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.
Princecon 39 will be held on March 14-16, 2014. GMs are already hard at work debating system changes and creating a theme. Players and newcomers are invited to join the discussion on Google Groups, Facebook and Twitter. We will post updates to all of these as the theme develops. Join us on Google Groups Join us on Facebook Follow...
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...
Or, The Player Report to Alex’s Friday Evening Run
Five tall, hooded (hallucination-wielding!) undead charged into the Nim ghetto and stole the body of a Nim (Thorn) who was murdered at the same time as the First Citizen, in the same way. They have been kidnapping Nymphidae for the past 6-8 months (today Gilly & Willow) and performing strange rituals on them in (shoddy) underground tunnels beneath the Olivine that lead to a lost Nymphaea, buried 300 years ago. The entrance is in a building in the ghetto — beware 4(?) pit traps in the tunnel.
** Did I mention undead? **
Thorn’s spirit wasn’t able to leave her body (as Nim spirits usually do). The bad, tall fellows (cult followers? see sketch of their tattoos) were carrying spirit swords – directly attacking Nymphidae. Sextus examined Thorn, says no danger of her body contaminated w/First Citizen’s madness, and claims it was a “copycat” killing. We followed tunnels to catacombs (w/ Goldberry, a Nymphidae Cleric) FULL OF UNDEAD “City will feel the wrath of the undying one” cult. Preacher w/pope hat. Kneeling people. “Fed to the Baron!”Read More
The people of the Republic long practiced ancestor worship, calling upon a variety of tutelary deities to intercede for them. Though active worship has waned, these spirits continue to protect the people and places to which they have become attached. Some watch over the great families, while others literally strengthen the walls of the cities.
Now, though, the nymphaea (places where ancestor worshipers can commune with tutelary spirits) of the Republic are being corrupted by the Walkers in the Afterworld (a group of Thoki-worshiping OrcTuskan Inferii left over from the destruction of the City of Troll), and lure spirits into a trap that forces them to fight in the new “virtual arena” of the Colosseum until destroyed.
Some of the Gwhi’s ancestral spirits have been trapped, too, and once the Gwhi figured out that the problem was coming from inside Clio, they invaded. Unfortunately, many more of Clio’s spirits have been destroyed — the Terminus of Walpole was destroyed shortly before the invasion, and Walpole’s walls fell too easily before the Gwhi’s onslaught.
Additionally, the pieces of the destroyed spirits are being used by to create a “master spirit”, Baron Samedhi, which could try to challenge Ronkel’s position as god of death.
Alissandra, Nymphidae Guardian
Brunhilda, Daglirae Hero of Daglir
Corwin, Human Hero of Ratri
Rasha, Human Mage of Magus
Uig Scolari, Human Guardian of Janda
The hook: In the late afternoon, the PC’s are put on “dead Nim cleanup” and told to deal with a Nymphidae named Goldberry, who has been asking around the Hall of Heroes for someone to come see to a refugee from Walpole who has died.
On the run: Goldberry escorts the PC’s to the Nymphidae ghetto on the northwest side of the Olivine Hill. As they approach the gates to the community, they are met by Rowan, who says the ghetto was invaded by 5 strangers in dark grey cloaks who killed several Nymphidae and kidnapped two of the Walpole refugees, Gilly and Willow, along with the body of Thorn, the dead refugee. No one is sure where the intruders went.
The party tracked footprints to a dead-end at the other edge of the ghetto, in an area that has been mostly deserted, where they stop dead at a wall. Quickly checking the other side of the wall, they see the tracks don’t continue. They eventually discover that the alley is covered in a hallucination, and find that the real tracks lead to an abandoned building with a trapdoor in the floor.
Travelling as quickly as possible through the tunnel they discovered (Brunhilda noting that it was cleverly, but sloppily, built), the party missed the pit with poisoned spikes at the bottom… and the second… and the third, though to be fair, after the first they put a Levitate upon Corwin, who was taking point.
They eventually end up at the bottom of a dried-up well, at the top of which was a lost Nymphaeum on the eastern side of the Olivine, which had been buried under a landslide long ago. The PC’s send up Corwin, invisible and with blindsight, who sees 3 tall, man-sized figures in robes standing around two unconscious nymphidae, with the dead body of Thorn nearby… and two more figures, taking up a position watching the well. They take a few moments to prepare, hasting the two heroes, then while Brunhilda comes charging out of the well, Corwin sneak attacks the two watchers, expecting to drop them because of his 3 levels of sneak attack. (Unfortunately for Corwin, his targets are undead). In the ensuing battle, Corwin is knocked unconscious and Brunhilde is brought below negative hit points, and the spellcasters are nearly out of spell points(see below) and low on HP themselves. Fortunately, the enemy heroes and two of the enemy spellcasters (including the cleric) had dropped, leading to a grappling attempt by Rasha (a mage) and Alissandra (a strength 8 guardian) on the last enemy spellcaster as he tried to escape with one of the Nims down a hidden tunnel (hilarity ensued). Uig, who had the very last spell points in the party, played the part of a cleric by casting Enhance Ability (Constitution). Corwin became conscious, and made short work of the final enemy.
