interrogate the captive in the safety of a Rope Trick. (Rather fortunately, as we will see shortly, they sent the small girl they saved from the bag into a second Rope Trick.)
The captive detailed the ritual that produced the Death Certificates. It has been discovered by Istvan, some two decades ago. The Certificates were created under the light of a Full Moon, in batches of a month’s worth at a time, and the ritual was performed at a special alter forged with the Hammer, Tongs, and etc. of the Underdark, upon which a child must be sacrificed. The rest of the steps and ingredients were relatively mundane.
At this point there was another discussion on the merits of producing Death Certificates at all. The wizard seemed to think a single child was a small price to pay for all the Elves to learn the date of their future demise, such that they could complete their bucket list, put their affairs in order, spend their final time with their friends or family, and etc.
The party seemed to be of the opinion that perhaps the death of the child was not necessary to the ritual at all, and “somebody” was using the extra power for “something” (evil).
The wizard also revealed that this was the only such alter, and these the only trained wizards — King Istvan kept the knowledge very close.
At that point, one of the explosive-filled clocks that the party was carrying around with them detonated. While the Queensguard weren’t damaged beyond the power of Cure Wounds to repair, there was nothing left of the poor wizard save paste.
SYLVANIA EXPEDITION 4: THE RITUAL
Having put a stop to the ritual for the time being, but with significant open questions as to the necessity and utility of the sacrifice, the next step appeared to be to research the ritual itself. Lord Walnut was able to uncover the location of the last treasure hunt that Istvan went on — to an ancient temple of Samwise, in Nassau itself!
Knowing its nature and approximate location, the party was able to magically home in on the temple. The entrance was hidden underground, but was still relatively accessible. The PCs were able to dig free the doors, and translate the surrounding text, which mentioned Faith, Love, Hope, and Wisdom.
Upon entering, they found themselves in a small welcome chamber with decorations and statues in a very different style, but overall a reasonably familiar function. The sole door out informed them that they must have Faith to proceed.
The test of faith turned out to be a bridge over a giant chasm, complete on both ends but with a large gap in the middle. The Fey established that simply flying over it did not allow them to proceed beyond the far side. Some tests with a stick revealed that there was no floor or support in the gap. Finally the boldest, or perhaps most faithful, of the Queensguard proceeded to step into the gap without safety or backup plan, and it did indeed provide solid footing for him to cross to the far side, revealing a door leading to the test of Love.
The party was immediately ambushed by angry Orcs from a lair in the cave of Love. They correctly managed to (narrowly) resist aggression, and through a combination of hugs and Telepathy were able to appease the angry Orcs by offering a meal. Upon completing the meal together, the door to the test of Hope opened.
In the room a cold, dark pond awaited. Soon after they entered, smooth, hairless, grey humanoids began to emerge from the depths of the pond, clawing for the blood of the living creatures ahead. The party was able to pass this test as well, offering the mindless creatures warmth and therefore a measure of hope to their painful existence. At this time the door to the final test of Wisdom appeared.
This room contained a small amphitheater, sunken into the floor such that the Queensguard looked down on the center. There, they found a large and ornate altar, bearing a single envelope. Meanwhile, the room had only one exit — a large hole, hastily smashed through the wall to the side, revealing a corridor beyond.
The writing on the envelope promised the reader that it would reveal the date of their future demise, if only they would open it and peruse the letter within. The Queensguard naturally decided that the only course of Wisdom was to ignore the letter, since such knowledge could not lead to any good outcome.
At that point, the final door was revealed to the crypt of the Samwise, where their most honored priests were interred.
THE REAL STORY, PART 2
King Istvan, needless to say, did not pass the Test of Wisdom. Obsessed with life as he was, he opened the letter. The PCs later found his discarded letter, quoting a date two years from when he opened it.
Without being able to progress, Istvan broke out of the final room. And, in so doing, he found the maintenance system for the temple. From this he was able to discern the ritual that empowered the altar to generate letters — and notably to the PCs who followed his footsteps, no sacrifice was involved.
Equally importantly, he discovered the process for creating the mindless drones for the Test of Hope. This involved taking a humanoid and using a different ritual to erase its mind. When that ritual was complete, the drone would last forever, though it would require periodic infusions of “Life Force” to continue to operate. The notes also emphasized the importance of not allowing the drone to acquire a mind.
With the date on his letter giving him a specific and near-term deadline, Istvan put these pieces together. He used the Ritual of the Drone on himself with the small customization that he restored his mind afterward. He brought the Ritual of the Letter to Sylvania with one “minor” addition to provide the ongoing life force he now required to continue to operate.