Signature moment?: One of the enemy spellcasters was focused entirely upon counterspelling; unfortunately for him, the players had already blown nearly all of their spell points prior to the battle. However, it was dark up there, and only Brunhilda and Corwin (and their opponents) could really see what they were doing. Alissandra (who was completely out) hit upon the idea of casting the cantrip Mage Light, and since it was the only spell being cast that round, the enemy caster counterspelled it (and then prepped snowball the following round).
With only 40 minutes before Brunhilda and Corwin would become unconscious again (when Enhance Ability stopped), the party made their way back to Goldberry in the Nymphidae ghetto with the stolen bodies — Gilly lived, Willow died shortly before the party arrived — and the party notes that the wound on Thorn is the distinctive ‘X’ wound on Julius Augustus Arathorn.
Sensing this is important, the party reports this to the Ronkel church. They are shocked by the news, and want the body immediately brought to the church; the party demures (Goldberry said something about wanting to send Thorn’s and Gilly’s spirits back to their ancestors), but then word comes from Sextus that he will go alone with the party to the Nim ghetto in order to examine the body. He declares it to be a copycat killing (never mind that the death occurred around the same time as Julius’s murder) and says there is no danger of the madness spreading from this body.
Goldberry thanks the PC’s for their help, and invites them to the ceremony to send Thorn’s and Gilly’s spirits back to their ancestors. Gilly’s goes smoothly, but Thorn’s is unable to leave. Communing with the spirits, Goldberry declares that Thorn’s body needs to be returned to Walpole (next run!).
However, this party wasn’t finished yet. Not by a long shot. There was still the matter of that tunnel the last enemy tried to escape down. Returning to the scene, they found that the tunnel had been filled in while they were away. Apparently, there was a larger organization at work that didn’t want to be followed! In a fit of conscientiousness that could double as a nomination for Death Wish, the party rounded up a group of Daglirae workmen and had them reopen the tunnel, then followed it down into catacombs of the undercity (using ropes instead of a Levitate because, in Alissandra’s words, “short ropes don’t cost spell points”), where they witnessed more of the “tall men in gray” meeting with some human followers. The party debated whether to fireball the meeting, but eventually decided to simply observe and then return home after discovering there were dozens of undead wandering the crypts.
PrinceCon XXXVIII Summary
The Cursed City of Xeraneum
Run 1: First Encounter with Xeraneum (Crankul, Erau, SallieAnn)
Members of The Hall of Heroes are given a mission by Sextus to determine what the last sane orders of the First Citizen were. They travel along a magical lost road powered by a slow song with a scholar named Coburnicus with the hopes of finding evidence of the party of twelve adventurers that left a year ago and were never seen again. The small search party arrives in the dark buried fabled city Xeraneum of and after a small snake attached to a severed Nymphidae’s head sound an alarm they do battle with the Ophions, a race of snakes that are able graft living body parts onto their sinuous forms. Although one combatant had multiple bird parts attached, their main adversaries had parts from the party sent a year ago seamlessly attached and fought with the skill of the original possessors of the limbs. SallieAnn talks to them with the aid of a Comprehend languages spell as they fight and find that the creatures refered to some one or something as ‘Mother’. When the fight was over, the Aru worshippers and the one Gaia worshipper took away the weapons from the unconscious snake people. Although they had only been in the cursed city for about fifteen minutes, they decided to return on the ‘road that was’ to the City of Clio. Before they left Coburnicus alone in the dark city, they gave him as many protections as they could give and made off for home with the small snake attached to the living head in a sack to show future adventurers from the Hall of Heroes what they had found.
Run #2: Return to Xeraneum (Crankul, Galen, Krag Maga, Mungo, Wilbur)
Without going to Sextus, one member from the small earlier mission, Crankul, to be exact, decides take another excursion to Xeraneum to discover more secrets, find Cobernicus and return the small snake attached to the Nim’s head. Once they arrive the new party chooses to follow the directions to an attuned penny given to Cobernicus and the smell of baking bread and arrive in the bakery district. They are ambushed by a group of Ophions but the party works well together and they quickly start destroying their assailants. Krag Maga goes to kill a small Ophion wizard who is trapped in a web. He discovers he has the arms and mouth of Luno Lunestro, the Hogbound sorcerer who disappeared a year ago grafted to him. The Ophion using the mouth attached to his neck begs with Krag Maga not to kill him and that he will tell him where ‘he’ is being kept. When the small Ophion blurts out he is in a wool dying vat in the market part of town, Krag kills the helpless creature. The party decides to hold up in the bakery while Galen does some scouting. Galen returns with information that the prisoner is exactly where he was told but is kept guarded. The party hatches a plan to rescue the prisoner with combination of stealth & magic. Crankul and Galen get close enough to see the gigantic snake with the single head and five bodies slithering back and forth. Crankul dimension doors into the giant vat and begins pulling the man into the next dimension door when he realizes this man is not Cobernicus! He knows the prisoner is alive and he can’t stop the plan now. On their way back to the bakery, both Galen and Crankul recognize the man as Ulysses (Yule) and was one of the members of the party of twelve that left for this place a year ago. He is not in ill health but is being kept asleep with a sleeping poison. They rendezvous with the rest of the group and make it to their exit from the city. On their way back on the road-that-was they discuss what they should do with the liberated prisoner and where they should revive him.