And that brings us up to the present, whereby the PCs on the the third run had temporarily disabled the Ritual of the Letter, putting the squeeze on the Life Force required for Istvan to carry on…
SYLVANIA EXPEDITION 5: THE END OF ISTVAN
Queen Nayla demanded that the new Ambassador of Sylvania come to answer this latest report. When he did not appear, she sent a detachment of the Queensguard to fetch him (to be questioned, it must be said, not simply “dead or alive”).
Arriving at his quarters, the Queensguard found a terrified servant blubbering about the Ambassador. They pushed in, to be greeted by a grey and shriveled corpse. There was no obvious cause of death, except insofar as the very essence had been sucked out of it. When the group’s Cleric consulted his God, he determined that Istvan caused the death, though not in a way that required him to be present, and the one-word summary of the cause of death was “Drain”.
When the group attempted to report back to the queen, they were put off, despite the importance of their message. They pulled all the strings they could, and upon describing the condition of the ambassador, were told that the Queen herself appeared to be suffering some of the same symptoms, starting from the hand where Istvan had touched her at the Masquerade Ball.
With new urgency, the group departed to the pit where the ritual had been performed, determined to put an end to it, once and for all. They brought a Bag of Holding filled with oil, in case they would be able to burn out the ritual.
Arriving at the clearing, they scouted and investigated the area and the exit of the pit, and then took positions around the edges. Sadly, their precautions were insufficient and they were in turn ambushed by two hostile wizards. Two Fireballs and Four Hydras later, the party was rapidly approaching total defeat. With most of the group down, Yoded Boulderguard heroically invoked a ring of Haste to both grab the Bag of oil from a fallen comrade and sprint for the edge of the pit, where he was met by three of the angry Hydras.
With Yoded about to be ripped into 24 bite-size pieces in Combat Phase, the two party mages had one final chance to act. One, also quite concerned with his own mortality, prepared Teleport. The other, opting to make Yoded’s sacrifice worthwhile, used his final arcane energy to cast Power Word: Pyromancy and Ignite the Bag, spewing a thousand gallons of flaming oil down onto the ritual apparatus below.
With that, Yoded Boulderguard was consumed (R.I.P.), the altar necessary for the ritual was melted to slag, and the last few party members made good their escape. Istvan, one of the two attacking wizards, knelt by the side of the pit to mourn the loss of his last chance to generate or steal the necessary Life Energy.
While Queen Nayla was obviously (and thankfully!) spared disastrous partnership with Istvan, these events leave Sylvania in a tricky place. Istvan, ruler for the better part of a millennium and planning on at least another, left no plans for a succession. Further, he is not technically dead, simply unable to act without a further infusion of Life Energy. It seems unlikely that Sylvania will return to its former prominence for quite some time.
Meanwhile in Nassau, Yoded Boulderguard was posthumously granted the highest honor of the Queensguard: elevated to the Queen’s Own for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity (at the cost of his own life) above and beyond the call of duty.Read More
Ratri has a secret. In fact, she has a lot of secrets, and is willing to share them… if you have something worth trading for.
First Run “On the Loose”
Morley the Dark
Pfferdsensen the Trollrider
Wussun of the Narwal Tribe
In their own words:
The “All Mother” Eir asked us to go check up on Ratri, who was chained to Law Rock in Mannheim.
We travelled to the south coast, where we interceded between (“Greenpeace”) Members of the Open Door, who was rescuing a small whale who beached itself to escape THE Serpent, and a group of Driftwood rights gang (dozen men w/weapons). After a run-around (literally by Wussun), minimal casualties and a patrol by Lord Luthor Sigursson, we headed to Sigurshelm where we met an old man who told tales (Hione?). Lord Luthor arrived later with a dead “fish man” and strange red algae.
Onward to Law Rock**, where a being was chained on top. Chains were broken and a parley began. What we learned ::: AS PER THE FREED LADY :::
> Wyrd sisters write tablets (with our Fates)
> Breaking a tablet *can* alter outcomes (be wary of unintended consequences)
> Blank tablets may be veiled (so Detect Magic may not work), and may require Dispel Magic to reveal and Read Magic to read the writing
> See Alex for trading of tables (or Secrets) for Secrets
Law Rock has “Fate of Janda” carved on it. (Not broken, see board). Not sure if this event has already happened.
As we were leaving, we found the area was surrounded by many trolls. They let us pass freely; were they under control of the Lady?
- Wussun, holder of the Keys
** En route, there was a mystery iron cage near Katla.
GM notes: This run was to give the players a flavor of Mannheim and an introduction to southern Jaanmark. Along the way, they got some quality time with Hione and Ratri. The players talked themselves out of a big combat with Trolls at the end of this run by playing nice with Ratri, who left them with some goodies and an “open door” for further trading of information, but the fact that they didn’t try to arrest Ratri disappointed Hione, who left the scene without warning to brood upon the state of Mannheim and the heroism of his Valiant.
The “Greenpeace” Members of the Open Door were a cell of dupes used by the overall Open Door of Night (ODoN), Ratri’s demihuman cult of the Serpent. While the dupes were a nuisance, the rest of the Cult could work in secret on their primary objective: to erupt the Ring of Fire and flood southern Jaanmark.
Second Run “To Stoenheim”
In their own words:
Looking for the wife of Oodlask, “Sybil”, supposedly a daughter of Hione.
In Stoenheim, encountered 3 Ettins. Killed 3 Ettins and looted the bodies. Found Sybil, got a letter for her mother. A group of Ettin attempted to kill Sybil. We saved her and delivered her to Oodlask via Valkyrie express.
Delivered letter to Eir. Also got a letter for Ratri (don’t know where she is).
If you know where Ratri is, see Keith Belgerent for letter.
GM note: there was strong suspicion that Sybil was Ratri in disguise. Sybil was, in fact, a true daughter of Hione and Eir. I had originally intended for Sybil to provide information “for free” about Fate Stones, but the party was offput by their reception; when told that they were emissaries from her mother, Sybil was abrupt and complained it was a little late for her mother to mend bridges. As a result, they determined that Sybil should not be forced to come home to Mother, and simply asked to deliver a letter from Sybil to Eir.
This was actually a fabulous turn of events, because this brought Ratri’s “secrets for fate stones” exchange to the fore. Saturday morning, Wussun (from the first run) traded a Fate Stone from the Valor Hall board to Ratri for the information about how to break Fate Stones. Of course, Wussun didn’t ask about whether there were any *consequences* or limitations on who could break Fate Stones, so the players didn’t know about death by Fate Stone until they tried it, and they didn’t know that gods couldn’t break Fate Stones (and therefore Ratri must not be a god) until later still.
Third Run “Njal Njalsson MUST NOT DIE”
Kattero Hex Monkeybane
Pirata Fuerte Gato del Fuego
The Diary of Pirata Fuerte, Walker of the Deep, Heavyweight Champion of the Caverns, Ponderer of Suplexes
This new group is the worst so far. The Mannfolk wants to hunt us, and the Vatenari has an ego the size of the great serpent. We were deposited on the Stormsness peninsula. We proceeded to walk to a nearby town and entered the tavern. We found we need to travel north and east to find the farm Njalsson lives at. We reach a frozen river near the farmstead; however, we see a couple groups of people with weapons. Our suddenly giant flying Svartalfar played a decent role in ceasing hostilities. We flew to the farmhouse on our giant Svartalfar friend. Apparently the Njalssons are in a feud with their in-laws. All this boring diplomacy bores me, but we get Njalsson to agree that maybe it is time to end the feud. Apparently the Njalsson boys were trying to stop a blood feud by continuing the blood feud.
Our overly dramatic Vatenari informed Njalsson of the prophecy concerning his family. We then asked about the tablet to discover if he knew anything about it.
Many personal questions ensued pertaining to their family life, but I did not take part in this. I sat and meditated, preparing myself for the match to come. I woke up to people looking for my Katt Koomr and suggesting we turn them into a cougar.
KILL ME NOW
We set out after Skarp-Hedin, and found him near a bend in the river, out cold. I was forced to use the Katt Koomr on Kattero. A tattoo of a snake swallowing its own tail appeared briefly on Skarp-Hedin’s arm. He seemed unsure of what had just happened. The party thought that cutting the arm off might help. The Pain, My Head Hurts.
The party removed a curse from Skarp-Hedin, and he seemed to improve. We walk back to the house. He seems much less murder-y. They force me to pet Kattero with the brush again. It would appear most of the family has the arm marks. An Analyze Spell reveals there is a curse on them that will turn them into fish people. Someone just told Njalsson this seems fishy.
PLEASE MAKE IT STOP
Pirata Fuerte could not bring himself to continue, so Dimrodel finished by noting:
The cult in the town brings sacrifices to the fish people. The cult must be destroyed. Do that next. The cult was abducting the family and cursing them. We relocated the Njalsson family to a nearby town — Sigurshelm. Keep them safe. The future of the Carrunos religion depends on it.
PS – if they cause any trouble remind them of “a dwarf on both your houses”.