Run #2.5: Awakening the Prisoner (Crankul, Galen)
Although originally meant to be a small run by itself, time did not allow for anything more than an exchange of information.
Since Sextus sent them on the mission, Crankul felt it was very important to awaken Yule in his presence. Galen and Crankul go to the temple of Ronkel and interrupt Sextus in a religious ceremony. Upon seeing them he allows an acolyte to continue and he takes them into a private room with their sleeping witness. Crankul, who possessed knowledge of poisons, awakens the prisoner as Sextus takes a position behind Yule’s chair. Yule awakens and he is told he is safe and in the city of Clio. He explains he was tortured and taunted by the Beast of Lengend, Aderea! Even though she lacked eyes, she still seemed formidable and possessed a mind staggering intellect. Through a haze of pain, Yule mentioned she had been poisoning the Laurel tree that feeds information to First citizen though his golden laurel crown and had driven him mad. She knew the first citizen was finally dead because she was in contact with the murderer though silver scroll which allowed two way conversation. Galen immediately asked who the murderer was. Yule was just about to tell them and a surprising thing happened. In a spray of blood and gore, snakes burst forth from his body and face. Sextus, who already had his dagger out, joined in the fight but as aech snake was severed, it regenerated into two new snakes. Acolytes arrived with torches grabbed from the walls and discovered fire was the solution to keep the snakes from regenerating. When the fight was over, the body was not allowed to be disturbed as set forth in the laws of Ronkel. Sextus explained the ordinances of his church are to ‘Let the dead stay dead and not disturbed or revived for any reason. Crankul shared his information with the hall of heroes.
Run #3: Silver Scroll Quest (Holly Wood, Horvat, Jaysa WindWhisperer, Jonicus, Puddlebee Hogsworth)
This party’s mission was to recover the silver scroll and discover the murderer’s identity. They arrive in the city and after examining the vat that held Yule, they hear the tolling of a bell. First fearing they have been discovered, they realize the Ophions are being summoned to an amphitheater to witness something wonderful thanks to a series of comprehend languages spells and the murmuring of the crowds. They arrive to the perimeter of the amphitheater and see the monsterous five-bodied snake shedding its skin to cheers from the Ophion crowd cheering out to thye sanke they called the ‘Wearer of The Dead” When the crowd dispursed, four Ophidians with grafted with multiple bird parts carried the gigantic shed skin to the ‘Scroll Guardian’. The party stealthily follows and enters the mansion house when the four enemy creatures leave. The courtyard is littered with cast off snake skins. A light wind arrises and a voice beg them to leave. When they do not leave elemental storm energy fills each of the snake skins and when the constructs physically hit they realease thjeir lightning attack. The party defends themselves and talks with the disembodied voice but does not attacke the strange ‘storm skins’. They try to locate the creature animating the skins and search for the silver scroll when they notice some of the skins did not move away from the pool in the center of the courtyard. Just as the number of animated skins increase to fatal numbers, Jonicus pulls up a metal plate under the water and a jar bobs to the surface. Puddlebee opens the jar and all the skins fall limp. The air coalesces into a female form of an air nymph, specifally, Aderea’s sister. The party names her ‘Bella’. ‘Bella’ explains that Aderea used to be an earth nymph until a mortal’s sexual assault on her centuries ago forced her to become flesh without the hope of ever merging with the earth again and it is likely that she only works with the killer because it only helps her gain her revenge on every living mortal. ‘Bella’ hands the party the silver scroll that Aderea uses to communicate with the murderer of the First Citizen. ‘Bella’ explains that the only possibility of allowing her sister to attain her spirit form is to destroy her form of flesh with the hopes that her spirit is strong enough to survive. The party agrees to send more people from the Hall of Heroes to help Aderea return to her spirit form. They forge a message from Aderea with the hopes that the assassin will reveal his identity and then they sneak back to the road-that-was and return to the city of Clio. The following morning they receive a return message on the silver scroll identifying the killer as simply “-S”.
Run #4: The Beast of Legend (Brunhilda, Falken, Rasha, Razyz, Titus Agrippa Postumous, Uig Scolari)
The next party returns to Xeraneum to confront Aderea and release the Laurel Tree of the Republic from her control. They arrive in the Xeraneum and narrowly escape having the alarm sounded by the little Ophidian in the hanging Nim head. They kill it and wished they had read the past run reports warning them of the alarm system. Bella had told the earlier party that Aderea lives on the palace grounds. The party sneaks their way to the gates of the palace courtyard and Mindblast the monsterous Ophidian known as the ‘Wearer of the dead’ who is acting as guard. When they finally enter they are spotted and a battle ensues. They fight well together and finally defeat the four or five snake-like guards. When the battle is over, the wind picks up and ‘Bella’ arrives at the gate with the ‘Storm skins’. She asks to have the gate opened and the party is reluctant. She identifies herself as the one that the earlier group had named ‘Bella’ and that if the gate was not opened she would have to destroy it and that would be most unfortunate as the gate was crafted most beautifully. This wins over the Daglirae, Brunhilda. They let her in they prepare to enter the palace. They cross the palace and fight along the way with the minion snake beings of Aderea. They open the large doors and are almost blinded by the brightness of sunshine as they enter the Hanging Gardens of Xeraneum. Despite what their senses tell them they are actually inside a great dome built before the city was buried. Inside it shines with the light of the cloudless skies above them. There are fields of wheat, birds, rivers of water and lava and almost every kind of plant. On an elevated platform is the yellow leaved Laurel Tree of the republic strangled with vicious vines. Peppering the beautiful landcape are the hissing fdorms of the Ophidians and along the far wall is Aderea on a raised platform. She does not seem to be the ‘Beast of Legend’ described in the Epic of Deniya and Aderea, but a beautiful young Nymphidae with writhing snakes for hair. Her mouth is pursed in anger and her eyes are closed. There is an unmoving shadowy form next to her chair. Aderea seems prepared for an attack but when asked why she was aiding a mortal murderer, she explains that if she can aid in the instability of the Republic she would. In her sweet voice she xplained that her ultimate goal is to see that the land is purged of all the races of men so that nature may prevail again in all its wild beauty so that the child Gaia may smile. But first all mortals must die.
As if in response, Brunhilda, enlarged by Rasha, races forward with Rasha attached to her leg and Titus at her side. The rest of the garden erupts into combat. The charging combatants encounter a giant mirror in ther way but it only slows them down as they change direction to face Aderea. Titus, as a historian looks into her now open eyes and sees something he recognizes. Set into each of her empty eye sockets is set a crystal shard of the recently stolen Staff of Transformation. The legendary staff was the one used to transform Tremyrus’s crew into the first Hogbound. With her innate abilities and the power of the broken Staff of Transformation, Titus starts to feel himself slow as the stiffening stone begins to take over his flesh. While he can still move he grapples with Aderea while Rasha Mind Blasts her. She falls over limp in the arms of Titus the statue. The other fighters fight for quite some time but the party aided by ‘Bella’ and her ‘storm skins’ finally win the day. They behead the ‘Beast of Legend’.
Razyz, being a Gaia cleric, talks to the Laurel Tree of the Republic. He learns how to coax Aderea’s ivy from off and within the tree for it had laced iteself through the core of the tree. He restores the tree so that it can think again. The Golden Laurel crown can be used once again without driving the next First Citizen into madness.
They see now that form standing behind Aderea’s chair is that of Coburnicus, the man charged with delivery of the shards as payment for her aid in driving Arathorn insane. The scholar was the first victum of her returned powers.
With Titus resored to flesh, the party returns triuphantly to the Hall of Heroes knowing that they have confronted a legenary creature and defeated her. They are truly heroes and have restored the honor of the Hall.
Facts that may not have come out in game:
Aderea was an unaging former nymph constrained to physcical form by an act of sexual brutality. She sought help from the childlike form of Gaia to seek vengenace on the mortal world.
The Ophions are the cut hair of Aderea. Once they are cut they gain independent thought and though some show reverence for their mother, other are just as likely to hate her. Evil families can be quite dysfunctional. This is why all the Ophions were missing the last chunk of their tail. Their natural form never had that piece of tail.
Sextus was a collector of antiques and discovered one silver scroll. With it he was able to communicate with Aderea. This was how she was aware that the plan had succeded and that the First Citizen was dead. As payment for her part in the plan, she had demanded pieces of the Staff of Transformation. She knew that it would give her the ability to turn people into stone again if inserted them into her eye sockets. Sextus used a member of his congregation who worked in the Museum of Antiquities to deliver the shards. However, as her children may not actually listen to Aderea and they craved more body parts, Sextus needed some adventurers to keep his delivery boy alive until he could get to a place in the city whre he could locate the secret passage that would take him to Aderea directly. She of course needed to test her returned abilities and seeing that the Ophions were part of her and thgerefore immune to her gaze, she used Coburnicus.
Crankul brought the rescued prisoner to Sextus to awaken him. Sextus was honestly surprised to see Crankul alive. Sextus took them to the most quiet, well sound insulated room in the Temple of Ronkel. And when the prisoner, Yule, started to give out too much information, Sextus drew his dagger in preparation to kill the three people in the room. Thankfully Aderea had left a surprise in Yule. Anyone who would awaken him from the sleep poison would also awaken the Lemaen serpents within him.
Aderea was using a duplicate crown of ungilded leaves to ‘feel ‘the citizens of Clio. She knew what was happening in the empire just like a First Citizen. She removed the duplicate from her own brow when she started planting paranoia and insanity into the broadcast thoughts about 18 months ago.
I am not sure if the original destruction of Xeraneum in 79 FCR was a natural disaster or if the embittered Aderea, who used to be an earth Nymph, afterall , had a hand burying the city that Dinaya had at one point called home under tons of volcanic ash. What do you think?