GM note: this was a short run, but the players got quite a lot done. It seems like the Fate Stone describing how the children of Njal would survive and help populate the New World was never actually found by the players, so it likely fell into the hands of Ratri’s minions. Eir had become aware of the existence of this Fate, and unsure of the status of the Fate Stone, and so wanted the Valiant to ensure the safety of the family. They did this rather well in this expedition, though I hear that they took Skarp-Hedin adventuring in a later expedition and got him killed in Baenheim. Should that have been a cross-scenario “With Friends Like These” nomination?
Fourth Run “The Open Door of Night”
GM Notes: NO RUN REPORT?! Those bastards!
This party wanted to go after the “Open Door” cultists, but struggled for a while to find leads. They went to Sigurshelm to talk to Luthor Sigursson, but he had died under somewhat mysterious circumstances — his horse fell through the ice as he was crossing the river. There was precious little in the way of hard information, as neither his marshal tasked with investigating the “Open Door” nor his daughter, now busy seeing to affairs of the town, seemed to know what was going on. [in the case of the marshal, he really didn't know what was going on; in the case of the daughter... see below]
Speak with Dead (or was it Question Dead? there was significant debate over which would be more useful to cast) revealed that Luthor believed he had been murdered by a mage. Using some items that allowed them to talk to crows, the party followed a potential suspect’s path upstream to the foothills of the mountains. With judicious use of Telescopic Vision, the party scouted a cave entrance a half mile off, and began to make preparations. First, the mages took a nap. Partway through the nap, the scout with See Invisible saw a group of seven lightly armored, cloaked figures leaving the cave, but no one else could. Quickly the party worked to make everyone able to See Invisible and plan out an ambush, but once buffed, Black Sun went Berserk and charged ahead. Markus tried to Hold Person, but Black Sun was already out of range [nyah! nyah! Clerics can't modify range because it's beyond the power of their god! wait, what, hunh?]
Black Sun, with a high Con and several levels of Toughness, refused to go down easily, but was glad when the rest of the party caught up. In a nice move before his HP dropped too low, Black Sun made his Will save to end his Berserk, Power Word cast Mirror Image (and rolled the maximum number of images), and went Berserk again.
The party took one prisoner, and with the help of ESP, determined that Luthor Sigursson’s daughter was the one who hired the mage. Searching the cave, they found a shrine to The Serpent being born “out of the darkness” that made them think of Ratri. There was also a device that could cause large scale Tremors. The way forward was now clearer; however, some of the players needed to get sleep, so they turned over the job of capturing her to the next party.
Fifth run “The Ring of Fire”
Using the Eye of Oodlask (see Shant’s scenario writeup when available), the party traced the activities of the Cult of the Serpent from Laex, its head (the daughter of Luthor Sigursson), to a network of cells, operating out of a series of small caves in the mountains. Each cave contained one of the tremor devices; the party now faced the difficult decision of whether to try to disarm the devices or go directly after Laex. They eventually decided to disarm the devices; the problem was that there were a lot of caves, but they hoped to take each one down quickly. The cultist crew manning the tremor device in the first cave was taken down before they could set off the device; however, one of the cultists left alive managed to activate a magical device carried on a cord around his neck that transmitted a message “to the lady”. The jig was up, and while the party was able to stop another tremor device just after it was activated but before it built up to full power, soon the Ring of Fire was erupting and mountains were literally blowing their tops.
The party now traveled to Sigurshelm, but Laex had flown the coop. (There was strong suspicion that Laex was Ratri in disguise, but she was the true daughter of Luthor Sigursson and one of Ratri’s high priestesses.)
Dismayed at having lost their original target, they thought of the Fate concerning Magus, and went with him to Katla (joining the party in Bob’s run) to see if they could both calm Katla and save Magus.
Technically Not A Run “Ratri”
A few final runs where plagued by Ratri. First, Steve W.’s party traded the secret of where Ratri could find a spear that would allow a non-god to kill a god (in the possession of Kjallintar in Bob’s run) in exchange for information on how to chain the Beast (your own son, Ratri?!). She promptly stole the spear, causing a little chaos in Bob’s run, killed Daglir offstage (slightly hosing two Daglir clerics as I went around and erased Daglir’s name from expedition chalkboards), and finally appeared in Blue’s run to stab her ex-lover Carrunos, putting him at death’s door. As Ratri tried to deal the coup de grace, however, Hugh (having broken a stone) “Defined Fate” to cause her to miss, and then Ryan (also having broken a stone) “Defined Fate” to cause her to miss on the multistrike. The players then used a lantern (acquired on a late night combined run with me and Bob) that allowed them to “Banish Shadows”, sending Ratri away and into hiding, where she did no more mischief for the rest of the con.Read More