I was disappointed that there were no Nymphidae or Hogbound in the last party. I thought it would have been great to have Aderea banter with another immortal. Also, any attempt to use her returned powers on any Hogbound, would have no effect whatsoever. Once transformed through the power of the Staff of Transformation one could not be affected again. The Hogbound were examples of the power of the staff.
This was my first attempt at being a Gamemaster in many many years. I had a wonderful time and I want to thank all of my players who made this a memorable experience. You showed me what incredibly creative people can truly do. Please feel free contact me via Facebook if you have any further questions regarding my scenario or anything regarding PrinceCon in general. Again, thank you.
Steven H Wolfson
The Road That Is.
When the crown of gilded Laurel leaves was placed upon First Citizen Scipio’s head at the coronation, he immediately felt thoughts hopes, desires and fears of his citizens. He had the forgotten road cleared and unburied to be walked upon normally. The Daglirae from the provinces of Gruumgard flocked to the city of Xeraneum to see the wonders of a bygone age. They expertly continued the sloppy excavation process and within fourteen years had the entire city explored but still covered. Xeraneum became the southern capital of the Republic again. The work force that built the massive stone bridge across the Strait of Grimaldi set them on the deep old foundations of the original ancient bridge. Some even called it the Bridge of Brunhilda, named after the celebrity who helped discover and liberate the city. The Nymphidae conclave found near Ga-ur set made a piligrimage to Xeraneum to worship what they called the ‘Sisters’. They paid tribute to the air spirit known to some as ‘Bella’ and over the next short fifty years their worship near the mouth of the extinct volcanoe brought about the manifestation of shy Aderea, the Spirit of Legend.
Individual GM scenario recaps to follow.
This year, there were a number of interlocking themes:
The Murder Mystery. The primary “hook” for players was the murder of Julius Augustus Arathorn, the First Citizen. A successful conclusion to this storyline, which would restore the honor of the Hall of Heroes, involved:
- Discovering who murdered Julius. Was it Scipio? Lucius? Arujah (this was a popular name bandied about)? Arujah in collusion with Sextus? The culprit was discovered to be Sextus conspiring with his lover Aimale.
- How the murder was accomplished. It was through an ancient ritual that killed an entire bloodline; but first, Sextus and Aimale wanted to destroy Julius’s reputation. They did this by driving him mad by poisoning the Laurel tree that contributed the leaves to the First Citizen’s crown.
- Why Julius was murdered. It was love! It says right in the player pack that Sextus would do anything for his Lady. And you thought he meant Ronkel!
- Appointing a new First Citizen. One by one, candidates were considered and found wanting, with the exception of Scipio. With a new First Citizen and our greatest general at the head of the military once again, the Republic was ready to stop the Gwhi invasion.
The Gwhi Invasion. The secondary hook was the destruction of Walpole at the eastern edge of the Republic and the impending threat of the Gwhi.
- Why are they attacking? The Gwhi are attacking because of the destruction of their tutelary spirits (see Thoki followers below). They have communed with their ancestors and determined Clio to be the source of the problem.
Old City of Troll. The third hook, hidden from the players at the beginning of the Con, was the Old City of Troll (located below the city of Clio) and its inhabitants.
- Ronkel followers. More than a thousand years ago, at the height of the empire of Troll, the followers of Ronkel despaired at the corruption of the OrcTuskan people of Troll and called upon their goddess to swallow the City whole. A generations-long war ensued, which the Servants of Death have recently won. (And would have won more than a century ago, but for all the dead bodies the citizens of Clio provided the followers of Thoki.)
- Thoki followers. Beaten in the war for the UnderCity, the OrcTuskan followers of Thoki, god of Undeath and enemy of Ronkel and Aru, tried to have their revenge, using Eidolinger as their dupe to use the virtual Colosseum and the Slates to entrap and destroy spirits.
Destruction of tutelary spirits. Destroying the ancestral spirits of both the Republic and the Gwhi would precipitate a war between Gwhi and the Republic, filling the lichyards with corpses beyond count for animating.
Samedhi. The energy of the destroyed spirits both powered the virtual Colosseum and fed a new “master spirit”, the Baron Samedhi. If his growth was left unchecked, Samedhi would one day challenge Ronkel for mastery of Death. Even in his weaker state at the end of the con, Samedhi could possess almost any living being and would be a threat to the leadership of the Republic, but was destroyed in a battle in the Nymphidae ghetto.
There was peace in Ockham.
There was peace in Ockham, until the invaders came. No one knows precisely where they came from, or precisely what they want, but several countries have already been subjugated. Strangely, there appear to be several sets of invaders, and each has conquered a separate territory. In one, the invaders possess magic weapons beyond our ken that discharge deadly beams of light; in another, tentacled horrors roam the land and drive the populace mad; in yet another, savagery rules the day.
Worse, the invaders’ views of the how the world works seems to be contagious. Priests entering one of the conquered areas renounce their gods; in another, mighty heroes put aside their swords; yet another, even the most refined nobility dresses in rags and is reduced to cannibalism.
But there is hope: the few who can resist the thrall of the invading Realities are now gathering at Hireling Hall. Join them on March 16, 2012 at McCosh 50 on Princeton University’s campus to repel this threat!
PrinceCon 37 will be held March 16-18, 2012 on the Princeton University Campus. Registration begins at 3pm; first runs go out at 5pm. The Simulation Games Union’s annual convention consists of tabletop roleplaying in a shared world, centered around a common goal. Rules are a variation of the Open-Gaming version (3.5SRD) of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, incorporating many ideas developed over the years by the SGU. Admission is $20, free to Princeton University undergraduates. Certificates are awarded for Strategic, Tactical and Role Playing excellence.
Part of Malchion’s plan to steal the power of the gods involved magical researches into the nature of the fabric of the multiverse. One of his “labs”, located safely in the Sumerilon hinterlands, maintained his “tether” to the gods during the final stages of his rule. A party from the Champions of the Light arrived on the scene (a Sunday morning run led by Gladys Lamplight and Zerlana) and, during the fight, a dimensional rift opened, through which a hero from another world came to this one. This hero, Muirhead Blattaria, helped to destroy the tether while elsewhere Malchion was being killed (a different Sunday run). Before returning home through the rift, Muirhead came into possession of one of the shards. Ever since the shard began to work its corruption upon him, he has been trying to find his way back to this world, and on my Friday evening run, he finally succeeds.
Run 1 – A Long-Expected Party
- Jared Lockeson, Human Hero
- Phage, Fey Mage
- Pericles, Dwarf Hero
- Otto Streamswimmer, Perrin Hero
- Bolan Bloodshadow, Dwarf Cleric
- Abber Lour, Halfling Mage
In the words of Abber:
“We were sent to Blennam by General Ironhewer to escort Broderick Bracegirdle back to Hireling Hall. As we were leaving, a young human female archer, claiming to be named Leander, asked to join us. Interviewing her former party indicated that she was competent, but possibly much older than she appeared. [GM note: this began Phage's run-long obsession with her ears. It was a little creepy. :-)]
The first day out, we got to Blennam by stones are started the walk to Blennam Manor. During the night, we were attacked by a pack of Sumerilon wolves. They have the ability to cast “Hallucinations”, so precautions should be taken. We were able to scare them away, but we found a group down the road that was not as lucky. [GM note: the characters with high will saves were on watch during the shift the Sumerilon wolves decided to attack. Sigh. The party also noticed that Leander seemed to see very well in the dark for a human.]
At [Stately] Blennam Manor, Abber talked to Broderick and Allison Searock [a bonus Champion to bring in!]. They were both unwilling to return to Hireling Hall. The rest of the group was in a waiting room when a mechanical canary played a hologram message of William the Brown-Haired:
Greetings. I may be — have been — the grandmaster of dirty tricks, but I like to give my own side a sporting chance, and chances are if you’re seeing this, you’re on my side. So, one key to getting past my wards is to take note of the ones who are missing. Don’t accept any wooden nickels. Look for help where it’s unexpected. <to Bolan Bloodshadow> Trust your instincts. The dark is rising, my fellow Champions, and ultimately <points to Leander> we must look to the light to defeat it.
At this point, Leander’s equipment started to glow, which she says has never happened before. Analyze magic shows that she has several artifacts of the gods. Further questioning reveals she is one of the Champions of the Light, Asha Half-Elven, and a friend of Broderick’s.
We are going to confront Broderick about his plans for a vacation. We get to the ballroom and find a human with a sock puppet, leading group of cat warriors. Two have Sumerilon crossbows, which target the whole room in a cone shaped blast radius. The fight goes badly with half the party unconscious. At the point when it looks really bad, a sausage shaped air ship arrives. Two Sumerilon War Golems crash in, and a man with an iron gauntlet who appears to control them. He kills the human with the sock puppet and pulls something out of the sock puppet. He grabs Asha and returns to the flying ship. Asha yells that Zerlana was right, except that Malchion hasn’t returned. Muirhead Blattaria has. Muirhead says he will see us again at Hireling Hall.
We catch up to Broderick after Muirhead left. He said he had a better chance by running on his own. He said telling everyone he was dead was a good idea. We were in no shape to argue.”
GM notes: Phage, the Fey Mage, got my vote for the “With Fey Like These, Who Needs Malchion?” award during this run. After the party discovered the effectiveness of Sumerilon crossbows the hard way, Phage fled the room to go look for Broderick. Eventually Phage returned to the battle to find 3 of the other 5 party members bleeding and unconscious on the floor. He seriously considered turning them invisible, presumably so that he didn’t have to watch them bleed to death.
Phage was also a candidate for Creative Play: while looking for Broderick, Phage cast a Locate and discovered Broderick was under the manor, but he couldn’t figure out how Broderick *got* there. From Broderick’s movements, he could see that the 111-year old hobbit was in combat, and Phage cast invisibility *through* the floor to try to help Broderick.
Favorite quote: upon the mini-Mal casting Cause Wounds for 18 damage on Pericles, Abber asked: “Knowledge (arcana) check. Does the sock puppet..?” and then couldn’t figure out how to finish the question.
Runner-up. Out of character, while Phage flew up to the airship and tried to figure out whether he could poke a hole in the bag, Pericles’ player declared: “I’m going to make a celebratory trip to the bathroom while he experiments with his sausage.”
Run 2 – If at first you don’t succeed…
- Otto Streamswimmer, Perrin Hero
- Amyrin, Dwarven Hero
- Theo Watson, Perrin Cleric of Mavors
- Ozymandias, Fey Mage
- Kenworthy, Lord Strabolgi, Human Hero
Ironhewer was most displeased that the party failed to bring Broderick in, and sent another party for Theodoric of York. Unfortunately, he had already been killed by the time the party arrived, and a murder investigation ensued in which the party discovered a key witness who had yet to come forward to the police. The party reported:
“Theodoric was murdered by Jonas Blake, who visited Theo posing as a scholar interested in skill-enhancing spells. When Jonas verified that Theo owned artifacts of Daglir and Magus, Jonas killed Theo with a crystal-tipped wand of unrecognizable design and stole the artifacts. We found a letter at the murder scene, hidden (we think by Jonas), and in Jonas’s handwriting [confirmed by Theodoric's secretary]. The symbol on the envelope is from Theodoric’s secret mission with Gladys Lamplight. It is the mark of an elite hostile unit working for Malchion.”
GM notes: this was a short, interesting run with very little dice rolling that took place in the wee hours in HH. ”Jonas Blake” is an alias used by John Bly, the head of the elite hostile unit Black Mesa. My regret on this run is not putting in some information among Theodoric’s effects hinting at Gladys’s tomb, to the effect that some Daglir craftsmen were sent to visit Gladys Lamplight some decades ago and never returned.
Run 3 – This Is a Triumph
- Bolan Bloodshadow, Dwarf Cleric of Daglir
- Abber Lour, Halfling Mage
- Kors, Perrin Hero
- Broseph Veritas Ecclesiastes, Human Hero
- The Witch of the Wood, Human Mage
- Duff, Dwarf Hero
- Alain Gerard Leandre-Sylvain, Catfolk Hero
The party reports:
“Muirhead, who has kidnapped Asha Half-Elven, sent his daughter Lydia to say that he will ransom Asha for the crystal shard in Gladys Lamplight’s tomb. He has 2 shards and desires more. We entered the “tomb”, passed numerous tests and reached the center. We discovered that Gladys had been in danger of succumbing to the evil of the shard so she built the tomb as an automaton (programmed with her knowledge) in order to guard the crystal, since the automaton was not vulnerable to its influence. During the tests, the program revealed many pieces of info (see below, with our deductions following). We also found Escher Coli alive. Escher does not know what the heroes did to help defeat Malchion at the Black Mesa, but knows they did not destroy Malchion’s statues of Gaia, Hione, Leo, Magus, and Ratri. Zerlana would know the full details.
Clues from the automaton
Test Chamber 01
(after obtaining the Rod of Portals)
“Very good. You are now in possession of the Aperture Magics Handheld Portal Device. With it, you can create your own portals. These inter-dimensional gates have proven to be completely safe unless misused. If misused, dimensional research can provide access to forbidden stores of magic and even threaten the gods themselves. Do not touch the operational end of the device. Do not look directly at the operational end of the device. Do not submerge the device in liquid, even partially. Most importantly, under no circumstances should you– <static>”
Test Chamber 02
“Your rings protect you from the most immediately dangerous effects of falling, but not against the overstimulation of a weak heart. The frailty of the demihuman heart is well documented by medical scholars. There are those, typically powerful mages with delusions of immortality, who have sought to improve weak hearts of flesh with other, magically patterned, materials.”
Test Chamber 03
“Fantastic. In an atmosphere of extreme pessimism, you remained resolute and resourceful, like a magically reinforced crystalline heart, which should withstand forces up to, but not including, blows from an enchanted sword blessed by the gods. In that case, it would shatter.
Test Chamber 04
“Very impressive, Champion. Please note that any appearance of danger is merely a device to enhance your testing experience. The device has been modified so that it can now manufacture two linked portals at once. As part of an optional test protocol, we are pleased to present an amusing fact. The device is now powered by the essence of the owner of a broken heart.
Test Chamber 06
“Well, you found me, Champion. Congratulations. Was it worth it? Because despite your violent behavior, the only thing you’ve managed to break so far is his heart, and if the owner of a broken heart were *very* powerful, the shards would try to get back together, and I can’t allow that to happen.”
<after knocking loose one of GLaDYS’s Eye Spheres>
“If nine gods opposed him in all possible pairs, how many pieces would they tear him into?”
<after knocking loose the Recipe Sphere>
Malchion’s Cake Mix.
Ingredients: 1 likeness each of Aru, Daglir, Gaia, Hione, Janda, Leo, Magus, Mavors, Ratri; 1 sacred relic each of Aru, Daglir, Gaia, Hione, Janda, Leo, Magus, Mavors, Ratri; 1 interdimensional rift
Directions: Consecrate likenesses to respective gods and Place relics in the hands of the respective likenesses; Convert the relics to Machion; Serve and enjoy!
Malchion attempted to replace his heart with a crystal one to gain immortality. 9 gods, 2 at a time pulled apart Malchion’s crystal heart (so that’s 36 pieces?). Reuniting the pieces will restore Malchion.
Malchion attempted to become a god by a “cake mix” recipe involving consecrated sacred relics, the likenesses of the gods, and an interdimensional portal. The “cake” was completed and became the Black Mesa.
Run 4 – That Old Black Mesa
- Kaeritha Warstrider, Epon Hero
- Cassia, Fey Guardian
- Tabarra, Catfolk Hero
- Purraku, Catfolk Guardian
- Lamm, Hobbit Cleric
The party reports:
“Our goal was to talk to Zerlana — we went to Almere with a False Asha. It was Lydia, Muirhead’s daughter in disguise. Zerlana exposed her, and we escaped before Muirhead’s zeppelin found us. (We think he might have destroyed the Stepping Stone waystation near Almere while chasing us)
Lydia acknowledged that here father had been corrupted by the shards of Malchion and wanted our help. We lured him out to the plains northeast of Wooking, crashed his airship (w/Zerlana’s help) and incapacitated Muirhead [GM note: Purraku got him with a Power Word Lance as he was trying to Power Word Teleport away]. He’s not evil! Just corrupted! We don’t have to kill our corrupted party members, friends, Champions. They can be released from the shards’ influence.
We have the two shards from his glove and are looking for the relics to destroy them. May Aru heal the numerous victims of the tragic aeroship mishap. Aru temples in Wooking are accepting donations. PS – come find me if you want more history on Muirhead / the War. Lamm”
My original intention was for the battle with Muirhead to take place at the Black Mesa, where there would be a further tie-in with GLaDYS and John Bly, but I didn’t give the party good enough reasons to go there.
There was another vote for Creative Play: Faced with the daunting task of storming Castle Blattaria, the party considered how they might break through the grand patterned shell of the balloon, and Cassia and Tabarra hit upon the idea of opening a dimension door with one end *inside* the balloon, allowing the special gases to flow out, and causing the balloon to crash.
Favorite quote: The crashed airship was about 1/2 a mile away from the battle with Muirhead; as the party approached, they could see Zerlana and Asha helping people out of the wreckage. Lamm was at first confused. “Asha. Asha? The real Asha, whom we’ve never technically met.”
Lamm put up a visual depiction of the run, and I must say that it is spot-on.
Run 5 – Famous Blue Oilskin
- Malank, Dwarven Cleric of Gaia
- Phage, Fey Mage
- Vel Rille, Fey Cleric of Aru
- Otto Streamswimmer, Perrin Hero
- Jared Lockeson, Human Hero
- Lamm, Hobbit Cleric of Aru
- Brolaf Truth Ecclesiastes, Human Hero
This run began shortly before 5am Sunday morning and finished up at 11, just in time to get the characters off to a final run. I had managed to not get the previous run to Black Mesa, and Broseph (brother of Brolaf) had become an NPC in possession of a shard of Malchion, so instead of hunting down John Bly (as I’d originally planned) they were hunting down Broseph. If I’d been thinking faster at this point, they would have managed to hunt down Broseph, who was in turn hunting down Bly (for his shard). D’oh. That would have been truly epic.
As events panned out, the party first delivered the letter to Tirion Elkone, who turned out to be in the possession of a shard. He had been corrupted by it, but not overcome due to the power of his famous blue oilskin, which gave him an indomitable will.
They then tracked down Broseph at an old Sumerilon war golem factory, at which he was trying to recreate a “cake mix”. This picture of the final battle more than adequately sums up what happened. The BRO on the left is Brolaf, fighting the war golems. The BRO on the right is Broseph, having just been 1-shotted by Jared (JER), who is invisible and flying (and, up until the spell was dispelled, was 48 feet tall). You see, while 48 feet tall, invisible, and flying, Jared grappled Broseph. The war golem shaped to look like Ronkel ended up on Jared’s back, and the one shaped to look like Mavors struck him with a Sword of Equality, which attempted to dispel all the enchantments on Jared, as he attempted to fly backwards out of the window in the side of the building. The only enchantment that was dispelled was the Size Change, so the Ronkel war golem ended up flying into the wall as Broseph and Jared went out the window. Jared then struck Broseph from behind with enough Sneak Attack damage that it was a good thing two Aru clerics were on hand…
Otto is on the far right of the action, wondering WTF just happened.
Also, on this run, in the vein of “With Fey like these…”, Phage was considered *so* trustworthy that his fellow party members made him sign a contract that would make him a felon in the eyes of Mavors if he did not promptly return an item when it was needed to destroy a shard. It read
I, Phage, will receive permission to use the ring of the Archmage until such time as the crystal or rod is recovered from Broseph, but only while within 1 mile of Brolaf.
P.S. This contract is really legally binding
Phage *still* planned to teleport away with the ring of the Archmage until his fellow party members pointed out that his interpretation of the “loophole” he’d found in the contract was flawed.